Written for the LOTR Community Challenge: May 2014
Theme: character study
Elements: the character spends time with an old friend
Banner made by Zdenka. Photo credit: Linda Hoyland
The records claim that all the Eldar knew the Aldudenie, the lament that Elemmire of the Vanyar composed on the subject of the destruction of the Two Trees--all the Eldar, even those who had never set foot in Valinor, even those who had never seen the light of the Trees!
Yet it was not so, at first. Although the germ of the Aldudenie was planted in Elemmire's heart at the moment of the Darkening, before he even knew that the blind fear that descended on him was caused by the fatal wounding of the Trees and although words and notes kept churning in his head as, with the rest, he rushed back and forth in the terror of unnatural Night—stumbling down the rocky, dangerous slopes of Taniquetil, through the suddenly unfamiliar streets of Valimar, onwards to desolate Ezellohar and back again—despite all this, the Aldudenie was not composed on the spur of the moment. It was barely taking shape in Elemmire’s head when Nolofinwe and those who had come with him decided to return to Tirion and when silence fell between the Vanyarin elves and the Noldor, black and enduring as the enveloping darkness. And later when the greater part of the Noldor departed for Middle-earth— beginning their descent of the Calacirya in great haste and without farewell to Vala or Vanya—the earliest version of the Aldudenie had only just begun to be sung in the nooks and alleyways of Valmar as the Vanyar huddled by the light of a torch in the gloom.
It was hundreds of years of the Sun later—during the War of Wrath—that the Aldudenie was brought to Middle-earth. The elven army led by Eonwe, Ingwion and Finarfin brought Elemmire’s song with them, although to do so was hardly their intention. The aims of that army when they left Valinor were straightforward and their concern with Middle-earth was very limited: they wished to defeat Morgoth for good and collect any of their errant kin that might prove redeemable and return them safely home to Valinor. That was all. But, straightforward though those aims were, they were not as straightforward to carry out. Morgoth took a long time to defeat. The entanglement of elves and Men in Middle-earth was more complex than the Vanyar and Noldor of Valinor had guessed. And so, during their protracted campaign, sitting at evening by their campfires, they sang the Aldudenie. They sang it to remind themselves what they stood for, to ward off doubt and fear. What Morgoth had started, by attacking the Trees, they were going to finish, they reassured each other. Oh, Telperion, silver more true than any ore of the earth's core, dearer and closer to us than starlight! Oh, Laurelin!
They sang the Aldudenie mostly among themselves, for their own sake, but not in secret, and others heard. And although the land of Beleriand had been dying for a long time, as the wind from the north carried its corruption far south and Angband’s poison leaked into the rivers, and although it continued to die, yard by yard, inch by inch, as it was gradually wrested from the clasp of Morgoth—despite that, knowledge of the Aldudenie spread throughout the land. Where news and goods were still exchanged among the scattered and divided peoples of Beleriand, the Aldudenie, too, passed from mouth to mouth, until it came to the ears of Maglor, son of Feanor.
The Sons of Feanor had not yet exchanged a word with the arrivals from Valinor nor set foot in their camp. Nevertheless news of the Aldudenie came to Maglor--and for a while it seemed to come at him from every direction at once. How was it possible, he wondered irritably, that an exiled kinslayer lurking in the woods could be beset by people who insisted on singing mangled versions of the Aldudenie at him? With difficulty, he controlled the impatient twitching of his fingers. It would not do to offend anyone who was still willing to trade with the Sons of Feanor. But when the traders left, the music went round and round in his head. He had not heard the Aldudenie performed correctly yet, but he knew well how it ought to sound.
Elemmire himself had not been a friend. Their opinions on a whole range of subjects had just been too different for that to happen, although they had, for a while, agreed to disagree and respected each other—until Maglor’s decision to follow his father into exile had met with Elemmire’s utter incomprehension. Maglor was not surprised that Elemmire himself had apparently remained behind in Valinor with Ingwe and had not come to do battle with Morgoth in Middle-earth even now.
But Elemmire’s music! It was his music that called to Maglor with all the insistence of an old childhood friend. Growing up in Tirion, he had learned to play every piece by Elemmire as soon as it came out. That had not gone down well with his father, who would have preferred it if Maglor had not singled out a Vanyarin composer for his admiration, but Feanor’s disapproval had not fazed Maglor in the least.
Maglor had once known Elemmire’s style like the back of his hand, almost as well as his own. And in Beleriand he had still played his music occasionally, especially when he chance to meet up with Ecthelion, who had shared an interest. But Ecthelion was dead, like so many others, and little by little Elemmire’s music had come to seem irrelevant, as the past receded and the dawn of each day tasted of defeat.
And now here it was, the Aldudenie: utterly Vanyarin and Valinorean, perfect of its kind. Oh, Laurelin the lost, the sun is only a faint memory of you! Oh, Telperion! It was clearly Elemmire’s masterpiece and Maglor could tell exactly how it ought to be played but… There was so much it was bound up with, so much that he had almost forgotten. He was not sure he was ready to take on Elemmire’s view of the Darkening—those events that had meant something so fundamentally different to him and to his people than they did to Elemmire. Once, empathy through music had come easy to Maglor. Now, with every conviction crumbling, he was not sure he could afford it any longer.
Maglor, usually of so equable a temper—except, always, where music was concerned—stalked around the Feanorian camp like an angry bear in a cloud of buzzing bees. Elrond and Elros, who had imagined they knew their foster-father in all his moods, watched him with considerable alarm, not knowing how to react and what to do. In the end, it was Maedhros who went and stood in front of Maglor as he continued to wander distractedly about the campsite. Maglor almost ran straight into his brother before he noticed him—something so unheard of that it shocked him to a standstill.
‘You need to play it, Kano,’ said Maedhros.
‘Do you know what it will do to me,’ said Maglor wildly. ‘Do you?’
‘I can see what it will do to you, if you don’t’, said Maedhros.
Maglor stared at him for a moment.
‘Not here,’ he said then, more calmly.
‘All right,’ said Maedhros. ‘Fetch your harp and we’ll go.’
They stayed away for days. Elros had almost persuaded Celvandil to send a search party for them by the time they returned. Maglor’s face was grey with exhaustion. Maedhros’s face was completely expressionless, but something told Elrond he had not eaten in all that time and he set about heating a bowl of broth for them both. Maedhros and Maglor sat by the fire, nursing the hot soup, not talking.
But early the next morning—‘Lessons’, said Maglor to Elrond and Elros. ‘Here’s what you need to learn.’
And he began to teach them the Aldudenie.
Chapter End Notes:
As far as I remember, I had already written of Elemmire as a male before I came across comments pointing out that, with that name form, this Vanya poet or composer might equally be female, as many have now written her.