Here is truly my last word of counsel [crossed out: "thank all the Ainur who aren't Olórin"]. Admittedly, I can see the wisdom in adding it, lest you expect to "live happily ever after to the end of [your] days." Even Bilbo wouldn't use that expression anymore. For one thing, the consequences of your quest will continue long after it is over-and they will not all be pleasant. For another, if you survive (with or without intact appendages) you will endure something worse than death. You will get endless amusement from well-wishers who inform you that the first few hundred years are the hardest. But live with an Elf for only a little while, and the Gift of Ilúvatar will actually look like a gift.
Of course, this was not true for Lúthien and me-mostly because Lúthien is herself-but also because there is nothing better for relationship development than journeying into the Hells of Iron, dying, and returning from the dead. It tends to eliminate petty conflicts. However, Beleg was correct when he began to think Elves and Men should not meet or meddle-and not only because one party might be under a devastating curse and slay the other by mistake. For life among Elves can be quite a shock when you aren't used to it, and many things may annoy or disconcert you. Here are a few possibilities:
1. Elvish gifts
You will already be prepared to witness certain Elvish gifts, such as eyesight, hearing, and physical strength beyond the abilities of Men. Nevertheless, actually witnessing them may be surprising-even disconcerting-especially if you are expected to do the same. For example, imagine crossing a river by a single-rope bridge, or climbing a mountain with people who don't sink into the snow. Imagine your companions hearing the voices of stones, speaking to trees, recovering from hurts that would kill a mortal, and never falling ill. Imagine people appearing noiselessly behind you and peering over your shoulder as you try to work. Yes, Finrod, I will write that Elves never consciously invade other people's privacy. I will write that you always shuffle and stamp your way past me so I cannot fail to notice you. I will write it.
2. The time difference
As mortals, accustomed to the idea of a limited lifespan, it is difficult to understand the perspective of a person with limitless time. Imagine the borders of your mortality being taken down, and, instead of being forced to work within several decades, you are free to live (in theory) until the end of the world. You can watch kingdoms come and go. You can watch continents being reshaped. You can wait for centuries.
It is useful to remember this if you find yourself frustrated by what seems to be a lack of urgency or compulsion to act on the part of your Elvish friends. It can manifest itself in anything from ideas about what to do about the Dark Lord to...well, making a bow. (Incidentally, if you wish to learn the craft of bow-making, never ask Finrod. He thinks the first step is planting a seed.)
Olórin, no doubt guided by his unfathomable wisdom, says I ought to warn you about the absolutely inescapable singing. I fail to see the necessity of this advice, because, in the first place, I cannot understand how anyone could dislike Elvish singing; and in the second place, such a person would probably have no difficulty observing Step One.
Nevertheless, from my own observation, singing comes to Elves as naturally as a smile or laugh comes to us. They sing when the stars come out. They sing when they are mourning. They sing when they are telling a story. Don't worry if the singing puts you to sleep at first, or seems to have an unusual influence on your thoughts. You will eventually grow accustomed to it.
[Here begin a second and third hand]
And do you know who sang all the way from Rivendell to the Anduin? Legolas. He sang until even Sam got tired of it. He would sing when he saw a tree that reminded him of a tree at home. He sang even when he was on guard duty. I felt so sorry for Gandalf. All through Moria, it was, "I will risk a little real light-but quiet down, Legolas!" "They have taken the bridge and second hall-hush, Legolas, I'm trying to read!" "I am a servant of the secret fire-NOW IS NOT THE TIME, LEGOLAS!"
Pippin, what are you doing? We're finished with that part.
I know, Merry, I know. I just like to help.
Even if there are no Rings of Power, Silmarils, or Mirrors of Galadriel about, you will notice certain uncanny things, things that don't quite make sense. For example, the passage of time does not go as it should, or there will be more rooms in a house when you were sure you had seen everything. Who knows? In these matters, it is best to expect the unexpected.
Elves love names. Some have a name from each parent, a name chosen by themselves, and other names collected as their language changes or as they do significant deeds. Therefore, since it is rude to use someone's self-chosen name without permission, you should be careful to learn the appropriate forms of address. Sometimes this can be done by paying attention to the name(s) used by people who are not the Elf's family or close friends-unless, of course, they hate him because he slew their kin and made off with their ships.
Finwë has asked me to remind you that siblings are likely to have frustratingly-similar names. If this presents a challenge, please see the public service materials produced by the Society for the Differentiation of Characters with Frustratingly Similar Names, whose mission is to eradicate confusion. These materials include illustrations, genealogical tables, pronunciation guides, and memory aids-most of which are set to music, I might add.
Along with personal names, Elves love words in general. It is fortunate they don't actually need dictionaries, because none have ever been completed.
