The first thing to remember when dealing with elf-lords is this: say as little as possible-especially if you have treasure to protect. Give them the slightest hint about gold under a mountain, and they'll show up outside it with an army of wheelbarrows.

-Thorin Oakenshield (The King beneath the Mountains)

I remember well a discussion in Menegroth, shortly after Beren's return from the quest of the Silmaril.

"I pity poor Daeron," said Thingol to Beren. "I am sure you blame him unjustly - - for, sooner or later, I would have discovered you without his help. Indeed, I was troubled with dreams as soon as Men appeared in Beleriand."

"How would you have discovered me?" Beren asked.

"I am an elf-lord. An elf-lord's duty is to guard his realm, and he is given particular gifts to do so - - such as foresight, judgment, and wisdom."

"And a girdle of enchantment," said Celeborn.

"Indeed, it is strange you failed to recognize me," said Beren, "for the Queen had foreknowledge of my coming, did she not?"

"No," said Thingol, with an unaccustomed look of surprise. "Who told you that?"

Now Beren looked surprised - - and then uncomfortable.

"I, my lord," I said. "The Queen revealed it to me."

"Why would she not reveal it to me?"

"You were occupied with forbidding Men to enter Doriath," said Melian, who had stopped to listen in the doorway.

Thingol frowned. Beren and I glanced at each other. He clearly thought it time to change the subject.

"I have often wondered what I could have done differently when we did meet," he said at last. "I erred the moment I set foot in Doriath, but I could not have known it was forbidden."

"Would that have prevented you?" said Thingol drily. Beren smiled.

"Well," said Thingol, "perhaps you could not have helped it. But you could have avoided making wild declarations, swearing oaths, and insulting me by laying claim to my own daughter in my own throne-room."

"I am not so sure," said Beren, with a glance at Melian. "But is it any less insulting to say 'baseborn mortal'? I would not have named you such - -"

"Because I am neither."

"I have never understood the inherent nobility of awakening beside a lake in the dark," said Beren, "just as I cannot see that immortality and long-delayed destruction are the same."

"It is almost dusk, and Celeborn and Galadriel are going to watch the kindling of the stars," said Melian. "They will need at least two chaperones, I think."

"We are going to watch the stars?" said Celeborn.

"We need chaperones?" said I.

"You are," said the Queen, "and you do."

So we watched the stars and Beren's fate was sealed: he was never to learn what he could have done differently. This is one of the reasons he consulted me. (The other was that he knew the elf-lords among us would both discover the subject of this chapter and attempt to interfere with it.) We elves are not over-free with our counsel, but in this case, I agreed to oversee the project. After all, I have known many elf-lords, and am something of an elf-lord myself. Today being our decennial Sneakathon, it seemed the perfect opportunity to take many contributions while keeping Legolas away.

(For those who are curious, our Sneakathon is the product of many years' arguments between Hobbits and Elves about who is the stealthiest. The Elvish faction pointed to a concession in Frodo's own book; Bilbo would counter with the story of his undetected stay in the halls of Thranduil; someone else would mention the unfair advantage of the Ring; while another [usually from Rivendell] would draw attention to the inebriation of Thranduil's servants.

Finally, poor Galion could endure no more, and organized the first Sneakathon, declaring it would settle the matter once and for all. Obviously, it settled nothing. But we do have great fun gathering around the palantíri and watching as the contestants attempt to steal Sam's cooking gear from under Huan's nose. This year, by fortunate chance, the champion of Eryn Lasgalen is none other than Legolas Thranduilion.)

Now elf-lords as they exist in what I shall call "modern thought" often have little in common with the elf-lords I know. They are a sedate lot, if not sedated, for they behave as though someone has poured a sleeping draught into their miruvor. No doubt they are supposed to appear dignified and wise - - which is not untrue to their nature, but fails to capture the whole.

