1. Words with the Wise and Weary
This is both book and movie verse, provided they didn’t contradict one another. In my bravado, I set out to write the scene Tolkien left out that tells exactly how Legolas and Gimli became “fast friends” – as many fans have. Naturally, that proved impossible since I’m not Tolkien, but the fortunate residue is a story consistent in character, even if it’s not what Tolkien himself would have written.
The Fellowship of the Ring: ‘A Journey in the Dark’
‘Well, here we are at last!’ said Gandalf. ‘Here the Elven-way from Hollin ended. Holly was the token of the people of that land, and they planted it here to mark the end of their domain; for the West-door was made chiefly for their use in their traffic with the Lords of Moria. Those were happier days, when there was still close friendship at times between folk of different race, even between Dwarves and Elves.’
‘It was not the fault of the Dwarves that the friendship waned,’ said Gimli.
‘I have not heard that it was the fault of the Elves,’ said Legolas.
‘I have heard both,’ said Gandalf; ‘and I will not give judgment now. But I beg you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends, and to help me. I need you both.’
~ Words with the Wise and Weary ~
Legolas mounted the stairs behind the messenger, his eyes on his feet despite the beauty of Lothlórien spread out on the ground below and in the trees around him. The lament for Gandalf continued, filling the air, drifting from where the Elves continued to mourn. Spiraling higher and higher toward the luminous royal talan, it seemed with each step he could see more of the splendors of the Golden Wood and could feel more harshly how it was entirely lost on him in his current state of mind.
The messenger halted at the foot of the steps that ascended to the ruling chambers, standing silently beside Legolas to await the Lord of Lórien. They did not have to wait for long.
‘Son of Thranduil,’ Celeborn greeted, gracefully descending the stairs to stand beside him, lacking all the ceremony of his previous entrance. ‘I only just sent for you. I thank you for your ready attendance.’
‘The hospitality of you and your lady deserves more than punctuality,’ said Legolas, bowing his head in respect, ‘but as I have nothing to give beyond it, it is at your command.’
Receiving a nod from the liege of the land, the messenger quickly departed down the stairs. ‘A kind sentiment,’ Celeborn said. ‘And not unlike those spoken by the man Aragorn.’ His eyes narrowed, framed by his silver hair, and Legolas instantly felt the weight of his inspection. ‘Though short of words, the hardship of your journey shone plainly on his face and in his eyes…as it shows in yours as well.’
Legolas lowered his gaze, though the comment did not surprise him; he had long assumed that the ability to read others was not solely a talent of Galadriel’s. ‘In the beauty of your land, we had lost our woes, for a time,’ he said. ‘Now, within the comforts of Caras Galadhon, they return.’
Celeborn moved to stand in front of the younger Elf, inclining his head to force eye contact. ‘While my lady Galadriel concerns herself with the necessary and weighty burdens of the Ring-bearer, I turn my attention to those of the rest of the company, and I find much of my interest falls on you,’ he said.
‘My burdens are nothing when compared to those with whom I travel and they certainly do not warrant the attention of Celeborn the Wise,’ Legolas uttered.
‘I am glad to hear you say so for it means you, at least, do not think your troubles insurmountable,’ the liege reasoned. ‘But small though they may be, your troubles do concern me. Even Celeborn the Wise may play favorites.’ He smiled warmly. ‘I have not heard your voice among the others in lament. Why do you not sing to ease your grief?’
‘My heart is not yet light enough to do so,’ Legolas explained. He did not say that it felt as though it might not be again, nor that the depth of his sorrow was a worry for him as well, for he could not best serve the quest in a body wracked with grief. But to the intense scrutiny of Celeborn he presented a light smile. ‘I do believe that before my stay here has ended, I will join in the lament.’
Celeborn lifted his head, looking down on him with a skeptical gaze. Legolas sighed faintly, knowing that his attempt at deception, half-hearted though it had been, had utterly failed.
