As Gandalf led the way up the steps, he held his staff aloft. It shone faintly defying the shadows that threatened to engulf them in their dark embrace. Coralie used her laser light as extra guidance for her feet.
“I am so glad that I thought to pack this as well as my shoes,” she thought. “Fancy walking through this place in socks!” she shuddered.
By the time they had gained the top of the stairs, the Company was exhausted. Two hundred they had counted! A level floor finally greeted them.
“I’m hungry!” said Pippin.
“What’s so unusual about that, Pip?” responded Merry wearily.
“The hobbits are right,” agreed Gandalf. Let us rest and take something to eat and drink while we may. We need some refreshment to help us shake off the horror that we have just encountered, and strength for what lies ahead.”
Coralie sat down beside the hobbits and opened up some rations for them.
“Here, I thought you may like to try this. The hobbits found it good,” she said as she threw a packet at Aragorn who caught it deftly with one hand.
“Nice catch Aragorn. I could make a cricketer out of you yet!” she chuckled.
He looked at Gandalf to see if he knew what she meant by cricketer, but the wizard merely shrugged his shoulders in reply. Aragorn examined the contents of the packet, marvelling both at the packaging itself and the contents inside. He broke off pieces and passed them around.
“What flavour do you call this Lady?” asked Aragorn.
“I do believe that you have tropical fruit salad there, mate,” she replied.
The others nodded in approval as they tasted the food passed around.
“The Lady Coralie is both fair and generous,” said Aragorn with satisfied delight.
Coralie looked at the hobbits munching away on the biscuits she had provided.
“Now, how about a cup of tea?” she asked them. They looked at her as if she was mad.
“There ain’t no wood in here to light a fire, Coralie,” admonished Sam. Coralie winked at him and started to rummage through her pack. She fished out her fuel stove and a packet of strawberry kiwi herbal tea.
“We don’t need wood Sam,” she grinned. The hobbits and the others looked in wonder as she lit the fuel stove with a lighter. They had seen neither before. It seemed like she was performing magic. Gandalf and Aragorn had lit their pipes and seemed to take great satisfaction from the hobbits reaction to Coralie’s `magic’. They watched and listened as she explained the inner workings of her stove. Sam came forward with a contribution of water and cups following a quick whip around through everyone’s packs. As the water boiled, Coralie then placed a tea bag in each.
“So you can make tea without a teapot then?” confirmed Sam, as he examined the teabag and sniffed at it.
“Yeah! Pretty nifty eh?” agreed Coralie. “Shame I don’t have any eucalyptus leaves on me. Then I’d be able to make you a real Aussie cuppa.” She handed a cup to Gandalf who sat on a large boulder, drawing on his pipe methodically.
“Here you go Gandalf. Age before beauty. Get that into you and you’ll be as right as rain.”
“My Dear. I’m sure that you are much younger than quite a few of us here in spite of our appearance. I can think of one in particular,” he said as he looked in Legolas’ direction. “As for the beauty part….Well, I see no other contestants for that title in this sea of `testosterone’ as you most aptly put it, apart from yourself. So you are correct on both counts,” he said as he put out his pipe and thanked her.
“Gandalf,” Coralie blushed. “Nevertheless, you look as old as my late Grandpa, and I’m giving you extra rations,” she said as she collected herself. Aragorn looked over his cup at Gandalf and had a good chuckle at his expense.
“Now Gandalf. I managed to find one last Chocolate Banana health bar that the hobbits haven’t devoured yet. Very good for you and it tastes real beaut! My Grandpa was especially fond of bananas and ice-cream with chocolate syrup, and I have a feeling that you will like it too. Can’t help you out with ice-cream at the moment though. This will have to do instead.” She handed him the health bar. Nodding his thanks, Gandalf gingerly took the health bar and took a bite.
“Hmmm. This is good!” he said between mouthfuls.
“Oh and one more thing,” she said as if reminding him of something he had forgotten to do. “I’ve picked out some lovely music for you to listen to. It’s classical music by Brahms. Have no fear Legolas, It is not The Beatles,” she said looking over her shoulder at him, whilst he desperately tried to keep a straight face. “This will help you relax,” and with that, she plopped the headphones down on the unsuspecting wizard’s head before he could protest.
