A Hunting we will go



A Hunting We Will Go

Oh, a-hunting we will go,

A-hunting we will go;

We'll catch a fox and put him in a box,

And then we'll let him go! - traditional

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra.

We do not weary of eating and sleeping every day, for hunger and sleepiness recur. Without that we should weary of them. So, without the hunger for spiritual things, we weary of them. Hunger after righteousness—the eighth beatitude. – Blaise Pascal.

“I caught nothing.” The dejected look on Faramir’s face made his words superfluous. “I saw a doe with her young, but could not bring myself to kill either. It is not as if we are about to die of hunger.” He flopped down in the forest clearing beside his friend and King.

“Nor would I have killed them either in your place,” Aragorn conceded. “I just feel as if I were starving. I did not see as much as a rabbit, and my attempts at fishing were equally fruitless. This stream contains naught but tiddlers! I am thankful that Arwen would not permit us to bring Eldarion this time, much as I yearn for him to be old enough to join us.”

Faramir turned away and rummaged in their packs, not wanting the King to see the look of sorrow in his eyes. Aragorn had treated him as a son, almost since they first met, but now that the King’s own flesh and blood was approaching his seventh birthday, Eldarion was becoming old enough to keep his doting father company during these excursions in the wild. Aragorn was a loyal friend, but Faramir knew it would be only honourable to volunteer to remain behind once the King’s heir could accompany his father.

“I would have both my sons beside me,” Aragorn said firmly, sensing Faramir’s thoughts. He gripped Faramir’s shoulder and turned him around to face him. “I will need you more than ever, ion nîn, when Eldarion is with us. I would not take him without you joining us. It would not be the same at all!”

“You honour me,” said Faramir, deeply moved. He cherished these outings all the more, given the opposition from the Council and their Guards at the King and his Steward going out unescorted. It took all of Aragorn’s considerable strength of will to escape from the strictures laid upon him. Aragorn and Faramir knew they could occasionally safely leave the City in the capable hands of Arwen or Imrahil. The Queen understood all too well that her husband’s health would suffer if he were kept caged within the City walls and she trusted Faramir alone to guard him with his life.

“I have my reasons,” Aragorn grinned. “Arwen will scarcely permit me to ride two leagues out of the City without you, far less Eldarion!”

The two men laughed. They began gathering firewood, which was in far more abundant supply than anything to cook with it.

“Who else would endure your snoring save I?” Faramir teased. He nimbly dodged the King’s feigned blow.

“The fact you are with me, though, does nothing to fill our bellies tonight!” Aragorn grumbled, returning to their original subject. He rummaged in his pack for their cooking utensils.

“We do have the blackberries and hazelnuts we gathered earlier, and some mushrooms we can cook,” Faramir informed him, trying to raise his lord’s spirits. “Then there is the bread we brought with us.” Thus saying, he tipped a meagre handful of small mushrooms into a pan, while Aragorn skilfully kindled a fire.

The two friends began their meagre supper in grim silence, trying to ignore their rumbling stomachs.

“We should have brought more supplies with us,” Faramir said, swallowing a final mouthful of the tasteless mushrooms.

“That would have defeated the object of this hunting trip, though,” Aragorn replied. “Arwen was praising the new cook’s skills last week, and I was telling her how well a Ranger could live off the land.” He laughed mirthlessly, before taking another bite of stale bread and washing it down with water. “Before we set out, she told me the details of the cook’s plans for the week. I boasted that we would dine in an even more lordly fashion on what we caught ourselves. Tonight, Arwen will be feasting on tomato soup, steamed trout with roast potatoes, and blackberry syllabub washed down with fine wine for dessert!”

“At least we have the blackberries,” said Faramir, pulling a face as he nibbled an especially sour one. “And most of the houses of the City will have tomatoes on the vines of their gardens, including yours and mine. How I wish I had a plate of venison before me now!”

“Or even roast mutton!” said the King rubbing his stomach wistfully. He laughed suddenly. “Just listen to us! We sound like a pair of Hobbits, thinking of naught but food!”

“We could always return home early,” suggested Faramir.

“I think I would rather go hungry than have Arwen tease me for weeks,” Aragorn replied ruefully, sprawling his long legs comfortably on the grass.

Faramir nodded. “Éowyn would never let me hear the last of it if we returned now. I have been looking forward to our venture into the wilds for weeks now! It is so difficult to find a few days when we are not obliged to hold audiences or attend Council meetings.”

“I have been counting the days that I could leave stone walls behind for a little while,” Aragorn replied. He found life at Court far more restricting than his Steward after so many years of wanderings as a Ranger. “Come; let us make preparations to sleep. Perhaps we will have better luck tomorrow.”

