Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Benison

Author: annmarwalk
Nominator: Branwyn
2006 Award Category: Genres: Drama: Remembering - First Place

Story Type: Other Fiction : Length: Short Story
Rating: G -- Reason for Rating: n/a
Summary: \"Across the years, it seemed as though Eowyn felt the brush of Finduilas’s lips on her forehead: a caress, a blessing.\"


Reviewed by: Branwyn -- Score: 10

After Finduilas’ death, an old housekeeper had saved her work basket, putting it aside in a storeroom for safekeeping. Years later, the housekeeper presents the basket to the newly-wed Eowyn. Among the silk threads and embroidery tools, Eowyn finds Finduilas’ daybook, and this collection of drawings, poems, and notes opens a window into her mother-in-law’s life. Annmarwalk’s descriptions of the work basket and daybook are gorgeous, appealing to touch, scent, and sight. [silken floss, gleaming like sunlight on water; dozens of skeins of linen floss in unimagined colors] The writer chooses her words with great care, down to the use of the name “gillyflower” for the more modern-sounding carnation. Eowyn easily recognizes her husband in the sweet drawings of a baby in the daybook-- [A sleeping infant, dark silken hair curled softly against his cheek, his lovely mouth curving just so – Eowyn too had seen that hair, that cheek, that beloved mouth curved in peaceful dreams.] I like that Eowyn looks forward to being a wife and mother and enjoying [quiet evenings by the fire]. Tolkien states very clearly that she was a soldier only by necessity and was not by nature an Amazon, and there is no reason (at least in canon) to doubt that she will eventually settle into a happy, new life with Faramir. However, initially she must have felt like a stranger in this household, so I love the idea that she gets to meet her mother-in-law through the pages of the daybook. She is also reminded of the love they share for Faramir. A gentle and lovely fic, one of my favorites.

Reviewed by: Mechtild -- Score: 9

This presented an intriguing, unexpected image for me of Eowyn. I suppose I’ve never stopped to picture Eowyn past the time of standing on the wall with Faramir, their hair mingling in the wind. What did the Shieldmaiden of Rohan do after she settled into married life? How would she have adjusted? You show her making the transition with modesty and grace – further graced by the unintended gift of the dead woman, the wife of Denethor, who would have been her mother-in-law. The opening of the sewing basket was splendidly done; I longed to see every little thing and snatched at each object as you uncovered it for us in prose. What an eye for *just* the right detail you have. This is the second of your nominated fics I ve read, which gave a glimpse of Denethor’s youth – a young steward, full of fire, worthy of the love of women, but whose passion was poured out on his wife. How might Denethor have fared had she lived? The way he responded to her death – becoming tormented and deformed inside from the torment – makes me wonder if Boromir might have been similarly affected, had he lived, if he came back home to find Theodred slain and buried (–taking for granted your love affair for the two characters, of course).

Reviewed by: Anoriath -- Score: 8

Stories like this always make me wonder about what Tolkien missed, being the orphaned child that he was. That continuity that living memory provides, someone who knows what you were like when you were first born, what your first words were, in what ways you reflected those who went before you, all the myriad little things that flesh out your understanding of your history. I wonder what kind of hole it left in his thinking and if this is why he left so many gaps like this one to be filled. But at the tenderness evident in your piece, I am not left to wonder at the loving attitude that shines through in Tolkien’s letters to his sons. I love that you chose to bring that continuity to life through simple womanly things. It’s those everyday things whose power that we underestimate. In a day when there are no pictures or videos, it would be those little things that ground a person in the context of family. How lovely that your insight led you to perceiving the need for the things that hold the memories of Finduilas’ touch and bring her and her memories to life for Eowyn.

Reviewed by: EdorasLass -- Score: 7

Another lovely story in which an every day possession bridges the gap between past and present; this time, Finduilas' sewing basket in Eowyn's hands. It's very true; likely neither Faramir nor Eowyn have more than the faintest memories of their mothers. Watching Eowyn go through the basket with such respect and curiosity is both touching and a bit melancholy, as well - Eowyn draws her own conclusions as to what type of person (and mother) Finduilas was from the little daybook, but will never be able to have those conclusions confirmed. Yet there's also a hopefulness here that I can't quite articulate; perhaps it's that Eowyn feels such a connection with a woman she's never met by reading bits and pieces of Finduilas' life and finds a kinship with her through those writings. Perhaps it's that I think Eowyn is also somehow connecting with her own mother during the process. I would wonder how Faramir might respond to seeing that basket.

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 7

The thing about this story that still blows me away on my third reading is the way that Annmarwalk uses physical details so effectively here! The two best examples are probably the threadbox and the basket. The basket, ["woven of sea-grass, green and gold fronds now faded"], iks obviously a relic from her Dol Amroth childhood. And the threadbox is similary described as ["ivory-inlaid"], and since ivory comes from elephant tusks and elephants from Harad, then this must either also be from Dol Amroth or be a very queenly gift if it comes from Minas Tirith. How much could Harad be exporting to Gondor in those days? Details like this that just skirt on the edge of describing let me create a whole world inside my head, with nothing you said to contradict it. Like the poetry ["written in a powerful masculine hand, of such passion that Eowyn blushed as she read"]. It makes me blush, too, because I am even now imagining just the kind of romantic (and probably fairly erotic) poetry that a man who closed himself off to so many would choose to compose for his wife. This very short story is easily as much a [treasure-trove] as Finduilas's basket and I'm so glad to have read it.

