A/N: From The Silmarillion, HarperCollins 2004 hardcover edition: P. 18, Valaquenta: Melian was the name of a Maia who served both VŠna and EstŽ; she dwelt long in Lorien, tending the trees that flower in the gardens of Irmo, ere she came to Middle-earth.
This, the first chapter describes an impromptu meeting between FŽanor and Melian the Maia in Valinor. Although they never met and in The Silmarillion it says she never returned to Valinor until after her husband’s death, I have suggested that she used to visit Valinor occasionally in order to attend some of ManwŽ’s festivals.
I based my description of Melian from Tolkien’s writing in Book of Lost Tales from P. 42, which he may have later discarded, but I liked it.
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER
Pounding on metal in the forge or crafting some intricate form of silver jewellery usually served to calm the young FŽanor, who still was bothered at times by the loss of his mother and his scant memories of her. The constant work helped to calm his unquiet spirit. Young FŽanor was hard at work on a summer evening in the heat within the large confines of his father’s smithy. He was deeply absorbed in his metalworking when he gradually became aware that the other Elven smiths around him had stopped working and had put down their tools, and most of them were drifting outdoors into the twilight and the cooler air.
He cursed softly at the distraction and their interruption of his work and at his curiosity about what had caused it. With a rueful grin for his gullibility, he threw down his tools in capitulation and followed the other Elves outside.
The air smelled fresh and was very still. The sky was beginning to get dark, although it was not yet time for the sheen of the Tree of Telperion to take over from the shining of the Tree called Laurelin. In the air a song drifted past the ears of the Elven smiths and they stood transfixed as they listened to its haunting melody. FŽanor chuckled to see them all standing in a group with their respective gazes directed far away to the east, and their eyes, and some mouths, wide open in wonder as they listened to the singing.
“Such slack-jawed fools you look!” he laughed at them.
One of the smiths turned to look back at FŽanor in wonder. “I have never heard such nightingales before,” he said.
“Nay, it is not the nightingales that you hear”, FŽanor replied. “It is the song of Melian the Maia, who wanders nearby, in the forest at twilight. Be wary. If her song reaches you, your head will become heavy with the sleep of the enchanted, and your work will not be finished this night”.
“Melian the Maia”, whispered the Elf, who was called Eriol, in awe. “I thought she had gone to the Hither Lands”.
“So she has”, replied FŽanor, “but she returns from time to time in order to attend some of ManwŽ’s festivals”.
“Have you ever seen her, FŽanor?”
“Yea, I have seen her”, FŽanor replied. “She likes to walk in the shadows of the trees at the waning of Laurelin. She appears as a pale maiden, with black hair falling long below her waist. It is darker than my own”, he said with a smile. “Her dress is of the colour of night, but she wears a silver girdle and adornments that one may see her as she passes. She is very beautiful to behold, but as untouchable as the stars in the sky. Her eyes have unfathomable depths like bottomless pools. To stare into them is to be lost within”.
“That is a detailed description, my friend! You sound as if you are smitten with her, FŽanor”, Eriol laughed.
“Nay”, said FŽanor, putting a lean but well-muscled arm around his neck and squeezing it, “Even if I were it would be of no avail, for she is of the Maia and she is above my station. Come; let us not bother with the work any longer this night”.
“You must have fallen under her spell if you wish to stop working”, laughed Eriol.
“Hush, my friend”, whispered FŽanor, wrapping his long arm around the other smith’s shoulders, “lest you are overheard by the others. I do believe that she has affected me, yes. I shall be of no further use for working tonight. Come; let us go home to our loved ones”.
Arm in arm, the two Elves walked away, and to Eriol’s utter astonishment, as they walked, FŽanor began to sing. FŽanor had NEVER sung to him before!
“To the woods she comes at twilight
And when the light has gone
She will sing to nightingales there
Her enchanting evening song.
She will not heed your silent sigh
But she watches and waits as it drifts by
And then she’ll fill the stillness there
With enchanting songs both dark and fair”.
FŽanor continued down the path with Eriol, down the slope of a hill, away from the smithy, and through a grove of Vardarianna trees from which a light fragrance spread out upon the stillness of the evening air. The two elves, one dark and the other very fair, walked down toward the main pathway that would lead FŽanor to his home.
“Here I will leave you, my friend,” he shouted, and shook Eriol’s hand, dismissing him with a robust clap on the back. Eriol gave FŽanor a quizzical look. It he didn’t know that FŽanor had not been drinking wine at all that night; he would have thought that his friend was inebriated. “May the Valar keep you safe through the night, and I shall see you again on the morrow”.
Eriol shook his head of pale gold hair in amusement. FŽanor was never as rowdy as he was this night. It appeared that he had been affected by Melian’s song, and perhaps that had caused the change in his demeanour.