No sooner had the dishes been washed in a stream and the bedrolls laid out side by side, than it began to rain. Even though the two friends huddled together for warmth, they grew increasingly cold, hungry and miserable.

“I wish I were in my nice warm bed with Arwen beside me,” Aragorn said glumly.

“I thought you said you missed sleeping under hedges!” Faramir teased.

Aragorn’s only reply was a grunt.

Worn out after their day’s exertions, King and Steward eventually fell asleep, only for Faramir to be awakened by his companion’s loud snoring. He wished fervently that Éowyn were beside him instead. His wife never snored!

The Steward suddenly noticed that it had stopped raining. The clouds had dissipated, leaving a clear sky in their wake. Countless stars twinkled overhead, fairer by far than priceless jewels. A sudden feeling of joy overwhelmed Faramir. Wishing to share it, he gently elbowed Aragorn awake. “Look!” he said in a hushed tone, “I had almost forgotten the wonder of a starry night!”

Just then a shooting star streaked across the heavens. The two men watched it in awe.

“Did you make a wish?” Aragorn asked Faramir, smiling.

“Only that everything would stay just as it is,” said the Steward. ”What more could I want than Gondor at peace, the hand of the fairest lady that lives, children to surround me and the love of a father I thought I would forever be denied?”

“Some breakfast maybe?” teased Aragorn. “But you speak as wisely as ever, Faramir. All I ever wished for has now come true. There were many times I wandered the wilds, when I wondered if I would ever have the crown of Elendil, and with it my beloved’s hand in marriage, and a son at my side to cherish. Then I would look at the stars and hope would spring anew.”

No longer caring about their empty stomachs, King and Steward lay watching the stars until Eärendil vanished over the horizon with his ship. Then they slept, contented. Soon they would be constrained by duties of State once more, but tonight they would simply enjoy being Rangers together.

Or in the night, imagining some fear,

How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear! - Shakespeare

“Please, Naneth, let me go camping with Ada and Uncle Faramir,” begged Eldarion.

“Faramir and I would take good care of him,” said Aragorn, his tone almost as pleading as his young son’s. “It would be but for two nights and we are not going far. The countryside here in Ithilien is not beset by dangers. We could quickly return home, were any problems to arise. What harm could Eldarion possibly come to? Faramir and I enjoy returning to the Ranger way of life whenever we can be released from our duties. I have waited so long for a child of my own to take out in the wilds with me and share all the things that fathers and sons do!”

“Very well,” Arwen conceded. Loth though she was to be parted from her son, the prospect of a few quiet days with Éowyn and the other children at Emyn Arnen was appealing. Eldarion was a delightful child and she loved him dearly, but there were times she feared she did not give Farawyn as much attention as she had given her eldest. It would be good to devote some time exclusively to her little daughter.

“Thank you, Naneth, I promise I’ll be good!” Eldarion rushed to gratefully hug his mother, almost knocking her over in his enthusiasm. He hastened off to pack his possessions while Arwen instructed her husband and Faramir in great detail as to how they should care for the boy. They listened patiently while struggling not to show their amusement at her fretting over their safety, warnings to remember to tell Eldarion a bedtime story, to take care not to let him fall in river, to protect him with their lives and to keep him clean. Aragorn’s eyes met his Steward’s and both men struggled to restrain their amusement. Arwen seemed to think they could hardly take care of themselves, never mind a child!


The next morning, the three set out for some woods but a few miles from Faramir’s home. Aragorn and Faramir selected a campsite near to the river so that they would have water for their needs.

Eldarion sat quietly while his father and Faramir caught trout from the Anduin for supper. “May I try?” he asked after his father had caught a fish.

“It is getting late now, you may try to catch your own dinner tomorrow,” Aragorn promised.

“Please, Ada, I want to catch a big fish!” Eldarion cried in a voice loud enough to warn every fish for miles around that a hungry little boy was eager to make a meal of it.

Aragorn and Faramir exchanged amused glances. ”Very well,” he conceded. “You may try for a few minutes.”

“Thank you, Ada!” Eldarion cried joyfully.

The King put a finger to his lips reminding his son that a fisherman needed to keep quiet in order to be successful

Eldarion lapsed into silence. To his delight, he was rewarded when a fish took his bait.

“Well done, ion nîn!” said Aragorn, humanely despatching the trout. “Go with Uncle Faramir back to the campsite now and he will show you how to prepare it for supper.

Eldarion watched as Faramir expertly prepared the plump trout for cooking.

