Nominator: Isabeau of Greenlea
2008 Award Category: Races: Men - First Place
Story Type: Story ✧ Length: Short Story
Rating: General ✧ Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: "Then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden..."
Reviewed by: dkpalaska ✧ Score: 10
I think one reason (among many, many others) that I enjoy Altariel's Faramir stories so much is that the author's writing is as subtle and understated, and yet as deep, as the Steward and Prince himself. They compliment each other perfectly, and this is a sublime example. It is a rare thing we're shown, adult Faramir losing Beren is as surprised as the rest of us! (["The Queen," he explained, "has the advantage of experience."] *snort!*) How he draws Beren into enjoying his company highlights that his keen observational and interpersonal skills have not suffered from the passage of time any more than his dry humor has. The many historical allusions that accompany the naming of the pieces are wonderful, just wonderful. Even here, Faramir tucks in quiet lessons that may resonate later and do, as we see from Beren's drawing. Such a beautiful reference to Faramir's White Lady, whom he will see soon; not too bad a trade, for not living to see the Tower of the Moon restored. (And that image through Beren's drawing was indeed glorious.) The interactions between Faramir and his great-grandson are a treasure for the reader as much as for Faramir, and I love the thought that the next owner of the chess set has been chosen. Quiet, thoughtful, sad and hopeful all at once, this is a lovely addition to any Faramir-lover's fanfic favorites.
Reviewed by: Dwimordene ✧ Score: 10
Altariel's Faramir is always splendid - wise, witty, passionate when needed, and shrewd out of habit and heritage. He also spontaneously alliterates when the story calls for it, as does the author herself. The language is evocative, but also crisp - Altariel has the gift of precision. The idea of passing in its several meanings plays itself out in this story: in passing - a chance encounter of great-grandfather and great-grandson, and the history of chance encounters (the White Queen who sweeps in from nowhere to change everything); the passing of time in an irreversible direction, and the passing of stories and histories in various forms; the passing on and bequeathing of wishes and dreams. The passing of gifts unlooked for. Faramir and Beren negotiate all of these passages and passings beautifully, in an interesting demonstration that history, though inescapable, can give birth to happy chances and newness just because of the relation to the past. I loved the genealogy, and the fact that Faramir chooses to write back to life his own father, and his grandfather, back to Turin in a long line of wishes and hopes bequeathed to future (now present) generations. Beautiful as always, Altariel - anyone who loves Gondor and especially Faramir will enjoy this brief tale.
Reviewed by: Aervir ✧ Score: 10
Altariel has always been one of my favourite authors in Tolkien fandom because she captures one of my favourite characters so wonderfully; this ficlet -- which I somehow failed to notice until now -- is no exception. Faramir's characterization is as subtle as it is precise in this brief story. Within the space of a few paragraphs, he is presented as a ruler, prince and strategic mind; as a scholar attracted by the lure of words and gifted with verbal dexterity himself; as a supreme reader and judge of other people; and, above all, as a 'family man' connecting lineage and posterity. The latter theme is of outstanding importance in 'The Lord of the Rings', and it is picked up in this piece of writing in a very hopeful manner. The title is a deft pun on the seeming effortlessness of this casual history lesson for young Beren; on Faramir's advanced age that has brought him close to death, and the essential distinction between 'passing on' and 'passing away'. What is passed on here are the most life-affirming aspects of Tolkien's idiosyncratic brand of conservatism-with-a-small-c, where restoration, regeneration and renewal meet each other in the image of the garden of Ithilien -- not the land of old any longer, but won back for all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to come. Wonderful!
Reviewed by: annmarwalk ✧ Score: 9
A brief interlude: a rainy morning, an old man, and an extremely fortunate young one. Faramir uses an ancient game to illustrate more recent history. No one, no one, writes Faramir as well as Altariel does, and in this slightly bittersweet tale she has given us a loving vision of the Prince at peace. I'm particularly delighted, though, by her extraordinarily vivid writing of an original character, Faramir's great-grandson, Beren. This boy is so real! I see him every day: [He sat down opposite, curling one foot beneath him and hooking the other around the leg of his chair.] Beren's a bit standoffish at first, not quite comfortable with his distinguished great-grandsire, nor overjoyed with the invitation to stay and chat for a bit. [The boy did not look much taken with the idea, but Barahir encouraged respect for the Prince and excellent manners.] Yet Faramir has inherited, and perfected, his father's skill at reading hearts, and soon recognizes how the boy's interest is to be stirred: [What Beren liked, his great-grandfather had noted, was to be given pictures. Strong images captured his mind and had to be set down.] I've taken great delight in this year's MEFA particularly for the crop of fascinating, well-drawn original characters: dwarf women preparing to send their men to war; bold and courageous hobbit-lasses, compassionate men of Harad; and, particularly, this gangly boy who will use his own unique gifts and talents to interpret the history of his home and forebears in a whole new way.
