Memories of danger and the courage to meet it, link a king's son in Mirkwood and a prince's daughter in Ithilien, across war, peace, and the turning of an Age.
MOONLIGHT AND LAUGHTER
"Please, Father; tell me more." Legolas pleaded. It was too early to sleep; and he never tired of his father's magical voice.
The candles in the bedchamber gilded his father's long hair as the King resumed his seat. Somewhere beyond the closed gates, Legolas heard an owl hoot out its nightly cry.
"Very well." Thranduil smiled and took up the tale anew. "Your grandfather and I faced the fiercest of foes, mighty trolls, goblins and hungry wargs. Their company was led by a terrible hill-troll, riding on a young dragon. All around us the other Eldar and the Edain were hard-pressed; so we fought unaided as we battled before the Black Gate. We feared that we would not survive that evil morning; that the Last Alliance would fail and go down to doom on the sunless plains of Mordor."
Legolas was tall and strong even for an elf-child, yet he could not help but shiver just a little at the mention of their Enemy. His father's eyes glinted as he continued the story and spoke of Grandfather's fall and the deaths of more than half of their people. "Yet hearken to my words, my son" he said, taking Legolas' hand and sheltering it in his strong, warm grip. "And tell the tale to your children one day. Though my father fell during that bitter war, so did Sauron, and Barad-dûr crashed broken to the ground. He can be defeated again. We will live to see it done, and laugh!" His father grinned, inviting Legolas to laugh too. And all was well in the shadowed chamber within the King's caverns.
"Please, don't stop, tell me more!" Cynwen entreated. Legolas looked fondly at this beloved child, now just turned eleven years. The daughter of Faramir and Éowyn had somehow planted herself firmly in his heart before she could walk, ceasing baby tears when he lifted her, cooing at his songs. As she grew, he called the little girl his moon-child, for she had a quiet, almost Elven stillness and a silvery laugh that charmed him. Though young, Cynwen was wise beyond her years, and her small hands could already gentle a frightened horse.
Now she met his gaze earnestly, her blue eyes gentle but insistent. "What happened to the dragon," she asked; "Did your father slay the troll?"
"My grandfather slew the troll with his last sword-thrust, before the dragon fell upon him. Our warriors, who had been first to charge into the battle, were soon overwhelmed. My father had taken a wound in his leg, and could barely stand, when the dragon turned its dreadful gaze upon him."
Cynwen took a sharp breath. At that moment, the moon emerged from behind the clouds to cast its pale light over her face. Legolas realized with a pang that Cynwen would soon have no need of stories to soothe her into sleep. She would grow up, and walk more with young Men and less with Elves. Yet this girl had, like her father, a love of lore, and a special joy in all things Elven that came perhaps from Legolas himself. May you always find joy in stories, my Ithiliel, and may your story have naught but happy endings, he willed.
"My father found it hard to move, and was angered that he could not slay the beast that killed Oropher. But then, he heard a voice that bade him turn his head. Weary, and lacking other choices, he turned his head; and the mithril noseguard on his helmet shone bright and blinded the dragon. The dragon rose up in wrath. Then there came a flurry of spears and arrows, striking the foul beast in its chest and underbelly. It must have dropped some scales from its skin, for the dragon fell down even as it belched out flame."
"Was it dead?" She asked, her eyes shining in the glow of moon and candles.
"Not quite. My father half-crawled to the dragon, and plunged his sword into its mouth. At the same time, a spear shot through the dragon's eye. At last, it perished."
"Your father was brave, Legolas."
"As is yours, little one, and your mother too. My father looked up to see the dragon dead, but many elves fallen as well. Then he saw the one who had helped him kill the beast. It was a young Man with golden hair, weeping over the body of a great grey horse. About him lay other horses and men, dead, most of them burned by the dragon's dying flame. My father went to him and thanked him. Then the boy, for he was not much older than you, Ithiliel, retrieved his spear and strode off to find what was left of his company. My father had no time to learn his name. But he never forgot the strength of Men, and how it saved his life"
"Was the man of the Éothéod?" Cynwen asked eagerly.
"I am not certain. But he could have been kin to your mother and uncle, through many fathers."
"The dragon killed the horses?"
"Not all of them. Many Men, and Elves and dwarves fell during the Last Alliance. But it was still a victory, greater yet perhaps because it was so dearly bought."
Cynwen's eyes were huge now in her small, pretty face. Time to end the tale; for she was tired after a day spent riding to his wood with her folk, and then exploring the trees at his side.
"Yes, our peoples suffered loss. Sometimes it is worth even such grief, to throw down a great evil. My father told me, when I was the age that you are now, that we would see Sauron defeated, and laugh. I did not fully understand him then. But your mother and father, who lost so much, had to take up the same fight. And this time, Sauron perished from the world. As long as there are those to fight it, evil must perish."
"You fought the Enemy too, Legolas." Cynwen said very softly, sleep stealing up on her like a cloud over the new moon. "You are as valiant as my father, my mother, and even Uncle Boromir." She smiled; content now to close her eyes.
"Perhaps". The elf replied. He saw the child slip sweetly into slumber. He wished that Boromir could have lived to see Cynwen of Ithilien. Legolas laughed quietly, for the sake of Boromir, and Oropher and all those who had died so this child, and others, could live free of Shadow. And all was well in the moonlit halls of Legolas' woodland realm.
Tolkien never revealed the date of Legolas' birth, or mentioned in which age he was born. I have assumed that he was neither old nor young for an Elf; and believe him born over 1000 years into the Third Age, during the Watchful Peace, after the Shadow had darkened Greenwood the Great and Thranduil had moved his people into the caverns.
The Éothéod, a remnant of the Northmen of Rhovanion, were the ancestors of the Rohirrim of the Third Age.
Thank you, Allie-Meril, for bringing the Sindarin word Ithiliel, meaning moon-daughter, to my attention.
Oropher was slain in the first assault upon Mordor, rushing forward at the head of his most doughty warriors before Gil-galad had given the signal for the advance. Thranduil his son survived, but when the war ended and Sauron was slain (as it seemed) he led back home barely a third of the army that had marched to war.
UnfinishedTales, Part 2, Ch 4, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn, Appendix B: The Sindarin Princes of the Silvan Elves
... their kinship
is rather with the Bardings of Dale, and with the Beornings of the
Wood, among whom may still be seen many men tall and fair, as are the
Riders of Rohan.
The Two Towers, Ch. 2, The Riders of Rohan