I have this terrible, perfectionist's tendency, when finishing a story, to look back at its roots, to see how it grew in the telling, and if what grew there was what I had planted in the first place or if it sprouted peculiar little offshoots and branches and strange flowers I never could have imagined.
Lord of the Rings has snared my attention for more than ten years, ever since I read the Hobbit in seventh grade (I had no patience for the snail's pace of my classmates' reading aloud and devoured the book). Then came Fellowship of the Ring, and Two Towers and Return of the King followed by anything and everything else I could get my hands on. What seized me and held me—continues to hold me—is the undiscovered country behind the words, the little offshoots, the glimpses of characters and incidents and events, never given full flesh.
Celebrían's story was one of those.
Shrouded in mystery, she is mentioned only parenthetically—and unnamed until the Fellowship's leaving Lothlórien—in LOTR itself with an addendum in the Appendices recording the years of her capture, torment, and eventual departure. Which leaves a frustrated and eager reader wondering: What happened before?
Fanfiction writers have addressed this question in their own unique ways, but as I write this, out of nearly 50,000 stories in the Lord of the Rings category, a mere 70 list Celebrían as a main character. And many trend towards Redhorn-aftermath fics or contemplative oneshots in the viewpoint of a left-behind family member. Rare are the ones that deal in her history beforehand—SerenLyall's lyrical pieces spring to mind. They were not enough.
As is my habit when left unsatisfactorily answered, I began to wonder about Celebrían's history, the inconsistent and half-guessed snippets in Unfinished Tales, the vague allusions in the Tale of Years drafts. But not until I was writing backstory for my current multi-chapter story, Invictus, did I really delve into the possibilities of her character. Invictus deals with, among many other things, Elrohir's attempt to come to terms with his mother's loss and the circumstances behind it.
The loss of a parent changes the course of one's life the way the collapse of a bulwark alters the flow of a river, and many are the fics covering Elrohir's and Elladan's reactions to their mother's torment and "death" ("passing over the Sea" always seems to have that melancholic note). But I have yet to see a story that explores her departure in more than its serviceable capacity as a plot device.
Tolkien records that after the Redhorn, Celebrían was healed of her physical wounds but "lost joy" in Middle-earth. A statement open to myriad interpretations, but I took it as a suggestion of not only lost joy but lost hope in the belief that things could get better. Assuming Orcs' ill nature provoked them to the most heinous actions, this depression can easily be understood even though I find myself dissatisfied with that idea. Indeed, disturbed. I am a great believer in hope, no matter the circumstances, especially with a solid support system of friends and family—though the healing itself may be long. And though past mortal cultures (and, regrettably, some present day ones) had a tendency to "blame the victim," I would like to believe the Eldar more progressive than that.
To leave behind a family, a safe realm as Imladris was, and support for the sake of a long and perilous journey first to the Havens, then a sea passage to an unknown country, where the surety of healing is, at best, uncertain suggests a desire to escape, or a more traumatic, internal hurt that the Orc attack exacerbated and against which the support of family and friends was either useless or even more hurtful. Perhaps Celebrían even blamed herself for her victimization. Or felt that she deserved it.
Of course, putting "why" to that eventually resulted in the idea of an affair. While this may prove a point of contention for readers, the Silmarillion as well as the much-cited, oft misquoted, and unreliably narrated Laws and Customs of the Eldar provide ample evidence evincing Elves' capability of folly, pride, anger, lust and everything in between. Even if word of their deeds never touches mortal ears.
Haldir, for me, was the natural choice as her paramour, only partly arbitrarily, considering there is almost as much (little, rather) known of him as there is of Celebrían, and he is a character who has long held my interest. Part of the challenge I enjoyed in the course of this story was how to make their relationship plausible while maintaining Elrond's integrity since I do believe Celebrían loved him in her own way. But I'll leave it to readers to tell me whether I provided that verisimilitude or not. As an admitted lover of such extraordinary romances as Wuthering Heights, Possession, the English Patient, I loved the idea of two people very different in matters of taste, experience, nature, and sensibility finding in each other something to appreciate, something to love and risk for.
