Five Things That Never Happened to Sauron

Author: Russandol

Nominator: Lyra

2011 Award Category: Ficlet: Elder Days - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

Rating: Mature  ✧  Reason for Rating: Sexual Content

Summary: Five short scenes with a twist, in five locations of Middle-earth, all featuring Sauron in his different guises. Each scene was harder to write than the previous one - find out why! Warning: Mild m/m kink for one of the vignettes, and character "death" in another.

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Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 10

A short story consisting only of five brief subchapters - but an impressive short story for a variety of reasons! First, daring to venture into the inner workings of Sauron is a brave deed indeed. I find it hard to write about Sauron without drifting into generic "bad guy" clichés or else whitewash him; Russandol, on the other hand, effortlessly creates a three-dimensional Sauron who is more than just the classic villain, without watering his character down or turning him into some fluffy caricature. Second, Russandol has carefully chosen five events that might have happened in history - and then turned them around into their opposite. All these "what if"s are very cleverly introduced; the reader cannot help but wonder how the events of The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion might have gone if these AUs were true. Third, each of the five pieces makes do without another vowel. This might have gone disastrously wrong, making the language of the story feel stilted and awkward, but Russandol actually managed to pull it off in a way that feels natural. If the absent vowels weren't named in the title, one might not even have noticed that something was "missing"! All in all, a very clever and entertaining writerly exercise!

Author response: As you say, this was a writing exercise, after reading about a whole book written that way. It made me think about every word (about every letter, actually) which is a good thing as, otherwise, I just tend to rattle away at my keyboard. I'm pleased the scenes work for you. As for Sauron, I've always been annoyed about baddies that do things just "because they are evil" and even Tolkien used that line to justify his villains, so I've sort of adopted Sauron as a theme over the last couple of years. Thanks for your kind review, Lyra!

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 9

Russandol presents the reader five lovely scenes. Each is short, but powerful, and it is obvious that this author understands the character and his motivations. Indeed, Russandol's Mairon/Sauron is wonderful, in any incarnation, including this series. I very much enjoy the images here, the ideas of all the times things could have been different. The idea of an alternate reality is always alluring, and many authors try their hand at it, in order to experiment with an outcome that does not exist. One thing Russandol does well here is in the way she presents the scenes. On account of their brevity, too much detail is not available to the reader, so that, quite effectively, the author gives the deviation from canon, and the reader is left to supply how this affected the course of events. This piece is a study in cause-and-effect, I think, and reading it with that in mind makes for quite an interesting impression. Additionally, the technical aspects of this series are fantastic. By omitting a vowel in each of the five vignettes, the author challenges herself admirably; yet even without a vowel, the words are never stifled or lacking. Everything, in this piece, is as it should be.

Author response: I hadn't thought of the point you make about leaving the outcome to the reader, but you're right, they are not full AUs, more of the "what if...?" question. I couldn't have carried on writing much longer without the missing letters, so I had to leave it to your imagination, though we might have had no story to tell if Sauron had gone back to Valinor after the War of Wrath or if he had been beheaded by Pharazon. No Lord of the Rings without a Ring, either! I'm pleased the scenarios worked for you. Thank you for reviewing, Adonnen Estenniel!

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 9

Dear Russandol, I remember how impressed I was with this ficlet when I first read it. For one thing, I really dig neat things, and the concept of writing five paragraphs, each of them renouncing one of the five vowels, is incredibly neat. Moreover, you have succeeded (seemingly) effortlessly, because at no point does the word choice appear forced on order to avoid the particular vowel. That in itself is quite an achievement. The scenes themselves are well-chosen, and I like their titles. The second one in particular is, I think, what really should have happened by rights, because it was incredibly foolish of Sauron to impart so much of his power into an object. Of course, without this folly, there would have been no Lord of the Rings story, but that is no story-internal motivation. I suppose we can assume that Sauron is in general not the sharpest knife in the drawer (and villains have to be somewhat stupid, or else how could heroes defeat them?). As for the last drabble, well, will he go? Should he go? How will he be received if he does? This is a most excellent series, original, well-crafted and thoroughly enjoyable to read. Well done.

Author response: I completely agree with your view about Sauron doing something as stupid as forging the Ring, but I don't think he could have been stupid overall. He just made the mistake of underestimating everyone else! He must have been pretty sharp to trick the elves in Eregion and the men of Numenor, but Tolkien decided to turn him into a complete cardboard cutout evil lord during The Lord of the Rings. If he had been half the villain he was during the Second Age, Frodo and the Fellowship wouldn't have had a chance. In my opinion he was purposefully dumbed down (at least that's what it seems like from the story as it was "recorded") to allow a positive outcome of the quest. He's a most intriguing character, but he could have been a hundred times better! Musings apart, I'm very happy you enjoyed my experiment. I certainly enjoyed thinking of the "what ifs" and then building the ficlets little by little, almost like making the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fit into the overall picture. Thanks for your review!

Reviewed by: Azalais  ✧  Score: 5

These are intriguing, clever, deft, and beautifully-crafted - the sly humour of ["Victory for Mirkwood"], the poignancy of ["Lies in Eregion"] (if only the lies were true!). I applaud anyone with the chutzpah to try to get into Sauron's head, and Russandol brings it off impressively. ["Folly at the Sammath Naur"] in particular fascinates me - now how would *that* have turned out? The fact that each drabble is written entirely without a different vowel is just the icing on the cake - the author makes this look absolutely natural and effortless and, indeed, if it wasn't pointed out in the titles, you mightn't even notice it. My hat is off to such skilful drabbling - and if you wish more authors would tackle Sauron/Annatar, these are definitely for you.

