Legolas Shall Be For The Elves
And why not Glorfindel?
By the time the Ring Goes South, we know more about the Noldorin Elf-lord of Rivendell than we do of the "strange elf clad in green and brown", some kid from a backwater kingdom called Mirkwood. We have seen Glorfindel's long friendship with Strider, his gentle empathy with a wounded Hobbit, his power revealed as he drives the Nazgul into the river. And he has a nice horse. Why did he get left behind?
In the original "Red Book" (as recounted by certain well known Hobbits from the Shire), it is told that nearly two months elapse between the Council of Elrond and the moment when Elrond tells the Hobbits who will accompany them as the Fellowship of the Ring.
Much might have happened in between.
This is one small moment.
"I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom. Even if you chose for us an elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, or open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him." Gandalf to Elrond, The Ring Goes South
"And I will choose you companions to go with you, as far as they will, or fortune allows. The number must be few, since your hope is in speed and secrecy. Had I a host of Elves in armour of the Elder Days, it would avail little, save to arouse the power of Mordor." Elrond to Frodo, The Ring Goes South
"Alas! alas!, cried Legolas, and in his fair elvish face there was great distress. "The tidings that I was sent to bring must now be told. They are not good, but only
here have I learned how evil they may seem to this company. Smeagol, who is now called Gollum, has escaped." Legolas, The Council of Elrond
Legolas Shall Be For the Elves
"Is he still there?"
The elf-lord paused in his long climb up the winding walkway, one leg poised in mid-air like a cat. He looked down through leaves the sunlit color of his hair, leaves beginning to thin now, showing a woven dance of grey branches, and a solitary patch of color like winter grass. Just beyond, the trees opened into a tangle of trails through low shrubs and herbs. Two of the Hobbits were running there, throwing something back and forth. Glorfindel looked up at Elrond, descending the walk, his arms laden with a disordered pile of books, maps and papers. "Still?"
Elrond set the pile down on the walkway, noted the strong breeze blowing leaves into the open rooms along it, he carefully weighted the top of his pile with a particularly large book and stood beside Glorfindel. "He has barely moved from that spot since the Council."
"He asked to ride out with some of my folk as a scout, but to the west, not back to Mirkwood. I thought that odd, that he would not want to carry the news of the Council to his family."
"They would keep him there, and he does not wish to be kept. Nor does he wish to merely be a scout." Elrond fell silent. The fall breeze rose off the river below, sharp as falcon wings. Glorfindel stood beside him with the kind of quiet, easy patience of an old friend. Below, the two Hobbits vanished into a maze of shrubbery.
At length Glorfindel spoke. "There is much you are not saying."
"The escape of Gollum burns his heart. "
"Yes, we saw that in the Council."
The two elf-lords, star-dark and sun-golden looked down through the wood in silence. Trees rustled, leaves fell, a cloud of migrating birds rose off the river, the sun slipped a hair's-breath across the sky. Something winged out of the thicket below, faster than a bird, followed by the high, clear laughter of young Hobbits.
"So he would go with the Ringbearer?" Glorfindel said at last.
"He spent last night's supper talking rather than eating, trying to convince me of his qualifications." Elrond nearly smiled, "I cannot send Frodo with only Sam."
"There are many who will go, myself, others of my house..."
"Indeed, you are needed."
"To send a large force would only arouse the anger of Mordor."
"Yes. The Companions will be few."
"Then, better to send those of us with more... experience."
"Indeed. That is what I told him." his eyebrows dropped a notch, like a hawk adjusting to a different air current. His keen eyes stayed fixed on the young elf below.
Legolas leaned against the familiar smooth bark of the sycamore, splotched with the same greens and greys and browns he wore. His winter-grass hair blended into pale patches in the bark, as his energy blended into the energy of the tree itself. His eyes were turned to the trees before him, and the mountains beyond, with their caps of growing white, but his heart did not see them. It saw the great trees around Thranduil's halls, their dark boles and boughs cut with slanting sunlight, and a skinny creature, like a mutant frog, clinging to the topmost branch.
Night, and moon and orcs and death, and the creature gone, and a promise betrayed. A promise to the Dunadan himself. How had he failed in this trust? He walked those paths again and again and could see a thousand ways he might have changed it. But he could not; time was a swift forest river and one could not paddle upstream. One could go downstream, and hope to avoid the rocks.
He would ride out with the scouts of Imladris, but that would be too little, too late. And Elrond would not send him with the Ringbearer, he would send someone older, wiser, one who had driven Nazgul into the river, and if the tales be true, one who had fought a balrog in another life. The part of his mind that walked the paths of elvish dreams chewed on this like a hound trying to get to the marrow of a bone. A bone much too big, much too dense.
The waking, guarding part of his mind was suddenly aware of a missle aimed at his head. His hand flicked out, like a hawk's talons, and caught it.
Dreams went out like a blown candle. He blinked at the object in his hand; a light metal disk, some three hands across and a few fingers deep, twined with the elegant branching vines typical of Imladris art.
He looked up from it into the wide eyes of Merry and Pippin. They looked exactly like deer who have just noticed the panther about to spring. He stared back at the object in his hand, "This appears to be..." he looked up at the Hobbits, "a pie plate, from Master Elrond's kitchens."
Merryandpippin (he still could not tell them apart) looked at each other, the slightly larger one punched the other in the arm, "I told you! You have to tilt it to adjust for the wind!"
"The other way!"
"Which other way, you said left!"
"Your other left. My left, your...."
Legolas rose, turning the pie plate over in his hands.
