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Willa Mercier

A Bit of 'Light' Reading

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Willa Mercier

Willa sat at a table her nosed pressed into a copy of The Muggles who Stumbled upon Magical Plants and What Happened to Them a half finished Herbology assignment laid next to her. She’d been planning on signing the book out for a bit of bed time reading but the temptation had been to much. Just a little glance at the introduction she’d told herself setting her quill aside and then she’d continue. Of course, she’d immediately been absorbed in the book currently reading about Jane Washington who found herself covered in flowers following an incident with a Puffapod.

 

Willa had arranged to meet Steph in the library for a study session. Both girls were performing well in classes, but it was nice to work together. They often came up with interesting theories or discovered links to topics they hadn’t discovered yet. Their naturally inquisitive natures bounced off each other. Willa was glad to have a friend like Steph who she completely geek out with.

 

Willa was looking forward to a good catch up with her friend. Between lessons, homework and reading they’d had little more then light conversation over meals. Steph had challenged her to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 9 days and Willa had been determined to do it in eight. But to do it in eight without her study’s slipping had forced her to keep a strict schedule. She’d only read at weekends, once all her homework was completed. So even though it had been over a month since she’d acquired the book she’d still technically reached her target.

 

Footsteps making their way towards her table distracted Willa from the Ministry’s attempts to track Jane down. She looked up to see Steph approaching the table her features breaking out in a smile. “Hey Steph,” she said marking her place in the book and placing it to the side. “Woop’s I guess I got a little distracted.” She added looking guiltily at her Herbology homework. She wasn’t too worried she still had a few days to complete it. “I finished Lord of the Rings last night, it was amazing!”

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Stephanie Eckland

Steph had been looking forward to a catch-up with Willa. With everything that had been going on lately, she had little time for a social life, and she certainly welcomed the opportunity to spend a little time with her friend. It wasn't as though school work was getting on top of her either. She was achieving well in all he subjects, especially Transfiguration. She was perhaps one of the few first year students that Knaggs had never complained about, and that in itself meant she was doing something right.

 

Now though was not a time for study, it was a time for a much-needed chat with Willa. Steph walked purposefully into the library; the place they had agreed to meet Clearly her friend heard her coming though, as she looked up as she approached "Hey there, Willa" Steph smiled, taking an empty seat at the table. . Willa apologised and tried to move her book out of the way, but Steph caught a glance at the title. "Let's hope those poor muggles didn't stumble across Devil's snare" she commented in a soft voice. As usual, Steph had read ahead, and she knew about a number of magical plants, including Devil's Snare. "Don't we put muggle repelling spells around areas where we grow our plants?" she pondered. She didn't think it was possible to guard against all occasions, but surely incidents of muggles discovering magical plants would be quite rare.

 

It didn't matter in the least that Willa was working on her homework. "I'd probably be doing the same thing" she admitted. She was always keen to make sure she stated on top of her homework, and that she put as much work into her assignments as possible. It was not uncommon for her to write twice, or even three times as much as would be necessary for an Outstanding grade. "How are you getting along?" she asked. She was sure someone like Willa would have no trouble finding what she needed, but Steph was more than happy to help out her friend if necessary.

 

Willa then told her that she had finished The Lord of the Rings, and offered a one-word appraisal. It had been a month since she had bought Willa that book, but Steph didn't comment on the eight day promise just yet. She had been snowed under with work, and she was sure Willa would have been the same. "I'm really glad you enjoyed it" she smiled "The Lord of the Rings is seen by muggle fantasy authors as the pinnacle of the genre, they use it as a benchmark when they create their own stories." She hoped that Willa would offer some more insights than merely 'Amazing' though.  "I don't think anyone has ever gone into so much detail when creating their own world." It wasn't just the book itself, and the appendices, but other writings too such as the other books she had mentioned. "What do you make of hobbits?" she wondered. She recalled that Willa had asked her what a Hobbit was. That book clearly answered her question. "How about elves? They clearly aren't house elves." Tolkien's elves were tall, majestic, beautiful and wise. Could you use all those attributes when describing a house elf? "Were there any characters you particularly liked?"

