NOTE: Estel is 12 years of age and has had on ongoing friendship/mentorship with Legolas since he was four years old (Never, In All My Days…)

All proverbs cited are in italics and are taken from many cultures world wide.


Instruction In Youth

by Nieriel Raina


‘Instruction In Youth Is Like Engraving In Stone’

(…it is a permanent yet sometimes hazardous endeavor)


Year 2943, Third Age


“Estel! Estel it is time to get up! The sun has already showed itself above the horizon. Are you planning to sleep your life away, young one?” Legolas's voice did not manage to even stir the young human who lay fast asleep in his bed.


Outside the birds were singing and the movement of many elves could be heard about the Last Homely House as they went about their morning routines. Estel also continued his own early morning routine—sleeping as late as he was allowed. And although Estel had been excited for Legolas to visit, the elf had not been able to influence the boy's habit of sleeping late.


Legolas frowned at the sleeping youth. Elrond had asked him to help with Estel's instruction while he was visiting, and Legolas had agreed. However, there was not much he could teach if the boy would not rouse himself from slumber!


A mischievous emotion filled him, and he smiled an evil smile as he approached the bed.




Estel found himself lying face down on the floor, his mattress having been tipped to dump him out of it. He rolled over and blinked sleepily up into a bright elven gaze.


“Legolas? What did you do that for?” Estel mumbled as he yawned and stretched, frowning in annoyance at being awakened so abruptly. Reaching up, he grabbed his blanket and pulled it over himself again, curling up on the floor and closing his eyes. He had no desire to stir just yet.


“If you would rather have a bucket of cool water dumped over your head, I will be happy fetch one." Legolas's cheerful voice grated on Estel’s ears. He pulled the blanket over his head. It was jerked away. “Come, Estel, ‘The seeds of the day are best planted in the first hour’.”


Estel blinked and looked at the elf suspiciously. “What?” Since when had Legolas begun to sound like Erestor? “Legolas, what are you talking about and why are you dragging me out of bed so early?”


Legolas smiled at his young friend and shook his head. “It is not ‘so early’. The sun has been up for over an hour. It is going to be a fine day!"


He moved to the window and threw back the drapes, allowing the sun to shine down on Estel where he lay on the floor. Estel winced, and turned his face away from the light.


"As for what I said, I was quoting one of the old proverbs. Not all learning is of swords, bows, horses, tracking and hunting, young one! There is much wisdom to be learned from the old sayings, and I fear you have yet to learn them."


Estel groaned. "Adar put you up to this, didn't he?"


Legolas grinned at him. "As you have failed to listen to Erestor, I have taken the task upon myself.”


"Erestor's lectures are boring," Estel grumbled. It was not quite true. Erestor could be quite entertaining when discussing a topic he found interesting, such as the history of Gondolin. But Erestor did not like proverbs, detested them in fact, and so it had become something of a chore for his tutor to teach him as well as for Estel to learn them.


"Ah, that is because some things should be learned through life lessons, not lectures! Experience is the best teacher, after all!"


“Please tell me we are not going to go watch plants grow in the garden," Estel pleaded, horror filling him at what a wood-elf would consider 'life lessons'.


Legolas laughed. “No, but there is much to learn, and you will not learn it on the floor!” The elf threw his clothing at him. “Get yourself washed and dressed…" His eyes frowned at the mess of the bed. "And make your bed. I will meet you in the dining hall where we will break our fast.”


“But Legolas,” Estel whined as he rose and dragged on his leggings. “Why do I need to learn all those old sayings? They are just a bunch of pious sounding words!”


Legolas snorted and shook his head, “ ‘All old sayings have something in them’ , Estel. Much of the wisdom of the elves can be found in them. You must only learn to apply them in daily life. ‘The eye never forgets what the heart has seen’. You only need to learn to see with your heart, then you will understand them.” With that, the elf left, leaving a baffled and annoyed Estel in his room to do as his friend had asked.


Estel stood staring at the closed door, wanting to throw his tunic at it and crawl back into bed. But Legolas would be back and the consequences would not be pleasant. Besides, his stomach was beginning to grumble, too.


He pulled his tunic over his head, and began to straighten his bedding. Learning the old sayings was not what he had planned for Legolas's visit! He would simply have to think of some way to get Legolas’s mind off these silly old proverbs and have some fun instead.


But first, they would eat.


