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The Strife of Truth with Art

Chapter Text


The originals of the following pages were received in a bundle, arranged in an approximate order but bound only in the temporary fashion customary for field notes in the early 1500s. I have transcribed them for your archives, though certain elements, such as the flora pressed between some of the pages or the stains on others, are irreproducible and I have noted them accordingly. The headings are mine, and the transcription also includes my commentary on some of the more obscure points in the text as well as my reproduction of the original marginalia. Although the identities of the respective authors were evident from the handwriting in the original, in this copy I have taken the liberty of inserting indications as to their identity.

                                                            -Acaniel Lindis, TA 109



Curufinwe III Tyelperinquar called Celebrimbor Adudamen,
to Master Acaniel Lindis, lorekeeper of Dath Tûren, magistrate of the Fourfold Alliance.

My dear friend,

These papers may require some explanation. As Annatar and I were traveling through the East and South, we came across a number of stories, legends (and even elements of devotional practice!) that appear to reference the events of SA 1697 in Eregion. Knowing your interest in mortal cultures, and particularly in the ways that a story may transform across time and distance (if you do not yet have a name for this phenomenon may I suggest narrative drift?) I am sending you the first volume of my notes, roughly organized by the geography of our travels. You’ll notice some commentary from Annatar as well - he does feel compelled to hover when he sees me writing - though his particular perspective must naturally be taken into account when interpreting his commentary.

If by my particular perspective
you mean my history upon this
continent before its air was fit for
creatures of your kind to breathe,
then I suggest that you profit
by the chance to hear it. - A

Please give our good wishes to all in the Dath Tûren. It may be a few more decades before our paths take us Northward again, but until they do I remain,

                                                            Your colleague and friend,

Chapter Text

I observed a game being played by mortal children between the ages of 4 and 9 in a trading town near Erebor. Language is closely akin to that of the Northmen (comparatively late branch, pr. mutually intelligible). The game begins with all the children dancing in a circle. One child is the False Friend, who stands inside the ring, one child is It, who stands outside.

This term would be better translated as “One”. - A

During the second two verses, the False Friend takes the hands of each child in the circle in turn, and passes a pebble to one of them. At the “open up the window” verse, It attempts to guess where the pebble is.

“One”. - A

If It is successful, the last verse is chanted, the circle tumbles to the ground, and the game begins anew with It becoming the False Friend and a new child chosen to guess.

All around my window, all around my gate
The King sent his soldiers but they came too late.

False friend, false friend, have you got my ring?
Oh sir, no sir, no such thing!

False friend, false friend, hid you it away?
Oh sir, no sir, I can’t say.

Seek it in the ocean, seek it in the sea,
You may catch all the fishes but you’ll never catch me.

I am almost certain this is an interpolation;
the last line of this is sung while bathing babies
and it’s likely that the rhyming line
was added to pad out the circle game. - III

Open up the window, open up the door.
False friend, false friend, I’ll never see you more.

All around the city, all around the town,
All around the Great Ring, we all fall down!

It seems that this children’s game preserves at least a partial memory of the events surrounding the Sack of Eregion and the destruction of Ost-in-Edhil.

I think this is a reach. Mannish
children play circle games;
it’s practically in their nature.
The reference to the search for a
ring may be purely coincidence -
or added because it is easier to
rhyme ‘ring’ than ‘pebble’. - A

Annatar’s objections above might have been persuasive, except that we encountered the motif of the False Friend in several other places touched by Rhovanion trade routes as we moved south - and always accompanied by the element of having stolen a ring. There is a ballad generally titled something like “The Bold Smith and the False Friend” which appears in several variants - though the frame (and the names of the protagonists) differ from version to version.

In some versions the False Friend is an apprentice of the Bold Smith, in at least one they’re brothers, in all of them he steals a ring from the Bold Smith after having been taken into his trust. In some cases the false friend confesses and suffers a grisly fate at the hands of the Bold Smith (creative use of forging implements involved) in others the resolution is left unfinished with the Bold Smith lamenting the perfidy of his friend.

Even Annatar acknowledges this is clearly a reference to the events at Ost-in-Edhil and may even be indebted to the Lay of the Fall of Eregion, at several removes.

Note that even Celebrimbor
does not venture a guess as
to which of them appears as
the Bold Smith and which as
the False Friend. - L

Chapter Text

While travelling among the mobile encampments of northerners beyond the Withered Heath (predominantly sheep-herders; language family probably proto-Taliskan with influences from eastern plains) on a night of storytelling Rulav (an older man, responsible for healing, storytelling, and lore-keeping) recounted the following. He told me the name of the story was “King Amrai’s Friend”, although the name of the king appeared nowhere in the story. “Amrai” is not a common name among the Northmen; it doesn’t even conform to their naming orthography and may be intended to sound “southern” or simply “exotic”.

Surely the association with
Tar-Mairon is not farfetched? - L

There was a great king who lived far to the South, whose knowledge and learning were greater than any before him or any after him. It was said that he had stolen the secrets from the trees of Light and Shadow that grow in the gardens of the gods, and that he adorned himself with gems that shone with the light of the stars.

I think I might have been confounded
with your grandfather in this version! - A

That or, well, Morgoth. -C

Students came from far and near to learn from him, and he taught them his lesser secrets and his greater secrets, and they became powerful in their own countries. But the greatest of his secrets he said he would share only with the one who proved himself worthy, and there were none worthy among all his students, for all their wisdom and their skill.

But one day there came out of the West a man called Aldr, who was strong and fair to look upon,

No, I think this is you. - III

“Man”?? - A

The root of this name is also unclear,
but it is much closer in form to the
names of the northmen themselves.
It may even be a corruption of the term
Eldar. -L

and he became the greatest of his students and the dearest to his heart. The king taught him his lesser secrets, and taught him his greater secrets, until one night he called Aldr to him.

“Night” very suggestive here - both
as signifying darkness/mystery and
implying that the relationship
between the two is not solely that
between teacher and student. - A

“I have taught you my lesser secrets and my greater secrets,” said the king, “and truly now you are no less than me.”

“Yet less I am,” said Aldr, “and surely you have found me unworthy, for though I have your lesser secrets and your greater secrets, still you will not share the greatest secret of your power.”

“Very well,” said the king, for he loved him dearly, “it is this.” And he showed Aldr the ring that he wore upon his finger, for it was a magic ring that gave to him great power, for without power, learning and knowledge are as words spoken by the wind.

The element of the magic ring has been preserved in almost all of the Mannish stories we encountered in the north; it was clearly considered notable. This has also been influenced by the “False Friend” narrative, although the protagonist is now a king rather than a smith, and the consequences of the theft are explained in greater detail (ie - the ring as the source of the protagonist’s power).

This may also have to do with
the rumored circulation of the
nine-series, not to mention
the minor rings. -A

But as the king slept, Aldr took the ring from him and fled far into the west.

“Slept.” - A

Soon word came to the king that Aldr had used the power of the ring to build himself a great kingdom in the West. The king mustered his armies and rode against him, to win him back if he could and bring him low if he must.

Until this point in the story I had
assumed the king in the south
was Annatar, but half the things
he’s doing sound like me. -C

When the king came to the gates of Aldr’s city, a champion came forth to meet the king; he was dressed in gold and wore a golden helmet and a golden mask. They fought upon the field, but the king was the stronger, and he cut the champion down, and as he fell the king saw that he wore the king’s stolen ring upon his hand.

“Friend of my heart, dearer than brother!” he cried. “What have you done? What have I done?”

You haven’t been confounded with
Feanor or Morgoth, beloved, you’ve
been confounded with Turin Turambar. -C

No. - A

The king drew the ring from his friend’s finger, and cursed it. “Thou it is who has brought this woe upon me,” he said. “Lie there as grave-gold for my friend.”

When I asked whether anything else was known of King Amrai, I heard several stories throughout the region. He does not loom large in the tales of the Northmen - that is reserved for their own heroes - but he is regarded as a wonder-worker, with many fantastic exploits attributed to him. The mythical geography of the south along with its strange monsters figures in most of these stories; there do not appear to be any additional narrative elements connected to the events of Eregion.

While “King Amrai” may have been an existing figure who had the Ring-events attributed to him (or this story might have been the beginning of the legends) I consider it an interesting possibility that King Amrai’s legend was that of Annatar himself from the time he spent in the South and East before he came to us in Eregion, which only filtered to the far north in its most flattering aspects.

You mistook this personage for Turin Turambar;
I’m not sure ‘flattering’ is the best description. - A

In Rhovanion, the South and East still bear a somewhat sinister reputation, but to the plainsmen of the northern heath the most threatening region is the Grey Mountains, which they say are a breeding ground for dragons. (This merits further investigation.)



