Tales from Ineris: Seth and Elya


Today I would like to welcome back Barnard, Loremaster of Gilafar. If you missed my introduction of this intriguing curmudgeon, click here to view the post.

Shortly after I published his character introduction, it occurred to me how fun it would be if Barnard made an occasional appearance as a “guest writer.” After speaking with him about this idea, I am pleased to announce that he has most generously agreed to aid me in this endeavor, and to share some of his knowledge with my readers. Barnard was never one to turn down the opportunity for a good story, after all. And who better to tell you about Ineris (the world in which my story takes place), than one who actually claims residence there?

So I hope you will welcome Barnard and enjoy his narrative on today’s topic.


barnard smile

Good day, and greetings from the fair city of Gilafar! It pleases me greatly to be able to share with others the tales from my world, be they legend or history. Although, it is my experience that even legends, at least those worth hearing, contain the hint of truth.

Before I begin, however, allow me a moment to speak my mind. When I was a young man still establishing my reputation as Loremaster (and preferring to eat on a somewhat consistent basis), I was quite glad to accept any work offered me without complaint or condition. However, I am old now, well-seasoned and comfortable in life. As such, I have no qualms about inviting those who have no interest in the legends of the Elves, as that is today’s topic, to take their leave now. There’s no sense in wasting my valuable time and energy.

But alas, I promised Lady Stephanie that I would be on my best behavior whilst I am here. So I shall say no more on the subject.

Grant me a moment to light my pipe…Ah, that’s better. Are we all settled then? Very well. Let us begin.

It is true that I am more blessed than most humans, in that I have firsthand experience with the ancient and immortal race of Elves. Yet they are a reserved and wary people–and they guard their most precious tales with jealousy. Few outsiders are granted the privilege of such intimate knowledge. Even I, who lived among them in the great forest of Ilfórien for several years, was but rarely entrusted with information which they deem “unfit for mortal ears.”

Perhaps this surprises you, considering I was there to learn under one of their own great Loremasters, Therian by name. But do not discount the enduring prejudices of the older races. Master Therian was held in derision by many of his kin for his choice to take on a human apprentice. Granted, it probably did not help my case that I once called one of their elder scribes a “pointy-eared, pompous miser.” Alas, I was young and opinionated and had not yet learned the value of a silent tongue. Yet the scribe never forgot the insult, and he never forgave.

All the same, I was allowed to study certain accounts on occasion, thanks to the generous tutelage of my master teacher. And there are a great many things that can be gleaned from a culture simply through observation. It was a combination of these two techniques which led to my discovery of the Elves’ mysterious connection to the heavens.

My first encounter with the subject happened in the most unlikely of places–the Elvish language itself. A great deal of my initial education under Master Therian revolved around the three major tongues of Ineris: Elvish, Dwarvish, and Common. I was often set to task translating obscure texts such as generally held little interest for me at first. It was in the midst of these studies, however, that I made an important discovery:

The Elves have no direct word in their language for “sun” and “moon.”

At least, not in the same sense as the other tongues, in which can be found words that define them as those objects of celestial light. Rather, since the First Dawn the Elves have seen fit to simply give each a personal name: “Seth” for the sun, and “Elya” for the moon. It is furthermore tradition to refer to them as brother and sister. This linguistic oddity intrigued me, to say the least, and my time and energy was henceforth bent on the pursuit of this knowledge.

I have since come to the conclusion that none, save the Elves themselves, can truly understand the reason for the high esteem in which they hold the sun and moon. To this day, one will hear Elves mention Seth and Elya as if speaking of old friends. For, of all their legends, none perhaps are as dear to their hearts as this one.

Yet, because of its value to them, they are loath to share the particulars with outsiders. Thus my own knowledge does not extend past the surface.

Before I leave, however, I do have a special treat for you all, as a reward for your patient listening to an old man’s ramblings. As it happens, one of the texts I was tasked with translating during my early education was a rather lengthy musical ballad known simply as “The Tale of Seth and Elya.” I thought I might share an excerpt with you, to give you some idea of how the Elves speak of the sun and moon.

As these are originally Elvish verses, some of the beauty and detail is lost in translation. Yet I believe it still captures at least some of its essence.

The Tale of Seth and Elya

At the beginning of Elya’s course, her power wanes.

Weak and frail, she looks to her brother, Seth.

For it is now that he is nearest to her, to keep her from harm.

He shields her with his strength, and guides her with his light.

 

Even as Seth sinks below the horizon,

He casts his light high, reaching out

To comfort and strengthen his little sister.

He warms her with his loving embrace.

 

And as long as Elya glows dim,

Seth will supply his own light

To guide her on the path across the sky

Until her strength returns and she shines full again.

 

I trust that will suffice for today. Thank you for allowing me to speak, and for being a model audience. An attentive listener is ever a welcome one. Now I must return home, where I hope to rest and enjoy a cup of tea before other responsibilities come calling. One should never underestimate the value of a good cup of tea.

Until next time, my new friends:

Seek truth always!


Thank you, Barnard, for taking the time to come and speak to us about Seth and Elya! I for one have always been intrigued by the heavenly bodies. Have you ever noticed that the moon’s position to the sun changes, depending on its phases? Well, it would seem that the Elves have created an entire legend around that very idea. How nice!

As it happens, I recently witnessed a sunset that seemed to portray the very verses Barnard shared, and I was fortunate enough to be able to snap a picture of it at a red light. 😉

elya and seth

That tiny white smudge near the middle of the picture is Elya herself, in the “beginning of her course” (i.e. waxing crescent, just after the new moon). Seth is no longer visible, but his light radiates above the horizon to strengthen his frail sister and guide her on the path.

That’s it for today, folks! Thanks for reading, as always!

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