fidesquaerens (marta_bee) wrote,

Gil-galad was an Elven-king

Some time ago TOR.n posted a photo of a replica of Gil-galad's shield:

It's easier to tear down a thing than build it and I don't want to risk doing that because the shield's actually really cool! Better than I could do, to be sure, and suitably Elven for my tastes. But to my mind it got the design wrong in one important detail: the color. And it stuck out to me because Bilbo's "The Lay of Gil-Galad" has always been one of my favorite snatches of Tolkien's poetry. Here's all he ever wrote:

Gil-galad was an Even-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

(emphasis added)

I mentioned this at FB and also mentioned that Gil-Galad was one of my favorite minor characters in canon. Mary Stone and I got talking about Gil-Galad, and I promised her I'd pull together some of my fave Gil-Galad material. She's waited very patiently! This is it.

For those of you who aren't masters of arcane Tolkien canon, you may remember that the war in the Lord of the Rings is only necessary because they didn't destroy the Ring. That ring was cut off Sauron's hand during the War of the Last Alliance, which took place at the end of the Second Age. Gil-galad was the king of Lindon, the last of the Elvish high kings - there's a reason that Galadriel and Elrond are only ever called lords and ladies. Thranduil is called a king, but it's similar to how Theoden is a king but Denethor isn't, even though Denethor is considered a "higher" ruler than Theoden in many ways.

Gil-Galad is the original high, tragic figure - an elvenking of a cursed lineage, yet noble. He is in many ways a mentor/father-figure to Elrond and he dies tragically in Mordor in a failed attempt to overthrow Sauron. (The war ends, but they don't destroy the ring meaning Sauron can come back.) He's portrayed so lovingly in that poem, so poetically, that I always wanted to read more. This was actually one of the things that drew me to fanfic, because I wanted to write more but quickly discovered my poetry skills weren't up to the task.

The only thing better than the poem is the BBC rendition of it:

I actually heard the BBC version years before I read the books, and the longing in the singing here is just so... *sighs wistfully*

If you want to read more about Gil-galad, I recommend Oshun's character bio written for the Silmarillion Writers Guild. Vorondis also has a nice critical essay looking at the persistent question among fans of who Gil-Galad's father was.

Some other nice fanfic stories about Gil-galad:

1. Mortal Shores by vorondis: a nice long tale about the re-embodiment of Glorfindel, in which Gil-Galad features.

2. I Bequeath by Zimraphel: how (and why) Gil-Galad gave Cirdan an Elven ring.

3. To Sing Of... by Darth Fingon: "A heartwarming tale of cluelessness, ill-fitting clothing, impractical pets, and exploitation of Elvish linguistic ambiguity. Very tame slash." One of the funnier humor pieces I think I've ever stumbled upon, and that's saying something with this fandom's gift for meta.

4. Where the Shadows Are by Kenaz: The darker complement to "To Sing Of"'s humor, this has angst and politics to spare. Features Elrond and Gil-Galad during the Last Alliance. (Gil-Galad/Erestor, but not at all explicit more explicit than I recalled - still, tastefully done)

Finally, Darth Fingon also deserves credit for his wonderful piece, "The Son of Kings." While not about Gil-galad per se, it too is hilarious. Just check out the summary:

Tolkien seems to have found figuring out Gil-Galad's paternity particularly difficult. Who was Gil-Galad's father, really? Was it Fingon? Finrod? Orodreth? (Which Orodreth?) Cirdan? It is an interesting question, and one this fic completely fails to answer. It does, however, answer the question of who his mother was. Anyway. Warning for, um, authorial self-insertion.

I'd rate it PG13ish, but that's quite possibly because my mind's already in the gutter. Take that for what you will. :-)

As for me, for someone who's thought about Gil-Galad so much I've written precious little about him. The one exception is my diptych of Elrond vignettes, "Jus ad Bellum" and "Jus in Bello." The first is a character study of Elrond, set just after the War of the Last Alliance with a ehavy dose of remembering Gil-Galad. It's mainly about Valandil and legacies, though. The second is more Gil-Galad-centric, being basically a discussion between Elrond and Gil-galad about Isildur, political values, and the futility of war.

What are your favorite Gil-Galad stories? Or failing that, what do you love most about him? Inquiring minds and all that. :-)
Tags: fandom - tolkien
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