They all fell about laughing as Gandalf sat there unable to remove the head-set, as both of his hands were occupied with either a cup of tea, or a health bar. After he’d gotten over the shock, he found he quite enjoyed the music and sipped at his tea with great satisfaction.
Coralie strode over to Aragorn, whose laughing eyes betrayed the serious face he tried to put on as she stood over him with hands on hips and wagged a finger at him.
“Watch out Smarty Pants! How dare you make fun of an old man. You’re next!” she bristled.
“Your pardon M’Lady,” he said trying very hard to look ashamed. “Um. Thank you for the tea,” he raised his cup in acknowledgement.
“Good work Aragorn,” whispered Boromir as she walked away. “Believe me. That is one lady you don’t want to cross swords with.”
“She does have a way about her now, Aragorn. Even Gandalf was dumbstruck!” chuckled Gimli.
“I heard that Gimli!” said Gandalf as he listened to the music.
The hobbits were practically hysterical.
“Smarty Pants!” they laughed. Aragorn shot them a look that definitely said that he was not amused. They stopped laughing rather abruptly. Coralie sat down with her cup beside Legolas who was still trying to maintain some sense of self-control.
“Now what flavour tea is this?” asked Legolas as he sipped his cup, determined to occupy himself.
“Strawberry kiwi, Leggy. Do you like it?” she replied.
“Yes. Very much,” said Legolas. “I think though, that whenever I smell strawberries in the future I will think of you,” he smiled.
Coralie laughed. “Yeah, I do like my strawberries, now, don’t I? I’ve got strawberry shampoo and conditioner, berry hand and body lotion, strawberry tea, and strawberry flavored lip balm…. Oh, but my toothpaste is flavored like the sea.”
Legolas’ eyes shone at her mention of the sea.
“Which reminds me that I must clean my teeth amongst other things,” said Coralie as she looked for her toiletries bag in her pack.
“How do you clean your teeth?” asked Pippin inquisitively.
“I have toothpaste, a toothbrush and a little bit of water to spit with Pippin,” she said as he grimaced. “Now a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do, if you get my meaning. I suppose one of you must go with me then,” she sighed as she stood up. Boromir rose in order to accompany her.
“Aragorn can go with you Lady,” said Gandalf as he took off the headset. “He’s practically a married man. Oh and by the way. The music was indeed quite relaxing.”
As Aragorn got up wearily, Gandalf gave him an amused look that clearly said, “Better get used to it.”
When the two had come back, they all started on their journey again, anxious to get it over with as quickly as possible. Gandalf walked ahead with his staff in left hand and his sword Glamdring in the other. The others had their weapons ready as well. Gimli’s axe glinted feebly in the dim light. Frodo followed anxiously behind. He drew Sting and examined it for any faint sign that Orcs may be near. There was no gleam from either Glamdring or Sting that he could see. Frodo breathed a sigh of relief. Behind him came Sam, Coralie and Legolas. Merry and Pippin were in front of Boromir, and Aragorn grim and silent, brought up the sombre rear.
“Go carefully with the water from now on!” said Gandalf. “There are too many streams and wells in the Mines that should not be touched. We may not have a chance of filling our skins and bottles till we come down to the Dimril Dale.”
“I reckon, I had better get used to having bad hair days from now on,” said Coralie.
Legolas just looked at her uncomprehendingly.
The way the Company followed, had many twists and turns. They were descending again and it would be a long time until they reached a level path. Down in the lower reaches of the caverns, the air closed in upon them as a cloak. The hot air was stifling, but at least it was not foul. From many unseen holes in the walls came the faint breath of cooler air upon their faces. They wondered what they may hold, but cared not to dwell on the thought for long. Frodo occasionally caught glimpses of stairs and arches, and other passageways either sloping up or running steeply down in the faint light of the wizards staff as he followed. He wondered how Gandalf could find his way through this endless maze.
The only aid that Gimli really gave was his stout courage. For whenever the two would consult with each other, on which way the party should turn next, it was always Gandalf who had the last say. It had been a long time, since he trod the winding tunnels of Moria, and every now and then, he would stop to get his bearings. Despite all the windings of the road, he was always sure of the direction they should go, and did not hesitate when his mind was made up.
The company continued in this fashion for three days and nights, half stumbling through Moria in the partial-light of the wizard’s staff. The calignosity of the tunnels oppressed them, but Gandalf had promised them a four day journey, and this was to be their last night before emerging into the realm of sunlight again. They had paused longer than usual at a place where a wide dark arch stood opening up into three passages: all led in the same general direction, eastwards; but the left-hand passage plunged down, while the right-hand climbed up, and the middle way seemed to run on, smooth and level, but very narrow.
