At the Sammath Naur

Author: Aratlithiel

Nominator: Marta

2005 Award Category: Books/Time: Gap-Filler: Drama - Second Place

Story Type: Vignette  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: PG  ✧  Reason for Rating: Dark themes.

Summary: Frodo claims the Ring.

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Reviewed by: Inkling  ✧  Score: 10

“At the Sammath Naur” provides a riveting response to one of Tolkien’s great unanswered questions: What were Frodo’s thoughts and feelings when he claimed the Ring? From its grim opening lines—“He walked to his death. Sweet relief. He expected nothing more.”—to its devastating conclusion, the story thrusts the reader into the heart of darkness, to experience with Frodo the horror of the Ring as he hangs “upon the razor’s edge.” This is classic gapfiller, and it’s a testament to Aratithiel’s talent that the expansion of the scene never seems forced or gratuitous, but completely logical within the context of the story. In LOTR, we witness the events at the Cracks of Doom in swiftly passing “real time”—from Sam’s POV. But as seen and experienced by Frodo, trapped in the nightmare world of the Ring, time in this story seems not to matter, or even exist. Thus he can stand locked in the Ring’s deadly embrace for what seems an agonizing eternity, or can put It on and simultaneously know and experience “everything”—all in the fleeting span of an instant. With deft economy and indelible imagery, “At the Sammath Naur” operates on both a philosophical level—touching on the nature of good and evil, sacrifice and betrayal—and a visceral one, capturing Frodo’s tortured struggle in fiery, poetic language. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s a terrific read.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 10

Sharp, poignant, and gut-wrenching. I don't think I've ever found a more encompassing and involving look at Frodo's moment of decision. I love the way that it both begins and ends with a sobering expectation of failure and death. The resignation in Frodo is chilling, but it becomes even more so when we realize that Frodo has felt this way ever since Cirith Ungol. That was a master stroke on the part of Aratlithiel, and it was perfectly paced to strike a very grim tone in the story. And it makes so much sense! Trapped in Cirith Ungol, Frodo experiences exactly what it feels like to have the Ring ripped from him and given to another. He will never willingly throw it into the fires after that, and he knows it. But he still tries, and herein lies one of this piece's greatest strengths: Frodo himself. This is a brilliantly complete characterization of Frodo, showing his wisdom, his acceptance, his courage, and his tenacity. The moment when Frodo realizes that he was sent as a sacrifice is powerful, but even more powerful is his response: he would have gone anyway. They didn't need to keep their covert plots and plans from him. It's exactly what one would expect of Frodo, and even as he claims the Ring, it's a mark of his integrity that he can hold to this much of himself, especially in the face of such stinging betrayal. Great story with brilliant character introspection and a wonderful gauntlet of emotions. It's been a long time since I read anything quite this good.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 7

Very surreal. A good portrayal of the ambivalent relationship of the Ringbearer and the Ring, love and hate entwined. I particularly liked the paradox of Frodo blinded by his claim upon the Ring, yet seeing and being everything at once—in exchange for his own identity, he's claimed by the being of everything else and crushed under it, even as I would imagine the Dark Lord is, who put his essence into things and so left himself vulnerable to the destruction of one of them. The revelation of Gandalf's and Elrond's thoughts and knowledge, and Frodo's bitter protest that he would've done their bidding even with their knowledge is well-played, the transmutation of compassion into a lie in his eyes the final stripping away Frodo endures, until Gollum arrives. Interesting also the suggestion that Frodo was in the end responsible for the destruction of the Ring, if not by his own hand, at least by his immediately present intention.

Reviewed by: Cuthalion  ✧  Score: 6

This tale was the second of Aratlithiels' I ever translated into german, and it took me a great amount of blood, sweat and tears - to be able and keep up with her glorious richness of language and use of words, and the enormous complexity of this astonishing piece. The reader witnesses Frodo in the Sammath Naur, finally succumbing under the influence of the ring and claiming the treasure of the enemy for himself. His thoughts, the depth of his suffering and agony are described with an impact that leaves you breathless and shaken, and the sheer power of this story will always make it one of my all-time-favorites.

Reviewed by: ErinRua  ✧  Score: 6

Aratlithiel achieves a terrible poetry with this vignette, a rare and wrenching look at Frodo's most pivotal moment. How grim, how marvelous that she brings us fully within the tumult of Frodo's mind, the torment of the Ring, the utter exhaustion of his long struggle, the towering, terrible clarity in the moment he claims the Ring, and the end, so bitter and final and welcome. Though this moment has been addressed in fan fiction before, I don't think I have seen it done with such haunting lyricism or such poetic perfection. I am left drained and heartsick at the end, and only knowledge of Frodo's ultimate fate keeps me from the threat of tears. Powerfully, beautifully told.

Reviewed by: Marigold  ✧  Score: 5

This is nothing short of exquisite –its imagery, vividness, emotion, and truths. I loved all of it, but I especially liked the part after Frodo has claimed the Ring, in which he is all and everything – he is Sam, Merry, Pippin, he sees into the hearts of Gandalf and Elrond reading the knowledge there that they knew he could not cast the Ring into the Fire should he make it this far. I loved Frodo’s thoughts upon this revelation – “I would have done it anyway. I would have come. You needn’t have lied. I would have tried…” Such a poignant thought, so in character for Frodo, but I think that the Wise knew best.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 5

From the first time I read this I was stunned at the amazing imagery and insight into Frodo's soul as he grappled with the last ditch efforts of the Ring to save itself. His knowledge that he would have to die to accomplish his task overcome by the Ring's power there in the heart of the mountain, his feelings of helplessness, betrayal, and finally of his resignation, as he thought he was going to die, all brilliantly portrayed. One of the best depictions of this scene I have ever read.

Reviewed by: Rabidsamfan  ✧  Score: 3

I've read this before, but it's stunning every time. I particularly like the way that the words wind Frodo deeper and deeper into the thrall of the Ring, and how the new perception he gains with claiming it does not completely bury the hobbit who would have tried anyway...

Reviewed by: Ainaechoiriel  ✧  Score: 3

Not sure of the ending but the portrayal of Frodo being seduced by the Ring with all its contradictions was very well played out and I liked the visions of all he could see, all he was, once he put the Ring on. The part at the end that I liked a lot was Frodo's weariness, his willingness to accept the peace of death.