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The Young Mortalís Guide to Trees
Summary: While on their way to have a picnic, Elrohir and Elladan try to teach young Estel some treelore, but Estel has other ideas. Written for the Teitho contest, ĎTreesí.
Imladris, T.A. 2939:
"Come, Estel," Elrohir called out to his brother. "It is time to leave."
Eight-year-old Estel hurried down the main stairway of the Last Homely House, his face lit with excitement. "Iím coming, íRoh."
Elrohir nodded. "Did you farewell your nana and Ada?"
The young Mortal nodded vigorously. "Aní Glorfy aní Restor and...."
Elrohir laughed and put his arm around his brother. "That is well. Come. íDan is waiting for us."
They stepped outside to find Elladan waiting for them. He held a small walking stick cut to Estelís size and a haversack full of food, for the Twins were taking their little brother on a picnic above the falls, a reward for hitting the bullís-eye five times successively during archery practice. Estel was practically jumping up and down in his excitement. The Twins exchanged amused smiles.
"Hereís your walking stick, Estel," Elladan said as he handed the carved hickory staff to the boy. Then he hefted the haversack over his shoulder and they set off. Estel turned around to see his nana and ada standing on the balcony of Adaís library and waved. They waved back.
The Twins herded the youngster along, crossing the bridge that separated Imladris from the rest of the valley, walking along a lane that led through farmland where much of the farming was done along terraces. A thorny hedge to their right acted as a windbreak as well as deterring the cattle and sheep from reaching the terraces, keeping them in the lower parts of the valley.
"Can you tell us what this tree is called, Estel?" Elladan asked as they went along.
"Caigordof, íDan," Estel answered readily enough. "Ada had Glorfy make my bow from one," he added. The bow, with a quiver of arrows, had been his birthday gift from Ada and Nana that year and he was very proud of it. The Twins smiled knowingly.
Beyond the farms they came to a small stream, one of many that fed the Bruinen, carefully crossing at a ford before they continued on. The path wound up into the highlands above, where there was a mountain meadow, a favorite picnicking area for the Elves of Imladris. The climb was not steep, at least for the Peredhil, but it was steep enough for a small boy and the Twins allowed Estel to set the pace. They were in no real hurry, however, for it was just after breakfast and the day was yet young, the air clear and crisp, the sun still warm even in the middle of Ivanneth.
As they walked along Elrohir stopped and pointed to a particular tree. "Can you tell me what this tree is, Estel?"
"Gillass goll," the boy said after a moment of examination. "See, the leaves are already turning bright red."
"Do you know what it is good for?" Elladan asked.
Estel shrugged. "Ada makes a perfume from its sap for Nana. She smells pretty."
The Twins chuckled and as they proceeded on their way, Elladan explained some of the treeís other properties that were of a more medicinal kind. Estel listened dutifully but Elrohir could see he wasnít very interested. Still, both Peredhil had decided that they should not waste the opportunity to tutor their brother about the various trees in the forest as they climbed to the picnic meadow.
"Ah, look, Estel," Elrohir said. "I bet you cannot tell me what this tree is?"
Estel stopped and glanced to where Elrohir was pointing. "Itís a brethil."
"There are different kinds?" the boy asked, scrunching his face. "Itís a brethil, íRoh." This last was said with some exasperation.
Elrohir knelt down to be at eye level with the youngster. "Itís a brethil velui and itís a very important tree to know."
"Itís inner bark can be pounded into a poultice for treating wounds."
"I thought you used herbs for that, like comfrey and... and lambís ear...."
Elrohir nodded. "Indeed, and glad I am to know that you remember Adaís lessons in those, but you cannot always depend on finding herbs, so itís good to know which trees can offer aid when you need it."
"I guess," Estel said with a sigh.
Elrohir stood and ruffled Estelís hair. "Well, let us go. Lead the way, Estel."
The boy nodded and set off at a good pace, at least for an eight-year-old Mortal. His elven brothers exchanged amused smiles and followed. They wended their way along the forest path, Estel delighting in the sight of red squirrels and chipmunks, the latter making a funny chittering noise as they scampered through the underbrush. The trees were a mix of species ó maples, sycamores, beeches and oak ó but there were tall pines and hemlocks as well, the sunlight filtering through their branches, casting a green gloom all about. Eventually they came to where the path branched, with the left branch heading straight and the right heading upward along a ridge, disappearing around a bend.