This story fuses three distinct elements - the Elvish or cis-Hithaeglirian account, which provides the magic rings and the master/apprentice motif; the folkloric or moral element that gold brings grief (and that rings are most likely cursed); and what I can only assume is a Southern account - at several generations’ remove - of Sauron’s reign, which accounts for the presence of the ‘King in the South’ as a protagonist. All of these elements were almost certainly transmitted through Mannish pathways - the ambiguity of the nature of the heroes is evidence enough of that. - L

Chapter Text

Having observed that the legend of the fate of Eregion has spread, fed by many sources, across a really remarkable expanse of territory, and seeing how many forms this legend has taken on, I feel I should include the text from the Silver Book.

This refers to
“Records of the Second Age”,
Imladris archive -L

This is from the open archives, and insofar as there is an official Elvish history of what happened between Annatar and myself, this seems to be the best representation of it. The Lay of the Fall of Eregion may be better known, but it is less comprehensive.

And it is said by some among the Wise that Celebrimbor, being undeceived, repented of his friendship with Annatar, and from that day began a secret work to destroy him. Yet by others it is said that the love between them was not forgotten in the rage of his heart, and that even as he made ready for war he strove ever with Sauron in thought, endeavoring to turn him from his purpose.

“Others” = Galadriel/the version of events
current in Lorinand. -C

You told her of what passed between us? -A

I gave her one of the Three and
asked her to reach into my mind
to seal off my own knowledge
from myself; yes she knows. -C

I believe Annatar was considering
another annotation at this point,
but instead he got up and left
for several hours. - C

But Sauron in his pride had grown very great, and beneath the shadow of the Dark Tower his armies upon the plain were like the hordes of Angband in the Elder Days, and all fled before them, for it seemed indeed that the servant had become the master and Morgoth was come again.

Into Eregion he came with ruin and devastation, and the plains of Calenardhon were trodden to mud by the feet of his armies, and the forests of the Enedwaith were hewn and burned. In the North the armies of Gil-Galad Ereinion mustered beneath the banner of the High King, and beneath the mountains the forges of the Dwarves were heated for war. The peoples of Eregion fled before Sauron's onslaught, but Celebrimbor would not quit the city.

The people of the city besought him to flee, but he would not listen; and those who looked upon him said that his grandfather's madness was kindled within him, and they feared what he might do. And Eregion was sacked, and Ost-in-Edhil laid under siege, and there was much slaughter on both sides, but Sauron’s forces had the greater numbers. At last, with Sauron's army at his very gates, Celebrimbor sent his councilors from him and went out to face the Enemy alone.

And he bent the neck before Sauron, and spoke soft words to him, and yielded to him, and a great cry went up from the people of the city seeing they were, as they believed, betrayed. But Sauron laughed, and entered the city, and took possession of it, and Celebrimbor he set in chains. Then the remaining people of the city, under Bruithwir who had been Finwe’s seneschal in the Elder Days, were suffered to depart, and they went North to Rhudaur and East toward the forces of Elrond, mourning for their lost city and in doubt and confusion for the fate of their lord. And some said that seeing Sauron's might he had fallen into despair,

Gil-Galad. - C

and others said that Sauron, who had great power over minds and hearts, had swayed Celebrimbor's heart to him,

Celeborn. - C

and still others said that he hoped for mercy at Sauron's hand in exchange for the secret arts he knew.

Really? - C
Really? -A
I’m afraid so. - L

But Sauron went up with him into the tower of the Mirdain, and the gates of the city were shut. For Sauron in his pride and malice had crafted a master-ring, a Ruling Ring, which Celebrimbor had never touched, and through it he sought to force Celebrimbor to reveal all that he knew of the Rings of Power, that they all might be bound together under his rule. He put him to torment of the body and the spirit, trying to tear the truth from where it lay concealed in his mind.

That detail has to be from Galadriel;
she would have been able to feel
your efforts against her wards. - C

But Celebrimbor had made secret preparations that Sauron knew nothing of.

There in the place that had been the heart of craft and deep knowledge in Middle-Earth, they strove mightily. At his command Sauron had all the foul knowledge of Angband, and all the corrupted craft of the Eldar that he had learned in the days of his deception in Eregion.

To me this is further confirmation
that Galadriel -- probably not directly --
had a significant hand in this account.
She was particularly upset about Annatar
having learned the secrets of Elvish craft. - C

But Celebrimbor had the strength of oaths kept and knowledge freely given, and not all that had been learned in Eregion had been learned by Sauron. And for a time neither had the mastery, but Sauron had been of the Maiar once.

Are your people under the impression
that being a Maia is something like
an allegiance that can be changed?
This is the wrong lesson to take
from the example of Luthien. - A

Of their last struggle there is none who can tell, for the waters now cover Ost-in-Edhil of the open doors, and the high-built halls are broken and drowned and silent. Yet it is said that Celebrimbor took what he knew of Sauron’s art and turned it back upon itself, so that the Ring he had formed to rule all other rings was changed to a weapon against him.

Whose idea is this? Doesn’t it say
right there that you had no hand
in the creation of the One?
How exactly do they think you
wrested control of it from me? -A

'None can tell'.
Really, this strikes me as a
very good guess based on all
that was known at the time. - C

Thank you. There were
a number of theories about the
destruction of the city and the
fall of the Dark Lord, but I can
confidently assert that
“self-immolation for love on Sauron’s part”
was not among them. - L

He brought down Sauron, but in that act he perished, and the city was consumed in fire and light.

So fell Celebrimbor, last of the unhappy house of Feanor, and greatest; and thus his line was redeemed and their crimes purged away.

I appreciate Galadriel’s efforts
on behalf of my memory, but this is
going a bit far. - C

No. No it isn’t. -A

For through him the lieutenant of Morgoth resurgent was brought low, and the last great evil of the Age of the Jewels rid from the world.

Where the other Elvish accounts (The Lay of the Fall of Eregion, Song of the Open Door, Laer Cordân) differ from this, it is primarily in the level of detail assigned to different parts of the narrative. The actual struggle that took place between me and Annatar had to be reconstructed entirely from its outcome, knowledge of our characters and preparations, and the imaginations of the retellers, so this varies considerably, although it is generally flattering to myself.

I think my favorite is the one in Laer Cordân
where you call to the Ruling Ring and
it transfers its allegiance to you. - A

Chapter Text

We heard this song, or fragments of this song, in several versions, one overlapping with the “false friend” motif already noted. This, taken from the singing of Iellena, a grandmother in Rhudaur, seems to be the most complete.

There were two bold magicians
Lived in the North country.
The one unto the other said
"I'll have that ring from thee.”

"Oh no you bold magician,"
The other laughed so free
"You may eat my meat, you may drink my wine
But you'll have no ring from me."

Then spoke the first magician
All shining like the sun
"I'll have that ring from thee, my love
Before this day is done."

Some versions skip straight to the shape-shifting competition, others include this verse (note repeated ‘false friend’ motif)

My walls ye break, my gates ye breach
My tower climb so high
But ere that ring, false friend, ye reach
Both you and I shall die.

Not a tower. - L

He changed himself into a deer
All by his cunning art.
The other to a feathered bolt
That pierced him through the heart.

This suggests a memory of Elvish duels in song. - C

The physical symbolism is obvious. - L

He changed himself into the sea
That flows both deep and wide.
The other changed into the shore
And lay down by his side.

Not clear who is who at this point,
but the sea/shore dynamic recalls the
central debate of whether perfection is to be
sought across the sea or pursued on
the shores of Middle-Earth. -A

More obvious physical symbolism. - L

He changed himself into the wind
That flees across the sky.
The other changed into a bird
And soared with him on high.

This is interesting, suggesting that the
contest is less about one overcoming
the other and more about maintaining contact?
Also the ring motif disappears through
the shape-shifting competition. -C

This is about sex. - L

He changed himself into the stone
So hard and cold and grim
The other to a mattock-head
That split the heart of him.

And yet this is still a more accurate
portrayal of how you attained your
victory than the Elvish account. -A

The sun it sank into the sea
Night covered all the land.
The game is done, and I have won
Thy ring is in my hand.

Are we supposed to know what’s happened here?
Is this a day/night metaphor?
One of the magicians (you?) was
identified as ‘shining like the sun’. -C

I think this might just be about sex. -A

Correct. - L

There were two bold magicians
Lived in the North Country.
Thy ring is mine, and I am thine
And let us merry be.

Are you sure? Certainly it seems possible
to put a sexual interpretation on
some of the transformation imagery,
but the characterization of both parties
as ‘magicians’ suggests to me that
this is secondary at best. - C

I’ve got a suggested addition:
“He changed himself into a differential manifold
That spread across the plane.
The other to a polygon
And tessellated him.” - A

This seems more overtly sexual than the others.
Also doesn’t scan. - C

Although Annatar’s suggested addition
is not culturally compatible with mortal
imagery, the intended significance,
to fit infinitely and perfectly into something,
is entirely consistent with the
spirit of the original. - L



This particular paper is missing the final commentary seen on the other sections. There appears to have been an equation written at the end of this ballad (that has been obscured by an architectural drawing giving an example of southern Mannish construction). I have refrained from attempting to reconstruct it, as evidence suggests it may have been of an intimate nature.

