The Wings of Blue Butterflies by Certh

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Author's Chapter Notes:

'He chose for himself from the pile a brooch set with blue stones, many-shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue butterflies. He looked long at it, as if stirred by some memory, shaking his head, and saying at last:
“Here is a pretty toy for Tom and for his lady! Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!”'
   - The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, Chapter VIII

Of all the ancient forests in Middle-earth, those afterwards named Neldoreth and Region were fairest to Tom. Their trees were strong, their roots went deep, and the rivers nurturing them were clear. The beasts and birds who dwelt there were free-hearted. Tom had wandered long and far when the world was young, yet to those great woods he would often return.

But for all their beauty, they were not always so. They had been unwelcoming and cheerless in the wake of their creation, when dark and evil creatures walked in the twilight. Yet the world was made less bleak with the rising of the new bright stars in the wide sky, when the enchantress came and filled the silence of the Hither Lands with song unrivalled. Sweet were the voices of the nightingales about her, and sweeter still was her own. Many times Tom had halted to harken to her singing, and when she perceived him she would smile and bow her head, but speak no word.

Thus long years passed, and from over the Mountains came the Firstborn into the West of Middle-earth. Their hosts were great and their speech like the sound of silver bells. All journeyed to the Great Sea, leaving the shores of the Hither Lands, yet some lingered long behind. Sorrow filled their hearts, for their lord was lost, and seek him as they might, they could not find him. All this Tom gathered by listening and watching, though the Fair Folk were seldom aware of his presence. But he also learnt another thing, by listening and watching: the lost leader had been enchanted, becharmed by the sweet singer. And his people sought for him in vain, until they, too, passed over the Sea at last.

Even more years came and went before Tom chanced upon the nightingale-singer once more. She sat with her maidens by the bend of the River-under-Shade1 flowing through the ancient forest, within mighty gates that led to cavernous halls of stone, weaving a great tapestry wherein were threaded deeds and many things past. She was clad in rich garments, with a circlet of gold upon her dark head and a delicate brooch of many-hued blue gems on her shoulder. It was a gift from her lord, Tom knew, for he had watched the Elven-people who took abode in the forest long, though he rarely mingled with them.
He had heard them call the fair singer Melian, in their own tongue, and he thought the name sweet-sounding.

Again, she perceived him from afar as she raised her gaze from her embroidery, and she smiled.

* * *

It was long after the Sun and Moon first began traversing the skies that Tom saw the lady anew, for he had journeyed far over the mountains where Dwarves dwelt and passed into the lands beyond. Yet her fair face was changed and joy no longer glinted in her eyes; she seemed overcome with sadness to him, and no bright Elven-jewel adorned her garment. She was not conscious of his presence as he caught a distant glimpse of her, and afterwards she was seen in Middle-earth no more.
But Tom saw the fine brooch again, in the Land of Seven Rivers, gleaming on the shoulder of one whose charm alone told of her close kinship to the singer.

Then the darkness whispering over the lands grew once again, and mighty strongholds fell to ruin and cruel doom came upon the Elven-folk who had sought refuge by the waters of the Great River. It was from the cupped hands of a young, dark-haired boy that the clear sparkle of the blue brooch peeked at Tom last, in the southern lands east of the long river called Gelion.

And then the ancient realms in the west of Middle-earth perished beneath violent waters, and the Ages passed. New, mighty kingdoms were built east of the Mountains where the old fortresses of the Dwarves once flourished. New kings came to the Hither Lands from the Great Sea, and Tom thought he glimpsed a flash of blue on pale garments, away North by a dark lake.

Yet now the Northern-kingdoms were no more, and the Elven-brooch graced the gown of his own lady, and the fair blue butterfly wings would remind them always of things long lost.

Chapter End Notes:

¹ In a late 1950s-early 1960s manuscript called Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings, published in Parma Eldalamberon 17 in 2007, Tolkien wrote that Esgalduin is a Sindarin name meaning 'the river under shade'.
Author's Note: The passage about the blue brooch began to truly intrigue me after reading The Silmarillion for the first time, more than a decade ago. Since then, given the manner with which Tom Bombadil handles the piece of jewellery, I have adhered to the idea that the first wearer of the brooch, whom he wishes to remember, must be no mortal woman, no mere noble Dúnadan lady of Arnor, but someone greater known to him.

The wording of stirred by some memory and long ago brings Beleriand and the First Age to my mind, which would have been 'long ago' by the reckoning of Tom who had been in Middle-earth from the beginning. It would not be impossible for Bombadil to have journeyed in Middle-earth during the earlier Ages, since Gandalf's words - 'And now he is withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set . . .' - clearly indicate that he had not always lived in his small country east of the Shire.

The phrase we will not forget her, although plural, makes me think that Goldberry had heard of the woman in question as in a tale recounted by Tom, rather than being personally acquainted with her.

The idea of Melian being the original owner of the brooch, which could have later passed to Lúthien and ultimately down Elros's line in Númenor before returning to Middle-earth with the Faithful, is one that seems very fitting to me, one that has the appropriate gravity.

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