2. Dwarves and Elves
Legolas wandered through the trees, trailing his fingertips along the bark of each as he passed, taking comfort in the familiar sensation. Though headed in the general direction of the pavilion, he had to confess, at least to himself, that he was talking the long way there.
Celeborn’s words, though they had helped him, had also brought more sharply into focus what it was he thought to do: befriend the Dwarves. That is what Gandalf had asked of him. Be friends with the Dwarf.
He knew just what Dwarves were like and it was not what he desired in a friend. They were loud, greedy, stubborn, ugly – everything Elves were not. And more importantly, he knew exactly what they thought of Elves. They thought Elves to be unfeeling, unfriendly, lacking in skill and power simply because they chose not to root through the earth searching for riches.
Why dig for beauty when it was so easily found in the trees and the stars and the water? Legolas wondered. The land above was full of more loveliness than he could appreciate in his immortal lifetime, so why did the Dwarves need to cleave into the heart of the earth to find more?
Legolas supposed that it was the serenity born of immortality that Dwarves misinterpreted as unfeeling and unfriendly, for he knew well that his kin were neither. That the Dwarves could not see that was baffling. They must be hard of sight, he decided, for they could not see beauty or kindness when it simply stood before them. No, they felt they must dig to find treasures worth finding.
The familiar heat of irritation slicked through Legolas’ limbs like oil. In every way, the company Dwarf, Gimli, son of Glóin, had perfectly represented his race. He was stubborn, Legolas had observed, and in the cursed Mines of Moria, he had seen beauty.
And yet, Legolas forced himself to admit, he had also seen beauty in Lady Galadriel and in that the Elf could not fault him. More amazing still was that that wondrous lady seemed to have seen beauty in the Dwarf as well. Though it made his mind feel dizzy, full of clouds, he had to acknowledge the possibility that the Dwarf might not be entirely without merit, despite being a Dwarf.
But, for all its daunting implications, making peace with Gimli was the easiest task before him. It was evidently only a start.
His mind replayed over and over again Celeborn’s parting words and each seemed to knock the wind from his lungs. Is that truly what Gandalf had asked of him? Had he misinterpreted the wizard’s words? he wondered.
And yet, somehow it was fitting: as long as they remained at the Ring-bearer’s side, they bore the hope and fate of Middle-earth with every step. Gandalf had made clear the necessity of unifying all the free peoples and within that the Elves and Dwarves were the most divided. It simply made sense that that is what he would ask.
Legolas quickly decided it was a far wiser – or more foolish – Elf than he who would question the thoughts and words of Gandalf, Galadriel and Celeborn all three. His shoulders squared and his body strengthened with new resolve, he turned in the direction of the pavilion where his companions rested.
He had been there only hours ago to have an uncomfortable and strained visit over a meal. Their memories thick with thoughts of the wizard, they had spoken of everything but.
He heard voices now, coming from the pavilion, low and sad, but voices nonetheless. He paused at the top of the stairs, listening. ‘Do you remember the first time we saw his fireworks, Pip?’ Merry asked softly.
Legolas peered down to see little Pippin huddled amongst the other hobbits, his head resting mournfully on Merry’s shoulder. He could only nod in reply, the tears lining his eyes catching in the silver lamplight. He, too, Legolas noted, could not yet trust his voice to release his grief.
Silently, the Elf stepped down into the clearing, receiving a nod of greeting from Aragorn, their weary new leader. His leonine face looked drawn and worn. The burden he bore was no less than the grief he felt and Legolas worried for him. But he was not why he had come.
Far on the other side of the trickling fountain, Gimli sat hunched over, looking not unlike the hulking rocks his people worshipped. Though Legolas could not believe it, he appeared to be sleeping.
Gimli listened dimly to the talk of his companions. Their voices drifted about in his mind, heard, but unacknowledged as the young hobbits recalled their fondest memories of Gandalf the Grey. He closed his eyes, wanting sleep to put distance between himself and this unhappy day, but he could not. Another unhappy day awaited him tomorrow and so peace and rest hid far away.
