A Powerful Absence

Author: curiouswombat

Nominator: Robinka

2011 Award Category: Elves: Elronds Household - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes

Summary: A simple accident, some years after the end of the Ring War, leaves one of the sons of Elrond coping with life in Middle Earth without his twin.

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Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 10

Dear curioswombat, I truly enjoyed this gentle, thoughtful and deeply moving story. You explore with much tenderness and insight the loving relationships between your characters and the different ways in which they deal with loss, grief and separation. One thing that particularly impressed me was your explanation for why Arwen left Minas Tirith for the Golden Wood: that she did not know how to die and follow Aragorn swiftly. That is a deeply disturbing and haunting thought, and I am glad that you resolved it by letting Elrohir report of Arwen’s arrival – or rather, of her intermediate stop – in Namo’s halls. The ending of your story leaves me feel satisfied; it feels as if Elrohir has returned just as the right time, for himself as well as for the other people involved. I also liked the way you conveyed the passage of time without making the story feel rushed. Legolas and Gimli have a delightful cameo appearance, and it makes perfect sense that they did not sail alone – I have, at times, asked myself how Tolkien imagined that one elf and one dwarf could make such a journey on their own. Altogether, this is a well-rounded and pleasantly told story which I liked very much.

Author response: Thank you so much for this review. Writing this was positively painful at times - a bit like giving birth - and when other people find it moving I am really proud of it. A bit like a parent when someone compliments their child, really. I was so honoured when I realised it had won its section.

Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 10

Moving and well written, with great empathy for Elladan as well as the rest of his family. A sensitive exploration of grief and profound loss that pulls no punches in showing how very devastating death--sudden, unexpected, accidental, like Elrohir's, but also long-expected death such as Aragorn's and Arwen's--can be. Nevertheless this is a far kinder interpretation of the end of the Tale of Arwen and Aragorn than some. To me, as written by Tolkien, it has always seemed very bleak, but of course there are plenty of gaps here that can be filled in, as curiouswombat shows. Arwen, we learn, before her departure from Minas Tirith has tried to follow Aragorn's example and simply does not know how to "do" Numenorean death. Her journey to Lorien is not one of defeat or despair but purposeful: a quest for "fading" as the nearest elven equivalent to Numenorean death--and although she leaves Minas Tirith on her own, alone, she is nevertheless watched over by some of those nearest and dearest to her. And, although there could not be a complete happy end to this story within the bounds of Arda, after long endurance and separation, some measure of reunion is granted to those who suffer and mourn after all.

Author response: Thank you so much for your thoughtful review of A Powerful Absence. This was one of those stories that, once the idea occurred, simply haunted me to write it; and it is so good to know that other people find it believable and worth reading. The idea of Arwen not knowing how to die was in my mind for another story, but it fitted so well into here - I'm glad that it seemed reasonable to you.

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 9

It was a stupid, senseless way for Elrohir to die, and it is Elladan who has to live with the consequences. He knows now that Elrohir chose the path of the Firstborn, and he knows that he is bound to that same path - yet he cannot follow, for he is pledged to see out the lives of Arwen and Estel. But the pain of losing his twin does not diminish with the passage of time, and Arwen herself seems to blame him for their brother's death... I expected something short and elegiac. At three chapters this is still shorter than some stories, but it has a substantive, full-bodied quality to it. There are corners and pockets of grief we might not consider, peculiar to Elladan's situation and that of his loved ones: unexpected sources of pain but surprising sources of comfort as well. For a long time, though, pain has comfort undeniably outmatched. A time comes when there are [few people left in the White City who could remember a time before the reign of King Elessar, who knew that the King and Queen had ever had more than one brother...] In one heartbreaking scene, Arwen expects to follow her dead husband quickly and is cruelly abused of that belief: ["I do not know how to do it. Estel did not tell me how to die and I do not know how to..."] Even that final arrival in Valinor harbors grief, both new and old. Nonetheless, it also marks a time of healing and personal growth. This isn't a story to pick up lightly, but it is rewarding. Hold on.

Author response: Thank you so much for your thoughtful review of A Powerful Absence. This was one of those stories that, once the idea occurred, simply haunted me to write it; and it is so good to know that other people find it believable and worth reading.

Reviewed by: agape4gondor  ✧  Score: 5

I wept. The emotions were so raw when Elladan held Elrohir. And then when Estel came and broke down, weeping in Elladan's shoulder. One of the more poignant moments. The emotions of all were so varied and yet so true. Healing needed for all. I smiled when I read of Arwen's vain attempt to die. It was so sad but felt so true. I could see her stamp her foot even at Estel's total lack of thought. How could he leave her without instructions. The one note of humor in the piece. A certain black humor. I loved Gimli's comfort. And Galadriel's. But felt the absence of Elrond's. A nicely written story. However, I was a bit nonplussed by the AU aspect.

