The End of All Things, And a New Beginning
Legolas stood in a ring of standing stones. The sun was rising over Valinor casting its wondrous light over the fair land, as it had done many thousands of times before. But this morning Legolas knew that there was something wrong.
In the ring were seven stones. Each commemorated the life of someone Legolas had loved. But the one he looked at this morning, as he did every morning, was the grave of Gimli, son of Gloin1, the best friend Legolas had ever had. Of the remaining six, only two held bodies, the graves of Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins. The grave of Bilbo was set a little way off; he had not been a member of the fellowship of the ring.
For those were the lives that this ring of stone commemorated. Each depicted the person something dear to them. The statues were worn through ages of rain and wind, but the faces could still be seen. Remembered alongside Frodo and Sam, the last Ringbearers, were those dear to them. Aragorn, son of Arathorn; King Elessar of Gondor in the Fourth Age; Boromir, son of Denethor, brother of Faramir, Aragorn's Steward; Meriadoc Brandybuck, Holdwine of the Mark; and Peregrine Took, soldier of Gondor.
But as always Legolas' gaze was held by the stone carving of a short and stocky character, wielding his beard and axe as he had done in life. Every day Legolas visited his grave, to remind himself of events of Ages past. And to mourn the loss of the best friend he had ever had. But this morning Legolas could not shake off the feeling that something was very wrong.
He heard footstep and turned. But he did not see who he thought he would. Instead of a tall and faintly glowing being he saw a man, bearded and robed in white, with long flowing hair.
"Gandalf?" asked Legolas, unsure of himself "You have not taken that form for many an age."
"Indeed I have not, my friend, but I thought it appropriate for this morning."
It was then that Legolas understood. "The end has come."
The look in Gandalf's eyes confirmed this statement. "The men of middle earth have grown wicked. They are no longer that noble race that Aragorn once ruled over. The world has changed many times since that time, and no one now remembers that great king."
Legolas clenched his fists. "I remember!" he whispered vehemently.
"As do I, and the events that put the crown upon his head. But we are the last. The time has come for all races to start anew. A new world will come, and in this world men, elves, and dwarves, yea, even hobbits shall have their place."
"But I will not. I will be forgotten, by all," said Legolas bitterly.
"You were one of the greatest elves of your time. Lord Manwë2 says that perhaps you will have a part in the New World."
Legolas sighed. "But our friends will not." Gandalf looked puzzled; Legolas continued. "For centuries I have tried to convince myself that I am truly happy. And the Blessed Realm does help you forget, for a while. But always the memories returned, and I returned to this place. Something was always missing, and I felt more alone than I ever thought I could." The bitterness and sorrow was evident and ran deep. Gandalf could not understand how he had missed these things in his friend. "I am tired, Gandalf. Tired of pretending, tired of feeling alone." Legolas lowered his voice to barely a whisper. "Tired of life."
"Legolas, you cannot take that attitude. You are of the first born, bound forever to this world. You have enjoyed its advantages until now; you cannot change your mind now."
"Have I? Have I enjoyed it?"
"You cannot seriously be contemplating that, Legolas."
"Why not?" he shot back. "Elves have died for love before. I knew one who did. Arwen was the last. Elves have died for love, why then can I not?"
"Because you are not pledged to a mortal."
"Not a single mortal in marriage. I am bound to many; bound by vows and a love that runs deeper than marriage."
"Legolas, you cannot!"
"But I will, I have. I choose a mortal life." Gandalf sighed and turned away to prevent himself from weeping. "Do not think me a coward, Gandalf. In the end, I am choosing uncertainty over certain doom. Where is the cowardice in that?"
"You will pass on, and leave your family behind?"
"I left my family behind long ago. When I sailed here with Gimli I left them behind."
"But you knew you would see them again one day. Choose this path and you will not."
"No, I will not see them again. But it has been a long time since my family could keep me truly happy."
"You cannot dissuade me now. My mind is long since made up. I have chosen. I will die as a mortal man, and pass from the circles of the world."
"Very well then. Farewell, Legolas, son of Thranduil. May you find peace."
"I hope we meet again, Olórin, beyond the circles of the world. If we should, think better of me."
