Tale by Mornawen Bayberry
Note: Tolkien never identified the capital city of Cardolan, but it is plausible that it was Tharbad, which was an important settlement between the lands of Arnor and Gondor. See this discussion: http://middle-earth.xenite.org/2011/12/07/what-was-the-capital-of-cardolan/
This is the tale of Prince Bronwe and his Folly.
Now, as some of you may know, in architecture a “folly” is a small extravagant building, built more for decoration, than for any practical purpose. The remaining ruins near Archet do show the small, unusual construction of the building– but it was meant to be a real home, not a folly.
But “folly” has a more common meaning, too, and alas! Bronwe’s building was indeed a folly in this sense.
So Bronwe was the last prince of Cardolan, one of the three successor-realms of the great ancient kingdom of Arnor. He came to the throne about sixteen centuries ago in fact, at a time when most of Eriador was at peace: although the Witch-king was there in the north, he was biding his time, massing his forces for a tremendous attack that he hoped would finish off the realms of the Dúnedain in the north.
As the ruler of Cardolan, Bronwe’s main dwelling was at Tharbad, far to the south of Bree, but from time to time he would travel north to visit Fornost, and Weathertop, and Bree-town.
And so on one occasion Stuart Granger, the mayor of Bree, hosted a feast for the prince and his retainers, and the mayor’s daughter, Rosamond, bore the goblet of blessing around the room.
Now Rosamond was a young maiden of great beauty, with lustrous brown hair and large blue eyes that shone with gentle joy. Prince Bronwe, who had as yet taken no wife (although he was past 50 years of age), was smitten with love for her.
Rashly, without consulting his councilors, he made her father an offer for her hand. Rosamond was of a most gentle and biddable temperament, nor had she yet given her heart away, and when her father spoke to her of how fine it would be for her to be the princess of Cardolan, she agreed.
The wedding in Tharbad in June was a splendid affair, with many of Rosamond’s family and friends traveling to attend the ceremony. A few of her closest friends dwelt for a time with her there, as she grew used to her new role. Thus the first seasons of the marriage were delightful to Rosamond.
But eventually her friends returned to their homes, and soon she began to miss them, and the town where she had lived her life. Her husband’s courtiers’ wives pretended to accept her, but their hearts were cold, and the townspeople of Tharbad, with whom she’d hoped to be friends,
hesitated to become familiar.
When winter came to Tharbad, she began to grow silent and wan. Bronwe noticed her sorrow. “My lady wife, I cannot help but see that you are not content. Will you trust me, and tell me the reason for your sadness?”
She replied, “My lord husband, I am indeed sad, I am homesick for the streets and houses of Bree-town, for the farm lands round about, for the flowers and birds of the north, and most of all, for my dear father, so far away.”
Bronwe was deeply troubled, and, wishing to make his young bride happy, he determined to have a dwelling built for her near Bree, something she could help to design and furnish herself. In the spring he sent orders to the limestone quarries in Enedwaith, directing the workers to send blocks to Bree, for the building of a small palace.
Now the stone from the quarries had been devoted to strengthening Cardolan’s defenses, and some had also been sent to the builders of Arthedain, Cardolan’s ally against Angmar. So Bronwe’s councilors came to him in alarm, “Lord, you have received word that the Witch-king is amassing an army– should you not rather send the stone to the fortress atop Weathertop, where the fortifications need strengthening?”
But Bronwe’s heart bore the image of Rosamond’s face shining with delight, and he heeded not their objections: he did not believe that the Witch-king would dare to attack the Weather Hills in force. “Moreover,” he said to them, “there is a great power there, on Weathertop, and its defenders will not be taken unawares, methinks.”
And so that spring and summer saw a building campaign in Archet, and the little folly started to take shape, a cozy charming palace for a young bride expecting her first child. Bronwe promised Rosamond that they would spend half of each year there, the other half in the palace in Tharbad.
The following spring he kept his promise and they traveled north, lord and lady and wee baby princess, and great was their joy (and the joy of Stuart Granger the mayor and grandpapa)– until word came from the east: the Weather Hills were under assault.
Bronwe took tender leave of his wife and hastened away with his retainers.
They arrived in time to be caught up in the battle for the fortress of Weathertop. The Dúnedain fought bravely, but the forces of Carn Dûm overwhelmed them– only a few men managed to escape, to bring word to Fornost.
Prince Bronwe, alas! was slain, together with his retainers, the flower of Cardolan’s knighthood. The Witch-king’s army swarmed over the lands of the kingdom, levying harsh tributes on the cities and towns– Bree in particular. But in the fall the orcish army retreated back to the north.
Rosamond grieved at Bronwe’s death.
Although the remaining nobles were not fond of her, they did respect her position as widow and mother of the princess. The remnants of the people made their home to the west of Bree, near the Old Forest, in the place that is now the Barrow-downs.
But Bronwe’s Folly was deserted, and like the other buildings of the Dúnedain, it fell into ruins.
Few remember today, how it was built as a temple to love, love in all its recklessness. Perhaps when you visit there some day, you will pluck a rose and leave it on the stones, in remembrance.