“I have no memory of this place!” said Gandalf with uncertainty. He held up his staff to examine the three passages further. “I am too weary to decide and I’m sure you are too. I suggest that we rest here for a while, until I can gather my bearings.”
They all sat down wearily amongst the dust and the rocks piled around. Coralie sat with her back to a wall. Her journey was much easier now that she had left her ski gear behind at the Doors of Durin. Still she was tired and she was not too proud to admit it. She searched around in her pack for a moment. Presently, she fished out a little book and a dark bottle with a sealed lid.
“Aha!” she said as she held a bottle of vitamins in her hand. “This should fix me up like Billyo!”
“Whose Billyo?” asked Legolas coming to sit beside her. “And what do you have there?”
“It’s a saying Legolas. It means `real fast’, so you can say that something goes like the billyo such as, `that horse flies down the track like billyo! ….. And these, my lad (Legolas laughed to himself at the word `lad’) are vitamins. I need a boost. All I have to do now is get some Adam’s ale and I’ll be as happy as Larry” she replied.
Legolas gave her an inquiring look.
“Water, Leggy. Pure, unadulterated water.” She made to reach into her pack, but Legolas already had a skin handy. He wondered who Larry was.
“Here! Do you want one?”
Legolas looked at the strange capsule she held in her hand.
“What is inside?” he asked.
Coralie read the label of the bottle with her laser light.
“Vitamin A, B complex, Vitamin C and rosehips,” … (Legolas knew what rosehips were), “…..bioflavinoids, Vitamin D, (believe me you need that, especially after being out of the sun for almost 4 days…” she went to go on but Legolas interrupted her monologue.
“What does the sun have to do with this Vitamin D?”
“Oh you need sunlight so your body can produce Vitamin D. It is good for your bones, skin, teeth, eyes,” she answered. “Look! Try one. I promise it won’t hurt you,” she assured him.
“I’m not worried about that Lady. Just wondering how you can get all of that in there!” he said pointing at the capsule.
“Here!” she said as she swallowed her capsule and handed him the bottle and laser light.
“There’s even more. I just touched the tip of the iceberg. You can read it for yourself. I have to go see Aragorn about watering the horses!”
Legolas shook his head as he watched her walk off with Aragorn. “The things my Lady says!” he laughed to himself as he peered at the vitamins in the dark.
“Do not be afraid!” said Aragorn to Coralie as he led the way to some dark recess before her. “I have been with Gandalf on many a journey, if never on one so dark; and there are tales of Rivendell of greater deeds of his than any that I have seen. He will not go astray – if there is any path to find. He has led us in here against our fears, but he will lead us out again, at whatever cost to himself. He is surer of finding the way home in a blind night than the cats of Queen Beruthiel.”
“I am not afraid,” she said as he turned towards her. He looked at her features closely in the dim light and knew she spoke the truth.
“God!” she thought as the two of them returned to the others. “If that wasn’t an Academy Award performance, what was? I reckon I’ve convinced Aragorn that I’m not scared to death, but Gandalf better not question me too closely…he’ll have me figured out in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”
Aragorn rejoined Boromir on the steps and lit his pipe. He looked over at Coralie who was sitting back against the wall between Legolas and Pippin.
“Lady, we have been most discourteous to you. All along this journey we have lit our pipes at every opportunity and offered you none. Is it the custom of women in your land to partake of weed to smoke? For if it be so, I have a spare pipe in my kit,” he asked.
Pippin lit up his pipe beside her. She started coughing and spluttering in disgust.
“Look boys. The Surgeon General says that smoking is a health hazard and if you value your health you will quit now. Aragorn, there is tobacco and there is weed where I come from and both sexes smoke it… but if you’re smart, you keep away from it altogether. Even side stream smoking is bad for you. Thanks, but no thanks, I don’t want another nail in my coffin…I’m outta here!” and with that she jumped up and made for the other wall away from the drifting smoke. They were all smoking now, except for she and Legolas. He laughed at her antics.
“At last! A mortal who does not take pleasure in filling their lungs with smoke! I think I will join you, for I take no pleasure in their smoke either.” He leapt up and quickly joined her on the other wall where she now sat with her little book and laser-light in hand. The others just shook their heads and continued to draw on their pipes with distinguishable pleasure.
