The Naming Day Gift
Thranduil sat down under the shelter of a beech at the edge of a large clearing. He settled into a hollow between knotted roots, being careful all the while not to jostle the bundle in his arms. Once comfortable, he let the joyous song of the trees soothe him as he pondered the question that urgently needed an answer.
The glade was a natural clearing, created many centuries past when a mighty beech had been felled by lightning. Usually a clamorous growth of birches would seed in the early years following such a fall and tenderly nurture the new beech saplings that would spring up to greater height upon their demise. This was a process that the Elves had witnessed time and again: the ebb and flow of life in the sea of their immortal existence. However, that beech had been the eldest of the forest hereabouts and no trees had ever encroached upon the spot. It was as though they mourned their beloved elder and left the area vacant as a sign of their respect. Instead, a breathtaking glade formed, richly blessed by Yavanna’s bounty. In the spring it was carpeted with bluebells, vivid butterflies flitted about throughout the summer, and in the autumn the beech trees blessed the site with their golden leaves until these were shrouded over by the frosts and snows of winter.
To the Elves it was a hallowed site, consecrated not only by Yavanna, but also by Elbereth, whose stars, obscured by the canopy in the greater part of the realm, shone down unhindered onto the glade each night. It was deemed too sacred for the everyday revels that the Wood-elves delighted in, but at times of special significance, they would gather here in the presence of the Valar.
Not so long ago, or so it seemed to Thranduil, all the folk of the wood had flocked to the glade to mourn the loss of their king and all who had been slain in the great battles of the Last Alliance. The Greenwood had been plunged into sorrow. Even the trees had seemed to grieve, none more so than those about the glade. They had keened their loss; their leaves had been late in coming, and no sooner had they burst forth than they wilted and hung limply on their branches. Thranduil had always felt that the glade had a mystical connection to the Wood-elves, but he had never realised just how strong that connection was until then.
But now the whole forest was rejuvenated. This spring, it felt as though the woods were trying to make up for the failed springs of previous years by cramming them all into one. The bluebells grew so thick on the ground that the trees seemed like cliffs rising out of a headily perfumed sea. The splashes of foamy hawthorn blossom only deepened the illusion. Above Thranduil’s head, the beech leaves were bursting from their buds, pale green and glimmering. All around, tiny birds chattered, unable to contain their glee. The woods rejoiced along with Thranduil and his queen.
A burbling coo caught Thranduil’s attention, and he looked down at the bundle in his arms. Wide blue eyes and a dimpled smile greeted him.
“Hello there, little one. So you’ve decided to wake up at last, have you?” He stroked a petal-soft cheek and laughed approvingly when tiny fingers curled around his own in a determined grip. “Those are fine, strong fingers! You will be a great archer, I can tell that already. Maybe we should name you Cúgyl?”
He tried the name out a few times to see how it sounded, but it failed to express the joyous vibrancy, the fresh hope that his newborn son had brought to the Woodland Realm. As had every name he had considered since the birth. He sighed, stroking the golden furze on the baby’s head. It was traditional in the Greenwood for the father to bestow a name upon any child he sired and announce that name at a ceremony twelve days after the birth. In the case of royalty, the naming ceremony was performed before all the people. He had come here hoping for inspiration, but so far the babe was no closer to gaining a name than when he had arrived. And the naming ceremony was only a few short hours away, in this very glade.
A delighted squeal interrupted his musings as one of the overhanging branches swooped low and brushed the babe’s brow in a gesture that looked uncannily like a caress. The child beamed and reached up to pat at the leaves. His merry burbling seemed to flow along with the tree’s song.
“Aye, you’re a Wood-elf first and foremost, that’s clear. Your name should reflect that,” said Thranduil thoughtfully.
Just then, a whisper danced about the glade and all the branches were set atremble, even though there was no breeze. A perfectly formed new leaf drifted down from above and settled over the baby’s heart. Thranduil gazed at it in awe and then picked it up and touched it to his son’s lips.
“What a wonderful naming day gift: a beautiful green leaf.”
As soon as he said it, he knew he had the answer he was seeking. He bent down and tenderly kissed his son’s brow, then breathed a blessing to the wise old trees for prompting him. Indeed, now he had it, he could not imagine how he had failed to think of it before. It expressed perfectly what this child meant to him and to the whole realm.
“What say you, little one? Isn’t that the obvious choice? A name given to you by the trees themselves!” Thranduil patted the nearest tree trunk gratefully and then rose to his feet. “Come now, it is time to find your mother and tell her the news. We must make you ready for the ceremony.”
Just before leaving, he bowed gravely to the trees about the glade. “My thanks, my old friends. We will be back anon and then you will bear witness to my son’s naming. It will be your responsibility to spread the news throughout the trees of the Greenwood that my son will be known as Prince Legolas.”
With that, he departed, feeling the air shimmer as the whispers radiated out from the glade.