Folks, from time to time reviewers express distress over the way Elrohir teases and bullies Anomen in some of the stories in The Nameless One series. This story is about the teasing and bullying and tries to find a resolution to it.
Beta Reader: this is only a quick one-shot, so there is no beta reader. If anyone notices an error, please let me know.
Elrohir liked to tease Anomen. Everyone knew it, and everyone deplored it, but no one knew how to put a stop to the elder elfling's mistreatment of the younger one. Elrond suspected that Elrohir would tease Anomen less if the younger elfling would defend himself against the taunts of the elder. However, Elrond would not share his thoughts with Anomen, for it seemed to him that if he did it would sound as if he were blaming Anomen for something for which Elrohir alone was responsible. 'It would be as if one scolded a trader who was robbed for not fighting off his assailant', mused Elrond, 'implying thereby that blame for the robbery may be laid at the feet of the one who committed no crime'.
Yet even without Elrond's encouragement, there came a day when Anomen would not suffer his foster-brother's teasing in silence. "Late again, Anomen?" jeered Elrohir when the younger elfling returned from the training field long after his cohort had regained the Hall. "Pity that Glorfindel must linger over your training. Cannot you keep up with the others?"
"For shame, Elrohir," scolded his twin, Elladan. "You know that Glorfindel detains Anomen at the field not because he is slower than the others but because he is better!"
Elladan spoke the truth. Anomen was such a talented archer that so venerable a personage as Lord Glorfindel, twice-born balrog-slayer, had taken him under his wing, supplementing his training with private lessons that he had never seen fit to offer to any other elfling. This fact Elrohir resented, so Elladan's words did not discourage him from teasing Anomen but instead spurred him on.
"You fancy yourself a prodigy," he jeered, "but I do not know why. And even if you were, you think too much of yourself. Ada says that arrogance is not seemly, but I have seen you counting your hits with such care as could only betoken excessive pride."
Anomen flushed, but from resentment rather than shame. Elrohir could not know that Anomen's skill at archery had alone won him any notice during his lonely days at the Great Hall in Greenwood. His archery master had encouraged him when his father would not, and if Anomen carefully counted his hits, it was out of gratitude for the kindness of his teacher, a gratitude that made the elfling all the more eager to please him. Now Anomen's carefulness was being thrown in his face. Worse, Elrohir's words renewed the pain Anomen had felt when his father had not acknowledged his prowess—or, worse, had seemed to disparage it. Suddenly Anomen could no longer bear Elrohir's teasing. "Orc," he shouted at his tormenter. "Your pointed ears are not those of an Elf but of an Orc!"
Elrohir went white in the face. If Elrohir was ignorant of Anomen's sensitivity on the subject of his archery, Anomen was likewise ignorant of Elrohir's strong feelings on the subject of Orcs. He had never been told of what had happened to Elrohir's Naneth, how she had been captured and tormented by goblins. Had Anomen been familiar with the tale, he would never have called Elrohir by the name of the creatures that had so cruelly mistreated his mother. But he did not know, and so he stood shouting the one insult that Elrohir would never have abided. Troll-brain, yes. Dwarf-pate, yes. But Orc—never.
Elrohir charged at Anomen, and the younger elfling saw from his look of fury that this would be no mere roll in the dust. But he stood his ground. Elrohir raised his fists and struck at him, and Anomen struck back. Panting and swearing, the two flailed at each other. Elrohir had the advantage in weight and height, but Anomen unleashed all his pent up despair and fury, and as unlikely as it would have seemed to anyone familiar with the slight and diffident elfling, he fought Elrohir to a draw.
"Stop it!" shouted Elladan, shocked and horrified. He had never seen Elf fight with Elf. In Rivendell, all disputes were settled by words rather than weapons or fists. He laid hold of Elrohir's tunic and tugged frantically. "Stop it!" he shouted again. His twin tried to shake him off, but he would not let go. "Elrohir," he shrieked, frantic now, "you must stop!"
