Fighting Dragons

Author: Larner

Nominator: Kara's Aunty

2011 Award Category: Drabble Series: General - Second Place

Story Type: Drabble  ✧  Length: Drabble Series

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Violence

Summary: Drabble pairs in which Samwise Gamgee ponders the dangerous beasts he learns of from Mr. Bilbo's stories, both pre-quest and after he's actually encountered them. Inspired by the Tolkien Weekly "Fell Beasts" challenges.(A set of seven pairs of true drabbles regarding Sam's changing conceptions of fantastic beasts.)

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Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 6

Oh, Larner, this is such a clever concept for a ficlet series! So neat and so fitting. Yes, they had all their stories in the Shire about the various fable creatures, which is just what rural communities in the real world used to have, with the big difference that in Middle-earth, they really exist… I like how you’ve contrasted the homely stories that Sam heard in his childhood and youth with the real horrors encountered by the hobbits on their travels. The reply to Ted Sandyman was brilliant! ;-) But true enough, as you have Sam say at the end, the hobbits that remained in the Shire will find it nigh impossible to understand – and less and less so as the years go by. A well thought-out, well-constructed series which I enjoyed.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 6

Larner gives you double helpings - each monster is twice encountered, before and after the Quest, forming a set of neat drabble diptychs. I loved the spider diptych best, I think: although Sam does find something in the spiders to be repulsed by, and which might have saved him much trouble later on (or at least, might have saved him grief, though maybe not trouble...), that sour note is only one note in the whole. I love that Frodo finds the spiders' web-building beautiful, and that even Sam appreciates that aspect of them. I also enjoyed the goblin diptych, for what it shows of the steely side of Samwise Gamgee. He's not all sunshine and light - he's been tried and come out alive from a situation that most people can't imagine and wouldn't have survived, and he doesn't take flak from anyone. Well done!

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 6

This story is a series of excellently-written drabbles, all featuring Sam Gamgee, and each dealing with a different monster of Middle-Earth. The author has done a wonderful job of capturing Sam's "voice." My favorites are the ones in which Sam, post-Ring War, deals with that oaf Ted Sandyman, and the final drabble, in which young Frodo-lad tells the other children something of the exploits of his father and his namesake. As Sam sadly observes, the children will not even begin to understand. In the Shire as in real life, people who live in peace and happiness seldom do understand how much others have sacrificed to save them. Each one of these can be read as a stand-alone, or as part of the larger story, as portrayed here. Either way, they will be enjoyed.

Reviewed by: Kara's Aunty  ✧  Score: 5

A lovely selection of stories, which are cleverly split into pre- and post- experience drabbles of whichever dangerous beast each chapter is dedicated to. And well written also, as I've come to expect from an author of Larner's calibre. It was interesting to read Sam'a innocent speculations when we, the readers, know very well that he will encounter these dangerous beings years later. In chapter seven, Frodo-lad's pride in both his father & uncle's deeds in the Quest is heartwarming; yet it is touched with a tinge of sadness in Sam's closing line. Great work as usual!

Author response: I am so honored, Maureen, by this review. Once the series of prompts began going up on Tolkien Weekly, it seemed so right I should answer it in this way. Who better than Sam, first innocent and then worldly wise, to look at these fantastic monsters both in innocence and then through the lens of grim experience? Thank you so!

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 4

I was very impressed with the way the author managed to contrast Sam's childish preconceptions with reality. It was a nice touch, and the before-and-after style of snapshot writing made much more of an impression than either set of drabbles would have done on their own. The reappearance of several familiar faces (Ted and Sandyman) gave the series a more Hobbit-like appeal, and managed to put the seriousness of Sam's adventures into perspective. Lovely work on the part of Larner.

Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 4

This is a really neat idea and well handled. There is a basic before/after pattern contrasting Sam's ideas about evil creatures before and after his actual encounters with them, but Larner also finds ways of varying it sufficiently so that the pattern doesn't just reinforce the obvious truth that they turn out to be more terrible than he could imagine while he still was in the Shire--Sam's earlier and later experiences are connected in a number of different ways.

Reviewed by: Inkling  ✧  Score: 4

This engrossing set of drabble pairs is a wonderful way to show how Sam was changed by the Quest, as well a fun look at the fantastic beasts of Tolkien’s world. I’m impressed that Larner managed to make dragons work within the parameters of the piece, given the lack of dragons in LOTR, and chuckled at Sam maligning the fell beasts’ IQs. Most intriguing to me was the warg pair, in the comparison with “proper wolves” who, while lethal, are not seen as evil.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 3

A lovely series of drabbles which explore the difference between between imagining and reality, stories and facts. For Sam he has seen all the stories come to life in far more fearsome ways than he could ever have imagined. He knows the truth of old tales. I loved the hint of humour when Lobelia is compared to a dragon!

Reviewed by: Independence1776 (Crystal113)  ✧  Score: 3

Larner's exploration of Sam's changing knowledge of the various beasts he's encountered in stories versus reality is superb. Sam's character growth is evident in all of them, especially in the orc drabbles.

Reviewed by: Tanaqui  ✧  Score: 3

This series of paired drabbles exploring Sam's understanding of various creatures before and after he encounters them is a wonderfully clever concept. Sam's character shines through beautifully here: I particularly enjoyed his final rejoinder to the obnoxious Ted Sandyman in the fourth pair of drabbles. Very nicely done!