“What are you reading? I remember the book with blank pages in your backpack, so it can’t be that,” Legolas asked as she traced the lines in her book with her little light.
“I’m reading English poetry Leggy. I forgot I had this altogether. It was in my ski jacket actually with a few other things. I like to read it sometimes when I take a break,” she replied.
“English poetry? We Elves are also fond of poetry. Although, I’m not quite convinced that humans can shape their words as well as an Elf.”
She looked up to protest as he held up a hand. “Do not be offended Lady. Perhaps you could read some to me, so I may judge the worth of it?” his eyes twinkled with the challenge.
“Hmmm. Let me see. What could possibly impress an Elf from amongst these works written by mere mortals?” said Coralie in a high tone as she flipped through the pages.
“I’m waiting Lady,” chuckled Legolas. “Impress me if you dare!”
“Watch out Legolas… I think you are treading on very thin ice there. No matter how light your elf feet may be!” said Aragorn with a laugh.
“Bilbo’s poems are quite good!” added Frodo joining in on the banter.
“He’s a hobbit Frodo. That doesn’t count. I’m far more interested to see how far humans have come in the Lady’s time. Perhaps we have managed to civilize them after all!”
Coralie glared at him.
“I’m still waiting,” Legolas said nonchalantly.
“Okay Smarty Pants! Try this on for size!”
“She called him Smarty Pants!” guffawed Merry and Pippin together.
“Quiet you two! I would like to hear a poem as well,” shot Aragorn.
Coralie opened the book and started reading out loud without any further ado.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
“There. Will that do? That was a sonnet by William Shakespeare. More noted for his plays than poetry, but pretty good don’t you think?”
“That was better than Bilbo’s poetry!” cried Frodo. “But don’t tell him I said so.”
“To be sure, it was much better Frodo. Still I’m not at all convinced,” said Legolas with a naughty wink to the hobbits. “Perhaps Lady, you could read something else in order to convince me?”
The others looked on half expecting her to hit him with that little book. The poem was exceptional, but they did not want to interrupt, and waited anxiously to see what she would do next.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
`Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
`Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
“Now that’s a poem a man would write!” exclaimed Gimli.
“They were brave men Lady, outnumbered though they were. Tell me did they win?”
asked Boromir, for he was now listening too.
“Yes they did, although at great cost.” She turned to Legolas. “So Legolas, is that enough? Have I managed to convince you yet?” asked Coralie as she closed her little book.
“Nay Lady, for you have read me only poetry written by men so far. Are there no women poets in that book of yours. Surely, the fairer sex can bandy words with their tongues, and no one would argue that you are indeed our superiors on that score, but have they yet learned the gentle art of the written word?”
Coralie looked like she would burst at any moment. The hobbits held their hands over their mouths, trying desperately not to laugh out loud and spoil Legolas’ game. Aragorn and Gandalf coughed.
“Here you read it!” she said slapping him in the chest with the book. “Let us see if an Elf can do a mere mortal woman’s poem any justice!” huffed Coralie.
Aragorn gave Legolas a sympathetic look as he tried not to laugh. He wasn’t about to draw the Lady’s ire again. Gandalf and Boromir laughed and shook their heads as they drew on their pipes.
“Well Master Elf? Are you going to take up the lady’s challenge?” asked Gimli.
Legolas sighed and opened the book, trying not to smile at the dwarf, whose eyes were dancing with glee behind his frowning countenance.
“Which poem would you have me read?” he asked carefully. Coralie was cross now, and he knew it.
“That one there,” she snapped.
“Ahem,” Legolas cleared his throat. “This poem is called `How Do I Love Thee.’ and was written by one Elizabeth Barrett Browning.”
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,–I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
A hush fell on them all. Legolas’ musical voice had borne them each away to where their hearts desires waited patiently in yesterdays shadows. Aragorn beheld his beloved Arwen in the quiet recesses of his heart, and warmed at the gentle design the poem had wrought upon his memory. The hobbits sighed as one as they emerged from their reverie. Legolas turned gently to Coralie.
” Indeed Lady, `twould seem I crave your pardon as I have been sorely amiss in my estimation of your poets,” he smiled graciously. “I am forever in your debt for the enlightenment you have bestowed upon me.”