For of that complex and contradictory creature, the elf-lord, much has been written and much misunderstood. He is capable of good and evil; gravity and frivolity; wisdom and foolishness. He possesses powers unknown to Men. He is majestic, beautiful, and good at everything except wearing name-tags and telling ghost stories. So great is his wisdom that you will notice a marked difference when it deserts him and he defies the Valar, kidnaps maidens, challenges Morgoth to single combat, and other splendid things. For the pride of elf-lords is also great-as is their weakness for things that catch the light.

When he learns of your . . . attraction, the elf-lord may wish to speak with you. After all, marriages between Elves and Men are extremely uncommon; and, though he cannot forbid it, he might ask you to fulfill certain duties before the marriage takes place. If he meets you, despises you, and wishes to slay you by proxy, this is probably the inevitable next step in the working of your doom. In any case, it is best to present yourself voluntarily, before you can be captured and brought in as a prisoner.

1. Beware the elusive, guarded nature of elf-lords and their realms

The most dangerous part of your encounter may well begin before you can set eyes on the elf-lord. Considering our long conflict with Morgoth and Sauron, is only practical for us to guard our lands as well as we might; and during times of unrest, we are hesitant to welcome visitors.

So before you attempt to seek the dry riverbed or entangle yourself in the Girdle of Melian, be sure an elvish guide goes with you - - preferably a native of that kingdom, who can provide an introduction to wardens and scouts before they shoot you.

The audience wishes to add the following warnings:

-The Eagles should not be considered a winged ferrying service to Gondolin or anywhere else. They cannot be bribed or depended upon to rescue you if you plummet from a high place.

-Beren had no elvish guide, it is true. But he was Beren son of Barahir, with his father's ring and the friendship of Finrod. If you cannot boast something similar, charging into the woods, shouting your name and demanding to see the elf-lord is not a clever strategy.

-Do not attempt to locate an elf-lord on the battlefield. It is easy enough - - since a fully-armored elf-lord resembles nothing so much as a walking treasury - - but potentially blinding if the sunlight should catch him. Two or three elf-lords standing together have been known to make balrogs weep fiery tears, so this is best left as a last resort.

Even if you do manage to walk in of your own accord, prepare yourself for special humiliation, such as being forced to wear a blindfold. It is unfair, of course. We didn't exactly put barricades around Kheled-zâram and forbid Elves to look at it. One would suppose, after a few thousand years, whatever grievances there were between us wouldn't matter so much. But no, apparently they think we're going to mine their golden trees.

-Thorin Oakenshield (The King of Carven Stone)

2. Beware lest you provoke the elf-lord's wrath

Elf-lords, being Elves, are Good People (with some significant exceptions) but this does not give you license to behave otherwise. Do your best not to transgress against any laws (which means you will never be free to leave Gondolin). Do nothing to offend the lord's pride, even though the proudest are often those who most deserve to be offended. Do not lie: elves are perceptive people, even those who cannot discern your thoughts more directly.

Interviews with elf-lords are often intimidating experiences. The audience counsels you not to be offended if . . .

-you are subjected to mental interrogation

-you are forbidden to leave the realm

-you are banished from the realm

-you are threatened with death

-you are sent on a quest which is supposed to result in your death

-you are threatened with imprisonment

-you are imprisoned

-your intelligence is insulted by hearing idiotic songs

-you are forced to cross a spindly bridge where there is imminent danger of drenching your beard, while no one offers assistance (being too busy singing idiotic songs)

When they drag you into their lairs and haul you before their thrones, never show any fear. Not that you'd feel it in the first place. You will probably have to restrain yourself from laughing at whatever ridiculous thing the elf-lord has stuck in his hair, but be polite, even when they accuse you and your starving companions of attacking them. Do not make any snide remarks about giant spiders.

-Thorin Oakenshield (The Lord of Silver Fountains)

What is it, Gimli? This is a book of instructions for what?

3. Beware of courting the elf-lord

If you are determined upon pursuing the elf-lord himself, little more need be said than what Beren has already written, save for this: look for a gold or silver ring on the index finger of his right hand. Should you see such a ring, return immediately to Step One.

