Eonwe's Christmas

by Eonwe-(Valar)
Dec. 18, 2002

     Hide your children’s eyes from this tale, for I shall reveal to you the facts of a mystery that has stood unanswered for many, many generations: the true identity of Santa Claus!
    Many hours have I spent pouring over the old tales and the ancient texts that preceded them.  After piecing bits of information together from various sources, I am convinced Santa Claus is none other than Fionwë, son of Manwë and Varda!
    “But why Fionwë,” you ask, “when Manwë seems the more logical choice?”  Indeed, Manwë is a logical choice.  Unfortunately, he must remain in Valinor until the Great End.  Aside from this, there are clues that point directly to Fionwë.  Tolkien says of Fionwë, “he was the swiftest to move about the airs.”  Indeed, it would take a very fast speed to deliver gifts to all the children of the world in one single night.  Tolkien, realizing the importance of Santa’s secret identity, chose to omit this fact from the final texts and change Fionwë to Eonwë, Herald of Manwë.  No one would suspect the leader of the Armies of the Valar of handing out toys.
    Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, there were some clues as to the truth that were so important to the tales that Tolkien could not remove or alter them.
    It is well known to us all that at the end of the First Age, when Morgoth’s realm had been destroyed, that rich reward was given to the Edain, and that it was Eonwë who came among them and taught them.  Indeed, Eonwë had great love and sympathy for Mankind.  What is not widely known, however, is that the Herald/son of Manwë loved children most of all.  He was surprised and pleased that, even with his great height and very large sword and shield, only a few were truly frightened of him.  He spent as much time teaching them as he did their elders.  Finally, though, Numenor was prepared and it was time to lead the Armies back to Aman.  Often he came to visit the children, especially at the feast to Eru at the Meneltarma.  It was not long, though, before his princely duties called him away, and it was a great while before he came to visit mortal children again.
    It was long into the Fourth Age before Fionwë was once again able to visit Middle-Earth.  He set foot at the Old Havens and walked to Minas Tirith, greeting those he met.  Sadly, many of these seemed very frightened at his approach.  When he entered the gates of Minas Tirith, there was a great uproar in the streets.  Children were hid behind their mothers, and the men ran to retrieve their armour and weapons.  Bewildered, Fionwë came before the king, who was also arrayed as if for war.  It was there that it became clear to him: the men of Minas Tirith had thought his coming meant the Final Battle was at hand!  Indeed, a great look of relief came over the people when they learned the Armies of the Valar were not just behind Fionwë.  Disheartened, Fionwë returned to Valinor.
    A long time Fionwë sat in thought, as years went by for the World of Men.  He so much wanted to see the joy in a child’s face once again, but knew he could not.  Elves had long since hid themselves from men, or come to Aman.  He could not just appear in front of people, or it would scare them as much as his accustomed form had.  Many tried to cheer him up.  Manwë and Ulmo brought some snow into Valmar.  Varda made him new reading stars so he could read easier at night.  Amillo sang while Salmar played a joyous tune.  Aulë contrived great devices to cheer Fionwë, and Yavanna brought many plants to brighten his halls upon Taniquetil.  But lo!  For all of this, Fionwë was grateful, but not soothed.  Of all the Valar, he thought perhaps Namo best knew and Nienna best understood how he felt.  However, when he left his room it was not to Mandos, the great Halls of Mourning, that he went.  It was to Lorien, the home of Irmo, that his feet led him.
    For some time he walked, at times pacing around the lake Lorellin, and at other times walking in the gardens.  It was there that he found his friend Olorin, walking unnoticed, or unseen, among a group of Elven poets, whispering softly.  Fionwë smiled slightly for the first time since his return and sat down leaning against a lone tree.  Shortly after, Olorin came over and sat next to him, also leaning against the tree.  They talked for a long time about many things.  After a while, Fionwë shared his thoughts with Olorin, as well as the story about his visit to Minas Tirith.  Olorin seemed to find the people’s reaction amusing, and almost laughed.  Fionwë lowered his eyes, and they fell on something around Olorin’s finger.  A ring, useless now, except as a memory of old friends.  “He’s been there.  He understands what it’s like,” thought Fionwë.