Every so often, a lore-master will set out to make a dictionary, ostensibly for the enlightening of his fellow-creatures and mostly for his own amusement. But should he choose Sindarin or Quenya? Clearly, the logical choice is both. Of course, he would hardly consider himself a lore-master if he didn't include every Sindarin dialect. He soon realizes the necessity of tracing everything to Primitive Quendian, and then going in the opposite direction to Westron. Then he complains that the existing works on the Avarin tongues are a disgrace, and it's high time someone corrected them. You can guess what happens. In twenty or thirty years, you might remember to ask the lore-master how he's getting along, and he will present you with the first volume of his dictionary, which has just been fitted with detachable wheels.
So don't be surprised if you return from a journey and are asked whether you learned any new words on the way, or if, as an alternative to songs, a group of Elves sit in the Hall of Fire and discuss the past tense of some arcane Adûnaic verb. If you live among the Noldor, expect them to not only pay attention to your speech, but also to identify you by it, even more so than by your personal appearance.
7. Sleep (or the lack thereof)
Now, by the time Lúthien and I returned to the world, I was no longer troubled by anything we have discussed so far. Instead, I was troubled by something else: although Lúthien had returned as a mortal, the Valar had not seen fit to give her mortal sleeping habits. She could stay in the waking world for days at a time, and I would fight to stay with her before sleep took me. It was the only thing we nearly quarreled about. We would sit in a tree beside our son's window, and after what seemed to me a short time, Lúthien would say,
"Beren, we should go inside now."
"Because you are sleeping again."
"I can wait a little longer."
"You have been sitting there with your eyes closed. I may not know much of the ways of Men, but I know they need to sleep more than once every four days."
"Well, that may be true for most of them, but not the [barely-suppressed yawn] Eeeeeedain. We're very...uh...hrfmmm."
"Beren, you are going to fall out of this tree."
"We'll go in in five minutes."
"You are worse than Dior, my dear."
"Did I ever tell you about the time I was being tracked...by a company of Orcs...for ten days? They would...chase me all through the night, and...I couldn't sleep during the day because we were in a marsh, and [unsuppressed yawn] the water was up to..."
"I can make you sleep."
"But you wouldn't. You're too...Lúthien, are you humming? You know I was given free will-Lúthien!"
But the most unfortunate consequence of marrying an Elf is ensnaring your children in the net of doom. In fact, doom often reaches beyond your children, leaving generations of-what did Túrin call it? Traumatized?-people in your wake. The trauma does not come from being looked down upon or mistreated by Elves or Men; rather, it comes because your parents' Silmaril is still in the world and the Sons of Fëanor still want it. Or it may come from the necessity of choosing whether to share the fate of Elves or Men. The only way to spare your children this pain is to observe Step One, but since something tells me my own testimony is not sufficient, I shall seek the aid of one who has direct experience.
My father has asked me to record some miserable anecdotes to impress you with the cruelty and folly of bringing half-Elvish children into Middle-earth. He tells me the more anguish I can dredge up, the better, and I am free to cast blame upon him as much as I like. Well, I was too ambitious. I tried to blame Father for the entire Fall of Doriath, but in the end I had to say that he ought to have allowed himself to be slain by the servants of Morgoth before he ever reached it. Then I never would have existed, and although my life had its share of grief, I do prefer existence. Therefore, to do as Father requests, I will have to look much farther back.
The beginning of my childhood was everything I could have wished for. To live in the Land of Seven Rivers, exploring through woods and water, learning to speak with the creatures around me and hearing Mother's songs-no child could have been happier. Never having met any other Elves or Men, I was not aware of anything unusual about my parents. But one day, when I was still very young, I began to learn.
Some of the Green-Elves of Ossiriand came to visit us, and at first, I could only stare at them. For the ladies all appeared rather drab in comparison to Mother, and Father appeared rather drab in comparison to the men. There was a light in their faces that was absent from his (I finally concluded it was covered by his beard). And they stared at me, too, whispering to one another. I heard, though I could not understand, "Thingol's heir" and "threefold race," and "the doom of Men."
Something about the whispers annoyed me, so I went to the opposite end of our porch and began to work on carving a block of wood, as Father had shown me how to do. But the whispering did not cease. "Ah, he has the skill of the Elves," said the visitors.
I whittled away resolutely. But I was holding my knife at the wrong angle, and suddenly it slipped, shearing the wood and a bit of my finger with it.
"Ah, but he has the heavy-handedness of Men," said the visitors. At that moment, I lost patience.
"It is very rude to whisper," I announced, with great dignity. "You must not do it any more, or I will follow and whisper about you while you're talking to Mother."
"Thingol's heir, indeed!" someone laughed. But the rest told him to be silent, and they apologized. Mother, who had arrived just in time to hear my speech, made me apologize, too.