- o -


After breakfast, to Estel's horror, Legolas led him to the gardens. Estel, still grumpy from missing a couple hours of sleep, glared at his friend. Legolas had said they were not going to spend time in the gardens. Or had he? Estel tried to remember what exactly he had asked. Something about watching plants grow?


He sighed and glanced at his friend, who was looking appreciatively at the varied plants growing beside the path. He decided to try something that sometimes worked with Erestor: distraction and misdirection.


He looked up at a bird singing on a branch not far away, and smiled.


“Legolas, why do the birds always have so much to say? Do they know so much they think they need to tell everyone?“ Estel looked hopefully at Legolas and waited for him to admit he did not know. 


“Many of Ilúvatar’s creatures are so full of joy at simply being alive, they must express it. ‘A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song,’ Estel.”


Legolas glanced at the young man out of the corner of his eye, a slight smirk quirking his lips at Estel’s frown. Legolas had been a master of that trick himself when he was under a tutor. Estel would have to find some other way to distract him, but Legolas would use those attempts as well. It was a teaching technique his last tutor had used: the one tutor he had not managed to drive away! The one Legolas still admired and went to for advice on occasion.


“Come, let us grab our weapons. We will practice for a while. Then we will check on the horses. Perhaps pack a lunch and take a ride. Will that cheer you up some?” At Estel’s wide smile, Legolas took off for the house at a run, the young man not far behind.


- o -

Stopped here

Sounds of metal against metal filled the training grounds. Several elves gathered around to watch the Prince of Mirkwood sparring with Lord Elrond’s foster son. The young man was a natural with a sword, though he still had much to learn in the use of his preferred weapon.


Twin knives flashed and sword glinted in the morning light as Estel saw an opening and took it. However, the elf had been expecting such a move and blocked the blow, spinning around and attacking. Estel was caught off guard and incapable of blocking such a move. Unable to stop the momentum completely, a blow that would have been deadly against an enemy was reduced by Legolas to producing a nasty cut on the human’s sword arm.


“OW! Legolas! I told you I need armor when we spar like this! This is the second cut today!” Estel complained as the elf looked over the cut.


Legolas smiled, “ ‘The best armor is to keep out of range’. You must learn to move faster or you will never block such moves. Still, you are much improved from my last visit. You must have been practicing…it is paying off!” Legolas smiled at Estel’s now beaming face. “We will stop for now. Let us go get this wrapped, then we will go get the horses.”


o o o


A short while later the strange twosome laughingly came to a halt near the barn and paused by a circular enclosure to catch their breath. Inside the enclosure an elfing was getting riding instruction from her father. They watched as it appeared she lost her balance and fell to the ground.


“Good, Alassëa!” Urúvion praised his daughter.


Estel gaped at the elf’s words and looked at Legolas in disbelief. “Why would he praise her for falling off?”


Legolas smiled. “She was practicing falling.” Estel’s eyes widened again and Legolas took the moment to pull from the proverbs of his people. “Do you not remember your own training? ‘It is not enough to know how to ride -- you must also know how to fall’. One can avoid many serious injuries by learning how to fall properly.”


As Estel shook his head and rolled his eyes, Legolas decided not to point out how that piece of wisdom could apply to other areas of life as well. The young man just did not understand how to pull from the wisdom he had been taught.


Moving into the barn the two prepared their horses for a ride through the valley. Estel hoping for adventure, Legolas hoping for more chances to instill some piece of wisdom in that stubborn human’s head.


o o o


Riding through the woods, the two friends enjoyed the beauty of the morning.  As the sun shone down on them, Legolas turned to Estel and continued the instruction.


“There will be many times in your life Estel when trouble and hard times come. It is in those times you must remember the old saying, ‘Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you’.”


The young man blinked and frowned. “Legolas, what do the sun and shadows have to do with life’s hard times? That makes no sense!”


Legolas grinned and was quick to explain. “Turn around, Estel. Look behind you.” Estel did so, continuing to frown. 


“See the shadows?” Legolas continued. “They are like dark times in our lives; if you focus on them, they become all you see. Now turn back around and look up.”


Estel turned, and the frown left his face as the sun kissed his cheeks.


“Remember the good times, the joyful things in life, and focus on them, and the darkness disappears from your sight, though it does not go away.” Legolas spoke with conviction, a knowing look in his eyes. “You cannot stop difficulty or sadness, but you can decide what you choose to focus on. Remember the sun, Estel, and turn towards it when times are hard.”


