Like I said, this duology was originally supposed to be a sequel to Lord of the Rings. And if you recall that trilogy, one of the most moving and unusual friendships was between Sam and Frodo, a genteel young hobbit and his lower-class best friend who stuck with him through thick and thin.
So guess what the main characters of THIS book are.
“Hoy there, Mister Perry! Hoy there! Hoy there! They’re coming over to see you! Coming from the Hall!”
“And for some reason they’re bringing power drills!”
The person yelling is Cotton, our poor man’s Sam Gamgee. And his first name is also the surname of Sam Gamgee’s wife Rosie. I’m sure that was a coincidence.
The person he’s yelling at is Perry Fairhill, our equally poor man’s Frodo Baggins. Perry is sitting in front of the Root and polishing a silver horn FORESHADOWING FORESHADOWING PAY ATTENTION TO THE FORESHADOWING DAMMIT while Cotton comes running over with two youngling Warrows capering and cartwheeling behind. Clearly Warrow kiddies don’t have enough to do.
Oh, and why are the kids there? To eavesdrop on… a conversation we, as people listening to a third-person omniscient narrator, would have heard anyway.
“Why, sir, they want you,” Cotton began, still huffing and puffing. “Hoy! Stop a minute. You two younglings” – he turned a baleful stare on the small Warrows – “this is not for your ears. Nip along now, so’s I can tell my master what this is all about. Double-quick! On your way!”
… this is gonna hurt. And I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is supposed to be the same way that the hobbits in Lord of the Rings are supposed to talk. Urg.
So the kids show their good manners by hiding in the bushes, and listening in while Cotton rambles incoherently for about two pages about ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL. I’m serious, he recounts everything that is unhelpful and uninformative. It’s like if Sam got a frontal lobotomy.
“Folks like them have not been seen in the Dells since the old days before Tuckerby’s time!”
“Of course, since we’re all xenophobic about non-Wobbits, there might be a reason for that!”
“They just come marching right into the Hall, neat as may be, and asked for the Mayor.”
“His secretary told them to take a number and be seated. They’ve been sitting there for two months.”
“Tes sir, there I was, sweeping the floor like I do every midmonth and they just up and ask me – me! – for the Mayor.”
- They only sweep the floor once a MONTH? They must have very low traffic.
- We later find out that Cotton is a handyman employed by Perry for the upkeep of the Root. WHY is he doing janitorial work for the Mayor? Is the local government so corrupt that they can’t afford their own staff?
- And why is it so surprising that they would ask the only/first person they see for the Mayor?
“I couldn’t believe my eyes was really seeing them, and I must’ve looked like the witless fool I am, standing there with my mouth hanging open in pure astonishment.”
Yeah, McKiernan has some trouble with folksy accents. He has trouble combining his own natural… verboseness with the stuff that an ill-educated English-y person would say. Hence why we get “my eyes was… seeing” right before the casual use of the words “pure astonishment.” Thankfully, after awhile he stopped trying the folksy accent.
Also, who tosses off lines about being a witless fool? Does Cotton have very low self-esteem?
“I guess I’d’ve been there still, frozen to my broom, gaping, ‘cept Mayor Whitlatch chose that very instant to come rushing in.”
On second thought, maybe Cotton IS a witless fool. I understand that he’s supposed to be surprised… but the Wobbits in the previous chapter didn’t seem shocked, just wary.
So the Mayor came out, did the same jaw-hanging move as Cotton, and then went into his office to talk. So Cotton eavesdropped on the conversation, but failed to hear anything of any use to the readers. DAMMIT, when is something going to happen?
“They all were in there talking low for about half an hour.”
“Now, we get a dollar off if we order extra cheese, but the sausage is expensive.”
“So just get pepperoni!”
“But I HATE pepperoni.”
“How about mushrooms?”
“He said, ‘Why, you’re right! Peregrin Fairhill is the one you want to see.'”
“He’s got the biggest stamp collection in the world!”
So the Mayor told Cotton to run up ahead and warn Perry that they have big High’n’Mighty Muckamuck Visitors coming over to the Root, because they want to see Tuck’s diary.
“they need him and his book.”
“And a bathroom. They’ve been driving for four days straight.”
“But, Cotton,” he turned back, perplexed,
I wasn’t aware that “turned back” was a synonym for “said.”
“you haven’t told me the most important part. Just who are they that want to see me? Who or what are they that need me? Who are they that’re coming to see the Account?”
THANK YOU. McKiernan’s spent the whole friggin’ two chapters so far dancing around who these guys are, including Cotton’s never-ending monologue on eavesdropping. Can we please hear who they are?
“Ninnyhammer that I am!” Cotton smote his own forehead with a sharp slap. “Why, you’re perfectly right, Sir. I have left out the most important part.”
YES. YOU HAVE. Now stop wasting my time and start TELLING US.
And because this is SO suspenseful, we get an entire paragraph devoted to those two brats who are STILL hiding in the bushes and listening to all this, and how they’re going to relate this whole miserable story to the other Wobbits. GET THE HELL ON WITH IT ALREADY.
“Sir, them as wants to see the Raven Book? Sir, well…”
- GET ON WITH IT OR I CUT YOU!
- And I’m not sure why “Raven Book” is always italicized. That’s not the actual title, is it? It’s more of a nickname.
“they’re Dwarves, Sir! That’s what they are: Dwarves!”
Wow! How totally not-shocking, since it’s already been established that it could only be humans or dwarves, and they used the dwarf word for Wobbits in the previous chapter! And an entire field full of people saw them entering the Boskydells!
These people need twitter so they’ll know what’s going on.