Impendix III: The children of Dân

It is a rare culture that does not have some myth about the origins of man; and usually these tales refer to a First Man (and generally also a Woman), likely because it is better storytelling to keep the list of starring characters as short as practicable. I don’t offhand know of any myths about a First Tribe that were all made from the dust at once, or awoke from animality into humanity, or the like. Polygenism has not much of a past in folklore, and indeed it may not have much of a future in biology.

Naturally, the cultures of the Three Worlds are no exception. They, too, have a tale of the First Man and the origins of humanity; but because they have more than one kind of men to account for, the tale differs significantly from those we are familiar with. Like the account in Genesis (and many another), this account traces the origins of evil will in humans back to the earliest times; but the ‘Fall of Man’, in that world, took place in the second generation and not in the first, with hugely important consequences in subsequent history (and theology).

The Worm of the Ages’ tells how Telkon slew the primaeval dragon, the ouroboros of Färinor, whose heartbeats and breaths measured the days and seasons. From the body of the Worm he fashioned the bodies of divers creatures, and the Maker gave them life: chief among them, dwarfs, dragons, and the three brothers of Wyrd – Eänol, Alqueron, and Vargon, that is Time, Truth, and Death.

(Incidentally, in the Fair Tongue, the same word is used to mean both question and answer; the root form is quär-, sometimes Englished as ‘truth’, but a more precise translation would be ‘that which is desired to be known’. Alqueron means roughly ‘he who has the knowledge that is wanted’. Eänol traces to roots meaning ‘to continue in being’, and Vargon means ‘master of the fallen’. The element var- is related to bara ‘west’, sc. direction of the setting stars, and to Berion, who would be King of the Sun in the earlier ages of Mirenna.)

Some thought it unjust that the whole burden of the Worm should have fallen upon Telkon; but the only other Keeper who could have killed it was Bringúr, the watchman of Färinor, and he had been set a task no less urgent. While Telkon was confronting the Worm in the furthest North, Bringúr stood guard in the South. The Destroyer had worked his slow will on the beasts that bred in the cold lands there, warping them into monsters of strange form and savage temper, deadly in tooth, claw, and horn. Against these Bringúr contended under the stars, until the Valley of Four Rivers was safe and all the Destroyer’s servants were driven far away. When that task was accomplished, Bringúr rested on the Mountain of Guard at the head of the Valley, awaiting the coming of Man.

He did not have to wait for long. In the springtide of the next year, the spirit of the Maker moved upon the land, and he raised up Dân and Eia, man and woman: a new thing under the stars. In after days, the Fair Folk said that Dân and Eia were made in the Maker’s image: an obscure saying, by which they meant many things at once. For men are makers in small, as the Maker is in the greatest things: they conceive of many forms, and impose them upon the matter of the world. Men are reasoning creatures, as the Maker is Reason itself; men are speakers of words, as the Maker is the Word of creation and command.

These things they have in common with the Keepers, and with other spirits that did not enter the circles of the Three Worlds. But men are not spirits only: they are conjoined with matter, and by matter they are made individual; and in them are mingled the twin streams of creation, Matter and Spirit, which have their source in the Maker before all things.

Some say that the Maker shaped the bodies of beasts, generation by generation, until he had made vessels fit to hold the spirit of his image; others hold rather that he raised up bodies from the stuff of earth, like the beasts of the field in form and life, but altered to his purpose. This contention has never been settled even among the wisest of the Fair Folk, and we need not treat of it here.

Many tales are told of Dân and Eia, some true, some fanciful, and they are known by different names to many peoples. The names Dân and Eia themselves are derived from the Fair Tongue of later ages, much worn down by use from their original forms. Dân comes from words meaning ‘he who dwells in the earth’, Eia from words meaning ‘she who brings forth into being’. The names they gave one another are no longer remembered. For many years they remained in peace and safety in the Valley of Four Rivers, wandering about the land, but dwelling most often near the place where the rivers joined.

There Faern came down from the East, the Speaking River, whose clear waters made a sound as of many voices as they roiled in their stony bed. From the West flowed Varan the Falling, green and turbid from the lakes that fed it before it came roaring into the Valley by the mighty cascades from which it took its name. The snow-melt of the South, near the walls of the world, fed the springs of Morn, the River of Night, black with the soil of the barren lands. And where these three joined they made Aena, the River of Spirit, sometimes called the River of Living Dreams, winding its long slow way to find the Sundering Sea at Drath Erem, the Lone Harbour, of which more will be told later.

At the meeting of the rivers, in the first house of Man, were born the daughters of Eia and the three sons of Dân. In after times the sons were called by names akin to those of the rivers, and heavy with fate: Färon and Vardan, who were twin brothers, and Morak the eldest.

It is told that Quelmë was the most beloved of the daughters of Eia. Younger than her brothers, she was born by a spring of fresh water (quälë), from which she took her name; and all her days she loved to be near the water, or in it. One day when she was nearly grown, she was bathing in the waters of Aena, when she was set upon and bitten by a shoal of black eels. They left her bleeding in the water, with poison in her wounds, and vanished as quickly as they came, except one.

The sons of Dân heard Quelmë’s cries, and when they dragged her from the water, she was in a deathly swoon with the last eel’s jaws still closed fast upon her flesh. Deformed, many-eyed, with a multitude of crooked black fangs, it was plainly no natural creature. Having seen that Quelmë was safe, the brothers bore the eel to their father, who said: ‘In my first days there were monsters in the land, sent against the Valley of Four Rivers by some evil power; but Bringúr the mighty slew them all. It may be that this is such a one, sent beneath the waters to evade his vigilance.’