Reviewed by: Imhiriel ✧ Score: 7
What I loved most about this short story was how meticulously and vividly the scene was set - in describing the surroundings as well as the characters and their moods - with fine brushstrokes that were as unobtrusive as they were clear. The interactions between the characters were very natural; I especially liked the mixture of obvious affection between the two on one side, and the restraint of showing it on the other - it felt very real to me and just how I would imagine from Faramir, especially in the mood as described. It is such a pleasure to track the many creative ways in which Altariel weaves her trademark chess metaphors into so many of her stories, always fresh and meaningful for each individual story and perfectly fitted to the symbolism as well as the actual point of the plot she wants to convey. Here, it was lovely to see an additional layer as Faramir himself uses the chess pieces as symbols to tell a story.
Reviewed by: Isabeau of Greenlea ✧ Score: 5
Chess games are a repeating motif in Altariel's stories, and they've had their place in mine as well, which is interesting since I don't believe either of us play. This story leads me to believe she might have taken some lessons since we first met. Faramir, the accomplished chess player, ever the scholar, uses the game as a means of communicating to his great-grandson the history closest to his heart, during a rainy morning that finds the energetic, artistic youngster cooped up inside. Beren, wary as the young often are of their oldest relatives, warms up eventually to the old man, and leaves him a hopeful promise for the future. As usual with Altariel, the words are sparse, lyrical and used to good purpose.
Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon ✧ Score: 5
Sigh. This is such a lovely story, graceful and melancholy-elegiac with touches of history and poetry and legend; very appropriate for Faramir's old age. I just adore the flow here, as the soul-searing Great Events in Gondor 3018-3019 pass from memory into a game of strategy into history and a picture drawn by a child descended from those who lived through it. And it ends with a vision, one shared by Faramir and his great-grandson, of Minas Tirith and the rebuilt Minas Ithil to be; that Faramir will not live to see but that the boy will. I can't help but thinking that Faramir has had a lot to do with assuring that young Beren, and others, will see that vision come true. Well done!
Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger ✧ Score: 5
A beautiful tale of a very wise Faramir and what seems to be a precocious yet well-mannered great grandson. I love the way that Faramir decides not to teach outright but rather to play and display. Of course, he's going to get in the odd lesson or two, but really, the lesson is for the readers. His wisdom in taking what he has and allowing others to do the same is profound. I love the passage in which he decides that the morning will soon be gone and reflects on the fact that a lifelong tale can be learned over another lifetime. Wonderfully elegant writing at the same time that it contains all the simplicity of childhood.
Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke ✧ Score: 4
What a lovely story. I thought at first it was to be a Faramir passing away story, but now I see it is a Faramir passing things on story. Your allegory with the chess pieces was inspired, delicate and never forced. I particularly liked that you did not choose sides: the black knights and the White Lady were all on the side of good. You touched on so much without giving us a lesson, either.
Reviewed by: Larner ✧ Score: 4
It's been a long and fulfilling life, and here, so close to the end of it, there is another treasure to rejoice over, one whose attention is caught in images. To tell his life's story--briefly--in terms of the pieces on his beloved chessboard--it is something he can share on a rainy morning; and the child returns the gift in his pictures. A perfect telling of the quiet at the end of a well played game. Imagery is perfect for the subject!
Reviewed by: Marta ✧ Score: 3
This is a lovely portrait of well-earned peace for Faramir. I love how his mind is so sharp even at the end, and how one of his last acts is to connect his future with that boy's past - it seems fitting, and very in-keeping with Faramir's love of Inas Tirith as a city pregnant with history. This is a great story, Altariel, very thought-provoking and touching.
Reviewed by: Bodkin ✧ Score: 3
Very touching - Faramir as an old man, passing knowledge on to the restless young. And the pictures - of the Black Captains and the White Lady. Perhaps, one day, Beren will remember a wet morning and treasure the time spent with his great-grandfather.
Reviewed by: Ainaechoiriel ✧ Score: 3
I felt the age of Faramir in reading this, but also his wisdom. I felt the youth of the boy and also his respect. I liked the use of the chess pieces, how they felt familiar to us Earthlings but also different to fit the world Tolkien created. I liked how Faramir thought of the future without sadness and the past without regret. Well done, Altariel!
Reviewed by: crowdaughter ✧ Score: 2
A nice, sweet character study of an aged Faramir, using the means of a chess board. Very nicely done.
Reviewed by: phyloxena ✧ Score: 2
The most touching and glorious story, peaceful and heroic, and sad, too. Faramir tells his great-grandson something of chess and something of history.
Reviewed by: nancylea ✧ Score: 1
and in a few short years, what a memory for the child.