Coralie looked up at his smiling face and forgot all previous thoughts of giving him a sound thrashing. “You are forgiven. But only just. You look about as innocent as a cat in a goldfish bowl.” Legolas gave her a look which said “Who me?” and laughed softly.
“Ah Lady, it was worth it just to hear you read. But my education is not complete. I would like to learn more about you, Lady. You are so strange to me at times, and yet you also seem familiar as well. I cannot fathom it. So, let’s start at the beginning. Now that we are taking a rest for a while, tell me your story from the beginning,” said Legolas.
“What! From my birth or when I was just a twinkle in my Father’s eye?” said Coralie.
Legolas smiled. “Before that Coralie. When we first met upon the slopes of Caradhras, you were a wonder to behold. It seemed that you had wings on your feet as you flew over our heads. Of course, now, we know that you were `skiing’ as you call it, for sport. Another mystery to me, and I would learn more about this love for `sport’ that you have, but first I would learn more of your history; your ancestry, so I may discern your nature better.”
Gandalf came over to join them. He had finished his pipe and settled himself down beside them.
“And I too Lady, would like to learn more about you,” said Gandalf.
“What is this? The Spanish Inquisition? Or are we going to have a debate over nature versus nurture?” she joked. However, she could see that they were both in earnest.
“Alright, you want my family history…There’s not that much to tell. I can only go back so far,” she replied.
“That’s alright My Dear. Just start where you can.” Gandalf patted her hand. “Tell us about your family and this land Australia that you come from.”
Coralie shrugged. “Okay, I already told you about the `blue blood’ bizzo!”
“You are of course referring to your royal blood?” asked Gandalf keenly.
“Yep, but look….Where I come from, all people are equal, and no one is impressed by that sort of stuff. It’s far more important to be a fair dinkum Aussie and be true blue. We don’t go in for people bunging on airs and graces.”
“But who is your ruler then? Do you have no king?” asked Boromir.
“Not really. We still have a queen in England, (Which is a very long way away from Australia) but she is just a figure – head. She’s more of a symbol of another time really. Some people don’t like that idea at all back home, and want to turn us into a Republic, but I say “If it ain’t broken, then don’t try to fix it.” We actually elect our own government officials, and if they don’t do a good job, come next election (approximately every three years) we boot them out.”
Gimli snorted. “Boot them out? How can you have no king? That’s not right.”
“Well it seems to work pretty well for us Gimli. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you,” said Coralie apologetically.
Gandalf patted her hand. “None taken My Dear. It just seems so strange to us, but we know that you come from the future and things are vastly different from our time.” He gave Gimli a dark look warning him to keep silent.
“So Coralie, I can tell that you have a great love for this land of Australia. Tell us something of its history, for I would like to know more,” continued Gandalf.
“Well Australia is a great island continent in the Southern Hemisphere and was originally inhabited by Aborigines before European settlement.
“What’s an Aborigine?” Sam asked again.
“Aborigines were the indigenous people of Australia. They were supplanted by the early colonists and lost their lands and way of life to them, They were pretty upset at having lost their land to the interlopers, but they were outgunned.” she responded.
Legolas spoke up. “Do not ask what a gun is again Pippin.” Before he could interrupt.
“Go on Lady. This is very interesting.”
“Are there any hobbits in Australia?” asked Frodo.
Coralie laughed. “No Frodo. No hobbits that I know of. But Australians love their beer just about as much as you hobbits do. We’re world famous for it. I guess our image may be that we are a bunch of drunken scoundrels, considering that we started off as a convict settlement. But we have built a great country in about 200 years that in many cases is the envy of the world. Australia was also settled by free people who emigrated there for a better way of life, not just convicts. Most of my family were free settlers. I’ve searched in vain to find a convict ancestor.”
“But why on earth would you want to be descended from a convict?” asked Sam, not believing his ears. “I prefer the royal part, if you don’t mind.”
“Yeah, well if my great, great, great grandfather Count De La Rue, hadn’t been so stupid and sold the finest land on the harbour for a keg of beer in the rum trading days, leaving us as poor as church mice, I probably wouldn’t have minded that either, Sam. I told you we were fond of beer,” she said to Frodo. “Anyway, you’ve got it all wrong. Most of the convicts were poor people who couldn’t make a living to buy food to feed themselves or their children. The English government decided that their jails were too full of these desperate people and transported them as far away from England as possible, to Australia. The sentence was usually for life, just for stealing a loaf of bread!” The hobbits were wide eyed at this injustice.