‘Then let us find its spawning-place,’ said Morak, ‘and tell Bringúr where this evil makes its lair. Though hidden from him, it is revealed to us: for we know now that there are but three paths by which the vermin could have come. As there are three of us, Father, let us each choose a river and seek upstream until we have found it.’

To this Dân agreed, and the brothers parted and fared forth, each following the river of his naming. Färon went east by the course of Faern, into a stony wilderness. Vardan climbed the mountains beside the cataract of Varan, through shadowed hills to the dark green lakes at the river’s source. Morak followed Morn to its springs in the dark and snowbound uplands of the furthest South. And though they did not find the evil that they sought, it found them.

For in the wilderness Färon was famished, and the voice of the Destroyer spoke to him in the night, saying: ‘On a fool’s errand thy father hast sent thee, into this foodless waste. Abide with me, and I will teach thee all knowledge and the arts of making, that thou mayest call forth bread from the stones of the earth.’ But Färon answered: ‘Not for bread did I come hither, but for duty’s sake and for the love of my sister. Her need is greater than mine. Now begone.’

Then the Destroyer spoke to Vardan in the shadowed hills, where the shattered rocks of Bringúr’s battles barred his way. On a mountaintop he found Vardan, looking over the broken lands to find the path; and he said: ‘Heartless is thy father, for he has given thee a task beyond the strength of man. Follow me, and I will give thee dominion over the spirits of the air, and they will bear thee over heath and hill to whatever place thou desirest.’ And Vardan answered, being troubled in his heart: ‘Yea, I am wroth with Dân my father, who did not forewarn me of the perils of this road. But I do not see these spirits. Shall I cast myself into unseen hands? If they hold me not, I shall fall to my destruction. I trust neither in my kin nor in thee. Leave me to find my own fate.’

And again the Destroyer spoke to Morak in the snowfields of the South, saying: ‘Thy father hast sent thee to the ends of the earth; but I am beyond all ends. Bow to me, and I will give thee rule over every land, east, west, and north, and the multitude of thy sons will conquer even the Light itself.’ Then Morak said: ‘In the cold of this night, my eyes are famished and my flesh fails. Were the Light mine, I would not dole it out so niggardly. There would be more than a glimmer in the North to set against the creatures of the dark!’ And he bowed down and pledged himself to do as he was bidden by the voice out of the void.

Then the Destroyer told Morak: ‘It is ordained from the beginning of days that Eia thy mother shall be called Mother of the Nations; but it is not so ordained that Dân should be the Father. Take thou his place at her side, and all that I have promised will be thine.’

At this Morak was troubled, and he would have called back his vow. ‘How then shall I put my father down from his place? He is sworn to my mother, and she to him.’

‘With axe and blade hast thou hewn wood,’ said the Destroyer; ‘with axe and blade shalt thou hew flesh. I command thee to break the body of thy father, and give him unto me; for there is no power without blood, and no bargain without recompense. He has sent thee on a fool’s hunt to the margin of the Void, and to thy death, but for my aid. Is it not then just that he should taste death also?’

These words kindled Morak’s heart to a great wrath; and returning to the Valley of Four Rivers ere his wrath had cooled, he fell upon Dân with axe and blade, as he had been bidden, and slew his father, and bore away his mother by force. Färon was at hand to oppose him, for the Maker had put a warning in his heart, and he turned back from his quest in time. He strove against his elder brother, and would have saved Eia, but madness gave such strength to Morak that no mortal flesh could stay him. In that fray Färon was wounded and like to die, but he cast himself into the waters of Aena, and escaped hardly with his life. The daughters of Eia were scattered before Morak like leaves before the wind, and they fled from the valley, never again to return for fear of him, and for the murder that was done that day.

Morak himself feared the vengeance of his brothers, and seizing Eia he fled with her into a far country. There he made his dwelling, and lay with his mother, constraining her by the force of his madness; and she bore him three children at one birth, and so died, for she was broken by grief and by the evil that Morak had done her. Those children were the first of the race that were afterwards called Morakh, after the name of their father.

On a time Vardan abandoned his quest and returned from his journey, and in the valley he found the marks of the affray and the body of his father. Then he mourned Dân and built a cairn of stones in his memory; and he gathered his scattered sisters, and they went to dwell in the highlands beside the lakes of Varan. In time he took them as his wives, finding them fair, and not knowing the will of the Maker in this matter, for he had hidden himself from the Maker and Destroyer alike, and from the Díoni and all good counsel. They bore him many sons and daughters. But Quelmë the fairest was childless, for the poison of the Destroyer’s eels and the horror of Dân’s murder had left her weak in body and spirit; and her like never again walked upon the earth, either in Färinor or in the worlds that were to come.

It is said that the Maker, though moved to grief and pity, left Vardan to tread the path that his will had chosen; but the Destroyer desired to impose his will upon all things, and set snares for Vardan’s feet and mazes for his heart. So the freedom of the Vardéni, the children of Vardan and his sisters, which are the race of mortal men, was dearly bought and often broken.

But to Färon, who alone kept faith with the Maker despite loss and sorrow, a different fate was appointed; as is told in the next of the tales that have come down from Färinor.

Comments

  1. Wendy S. Delmater says:

    This is lovely and mythic and WHY NOT publish the appendices first if you need to write them beforehand to get the myths right?

    • Matthew Ess says:

      I agree… I like this better than anything in the Silmarillion but the very beginning. With massaging, I think it could make a very good book. I’d buy it!

  2. They’re certainly fun… looks interesting to see how they might develop, though I think I can guess some of it.

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  1. […] son of Dân, from the day that his father was slain and he himself wounded nigh to death. As has already been told, he leapt into the waters of Aena, the River of Spirit, and so escaped; but it was not by his own […]

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