Stopping by Woods

Author: Branwyn

Nominator: Raksha the Demon

2007 Award Category: Genres: Drama: Vignette - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Other Ficlet

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: While travelling in the winter woods, the aged Steward of Gondor ponders the journey ahead.

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Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 10

Oh, this is simply beautiful! "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" is one of my all-time favorite poems, and you have brought it to life in Middle-earth. What really shines through this short tale is the way that even I, being as fond of this poem as I am, did not realize just how closely you had followed Frost's formula until I reached the verses you quoted at the end. It was seamless, and seemed so natural! But let's not just stop with the way you took charge of a beautiful and poignant poem and made it say something new; because this story is about much more than that poem. I love the imagery of Faramir with white hair seeking out hints of his brother's last journey. The word "relic" comes to mind, because he really does remind me of a medieval Christian making pilgrimage to a saint's shrine. The fact that this is set so late in his life makes me wonder just how much of all those years since the War of the Ring he has given over to finding peace about Boromir's fall, and understanding his conquering. I don't think it dominated his entire life to the point that it blocked out everything else good he could have enjoyed, but I do think his grief would buoy up from time to time. What I really admire about this story, though, is the way you look at the "road" Faramir cannot yet travel. At first I thought he was very literally going to follow in Boromir's footsteps by riding to Rivendell, but it's more than that. He is old, and tired, and I can see him maybe being ready to die (he did live so long), but after Denethor despaired of life, I think that might be the promise he has to keep: that he will not give up on life too soon, and that he'll always find joy and not let himself be weighed down too deeply. Perhaps I'm reading too much into this! But even so, it made me think and that thinking proved remarkably fertile ground, especially when you consider the vignette's short length. Really, really brilliant job, this piece.

Reviewed by: Anoriath  ✧  Score: 10

Lady Branwyn has a talent for capturing seemingly simple moments, deceptive in that for all the quietness of the narrative voice, what is revealed beneath surface is the deepest of emotions: longing, love, and a tenacity of will and hope born of the connections we have with others. What goes unsaid is often more important that what is said in Lady B's writing, the silence framing the deeper meaning of the pieces she writes. So it is true of this piece as well. The sensory details are carefully presented so that a scene of peace is what is most noticeable. But this contrasts with the echoes of loss, presenting the reader with an unanswered question: how does one survive the long weary journey of bereavement? It was both fate and choice joined that lead to this moment, just as both Faramir and his brother visited this very crossroads, one gone and the other left behind to continue on. There are of echoes of pain glimpsed in the corners of this piece, but Lady B does not allow us to wallow in despair. Instead we are shown the path by which we might overcome such a loss, in that Faramir chooses to take a longer view, see himself in the perspective of time. He visits the road that Boromir once traveled. He celebrates the present and joys it has to offer, and he anticipates and accepts his eventual death, knowing that it will allow him to rejoin those he has lost. And so, honor but do not dwell on the past. Honor and open yourself fully to what the present has to offer you. Do not take it for granted, for it is but transient and quickly gone.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 9

I was very glad to see a companion piece to Branwyn's lovely ["The Road Not Taken"]. Both evoke the uncertainty and mystery of the unknown, and in this one, suggest the heaviness of a past that remains alive for one Lord Faramir, though his raven hair have turned white as the snow lying mixed with the leaves on the side of the road. Branwyn's language is, as always, precise, poetic, evocative – I always have a clear image in my mind reading her stories, and it is inevitably a beautifully drawn image at that. Here, I can see the milestone rising out of a drift of golden leaves and snow, besides the pale, bare birch trees – skeletal reminders of other and more cherished dead. Boromir's journey, still riddled with gaps and perhaps haunted by the questions of a brother who wonders still whether anything might have been done to change the end of Boromir's tale, colors the entire emotional landscape. Yet Faramir is not overwhelmed by the loss – he is, despite his age, still full of promises for the future – to go and follow his brother's trail one day, and to make an end of the evening in more congenial Yuletide company than the snowy woods can provide. Well done, Branwyn! Very enjoyable!

