“He doesn’t laugh much, does he?”
“So I noticed.”
“Why, d’you think?”
“I don’t know, Pip. Have you asked him?”
“No. I might, though.”
Aragorn couldn’t help but overhear. He slowed the two youngest members of the Fellowship down, and quietly explained that Boromir was very nearly humorless, because of the dire situation of his beloved home.
Gondor had been under onslaught for far too long and ravaged by plague, added to that the unrealistic expectations of King Denethor and the neglect and downright abuse inflicted on his younger brother, and the chances of having much to laugh at were not good. The fall of Osgiliath only made things worse.
“Sad.” Pippin said, only half to himself. “I bet I can make him laugh, though.”
“Really?” Merry said. “Alright, you’re on. I’ll bet you half my pipeweed.”
“Oh? Is this a challenge, then?”
“It is, it is.”
“You’re on, then. Done.”
But it wasn’t long before Merry regretted this. As they stopped for a rest, he tipped back the cup of water Pippin handed him only to find he had a mouth full of tadpoles. As he spat them out, his cousin rolled on the ground with laughter, as did everyone else…except Boromir.
“Go ahead and laugh.” Merry warned them, “Don’t think one of you aren’t next. The easiest laughter is bought at the expense of others.”
The next day Pippin had found some green persimmons. One of these had been used to season Gimli’s water with. The dwarf’s dour mouth had drawn up like a purse string. Again, Pippin had howled with laughter. So had everyone else exept Gimli….and Boromir.
He was not discouraged just yet, though.
That night he crept over to Sam’s pack and took the salt shaker out. Off he crept with it. He emptied most of the salt out on his blanket. Into the container he squeezed the acidic green persimmon juice. He then put just a little salt in the top of the shaker, stuffed the lip of the bottom part with spider-webs, then carefully placed it back in Sam’s pack.
The next morning as Sam finished the morning meal, handing Frodo a plate, Pippin took the shaker and offered it to Frodo. Frodo began shaking salt absently onto his food. This caused the acidic juice to soak through the spider web and mix with the salt. The shaker practically exploded in Frodo’s hand, sending the top of the shaker flying, which hit Frodo in the middle of the forehead. This was nothing compared to the explosion of laughter from the mischievous Pippin, and Sam and Frodo’s glowering only made him laugh all the harder. As almost everyone else did, exept for, of course, Boromir.
Now Pippin was starting to worry he might lose his bet. Merry was gloating. He hated it when Merry gloated.
That night, he took soot from the bottom of a pot and stealthily applied it to Legolas’ hair. Still no results. Oh, well.
Soot is a wonderful thing, he thought. The following night he had dumped some in Aragorn’s boots. When the ranger next took his boots off, his feet were black as they could be. That almost made Boromir laugh…almost.
Very well, he would just have to try harder. It took a great deal of courage to do so, but his next tactic was to put a large frog in Gandalf’s hat. Still no results. That blasted Boromir was a tough nut to crack. He was running out of ideas. Hedgehogs in bedrolls did no better.He began to feel daunted a little. Merry continued to gloat.
That night, as Legolas sat to take first watch, Pippin slid a plate of blackberries under his descending rump. The elf leapt up with a purple bottom. This time everyone roared with laughter – exept Boromir.
This was the last straw. He could take it no longer. He approached the big warrior, crossed his arms, and began to address him: “What is wrong with you? I have never seen anyone so sour in my life. Well, exept for the Sackville-Bagginses, but you are almost as bad.”
Boromir said nothing, but regarded him with a patient and patronizing glance.
“Don’t look at me like that! I am talking to you, answer me, you great git!”
“Don’t get yourself in a state, Pippin.” Was the dour reply.
“You are the most humorless … reticent … obtuse … sour… bitter … miserable man it has been my misfortune to meet. Tell me, is it fashionable where you come from to be grumpy?”
He could hear Merry laughing at him. It only goaded him further.
“Do they not have the concept of laughter where you come from? Answer me!”
Boromir rolled his eyes and then ignored him.
“Right!” Pippin shouted. He charged at the big man like a furious little bull. He pushed him as hard as he could. Boromir waved his arms in an effort to steady himself.
Backwards he fell onto his shield, and he began to slide downhill at an alarming rate.
He fetched up against a tree, thumping his head hard.
Merry was roaring with laughter at Pippin’s expense, now. He whirled to address his cousin, but he was so angry he wasn’t paying attention and wound up losing his own balance.
Down the slope he fell, first landing on his back, then tumbling end over end until he thumped against Boromir at the bottom, knocking him on his back again, on his shield, like an up-ended tortoise.
Pippin landed on top of him and they both slid further down the slope until they both wound up in a small stream at the bottom. The entire fellowship was howling with laughter, thumping each other on the back with satisfaction. He disentangled himself from Boromir and tried to get up.
As he rolled over, he saw the look on Boromir’s face.
So did everyone else.
The laughter stopped quite abruptly.
His face was as red as fire. His eyes were screwed down to slits, and he had a grimace on his face like a hungry and angry warg.
It was no good running. He might as well just take his lumps. Boromir rose, still red-faced, still grimacing. Pippin could only close his eyes, and say, “Make it quick. Make it painless…”
He felt a large hand descend on his shoulder. He waited for the blow to fall.
When it didn’t, he cautiously opened one eye.
Boromir’s breath took in with a whoop, his breathing hitched…and he began to laugh. He laughed so hard he wept. He was so weak with laughter he could only sit in the stream and kick his heels. His face seemed frozen in that grimace.
Pippin managed to rise and, placing one foot on the soldier’s chest, he crossed his arms like a vanquishing warlord.
“Pay up, cousin!” Now it was his turn to gloat. And now the only one not laughing was Merry.
Pippin and Boromir, both soaked, climbed up the slope, Boromir stopping every few steps to howl with laughter again. He would point at Legoloas’ purple rump and bray like a jackass. Even Legolas was laughing. In between whoops of laughter he tried to speak: “The soot…the shaker…and the FROG!” Off into madness he would launch yet again.
As he topped the rise, he dug into his tunic and took out a pouch of coins, tossing it to Aragorn.
He said, “I’ve never so enjoyed losing a wager!”
Pippin regarded the ranger. “You bet him I could make him laugh?”
“Yes, Master Peregrin, that I did.”
“You wagered on the right one, then.”
“That, I did, Pippin, that I did. And I thank you for a fatter wallet.”
The next morning as they walked along, Pippin spoke to his cousin again. “Sorry, Merry. Cheer up. We can always make another bet!”
“Well, look at Aragorn. He seems a little grim today, doesn’t he?”
“He does indeed.”
“I think he could use a good laugh. Do you think he could use a good laugh?”
“I do, I do..”
“Soot, now. It’s a wonderful thing!”