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Light from the West
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Dear Sam,

Strange to say, I am beginning to like Rûdharanion. I’ve been trying to make myself like him, because 1) I’ve found myself working in close proximity with him, in connection with the copying of the Epic, and when I’m working with someone I much prefer not to dislike them; 2) Lyrien said to me once, “I want to be like you, because you love everyone, don’t you?” 3) I can’t very well lead him into the Light if I can’t bear him, can I? and 4) reading that aborted manuscript revealed that there is some beauty deep inside him, if it can just be coaxed to the surface.

The other day he showed me what he had completed of his copy. I think he wanted to show me that he was copying it exactly as it was, as I had stipulated. I didn’t read all the way through it, for I was sure that he had done so, and had been willing to trust him. Besides, all those swirls and curlicues and what not were giving me a headache.

“So what do you think?” he asked a little anxiously.

“It looks…nice,” I said. “But why don’t you write a bit more plainly? It may be hard for some people to read with all these…flourishes. Are those really necessary?”

He looked puzzled and a little hurt, and I mentally slapped myself.

“But—but I thought it worthy of the flourishes,” he stammered. “I was certain that such a monumental tale deserved a great deal of embellishment. Do you not think so?”

I couldn’t help but grin. Trust him to embellish a story any way he possibly can!

“I tell you what,” I said. “Why don’t you use the flourishes only for the titles…and for the first word of each canto? I like the way you’ve made little pictures in those; very clever. But all those curlicues and squiggly things could distract from the story. If you would just use them sparingly, I think the manuscript would look splendid. I wish I had your gift for calligraphy.”

He looked happier then, and do you know, he went and threw out what he had written, and copied it out all over again? I wouldn’t have asked that of him. And when he showed me the new copy, I was moved. I told him it looked very beautiful, and so it did. That seemed to make him very happy, and he said he could scarcely wait to get to the next part. I’m still not sure why he is doing this, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he is doing it, and I can give him my advice and encouragement.

“Do you think my Aredhel will like it?” he asked me. She is never far from our conversation, of course. I have met her finally, and have found her a charming and elegant lady, well-mannered and intelligent. And quite young--not much over 500 years old, I'm sure. “Will she be impressed, do you suppose?”

“Perhaps you should not try so hard to impress her,” I said, a bit surprised at myself.

“You think so?” He looked startled. “But…how can I…I mean, how can I…I don’t wish to make the same mistakes as I did with…how can…”

“You’re asking me?” I suppressed a grin. “I am hardly an expert on ladies. Believe it or not, I’ve had very little experience in that wise.”

“Yes, I thought as much,” he said, and I winced inwardly. Was it that obvious? “Although you are a very comely fellow—please don’t mistake my meaning—there’s a sort of, of untouched quality about you. But at the same time you seem to possess an innate wisdom that flows from a deep place, like spring water from within the earth, so to speak. So I thought you could advise me. But perhaps it’s a bit much to expect?”

“Perhaps, instead of trying to impress her, you should give her what she really wants,” I said, hoping that sounded like innate wisdom.

“But I thought I was,” he said. “If she doesn’t want the true outpourings of my innermost soul, what does she want? I know she’s not the sort who cares for jewels, and silks, and such things. I could see from the very beginning that she was not of the grasping sort, or I would not have looked at her twice.”

“You’ll have to find out for yourself what she wants,” I said, thinking, I just bet you wouldn't have looked at her twice. Her gown, while certainly not indecent, did little to disguise her obvious physical charms. “But not by asking her directly. I cannot tell you how—you must find the way. But, try to discover the things she loves and cares most for, and give them to her, without thinking of yourself and worrying what she’s going to think of you. Then she will find that you treasure her for those things that are part of her being. And even if she is not, as you say, of the grasping sort, and I believe you there, I am sure she would appreciate a small material token from time to time. Even the most spiritual of ladies have a liking for such trinkets at least once in a while.”

“And you really think she won’t care for my poetry?” he asked.

“Only if it truly comes from within, and isn’t just a bunch of fancy words strung together with a lot of flourishes,” I said. “Aredhel strikes me as being a lady who would not care for such, and you must learn to think of her in that wise instead of as some empty-headed creature who would fall for any pretty lines you dangled at her. I have seen what you are capable of doing with words, and I think you can create lovely things for her, when you forget about the impression you wish to make and show her what is truly within you. Instead of bringing her bouquets, give her a garden.”

I half expected him, from the look on his face, to get out a pencil and write down that last statement. If he’d had one on his person, he probably would have.

“Thank you,” he said at last. “I will remember. 'Give her a garden.' Yes. Very poetic, that is. I see what you mean. Thank you so much, my friend. I was certain I could count on you to set me aright.”

Well. I do hope I said the right thing and that he takes it to heart. Time will tell, I suppose!

