Keep Alive the Memory

Author: Celeritas

Nominator: Fiondil

2009 Award Category: Times: Post-Ring War and Beyond: The Shire - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Novel

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: Warning for mild angst.

Summary: A young hobbit's life is turned upside-down when she learns to read. A tale of history, myth, manuscripts, and a disbelieving generation of hobbits circa S.R. 1540.

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Reviewed by: Fiondil  ✧  Score: 10

As the reign of King Elessar comes to a close, the Hobbits of the Shire have fallen back into insularity. Merry and Pippin are long dead and Sam has sailed. For most Hobbits, the stories of the Travellers are legends and not history. Kira Proudfoot is not your typical Hobbit, however. She is crippled and often sickly, forced to remain in bed during the long winter months. Yet, like the other Hobbits around her, she disbelieves the stories. All that changes when she goes to Brandy Hall where a descendant of Merry offers to teach her to read to help while away the long winter months. Kira’s life is never the same after that. This story is both hopeful and heartbreaking. Hopeful, because in the process of learning to read, Kira learns the truth about the Travellers and also comes to know that not all Hobbits are as close-minded as her family and friends, that there are those who are trying to keep alive the memory of the War and the role which Hobbits played in it. Yet, it is also a heartbreaking story, for, having grown up with handicaps myself, I can sympathize with Kira’s desire to go beyond the limitations of her physical disabilities and struggling against the low expectations of those around her as to her potential. It is also heartbreaking on another level, for Kira’s new-found ability to read leads ultimately to tragedy, and both she and the Hobbits around her learn important lessons from it. For those who like Hobbit stories, this one is worth reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well done, Celeritas!

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 10

The reviews I gave for this chapter by chapter as you posted them usually picked out little details I particularly liked, but this time I'll try to give a more general appraisal of this story. The premise is fascinating and entirely convincing; it would be difficult to keep people aware of a history that they didn't experience and didn't quite believe in in the first place. How precarious, to have that memory depend on a single book! I liked how the story was, in a way, indeed a children's story, as story about children finding out about a mystery, complete with clues, pranks and quarrels. At the same time it had a serious and thought-provoking theme that made it worthwhile for the adult reader. Kira is an intriguing character. You have shown very realistically how her disability restricts her and how she oscillates between accepting, working with and rebelling against that restriction. The well-meaning but often ill-placed or patronizing attentions of her family and friends makes the reader aware how important it is to take the voice of disabled people seriously. It is great to see Kira mature over the course of the story. Your prose is well polished, and there are many passages that beautifully render scenes of the Shire. The dream sequences are particularly strong. There are many scenes I savoured greatly, for example the appearance of the dwarves, the meeting with Gimli and Legolas and the ending with the discovery of the poem. An altogether very enjoyable and insightful story.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 10

How quickly would a Shire from which all Men were banned forget the events that had briefly brought it to the notice of the wider world? How soon after the departure of the original Travellers would the events fade into insignificance? In this story, much sooner than I would have thought, and much more deeply than I would like to believe. Yet this tale of an OFC, a young hobbit lass coming of age in a time when books are little valued, and the Traveller's Tales are dismissed as so much bunk, is compelling enough to make me put aside all my reservations on that score. Celeritas' OFC Kira is a distinct personality, and I was gripped by her trials and tribulations as she struggled with the ideas and longings opened for her when she not only learned to read, but read for herself the much maligned Red Book. The story of how that Book and that story deeply entwined itself into her heart and her life, and how it affected her relationships with family and friends, and the drastic consequences entailed is gripping and heart-breaking, and yet ultimately hopeful-- because no matter how insular the Shire has become, it can still produce a young hobbit like Kira. A compelling story of what time and neglect can do, and of how obsession can change a life.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 10

Celeritas has given us a wonderful set of original characters we cannot help but love and grow frustrated over in Kira Proudfoot and her friends. Born crippled, Kira has had to spend her winters in bed as cold and dampness tend to leave her leg aching agonizingly. But when an epidemic sweeps through the western reaches of the Shire Kira is sent with relatives to take refuge in Brandy Hall, where she lives with more boredom than she's ever known before--until Kalimac Brandybuck, the Master's son and heir, makes a duty-visit to her and proposes to help lift her boredom by teaching her a skill few Hobbits have mastered at the current time--he teaches her to read! And, to give her something to practice her new skill on, he provides her with a copy of the writings of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. But when she begins to grow enthralled by the stories she's reading, and faces the suspicions shown to such an unheard of activity, Kira finds there is no going back to the innocense of her childhood or to no longer believing in the Travellers' Tales. The depictions of Kira's childhood and her relationship with her friends and her mother, and how reading has become looked upon with even more suspicion within the Shire at this late date to the point it is almost solely practiced any more by the descendants of the Travellers themselves, are fascinating. The politics of literacy! Remarkably described and depicted! For those who are curious as to what the Shire might have come to once Sam is no longer Mayor and even the tales of King Elessar are seen as distant rumors from the past, even though he yet lives in distant Gondor, here is your chance to see an excellent author explore exactly that!

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 7

It was such a pleasure to find a story with a wealth of original characters who felt genuinely tied to their predecessors and were able to grow and progress in their own right. What a work of characterization! And though they all have a variety of opinions regarding the past and how much of that past should be believed (or if it is believed, how much should be shared), each opinion is valid in the mind of its owner. No one is a throw-away radical who has no basis for his or her judgment, which is another remarkable thing about this story. But most of all, I love how the past moved in and out of this story, showing up in brief glimpses or in sudden meetings. Being the obsessed fangirl I am, I whooped when Legolas and Gimli showed up in the last chapter. But even before that, the echoes of history and the desire of the hobbits to distance themselves from it was a remarkable cultural study that I found fascinating. Beautiful work all around! Truly an enjoyable read!

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 6

Fascinating premise, which is explored in all its richness and complexity. I find the idea of someone being prevented from learning to read is absolutely outrageous. It's sad to see how the knowledge of the 3rd Age is slipping (or has already slipped) beyond memory and even interest. That they don't even appreciate at the least the worth of the ancient book; or the ability to read. And that Hobbit society is just as hidebound and close-minded as before the WotR. The Shire is described vividly, especially the goings-on at markets and fairs. I like the fact that the author deals with realistic consequences, that we can't just wish everything were better, that people who love us may hurt us or don't understand us, that we have to deal with people who harm us even if we'd prefer to be able to avoid them etc.

Reviewed by: Independence1776 (Crystal113)  ✧  Score: 4

I don’t normally read Hobbit stories, but the premise and characters drew me into the Shire as even Tolkien cannot. Kira’s learning to read shows how powerful that ability is-- for both learning and for escape (which I do not consider a bad thing). And yet, this tale is heartbreaking because while we the readers know what the Travelers did actually happened, the Shirefolk cannot believe it. A spectacular story!

Reviewed by: nancylea57  ✧  Score: 2

as recaps go not bad; as original story a little draggy, the plot seemed to limp worse than the heroine.