The Tresco Manuscript
Part 2: Aerlinns Notes
The Tresco MS (Boc þaera Hehsighðana, 'The Book of Visions') can be dated to around the end of the ninth century CE, and purports to be a composite of three works, each written in the Middle-earth described in Tolkien's translations (see The Tresco MS Part 1: The Manuscript Unveiled, in Reunion 4, March 1997). The earliest of these texts, the Parma Taratirion, is said to have been composed within one hundred years of the close of the Red Book narrative published by Tolkien as The Lord of the Rings. Regrettably, none of these earlier works have thus far come to light. This contrasts with those volumes translated by Professor Tolkien, who appears, with the Red Book at least, to have worked from manuscripts dating from the last years of the Third Age (see New Middle-earth: Exploring Beyond the Mountains, in Reunion 1, March 1996).
A later article will draw upon Hundred's Preface, describing how the manuscripts from which he drew came into his possession. Here we first consider the origins of those texts and the development of the derived wisdom traditions in Fourth Age Middle-earth, drawing upon the work Notes on the History of the Parma Taratirion & the Commentaries of Rómendil, by Aerlinn of Tol Falas.
Notes on the History of the Parma Taratirion & the Commentaries of Rómendil
Completed in Dol Amroth by Aerlinn of Tol Falas in the year 1482 of the Fourth Age
After the three Rings passed over the Sea, the glory of the Elves faded, as was foretold. Then many of them forsook Middle-earth and followed into the West. But the Lord Celeborn of Lórien journeyed with such of his people as were not yet weary of the World to Imladris called Rivendell, and there dwelt with the sons of Elrond. Elessar the king visited at times to take counsel with them, and for a while there blossomed the last glory of the Elves east of the Sea. But in time the Lord Celeborn grew weary, desiring to see the Blessed Realm and to talk once more with Galadriel his Lady. And so he journeyed to the Havens of Círdan the Shipwright and with him went many of his people. And it is said that Círdan himself sailed with Elrond into the West, and that was the last ship ever to depart from those shores. Of those who remained behind, most noted in renown was Gelydion of Lórien. Learned in all the wisdom of the Elves, at the request of King Elessar removed Gelydion to the southern court at Minas Tirith. There he became Master of Lore to the king, and tutor to the children of the Lord Aragorn and the Lady Arwen. And he was named Rómendil which signifies Friend-of-the-East, because he departed not over the Sea.
In the one hundred and twentieth year of the Fourth Age, at the death of his father the king, Eldarion took the throne of the Reunited Kingdom. As the years of his sovereignty passed he watched with sadness the dwindling numbers of the Elves, mourning greatly the loss of their wisdom. Ever he questioned those of their folk that journeyed still to the court of the king concerning the Fate of Men, and most of all he questioned Rómendil Master of Lore. Then at the king's command wrote Rómendil the Parma Taratirion, that is called the Book of Visions in the language of Men. Regarding speech the first and greatest gift of grace from Ilúvatar unto his people, Rómendil fashioned his work about the letters of their tongue. Thirty-six were the tengwa or letters of the alphabet of Fëanor, and thirty-six the taratiri or Visions of Rómendil. Therein he set down all that was known by him concerning the World east of the Sea, and of the Age of Men, and of their Fate. And of his wisdom and learning knew Rómendil not less than the greatest of the Eldar, who had been close in thought to the Lady Galadriel in Lórien the Fair.
The Book of Visions was completed in the city of Minas Tirith in the year 183 of the new Age, that is the fourth since the World was made, as the Elves tell. And it seemed to Eldarion that this was a work of rare craft, that spoke in veiled words of things beyond the understanding of Men. Long and eagerly he studied the taratiri, and talked often with the Master of Lore concerning the matters contained therein. Then the king commanded two copies of the Parma Taratirion to be made, that the wisdom of Rómendil might be studied across the breadth of the kingdom, against such a time as might the last of the Elves depart or fade into the shadows beyond the knowledge of Men. Of those copies, crafted as is told under the eye of Rómendil himself that they might be true, the first was sent unto the northern court at Annúminas on the shores of Lake Evendim. The second was carried to the city of Dol Amroth that lies by the Sea. And this was then the sixty-eighth year of Eldarion's rule, that was long and just.
