Leaves of Change|
Disclaimer: I am merely borrowing Tolkien's creation. This serves only to entertain.
Summary: One father's legacy may differ from the son's.
If there were one word to describe us Elves, it would be this. To last through the Ages, to remain as we are even though Time changes all that surrounds us, that is endurance. No matter what occurs, we Elves always manage to survive, the hardiest of all the Free People of Middle-earth. We remember, we strive for perfection in all things, and always we endure.
Perhaps more than any other that I know, this word completely describes my father. I have always looked up to him, admired his courage, his steadfastness, and the deadly calm with which he approaches his duties. I cannot imagine how it must feel to see your father die before you, only to inherit the rule of a people foreign to you, at a time when you are unprepared for the weight of such a burden, when you are beginning to grieve. Yet he did just that, and has continued to lead our Silvan populace through days of both trials and joy.
To those that do not know him, he appears arrogant and proud. He intimidates many by his domineering presence. But Eru, is he just, leading his people as best he knows. Behind those steely blue eyes, strong body, and commanding demeanor is a man full of grief and wounds. He is one who has truly endured.
I was raised on the legend of my father’s birthplace, the long-gone woods of Doriath—ruled by the wise and great Elu Thingol from the renowned halls of Menegroth, then ultimately destroyed by the treachery of the Noldor. A life of simplicity and oneness with nature was highly encouraged and sought by my grandsire, yet at the same time the nobleness of my lineage was firmly instilled in our family.
“Do you know why my kingdom and our people have survived this long unmarred?” my father asked me once as we strolled the forest together. It was a cool summer evening, after a day of intense heat.
I did not hear him, my attention having been captured by an oak sapling struggling to emerge from between two rocks.
“Legolas!” came the sharp voice of my father.
“What is the question once more?” I asked lazily.
He glanced at me sternly then.
“Ah, why Mirkwood has survived unscathed?” I repeated, turning my attention to him. “Because of its wonderful King.”
“Flattery will not gain you favors here,” he said, with the ghost of a smile anyways.
Thinking he was satisfied, I returned my attention once more back to the sapling,
intently examining how this fragile young plant was going to spring up a strong tree.
“Legolas Thranduilion,” came the infuriated command, and I immediately turned to face my now seething father.
“I do not know, Sire,” I replied sheepishly.
“Very well, I will tell you, then, as it seems your study of trees is more important than considering the answer for yourself.
“That answer is endurance. Why change our ways when there is no reason to? We are Elves, the wisest of those who live; we do not alter our traditions on mere whims as mortals do. When you stray from the path laid down by your ancestors, that is when you lose control, when you become blind. Lead a simple life filled with Eru’s bounties. Do not trouble yourself with the outside world, for you will find yourself entangled in trouble. That is my father’s legacy, what I strive to achieve, what I wish for you to follow as well.”
I bowed my head in submission, earning a warm smile in return.
“As you wish, Father,” I replied.
The years went on, and soon I found myself an emissary of my father, representing Mirkwood at Lord Elrond’s unplanned council. I had never before dreamed of leaving my home and my King, yet one of the Nine Walkers I became. As I set out with this strange company of Men, a Dwarf, and several Hobbits, my father’s words of advice came streaming back into my mind:
“Legolas, when you go to Imladris, beware of the deceit of finery that Lord Elrond embraces. Stay true to your heritage, to the pleasures of a simple life. That is what Eru wants from us, not to be like the Noldor in that lofty valley of theirs.”
So I went, remembering my father’s words, but where he is stubborn and unyielding, my heart and mind are soft. I learned much from my stay in Imladris. Whatever I could glean from those around me, I did. And in every place that we journeyed, I observed all that I could: Moria, the Golden Wood, Edoras, and even Gondor. Simply listening to the other Walkers in my company afforded me a wealth of knowledge I would not have gained in Mirkwood.
“You are changed, friend. You are not the same Elf that I first met in Mirkwood so
many years ago,” Aragorn told me the day I departed for my home.
“Perhaps,” I said. “But we Elves endure.”
“Do not give me the speeches that you memorized from your King. Nay, my dear Legolas, you have changed. Endurance is to remain the same, and this you have not achieved. The Prince before me returning home is not the one who left,” he said.
But he was right, despite the words that I uttered in futile protest. I had sensed this change come over me. The arrogant Prince of my people, raised on the belief system of his mighty King Thranduil, was going home tainted, affected by all that he had learned and seen. I wondered how I would find my home now after this adventure. Would I be able to hide this change inside me from my father? Would he notice?
Of course he knew. From the first moment he laid eyes on me he knew.
“You are not long in my halls,” he said.
I shook my head.
