The cats continue to drowse contentedly on the carpet, so for now I shall go on inflicting my strange old writings upon you.
If ever I strongly disliked a book, that book is ‘Peter Pan.’ It sets my teeth on edge. So I boldly went where Tolkien had never been and manipulated the multiverse to allow Legolas to sort out the ending for me.
Strange paths of elvish dreams
Summer was fair in Ithilien in the sixty-third year of the reign of Elessar the King. Gladly through its glades and groves wandered Legolas Greenleaf, elven lord in that land of men, upon a fair morning. He had breakfasted at Henneth Annûn with Faramir his friend, Prince of Ithilien under the King. Along the banks of a stream he wandered, down toward Anduin for sheer delight in the journey through a land at peace. Yet there befell him that day one of the strangest adventures that ever came to elven-lord in Middle-earth.
Toward noon he came to a willow tree that bent low over the banks of the stream, just where it flowed into the mightier waters of Anduin. The sun was now at its zenith, and the air warm and heavy with the buzzing of insects and the rushing of the waters. Legolas ducked under the trailing canopy of the willow-fronds, and seated himself with his back against the aged trunk. For a long while he sat there, watching the river flow away to the distant sea. Almost in his mind it seemed that the plashing of the river-currents echoed the falling of the waves upon the shore; a sound he had never heard until the day he had followed the King to capture the ships of the Corsairs, long ago by mortal standards. The watery sounds lulled him, so that he closed his eyes and his head drooped upon his breast. Out along the pathways of elvish dreams he wandered, never quite slipping away into the blackness that is human sleep. Never that. Until … until…
Legolas woke with a start, to the sound of waves crashing onto sand. Before he could formulate the thought, I have been asleep, how is it that I have been asleep after the manner of mortals? he was on his feet, looking up in bewilderment into the crown of broad leaves that now shaded him. He was beneath a palm-tree; he knew it from his visits with King Elessar into Harad and beyond. His hand went to the hilt of his knife, for he carried no bow in these days of safety. Turning lightly about on the balls of his feet, he tried to understand where he was. Backing against the trunk of the palm, he looked uncomprehendingly across a stretch of golden sand, and saw gentle waves breaking within a lagoon, and a tossing sea beyond the reef.
Something buzzed rapidly past his face, and he instinctively struck out with his hand. The thing had gone. Then it buzzed by again, and this time he saw a flash of light. “What …?” he said aloud, and the light flickered back and hovered in front of his nose. A tiny being hung there, a small person of human or perhaps elven form, no longer than his hand. She was gowned in a garment fashioned of two leaves, and tiny wings beat rapidly to hold her in the air. Legolas stared, and the being stared back. A chiming of tiny bells began, and the elf-lord shook his head, sensing that within the sound lay meaning. Yes – it was speech! Using all the power of his elven hearing, he heard the little thing say, “And who are you, you great ugly thing? What do you mean by lying about on my beach, pray?”
“Ill speech for so exquisite a creature,” responded Legolas a little sharply. The minute mouth opened wide and the small one fell almost to the ground as her wings stopped beating. Quick as lightning the elf stooped and caught her on the palm of his hand. Carefully he raised her up to the level of his face again. She stood boldly enough on his hand, staring at him, then spoke again with the same tinkling tone.
“You can hear me!”
“Indeed I can, little one. I am Legolas, an elf of Ithilien in the fair land of Gondor. To whom have I the pleasure of speaking?”
“My name is Tinker Bell, and I’m a fairy of Neverland – and you needn’t come all that polite talk with me, Mr. Legless Elf, it isn’t what I’m used to and I won’t be having it, see!”
So saying, she flicked away into the air and began to circle about Legolas’s head. In spite of this, he tried to answer her politely. “Did you speak of Faery?” he inquired. “That is a mortal name for the Lands to the West – know you then the tales of Tol Eressea, and of Tirion the fair?”
“Can’t say as I do,” retorted the flyer, and abruptly shot away inland between the trees. Legolas saw that within a few hundred yards of the shore, the palm trees gave way to a denser forest, its trees reminiscent of those of his childhood home. He decided that it would be best to follow Tinker Bell, as there was no other recourse open to him. With his keen sight, he could easily keep track of the tiny light as it sped away from him deeper into the forest.
Soon Legolas was travelling once more among trees, but nothing else about his journey was familiar to him. Behind him he could hear the splashing of the waves on the shore, and the sighing of the deeper seas beyond the reef. Ahead of him darted the light that was Tinker Bell, and he held steadfastly to his resolve to follow her. However, after a while he became aware of another sound, louder and more insistent than the voice of the waves or of the wind that sang among the leaves above his head. It was coming from a dense thicket away to his left, and after a hesitant glance back in the direction of the capricious light, he turned away from his path to find the source of the sound. For, he thought, anyone who weeps so bitterly must be in need of succour and comfort.