There followed two score years of peace and plenty through all the lands under the sceptre of the king. And all rejoiced in their lord, whose strength waned not though his years were long, exceeding by far the lives of lesser men. For through his father Elessar, the Lord Aragorn son of Arathorn, was Eldarion descended in unbroken line from Isildur Elendil's son, who smote from the hand of the Enemy the One Ring of Power. And the mother of Eldarion was Arwen Undómiel, Evenstar of her people, child of Elrond Halfelven and Celebrían, who was the daughter of Celeborn the Wise and the Lady Galadriel, Mistress of Magic, Princess of the Noldor of the House of Finarfin. But in time the Lord Eldarion drew nigh the end of his days, who had lived then amongst Men nine score years and nine. Calling for the Master of Lore, he said unto him:
For the gift you have granted to the World will you be numbered amongst the greatest of the Two Kindreds, and remembered when many who account themselves mighty are forgotten. Out of love for my father and for Middle-earth and for me you have remained east of the Sea, forswearing the Great Journey that is the birthright of your people. Stay with me now, my friend, as I make my journey into that Fate which is promised to mortal Men.
Then Rómendil sat with Eldarion the king, and was with him as he departed from the World. Yet no word would the Master speak of what had passed between them, or of what he had learned. Taking his leave of the court, Rómendil departed Minas Tirith and was not seen again in those lands by mortal Men. Some say that he passed into the West, though the last of the ships of Círdan had long since sailed from the Grey Havens. But by others it is told that Rómendil journeyed far in thought, and across all the lands of Middle-earth roamed seeking the remnants of his people, until in time he arrived at Rivendell, Imladris of old. Some say he dwells there still with the last of the Elves west of the Mountains, east of the Sea, though the paths to Rivendell are now lost to Men.
In the years thereafter, those of learning turned again to the Book of Visions, endeavouring to understand all that had there been set down. And in each place that the book was keptat Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth, and at Annúminas in the north of the Realmthe words of Rómendil were rendered into the common tongue. And this thing was first done that all who desired and had the skill of letters might avail themselves of the words of the Master. And of the translations these first were true, wrought in honour and love of him who had been closest in mind to their beloved king, and with him as he set forth into the Fate that is Unknown. Then, after some two hundred and fifty years had passed, a new work appeared in the North. And this was without title, and its authorship is not certain. Neither surely is known when or whence came the book into the lore of Men, save that first was written of it by the Wise of Annúminas in the year IV 512:
This is the labour of long years & learning as we judge, yet where or by whose hand it was wrought none may tell, save that it appeared in recent times. And none tell us the same, except that ever they point south and east.
Many deemed it to be the work of the Master of Lore, who was lost to Men, yet dwelt perhaps at Rivendell, as has been told. Therefore, and after the manner of its content, the book became known as the Commentaries of Rómendil. And to this poor scholar, least amongst the Wise, who yet long has studied in the Book Halls of Dol Amroth, it seems indeed as though therein Rómendil sought to expand his former work in the light of later wisdom, that maybe was vouchsafed to him at the side of Eldarion the king as he passed from the World. But, by whoever's hand, these texts were surely made with regard to the Thain's Book that was in Minas Tirith, or to that copy that Findegil made for the Lord Eldarion and was kept in the North. And this may be told by one who knows the ancient works, though where rests Findegil's book in these days is not known to Men of this place. The kingdom was long ago divided: places and peoples that were known of old by names of renown are no more. Amongst the common folk of the North the Commentaries were much read, and of these and the Book of Visions were made many copies in the common tongue. But the Wise in Annúminas and in Dol Amroth and in Minas Tirith studied rather the Parma Taratirion of Rómendil in the high tongue of the Elves.