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Willa Mercier

The book had appealed to Willa due to her interest in muggles. Since meeting Steph many of her question’s about how the muggle world worked. Steph was always patient with her assault of queries regarding everything from electricity to transport. She even offered information up to her when she thought Willa might find it interesting. “I hope not! So far, I’ve only read about one woman’s encounter with a Puffapod which is pretty tame by comparison. She kept the ministry busy though she travelled all over the world visiting different muggle doctors to try and find a cure.” She nodded as Steph asked about wards put in place to prevent muggles entering areas where magical plants were grown. “Yes, we do, in fact we have them around our home because of all Mum’s plants. Of course, the Ministry don’t know the location of every single plant. In this case the muggle woman had moved into a house which had once belonged to a witch who’d planted some Puffapod’s in the garden.”

 

Willa knew her, and Steph were alike in many ways and homework was one of them. Willa liked to start and if possible finish hers the same day it was assigned. That way she had plenty of time for her own independent reading. She didn’t mind spending a full evening in the common room or library working away. Most of the time she actually enjoyed her homework, even more so when it was returned with a pleasing grade. “Fine, it’s only Herbology I’ve got an 11 year start on most people. I could probably sit the OWL now.” Willa wasn’t bragging, with a mother who worked from home and studied plants for a living Herbology had a been a big part of her life growing up. She had read through her Herbology books before starting Hogwarts and had experience with almost all the plants they would be studying. She might have to practice a little more in some of her other lessons but Herbology just came naturally to her.

 

“How are you finding Herbology?” she asked Steph. Knowing Steph, she wouldn’t be struggling in the subject but still the plants would be new to her. “I think Herbology lessons are the most fun, but I think Transfiguration is my favourite even if Knaggs is...” she thought carefully on how to describe Knaggs. She didn’t want to say anything to mean about her teacher, you never knew who might be lurking behind a bookshelf. “Well he has an interesting method of teaching.” She finished diplomatically.

 

Willa planned to read The Lord of the Rings again over Christmas. She’d read it slower this time taking her time to dissect every little detail. “I read it in 8 days, though I had to spread them out so as not to fall behind on homework. It was pretty much 4 solid weekends of reading.” She could certainly understand why it would be used as a benchmark. It was one of the best books she had ever read. She had actually been a little annoyed she’d had to rush it, though it was only her competitive streak forcing her to do this. “It was a truly wonderful story. Tolkien’s descriptions of the world are so rich I felt like it was a real place and a real history. The maps were a nice touch they really help you to envisage the journey.”

 

She’d especially loved the little hobbit folk, the Shire sounded like a wonderful tranquil place. Willa imagined that hobbits would generally be Hufflepuff’s though surely Frodo belonged in Gryffindor. “I think the hobbits were my favourite’s I wish we could go to a hobbit party they seem like such fun.” Or were the elves her favourites? They were so wise and beautiful. They made Willa want to learn how to use a bow and arrow and grow her hair super long. “The elves were a little different to our elves. I don’t imagine they’d be to happy to live their lives in servitude.” She said with a chuckle.

 

Steph asked her if there were any characters in particular she liked. Willa pondered for a moment. She definitely couldn’t pick one favourite. “Obviously I liked Frodo and Gandalf, but Sam really resonated with me his loyalty was particularly touching. Gollum was also an interesting character he was so complex, and I’d totally have a crush on Legolas if he was real.” Honestly Willa had liked all of the character’s even the evil ones like Sauron. “The only ones I didn’t like were the Ring Wraiths.” She shuddered a little, “They were scary.”

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Stephanie Eckland

Steph listened to Willa talk about the woman and the puffapod. "Those are the ones that multiply exponentially when they are disturbed, aren't they?" Steph had read her Herbology book thoroughly and she had an excellent memory but it didn't hurt to get a ltitle confirmation now and then. She did agree with Willa's comment about not being able to keep track of all plants though. "You are right, that would be near impossible." She wouldn't describe anything as an actual impossibility unless it could be clearly shown that it couldn't be done under any circumstances. Since discovering magic, her perception of what was and wasn't possible had been blurred somewhat, and right now she wasn't sure she was in the best position to judge.

 

It was interesting that Willa apparently was so familiar with wizarding plants that she felt she was ready for the OWL. "Perhaps you could help bring me up to the same level" she requested "I'm familiar enough with most of the plants we will be working with this year, and I haven't had any problems in my lessons." Steph had read her Herbology book many times over, so she felt she was ahead in the subject already, but she was still starting out from a position of not knowing anything at all about magical plants. Willa was clearly ahead of her.