‘That is, I hope that I will,’ he amended.
‘Thank you for that attempt at accuracy,’ Celeborn replied fondly. ‘Despite your well-stated argument that your worries and concerns are not worth my attention, I would like you to tell me why you only “hope” and do not “know.”’
‘Those who sing,’ Legolas began carefully. ‘They did not pass these last weeks in the wizard’s company. They did not see his bravery and leadership…they did not watch him fall.’ Tears burned behind Legolas’ eyes even as the lament swelled louder. ‘I do not doubt their grief; I simply do not know how to lighten my heart to join them.’
Celeborn looked upon him with a gaze that radiated compassion. Legolas could feel it all around him. ‘Time will always be the greatest healer, but it is also a notorious dawdler and there are ways to speed its affects,’ he said. ‘I would recommend you find one. The company needs you, Legolas. They need your mind and your heart on the quest and the quest alone.
‘I bid you search your memory,’ he continued. ‘In all lives that end, there lies a key for those who mourn to find joy within the pain. The answer is there and only waits to be found. And when you have, I ask you return and join in song with the others. It will do their grief good to hear you sing out yours.’
‘Your advice is sound,’ Legolas said. ‘But I do not know how to follow it.’
To his surprise, Celeborn broke into amused laughter. ‘I fear I have underestimated the insight of my Northern kin,’ he cried, ‘for I have told you nothing you did not already know! You have long since discovered the key, have you not, Legolas?’
‘I have, but I do not know what to do with it,’ Legolas answered honestly.
The Lord of Lórien chuckled softly to himself, looking upon Legolas with infinite affection. ‘I will not waste your time with more of my perspicacious understandings for I believe you know yourself quite well enough to be your own guide.’ He clamped a hand on Legolas’ shoulder. ‘Trust yourself in this matter and all others,’ he said with a smile. ‘It is a foolish Elf who would ignore the counsel of Legolas the Wise.’
Beneath the warmth and light of Celeborn’s visage, Legolas felt a genuine smile cross his features. ‘I cannot accept such a title even in jest,’ he refused kindly. ‘And certainly not tonight when Legolas the Confused seems a better fit.’
‘What has you confused, then? Perhaps those who mistakenly call themselves Wise may still be of some aid,’ Celeborn said.
Legolas hesitated. Somehow, saying his thoughts aloud, revealing to another what his grief-laden memory had brought him meant he could no longer ignore it as he had done. If he spoke of it, he forced himself to action. Unpleasant action.
‘My mind returns to words spoken at the doors of Moria,’ said Legolas finally. ‘There, Gandalf spoke of happier days when friendship existed between Dwarves and Elves.’
Long, hard days later, Legolas could still hear the disappointment in the wizard’s rumbling voice as he spoke of the end of those happier times. Unbidden, a longing awoke in his heart; how he yearned to feel happiness again.
Celeborn’s expression became serious and the gravity in his face chilled the younger Elf standing before him. ‘I begin to understand,’ he said. Then, with a sympathetic smile, he shook his head. ‘But I cannot help you. I do not recall what ended the friendship and I do not know what is needed for it to grow once again. A dwarf’s presence in these woods is a start, but if my own misjudgments are an indication, the end is still very far off.
‘I can only wish you luck, Son of Thranduil, and leave you with these words: What you feel Gandalf wished of you has not been tried for many years, perhaps not even within your lifetime. Keep that perspective, for what you begin, others may finish.’ He leveled his eyes with Legolas’. ‘If you cannot make a tree,’ he said, ‘then simply plant the seeds.’
Gimli sat in the shadow of the woods, sharpening the blade of his dwarf-axe, though it did not need it. The light from the pavilion glowed only dimly in his direction, swallowed by the silvery darkness of the trees.
The heart-aching music of the Elves continued all around him, filling his head, and he was happy the music was light, almost reverential, rather than dark and somber. He was unsure his heart could have taken it if it were otherwise. As it was he knew the full beauty of the song wasn’t reaching him; couldn’t reach him in this state of mind.
