because they have all the time in the world
The Passing of the Grey Company.
"So four of the Company still remain," said Aragorn. Merry, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli.
"And then whither?" said Legolas?
"I cannot say...the King will go to the muster at Edoras...but for myself and any that will go with me..."
"I for one!" cried Legolas.
"And Gimli with him!" said the Dwarf.
And so they ride on the road that will take them, and the Dunedain of the North that they soon meet, through the Paths of the Dead. Legolas and Gimli do not abandon their friend, their leader, their king.
At their camp at Helm's Deep, Legolas and Gimli rouse Merry from sleep with "The Sun is high, all others are up and doing. Come Master Sluggard, and look at this place while you may!" The cheeful chiding of friends, rather like a group of teenage boys calling each other rude names.
They are discussing the arrival of the Dunadain of the North, Aragorn's kin, and of Elladan and Elrohir, and how it was Galadriel reading many hearts and desires who sent them.
"Why did we not wish for some of our own kinfolk, Legolas." asks Gimli.
'Legolas stood before the gate and turned his bright eyes away north and east, and his fair face was troubled. "I do not think that any would come. They have no need to ride to war; war already marches on their own lands."
Nothing is said of what happens outside the circle of the nine members of the Fellowship. Undoubtedly Mirkwood is overun, and Thranduil has his own battles to fight. Does he miss his son? Does he wonder if he yet lives? Does Legolas question his descision to fight for strangers in a far land? Does he fear for his own folk back home? This is the closest we come to knowing.
'Together they went back into the Burg; yet for sometime Aragorn sat silent at the table in the hall, and the others waited for him to speak.'
"Come!" said Legolas at last. "Speak and be comforted, and shake off the shadow! What has happened since we came back to this grim place in the grey morning?" He speaks like a poet, and not only notices the beauty of places he encounters on his journey, but spirit dampening greyness of others.
Aragorn often seems as grim and burdened as Frodo. The other Rangers of the North are also described as grim and weathered men, though fair of speech. Legolas maintains a different perspective, an Elvish one. Maybe it is the long distance vision of Hawk; this too shall pass. Or maybe it is the be-here-nowness of any natural creature; we''ll burn that bridge when we get to it. He is empathic and feels the emotions of those around him, but he is lighter, brighter, a hopeful shaft of light breaking through the clouds of doom.
'There under the gloom of black trees that not even Legolas could long endure they found a hollow place opening at the mountain's root...fear flowed from it like a grey vapour.' Like Moria, this is a place alien to the Elf, and it is also a dark and corrupted place, not a healthy living ecosystem. 'The company halted, and there was not a heart among them that did not quail, unless it were the heart of Legolas of the Elves, for whom the ghosts of Men have no terror.'
Somehow Tolkien forgot to mention Elladan and Elrohir, who are also Elves, the sons of Elrond half-Elven (who chose the Elven path) and Galadriel's daughter Celebrian. '...they live at once in both worlds, and against the Seen and Unseen, they have great power.' There are many evil things in Middle-earth, from ghosts to Ringwraiths whose main power is in fear, not physical force. Elves, with their keen, bright eyes, seem to be able to see through this psychic deception.
Words that went soft in the gloom.
The Dunedain and their horses follow Aragorn through the Door of the Dead; 'the love that the horses of the Rangers bore for their riders was so greathat they were willing to face even the terror of the Door , if their masters' hearts were steady...'
'But Arod, the horse of Rohan, refused the way, and he stood sweating and trembling in a fear that was grevious to see. Then Legolas laid his hands on his eyes and sang some words that went soft in the gloom, until he suffered himself to be led...'
My other ulitmately favorite line in the entire Book. And the one thing I wish had not been left out of the film. It echoes with the horse-whisperer legends of Europe; horse-tamers who could do magic with wild and unmanageable horses. It shows that incredibly gentle and poetic side of Legolas' nature, the part that's tuned into all things living. It is the quality I most admire about him, and the one I most wish I had. It is something that is far more appealing in a male than huge muscles and testosterone-laden swagger.
"Here is a thing unheard of, an Elf will go underground and a Dwarf dare not"...Nothing assailed the Company nor withstood their passage, and yet steadily fear grew on the Dwarf...
