Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

A Bit of Rope

Author: Aiwendiel
Nominator: Dreamflower
2010 Award Category: Genres: Alternate Universe: Incomplete - Second Place

Story Type: Incomplete : Length: Novel
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: About 2/3rd complete. Novel-length. What would have happened if Gandalf had not fallen in Moria? This is a novel-length AU speculation, beginning with the premise that Sam remembers to bring a bit of rope. First consequence: Gandalf the Grey doesn't die. Second: Gandalf the White never exists. And then? Would the eventual outcome have been better or worse? Who lives, who dies? And how does it all turn out?


Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 10

This is the sort of brilliant Alternate Universe that makes you wonder why no one else ever seemed to have thought of it before: there are many AU stories about "what if Boromir lived" or "what if someone else had borne the Ring" but I have never seen or heard of one in which Gandalf survived the Bridge at Khazad-dum before this one. And yet it seems such an obviously rich vein to explore! Aiwendiel explores it in depth, leaving none of the possibilities and complications unexamined. How would the Company's reception in Lothlorien be altered? How would Celeborn react to the news of a Balrog-- and not a conveniently *dead* Balrog? In what ways would the Company's journey be changed? How would they split up? With whom would Gandalf go? What would be changed about the encounters in Rohan? Who would deal with Saruman if Gandalf went with Frodo? Most of all, how would Sam and Frodo's entry into the Black Land be changed? Some of these questions she has already answered in a manner both logically and emotionally satisfying. But some of these questions have yet to *be* answered. I see two new chapters up since last I checked the story, and will read them eagerly-- as well as await the rest! I cannot reccommend this story highly enough!

Reviewed by: Celeritas -- Score: 10

Okay, so I just clicked around to see how many reviews the remaining (numerous) stories on my wish list have, and--what? This only has four reviews right now? Injustice! A Bit of Rope is a phenomenal take on my favorite kind of AU--the butterfly effect one in which you change one thing (in this case, Sam's packing rope in Rivendell to rescue Gandalf from his fall) and see what happens next. Aiwendiel's respect for the original course of events shines through, though, as the reader is given little bits and pieces of "maybe things weren't supposed to happen this way?" At the moment, however, things look to be about as hopeful as hopeless as they ever were in the original, with some things changed for the better and others for far the worse. The idea of Gandalf sacrificing himself at Minas Morgul (and Frodo oh-so-cleverly figuring this out), and handing Narya off to Sam is a stroke of genius, and one which I, at least, hope will mean that the two of them have a less trying time in Mordor. Things everywhere else, however, look a good deal more ambiguous--yes, Theodred is alive, but there's trouble brewing with Theoden, and Aragorn is injured and pushing himself farther and farther. I simply cannot wait to see how this all is going to--or not--work out, because, after all, in an AU anything can happen. A fine "might have been" that gives the reader a greater appreciation for "what really did."

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale -- Score: 10

Sam remembers to pack rope when the Fellowship leaves Rivendell, and that rope saves Gandalf from the Balrog in Moria. During the fight, Frodo actually has a terrible premonition of the wizard’s fall and calls for Sam to bring the rope out in time. In this AU, unlike many others, there is a kind of meta-cognizance that something went askew. Certainly Frodo and Gandalf have this feeling and the moment with the rope is recalled several times in the narrative as Frodo or other characters wonder what would have happened if the rope had not been there. It becomes an eerie motif in the narrative, creating a powerful sense of unease in the characters and in the reader. And of course things immediately start playing out differently. Gandalf survives, but someone else dies soon after: someone very important, and not who I was expecting either! The Fellowship disbands - willingly - as characters pursue separate aims. Gandalf journeys with Frodo and Sam to the borders of Mordor. Famously irrepressible Pippin experiences enormous guilt over the stone he dropped in Moria, which has an indelible effect on him as he determines to grow up and get serious for once and for all. The relationships and character dynamics that Tolkien developed in his trilogy play out very differently here (Pippin is an example, but I was particularly interested in Gandalf and what he shares of himself), but they are believable and fascinating to watch. This is an excellent work in progress that I plan to come back to again and again to see what comes next, and to find out whether the new reality that the characters are creating will be their doom or their salvation. Certainly many surprising and good things are happening that did not occur in LOTR, but just as great good came from evil in Tolkien’s original, I worry what unexpected chaos may stem from the survival or reformation of certain characters in Aiwendiel’s story. So much has happened! And yet, it is still too early to tell…

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 10

Aiwendiel has given us here quite the AU work. First, there was but one small change--while yet in Rivendell, Sam managed to lay his hands upon a length of rope, one Frodo remembered at the edge of the Bridge of Khazad-dum, and that he brought to Boromir to be used in bringing Gandalf to safety when the Balrog's rope had dragged him off the broken bridge. From there many things changed: Boromir wounded by an orc arrow as they fled Moria all the Fellowship offered the chance to look into Galadriel's Mirror Boromir purged of the lure of the Ring before they left Lothlorien the Fellowship sundered as they leave Lothlorien many living who died in the original, and some dying who lived in the original Denethor actually communicating with Sauron, planning to commit suicide in order to avoid being taken to Barad-dur's pits Sauron pledging to make Denethor still another wraith Gandalf sacrificing himself that Frodo and Sam could enter Mordor Theoden actually poisoned and controlled at a distance by Saruman We see Frodo, Sam, and Gandalf on Amon Lhaw rather than Amon Hen; we travel the Wetwang rather than the Dead Marshes; Legolas and Merry seek aid for an assault on Isengard; Roheryn is lost in floods at Tharbad, for the Grey Company arrives earlier than before; Pippin works in the kitchens for the Guards followed by service in the Houses of Healing; and Boromir is able to infect his father with what appears to be a virulent bout of hope.... We see famous meetings earlier than they appear in the original, or not happening at all. And there is the threat that the assaults upon Lothlorien and Mirkwood will be augmented with assistance from a recovered Balrog; a far more openly competent Ringbearer, who will not be able to count on the last minute intervention of Gollum.... I can't wait to read more, and hope that such additions will come soon! A different story than we know, but still achingly familiar! Now, to see what comes next!

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 8

Aiwendiel has a nice AU epic in the making. Good use of a tiny alteration, nicely tied to the original text: if only there'd been a rope, Gandalf might not have died. The opening chapter puts us right in the thick of things, and the following ones interpolate our own knowledge of the change to the story back into Gandalf's sense of of warning that something has gone awry in Moria. Using events to split the Fellowship differently and at a different point in time, Aiwendiel is able to draw on elements Tolkien only mentioned: Amon Lhaw, for example. In other places, she is able to use a well-known point differently: the cloaks' ability to hide its wearer, making him or her look like stone in stony lands, saves lives, but also gives a laugh. I look forward to seeing whether Aiwendiel will actually claim her first uncanonical victim among the Fellowship. Boromir may have lived (so far), and Denethor may have been spared descent into madness by his return, but others may not be so fortunate as to go on to better ends than their canonical ones.