“Are you John Cunningham? “
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” I did not have a clue what this man was doing at my house, but he had an air of magic about him. Not that magic was real or anything, as much as I wished it were.
“I am Harry Henderson, better known on the nets as Lintemacil”.
I knew that name. “Ah! I have read your elvish on Theonering.com! Some of my favorite stuff on there is yours! I myself have taken quite a liking to elvish, and–“
“Yes, that’s what I’ve come to talk about.” I looked him straight in the eye. His brown overcoat was covered in patches, and his frayed pants and ripped bowler hat completed his hobo look. I was about to close the door when he stuck his foot in the crack.
“Fen John, edro im!”
Something deep inside me, way down in my gut told me to let him in. “Would you like to come in? I’ll put a kettle on.”
By the time the kettle boiled, I was too ensconced in Harry’s tale to get up and pour it. I just sat in my favorite armchair and listened. The day was perfect for storytelling. It had rained earlier that morning, and it was still a bit overcast. The mist rising from the rainwater played tricks with the sun, making rays fall at odd angles and creating a sort of surreal landscape.
“It all started when I was a boy, not much older than you yourself. Well, maybe one or two years older, give or take. It was the summer of 1986, I was fifteen, and I had just discovered elvish. I had read Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and the Unfinished Tales, when I entered the appendices of Return of the King to find a fully functioning elvish resource! Well, I started studying, and soon I was proficient. Okay, it took me about five years to become fluent, but that’s not the point. Soon, I discovered something that changed my life, I believe for the better.”
At this point he stood up and poured himself some tea. “Well, what was it you discovered?” I asked, as he dumped the entire contents of my sugar bowl into his cup. He returned to his seat and made himself comfortable again.
“I know you have a dog, John, I can hear him in the yard. Have you ever talked to him in elvish?”
“No. Well, once or twice, but not a lot. Why, should I?”
“Watch” he said, and stood. He wiped the sugar-laden tea from his lips, and called, “Huan, huan! Lasto beth lamen huan! Túlo huan!” Instantly, I heard my dog, Smokey, whine like she had never whined before. I ran to let her in, at which time she ran straight to Harry. That was odd, I thought. Usually she attacks strangers enter our house. “What… what just happened? So my dog ran to you, I don’t feel any more enlightened than I did before.”
He looked at me for a long while, and then said, “Can you translate what I just said? Well you must be able to.”
“Lets see… huan. That’s wolf or dog. Then that phrase, lasto beth lammen, that is part of an opening spell Gandalf uses at the gates of Moria. It means… heed my words, I believe, and then túlo, that means… …Come.” I saw what he was getting at. “But that cant be. It’s not possible!”
Harry cast me a forlorn look, then said to me, “I was hoping a fan of fantasy would be more open-minded.” Then he stood and made to leave.
“But how could it be possible? Tolkien made up the language, right? It was based on Finnish, not any weird or mystical, so how could it be magic?”
“Ah,” he said, “that is another story.”
He took back his place on the couch, and I fell back into my armchair. He began again. “Are you familiar with Tolkien’s life, John? Yes? Well then, you’ll know about his service in World War One. You know about his trench fever. Well, it wasn’t trench fever. Almost immediately after his first combat experience, he stumbled upon a cave, which soon opened out into a vast cavern, and on the far side a plinth stood. On the plinth he found a book, and in the book he found something wonderful.
“Inside was a language unlike any he had seen before, and it was so beautiful he retained it ever after. As he learned, a creature came out of the book, an angel some might call it, others might call it a demon. Either way, the creature told Tolkien he should not have read the book, as it was not for his eyes. It told him the language was that of God, the tongue of heaven by which all existence was formed. Then it smote him, and he fell ill. He made a deal with the thing, that he would never as long as he lived utter a word in that tongue. The creature agreed, wishing not to harm anyone. The thing was not evil you see, but he did what he had to for the sake of the world. It would be a terrible thing, it would, if that language were used by mankind.
“But I digress. He crawled out of the cave and into the sunlight, sick as the dickens. The smiting could not be undone you see, so he was on the brink of death anyway. Luckily he found treatment.”
“So you’re saying Tolkien had some divine power he was never aloud to use? That’s crazy! How would you know this?”
“It is a closely guarded family secret. My father was a friend of Christopher Tolkien, and so the secret was made known to him. He passed it on to me, for he was regarded as a close family friend and was granted permission to disclose the information. I too, in turn, was entrusted with the ability to give the secret, though they warned me that it must not, under any circumstances, be given to the wrong person. That is how I know, but not the end of my story.
“You see, Tolkien didn’t really make up anything. Well, at least not The Silmarillion. The Silmarillion, that was real. It really is truly the history of the earth. It was not in Middle Earth, but most all of the events are nonfiction.
“Elvish is alike to Finnish because Finnish is alike to the Language of the Gods! You see, that language is so powerful even subconsciously it influences you; so that the Finns, once they had heard that language spoken, subconsciously let it influence their mind. The same happened with Tolkien. At first he tried to fight it, but eventually he just let it use him.
“But Tolkien, being a natural lover of languages, yearned ever to speak that fairest of tongues aloud. After the death of Edith, some time after, actually, he did. In so doing, he sent himself to heaven.”
“So that’s it? Nobody knows the Language of God anymore? That seems a bit sad.”
“I never said nobody knows it, John. I know it. Christopher knows it, and maybe I’ll teach you too. You must understand though, once you learn that holiest of tongues, you will be forbidden to use it, though your heart may yearn to. That is the named price upon us all, now it’s your choice”
I thought. Maybe. I could never have a normal life with that kind of secret; I could never be a normal person.
Good. I took a deep breath and said, “Teach me.”
We return to the forests again. Our hobbit friend has lost all faith and finds the true meaning of apathy by the end of this chapter. He is taken captive by a band of elves and one human. This chapter suggests that some of his past will be revealed soon.