Note: I haven’t the foggiest idea what exactly constitutes Glariond and Aminah’s anniversary. I’m not even sure of the real world date. So for the purposes of this post, let’s say it’s now.
A bit of fine paper is left between the pages of Glariond’s worn volume of Sindarin verse.
I have been told and have seen that among Northerners it is custom to exchange gifts on the year turn of one’s marriage. The closest we have to this is the gift that a husband gives his wife at his first son’s birthday dinners, and I think you would find this insufficient if not mildly offensive. I would confess that I begin to agree with you, but no. I am saving a better gift for you, and one you will find much more to your liking.
This year, I choose to honor your custom, though I will not do it in quite the way I have seen others do. I know you, and perhaps I know you better than you think I do. I could give you a solid gold palace and you would find it just as pleasing as a poorly knit sock; you know this for a truth. But this you will value more than palaces or socks. Have I suspended your attention enough? Or shall I perhaps add a few cryptic lines, and perhaps another page before I finally say what it is?
Oh very well. The gift is this: I believe you.
Now it may be that you need a little more explanation than this, and such explanation I had best give so you do not stand in danger of thanking me politely before putting this in treasured honor beside your many poorly made socks. Have I not always honored you as a man of truth and conviction? Yes, I have. When I say “I believe you” I mean it in a slightly different fashion. There is the “I believe you” that means “I believe you think you mean what you say” or “I believe you intend to live in a manner that honor demands but your heart may reject.” This is not either of those.
You have told me that you not only will take no other wife, but that you neither need nor want another wife. You have said that this is not simply a matter of difference between your ways and mine, but is something more immutable and personal. You have said that it matters in no material fashion whether I provide for you everything expected of a wife. You have said that even if you never have a son to follow after you, you will continue to neither need nor want another woman. It is this I have not only chosen to believe, but believe in truth.
You may perhaps find this abrupt or at the very least out of character. And so, like any philosopher of repute and merit, let me explain to you the road of thought I traveled to bring you this, my gift to you. I first took the more believable, though to many absurd, step of believing your heart to be like mine in essence. To believe this is to say that men and women love in the same way and in the same variety of modes. It is saying that there is no essential difference in soul between those whose bodies are male, and those whose are female. I can have in this few allies among the sages of my people, and I suspect few of your authorities are willing to go so far. And yet, have we not shared nights in which we discovered in each others’ arms the pleasures of knowing kinship of intents and ideals, and of character and of belief? Have not those nights been as much a pleasure as those spent in wordless delight and the dialogue of passion? I do not say we are the same person, or even close enough to be mistaken for it. I say that my heart understands yours, and could not do so if my heart did not function in the same way as yours. Understanding comes from the recognition of likeness, as it is said, and I think this sound proof for what follows.
So take it that my heart functions as yours. Were I you, a husband, and were you my wife, I would be content with that and that alone. Not the ‘content’ felt by a starving person given just enough bread to live another day, but the ‘content’ felt by having enough bread every hour of every day so reliably that one never worries that some day the bread might not be there any more. “Enough” is a grudging word in this tongue, but my learning fails to find any better way to put it. By it, I mean the kind of ‘enough’ that fills a cup to its brim. Any more than ‘enough’ is not a good thing, but a great evil. Imagine a glass of water in the desert. “Enough” fills the cup, but one drop more causes water to spill and be lost forever. This is what I mean when I say that you are enough. For this reason, when you say that another wife would not only be unnecessary but unwelcome, I can believe you now. She would be spilled water wasted when she could fill another man’s glass. This would be a great evil.
It has been some time, and I think it is likely that Nafisah will be our only child. This is fate’s doing, as I would say, or the result of greed and hate in corrupted men, as you would say. I think the fault does little to change what is. I am and will be sad not to be able to give you more children than a daughter who will be yours by choice rather than by blood. But I understand now how this can be so, and yet you would still want me and no other for a wife. I know this because if you and not I were the one made incapable of begetting children, I would think it insane to take a second husband when the one I have is not only loved, but as irreplaceable as my eye or my hand. A husband is not simply a means to children, and neither is a wife. We are people first, and people must be known and valued for who they are, and not what their bodies can and cannot do. Lastly, marriage and love cannot function on the basis of the physical; it is a union of the soul expressed in body, and not the other way around. I think this is one of the truths that, if examined, can be shown to transcend the customs of my people and yours, both of whom lose sight of one good in pursuit of another.
And this is your present on this year-turn of our marriage. I believe you. And I do it not simply to honor you as wives are duty-bound to do, but because I agree with you. So this is not only “I believe you” but “you are right.” These are two things many husbands would gladly exchange a golden palace to have in writing, I think.
With my heart,