Radio Rec List
Playlist Navigation Bar
Naming the Stones: 2. Fragments From the Ruins
Chapter 2: Fragments From the Ruins
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images…
Deep in the forest there was a building made entirely of glass. Celeborn had built it as a study for his wife's student Elrond, who loved the trees and the outdoors but whose books did not. Elrond loved to sit there as he worked, almost feeling the wind as it blew through the woods and cast dying leaves on the clear walls of his study. He needed this wind, needed to feel the strength of the forest, as he went through the hours with his papers and books.
Elrond's task that day was to begin writing. His brother Elros of Numenor, the king of Men, had asked for a book telling the history of the Elven peoples in Middle Earth, to be read in Numenor where there are no Elves to teach them. Elrond had decided that the work of writing this story would be his, as his teacher Galadriel had neither skill nor delight in the labour of quill and parchment. Nor in the telling of plain tales, she had added with a laugh. Elrond gave a mock grimace at the thought of what the story of the Silmarils would look like in the obscure, enigmatic verse Galadriel liked to compose. Such is the teaching of the firstborn, he thought to himself. They learn in riddles, lest they believe themselves wise too soon.
If Galadriel had written the story, Elrond thought, it would probably look something like the confused collection of papers he had in front of him. They were pieces of Elven diaries and poems, gathered from the ruins of his childhood home of Sirion. Little was left of that refuge, after the twin destructions of the wars with Morgoth and the last of the kinslayings, and what was left had mostly gone to the west with the ships of Elves and Men. But Elrond had returned to the city after the ships were gone, picking over each house, looking not for gold or jewels but for scraps of writing, fragments of stories to preserve. They were with him now, in his glass study surrounded by trees, as he attempted to find a place to begin his tale.
There was one fragment he kept coming back to, unusual, almost human in its simplicity:
'Yet shadows come, and shadows grow
We listened then, we did not know.
For poisoned words we traded light
The poisoned words that led our flight
Into the dark when the Trees fell
No more in Valinor to dwell.'
Poisoned words indeed. Elrond knew there were things worth leaving Valinor. The faces of his students came to mind, as did the trees that surrounded him. But for stones? What poison was in the soul of Maglor, and of Feanor his father? Elrond had no sympathy. He knew he must learn some, so that the stories could be told.
He picked up another fragment:
'Like the body
Clothes the soul
Light is clothed
In secret radiance
Burning the heart
In one desire
Calling the soul
Across the sea…'
Now that looks like something written by Galadriel, Elrond thought, as he slowly put together its meaning. Still, at least it gave him some words to write what the Silmarils were to those who craved them. Like the body clothes the soul…
Elrond knew his foster-father Maglor had longed for the stones in that way, beyond any desire of body or soul. Malgor had never told him of this. He must have known what kind of response to expect from the son of Elwing if he dared speak of his longing for the jewel he had pursued her into the sea in an attempt to regain. There was only one time Elrond had heard this part of the Maglor's story.
He remembered that day as the day the stairs did not creak. In the years before his majority he would spend his days in Maglor's study. Even immortals have mortal furniture, so Maglor and Elros could keep teack of Elrond's comings and goings by the sound of his footsteps on the ancient wooden stairway. But that day the stairs made no sound, and Elrond descended unnoticed until he came to the door to the balcony where Elros was playing on Maglor's harp.
Elros had no talent with music. Maglor had been the greatest of Elven musicians, but he was unable to teach his beloved younger foster-son to do more with a harp than pull the strings. Still, Elros loved to sit with his foster-father and pick out simple tunes. Elrond was about to join them, but stopped when he heard their voices.
"Father," Elros said, "Sing to me about the Silmarils."
"Very well," Maglor said. 'Let us sing the Lay of Lethien, about your great-grandparents and the Silmaril they stole from Morgoth's crown."
Elros would not be diverted into such a familiar melody. ""No. Sing to me about the Silmarils themselves. What they are like?"
Beyond the door Elrond stood unmoving, dreading what Maglor would say but too curious to prevent him from saying it.
"There are many songs about the Silmarils," Maglor responded, "but they are dark and terrible, like the jewels themselves, though they glow bright with beauty. They were made by my father Feanor, the greatest craftsman of all the races of Ea, and are the greatest of his works. Many have sought them, but they are mine," Maglors usually kind voice took on a harshness as he spoke, "mine and my family's. They are precious to us," he emphasized the word, "and to my people, beyond words, beyond belief." Elrond could hear his longing, and was afraid.
"You love them more than anything, don't you?" Elros asked. There was a challenge in the question, and pleading.
Maglor paused for half an endless moment before giving his answer. "Not more than anything," he replied, his voice breaking slightly. "Not more than you." And, at that moment, perhaps he even spoke the truth.
But Elros was not finished. "Mother did," he continued, determined to force speech like the half-Man half-child he was. "Mother could have surrendered the Silmaril and kept her children, but flew off with the Silmaril and left us to you instead. And I am glad of it. I think you should have the Silmarils," he added with the certainty of Men. "I will get them for you if I can." Peering around the door, Elrond saw Maglor lift his hand to touch his younger brother's silver hair.
How dare he, Elrond thought from behind the door. Determined to stop this slander, this caress over his mother's memory, he burst into the room. "Maglor, Elros! Let me tell you what I discovered in my readings today…"
I wonder what he would have said, a much older Elrond thought as he sat in his very different study over a hundred years later. He was sorry that he did not know, and that he had never thought to ask. Would Maglor have defended Mother, praised her for preserving the light of the Silmaril, for following her husband with unbending loyalty beyond Middle Earth, as he himself had followed his father's vow across the sea? Or would he have condemned her love, and himself with her? Maglor was gone now, in a hopeless search for the light of a Silmaril that would never return. He and his tale were lost to the world, more vanished than those who sat in the Halls of Mandos to the west of Valinor.
Elrond returned to his papers. He could not tell Maglor's tale, but perhaps he could begin, in the fragile words that were given to him, to tell of the Silmarils and of the yearning for them that destroyed a world.
He picked up his quill and began to write:
The great jewels were like the crystal of diamonds, and yet more strong than adamant. Yet that crystal was to the Silmarils as is the body to the children of Iluvatar: the house of the inner fire, that is within it and yet all parts of it, and is its life.
The quote at the beginning is from TS Eliot's 'The Waste Land', with thanks to Altariel for showing me how well Tolkien and Eliot go together. The title of this chapter is adapted from the end of that poem.
The first fragment Elrond reads is a piece of a poem by Elwen Aiwelinde called 'Longing.' It is posted on fanfiction.net.
What Elrond writes at the end is adapted from Chapter 7 of the Silmarillion, 'Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor.' It is intentionally not an exact quote - the Silmarillion still has many editors, redactors, and other forms of textual troublemakers to go through before it reaches the form we have. Not to mention that this is only Elrond's first draft.
Thanks again to all my kind reviewers (I couldn't do it without you), especially to Oboe-Wan for keeping my facts in line
Next chapter: some thoughts on desire, a test, and the truth about Galadriel's hair.
Playlist Navigation Bar