Furious at Elladan's interference, Elrohir swung about suddenly. Both his arms were raised, with fists clenched, and without meaning to, he struck his twin in the mouth. Elladan cried out in shock and pain. He let go of Elrohir's tunic and stood, blood streaming from his mouth. Their quarrel forgotten, Elrohir and Anomen froze. At last Elladan broke the silence. "How could you?" he forced out through bloody lips. "How could you!" he repeated accusingly. Suddenly he turned and ran into the forest. Immediately Anomen let out a sob and ran into the forest after him. Elrohir remained behind for several minutes, looking at the spot where the two had vanished. Then, his head lowered, he slowly trudged in the direction of the Hall.
When Elrohir arrived at the Hall, the first person he encountered was Erestor. "Elrohir!" the tutor cried in alarm at the sight of the elfling's scratched face and torn tunic. "Elrohir, are you hurt? And your brothers, where are they? Pray tell me that they are unharmed!"
Elrohir began to weep, and Erestor was alarmed all the more. Anxiously he began to check Elrohir for injuries, gently running his hands over the elfling's limbs. "Elrohir," he begged, "tell me what has happened. Saes! Tell me! Were you attacked by Orcs?"
"By one Orc," sobbed Elrohir, "only one. But it was a particularly nasty Orc. Anomen and Elladan have run off into the forest to escape him. Where is my Ada? I must speak to him at once!"
"He is exercising his horse in company with Glorfindel," exclaimed Erestor. "I will send Lindir to fetch him! Meanwhile, you must go to your room and rest, my poor lad."
Erestor spoke with a kindness Elrohir did not feel he deserved, and the elfling cried all the harder as he made his way to the room he shared with Elladan and Anomen. Once he reached it, he stood before the mirror and began to intently study his blotched visage. By the time his father hurried into the room, the young Elf was frantically tugging at his ears, turning his head this way and that so that he might better see them.
"Elrohir," exclaimed his father, "are you hurt. Are your ears injured?" He tried to take Elrohir into his arms to comfort him, but Elrohir evaded him.
"Do not touch me!" he cried. "It may be contagious!"
"Contagious?" repeated his father, puzzled. Men and Dwarfs were prone to diseases that might be passed from one sufferer to the next, but where had Elrohir gotten the notion that the Eldar were similarly susceptible?
"Ada," said Elrohir, "is it true that Orcs are Elves that have degenerated from their blessed state?"
Elrond considered. "There is a story," he said slowly, "that the first Orcs were Elves who were kidnapped and tortured until their spirits died, leaving only bodies that had been corrupted by pain and grief. If this tale be true—and it is not certain that it is!—it happened long ago, beyond the memory of any Elf now living. But what does this have to do with you?"
"I think I am turning into an Orc," Elrohir said fearfully. "Look at my pointy ears!"
Elrond suppressed a smile, his worry replaced by gentle amusement now that it was apparent that his son was unharmed. "Elrohir," he said indulgently, "your ears have always been pointed—as are my ears and Elladan's. Every Elf has pointed ears."
"But so do Orcs," Elrohir quickly replied.
"Aye, and Orcs have two eyes, as we do, and mouths and noses. Do you fear turning into an Orc on that account?"
"No, for all mammals have eyes, mouths, and noses. But, Ada, only Orcs and Elves have pointed ears."
"Not so," Elrond answered calmly, "for the fox has pointed ears, as does the wolf and the cat and the bat and many other animals I might mention."
"Very well," conceded Elrohir. "Some animals have pointed ears. But," he continued, "if you consider the mammals that speak and go about on two feet, it is only the Elves and Orcs that have pointed ears."
"You are forgetting the Periannath," Elrond pointed out. "They have pointed ears, too. Even if they did not, however, and only Orcs and Elves had such ears, you must consider that you have always had yours. Had you gone to sleep with rounded ears and woken up with pointed ones, then I could understand your fear. But you have not changed in the least, at least insofar as your ears are concerned. Therefore, my son, tell me what it is that in truth has frightened you so."
