Words: c. 5200
Genre: General, drama, a small touch of humour
Characters: Aragorn and Legolas, with a cameo appearance by Pippin, and also some goats
Summary: When King Elessar travels through Arnor in humble disguise, he discovers that some people consider themselves too important to enter into the spirit of the season.
"But, Sire!" clucked the chamberlain. "But…! But…! But…!"
"It is a long-standing Yule tradition in Bree-land and parts of the Shire," Aragorn told him. "Such things should be respected."
Caught between deference and outrage, the chamberlain gaped silently, and dropped his rolls of paper. "It is hardly a tradition, Sire," he said, bending to retrieve the unfurling sheets of lineage and heraldry.
"No," Aragorn agreed. "It is merely something they have done for a thousand years, but if you say so, not a tradition."
The chamberlain was as persistent as his counterpart in Gondor. "I meant that it was no tradition of the old Kingdom, Sire," he said stiffly.
"And this is not the old Kingdom." Aragorn resumed his walk across the courtyard. Beneath a slate-grey sky, birds were calling across the lake. "The people of Arnor lived without a king for a thousand years. They lived, they died, they defended themselves, and they found their own ways of making merry. I will not trample roughshod over their traditions in the name of some long-forgotten past."
"But, Sire!" the chamberlain squawked, waddling after him. "It is one thing to tolerate the tradition in the villages. It is quite another thing to introduce it at court."
Aragorn paused beneath a half-built tower. "Quite another thing indeed," he agreed.
"But Misrule!" the chamberlain protested. "The very name, Sire! I am only thinking of you, my King. I fear it will reduce your dignity in the eyes of the people."
A master craftsman came scurrying along the path, lost in thought. When he noticed Aragorn, he blanched and almost dropped his chisels, bowing so low that his knees nearly touched the ground.
"And if it does," Aragorn said quietly, "I believe it will be no bad thing."
Fourteen years later
Legolas skipped out of the path of the rampaging creature. "So this is the famous Misrule of Arnor." He dodged a second animal. "Does it normally involve quite so many goats?"
Aragorn was adjusting his sword belt. "I have experienced the ceremony but twice, but I believe the goats are an innovation."
"Ah," said Legolas. A pack of hobbit children raced last him, all bedecked in bells and ribbons.
"But spotted pigs featured quite strongly last year, or so my Chamberlain told me in several exceedingly long letters." Aragorn shook out dust from his weather-beaten cloak. "At times his pen went entirely through the paper."
"You establish a winter custom in the court of Arnor, then spend most of your winters in Gondor." Legolas tested the heft of his bow. "How your Chamberlain must love you!"
Aragorn chuckled. "And how the flatterers and fortune hunters of Gondor must love me for choosing to winter in the north this year. They followed me unbidden, of course, and now complain because it is too cold." He flung the cloak over his shoulders. "I offered to give the worst offender the bed I slept in myself one memorable winter day many years ago. I led him to a hedge."
Another goat raced by, trailing flour and ribbons. "I do not understand the goats," Legolas admitted.
"In the days of Misrule, the normal order of things is turned upside-down," Aragorn said. "A humble person – a child or a servant, perhaps – is chosen as the Lord of Misrule, the master of revels. His whims decide the season's entertainment. Pippin was desperate for the job, of course, but I told him that as Thain, he is a person of consequence. This year he offered me the services of his youngest nephew, although I suspect we see the hand of Pippin at work behind the scenes." Aragorn looked down at the sole at his boot, wrinkling his nose. "One or other of them appears to like goats."
"My liking for goats is less than it was." Legolas clapped Aragorn on the back. "Shall we away, my friend?"
Aragorn nodded, and they made their way to the stables, and then to the postern gate. "The normal order of things is turned upside-down," Aragorn said, "and so Pippin's nephew will rule the revels in Annúminas, while I go wandering as a common Ranger." He gave a rueful smile. "I did try to attend the revels one year, but they find it hard to forget that I am King. But I will attend the final feast, of course. I cannot miss that."
The gate was flanked by two guards who were decked in bells and ribbons and comical hats, but stood to attention nevertheless. They were slow to recognise Aragorn, but when they did, they bowed low. "It is Misrule," Aragorn chided them softly. "I am no king."
Legolas laughed. "No, indeed. These fine fellows are the masters tonight. They could stop you from leaving."
