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10
The Songs That Are Sung

Disclaimer: see in the Foreword.

Author’s Notes:
Now we are getting closer to the mystery that surrounds the Lady of Tol Eressëa. As for Ivárë, his life story is completely my creation, since Tolkien never told us aught else than he “played at the shores”. For my interpretation about Glorfindel’s origins, you might want to read “A Tale of Never-ending Love”, though knowing it is not necessary to understand this story.


~~~

10. The Songs That Are Sung

After a while Legolas left the talan, for he needed to make preparations for the evening, which was meant to be the beginning of a night of singing and storytelling. Celebrían intended to remain there, but Tirannë came to see her and insisted that she had enough rest before another night of festivities.

“You still are not entirely well, my Lady,” the Elf-maid said sternly, “and you look worn and tired. The Queen would be most displeased to hear that you had not rested all day.”

Celebrían sighed, but knew from experience that naught could distract a determined Elf-maid, who thought her Lady needed to be fussed about, from her task. Thus she followed Tirannë obediently into the guest chamber of Legolas’ house – a very pleasant room, the ceiling of which was made of interwoven branches and cleverly laid leaves that screened out the rain, leading it down along the outer walls of the house through a pipe of tree bark, but let in the sunlight, filtered through their intricate webbing.

There was a wash-stand in a small alcove, separated by a light curtain, and Tirannë offered to help Celebrían refresh herself, but she politely refused as always. It had been hard enough to endure the touch of her own husband after.. after all that had happened; being touched by a stranger, even by another woman, would have been beyond endurance. Tirannë seemed to understand, without knowing the reasons, and she left her with the promise to wake her in good time.

Celebrían washed quickly but thoroughly (washing herself by every chance seemed to become a sheer irresistible urge since last year) and changed into the nightgown that had been laid out for her on the bed – a simple sleeping mattress made of cotton canvas, stuffed with wool. String ties were laced through it every foot to hold it all together, and as it had been tradition among the woodland folk, it stood on a fairly low, artfully carved wooden frame. It could not be more than seven inches thick, but its softness and the forest green sheets and pillows and the warm, russet-coloured blankets gave one the feeling of sleeping upon the dry fallen leaves and parched grass of the forest floor.

After having slept in huge, richly-adorned, Noldorin-style beds for centuries in Imladris, this simple resting place brought back her fondest childhood memories and the peaceful thoughts of her youth. Sleeping under the partially open ceiling of a tree house had always been the most natural thing for her, and though she had grown fond of the different beauty of Elrond’s valley, sometimes she just had to go back to Lothlórien to live under the starlit sky for a while again.

Despite her initial fear, her sleep was peaceful, without nightmares for a change. This pleased and surprised her greatly, for even in Meril’s house, her dreams had been troubled and frightening. She awoke refreshed, and as she opened her eyes, it seemed to her as if a light breeze had crossed her chamber, leaving it through the half-open ceiling.

“Has someone been in my room while I slept?” she asked Tirannë, who came as promised to wake her up. “I felt a presence, and it seems to me that there was a faint whisper, but I could not se anyone.”

“No-one of us has been here, my Lady,” the maid replied, “yet it can be that one or two of the Súruli paid you a visit. Did you have pleasant dreams?”

“I did. More so than I have hoped for.”

“Then it was them. They are known to visit our people’s dreams when they choose to join our festivals. Their presence is very… soothing, or so I am told.”

“They have not visited you so far?” Celebrían asked in surprise. Tirannë shook her head.

“Nor have I been in need for it, my Lady. They only come to the ones who are troubled. Do you require any help with your preparations?”

“Not with getting dressed,” replied Celebrían, “but I would be grateful if you could come back in a moment to braid my hair. Reaching behind my head still hurts a little.”

Tirannë left her to get dressed in private, and she washed again, even though she knew how unneeded and useless it was. Then, after the maid had braided her hair in the simplest fashion that was still acceptable during such a great feast, they both descended from Legolas’ house to the great outdoor hall, where the merry crowd was gathering already for the evening,

There Nielthi, one of Meril’s ladies, welcomed Celebrían and led her to an empty seat on Meril’s side. The Queen greeted her kindly and asked how she was faring, then said:

“Tonight we shall be honoured by the visit of two other rare guests: Elwenil(2), the piper, and Ivárë who plays beside the Sea(3). These two are named among the three most magic players of the Elves, and seldom do they come to our feasts, for they cherish the peace of the abandoned shores. But this time they were willing to adorn Samírien with their music, and about that we are all very glad.”

“You spoke of three magic players,” said Celebrían. “Who is the third one?”

“The third one is mayhap the greatest of all,” answered Meril with saddening eyes, “yet he is lost for us, and whether he can ever be found is not known. Daeron of Doriath he was called, and never was music more sweet heard in the Outer Lands than when he played.”

“What about Maglor?” asked Celebrían. “Elrond kept saying that he was a great minstrel and a master of ancient lore.”

To her surprise, Meril’s face became hard and cold as ice all of a sudden.

“Of Macalaurë(4) I am not willing to speak,” she said, her voice harsh with anger and old pain. “Nor of any of his brothers. You see, daughter of the Tree Lord, I still have not worked out my part in the forgiving – how can I hope to be forgiven, any time soon?”

