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9
The Tales to be Told

Disclaimer: see in the Foreword.

Author’s Notes:
I was asked why it is that so many characters of “The Lost Tales” appear briefly and then disappear just as quickly in a Celebrían story. There are two reasons for that:

1) “The Lost Tales” is the part of the canon where Tolkien told us the most about Elvenhome, as one of my kind, generous reviewers pointed out.

2) These characters, later mostly discarded by the Great Maker himself, are too interesting to be completely forgotten. Besides, these encounters give Celebrían the chance to think about many different aspects of her own fate. And I am afraid that is not going to change. No spectacular action is going to happen in this story. This is about the beginning of Celebrían’s healing process and about the decision she will have to make at the end.


~~~

9. The Tales to be Told

They danced with the Súruli all night. At the first light of the morn, however, the wind spirits faded out of eyesight little by little and retreated into the trees like night birds. Most of the visitors simply lay down on the grass to rest, but Meril and her ladies were invited to one of the numerous telain, and so was Ailios and his family. The Lord of Eglavain, whom Celebrían still was somewhat reluctant to call Legolas, offered her the peaceful quiet of his own tree-house, and she gladly accepted. As much as she enjoyed the feast (which in itself was rather surprising for her), the crowd began to bother her.

Legolas’ home was more than a mere talan, of course – the main chamber was as big as her parents’ home in the Golden Wood, but it had extensions toward different branches, lower and higher ones alike, masterfully constructed, following he natural growth of the ancient tree. And it had balconies on all sides; open balconies that led to strong branches, used as walkways, and to various telain upon those same branches.

To such a talan they went, the highest one that could be reached without actual climbing, and there they sat in companionable silence, sipping on some light wine for quite some time. Finally Legolas shifted his weight slightly and gave his guest an encouraging smile.

“You seem full of questions, my Lady. Why would you not ask them?”

“I do not wih to be tactless, my Lord,” she answered a little uncomfortably, for truly, her curiosity was fully awake now.

“You are not,” he said. “How could you understand our life here otherwise? So do tell me – what is it that you want to know?”

“’Tis something I have been wondering about ever since I met Lord Galdor,” she admitted. “He and his people, who now are led by you, were Sindar. How come that you chose to live among the confining walls of Gondolin?”

“Not all of us were Sindar,” he replied thoughtfully, “for Galdor himself is one of the Falathrim, and I am a Green-Elf, as you know. But the House of the Tree was one of Noldorin origins; alas, most of them were lost on the Grinding Ice. Thus when King Turgon built the haven of Vinyamar in Nevrast, he invited all Elves he met in Beleriand to join him, and our people chose the House of the Tree, for that was the one we could feel kinship with. For a long time Galdor was the captain of the King’s fleet, built with the help of the Falathrim – until Turgon moved the whole kingdom deeper in the inland, following Ulmo’s counsel.”

“And you followed him? All of you, without any objection?” she asked. “Even the Green-Elves who used to live in the forests?”

Legolas shrugged. “We all were sworn to the King. We had no other choice. And Gondolin, though hidden behind the Encircling Mountains, was a wondrous place to live, even for us. Even if Galdor always missed the Sea and I could never forget my forests.”

“It must have been a strange way to live for you, nevertheless,” said Celebrían thoughtfully. “I know not if my father could ever live in a city of stone.”

“Was he not a prince of Doriath?” Legolas asked. “The Thousand Caves of Thingol were certainly deep and enclosed spaces, more so than Gondolin even.”

“But father did not live in Menegroth,” said Celebrían. “He had his own tree-house, not far from Hírilorn, the great beach where Lúthien was kept by her own father.”

Legolas nodded. “I know. For I had visited the hidden kingdom of Thingol ere Gondolin was built, and I returned there for my sister after Turgon’s city had fallen.”

“Why?” asked Celebrían in surprise. Legolas sighed.

“I wanted to take Nellas to the Mouths of Sirion, for that was the most safe place in Beleriand at that time. But her husband wanted not to live with the Noldor, sharing Thingol’s bitter feelings toward them, and thus Nellas, too, remained to await her fate. I hear it has been a cruel one.”

“I cannot tell you aught that you have not already heard,” replied Celebrían, “for my father never spoke to me of the fall of Doriath, just as my mother spoke very little of her past. For a long time, I thought they wanted me to know and love Middle-earth the way it has become after the War of Wrath. But I begin to think that Father’s heart is still bleeding for the enchanted forest of his youth.”

“That might well be,” Legolas nodded, “just as my heart bleeds for the forests and green meadows of Ossiriand where I was born. The love of the Elves for their land and their work is deeper than the deeps of the Sea, and their regret is undying and cannot ever wholly be assuaged(1), or so they used to say in the Elder Days. Your father is one of the most ancient Elves still in the Outer Lands; and he is of Middle-earth, bound to its soil and trees with all his being. Should he have to choose between his land and his beloved spouse one day, it will break his heart, however he may choose. For not all of us hear the call of the Sea, and though some of those who do not might feel the need to come to the West for other reasons, they always will feel the longing for their old home.”

“Are you one of those?” asked Celebrían quietly. Legolas nodded, and his grey eyes were full of sorrow.

“Indeed, I am, my Lady. This is why I chose to live here, on the Lonely Island, even though I had no reason to feel unworthy of Aman like many others.”

“How can one who has been allowed to sail to the West feel unworthy?” asked Celebrían, for indeed, this was what she had felt, ever since she set foot on the Isle. “Are not all those who were guilty in the sins of the past forgiven?”