As neither of the authors seem entirely familiar with the mortal customs the song is referencing, some background may be helpful. The motif of ring-winning appears in mortal songs considerably predating the events of SA 1697. In addition to the obvious physical symbolism, rings are given to signify contracts in general and marriage-contracts in particular. An understanding of mortal marriage-customs may be helpful - they are accustomed to distinguishing between marriage as physical union (which may be practiced with many) and marriage as social arrangement. Indeed, the tension between the two is a frequent theme in mortal courting-songs, with one party pursuing only the first aspect of marriage and the other insisting on the second.

While it is indeed possible that this song was influenced by legends from Eregion (the “false friend” verse is suggestive, as is the central couple being characterized as “two bold magicians”) it may be simply a courting/shapeshifting ballad with coincidental resemblance to the situation. Certainly our authors seem to have found it resonant.

Chapter Text

The peoples of the land between the rivers have a number of tales referencing the sack of Eregion and the fall of Ost-in-Edhil, unsurprisingly given the impact on their homeland. The destruction of their forests by the armies from over the mountains accelerated a process of displacement that had begun with the Numenorean timber trade. I hardly recognize the Minhiriath, and even its language has changed since the last time I traveled through these woods. The people have changed as well - they have grown more isolated over the years, and intermarriage even between their own villages is becoming rarer.

Their stories, unlike others at a farther remove, rarely offer explanations for the cataclysm. The destruction of what they refer to as “Elfland” and the incursion of the armies of the South are both referenced, but no narrative threads connect them. Instead, they are treated almost as natural phenomena.

This is consistent with the character of the Gwathuirim both at present and as I knew them in Ost-in-Edhil. As a small people frequently at the mercy of greater powers, they knew the futility of trying to explain the behavior of those powers, and focused their attention on the skills that would let them survive it.

On Ost-in-Edhil:

"Once the Elvish city stood where the rivers met. Children of the village who were elf-called would find their way to the city, sooner or later, and never be seen again. It is there still, under the waters of the lake, and now the elf-called must dive under the waters and never return to the surface. It is all Elfland, where the rivers meet. They watch you from the trees and from under the ripples on the river.”

Unclear what this last refers to. - C

One of Ulmo’s Maiar frequents the Gwathlo,
but has never taken human form. - A

That you know of. - C

I can tell. -A

How?? Does this have to do
with the way the Maiar perceive time?
Is this something related to the Music?
Not all of us are married to an Ainu;
this information needs to be communicated! - L

On Elves:

“Well now, I wouldn’t say that the Elves are wicked, nor yet that they’re good. They are dangerous, that is certain. You must never let the ship-kings touch one of their trees. If you leave them honeycomb and bread, they will keep sickness from your house.”

Who eats these offerings? - C

Mice? Dogs? Small children?
Mortal settlements never
lack for hungry mouths. - A

No, I mean, where would they get
this idea in the first place? - C

As I’ve pointed out to you on multiple occasions,
the sacrificial impulse is one of the
fundamental aspects of human character.
The elves may have neglected their
responsibilities toward the mortals propitiating
them, but this clearly didn’t deter the mortals themselves. - A

We do not wish to encourage mortal worship. - C

They have never needed encouragement. - A

On the ship-kings:

“They are tree-killers from beyond the sea. They say they have a home in the midst of the waters, but no one has ever seen it, and it is possible that they live only on their ships, which is why they must come to us to steal our trees. Some say that they are the souls of the dead from the Dark Years, but they are only men like us; they die if they are killed.”

To be fair, so do the souls of the
dead from the Dark Years, although
killing them is something of a specialized skill - A

On the armies of the South:

“In the Great Winter, the mountains crumbled and the demons of the south came up from the cracks in the earth. They burned the woods and boiled the rivers, and we fled to the deepest parts of the forest to wait until they passed. But when they came to the city of the Elves, there they were halted, for their feet were not permitted to tread that hallowed land, and they and Elfland vanished together. You should not dive into the waters that cover Elfland today; the Old Enemy and his armies are down there still beneath the water.”

Are they referring to Melkor? - A

Keep reading - C

On the Old Enemy:

"Killed? No, no, the Old Enemy can't be killed. Not even in the great battle where the stars themselves came down from the sky and fought against him. Oh, they thought they'd done for him then, but he wasn't killed after all, for hundreds and thousands of years later he arose again, and this time he was not dark and terrible, but bright and terrible. And it may seem like he’s gone now, but he’ll be back, somehow, somewhere."

This undoubtedly conflates Annatar with a cultural memory of Morgoth - possibly even of Morgoth in the days before Angband, as certain suggestive features in the language of the river-Edain indicate a shared ancestor with the Hadorian languages.

The Numenoreans who came to study in Ost-in-Edhil generally rejected the premise that they were kin to the Men of the Minhiriath, and cited their stature and the advanced state of their learning as proof. I had a Numenorean student who was doing very promising work in comparative linguistics, but when it came to examining the shared Hadorian roots of the people’s tongue of Numenor and the speech of the river-Edain, he abandoned his studies precipitously - on the urging, I believe, of his superior back in Lond Daer. Certainly the relations between the Numenoreans and the peoples of the Minhiriath, which were strained when I died, appear to have deteriorated to open enmity if not outright war.

Chapter Text

The version current in Dale, which I have summarized here, is notable for there being no clear relationship between Sauron and Celebrimbor. There is no hint of friendship or shared knowledge. There is no question about its derivation from the Eregion legends, though, as the names are preserved with perfect accuracy.

All this suggests to me a Dwarvish origin for the story, filtered through several layers of Mannish retelling, focusing on what one of the bards referred to as “the good bits”, by which he apparently meant the torture. Normally, small children and nursing mothers are advised to avoid listening to this tale, as I was informed that graphic depictions of suffering can turn milk sour and stunt the growth. Pregnant women, on the other hand, are advised to listen to stories that are as bloody and violent as possible, as this is thought to strengthen them for labor.

There is no clear beginning of this story; each of the performers we observed began at the end with the confrontation, and offered different accounts of who “Celebrimbor” was. A hero of the elves, this much is clear. Sauron is “the Tyrant”, but no origin is given.

When Sauron the Tyrant took Ost-in-Edhil, that great city, and put its marvels to the torch, Celebrimbor the Elf-Lord was taken prisoner, but Sauron did not slay him yet, for he had purposes for him.

In some versions, these purposes are ennumerated: to learn the art of the elves, to steal the treasure of the elves, to take the secrets of the elves. Notably, none of these versions makes reference to magic rings.

He cast him into a hideous den of terror, and tore skin from flesh and flesh from bone until the red blood ran.

This is a place where the storyteller is expected to display his improvisatory skill. The elements of the torture scene are not consistent from one telling to the next, let alone from one version to another, and there seems to be a competitive element in how gruesome the story could be made, and how villainous the Dark Lord. The record, I believe, included seven stanzas of nothing but Sauron gloating.

Which seems excessive. -A

Still didn’t take as long as it did at the time. - C

But Celebrimbor saw that his purpose was to destroy him, and he lifted up his voice and cried aloud. “Cry as thou wilt,” said Sauron, “there is none to hear thee; thy people are slain and thy city is mine.”

In other versions Celebrimbor asks for and is allowed three cries: the first is addressed to his brothers, the second to his father, and the third to Aule. Elements of the Feanorian legend may be present in one:“Seven brothers you had,” Sauron said to him, “but they are dead and accursed and the darkness has taken them.” / “A mighty father you had, but he is dead and accursed and the darkness has taken him.”

But Celebrimbor did not call upon his people. Rather, he named the great power of the mountains. "Father Aule," he whispered, "hear me. Lord of Earth and Stone, hear me. For the service I have done thy children, hear me."

And Sauron laughed at him. "Aule hears thee not," he said. "Thou wert better cry to me for mercy than to him.”

Well that’s true enough. - A

But Celebrimbor did not heed him and called once more upon the Maker beyond the Sea. "I ask for nothing for myself," he said. "Let me perish and all my works with me, only remember us, and do not let the darkness fall again upon Middle-Earth."

Then Sauron was filled with rage. "Perish thou shalt," he cried, "and thy works shall be mine, nor shall the darkness fall upon Middle-Earth while I am its lord. Yet on thee shall darkness fall indeed!" Then he had him blinded, and dragged forth before his army, and they mocked him, and Sauron made ready to slay him for his defiance.