Aragorn is in the front with a torch, and Elladan in the rear with another...and then a chill blast comes and the torches go out, and cannot be rekindled...it seems a lifetime to Gimli till they come out under the sky again. There he reunites with Legolas, though I always wondered how Legolas loses him in the dark of the Paths of the Dead. Perhaps it didn't occur to the Elf how terrifying the passage would be to the Dwarf, after all, Gimli is at home underground in a way no Elf would ever be. Perhaps Gimli's own fear was never voiced, his terror was all internal, and either because it was so overwhelming, or because he wanted to maintain some last shred of Dwarvish dignity, he never called out for help. At any rate, it is his eyes we see the terror of the passage through; the only one who truly was terrorized. The others were Rangers following the lead of their lord, Elrond's sons, who had the fearlessness of Elves when it came to the ghosts of Men, and Legolas.
At last they are riding again upon Arod: 'Legolas turning to speak to Gimli looked back and the Dwarf saw before his face the glitter of the Elf's bright eyes..."The Dead are following, I see shapes of Men and of horses, and pale banners like shreds of cloud, and spears like winter thickets on a misty night. The Dead are following."
bright eyes sometimes seem to glow with a light of their own, an
inner light, the echo of the light of the Two Trees at the dawn of
time. With the light of Elbereth's stars. And they can see things Men
cannot. Things faraway in space or time, things which have no form.
'It seemed to those who stood near that they heard a sound of
answering horns, as if it was an echo in deep caves far away...they
were aware of a great host gathered all about the hill...a voice was
heard out of the night that answered...as if from far away...' It may
be that the Men with Aragorn can't see the Army of the Dead, they
feel them, hear faint whispers of voice and horn and footfall, but
Legolas does see them, as he sees many things Men do not. And when he
describes them to Gimli, he speaks in poetry, in words that might
come from a song; a'nd pale banners like shreds of cloud, and spears
like winter thickets on a misty night.'
Pirates of the Anduin.
Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli pass out of all knowledge for nearly sixty pages of The Book. When we next see them, they are leaping off the black corsairs into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. What happened in between is related later, in the Houses of Healing (at the beginning of "The Last Debate" chapter), to the Hobbits as a flashback:
"The Sun may shine here, but there are memories of that road that I do not wish to recall out of the darkness. Gimli tells Merry. Gimli Gloin's son, who had deemed himself more tough than Men and hardier under earth than any Elf...was held to the road only by the will of Aragorn."
"And by the love of him also, for all those who know him, come to love him after his own fashion, even the cold maiden of the Rohirrim." Both show their admiration for Aragorn, though Gimli seems to esteem the strength of Aragorn's will and Legolas sees a broader picture, one that contains love, brotherly, or in the case of Eowyn, otherwise. He has also noticed the feelings of Eowyn for Aragorn; "there was grief at that parting, and I was grieved to behold it." He seems again to be deeply empathic, feeling Eowyn's grief intensely.
Now there wuld have been an interesting love triangle. Watching the film I find myself wanting to shout at Eowyn the Extremely Dense, "Dude, the blond guy's single!, and he'll still look good in fifty years..."
Swiftly Legolas tells of the haunted road under the mountains, the dark tryst at the Stone of Erech, and the long ride to Linhir above the mouth of Gilrain, where a battle is fought at the fords with fell folk of Umbar and Harad, then on across the green fields of Lebennin to Pelargir. He pauses and sighs, and turns his eyes south, and sings softly:
"Silver flow the streams from Celos to Erui
In the green fields of Lebennin!
Tall grows the grass there. In the wind from the Sea
The white lilies sway,
And the golden bells are shaken of mallos and alfirin
In the green fields of Lebennin,
In the wind from the sea!"
"Green are those fields in the songs of my people; but they were dark then, grey wastes in the blackness before us. And over the wide land, trampling unheeded the grass and the flowers, we hunted out foes through a day and a night, until we came at the bitter end to the Great River at last." No other folk make such a trampling, he had said as he followed the swath of destruction left by the orcs across the wide plains of Rohan. Now he is part of an army that, in its need for speed, wreaks havoc in its wake. He rides across a place he has only heard of in song; a sacred place, a beautiful place full of life, threatened by the Dark. He is ready to die trying to save it and the rest of the living land he loves. There is sadness and longing in his voice as he sings the Lebennin song for his friends, longing for the war to be over, sadness for the havoc wreaked on such beauty. Longing to hang up bow and quiver and knife and stand knee-deep in the grass watching the birds and listening to the song of the wind.