"But the world is turned upside-down," Aragorn said, "and I would not have to obey."
The guards looked from Aragorn to Legolas and back again. They saluted, dignified in their festival disarray. Legolas watched Aragorn as he passed through the gate, and for the first time in many years, he was unsure what his friend was thinking.
But then they were outside in the snow, anonymous beneath the winter sky, and the world was turned upside-down indeed, sent tumbling thirty years into the past, when all was dark, but free.
They rode for half a day, then left their horses in the care of a posting station on the road. After that, they walked, sometimes talking, often silent. They paused on the cusp of twilight, as birds roosted in the tall trees, and berries shone red in the dying light. Aragorn stood for a while looking up at the sky, seemingly lost in thought. Legolas watched him. Clad like this, his hair tangled by the winter breeze, Aragorn looked little different from the Ranger who had led the Fellowship from the disaster of Moria.
"You miss it," Legolas said quietly.
"I… do," Aragorn admitted. "They dog my feet at all times, people who want my attention, people who consider it their sworn duty to keep me safe. My Chamberlain considers it an outrage if I fasten my own coat without assistance. The Captain of the Guard tears his hair if I ride out alone."
"So that is why he is bald before his time," said Legolas. "I did wonder."
Aragorn smiled, but the smile did not reach his eyes. Then even that half smile faded. "It is worse in Minas Tirith, of course. There are enough former Rangers in the court of Arnor to keep things… sensible. The nobility of the north will forever be prone to wandering, I foresee. We spent a thousand years dreaming of leaving the wilderness, and when we do…"
A buzzard screamed overhead, circling for prey. Legolas placed a hand on Aragorn's shoulder.
"In the songs of the common folk, no man alive has more freedom than a king," Aragorn said. "Perhaps it is true of a bad king, who cares nothing for duty, but it is not true of one who strives to be good."
"I have also heard them sing that only a wandering beggar is truly free," Legolas said.
"So sing those who have never had to beg." Aragorn gave a harsh laugh. "How strange men are. Sometimes I look at the common folk in their villages, and envy them for their freedom, while they sing longingly of the freedom of a beggar or a king." He sighed, shaking his head. "And here am I as King, looking back fondly at the days of my wandering. Forty years ago, I was a half-starved Ranger shivering under a hedge, bound to that life by the chains of duty and lineage, dreaming of an end to the darkness and a world with hope restored. What a fool that half-starved Ranger would deem me, if he could see me now!"
"Not a fool," Legolas said.
"A fool," Aragorn insisted. "I won my true love. I live in palaces and never go hungry. I witnessed the end of the darkness, and I have been granted the privilege of helping to shape the age to come. I cannot regret this. I do not regret this."
Legolas thought of all the fair ones who had left Middle Earth, the price of Sauron's fall. He closed his eyes, and remembered the leaves of Lothlorien, beautiful even in winter. Then he thought of the fresh growth that blossomed in Eryn Lasgalen, and the new gardens of Minas Tirith, and the fallen ruins that had once been filled with the hordes of Mordor. Beacons of light blazed most fiercely in the night. When morning came, the beacons faded, but everywhere there was the pale light of the sun. "I do not regret it," Legolas echoed quietly.
Aragorn laughed, and there was no harshness in the sound this time. "And because I am just a cosseted King playing at being a wanderer, there will be no hedges for us tonight; those I do not miss. We should reach the village of Norton before dark, and they have an inn, and--" He urgently patted the pouch at his belt, and sighed with relief. "We have coin."
Twilight thickened around them. They walked on, talking lightly of other things: of hobbit friends old and new; of Gimli, left feasting and contented in Annúminas; of memories of Arnor. It was almost dark when they reached the village. A low wall surrounded it, not high enough to repel any determined wrongdoer, but sufficient to lead any well-meaning traveller to enter by the gate. Sounds of revelry came from within the wall, and the gate was bedecked with ribbons and greenery.
Legolas pulled his hood over his head. "You travel as a common man?" He kept his voice low.
"Of course." Aragorn pulled his own hood forward, considered for a while, then pushed it back again, letting his head go uncovered. His clothing was old and weather-stained, and his power was veiled. People saw what they expected to see, and nobody in Norton would look to see a king.
Legolas assessed him. "You look quite commonplace, my friend."