After some five centuries had passed, discord for the first time awoke within the kingdom. Petty rivalries arose: minor lords fortified their houses and armed themselves one against another, though yet none dared openly to war. But Arbelleth II the thirteenth king was stern and proud and he noticed not the disquiet amongst his people. Neither did he reckon the dangers to his realm. But, seeing how the kingdom was become divided against itself, men of the Far South assembled a mighty fleet of ships. And in Spring of the year IV 976 fell that fleet from the sea upon the shores of the country that was of old called Eriador. Landing about the mouth of the River Greyflood, in surprise and in wrath they came, sweeping before them such armies as might the lords of that place put forth. Ever drove they east and north, taking lands unto Baranduin the Great that arises in the Twilight Lake, and overrunning Dunland to the feet of the Mountains. Then some fared south, thinking to assail even Minas Tirith the strong and wrest the sceptre of the king. For in his pride Arbelleth deemed not the strength of the attack and despatched not the forces at his command to their defeat.
But the muster of Rohan slept not, and bursting forth made valiant slaughter upon the plain below the Wizard's Vale. Then did the king awaken, and with the Horse-Lords drove the invaders into the sea, but great was the destruction before they were overcome. And though for a time the lords put aside their rivalries, the former glory of the Realm never after was restored. Arbelleth perished nobly at the last, contesting the fords of Tharbad. To his son Arbalad passed the crown, and thus in the South continued the House Telcontar. But at Annúminas a new king was enthroned. It was said that this was done that the people might not despair of a lord, for after Eldarion ever longer had the kings forsaken the northern court. Some said then that the ancient realms of Arnor and Gondor were come again, but Men had fallen far since those days and the greatest of the new kings were not the measure of Anárion and Isildur of old, who came even out of Númenor. Nor were they the equal of the Lords Elessar and Eldarion.
Out of the tumult of those times there arose the desire amongst Men for lore concerning the future of the Age, and what might befall. And this was the more so amongst those folk whose lands had been overrun. Many recalled the works of Rómendil, and in time of their own skills they devised means whereby the Book of Visions might speak to their needs. In those days first were crafted the lassi, or leaves, upon which were set the names and letters of the taratiri, and the images that illustrated the Commentaries. And by various means some leaves were drawn from the rest, and their meanings told. But in the South the tengwar were cut into wood or stone, and cast upon the ground. Thereby some found amongst the words of the Master, so they said, tale of the invasion from the sea, and of the division of the kingdom. Other prophesies were made, in which things were foretold concerning the Age to come. And though some proved false, by such practices were the Commentaries kept alive. Yet even as the kingdom was now divided these traditions remained apart and did not merge. Only between the Greyflood and the Isen rivers is the lore of both leaf and stone to be found in these later times. By few are they seen as one, for both have changed, and amongst the people the writings of the Master are forgotten. Yet they sprang from one stock, as I have told.
Long years had the Wise laboured in the Halls of Learning, wresting meaning from the writings of past days, and from the heavens. And in that time was the wisdom of the Parma Taratirion aligned with the stars, and the manner by which the Visions of Rómendil unfold was first set down. But the Commentaries they disdained, were they even by the hand of Rómendil, which most denied. Yet in the Book Hall of Minas Tirith one of the first and true texts of the Commentaries lay forgotten, as shall be told. Amongst the Wise of the North and the South the new Wisdom of Life was first alike, for though the kingdom was sundered, for a time free passage of Men and thought continued as before. Yet with the passing of years each realm concerned itself the more with matters within its own borders, and this no less amongst the Wise than with other Men. Thus the Life-lore of the North and South grew apart, that had been one. In the year IV 1223 the greater part of the works of the Book Hall of Minas Tirith were taken to Dol Amroth, that the lore of the South Kingdom might rest in one place. In later days all that would study the wisdom of Men came unto Amroth by the Sea, even out of the northern lands. For the Book Hall of Annúminas fell in flame and there learning faltered.