Then Gandalf left the ring, weeping for the choice of his friend. But he knew in his heart of hearts that Legolas was right. He had to find happiness, and it would not come to him now, save by death.
And so Legolas, son of Thranduil, once a mighty prince and friend to Kings laid himself down in the centre of the circle. In the midst of those he loved, he laid him down. And so he passed from the circles of the world ere it ended.
He knew not the terror of those he left behind. The Vanyar elves knew it first. The Valar and Maiar were gone. They knew it was over.
Then came the destruction. The seas were lifted up and they came crashing down upon the land. Middle Earth and Valinor alike suffered. The very Earth was rent open, and fire and liquid rock was spewed out.
But the last to go was the hill of the standing stones. The last to be destroyed were the memories of a better time. But in the end, even the sleeping body of Legolas Greenleaf was swallowed by the fire.
But he knew nothing of it.
Legolas awoke in a brightly lit hall. He stood amazed a moment but then he heard a great voice behind him.
"Come, Legolas, son of Thranduil, let me look at you." Legolas turned and beheld his true father, Eru Illúvatar. He who is everything that was, is and ever will be, yet nothing all at once. He who no words can describe. Legolas fell to his knees in awe. "Rise, Legolas, my son. Thou art the last to make the choice of Lúthien and did so for a noble cause. Rise and behold the reward for your faith."
And so Legolas stood and turned. And there he beheld a wondrous sight. Stood before Eru were all whom he had loved.
There was Aragorn, King Elessar with his Queen and children. Merry, Pippin and Sam with their families. Frodo and Bilbo were there too. And stood side by side were Boromir and Faramir with Éowyn and their children. And Éomer and Lothíriel with Imrahil, her father. And Théoden was there also, his son returned to his side. But stood before all of them was Gimli. His usual grumpy face was replaced by the biggest grin Legolas had ever seen on his face. Legolas cried out when he saw the one he had missed most.
"Gimli!" Then the elf ran up to his old friend and embraced him.
"You certainly took your time, you pointy eared fool," replied Gimli from the vicinity of his friend's belly button. "Get off me, you idiot."
"I'm sorry, Shorty; I forgot you don't like displays of emotion." But both friends were grinning.
Then Legolas greeted each and every one of his other friends. He took his time; after all, they had all eternity to be together. And by the time they were dismissed to their own devices, Legolas and Gimli were bickering again.
Legolas did indeed meet Gandalf again, in his Maiar form as Olórin. And Olórin judged him not for his decision at the end; for he saw that his friend was now truly happy.
And when the time came for all the Ainur3 to sing once again in the Ainulindalë4, Olórin did not forget his friend's fears. Into his song he wove his own designs. But these were not the evils of Melkor in the first Ainulindalë for they spread no discord and harmonised with the others.
And so by the designs of Gandalf, the people of this New Earth did not forget. For he placed within this world written accounts of the events of The War of The Ring. On this Earth he put the Red Book of Westmarch among others, so that the events of the First, Second, Third and Fourth Ages of Arda would not be forgotten.
And so it came to pass that in the early twentieth century of the second age of this world, a young man discovered these documents. And he found he could read the elven scripts and interpret the tongues; for perhaps he was the last living remnant of Elessar's line.
Three books he wrote based on these documents; The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings and The Silmarillion. And so because of one man, J.R.R Tolkien, the world knew about those long gone.
And though they live on in our hearts as characters of fiction only, still they live on. Legolas' fears were unfounded, for he and his friends will not be forgotten while men breathe, and have eyes to read books.
And perhaps even elves, dwarves, and hobbits walk among us with other marvels. Perhaps all you need to do is open your eyes and look around. And remember; always remember.
1 The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King Appendix A, page 1055. It is said that Gimli, son of Gloin, went with Legolas to the Undying Lands
2 The Silmarillion, Valaquenta (Account of the Valar) page 26. Manwë was the first of all Kings, and lord of all Arda.
3 The Ainur are the Valar and Maiar known collectively
4 The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë (Music of the Ainur) page 15 onwards. The song they were bidden to sing by Eru, form which he created Ða, the world that is. It is said that at the End of Days, the Children of Illúvatar would sing with the Ainur in a music even greater than the first. It is not unthinkable that in this second music they created a world even better than the first.