Notes: According to LACE, Elves were never forced into marriage, but usually married for love. This implies that they occasionally married for other reasons. This is a bit of romantic fluff that imagines how an arranged marriage might work among Elves.
Originally written in 2003; edited 10-12-2014 - some content revised and added.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Tolkien. Translations of Elvish (Sindarin unless otherwise stated) and additional notes are found at the end. Meril's name is borrowed from an abandoned genealogy for Gil-galad, in which she is Finrod's wife. It is also the Sindarin word for 'rose'. (1)
The poem used in this story was written by Conrad Aiken and was published before 1923. It is therefore within the public domain.
In those long years of peace lamented still by singers and poets of Tol Eressëa, the Noldor wandered freely in Beleriand, delighting in lands now strange to them. Angrod's house saw much of Fingon, who travelled often between Dor-lómin and Himring, taking rest in the pine forests of Dorthonion.
So it happened, after some twenty years of the sun (as they now reckoned time), that Fingon came directly from his father's court. He brought tidings of a feast soon to take place, a reunion of kin and celebration of new friendships. "I come to make certain that you and your household will attend. I have special reason - a proposal for your son, to be exact."
"I believe my son prefers the company of the wiser sex, though it is hard to tell, for he seems to favour his own company most," Angrod laughed, poking idly at the fire.
Fingon took his jest literally. "Good, then I do not waste my time."
"I gather you have someone in mind?"
"I do. As you know, the Sindar of the North have taken my father as their King, ceding control of their lands to him in return for his protection. Yet it is a tenuous arrangement - the Mithrim were never truly subject to Thingol. They are used to managing their own affairs.
"There is a particularly powerful elf-lord among them," Fingon continued, "one in whose loyalty my father would be certain. As it happens, he has a daughter, still a maid. A union with a prince of the Noldor would give this lord exactly the sort of interest in my father's rule that we desire." (1)
"An arranged marriage," Angrod said flatly.
"Such an ugly turn of phrase," Fingon grinned, unabashed.
"And you? Are you not a most desirable and eligible prince of the Noldor?" Angrod could not resist, though he knew something of the truth.
"My son can be stubborn should need arise, and this is just the sort of thing to get his back up. Moreover, I do not wish upon him a loveless marriage, no matter what gain my King might have from it. My wife is of like mind, and I think it best not to cross her where her son is concerned."
"And about what does my husband presume to know my mind?" Edhellos joined them by the cheery fire, draping herself over the settee at Angrod's side.
"You are always too hasty, dear cousin," Fingon protested. "If you would but listen to my scheme-."
"Oh, is he scheming again?" She turned to Angrod. "Then I am certain you are right. I shall not approve."
Fingon continued, undaunted. "I would arrange nothing but a meeting of the two. She is no great beauty, but comely enough, and clever of mind. I think your son shall take to her. Be assured that she shall not allow her father or mine to persuade her into a match she does not want. The real genius in my plan, however, lies in the very veil of 'arrangement'. Your son will agree to meet her, as a favour to my father, and never guess that dear cousin Fingon is matchmaking."
Angrod admitted the scheme had some merit. Arothir would shy away if he suspected that Fingon had chosen this elf-maid with a mind toward finding him a wife, but he would not deny a request of his King. Still, Angrod doubted that his cousin's plan would succeed. "Do not hold me to blame," he warned, "if you find the poor couple miserable in one another's company."
Arothir stood by the banquet table, looking fearfully for his much-dreaded dinner partner. He hoped that Fingon had acted discretely in the arrangements with the lady; the elf believed he could make this introduction an awkward affair quite without the lady's expectations of a match. He fidgeted, fretting at his braid. So anxious was he that when a sharp voice called his name, he jumped and nearly upset the carelessly held goblet of a merry passer-by.
"Oh, do sit down, lord, ere we are all drenched in wine."
He turned in horror to face the owner of the sharp voice. One might complain that her nose was a bit too long; her lips too thin, but Arothir saw only the light of her eyes. She had not the flame of the Exiles, but it seemed to him that the shine of all Varda's host looked upon him. Overwhelmed, he choked out a greeting and sank into his chair.
"I am Meril, daughter of Lord Thórbel," the lady announced. "And you, I presume, would be Arothir, though I must say that it is a poor trick of our scheming relations if they think I would bind myself to an elf who has not even the grace to greet a lady properly."
Arothir risked a glance at the elf-maid, and found a sparkle of mirth - and warmth - in her bright grey eyes. Encouraged, he offered a modest smile. "My deepest regrets, dear lady. I am indeed Arothir of the House of Finarfin, and I am enchanted to make your acquaintance."
"It is ridiculous, of course, that we two should find aught in common, much less the union of our fëar simply because our relations wish it so," Meril said. "But let us enjoy one another's company, at least."