And he has finally understood the words of Galadriel: he has heard the distant wail of the gulls in the dark. It has awakened the call of the Valar that lies buried deep in the hearts of all his kindred; the Sea-longing. He is changed. Something that normally happens to Elves only slowly, if at all. Changed. He will never be able to go home again. "Your heart will then dwell in the forest no more!"
"Look! Gulls! They are flying far inland. A wonder they are to me and a trouble to my heart. Never in all my life had I met them, until we came to Pelargir, and there I heard them crying in the air as we rode to the battle of the ships. Then I stood still, forgetting war in Middle-earth; for their wailing voices spoke to me of the Sea. The Sea! Alas! I have not yet beheld it. But deep in the hearts of all my kindred lies the Sea-longing, which it is perilous to stir. Alas! for the gulls. No peace shall I have again under beech or under elm."
The war is not yet won. He still must ride to possible death and destruction for a world he now realizes is no longer his. He might have turned around right then, on the road to Pelargir, turned and ridden to the Havens, and taken ship, like so many others. But he does not. His heart is torn in two; he hears the Call, but he will not abandon his friends. He could not live the rest of eternity with that.
The Sea-longing is one of those things that resonated with me, like the rumble in the sand as the tsunami approaches, when I first read The Book. It is a place I had seen; in books, on tv, but never been to till I was twelve; I came up over the Last Sand Dune At the Edge of the Knowne Worlde and stood in awe for a heartbeat, for forever. It roared, it breathed, it danced, it sang. I wanted to be part of it. I have plunged deeper into meditation on the Sea-longing in another essay, but here I will say this much...
"Look! Gulls! They are flying far inland. A wonder they are to me and a trouble to my heart." Since I read those lines in RotK, gulls have become, for me, the spirit of the Sea-longing, of wind and wave and mysterious depths. Of far horizons and dreams yet unreached. Of quests both physical and spiritual. And every year after, I have made my own Hero Journey to the edge of the Knowne Worlde; a circle of sand and sea and sky called Assateague Island, on the coast of Virginia, USA. It is the Undying Lands; nothing matters here, on this Lonely Isle but the eternal cycles of Nature. Wind and tide and sun and desert sand moved by tide and wind; the Barrier Island rolling over itself, renewing itself, ever young, ever changing, ever the same.
Water and the Sea, are potent archetypal images. Water hides. Water reveals. It can draw you down, or hold you up, depending on how you react to it. It can save you, or destroy you. You can't fight it, you must go with its energy. Someone, Bruce Lee, I think, said "water is the strongest stuff on earth". The Sea is an end, and a beginning. A circle. Inside it you are in the center of a perfect sphere of water, with seven directions, not just four (north, south, east, west, up, down, center).
In Middle-earth, water destroys Evil; the corrupted Atalante (Numenor), the horsed Nazgul. In Middle-earth (as in many Primary World legends) Evil fears to cross water, especially moving water. And Nenya, the Ring of Water, holds great power of healing and protection. Things are revealed in Galadriel's mirror of water. The mighty River Anduin carries the Fellowship to safety, and carries the fleet of Corsairs, led by Aragorn, to the aid of Minas Tirith. The Argonath, and the narrow chasm after it, ("the black waters roared and echoed") are a gateway, guarded by the forces of water, into an ancient kingdom, and to Aragorn's future. Boromir has a "viking burial", laid to rest on the bosom of the Anduin, and the River carries him home to his kin. Merry and Pippin are healed and refreshed by entdraughts. Isengard is cleansed by water. Faramir's Henneth Annun is hidden and protected by water. And in the Paths of the Dead, Gimli's dread is broken by a "tinkle of water, a sound hard and clear as a stone falling into a dream of dark shadow". The Watcher in the Water at the gates of Moria is the archetypal Monster in the Depths, one of the few places in Middle-earth where water becomes ominous.
Then again, the Ring was lost, and found, in water.
Here in southcentral Pennsylvania, we are at the end of the long Susquehanna River, which starts somewhere in New York as a trickle, and winds down to the Chesapeake Bay, and then to the Sea. To the Sea! As on the Anduin, gulls come up the Bay, and the River, and in winter and early spring, hang out at the malls, looking for leftover Happy Meals, or whatever else they can glean from civilization. Not very romantic, perhaps, but definitely a survival skill. Most people see them, I guess, as noisy raucous sea-crows, rats of the air. Not me. Not any more.
Well, then there's those gulls in Finding Nemo: mine, mine, minemineminemine!