When the Green-Elves had gone, my parents decided it was time to tell me something of what the whispers had meant. So, in true Elvish fashion, we had a vocabulary lesson. Mother was not simply a woman, but an Elvish woman whose mother was one of the Maiar. Father was not simply a man, but a Human man. In explaining the differences among these terms, they were careful not to frighten me-although it would have been difficult to do so, since I could hardly grasp the concept of mortality. I began to understand that, somehow, Mother and Father different from the Green-Elves and from me. I learned that my parents had once traveled to a place far away, and someday they would have to go back. "When you are old enough, we will tell you a long story," they said, "and then you will understand better."
I was troubled at the idea of my parents going far away without me. But, as time went on and they showed no signs of leaving, I forgot to worry about it. All was well again-until I grew older and discovered my parents were dead.
It was a day when we had more visitors, and this time, one of them was a girl called Nimloth. I thought her very odd, for her eyes darted here and there, and she would hardly speak. When we were left to play in the garden, she did nothing but stand still and fix a very serious gaze on me.
"Now see here," I said, "I already know about the threefold race and all that, so you needn't stare."
Nimloth's eyes grew wide. "The what?"
"Threefold race-you know, Elves and Men and Maiar...Never mind. Do you want to go and make boats out of leaves?"
By the time we had finished our boats and raced them down the stream, Nimloth was no longer staring, but talking-even laughing. I had just decided she was not strange at all, when suddenly she glanced over her shoulder and became absolutely still, as though she were being hunted.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
Nimloth did not speak for a moment. Then, "I must tell you something," she whispered, and took a deep breath. "Your mother and father..."
"Your mother and father...are...dead!"
I looked about in bewilderment and saw Father lying in a patch of sunlight, with our dogs (who followed him everywhere) piled sleeping around him. I began to laugh.
"He's just taking a nap!" I informed Nimloth. "Doesn't your father sleep?"
"Do you know the name of this place?" she whispered insistently. "It's called The Land of the Dead That Live. Who do you suppose the dead are?"
A chill went down my spine, even though I did not yet believe her. "Well then, I must be dead, too!"
"No, no," she said. "Listen: before you were born, your mother and father lived in Doriath. And it happened that a great wolf came from-from-oh, the Vala whose name starts with M-and he was running through Doriath, destroying things. So your father and grandfather and a hound called Huan went and killed it, but the wolf bit your father, and he died. So your mother died too, and she went and sang to-him, the one who starts with M--until he was sorry and let them come back. But they took a Silmaril away from him when they left, so he turned your mother into a mortal. Everyone says so."
Now fear began to creep over me like a shadow. Mother and Father had told me about Huan. I also knew they had lived in Doriath. Suddenly, I remembered the journey to a place far away, the going back...
"What's a Silmaril?" I asked, trying to sound unconcerned.
"It's a necklace. Your grandfather, Thingol, wears it now."
I felt as though a net had closed around me, for I had heard people speak in reverent tones about my grandfather's necklace. It hardly seemed important that they called it by a different name. There was only one thing to do: I stood up and ran towards the house.
Our parents' conversation came to a sudden halt when they beheld their children flying into the room, both white-faced, one of them demanding to know whether his mother and father were dead thieves. And that is how I came to hear the long story, and how the trauma of my life officially began. For some time afterward, I could hardly bear to leave my parents, lest they died again while I was away. Father's naps worried me more than anything, and I think he seldom had any sleep unless I was sleeping, too.
Father tells me there is no need to discuss the Fall of Doriath and the destruction of our family in detail, for which I am grateful. But there are others here of mortal and Elvish ancestry who have their own grievances to express, so we established the Traumatic Elvish Angst Recuperation Society-or, as some prefer to call it, Edain Eponymous. Here is a sample of notes from our first and only meeting, for which I thank Barahir of Gondor.
-Since we are to speak in order of birth, I will go first-my husband and I can't remember which of us is older. My name is Elwing, and sometimes I'm a bird. That is the oddest, but by no means the most traumatic, part of my life. I was flying from danger when I was still a child. When I saw my sons taken captive and remembered the fate of my brothers, I tried to fly from despair. Instead, I was given a task, and I am grateful.
Now, whenever my memories are especially difficult, I fly over the Halls of Mandos and sing to Celegorm. I tell him how brightly the Silmaril is shining.
-I am called Eärendil, and I have decided to express my thoughts with a spontaneous poem, using verse that has been released from bondage. Perhaps it's best if Bilbo doesn't hear about it.
Those in Middle-earth call me "Star of High Hope,"
And sing "Twinkle, twinkle"-but they don't know my life.
Yes, I always longed for the sea;
Yes, I said I was weary of the world;
But to sail forever on a shoreless ocean-
Up above the world so high
With a Silmaril in the sky-
To hear the weeping and yet never tarry,
Isn't exactly what I had in mind.