Although I had hoped to seek further counsel from the few unwed elves gathered here, this is all I have learned:

-Glorfindel is too young to be wed, and too vain. He refused to conceal his hair beneath his helmet, with fatal results - - but he will not repent. For though he perished, the memory of his hair did not.

-Círdan is decrepit, senile, and set in his ways. He possesses a very unsightly beard, which makes him look even older than he is.

-Finrod is never going to leave Amarië again.

-Fingon is uncertain whether he is married or not.

-Haldir is uncertain whether he is alive or dead.

-Elladan and Elrohir (according to Elrond) are grim, fell, and bent on vengeance. If they could be healed by love, he could have healed their mother.

-Gil-galad is sick of rings, but he believes Legolas is still unattached. Doesn't anyone wish to marry poor Legolas?

Let us not jest with one another: everyone knows you are reading this for the sole purpose of learning how to enter the halls of Eryn Lasgalen. Seek no more, for here is the secret password to open Thranduil's magic doors! You have only to stand before them and sing:

There was a king of Mirkwood, called

Thranduil Oropherion,

Who caught him a majestic moose

(To save his shoes) to ride upon;

He rode about, this dashing elf

Confusing one and all, because

He claimed it was a sort of elk,

But no one really thought it was.

And in his deep and sunless halls,

Thranduil kept his antlered throne;

Above his eyes were borrowed brows,

Upon his head a waffle cone - -

(Thranduil decrees that uninvited visitors to his sunless halls will be submerged in a fish-pool and then tossed into Gollum's cell. Not that anyone asked him.)

Our Ineligible Bachelors have requested to add a few of their own ideas, which I enclose against my better judgment:

4. Beware the subversive, tragic, darkly beautiful, moody, broody charm of Fëanor and his sons (but court them anyway)

We who were left to watch the smoke of the ships at Losgar, endure the Grinding Ice, and mourn for those lost in the Kinslayings nonetheless understand and support that popular literary fashion: the Grey Character. Consider, for example, the tormented conscience of Maedhros, which could not rest until he had searched for the two lost children he had made orphans. Consider Maglor, who wrote a most moving account of the Kinslaying in which he took part. Consider Curufin, who . . . whom we really have not time to consider. Compared to such lofty deviance, the rest of us are bland as driven snow.

If you are drawn to these fascinating individuals, you would do well to heed our counsel:

-Never attempt to threat or bribe with a Silmaril . . .

-. . . or a false Silmaril.

-Lend a sample of your hair if it is asked for.

-As a matter of fact, lend anything if it is asked for.

-Be sure to accompany anyone who sets foot on a boat.

-Learn Quenya and take special note of your pronunciation, because certain seemingly-insignificant linguistic differences will be taken very seriously.

-Do not request Ulmo's help in retrieving a Silmaril from the ocean.

Finally, we would like to apologize for our dearth of red hair. This is indeed a shame, and we blush to say it, but unfortunately the blush does not extend beyond our hairlines.

But Gimli, what can anyone find pleasing in figures so unnaturally tall? Do they not realize elves are only tall in order to more easily stare down their noses at you? And always climbing trees, as though they weren't tall enough! I hope they bump their heads on the stars, those giggling, beardless, moon-faced . . .

5. Beware of concealing important matters from Legolas, who does not need to win another Sneakathon to prove his talent for stealth

My friends, you cannot have supposed I did not recognize your attempts to hide something from me. I have refrained from mentioning it, but enough is enough: as lord of Ithilien, I should not have been left out of this council, whatever it is. No, Aragorn, I do not believe you excluded me because Faramir was really the Lord of Ithilien and I was really Lord of the Ithilien Royal Tree-trimmers. I know exactly what is going on: a distinction. A distraction. A division. Yes, Gimli, a diversion. And I will find out why.

-Legolas - - yes, I know the trees liked me, Aragorn - - Thranduilion

A/N: I do not own the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings films. I have felt rather guilty for mocking poor Movie!Thranduil, who may be brilliant - - we shall soon see! But I haven't quite got over the moose. Maybe I never will. My gravestone is going to read, "Here lies Nerdy Nell - - and Thranduil is riding a moose."