Birds that sing and trees that do not die.
There is a wonderful moment as Legolas and Gimli enter Minas Tirith for the first time, before they meet the Hobbits in the Houses of Healing. Gimli stalks through the gates stroking his beard, staring about him and remarking on the design and stonework of the city: There is some good stonework here, but also some that is less good, and the streets could be contrived better...when Aragorn comes into his own, I shall offer him the service of stonewrights of the Mountain, and we will make this a town to be proud of.
Legolas, by contrast, walks lightly, 'fair of face beyond the measure of Men,' singing an elven-song in a clear voice, joyfully in the moment, though war yet looms. He looks around at the ancient city and says: "They need more gardens. The houses are dead and there is too little here that grows and is glad. If Aragorn comes into his own, the people of the Wood shall bring him birds that sing and trees that do not die." Another favorite line of mine: too little here that grows and is glad... birds that sing and trees that do not die. While Gimli sees the crumbling stonework, Legolas sees the lack of life, one seeing the physical part of the city, the other the spiritual energy. Note that Gimli says "when" Aragorn comes into his own, and Legolas says "if". It may be a typo, or it may say something about how Dwarves and Elves see things: go not to the Elves for council, for they will say both yes and no. Legolas may be able to see farther than Men, but he will not make absolute claims about the future, even the future of Aragorn.
There is another little goodie here, an exchange between Elf and Dwarf which shows their differing viewpoints:
Gimli: And doubtless the good stonework is the older and was wrought in the first building. It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.
Legolas: Yet seldom do they fail of their seed. And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked for.
The voice of hope, of light, of optimism.
Dory, awash in the whale's mouth, Finding Nemo: I think it's half full...
The end of all things.
'At last the trumpets rang and the army began to move...' Legolas and Gimli ride again together in the company of Aragorn and Gandalf to the Black Gates of Mordor. 'The last glint of the morning sun on spear and helm twinkled and was lost...' and Legolas rides out of the tale, for the most part, for now the action centers on the Hobbits and the World of Men. The Third Age is drawing to a close, Legolas has heard the call, and the Elves will, if any are left in Middle-earth, return to the Blessed Realm across the sea.
There is the Battle Before the Gates, and Legolas and Gimli are lost in the melee.The Book turns to Frodo and Sam, and the end of their quest.
Only on the Field of Cormallen do we see Elf and Dwarf once more. They rejoin their friends, all four Hobbits now, and all tell their own parts of the tale. Gimli has a few lines here, but in The Book, if Legolas says anything, it is not reported. Perhaps he is silent. Perhaps his mind is elsewhere, already taking wing under great sails heading west.
But at last he does speak, as the friends depart for bed and rest:
On the gwaith-i-phethdain site on elvish.org, Ryszard Derdzinski translated Tolkien's words into Legolas' Sindarin tongue: Pent Legolas: "Ar im padathon vi eryn en-dor vain hen i na idh far. Ned orath i telithar, ae hir nin Edhellen devitha, pin o gwaith vin anglennatha simen; ar ir telitham natha dor hin i alu, dan na lu thent. Na lu thent: ahad, cuil, haran inath in Edain. Dan Anduin nef, ar Anduin tog dadbenn na 'Aear. Na 'Aear!
"And I," said Legolas, "shall walk in the woods of this fair land, which is rest enough. In days to come, if my Elven-lord allows, some of our folk shall remove hither: and when we come it shall be blessed, for awhile. For awhile: a month, a life, a hundred years of Men. But Anduin is near, and Anduin leads down to the Sea. To the Sea!"
