The Longest Night

Author: Dawn Felagund

Nominator: Lyra

2010 Award Category: Races: Cross-Cultural: Friendship - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Character death and mature themes.

Summary: In the depths of a bitter winter, Finrod Felagund receives an invitation from Bëor to attend a strange midwinter festival in honor of the longest night of the year.

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Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 10

I was completely entranced by this story. When I saw who the author was, I knew I would be, and I wasn't disappointed. I love the relish with which this story unfolded, beginning with the very young Beren. I suspected his identity before it was revealed, but that's only because I cheated and looked at what characters were involved in the story. Finrod has a wonderfully restive and and eager personality, and it matches Beren's well as the boy chows down in the kitchens. But the real magic of the story comes after Finrod travels with Beren and meets up with Beor. Outside Nargothrond, the world seems to move much faster for Finrod, and I love the way that he didn't quite seem to fit. Awkwardness tainted everything he did or said, and in this, the story embraces the cross cultural category like few others do. Even Finrod's joyous reunion with Beor is off as one of them can't seem to stop trembling. Both closure and understanding come, though, and they come with a flourish. The celebration of the Yule has a mysterious quality even as it all unfolds before Finrod's eyes, and Beor's words about turning night into light hit hard. Finrod might not be able to comprehend everything about this new race he has befriended, but he understands enough to appreciate what they do on the Yule. His own thoughts about the stars speak to that, and I love the hint of traditions continued as he receives another messenger later. A wonderful glimpse into a brief moment of understanding between Elf and Man.

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 10

A tale of reunion, and of one Elf's anguish in his recognition of Men's mortality. When Finrod is invited to visit Bëor's people for a celebration of the longest night, he goes harboring concerns about the meaning of this whole Yule business. Celebrating the longest night of the year sounds too much like celebrating darkness, and he wonders if his old friend has fallen into shadow-worship. When he discovers the ravaging effects that time has had on his friend it is too much for him to bear. But mortality and old age have their own wisdom to impart, and Bëor is able to grant his to Finrod, teaching him the meaning behind his people's celebration of Yule. The beauty of the celebration and the revelation in Finrod's heart undid me a little as well. What a wonderful lesson. What a beautiful story. In addition to old ties of friendship we see Finrod make a new acquaintance in the person of Bëor's grandson, who brings the invitation in the first place. I will say that, hardy though they may be, I was surprised these folks should send an 8-year-old out alone on a journey of several days in such conditions, but the boy is presented engagingly - bold, gap-toothed and desirous to represent his family and his people favorably to a noble Elf king...who can easily relate due to memories from his own childhood. Awesomeness moment when the lad is bemused by the idea of a noble Elf king getting a runny nose! I enjoyed the gentle humor at work here, and it's a small detail, but I also liked the detail of Finrod's page at the beginning and end of the story, marking the inexorable - and baffling, to ever-preoccupied Finrod - passage of time.

Reviewed by: Ignoble Bard  ✧  Score: 10

I love reading stories about Yule and Solstice celebrations so I was gladdened to have come across this wonderful story. It’s also always interesting to read of the interactions between Elves and Men where the question of immortality/mortality hangs between them. Dawn handles both themes exceptionally well here. I particularly enjoyed the writing of the scene about the changing seasons going largely unnoticed by Finrod, living as he does in a realm intentionally designed to be timeless and unchanging. The way these changes are thrust back into his attention is bittersweet when he Is summoned by an old friend to celebrate the longest night of the year among the Edain. I also found it interesting that the celebration makes Finrod uneasy, playing into fears and rumors the Elves have concerning the Edain, fears Finrod knows to be untrue but which makes him anxious for his friend. The scene where Finrod learns that Elves and Men are more alike than different is another favorite, reaffirming as it does the connection between the races and foreshadowing later canon events skillfully. And this story is a tribute to the author’s skill, considering it was written as a gift fic to very explicit specifications. Not only does Dawn manage to include all the requested elements, she also creates a work of subtle depth and emotion that hits all the right notes. I would recommend this story as an excellent read for any time of year.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

Yuletide stories are often the excuse to bring out the holiday traditions and images that we love best and wrap them all up in a suitable fictional cover and deploy them. It's good fun, and everybody has a different take on what happens and what it means. Dawn's Finrod is still adapting to Middle-earth: his struggle with the changeable seasons, his sense of time racing by, his maladjustment to cold (Amen, brother, I'm with you!) all conspire against him when Beren shows up on his doorstep one day, a messenger from his grandfather. Their reunion is very affecting - Dawn does an excellent job showing how unfamiliar age has made Bëor, and how deeply this pains Finrod. Yet Bëor manages to put his finger on a point in that reaction: that it assumes a certain afflictedness of mankind, which perception this celebration I think is intended to help lift Finrod free of. In so doing, he teaches his friend something new about humanity - repayment, in a way, for Finrod's friendship, and a link to the next generation that will prove vital. It's a lovely story, with some beautiful images - do give it a read! If you like holiday stories, or encounters between mortals and immortals, you'll undoubtedly enjoy this.

