Author's Note: I wrote this little story for a class I took on Tolkien and his works. We had the option of doing a research paper, a class presentation, or a creative project. Now, I hate getting up in front of people to talk, so that was out. And left to choose between something creative and research… Well, it was no difficult choice!
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Lament for Celebrian
Herein is recorded a part of the Halflings' days in Imladris, before the war of the ring,
as written by Frodo Baggins, upon his return to the Shire, in the Red Book of Westmarch.
This tale was omitted in editing, to preserve the continuity of the main story.
November faded into December, and the days began to grow short and cold. The House of Elrond in its valley was spared from the chill for a while – Frodo wondered if this was due to the location of the House or virtue of the Elves – but eventually even Imladris felt the coming winter. Though he would have been far more content to remain in Rivendell, he was restless and wanted to be off. The sooner the journey was begun, the sooner it might end that he could return home – if he could return. But they could do nothing until the reports of the Black Riders' movements came back, and from the sound of things, Elladan and Elrohir would not return until mid-December.
Frodo contented himself with exploring the Valley – and when that became too cold, the House – with his friends or relaxing in the Hall of Fire with Bilbo. The Elves found the Hobbits amusing if unrefined, but treated them with kindness and respect, seeming quite pleased to entertain their small guests with songs and stories and to answer some of their questions. Frodo and Merry were particularly interested in learning everything the Elves would tell them.
One afternoon, in early December, in search of an amenable Elf to distract with their curiosity, they happened past the Hall of Fire. Frodo had not spent much time there for some days and thought about going in, when he noticed there seemed to be something different about the listeners at that moment. Most of the time some quiet conversation was apparent, no matter what was being sung. At that moment, however, even from the doorway Frodo could see quite clearly that all eyes were fixed on a lone Elf maid, who stood singing on the far side of the Hall. Only Elrond sat with his eyes closed, but there was an expression of great pain on his noble face. More Elves joined the song, and there was sadness in their fair voices, as though they lamented something dear lost long ago.
Frodo would later write it down, but at that moment, though he understood the Elvish verse, he did not entirely understand what they mourned. The tale was not one he recognized. This is part of the song, as Frodo first heard it:
Beyond the Sund'ring Seas she waits
and watches every ship
that to the shores of Valinor is borne -
Watches, waiting for her love
to join her there in Tirion.
Celebrian! Oh Lady Fair,
was healing found in Valinor?
Celebrian, now lost to us,
for ships that sail do not return.
The Golden Wood shall miss your song
and Rivendell your grace.
Celebrian, await us there
for soon our ships will follow yours
and bear us there, to farthest West,
to Valinor and Tirion.
Frodo noticed that Aragorn had come up behind them while they listened and asked him, "Who is she they sing of?"
The Ranger smiled sadly and motioned them away from the door to the Hall before answering. "It is a lament for Celebrian, daughter of the Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien, the Golden Wood. She was Elrond's lady, mother of the brothers Elladan and Elrohir and the Lady Arwen." He led them to a small room some distance from the Hall. A fire crackled merrily in the hearth, and Aragorn pulled chairs closer to it, that they might take comfort in its warmth as they talked. He reclined at ease in one of the chairs, motioning the Hobbits toward the others. "We are less likely to be disturbed here," he explained as they sat down, "and less likely to disturb others." He lit his pipe and took a few pulls on it, then exhaled a long puff of smoke. "I am surprised Lord Elrond let that be sung with so many guests in the Valley," he commented, almost to himself. "They do not often tell the story."
"What happened to her?" Merry asked. "Did she die? I could not understand the words, but their voices sounded so sad…"
Thoughtful, Aragorn took another pull on his pipe. "No, Merry, she did not die. Not as we know death, at least. Long ago the Lady Celebrian took a grave injury, and lost her desire to stay in Middle-Earth. She took a ship from the Havens to the Undying Lands."