At last even I, Aerlinn of Tol Falas, came to study at the feet of the Wise, being then but a boy of fourteen years. And now in the closing of my years the meagre measure of my learning may be judged. Yet I recovered what else was forgotten or deemed lost, the sole surviving text of the Commentaries upon the Parma Taratirion of Rómendil, that was brought out of the North before the kingdom was sundered, and later came to Dol Amroth. Naught of this strange book could my masters tell, save what might easily be read. For clearly the work was divided according to the taratiri of Rómendil. Yet within its pages I discerned an echo, as might be, of the lore by which our people divine their days. For even had my mother the gift of the stones, and she of her art had fired me with dreams, that first my young heart and then my feet set upon the road to Dol Amroth and the Halls of Learning. Then it came to me that the Wisdom of Life by which my masters unfolded the Fate of Men was one with the lore of leaf and stone, which they regarded not. More than two score years have I laboured to prove my surmise, recovering much that was lost to tell the tale. Little enough at first were my words heeded, yet now in this place there are those who will carry my work beyond me.
I have written that all may know the true history of the lore of Rómendil, and that the Ways that were sundered might be one again. For by these a Man may comprehend the will of Ilúvatar and the right working of his own life.
Writing in the latter half of the fifteenth century of the Fourth Age, Aerlinn commences his work by describing the origins of the Parma Taratirion text some thirteen hundred years earlier. Despite this great remove, during which Middle-earth reportedly underwent major political and social change, the earliest details given by Aerlinn all accord closely with known records of the time.(1) It is possible that Aerlinn and Professor Tolkien were drawing upon common material. The Lord of the Rings comprises Tolkien's translation of a version of the Red Book of Westmarch, most likely the copy made by Findegil. In Aerlinn's time, this book was lost to knowledge: ' ... where rests Findegil's book in these days is not known to Men of this place [i.e. Dol Amroth].'(2) Nevertheless, Aerlinn's words concerning the likely source of the Commentaries suggest that he had studied some version of the Red Book:
[The Commentaries] were surely made with regard to the Thain's Book that was in Minas Tirith, or to that copy that Findegil made ... And this may be told by one who knows the ancient works.
As a scholar of the South Kingdom working at the Book Hall of Dol Amroth, Aerlinn would have had access to many works of history and lore, almost certainly including the Thain's Book of Minas Tirith. It is known that this manuscript was corrected and enlarged by the scholars of Gondor between its arrival there in FO 64 and its copying by Findegil in FO 172, and there is no reason to assume that such emendation did not continue after this date. Along with 'the greater part of the works of the Book Hall of Minas Tirith' the Thain's Book was almost certainly transferred to Dol Amroth in the eleventh century FO. However, beyond the early historical details already mentioned, and despite more than a century's overlap between Aerlinn's account and the works utilised by Professor Tolkien, the latter records no mention of the Elf Gelydion (Rómendil), the putative author of the Parma Taratirion.
One so learned (3), who knew 'not less than the greatest of the Eldar' and who had been 'close in thought to the Lady Galadriel', should have played a significant role in the response of Lórien to the events of the War of the Ring. It may be relevant in this regard that, as published, The Lord of the Rings relates only such matters as were experienced or known by its Halfling author.(4) From Aerlinn's account it is clear that the Elf Gelydion was known and respected by Aragorn (King Elessar). It is not stated, but plausible, that they became acquainted at Rivendell, if Gelydion accompanied Arwen on her return there from Lórien, around TA 2951.(5) During the early years of his regency, Elessar continued to treasure the wisdom of the remaining Elves of Middle-earth, and on occasion visited Celeborn and the sons of Elrond at Rivendell. When Celeborn at last followed Galadriel and Elrond over the Sea, Gelydion remained behind. We may judge that this was at the express request of Aragorn, who appointed him Master of Lore and tutor to the royal household. It is from this point that Gelydion took the name Rómendil, 'Friend-of-the-East'.
Aerlinn's account of the origin and purpose of the Parma Taratirion is brief, yet significant. We are told that Eldarion, successor to the throne, desired to learn all that he could of the wisdom of the Elves, who continued to leave Middle-earth: (6)
Ever he questioned those of their folk that journeyed still to the court of the king concerning the Fate of Men, and most of all he questioned Rómendil Master of Lore.
