I first wrote and posted this in November of 2004. I was more than a bit gushy and fond of beginning sentences with And, I admit, and I am so glad that Imrahoil and others bore with me and convinced me to do some very needful editing at the time. Well, I’ve finally finished that editing and have the story updated on the different venues where it’s now posted. I hope that those who have not read it in the past appreciate it now, and that those who have done so appreciate the corrections I’ve made.
Arwen and Aragorn stood upon the hill of Cerin Amroth and forswore both the Shadow and the Twilight; but at the end Arwen found it difficult to accept that the bliss of her life with her beloved had come to a close. For all her awareness of the relative fleeting nature of mortal life, still when Aragorn celebrated his two hundred tenth birthday by offering up his mortality to receive the Gift of Ilúvatar she found herself unwilling to accept that he was doing so, and that their life together as man and wife was at its end. For all of the heirs of Isildur she must have seen pass through her father’s house, she still had no appreciation that at the end Aragorn, too, must in time die. What she had hoped for when that day came cannot be properly known, I suppose—even with fictional characters we cannot always appreciate just what their thoughts on particular subjects might be. She appears to have lingered for an undetermined time in the capital before she bade farewell to her son and daughters and left to seek her ending in what remained of her grandparents’ abandoned realm.
The Master tells us that Aragorn both was born and died on March 1, the first day of spring in the calendar of Middle Earth. Arwen is said to have died as winter was beginning to give way to spring, indicating that she survived her husband by approximately a year. It appears that she may have felt paralyzed by her grief and loss for some months before she finally accepted that the time had come to seek her solace and her own death elsewhere. We aren’t told whether she walked northward or rode, nor whether she traveled swiftly or slowly. So those of us who have explored this period of Arda’s history have some leeway, and one can find a variety of different scenarios available on how she came to Cerin Amroth and the particulars regarding how she died and how it was her body was interred there.
Elves did not die of age, although they could fade from grief or from the weariness of bearing with the losses and disappointments of an interminable life. It was with this knowledge in mind that I chose the particular manner of death for her I’ve depicted, with her mourning both her husband and Lórien at the end. That Tolkien indicated that the elanor and niphredil stopped blooming in Middle Earth following her death I felt to be significant, the earth’s own indication that the Eldar Days were indeed past, and those Elves who might linger on east of the Sea are swiftly approaching the time when they may not be able to actively sail to Elvenhome.
I chose to give Aragorn and Arwen two daughters, naming the first for the mother to Lúthien and the second for the daughter of Turgon and mother of Eärendil the Mariner. In my-verse Melian is actually the firstborn child of their parents, but that she chose not to accept the rule of either land, ceding her rights to her brother; in time her granddaughter will marry Eldarion’s grandson, and thus the rule will return to the proper line once again, but will pass from Aragorn to his son in keeping with canon.
Tolkien himself played with the idea of adding still another Power to the pantheon entrusted with the care of Arda, this Power being in control of Time. In the end he slid away from this idea, but it is important to realize that although Time is one of the dimensions that define the creation within which we live, it may not be what is experienced within Eternity. Once one has crossed the boundary between life within Time to life within Eternity, one is no longer bound to one place at any particular point in time, as it is believed that within Eternity all times are Now. In my-verse the Halls do not lie wholly within Arda, but are not fully within the Timeless Halls, either. Time is still experienced; but once one has established oneself within a particular Hall one can remain within it even when one leaves it to explore the other halls established by each civilization and culture or to go beyond Arda’s boundaries into the Timeless Halls. Some individuals will not wish to leave any traces of themselves lingering on this side, while others will not feel able to face those of their culture and will seek out a corner in which to hide and either heal or seek to punish themselves for the evils they committed in life. So I have Denethor constructing for himself a cell furnished with a mirror in which he morbidly watches himself burning eternally, with Námo’s Maiar quietly giving the room a door and window until, bored at last with his narcissistic contemplation of his nonproductive burning, Denethor loses interest in the mirror and begins to look about himself and realizes he doesn’t have to content himself with such a pointless existence in the end. I found it most interesting that J. K. Rowling conceived of a similar situation in which both Harry and Tom Riddle find themselves within a waiting room that Dumbledore indicates is the creation of Harry’s own imagination, and that from this room he can leave when he so wishes, either to find passage beyond the life he’d offered up or to return to know fulfillment as a living man.
I will admit that I was also inspired in great part by the book The Great Divorce by Tolkien’s friend C. S. Lewis, a book I first read when I was in high school. One does not have to linger within the Halls of Mandos—one can go on, and eventually know one’s own True Shape, the form that best defines one’s individual personality. So, once he has crossed the Silver Bridge Aragorn shows forth all that he has ever been, and is the King indeed, while Frodo, who’d always been one who sought the best for others, becomes the Nurturer, who within Eternity always rejoices in helping nurture those children entrusted to his care, those newly come from life here and those preparing to enter into life. Thus he knows the fulfillment of parenthood denied him during his own life as Frodo Baggins of the Shire, while accepting that he’d always been as a parent to those for whom he’d cared. Plus the Presence must be sought after, even as Tolkien in Leaf by Niggle and Lewis both used the Mountains as the destination for those who have left this life.
The boundary between this life and the next has been defined in many different ways—as a river or sea that must be crossed via a bridge or boat, as a tunnel we must go through, as a burning desert that must be traversed, as a series of challenges we must face and meet. Tolkien himself imagined at one point that Námo and his Maiar were the greatest shipwrights, ever constructing the boats intended to bear those who have died beyond his halls to those of Iluvatar. I chose to use the image of the silver bridge over the river to indicate the boundaries between Time and Eternity, between the Bounds of Arda and the Timeless Halls.
For those of us who are mortal, life and death are ever the two sides to the same coin. All who are born into this world will one day die, only to be reborn into what comes next, which apparently is the reality from which we departed to enter into this creation. I have always loved the image with which Lewis leaves us at the end of The Great Divorce, in which he sees the gods playing at life upon a great playing board defined by Time just before he returns to the mundane life he’d thought he’d left behind to enter into that world where he is not yet real enough to cause the grass to bend or the drops of dew to scatter. What a wonderful concept, that there we are so much more than what we are here.
And it was such a wonderful chance to look at the differences between Legolas’s perceptions and Gimli’s, as Gimli is the first to appreciate what it is he senses approaching as Aragorn and Arwen speed West once she has finally been able to shuck off the burden of her life and body. Legolas has seen Men die, but he still has little appreciation of what a freeing experience that death can prove to be when it is met openly and without fear. The third brother in Beadle the Bard’s tale met Death fearlessly, for his life had been lived fully and without regrets. Aragorn also has no regrets in the end. He has done all expected of him and has known both joy and loss, grief and bliss. His death is expected, something he has known has been awaiting him at all times, and he doesn’t regret accepting it now. But Arwen doesn’t understand, for she was raised in the expectation she will always exist. That her form of existence will change and that the mechanics of that change will involve going through and past her own death is something that, once she’s faced with her beloved’s death, she has to accept for herself, and that’s a change in world-view she finds is far more difficult to appreciate when it becomes imminent than she’d anticipated. And so Legolas cannot appreciate that now that Arwen has died she is no longer less than she’d been as Elessar’s Queen, but more, while Gimli appreciates this right off.
Anyway, it has been pleasant to revisit this story, and I find myself appreciating just why the Master kept revising his own works until the day of his death.
August 6, 2013
These notes are for you, Febobe.