He called for more wine and she told him of the tapestries she had made with her mother, woven history of the Elves from the time of Cuiviénen. He told her of his love for Vanyarin poetry and his efforts to translate the most sacred works.
So taken was he with the lady that he forgot to eat and scarcely noticed the never to be repeated duet of Maglor and Daeron. He did not often find an attentive ear for his passions; indeed, he often felt that his voice was not heard at all.
As evening fell, she took his arm and they strolled around the edge of Eithel Ivrin, stopping here and there to listen to a lay or watch a joust.
"You are a poet yourself, I am told," Meril said, looking at him closely.
He blushed. "Those who have told you so are too kind."
"You do not write, or you do not deign to call it poetry?"
"I suppose...the latter."
"I shall judge that for myself," Meril said firmly.
Later, he thought that the Lady Starkindler herself must have given him the words, but it was the lady with the starlit eyes who gave him courage to speak them.
And when she looked across the night,
Beneath, among, those stars of- light,
Into his heart she shot a pang;
A gleaming mouth awoke and sang;
Petals of roses showered him. (3)
"But you are a poet, lord," Meril said softly. They had come to a quiet grove, yet undiscovered by the revellers.
"I shall not bind myself to any elf save for love," she said, "be he a prince or the lowliest servant. "Though all of us may fall under the Shadow, and so find our way to the judgement of Mandos, the bonds we make persist. Realms and Kings may crumble. A bond cannot." She turned to him. "Do you not agree?"
Mandos - ai, the lady knew nothing of the Doom of the Noldor! Irresponsible, he deemed it, that Fingon would manipulate the elf-maid into sharing such a fate. Yet, Arothir found odd comfort in her words. A bond must endure even the Doom - could he not, therefore, hope for something beyond the Doom?
"Yes, I do agree," he said at last. "Love cannot fail, for it belongs not to the fallible hroa but to the fëa immortal."
"I am glad that you see it so," she said quietly. "I feel," she continued, her tone lightening, "that our relations cannot go unpunished for such wicked scheming." Meril's eyes sparkled with mischief and something more.
Arothir laughed, loving this bold elf, and all his anxieties fell away. The firm grip of her hand on his arm seemed not tight or constraining but an extension of his own arm, and in her presence he felt as if he had found a part of himself that he had missed, sorely incomplete without it, though he had not known so until today.
Meril's lips met his. He tasted their saltiness, felt the tension in her embrace and responded with sentiment so fierce he nearly gasped in pain, for surely his heart must burst. "If we do this-."
"-it cannot be undone," Meril finished. "Is it not what you wish?"
"It is what I have longed for." He looked at her squarely.
Fingon would bemoan the connections to be made among potentates attending a grand betrothal ceremony; Edhellos would lament the unseemliness of it all. Arothir felt more certain in Meril than in any undertaking of his life.
Thus did he, Child of the Light, invoke the name of Eru and thus did she, Elf of the Twilight, ask the blessing of Varda, and by words and passion and love, their fëar became fëa. And one they shall remain one until Arda be remade.(4)
"A Elbereth! Sílo giliath, an-uir tiro san men a mín." (5)
(1) Meril's name
(The War of the Jewels, 'The Later Quenta Silmarillion' p 242 pub. Houghton Mifflin)
(2) "the Sindar of the North have taken my father as their King, ceding control of their lands to him in return for his protection…the Mithrim were never truly subject to Thingol"
There are (as usual) at least two versions of this - in The War of the Jewels, 'Quendi and Eldar', we are told that Thingol was acknowledged as King by the Mithrim (pp 410-411 pub. Houghton Mifflin), but a later text, 'The Problem of ROS' (The Peoples of Middle-earth p 372 pub. Houghton Mifflin), implies that Thingol had little fondness for the Mithrim. This seems more in line with the division of Beleriand as it is told in The Silmarillion, and so I've used the latter version.
(3) And when she looked across the night,
This snippet is taken (entirely out of context) from 'The Charnel Rose' by Conrad Aiken
(4) Thus did he, Child of the Light, invoke the name of Eru... .
Technically, there is nothing wrong with this - in desperate times, elves could bind themselves by invoking the name of Eru and joining in bodily union. However, Tolkien notes that this was considered 'ungracious' in peaceful times such as those of the Mereth Aderthad. (Morgoth's Ring, 'Laws and Customs Among the Eldar' p 212 pub. Houghton Mifflin)
(5) "A Elbereth! Sílo giliath lín, an-uir tiro san men a mín."
"A Elbereth! May your starhost shine white, forever may it watch over us and ours." The construct of the imperative followed by the vocative forms the optative subjunctive in the Ringbearers' Praise in LOTR . An-uir is Neo-Sindarin from Eirien Tuilinn's Gobeth i-Phethath 'wîn as it appears in Hiswelókë's Sindarin dictionary. Tiro, used here to mean 'watch over' would take an indirect object, hence the unmutated forms of men and mín.