Middle-earth Superstitions: 7. Red and White

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7. Red and White

The sickroom was quiet, airy, and set in the southern wall of the Citadel so that it caught every drop of honeyed sunlight. All three qualities made it eminently suited to its purpose; and yet Finduilas would rather have remained in her own rooms two floors down. Up here, away from the life of the household, she too often felt as isolated as though she were already lying in the Silent Street far below.

Her husband's concern and the healers' wisdom, however, could not be gainsaid, and so here she rested, surrounded by soft cushions, soft-voiced attendants, and peace.

Each afternoon, her sons were allowed a brief visit, and having had the necessity of quietude fiercely impressed upon them they were rarely as boisterous as two young boys might have been expected to be. Their visits were precious to her, paid for in the coin of sudden exhaustion.

Meril opened the door. "Are you ready, my lady?"

"Of course. Please tell Haleth to bring them in."

Shepherded in by their nurse, Boromir and Faramir huddled together, looking conspiratorial. She caught a glimpse of leaves half-hidden behind their backs and smiled. Another motley bouquet for her, full of straggling vetch and cornflowers from the Pelennor, no doubt.

Faramir thrust it forth, and the little speech of thanks she had readied caught in Finduilas' throat. Behind her she heard Meril's stricken gasp.

"Mother, what's wrong?" Boromir cried, pushing past his younger brother. "Your face is white!"

"Naught, naught, my lads – 'twas just a cough. Now come, and let me thank you properly for your lovely gift."

Reassured, the boys pressed close and presented her with their trailing burden so that their mother could admire the wild roses and frothy queen's lace. Meril made to speak, but her protest was cut off with a shake of Finduilas' head.

As soon as her sons left, Finduilas fell back on to the pillows as carefully hoarded strength drained from her. Meril gingerly picked up the bunch of flowers on the bed using only her fingertips, as though it were a mass of poisonous weeds.

"Don't throw those away, Meril," she warned. "Tomorrow Faramir and Boromir will want to see that I liked them well enough to keep."

"If you insist, my lady - but I’ll not have the things in here! They can stay in the outer room."

"Meril, don't be so harsh. They had no idea what those flowers meant; they are Minas Tirith boys, after all, not of Dol Amroth. And you and I both know no simple posy can kill – or save – me now."

Meril's eyes fell, for the friend and companion who had travelled north with her many years ago still refused to see what Finduilas perceived all too clearly: that she would never rise from this sickbed again.

And still the doggerel rhyme she had learned as a girl, warning against giving red and white blossoms together, rang in her ears.

Red, for blood shed;
white for a death night.


* * * * * * *

By Forodwaith

Author's Note: I had never heard of this particular belief before, but doing some online research I found a taboo against bunching white and red flowers together cited as one of the most widespread flower superstitions. Apparently, not so long ago, hospital staff would never allow a vase of red and white flowers to be brought onto a ward in case the death of a patient followed.

The lame rhyme is my own invention. ;-)

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: HA Writers Group

Status: General

Completion: Ongoing Serial

Era: Multi-Age

Genre: Other

Rating: General

Last Updated: 09/07/03

Original Post: 06/15/03

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