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The Use of Memory
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The Use of Memory

“Memory is not what the heart desires. That is only a mirror, be it clear as Kheled-zâram. Or so says the heart of Gimli the Dwarf. Elves may see things otherwise. Indeed I have heard that for them memory is more like to the waking world than to a dream.”

FotR, Farewell to Lórien

“This is the use of memory:
For liberation—not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past.”

TS Eliot, Little Gidding

“Remember Galadriel and her Mirror.”

FotR, Farewell to Lórien


Mettarë, 3022/F.A. 1

That winter, on the longest night, the Great Hall of the White Tower of Minas Tirith was full, for the King had returned from the wars in the East, and the realm was restored, and all wished to greet the new year. And the lamps were dimmed, and the words were spoken that promised the turning of night into day. And the King lit the candle, and passed the light to his Steward, and from there it rippled through the hall until all were held in the glow. Such would happen throughout the kingdom – from old Dol Amroth on the western shore, to the new settlements of Ithilien – and back through time these words had been said, back in Osgiliath, in Minas Anor after the first stone was laid, and on back to the distant halls of Armenelos itself.

Later, when the Hall lay quiet once more, and under a clouded sky, the Queen of Gondor sat sleepless in the Court of the Fountain. And there the Prince of Ithilien, coming from the White Tower, found her, alone. He sat beside her, placing the lamp he bore on the wall beside them. Its light flickered on the water. And they talked for a while of the ceremony they had performed, and she asked him if it were different now.

“In form, it is unaltered,” he told her. “But in quality? Aye, that has changed, indeed! For the times were other than they are now, and hope oft seemed close to mockery. Ever a sad time this was for the City and its prospects – and sad too for my father, and for my brother and me. For this was when our mother left us. Poor Finduilas,” he said, and sighed. “Once she was to me a dear-held memory, unalterable. The rock in the unsteady world.”

“Once?” Arwen asked. “But now?”

“Lately… Lately she has become to me a different woman,” Faramir admitted. “One to whom the waking world offered little consolation and, in time, none. And thus she turned away from what it held – and, in the end, forsook it.” He looked blindly around at the stones of the citadel, as if they might hold the answer. But stone is silent.

Beside them the Fountain overflowed. The Evenstar looked up at a darkening sky. “Once,” she said, “it was as if my mother walked beside me. Even when her wound became too much to keep her at our side, she was not gone. It was as if she was ever near.”

“Once?” he asked. “And now?”

“Now a veil descends, and she drifts ever further from me. Ah, memory, memory!” Arwen cried softly. “How do you bear it, Man of the West? What consolation does it bring?”

And to that he had no answer, yet, though with time one might come.

The wind breathed. Above them, the clouds parted, and the cold heaven was revealed, ink-black, prickling with bright stars like tears that spring to the eye in sudden remembrance of joy or sorrow. Seeing them, Arwen lifted her hand – and for a moment she seemed to the Prince like a slender sapling, uprooted, the fate of women throughout time, to be transplanted to new soil, there to find strength to thrive as best they might. Farewell, farewell, she seemed to be saying, and then the clouds passed overhead once more, and the stars were gone.

But not forgotten. And they sat there a little longer – Ithilien and Evenstar – reflecting upon sorrow, trusting to its transformation into joy, and the light rippled on the water running by the winter tree.


This is intended as a sidebar to A Game of Chess, chapter 14, and as part of the 'Unabeauverse'. I wonder if it works as a standalone?

Altariel, 6th April 2011


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