Aragorn scowled with appropriate villainy. "I can still assume the old guise. But you, my friend…" He shook his head. "You cannot pass as a common man. In the eyes of the people, elves are great ones. No humble wanderer would be in the company of such an exalted creature."
Legolas tugged his hood even lower, casting his face in shadow. "I can be a common man." He followed Aragorn towards the gate. The noise of revelry swelled louder, almost drowning his words. "I will slouch and drink ale and scratch myself and spill food at the table. They will no more find out that I am an elf than they will discover that you are--"
"He is here!" a voice cried. The gate was flung open, and leaves and winter blossom were cast down at Aragorn's feet. "Behold our King!"
"Oh," Legolas managed; only that.
Aragorn was taken under the wing of a man called Archer, who was round and cheerful and had clearly never held a bow in his life. "It's our Misrule tradition, you see," he explained, as people laughed and danced and threw leaves in Aragorn's path. "Some choose a child and some choose a beggar, but we in Norton choose the first stranger who arrives after sunset."
Aragorn had recovered himself more quickly than Legolas, who was shaking behind him in consternation, or maybe mirth. "And if no stranger arrives?"
"Then the mayor dresses his son up in a false beard made of bear-skin and shoves him out the window so he can arrive at the gate and pretend to be a stranger." Archer laughed. "He spends all night speaking in a bad Bree-land accent. Last year he got so drunk that his beard fell off and he didn't notice. There he is now." Archer gestured towards a sour-faced man who was holding a piece of bear-skin in his hand. "In truth, we thought you were him," Archer admitted. "We haven't had a proper stranger for ten years."
"So I am King," Aragorn said. "King of the Revels."
Archer's face darkened. "Not King. That was old Doggett shouting that, lost in the past. We used to call it King of the Revels, but it's Lord of the Revels now."
Archer led Aragorn into the inn, pushing the door shut behind him. A boy brought Aragorn a bowl of mulled wine, and he took it with a nod of thanks. A young girl gave a giggling curtsey, and held up a crown made of woven leaves and winter flowers. Aragorn shook his head. "If I am not your king, I will wear no crown. Did you weave this, maiden? Then you should wear it yourself."
The giggles faded, and she bit her lip in sudden uncertainty. "You have to wear it," she said. "It's tradition. Didn't I make it well enough?"
"You made it very well," Aragorn assured her. He looked at her anxious face, and at Archer hovering expectantly nearby. People were crowding against the half-closed door, desperate to get a look at him. This was their home and their rules. He bowed his head, and let her crown him. The crown was heavy with the scent of pollen and branches, and green leaves trailed down his cheek.
"Why do you no longer allow him to be a king?" Legolas seemed to have recovered from his discomfiture. Beneath his shadowing hood, Aragorn caught glimpses of his smile.
"It wouldn't be respectful." Archer picked up a long cloak of colourful patchwork and fading silver thread. "We have a proper king now, and none of us are worthy to use his title even in jest."
"The King is but a man," Aragorn said quietly.
"How can you say such a thing?" Archer shook out the cloak with an angry snap.
Legolas was still veiled in his cloak. "I have heard," he said, "that the King holds the custom of Misrule at his own court, although some say that his authority is lessened by it."
"Who says so?" Archer demanded. "Show them to me, and I'll set them right. The King honours his people with his custom, and we revere him all the more for it. Who are you to question him?"
Aragorn held up a placating hand. "We are merely travellers repeating what we have heard in villages far from here. We mean no ill."
Archer sniffed, clearly torn between the urge to fight and the urge to make merry. The room was heavy with the smell of hot spiced wine. A pipe and tabor started up outside the inn, and people were dancing with bells on their feet. Archer let out a breath, shaking his head. "It's Misrule and you are its Lord, so I'll bear no grudges." He placed the patchwork cloak on Aragorn's shoulders. "Come outside. Your people await."
Archer led him to the door, then took a step back, allowing Aragorn to go first. The crowd parted, forming a path that snaked gradually through the streets, and ended on the village green. Trestle tables had been laid out for a feast, and great braziers took the edge off the winter chill. One table was raised above the others on a dais, and at the middle of it was a large wooden seat, covered with leaves and ribbons and colourful woollen blankets.
A trumpet sounded, barely audible over the jangling of bells and the laughter of children. "Behold the Lord of the Revels!" someone shouted. "Behold the Lord of Misrule!" The noise swelled even louder, as everyone cheered, banging together pots and pans, and ringing bells.
