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Cradle of Stars

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There are collections of oral accounts from all three Eldarin kindreds concerning fear of the sea. It was commonplace, when darkness reigned. There is one in particular that I’ve always found fascinating, a Noldorin account from a scout in Finwë’s company, one of the first Eldar to arrive at the Great Sea, that claims that confusion preceded the terror still to come, for those first Eldar had no notion of what the sea even was. In the dark, the sky was indistinguishable from the sea, and they believed they had come to the end of Arda and were looking out upon the Void, which chewed endlessly at the world in the shape of foam-crested waves.

There were stars. They glinted oddly inside the waves, but glint they did, and someone suggested that the underside of the Void is where the stars went to rest, once they’d wheeled out of sight. “We believed we were looking upon the cradle of stars.” Somewhere is a ledger with that in the margin of notes on from a lecture I’d attended, still a girl, of the Lambengolmor. The lecture hadn’t been dull, not at all, but this image arrested me, and the marginalia emerged almost involuntarily while my mind toiled upon vowel shifts.

Someone brave stepped forth. They were a brave people, the Eldar. Still in the infancy of our race, they had already withstood so much. Someone brave stepped forth and walked to the tickling edge of the sea. It was cold, but the Void would be cold, would it not? It was cold but it was also gentle. He laughed, this brave venturer, as the Void lapped his feet—this cold ether that swaddled the slumbering stars—and fooled into complacence, forth he went to where the waves did their gnawing work. He was knocked off his feet; the undertow (though there was no such word then) pulled him under.

“Have you ever put your foot under the rocker of a cradle?”

(There is a note showing that the speaker smote his fist into his palm, one, two, three times, laughing.)

The venturer died. His body was cast upon black rocks a short ways away, gnawed bloody by the Void. And as surely as a love of the stars had through formative light captured the hearts of the Eldar, so were, by the sight of his blood, those hearts gripped by terror of the sea.