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We were not born in Cuiviénen

by Lyra

We were not born in Cuiviénen.

I should know, for it was I who led our people here when our homelands grew too hostile. The waters were running dry, the scarce trees withering, the ground spewing poisonous fumes. When we noticed that the beasts were leaving for greener pastures, I made the same decision. We followed the tracks of the beasts. We were guided, also, by strange dreams and portents that I tried to read as best as I could; and I suppose I did well enough, for eventually we came to Cuiviénen. Here we met others like us, who had no fur nor feathers nor scales, who walked on two legs and used their deft fingers to make tools and weapons.

Of course, that was a long time ago, before we had speech; and so I suppose it is not surprising that even the very old hardly recall that time before Cuiviénen, before we spoke or sang with words. Our memory is bound up in words these days, and although we still dance the old dances that tell the ancient tales, not many now recall their meaning. I do not grieve for that – if I did, I would set out to translate the old legends from the language of bodies to the language of words. There is very little use for the memories of a time in which we were different people. I merely feel that I should mention it, to give you the whole truth.

Mind you, it was in Cuiviénen that we came into our own. Not that life was entirely without danger here, for we soon found out that people who strayed too far from the waters might still be caught by the Dark Hunter, who would twist and turn them into cruel, hostile creatures. But the Dark Hunter did not have the power to make the waters run dry, nor poison the trees or the beasts that we hunted for food. The starlit waters provided safety, of a sort, and in that safety we could hone our crafts and make words. So it is fair to say that we became who we are in this place. But we were not born here.

I do not know if any of the others were. The Minyar, perhaps. The Tatyar, I think not, for they have dances similar to ours, telling stories of older times that perhaps some of them can read. They use different signs and motions and I do not know the experiences behind them, but they, too, seem to whisper of days before the protecting waters of Cuiviénen, days of want and insecurity, days of fear that went far beyond the shadow of the Dark Hunter. Besides, why would they be a people apart from the Minyar if all of them had been born here? Do not believe that story of First, Second and Third. It is something that we tell young children nowadays, in the words and numbers our clever minds have devised, but it is not a true story. For the true story, ask the smiths. They have far more lore than just the knowledge of metals and stones. Maybe they will tell you - although they do not normally share their wisdom with the uninitiated.

I see that you doubt my words. I cannot help that, I suppose. You have been told different stories, I know. I understand. Even I do not care much to remember the days before Cuiviénen, the time before speech, when we went unclad and slept wherever it seemed to be safe, struggled to feed ourselves and our children from day to day. Of course life is better here. Here, we have become the People of the Stars, the People Who Speak, the People Who Build And Create. Of course I wish that it had been like that all the time; of course I wish we had been born like this. That is why I do not bother to remind people of our true origin, and why I do not generally contradict the all too simple stories they tell these days. I cannot say why I am telling you this at all, but I feel that I should.

Perhaps it is because you say that you wish to understand us, and if you truly do, you should know this. We were not born in Cuiviénen, and if any of the Unbegotten ever lived, I have never met them, not even Enel who is supposed to be my forefather. We were not born in three tribes in this place: we come from different places. Our words do not speak of them, but our bodies remember, and that is why my people have skin as dark as the earth and skies of our homelands, why the Fisher-folk are lithe and slender as the fish that they hunt and the Forest-folk are nimble and swift like deer, why the Crafty Ones are strong and high-grown as the mountains in which they delve for ores and the Fair Ones have skin and hair as pale as the stars to which they sing their praises. We are all Quendi, but we were not always in this place together. Ask the smiths if you wish to know more. They guard all the secrets of the Earth-mother, and if they find you trustworthy, maybe they will tell you.

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About the Author

Lyra is a Hobbit in all but size, but much more interested in the First and Second Age than actual Hobbit lore. A journalist by trade and philologist and cultural scientist by training, she has been struggling with plotbunnies and the relentless demands of real life ever since she discovered the fandom. Family life with two kids in an old farmhouse that desperately needs renovation doesn't make things easier, although it provides plenty of inspiration. Lyra is obsessed with Nerdanel and her boys, Númenor, Elwing and Eärendil, Maglor (+ Daeron) through the Ages, and the occasional footnote.

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