    Suddenly his eyes widened.  He jumped up and exclaimed, “An old man!  That’s it!”  Olorin sat there smiling as he watched Fionwë run through the garden, leap over the smaller side of lake Lorellin, and race to Taniquetil to make his case to Manwë.  An old man! He thought to himself.  Even Sauron did not suspect five old men!
    It was not long before Fionwë stood before Manwë.  His father could tell that he had an idea that would make him happy.  Calmly Fionwë explained his plan to Manwë, and Manwë listened intently.  Agreeing that Fionwë’s plan did not constitute a direct interference in the affairs of Men, Manwë gave his son leave to begin preparations.
    “However,” Manwë added, ”While in that guise you must remain in Middle-Earth, and you may only go forth in that form once a year.  Once you shed it, you may not wear it again until a full year of Men has passed.”
    Eagerly Fionwë went about the preparations.  He enlisted the aid of all he could.  The Elves were the most eager to help.  The Noldor set about making toys of all kinds; however, they let the Teleri make the toy boats.  The Vanyar set about to writing poems and songs.  Even Aulë and his Dwarves got involved.  They made fine jewelry and crystal tea sets, and sturdy items like plates and tables as well.  Everyone got into the spirit.  The preparations were well under way.  Fionwë had another problem, though.
    “What is wrong?” Olorin asked one day.
    “If I can only take this form in Middle-Earth, I must be there when I take it.  But if I take the form as soon as I arrive, someone might see me, and my cover is blown.  I need somewhere from which to leave, and to arrive; a staging point for my deliveries.”
    “Well,” said Olorin thoughtfully, ”I know of a place you can take up your form safe from prying eyes.  You can transport everything there, and the inhabitants won’t mind at all.  Quite a sturdy people, they are.  Their land appears to have become the most northerly of Mortal lands over time.  I think it would be quite safe among them.”
    “The Shire?” Fionwë asked.
    “Indeed!  The Shire is the perfect place, and the Halflings, or Hobbits as they prefer, are just the people to help you.  They’re quite generous and hospitable.”
    Fionwë laughed.  “The Shire it is then!  Now all I need do is pick a day.”
    “Hmm,” Olorin said.  “For that, I suggest we consult Namo.”
    Fionwë went to Namo that same day.  At first reluctant to speak, Namo told Fionwë of a great holiday that had come into practice since his last visit.  It was a day of love, giving, generosity, and sacrifice.  That day was Christmas.
    “Indeed,” said Fionwë.  “That would be the perfect day for me to deliver our gifts.”
    Summer came to the World of Men, and Fionwë prepared to embark.  He wanted to leave early to prepare a small house in the West farthing of the Shire; he heard from Olorin that was a lovely countryside.
    As he prepared to leave, Aulë and the Dwarves brought forth a great sleigh loaded with gifts.  The sleigh was beautifully decorated, with mithril skates and a chassis the shining color of an autumn sunset.  On the reigns hung tiny mithril bells that had a sound like shimmering light.  It was then that Fionwë saw how much he was taking with him, and realized he could no more make it suddenly appear there with him than he could appear himself in front of a person.
    “Certainly you didn’t think to carry it around the world yourself, did you?” laughed Aulë, thought not cruelly.
    “Well,” Fionwë smiled, “I hadn’t considered that.  Perhaps I shall need some help pulling this sleigh as well.”  Fionwë laughed.
    “Thorondor and some eagles would be the best bet.  Nice and strong,” Tulkas said genuinely.
    “And big,” chimed in Estë.  “He will need something not so conspicuous.”
    At that, Oromë and Yavanna gathered from all over Aman all creatures that were smaller than the Eagles, yet strong enough to pull a sleigh.  Many animals were turned away, from the great hunting hounds of Oromë to the Oxen that fed in the Elven pastures.  Then Nessa brought forth a tiny animal that barely looked strong enough to carry its own weight, let alone pull a sleigh.  She called it a reindeer, and from the looks of it, it had a cold.  Smiling, Fionwë blessed its nose, hoping that would help, then suggested it be taken to Estë for proper healing.  He was about to choose the Mearas, when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw how fast the tiny reindeer ran and how high it leaped.  Laughing, Fionwë said, “If you can find me eight more, twice his size and even half as fast, I shall choose them to pull my sleigh!”  Indeed, eight more were found, and finally all was prepared.