to the sea, to the sea, the white gulls are crying
na aear, na aear, myl lain nallol
the wind is blowing, the white foam is flying
i sul ribiel, a i falf los reviol
west, west away, the round sun is falling
na annun hae, ias annor dannol
grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling
cair vith, cair vith, lastal hain canel
the voices of my people, who have gone on before me
lammath in-gwaithen, i gwennin no nin
I will leave, I will leave, the forests that bore me
gwannathon, gwannathon, taur i onnant nin
for our days are ending, our years failing
an midui orath vin, a dennin inath vin
I will pass the wide waters' lonely sailing
trevidithon aear land erui ciriel
long are the waves on the last shore falling
falvath enain bo mathedfalas dannol
sweet are the voices in the Lost Isle calling
lammath vilui vi Tol Gwannen cannen
in Eressea, which no Man can discover
vi Tol Ereb i Edain u-gennir
where the leaves fall not, land of my people forever
ias lais u-dhannar, dor en-gwaith nin an-uir
(Sindarin translation by Ryszard Derdzinski
There is one last mention of Elf and Dwarf, in "Many Partings" nearly twenty pages later; 'Then Legolas repaid his promise to Gimli and went with him to the Glittering Caves; and when they returned he was silent, and would say only that Gimli alone could find fit words to speak of them. "And never before has a Dwarf claimed a victory over an Elf in a contest of words," said he. "Now therefore let us go to Fangorn and set the score right!" Perhaps it was Elvish courtesy, perhaps it seemed more right for a Dwarf to speak of the caves. Perhaps it would have seemed rude for an Elf to outshine a Dwarf in such a circumstance, so Legolas held his eloquent tongue.. Or perhaps Legolas still didn't like the caves very much, and would rather say nothing than say anything that might hurt his friend's feelings. Or maybe he was right, and only a Dwarf could find adequate words.
They meet with Treebeard at Orthanc, and from there 'all save Legolas said that they must now take their leave..."Come Gimli, now by Fangorn's leaveI will visit the deep places of the Entwood and see such trees as are nowhere else to be found in Middle-earth. You shall come with me and keep your word; and thus we will journey on together to our own lands in Mirkwood and beyond."
'To this Gimli agreed, though with no great delight, it seemed.' ("Darn tree-hugging hippie elves," grumbled Gimli.) Tolkien makes a comment in a letter, or an essay, or a bio, somewhere, that he left room in Middle-earth for other hands wielding brush and pen. To fill in the corners, rather like Hobbits at the end of a feast. For as long as I have lived, (as long as The Book has existed) artists and writers have done just that. If you log onto only one of many fanfiction sites (www.fanfiction.net) you will find over a thousand current tales set in Middle-earth, a number of them about Elf and Dwarf. As Legolas and Gimli ride off into the sunset, there are plenty of tales left to tell about them...
"Here then at last comes the ending of the Fellowship of the Ring," said Aragorn. Indeed, it is. The Hobbits will return home, and Frodo and Bilbo...and one day, it is said, Sam...will sail west on a grey-elvenship. Aragorn is the once and future king, and Legolas and Gimli will bring stonemasons and birds that sing and trees that do not die and help rebuild Minas Tirith.. Legolas brings some of his own folk from Mirkwood and settles in Ithilien, alongside Faramir and Eowyn who also dwell there. Much of this is not learned within the pages of The Book, but from the other works of Tolkien, and his scholars.
There is one last note in The Book though, one last echo of this Great Adventure we have shared in; at the end of Appendix B, sad and joyful and wonderful: 1541 In this year on March 1st came at last the Passing of King Elessar. It is said that the beds of Meriadoc and Peregrin were set beside the great king. Then Legolas built a grey ship in Ithilien, and sailed down Anduin and so over Sea;
and with him, it is said, went Gimli the Dwarf. And when that ship passed, an end was come in the Middle-earth of the Fellowship of the Ring.
And in the darkroom bind them.
2004.01.16: I'm holding a rather large, nervous redtailed hawk on one gloved hand, speaking to some fidgety fourth grade girl scouts about the wonders of the natural world, and getting giggles as Thermal leaves a great splot of poo on the floor. It's midwinter and the scouts are having a sleepover under the (taxidermy) bears and tigers and antelope of the visitor's center of Nixon County Park. I have brought Thermal, and two other birds from raptor rehabber Mitzi's house, where they live, and where Legolas, to my surprise, graces the refrigerator; a school art project done by Mitzi's young son.
After I answer a zillion girl scout questions, and leave a few more splots on the floor, several young scouts recognize the mallorn leaf brooch I am wearing; a copy of the ones from the films.
"Who's you favorite character?" I ask.
Almost invariably it is Legolas. Almost invariably they have not (yet) read The Book, though they have read the 800+ page immensity that is Harry Potter. I tell them some of the things they didn't know about Legolas; talking to horses, running on snow, listening to trees speak. Hey, he could hold this hawk without the little leash thingie...
"Read The Book." I say.
And I think they might.
Viagraquenta: Part the Fourth
your sweet shining visage makes us all quite wary
of mere mortal Men balding, pudgy or hairy
what we really want 'neath our Christmas Trees
is one Gandalf's Helper sans costume, please
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