Rebecca couldn’t get something written for today but didn’t want to leave anybody without their morning Hitherby, so Kirby kindly stepped in again.
Once upon a time, on a not-so-sunny day, in a not-so-sunny place, a young piglet happened to wander into a rather frightening cave. Such things were apparently more commonplace in the days of yore than in modern times, you’ll understand. This little piglet did seem nervous, but it was not his sinister environs that caused him such distress.
A voice was heard from the dark places above, the crisp crackle of death itself. One ominous word was uttered:
The little pig was startled, not realizing he was not alone. Fortunately for him, he was a garrulous sort, and the owner of the voice was actually quite lonely in her desolate lair.
“Hello! Who is there? My name is Wilbur, and I’m a pig! Are you a pig? What does sal-bru-trations mean? Can I have a peanut?”
A form lumbered from the darkness and into the dim half-light of the tunnel. She was larger than even the horses Wilbur had known back on the farm, and with far more legs than seemed wholly natural.
“Salutations is a fancy way of saying hello to your next meal. And I am certainly not a pig, little one. I am the dark nightmare of the arachnophobe, the source of fear, that all may know themselves only as prey when they think upon me. I am the mother, the god, and the devourer. I am the Spider. You may call me Shelob, little pig.”
Wilbur was a simple sort, and didn’t make much of Shelob’s introduction. He latched on to the one thing he understood, and luck was indeed on his side.
“Oh, well, hello to you too! I’m afraid I’m lost. Would you be my friend?”
Shelob was expecting a quivering porcine ball of fear. However, she was firmly of the belief, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, that fear was a requisite for the seasoning of a meal, and this little pig was not nearly afraid enough. She considered correcting that, but it had been a long day, and as we mentioned she had been feeling terribly lonely of late.
“Very well. We shall be as friends, for a time. Mind the rat, for while I find him useful, his heart is treacherous.”
“Okay. I don’t know that I much like rats myself, but I’ll do my best!”
And so they lived in peace for some time. Until one day, when two Orcs came upon the cave, and discovered the pig, resting under a rather unusual web.
“There’s where my pig has gotten to. Zug-zug! Let us take him back to the tower, and have a feast!” said the first Orc.
“Zuckerman, you fool!” said the second Orc. “Look, look at the web. Can’t you read?”
Zuckerman admitted that he could not, in an orcish fashion that involved far more spitting than is truly hygienic.
“You thrice-cursed stupid farm orcs! Old Shelob seems to think this is Some Pig. We must take him to the Master, now!”
“No,” disagreed Zuckerman, “It turns out that I still would rather eat the pig.”
“I must now kill you for your insolence!” said the second Orc, whose name was never revealed to Wilbur.
Zuckerman nodded. “Our society is inherently flawed in that manner.” And so they fought until no living Orcs remained at the scene, a tendency that would cause them great trouble in future days as well.
And the spider, and the pig, and the rat all ate well that night, but they were worried that more Orcs would be back the next day.
“We need a new word. A word that will sow confusion and fear amongst the enemies of the pig, and cause them more violence, so that we may feast upon their flesh once again!”
Wilbur agreed, “Orcs are yummy! And I don’t want them to eat me, that’s why I ran away!”
“Mr. Rat, give me the next word.”
The wrinkly creature snarled. “We iss not rats. But we hateses nassssty orcs, we do! We will give you our best word, yesss.” He added in a strange guttural sound, that could not easily be pronounced in either the tongue of Spider or of Pig.
“Thank you, Mr. Rat! We’ll let you have the liver next time!”
And so it was that the next day, not two, but a whole legion of Orcs marched to the cave outside of Cirith Ungol. In these days, before the Great War, many Orcs were very bored.
“See, see, it is a sign! Is it not Some Pig?”
It seems Zuckerman had escaped, although somewhat the worse for wear and still quite illiterate. However, his story has spread, and all the Orcs wanted to see, and perhaps taste, Zuckerman’s Famous Pig.
“There is a word, alright, but that’s not it. We really need to review our educational practices. We’re now ranked behind Gondor, Rohan, and even Harad in literacy, and our Math scores are even worse!” This Orc was not terribly popular.