Comprehension dawned in the youth’s eyes and he turned awed eyes on his friend. Often he had wondered how Legolas remained so bright and cheerful, always a ray of sunshine even though his homeland was swallowed in darkness. Now he understood. Sunshine and darkness would never be the same again. Estel smiled at his friend and nodded.


After a peaceful lunch in a quiet meadow, where they had allowed the horses to graze, the two friends packed up and headed towards a secret spot the elf wanted to share with Estel on the river.  It was quite a distance and soon the youth was complaining.


“How much further, Legolas?” Estel whined, grating on the fastly approaching impatient prince.


“You have asked that four times in the last twenty minutes! It has begun to annoy me, young one. ‘The more you ask how long will it take, the longer the journey will seem’ . I suggest you enjoy the scenery and leave me in peace…or perhaps you are not ready to see this place I wished to show you?”


“No! No, Legolas! I am sorry! I will not complain any longer, I am only tired and it seems such a long way. I will not ask again! I promise!” Estel’s face took on a pleading look.


Legolas’ eyes narrowed slightly, “‘A promise is a cloud; fulfillment is rain’ and ‘Clouds that thunder, do not always rain’. Do not make promises you will not keep, Estel.” Giving another stern look at the youth, the elf urged his horse to pick up the pace. A small smile played on the prince’s lips as he noticed the youth pressing his lips together firmly to keep from asking the dreaded question again.


They arrived mid afternoon at a place where the river ran deep under the bows of old beech trees. Legolas had not brought Estel to this part of the river before, in fact, Estel had never been to this particular place. It was beautiful the way the sun filtered through the canopy above and flashed off the rocks and water.


Before Legolas could utter a word, the youth had jumped from his horse and ran towards the inviting water, stripping as he ran. The elf opened his mouth to warn Estel that the river was deeper here than it looked, but he shut it before speaking and watched with an amused expression on his face. He silently thanked Ilúvatar for another teaching lesson on this fine day.


Estel reached the water and without hesitation, jumped right in. But unseen forces of the water pulled the young man down, the river’s current sucking him completely under and washing him downstream, to a place where the river became raging rapids.


The amusement on the elf’s face changed to horror as he realized the river’s currents were much stronger at this time of year than he remembered. The deceivingly peaceful river had undercurrents that must have increased with the rainfall a few days ago! Kicking his horse in action, Legolas sped after the barely visible human. 


Rounding a bend, the elf leaped from his horse and jumped into the river, making a wild grab for the human as he fought the current. Estel reached out to Legolas, but only succeeded in barely grabbing Legolas’ hand. The youth’s momentum swung him into the elf’s legs, knocking both back into the raging water.


The water tore the friends apart, bashing bodies against submerged rocks and fallen logs. Legolas could no longer see Estel, but he continued to fight the swirling water.  A sharp pain shot through his side as the elf was smashed against a large boulder. Legolas bit back the cry of pain that would surely have had him swallowing river water.


When the elf felt for sure they would drown, the river opened back up into calm pool. Sputtering and ignoring the pain in his body, Legolas climbed to his feet, looking around frantically for Estel. Not far away, the body of his friend could be seen laying face down on the shore.


Legolas stumbled over to the young man and turned him over carefully. Estel’s eyes blinked rapidly as he focused on the elf above him.


“Estel? Estel, where are you hurt?” Legolas asked as he kneeled next to the dazed youth.


Estel slowly sat up, coughing up most of the river water he had inhaled on the perilous trip downstream. “I am not hurt, just bruised…I think.” He winced and slowly tested limbs as Legolas checked him for broken bones.


As the elf tested arms and legs, he watched fearful eyes turn towards him slowly.


“Am I going to get in trouble for being an idiot?” Estel asked, eyes wide.


Legolas chuckled but grimaced as pain shot through him. With glistening eyes the prince turned his gaze on the shivering naked youth next to him. “Nay, young one! I believe I will settle for another lesson learned. I believe you have just found the truth in the old saying, ‘Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet!’”


Estel looked at his friend for a moment, an affronted look on his face. He turned his gaze on the river which had so betrayed him by luring him in with its peaceful front. Then his eyes dropped to his naked form sitting next to the elf. Estel closed his eyes and sighed as a small smile played on his lips.


“Very well, I am an idiot and a fool!”


Legolas smiled, shaking his head at the young man’s declaration. Seeing nothing obviously broken and only bruises, abrasions and a swollen wrist on the young man‘s body, Legolas sighed in relief, wincing again as the breath leaving his lungs caused his side to ache fiercely.


