Taking Your Inner Artist on the Hero’s Journey: Part 4
We return to our hobbit protagonist, Jack, who is still early on in his journey. He knows it’s early on; he knows he can’t be expected to have done all the things the characters around him have. He knows that. He keeps telling himself that. And yet, with each story swapped, he feels himself becoming more hollow, less proud of his own story.
“There I was”, began a creature with skin like darkest night and eyes like purple gems. “Right in the middle of freeing a trapped dwarf hanging from the ceiling of a dungeon o’ tricks. We had evaded swords, and fire, and rain from nowhere. We were already at half strength, and nowhere closer to freeing him, when all of a sudden another me pops out of nowhere! He was a wily one, make no mistake!”
“Mind you”, responded the bartender, a middle aged woman with bright red hair and a cat to match. “Mind the time my party and I faced those ogres as tall as trees?”
“Was that the same party with a dwarf lass who kept running off to try to fight them hersel’?”, asked a hefty individual. He had a face full of scars and a twinkle in his deep set eyes. “I had a fair few men like that in my day. Threw everyone off, it did. Almost lost me the battle against those fiends from the Underdark - meaning no disrespect, like”, he gestured to the one who had spoken first.
“No harm done, no harm done!”, said the other. “They made us miserable, to be sure.”
Jack couldn’t believe his ears. He remembered learning about the battle they were referencing when he was…well, it was one of his earliest memories. He couldn’t decide if he felt curious, amazed or horribly, horribly small in the presence of these clearly very experienced adventurers.
“Hello”, said a quiet voice to his right. He looked to see someone he hadn’t noticed before, someone that looked a lot like himself. Someone that looked really familiar.
“Tara?”, he asked. “Tara Swiftfoot?”
She smiled. “Alright there, Jack? It’s been awhile.”
Jack smiled from ear to ear. Tara had always been a welcome soul, and he needed a familiar face right now.
“But what are you doing here?”, he asked. “I didn’t expect to see any of our lot this far from Hobbiton.
“ I might ask you the same question!” Tara laughed. “What ARE a pair of hobbits like ourselves doing here, at The Fair Winds, of all places?”
“Aye!”, boomed a voice behind them. “What are the pair of ye doing out here?”
Jack turned to find the three on his left smiling and listening. He felt a bit shy for a moment. Seeing this, Tara said, “I’ll begin, shall I? I’ve always wanted to learn more about the Ents, maybe hang about with them for awhile. So I’ve decided to set out on my own, try something new for a change.”
Their ad hoc audience nodded and looked at Jack. He shrugged. “I, uh, have decided to seek apprenticeship as an armor maker. Elf armor.”
The bartender looked surprised. “It’s not often they explain their techniques to folks that aren’t elves, is it?”
Jack blushed. “I know it sounds a bit…uppity and far-fetched. But I met an armor maker some time ago, and I just decided to, uh, give it a go.”
The one who’d been cloned in a dungeon smiled. “I don’t think it sounds far-fetched at all. I think it’s the biggest plans that have enough magic to stir our blood to meet them.”
Jack decided he would repeat that to himself daily. It was an excellent thought. “What’s your name, Sir?”, he said, reaching out a hand.
“Welly Roads”, came the response and the handshake. “And you?”
The bartender introduced herself as Anwyn; the hefty fellow was Baird the Brazen.
Feeling encouraged, he said, “I was beginning to feel like I didn’t have the right to have a pint at the same table as the rest of you.”
Baird laughed a table shaking laugh. “Well of course you do! Ye’re thirsty, ain’t ye?”
Anwyn smiled and passed him a fresh ale. “You’re walking a hard road, just like any of us.”
“Terribly equalizing things, adventures”, Welly winked at him. “There’s nobody that ain’t learning something new, or making mistakes, or putting their foot in their overly large mouth SOMEWHERE nearby”, he nudged Baird.
Tara nodded. “I’m inclined to agree. And I’ve found that the moment I start feeling differently, it’s best that I simply get going again, and find the pride in my own journey.”
Despite himself, Jack found himself feeling much less hollow and quite encouraged. He resolved to set out at first light.
That evening, when the residents of The Fair Winds had gathered for their meal, he noticed something. Once he did, he couldn’t quite understand how he’d missed it. Tara was definitely pregnant. He suddenly felt completely ignorant. Did pregnant hobbits often journey alone to learn more about Ents?
Tara joined him and smiled. “I see that you’ve noticed little Tara.”
Jack congratulated her warmly. “May I ask you something that may be a foolish question?”
“Fire away,” she responded.
“Doesn’t…isn’t it…more difficult to do what you’re doing,what with…Little Tara?”
Tara bit into an apple thoughtfully. “Here’s how I approach it. I think that one of the best gifts my mother passed to me was watching her paint. She always found time, even if it was just for a moment. I could see her come alive in a different way every time she held that brush. It was like her own little secret stash of happiness she could tap into at any time. I think that for me, knowing that she always had her paints, made me feel safe even when things were difficult.”
Jack had a vague memory of Tara through the years. He had never perceived her as someone with sadness at home, but she was always like a ship sailing on steady seas. He supposed there was just a lot he didn’t know.
“So”, she continued, “I suspect that if I can manage to make a life for the two of us in a place surrounded by Ents, and open sky, and fresh winds, my little one will come to have that same sense of safety and joy playing about. That sounds like a journey worth taking to me.”
Jack nodded, turning over what she had said in his mind. That would be another thing he’d have to repeat to himself every day.
The next day, he woke at first light. He left a few extra copper pieces on the pillow and out he stepped into the fresh, crisp morning air. He repeated his two new phrases to himself.
A journey worth taking. It’s the biggest plans that have enough magic to stir our blood to meet them.
He could hear birdsong that was new to his ears. He was noticing small changes in the flora around him. There was a bit more color popping out of the grass here and there. And there was an interesting smell, faint. He could just detect it at the back of his nose and mind. As he went, the smell grew stronger and became less pleasant.
At the same time, he noticed a definite pattern emerging in the undergrowth - there were mushrooms. Increasingly colorful and increasing in size as he walked. It seemed to Jack that the fungi were emitting the smell. It really was getting pretty awful. His inner botanist was curious. Where did this trail of mushrooms lead?