Instead of continuing on to his home, FŽanor stopped and ran his hand through his long, black hair. He stood for a while in thought, and then he turned around and walked back toward the forest, taking the long way around the base of the hill to avoid going past the smithy again.
As he approached the slender shapes of the Neldoreth trees on the outskirts of the forest, he could hear still the singing of Melian. He had no trouble following the haunting sound of her singing through the trees. When he drew close to the place where Melian walked, he stopped to watch her.
She was as he had described her to Eriol, small in stature, slender and dark. Her long raven hair fell in cascading waves down the middle of her back. In the waxing light of the Silver Tree, her skin shone pale as the blue-grey bark of the forest beeches. The luminous beauty of the Valar shone in her face and her eyes. On her slender form she wore a wispy garment of loosely woven silk. It was the colour of the midnight sky, a deep, dark blue. Holding it closed at her shoulders were silver clasps, and around her hips was slung a girdle of silver cloth. When she walked, it was with a gait so smooth that she seemed to float along the forest floor.
On an impulse, FŽanor decided to speak to her. Where others would have been reluctant to do so, out of reverence or fear of her being one of the Maia, FŽanor had no such trepidation, and boldly stepped forward. “Ahem.” He coughed discreetly into his hand so that he would not alarm her.
It was an odd thing that the song she had been singing earlier that had caused an effect on him of seeming inebriation, had fallen away from him as if it had been a light wash of rainwater, and he was, once again, poised and alert.
Melian turned around suddenly when she heard his cough. She looked surprised. Her fine, dark eyebrows rose, and she stopped walking abruptly.
“Who goes there, Sir?” She asked, in a voice that was of the earth, and the trees, and the wind, and more than that; it was of another time and place.
She regarded the young Elven prince who stood among the Neldoreth trees in the silver light of Telperion. Her interest was piqued as she considered him, slowly moving her eyes over every inch of his form.
She saw a handsome Elf in adolescence, bold and tall, with raven-black hair worn loosely and falling over his shoulders. Even through the long shadows of the trees she could see that his features were of the finest quality, and his figure was lean, yet strong, and he was clad all in dark colours. His shirt of midnight blue was worn loosely over his breeches, and the front of it was unlaced down to his breastbone. She sensed that this was an elf who did not stand on ceremony, and mostly did whatever he pleased.
“My Lady Melian”, he replied to her question, “I am FŽanor, son of FinwŽ. We have met before, very briefly, here in Tirion but you may not remember me although you may know my father. I was merely coming out myself for a walk in the woods. Would you mind if I joined you, as it seems we are traveling in the same direction?”
“Ah, yes”, she said. “I tended to your mother, Miriel, in the Gardens of EstŽ before she passed from this world. I am sorry for your loss”.
A shadow passed over his face as he was forced again on this fair night to think of his mother, and he nodded but did not reply.
“My travels are non-existent”, she said. “I merely move in a circle, you will find if you walk with me for long enough”.
He fell into step beside her. “The evening is fine”, he remarked, thinking of naught else to say at that moment. She puzzled him. She was an ethereal being and her words did not make much sense to him.
“It is fine”, replied Melian. “What brings you into the wood on such a night as this?”
FŽanor spoke truthfully. “My fellow smiths and I heard your singing”, he said, “and it caused us to drop what we were doing, and come outside to listen”.
She laughed, and it sounded like the tinkling of a thousand silver bells.
“I hope I have not kept you from your work”, she said.
“It matters not”, he replied. “Sometimes I feel that I would just as soon give it all up and go to live elsewhere”.
“Is that really so?” She looked at him curiously. “I have done that very thing myself”.
“Have you? What mean you by that?” He asked.
She turned to face him. She wrung her hands, and lines formed between her slender brows.
“I should not say”, she replied. “It would not be seemly for me to comment on one of the other Valar”.
“One of the other Valar?” He asked a touch mockingly, with a slight emphasis on the word “other”.
Melian looked flustered, as would a young girl caught out in a secret indiscretion. Even though she was much older than FŽanor, she felt on the same level, such was his maturity.
“I should not say, but I feel that you are trustworthy. Will you promise to keep my secret?” she asked. Her voice took on a higher pitch, and furrows appeared in her otherwise smooth forehead.
My Lady, I would guard your secret with my life”, he replied, gazing earnestly into her eyes. He felt privileged that she would treat him in such a familiar manner. “You may tell me anything that you wish”.
They kept walking in the starlight among the Neldoreth trees. A slight breeze had arisen and they walked directly into it, their black hair blowing behind them as they strolled along the forest floor, following the path that Melian had laid out. She remarked that this was the third time around the circle for her.