"Uh, I'm terribly sorry, umm, Master Legolas." the smaller Hobbit said. "It was, ah," he backed up a step, two. He looked very much like he wanted to run for it. "The wind." his voice tilted up uncertainly at the end, like a squirrel fleeing up a tree.
The Elf looked down at the two Hobbits, half his height. He spun the metal disk in his hand. "You made this fly?"
"How?" His bright eyes glinted like sun on the river, his longbow lips twitched with the beginnings of a smile.
"Merry's the better at it." the smaller one said.
Legolas handed Merry the disk, "Show me." he said.
Merry flapped his hand at Pippin, a bird-wing motion that sent the other Hobbit far down the trail in the herb garden. He held the upside-down disk lightly in three fingers, coiled like a snake and whipped Elrond's pie pan clear across the immense herb garden.
Legolas watched it in amazement; it soared like a stooping falcon, but level and fast, like an arrow in flight, then it tilted, hooked, and Pippin leaped and caught it. Legolas motioned to Pippin. "Here!" The Piepan of Elrond winged back at near arrow speed...
...a good five feet too far to the side.
Legolas leaped, sprawled in midair, stretched, and nabbed it with a fingertip. He came down in the midst of the head cook's prize chamomile, landing in exactly the way Elven princes of even small woodland kingdoms never do.
"Is that a piece of my dinnerware?"
From where he stood, Glorfindel could read the inscription around the edge of the artfully decorated disk. "Ahhhh."
"How long before we can send them back to the Shire?"
The Piepan of Elrond zigzagged above the garden like a lunatic airborne rabbit, from Hobbit to Elf to Hobbit to Hobbit to Elf again. The sweet scent of slightly crushed herbs filled the air along with shouts and laughter. For the moment, rings and Dark Lords were forgotten.
Merry found that shortly he could whip the disk as hard and fast as his work-hardened young arms would fling it, well above the Elf's head, and Legolas could leap to catch it with little trouble. And it did not take Legolas long to comprehend that it took a very light hand to do so. A hard, heavy hand only resulted in bruises to oneself. Pippin could catch better than he could throw, and was soon leaping like the Elf, if not as high. And he learned more about wind...
...when a wayward throw ricocheted off a tree bole and square into the chest of one of the Council Dwarves. The disk bounced off with a clear thud, landing a few strides away on the path.
All three members of the Council of Elrond's Piepan froze.
"Not again." Pippin breathed.
Two Dwarf elders stood on the herb garden path, clad in layers of knotwork bordered leather and wool and the sort of gleaming decorative chainmail Dwarves wore as finery. Their beards were white and long and braided intricately. Pippin did not remember their names, they were none of Bilbo's old companions, but some kin who had come with Gloin from the Lonely Mountain.
The eyebrows of the one on the left twitched like badgers preparing to charge.
Legolas stepped forward, swooped up the fallen disk. He towered over them, but they filled the path with their broad, sturdy forms.
The Hobbits exchanged glances, wondering if there was time to flee.
Legolas stood for a moment; a battle, a dragon, gold and Dwarves as clear in his mind as if it were before his eyes.
Merry unlocked his feet and came forward beside the Elf. Pip followed, with the sort of expression he'd worn facing Farmer Maggot. "Ah," he began, "I didn't mean to..."
"What he means is I have just learned this skill, and not very well it seems, I did not take into account the vagaries of the wind." Legolas bowed, much as Gloin had to him in the Council, "My apologies my good Dwarves."
The one on the right made a deep sound in his chest, like an annoyed moose.
Legolas' voice was like miruvor pouring into a fine goblet. "I hope you have suffered no injury from my lack of skill." He broke into a small apologetic smile.
The Dwarves deep eyes met for a moment. The one on the left nodded slightly, a near bow.
"There should be a fine afternoon tea spread out up there now." Pippin broke in, waving in the direction of one of the halls above them.
"Very fine," Merry added, "Excellent ale, if you have not yet tasted it."
The Dwarf on the right broke into a great grin, "Hah! A Hobbit would know where the food is in Elrond's halls, if Gloin's tales be true."
"Come then. We will see what is on the table, and what songs are in the air." Legolas slipped the piepan to Pippin, "Perhaps you should return this before someone else notices." he whispered.
Pippin polished it against his coat, wiping off crushed herbs and stray soil. He looked up at the tall Elf whose face was struggling with a barely suppressed conspiratory smile. Pip grinned back. "Not a problem. Not a problem getting it again tomorrow, either."
Elrond leaned on the railing, books forgotten. "Would you have chased a piepan through an herb garden, with Hobbits?"
"I think not."
"Nor would I."
"And I might have been less diplomatic to a Dwarf, particularly if I were a son of Mirkwood." Glorfindel said.
They stood in silence for awhile, considering this, each picturing the other leaping through the chamomile.
"He puts me in mind of another." Glorfindel said.
Elrond had heard the tale before; how one Legolas Greenleaf of the House of the Tree had led the refugees of Gondolin, including his father, the infant Earendil, through the long dangerous dark. "They have the same name, not the same wisdom." he said.
Glorfindel smiled, "I seem to remember someone saying, in the Council, that neither strength nor wisdom will carry us very far upon this road." He nodded toward the Elf and Hobbits and Dwarves, vanishing toward the dining hall, for second tea, or third.
"Wisdom they certainly do not have." Elrond said.
"But Thranduil's son has something we do not."
"What is that?"
"A spark, like moonlight on running water. He is not weary of the world. He is not a mighty oak, he bends like a young tree in winter wind."
Elrond nodded in sudden understanding. He knew now who one other of the Fellowship would be. "And that will weather the coming storm better than any forest giant."