Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Carefully Taught

Author: Linda Hoyland
Nominator: Larner
2011 Award Category: Incomplete: Cross-Cultural - First Place

Story Type: Incomplete : Length: Novel
Rating: Teen -- Reason for Rating: Mature Language/Themes,Violence
Summary: The story is about 2/3 complete When Faramir and Aragorn long to escape from daily duties and finally manage to do so, they soon find themselves in a diplomatic situation of mythic proportion.


Reviewed by: Virtuella -- Score: 10

Dear Linda, this story is an utter delight. It is so well thought out, so insightful and so charming, and thanks to my privilege as the beta reader, I also know that you eventually bring it to a very satisfying ending. As we have discussed on more than one occasion, the theme of this story is very similar to the theme of one of mine, albeit the setting and plot are very different. But we both feel uneasy about the assumption in so much of Tolkien’s work that there are entire nations and species which are beyond redemption. This will not stand up to any kind of moral reflection from a human perspective, though the Tolkien characters have it somewhat harder to challenge the notion from within the storyverse. For them it takes first hand experience that what they have always deemed unquestionably evil can indeed be good. The scenes in which they are, one by one, won over, are very well chosen. Furthermore, just like you usually do with Harad, you have drawn a convincing picture of the culture of the far East of Middle-earth. I think what I like best in the story, though, is that you have not made your dragon a paragon on virtue, but have given him – in addition to his undoubted loyalty and warmth – a whiny and at times irritating personality. Irritating to the characters, that is, but not to the reader, who can enjoy his various complaints in all their wonderful comicality. There is a lightness to this story, a whimsical flamboyance, which I appreciate very much.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 10

Tolkien created an epic villain in the personage of Smaug, the great red and gold dragon in [The Hobbit], and an equally fell beast in Glaurung, father of dragons and bane of the House of Hurin in Turin's story/[The Silmarillion]. Tolkien was inspired by the vicious drakes of northern folklore when he wrote of such vicious, intelligent beasts, and also told of their origins as Morgoth's living weapons. Linda Hoyland turns the stereotype of Tolkien's evil dragons on its head in this fascinating story that also, more subtly, addresses the folly of human prejudice. Aragorn and Faramir take refuge from a terrible storm in a cave, and find, to their horror, that the cave is shared by a dragon. But the beast appears to be not a creature of Morgoth, who it disavows, but a traveler from the far East, where dragons are beloved by and share their lives with men. The story chronicles the efforts of Aragorn and Faramir to understand the very large visitor, but to help that dragon's rider, who has been shot down by frightened Gondorians, and avoid either the dragon's injuring their people in an effort to defend himself, or their people injuring the dragon. To confound this already tense situation, Arwen refuses to believe that the dragon is benign; and Eowyn is also unconvinced; leaving King and Steward without their wives and with an anxious dragon for company. The result is a warm-hearted and occasionally humorous story. I loved the bits where Eldarion, who thinks dragons are cool, meets the huge creature his father has named "Sulion" (Aragorn being unable to pronounce the dragon's real name to the dragon's satisfaction) and is thrilled as only a small boy might be (imagine a modern very young boy meeting a real dinosaur that can talk and is friendly). Sulion, the dragon himself, is vain about his own beauty, fussy about medical treatments, but also desperately worried for his injured rider, capable of all the emotions we characterize as human. The chapter where Sulion's dying rider is brought out of the Houses of Healing so that the dragon can bid him farewell is powerful, showing that love can exceed conventional boundaries. Through the dragon himself, Linda supports, rather than defies Tolkien's use of evil dragons and Morgoth's villainy, by the revelation that not all dragons were taken and turned into breeders of evil beasts by Morgoth. The idea that some dragons of the far East resisted Morgoth and remained true to their original nature as magical, intelligent beasts who were not necessarily evil, harkens to Chinese folklore of dragons as wise and mystical creatures, emblems of prosperity and luck. I am looking forward to seeing the completed story published.