Soon the elf came to a clearing among the trees, and saw there a strange sight. At the foot of one of the trees lay a mortal child, curled up into a ball and sobbing in a heartbroken way that touched Legolas’s pity. “What ails you, child of Men?” he asked kindly. At once the child leapt to its feet, proving to be a boy of some ten years, dressed in a jerkin and trousers constructed entirely of leaves. He flung himself upright, placed his back against the trunk of the tree and whipped from somewhere a wicked-looking sword, which he pointed at Legolas.
“Keep away, you – you grown-up!” Legolas, bemused, fell back a step or two and raised his hands in the air to show that they were empty.
“I mean you no harm, child. I am Legolas, and I come from a distant land – how distant I am not quite certain. I heard the sound of weeping, and hoped that I might be of assistance.” The boy dragged one leaf-wrapped arm across his eyes, and muttered something barely audible to the effect that he had not been snivelling, not he.
“What’s a leggylass, anyway?” he asked. “I’ve never seen one like it before. What’s wrong with your ears, and why have you got girl’s hair? Wendy used to tie her hair up in strings like that before bedtime. Pretty funny-looking you are, if you ask me.”
Legolas smiled. “I am sorry if my appearance displeases you. I have never seen a b – a young man quite like you before, either. Perhaps you might tell me your name, and then we might become friends, you know. I am certainly in need of a friend, for all here is strange to me and I have no doubt that you can help me a great deal.”
The boy drew himself up proudly, and said, “I’m Peter – Peter Pan. I am the Ruler of Neverland!” Legolas thought it prudent to bow a little at this announcement, which seemed to please Peter, as he put up his sword and came forward to shake the elf by the hand.
This ceremony accomplished, an awkward silence fell. Legolas was about to break it when the boy said, “Come along then!” and plunged into a thicket, so that Legolas had no choice but to follow. The growth of bushes was thick, and they seemed mostly to be of the unpleasantly over-thorned kind, but the elf pressed on, always keeping in sight the small figure ahead. At last they broke through into a clearing, where Legolas was glad to stand upright and ease the strain upon his back. He looked around slowly to see where Peter had brought him.
It was a moderately large clearing in the forest, with only two features of any interest. Almost directly before Legolas stood the crumbling ruin of a small house – so small as to be suitable only for one small person, the elf thought, a child perhaps or one of the Shirefolk, should one of those merry little people find their way to this place. It might once have been painted and adorned, but now stood empty, its door hanging off, its roof fallen in, and the grey tendrils of dead rose suckers clinging loosely to its walls. Legolas turned to Peter, who was regarding him anxiously.
“Is this where you live, Master Pan?” Legolas inquired politely. The boy shook his head.
“Shows how much you know!” he scoffed. “Why, that’s Wendy’s house, as plain as you can see!”
“And does – Wendy live there still?”
Peter turned his back on his visitor abruptly, but Legolas was certain that he had seen the beginnings of fresh tears. Discreetly, he began to explore the clearing, moving towards its other interesting feature, a stand of seven ancient-seeming trees that clustered together at some distance from the abandoned house. Legolas knew where he was with trees, and he became absorbed in the seven, laying his hand courteously upon their gnarled barks, listening to each in turn as the wind sang their tales to him. He closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the tree that sang the most ancient song, and wished he were back in his familiar and dear Ithilien. When he opened his eyes again, Peter was standing staring up at him, his mouth agape, and Tinker Bell was perched on a low branch of the next tree, her tiny fierce gaze also fixed on the elf.
“What you doing, Leggylass?”
“I am listening to what these trees have to tell me, master Peter. They have stood here a long, long time, and are very wise old trees. They have told me tales of death and sorrow.”
Tinker Bell broke in, “Stuff and taradiddle, Mr Legless! You can’t be talking with trees!”
Legolas smiled, remembering the deep groves of Fangorn and the wisdom of the Ents, the song of summer leaves in Greenwood, the wide brakes of Ithilien. “I assure you, I can indeed,” he said softly.
“You are a funny one, and no mistake,” said Peter. “These is not magic trees, this is just where I live – where me and the boys and Wendy used to live – look!”
He showed Legolas the hole in the trunk of each tree, and how he and those others long ago had been able to drop down the trunks of the aged trees into their secret cave, “The snuggest home you could ever wish for,” the child declared. Legolas was too large to accept Peter’s invitation to visit this home; but he thrust his head as far as possible into the largest of the holes, and peered into the dark with his keen elvish eyes. He was glad to emerge from what smelt and looked to him to be no better than an orc-hole.
“Do you sleep there still?” he asked, and must have let some of his feeling show, for Peter blushed and looked down at his dirty feet.
“It’s very snug,” he insisted.
“Bah!” chimed Tinker Bell.
Legolas was becoming concerned. It seemed to him that he had come somehow to a nearly deserted land where a strange neglected child and a small being of a kind he had never heard of, eked out a miserable existence quite alone. He sat down upon the ground, sitting cross-legged and relaxed, and began to ask questions. At first Peter would not answer, but the elf was patient and gentle and at length the boy sat down and began to respond. Legolas learned that Neverland was an island, that “Me and Tink” lived there alone, but had not always been alone.
