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Naming the Stones: 1. Tell Me My Name
(This story is a sequel to 'When I am Wise' and takes place about 70 years later, near the beginning of the Second Age.)
Chapter 1: Tell Me My Name
Stat rosa pristina nomine,
nomina nuda tenemus
The sun shone in motley patterns through the leaves of Lorien, where these two Elves had taken temporary refuge. Light and dark moved, exchanged places, and cast brightness and shadow on the tree trunks, the vines creeping upon them, the red and brown leaves that covered them, and finally on the two grey-cloaked figures sitting in a small clearing in the heart of the forest.
They looked almost alike from a distance. Only closer could one see the thickened fingers, the half-shade darker hair, and the fuller girth that marked Elrond the half-Elven off from his companion Galadriel and all her race. The play of colors in the forest was the image of a lover's bower, but there was nothing of desire in the hands of Galadriel as she grasped those of her young student, nor in the unyielding eyes she fixed on his face.
"Tell me your name," she said. This teaching was not among the more pleasant ones she had to give, but it needed to be done, and often, before he was able to tell the tales of the First Age, tales of sorrow and shame for himself, for her, and for all their people.
"I am Elrond Peredhel," he spoke his first name, as he had begun ever time she had taken him through this teaching since he had come to her in the forest. "Son of Earendil and Elwing, brother of Elros the king of Men. Foster-son of Maglor." Galadriel smiled in her heart at that last name. How many years it had taken for him to speak it!
"Tell me my name," she said.
This was easy for him, although it hadn't been at the beginning, when everything had been hard to say. Then it had been difficult, under her clear, seeking gaze, to speak even the simplest of names. "You are Galadriel Artanis, wife of Celeborn, daughter of Finarfin and Earwen. Sister of Finrod. Lover of Elbereth." Elrond had added that last name recently without warning or explanation. Galadriel had not spoken to him of this love, but it was perhaps the truest thing her student had discovered about her.
She paused for a moment before repeating the teaching-words. "Tell me your name," she said again.
After years of this teaching, the soft names were beginning to come to Elrond more easily than the harsh ones. Still, they were far from easy. He took a breath, paused, and released it. "I am Elrond, the teacher of children." That had been the first kind name he had taken for himself years ago. He took great pride in his teaching, as he should, for after a short fifty years he had already become a renowned teacher among the children of Middle Earth. "I preserve memories of the beginning and write them for the future. I taught stories of Iluvatar and Elbereth to my brother, and through him to the race of Men."
Galadriel said nothing in response. The names he gave here were changing, shifting like the developing contours of his mind. It was not her place to declare them true or false, only to hear them spoken. "Tell me my name," Galadriel asked again.
"You are Galadriel, wise among the wise." The challenge for Elrond here was not to veer into flattery or intoxication, but to keep to the simple, bare truth that his teacher demanded and occasionally received. "You led the exiles of your people across the ice to this land. You are the teacher of the Elven peoples. You preserve in Middle earth the light of Valinor." The names he gave to Galadriel were also ever-changing, but like his names for himself they were not hers to judge.
They sat quietly for a moment, gathering strength for the hardest part of the teaching. Galadriel took a moment to match her breathing with Elrond's letting him be reassured by her utter, focused presence. It was the only comfort she would give him.
"Tell me your name," she said for a third time.
"I am Elrond, betrayer of my people." A lesser student would perhaps have rushed through these names, trying to get them all spoken before they destroyed him. Elrond, as always, held them in a timeless speaking, letting them tell the truth of his soul's memories. If there were another way I would take it, beloved, Galadriel thought, but she knew of no other and so she did not speak. What is named can be told, she reminded herself, what is told can be taught, what is taught can be learned, what is learned can bring wisdom.
"I abandoned my mother, leaving her to fall to the sea alone, and have not seen her since," Elrond continued his litany of guilt and pain. "I gave a son's devotion to the man who had driven her away and killed her people. I gave my baby brother to such a man, to be raised by him and call him Father. I turned away from my brother, my only kin, and did not follow him across the sea."
Galadriel waited a moment to see if Elrond had any other names with which to accuse himself. As he did not speak further, she continued, for the last time, "Tell me my name."
'You are Galadriel…" Elrond paused, more reluctant to speak her shame than his own. The first time they had done this teaching she had sat with him for ten hours, not asking, simply remaining with her hands in his and her eyes expectant as the sun set and then rose, and with the dawn he had uttered the harshest of her names: "Kinslayer." She did not flinch. She had heard the name before, most often when she spoke it to herself. He took a breath, and then continued. "You left your father and his wisdom and brought your people on a journey to Middle Earth which many did not survive. You sought adventure and rule, rejecting the love of the Valar." His half-Elven hand trembled in hers. He opened his mouth to say more, but did not.
They had gone as far they could for today. Galadriel began to sing a wordless melody. Elrond smiled, and his smile was clearer than Galadriel had ever seen it before. With each teaching, a touch of shadow passes away, she thought. Perhaps one day he would laugh and dance under the stars like the fully Elven-born. Or perhaps not, and the difference in him was deeper than pain. He was only at the beginning of the path to wisdom, and Galadriel knew that it was a long one. After more than thirty centuries along that path, she felt like she had only just begun.
A wind blew through the trees, casting red-gold leaves in the laps of the sitting figures. Sunlight glanced off Galadriel's hair. If the heart of the forest looked as much like a lover's bower as it had before, perhaps the impression was now for a moment a fraction less incorrect. Galadriel rose, taking her student with her, to go to the children of Men who waited at the edge of the forest for the Elven teachers to come to them, bringing them stories of Eru Iluvatar and echoes of the song of Ea.
Elros and Elrond are commonly thought to be twins, but I have found no proof that they are. Elrond's personality seems to me to be that of an older brother, so I have gone with that.
In Silmarillion 15, Angrod (Galadriel's brother) tells Thingol that he and his family are innocent of the kinslaying. First of all I don't entirely believe him, and second of all it makes sense to me that Galadriel would see things differently. Although it is not recorded that she participated in the massacre of the Teleri at Alqualonde, it is also not recorded that she did anything to prevent it, and she did not join her father Finarfin in turning away from the murderers.
Having said that, all opinions expressed by the characters about their moral responsibility are theirs and not mine.
The Latin quote at the beginning means 'The earlier rose remains in its name, we hold bare names.' It is the last line of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.
Next chapter: Elrond remembers, and begins to write.
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