"So which way should we go?" Elladan asked.
Estel gave his brother a withering look and, using his walking stick, pointed straight ahead. Elladan raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure about that, Estel?"
The boy gave him a puzzled look. "Itís the way we always go to reach the picnic meadow," he answered.
"There is another path," Elladan said. "Itís a bit harder to walk, but you might like it." He pointed to the right. "This path will eventually lead one to the northeastern outpost, but we wonít go that far. Are you game?"
Estel stared at the path, his brows furrowed, then he looked up at his brothers. "Will we get to the meadow in time for the picnic?"
The Twins laughed. "With plenty of time to spare," Elrohir answered.
Estel nodded. "Then we can take the right branch, but youíll have to take the lead íDan, ícause I donít know this way."
"Why donít you walk with me and íRoh can follow," the elder twin suggested, giving Elrohir the haversack full of food. Estel nodded and together he and Elladan took the lead while Elrohir trailed behind them, an amused expression on his face.
The path rose before them and soon they were following it along the edge of a gorge. Below them they could see one of the numerous streams that flowed into the Bruinen further west. The path narrowed and Elladan went first with Estel right behind. Elrohir kept a close eye on the lad, for this path was not as smooth as the other.
At one point, the path opened up more to the left and they saw a second path heading away to the north. Elladan turned on it so now they were heading away from the gorge. This path proved to be a stiff climb until it flattened out and the Twins stopped and let Estel rest a bit, giving him some water, for the boy was sweating with the exertion. They had stopped in a small clearing where older trees had fallen, opening up the forest canopy somewhat so the sun shone down upon them, shattering the forest gloom with its light.
"Ah, look, Estel," Elladan pointed. "Do you know what that tree is over there thatís fallen?"
Estel stood up and went to where a large evergreen lay, its roots exposed. Estel examined the needles and smelled them. "Itís a nimuigalen."
"Very good. I will have to remember to tell Lindir about this tree," Elladan said.
Estel turned to his brother. "Why?"
"The wood has a resonance that makes it ideal as a sounding board for lutes and viols," Elladan replied. "Lindir mentioned just the other day he wanted to make a lute for Glorfindel."
"I didnít know Glorfy played the lute," Estel said, his eyes widening at the thought of his hero displaying yet another talent.
Both Twins laughed. "Neither does Glorfindel," Elrohir said. "Lindir is going to teach him, or so he says."
"Itís a surprise," Elladan said, giving the boy a wink and putting his finger to his lip.
Estelís eyes glimmered with childish glee. "Glorfy hates surprises."
"Heíll like this one," Elladan said. "Shall we go?" Estel nodded and they set off again.
Along the way, the Twins would stop at one tree or another and ask Estel if he could identify it. Most he could, a few he wasnít sure about. Both Elladan and Elrohir noticed a decided lack of zeal in the boyís responses to their queries but Estel dutifully answered. He had been around Elves for as long as he could remember and had learned how not to act around them. As they made their way across a gully along which a rill of water ran, Elladan looked about.
"Hmmm... deer have been through here," he said.
Estel perked up. "How do you know?" he asked excitedly.
The elder son of Elrond pointed to a stand of young trees, their lower branches denuded of leaves. "See? The deer love to eat the leaves of this particular tree."
"What kind of tree is it?" Estel asked.
"It is called galadh-e-guil," Elladan answered. "The Noldor named it so, but what the Sindar called it has never been recorded."
"Why did they call it that?" Estel asked with a puzzled look on his face. "All trees give life."
"Ah, but you see, this tree saved many of the Noldor, for when they reached the shores of Beleriand after crossing the Grinding Ice, they were weak and listless, their store of energy depleted from the years of trekking across the wastelands. Many suffered from bleeding under the skin and their teeth were loose. The Sindar whom they befriended made a tea from the leaves of this tree and after drinking it the Noldor began to feel much better and their health improved so dramatically that they named this the galadh-e-guil and so it has been known ever since."
Elrohir, while his twin was explaining all this to Estel, was hunting about for a tree that had not been denuded and called them over so Estel could see its leaves. Elrohir laid a hand on the young treeís trunk for a moment in silent communication and then looked down at Estel. "The tree has agreed to let us take some of its leaves so we can make tea from them. Weíll have some tonight when we are home and you can see how it tastes."