Elrohir gave his ear a final tug and cast his eyes down. "Ada," he said softly, "is it possible for someone to look like an Elf on the inside but be an Orc on the inside?"
"Ah," Elrond said with understanding. "Would I be right in guessing that you feel bad about something that you have said or done today?"
"Both," Elrohir said bleakly. "I spoke foully and behaved foully, too. I think only an Orc would speak and act as I did. Ada, could I be turning into an Orc? Or maybe I have been an Orc all along and nobody knew it."
"Elrohir," Elrond said gravely, "do you consider me wise?"
"I have lived long and seen much—is that not so?"
"Then you must accept my assurance that I have never had any reason to believe that I harbored an Orc within my household. I do think I should have noticed if I had!"
"Truly?" Elrohir said hopefully.
"Truly," Elrond assured him solemnly.
"But I have been bad, Ada."
"And in saying so you have proved yourself to be no Orc."
"I have?" Elrohir said in surprise.
"Elrohir, what distinguishes an Orc from an Elf is not appearance but the Elf's possession of a conscience. I have never heard tell of an Orc feeling sorry for any crime he has committed. You, on the other hand, while you have often been naughty, have in the end always felt bad for your misdeeds. Sometimes it takes you awhile to acknowledge your guilt, and sometimes you might apologize more graciously, were you not so eager to save face. Still, it is clear that you possess a conscience."
Elrohir was still anxious. "I am not an Orc now, Ada, but could I become one later?" he appealed.
"Do you want to be an Orc, Elrohir?"
"Then I do not think you shall become one. We would not be having this conversation if you had it within you to become an Orc."
Elrohir still looked worried. "Ada, I hope I shall not become an Orc, but I have acted like one. Elladan and Anomen are very angry at me right now, and I am afraid they will never forgive me."
"Elrohir, do you think either Elladan or Anomen is an Orc?"
"No! If I am not an Orc, then neither one of them is, for they are both of them much better behaved than I am!"
"Then I think you may be sure that they will forgive you, for that, too, distinguishes an Elf from an Orc—the ability to forgive."
Elrohir looked relieved, but then his face again grew troubled. "Ada," he said, "I want them to forgive me, but I desire more than that."
"What is it that you desire, my son?"
"I understand what you have said—that I am not an Orc. But I do not want to be like an Orc—not even a little bit!"
"The desire will be father to the deed, Elrohir," his father assured him. "Tell me: what would a not-Orc do right now?"
"A not-Orc," Elrohir replied promptly, "would look for Elladan and Anomen and apologize very sincerely."
"And what does it mean to apologize very sincerely?"
"I must not try to make any excuses for my behavior."
Elrond nodded. "Good. Now be off with you, not-Orc, so that you may complete your errand before nightfall. I did not give any credence to Lindir's wild tale of an Orc attack, for Glorfindel's patrols have not found any Orc spoor in several weeks; still it is best for small Elves to be within when the sun goes to ground."
"I shall find them swiftly, and we will hurry straight back," Elrohir promised. He ran to the door but then stopped and looked back at his father. "Ada," he said plaintively, "I will not make excuses, but would it be all right if I explained why I behaved as I did? An explanation is not the same thing as an excuse, is it?"
"An explanation can turn in to an excuse if one is not careful," warned Elrond. "But," he added, "if you are sure of your intentions, an explanation may do some good—not least to yourself, for you may better understand what led you to behave as you did. Know yourself, and you may better govern yourself."
"My intentions are good," Elrohir assured his father. "I simply want to explain that it was nothing that Anomen did that caused me to behave so abominably. I was angry, but not, I think, at Anomen—not truly."
"If that is so, then by all means explain yourself to your brothers."
"Thank you, Ada," exclaimed Elrohir. With that, he turned and bolted through the door.
A half an hour later, Elrohir was approaching an old oak tree where he knew Anomen was often to be found when he was unhappy or pensive. Arriving at the base, he peered up hopefully. "Anomen, Elladan?" he called.