    Fionwë arrived in the Shire in late November.  The reindeer, sleigh, and gifts were to be brought in mid-December.  So quickly did Fionwë traverse the airs that his coming forced snow clouds further south than it was usual for them to go.  Many places that once had never heard of snow now had a few inches of it.  Children were in awe of this marvelous white powder, and went out regularly to play in it.
    The Hobbits had known of Fionwë’s coming and prepared a house for him, near a large hill where still there lived a prominent Hobbit family.  The Hobbits proved generous indeed, and were eager to help Fionwë in any way they could.  They held a great feast in his honor, and the prominent Hobbit family even decorated a large tree they called “The Party Tree.”
    It is told elsewhere of the Valar’s secret love of Hobbit cuisine, so I shall not go into details here.  Needless to say, after several days of such feasting, Fionwë’s once tall, slim form of a jolly old man had become, well, hobbitish in shape.  Strangely, that seemed to make him appear all the jollier.
    The day had come for the reindeer and sleigh to arrive, and they had not.  A thick fog had rolled in from the West, and Fionwë suspected that was the problem.  Many days more went by without a sign from the West, and Fionwë grew worried.  Finally, on the twenty-fourth of December, early in the day, Fionwë looked up into the sky and saw what appeared to be a red light.  As it came closer, it seemed the red light outlined the shape of a large eagle.  Indeed, it proved to be five large eagles.  Four held a reindeer in each claw, and the largest one, Thorondor, carried a sleigh behind him.  In his talon was a reindeer with a glowing red nose.  The Hobbits chuckled at that sight.  The Eagles set their cargo down and perched.
    “We thought your reindeer would need their strength if they are to pull with all their speed tonight,” said Thorondor, ”but if it were not for this little one, we would not have found our way through this fog.  However, perhaps, being Varda’s son, you should be more careful about what you bless.”  There was a hint of laughter in the Eagle’s voice.
    Fionwë laughed heartily, and felt his hobbit-sized belly shake like a bowlful of jelly.  “Hohoho! Imagine my little reindeer with a cold getting a glowing nose!”
    “There are some papers with songs on them that King Ingwë wished me to deliver to the Hobbits.  He calls them ‘carols.’  They are in your sleigh. Also, Irmo wishes me to tell you that you will have no problems with being seen by children tonight.  He says visions of ,.. something-or-other,… will be dancing in their heads.  Urwendi has also agreed to take it slower returning to the Gates of Morning, so no worries running out of nighttime either.  She thinks what you're doing is very nice.”  At that, Fionwë’s cheeks became a rosy red.
    Finally, the time had come for Fionwë to depart on his journey. He waved good-bye to the Hobbits as he took off, all nine reindeer pulling a sleigh with a round driver inside.  He delivered all his toys, choosing to land on the roof because he could slip in easier and quiet through the large chimneys, and because he did not want to leave sleigh marks and hoof prints where anyone could see them.  Upon finishing his task, he returned to the Shire to enjoy the fruits of his labor.  When the Sun came up and the children awoke, their eyes filled with wonder and joy, as well as the eyes of the parents who did not remember putting such toys under their tree. When the adults saw their gifts, though, they were even more stunned.  Even after many centuries, they knew such craftsmanship to be Elf work.
    Since that time long ago, Fionwë has continued his tradition.  Every year around the end of November, he goes to the Shire, and many places feel cold and see snow they wouldn’t any other time.  The Hobbits hold a feast every time, and his thin shape becomes hobbit-like once again.
    Many legends and misunderstandings have arisen, of course.  A few astute watchers see a glimpse of his red-nosed reindeer heading northward on his way back to the Shire, and assume he lives in a cold climate.  The Shire is actually a lovely place in all seasons.  Some few have even attempted to follow the course they think he took, and arriving in the Shire, take its inhabitants for Elves, when they indeed are Hobbits.  And, of course, as jolly and old as he may be, Fionwë is no Elf.
    That is the identity and story behind Santa Claus.  Now Mrs. Claus, that’s a story for another day… :}

The End