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A Silver Spirit

Disclaimer: see in the Foreword.

Author’s Notes:
This tale is growing and growing as I write it – it has just spawned another chapter I never intended to write. Now, the story of Timpinen or Tinfang Warble, whom I chose to call Elwenil for the better sound of it, is genuine Tolkien stuff to the letter – it just has been completely discarded along the later evolution of the mythology. Certain traits of this character, especially his closeness to Lúthien, were given to Daeron in a later phase.


11. A Silver Spirit

The Song of Creation was a long one – by the time Ivárë was done, all the stars had come out and gleamed upon the dark velvet sky, brighter than Celebrían ever saw hem sparkling in Middle-earth. Wine and small cakes were brought to the guests, and while they enjoyed the refreshments, the other minstrel took Ivárë’s place, bringing forth a beautiful silver flute, very alike the one Aiwendil had brought to Middle-earth and gifted upon Lindir when he recognized the youngling’s unique gift of music(1).

This other minstrel, whom the Queen had named Elwenil, was clearly of Telerin origin – one of the Solosimpi, Celebrían corrected herself, for the dwellers of Elvenhome seemed to prefer the older names – but though tall enough, his lithe build made him look smaller than other Elves. He had long, silver hair, braided to an intricate coronet of countless thin plaits, and, despite the festive event, he was clad in shadowy grey, save a girdle of silver leaves.

Celebrían expected the feasting crowd to become quiet again, just as they did while Ivárë was playing, yet it happened not so. All the Elves continued their talking and laughing, while the minstrel lifted the wondrous silver flute to his lips, and brought forth from it a music thinner and more pure than any that Celebrían heard before; and it was full of longing.

Indeed, it was as if pipes of silver or flutes of various shapes, all slender and delicate, rained pealing sounds and threadlike harmonies like a silver rain beneath Ithil’s soft light upon the lawns; and she longed as she was listening for... she knew not what. For something that was long lost or had never been, something too fragile for these darkening times, something that had been only known at the waters of Awakening, long before the Quendi had known evil and sorrow(1).

Wondering where she might have been heard music like this, she was reminded of her first night in Meril’s house, of a night full of sift, warm breezes, the sweet scent of flowers dreaming in the dark, and of a music she thought she had heard in her dream only.

She turned to Vairë, who was seated on her other side and asked her about it; and the caretaker of Gilfanon’s house shook her head.

“Nay, ‘twas no dream,” she said, “even though it often seems so when one has the good fortune to hear the flute of Elwenil, every time when he plays and dances in summer dusks for the joy of the first stars. For even those rejoice in his music, and at every not he plays a new one sparkles forth and glisters. Some say that they come out too soon if Elwenil plays,” she added with a smile; “and when ever he chooses to visit our gardens, we watch from the windows, lest he tread the shadowy lawns unseen.”

“Unseen indeed,” said Celebrían, listening to the sweet, faint music that blended with the soft sounds of Elven laughter so seamlessly that it needed some effort to pick it out from the rich tapestry of pleasant sounds. “For though I opened the window and peered out in that night, I could see no-one in the gardens, no matter how hard I tried.”

Vairë laughed. “Certainly, you could not,” she answered, “for Elwenil is shier than a fawn – swift to hide and dart away as any vole: a footstep on a twig and he is away, and his fluting will come mocking from afar.”

At this Celebrían, too had to smile, for it reminded her of young, shy Lindir and how he was hiding from strangers, playing his flute only out of eyesight. It seemed that some minstrels shared his wariness of unknown people, and it had not been Aiwendil’s doing alone that he did not make friends easily, after all.

“Marvel and wizardry lives in his fluting,” she said, meaning both minstrels, even though Vairë had no means to know that; “for indeed, few are there who could say from themselves that they come close to it.”

“There be none,” replied Vairë, “not even the Solosimpi, who can rival him therein, albeit the shoreland pipers claim him as their kin.”

“In this I dare to disagree,” smiled Celebrían; “for I happen to know a young minstrel who is not unlike him, neither in his art, nor in his shy nature, even though he would need time to bring his gift to completion, for he still is very young for an Elf. But he has the blood of Vanyar and Teleri… I mean, Solosimpi in his veins, and he plays a flute that was made in Valinor and brought to Middle-earth by Aiwendil himself.”

“If you were a friend of Aiwendil, you might become a friend of Elwenil as well, rare as it is in these days,” said Vairë. “For ‘tis said that this quaint spirit is neither wholly of the Ainur nor of the Eldar, but is half a fay of the woods and dells, one of the great companies of the children pf Palúrien, and half a Noldo or a shoreland piper.”

“Are the fays of the woods not mere myths from the fairy tales that mortals tell their children at bedtime?” asked Celebrían, raising a sceptical eyebrow.

“They are,” Vairë agreed, “and yet no myth is born without asmuch as a seed of truth in it. For the truth is that Elwenil, as his name reveals, is a son of Elwë Singollo, King of the Solosimpi, who was lost of old upon the Great March from Palisor, and wandering in Hisilómë found the Maia Melian, waiting for him in a glade of beeches like a lonely twilight spirit. Loving her he was content to leave his folk and dance for ever in the shadows, but his children, Elwenil and Tinúviel, long after joined the Eldar again, and tales there are concerning them both, though they are seldom told here(2).”

“Why not?” asked Celebrían in surprise, for the description that Vairë just gave matched so little the tales she had heard of Elu Thingol, the proud and mighty King of Doriath, whom her father respected and admired above all other Elves, or Melian, his Queen, who had been able to protect their realm with her power of enchantment alone. “Was Lúthien Tinúviel not the fairest, most powerful maiden of our kind? Was she not the one who put the Great Enemy to sleep with the might of her song alone? Does she not deserve to be remembered for her great deeds and the power of her love?”