Aragorn went where the crowd expected him to go, and stood beside the great seat, his hand on the ribbons at its back. Legolas claimed the seat to his right. Archer began to move away, but Aragorn stopped him, and directed him to the seat to his left. "No," Archer said. "I can't. The mayor…"
"Am I not Lord of the Revels?" Aragorn said, more loudly than was needed. "My wish is your command."
Archer took the seat, but he looked at the ground as he did so. Under his hood, Legolas had been laughing, but he no longer laughed. Aragorn risked a quick glance at his friend. Half a dozen paces away, a tall man in rich robes was watching them from the end of the dais. His face was outwardly smiling, but there was hatred in his eyes.
"Watch him," Aragorn whispered, and Legolas gave a quick nod, as if to say, I know.
Slowly, and with much laughter, the crowd found seats of their own. A few sat down immediately, but most followed Aragorn's example, and stood behind their chairs. Some of those who had sat down stood awkwardly up again. Slowly, like the fading sound of the sea, the crowd fell silent. Then Aragorn sat, and the crowd followed suit, and the noise rose up again.
Archer was hunched in on himself, looking miserable. Have I misstepped? Aragorn wondered. "What happens now?" Aragorn asked him.
"You are Lord of the Revels," Archer said. "If nothing else, you will feast like a king, and sleep in the best room in my inn without payment. But you can request any song and dance that you like, as long as the musicians know them, and the dancers, too; they're getting on a bit and their knees aren't what they used to be. You can request any food you like, as long as the cooks have already made it; it's pork and apples this year, and treacle sponge after. And you wear a crown. That's nice."
A young girl brought Aragorn a flagon of ale. He thanked her with a smile. "I notice there are only seats for half the crowd, if that," he said. "Who has no seat at the feast tonight?"
"You only get a seat if you're on the mayor's list," Archer said.
"And who serves the food?" Aragorn asked. "The stranger becomes the lord. Do the masters act as servants?"
"Bless you, sir, no!" Archer was clutching a tankard of ale, both hands wrapped around it. He lowered his voice. "The mayor, Master Luccombe… His son usually sits in your chair, and we have to pretend he's a stranger. The mayor sits on the right. His nephew sits where you've put me." Aragorn turned to look at the richly-dressed man. He was sitting with his son at the very end of the top table, still smiling in that mask of benevolence, his eyes still burning with ill-masked fury. "His servants are waiting on us. The normal people, they just watch, although they join in the dancing."
The food was brought out, young girls and thin boys labouring under the weight of the platters. "Will you have dancing while you eat, lord?" asked a man in a coat of colourful rags. The question was addressed to Aragorn, but the man's eyes flickered towards the mayor.
"If the dancers have eaten sufficiently and drunk their fill," Aragorn said, "and wish to dance." But away to his right, the mayor gave a terse nod, and the dancing started.
"Have I harmed you," Aragorn said quietly to Archer, "by making you sit there?"
"Perhaps." Archer sighed, and took a large swig of his ale. A mound of pork steamed on the platter before him. "But it's Misrule, and I'll cope with it. I'll blame you, the chance-come stranger who made me do it against my will." He took another swig, and laughed. "And it's worth it for the memory of Luccombe's face. His son was half way out of the window when you came strolling up to the gate, they say. What I wouldn't give to have seen that!"
A jester tumbled onto the village green, turning cartwheels and capering wildly, weaving in and out of the dancers' path. The crowd gasped as they almost collided, and laughed when once again, disaster was averted by the jester's nimble feet. Then the dancers brought out sticks, and the jester fled in mock terror as the dancers clashed the sticks together to the rhythm of the dance.
Aragorn risked another glance at Legolas. "At least there are no goats," Legolas whispered.
A servant brought wine, and another came with honey cakes. "Have you eaten?" Aragorn asked him.
"Oh no, sir," he said. "That wouldn't be fitting."
"Then eat." Aragorn passed him a honey cake.
His eyes flickered nervously in the direction of the mayor. "Oh no, sir, I can't."
Aragorn sighed. "No. I see that you cannot. I have no desire to get you into trouble. You have my apologies."
The dancing ended. More wine came round, and more beer. Aragorn was served first, but after a while, he noticed that the mayor was now receiving the first choice from every plate. Despite the great braziers, the air was growing cold. Aragorn rubbed his hands together for warmth, and wondered if he should order new dance, and make everyone join in.