Softly Frodo chanted what he had heard in the song. "'Ships that sail do not return…' But what happened? Why did she leave?" He could not believe that any injury, no matter how terrible, could cause an Elf to flee Middle-Earth. "Couldn't she be healed?" Unconsciously he touched his own wounded shoulder – he was proof of Elrond's healing abilities. How much worse must this Lady's injuries have been? He shuddered.
A wry smile answered Frodo's questions. "There you see the flaw in the tale so far, Frodo. If every sorely wounded Elf in Middle-Earth journeyed to Valinor, there would be few remaining." Aragorn frowned slightly. "And yes, she was healed. There are few things Elrond cannot put right, given time. But Celebrian had been tortured, and her spirit was nearly broken."
"Tortured!" Merry exclaimed, horrified. "By whom?"
"Orcs." For several long minutes they sat in silence, then, staring into the fire. Frodo and Merry tried, rather unsuccessfully, to piece together what must have happened. They wished Pippin was there – he would have asked Aragorn to explain what had happened, not considering whether it was right or proper to ask. Merry fidgeted a little.
Aragorn looked up and smiled at them. "You are models of restraint!" he commented. "But am I right in guessing you would like to hear the tale in full?"
"A Hobbit's curiosity is never satisfied," Merry said. "But are we allowed to hear it? You said they rarely tell the story."
"More because it is such a painful memory for them than because they don't wish it to be known, though it happened long ago as Men count years. And Hobbits," he added. "For Elrond and his children it is still a matter for tears rather than song, as you saw in the Hall, but he will sometimes speak of it." He laughed bitterly, "So I discovered myself, years ago, before I grew wise enough to know better than to ask delicate questions."
"Lord Elrond told you?" Frodo wondered aloud. "What made you ask?" He could not imagine one of the Dunedain ever being young and foolish, though reason said he must have been, once.
"He did, indeed. I asked only questions any youth might, when raised within two families. Elladan and Elrohir were like brothers to me, and Elrond the only father I ever knew. Knowing my own mother missed her husband, I became aware early on that Elrond had no Lady." He smiled a little. "The actual wording of that question was too thoughtless to bear repeating. My only defense is that I was quite young. But if you wish, I will tell you the story, as he told it to me."
"We would be grateful – it might clear up some things," Merry replied, though he did not specify what things. "Should we take notes?" he added, only half in jest. "Perhaps Bilbo would want to include it as a chapter in his book."
Aragorn shook his head. "I doubt that would be necessary. If he has not already heard the tale some time in his years here you can tell it to him later. But it certainly does not fit with his own tale. Or yours, for that matter. Still," he sighed and stretched out his long legs, "that would be for him to decide, I suppose. Now, Celebrian."
The Ranger had a storyteller's gift, and as he told them of the Lady's fate, they felt almost as if they could see the events occur, and in greater detail than he provided. He deliberately left some to their imagination, and some things no one knew.
"Celebrian was a daughter of Lothlorien, which lies several weeks' journey south and east of here, on the other side of the Misty Mountains and south of Mirkwood. She, and later her children, often traveled between Rivendell and the Golden Wood. The journey was always dangerous, for any road they might take leads across the mountains. Orcs have long inhabited the caverns beneath the Misty Mountains, and even when they were weak they would occasionally attack small groups of travelers. Orcs have a deeply rooted hatred of Elves, and Elves for Orcs, for once, in the depths of time that only the eldest of the Eldar now remember, the two races were one. The Great Enemy created the Orcs from the Elves he captured even before the sun was placed in the sky." Neither Hobbit could restrain a gasp of horror – they had never heard, even in their oldest tales, of any connection between the fairest of all Middle-Earth's races and one of the foulest. "But that is a different story.