Detecting the expression of pain in the elf’s eyes, Estel slowly looked his friend up and down. “I am not seriously hurt, Legolas, but you are…show me where you are injured!”


Legolas slowly moved his hand to his side, holding his presumably broken ribs. “It is nothing, Estel. I am fine.”


“And I am an orc!” The human exclaimed, reaching over to examine the prince despite the elf’s protests. Thankfully this was an injury Elrond had taught him how to treat.  “Call your horse, Legolas. I will need the healer’s kit and something to wrap these ribs, they are cracked, I believe.”


Legolas rolled his eyes in disbelief, but whistled for his horse. Suffering silently through Estel’s inexperienced treatment, Legolas wondered how such a simple day had turned so quickly into disaster? It would seem a trip to Imladris never failed to leave someone injured, usually himself, the twins or now, Estel.  They would now have to sneak into the Last Homely House if they wished to shirk a thorough exam and lecture from Lord Elrond.


Estel finished wrapping the elf’s ribs and wrapping an arm around his waist pulled him up. Both carefully mounted Legolas’ horse and rode back to where Estel’s clothing lay strewn on the ground and not far away stood his horse, quietly grazing.


o o o


Once dressed Estel mounted his horse and the two headed back to Imladris. Legolas quoting more sayings as they rode, drawing from remembered ‘lessons’; Estel groaning as they were recalled and as he was required to memorize the proverbs.


“’Pray that you will never have to bear all that you are able to endure’.”


“’If is better to stand there and look stupid, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt’.”


“’Caution is not cowardice, even the ants march armed’.”


“’Words are like spears: Once they leave your lips they can never come back’.”


“’A stupid act entails doing the work twice over’.”


“’He who would enjoy the fruit must not spoil the blossoms’.”


Satisfied the youth had learned something, Legolas began to sing. And so they rode on, intending to enjoy the late afternoon ride despite their sore aching bodies.


o o o


Two weary riders managed to tend their horses and enter the Last Homely House without seeing a soul. After the ‘lessons’, the ride back from the river had included being chased by an angry mother bear protecting her cubs, being assaulted by squirrels hurtling nuts, and being completely drenched again in a late afternoon thundershower among other things.


Sneaking carefully through the halls, Legolas and Estel made their way to Estel’s room. There they would tend to each others multiple wounds before making themselves presentable for dinner.  Upon reaching the room Estel lay down on his bed and Legolas simply sprawled on the rug.


“After all we have been through today, what piece of ‘elvish wisdom’ do you have now, Legolas?” Estel painfully stretched, then looked at the elf expectantly.


Legolas, for the first time that day, looked puzzled. How to sum up the day they had had with a final proverb, something profound. The elf pondered a moment, then grinned.


“ ‘Wait until it is night before saying it has been a fine day’?”


o o o


Lord Elrond walked down the hall towards his family’s rooms, looking for his foster son and the mischievous Prince of Mirkwood. The sound of laughter drew him towards a specific room, and he paused outside Estel’s door. Thinking Legolas and Estel were surely enjoying some joke, the Lord of Imladris peeked in quietly. His eyes widened at seeing two very dirty, bedraggled and apparently injured forms holding their sides as one lay on the bed, the other on the floor. Shaking his head, he announced his presence by clearing his throat.


Bright grey and blue-grey eyes turned sharply to the now open doorway and two faces grimaced at being caught in such a state. The Lord before them simply pointed down the hall and said, “Healing rooms…now…both of you.”


Dragging their feet and grumbling as they walked, the dark haired and blond headed figures moved painfully down the hall. Behind them Elrond spoke once more.


“I believe you two should spend some time in the library going over some of the old proverbs. You both obviously have failed to grasp such wisdom! It is time you learn that ‘He that seeks trouble never misses’.”


The prince and the young man looked at each other in disbelief, before continuing on towards the healing rooms, oblivious to anything else the Lord of Imladris said.


Elrond smiled and shook his head, foreseeing a great friendship that would overcome all obstacles in the years to come, indeed, one that would change Middle Earth forever.  As he followed the troublesome pair, arms around the other as they hobbled down the hall, he spoke once more in only a whisper.


“‘Adversity is the touchstone of friendship.’”


The End


A/N - All proverbs come from different countries around the world. This is my first young Estel story…so let me know how I did!



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