The Legend of the Sun and Moon
As told by Falmanel of Alqualonde,
in the early Second Age.
They touch once at dawn and once at dusk, briefly, for moments, before they are torn apart. If you watch them, children, you will see the brightest colours of the sky, red and purple and yellow, for it is at that moment that the sun and the moon are one, and these colours are their embrace. You who were born beneath the sun and moon do not know, but I remember, for I watched them take to the heavens. But since their fate has become legend I will tell it as a legend, that you may remember the legend of the sun and the moon.
In the days of the beginning, when we of Alqualonde flourished in the distant light of the stars and the undiminished light of the trees, Tilion was a hunter of the company of Orome. He often visited Alqualonde, for he loved the quiet of the sea. When we sailed in our fishing boats he was alongside us, shooting the few great fish necessary to make our harvest complete with his long silver bow. And in the feast that followed he would stand modestly or dance softly, so that few remarked on the presence of one so great among us. But King Olwe noticed, and gave Tilion all the welcome that he would allow.
Tilion's beloved was Arien of the Maiar, who dwelled in her incarnate form among the Noldor of Tirion. She would tend the flowers on the gardens of Vana, and water them with the dew of Laurelin, but always she would return to her adopted home bearing blossoms of gold. She danced in the streets of Tirion, and all the Noldor loved her. Even Feanor called her friend. But Arien would have none but Tilion, as Tilion would have none but Arien.
Tilion often wondered how it was that Arien could love him so. When they ran together she outran him, until she fell to the ground for the pleasure of seeing his face above her. When they sang together her voice was stronger, unless she lowered it to join his. When they walked together, all gazed upon her beauty. How could Arien love one whose flame burned less brightly than her own? For her part, Arien doubted Tilion's love not at all. She knew the fire of her love for him, and she saw it reflected in his eyes.
And then one day the darkness came. On that day even the stars were blotted out, and we sat in utter waste, unable to move, fearing that yet an even greater darkness was still to come. As it did, with fire and blood and murderous kin, and terror in the farthest reaches of Alqualonde. But that is not this tale.
When Tilion saw the darkening of the trees, he went at once to the gardens of Lorien and sought to be admitted to the councils of the Valar. He told them that he could not endure the darkness upon his people, and would bear to the skies what light was still to be borne. They asked him again and again if he would go, knowing of his love for the fire-maiden Arien, knowing that he could never return from the skies until Arda be unmarred. Tilion was adamant. He wept to think of Arien, but knew that she would look upon his face in the heavens. It would suffice for him, and be no loss for her, for surely she could find another who could better match her brightness. So in time a vessel was made for him, and in it he took the last flower of Telperion, and the moon rose for the first time over Alqualonde.
We looked to the heavens, and a great shout rang out, of joy and not of pain. The survivors of the kinslaying in their ruined homes saw the light and knew it was Tilion, Tilion our friend, and that by his light we could begin to rebuild what we had lost. For in his love Tilion had made for us the light that we need, the light that gives us life, bright enough to help us in our work, modest enough that we may still see the stars.
But to Arien the sight of her beloved in heaven brought no joy. She ran to the Ring of Doom, burst into the council of the Valar, and demanded to be sent to the heavens as well. The Valar did not ask her any questions, for she would hear none, nor accept any delay. It was seven days before her vessel could be made ready, but when it was she flew forth like a naked flame, with concentrated brightness, and for the first time shadows appeared upon the land.
In the heavens, two lights appeared, gentle silver and bright-flaming gold. They met towards the centre of the sky. Tilion yearned towards Arien, as she reached for him. For a moment they almost embraced, and it was as if their rays of light were the limbs of incarnate forms, moving in and among each other in an exchange of delight.
But with brightness comes heat, and burning. Tilion was scorched, and fell dark. He wept, and his tears covered his face. He yearned for his love, but he could not live in her presence. And so Varda set for them courses, that each would rule half the day. Each month Tilion would heal, and would seek out Arien in her hours of brightness, but never yet has been able to remain whole in her light.
Listen, children, and watch what you see when the edge of night becomes the beginnings of day. For that is the moment when Tilion and Arien, the sun and the moon, finally are at one in their love. It is that moment, filled with colours and splendor, that witnesses their union.
And the legend has grown, here in Alqualonde, that this moment is the foretelling of Arda Healed. For on that day the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be as the light of the moon, and they will join, and be as the light of the days of the beginning. Tilion and Arien will stand in this light hand in hand, and yet it will be beyond them, one gentle and strong light in Tirion and Alqualonde, as it was before it was diminished. A light that will burn in unfaded brightness. A light that will never dim the stars.
Happy Birthday Cirdan! (Nov. 20, 2002) This story was written as a birthday present for my loyal and kind betareader Cirdan, who has done more good for me and my stories than I could possibly recount.
Tilion and Arien are taken from the Silmarillion. Their romance is not, and their association with the different peoples is entirely my extrapolation. Please see Silmarillion 11: Of the Sun and Moon.
Thanks to Finch for naming the storyteller. His name means 'coast-singer' and is a name the Teleri call themselves.
In addition to Tolkien, this story draws its inspiration from the Jewish liturgy of the sanctification of the moon and the legends surrounding it.