The story of Jethro and the badgers is very popular over in Brockenborings. Me ma used to to tell it to me before my bedtime. About a year ago, I told it at the Green Dragon, and I just had ter tell it again recently.
Once upon a time, in the early days of the Shire, when hobbits first settled here, there lived a strange hobbit called Jethro.
Jethro was a sight ter behold, for he looked different than most hobbits. He wore a chequered shirt, which many a lass found strangely attractive. He had a curly beard, which made most children stop and gape at him. And he often stood on one leg, which made just about everyone shake their head and mutter about foolish madness.
Because of this, some even believed that Jethro HAD just one leg. But that’s not true, because he often took long walks in the forest. Bringing his flute with him, he played songs inspired by the beautiful Shire woods. The tunes came across as outlandish to most hobbits. But the animals in the forest loved them. They flocked to Jethro as he passed through. Conies jumped around him, and birds settled on his shoulders, chirping along with the tunes.
Now, in those days, as it is now, the Shire was home to many badgers. And just as today, them badgers could be vicious critters. They burrowed the hillsides and bit those who came near. One evening in early spring, as Jethro passed through Bindbole Wood, he came near a badger burrow. Inside, a group of badgers lay resting, as they often do at that time of year. And just like hobbits, them badgers are frightfully grumpy when someone wakes them while they sleep. However, Jethro didn’t know them badgers were there, so he stopped near their burrow. He took up his flute and played a lively song from the wood.
Inside, them badgers stirred and snuffled. They were woken from their sweet dreams of eating worms and berries and insects. Grumpily, one of them rubbed its snout between its paws. Then it let out a fierce howl!
It ran outside the burrow, baring its teeth. Ready ter ready to pounce on whoever made all the noise outside! And it stopped dead in its tracks as it saw the strange bearded hobbit outside, hopping around on one leg, playing his flute!
More badgers came running to, and they all watched in amazement as Jethro played. Their leader, the ferocious-looking badger who had first run out, tilted its head. Then it opened its mouth and started ter sing along!
Jethro kept playing, and soon all them badgers where joyfully jumping around him, singing and laughing to the tunes. They danced well into the night and the morning after. Then they went back to their burrow ter rest a bit more. But from now on, every time Jethro passed through the forest, them badgers came running to him, dancing, laughing and singing. And never again did they bite any hobbit.
It is said that even today, as them badgers in the Shire wake from their winter’s rest, they celebrate by singing Jethro’s old tunes. And many a hobbit have tried ter look fer the singing badgers. Some say they have been successful and found them, but most don’t really believe that.
Still, every spring, as the land wakes from the winter, strange noises can be heard from the Shire forests. In the evening breeze, there’s something akin to a faint chorus of humming voices. And some even swear that far into the forest, when the days grow longer, the sound of a flute can be heard, calling them ter come dance and sing.
And so ends the tale of Jethro and the badgers.
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