Meanwhile, I got a shock last week. I was helping Lyrien and Marílen to repair the little Bag End—someone or something having done some nasty damage to it. Fortunately it was much easier to put back to rights than the big Bag End after the Scouring. It was then I heard a frightful screech, and saw what appeared to be an orc jump at me from a nearby bush!

It nearly gave me a heart attack! The girls screamed, although I think they knew well enough who it was. Dínlad started to laugh; then his sister marched right up to him, ripped his mask off and stomped hard on it…hardly the sort of thing one expects of gentle, doe-eyed Marílen; it was something to see.

“Daddy TOLD you not to wear that horrible thing around Iorhael!” she said. “You are going to catch it now, you—you—chamber-pot!” She was nearly in tears, and I reach over and caught her hand, whereupon Lyrien took my free one.

“And you’re the one that messed up our hobbit-house,” she accused him. “Aren’t you?”

“I did not,” he said picking up his orc-mask and attempting to straighten it out. “It was Tashi who did that.” He glared in the direction of the dog, who was standing behind us, waving his tail and looking innocent as spring flowers. Come to think of it, I remembered seeing grooves in the little Bag End that did look to be the markings canine claws might make when digging, and I could see telltale flecks of dirt clinging to Tashi’s handsome tawny coat.

“Bad dog,” I told him, and he actually ducked his head in shame. He’s a beautiful animal and sweet-tempered, barely out of puppyhood, adorable really, and I’m ludicrously fond of him. Still, dogs will be dogs, and they will dig!

“Liar,” Marílen accused her brother. “You never own up to anything. You always try to blame everybody else.”

Tilwen came out to see what the clamoring was about, and when informed about the orc-mask she was livid, and she went and caught Dínlad by the ear before he could flee. He looked quite terrified, and tried to back away, but she got a good grip on him. It was then I stepped forward.

“Please don’t fight about me,” I said. Perhaps I should have just stood aside and let him catch it, as he deserved. He had been disobedient, and not entirely innocent in the matter of the hobbit-hole--obviously he hadn't tried to stop Tashi from demolishing it. Yet I was remembering something Lady Elwing said, how she thought I was sent into the earth to be a peace-maker, and coming from her, the concept rang sweetly in my ears. And in order to have peace, one must make peace. “I’m all right, truly. I knew it was he, for Lyrien told me of the orc-mask long ago. And I know perfectly well there are no orcs on this Island.”

I decided I wouldn’t tell just what a turn he had given me. It was rather embarrassing. I hoped he would catch it, but not too hard. I really don’t want to be the cause of any dissension here, and that is the truth.

Then Lalaith came out with Niniel, and they received a rather mixed-up and emotionally charged account of what happened, consisting of loud accusations from the girls, louder denials from Dínlad, barking from Tashi, demands from Tilwen and Lalaith for an apology to me, which Dínlad made sullenly, after which he immediately informed his mum that his sister had called him a chamber-pot.

I’d have called you something far less polite,” Tilwen told him between clenched teeth. Dear, lovely Til!

Lalaith drew a long-suffering sigh. “Come on,” she said finally. “I think I’d better take the two of you home, if you can’t behave. I declare, I just cannot have a peaceful visit any more, the way you children carry on. I don't know what comes over you sometimes.”

“But I didn’t do anything, Mummy,” Marílen protested tearfully. “I want to play with Lyrien. It’s not fair.”

“You did too do something,” Dínlad shot at her.

“She did not,” Lyrien stoutly defended her, taking her hand. “And it was your fault. You just think you know everything, but you don’t.”

“Lyrien,” Niniel reproached her, somehow not sounding very reproachful.

“Please let her stay, Lalaith,” Tilwen pleaded. “She really was not at fault. I’ll bring her home later.”

Lalaith finally conceded, and took her son with her, as he pulled woeful faces at how persecuted and misunderstood he was, and Tashi got a forgiving hug and kiss from Lyrien, and a grudging pat from me. I was informed later that Leandros made Dínlad burn the orc-mask, and he did get a licking.

“Boys will be boys, but this is going a bit far,” he’d said. “One thing this Island doesn’t need is orcs, and I should think you could find a better game than that, my lad.”

Shortly after that I was out with Gandalf in a meadow where mushrooms grew in abundance. It’s been a long time since I did anything with him, and when I said I wanted to get out for a bit and look for mushrooms, he jumped to go with me.

“I’ve missed your company,” he said as we took our baskets and set out. “I apologize if I’ve seemed neglectful, but…”

“Ah, well,” I said repressing a grin, “Ríannor is rather distracting, I should imagine. She’s far better looking than I, and certainly taller…and curvier…and more fascinating and mysterious, I should think.” I gave him a wink. Just the same, I was truly glad to be with him once more.

