Tales of Middle-earth: 3. Minstrels

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3. Minstrels



There is a tale in Lake Town about one of the Master of the town from long ago, whose name is sadly lost. It is said that one fine day the Master went walking along the river bank and came upon two elves deep in discussion in their own strange tongue.

The Master of Lake Town had seen elves before, for the Elven King of Mirkwood was a friend of Lake Town. Yet these two elves where different: their cloths were worn and faded, their voices more musical than even elves are wont to be and the lute and harp they had were clearly very old.

One of the elves had long raven hair and fierce grey eyes that told him to be old, full of memories of things long past, yet a fire burnt in their grey depths that made the Master reel and step back when the fiery orbs were turned to him. The elf, however, smiled and in a voice akin to the deep sombre notes of the organ said, "Hail good mortal. I am Maglor and my companion here is Daeron."

The elf Daeron looked more like the elves the Master was familiar with. So like was this elf to the ones of Mirkwood that had it not been for his faded grey raiment the Master would have believed him to have come from Mirkwood, but the merry elves of Mirkwood wore accustomed to wearing green, yellow and other hues of the forest.

Upon Maglor's introduction Daeron bowed his head in greeting and said in voice light and joyous as merry woodland pipes, "Tell us, good mortal, can you spare us sometime?"

The Master nodded solemnly and replied, "At your service, my good elves."

"Excellent," cried Daeron, "We wish you to settle an argument that has lain between us for an age and a half. You shall today judge which of us is the greater minstrel."

The Master was dumbstruck at being given such a great honour, "I shall do my best," he declared.

"That is all a man can do," agreed Maglor.

So the elves began their songs. First went Maglor, with voice as deep as the sea that carried in the wind and made the distant mountains ring he sang a sad song of grief and woe, his harp playing sombre notes. The Master saw visions of wars in ages past. He thought he was there, in the midst of battle, as elves and men fell around him in the face of Orcish onslaught. Ere the song ended the Master was weeping out a river, his heart heavy with grief and sadness.

Daeron took up his woodland lute and though he would have sang of love unrequited and the loss of fair Lúthien he thought better of it. The mortal had already been reduced to tears and besides he wanted to win! So he took up a merry tune and sang a song that lifted up the Master's spirit and had him laughing and clapping along with him. Sweet and silvery was the voice of Daeron, suited it was to the merry song of fair woods and colourful birds. So it was that as soon as Daeron finished the jovial song the Master declared him the winner, much to the annoyance of Maglor the mighty.

"Curse you mortal and your ass ears!" cried the incensed minstrel.

Lo the Master's ears became as long and hairy as that of an ass, even as the elves disappeared as it seemed in a blink of an eye. Long the Master walked along the river, seeking in vain for the two elven minstrels. At last he returned to Lake Town under cover of dark. From that day he took to wearing turbans like the men of the south to hide the shameful ears. Yet from his Barber he could not keep his secret and revealed it to him after swearing him to secrecy under pain of banishment.

The Barber for his part could not hold such a weighty secret for long. So one day he stole away to a secluded place were none went and there scooping out a hole he said into it, "The master has ass ears."

Yet for all his precautions a clump of reeds grew where he had scooped out the hole and whenever the reeds were steered by the wind they whispered into the winds, "The master has ass ears."

So it is said that mortals should never dare judge the deeds of the Elves, especially when one of the elves in question is a son of Fëanor.


Author's note: O in case you are wondering, this is a retelling of a tale involving Midas of Greek legend. Basically Midas ran into the Greek gods Apollo and Pan bickering over who had the greatest skill in music. So they asked Midas to judge. Apollo played his Olympian harp and Pan played is reed pipe. Midas gave judgement for Pan and his more merry tunes. Apollo promptly cursed Midas with ass ears that Midas hid from all save his barber. Thanks to Marnie for beta reading and she also takes the credit for inspiring this piece.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Tinni

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: Multi-Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/16/11

Original Post: 01/26/04

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