She shared Willa's love of Transfiguration too, despite Knaggs not seeming to even notice how well she as doing. "That plant pot of mine was way beyond acceptable" she snorted. "The Gryffindor boy has some guts, speaking out the way he did." Steph just didn't think it would serve any purpose, telling their professor that he was bullying his students. She doubted that he would listen, and she didn't care for the thought of detention. She sighed "I know I am succeeding though, I d didn't need Knaggs to tell me that." As long as she was getting results, she would be more than happy with her Transfiguration work. She did hope though that someone other than Knaggs would be taking their classes next year.

 

"So you did manage it in eight days" Steph smiled "does that include the appendices or did you just jump straight to Chapter One?" She wasn't trying to catch her friend out. It was just that people sometimes skipped the introductory pages of a book and headed for the main story. It was in the appendices of this book though, that a lot of the back story was fleshed out. She did agree with Willa's description of Tolkien's world. "Yes, I don't think anyone else has ever come close to his level of detail" she agreed "Tolkien not only invented his own fantasy world, but gave it a rich and varied history, and origin story. "You should read another book of his, The Silmarillion. That story describes how Middle Earth came into existence, and where Sauron and other characters originated."

 

"Hobbit parties would be a lot of fun" Steph agreed "but there would be a great deal of drinking and smoking involved. I don't think I'd care for those aspects." Tolkien was clearly an author of his time, she didn't think that the smoking of pipe weed would be considered appropriate in a fantasy novel nowadays. Thinking of hobbits though, Steph thought of a book that spoke of one of their race. "By now, I suspect you have worked out something important that is explained in the book called "The Hobbit." It was a fairly significant plot point after all, which The Lord of The Rings didn't mention in any great detail.

 

She did share Willa's opinion about the elves though. "Those elves are definitely not servants. They are strong willed, powerful, wise yet also nurturing and protective. They guard the old ways and live in harmony with nature."

 

Steph listened as Willa mentioned characters, clearly a number of members of the fellowship were among her favourites. "Frodo really could not have asked for a truer friend than Sam." She agreed also that Gollum was complex. "Gollum is such a tragic character, entirely consumed by his need for the One Ring. If it hadn't been for him though, all would have been lost. Frodo did fail his quest in the end, after all." That fact could be easily overlooked. Frodo took the ring in the end. It was only through Gollum's addiction for the ring that it was ultimately destroyed.

 

"Yes, the Nazgul, the ring wraiths were scary" she agreed "the nine men who were gifted with the rings of their race. Those rings, through the one ring corrupted them, leading them into darkness until they became the hand of Sauron." Steph thought a moment. "Men really are not treated well in that story, they are seen as greedy and weak willed. Take Isildur, for example."

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Willa Mercier

“Almost,” Willa said gently correcting her friend. It wasn’t often that Steph made a mistake but with hundreds of plants to learn it was an easy one to make. “Those are the ones where the seeds bloom as soon as they make contact with something. And it can be literally anything, which is why poor Jane ended up with flowers growing out of her head.” She giggled a little; though it was probably quite distressing for Jane, the outcome hadn’t been too disastrous.

 

Willa was more than happy to share her knowledge with Steph.  Herbology wasn’t, in her opinion, the most challenging of subjects, but the sheer volume of knowledge required could present its own challenges. “If you like you could come to my house over the holidays and I can show you some of the plants we’ll study in later years. We even have some of the more dangerous ones, though mum won’t let me show you those unless she’s around, just in case.” Willa was sure she’d be fine dealing with any of the plants, but no sensible parent would let their 11 year old show her school friend their Venomous Tentacular without proper supervision.

 

“Your plant pot was perfect, I would have given it an outstanding” Willa agreed. What was most frustrating was Knaggs hadn’t even explained why he’d marked Steph down. “And he marked me down for my candlestick holder being made out of wood, although I agree with him on my material choice I was super proud of myself for turning that book into a candle, they look nothing alike. That was certainly fulfilling the brief even if he had to deduct a few points for the wood.” She gave a little huff of frustration.