“Just for a loaf of bread? That’s not fair!” cried Sam.
“Well, that’s the way it was. The poor people who were transported, (Including children) felt they were given a death sentence as they would never see their homeland or loved ones again. Many of them failed to make the voyage to Australia as they were chained up below the decks of the ships for eight long months. Much cruelty was done in those days, and the convicts were little more than slaves at first. You know, they originally sent women convicts to civilize the men.” Coralie nudged Legolas hard in the ribs. Aragorn laughed as he rubbed his side. “In spite of our humble beginnings, we have built a great nation. The most important things to an Australian are a strong sense of fair play, equality for all, always stick by your mates, when you shake on an agreement it is written in stone, help others before yourself, and never give in, especially when it comes to sport. But, mind you, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. We hate poor losers in Australia.”
“Do all Australians think this way?” asked Frodo.
“Pretty much. Throw in a bit of larrikinism and you are on your way,” she answered.
“What’s larrikinism?” asked Frodo, genuinely puzzled.
“I think the best way to describe larrikinism is this Frodo. Even though, my country has existed for about 200 years since it was first colonized, Australia didn’t really come of age until our soldiers went off to fight in the first World War. (And no Gimli, there were no women soldiers, so you can relax.) Our soldiers were called ANZACS meaning Australia New Zealand Army Corps, and was composed mostly of fine young men from the cities and the outback, many too young to be at war. Quite a few of them put their ages up so they could enlist and fight for their country. The most important date on the Australian calendar is ANZAC Day, when we commemorate those that have fallen in battle, and have laid down their lives for their mates. I was actually born on that day. Even though some 80 odd years have passed, since those terrible days of battle and trial, our enemies that we once fought, The Turks, celebrate the day as well to honor their fallen soldiers as well ours. They had never seen a fighting man like the ANZAC before, and his legend is held sacred. Both for courage under fire, and because of the kindly way we treated the prisoners we took. The boys actually gave them a smoke and a cup of tea instead of flogging them to death before returning them in exchange for Australian prisoners of war.” Aragorn and Boromir raised their eyebrows and looked at each other. Coralie went on.
“The ANZACS became a legend and personified all that Australians held dear about our basic values of life. They were defeated in battle, and we’re the only modern country that commemorates a defeat, because of the courage our young men showed, in spite of all odds. One terrible day, we lost three light horse brigades in a matter of minutes, but they never gave up the fight or turned and ran from the enemy. Australians were bold and ferocious in battle but were unwilling to bow to military discipline. I guess that is where the real larrikin element came in. An ANZAC never flinched in battle – if he died it was with a joke, or a wry smile on his face – yet nor would he salute a superior officer. The ANZAC hated military etiquette, and as we were still considered an English colony at the time, and held the English officer class in contempt. The Australian Imperial Force had friendly relations between officers and men, and anyone could rise from the ranks to a commission. At Gallipoli, where we fought and lost, men from all backgrounds and classes from the newly federated Australia, created the essence of what it means to be Australian – courage under fire, grace under pressure, giving a hand to a mate. I lost an uncle and a grandfather from both sides of the family in that war.”
“To be a larrikin then, is to be a good thing in your country. What is Australia like? Is it like Middle Earth at all?” asked Frodo.
“In some ways it is Frodo, but the climate is vastly different. More temperate, with long, hot summers. Our winters are very brief. I think the land has done much as well in shaping our national identity. The country is beautiful, the people are friendly and we have very little strife. Our biggest problems come from natural disasters such as fire and flood. When something disastrous happens, Australians are known for pitching in and helping each other. That is the Australian way. Our land can be very harsh at times, and the climate unforgiving, so we must come together as one in order to survive. Look! I will tell you a poem about my country. In fact it is called “My Country” and was written by Dorothea Mackellar.”
“Another female poet!” said Gimli shaking his head.
Coralie ignored the interruption.
“It is a poem that every Australian child can recite and my telling of it may help you picture my country better.”
The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies –
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
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Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!
The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
The orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die –
But then the grey clouds gather
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze……..
An opal-hearted country,
A willful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.