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 9

I am so glad I came across this tale. Dawn Felagund presents a masterfully crafted story here with intensely atmospheric prose, with very evocative descriptions of the winter landscape and the people therein. There is superb characterisation of Finrod Felagund as someone who lives in several realities simultaneously and finds it hard to get his bearings – the image of having to focus ones eyes on a butterfly on the nose after having stared at a sweeping vista is a impressive and very fitting simile. Beren, likewise, is wonderfully drawn as a boy who is [trying hard to make his parents proud], a feat which Dawn Felagund accomplishes with a few carefully placed details. The meeting between Finrod and the meanwhile ancient Beor is touching and poignant and expressed with some of the best turned phrases I’ve read in a while. That Finrod is troubled by the idea of Beor’s people celebrating, even worshipping the darkness is feasible, and he is surprised by the sudden outburst of light and by Beor’s words of wisdom. [Your people would say that we are afflicted: born into death in a world of shadows. We would say that when we are given darkness we bestow it with light by whatever means we may, no matter how simple.] A beautiful story, gentle, touching and splendidly worded. Thank you for giving us such a great example of what fanfiction can be like at its best.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 8

Finrod is one of my favorite Elves, possibly my favorite (since Elrond is, technically, half--Elven). And yet, he is often overlooked in Silmarillion fanfiction in favor of his flashy sister and equally (if not more so) flashy cousins. Dawn Felagund focuses on Finrod in this wonderfully written story; which juxtaposes the Elf-lord's long view of life and friendship with that of his friends in the House of Beor. Finrod's association with the mortals is written beautifully here; Finrod really doesn't grasp the brevity of mortal life until he sees Beor, who he remembers as a strong man in his prime, as a very old man. And what Finrod learns from Beor and his people - the mortals' strength and desire to prize light from the darkness - is conveyed naturally here. The legendary Beren appears in the story, but not as he is usually written - and his appearance makes a lot of sense in the context of his future relationship with Finrod. Plus, the character is handled delightfully here. One of Dawn's best stories, not to be missed by any Tolkien aficionado!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 7

This was written for a Yule exchange, and Dawn managed to get in all the requests of her recipient in a beautiful tale of cross-cultural friendship doing so in a manner both natural and heart-warming. Finrod has made himself a friend to mortals, but he does not quite understand them. An invitation from his old friend Beor leads him to see for the first time what the celebration of the Solstice meant to Men. I really like his characterization here. This is an Elf with great compassion and respect for the Edain. Yet the effects of time upon his mortal friends, and the sundered fate they face confuse and dismay him. We see here the beginnings of what it means for one of the Firstborn to befriend one of the Secondborn. That friend may be gone, not killed in war, but from the effects of what must seem a very short time to an Elf while a very long ore to a mortal. Yet at the same time there is continuity to be found in his descendants-- the same, but not the same, as they forge their own friendship. A very touching story!

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 5

I am going to dash off a few last-minute, 'I am so annoyed with myself' reviews before the clock strikes and the voting officially closes. I really did intend to review this one earlier. I enjoyed it so much. I love Finrod and like to see him from different perspectives. I like to think about Finrod's interactions with men as well. The entire anthropological aspect of his encounters never cease to fascinate me. You turned the trope on its head and gave the reader a very different view of all those elements. I enjoyed the story so much. It's beautifully written, original and creative and deserves a so much more thoughtful review. Anyway, hope it does well and I really liked it.

Reviewed by: Fiondil  ✧  Score: 5

For the Elves of Beleriand who live in a state of timelessness, at least with respect to mortals, it must have been difficult for them to understand why the Edain celebrated certain times of the year. Finrod’s concern about his friend Beor and his people celebrating the dark is a case in point. Of course, that is not what the Edain are doing and it’s nice to see a story where mortals can teach something to an immortal. Dawn gives us a glimpse of life in Beleriand during the Watchful Peace that we don’t often see in fanfiction. This is a welcome addition to such stories.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

The Elves do not truly understand the Edain, not even the great Finrod Felagund, friend to Men. Why do Men appear to celebrate the dark as they hold feasts on the longest night of the year? Beor, now an old man unlike the individual Finrod remembers, seeks to teach his friend how and why it is that men do as they do, filling the darkness with light.... A gentle celebration of the transient nature of mortal life shared with one who expects at the time never to die. Dawn has wrought a story that is fully worthy of celebration.