Aragorn caught a second fish. Deciding they had sufficient for their needs, he handed it to the Steward to prepare. He asked his son to help him collect firewood, explaining that ash and yew logs burned best, while willow made but a poor fire. Eldarion scurried amongst the trees picking up sticks and handing them to his father to identify. Aragorn was in his element, rejoicing in the all too rare opportunity to spend time teaching his son about life as a Ranger. When their arms were so full of kindling they could carry no more, farther and son returned to the campsite where they rejoined Faramir

As if by magic, Aragorn lit the fire by rubbing two sticks together. Faramir put the fish on to cook in a pan they had brought with them. Eldarion thought it smelled delicious. He felt much hungrier than he usually did.

While the meal was cooking the men pitched the tent they had brought in deference to Eldarion’s tender age. The boy tried to help, albeit not very successfully. Aragorn indulgently righted his mistakes, remembering with wry amusement his own first experiences of making camp and sharing his memories with Eldarion and Faramir.

“The food is cooked now!” Faramir announced.

Soon the three were tucking into a hearty meal of streamed trout together with potatoes and carrots they had brought with them. They had also brought juicy apples and pears.

“This is much more fun than having food sent up from the kitchens. It tastes better, too!” said Eldarion, tucking into his supper eagerly.

“You are fortunate, ion nîn,” said Aragorn. “Last time Uncle Faramir and I went camping, we caught nothing and went to bed hungry!”

Eldarion pulled a face.

“We still had a good time, though,” said Faramir. “We saw some shooting stars.”

“I’d like to see shooting stars,” Eldarion said eagerly. “May I take first watch?”

“We have no need to keep watch in a safe place like this,” Aragorn told him. “And I fear you only see shooting stars at certain times of year.”

“Please, Ada?” the child begged.

Aragorn exchanged an amused glance with Faramir. “Very well,” he agreed, humouring his son.

After singing Elvish songs that Aragorn recalled from his childhood, and telling Eldarion about Eärendil and his ship, one of the boy’s favourite bedtime stories, the two men settled down for the night inside the tent.

Eldarion remained outside keeping watch. The boy felt very grown up and important. He would keep the wild animals away from Ada and Uncle Faramir. Maybe, he might even see a shooting star to tell naneth about! At first, the low murmur of his Ada’s and the Steward’s voices provided companionship, but then they fell silent, as did the birds in the surrounding trees. Even the horses became silent as they ceased grazing and slept. Eldarion started to feel very alone. The night had come so fast, and the clouds hid the moon! He was tempted to wake his father, but he was a big boy now, far too old to be scared of the dark.

Shapes loomed around him, dark and menacing. He could hear rustling. What if a bear lurked in the bushes? Then he saw a distant glow. He recalled the dragons in the tales that his father and Lord Legolas had told him: Ancalagon the Black, who was slain by Eldarion's own great-grandsire; and the Dragon of Erebor. He liked to pretend that Smaug, his favourite toy, was a real dragon. But didn’t real dragons eat people along with their horses? The glow grew brighter and flames shot up in the air. Eldarion screamed in fright.

“What is wrong, ion nîn?” Aragorn, who had been watching his son all the time, came immediately to his side. Faramir followed.

“There’s a dragon in the bushes! It will eat us all for its supper!” Eldarion cried, rushing towards his father and flinging his arms around his waist.

“Do not be afraid! Uncle Faramir and I will keep you safe,” said Aragorn. “Come here,” He scooped up Eldarion in his arms and sat beside the campfire with his son.

“I will go and investigate,” said Faramir, drawing his sword. “I think I know what our ‘dragon’ might be.”

Trying hard not to tremble, Eldarion snuggled on his father’s lap and buried his head against the broad shoulder. Aragorn gently rubbed the child’s neck and shoulders, using an Elven healing art to calm the boy.

A few moments later Faramir returned grinning. “Our ‘dragon’ was a party from my White Company, sent by the Queen to keep an eye on us,” he explained. “I chided them for letting themselves be seen and frightening the boy. Those youngsters would not have survived five minutes in more dangerous times! I shall tell Beregond to take the men on extra training exercises. Do you think we should take Eldarion home?”

“There is no need,” Aragorn whispered, placing a finger to his lips and gesturing towards his young son, who, overcome by weariness and excitement, lay sleeping peacefully in his arms.

 Enough is equal to a feast. - Henry Fielding(1707-1754)

Aragorn awoke when a ray of sunlight streamed through the open flaps of the tent and warmed his face.

On one side of him slept Eldarion, contentedly snuggled against his father, his fright of the previous night forgotten. Curled against Aragorn’s other side lay Faramir, whom Aragorn had come to love as another son. The King was a happy man. He had a family after many long years of waiting.  