The Elves, including Rómendil, may have been reluctant to instruct even Eldarion, son of Elrond's daughter Arwen, in their lore. It was only 'at the king's command' that Rómendil at last set down 'all that was known by him concerning the World east of the Sea, and of the Age of Men, and of their Fate.' An alternative reading, given the vague and at times cryptic nature of the taratir passages, is that the very nature of the material made communication difficult: such things simply could not be easily conveyed in words. Certainly, the Parma Taratirion does not contain mundane historical information, such as is found in the Annals and Pennas of Pengolod. Yet Rómendil's skill was such that, ' ... it seemed to Eldarion that this was a work of rare craft, that spoke in veiled words of things beyond the understanding of Men.'
The king's first response was to distribute this work of lore across his kingdom, so that its wisdom might enrich his people, albeit at this stage only those learned in the high Elven tongue. The next significant event is the presence of Rómendil at Eldarion's deathbed. Although nothing is expressly stated, it seems clear that Aerlinn considered Rómendil to have gained some new insight as he sat with the dying king. The mortality of Men was ever a mystery to the Elves, who could be slain in battle yet were otherwise deathless, save only from grief. Through his great work, the Parma Taratirion, Rómendil had enriched the understanding of Men with the wisdom of the First Kindred; yet that wisdom was incomplete, for it did not encompass the mystery of death, the Gift of Men.(7) As the first-born of Arwen Undómiel, who herself chose to be adjudged mortal rather than become separated from Aragorn her lord, Eldarion was uniquely placed to address this synthesis. Between the lines of Aerlinn's account of the discussions between the king and Rómendil we may sense not the clamouring of the pupil at the feet of his master, but rather a vital discourse of ideas.
After the death of Eldarion
The detailed nature of Aerlinn's historical narrative breaks down after the death of Eldarion and the disappearance of Rómendil from the court at Minas Tirith. It is possible that Aerlinn had been drawing upon contemporary sources (perhaps the expanded Thain's Book) which at this point ceased their tale. As presented, his subsequent history appears to draw more upon surviving oral tradition than upon recorded history: the brief quotation attributed to the Wise of Annúminas regarding the origin of the Commentaries is the sole explicit exception. Given the intervening twelve and a half centuries, this lack of precision may not be thought surprising. However, it becomes apparent that while the original Quenya version of the Parma Taratirion retained amongst the Wise its status as a respected work of lore, significant development of the wisdom it contained occurred amongst the common folk. Much of this undoubtedly was never recorded. The importance of Aerlinn's Notes, beyond the historical light it sheds upon Fourth Age Middle-earth, is precisely that for the first time the development of this 'esoteric' lore was collated, critically assessed and elevated in status to something of worth and relevance to all Men.
We are told that in the years immediately following Eldarion's death and Rómendil's departure, 'those of learning turned again to the Book of Visions.' There seems to have been at this stage a desire on the part of the Wise to disseminate the wisdom of the Parma to all who might benefit from it, for the text was translated into Westron, the common language of Middle-earth.(8,9)
The Commentaries of Rómendil
Sadly, this intellectual openness appears to have changed with the appearance around FO 500 of the work which came to be known as the Commentaries of Rómendil. Of its true origins Aerlinn has little to offer, save that it 'was without title, and its authorship is not certain.'
There is no evidence that the initial reaction of the Wise was in any way unfavourable. Indeed, the anonymous scholar of Annúminas quoted by Aerlinn described the book as 'the labour of long years & learning.' Yet despite their evident relevance to the Parma Taratirion it would seem that the Commentaries were never accorded equivalent status by the Wise. Much of this might be attributed to their uncertain authorship, their original composition in Westron rather than Quenya and their emergence amongst the common people rather than from within the circles of learning. Yet we must not be too swift to accuse the Wise of intellectual elitism: the scholars of Annúminas may have had at their disposal more evidence than Aerlinn knew or elected to reveal.
Aerlinn himself appears satisfied with the common ascribance of the Commentaries to Rómendil (what we may term the 'Rómendil Hypothesis') yet after the death of Eldarion the former Master of Lore 'was not seen again in those lands by mortal Men.' By 'those lands' Aerlinn may have intended the South Kingdom only, or the whole of western Middle-earth, but in either case it seems clear that no further historical record of Rómendil had survived to Aerlinn's time. The only evidence we are given is, at best, inconclusive. Writing in FO 512, the previously quoted scholar of Annúminas records such information as the Wise had been able to gather concerning the Commentaries:
... where or by whose hand it was wrought none may tell, save that it appeared in recent times. And none tell us the same, except that ever they point south and east.
