* * *
In the beginning, when Aerde was only newly formed and had just begun to bring forth life, Illë created the Elefdar, which means firstborn in the ancient tongue. This is how Illë brought forth the Elefdar. In the heat of the day, Illë walked among the glades of the first forest. That forest had been birthed from the seeds of Yggdrasil the Life Ash, the One Tree from whom all others are descended.
Illë walked in the shade, looking upon these first trees of Aerde, and He smiled, for it gave Him great joy to bring forth life of all kinds. And as He gazed upon one particular sapling, He saw that within it beat the heart of something greater. Illë reached into the narrow trunk of the young tree, and drew forth Lofdar, the Firstborn, and father of those who call themselves by that name, and whom Men call Elves. Now Lofdar was born of the first generation from the Life Ash, and in his blood flowed the life of that great tree, such that he and all his descendants even to this day are very long-lived. Indeed, it is said that no Elefdar can die of old age, but only by a fatal wound, disease, or perhaps the weight of sorrow that only a very long life can bring.
Now Illë taught Lofdar all that was needed to know about the tending of plants, from the smallest of flowers to the Ash itself. But He did not teach Lofdar everything, for He had already placed within his heart and mind a keen discernment of the way of things, and the ability to learn and understand even what could not easily be taught. And Lofdar tended the great forest, the children of the One Tree, and helped them to spread across the face of Aerde. He also came to know the animals, and he watched over them, and tended them as necessary. For though animals have their own natures, and intelligence of a kind, still in those days they needed someone to watch over them, and protect them from dangers of which they were unaware, until such time as they learned to protect themselves.
* * *
And it came to pass in later days, when Illë and Lofdar spoke face to face, that Illë perceived a darkness in the heart of Lofdar. And inquiring, He found that Lofdar craved a helper, a companion with whom he could share the joy of tending the forests of Aerde, and especially the One Tree.
And so, Illë took Lofdar back to the forest surrounding Yggdrasil, and together they walked among the first generation of all trees. And Illë told Lofdar to choose the most beautiful of all trees, and He would fashion for Lofdar a suitable companion from it. Lofdar wandered among the trees, looking near and far, and found it difficult to decide, for each had a beauty that he enjoyed greatly, and he was hard pressed to choose one over another.
Lofdar looked then at the Life Ash, and saw immediately that it was the greatest of all trees, the most majestic, and the most beautiful by far. But he loved the Great Tree too much, and respected its life too greatly, to ask Illë to change its nature. Then, looking down, he saw a sapling of the second generation among the older trees. This tree was beautiful in its potential for greatness, even though it was small and awkward at that time. But Lofdar smiled, and his heart was glad, for he saw in it the promise of future grace.
Illë smiled, too, for His son had chosen wisely, not selfishly – he had not asked for the Life Ash, even though its beauty surpassed all other trees by far. And He reached into the small tree, and drew forth Eltahar, the mother of the Firstborn. Lofdar took Eltahar to be his wife, and he taught her all that he had learned of tending the plants, the shrubs, and trees of the world, and of teaching and protecting animals. The two worked together, and they shared their joy with Illë.
Now Lofdar and Eltahar had children, who grew to adulthood and had their own children. And the race of the Elefdar, the Firstborn, prospered greatly, and with them prospered the great forests all across the face of Aerde. But it came about, that once again a darkness was found in the hearts of the Elefdar. Illë inquired of His children (for such He called them) what was the matter. The Elefdar replied that while they took joy in tending the forests and watching over the animals, surely there must be more they could do?
And Illë laughed, for He had awaited this moment, not truly knowing if His children would become as He had hoped. He took them up to a high mountain, and showed them all the lands of Aerde – and the Elefdar were astonished, for what they had thought of as the whole world was, in fact, only a small island by comparison, ringed about and protected by a great ocean that separated them from the outer lands. The lands they knew, only covered a tenth part of what they now saw as the whole of Aerde. And the rest of the world was wild, and untended.
The Elefdar looked upon all that Illë showed them, and they saw that there was a great work to do in service to their Father. They saw the forests, even breeds of trees that none had ever seen, ranging across the whole of Aerde; they saw animals and creatures that did not exist on their island; and most of all, they saw Men, a race like unto themselves, though a little lower in stature. And the hearts of the Elefdar swelled with joy, and they wept at the gift that Illë had given them, for they knew that this would be a great work, one that spanned generations upon generations, and would likely outlast all those who now looked upon its beginning.
* * *
Now some of the Elefdar were quite happy in their island forests, and these were allowed to remain. But the greater part of their people, even Lofdar and Eltahar, took up the great task given them by their Father: to tend and protect both the forests and the animals of Aerde, and to teach Men the ways of Illë. These, therefore, went forth from their protected island into the wide world, and settled in various places, wherever their hearts led them. And some specialized in tending trees, some in shrubs and smaller plants, some in various kinds of animals, and some chose to dwell among Men.
So it has been since the very early days until now, and the great work has yet far to go until it should reach its completion. The Elefdar watch over those in their care, tending them, protecting them, and teaching them over many years. They are aliens and strangers in this world, for their home is an island across the Western Ocean, and ofttimes they long to return. This is why they are a people set apart from the world, though they dwell in its forests, and along its rivers, and even, sometimes, among Men. Even those children born in the East, have a longing in their hearts for a home they have not seen, a home across the sea. They experience all the many evils and heartbreaks of this world, and though time can lessen the pain of loss, it does not erase the memories. And with every passing year a few more return home, for the heartbreak of this wide world becomes too much to bear after many years and multiplied sorrows.