Like Toy Soldiers

Author: Marta

Nominator: Dwimordene

2011 Award Category: Second Age and Early Third Age: General

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: "From the ruin of the Gladden Fields, where Isildur perished, three men only came ever back over the mountains after long wandering. One of these was Ohtar, the esquire of Isildur, who bore the shards of the sword of Elendil; and he brought them to Valandil, the heir of Isildur, who being but a child had remained here in Rivendell." ("The Council of Elrond," The Lord of the Rings)

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Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

This was a very satisfying gapfiller: the story of Ohtar's escape from Gladden Fields has always intrigued me. How did he do it? Who is this guy? Marta makes him a young man who grew up serving Isildur in war, so that he had some access to the powerful, but few responsibilities for such things as planning. He is both new to command, yet has, by virtue of his position at Isildur's elbow in some of the most prestigious company M-e has to offer, the beneficiary of a lot of knowledge that he now has to put to work somehow. This shows up in various places, but I especially liked that Ohtar considers how his lack of status, shown by the gear that he and his friends are wearing, may affect them - will they present a tempting target or not, by virtue of association? Will their being on the poorer side would hurt their chances of gaining help? I love how Marta has him reason out his course. When in doubt about the way through the mountains, try the Dwarves and play up the recent allegiance. Theoretically, this is a solid course of action, but I love that Marta doesn't overplay this. Ohtar and his friends don't necessarily know where to go or how to get there: they really were barely more than boys when they started out, and remain inexperienced in taking responsibility for determining their way and executing a plan of their own making. The reluctant leader seems at least to make a reasonably good start at captaining his little trio, and his friends at least are not rivals - they want him to succeed as much as Isildur or anyone. So it's a hopeful, but inexperienced and determined band of soldiers-turned-messengers that sets out, and that feels just right. Well-done, Marta!

Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 6

I must admit that so far I've never given much thought to how Ohtar managed to reach Rivendell after the desaster of the Gladden Fields, or how he would have felt about his task. I'm glad that Marta did, though! In this tight-paced gap-filler, Ohtar must come to terms with his quest (which forced him to desert from the battle), his role as the leader of the small company of survivors that he is part of, the persistent danger and, perhaps most awkwardly, his ignorance of the best road to take and his lack of valuables to buy allies. While contemplating their route and their chances, he discovers some of the secrets of leadership - and promptly acts on his discovery. The final paragraph made me smile, as did the footnote in which the author explains her choice of characters and the use of "Ohtar" as a personal name rather than a title. Nice food for thought and an enjoyable read!

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 5

Interesting postscript to the saga of Isildur; in this ficlet, which chronicles the choices of Ohtar, the squire to whom Isildur entrusted the shards of Narsil. Marta brings out Ohtar's frustration at the thought of being accused of cowardice because he fled the battle at his lord's command, and the interesting process of Ohtar growing from an obedient squire to a leader of men and the bearer of his lost king's legacy. Good sharp writing here, with excellent handling of the military details so that they enrich the story but do not overwhelm it.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 5

The style of this story is straightforward, yet nicely descriptive, and the characterization is unparalleled. It also serves as a reminder that sometimes important matters, in history or in life, can hinge on minor things, or on just one person. The author has done a fine job of taking a minor character of Tolkien's and portraying him and his associates, as well as developing the plot logically. Ohtar finds himself and his companions in dire straits, but he uses his head and comes up with a workable plan. Moreover, he realizes that sometimes leadership is as much a matter of *acting* as if you know what you're doing than anything else. Good job!

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 3

I like Marta's description of how Ohtar and his companions started their long journey. In the past, Ohtar was not the one who had to make decisions, but now he shows he is capable to lead the small company. Nice little story.