Geographically, this emergence of the Commentaries 'south and east' of Annúminas is consistent with the 'Rómendil Hypothesis'. However, whilst appearing to indicate Rivendell as the source of the Commentaries material, these 'directions' cannot exclude the Shire of the Halflings. In the year FO 6 King Elessar granted autonomy to the Shire, and set a ban upon its borders such that no Men might enter: it appears that the king himself was bound by this ruling.(10) The duration of the ban is not recorded, but it is likely that Men were still barred from the region between the Tower Hills and the Baranduin at the time the Commentaries first came to the attention of Annúminas.
On this basis, it might be considered strange that the emergence amongst Men of a new text of unknown authorship and origin was not attributed to the equally unknown, indeed forbidden, land of the Halflings. As evidenced by Professor Tolkien's translations from the Red Book, the Halflings had a profound and meticulous regard for lore, albeit chiefly that concerning their own people.(11) It might seem unlikely that a people withdrawn from the world of Men should labour to elaborate the Parma Taratirion, a work so patently related to Man's ascendant role in the New Age. Nevertheless, as discussed in the Introduction, both the original Red Book and Findegil's copy of the derived Thain's Book were located within the Shire (at Westmarch and at Great Smials, respectively). If not written by Halfling hand, it remains an intriguing possibility that the unknown author of the Commentaries, possibly the Elven sage Rómendil himself, may have studied these texts in the Shire in composing the new work.
To summarise: by the middle of the sixth century of the Fourth Age the Parma Taratirion was still being studied by the Wise as a work of high lore. In Westron translation the Parma was also increasingly being read by the common people, in Westron translation. At this stage the translations appear to have remained essentially faithful to the original (Quenya) text. The new Commentaries, attributed to Rómendil, were widely read by the populace as an adjunct to the Parma, but within more learned circles were regarded with intellectual scepticism.
The Southron invasion of FO 976
Nothing further is recorded by Aerlinn until the Southron invasion of FO 976. Whilst not directly affecting the Book of Visions, this event was important in a number of ways to its later development. Albeit unsuccessful, the invasion led to the formal division of the kingdom, though it is evident that internal tensions had been mounting for some time prior to the attack. The sundering of the realm appears to have been effected peacefully, yet the changes evoked considerable social unease. This led directly and within a short space of time to an emerging desire to comprehend the workings of fate and fortune. It is possible here to draw a parallel with the sudden re-emergence within third century China of the Chou I, 'The Changes of Chou.' This divinatory book had for centuries been a popular but comparatively minor work. The tyrannical rise to power of the Ch'in state and its subsequent collapse left the Chinese world in a condition of extreme disruption:
All the previous norms and structures of society had collapsed, of no avail against the onslaught of the Ch'in. For the first time for centuries questions arose about the reason and purpose of life. The stage was wide open for new ways of dealing with life and with the future.(12)
From this point on, the Chou I became one of the major focuses for Chinese scholarship and thought, and was accorded the status 'Classic of Changes', the I Ching.
Cards & stones
Likewise, in Middle-earth both the Wise and the common people of the newly- sundered kingdom appear to have turned in their need to the writings of Rómendil. For the first time we have record of a prophetic / divinatory application of the Book of Visions. Here Aerlinn describes the emergence of a series of cards (lassi) and 'rune stones' (serni) in eleventh century Middle-earth:
In those days first were crafted the lassi, or leaves, upon which were set the names and letters of the taratiri, and the images that illustrated the Commentaries. And by various means some leaves were drawn from the rest, and their meanings told. But in the South the tengwar were cut into wood or stone, and cast upon the ground.
Certain practitioners of these new arts claimed to find within 'the words of the Master' prophesies concerning the Southron invasion and the sundering of the kingdom. We need not be surprised at this, nor at learning that it proved less difficult to locate such retrospective revelations than accurately to predict future events. Through the glass of Aerlinn's words we are witnessing the birth and tentative first steps of a new tradition of human enquiry.