“Well,” said Zuckerman, “What kind of pig is he today?”
“He’s a precious pig. There’s some extra S’s on the end, though. Shelob’s not a stickler for spelling, I guess.”
“Precious? What’s a precious pig, Borbag?” Zuckerman had no experience with such a concept.
“Precious: highly esteemed, or cherished.” Borbag recited.
This set off the obvious argument, about whether he was cherished for his deliciousness, or whether he was some great prize to be delivered to the Master, who was even now gathering his powers for a terrible strike at all Man-kind. And the pig, and the spider, and the little rat-man ate well that night.
The rat-man, however, was not appeased by his full belly, for seeing the word in the web had awakened memories in him. “Preciousss, my preciousss, they stoles it, they did!”
“What’s a precious, Mr. Rat?”
The rat-man turned towards the pig, a wild expression in his eyes. “Precioussss is preciousss! My birthday present!”
Wilbur could understand that. “Oh, somebody stole your birthday present? That’s terrible. Who would do such a thing?”
This was a topic that the rat-man was happy to discuss. “It was filthy hobbitses! Filthy Bagginsses! Nasty, nasty thieving tricksy hobbitses!”
“Oh, well, where do Hobbitses live? I’ve never heard of them. I’ve heard of ducks, and geese, and sheep, and horses, and cats, but not Hobbitses. They don’t sound very friendly.”
The rat-man made more of his funny noises, which made Wilbur laugh. “Oh, no, hobbitses not friend, not friend. We knows where they lives. They liveses in Shire! Nasty Bagginses told us, he did, told us and then stole our preciousss!”
The rat-man was quite prepared to go off on another long rant of self-pity, and probably would have stayed in that cave until the end of all time doing just that, if not for Wilbur.
“Well, it’s not right. That’s your Birthday Present, after all. Why don’t you go to this Shire, and ask the Bagginses to give it back?”
Such an idea had never occurred to the rat-man before. “Yes, yes, give it back. They might give it back, if we jussst asskes nicely. Yes, good pig, we will go get our preciousss back now!”
And, in the end, he did get his Birthday Present back. Hurray!
And what of Shelob? Well, things didn’t go so well for her. Those nasty Hobbitses eventually came through her cave, bringing swords and bright lights and all sorts of things that had no business being there. And, one day, after a fateful encounter, she crawled back to Wilbur, terribly wounded.
“Pig. Pig. I have great need of you.”
“Jeepers, Ms. Shelob! You don’t look so good! Can I help?”
“Yes, pig. The light of the elves has blinded my dark spirit, and their gleaming swords have pierced my foul hide. It is my time of endings, and I fear it shall soon be the end for many dark things. Yes, even I know of fear in these Light Times.”
“Golly. I don’t want you to die! I’ll be sad!”
“No, you must not be, for I leave you with a task. You know that thick area in my webbings, that I’ve asked you time and again to not approach, lest I sting you and disembowel you and suck the marrow from your bones, pig?”
“Sure! It smells like chickens!”
“If my need was not so dire, I would dare not tolerate such a comparison. However, my longwindedness may soon be my undoing, so I shall not linger upon it. That is my egg-sac. It will soon hatch. You, pig, must see to it that my brood survives.”
“Wow, you’re gonna be a Mommy!”
“Yes, soon the land will be plagued with a thousand thousand such as myself, ravenous predators crawling the underbelly of the world, preying on the weak and strong alike, spreading fear like a disease across the world of Man.”
“That’ll be something! And I’ll teach them how to spell!”
“Yes, it shall be a glorious day, for both Pig and Spider alike. Oh, but one thing you must know, lest dire consequences befell all my children, for ours is a sinister species with very particular needs. Be sure that you never— that you never—“
And alas, that was the end of poor Shelob. She was correct, that her lack of brevity was costly in the end. And while she did have many, many children, none of them grew to be of her immense size. And very few of them learned how to spell, though the descendants of the Men of Gondor do not eat Pork to this very day, and I believe that Wilbur and the children of Shelob had a great deal to do with that, don’t you?