“Who once dwelt here with you?”
“The Lost Boys, and Wendy, and the Indians, and the Pirates, and the crocodile.”
“How long ago? Were you an infant when you were abandoned?”
“I ain’t abandoned! I just live here, I told you. I’ve lived here for years and years and years – well, hundreds of ‘em I shouldn’t wonder.”
“Hundreds? But – you are a boy, Master Peter, a mortal child of some ten summers, you seem to me.”
Peter clamped his lips together and refused to say any more. Tinker Bell startled Legolas by landing suddenly upon his right shoulder and beginning to tinkle into his ear.
“”Strue, you know – really and truly, hundreds of years. He forgot to tell you there was some other fairies too, but they all went away. Just the two of us now.”
“But this is dreadful – this is some evil enchantment – a mortal cannot remain a child for hundreds of years! Even we of elven-kind grow into maturity and fullness of life.” He turned to Peter again. “What do you eat, child? How do you keep yourself clean and clothed?”
No answer came, but Legolas could see for himself that the boy did none of these things very well. “Can you not escape the island? Is there no way you could fashion a boat and so come to other lands?”
Still a stubborn silence from Peter. Tinker Bell flew three times around Legolas’s head, buzzing angrily like a furious wasp. “Oh no, not he!” she tinkled. “Not his Lordship Lord Peter of Neverland. He won’t go nowhere, will you, you little silly?”
Legolas realised that Peter was crying again. “Hush, small one,” he said, “you are distressing the boy.” Tinker Bell subsided onto a log and folded her tiny arms. Legolas reached out a hand to the weeping child, and laid it gently on his shoulder. “What troubles you, Peter?”
After several more deep and shuddering sobs, the boy said, “I’m afraid to go – I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to.”
The elf shook his head. “There is nothing to fear. Once you are free from this enchantment, you may choose your own way of life.”
“But – but then you have to die! I don’t want to die.”
“In my land, we of elven-kind call death the Gift of Men.”
There was a snort from the irrepressible Tinker bell, but Peter looked silently up at Legolas with wonder in his eyes. “Do you? I wish I could go there. Don’t you, Tink? It would be a real adventure to go there!”
Legolas looked around at the clearing, listening again to the mournful song of the trees. Is this why I was brought here – to save this poor child? But how can we return to Ithilien? He sprang lightly to his feet, and held out a hand to Peter. The boy took it and stood, while the fairy shot into the air and began a dizzying dance around them both. “Lead me back, small one, to the tree where we first met, I beg of you.”
Without answering, she shot off across the clearing and Legolas followed, Peter still clutching his hand. Evening was falling, and it was dark under the trees, but the little spark of light led them on. As they went, Legolas could hear the song of the trees swelling behind them, deepening, growing triumphant and glad. At last an end to weeping, he heard them sing.
By the time the little party reached the shore, there were stars in the deepening blue of the sky. They gladdened the heart of Legolas, and as he stood beneath the tree he murmured the name of Elbereth.
“What do we do now,” asked the boy fearfully.
“We go home,” Legolas replied, with more certainty in his voice than in his heart. Then gazing out across the lagoon, he thought he saw a movement, as of some huge swimmer passing gracefully just below the surface. “Water –it is water!” cried the elf, “Lord Ulmo, mighty Ossë, I call upon you now.”
The three travellers stood now with their backs against the palm tree where Legolas had first awoken. Peter gripped the elf’s hand tightly, while Tink sat in the palm of his other hand. “Look, look,” cried Legolas, as a mighty head rose briefly above the waters of the lagoon, and smiling eyes encompassed them. The breath of Ossë swept over them like a mighty breeze, and they fell backward, back and back into darkness, until they landed in a tumbled heap beneath quite another tree.
Joy filled the heart of Legolas Greenleaf as he found himself again by the laughing stream of Ithilien, and amid its fair trees. He looked, and saw that he held the hands of two fair young people – an elven-maid, tall as he and dark of hair, clad in the garb of his own people, and a young man who wore the green of the Rangers of Ithilien. They laughed, sharing his delight, and asked him where they were.
“You are in Ithilien, in the land of Gondor, and here you may make your homes if you will. For there are many wide lands in Middle-Earth, where you may travel at will. Come, I will take you to your peoples, and they shall welcome you. Peter, your name shall now be Sarn, and you, fair maiden, shall be Nelladel. Welcome, thrice welcome, to this green and growing land.”
Together they wandered through the pleasant groves, coming at last to where Faramir the Prince dwelt, and meeting there many fair folk of elven and mortal kind. After an evening of feasting and song, at which Sarn distinguished himself by eating a mighty helping of every kind of food, Legolas came to him and asked what he thought of being grown to manhood.
“I think, Master Elf, that this will be an awfully big adventure!”