Roe Woden the House Tomte
Roe Woden is one of the more famous members of the race known as house Tomtes, or simply, Tomtes. Tomtes are only one of the many types of house spirits that can be found throughout the world. This specific breed of house spirit is benign by nature, although their wizened and exaggerated features can be unsettling to some humans. Generally speaking, Tomtes are very beneficial to those families fortunate enough to have one within their homes. Their appearance can vary from Tomte to Tomte as widely as it does from human to human. Generally speaking, Tomtes have deep nut-brown skin and bright green eyes, denoting their distant kinship to certain woodland spirits. They are no more than a foot tall, with long arms and legs and oversized feet and hands. Tomtes usually wear dull colors with some little splash of one bright color or another- primarily to keep them from being accidentally sat on or trod under foot. Some Tomtes, however, prefer not to be seen at all by their human hosts, and wear only dark and dull colors. The condition of a Tomte's clothing can sometimes appear worn or even ragged, but they are never dirty. Most Tomtes also wear a simple little felt skull cap, which they always remove, out of politeness, when addressing another person, whether that person be Tomte, human, or even goblin. Both male and female Tomtes always appear to be rather advanced in years, their faces creased with many wrinkles and laugh lines. However, Tomtes are extremely nimble and terribly fast.
The list of helpful tasks, which Tomtes perform for the human families they attach themselves to, is long indeed. Tomtes help to find any lost baubles or trinkets (before any of the lesser goblins that plague humans from time to time find them and claim the items for their own). And they do this with the aid of their enchanted lamps, although it would be difficult to guess the special nature of this very humble looking- even crude, some have said- lantern. The lanterns are simple, open, and carved of wood, often worm eaten and battered, lit by one tiny white candle. Tiny though these lamps are, the light from them becomes as bright or dim as is needed, and neither wind nor rain nor even watery depths can extinguish the light of this little candle. The candle seems never to need replacing, for it never grows shorter, but the most wondrous of all of this lamp's abilities, is that it seeks out unerringly all that is lost. (These candles are said to have come from another wondrous candle, which Roe came into possession of by way of a former host, but more of that later.) One old story even tells of how a certain lady Tomte- name of Maire- located her family's lost babe. The little child had wandered out onto the great Scottish moors and had nearly been pulled down into the mire by hobgoblins, and would have been sold at the infamous Goblin Market, never to be seen by mortal eyes again. Fortunately, though, the frantic father and mother arrived just in time, after having safely followed the steady light of Maire's lantern through the thick and deceptive mists.
In addition, each Tomte always keeps with it certain useful items- an extra button, a bit of string, a patch- as well as certain magic stones and crystals- whose properties vary from Tomte to Tomte. All of these items are kept within their wondrous magic pouches- an unusual item that never seems to run out of space within. (It should be noted here that there is quite a bit of debate, even to this day, between the Tomtes and the elves as to which of them actually created these magical pouches and which of them graciously gave the secret to whom.) Tomtes also keep vermin of all sorts out of the pantry and the food. In addition, another of their primary responsibilities is to be keepers of the hearth, and thus, Tomtes will make sure the cooking fires keep lit and that the home never grows cold, even if the family has run out of fuel for the fire. This they do by means of the objects within a quiver-like pack, which they keep upon their backs. This pack contains dry bits of enchanted twigs and tinder from the Faerie Woods, which the Tomtes gather by permission of the woodland spirits, and whose properties cause them to burn for hours before being consumed even partially while providing warmth sufficient for all, though the tinder be tiny. Also among the contents of their packs is an item that Roe Woden himself was responsible for the creation of, although he has never been given credit for this among humans. This item is the very remarkable Sulfur Sticks, or matches, as they came to be known, of the Tomtes. These matches are quite remarkable for a few reasons. For one, unlike those matches which humans use, they are reusable- humankind has never quite figured that bit out- and secondly, and the Tomtes were using 'matches' centuries before humans. Tomtes are also fond of helping with the cooking, and will often- and discretely- stir the soup or stew with their special little wooden spoons. Once these spoons touch the food, however humble or plain the dish, it becomes a culinary delight, satisfying hunger and stilling even the most troubled soul, easing body and mind. Tomtes also love music, and as a result they tend to be drawn to individuals or families in whose homes music is played frequently or to whom music is important. This also has inspired the inventive natures of the Tomte to make their own little musical instruments with which they can frequently be seen. They are usually wind instruments of one kind or another, though there are stories of the occasional harp or fiddle, and they all possess supernatural abilities. For instance, with these instruments Tomtes will cause fighting to cease, sooth a troubled mind, bring sleep to the worse insomniac or colic plagued baby, and brighten the darkest day.
Tomtes are, indeed, quite clever and love to invent items that they consider potentially useful to their host families or to themselves. There are many, many more stories of the wondrous belongings possessed by other individual Tomtes, each as unique as the Tomte who made them. However, to make mention of them all, both the items and the respective Tomte who created it, as well as the tale that accompanied, proceeded, or inspired its creation, would require another entire volume. Roe Woden, and his own inventiveness, though, is among the most celebrated, at least among other Tomtes. Indeed, it is said by Tomtes and many denizens of the realm of Faerie- and believed by just as many- that Roe Woden is the first of the Tomtes. Certainly, there has never been another Tomte who claimed to be older. Nonetheless, when asked about the matter, Roe Woden simply laughs and says he knows only that he has lived longer than his memory can reach.
