Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Folly

Author: SurgicalSteel
Nominator: Robinka
2011 Award Category: Drama: General - First Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Ficlet
Rating: Mature -- Reason for Rating: Mature Language/Themes
Summary: Could the downfall of Numenor have been avoided had the Valar acted differently? Contains nods to Pandemonium_213's 'Into this Wild Abyss.'


Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 9

SurgicalSteel's short ficlet makes the techno!Atlantis fan in everyone go *squee* with delight. What an excellent use of the *Lost Tales* material! The style of the piece imitates a fairy tale's generally compact style - the juxtapositions of the Valar's reactions and the steady, heedless advance of the Númenoreans, thanks to their technology, the turn by turn revelation of the powerlessness of the Valar's marshaling of natural forces in the face of Númenorean taming of those forces builds tension until at last they have resort to a power that apparently is not open (yet) to technological manipulation. [Folly] also imitates a fairy tale in avoiding drawn out, complex political exploration - this story works on a symbolic level, and pits the boundaries that a fairy story imposes against the technologically-facilitated encroachment of human desire to breach them. In that, I think the story and its author give a tip of the hat to an aspect of Tolkien's own sense of what's at issue in a fairy tale. Simple, elegant style and a very punchy retelling of the downfall of Númenor - highly recommended! Thanks for this great little story, SurgicalSteel!

-- Thank you, Dwimordene - this was one of those ideas that I'd thought about for quite a while, and then the B2MeM prompt for that day just sort of nudged it out into being fully formed. I'm really tickled I made you squee!

Reviewed by: Lyra -- Score: 9

This is an extremely short but very poignant ficlet. SurgicalSteel has managed to put a whole lot of clever observation into just under 170 words. She makes painfully clear how the Valar (once again) clearly do not understand what they're looking at when Ar-Pharazôn rebels. They underestimate the technological creativity of the "little man" again and again, and in the end see no way out but the most drastic display of power they have at their disposal - the mythical equivalent of a nuclear strike, so to say. All that could possibly have been avoided if they had dealt with Sauron - apropriately - themselves rather than leaving the dirty work for others. Or perhaps a better understanding of humans - or the realisation that they were no longer qualified to rule the earth - could have helped matters... What I particularly enjoyed was that unlike in most stories that play with tech!Númenor, in this ficlet the Valar are still real forces, albeit inappropriately armed against the new technologies of men. Steel made both levels - technological and mythological - work at once. Good job!

-- Thank you, Lyra!

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213 -- Score: 7

In what might be called a drabble-and-a-half, Surgical Steel delivers a powerful punch in this ficlet of the might of the gods versus the might of technology. Using references from [The Akallabêth] and [The Lost Road], Steel employs Tolkien's own poetic words — the thunderous darts and the vessels that move under their own power — to convey Ar-Pharazôn's determination to seize immortality by the, well, use your vulgarity of choice here. Speaking of vulgarity, I got a huge kick out of the challenge made by the Númenórean king. Quite some time ago, in one of those fandom moments of "Who would you cast to play ____ in a movie of The Silmarillion?" Ian McShane, who had recently starred in the short-lived [Kings] was a shoe-in for Steel and me as Ar-Pharazôn. Hence his Al Swearengenesque (]HBO's Deadwood]) challenge to the Valar. No doubt Tolkien would disapprove of such "orc-talk" but I loved it and found it thoroughly appropriate.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 6

You have to admire the Numenoreans, and Ar-Pharazon, for sheer brass, despite their poor judgment. The point of this passionate short piece is that the Valar were capable of poor judgment themselves, or, at the very least, over-reacting. The ficlet works quite well; the Valar becoming more and more concerned by the Numenoreans' rising power and greater use of technology. As much as I have found Ar-Pharazon to be arrogant and foolish in [the Silmarillion], there is something admirable and rather awe-inspiring about his daring to pound Tiron with missiles from his free-moving ships, screaming out threats against the Valar all the while. The last king of Numenor certainly did not lack for chutzpah. Well-written, with strongly seasoned food for thought.

-- Thank you, Raksha, I'm really glad this worked for you!

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 5

A most interesting imagining of the overweening pride possibly shown by the Valar as they watch the doings of Ar-Pharazon. Perhaps their own hubris and attempts to foil him led him to act as he did. Folly, it seems, is as much in the eye of the beholder as is beauty, as the Valar learn to their own embarrassment. A perfect example of Galadriel's warning to Frodo that some futures only come to pass when we go out of our way to try to stop them from happening. Certainly another thought-provoking ficlet by one of our more fascinating writers! Well done, SS!

-- Thanks, I'm glad you found this thought-provoking!

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel -- Score: 4

The author's short take on the Valar's perspective of the attack on Tirion by the Numenorean king was interesting and illuminating. Using information from the Histories of Middle-earth, an alternate scenario is presented that is in no way hampered by the brevity of the piece. The response to the prompt was excellent as well--the quote seemed to offer more depth on the importance of the author's writing. Overall, this was an interesting ficlet that bears close scrutiny very well.

Reviewed by: Oshun -- Score: 4

Really like this story. You are kicking in an open door with me on this one. I realize that there are people who do not want to admit that the Valar have faults. Did they read the same books I read? Hard to imagine. Anyway, the Numenorean late-game is not just about evil or the world's worst poor judgment. If someone does not see the poignancy and have a flash of irritation toward the Valar as well, then I think they have missed a lot of the history.

-- Thanks, Oshun!

Reviewed by: elfscribe -- Score: 4

I admire the artistry of this ficlet that in a few, well-chosen words manages to tell the whole story of the Valar "contending in vain" against Ar-Pharazôn's folly. This is the tale of Númenor's fall in a nutshell, told in a fairy-tale manner as the Valar keep employing techniques that are too little, too late until they have to bring out the heavy guns, so to speak. I particularly enjoyed the King's curse as he assaulted the walls of Tirion.

-- Thanks, Elfscribe!

Reviewed by: Altariel -- Score: 3

Techno-Numenor! Yes, I agree entirely - those are skyscrapers, missiles, steamships. I love the sudden interruption into the musings of the Valar ["I’m coming for you next, you Valarin cocksuckers!"], and how the desire of the Valar to remain *masters* of Arda (rather than the ["little man"]) is made critical. Wonderful fic, so much food for thought, conjured up deftly and intelligently.

-- Thanks very much! The 'cocksuckers' line was inspired by some under-the-radar nattering between Pandemonium and myself. We were both watching the sadly short-lived show 'Kings,' in which Ian McShane played a character who was basically a reworked version of King Saul from the Biblical Books of Kings. We both thought he'd be a fantastic Ar-Pharazon. The same actor also portrayed Al Swearengen in 'Deadwood,' and said character was known to use the epithet 'cocksuckers' frequently. I forget which one of us said 'wouldn't it be great if...?' but once I had the idea, I had to find a way to write it. Thanks again!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 3

This is short, sharp, and to the point! Making use of another unused (by JRRT) bit from The History of Middle-earth, we are shown the Valar and the Numenoreans in a different light altogether. I love SS's speculations like this, creating not so much an alternate universe as an alternate interpretation.

Reviewed by: Independence1776 (Crystal113) -- Score: 3

A darkly humorous story about the Valar and their probable reactions to Ar-Pharazôn-- and shows once again how little they understand the capabilities, desires, and emotions of humanity.