Disclaimer: LOTR belongs to the creative genius of JRR Tolkien, not me.

An Elf Fish Tale

There were no clouds this night and the moon had not yet risen so the stars were shining at their brightest, looking like diamonds resting on a backdrop of black silk. The Fellowship had made camp for the evening on the soft green grass that grew beside a small stream. Legolas found a spot to his liking a little apart from the others and lay on his back gazing up into the night sky basking in the starlight. He was so moved by their beauty that he felt the need to sing, and chose a refrain that was initially joyful as the words told the story of the awakening under starlight of the Children of Ilúvatar, but changed to one filled with sadness for the loss of beauty in the world with the coming of the Shadow and the desolation of the woods of his people.

The sweet sound of his voice carried far in the still air; reaching towards the stars themselves and they grieved with him, for they loved the Firstborn and did not wish to see them suffering. Of his companions, only Aragorn and Gandalf fully understood the words, but the others had no trouble discerning the changing mood of the music, and a melancholy silence descended on the group. All except for Pippin, who was looking thoughtfully at the stream.

"You know, I fancy some nice fresh fish for breakfast," he said cheerfully.

"Breakfast!" exclaimed Boromir. "It is barely an hour since the evening meal and already you are thinking of your next one. You Hobbits certainly have insatiable appetites."

"Well. Actually, supper is next," explained Merry, "but now that you mention it, Pip, fried fish for breakfast would make a nice change."

"It is a little too dark to fish now, you should have thought of it sooner," said the ever cautious Sam. "Besides, you don't have your fishing rods, or hooks, or bait."

"It is not too dark to make traps to place in the water," suggested Legolas, smiling at the surprised look on Merry and Pippin's faces. "I have had plenty of practice at building traps, especially when I was younger," he added with an enigmatic look in his eye that did not go unnoticed by Gandalf who saw an opportunity for the others to learn something of the Elf. No one except he and Aragorn knew much about Legolas, and aside from his ongoing insult trading with Gimli, he had not spoken much at all.

"I sense a story lies behind your words, Legolas. Will you tell it to us?"  Gandalf asked as he settled by the fire and lit his pipe. The others did likewise as they waited for the Elf to reply.

"As you wish," Legolas said, for he had no desire to deny a request from the Istari and it was apparent that the others, even the Dwarf were interested to hear his tale.

"When I was but a very young elfling, my parents took me on a picnic to a small glade in the middle of which there was a pool of crystal clear water. The sun was bright and hot on this day, so I took off my boots and paddled in the water. To my surprise, I saw flashes of silver darting through the water, and not having seen a live fish before, I became frightened and ran to my Adar."

"Ada, Ada! Come quickly, there is a big monster with wriggling silver hair in the water!" cried Legolas as he flung himself into the comfort of his Nana's arms.

"Really?" asked Thranduil raising an eyebrow in amusement at his wife as he gently extricated his son's hands from around her neck. Taking a small hand in his, he lead Legolas back to the pool where he took off his own boots, rolled up his leggings and picked the child up as he waded into the water. Feeling the small body begin to tremble against his chest, he said soothingly,

"There is nothing to fear, little one. The silver flashes are only fish; there are no monsters here. Take a closer look." Legolas obeyed and was soon mesmerised by the darting creatures, whose silver scales reflected rainbows as they passed through the sunlight that penetrated the depths. One came right up to Thranduil and with the swiftness of his elvish reflexes he caught it and lifted the wriggling creature out of the water to allow his small son a closer look. Legolas gingerly touched the scaly skin and giggled as the fish's mouth opened and closed as it sought water to breathe.

"Throw it back, Thranduil," called his wife, who had come to stand beside the stream. "The creature does not deserve to die." Legolas was shocked, the fish was dying? In his naiveté he thought that nothing should be allowed to die, especially something so beautiful.

"I fully intended to, my love," he replied as he gently placed the fish back in the water. "You do realise, do you not, Legolas, that we eat the fish we catch?"

"Yes, but they do not come from here, do they Ada?" he asked as they cleared the picnic and returned to the Hall.

"No, I will show you where we fish."  There were several places along the river where traps were set overnight and Thranduil explained how the fish were caught and taken to the kitchens to be cleaned and cooked. Legolas was now horrified to think that he had eaten some of the beautiful creatures and made a silent vow that he would never eat fish again and he decided that no one else should either.

"What did you do?" asked Aragorn, who knew Legolas well enough to know that was not the end of the story.

"Every morning I rose early and made my way to the traps, and set the fish free," he replied.

"Didn't someone notice something amiss?" asked Sam, amused at the thought of an elfling behaving much like Pippin might.

"Yes, the cook, for one. And Ada for another, for he was very fond of fish for breakfast"

"How did he catch you?" asked Pippin.

"One morning, I was not quite careful enough and I fell into the river. Unfortunately it was also the day that Nana was leaving to visit at Rivendell, and I ran into Ada as he was inspecting the horses for her trip. He asked me where I had been and what I had been doing, so I confessed."

"Just like that?" asked Merry seemingly disturbed by such honesty.

"There would be no point in Legolas lying to Thranduil," explained Gandalf. "They are Elves, he would know immediately that the truth was not being spoken just by looking into his son's eyes."

"Oh, that must be inconvenient," he commented in an aside to Pippin.

"I take it you were punished?" asked Boromir, who would have expected no less from his own father as a young boy.

"Yes, I was ordered to build and maintain the fishing traps for the next six months," replied Legolas ruefully. "I became quite the expert and I do not believe I have lost my skills."

"Excellent! Will you help us then, Legolas?" asked Pippin eagerly. "I can almost taste the fish already."

"Very well," agreed the Elf and in a short space of time the three had built two sturdy fish traps using small branches that had fallen from nearby trees. With the aid of Legolas' ability to see in the dark, they had placed them in a suitable spot on the bed of the stream. As they walked back to the camp, Merry stopped suddenly and turned to the Elf,

"You do eat fish now, I hope?"

"No, I still have not the heart to do so," he said, noting the look of concern that passed between the Hobbits and added with a reassuring smile, "do not fear I will not set your breakfast free."