Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner
Once upon a time, when the world was young, the first elves walked the forests of the world. They looked in wonder at the bright stars overhead and marveled at the earth at their feet. The whole of creation was a feast and they danced on lawns of never fading green. Names were given to the animals of the forest and the places that they dwelled, and everything was as a living dream. But, it was not to last.
For it was that amongst the Powers the Dark Lord discovered the elves first and set about them with beasts and sorceries and for a time, they knew fear. But the Valar came from their palaces in the West and there was war in the North of which the elves heard only a rumor and felt in the ground as a great tremor, unabated. The elves grew afraid, but swiftly the Valar had the victory and came to the elves as friends and counselors.
It was decided that the Valar would take the elves to the Blessed Realm where they would be free from terror and the uncertainty of the world. Many of the elves took heed of the Valar’s summons, and a great host was assembled that set out, over time, for the Undying lands in the west. Great was their journey and they learned wisdom and knowledge from the Powers in the land under The Two Trees. Yet sorrow and terror they did not escape though that tale shall not be told here.
This tale is about those that remained behind, in lands that they had learned to love, in spite of their hardship. The world seemed such a wide and ever-splendid thing, and the elves that remained desired to savor it all at their leisure. Ever they searched out the lands and rivers for new discoveries and more beautiful wonders to enjoy, and they were content.
But even with the overthrow of the Dark Lord, not all evil had left the world . . .
Who can take full measure of the wrath of Morgoth, or imagine the breadth of his jealousy and malice for those things not made of his hands? Certainly not the Moriquendi elves, who thought that with the defeat of the Dark Lord, theirs would be a life of peace and plenty.
Because deep in the darkest places of the forest, a terror lurked unknown to them. Who knows what foul sorceries created it, or what manner of creature it had been before the evil one corrupted it. Perhaps a giant boar, misshapen and malformed until it became a horned shape of madness and dread. After its first assaults upon the unsuspecting elves it was named the Daeraug, the Shadow Demon. Snatching unaware elves away, he would take them to his lair, never to be seen by their friends again. The elves cried to the stars and the beauty of the world was dimmed by their lamentations.
After the initial shock, a hunting party was gathered to track down the beast. Armed with spears and knives, they went out towards where they thought the Daeraug dwelled. Unbeknownst to them, the Daeraug was waiting and attacked them while they rested at camp. Those that were not killed outright, by claw and horn, found the hide of the beast impervious to their primitive weapons. They fled terror-filled into the forest, heedless of direction and sense.
One of these, a young hunter by the name of Orno, ran until exhaustion overtook him. He laid himself down by a nearby tree and fell into blackness and dreams.
In his dream, the young hunter looked out into darkness, his back lay against a tree. He wondered why the gods had seemingly abandoned his people to the terrors of the Daeraug. Suddenly a voice came to him, “Think not dear Orno that evils like the Daeraug bring grief to you only, for does his evil not threaten us all?” To Orno’s ears it sounded like the voice came from the tree, and when he turned, he saw that it was so.
But, it was no ordinary tree that spoke to the hunter. It was impossibly large, so much so that its highest branches seemed to pierce the firmament, and it shone with a light that was all its own, blinding and beautiful. Orno covered his eyes as the tree spoke, “The world has not abandoned the wood elves and the forests that they hold dear. And it will love you, as you have loved it, and protect you.” The light from the tree increased and swallowed the young hunter up, and he awoke.
Orno rubbed his eyes and wondered at his dream. He looked around the forest but could see no sign of the giant tree. Then he saw, at the base of the tree he had fallen asleep at, a curious sight. A bow there was, of a strange wood he did not recognize, with patterns of leaf and twig intertwined around it. He took it as a sign from the Powers and joyously made his way back to the wood elves’ dwelling.
When Orno made it home, he was shocked to find his people preparing for a great journey. They were abandoning their land to the Daeraug they said, for whom could stand against his might and savagery? Orno showed them his bow and told them of his dream, but they did not heed him.
“The Valar have abandoned us for our kin in the West.” They said, “And no bow could harm the hide of the Daeraug if our spears availed us not, we are without hope.” But Orno would not believe that and told his people that he, at least would stay, and trust in the Great Tree’s promise. He watched his people go and he waited.
The Daeraug came, as Orno knew he would, intent to harass the wood elves in their exodus. The hunter stood alone, his bow taut as he drew it back to full. The beast’s head turned as he came into view and spotted the lone elf standing defiant. The elvish arrow sang as it was released and struck the Daeraug in the shoulder, piercing its previously impenetrable flesh. The servant of Morgoth roared, anger swelling with the pain it had never known, and charged. Orno drew and fired again; striking the neck of the great beast, it still came on with a murderous rage in his eyes. The Daeraug was closing fast and Orno knew he had but one shot left before the creature would be upon him. The Daeraug leapt into the air seeking to crush the elf beneath him. Orno whispered a plea to the Valar and fired his last shot.
The arrow went through the monster’s eye as he fell upon the hunter, and the Daeraug, scourge of the elves, minion of the Dark Lord, lay dead. But, alas for poor Orno, he would not celebrate his victory, for he was crushed under the fallen weight of the great beast. As he lay dying, he said a prayer of thanks to the Valar for his people were now safe, and he passed once more into a dream.
There he saw the Great Tree again, standing like a mountain, as bright stars wheeled overhead. And Yavanna, for who else could the Great Tree have been but the Queen of the Earth, extolled Orno’s bravery before the Powers. For his bravery and his faith in the Valar, he was taken up and placed amongst the stars as a sign that the Valar had a thought for all the people of Middle-earth.
So it was that as the wood elves in flight heard rumor of the Daeraug’s fall, they looked up, saw the newly made stars, and took them for a sign. To the Noldor the constellation is known as Telumehtar, or Menelmacar, The Swordsman in the Sky. But to the Silvan, at the beginning of time, it was known as The Hunter, and they told that he protected them from the terrors of the world and they were not afraid.