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 10

I love it that LindaHoyland, as I have done in the past, has taken the title of one of Rogers and Hammerstein’s songs as the title of this story. For all of the ages of Middle Earth those from the western lands have feared dragons, and with good reason. For did not Morgoth taint the firedrakes of the north with his own evil and send them out to trouble Men and Elves and Dwarves, stealing into the Dwarves’ cavernous homes to destroy their holdings and steal their treasures, to fall upon Gondolin and the armies besieging Angmar, to taunt the likes of Turin with their dying declarations! But in the East dragons have always been seen as harbingers of good luck and better fortune, and they are blessed as heralds of peace and plenty. So, what happens when an eastern dragon and his rider find their way into Gondor, and the folk there react as if Smaug himself were descending upon them? It is the beginning of a culture clash of epic proportions as Aragorn and Faramir seek to defuse what could easily become an international incident leading to permanent estrangement from the dragon and his rider’s people. It’s a fascinating story in which the dragon threatens to sunder even the ties between Aragorn and his wife. A work in progress I look forward to seeing brought to its conclusion so I can see how Aragorn manages to bring peace between East and West, and between himself and Faramir on one hand and Eowyn and Arwen upon the other.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213 -- Score: 10

This WIP is one that I loyally read. I'm enamored of East meets West stories in the setting of Middle-earth, and [Carefully Taught] is a splendid example of this theme. Here, the ambassador from the East is a dragon, who has wound up in the West along with his injured rider. Linda's intrepid pair, the King of the Reunited Kingdom and his Steward, namely Aragorn and Faramir, first encounter the dragon in a cave, and what a surprise they are in for! This dragon shatters all their preconceptions of his kind, for he is not of the more heinous examples of his species corrupted by Morgoth, but rather hails from the civilized and cultivated dragons of the East: dragons with manners, morals and the capability of quite articulate speech. Sulion, as the dragon is called in Sindarin (the westerners have a hard time wrapping their tongues around the Far Eastern tongue), is the star here. I just love him. Although not explicitly mentioned, [Carefully Taught] would seem to give wonderful homage to Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. Sulion would be right at home there with his manner of speech and his predilections. In fact, Linda's tale inspired me to seek out Novik's novels, which I read and made me appreciate [Carefully Taught] that much more. This is a fine tale of culture clash that leads to respect and mutual understanding.

Reviewed by: Ellynn -- Score: 6

This is the very first story I've read about a good dragon - one that is not corrupted by Melkor. But the way Linda describes it, it feels perfectly natural; after all, in the far corners of the world, why wouldn't there be dragons free of evil influence, who are friends with men? In this story, we meet one such dragon, who came to Gondor and his rider. Then follow so many interesting events and twists, because many people are afraid of the dragon. I like the relationship of Aragorn and Faramir on one side and the dragon on another; I especially like the dragon, who is a perfectly portrayed personality, with his qualities and flaws. And I have to say that, inspite some little flaws, he's adorable! I just can't wait to read this to the end. I am sure Linda has many more surprises till the end.

Reviewed by: curiouswombat -- Score: 6

Just getting in under the wire here! This is a really interesting concept - where a 'Chinese' dragon turns up in Gondor - and creates havoc of a very different sort to what might be expected, including within the royal marriage. And it is so good to see that Linda, who writes Aragorn and Faramir stories so well, can still come up with such a fresh new idea. Nor is she above poking gentle fun at the noble lords - one of my favourite lines in a recent chapter is where the dragon explains that his emperor is descended from a dragon, and when Aragorn seems to be disbelieving, he is reminded by his companion not to be so sceptical - after all he numbers a Maia amongst his own ancestors... A really rollickingly good tale - and with this author we can be sure it will be finished even though it competes here as a work in progress.

Reviewed by: Darkover -- Score: 4

In Tolkien's world, dragons are usually giant, evil worms that bring death and destruction. In what has to be one of the most unusual examples of culture clash, a dragon from the Far East comes to Gondor in search of King Elessar. This story tells how Aragorn and Faramir rise to the occasion, even as the presence of this "good" dragon causes problems between the two men and their wives. While still in progess, there are many interesting chapters to read, and this is a novel that should not be missed.

Reviewed by: Nath -- Score: 4

Written with Linda Hoyland’s usual flair for putting Aragorn and Faramir in unpleasant circumstances, this as yet unfinished story goes beyond the original situation to question automatic assumptions about good and evil in Middle-earth. At the current point in the story Aragorn and Faramir have already had to change their preconceptions and open up their minds, and one cannot but doubt that for a happy, or at least satisfying end, Arwen and Eowyn will have to do so as well.