1. The Laughing Vala
It is a common misconception that Tulkas always laughs because he is happy. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that his laugh is rather like a nervous tic – every Vala has one, although few are so harmless as the laughter of Tulkas Astaldo.
For example, Vairë’s tendency to chew her hair has ended in near-catastrophe for many of the inhabitants of Arda because, on rare occasions, she has been known to accidentally gnaw on the very threads of fate she weaves. There is a rather threadbare tapestry hanging in her husband’s halls upon which there are clear tooth marks. This, incidentally, is the tapestry upon which the lives of the Elves of Greenwood the Great were woven. One morning, the unfortunate Sindar and Silvan Elves woke up and found that their beautiful forest had been pitched into darkness and taken over by rather large arachnids. It was at this juncture that Thranduil decided that that old snob Thingol may have had a point about living underground in the First Age and he immediately brought in the contractors to build a new royal dwelling. (Incidentally, this sudden plague of spiders is the true reason that Thranduil’s wife left Middle earth, but that is a story for another time.)
In truth, not even this debacle could touch Aulë’s more destructive streak. The great Smith of the Valar has an unfortunate propensity to lash out spontaneously with his hammer, through no intention of his own. It is simply a rather emphatic physical twitch and rather explains the short stature of the Dwarves. Aulë intended them all to be strapping six-footers but, alas, a series of spasms in his right arm resulted in all seven Dwarves being rather compressed in size. It is fortunate that Ilúvatar imbued the people of Dúrin with a sense of self-will before the second spasm hit; otherwise the Dwarves would have been entirely destroyed.
But back to the point in question: Tulkas’ perpetual outpourings of mirth. It is difficult to say when he began to laugh so much. Indeed, none of the other Ainur can remember him being quite so jocular during their stirring final performance of the Ainulindalë although Yavanna claims that she can recall a strange high-pitched giggle at one point. Her proof lies in the existence of the duck-billed platypus, the creation of which she, to this day, denies any knowledge. It has become something of an in-joke amongst the other Valar every time they happen upon any peculiar natural phenomena.
“Hobbits, you say? Ah, they must have come about when Tulkas chuckled during the final movement.”
“Trolls turning into stone in the sunlight? Oh, that’s because Tulkas smirked during Yavanna’s solo, indubitably.”
(This last rather strange occurrence is actually believed to be the result of a marital spat between Aulë and Yavanna who tended not to see eye to eye with regards to their respective professions.)
My own opinion, to which I alluded earlier and which is formed by careful study of the Vala in question, is that Tulkas laughs out of sheer nervousness. When he arrived in Arda, he was rather like the new child in school, afraid that he would not fit in. Therefore, he has always assumed a jovial disposition. Most of the Valar do not greatly mind; indeed, they find it rather endearing; although Melkor probably begs to differ. From the Void, he has been heard to claim that, had he not been put off by the sound of giggling during their wrestling match, he could easily have beaten Tulkas. In truth, it is commonly believed that Melkor is bitter because he was not granted a “best of three” scenario.
Tulkas has never been a deep thinker. His presence in the Councils of the Valar is a courtesy more than a necessity as he seldom brings any wisdom to such assemblies. However, Ulmo has insisted upon his being there because it is known that Tulkas will laugh at the rather poor jokes so often spouted by the Lord of the Waters.
He is loved by the other Valar although Oromë is rather less than patient with him on occasion. It seems that, whenever Tulkas accompanies Oromë on a hunt, he has the unfortunate tendency to explode with laughter at some vital moment, usually when the intended quarry is within shot. Even now, Oromë is grateful that Tulkas did not join him on the excursion to Middle earth which resulted in the discovery of the Eldar. The Huntsman of the Valar maintains that, had Tulkas been present, they would not have seen Ingwë for the dust at his fleeing feet.
No one has more patience with Tulkas than his doting wife Nessa, who has never once flinched at the sound of her husband’s laughter. She will tell any listener that it is simply a part of him, just as the perpetual sound of birdsong and the sprouting of foliage in peculiar places is a part of Vána the Ever Young. Indeed, Nessa may have a point when she delicately mentions that a little laughter is rather less uncomfortable than the sudden realisation that flowers appear to have taken root in every orifice.
In Nessa’s company, Tulkas laughs less; not because he is any less happy but rather because he feels comfortable with her. She places no demands on him to be overly cheerful and, in the evening, when they pour over the Aman Report crossword together, a small smile on Tulkas’ face conveys what endless laughter does not: utter contentment with his lot.
(1) My Oromë is, as always, inspired by Mouse’s rather wonderful Oromë and we have Chelsey to thank for Vána.
(2) The Aman Report mention is especially for Rose Red, Danielle and Chelsey. Of course.
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.