Bronwe Athan Harthad

Author: Marta

Nominator: Linaewen

2011 Award Category: Modern Times: General - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

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

Summary: In the wake of a family tragedy, how will JRR Tolkien carry on with his "mad hobby"? (AU)

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Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 10

This is an outstanding fanfiction story; and it goes where I don't think any Tolkien fanfiction story has gone before, into an alternate branch of the timeline of LOTR's creator himself. Marta uses the device of the epistolary story to tell the tale; as JRRT writes letters to the son who in real life was his editorial assistant and ultimate heir to Middle-earth, Christopher. In the story, Christopher Tolkien dies in his country's service in 1945; and his saddened father continues to write letters that will never reach him. It's a great way to reveal JRRT's grief in a particularly naked, vivid fashion. I was struck by how similar the letters in the story seem to Tolkien's letters in real life; more kudos to Marta. It's a nifty circle of story to myth to real life; especially when Edith Tolkien has the name "Dior" put on Christopher's gravestone; counterpointed by JRRT's saying in a letter that he always considered Christopher his heir to Middle-earth. Thankfully, in real life, all of Tolkien's children survived World War II. This story does offer a richly written look at what might have happened to Tolkien himself as well as Middle-earth, had Christopher died. I recommend it to all who care not only about LOTR, but who are interested in how the events of Tolkien's own life affected his creative vision.

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 10

Dear Marta, I was very impressed with this text, with the project in itself as well as with the execution. The question you raise – how would Tolkien have felt about writing the darker and more violent passages of Lord of the Rings, if he had suffered a personal loss in the war – is a very valid one and I found the way you have answered it convincing. Perhaps in that case, the lament of the death after the Battle on the Pelennor would have been a little more personal and less cursory. It was a very suitable quote you chose from the conversation between Faramir and Frodo, one that gave just the right feel to the text. Likewise the reference to the names on the gravestone fitted really well. I thought it was very believable that Tolkien might write such letters to his dead son, since he was obviously a man who expressed himself very frequently in that way. You have hit the tone spot on, it sounds very convincingly like Tolkien, and I think you were right to use the quiet, gentle understatement rather than any excessive expressions of grief. It was a very touching detail that the parents hoped for a stray letter to arrive after they had received the news of their son’s death. Altogether, most excellently done.

Reviewed by: Linaewen  ✧  Score: 10

This piece is awesome in the truest sense of the word. Marta's AU looks closely at a what if situation that is almost frightening to contemplate -- if Christopher Tolkien had died in the war, then how might that have affected his father, who relied on his son's insight so heavily in creating his masterpieces of Middle-earth? The words in the form of letters to his son could have been written by Tolkien in truth, for they sound just like him! It is a blessing to see here how Tolkien copes with his grief; he continues to write to his son, and we are allowed to see how his practical nature and propensity towards hope in the midst of despair are always present. Tolkien is enduring much here, yet one gets the feeling that such endurance will indeed produce hope unexpected. Even though Marta leaves it open-ended as to what will happen to his writing creation, I believe Tolkien will indeed press forward eventually, and find the fortitude he needs to move through the grief and find his way again -- no doubt taking his pain, grief and loss along with him and turning it into good, insightful story-telling. That is what he did in real life, and while I believe the loss of his Faramir in real life might have derailed him for a significant amount of time, Tolkien was so sensitive to that epic tale that was bottled up inside him that there is no way it could not be allowed to eventually come out. An awesome tale that produces awe in the reader -- not only for the strength of heart that Tolkien shows, but for the understanding it produces in the reader as to what an amazing person Tolkien truly was.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 7

JRRT's Letters are filled with things that tell us about the sort of man he was: imaginative, romantic, opinionated, dogmatic, devout, old-fashioned even for his own time, and devoted to his wife and family. The Father Christmas Letters and Roverandom both show us a man who not only loved his sons, but brought them to share his own special world. His relationship with Christopher was especially strong, and some of his letters written to Christopher during WWII show a father who addressed his son as "dearest" and who worried about his safety and tried to write things that could help him endure the horrors of war, often by sharing his progress on LotR. This is an AU that asks the unthinkable question: would he have had the heart to finish the story if his son and (at the time) most devoted reader had been lost to him? Marta doesn't give us a definitive answer, but instead makes us think: how would such a crushing loss have affected his work?

Reviewed by: Fiondil  ✧  Score: 4

Tragedy is only a breath away for any of us. In this well-written story told in letter form, we see a ‘what-if’ situation that could so easily have happened to Tolkien and how, if such a tragedy had occurred, this might have affected the writing of his Legendarium, especially LOTR. Marta captures Tolkien’s voice so accurately, I could actually ‘hear’ him through these letters and one can truly sorrow for the man and the pain he is experiencing. Well done!

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

This is a most poignant might-have-been as we see Tolkien deciding what he should do about his work in progress in the wake of the (possible) death of his son Christopher, stationed overseas for so long. What might he have felt, and how might it have changed his desire to finish The Lord of the Rings or to continue to expand on the world of Arda? Thoughtful and emotional, this story skillfully explores the depths of feelings that we humans are capable of knowing. Definitely a story I recommend.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 3

I liked the author's take on how JRRT's outlook on certain things would have changed had his son died in the war. The scenarios and situations presented are certainly plausible, based on what the average observer understands. Beyond that, this piece provokes thought and contemplation, putting things into perspective on a more metafictional level.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 2

A gripping and unexpected AU which throws a light on how the grief and personal experiences of his family ties might have influenced Tolkien's work. well done!