After a pause of several seconds, he heard intense whispers. Apparently Anomen and Elladan were debating whether to acknowledge his existence. At last Anomen's face appeared through a gap in the leaves. "What do you want, Elrohir?" he asked grudgingly.
"I want to apologize," Elrohir called.
Anomen looked surprised. He glanced back and said something over his shoulder. Then his head vanished. Elladan's appeared in its place.
"Apologize?" Elladan said doubtfully. "Is this a trick?"
"Oh, no," Elrohir assured him. "I swear by our Naneth Celebrían, daughter of Galadriel of Lothlórien, granddaughter of Eärwen, that this is no trick."
Now it was Elladan's turn to look surprised. Elrohir had never sworn an oath by their mother. Indeed, he never mentioned their mother at all. Elladan looked back over his shoulder at Anomen. "I think we should let him come up," he said solemnly. "If you are certain," said Anomen. "You are the one with the bloody lip, after all."
"I am certain," Elladan assured him. "It is hard for Elrohir to utter the name of—of our mother. He would not do so lightly."
Suddenly Anomen felt a pang of guilt. He, too, never spoke of his mother. Absorbed as he had been in his grief, he had never spared any thought as to why Elrohir never spoke of his mother. He nodded at Elladan, who turned and called down to Elrohir.
"You may come up, Elrohir, but I swear by these bloody lips that I shall never talk to you again if you play such a trick upon me as you have done of late."
"That would be fair," the older twin replied contritely, thus surprising his brothers once again. Swiftly he swung himself into the tree and settled himself on a branch near to the limb where Anomen and Elladan were perched. They watched him warily. "Well?" Elladan said.
Elrohir replied forthrightly. "Anomen," he declared, "I am sorry for teasing you, and, Elladan, I am sorry that I struck you."
"You hit Anomen, too," Elladan pointed out.
"Yes, and I am sorry for that as well."
Anomen and Elladan stared at him, waiting for him to say something more. It was not like Elrohir to sit quietly, without blustering and bragging. They grew increasingly puzzled as Elrohir remained silent, his eyes studying some point on the ground far below. At last Elladan spoke.
"Aren't you going to tell us your reason for teasing Anomen?"
"I had no good reason," Elrohir answered promptly, looking up and meeting his gaze.
"I didn't say I thought it would be a good reason," Elladan pointed out.
Elrohir considered. He scrunched up his face. Anomen thought he looked a little like a miniature Troll, but he had the good sense not to say that.
"When I tease Anomen," Elrohir finally said, "he doesn't fight back."
"You were right, Elrohir," Elladan huffed. "That is not a good reason. Why tease him in the first place?"
Elrohir thought even harder. "I am unhappy," he blurted out at last.
"You were unhappy before Anomen arrived," Elladan pointed out.
Elrohir looked surprised. "Yes, that's true. I have been unhappy for a long time."
"So Anomen is not the cause of your unhappiness."
"No—well, yes, sometimes. Sometimes I am—jealous when Ada pays attention to Anomen and I want him to pay attention to me."
"Would you be jealous if you were not unhappy?"
This was a new idea, and Elrohir considered it carefully. If he were jealous because he was unhappy, then Anomen could not be to blame.
"No," he replied at last. "I do not suppose I would be jealous if I were not already angry. You are not jealous of Anomen. Elladan," he exclaimed, his words now tumbling out in a rush, "how can you be happy when I am not? We are twins! Don't you miss our Naneth?"
"I do miss her, Elrohir, but I think I miss her—differently."
"But how is that possible? We are twins!"
"You don't have to keep saying that, Elrohir," Elladan said wryly. "Everyone knows it."
"Yes, well, we are twins," Elrohir said lamely, "so—why are we not alike in this matter?"
