He is still only learning her language.
When he arrived in Rhovanion—a dutiful son willing to do his best for his father and for Gondor—he knew these people had their own language, of course. But somehow he nevertheless expected the court to speak Westron, especially around him, the Gondorian prince. It was only one of many misconceptions. Already, now, he could teach his father a thing or two about his allies of Rhovanion.
After the initial shock, he gradually found out that she could speak Westron after all, more fluently than he had believed. But by that time, he was grateful for the language barrier that had made him mute. There is no telling what he might have blurted out in those early days, desperate to impress her, if they had been conversing freely in Westron—promises of ropes of pearls, boasts of palaces by the sea…
Now he thinks that would only have put her off. He gained her friendship because he was feeling lost among strangers and homesick and she wanted to put him at his ease, not by the high repute of Gondor's royal line. His northern princess—but he dare not call her his yet!—is gracious, but far too proud to curry favour.
And still they have spoken nothing at all that was not fit to have been overheard by any man living! Cooped up in winter quarters together—so much more closely than in Osgiliath where winter is more a thing of seeping moisture and long draughty hallways than ice storms and deep snow drifts—there was no space for any private conversation. In that crowded gloom, he feels it was only her bright presence that kept him from grabbing a horse, any horse, from the stables and trying to escape southwards, foolhardy and ill-mannered as that would have been.
But now it is early spring in Rhovanion's glades and, outwardly silent, he walks the forest paths beside his Wood Maid. In his mind, he is rehearsing the words he has learnt of her language. For when he proposes, it will not be in Westron. Westron, he has learnt, is the language of commerce and politics in Rhovanion, but anything that engages the heart and emotions is discussed in Rhovanin. If he asks her to marry him in Westron, he fears, he would only sound as if he was proposing a political alliance. If he wishes to offer her his love, it must be done in Rhovanin.
(And when, in later years, lore masters engage in discourse on the beauty of the Elvish languages before King Valacar and swear noble sentiments only sound truly lofty in Quenya, Valacar will nod politely and not contradict them—but in his heart, he will know that the words I love you have their full meaning for him only in a single language—and it is neither Quenya nor Sindarin.)
But he is not ready yet, cannot say what he wishes to say in her language eloquently enough: Without you, I will be more lonely and homesick in Gondor than I ever was in Rhovanion.
She touches his elbow and he starts. She smiles at him and points, directing his attention to a bunch of snowdrops peeking out of a patch of snow.
He is really rather good-looking. She was inclined to resent this at first. He is the prince of mighty Gondor, descendant of a line of heroes and lore masters—it did not seem entirely fair that he should have the looks as well!
But over the past months, she has watched him prove himself and especially during the winter, when she could observe his behaviour almost constantly. Spend the winter with a stranger and, come spring, he will be either your enemy or your friend—that is what they say in Rhovanion. Valacar is brave and skilled in the manner of the warriors of Gondor—he is also unfailingly courteous even when he is miserable and utterly bewildered and does not withhold gratitude for favours shown, however small, by Gondorian standards, they may be.
She touches his elbow to show him the snowdrops growing by the path. His serious face lights up with delight, both at her brief touch and at the sight of that little bunch of white flowers. And she knows then that, when eventually he proposes, however long it takes him to gather his courage, whatever language he does it in, she will accept.
"Wood Maid" is the literal meaning of the name Vidumavi. We don't actually know what the language of Rhovanion was called. It seems to have been similar to but more archaic than the language of Rohan and incomprehensible to speakers of Westron, although ultimately related. I have called it Rhovanin.
Originally written for a combined challenge in March 2014:
LOTR community challenge (March): Show, don't tell (no dialogue); element: pointed
B2MeM prompt: flowers peeking above the snow (Seasons of Middle-earth: Spring)
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.