The Reluctant Scholar
B2MeM Challenge: Tradition.
"Then it was that the Noldor first bethought them of letters, and Rśmil of Tirion was the name of the loremaster who first achieved fitting signs for the recording of speech and song, some for graving upon metal or in stone, others for drawing with brush or with pen."
Characters: Aragorn, Eldarion, Arwen
Summary: Eldarion is a reluctant scholar.
Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.
"How is my son progressing with his studies? Aragorn asked Eldarion's tutor one autumn afternoon. "I believe he is studying the alphabet now?"
"His progress is slow, I fear sire," the man replied. "He speaks it aloud fluently, but shows little inclination to learn to write it down."
"I shall speak to him," said Aragorn. "I desire my boy to be well lettered."
Aragorn made his way to the nursery. He found Eldarion seated at his small desk under the watchful eye of a nursemaid. In front of him were quill, ink, and several sheets of costly parchment. The little boy was scowling as he dripped inkblots all over the parchment. He looked wistfully across the room to where his painted wooden dragon was sitting on a chair regarding him with gleaming painted eyes.
"How is your writing progressing, ion nīn?" Aragorn enquired.
"Who invented stupid writing?" Eldarion scowled as he answered. " I would much rather play with Smaug."
"Writing is not stupid," Aragorn replied. "It is an art. Tradition says that the alphabet was invented first by the loremaster, Rumil, and then improved by Fėanor, who also made the great light that adorns Eärendil's ship to light up the evening sky for us."
""He should have made more lights instead of these stupid letters!" cried Eldarion. "I hate them! I want to be the only person in Gondor who cannot write!" He threw the quill down, splattering ink everywhere much to the nursemaid's consternation.
"Eldarion!" Aragorn chided. "Have a care! Ink is difficult to wash away and parchment costs a good deal."
"I don't want to learn to write." Eldarion said stubbornly.
"I fear that cannot be so," said Aragorn. "There are many boys who would love to learn to write, but their parents are not able to send them to school. Instead, they must till the fields or tend the cattle."
"Well, let one of those boys learn writing in my place! It would be much more fun to work in the fields and I like cows!"
Aragorn pulled up a chair beside the boy. "That is not possible, ion nīn. You need to learn to write."
"I'm going to be a Ranger when I grow up and Rangers don't write letters."
"You are mistaken about that, Eldarion." Aragorn smiled. "What if you had a sweetheart and wanted to write to her?"
Eldarion looked horrified at such a prospect. "I don't like girls. They are silly and wear hair ribbons and play with dolls all day." He pulled a face.
"You might change your mind about that when you are older, ion nīn," said Aragorn gravely. "One day, though, you will be King of the Reunited Kingdom. A king must be able to read and write."
"Why?" asked Eldarion. "When I'm king, I'll order my servants to write things down for me so I won't have to do it!"
"Indeed you will employ scribes as I do," said Aragorn. "But if I make a new law or issue a decree, it must, by tradition and the law of the land, have my signature upon it as well as my seal."
"Why can't the scribe sign it?"
"If a decree was not signed by me, people would have no way of knowing that I issued it," Aragorn explained patiently. "Anyone could try to issue new laws. Maybe, for example, someone who didn't like cakes, might issue a decree saying no more cakes were to be made and claim I had issued such a decree. Then someone else might issue a law to ban toy dragons! No one would know which was a real law decreed by me and approved by the Council."
"You could tell them, ada," said Eldarion.
"Indeed I could, but while everyone was trying to decide which laws I had made, the bakers would stop making cakes and the toy dragons might be thrown away by mothers fearing that their children were breaking the law!"
"Could that really happen, ada?"
"It might if I did not sign every decree with my own hand. All sorts of bad things might happen." Aragorn said solemnly before being overcome by a sudden fit of coughing.
Eldarion looked thoughtful. He then lowly picked up his quill again. "Maybe I should learn to write then?"
"A wise decision, ion nīn." Aragorn tried to look grave, but he was smiling. He took the quill from the boy, dipped it in the ink, and wrote "Eldarion" in large clear letters on a fresh sheet of parchment.
"I suggest you practise writing your name," the King said. "I must leave you now as I have some decrees I must sign."
An hour later, Eldarion entered his mother's solar and proudly showed her his signature in rather shaky but legible characters. "I've got to learn writing so the scribes can't ban cakes and dragons!" he told her.
"Cakes and dragons?" Arwen asked in bewilderment.
"It is a long story, vanimelda," said Aragorn, who had just finished his paperwork and come to join her.
Arwen carefully studied the parchment. "I am so proud of you, Eldarion," she said. She smiled and kissed the little boy lovingly.
"And so am I, ion nīn," said Aragorn.
A/n. A revised version of a ficlet I wrote for BTME13.