Eldarion stirred. At first wide eyed at his strange surroundings, the little boy was swiftly reassured by his father’s presence. “Ada, I need to get up!” he said urgently. ”But what about the dragon outside?”

“The dragon was but a neighbouring camp fire,” Aragorn reassured him. ”I will come with you, ion nîn; you are perfectly safe.”  

“I will make the breakfast while you are gone,” said Faramir. He sat up, yawning then stretched like a cat.

When father and son emerged from the trees, Aragorn led the child to a nearby stream and splashed cold water on his hands and face, telling the boy to do likewise.

“It is freezing!” Eldarion complained. ”The water nanny brings me to wash in is always warm.”

“Rangers wash in cold water,” Aragorn assured his son solemnly.

“I didn’t think Rangers needed to wash?” Eldarion protested.

“Yes, they need to keep clean, just like everyone else,” his father told him.

Eldarion was silent, pondering whether his chosen career was quite as good as it appeared to be.

“I had thought we might go swimming later,” said Aragorn. “But as you do not like cold water, maybe that is not such a good idea after all.”

Eldarion was thoughtful for a moment. He had learned to swim in the huge bath in his father’s private apartments and had been longing to try ‘real’ swimming outside with his Ada and Uncle Faramir. ”Perhaps it is not too cold for swimming?” he conceded.

“It will feel warmer when the sun is high in the sky,” Aragorn promised him.

“The porridge is almost ready,” Faramir announced when Aragorn and Eldarion arrived back at the campsite. The Steward ladled the gruel into three bowls.

Eldarion tasted it and pulled a face. “I don’t like porridge!” he announced. “I always have bread and honey for my breakfast at home.”

“I fear you will not make a Ranger, then,” said Faramir. “This is a typical Ranger breakfast.”

Eldarion’s lower lip trembled. Aragorn realised that a disturbed night and fear of a monster had been an ordeal for the usually sunny- natured seven year old. He hugged his son. “It is only when you are quite old that you enjoy such a simple breakfast,” he said. “Why I remember when I was in Moria with the Fellowship…”  

Eldarion’s eyes brightened. He loved his father to tell a story. Faramir, almost equally attentive, drew closer as the King began.

“I was loth to enter the mines of Moria,” Aragorn began. “I had been there before in my travels and it is a frightening place, dark and cheerless, though once it must have been magnificent.”

“Lord Gimli told me it was a vast City of great splendour for the Dwarves,” Eldarion said eagerly.  

“That is true, ion nîn,” Aragorn replied. ”Alas, when I was there, it was deserted, the Dwarves all slain or fled. We travelled for three days and two nights, our only light being Gandalf’s staff. The paths were steep and treacherous. It was not a pleasant place. I feared I would never again see the light.”

You were scared, Ada?” Eldarion sounded incredulous. 

“I was indeed,” Aragorn confessed ruefully. “It would not have been too bad, if only we had been able to eat a hearty meal. This porridge would have been a feast there. All we had to eat was stale bread and dried meat.”

Eldarion pulled a face, trying to imagine such unappetising fare.

A sudden thought struck Faramir and he rummaged in their packs, emerging with a jar. “Look!” he said, ”I have found some honey to put on our porridge and there is a cow with her calf over there. Perhaps she will give us fresh milk to drink!”

“You are familiar with cows?” Aragorn looked astonished. “You never cease to surprise me!”

“As we have our own herd at Emyn Arnen, I like to take an occasional turn with the milking. I first learned to milk when I became a Ranger.” Faramir replied. He rose from the campfire; a bowl in his hands, and cautiously approached the cow.

“Your Uncle Faramir has a way with animals,” the King explained to his young son.

“Can I learn to milk cows?” Eldarion asked.

“When you are a little older,” said Aragorn observing Faramir deftly dodging a well-aimed kick from the cow he was milking. ”I think this cow would prefer her calf to drink all the milk! I think we have enough now, mellon nîn,” he called. ”Come back before you get injured!”

A few minutes later, the trio were relishing a breakfast of porridge with milk and honey, while Eldarion had warm milk to drink.

“I shall tell naneth that we had our very own feast!” Eldarion exclaimed.

“And I am certain she will tell the cook to prepare an especially nice meal for us when we return home tomorrow, ”said Aragorn.

“I wish we did not have to go home so soon!” said the little boy. “I like camping, though I miss naneth.”

“So do I,” said Aragorn smiling. “She will be pleased when we return. You can tell her that Uncle Faramir and your Ada hope to bring you again soon to sleep under the stars.”

Eldarion jumped for joy, almost knocking over his porridge.