Vairë looked at her gravely. “That she does; yet these are memories very painful for most of the dwellers of Tol Eressëa. For they are bound to the memories of the great and devastating wars in Beleriand that is no more; to the memories of much suffering and bitter losses most of them had seen with their very eyes. And the knowledge that Lúthien was the only one of our kind who truly died fills our hearts with fear – for we know not what has become of her and we think not about her fate when we can avoid it.”

“Hiding from the truth solves nothing,” said Celebrían thoughtfully, and Vairë nodded.

“True. Yet thinking about the fate of Men is for us like staring into the Void that lays beyond the Door of Night, and few of us are brave enough to do so. Mayhap you, whose fate is bound to that of the Peredhil, are more accustomed to contemplate such strange concepts than the rest of us.”

“That is a fear I have lived with ever since my children were born,” replied Celebrían with a sigh. “For just like their father, one day they will have to choose, and should one of them repeat Elros’ Choice, our parting will last ‘til the End of Arda – or beyond.”

Vairë gave her a compassionate look, even though she was unable to comprehend the finality of such loss.

“So you have any reason to fear that choice?” she asked. Celebrían nodded.

“Our eldest… rightly was he named the Elf-man(3); for the blood of his mortal ancestors runs strong and deep in him, and often does he favour the company of the Dúnedain. I have feared his choice since he came of age; and I still do.”

“And yet you chose to leave them,” said Vairë carefully. Celebrían sighed.

“That I did – and I still do believe that I was right doing so. My slow withering would not make their choice any easier; staying would have left them with the horrible memory of their mother fading to nothingness. If we had to part for eternity, I wanted them to remember me as I used to be.”

“Or as you may become again,” said Vairë in understanding. “Even though they – or some of them – might not have the chance to see it.”

Celebrían nodded in sorrow, for there truly was naught she could have added to that. After a while she shook herself out of her grief and asked:

“How come that Elves in the Outer Lands have never heard of Elwenil, if he truly is the son of Thingol and Melian and the brother of Tinúviel? One would think that there would be tales and songs about him, being from that great line.”

“His fate is different from that of other Eldar,” replied Vairë. “As a young elfling had his gift of music already shown, and often did he stray from the woodland realm of his father, wandering along the shores and playing his flute alone. Thus happened in the year 1158 of the Trees that Ossë visited the shores of the Outer Lands again, and there he found Elwenil, lost and alone and yearning for his kin. And though the Valar were quite unpleased afterwards, Ossë brought him to Falassë Númëa, where the Solosimpi dwelt under the rule of his uncle Olwë at that time. And with them he later came to Aman, marching nor resting among them but sitting aloof upon the mighty shoulder of Ossë, piping strangely.”

Celebrían shot a glance at the minstrel who seemed more like a spirit than an Elf indeed, and could very well imagine that Elwenil was considered a strange one among his father’s people.

“Now does he dwell in the gardens of Irmo with his mother,” Vairë continued; “but often he returns to Tol Eressëa, where Alalminórë he loves the best, and the Queen’s garden best of all. Ever and again we miss his piping for long years; but on a sudden will his flute be heard again at an hour of gentle gloaming, or he will play beneath a goodly Moon and the stars go bright and blue.”

“And yet he shows himself openly tonight,” said Celebrían, “even though you said that he was so shy.”

Vairë smiled and nodded towards the wind spirits gathered around the minstrel, who had just began to shimmer into visible being again.

“His friends, the Súruli made him do so, I deem, for they love to dance to his music. Honoured we are by that, for our gardens have been empty of his melody many a night. Now, however, for such is the eeriness of his music, you will ever love the evenings of summer and the nights of stars, and their magic will cause your heart to ache unquenchably.”

“It already does,” whispered Celebrían, “for save his silver hair, he reminds me eerily of him who has my heart in his keeping. Indeed, not idly do they say that the Lord of Imladris wears the living image of Dior Eluchíl, born by Lúthien herself; for not even the closest kin of Elu Thingol has ever possessed the wondrous fairness of the Children of Lúthien; and of those only Elrond and our children are left.”

“And your yearning for them will remain as unquenchable as the longing for Elwenil’s music,” Vairë added in sympathy.

“I fear so,” sighed Celebrían. “But have you not all heard him many times and often, you that dwell here? Yet you do not seem to me like those who live with a longing that is half understood and may never be fulfilled.”

“Ah, but we do,” it was Vairë’s turn to sigh now; “more so than you might imagine. Fortunately, we have also limpë, that alone can cure, and a draught of it giveth a heart to fathom all music and song. At the very least this comfort we always have.”

“But those who drink of it must stay in Tol Eressëa, or so I was told,” said Celebrían.

“For a while,” replied Vairë. “’Til they heal.”

“Then why are you still here?” asked Celebrían. “You were born in Aman and were never one of the Exiles. What keeps you here?”

Vairë smiled.

“Someone has to take care of those who are still healing,” she said. “And I am a caretaker, by calling and by trade.”


End notes:

(1) The descriptions of Elwenil’s music and his shy nature are very loosely quoted from “The Lost Tales 1”, pp. 42. 99-100.

(2) No, I am not making that up! Timpinen (or Tinfang Warble) actually was conceived as Tinúviel’s brother. See: “The Book of Lost Tales 1”, p. 114. I only gave his character and fate a little twist.

(3) Which is the literal meaning of Elladan’s name. Of course neither his fate nor his preferences are canon facts, just my own choice whenever I write about him.


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