But in the moment of his triumph, there came a distant rumbling, as it were thunder brooding over the mountains, and yet it came not from the sky but from the ground beneath their feet.

And the rumbling grew to a mighty roar, and they heard the voice of Aule speaking from the stones themselves. "Thy cry is heard, child of the Accursed, and thy oath fulfilled." And Celebrimbor bowed his head.

This seems to be another indication of the Feanorian connection, though in no version of this is an explanation offered for what this oath might be. One singer suggested it might be an oath that Celebrimbor had sworn to Aule.

Then the armies of Sauron were filled with panic and would have fled, but the earth opened beneath their feet, and great cracks sprang through the streets of the city, and from the depths came the red glow of fire. Then, with a noise like a thousand mountains crumbling, the earth swallowed the city, and Sauron, and all his armies.

At this point, when we first heard this song, I had to remove Annatar from the room under pretext of getting him some air.

Nothing so clearly marks this tale as a
Mannish fabrication as the idea that the Valar
would have shown the slightest inclination
to have stopped me - or that they could have
even if they had tried, which,
I must stress again, they did not. -A

Don’t get carried away; the Valar did
a fair job at stopping Morgoth in the end,
though I agree that mere pleading seems
insufficient to move them to action. -C

And so it was that Sauron the Tyrant, the Dark Lord, was destroyed, and no trace of him remained above the earth. But to this day, beneath the hills of Eregion you may hear strange sounds, and none will plough there, and no Dwarf dig the earth, for fear of what they may rouse from slumber.

Eregion is, of course, forestland;
this seems conclusive evidence for none
of the tellers of this tale having the
slightest idea where or what Eregion is. - A

Or having met a Dwarf; it is possible they
think they will dig anywhere, like badgers. - C

Badgers are quite selective about where they dig. - L

The presence of “Aule” in this story is a very distinctive element. In general, Aule is not revered among Men, and indeed is a very obscure legendary figure. How his name - and this version of his name specifically - became attached to this story, is a very interesting question, and not one for which I have a satisfying theory.

In none of the versions are “Aule’s children” specifically identified as dwarves. One singer, when questioned, supposed that “Aule’s children” might be the earth and stone themselves. This suggests to me a Dwarvish origin for the story, but at considerable remove. The preservation of the names is an interesting feature, especially with the other elements of narrative transformation.


The marginal notes on this account take up more space than the original text, and render it almost unreadable in places. Annatar was evidently agitated while making his annotations; at one point (“nothing so clearly marks this tale”) each letter has neatly burned through the paper, and one sheet appears to have been crumpled and then painstakingly smoothed out.

Chapter Text

This story, possibly my favorite of all those that we’ve encountered to date, was collected from a river-folk of the Anduin Vale previously unknown to me. They are a small-statured, secretive people, fishers for the most part, who build their houses by delving into river-banks. They have a great fondness for their children, who are numerous and cheerful. This is an account of an evening we spent listening to the bedtime-stories of Pogonia, a clan matriarch (they favor botanical names, particularly for women), in the company of between six and ten children. I include their interruptions and commentary as I found them to be illuminating on several points.

“Once upon a time," began the grandmother, “in the lost land in the West, lived a wise king with seven sons. Fairy princes, all of them, each cleverer than the last. One day the youngest and cleverest said to his father, ‘Father, I am going into the world to seek my fortune.’”

My cleverest uncle is evidently Amrod.
Amras may have something to say about that. - C

No, you’re Amrod. - A

One of the children broke in with “He’s a fairy prince! Why does he need to seek his fortune?”

“Oh, all the king’s treasure had been stolen, you see. Stolen by dragons. Fairyland had become quite a dark and gloomy place, if you can believe it. So you see Tully - for that was the youngest prince’s name - had to go look elsewhere if he wanted to seek his fortune.

“So he sailed over the sea and climbed over the mountains, and crossed the forests, until he came to a river. And there struggling and splashing in the water he saw a Dwarf, who had fallen in.”

“Everyone knows Dwarves can't swim,” explained one of the children, who had hitherto been hiding herself behind my braids. “I can swim,” she added. “Can you?”

But the grandmother did not pause in her story. “So he jumped in and pulled the half-drowned Dwarf up the bank, where he lay puffing and spluttering. Once he had gotten his breath back, the Dwarf was so grateful not to be drowned that he took Tully to his kingdom under the mountains.

“You can’t even imagine what a fine place it is, the kingdom of the Dwarves! Everything is made of silver, and gold, and jewels, and though there is no sunlight at all, the gold gives a light of its own, there among the roots of the mountains. Tully’s eyes were very wide, but he was a courteous prince as well as a wise one, and he did not ask for any of the Dwarves’ treasure, even though his own kingdom had grown so poor. But the Dwarf was courteous to him -- the Dwarves are very fair people, as a rule, but you must not presume too much -- and after he had let him out again by the secret door which no one can find save the Dwarves and their friends, he gave him a magic ring.

Have the gates of Khazad-dûm been shut for so long? - C

"Whatever you wish for will be yours," said the Dwarf. "But take care! Do not be too proud! Do not be too showy! And never tell anyone else about the ring, for if you do, it will be the worse for you." Then he tapped his nose, turned himself about, and vanished without a trace.

“Now,” said the grandmother, leaning forward over her charges, “what would you wish for if you had a magic ring?”

There was a great deal of clamor at this -- I believe I heard ‘palaces’ and ‘gold’ and ‘fish’, but the grandmother only laughed.

“That is why the prince is wise and you are not,” she said. “Believe it or not, all that Tully wished for was a little house by the river.”

Ah, the modesty of your ambitions.
Truly your defining trait. - A

“He was always kind to the people passing by, and would help them out whenever they were in trouble, and if he used his ring to do it, well, no one was the wiser. Indeed, no one knew that he was a fairy prince - they knew that he was good, and kind, and beautiful, but because his house was so modest - hardly more than one of ours - no one suspected who he really was.

“But when his neighbors needed something, he would go back into his house, and wish upon the ring. And the little old woman would find that her garden was blooming again, or the weary farmer find that he had new shoes waiting for him at home, or the worried mother that her sick child was laughing and running again. Soon the word began to spread about the wise young man who lived by the river, and people came to live near him, and he began to think that his little house was too small for all of the visitors that he had. Besides, it was getting harder and harder for him to slip away to wish on the ring, with so many people in such a small house.

“So he wished again, one night when no one could see him, and with a pop, his house was a large palace. After that people began to talk more loudly about him being a fairy prince, but that was only to be expected. And so things went on and on like this, until before you know it, Tully had built a whole beautiful city on the riverbank where before he had only one small house with a garden.

“Then one day a stranger came walking down the road. What do you suppose he looked like?”

The children shouted various ideas: “Like an old man!” “Like a king!” “Like a frog!” and the grandmother laughed.

“Well, he was the most beautiful stranger anyone has ever seen - even more beautiful than our guests tonight. He looked like he had walked across on the beams of the sun from Fairyland itself, before the dragons came. He had a gold ring on his finger and a gold crown on his head and his hair shone as golden as the wheatfields before harvest. His eyes were gold too, like the eyes of a cat.”

“Or a frog,” insisted one child, sulking.

“Or a dragon,” said his brother.

“Even the prince, who had been a king’s son in Fairyland before the dragons came, had never seen anything like this person, and he knew at once that he would never be happy unless that beautiful stranger came into his house to stay with him.”

“Well that’s easy,” said one of the children, taking his thumb out of his mouth, “he should just wish on the ring."

It should be noted your academic
detachment deserted you at this point
and you started attempting to engage
small marsh children on points of
philosophy. - A

“Do you think that would be a good idea?” I asked. “What if the beautiful stranger didn’t want to come into his house to stay with him?”

“That’s why he should wish on the ring!” declared the child, and replaced the thumb with a great air of finality.

Annatar was doing a poor job at
concealing his laughter and being of
very little help. - C

“I don’t think the ring works on people,” objected another child, who appeared to be his little brother. “Only on houses and shoes and things.”

“It does so work on people,” piped up the girl behind my braids. “Remember he wished sick people well?”

The grandmother, perhaps seeing that this was getting out of control, took charge. “He didn’t have to wish on the ring,” she said, “because when the beautiful stranger saw the fine city by the river and the wise prince at the gate, he asked himself if he could come in. And in that moment Tully believed he was happier than anyone else on the earth, and do you know, he might have been right.

“So the beautiful stranger came to live with him in his city, and for a while things went very well. Then one day the stranger - ”

“How is he a stranger if he lives there now?” Once the question-asking habit had begun, it was apparently hard to break.

“Stranger is his name, of course,” said the girl behind my braids.

“Nobody’s named Stranger,” said another one.