“Your realm is changed to me,” I replied, sipping my goblet of Dorwinion slowly.
“It is not changed; you are. You see the world through different eyes now.”
We were strolling through the forest again, just as we had done long ago. We stopped at the rocks with the oak sapling, only now it was a sturdy young tree.
“I am like this oak tree, Father. The world threw me into a dark pit, wrought with difficulties. I had two choices: to remain a simple acorn would mean to give up and die. But if I opened my mind and learned to adapt, I discovered I could overcome the obstacles. That is what I have done. The world is no longer as it was for you, when Elves shaped events. We are diminishing, dwindling; the time of the mortals is upon us. We can no longer remain cowering from the world within our trees.”
My father turned to look at me then, boring his eyes into mine.
“What shall you do?” he asked, and for a moment I heard the fear in his voice.
“I shall go to Ithilien and establish a colony there. But it will not be like elven cities of old. Men and Dwarves will be encouraged to dwell there. It will be a place of learning and culture.”
My father let out a snort, “Men and Dwarves? You dare to consort with Dwarves?”
“We cannot remain unchanged, Father; we must learn to alter. When first I arrived in Imladris, in Lord Elrond’s house, I was taken with its beauty and the majesty of the Noldorin heritage. I wandered the halls, listening to their music, admiring the richness of their garb, learning to respect their ancient history. Initially I held back, chiding them inwardly for such wanton display of finery and opulence. Yet their devotion to the Belain surprised me, and I began to think that perhaps it is not a sin to enjoy the luxuries of the world. It is possible to have the two balanced.
“From the mortals, on the other hand, I learned the value of cherishing each moment, for it is fleeting. Time is something that cannot be taken back. Mortals are hasty and perhaps not as wise as us, but there is also sense in their actions. Perhaps the greatest attribute of mortals is their ability to conform to the changes that happen around them, changes that we simply do not consider because of the nature of our constitution.
“Father, we cannot afford to maintain our policy of isolationism regarding the world beyond our borders. Middle-earth is no longer our realm, in which mortals are few in number. We Elves have become the minority in our segregated kingdoms; we now submit to the rules of Men. Therefore, Ithilien must be a place of open-mindedness and adaptability. Your view of the world—my grandfather’s view—is succeeding very well here, but it will not work in Ithilien. You are wise and just, but I differ.”
The entire time that I spoke, my father remained as silent and still as the trees of his home. Not once did he interrupt me, nor did a single facial twinge betray his thoughts. He simply stood there, listening. When I finished, he turned his back, gazing at the young oak tree before us. It was some time before he responded.
“In so many ways we are not alike, Legolas Thranduilion. Perhaps there is wisdom in what you say. Go, my son, and may the Belain bless you,” my great King said, bowing his head then, and surprising me immensely.
As I set out, leading a company of my father’s people, I felt their judging glances toward me, their hesitant gestures. They were afraid to leave what they knew, the safety of their homes. Was it like this when my grandfather set out to establish his kingdom? Did his son, my father, question him at first? I had always imagined myself to be like him, but here I was, contradicting the very foundation of his kingdom. Yet the sight of my King gave me strength, the proud look on his face, even as his tears fell.
“Do not worry, Legolas,” Aragorn told me the night I reached Ithilien, the host of my father’s people in my wake. “It is no sin to be the opposite of your father. We Men have a saying, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
“How is that possible?” I asked.
“You worry that you are not honoring your father, that you stand for everything he dislikes. Your grandfather did the impossible, establishing a Sindarin kingdom of Silvan Elves. And here you are, establishing a Silvan colony amongst Men.”
We Elves are known to endure; my heritage is steeped in this trait. Maybe my colony
in Ithilien is not at all opposing my grandfather’s legacy, but rather reviving it. He sought a new way of life for his people, as I am doing, whereas my father only seeks to maintain what was established. Perhaps it is as Aragorn said, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
A few decades passed before my father came to visit me for the first time. I was nervous as I led him through my city’s streets, its architecture a blend of elven, dwarvish, Gondorian, and Rohirric. He witnessed me performing official duties without comment. He lingered only a fortnight, under the pretense of checking on how his people fared in their new locale.
The morning of his departure, after he had left, there stood a small wooden box on my desk, with a letter bearing my father’s official seal.
When you left Eryn Lasgalen, you forgot to bring this with you. Your new home deserves a beacon of strength, something old for somewhere new. This is a symbol of what you believe in, that adapting to your environment strengthens you.”
Inside the box was an acorn, and with a pang I realized that it was from my cherished oak tree, the sapling that had grown up from between the rocks. As I gripped it tightly in my hand, bowing my head in humility, my tears ran thickly. With this small token, my father’s blessing was bestowed upon Ithilien—and upon me.