Author response: Thank you so much for your review of A Powerful Absence. I am always humbled when someone says that something I wrote brought them to tears. I have to admit to being slightly nonplussed myself by you saying that you were nonplussed by the AU aspect as, for both my part and that of my beta, we concluded that it is canon compliant. What a shame you can't reply again here and tell me what you thought was AU about it.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 5

[A Powerful Absence] is an authentic and moving character examination of loss. Losing a sibling to death is utterly wrenching (speaking from personal experience). I do not want to attempt to quantitate the degrees of loss, but I can only imagine how awful this would be for twin siblings. Curiouswombat truly captures that emptiness as she follows Elladan's grief when Elrohir dies from a mortal head injury. In doing so, she highlights the humanity of Elves (recall that Tolkien explicitly noted that Elves are Men as we wish to be) but also the differences between the Firstborn and their mortal kin. It's a sensitive story with an uplifting end.

Author response: Thank you, perhaps even more, for reviewing A Powerful Absence - although I am sad to know that you understand the type of sorrow at first hand. This story came to me almost fully formed - but it took me an awfully long time, it seemed, to actually write it all down, as it was really painful sometimes. The pain in birthing it somehow makes me very proud of it when anyone else compliments it!

Reviewed by: Azalais  ✧  Score: 5

Powerful by name, powerful by nature; this is an original and moving perspective on mortality, immortality and the Choice of Luthien and her Peredhil descendants. There are a number of things I particularly like; the very plausible, random, senseless nature of the accident and resulting death at the beginning, after all those centuries of survival; the realisation for the reader that "choosing mortality" might not, for Arwen, in any way mean that she knew how to die; the instinctive solidarity of Celeborn and Legolas. Lovely and thoughtful

Author response: Thank you for the lovely review of A Powerful Absence. I felt very hard of being so... cruel I guess.... to the Elrondionath, but once the question came to me 'What if...?' I simply had to write it. And I am rather fond of this unexpected child.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

I love the idea that one of the sons of Elrond, those mighty orc-slayers, died in peacetime because of a loose stone and a spooked horse. It seems so random and normal, and is rather refreshing. Not so, of course, to Elladan, who must live without his beloved twin. The sense of imbalance in Elladan's life, as his sister and her husband age, and their children grow up and older, without Elrohir's presence, is well delineated. A sensitively written story of love and loss; with a fitting conclusion.

Author response: Thank you so much for your thoughtful review of A Powerful Absence. This was one of those stories that, once the idea occurred, simply haunted me to write it; and it is so good to know that other people find it believable and worth reading.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 3

Not a story that could actually be called an AU, as we are never told the fates of Elrond's sons, and so it is possible a thing like this *could* have happened. What if the two had been sundered by death before they had made their decisions as to whether to follow the path of the Firstborn or Secondborn? It's very sad, and yet has a good ending!

Author response: Thank you so much - especially for commenting that you don't see it as an AU - someone else felt I should have labelled it as one, I think - and yet it seemed to me that, as you say, Tolkien never tells us what happens to them, and so it complies to all the canon we have. I'm glad you like the ending, too.

Reviewed by: Erulisse  ✧  Score: 3

This was a chilling and sad story, but one that really should not be missed. For most of the stories detailing the twin sons of Elrond, injuries happen, separations occur, but death to only one of them? It's a twist of plot that I have not seen before and it was handled with deft choices of words by this very talented author. A must-read.

Author response: Thank you so much for reviewing 'A Powerful Absence'. Rather like 'Pure Morning' (that actually WON a MEFA last year - I was all a-squee!) this is something I am particularly proud of as it insisted on me leaving my comfort zone (drabbles and the Returnverse) and writing it. And writing it was not easy, or comfortable, but I love it dearly. So other people appreciating it always makes me very happy.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 2

An interesting idea, nicely developed. Elves seldom have to deal with death, and their options on how to respond to it are different from those of Men. Well done.

Author response: Thank you. I am so glad that you took time to review this; writing it was a bit like giving birth - it left me feeling limp and exhausted, but very proud of the outcome!

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 1

A touching look at coping with death in the family and continuing life without a loved one.

Author response: Thank you for your review of A Powerful Absence - I was so honoured that it won its class.