“Well,” said the grandmother, “he never did say to Tully that he would stay with him, although the prince always wished he would. Indeed, he never asked Tully for anything, and that was a little strange, for most of the people who came to him asked for something or other, and he was always happy to give it.

“‘Isn’t there something I can give you?’ the wise prince said to the beautiful stranger. ‘Houses and lands? Jewels for your hair? Anything you ask for.’

“Normally, of course,” added the grandmother with a sharp look, “this would be a very foolish thing to promise, and I’m not saying it wasn’t for Tully. But of course, he had the magic ring, and he really thought he could give him anything at all.

“‘There is one thing that I want,’ said the stranger. ‘Just one. I want to know how you built this beautiful city.’

“What would you have done then?” she asked the children, but they were silent.

“The prince didn’t know either,” said the grandmother. “On the one hand, he loved his guest so much that he probably would have given him the magic ring itself if he’d asked. But the Dwarf long ago had told him to keep the secret safe. And, to tell you the truth, maybe Tully knew that he would give the ring away if he was asked… and he didn’t really want to be asked.”

“He can’t ask him for the Ring,” explained a small child to Annatar, “if he doesn’t know he has it.”

“So he lied,” said the grandmother.

“‘Oh, I just built it,’ said Tully. ‘Piece by piece, stone by stone, here a little, there a little.’” And the guest seemed satisfied. But maybe it was only Tully’s guilty conscience, but he thought he saw dark clouds in the stranger’s golden eyes.

“That night they dined together as they usually did -”

“Are they married?” demanded one of the children.

“Well, listen to what happened,” said the grandmother, “and see what you think. That night the stranger gave Tully wine to drink, brought from a country far to the east. And the wise prince fell fast asleep.”

Is this a metaphor for the same thing as before? - A

Surely sometimes sleep is just sleep?
They’re mortals, they sleep every night! - C

“When he awoke, his beautiful city was gone. His fine house was gone. His fine clothes were gone. And of course, his magic ring was gone. He was alone on the riverbank.

“The end,” announced the grandmother after a pause of suitable dramatic length. “A long long snake has a long long snout, and this long long tale is all --”

? - C

‘-Told out’; these stock phrases are
very common among mortals. - L

But she was drowned out by the protesting clamor of the children. “That’s not the end!” they shouted. “What happened to the stranger?” “What happened to the prince?” “Didn’t he try to get his ring back?”

“Oh, you don’t want to hear the rest,” said the grandmother, enjoying herself immensely. “It’s your bed-time. Maybe I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow.”

At this the children’s chorus of protest rose to howls.

“Oh, very well,” said the grandmother. “So, the stranger had magic of some sort, that much was obvious. It is unwise to lie to anyone, and especially unwise to lie to one of the magical folk, because they will see straight through your mind as easily as you might peep through a piece of glass. So it did not matter all the good that Tully had done with the ring; he had been cast into slumber, and his guest had taken the ring for his own, and all the wishes that he had made with the ring came untrue at once.

“So the wise prince wept in rags by the riverbank, for the loss of his city and the loss of his ring, but most of all for the loss of his friend.”

No explanation was given for what
became of the inhabitants of the city,
and given the circumstances I felt it wiser
not to press the matter. - C

No, I imagine you wouldn’t. -L

“So the prince began to wander through the world, and everywhere he went, he sought news of the stranger. ‘Have you seen a man with a ring on his finger, and a crown on his head, whose eyes are golden as the summer wheatfields just before harvest?’”

“Or a frog,” insisted the smallest child.

“It wasn’t long before he began to hear rumors of a great tower far away to the south, so he turned his steps southwards. But oh, what a terrible journey that was! The forests were burned as if a dragon had swept through them, the mountains were cracked and blackened, and the farther south he went the worse it was, until he came into a land where there was no green at all, and the great river that flowed Southward turned into a little muddy trickle and dried up altogether. Then he looked up and in the distance he saw something that looked like a mountain, except that it was taller than any mountain he had ever seen. And from the top of the mountain fire was pouring out, just like water pours out of a spring.

“And the prince sank down in the dust of that desolate country and wept again, because he understood at last what had happened. It was the terrible anger of his friend that had burned the forests and scorched the rivers, for his friend, that mysterious stranger with golden eyes, was a shifter of shape. He was a dragon, one of those foul, gold-hungry creatures that had despoiled his family’s kingdom long ago.”

I think Annatar was genuinely surprised by this turn of events; certainly the comments which he had been speaking to my thought stopped abruptly.

It… does make a certain kind
of sense, when considered. -A

“Now, the prince no longer had his ring, but he was still the cleverest of the seven sons of the King of Fairyland, and it wasn’t long before he came up with a plan.

“Tully knew that his former guest had all the cleverness of dragons, which is a cleverness so deep and terrible that no other cleverness can hope to beat it. But -” and here the grandmother looked straight over the heads of the children and directly at us, “that does not mean that all hope is lost. By no means! For when you find yourself facing a dragon like that, the only thing to do is to tangle the dragon up in his own cleverness, for you will certainly not tangle him in anything else.”

So Tully climbed up the dragon’s mountain, and though he was a great prince, he felt smaller and smaller as he climbed. From time to time he felt the dragon’s golden eyes upon him, though he could see nothing at all but the smoke from the mountain’s top, which rolled down the slopes and made him gasp and cough.”

“He should have sneaked in,” pronounced one of the children.

“Snucked,” corrected another.

“Do you think so?” said the grandmother. “Well, he didn’t. He marched straight up to the front gate, which wasn’t much of a gate at all, but more a sort of hole near the mountain’s top. And he looked in, and there he saw the dragon, curled on a great pile of gold the way dragons do.

“He looked nothing like the friend that Tully remembered, of course. He was the size of a hill; covered with shining scales, and his wings, if he had cared to open them, could have covered our whole delving like a tent. But his golden eyes were just the same, and on the very tip of his smallest claw Tully saw his magic ring.

“‘So,’ the dragon said, ‘you came back. You have a lot of nerve for a liar, it seems! Tell me,” he said, and one long tongue of fire came out and licked his lips, “why I shouldn’t simply eat you now and be done with it!’

“‘Because if you eat me now,’ said the prince, ‘then you will never learn the answer to my riddles.’

“‘As if you knew any riddles that could puzzle me!’ said the dragon, but he stretched himself out over his hoard to listen.

“‘Well, well, perhaps I don’t,’ said Tully. ‘You had best eat me at once, then, and get it over with.’

“‘I’ll hear those riddles first,’ said the dragon.

“‘All right,” said Tully slowly. ‘I’ll ask you my riddles and if you win, you may eat me. But if I win, you will grant me what I seek.’

“‘Very well,’ said the dragon, and laughed to himself, while the mountain shook.

“‘Do you give me your word?’ said the prince.

“‘I give you all of them,’ said the dragon. ‘Let’s hear your riddles, but quickly, because I am hungry. Your ring is mine, and soon you will be too.’

“Then Tully asked a very old riddle, which they say came out of Fairyland in the days before the dragons:

“‘One father I have, and a thousand mothers. I am under the earth and above the sky. I am a servant and a scholar and a scholar and a warrior. Friend may I be to friend, and foe to foe. If my host take heed me not, let him look to himself, for I will grow proud and devour him, house and home.

“‘Fire,’ said the dragon, and breathed a little flame to make the point. ‘That was disappointing. I hope you make more of a mouthful than your riddle did.’ And he stretched out his claws for him.

“‘Not so fast!’ Tully cried. ‘Two out of three!’ And without waiting for the dragon to respond, he asked:

“‘Two lords there were in a far country.
One was gold as gold might be.
One was dark as the distant sea.
These two bold lords they rode to war.
One always behind, one always before.
Though each takes all, yet both want more.

“The dragon laughed again. ‘You are going to have to do better than that,’ he said. ‘The answer, O Prince, is you and me, but the one lord shall devour the other, and soon.’

“‘Wrong!’ said the prince. ‘You only think so because you are always thinking about yourself, but the answer is the night and the day.’

“‘Well,’ said the dragon, ‘this is interesting.’ And the ring gleamed on its claw. But Tully turned his back, and walked up and down in the mouth of the cave, until the dragon began to grow impatient. ‘Come along,’ he said. ‘One more.’

“‘In a minute,’ said Tully.

“The dragon waited, but Tully said nothing, and walked up and down in the cave.

“‘Ask,’ said the dragon. ‘My patience is wearing thin.’

“‘I will, I will,’ said the prince, ‘just let me think for a little.’

“‘If you do not ask your riddle now,’ hissed the dragon, ‘you forfeit the game.’

“Tully stopped his pacing and lifted his head, looking the dragon in its great golden eyes. ‘What was it I said to my oldest friend, on the day I gave him my ring?’

“‘That’s not fair at all,’ said the dragon.

“‘Are you saying you forfeit?’ asked the prince.