Reviewed by: dkpalaska -- Score: 6

Such a marvelous story! The premise for the gift/blessing of the sewing basket was well thought-out, and the author crafted beautiful descriptions of the contents of the basket and the book that drew me right into sharing their discovery with Eowyn. (Although I admit - Eowyn the sewer always jars me a bit; I'm ever seeing swords and not needles in her hand, no matter that I know she would surely have a noblewoman's skills...) All of the little details were evocative, moving and carefully chosen, bringing to mind Finduilas' life in both Dol Amroth and Minas Tirith. I particularly loved the blush-worthy poetry from Denethor (which made me want to know much more about the life together that this author conceives for them); and the benediction that Finduilas laid on her new daughter-in-law at the end.

Reviewed by: Bodkin -- Score: 5

I found this such a beautiful tale. And I love the title - which is, I think, exactly the right choice of word! The sewing basket and its treasures give such a touching point of connection between Eowyn and Finduilas and provide an understanding that they could have had in no other way. The drawings - and poetry - are a real window on the past, whereas the sketch of baby Faramir is perfect. I wonder if Eowyn will show it to him - it will do him good, I think, to realise how much he was loved. The feminine input into life in the Steward's family has been restored after a long and sad interlude - and Finduilas is happier, wherever she is, because of it. It is like a handing on of the torch! (Or needle.)

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 5

This was beautiful. There are a number of things I like about it: the idea that Eowyn is quite familiar with a sewing workbasket and its accoutrements--in too many fics, she is shown as being ignorant of the more "womanly arts", not something I would believe of a high-born woman in that culture; the idea that she could find out things about her long-dead mother-in-law from those items--very much something I believe she would think of; and finally, the beautiful connection she feels, of realizing they both love/loved Faramir, and her sense that she has Finduilas' blessing! A lovely and touching fic.

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 4

In going through Finduilas's sewing basket and looking through her journal, Eowyn finds herself appreciating the woman who was mother to Faramir, feeling as if Finduilas herself were welcoming her to the Steward's quarters in the Citadel. A most beautiful and emotionally satisfying look at how the young bride finds her place in her new husband's home and family.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 4

A rather bewitching vignette of the newly married Eowyn encountering her husband's long-dead mother; not via an actual ghost, but through the gift of Finduilas' sewing basket and daybook. Eowyn is able to meet Finduilas, through the memories stored in the book. The reference to Eowyn and Faramir's both losing their mothers at a young age is quite apt, and lends texture to the story. The sense of Finduilas' life and love for her family, lingers gracefully through the writer's evocative prose.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 4

Ann writes with precision, capturing the secrets that lie hidden in the domestic. The phrase [second-hand memories] evokes a sense of loss, of being always given something used, something worn out that will never quite fit the one to whom it is given. To a degree, this is true: memories of others cannot be ours to a certain degree. The first hand encounter with Finduilas' day book, where lies also Denethor's poetry, I note, at last gives her a hold on the Lady of Gondor's life that is all her own, unfiltered by the remembrances of others.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel -- Score: 4

Oh, this is beautiful! Lovely, varied details, wonderfully described, one more moving than the other. I also liked the brief glimpse of the housekeeper. And the idea of Denethor writing love poems for his wife is just... so increadibly sad and touching. The idea of linking Finduilas with Éowyn in this way is very creative, and the title for the story, coming full circle in its last line, seems particularly appropriate.

Reviewed by: Marigold -- Score: 4

This is lovely. How fitting that Éowyn receive this treasure that once belonged to her husband’s mother. Even though the descriptions from her daybook are brief, they bring with them a wealth of insight, about Finduilas herself, Denethor as he once was, and about their sons. And it is so good to see Éowyn this way, settled and calm and able to think about the uncomplicated enjoyment of a young woman’s simple, homely pleasures instead of War and death.

Reviewed by: Acacea -- Score: 3

This is a lovely little piece detailing out a look at Finduilas through Eowyn's eyes. There's so much one gets to understand about Finduilas' days as a mother, abd also as a wife. I particularly liked the bit about the poetry! And I loved too that Eowyn could find in this book a sketch of a small Faramir!

Reviewed by: Jenn_Calaelen -- Score: 3

An interesting and very unusual view of Eowyn. This story shows very good characterisations of the characters involved. I like the way that you show so much about everything in such an interesting way.

Reviewed by: Llinos -- Score: 3

A very different view of Eowyn than we are used to seeing and I liked it very much. How wonderful that she at last has found a measure of peace. The daybook was a wonderful link with the past, and the glimpses of Denethor as he was makes his fall even more tragic. The description of the sewing basket and its contents was lovely.