And Arien never stops to talk,
And Tilion chases after her.
I almost knocked on the Door of Night.
I almost wish Ancalagon had children.
I give my advice, take it who will:
Never get involved with a Silmaril.
Sailor, star, or Elf or Man,
How I wonder what I am.
-My name is Elros, and I will speak on my own and my brother's behalf about our family-if you can call it that. Father's a star, Mother's a bird, I'm a Man, and my brother is an Elf. At least our names all start with E.
I'm sure we could have made it work if our parents hadn't disappeared and Elrond and I hadn't been raised by one of the most accursed, likable Elves in Arda, who committed horrible crimes and was very kind to us. You can see how this did nothing to help our developing identities and personal belief systems. It's not much good having a hero for a father if all you can do is wave at him as he rotates by, look at him through a telescope, or plot him on a chart.
And then, of course, I chose the Doom of Men and left Elrond alone, which I'm not sure he's forgiven me for. No, I see he hasn't. Elrond, we were too much alike. I had to do something different. It was this, or growing a beard, and you know you don't like beards, either.
-My name is Elladan, and one of my ears is pointed.
-And my name is Elrohir, and one of my ears isn't.
-Exactly. Why do you think we have long hair?
-Why do you think we're always angry?
-Why do you think we wear leather cloaks and ride ill-tempered horses and smoke pipe-weed?
-Why do you think-wait, what?
-Very well, I admit it. I wasn't serious about the pipe-weed.
-I am Arwen, called Evenstar. Arwen, not Lúthien, though even I sometimes find it hard to believe. Can you imagine living with the fear that you are no more than an echo of someone else? Or perhaps a poor imitation? For when I lost Estel, I could not bring him back.
-My names are...well, never mind all that, just call me Aragorn. I must admit, I have very little to complain about. In the first place, my prospective father-in-law did not want to kill me. In the second, rather than stealing a Silmaril, all I had to do was become the king of Gondor and Arnor. This worked nicely, since I was Isildor's heir anyway.
It did take a a great deal of time and adventures, not to mention several names, to fulfill the requirement. I had fame and honor as Thorongil, but as Strider, I had a shady reputation and a rascally look. Sometimes I wandered through lonely places, longing to hear another voice, until I traveled with Gollum.
Does this sound as though I'm complaining? I hope not. As I said, there is little reason for it. My life was only really difficult at the end. Also a bit at the beginning. And, of course, before and through the War of the Ring.
...Not that ruling Gondor and Arnor was easy...
-We, the daughters of Aragorn and Arwen, have no fate more or less cruel than total anonymity. Usually we do not mind, save at times when we wish to make ourselves known and say that there are [ink blot] of us, and our names are [ink blots]. After the passing of our mother, [ink blots] while [ink blots] when [many, many ink blots]. No, Barahir, it isn't your fault. Watch: our brother's name is Eldarion. Minas Tirith has seven levels. I, [ink blot], was born in the year [large ink smear]. Oh dear! Sorry about your sleeve, Barahir...
-I am Eldarion, and everyone is judging me.
You know you are. You think just because I was born after the War of the Ring, wasn't orphaned as a child, and died a natural death, I haven't suffered "enough." But who decides how much is enough? I've grieved! I've been traumatized! I...er...
MY GRANDPARENTS NEVER ATTENDED ANY OF MY BEGETTING-DAY PARTIES, EVEN THOUGH TWO OF THEM ARE IMMORTAL! THEY-what's that? Oh. It seems necessary to conclude my remarks at this time, because a party of rangers and...everyone? Yes, everyone from Dol Amroth is at the door. They've also brought a minstrel.
And that's why we only had one meeting.
[Here the first hand resumes]
Now I find there is no more to be said, for if the testimonies of such sorrow do not prevent you from the courtship of Elves, nothing will. So here ends this practical guide. You may ignore it if you wish. Just don't
Beren, I found you asleep and did not wish to wake you. But when you do wake, we must speak. I came to return this piece of paper, which must have fallen out of the tree where you and Túrin were sitting. I saw it being carried by the wind and-well, I would like to apologize for the tear from the arrow, but since I noticed what was written on this page, I cannot.
Beren, I know you did not invent these outrageous lies about my father, but who did? Is this what you have been writing about? Are there servants of Sauron among us, trying to sow discord? Do you have any idea what a "moose" is?
For the present, I think it would be wise to keep this from my father, because he is already troubled by something. Something about barrels. I will find out what it is, just as I will find out who wrote this, and when I do...actually, there are some empty apple-barrels we could put to use.
...just don't tell Legolas.
A/N: Well, this is it, and I can't believe it's taken me so long! I'd like to thank you all so much for your encouragement, and hope you've enjoyed reading.