"No!" he heard the mayor command. A servant dropped a flagon, and sat weeping on her knees.
Aragorn stood up. Legolas touched the back of his hand, pressing it against the table. "Are you sure…?"
Aragorn gave a terse nod. Peace, he thought. I will not reveal myself.
The noise of the crowd was slower to fade than it would have been at court, but faster than Aragorn would have expected, when silence was requested not by a king but by a wandering stranger. "I thank you all for your welcome," Aragorn said. "I stand here tonight as Lord of Misrule, in the season when the humble are honoured, and the mighty gladly let themselves be brought low."
More than one person in the crowd shot a quick glance at the mayor, he noticed. Be careful, Legolas said with his touch.
"I could call for a song," Aragorn said. "I could request any game that takes my fancy. I could command any one of you to serve me, and you would." He carefully did not look at the mayor. "You would," he said, "because it is Misrule. The King himself serves at the lowest table on the last night of Misrule, or so I have heard."
"Long live the King!" someone shouted. "Hoorah for the King!" The shout was taken up by others. Legolas's hand started trembling, and Aragorn realised that he was laughing.
"I have also heard that there is no malice in Misrule," Aragorn said, "and no grudges held. The King and his lords wait upon those who normally serve them, because it is only right that they do so." Pushing his chair back, he began to walk along the dais towards the weeping servant. "I am just a traveller, but you made me your lord. As lord, my will rules, and my will is this." Raising the girl to her feet, he led her to his chair, and sat her down. "My will," he said, meeting the furious glare of the mayor for the first time.
Legolas followed suit, offering his chair to a young boy who stood frozen with a flagon of ale in his hand. Archer gave the laugh of a man with nothing else to lose, and ran off into the darkness beyond the brazier, and came back with an old woman who had clearly been washing dishes. He gave her his seat with a flourish. Down on the green, men and women started doing the same thing, grabbing people from the standing crowd and offering them food and drink.
"Norton is a fine village," Aragorn told the crowd, when the hub-bub began to fade. "It is a new village, is it not? Who built the walls?" Several hands went up. "They are fine walls," Aragorn told them. "Who brings the food?" Many more hands rose. Aragorn gave them their due. "Who guards the gates?" he asked. "Who heals the sick? Who teaches the children? Who mends the roofs?" To each he got an answer. To each he gave praise. In no case was the answer the mayor. Aragorn watched as more and more people realised this, but he drew no attention to the point. "And who lived in these parts before the fall of the Shadow?" he asked at last. "And who kept them safe?"
"The King and his people guarded us, too, although we didn't know it," said a woman.
"Maybe so," Aragorn admitted, "but who mended your fences? Who guarded your flocks? Who repaired your walls when they crumbled? Who drove away wolves when the King's men were far away?"
"I did," one old man offered. "We lived alone, my sons and I. We kept each other safe."
"Aye," said another. "So did I."
The mayor stood up and stormed away, followed by his son and his nephew. Aragorn spared him not a glance. "So you did," he said. "Norton belongs to all of you, and it is what you make it. I thank you for welcoming me, but Misrule belongs to you, as does the year that follows. I bid you good night, and thank you once again for welcoming me to your village."
Removing the cloak, he draped it over the back of the mayor's empty chair. The crown he placed on the table, and then he walked away.
"You are not very good at this," Legolas said quietly, appearing at his side.
"At being a king?" Aragorn asked.
"At being humble and inconspicuous."
The two attackers struck from the darkness at the same time. Legolas and Aragorn each subdued them with a single blow. "The son," Legolas said, "and the nephew."
"And the mayor behind them, getting others to do his work." Aragorn closed the gap before the other man could run, and grabbed him by the front of his expensive coat. He drove him against a wall, holding him up in the slanting light of an upstairs window. "No," Aragorn commanded, just that. He unveiled himself just a little. "No."
The mayor crumpled where Aragorn left him. "Not very good at it," Legolas said again, as they walked out through the gate.
Behind them, not long afterwards, they heard joyful singing.
"Will you go back?" Legolas asked, as they neared Lake Evendim.
"To Norton?" Aragorn shook his head. "I admit that it is tempting to ride up in all my panoply and watch their jaws drop open, but the lesson is better given as it is. Let them find their own path."