“Lady, I can well understand your love for this country, Australia,” said Legolas. “Even when she does not sing, she is still a songbird and can paint a picture more cleverly than any artist that I know of,” he thought to himself as the images she had brought to life receded from his mind. He looked at her tenderly and knew how much she missed her homeland. As if she had read his mind, she looked up at him and smiled. “She gives me much to ponder on.” He continued his thought as he recalled the images to mind again.
“So, Coralie. You have told us well about your country Australia and you do it proud. Now, tell us about your parents and your family?” asked Gandalf gently.
Coralie sighed. “My father, did not love me, nor my sister, or mother, for he left us when I was still a baby after my sister was born. We have not heard from him since.”
Legolas drew in his breath as he felt the subdued pain, still lingering in the walls of her heart.
“My mother remarried since, and I now have a new father who is very good to us, as well as brothers and sisters as well, though I have not seen them in a long time, as we are scattered all over the country.
“Must be a big country, then!” interrupted Pippin. Gandalf gave him a stern look. He knew he was on the brink of something important and did not want any interruptions. Coralie continued.
“We did it rough there for a while after my father left. I guess my real father was my maternal grandfather. Grandpa. He raised us, and I grew up looking to him until my mother remarried,” she stopped and looked down at her hands. “He is dead now…..” her voice trailed off.
Gandalf sighed. “Well, I think that is enough for now, Coralie. I can see that you are tired. You can tell us more about yourself another time.” He patted her shoulder as he got up and walked over to Aragorn. After a while he spoke.
“She is a curious mixture, this Lady. Don’t you think Aragorn?” Gandalf asked.
“What do you mean exactly?” he asked as he re lit Gandalf’s pipe.
“Well, I’m trying to get to the bottom of just why she is here. She comes from the future, there’s no doubt about that. She is no spy of the enemy either, for which I am relieved as well,” said Gandalf.
“She has a sad story to tell,” responded Aragorn. “Her family has lost everything, so it would seem.”
“Have they really?” responded Gandalf. “I’m not so sure that the loss of her royal heritage is of much concern to her, as the loss of other things. In many ways, she is a lot like you Aragorn.”
“What do you mean?” asked Aragorn, unsure of what Gandalf intended by that statement.
“You were raised far away from your true heritage, Aragorn. The lack of growing up without a castle, without a crown upon your head, has done you no harm. Instead, I believe that it has served to strengthen your character and resolve all the more. You care little for the trappings of royalty, and care far more for duty than you do material gain. Coralie seems to me to be the same in that respect. She also has grown up without knowing her father as she would have liked, although to my mind, she was better off without him,” said Gandalf matter of factly.
“You will get no argument from me there, Gandalf. `Tis strange though, that she is so strong of heart,” pondered Aragorn.
“Tis not so strange as you may think Aragorn. The blood of kings and warriors flows in her veins, although I discern that she is disappointed about not having any criminals there as well,” joked Gandalf. “She is both ordinary and extraordinary, like our young hobbit Frodo,” he said looking in his direction. “But I will say this, she gives me hope.”
“How say you, Gandalf,” asked Aragorn.
Gandalf smiled. “She comes from the future Aragorn. Do you not see? That means we must win in the end.” He stood up. “Now, I must go sit alone for a while and try to determine the way we must go from here.”
He left Aragorn sitting there drawing on his pipe. The embers reflected warmly in his eyes as he studied Coralie sitting with the hobbits and Legolas, and a smile briefly played about the corners of his mouth.
Now when I was a young man I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of the rover.
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback,
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said, “Son,
It’s time you stop ramblin’, there’s work to be done.”
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun,
And they marched me away to the war.
And the band played “Waltzing Matilda,”
As the ship pulled away from the quay,
And amidst all the cheers, the flag waving, and tears,
We sailed off for Gallipoli.
And how well I remember that terrible day,
How our blood stained the sand and the water;
And of how in that hell that they call Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk, he was waitin’, he primed himself well;
He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shell —
And in five minutes flat, he’d blown us all to hell,
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.
But the band played “Waltzing Matilda,”
When we stopped to bury our slain,
Well, we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
Then we started all over again.
And those that were left, well, we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire.
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
Though around me the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead —
Never knew there was worse things than dying.
For I’ll go no more “Waltzing Matilda,”
All around the green bush far and free —
To hump tents and pegs, a man needs both legs,
No more “Waltzing Matilda” for me.
So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay,
I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
To grieve, to mourn and to pity.