"I can tell you apart," Anomen said suddenly. "Anyone who has known you for more than a few minutes can tell you apart. You are not the same person! Ordinary siblings look more or less alike if they share the same birth parents. But no one expects the siblings who look most alike to think more alike or the siblings who look least alike to think less alike—if that makes any sense, I mean," he trailed off.
There had been a surfeit of alikes in Anomen's reckoning, but after puzzling it over for a few minutes, both Elladan and Elrohir nodded. Emboldened, Anomen resumed. "I think twins are no different than other siblings. They look more alike than most siblings, but even so, each is particular in his likes and dislikes. Wasn't your father a twin, and didn't he turn out very differently from his brother?"
"That is true," Elladan said excitedly. "Consider how their fates differed. Our uncle Elros chose to remain forever in Middle-earth. He became mortal and died so that his dust might mingle with the soil of this place. Our father has chosen another path. Do you find it strange, Elrohir, that our father and uncle should have turned out so differently?"
"No," said Elrohir, suddenly feeling immensely relieved. He had always been secretly troubled by the fact that he was not more like Elladan, for he had feared that his twin was the 'better' of the two. Now he realized that it might not be necessary that one be the 'better', the other the 'worse'. Elros and Elrond had been different, yet no one had ever suggested that one was to be preferred over the other. Their choices had been very different, but no one had ever suggested that one's choice had been 'wrong', the other's 'right'. Instead, it had always been assumed that each had chosen most appropriately for himself, even if his choice would never have been to the other's liking.
Elrohir found himself smiling. For several minutes he sat swinging his legs happily. Then his smile faltered.
"Elladan," he said gravely, "I don't mind being unlike you in the main, but in one thing I wish we were more similar. I wish I could be as happy as you."
"Elrohir," said Anomen, "you are not as unhappy now as you were a short while ago."
Elrohir conceded that he was not.
"So," continued Anomen, "a person's happiness is not fixed. It may change over time."
"I know that you have lost your mother somehow," Anomen said, growing bolder. "I would venture that the grief you feel at her loss, while painful, is not as sharp as it was formerly."
"No, it is not," agreed Elrohir.
"May not your happiness continue to grown as your grief lessens? You would never forget your mother, yet your thoughts of her may cease to provoke such a sorrow that you may not take pleasure in the here and now."
Elrohir looked at Anomen with newfound respect and even gratitude. "That is a good thought," he said. "I must remember that I may be happier in the future. Indeed, even the notion that this may be so makes me happier right now. At the very least, it allows me to better endure present sorrow in the expectation that I may encounter future happiness. I must be patient. I shall be patient. For I do not want to be unhappy. Anomen, you are wise."
Anomen pretended to nearly fall off his branch. "Elrohir has said something nice about me," he exclaimed in mock surprise.
"If I can change in one respect, cannot I change in another," Elrohir replied cheekily. "After all, you have changed in several ways, Anomen. For one, you are less shy than you were when you first arrived in Rivendell."
"And I would be even less shy," Anomen retorted, "if someone weren't always bullying me."
Elrohir winced but recovered quickly. "Well, those words do not bespeak shyness. You grow bolder as we speak."
"As you grow happier," rejoined Anomen.
"Bolder! happier!" grumbled Elladan, who was beginning to feel left out. "Anomen, I am glad you grow bolder; Elrohir, I am glad you grow happier. But I am left with a sore mouth—and one of my teeth wiggles in its socket!"
"Your mouth will grow better," Elrohir promptly reassured him, "and as for your teeth, Ada says we are to lose them soon, like that little man-child who accompanies the trader but lately arrived from Bree."
"I think you are mistaken, Elrohir," Anomen said skeptically. "I have already lost all my infant teeth."
"Yes, but we are to have a third set. They are called 'wisdom teeth'. Humans have four wisdom teeth, but because we Elves live so long—perhaps forever!—we are allotted an entire mouthful."
Elladan grimaced. "I did not like losing my teeth," he complained. "There was one that hung by a thread for weeks. It twirled in its socket, and I thought I should be sick."