“Then the dragon began to steam and hiss to himself, and writhe about on his golden bed, for Tully had trapped him very neatly. He was almost sure that this was not a riddle at all, and that Tully had already lost the game, but he could not be quite, quite sure, and he did not want to seem foolish by refusing to guess the riddle.

“‘If you can’t guess,’ said Tully, ‘I will just have to tell you, and then you must give me what I came for.’

“‘No!’ said the dragon, and he snapped his jaws, as if he longed to bite the prince in half. But he was bound by the rules of the game just as all creatures are; even a dragon’s word is worth something.

“‘I will give you as long as you gave me,’ said the prince, ‘and no more.’ And he began pacing once more at the mouth of the cave.

“‘Three guesses!’ said the dragon.

“‘I’ll give you all the chances you gave me,’ said the prince, ‘and that’s one.’

“‘Nothing!’ cried the dragon, and Tully stopped and looked at him.

“‘No,’ he said. ‘I said you are coming home with me.’ And he turned and began walking down the mountain.

And the dragon looked after him in puzzlement, having entirely forgotten about eating him. ‘Aren’t you going to claim the thing you seek?’ he asked.

“‘I just did,’ said the prince. ‘You are coming home with me.’ And, for the dragon had given his word, he uncoiled himself and came pouring down out of his cave, and went along by his side as calm as a cat.”

Well, it does seem that these hole-builders
have somehow happened upon
a more accurate account of what
happened than even the best of
the Elvish guesses. - A

‘Calm as a cat’ may be a bit of artistic license. - C

There was an uproar from the children at this point - those who were still awake, anyway; the one hiding in my hair had fallen asleep.

“Doesn’t he get his ring back?”

“Why doesn’t the dragon eat him?”

“He won the game, mud-head! The dragon can’t eat him! And he wished for it to follow, so he doesn’t need the ring!”

That was cheating though. - A

You know, I’d never considered it, but
your eyes really are the same gold
as a frog’s. - C

“I want a dragon for a pet,” the smallest girl announced to Annatar. Annatar began by explaining that dragons make better war-beasts than pets, and I hastily stopped him before he could offer any details about the means by which they may be controlled.

I could have told her about how
they’re created, too, if she was interested. - A

Do not darken the innocence of
tiny marsh children, beloved. - C

I later asked the grandmother if she knew of any variants on the riddles the prince asks the dragon; she said that she did not, but she presented a great number of other riddles of her people, which are noted in the “Riddles, Verses, and Conundrums” notebook.

I consider it best to omit the precise location of this settlement. They are a small people, and small peoples do not fare well when great ones clash. It would grieve me to learn that this family by the riverbank had seen their home fall prey to Numenorean ship-builders or to Dalish merchantmen.

Chapter Text

This is the version of the story current among the Numenorean settlers of Pelargir. It seems to be principally drawn from Numenorean sources rather than from their closer neighbors in Harad (see IX, X) but although the Elvish names have been preserved with some care, it seems to have been influenced little by the account of the war current in Lindon.


Alas, alas for Ost-in-Edhil, city of wonders, city of magic and song! No more will the hammer fall upon the beaten gold, no more will spell-wrought gems give back the light caught in their hearts, no more will the tall Elves walk about those shining streets. Once great kings dwelt there, the proud lords and ladies of Elvendom, and power was in their hands. The secrets of water, earth, and sky were theirs

This suggests to me that the Three
were rather more widely known
than I had thought. - C


and the dark thoughts of stone, and it was said that Death itself was humbled to them, and came and went at their call.

Or not. - A


Seldom did mortals enter those mighty gates

I feel we may be using different
understandings of frequency - C


and those who were suffered to enter within seldom returned. And those who came back, came back changed, for ever and again the Elvish longing would come upon them, and they would cast their gaze ever farther across the sea, or ever deeper into its waters, as if they could glimpse in depth or distance some glimmer of the wonders they had seen in Ost-in-Edhil.

Now the waters cover the mighty city and all its secrets. No more will Alatariel the Fair call summer shimmering down from the trees, no longer will Celebrimbor Feanor’s son bind time itself into magic rings.

I think this must be your fault;
how many times did you refer to me
as Feanor’s heir in trade negotiations
with the Numenoreans? - C


For Ost-in-Edhil grew proud, and glorious, and the fame of its beauty spread to the ends of the earth, but in that glory its fall had already begun.

Celebrimbor was lord of Ost-in-Edhil, the last of the line of the mighty Feanor, whose hand, it is said, caught the fire of the stars themselves in gems of crystal. But on Feanor’s line there was laid a curse, that they should be mighty in craft and in knowledge, and yet to ill should turn all the works that they begun. But Celebrimbor laughed at the prophecy, for, as he said, it had perished with Morgoth in the Wars of the West. Morgoth was dead, and he lived, and he set the curse at naught.

Among the lords of his court, Celebrimbor had a lover who was called Annatar, a youth so fair that it was said that he walked in the likeness of the Beautiful Ones of the West, rivalling Dior the Fair in his loveliness.

Youth? - A
Lover?? - C
Dior??? - A


This youth was always at his side; he shared the hidden wisdom with which Celebrimbor wrought his treasures, and he shared all the counsels of his heart. But Celebrimbor began a great work in secret, which he kept even from Annatar, and so began a coldness between them.

Now the fame of Ost-in-Edhil had grown very great, and Celebrimbor was known as the Ring-Lord and the Giver of Gifts, and kings came from the ends of the earth seeking his friendship, or simply to steal his secrets. But Celebrimbor guarded them jealously, and many went away empty-handed.

Not sure who they are confounding
me with here; the gates of the Mirdain
were always open - C

At least you’re not a fair youth
whose beauty rivals that of Dior? - A

Dior was the most beautiful of men,
of course I can’t compare to that! - C


Meanwhile, in the East, a dark power had been growing. Whispers of its terror came even across the sea. It was said that orcs were seen again in the mountains, and that across the dry plains vast armies had begun to march. The proud kings of the South ceased their warring and bent their knees to the new lord in the Dark Tower. They called him the Generous Lord and the Excellent One, for they did not know his true name, and would not have dared to speak it if they had. But no one knew how dreadful that true name would prove.

These epithets referring to Sauron in his
character as the ruler of the empire
of the South are indeed accurate;
this probably reflects the proximity of
Pelargir to Harad and the
fragments of that empire. - C

For the ‘Generous Lord’ was none other than Sauron of Angband, the sorceror-lord of Sirion, whom Luthien had cast down from his tower of dread. Alas for the mercy of Luthien! For it was mercy stayed her hand at the last, and she did not slay him when she had him in her power. Wounded and disgraced, he had cast off his body and fled like a shadow over the mountains and into the desert, where over the turning centuries he had begun to gather himself again, to grow strong, and to sway the hearts of the weak.

The fame of the Elvish city and of Celebrimbor’s arts reached the ears of Sauron, and in his dark heart he said to himself that Celebrimbor possessed the last secret which would make him ruler over all the world: that of eternal life.

What exactly do they think I am?
‘Eternal life’ is not something I
needed to obtain! - A

This does seem to be a
Numenorean preoccupation - C


But even then he did not send to Celebrimbor directly. Rather he watched from a distance, and sent his spies among the marvels of the Elvish city, and when at last he sent forth messengers, it was not Celebrimbor they came, but to Annatar.

Who can say what it was that Sauron promised the Elf-lord’s favorite? Had Annatar begun to grow jealous of his master, for truly his knowledge and skill was little less than Celebrimbor’s own? Or was it that Celebrimbor had already begun to grow cold towards him, as his great work consumed him entirely? However it was, Annatar departed the city of Ost-in-Edhil, riding south and east, and he was never seen again. There is none can say what became of him in Sauron’s tower, for those who go in do not return again. Bitterly was his faithlessness rewarded.

Is it strange to feel pity for ‘Annatar’
at this point? - C

No, he deserved what he got. - A


But Sauron came forth from Mordor with battle and storm, and the kings of the south rode in his train. Then the Elves trembled in their forests, and the Dwarves barred the gates of Moria, and the king Gil-Galad sent in haste to Tar-Minastir, begging his aid. Tar-Minastir built a great fleet to sail to the shores of Lindon, but while they were still upon the seas, Sauron arrived at the gates of Celebrimbor’s city.

The defenders had the secret arts of the Elves, but Sauron had the foul secrets of the Elder Days, and through Annatar’s treachery knew all the weaknesses of the city. The battle raged on, with great slaughter on both sides, but at last Sauron broke down the city gates and stood within Ost-in-Edhil.