"Celebrian made this journey often, as the Elves see it – every few years or so, sometimes remaining in one place or the other for decades. Several times her party was threatened, but there were always enough of them to make the Orcs wary, and unwilling to attack. But one day, as she prepared to leave Rivendell, Elrond came to her, and bid her to remain in the Valley. It is said that he sensed some vague danger, but the warning was not strong enough for him to press her too hard. On this point, he is always curiously silent, saying nothing of any foresight on his part, which makes me inclined to believe it was so."
"Why wouldn't he mention it?" Merry asked.
"Guilt, perhaps." Aragorn replied. "A sense that maybe he should have done something to prevent what would happen. Lord Elrond takes on many burdens that no one need bear, or should be borne by others. He would gladly take yours from you, Frodo, if he believed it possible." Frodo said nothing, and the Ranger continued his tale. "The fact remains that Celebrian went, and had she not, things might be very different now. She never reached Lothlorien. A lone Elf on horseback, all that remained of her party, made his way back to Rivendell for help, believing it was already too late to save any of the prisoners. He told Elrond and his sons how they were waylaid on the Redhorn Pass. Most of the group was killed outright, but some few, Celebrian among them, were taken rather than slain.
"Elladan and Elrohir…" he hesitated. "It is well I asked their father rather than they of Celebrian's fate. Their sorrow is laced with bitter hatred and anger, and I don't know how they would have reacted to my curiosity. The night the messenger arrived, they rode off, the two of them alone, to rescue their mother. Elrond raised a small troop and followed after, lamenting the recklessness of his sons, and believing he would reach the mountains and find them slain as well. But fortune is not always cruel, and the line of King Thingol of old is blessed, though it has known great strife and unimaginable grief. When they reached the foothills of the Misty Mountains near the Redhorn Gate, they met the brothers returning, and their mother was with them, grievously wounded and unconscious.
"How they rescued her and where they found her they either will not say, or cannot, for in the heat of their rage they did much, leaving a trail of dead Orcs in their wake that to this day they do not even recall meeting. All they will say is that she was shackled in a dungeon deep in the mountains and had been cruelly tortured and poisoned by Orc weapons. Elrond at first despaired, for he loved Celebrian dearly, and seeing her in that wretched state tore his heart. He immediately began tending her wounds and driving out the poison in them, but they made all haste back to Rivendell that the virtue of this place might aid her recovery.
"She was long in healing, but eventually grew well again, physically. But she was no longer the same as before that journey, and was always haunted by the evil done to her. Her mind and spirit were not broken, not quite, but she was very, very weak, and needed a different kind of healing than Lord Elrond could provide. The year after her capture, she bade him and her children farewell, and traveled to the Grey Havens that lie to the west of the Shire. From there, she sailed in one of the Elven ships to Valinor, and no more is known of her. It is hoped that she found solace from her misery, and a common legend says she waits for the day when her Lord will join her there. I hope so."
Silence descended on the little room as Aragorn finished his tale, and only the cheerful crackling of the fire could be heard. Finally, Merry stood up.
"Well, we asked," he said, "though I almost wish we hadn't. Thank you, Strider. I think it's better to know rather than not, but… It is a sad story."
The Ranger nodded. "Most encounters with the enemy make sad tales, Merry, at least in part. But nearly all have some hope, and that is what we fight for, in the end. Perhaps her story is not finished – the ending may be very happy, indeed."
"I hope you're right, but I need some cheering up, after that. So, I'm off to find Pippin, I guess." And he left.
Aragorn smiled. "I never said it was an easy story to hear," he told Frodo. "But I believe it is one that should not be secret, for it will find its way into the great deeds of the Elves, in time." Frodo nodded, but said nothing. "And what do you think of Celebrian's story, Frodo?"
He did not answer immediately, and there was a deep sadness in his eyes when he finally spoke. "I think that Lord Elrond is incredibly fortunate. I hope…" He hesitated a moment, swallowing the lump that formed in his throat. "I hope all people may look forward to such a greeting when at last they pass the boundaries of Middle-Earth."