Among the numerous houses and families to whom Roe has attached himself throughout the centuries, there have been many famous individuals, as well as some not so famous. Perhaps the most famous of these people was the great wizard, Merlin. Actually, Roe had been with Merlin for quite some time, a little over a hundred years, only leaving after all that unfortunate business with King Arthur and his lot started up-Tomtes, not being fond of violence, tend to shy away from soldierly types.
At the beginning of Merlin's rather long career as a wizard, he suffered from a chronic lack of organization and was easily distracted, as well as being somewhat forgetful (Roe claimed that it was a condition from which Merlin never stopped suffering). Thus the tasks fell to Roe of ensuring that Merlin's potions stayed organized, were properly labeled or were otherwise marked to distinguish one from another. (Especially after the time Merlin had mixed chamomile tea with crushed bat guano, mistaking the latter for rose hips. Merlin claimed he had a cold at the time and could not smell the very distinct difference between the two. Roe did, however, smell the difference- from across the room- and stopped Merlin before he drank the fatal concoction.) Roe also saw to it that Merlin's many scrolls and tomes- many written by Merlin himself- were put back in the proper place and well away from some of the more caustic potions. The books and scrolls also had to be kept away from the prying eyes of certain of the more resourceful imps that Merlin kept about his lab (usually these imps were Merlin's unwilling guests). Some of the items of Merlin's very amazing lab were so volatile as to require isolation from all other creatures and potions. On one occasion, Merlin had absentmindedly left a bottled fire-elemental rather loosely corked within his container and had set it next to the ingredients for his version of Roe Woden's wonderful Sulfur Sticks. Fortunately, Roe had just finished tinkering with his latest invention there in the lab. (It was a wonderful device that would enable Roe to extinguish all of the candles that Merlin inevitably left alight without having to spend so much breath on them. It would, as well, allow Roe to light those candles again when needed by inserting a match within the tip, as many were usually just out of a Tomte's reach, and the device was also equipped with a sort of hook for grabbing any other out of reach items. A variation of this item was later to be put to frequent use within many churches.) Roe spotted the rather surely fire-elemental just as it was about to set the entire bowl full of sulfur ablaze. Fortunately, Merlin only lost half of the lab, although it was weeks before Roe's copious eyebrows grew back, a point he never let Merlin forget.
The candles within the fantastic lanterns of the Tomtes are said to have also come to the Tomtes by way of Roe Woden and Merlin. Merlin was constantly misplacing things, despite Roe's best and most diligent efforts. One night, after Roe had been complaining about how nearly impossible it was to keep up with the wizard; thus, Merlin decided he would do a good turn for his loyal Tomte. Merlin used his magic to conjure up a sort of spirit distantly related to the genies and created an article which would aid the 'little fellow' (as Merlin always referred to Roe, much to Roe's displeasure). The end result was an unusual artifact, indeed, which cane to be known as an Illuminite, as were its descendants called. These were living, and quite sentient, candles, that, when lit, never reduced in size or otherwise melted. Its nature was such that it was capable of locating all things lost; seeing through rock, wall, distance, and time as if they were but thin silken veils. Its flame could not be extinguished without the consent of the bearer and could turn night into day. It is believed that from this very same candle came those that power the lanterns of the Tomtes, for the candle is said to still be in the possession of Roe Woden.
This next tale is a favorite story among the Tomtes, told at almost every Tomte festival, with quite a few embellishments added at each new telling. Merlin was quite fond of pyrotechnics, as were so many others of his vocation, and always had plentiful supplies of the various required ingredients about his home. However, Merlin was not always particular as to where he kept those elements and once it nearly cost him his life, or at least a goodly portion of his hair. One evening when Merlin and Roe sat about the supper table after having finished off the evening meal, they had each settled down to a tankard of one of Merlin's home brewed meads. Their talk fell to a story the local people were telling about a troll who was plaguing the farmers and Merlin was distractedly filling his pipe with what he thought was his favorite blend of tobacco (Merlin having discovered the plant long before the rest of Europe). Merlin was about to light the pipe when Roe noticed that a jar of black powder (gunpowder as it would come to be known) which Merlin used in his skyrockets was next to his tobacco jar. Roe also realized that the former and not the latter was open and flung the remains of his mead at Merlin's pipe. Merlin was quite indignant until Roe explained what had nearly happened, adding under his breath, but loud enough for Merlin to just make out, that it might have been more interesting to have seen Merlin without his eyebrows for a week or two.
Their time together was, for the most part and despite many of these stories, a very happy and satisfying time and their fondness for each other was great. To this day when asked about the many families and people Roe has had the pleasure of being attached to, he always speaks first of his old friend, Merlin.
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