“Still, one should not forget one’s friends,” he said soberly. “I’m glad and thankful you’ve had Galendur to show you about; I’m sure he’s much more fun than an old poke like me, and I think he’s been good for you, as you’ve been for him, albeit in a different way. I never would have supposed he’d turn out as well as he did. Even that Rûdharanion fellow is coming along, although I held out far less hope for him. Seems to me you are getting to be an influence in this land already, and you’ve scarcely been here a year yet.”

“Rûdharanion wasn’t all my doing,” I said as I glanced around for the best mushrooms, hoping to see the golden sort that Lyrien’s fairy had given me some time ago, which I had not seen since. “Dûndeloth and Elwing and Galendur and Tilwen had a good deal to do with that, maybe more than I did.”

“So. Sometimes one needs a fellowship, yes?” Gandalf raised his bushy black eyebrows to me, and I grinned sheepishly.

“Well, you’ve been very good about keeping Bilbo company while I went off with Galendur,” I said. Lady Celebrían and Tilwen had offered to do the sitting this time. Somehow, I don’t think Bilbo had any overwhelming objection to that!

Strange thing about those golden mushrooms: I asked Lyrien if she knew where any more might be found and with a solemnity worthy of her father, she shook her head no. She said she would look about for more. Fearing she might get lost—knowing her, she would go far and wide to find them if she knew I wanted them—I told her not to look beyond her yard or Marílen’s unless an adult was with her; I didn’t want them so badly as that. She said maybe the fairy would bring some more, and I said maybe so, but if she didn’t, that was all right. (I still have to wonder about that fairy. Lyrien is imaginative, but it’s very unlike her to send a gift pretending it’s from someone else. It’s much more typical of her to deliver it in person so she can see the look on your face when you get it!)

Something in the grass caught my eye and I ran to pick it up, momentarily forgetting about the fairy and the mushrooms. It was a cattle-horn, encrusted with dirt, which I rubbed off with my handkerchief, then ran to show Gandalf.

“Well, I’ll be. An ox-horn…wonder how it got out here? I’ve never seen any oxen on this Island,” he said, taking it from me to peer at it. “Have you?”

“I saw a fellow with an ox-cart driving through the City once,” I said, “with a load of vegetables and fruits.”

“Really?” Gandalf said handing the horn back to me. “Perhaps we should find him and ask if his ox is missing a horn?”

I laughed, then looked at the horn, turning it over and over. And then I got an idea.

“Do you know of a silversmith?” I asked.


“Why are you giving me this?” Dínlad said as we sat on his back-porch, puzzlement pulsing in his grey eyes as he turned the horn over and over, examining the fine silver trimmings and the ornately tooled leather strap, the polished ivory of the horn. The silversmith had done a wonderful job.

“Well, you had to get rid of your orc-mask,” I said in mock solemnity, “and so I thought you might like something nice in its place for your games. I knew a Man once, who had a horn very like it. Only, I think this one is even nicer. It’s Elven work, after all. And it’s better than a mask because it makes a noise.”

It occurred to me that Lalaith might not be too pleased with me for giving her son a gift that could make noise, but I hadn’t thought of that until now.

“Only, you’d better not blow it in the house,” I said with a wink. “Better to take it into the meadow, where it will echo beautifully off the mountainside. Or to the sea-shore, where you can call to the whales and seals.”

He started to put the mouth-piece to his lips. “May I try it?” he asked—very uncharacteristically, indeed!

“Of course,” I said. He blew into it, which only made a sound like…well, perhaps I’d better not say! It made us both giggle. Then I took it saying, “Let me try.”

I blew a blast on it that made him jump. A fine rich sound it was, and I felt proud of it. He laughed a little, saying, “How did you do that?”

“It takes practice,” I explained, glad I had been paying close attention when Boromir showed us how to blow his horn. “You have to blow from here…” I patted my belly. “You stretch out your lips, then you sort of spit the air through them. Try it for a while, I think you’ll get the hang of it.”

He spent the next half-hour or so trying to sound the horn, and when he finally succeeded, he fairly glowed all over. By now, he had attracted quite a small crowd, which included Marílen and Lyrien. Not wanting the girls to feel left out, I’d had little silver bracelets made for them, hitting on the idea of making them as dainty chains with little objects carved of ivory or pretty stones to hang from them--tiny birds, flowers, stars, fishes, and so forth, pierced through with bits of silver that were welded over links in the chains--and more could be added on later. They were ecstatic over them when I clasped them on. But from the looks on their faces now, I would almost think they would have preferred a horn. Well, maybe I’ll find two more horns somewhere, who knows?

Then Dínlad whispered to me, “I’m really sorry about the mask,” and he sounded as though he meant it this time. “I’m glad it’s burnt. It was kind of ugly.”

I grinned and told him to be careful with the horn, saying he’d better not make his sister angry or she might break it over his head, and he laughed.

And…what do you think? I found golden mushrooms when I got home that day, growing all around the bathhouse in a wide circle!


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