But the band played “Waltzing Matilda,”
As they carried us down the gangway,
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared,
Then they turned all their faces away.
And so now every April, I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reviving old dreams of past glory,
And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff and sore,
They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask “What are they marching for?”
And I ask meself the same question.
But the band plays “Waltzing Matilda,”
And the old men still answer the call,
But as year follows year, more old men disappear
Someday, no one will march there at all.
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda.
Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by the billabong,
Who’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me?
In 1914, the cabled reports from Europe gave an Increasingly desperate forecast – Europe was teetering towards war in a conflict between an increasingly stronger and powerful German empire and the rival British, French and Russian alliance.
As Britain returned to work after the August Bank Holiday Monday, war was declared on Germany and the declaration involved the whole British Empire. Australia’s Prime Minister Joseph Cook said: “If the Old Country is at war, so are we”.
Australia was in the middle of an election campaign. The opposition leader Andrew Fisher promised Great Britain “our last man and our last shilling” in any conflict with Germany. And the Prime Minister responded. ‘Our duty is quite clear – to gird up our loins and remember that we are Britons’.
There was almost jubilation at the outbreak of war. Most thought that the war would be all over by Christmas and men rushed to recruiting centres because they didn’t want to miss the excitement and adventure.
Canada offered 30,000 men, Australia pledged 20,000 and New Zealand already had compulsory military training. For the war In Europe, Australia raised a new army of volunteers – the Australian Imperial Force (the AIF). Recruiting began within days of the declaration of war.
Those who were too young raised their ages – and most were accepted. In little over a month, marches were held in the main capital cities hoping to encourage others to join them. They were called “six bob a day tourists” because their pay was considered high and many thought the war would soon be over – when Britain’s navy and army would tackle the German enemy.
The convoy with the Australian Division assembled in late October, and they were then joined by the New Zealanders. They formed the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – the Anzacs – on their way Europe via the Suez canal But the Anzacs disembarked In Egypt where they encamped near the pyramids ready for action against Turkey which had joined Germany in the war.
The Russians who were fighting on Germany’s eastern front, wanted the British and French to tackle the Turks to reduce pressure on Russia. The Anzacs Joined the British and French in a dreadful baptism of fire at Gallipoli. The British commanders anticipated that the Gallipoli peninsula would be “open to landing on very easy terms” and Turkey would have a force of only 40,000 to meet them.
On 25 April 1915, the Anzacs landed at a difficult and desolate spot on the Gallipoli peninsula and the Turks appeared to be ready for them. The Anzacs made little headway over a series of rocky heights covered with thorny scrub. At great cost the Anzacs, British and French made small advances, but Its force was wasting with casualties and sickness, while the Turks were able to reinforce their forces.
In August another offensive was made against the Turks, casualties were heavy, but it failed and a defeat was inevitable, The Gallipoli campaign was a debacle, Military censorship prevented the true story being told but a young Australian journalist, Keith Murdoch (father of Australian newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch) smuggled the story about the scale of the Dardanelles disaster back to the Australian Prime Minister who sent it on to the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who was no friend of the British military establishment. It led directly to the dismissal of the British commander, Sir Ian Hamilton who never again was to hold a senior military position.
The British Government ordered an evacuation. By day, the Anzacs kept up their attacks with more Anzacs observed to be landing – by night the force was withdrawn, broken only by sporadic rifle and gunfire. On 20 December 1915, the Anzac retreat was complete, unnoticed by the Turks who continued to bombard the Anzacs’ empty trenches. On 9 January 1916, the Turks carried out their last offensive on Gallipoli, revealing only that the entire force had withdrawn without casualty. The evacuation was the Allies most successful operation in Gallipoli.
A British Royal Commission into Gallipoli concluded that from the outset the risk of failure outweighed Its chances of success. The British had contributed 468,000 in the battle for Gallipoli with 33.512 killed. 7,636 missing and 78,000 wounded.
The Anzacs lost 8,000 men in Gallipoli and a further 18,000 were wounded. The Anzacs went on to serve with distinction in Palestine and on the western front in France.
Australia had a population of five million – 330,000 served in the war, 59,000 were killed.
New Zealand with a population of one million lost 18,000 men out of 110,000 and had 55000 wounded. These New Zealand figures (62%) represent the highest percentage of all units from the Anglo-Saxon world.