 

Willa had been very proud of Alvis for sticking up for Cosette. She had wanted to but didn’t dare cross Knaggs, although Willa wasn’t sure she could hold her tongue forever. She liked to analyse a situation and get a good understanding of all sides before she made a judgement. The way Knaggs had treated her roommate had made it clear that he was nothing more than a bully. Though naturally a quieter girl Willa wasn’t afraid to confront what she saw as injustice. “Yes, he was very brave. Poor Cosette, Knaggs was really mean to her. I’ve been trying to help her out a little outside of class; she’s never going to learn with him constantly berating her.”

 

Willa had read the book cover to cover, including the appendices and had also spent a great deal of time studying the maps, all of which was encompassed in her 8 days. “Yes, I read the appendices, though after I’d finished the book not before. It was really interesting to see how Tolkien imagined his world so fully that he even had a complete history for it.” She nodded her agreement with Steph. She’d never read anything so detailed. Tolkien’s writing had given her a lot to think about when it came to her own. “Yes, I’d definitely like to read more of his work. I’ll pick it up when we go on that trip to the muggle bookstore that you owe me,” she said with a grin.

 

Willa also didn’t care much for the smoking or drinking aspects of the hobbit world, at least not now, she might feel differently about that when she was older. Steph alluded to something about the book, the Hobbit, that Willa may have picked up on. “I’m not sure,” Willa replied. She may have picked up on certain points but having no knowledge of what the Hobbit contained she wasn’t sure what she should be looking out for. “I gather from the title that it might tell us how Bilbo came about the ring?”

 

Steph gave her own complimentary review of the elves. “They sound wonderful; I think I’d like to be an elf, if I was to be one of the races.” She was pleased that Steph seemed to enjoy the same characters as her, although as she’d stated really, she’d enjoyed all of them.  Steph made an interesting point about Gollum being the one to actually fulfil the quest. “I suppose that make’s Gollum the true hero of this tale,” she said with a chuckle.

 

Willa had also noticed that the majority of men in the book had been painted in a rather negative light, there were of course exceptions such as Aragon and Elowyn. “I wonder why he did that,” Willa thought aloud. “Is it like that in most muggle books? I suppose one might say belonging to that race makes its weaknesses so much easier to see.” She was sure Steph would have her own ideas of why Tolkien had written his human characters in such a way.

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Stephanie Eckland

"Of course" Steph smiled when Willa corrected her. Whilst she was exceptionally bright, Steph was not infallible and she did get things wrong occasionally. Wizarding plants were an entirely new subject for her, so it stood to reason that she would make the odd mistake, and she was more than happy for these to be pointed out. "Thank you" she added.

 

Willa invited her other during the holidays and Steph felt that was a lovely gesture. "That would be really useful, thanks again" she approved "maybe I can return the favour by inviting you to spend time in a muggle household over the Summer." She was sure her parents would agree to her having a friend over, and she was confident that Willa would have sense enough not to demonstrate magic of any kind around the muggles in the area, or the shop.

 

She sighed "I guess that Knaggs marking us down is something we will have to put up with, for now." she suggested "if it looks like it might affect our actual grades though, we'll have to take steps." It was all very well being submissive in class, Steph would not allow someone like Knaggs to keep her down for long. If necessary, she would go over his head.

 

Willa explained that she had been supporting Cosette outside of class, and she smiled some more. "That was really considerate of you" she approved "poor Cosette is nervous enough as it is, she doesn't need a man like Knaggs to make her feel even worse." She offered a slight suggestion. "Maybe we can work with her together" she offered. Steph was happy to aid in any way she could, but she wasn't sure if Cosette would welcome another face. Nervous people tended to not want to be crowded. "Do you think she'd welcome both of us?" she wondered.

 

Her friend pointed out that she had indeed read the appendices and had been impressed with the level of detail that Tolkien had included in his story, then reminded her about the trip to the muggle bookstore. "Something else we can do over the holidays" she advised "maybe we could use that floo powder stuff to travel from your place to The Leaky Cauldron." That would be the easiest mode of travel, she felt. It would save taking the train although they hadn't yet discussed how Steph would get to Willa's home. "If we left via the main entrance onto Charing Cross Road" she pondered "we could head through muggle London to the nearest bookshop. There is a map tool on my phone that will show us the way." Steph had shown Willa her phone before, but it was blocked by a muggle dampening field at the time. Once they were in the heart of London though, the device would work and Steph could show her some of its functions. Muggles really had invented some quite ingenious technology.