Moments later, footsteps approached, crunching in the fallen leaves, and Aragorn crouched down before him. ‘Master Gimli,’ he said, ‘you do not sit with the others. They speak of Gandalf now. It might do your sadness good to speak of happy memories.’
‘Do not trouble yourself,’ Gimli refused, his attentions focused solely on the care of his weapon. ‘You have far more pressing concerns now, Aragorn. I will return in time.’
Not heeding him, the Ranger lowered himself to the ground and leaned back, sharing the tree. ‘Though we would all wish it otherwise,’ said Aragorn, ‘it seems I am now the leader of this company. That makes all those in it – including you – my concern. I need you strong, Gimli. I need you unburdened.’
Gimli laughed hollowly. ‘I fear you ask too much,’ he said.
‘I am sure I do,’ Aragorn uttered. ‘These times are most unfair in their demands, but we must all endeavor to be…more than we are.’ He smiled faintly. ‘If you do not find solace in speaking with your fellows, will you speak with me?’
No, Gimli thought to answer. He wanted to sit quietly with his axe and let his grief and worries wash over him, or to climb another towering staircase and see the kindness of Galadriel’s eyes again, or to wander about and frighten a few Elves by the sudden appearance of a dwarf. He wanted to do many things, but he did not want to talk.
Nor did he want to callously dismiss their new leader. ‘Perhaps I should be less solitary,’ he conceded.
‘Perhaps,’ Aragorn mused, seeming uncertain. ‘Though we all knew it to be a possibility, we did not expect this. I, myself, feel as though I would like to stay years within these borders, but our task will not allow it. Time and the Enemy press on and so we must do the same. We must each of us find the quickest way to drive grief from our minds and bodies and return to the quest.’
‘I agree,’ said Gimli, ‘but my mind is a terrible companion sometimes, Aragorn. It suggests ridiculous solutions to serious problems.’
The Dwarf realized he was close to exposing the ludicrous notions that the strain of the journey and the company’s loss had put into his mind. The only path Gimli saw before him to achieve some sense of purpose and closure was an unpleasant one. He did not want to journey down it. In fact, at that exact moment, he would have rather walked blindfolded and naked into Mordor.
‘And like us all, I do not suppose yours is such that merely wishing to reach the solution is enough?’ Aragorn chuckled.
‘No, the thought is not what counts, unfortunately,’ Gimli replied, ‘though perhaps that is in my favor, for I do not wish to do it at all. If my thoughts counted, I might be facing a very difficult task, indeed.’ He feigned a bit of laughter for the sake of Aragorn.
‘It has seemed to me that our actions alone speak for us on this journey,’ the swordsman said. ‘I would not imagine your personal quest to be any different.’
‘This place has an odd affect on a dwarf, I think,’ Gimli said, his eyes drifting to their ethereal surroundings. ‘It has me thinking that the Lady of this land was not what I had expected and so others might be as well.’
‘By your musings, I would guess your mind dwells upon Gandalf’s words at Moria,’ Aragorn said.
‘Indeed, it does,’ said Gimli, shocked, ‘but I am surprised you remember. It was such an idle comment and addressed only to the Elf and I.’
‘No words of Gandalf were idle and those to whom he speaks remember what he says, if they have sense,’ Aragorn explained, ‘as I know both you and Legolas do.
‘I can tell you how it is to be among the Elves,’ he continued with a sigh that seemed to press upon Gimli’s heart, ‘but it would likely be useless for I imagine being a dwarf among Elves is something quite different. I am uncertain how to lead this company and if that succeeds, how to lead the race of Men, so I cannot begin to know how to repair the divide between your two peoples.’
With his every word, Gimli felt as though another parcel were being added to his pack, weighing him down. ‘I can only say this, Gimli: It is in both of you to heal a great rift, but know that we all of us strive for an end we may never see.’