Then Celebrimbor descended from his tower to face him, wearing his rings on his hand. Celebrimbor was mighty in his art, but Sauron had the malice of the long ages behind him, and the forgotten sorcery whose knowledge is forbidden to mortals. No more a war of army against army, the two of them fought in single combat, each calling down great magics, but neither had the mastery. At last, weary with battle and with nearly all of his power gone, Celebrimbor turned his thought to the precious rings that he had created, the rings which sustained his life and the life of the city. They were not weapons of war, so he had said to the kings who came to seek rings of power at his hand, but at the last they served him well.

Celebrimbor called on the first of his rings, and the power he had woven within it was released. The Ring was destroyed, and half the city crumbled to dust, but Sauron fell before him. Then the Dark Lord cast off his form again, and rose like a black smoke over the city, for though Celebrimbor might strike him down, yet he had no power to hold him.

Then Celebrimbor called upon the second of his rings, and like the first it was consumed, and Sauron was bound. Then he surrendered, and sued for peace, and yet he smiled within his bonds, for he was a spirit of the ancient world and he knew that Celebrimbor had no power to destroy him.

Then Celebrimbor called upon the last and greatest of his rings, the ring whose power was intertwined with his own life. There was a great light, and a terrible sound, like the roaring of the sea when Osse rages or the scream of the timbers as a ship breaks upon the rocks, and Ost-in-Edhil, that great city, was no more. And Celebrimbor perished in that final cataclysm, and all his mighty works, but Sauron perished with him.

The account of the invasion itself closely tracks the Elvish account from the Silver Book; I believe that the Numenorean generals that remained in Lindon must have been familiar with it. The climactic struggle, of course, is different, but this was a matter of conjecture even for Elvish historians, and the Numenoreans’ conjecture naturally reflect their particular priorities. Considering the Numenorean reach, I think we can also point to this account as one of the means of transmission for the idea of the Ring bound to the life of one of the contenders. Indeed, it is possible

Certain. - A

that one of the Numenorean generals who came to Gil-Galad’s aid was bearing one of the nine-series of rings, and had a personal understanding of the way in which a ring of power becomes entwined with the life of the wearer.

Chapter Text

In Near Harad, the memory of the time when its many warring kingdoms were united under the Great Tower is preserved as something of a lost golden age, and the figure of the king who united them is one of reverence and awe. This is a copy of the record as it is included in several of their holy books; the intricacy of their calligraphy and the beauty of their illumination are remarkable, and merit further study. The language is High Haradian, a formal book-speech like our parmaquesta, not spoken in daily use.

And so it came to pass that Tar-Mairon the Admirable, the Open-Handed, the Giver of Peace, the Shining One and the Conqueror,

How many people are you this time?! - C

When introducing an important personage
among the kings of the South, the number
of titles given correspond to the importance
of the person being introduced, both in literary
convention as well as in person. There
are entire books filled with mine. - A

gathered about him his mighty men of war, his chariots and horsemen, his great engines of battle, and the goblin-hordes summoned from the mountains and made tame at his word, and marched upon the North. For in the North, in cold Ha-linn and green Arriya, there dwelt a wicked sorcerer who had enriched himself with stolen treasures and stolen secrets, and he grew proud and blasphemous, saying that it was he and not the Generous Lord, the All-Seeing and the Uncoverer, who had conquered death.

Immortality again! - C

It’s a theme among mortals.
For obvious reasons. -A

And when the Armies of the Hand marched forth from the Guarded Land and left the shadow of the Tower, then their number was as the sands of the Southern Desert, which cannot be counted, and the sound of their feet upon the earth was as the voice of the thunder in the sky, and the peoples of all the lands fled before them. Their treasure-houses were broken open and their high places plundered; their high lords bent the knee and their finest warriors took the mark, and still the Army of the Hand advanced.

Into the North we came, into green Arriya of the thousand streams, where the trees stand crowded together like spear-carriers in the vanguard, and those trees we felled, and the smoke of their burning covered all the land from cold Ha-linn to the wastes of the South, and the sea-raiders saw it afar off, and trembled upon the decks of their wooden ships. And the Armies of the Hand spread from the Mountains of Mist to the shores of the Western Sea, and none in that land could stand before us. From the city of the wicked sorcerer there issued forth armies, and the demons of the north fought among them, but the All-Forgiving set them to rout, and they were utterly crushed.

But when the King above Kings approached the gates of his city, then the wicked sorcerer, seeing the might of the armies of the Lord of the Tower,

Seriously, did you make it a rule that
they couldn’t refer to you the
same way twice? - C

Again, this is a sign of reverence -
to use the same epithet twice suggests that
one has exhausted the store of them. - A

came out alone from his citadel, and knelt at his feet, and threw dust on his head, and sued for peace.

Then spoke Khalam, the Lord’s advisor and strong right hand, the hammer of his foes and the wisest of his counselors,

Who? - A

At a guess, the ancestor of
whoever wrote this? - C

saying “Can you bind a serpent in chains? O Lord, show no mercy to this one, for he will betray you, for such is the way of his kind!”

Then spoke Joar, the field-commander of the Armies of the Hand, favored of the king and the strongest of his mighty men of battle

Who? - A

You can’t tell me you don’t remember
your commanders, weren’t you always
going on about the importance of
personnel management? - C

saying “Do not let him open his mouth, O Lord, for there is treachery upon his tongue!”

But the sorcerer looked upon the king with promise in his eyes, and he spoke no word.

Then the Merciful One raised him up, and set him on his feet, and then the sorcerer took him by the hand and led him to his citadel, to the heart of his secrets and his wicked arts.

Is this going where I think it’s going? - C

Hard to tell at this point, honestly.
I doubt that the terror of my name
has diminished enough to have me
seduced by a foul Elvish sorcerer,
but, well… - A

“O Lord!” cried Khalam the wise, “do not go with him!”

I didn’t spend much time among
your armies, but I did get the impression
that yelling “Do not” at you would
not have been advisable, correct? -C

“O Lord,” cried Joar the strong, “I will send with you a company of your best guards!” And he raised his hand to summon them.

But the sorcerer was of the race of the demons of the North, whose power is in their eyes, and his spell was at work already upon the heart of the Lord of Gifts, the Compassionate, and he laughed at them, saying “Do you not see this one has given himself to me? And as I am the Lord of Gifts, shall I scorn a gift so freely offered? I cracked the Mountains of Mist, I raised the Great Tower at a word, and do you think I have something to fear from this conjurer?” Then his counselors were abashed, and spoke no more before him, but the Highest went with the sorcerer into his citadel.

There he saw the stolen wonders of the North, and his heart was moved within him to see how great the sorcerer had become, and to know that all this had been offered to him. And the sorcerer spoke softly to the King, and said, “Tell me, I pray you, where your great strength lies, and what it was that allowed you to bring me so low.”

Then the Brightest laughed, for he thought that his power was secure, and he told him all his heart. “My great strength,” he says, “is in this golden ring that I wear upon my hand. I turn it once and mountains crumble, I turn it twice and kingdoms fall, and if I turn it three times all that I will is wrought.”

I am virtually certain this is borrowing
from another story. The three-turn sequence
may be influenced by the Numenorean
three-ring sequence, or vice versa.- C

“I see that you mock me,” said the sorcerer, “for no power such as yours can be held in so small a thing. For I am now your servant, the least of your servants, will you not give me that ring?”

“Seven rings will I give you, each set with gems and woven with spells,” said the Magnificent One, for as the craft and the beauty of the sorcerer were great, it had come into his mind that he would bring him back to the Tower in the South, there to serve him.

“That is too great an honor for me,” said the sorcerer, “for I am your servant and the least of your servants. What do I care for gems and spells? Gems I had, and spells at my command, and behold, now all that I have and all that I am is yours. That little ring upon your finger is all I desire. Will you not give it to me?”

“Nine rings will I give you, each more precious than the last,” said the Exalted. “With these you may command the hearts of men, that all will serve your will.”

“That is too great an honor for me,” said the sorcerer, “for I am your servant and the least of your servants. What do I care for the hearts of men? Men I had here at my command, who served me both body and soul, and behold, they are all fled before you. All that I am and all that I have is yours. Yet will you not give me that ring?” And he reached out his hand to the hand of the Shining One.

Then the Lord’s eyes were opened. “Away from me, deceiver! I would have set you on a throne by my side for your service. Your chains would have been of gold and your shackles of silver

Well they got that part right at least. - C

but now you shall die for what you have asked.”

“If I am to die,” said the sorcerer, “then so it must be, for I have asked what should not be asked, and reached too far. Yet since I am to die, I will ask one thing more, and that is that I may rest before I die, and you shall rest beside me with your head upon my knees.”

And when he had thus lulled the Sovereign to sleep, he took the ring from his hand and claimed it for his own. The Most Excellent awakened to find himself in chains, and heard the mocking laughter of the faithless sorcerer. And his fair guise had fallen from him, and he stood there in his true shape as a demon of the North, with fire in his eyes and blood upon his teeth.