Estel nodded and in a short time they had collected a sufficient quantity and then were on their way again. The path now curved gently around the slope of the gully and Elladan assured the youngster that they were not far from the meadow. Estel smiled and skipped ahead, his eyes wandering along the path, stopping to pick up a dull red stone that had caught his attention.
"So, Estel, what is this tree called?" Elrohir asked, pointing to the tree under which the boy had stopped.
Estel looked up and squinted at the tree and shrugged. "Doron," he answered as he continued examining his rock.
"What kind of oak?" Elrohir pressed.
The boy sighed and moved to examine the tree more closely. "Doron dachol," he answered after a moment.
"Very good," Elrohir said. "And do you know what this particular type of oak is used for?"
The boy shrugged again, obviously not caring, his expression becoming glum. "Estel, what is the tree used for?" Elladan asked.
"I donít know and I donít care!" their brother cried, very near to tears.
The Twins exchanged frowns and then knelt before the boy. "Estel, whatís wrong?" Elrohir asked.
"You are!" came the surprising answer. "Weíre supposed to be going on a picnic but youíre turning this into a lesson."
"Ada gives lessons when you and he are walking in the woods," Elrohir reminded him.
"But thatís Ada," Estel exclaimed in obvious exasperation at the denseness of older brothers. "Youíre my brothers. Youíre supposed to be fun!"
Both Peredhil reared back on their heels as if theyíd received a blow and exchanged rueful looks as they stood. Elladan put a hand on Estelís shoulder. "Weíre sorry, Estel. We didnít mean to ruin your fun. Why donít we go on to the meadow and have our picnic and we promise not to make the rest of the trip a lesson."
Estel nodded, using the sleeve of his tunic to wipe the tears from his eyes. Then he gave his brothers a sly look. "I can show you what this tree is good for," he said.
"Oh?" Elladan said, his eyes narrowing in suspicion, having recognized the boyís expression and knowing it usually meant trouble.
Estel nodded enthusiastically. "Stay here," he ordered, thrusting his walking stick into Elrohirís hand, and before his brothers could protest he ran around the tree. There was a moment of silence and then a hissing sound followed by what could only be a sigh of relief. The Twins looked at each other, their eyes full of amusement as they realized what the boy was doing, their suspicions confirmed when Estel stepped around the tree fumbling with the ties of his trews, a contented look on his face.
"Thatís better," he said. "Letís go have our picnic."
The Twins laughed and Elrohir handed Estel back his walking stick and together the three brothers went on their way, reaching the meadow in good time.
And it was a very nice picnic indeed.
Words are Sindarin:
Ada: Hypocoristic form of Adar: Father.
Nana: Hypocoristic form of Naneth: Mother.
Peredhil: Plural of Peredhel: Half-elven.
Ivanneth: September/October in the Gregorian calendar.
Caigordof: ĎHedge-appleí: Osage-orange (Maclura pamifera), has thorny branches and has often been used as a hedge as well as a windbreak, hence its colloquial name. It bears a yellow-green fruit that gives off a pleasant, mild odor, but it is inedible, except for the seeds. The yellow-orange wood is used for tool handles, treenails and fence posts. The straight-grained osage timber (most of it is knotty and twisted) makes a very good bow.
Gillass goll: ĎScarlet star-leafí: Sweet Gum (Liquidamber styraciflua), a tree with star-shaped leaves that turn a brilliant red in the autumn (and they rather look like the outline of Nķmenor). Among other things, its resinous sap was made into perfume.
Brethil velui: Sweet birch (Betula lenta), its inner bark can be made into a poultice to treat wounds.
Galadh-e-guil: Tree of Life, Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis or Arborvitae), its leaves are rich in Vitamin C. It is believed that a tea made from its leaves cured the scurvy of Jacques Cartier and his party in the winter of 1535-36.
Nimuigalen: ĎWhite evergreení: White spruce: (Picea glauca): its resonance is useful for making sounding boards for guitars and violins.
Doron dachol: Pin oak (Quercus palustris), grows well in wet sites, its stiff spurs were used as pins to hold timbers together before nails were used.
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