 

Willa offered a suggestion about The Hobbit that was fairly close to the mark, not that Steph was at all surprised. She had every confidence in her friend, and it was a fairly easy conclusion to reach for one who had read The Lord of the Rings. She didn't want to give too much away though. "That may come up" she hinted "as for anything else about The Hobbit, I guess you'll have to read it." Steph was not about to reveal the entire storyline in advance. Willa joked that Gollum was the true hero. "Perhaps, not that he would see it that way" she replied "he just wanted to get his hands on his precious."

 

When Willa wondered it it was common for humans to be portrayed in a bad light in muggle fantasy, Steph shook her head. "Not particularly, no. Many stories show humans as the heroes. Tolkien was a professor of English at Oxford University, born of English parents who were living in South Africa at the time. Both his parents died when he was young, and he later served in the conflict known as the First World War. His trust in humanity may have been diminished somewhat." That was a short account of Tolkien's early life,but Steph wondered if it might explain why he had cast humans so poorly in his story.

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Willa Mercier

Willa was excited to have Steph visit her home. She could show her all her most prized books, her tree house and of course her mother’s ‘office’. She imagined seeing a wizarding household would be an interesting trip for Steph, but Willa was far more interested in seeing Steph’s home. “I would love to come to your house. Do you think your Dad would let me watch him do some glass blowing if I promised to stay quiet? Could we watch one of those documentaries you told me about, I know you don’t really like them, but it might still be fun. Then we could do some baking and use those whizzy mixy things, if you have those.” There were tons of other things she wanted to do, she’d have to research and make a list of all the muggle activities she’d like to try.

 

Knaggs was certainly a thorn in what was otherwise an almost perfect school experience. Willa didn’t necessarily like all her teachers, Professor Fjord seemed like a bit of a loose cannon and Professor Hambledon certainly wasn’t the most skilled wizard, but none of them, other then Knaggs were unpleasant. “I hope it won’t come to that, I’m sure McGonagall wouldn’t allow a teacher to purposefully mark students down, but if it does we should go to Professor Ripley.” Although their grades wouldn’t count towards their overall qualifications Willa wasn’t prepared to achieve anything less than what she deserved.

 

Although Steph and Willa had taken to magic easily Cosette hadn’t been so lucky. She seemed to believe she wasn’t capable of performing magic, which of course wasn’t the case. Half the struggle was just getting Cosette to believe in herself. It was kind of Steph to offer to help but Willa thought that two girls who were excelling in their classes might be more of a hindrance than a help. “Although another perspective might help I think the two of us could be a little overwhelming, maybe even intimidating.” Still, she’d let Cosette make up her own mind. Willa felt that between her and Steph almost anything was possible, and it would certainly benefit Cosette to have more time with her peers instead of her sketch book. “I’ll see what she thinks though. If she’s not keen on working with the both of us maybe you could help her on your own. I think just knowing there are two people here rooting for her would be a big help in itself.”

 

“Yes, I can’t wait to go to a muggle shop, I’m going to ask my parents to give me money for Christmas, so I can buy loads of books!” Steph went on to tell Willa they could locate a bookstore using her phone. “How do you fit a map inside a phone?” She asked. Maps were generally large, and Steph’s phone wasn’t. Willa supposed you could maybe fold one up really small and put it inside but that seemed like a strange thing to do. Surely there were more useful things to carry around then a map. “Is it a really tiny map? Does the phone work like a magnifying glass?” As Steph planned their trip Willa realised they hadn’t taken into consideration how Steph would get to her home in the first place. It wasn’t like Steph’s parents could just drive her there, the wards around her home would make them feel an urgent need to leave. Maybe they could meet outside of the wards, but she didn’t even know where Steph lived exactly. “Um, I just realised, I don’t actually know where you live. We’ll have to figure out a way for you to get to my house. We’re in Hastings, do you live anywhere near that?”