"If you had let Ada pull it, you would not have suffered so," Elrohir pointed out sensibly. Elladan made another face, and Anomen grinned. "I will pull it for you," he offered light-heartedly. He made a pincer gesture with finger and thumb and pretended that he was going to reach into Elladan's mouth. Ai! In his silliness, he reached too far and lost his balance and fell forward. Just as his feet vanished from sight, Elrohir made a grab for him and caught him by the ankle. Unfortunately, as he did so, he lost his balance as well and followed Anomen in plummeting from the branch. Thinking quickly, Elladan let himself fall backward so that his legs hooked a branch and made a grab for Elrohir's legs. Now all three dangled upside down: Elladan hanging from the branch by his knees and clinging to Elrohir's legs, Elrohir clutching Anomen's ankles.
And this is how Elrond found them at dusk, three red-faced elflings dangling upside down, each linked to another as if they were a chain of opossums. Calmly he looked up at the pendant elflings and positioned himself directly underneath them. "Elrohir," he called. "Let go of Anomen."
"I won't," cried Elrohir, horrified that his Ada would suggest such a thing.
"Elrohir," Elrond said soothingly, "I mean to catch him."
"Oh," said Elrohir, abashed that he would ever have thought otherwise. "Oh, well, if that's what you mean. Anomen," he called, "are you ready?"
"Yes," gasped Anomen.
Elrohir had been clinging so tightly to Anomen's ankles that his fingers were numb and he found it difficult to release his grip. Nevertheless, with a wince he forced open his hands, and Anomen fell. Like a cat, Anomen twisted as he fell so that he was no longer upside down, and Elrond caught him easily. Gently, he sat the dizzy elfling upon the ground. Then he called up to Elladan to let go of Elrohir's legs.
Elladan's fingers, like Elrohir's, were stiff, but with a great effort of will, he opened them, and now Elrohir was somersaulting through the air. He was heavier than Anomen, and Elrond let out an 'oomph!' as he caught him, but catch him he did, and he set the exhausted elfling on the ground beside Anomen, who promptly threw his arms about him.
"Thank you for not letting me fall," Anomen whispered to his foster-brother. Unselfconscious for once, Elrohir returned the gesture. Then the two of them watched anxiously as Elrond coaxed a woozy Elladan to relax his legs so that he might slip free of the branch from which he was dangling. Moments later, Elladan was on the ground beside his brothers. Elrond regarded them fondly. "Judging from the tenacity of your grips," he said with mock gravity, "I would say that you have had a bonding experience."
The three elflings smiled weakly at him, and he raised his eyebrows when he saw the gap in Elladan's mouth. The elfling's tooth had been knocked out altogether in his fall from the tree. Elrond shrugged. 'The getting of wisdom—and wisdom teeth—is a hard thing', he thought resignedly as he bent to help each elfling to his feet. Then, wobbling a little, they slowly followed him back to the Hall.
Reader, I strive to follow the Chronicles faithfully in all respects, so I would be writing fiction if I stated that from this point onward Elrohir never, ever teased Anomen. Still, he teased him less often, and his gibes were less mean-spirited. Gradually, as the years wore on, the teasing turned into a light-hearted bantering exchange in which Anomen gave as good as he got. By the time Anomen was acknowledged to be Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood, it was hard to imagine that he had ever called Elrohir an Orc—or that Elrohir had ever feared himself to be one.
Oddly, history repeated itself, as Men are wont to say, when centuries later Legolas was thrown into the company of a Dwarf. Then it was Legolas who descended to the level of the bully (although in fairness it ought to be said that the Dwarf made the descent as well). For Legolas, it was as difficult as it had been for Elrohir to recognize that the Dwarf was someone to cling to, not someone to taunt. Yet he learned his lesson, as Elrohir had learned his. Legolas and Elrohir, Legolas and Gimli—may these friendships guide us as the light of Ëarendil once guided two Periannath, who were likewise friends. The bond between friends was proof against the darkness of Mordor. It continues proof against the darkness of the heart.