The reason, perhaps, for why I have thus far been spared the vented spleen of outraged canonists is we know it's doomed from the outset. There can be no happy ending for these two. And there is something perversely attractive about a love that is doomed before it even begins (doubly so, if adulterous).
Of course, as in all tales, these drabbles have gaps and missing pieces, lost moments and unanswered questions as well as a thoroughly butchered chronology…I did this mostly to avoid inconsistency with any current or future stories. As my version of canon constantly grows, often wildly, I do not wish to try readers' patience overmuch with constant changes and revisions.
As it stands I have rambled for too long, and possibly to no consequence, since I'm not sure this interests anyone but myself. On the off-chance it does, I will post it. For now, the drabbles will stand as they are, all complete in their own right even if they offer only glimpses of a much broader picture.
Thank you to all reviewers and readers, if any. I am grateful to you all. For even if Tolkien plants the seeds, your responses and questions often are the ones that let my strange sproutlings take root and become things I never would have imagined.
All the best,
30 Jan. 2013
The Ides' Annotations
Part One: First Sights
"Silver Queen" is one of the possible translations of Celebrían's name.
One of the few outside perspectives in these drabbles and the only time I address Elrond's. As kind as summer as he is in LOTR and all that, Elrond must have learned somewhere along the way.
From the East
We never hear about female Elves and their role in the Last Alliance even though Tolkien admits in Laws and Customs of the Eldar that elven men and women were more or less equal if more aptly suited towards others; If the women were young and not with child, I do not think they would be content to remain behind but would serve in some capacity with their men, especially through seven long years of war.
A wink and a nudge to a Band of Brothers moment.
Songs and Sunlight
Fellowship hints at Haldir's well-hidden musical talents with his comment of "our hands are more often upon the bowstring than upon the harp."
Part Two: The Assignation
Briar and Roses
"Briar" of course is an alternative spelling of brier but also incidentally Haldir's half-affectionate, half-exasperated sobriquet for Celebrían
"The Last Rose of Summer" was originally a poem written by Thomas Moore (not that one) and set to music by Sir John Stevenson. Though written in the 1800s, it has that flavor of old Celtic ballads and evokes such an inspiring eeriness that I hope readers will forgive the anachronism
thand- Sindarin for "shield." Something like modern dog tags that typically are brass in the Last Alliance, iron afterwards and were engraved with soldiers' names and companies and later the campaigns in which they served
Behind Closed Doors
Servants have stereotypically been the bearers of gossip or in medieval tales the helpers of illicit lovers (like Tristan and Iseult). I tried to invert this in that this particular servant is neither a gossip nor a helper. Indeed, she envies the lovers their spark of happiness not a little even though it's "not suitable."
Having experienced a bit of displacement myself in another country, I wanted to capture Haldir's feelings as a newcomer to Imladris.
"Tantivy" in hunting terminology is the "full gallop" or rush, sometimes employed as a hunting cry when the chase is full on
Though not depicted in this particular set of drabbles, chapters in Invictus inform us that Haldir spent time as fosterer to Elladan and Elrohir, preparing them for knighthood.
Running-hounds were like to a foxhound with good noses and excellent stamina
In medieval hunting, hunting par force was the noblest kind with eight designated parts, one of the last being the unmaking where the quarry, captured and killed, was carefully and ritualistically dismembered
By the Moonlight
Tilion is the steersman of the Moon
Part Three: Leavetakings
In martial circles, the iris was said to represent martial valor and prowess.
Shortly before Celebrían's departure, this drabble reflects on the one hand her desire to forget Haldir whose absence in her life has hurt her and still her inability to put him behind her.
The Elysian Fields
In Classical mythology, the Elysian fields are the abode of the blessed after death. Where Haldir is, decidedly, not. This is supposed to take place sometime during the War of the Ring, or so I imagined, and the openings of the battle of Dol Guldur in March.