“Three has always been a lucky number for me”, thought FŽanor, as Melian considered how she should tell him what was on her mind.
“VŠna”, Melian said at length. She pronounced the name with a measure of distaste. “VŠna has caused me great grief and upheaval. Because of her I had to leave my home and I wandered, wondering whither I should go before I left Valinor for Beleriand. I am not a wanderer by nature, FŽanor. I felt needful of finding a permanent home and putting down my roots there”.
FŽanor regarded her with amazement mixed with amusement. That a Maia would have the same sort of problem as many elves did entertained him greatly, but he did not laugh at her.
“Whatever happened between you and VŠna?” he asked.
Melian pursed her lips and an anxious look crossed her face. Then she blurted out, “VŠna appears ever-young, she is beautiful, and has a countenance that, on the surface, looks kind and pleasant. I worked in her gardens for many years, helping her and giving her many ideas for the planning of her landscapes, helping her with layouts for the garden beds and the colours of the flowers to plant there, and other things. I was happy in her home, and thought that she liked me. We appeared to have much in common: a love of the outdoors, flowers and birdsong, and we both share a quiet and contemplative personality.
I thought that we got along well while I was living in her house, as there had never been an unhappy word spoken between us. However, one day I happened to be passing by her morning room where she sat with her husband, OromŽ, and heard her speaking to him about me in such an unflattering and vitriolic way that I was shocked most unpleasantly and could no longer feel comfortable in her presence. I sought her out and spoke to her about it soon afterward, because I could no longer bear to stay under her roof or to remain in her employ, until I could find out why she had done such a thing”.
“And did she tell you truthfully?” Asked FŽanor.
Melian gave him a sudden look of surprise. She did not expect him to be so insightful that he would hint that VŠna might have tried to appease Melian by saying that she had misunderstood, or some such other less-than-truthful excuse.
“Why, yes, she did”, replied Melian, “Although it was not pleasant to hear. She told me that she had said those things about me to her husband because she was jealous of me and felt that he, perhaps, had a romantic interest in me”.
FŽanor raised his expressive eyebrows. “Was VŠna right to assume that?” He asked.
“I truthfully do not believe so”, said Melian. “If he had such feelings, then he kept them to himself, for I was never aware of them. Nonetheless, Vana said that I could not remain in her gardens and share a home with her. She then made arrangements for me to go to live with EstŽ, the Vala who lives on Lake Lorellin with her husband, Irmo, of the Gardens of Lorien. They are great friends of mine but I did not wish to impose on them for so long and eventually I decided to move to Middle-earth. I have not regretted that I did so”.
FŽanor blew out a long breath, thinking of his father’s second union with Indis, FŽanor’s despised stepmother, but not wishing to speak of her. “It is difficult to think that a Vala could be as spiteful as she was to you”, he said. He looked at her curiously, as he felt a bit uncomfortable talking to Melian about such a personal matter. And yet he sympathized with her, and wanted to help if he could.
“She is not as she seems”, said Melian, “and do not think, FŽanor, that the Valar or the Maiar are not capable of jealousy, spitefulness, or any other mean-spirited behaviour. They are quite capable of it. However, faithlessness is abhorrent to me. While I know it exists, it is rare among the Valar”. She turned to him and smiled. “And we Maiar too”, she added. “I do not think that OromŽ is capable of such an act and that VŠna would think that he may be surprises me and hurts me too. I am sure that I could never be unfaithful to my husband”.
FŽanor sighed. “You have told me quite a story”, he said to her. “Do not worry, for I shall keep your secret. I do thank you, My Lady, for giving me some insight into the ways of the Valar. They do not sound much different from Elves”.
“If truth be told, FŽanor”, she said, “They are not. The Firstborn were created by Eru with certain qualities in his mind. One was that within Elves would shine some of the spirit of the Valar. And the Valar assumed, for the most part, the appearance of the Elves, once they beheld them for the first time. So, you see, we each of our species have shared something with the other”. She beamed up at him. He returned her smile and tried very hard not to look directly into her eyes. Disturbingly, he felt disarmed by Melian and did not wish to become lost in those depths within her eyes as he had described to Eriol.
The two walked on together for a while longer speaking of pleasanter things and then FŽanor took his leave. It was almost morning, already the colour of the sky was changing, and soon the light of Laurelin would touch them. He wished to return to his father’s house and get ready for the new day’s work. He and Melian shook hands. On impulse, he put his arms around her and gave her a hug.
“I feel honoured to have walked in your company”, he told her.
“It was a pleasure to meet you, too, FŽanor”, she replied, feeling somewhat surprised that he had dared to embrace her, although she did not mind it at all.
He and Melian never met again, but fate had something else in store for their two families.