The Silent Place

A myth of the Elven Folk, derived from the Red Book, as translated by J. R. R. Tolkien

'Deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone'.

Legolas, of the stones of Eregion, "The Fellowship of the Ring"

Deep in the sea, past the hidden islands, within sight of Tol Eressea but not yet upon the shores of Middle Earth, there is land. They call it the Silent Place.

Many mariners have seen it from afar in their travels, for while it is a small island, it is tall, as if a mountain was drowned under the ocean's waves and now only the tip shows through. But a mighty mountain it was, its base wide a city, the stones at its head aspiring towards the sky as before had only crafted stones. The top is bare now, not even flowers grow there, nor grass or trees, and the birds do not visit the Silent Place. It is large enough for a single mariner to stand atop it, look out and see the lights of the Lonely Isle or of the Gray Havens so far away, one man, and no more.

The Elven ships that sail the Straight Path go past it often, and their passengers point at it and tell tales of its origins. They say it is a fragment left of Tol Eressea long ago when Osse struggled with Ulmo to stop the theft of his island. They say it is a sign to mark the beginning of the Straight Path. They say it was once a place where there was a bridge of land from Aman to Endor, and thereupon marched the hosts in the last War of Beleriand.

They say many things of the Silent Place, where no bird sings and no fish swim in the surrounding water, and no flowers grow.

They can never be sure, for they can never go near it.

None are sure why that is so, for there are many reasons. Sometimes the sea would rise and rage and drive the ship away, jealously guarding its old, lovely secrets. At times a wind would rise and puff the sails, banishing the curious far beyond return. Sometimes the very bottom of the sea would tremble, and the earth would make currents and waves, and keep the Silent Place forever out of reach.

Sometimes, some say, the stars themselves would dim, and in the scarce light, the Silent Place would be none but a shade in the distance, a beautiful ghost form never where one thinks to look.

None had been there, to stand atop the Silent Place, alone under the open sky, and strain their eyes to see the snowy peak of Taniquetil and the glimmer of light from Tirion the Fair.

It is unreachable, the Silent Place – unfathomable, unquestionable, fleeting and firm, rocky and eternal, and newborn and frail against the sky, and silent.

There is a legend among the old mariners of the Quendi, who sail away now with their kin even as Men's dominion fast approaches, that once there was a great land of Men where the Silent Place now stands. They say it is greater than any kingdom now upon Middle Earth, aye, greater even than Gondolin in her splendor and Menegroth in her might. Great, they say, as Tirion upon Tuna in the lightened days, beautiful and rich, and immortal as the Blessed Realm, even as its people were not.

They say, the sages, that a wave came and swallowed it up, in ruination and rage, as the rage of the Black Foe crashed upon the Noldor in Beleriand so long ago, in days even their old memories do not reach.

They say, the sages, and sing of it, but none of the Eldar tales the tale anymore to the passengers and the sky, for they are gone, and the wind whispers it in their stead.

They have lived here, they have labored here, they have loved here, and they are gone.

So that only legends remain of the Silent Place, where the sky was always open above. And the old men say to their grandchildren that once in that great immortal kingdom of mortals, Men climbed atop that mountain that now the ocean embraced, and looked up to the sky and the stars and the sun, and thanked in their heart to the Creator whom they loved for making them. The open sky, the shining night, the endless sea, and the mountain.

They say, and the wind says, that it is He who guards it yet, that His servants do His bidding, to keep the Silent Place, and let not even the Firstborn touch its firm ground. For He remembers those who looked up to the sky, and loves them still, and their tale, and their mountain. That He loves them, and their mountain stands even if they are gone, for they have stood there, and they have wondered there, and they loved there, and they are gone.

And none else, they say, shall step upon it, for memory of love.

But the Silent Place is silent, and it tells no tales, and it merely stands there firm and silent, no flowers growing, no trees growing, no birds singing, no Elves singing. Silent and bare, strong stones and open sky, even beyond the changing of the world.