Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters of J. R. R. Tolkien, nor any of the various dramatic incarnations thereof. No profit is being made from this work.


In this day of the modern, coeducational military, we might feel somewhat distressed that Arwen, the future Queen of Gondor, literally spent the War of the Ring at home sewing. There is a variety of feminism that would dismiss her as being unworthy, of betraying a sisterhood of warrior women, for this. I believe this is false reasoning. Not only do we forget just what it was she was making, but we run the risk of over-glorifying the bloody mess of combat. This is an insult both to the efforts of noncombatants in war and to the men (and, in the modern day, women) who do go to war and endure numbing cold, blasting heat, crushing boredom and the terror of violent death at the request of their country. Most of them would rather be at home sewing.

What I Have Made For Hope

Prick. Tug. Shrrr.

Prick. Tug. Shrrr.

The Lady Arwen is sitting in her chamber sewing tonight. A wide fall of black cloth, dark as midnight, light as the music of flutes, is caught up before her in a large embroidery frame. The lamp shines on Arwen's face, making it glow. The needle gleams as it pierces the fabric. Her stitches are small and precise, each one aligning evenly with the ones around it.

Prick. Tug. Shrrr.

Every stitch must be made perfectly, so as not to waste precious thread. Arwen is not sewing with ordinary linen thread tonight. Her thread is of linen spun together with mithril, as fine as her father's smiths can make it. The embroidery sparkles in the lamplight. The form of a white tree is growing on the field of black, stitch by stitch.

Arwen is embroidering a battle standard for her beloved, who is off to war. She does not know if he is still alive, or if he will be alive when the standard reaches him. The creation of the standard is a testament to her faith in the future, that her beloved will be alive to receive it. Each stitch carries a wish for him, for her family, for his country, for the world.

When the flag is finished, her brothers will summon the DĂșnedain, the wild Rangers of the North, and bear it southward to the final battle against Sauron. When the time is right, her beloved will unfurl the banner she is sewing, and his soldiers will see it flying dark and glittering in the sunlight and take courage from its promise. The white tree is the sign of a kingdom of long ago, of a fierce and living nation, and of a King who may or may not come.

The needle stabs, short and sharp, drawing mithril to fill the hole it leaves behind.

Prick. Tug. Shrrr.

Arwen's embroidery is rich and fine, fit to adorn a tunic or the hem of a dress. She has embroidered such garments before, to be worn at festivals where life and creation are celebrated. This embroidery is different. It is created for use in war, to inspire others to destruction. Perhaps it will itself be destroyed. Arwen does not like to think about the destruction of war. As she sews, she prefers to think of the time after war, the time when the world is repaired and rebuilt, and new life will come to Gondor and Arnor. She will be married then and will leave her home to create a new family and a new line that will endure down the generations to come. Her creation will inspire destruction, and out of the destruction will come new creation.

Who was it that told her that a story must tell of something created and of something destroyed? Perhaps it was her mother. Perhaps it was her grandmother. She can't remember. She cannot decide if the idea of being in a story pleases her or not. She has heard enough stories to know that, though they are beautiful, they are also sad. Where there is creation, there will be destruction.

Prick. Tug. Shrrr.

She should be sewing a wedding gown and marriage linens. But her father has set such conditions on her hand that her marriage must be born of war as well as love. For an instant, resentment flares in her heart against her father, but she quickly suppresses it. Her father's conditions are, after all, only a reflection of the great story of which she is a part. In this marred world, war will wed with love. And so her marriage linen will be a battle standard, striking courage or fear into the hearts of Men.

It will be beautiful. Mithril and gold will shine, and the cold fire of diamonds will sparkle in the light. The banner heralding the new day will be dark as night, but bright hope will glitter among its folds.

Each stitch is a wish that Hope will prevail, rising from the carnage of battle to bring the life of a new Age to the world.

Prick. Tug. Shrrr.

Prick. Tug. Shrrr.

The branch is finished. Arwen ties off the thread and reaches for a small pair of shears and sets the blades against the shining twists of mithril and linen.




Many thanks to those who have read and enjoyed this short piece. It was written partially in honor of the story of Betsy Ross. The idea of the making of a "new" American flag by a noncombatant woman has made Ross a figure of legend, comparable in stature to many of the male soldiers and generals of the Revolution. Whether or not it is true that she sewed the "first" American flag (and the evidence suggests that she did not), I have always liked the story for its recognition of the variety of ways in which we may serve our countries and the suggestion that military might is not the only virtue to be admired.