“Nay, not all of them,” answered Legolas gravely, “or else there would not be so many of them still waiting in Mandos’ Halls, waiting to be released. Nor did all Elves forget the evil deeds that had been performed by the Noldoli(2) along their flight from the Blessed Realm.”

“Not even after two Ages?” Celebrían shook her head, a little bewildered.

“Time,” said Legolas, “cannot always heal all wounds. And more wroth the Elves of Aman were still after the War of Wrath, when many of the Exiles returned. Above all the Solosimpi were full of bitterness against the Noldoli, desiring never more to see their faces in the pathways of their home. Of these the chief were those whose kin had perished at the Haven of Swans, and their leader was one Ainairos, who had escaped from that fray leaving his brother dead; and he sought unceasingly with his words to persuade the Elves to great bitterness of heart.”(3)

“Yet still the Solosimpi have ferried the Host of Valinor to Middle-earth to break Morgoth’s reign,” Celebrimbor said.

“Had Ainairos had his way, they would never do so,” replied Legolas. “But Elwing came to the mariners of Alqualondë, and they recognized in her eyes the starlight that once had been mirrored in the eyes of Elwë, her great-grandsire; and for the love of Elwë, they took her in with open arms. And she persuaded them to help, making them understand that the Noldoli would not be the only ones to suffer horribly if Morgoth were not defeated – and they listened to her plea, for she was their kin through Elwë and Melian(4). But after Morgoth had been defeated, the Solosimpi remembered their slain kin again, and many of them refused to even talk to the Exiles.”

“But have they not also slain many of the Noldoli when these tried to take their ships?” asked Celebrían, trying to do justice both sides.

“They have,” nodded Legolas, “and beside losing their kin, this is the other loss they cannot forget or forgive. For though in self-defence, they did spill the blood of their own kin, and the loss of their innocence was just as terrible for them as the loss of their beloved ones – or that of their marvellous ships.”

Celebrían remained silent for a while. Often had she heard the tale of the firs Kinslaying and the taking of the white Swanships – those vessels that the cunning and long labours of the Solosimpi had fashioned, and some of which were that Ossë and his vassals had made of old on Tol Eressëa as had been recounted in the Noldolantë, sung by Elrond in rare occasions, wondrous and magic boats, the first that ever were(5). Yet never before had she realized that the Solosimpi had lost more than just their marvellous ships on that fateful day in Alqualondë – in self-defence or not, they, too, had slain their own kin, and that was a deed of horror that could not be undone, not even in Arda Remade, perhaps.

The loss of innocence was something she understood very well.

She also understood that although this often was not willingly endured, the scars of the fëa remained nevertheless. She had suffered the same. And no matter how unwilling she had been, it still made her feel like all those partaking in the Kinslaying must have felt, regardless of which side they had fought. Dirty. Damaged. Unworthy.

Sometimes she even felt guilty for not having fled her body in time. Sometimes it felt so selfish to have made Elrond and the children suffer, watching how her faded away little by little, despite their loving care. And still, she knew she could not leave them for Mandos. If only the choices had been clearer! But it seemed that all her choices led to sorrow, and she knew not if she should regret the ones she had made – or how to make better ones in the future.

She wondered what choices had been offered to her mother, and why she chose as she did.

“Could Mother not accept forgiveness because of her pride alone?” she asked, more herself than her host. “Mayhap back then, when Beleriand had just sunk into the Sea, Father would be more willing to follow her to the West – at least as far as Tol Eressëa. At that time they were still young, less settled in their customs. Father would love this place – and the Solosimpi had no reason to be wroth against him.”

“True,” agreed Legolas gravely, “But it was not pride alone that kept the Warrior Princess of the Noldoli from returning. She was not ready to face her own kin in Alqualondë yet… and I know not if she ever will.”

“Why not?” asked Celebrían tonelessly, dreading the answer. Legolas gave her a compassionate look.

“This is not my tale to tell, my Lady, for I was not present in the Swanhaven on that dreadful day – I am but a Green Elf of Beleriand who never saw the Light of the Trees. You should ask those who have witnessed the horrors of the first Kinslaying.”

“And who might be those?” asked Celebrían a little pointedly.

“Anyone of Gilfanon’s household,” answered Legolas with a shrug. “Or you could ask our Queen. She was there, after all.”

Celebrían shook her head. “If she was, I believe not that she would desire to speak of it. In Middle-earth, death has become familiar for Elves, yet I deem that it had not been so in Aman, in the days of bliss.”

“Nay, it has not,” said Legolas sadly. “But the Exiles were forced to get used to it – and the Queen is not one who cannot face her own deeds, even if she remembers with dread some of them.”

“Why would she?” wondered Celebrían. “She was no warrior… or was she?”

“At times even those are forced to wield a sword who were not meant to do so,” replied Legolas grimly. “And sometimes even the best of us cannot help but do horrible things.”

He fell in silence, and Celebrían dared not to ask more. Thus they remained sitting on the talan for a long time, without any further conversation.

~~~

End notes:

(1) This is the same thing Galadriel said to Frodo. I assumed it was an old Elven saying.

(2) Earlier name for the Noldor.

(3) See: “The Book of Lost Tales 1”, p. 234.

(4) Elwing persuading the Teleri (= Solosimpi) to help is mentioned: Chapter 24, Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath: "Few of the Teleri were willing to go forth to war, for they remembered the slaying at the Swan-haven, and the rape of their ships; but they hearkened to Elwing, who was the daughter of Dior Eluchil and come of their own kindred, and they send mariners enough to sail the ships that bore the host of Valinor over the sea. Yet they stayed aboard their vessels, and none of them set foot upon the Hither Lands." Thanks to Finch for digging out the quote for me! :)

(5) See: “The Book of Lost Tales 1”, p. 184.


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