It is not clear where precisely this divinatory 'lore of leaf and stone' originated. We are told that 'the desire amongst Men for lore concerning the future of the Age ... was the more so amongst those folk whose lands had been overrun.' This would appear to involve the central region of western Middle-earth between the Mountains and the Sea, bounded by the Baranduin to the north and the Isen to the south. As we have seen, the primary sources upon which the new traditions were based, the Parma Taratirion and the Commentaries, originally lay outside this region (see above discussion). However, by the eleventh century, significant diffusion of these works may be assumed, for both were available in Westron translations and were undoubtedly also disseminated orally.
The River Greyflood formed the southern border of the ancient realm of Arnor: it was most likely also the line by which the kingdom was divided. North of the Greyflood the Commentaries would have been widely known, and here the lassi cards arose as a pictorial synthesis of this work and the Book of Visions. Aerlinn tells us that 'in the South', where we may presume the Commentaries were less available, if at all, the emergent system of divination derived solely from the Book of Visions and comprised no more than the tengwa letters 'cut into wood or stone, and cast upon the ground.' No doubt each system spread outward in all directions from its source, but the new frontier resisted free movement of people and ideas and the traditions developed independently of one another. By Aerlinn's time, we are told that 'only between the Greyflood and the Isen rivers [was] the lore of both leaf and stone to be found.' This may suggest to us that the original source of the serni stones lay further to the South, perhaps in the environs of Dol Amroth, but of this matter no more can be said with certainty.
Aligned with the stars ...
Such applications of the Book of Visions appear to have been anathema to the Wise, who in reaction to them finally rejected the Commentaries themselves, 'were they even by the hand of Rómendil, which most denied.' For their own part, they continued to study the Book of Visions in its original Quenya form:
... and in that time was the wisdom of the Parma Taratirion aligned with the stars, and the manner by which the Visions of Rómendil unfold was first set down.
With this brief statement Aerlinn encompasses a feat of learning that can only have been in progress for centuries. We know surprisingly little of the learning (lore) of Man in the first three Ages of the World. The White Council of the Wise, convened by Galadriel in TA 2463 to oppose Sauron, comprised Elves and the Order of Istari,(13) but if Men were included this is not recorded. Where it has passed into the annals of Middle-earth, Man's desire for knowledge appears consistently to have proven a source of corruption.
The Men of Númenor, rewarded for earlier valour, became seduced into dark practices, including blood sacrifice, in their misguided lust for wisdom and immortality.(14) In the Third Age, Denethor II the last Ruling Steward of Gondor (15) was deemed wise and studied long in the libraries of Minas Tirith, yet intellectual pride led him beyond his limitations and he fell at the last into despair and suicide.(16)
Brief mention is made of Man's star-lore in the Red Book of Westmarch, where 'ask[ing] questions of the stars' is included in a list of the Númenoreans' later wayward practices.(17) This reference has been interpreted as implying astrological enquiry.(18) Spoken as this quotation is by the second son of the Ruling Steward, it indicates a mistrust amongst at least high-born Men of such 'occult' practices, though not necessarily of what might be termed 'scientific' study of the stars. The body of calendrical lore compiled at the start of the Fourth Age and incorporated into the Red Book (19) reveals at least a detailed astronomical understanding of the heavens. It has been suggested that the cosmology prevailing in Middle-earth at the time may have been geocentric rather than heliocentric.(20)
As with much else of value, it is likely that Men took systems devised by the Elves and adapted them to meet their own needs.(21) The First Kindred had ever a particular affinity with the stars, to which they addressed their hearts and minds in contemplating the former glory of the World, and the Blessed Realm in the West. There is no indication that the Elves attached any 'astrological' significances to the movements of the stars, yet from such sources may have sprung Man's desire to extract meaning from the cosmos. In any event, it is clear from Aerlinn's account that by the eleventh century of the Fourth Age the heavens were deemed a valid domain of enquiry by the Wise. Their reaction to the appearance of divination amongst the populace reveals nevertheless that the historical aversion to 'occult' practices was still strong. The 'align[ment of the Parma Taratirion] with the stars' accomplished by the Wise should therefore be seen as a development out of astronomical traditions rather than any re-emerging 'astrological' science.
