“Shall mortal Man step living upon the undying lands, and yet live?”
It was the question that lingered in the air in the halls of Valimar, as fourteen sat in counsel and began to debate the fates of those named as peredhil. Manwë would be silenced now of his own freewill, allowing all others to speak while he listened. Despite leave to do so, there were only a few who spoke frequently and passionately of their beliefs; most of the Valar waited only to hear Manwë’s judgement.
Such was not the case for Ulmo. If Ulmo was summoned, as he had been, it was rare that Ulmo would be unheard from. His words were contemplative, reserving his personal viewpoint in order to deliver information, for of all of the Valar he was perhaps the most involved with the current happenings in Middle-earth. “For this he was born into the world. And say unto me: whether is he Eärendil Tuor’s son of the line of Hador, or the son of Idril, Turgon’s daughter, of the Elven-house of Finwë?”
Some nodded as they sorted their thoughts, and others said nothing. Námo made a condescending noise like that of a sigh and said, “Equally the Noldor, who went willfully into exile, may not return hither.”
“Are we still set upon that, brother?” Irmo appeared impatient, arms crossed over his chest. “They are returning, thou knowest this well! What shall the difference be, for them to return to us by ship, or for them to return through thy halls?”
“’Tis not the Noldor and their fate which we are charged to decide upon,” reminded Varda gently. “None can argue that these peredhil are not a perfect union of the traits of both first and second born. What must be decided is what their fate shall be: Of Men or of Elves?”
“And so once again we shall make the decision,” spoke Irmo before any others could speak. “We shall choose for them, and decide their fate. Is that how Father has wanted it?” He boldly looked to Manwë. “Does he really wish us to step in every time we think we should and tell them what to do and what to think?”
Námo drummed the arm of his chair whilst glaring at his younger sibling. “We do as we must, and as we see best fit. No one knows the consequences of that better than I, or have you become so blinded in your forest not to see the filling of my halls?”
“Peace,” begged Nienna suddenly before Irmo could speak again. She wiped a stray tear and whispered, “I cannot stand to see brothers fighting.” Her gaze flitted towards Manwë, who had looked away remorsefully. “Especially not my own brothers.” She reached a hand out in either direction, taking hold of one each of theirs as they sat beside her, Manwë to the left, and Irmo to the right. “Perhaps there is a solution all can agree upon?”
“There is either life or death,” answered Irmo. “Either way that we choose, someone shall not be appeased.”
“We shall do the best we can.” Varda looked about at the others who had remained silent, and implored them to voice their opinions. “Is there not a solution that solves our worries?”
To that end, Tulkas and Oromë had been quietly in discussion, and now Oromë stood. “I have a suggestion,” he said, “though I would not necessarily call it a solution. I think we should leave the choice in the hands of the Peredhil.”
“You would let Eärendil make the decision as to his fate, and the fates of his wife and their sons?” asked Varda to clarify.
“Actually,” explained Tulkas, “his idea was to allow each of them to make their own decision. Let Eärendil decide whether he wishes to be counted among Men or among Elves, and allow Elwing the same. Their children should be given this same choice as well, and all others who are the blood of both.”
Manwë did not look convinced of the idea as a compromise. “To what end? How many generations would be allowed such a gift, and what would the consequences be to those who refuse to make a decision? How long are they allowed, and what will happen if they do not?”
“That is why I called it a suggestion, not a solution,” admitted Oromë as he again took his place between his wife and Tulkas. “More debate must be had.”
“I like the idea,” offered Irmo.
Námo leaned around his sister and reminded his brother that, “Parameters must be discussed. Rules must be in place.”
“You and your rules,” scoffed Irmo.
“I am not at liberty to think in the abstract as you are, my brother,” Námo reminded Irmo. “My halls are filling, and as yet the details of reembodiment for the first race are unclear. We have no standards, no specifics – and daily I am hounded by Feanor to allow him freedom. His request is not unusual. So yes, I believe in rules and holding to them. The details must be known now. We must start at the beginning. What constitutes as a peredhel? A single drop of blood of one or the other?”
“Equal halves?” suggested Nienna.
“And their children?” asked Námo. “At what point are they not enough of one or the other?”
“One generation,” Tulkas said.
Irmo shook his head. “You will have some in the next generation who are still perfectly split between the two races. I would suggest instead that at least one-quarter of the other race be present. Less than that, and the majority race would rule their destiny.”
“This is all well and good,” said Ulmo, “and while I am doubtful that many unions shall occur between Elf and Man on the part of the Elf if not for love, it concerns me that some Men might attempt to take advantage of this in order to breed children with the traits of the Elven race.”
“There must be a penalty,” agreed Tulkas. “Doom will be upon the Elf, but what more upon the Man to stop them?”
“It would be unlikely that such an unholy union would successfully lead to the birth of any children,” Varda reminded them. “The risk would not be worth much.”
“But what if it does?” pressed Námo.
Varda shook her head. “We cannot possibly prepare for every variation.”
“Will each of them have their own chance at deciding their fate?” asked Oromë. “That is, if Eärendil and Elwing both were to choose Elvenkind, would their sons be forced into the same decision, or are their sons allowed their own choice?”
“That point is very important to you,” realized Varda.
“It is,” admitted Oromë. “It is the whole basis of the idea.”
“I am sure it will be taken into consideration,” Varda assured him.
“Is this even fair?” wondered Yavanna.
Varda tilted her head and asked for clarification. “What do you mean?”
“In listening to the discussion, let us say we do decide that this is a good idea. What shall happen if Elwing chooses for herself Elvenkind, and her husband forsakes her for Mankind?” Yavanna frowned. “Families might be torn asunder if their fate is not one in the same.”
“But it is exactly for the reason that you have stated that a choice is so important,” insisted Oromë. “Only the individual can decide what is best.” It seemed he was done and that Irmo was readying to speak again, but Oromë stood up abruptly and said, “What would we have done if we had been told that all Ainur were to be incorporeal beings? What if we had never been given the choices we were allowed to make on our own behalf? Imagine, never seeing the way we see now, never smelling or tasting, never feeling, never breathing, never walking or running or talking or living as we do now.”
He paused a moment, and then said, “Imagine being half Elf, half Man, and denied the right to step foot upon our blessed shores. Imagine being denied the ability to decide whether to be bound to the world, or to receive the gift of death and the mysteries that lie ahead. Is it fair to make them choose? Rather, I ask, is it fair not to let them choose?” Oromë took up his seat again, and looked around the circle as if to dare anyone to answer his questions.
Silence fell upon the room; all was spoken, and Manwë gave judgment.