“We will make a Ranger of you yet!” said Faramir grinning.

The child that is not clean and neat,
With lots of toys and things to eat,
He is a naughty child, I’m sure—
Or else his dear Papa is poor. - Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894), Scottish writer, poet. “System,” A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885).


Be sure to keep him safe and keep him clean. Arwen’s parting words had caused Aragorn to gain more than one new grey hair over the past two days. Faramir looked equally troubled.

Long had the King tried to persuade his wife that at seven, Eldarion was old enough to accompany his doting father and the Steward on a hunting trip. Arwen had finally given her reluctant consent with more conditions than many a legal document.

It had been simple enough to track and catch their meals, easy to teach the boy how to follow a trail, tell him that no creature should be killed merely for sport, but only when hunger made it necessary and then quickly and cleanly. It was even possible to teach a lively lad to keep quiet, but to keep one clean was impossible.

Eldarion had been spotlessly clean after swimming with his father and Faramir the previous day, but that was before they had encountered a patch of swampy ground. Ignoring his son’s protests that he wanted to play in the mud, Aragorn had risked injuring his back by carrying his son through an especially swampy patch of ground, which he had deemed it unsafe to ride across. The King had never imagined that such a slender young boy would feel as if he weighed like a mumak to carry any distance! All his efforts were for naught; somehow the child still became covered in mud.

“If we return Eldarion to his mother like this, she will never let us take him out again!” Aragorn told Faramir grimly

As they approached Emyn Arnen, much to the King’s relief, they found a stream.

“The Valar be praised!” exclaimed Aragorn. “We can give Eldarion a bath.”

Faramir rummaged in their packs for a towel and soap.

“I will help you undress, ion nîn,” said Aragorn. ”We shall soon get you nice and clean for naneth.”

“I don’t want to wash!” Eldarion protested. ”It’s too cold to take off my clothes!”

“It is no colder than yesterday when you enjoyed our swim together,” his father said firmly.

“That was swimming, not washing!” Eldarion scowled, trying to wriggle away as his father started unlacing the child’s tunic. ”Only girls like being clean!”

Meanwhile, Faramir, using the brush they usually used to groom their horses with, tried to remove the dried mud from the young Prince’s clothing. He had by far the easier task as Eldarion writhed like an eel once his father had coaxed him in the water.

At last both Eldarion and his clothes were passably clean and the travellers continued on their way.

As they approached Faramir’s home, King and Steward exchanged relieved glances. Apart from his windswept hair, Eldarion looked almost as presentable as when he had simply been playing in the gardens of the Citadel.

“Arwen should be delighted how well we have cared for Eldarion,” said Aragorn. “There is not a scratch upon him and he is clean.”

“Éowyn will be so impressed that she will allow us to take Elboron as soon as he is old enough,” Faramir smiled contentedly. They rode through the gates, greeting the guards. As soon as they reached the stables, they handed the horses over to the care of the grooms.

“The Queen and Lady Éowyn are in the garden,” the head groom informed them.

As Aragorn approached the garden, he quickened his steps when his keen eyes spotted his wife tending a bed of daisies. Eldarion ran on ahead towards his mother.

Arwen rushed to embrace her son.

“I had a wonderful time with Ada and Uncle Faramir," Eldarion told her excitedly. “I helped Ada gather firewood, and we went swimming, I even caught a fish for my supper!”

“Beloved, I have missed you and Farawyn so much!” Aragorn said, approaching his wife to embrace her.

Arwen recoiled. ”You are covered in mud, Estel!” she exclaimed. “You badly need a bath!”

Just then Éowyn approached from behind the hedge that enclosed the herb garden. Faramir made to kiss her, only to be indignantly pushed away. “Ugh!” she exclaimed. ”You smell worse than an Orc. Go and wash at once before the children see you like this!”

Crestfallen, the two men slunk away.

“Whoever would have thought that Éowyn slew the Witch King?” mused Faramir. ”As I recall, the Pelennor fields were extremely muddy at that time. Surely she did not accomplish the deed without getting dirty?”

“Arwen never said a word about how well we had looked after Eldarion,” Aragorn said glumly. “One would think Ranger’s wives would appreciate a little dirt!”

“It seems we only receive a warm welcome when we are clean!” said Faramir ruefully leading the way to the bathing chamber. The servants were already bustling to and fro with buckets of hot water to prepare a bath for the men.

“Still was it not wonderful being Rangers again in the wild?” Aragorn replied. “What more could a man desire than the freedom to go camping with the son of his body and the son of his heart and a fair wife to return to? Our welcome will be warm once we are scrubbed!”

The End


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