Am I an actual balrog??! - C

The Gracious One struggled in his chains, but his power was gone from him, and he now possessed only the strength of a mortal man. None of his spirits answered his call; earth and stone now were deaf to his command, and the wicked sorcerer held within his hand the power to bring all lands under his foul dominion. For his power was indeed bound to the Ring, and the Ring was now in the hand of the faithless sorcerer.

But in his triumph, the evil sorcerer had forgotten to disarm the Mighty in War. He had taken from him his ring, but he had not taken from him his sword, nor his dagger, for he was content to leave him in the chains with which he had bound him. The Gracious One drew his dagger and struck himself through the heart,

It’s disappointing that they think
this would have made a difference.
I clearly did not make certain fact about me
as unambiguous as I should have.
There were a few assassination attempts
in the early days - one I engineered
and two that sprang up organically -
and I would have thought that the
consequences for those would have
been memorable, knowing the mortal taste
for the grotesque. - A

for as his life was bound to the Ring, so was the Ring to his life.

And at the death of the King, his power, which had been tied to the Ring, was suddenly released, consuming the wicked sorcerer and all his city of dread, and the North was brought low. So in his death his triumph was greater than all his conquests in his life.

Still, it is said that the Lord of Majesty will return one day to his people, and will raise them again to the glory that they knew beneath his reign.

The centrality which the hope of the Return of the King plays in the lives and legends of the people of Near Harad is a perfect example of why we do not permit, still less encourage, mortal worship.
(Here I had to remove the pen from Annatar’s fingers to prevent him from commenting in the margin; I am certain the note would have been to reiterate how they do not need encouragement. Encouraged they have been, beloved, and by you.)

This story has left me troubled. Longing for the return of Sauron is no condition in which to leave a people, and yet it would be cruelty to take from them a hope that sustains them. The work in Near Harad will be long and delicate.

Chapter Text

This is from Western Khand. It may be of interest to note that there are few blacksmiths among this people, as they live primarily in mobile settlement and in wagons drawn by horses, and they are obliged to trade for most of their metal gear, both farther east where they have cities, and to the south and west. Whether this story comes by way of one of those cities, it is impossible to say.

Once there lived a skillful blacksmith, who made all manner of weapons as well as beautiful treasures and precious things. And so he worked beside his roaring fire, and he was well contented, until one day he looked up from his forge and he saw a beautiful princess.

Well, it appears that one of us is a princess
this time. It’s probably you, if I’m the
wonder-worker. - A

She was very tall, her hair like spun gold and her robes as white as the clouds in a summer sky. She rode upon a magnificent horse called Hallas, with a golden bridle and gold braided into his mane, and on her saddle jewels were set, and other treasures past compare.

There it is; I think the princess is you. -C

Not necessarily; yellow hair is a mark of status,
it’s not like they know what either of us
looked like. - A

“Smith,” the princess said to him, “my horse has cast a shoe; will you make a new one for me?”

“A shoe only?” said the blacksmith. “Will you not ask more of me? Let me show you my quality; I will make you a belt of silver leaves as light as the grass-blades; I will make you a necklace of gold so cunningly knotted that it may not be untied.”

But the princess laughed. “I have seen finer things in my own country,” she said, “than any you have to offer. A shoe for my horse, smith, and I will be gone.”

So the blacksmith made a shoe for the horse, but he could not stop thinking about the princess. So he went to his forge, and he made a silver belt. It was the finest work he had ever done, and the finest he had ever seen, and he sent it to the princess. But she sent it back to him. “I have seen finer things in my own country,” she said.

Then he went to his forge again, and began a long work, and made a necklace of gold that flowed like water through the hands, but was so cunningly knotted that it seemed to have no end and no beginning, and the fame of the smith was great in the land because the necklace, and he sent it to the princess. But she sent it back to him. “I have seen finer things in my own country,” she said.

Then the smith was cast into despair, for he had done the greatest work he knew how to do. But as he sat in despair as his dark forge, there came a knocking at his door.

There stood a tall man with very bright eyes and a hood over his head. “What are you crying for?” he asked, and his voice was as cold as winter, and as sharp as the wind, and yet he smiled and seemed kind enough. So the smith told him. “Is that all!” said the guest. “That is easily solved. I will teach you how to make something that will certainly win you the princess’s heart, if you will learn from me.”

And the smith trembled a little in his heart, for he knew that his guest was an Elf, and their gifts do not come without cost, but he thought of the princess, and he could not refuse.

Or perhaps this time you’re the Uninvited Guest!
You are a sinister figure, it’s true. - A

This might be you.
Appears offering dangerous knowledge,
gifts that come with a price... -C

I thought I was the beautiful princess. - A

“Only,” he said, “when will you come to collect your fee?”

“Never mind about that,” said the stranger.

So he taught him, and the smith learned all the secrets of the elves. He taught him the secret of making a ring to bind and loose, and a ring to multiply gold in store, and a ring to turn the heart of the wearer. So the next week the smith forged three rings, each finer than the last, and sent them all to the princess. And her heart was won, and they lived together very happily.

But one night, the stranger came knocking at the forge door again, with his hood up over his head and his eyes like sparks. “Have you been enjoying my gifts?” he said.

“I think I have learned a little,” said the smith cautiously.

“I hope you have indeed,” said the elf, “for now your payment is due, and you will live under the earth with me and serve me as my bellows-man. You shall fetch the water and blow the fire and sweep the cinders from my forges, and the forges of the elves are very great.”

I think they may be getting elves
confused with the dwarves? - A

I think they’re talking about Angband.
The dwarves notoriously do not employ
strangers, but I can think of some underground
forges that recruited their labor force
from the ranks of the unwilling. -C

Then the smith trembled greatly in his heart, for he had heard the rumor of the great forges of the elves, and the pale servants who labored there under the earth. “Come in,” he said, “and see some of the work that I have been doing. For I want to be sure I am skillful enough to work in your forges.”

“It is not skill you will be needing there,” said the elf, but came in anyway, for the weapons were sharp upon the wall, and the gold shone brightly, and he wished to see what it was the smith had learned from him.

“Here is a ring,” said the smith, “newly wrought. It is yours, if you will have it.”

“Do not think that you will buy your life so cheaply!” said the elf, but he took the ring, and put it on, and admired how fine it looked upon his hand.

Then the smith laughed aloud. “You taught me well,” he said, “for that is a ring to bind and loose, and you are bound, bound to serve me. You shall fetch the water and blow the fire and sweep the cinders from my forges.”

Then the elf began to stamp and curse, and to bite at the ring, for they are creatures of air and darkness that hate above all things a cage. “If now I set you free,” said the smith, “you will never trouble me more.”

The elf swore, and the smith lifted the charm upon the ring, and he fled into the night and was never seen again. And to the rest of his days, the smith lived in peace with the princess, but he made no more magic rings.



This appears to be for the most part a much older and unrelated story - that of the Smith’s Bargain, which appears, in some variety, in every mortal culture involving metalworking. Metalcraft, as something broadly taught from the outside rather than developed within a group, retains the suspicious of foreignness - and of course the shadow of Angband, which was forging steel while the ancestors of the wainriders of Khand were trading copper ores west from River Running. In the main I agree with its inclusion here - the Eregion legends have exerted a clear influence on the course of the story, primarily in the introduction of magic rings. The Menacing Stranger and the Beautiful Guest have been split into two figures (we see this duplication in some of the other accounts in this notebook) but the idea that the rings are made at someone else’s behest and with someone else’s knowledge is a recurring motif.



I am not, on reflection, entirely certain that this story is influenced by the Eregion legends. This is very close to being the farthest geographically we have travelled from Eregion (Harad may have been farther, some astronomical calculations will be necessary) and it is certainly the farthest in terms of cultural remove. Though the peoples of Khand were recruited or pressed into the wars of Mordor, the stories of those wars blend together and are principally concerned with what sort of loot was returned. The figure of the Great King is mentioned, but not his disastrous foray into the North, and there is no particular explanation as to why he drops out of the historical record.

I include this story in the compendium of Eregion legends, however, because of the struggle over (and resolved by) magic rings. In the stories I have collected, there is a fairly limited range of options for this resolution: trickery, power, sacrifice, or all three. The resolution selected appears to say more about the people who are telling the story, and their reasons for telling it, than it does about the story itself - but I cannot say that is a bad thing, or even a disservice to the truth. A strange service it may be, but when a story is let loose into the world, it is for others to take and shape as they will and they need.

On Tol Eressea beyond the Sea, the returned dead contend in the Strife of Truth with Art, where they set their memory of their story against the legends that have sprung up around them, and the onlookers must judge between them. I cannot say which has won this long competition, waged over centuries and over half Middle-Earth, save Annatar and I, who have been served by the truth as well, and better, than the legends serve the storytellers.