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 8

Perfectly beautiful, and yet tinged with an overlay of age and regret. This is a winter story, set in the winter of the land, and the winter of Faramir's life, a bittersweet paean to his lonely, ironic effort to retrace Boromir's journey forth from the lands of their youth. It is sad and yet somehow fitting that a young Rohir, to whom Boromir would be only a legend, accompanies Faramir. For Faramir, Boromir is a memory, a brother perished in his prime. Faramir himself was fated to live to an old age that, while not decrepit nor bitter, seems regretful. And yet, Faramir, as ever, acknowledges the sorrow of his brother's loss, and turns from contemplation of the dead to thoughts of life and the pleasure of feasting in a nearby landholder's hall. I love the ending, with Faramir initiating a Rohirric song in which his young companion joins, welcoming whatever joy remains to be taken. An excellently structured and scripted piece that flows easily but never takes the easy way...And of course, a great tribute to both Tolkien and Robert Frost.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 6

Very atmospheric and lyrical in its stillness of language, appropriate for the snowy forest the travellers stop in. And at the end of the story, the forest again lies in calmness and peace, while the travellers go to enjoy a night of comradeship and feasting. I very much enjoyed how the metaphors and Robert Frost's poem and the surface narrative are intertwined so naturally. Faramir is in the winter of his age, still unbent, still full of hope. Yes, there is loss and melancholy, and he takes a moment to contemplate it, but he accepts it as a natural way of life that one day (but not now) he, too, will follow. And in the meantime, he will celebrate life, his own and that of his brother, and so convert sadness to joy. Knowing the story this is a companion piece for lets the readers discover even more layers and resonances humming in the background.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

A wonderful working together of a journey by the aging Steward Faramir with Robert Frost's famous poem, as Faramir finds that in stopping by a waypost he has been following a part of the path taken so long ago by his brother. Soon enough, he realizes, he will need to follow the path that will at last lead to a reunion with Boromir; but for tonight he will go into the village and drink a cup in memory to many. Very nice interweaving of themes.

Reviewed by: Lindelea  ✧  Score: 4

O very nice fusion. One would almost think the poem a part of the story rather than an external source of inspiration. You do a nice job of weaving images, involving all the senses; and often your prose makes itself into poetry. [Night fell early at the turning of the year, and the birch trees gleamed like bleached bones in the twilight. Snow swept across the western highway, stirring the yellow leaves that lay heaped around the milestone.] and [The only sound was the sweep of snow among the bare branches.] and [Feathers of snow soon brushed away their tracks] were among my favourite passages. I do wish Faramir might one day be able to trace his brother's journey. I could see him doing that. (I have Pippin's son Faramir doing much the same thing, in draft form at present.)

Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke  ✧  Score: 3

This is a lovely vignette, the characters and scenery drawn clearly, fully, and lovelingly. Like the riders, however, it seems to appear out of nowhere and disappear the same way, raising many questions flying like the snow: where did they come from? where are they going? to name only a few.

Reviewed by: Bodkin  ✧  Score: 3

I don't think Faramir will be following Boromir's path through the snow yet, despite his age. He is still earth-bound for now - a man of Gondor, a Rohir by marriage, a Steward, a father and a grandfather - but he will pass into the mists soon. A good companion piece to the Boromir episode. I enjoyed them both.

Reviewed by: phyloxena  ✧  Score: 3

I love silent, snowy feeling of this short piece, and also the assurance that at least this far into Fourth Age ME is still largely untamed and keeps some secrets. And, of course, I love old, but graceful, unnamed but unmistakable Faramir.

Reviewed by: agape4gondor  ✧  Score: 3

I love to see tales of 'after' times... especially those connected with Boromir... moments of tribute and moments to recall the man. This is a delightful moment that I believe could quite plausibly have happened. I love the author's details of venue. The short moment of 'silence' is quite beautiful.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 2

We seldom see an aged Faramir. It's so touching that he thinks of his long-gone brother's journey as one he himself will be taking.