They were mounted again, and already the wall sentries had sighted them. Whether they recognised their king, Legolas did not know. When they were almost at the gate, Aragorn paused, and looked back at the road that unfolded behind them, and the hills beyond. He sighed. Although his clothes were weatherbeaten, with every moment he looked less like a common traveller, and more like a king in borrowed clothes.
"And if I do," Aragorn admitted, "the tale will spread through both kingdoms like wildfire. If it becomes known that I sometimes walk through my kingdom in disguise, I will no longer be able to do it. And I want to do it, Legolas. I need to."
"I know," Legolas said. He thought of those haughty elves who had never deigned to consort with a mere man, and were horrified at the thought of a dwarf as a friend. "I think everyone can benefit from a little Misrule at times." Then he laughed, because he had to. "But maybe you will do it better next time."
Aragorn spread his hand in a gesture of innocence. "It was not my fault. They made me their king."
"No," Legolas said, "that was entirely your own doing, my friend. It is who you are." And you cannot escape it, he thought.
It was the last night of Misrule, the great feast that ended the revelry. Aragorn served at the lowest table, while Arwen baked bread in the kitchen. Legolas and Gimli poured ale, the lords of Arnor cooked and cleaned, and even the flatterers of Gondor had been put to work carrying plates.
After the Standing Silence, Aragorn begged leave to speak, and would not do so until Pippin's nephew had given his consent.
"I do not speak to you tonight by right," Aragorn said, "but because I believe the words are worth saying. Misrule is important. I know there are some among you who dislike the name and believe it should not be associated with kingship. I know there are some among you who think it undignified and an excuse for unbridled revelry."
"Nothing wrong with unbridled revelry," Aragorn saw Pippin whisper into his nephew's ear. Pippin was serving wine, the Thain working as a servant, but Aragorn suspected that he was the brains behind his nephew's rule.
"But it has a solemn purpose," Aragorn said. "There are still many dangers in the world, and so we need the rule of order. We need armies to protect the weak, and a king to uphold justice. But there was no king in Arnor for a thousand years, and the people survived. Sauron was defeated not just by kings and lords and captains, but by common soldiers in the armies of Gondor, and common farmers and villagers in the north, who kept themselves free. We only live today because two small hobbits, one of them then a servant, braved great dangers and gave their all. That is why we remember."
There was utter silence in the room. The lords of Arnor, many of them former Rangers, were nodding in agreement. The flatterers who had chosen to come up from Gondor were staring awkwardly at the ground.
"The Reunified Kingdom rests of the labours of all," Aragorn said, "and everybody, great and small, is bound by duty. Misrule reminds the mighty not to become arrogant. Lords, be careful how you treat your servants, because when Misrule comes, they will be your masters. Beware of arrogance and pride. Look to the Shire, and remember who it was who saved you." Standing before the high table, he bowed towards the Lord of Misrule. "I am your servant," he said. "I serve you all."
Pippin's nephew opened his mouth, looked at Pippin, and opened his mouth again. Eventually he managed to stammer, "No, you're our King, Sire."
Pippin nudged him sharply with his elbow. "Indeed he is, Freddie my boy, but tonight he should be waiting on the bottom tables. Go and wait on the bottom tables!"
Aragorn stood up, and bowed his head. "As you command. But I believe you should be pouring drinks for your betters, oh Thain?"
"Oh. Yes. Yes, of course." Pippin hurried away. Aragorn turned away, but lingered just long enough to catch Pippin hiss an order to the young hobbit: "The goats. Don't forget the goats."
"I knew it!" Aragorn murmured out loud, as he returned to his station.
Legolas was already there, and he was laughing. As Aragorn approached, the laughter faded into a smile. "You really are not good at this, are you?"
Aragorn shook his head ruefully. "I try. It is all any of us can do." A door burst open, and the goats surged in. Aragorn quirked an eyebrow. "Shall I introduce this custom in Gondor, do you think?"
Legolas gave a delicious shudder. "I think you should. It will be good for them."
Note: The Lord of Misrule (sometimes called, even more delightfully, the Abbot of Unreason) is a real custom recorded in medieval England and Scotland, possibly deriving from Roman Saturnalia. It worked more or less the way it's described in this story, although it's not clear how widespread it was. Most of the information we have about it comes from outraged commentators, who saw it as an excuse for drunkeness and disrespect. As far as I know, there is no evidence for it in Middle Earth, but it seemed to me to fit quite nicely.