Arwen's hair fell to her waist and hung over the edge of the talan they sat on. Smooth waves in it reflected the starlight like ripples on a black pool, and the very ends of it, floating on the night breeze, brushed his arms and raised gooseflesh on his skin.
More than anything else, that sight persuaded him that what had happened had been real; for among the Elves, only close family or acknowledged lovers saw each other with unbound hair. He ran his hands tentatively through the dense silken mass, once, twice, three times. Arwen sighed with pleasure and leaned back against him.
"Now you must bind it again, for luck."
"But I can't put it back the way it was!" Aragorn protested. He hadn't even paused to count the innumerable tiny braids in the intricate arrangement he had so eagerly loosened.
Arwen laughed, low and sweet. "A single plait will suffice. Surely you can do that, Ranger of the North? I have seen your own hair arranged so."
Aragorn took up her silver comb and divided the shining flow into three heavy strands. Weaving them around each other he produced a simple braid as thick as his wrist, and tied it off with a bit of ribbon discarded from Arwen's earlier, more elaborate style.
"Now for my turn," Arwen said, and swung her feet lightly back on to the talan. Kneeling behind him, she undid the leather thong holding Aragorn's hair back and began combing it out. It was longer than she had ever seen, for he had been journeying in the far southlands where men wore their hair in horsetail queues.
Gathering it up in her hands, she began fashioning small braids at each temple. Aragorn could hear her singing in a murmur, a low buzz of sound that teased him with half-understood words. Her warm breath brushed his ear and he shivered.
"What are you singing?"
Her fingers went on deftly interweaving the two braids at the back of his head. "Something my mother used to sing as she braided my father's hair."
"A love charm?" he teased her.
She gave the braids a sharp, indignant tug. "Yes! But not as Men would have it; not a spell to force liking or love where none will come naturally. It is… a request for protection for the loved one."
"Will you sing aloud, so that I can hear?"
After a moment, her voice went on, now clear enough for Aragorn to make out the Quenya words she sang.
"Three make thy self,
Spirit, body, and heart;
These three I bless now
As I braid thy hair.
"An eye sees thee
A mouth speaks thee
A heart loves thee.
These three protect thee
Wherever thou shalt travel."
* * *
The east wind blew cold that day, even in the sheltered vale of Imladris. It stirred the heavy drapes at the window, and Arwen shivered despite the bright fire in the grate.
Aragorn sat before her on a low stool as she combed his hair. "Do you remember the first time I did this for you?"
"Vividly." She could feel the rumble of his voice through his chest against her legs.
As she twisted his hair into a neat clubbed braid – no intricate weave this time – Arwen began singing, half under her breath.
"An eye sees thee
A mouth speaks thee
A heart loves thee."
All too soon, it seemed, the braid was done and tied off neatly with a bit of leather.
"It is time to go," she said softly, and bent to kiss the crown of his head, her hands resting on his shoulders. Aragorn covered them with his own, and remained seated for a long moment, staring into the fire. Then he swiftly stood, turned, and gripped her in his arms.
Lips clung and hands clutched tightly. Time passed unheeded, until the voices of others gathering in the great hall below broke into their awareness.
"Farewell, love," Aragorn murmured against Arwen's ear, and released her. The neat braid was now somewhat disordered, and he ruefully brushed hair out of his eyes.
"The binding remains, even if the braid is loosened," Arwen said, tucking strands back in here and there. She laid one hand against his cheek. "My thoughts and my heart go with you, Estel, as they always have. Farewell."
Aragorn kissed her once more, took up his cloak, and left the room without looking back. The sound of his footsteps faded as he descended the stairs to the Hall of Fire below. Arwen took a deep breath, smoothed her hands down her skirts, and followed him down to stand by her father and bid a public farewell to the departing companions.
In deepening grey shadow, the Nine Walkers set out at last. Pools of warm lamplight flowed from the windows of the House, limning dim shapes in the darkness without. From an upper window, Arwen watched the Fellowship turn away from Imladris and fade silently into the dusk.
* * * * * * *
Obviously, this is book-verse, from both the timing of the Fellowship's departure (early evening) and the hair style. Movie-Aragorn looks as if he hadn't had a comb anywhere near his head for quite some time. :-)
All of the customs alluded to are my own bits of fannish invention, not canon. But I'd say you could definitely make a case for Elves having a bit of a hair fetish from Tolkien's comments in the essay "The Shibboleth of Fëanor," from The Peoples of Middle-Earth: “All the Eldar had beautiful hair (and were especially attracted by hair of exceptional loveliness).”
The incantation Arwen sings is based very loosely on an old Celtic "charm of the threads." These were associated with healing powers and often used by weavers.
The last sentence is nearly a straight quotation from Tolkien (LoTR, Bk 2 Ch 3).
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.