As Aragorn had wanted, he had shared his own stories and those his father had told him. Frodo had helped him tell the story of when his kinsman Bilbo had traveled with Gimli’s father, Glóin, and the other Dwarves under Thorin’s command on a quest of their own through, among other places, the spider-infested forest of Mirkwood.
The humor and innocence of Gandalf’s involvement in the tale seemed somehow darkened by the knowledge that it was that seemingly trifling journey that had eventually brought all eight of them to this terrible moment.
Gimli felt thick with sadness and talking had done little good. Grumbling quietly to himself, he realized that it had actually made it worse because Aragorn’s grave words had punctuated just how ridiculous his thoughts truly were.
It was these enchanted woods, he was certain, or the unexpected kindness of Lady Galadriel that played with his reason. He felt as though a bridge had given way beneath his feet: Gandalf was gone, the fellowship was losing heart and now Elves were being nice. It was too much for a grief-stricken Dwarf to handle, so now his mind entertained unreasonable ideas like Dwarves befriending Elves.
He understood Elves perfectly; he knew what they were. They were all of them – with the exception of the magnanimous Lady Galadriel – self-important, stubborn, unfriendly know-it-alls. They thought that their immortality made them wiser than every being in Middle-earth and therefore they would talk incessantly, giving advice that no one wanted or could follow. And Gimli knew what they thought of Dwarves, too. Oh, yes, he knew that very well. They thought them unkind, unintelligent, greedy and ugly.
Unkind? Perhaps only when responding to an aloof and arrogant Elf.
Unintelligent? The assumption made Gimli bristle all over. Dwarves may not live forever, but they live for a long time and they do not wander blindly through life. He knew of many Dwarves with wisdom and knowledge far surpassing that of any snobbish Elf – except Lady Galadriel, of course.
Greedy? Naturally – and well they should be! What was so unreasonable about wanting to keep a beautiful thing once found and wanting more besides?
Ugly? Against that perception only could Gimli not passionately argue; Dwarves were not a fair race, he knew, and certainly not when compared to the Elves. Even as he likened Galadriel to the brightest, loveliest star in the heavens, he had to acknowledge that, even for all their cold and distance, the other stars were pretty, too. It was nature’s way, he supposed: gold and silver were trapped deep within stone – and physical beauty was squandered on the Elves. If only the Dwarves could devise a way to harvest that wasted radiance as they had for the mithril buried far underground.
The now familiar bitterness of anger rose in his throat. In all ways his recent traveling companion, Legolas, son of Thranduil, was an Elf. He had that same stubbornness, that same haughty and dismissive nature as the rest of his race.
Then again, he had traveled days through Moria and had not once mocked Dwarven architecture or culture. That did not mean, of course, that he had properly admired it, but he had held his tongue and though Gimli felt dizzy trying to comprehend it, that meant the Elf might not be entirely without value, despite being an Elf.
Still, he realized that being able to admit such things was so small an accomplishment as to be nearly invisible. Reaching a peaceful understanding with Legolas was the smallest task before him.
Aragorn’s words seemed to echo hollowly in the back of his mind no matter how much he tried to silence them. Had Gandalf’s request really been so large? Gimli wondered, but somehow it was painfully reasonable. He represented not only himself on this quest, but the race of Dwarves, just as Legolas was the emissary of the Elves. It simply made sense that such a task would be set before them.
More importantly, the kindness in Lady Galadriel’s eyes had entirely inundated his soul. She would think highly, he felt certain, of a peace between Dwarves and Elves. She would want him to try and he knew he could never deny the wish of a lady so beautiful and so kind.
Breathing in deeply the scented air of the Golden Wood, Gimli made up his mind. He had just resolved to go find the company Elf when he felt a light tap upon his shoulder.
I don’t have Legolas refer to Gandalf by his elvish name of Mithrandir for the sake of convenience. Plus, since most of us know him under the name of Gandalf, I feel scenes have more impact when he is referred to as such.
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