The Wisdom of Life
This synthesis of the original Parma Taratirion with calendrical lore, called by Aerlinn the 'Wisdom of Life' or 'Life-lore', was also influenced by the division of the kingdom. Originally, the Wisdom of Life seems to have been developed jointly by the Wise of Annúminas, Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth:
Yet with the passing of years each realm concerned itself the more with matters within its own borders, and this no less amongst the Wise than with other Men. Thus the Life-lore of the North and South grew apart, that had been one.
In which aspects and to what degree they came to differ is unrecorded, yet it is not unlikely that in later days the southern tradition came to incorporate aspects of the canon of Annúminas. At some unspecified date, probably late in the thirteenth century FO, the library of Annúminas was destroyed by fire. Aerlinn tells us that subsequently 'there [in the North] learning faltered', but also records that 'those that would study the lore of Men ... even out of the northern lands' came instead to Dol Amroth, apparently by then the principal repository of learning in western Middle-earth. These would assuredly have brought their northern traditions with them. An overly rigid southern scholarship would have rejected differing, 'foreign' interpretations of the Wisdom of Life. It is more generous, however, to imagine that the lore in which Aerlinn was versed, and which has in turn come down to the present day, represents a synthesis of the best that Man's wisdom and learning could at that time evolve.
Amongst the Wise of Dol Amroth ...
Aerlinn has thus far brought his story through some thirteen centuries, from the passage of the Elven rings to the burning of the library at Annúminas. Hereafter the narrative loses its historical perspective, becoming instead the personal account of Aerlinn's career amongst the Wise of Dol Amroth. This account, comprising all we have of his part in the development of the wisdom traditions, is both brief and scant of detail. He styles himself Aerlinn of Tol Falas, this place being an island situated at the mouth of the mighty River Anduin. We do not know the date of his birth, but from the evidence available, he was most likely born around FO 1420 (22). At the age of fourteen he 'came to study at the feet of the Wise' at Dol Amroth. There is in fact no indication that this represented any exception to general educational practice, although Aerlinn appears certainly to have arisen from modest stock. Nor are we told his age when, amongst the dusty and neglected tomes, he discovered:
... the sole surviving text of the Commentaries upon the Parma Taratirion of Rómendil, that was brought out of the North before the Kingdom was sundered, and later came [in FO 1223] to Dol Amroth.
His first reaction was to show the work to his masters. From this we may deduce that he was still at the time apprenticed to the Wise, although how long such an apprenticeship lasted is unknown. His masters seem not to have recognised the book for what it was, beyond noting the obvious correspondence of its sections with those of the Parma Taratirion. It was left to Aerlinn to realise the significance of his find. In this it was his upbringing and 'worldliness', rather than his scholarship, that proved pivotal. The youth was versed in the use of the divinatory serni stones: it was indeed as a direct result of his mother's practice of this art that he began his studies at Dol Amroth. Reading the pages of the dusty manuscript, he recognised something:
... an echo, as may be, of the lore by which our people divine their days. ... Suddenly it came to me that the Wisdom of Life by which my masters unfolded the Fate of Men was one with the lore of leaf and stone, which they regarded not.
This revelation received less than universal acceptance from his masters: given his apprentice status and the grandeur of his claims, this need not surprise us. Aerlinn nevertheless remained true to his convictions, apparently devoting the bulk of his career to unravelling centuries' worth of historical records and common tradition. By the time the Notes were written, Aerlinn's working life was drawing to a close, yet his long years of labour had been vindicated. It seems clear that he considered his own efforts completed, the task of integrating the disparate wisdom traditions lay for others to accomplish: 'now in this place there are those who will carry my work beyond me.' This statement suggests that those sections of the Tresco MS that describe the usage and application of the 'Lore of Life, Leaf and Stone', although continuing without obvious division from Aerlinn's historical treatise, are the work of some later, unattributed hand.