Scent of Reality

Author: Himring

Nominator: Robinka

2011 Award Category: First Age and Prior: Feanorians

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

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

Summary: Huan and a recovering Maedhros on the shore of Lake Mithrim. Part of my Maedhros series, but can be read as stand-alone. Allusion to torture (i.e. of Maedhros in Angband) and its effect on the mind, but not graphic.

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Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 10

Stories about Maedhros after Thangorodrim are, for me, a prime example of why fanfiction is not only good but in fact necessary: The psychological effects his captivity must have had on Maedhros are only alluded to in the published "Silmarillion", but they must have been so complex and overwhelming that one feels compelled to consider them in more depth. In this thought-provoking ficlet, Himring lets Maedhros struggle with the difficulty of understanding what is real, or rather understanding that there are other realities than Angband. Thanks to Huan, he discovers that he has been tuning out his olfactory sense altogether; by searching inside himself and (so to say) switching his nose back on, he finds a valuable tool that helps to convince him that the green waters and rocky shores of Lake Mithrim are real and dependable. While the road to full healing is no doubt still long, Maedhros makes a step towards recovery. The difficult theme and the dark workings in the mind of Maedhros are made bearable by humorous little observations - Huan's wet-dog smell, Maedhros' self-deprecating conversation with the Hound of Valinor. A well-written and innovative animal therapy!

Author response: Well, I suppose if we believe the author, Maedhros survived because "the fire of life was hot within him, and his strength was of the ancient world, such as those possessed who were nurtured in Valinor", although even Tolkien concedes us "the shadow of pain". Somehow that has never been quite enough for me--or for you either, judging by "The Tempered Steel"! I'm glad that my experiment with animal therapy "avant la lettre" appealed to you! Thank you very much for the review!

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 10

There is so much to love about this story. I have always liked the idea of Huan a lot, although, strictly speaking, I am not a dog person. I also imagine him as a wolf hound--very large, rather strongly scented, with wise eyes, and a kind face. If a dog could bring Maedhros back to reality, Huan would be the one I am sure. Favorite section: {‘I suppose I am lucky, Huan, that you are not permitted to speak. Otherwise, I would be in for a lecture—would I not?—on my lack of true repentance and of proper gratitude?’ Huan opened his snout and yawned, showing an abundance of magnificent teeth and about a foot-length of narrow pink tongue. Then he leaned harder against Maedhros, almost causing him to topple over. ‘That has cut me down to size, hasn’t it? I’m simply not all that interesting.’ Maedhros gave Huan a slight push with his shoulder in order to right himself again. It felt like pushing against a furry rock. He thought: I am truly in a sorry state—I take it personally when a dog yawns at me! Huan may be a Hound of Orome, but he is still a dog. Dogs yawn.} I think I like best the part about how shutting down one's senses would be one of the mental and physical responses to dealing with the horror of Angband. And having one's sense of smell curtailed could make one's connection with reality more tenuous. Finally, on the road to recovery, a dog like Huan would be a great comfort I would think. So, liking Huan and liking Maedhros, I really have to like this story. Secondly, I want to know how Maedhros moved from almost dead, a prisoner of Morgoth and all that would imply if one were the son of the Elf that Morgoth most hated, to becoming strong enough again to be the astute and determined general and politician who, along with Fingon, managed to bring together the defensive alliance that held back Morgoth's hordes for so long. I'll accept Huan as the beginning of that process, although {"Maedhros in time was healed; for the fire of life was hot within him, and his strength was of the ancient world"}, he also had good friends, Fingon and his brothers, and not the least of which apparently was his brother's hound. I like that idea.

Author response: Thank you so much for your lovely review, Oshun! Actually, in Himring 'verse, it is mainly Maglor and Fingon between them that helped Maedhros to recover, as I have Maedhros himself confess elsewhere. But that does not mean I think he could not have had or needed other help as well, including Huan's. And I do think Huan could have been very helpful.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 5

This is a very wonderful tale of Maedhros. One of the best I've read, to be quite honest. I love the author's presentation of him, not a helpless weakling, but hardly over his past hurts and invincible once more. His portrayal here was real, something I appreciated quite a bit. One thing that stood out to me in this piece was Himring's beautiful prose. Simple and understated, the writing still managed to convey what the author intended without all the extra frills and furbelows. It was fitting, I thought, considering Maedhros's presence as the main character. A very lovely story, I found.

Author response: Thank you very much! I'm so glad that the portrayal of Maedhros here convinced you. He is a character that is very important to me. And, of course, I'm extremely flattered by what you say about my prose!

Reviewed by: Elfique  ✧  Score: 4

A wonderful little ficlet. Sometimes nothing does the trick like a little bit of friendly animal support! Lots of little bits of detail and snippets of information that seem to make this ficlet fuller/more rounded off/fleshed out, for example the reference to Nerdanel was a great little diversion from the story at hand but didn't feel out of place or unnecessary. The final paragraph provides a lovely image of them both.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 4

This is magnificently descriptive for such a brief tale. It is an exploration of the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations--or lack thereof--of Maedhros, following his rescue. Huan helps the Elf, insofar as he can. The descriptions and imagery are good, but what really makes this story so impressive is the perceptiveness and sensitivity brought to bear on the subject of torture and the aftermath. Maedhros has survived, barely, and is adjusting as best he can. Very well written!

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 4

I thoroughly enjoy Himring's interpretations of the Fëanorians, and [Scent of Reality] is an excellent example of her work. I loved the entwined senses here: the theme of the color green and scent, particularly of Huan, who offers a canine kind of comfort to the scarred Maedhros, newly freed from captivity. The descriptive prose and rhythm of the piece are great, and there's a soft humor at work here, too. The idea that a dog's odor brings Maedhros to push aside his dark memories is inspired, for scent triggers the deepest memories of all.

Author response: Thank you very much, both for your kind comments on this piece and for saying you enjoy my Feanorians in general! In the back of my mind, as I was writing this, I had a theory I had come across that human beings use their sense of smell to orient themselves both in their physical environment and in social interaction far more than is usually believed. This was an article by a popular science journalist and one that expressed itself in a rather sensationalist, exaggerated way. But it still seemed to me likely that this might be true to some extent.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 3

Smell is such a difficult sense to work with, I find, so I enjoyed seeing Himring use it as a catalyst, and to make the recovery of this sense a step on the way to healing. Nicely done, and I loved the descriptions of Huan - very dog-like!

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 3

After his rescue from Angband, Maedhros is still caught in the fear that nothing is real and that everything around him is some new for of illusion, despite his family's attempts to convince him otherwise. But Huan is the one who finally helps Maedhros perceive reality once more.

Author response: Thank you for reviewing several of my stories!

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 2

Very nice little story. I love this special, delicate bond between Huan and Maedhros, and the idea that Huan's presence helped Maedhros in healing. Well done.

Author response: Thank you very much! I think any dog might have helped but, of course, Huan is a very special dog indeed!