 

Steph provided no confirmation on Willa’s assumption, something Willa was grateful for, if a little infuriated. Although she wanted Steph to describe the book to her it would be better to discover it for herself. “I hope I’m right! I think I am, but thanks for not confirming either way.” Her comments as to whether Gollum would see himself as a hero had Willa pondering the conflict that was Gollum’s character. “I suppose that’s one of the things that makes him so interesting. I think there is a part of him that would think he was a hero. The same part of him which was so devoted to Frodo at one point. If Gollum had embraced that personality instead of letting his darkness win, we might have had a similar ending, only we would be seriously considering him the hero of the tale.”

 

Steph provided some insight into Tolkien’s life and Willa could see why maybe Tolkien would be disillusioned with humanity. “Maybe, though I suppose the Hobbits are also quite human in a way. Maybe Tolkien projected his disappointment with the human race onto his humans and gave their best qualities to his Hobbits.” Willa supposed she could probably find a book in the muggle book store which would analyse all these themes, the book seemed deep enough and Steph had told her it was incredibly popular. She’d like to read that first before starting her second reading of the book.

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Stephanie Eckland

Willa was clearly excited to see her home, and Steph wasn't at all surprised. Her friend seemed baffled by gadgets such as her phone, and televisions which to her were mundane and ordinary. The inner workings of a muggle home must be a great mystery to her. Steph was also curious to see Willa's home. Having spent time at Hogwarts, magic did not seem quite so miraculous to her as it had at first, but she was still interested to see how magical families like Willa's used magic in their everyday lives.

 

She nodded when Willa asked if her father would let them watch him work. "I think so, but we should stay out of his way" she advised "it is hot work, and generates a lot of steam. I wasn't even allowed in the workshop when I was younger." This rule had been strictly enforced as well, her father had kept the door to his workshop locked at all times, she she couldn't even sneak inside. "Of course we can watch a documentary" she nodded "I'll ask mother to record a couple of them for us." The trouble with relying on the television schedule was that you could not be entirely certain when a particular programme would be shown, and certainly not more than a week in advance. Luckily, they could record TV shows onto an internal hard drive so they could watch them later. "Do you have any particular subjects in mind?" There were so many documentaries, on so many topics. Steph wanted to show her friend one that she would be interested in watching.

 

She nodded when Willa said she was prepared to go to Professor Ripley if necessary. "Hopefully it won't come to that. I've managed to work around Knaggs so far, but I won't let him jeopardise my grades." Steph was here to fulfil her potential, and she would not let a professor like Knaggs get in the way of that.

 

Willa explained that Cosette may not appreciate another high achiever being around her, and she could see her friend's point. She fully supported Willa's suggestion that Cosette should decide for herself. "Of course. I wouldn't want to intimidate her" Steph agreed "you can let her know that she has my support though." Steph was confident that Willa would be able to judge the best approach to take with Cosette.

 

She was not surprised to hear that Willa planned to buy lots of books over Christmas, but the concept of a map within a phone confused her. "No, it isn't written on parchment. Muggles have learned how to record information on their devices, like maps for instance. This map is shown on the phone screen, like a picture is shown on a television." Not the whole map, just a section of it. "The screen shows a small part of the map, my moving your finger over the screen you can tell the phone to move to show other areas." She felt it would be easier to demonstrate than to explain, but she couldn't use her phone whilst they were at Hogwarts. "I'll show you sometime when we are away from the school" she advised. Perhaps on the train home for the holidays, or during her visit to Willa's home.

 

Steph smiled a little when Willa pointed out that she didn't know where she lived. "No, we are some way from Hastings" she shook her head "The family business is Eckland Glass, it is in the heart of York, in North Yorkshire. We live above the shop, and father's workshop is at the back." The shop and workshop took up most of the ground floor, and their home was the top two storeys. "You'll usually see mother in the shop, serving customers. She'll let me know you are waiting."

 

Willa offered some more insights into Gollum. "I'm not sure if the idea of being a hero would even occur to him" Steph pointed out "Gollum was completely consumed by the ring, whilst he still retained part of his original self in the form of Smeagol, Gollum had only one desire, and that was to keep the ring for himself." Could Smeagol have been a hero? He had murdered his own brother from a desire to take the ring, even before Gollum had emerged. That did not come across as particularly heroic.

 

Steph nodded when Willa described hobbits. "They do come across as a decent folk" she agreed "they remind me in a way of rural Englishmen. They worked the land, and enjoyed simple pleasures." They had also built their homes within holes in the ground, but perhaps that was also a part of the Hobbits' love of nature.

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