Author response: Ever since I first read the Silmarillion I've been fascinated by Sauron. I felt we were shortchanged with him as a villain in LOTR, and wished that Tolkien had told us more about him. So that lately he's sort of become my main character. I'm very pleased that you liked this experiment, these short scenes were definitely fun to do and a good way to make me think about every word and every letter. Thank you very much for your review, Azalais!

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 5

A very clever set of ficlets each of which packs a bang within the short space. Not only do they depict five things that didn’t happen to Sauron (and each one made me smile, I so enjoy Russa’s sly humor) but Russandol added an extra challenge of not using a certain vowel in each ficlet. If she hadn’t said that’s what she was doing, I’d have never have noticed because the language flows quite well. I enjoyed the imagery [“From the high stone city walls, Annatar watched two large birds of prey circling majestically above the plains. The cool breeze played with the loose strands of his black hair, making them writhe like dark snakes.”] I can’t pick a favorite out of the five, although I must say I did enjoy Thranduil’s little bit of manipulation. Knowing Russa's Sauron from her marvelous "Chasing Mirages" fic gave these ficlets an added bit of spice.

Author response: "Victory for Mirkwood" was the first one I wrote - I always wanted to do that pairing, I should write the longer AU one day - even if it wasn't the easiest. It was fun to think of what words you can't use in a scene of that type not having the use of the letter "a". "Call to Aman" and "Folly at the Sammath Naur" really gave me trouble - for the latter, it was almost impossible to make it revolve about an object ("it") which happens to be a ring, both words with "i". I nearly gave up and swapped letters, but I'm glad I didn't. Not having the letter "e" is just beyond frustrating, it is everywhere! My goal was to get past 100 words on each without forcing the issue too much. I'm glad I succeeded. Thank you very much for your review!

Reviewed by: Malinornë  ✧  Score: 5

Oh I love the idea of an exercise like this, finding it a clever challenge and a difficult one. The outcome is good as well, entertaining and interesting, although I generally prefer to read stories that are a bit longer. Not that I will complain when I see drabbles spark like fireworks, so briefly but also bright. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that I understood the situations the five things happened (or didn't) in, seeing how I'm mostly comfortable with the 3rd Age. Love the Sil, of course, but haven't memorized it and have read only an abysmal amount of 1st Age fics!

Author response: Like you, I'm not a fan of short stories, but going over a few sentences with these quickly began to be painful. I chose key situations in the hope they could be read without wondering what obscure moment they referred to. I'm glad they worked. Thanks for writing a review!

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 5

Oh my! Not only is it intriguing to see a certain letter left unused in each drabble, giving a very different flavour to the writing in every instance - the ideas in these little ficlets are varied and fantastic. The second drabble especially, of Sauron melting the One Ring at Sammath Naur and changing so much with such a little action, sent my mind speeding off in all possible directions trying to suss out what might have happened instead of the known developments - this is one reason I do love AUs. Wonderful work, and though I'm guessing at a lot of personal canon behind some of these, the writing still was greatly enjoyable and made this read a rewarding experience.

Author response: Actually, there's very little personal canon in these except for "Lies in Eregion" and even there you don't need to have read the story it refers to, though of course you miss the irony of Annatar's lie in that case. As for the Sammath Naur, he, he, imagine the Ring being destroyed - The Lord of the Rings goes straight out of the window! Thanks for leaving a review, Elleth!

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 5

I love reading all manner of Five Things That Never Happened to ______ series, and if Russa's offering of the genre just stopped there, I would be pleased enough. These are tantalizing "what if's" that would have shaken the course of Middle-earth history (or in one case, shaken a certain Woodland King's loins). But Russa goes beyond that and uses this as an exercise, a game worthy of Mairon's fiddling about with language, by writing each of the vignettes without using a given vowel! Amazing. I haven't the discipline to do this, so hat's off to the clever Russandol, whom I can count on for skillful writing and most excellent stories, 5 times 5.

Author response: Thanks, Pandë! That "shaken a certain Woodland King's loins" made me giggle stupidly for a few seconds. Hey, and you even compared me to linguist!Mairon. Now I am speechless at THAT praise.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

Russandol presents five intriguing drabbled variations on the theme of Sauron, each of them worthy of thought and quite effective. Though I don't often enjoy slash, I was quite amused at Thranduil's conquest; trust the Elf King to find a novel way of subduing Sauron. And Russandol wrote each of these pieces with the omission of one vowel, a feat I find amazing.

Author response: I'm not generally a writer of drabbles or short pieces, I seem to be too verbose, but this had to be an exception. After all, there's only so many sentences you can write with this particular restriction before throwing the mouse through the computer screen. I'm glad they worked for you, even Thranduil's AU conquest method. Thank you very much for reading and reviewing, Raksha!

Reviewed by: grey_gazania  ✧  Score: 3

These would all be excellent short pieces under normal circumstances, but Russandol's added twist of omitting certain vowels makes them even more dazzling. It seems likely that writing them in such a way was hard work, but there is no awkwardness in the final product - they flow smoothly and she includes much wonderful, vivid imagery. I'm impressed!

Author response: Thank you, Grey_Gazania, some parts made me sweat - so easy to get stuck - but it was fun, too. I'm pleased you like the result. Thanks for leaving a review!