She broke off, trying to calm her own heavy breathing, and for a moment there was such raw pain in her eyes that Celebrían shivered. But after a moment the Lady of the Isle collected herself again, and her beautiful face became smooth and youthful once more.

“Alas that our people are so good at holding old grudges,” she said, and her voice was full of regret. “All our wisdom helps us so little when we are hurting. But let us not speak of the shadows of he past now. For lo! the starts have come out again, and the minstrels are ready to sing for us the songs of the beginning of Eä.”

Following the eyes of the Queen, Celebrían saw that indeed, on the very same place where the previous day the harpers and pipers and drummers had been playing, now two lonely minstrels took their seat, ready to share their gift of music with the folk of Eglavain. One of them must have been a Vanya, for he had golden hair and deep blue eyes. Celebrían guessed that this had to be Ivárë, of whom the songs said that after the Great Journey of the Eldar he returned from Aman to Elvenhome, out of love for his friends, the Solosimpi, and forsaking his own kind he spent his whole life among the shoreland pipers.

He followed them to Alqualondë when they finally moved, but fled Aman a second time after the first Kinslaying and dwelt on the abandoned shores of Falassë Númëa, together with a few of his surviving friends who chose the same fate. Full of bitterness against the Noldoli his heart was, so Glorfindel told on a cold winter evening in the Hall of Fire, long, long ago, when he was teaching Lindir old tales from the Blessed Realm, and never grew he tired of singing long laments of Alqualondë – of its great arch of living stone in the harbour that had been poisoned and died from the spilt blood of the Solosimpi and was destroyed by a grieving Ossë in a fit of rage(5). Of the white ships that were taken and later burnt in Losgar by the hand of the Kinslayers; and of his friends that would not dance and sing along the lamplit quays of the Swanhaven anymore.

Celebrían looked at the ancient minstrel with great interest, and she saw the wisdom and burden of incredible age in those deep blue eyes; for Ivárë, just like Glorfindel, was one of those Firstborn, whose eyes opened to the light of the newborn stars at Cuiviénen. He showed no sign of aging, for – unlike Círdan – he had lived in the Blessed Realm all his life, and his eyes saw the Light of the Two Trees. And yet, there was an air of deep sadness about him: the sadness of one who had lived too long and had seen too much. And for a moment Celebrían wondered whether Glorfindel was not the lucky one to have died, been healed and re-made in the Halls of Mandos, for the Balrog Slayer certainly seemed less burdened to her.

Now everyone grew very quiet. Even the faint whispers of the Súruli ceased among the leaves. For Ivárë brought forth his great, golden harp that was as big as he himself was standing, and sliding his long, slender fingers along the silver strings be began to sing in a voice that was deep as the Sea and rich and molten gold and musical like the laughter of the wind spirits among the tree branches.

Eä Eru i estaina ná Ilúvatar Ardassë,
ar ónes minyavë Ainur i ner i híni sanweryo,
ar ner yo së nó ilúvë né ontaina.
Ar ten quentes, antala ten lammar lindalëo,
ar lirnentë, ar së né alassëa.

Nan andavë lirnentë ilquen erya
ecar pitya nótessë [sina lúmessë] ar hosta lastainë,
nan ilquen hanyanë minyavë sanwi Ilúvataro
yallon tulles, ar handessë nossento
palyanentë nan úlintavë.
Nan oi lúmessë ya lastanentë, entë tuller antumna handenna,

ar vanessë lindalento palyane
ar tulles marta sa Ilúvatar tultanë Ainur eryenna
ar quente ten taura lírë pantala ten analt'
ar analcarinquë or ya nó westanes
ar i alcar yesseryo ar i rille mettaryo elyaner Ainur,
yanen cawnentë ar carnentë úlamma(6)...


Celebrían recognized the sacred hymn at once, of course. It was the Ainulindalë, the most ancient of all the great songs ever sung in the halls of the Eldar. On some particularly important feasts Glorfindel even used to sing it in Old Qenya, the same archaic tongue in which it had been written by Rúmil the Sage, greatest of all Elven lore-masters, here in Elvenhome. But most times it was sung in High Quenya, the noblest of all Elven tongues – and in that very tongue was Ivárë singing it now.

It told about the beginnings of Eä – how Ilúvatar, after having dwelt alone for Ages unfathomable even for the Valar themselves, sang into being the Ainur first, before all things, and how for this greatest is their power and glory of all his creatures within the world and without. How he thereafter fashioned them dwellings in the Void, and dwelt among them, teaching them all manners of things, the greatest of which was music.

How he would speak propounding to them themes of song and joyous hymn, revealing many of the great and wonderful things that he devised ever in his mind and heart, and how they would then make music unto him, and how the voices of their instruments rose in splendour about his throne.

How upon a time Ilúvatar propounded a mighty design of his heart to the Ainur, unfolding a history whose vastness and majesty had never been equalled by aught that he had related before, and how the glory of its beginning and the splendour of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Ilúvatar and were speechless(7).

And Celebrían, listening to the majestic music that let the great design of Creation unfold before her eyes, remembered how it had been marred for ever by the malice of Morgoth and his servants; and she wept.

~~~

End notes:

(1) My heartfelt thanks go to my good friend, Jenn, for the idea that Wood-Elves might use futons in their tree houses.

(2) Originally one of the countless and equally discarded names for Littleheart. I gifted it upon Tinfang Warble, the piper, whose name was just too weird for my taste.

(3) Which is about all that Tolkien ever told us about this Elven minstrel.

(4) Quenya form of Maglor.

(5) Warning: not a canon fact. These events are described in my story “The Dying Stone”.

(6) Translation by Ryszard Derdzinski. Found on the “Fellowship of the Wordsmiths” website.

(7) See: “The Book of Lost Tales 1”, pp. 49-50 of the Del Rey edition.


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