Season of Hope

Author: Keiliss

Nominator: Dreamflower

2011 Award Category: Character Study: House of Finwë - Second Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

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

Summary: Midwinter in Sirion, a young king and a traumatized child: Gil-galad offers Elwing a new way of looking at Yule.

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Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 10

This is a lovely piece of work. Keiliss writes a First Age encounter that I don't think I have read before; that of the young King Ereinion Gil-Galad with the much younger Elwing, at Yule. Keiliss shows Gil-galad as a sort of makeshift king; somewhat light on luxuries, but long on love in the person of foster-parents and friends; a confident and perceptive and quite compassionate Elf. Elwing is a little girl still shell-shocked by the horrors of the Kin-slaying in Doriath several years before. I really like the way Gil-Galad slowly, delicately elicits the source of her current fears; and takes beginning steps to soothe the child and show her that not only can Yule be a happy occasion, but that family can extend beyond her slain parents, she has not alone in the world. Since Gil-galad himself is an orphan whose only sibling is dead and who was raised mostly by people not his parents, his message to the orphaned Elwing really resonates. Extra points for the bird imagery applied to Elwing; and also for detailing her special fear of Maedhros. This story helps explain why Elwing jumped from the tower in Sirion when Maedhros came for her and demanded the Silmaril; she was probably overwhelmed by sheer terror. This story sets up the concept of Maedhros not just as the destroyer of Elwing's home and life, but as her childhood boogeyman, built up in her mind to supernatural, demonic status. It makes a lot of sense. Kudos to Keiliss; this is a wistful, well-written and quite plausible story; and very fitting for the Yule season, ending as it does with humans' attempts to hold hope with rituals and candles and merriment when the year is at its darkest...

Author response: Oh wow, this is quite wonderful. The reviews I treasure most are those where I find the images and concepts that were in my mind at time of writing reflected back to me by the reviewer - means I told it right and is like sharing with a friend, a very special feeling. Thank you for making me smile with this lovely, insightful review. And best wishes for 2012 :)

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 10

I have only a fleeting recall of many details in _The Silmarilion_ . but I have to confess I have a soft spot for the tale of Elwing and Eärendil, mostly due to a lovely song on the CD of Tolkien-inspired music _In Elven Lands_. But I had never thought very much about either character in childhood, nor realized the similarities in their personal stories, being very young survivors of terrible disasters. I'd never thought much about Gil-galad when he was younger either, but we see him here as a very young King, but one with a very kind and compassionate heart. When he encounters the small Elwing hiding alone in the dark in fear of Yule, he takes it upon himself to comfort her. I love the way he thinks of approaching her as he would a skittish horse, trying to keep his voice gentle and his movements small, so as not to startle. And there is some very subtle foreshadowing in the story, as when the child Elwing is described as ["fine boned as a bird"]. Gil-galad's ruminations on the motives that Elwing's caregiver might have in her actions have a cynical tone to them, and yet it is righteous cynicism, if there is such a thing. I also like the way that the caregiver is dealt with. Although the story never goes there, you know at the end that things are going to be much better for little Elwing in the future.

Author response: I love finding these little gaps and trying to picture them filled, specially the ones where characters were way younger than when we first meet them in canon. Thank you so much for nominating this story and for writing such a generous and complimentary review, Dreamflower. I'm flattered you thought so well of it.

Reviewed by: Levade  ✧  Score: 10

Fey, wild Elwing is probably one of my favourite Elven females in all of Tolkien. Keiliss writes Elwing as something akin to a bird, even as a child, frightened from all that she has survived, but with the addition of a caretaker with a taste for horrific tales. Elwing has been told of Maedhros the one-handed who stalks the Yule night, bloody sword in hand. While it might make a wonderful Halloween movie, it certainly isn't good for the little girl and Yule in Arvernien finds her huddled on the porch in the freezing cold, overwhelmed by everything. She still has her dignity, as Gil-galad discovers, and seems unused to affection, but that doesn't stop the king. I love that she uses Gil-galad as the character to reach out to Elwing. It's not a meeting I've ever seen written, and it works beautifully. As an orphan himself, Gil-galad knows how vulnerable Elwing is, and how much control her caretaker wields. It's a neat little plot-point, that empathetic resonance. Gil-galad, as Keiliss writes him, is blessed with patience and a wry sense of humour. He takes the time to understand Elwing as best he can, and coax her inside. The scene with Galadriel snapping a command at the child's caretaker is worth a cheer and I can only hope Galadriel kept an eye on the woman. The Yule elements are beautiful and simple. Tapers lit from a central candle and then used to light other candles in remembrance of loved ones. Light to chase off the darkness and love to replace the fear. The scene is lovely, and it ends the story with a sense of hope for Elwing as well as all the survivors of Doriath and Gondolin. I love how Keiliss shows us what it might have been like, bringing the refugees of Gondolin and Doriath together with Cirdan's folk. Gil-galad is there, trying to bridge the gaps already, as he will his entire reign. This is a beautifully crafted story, with original elements and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Author response: Oh my dear, what a wonderful review, I'm lost for words. Thank you so much. I mean yes, it's ten points and that's great, but --- you made me fall in love with the story all over again. I wrote that? Really? Seriously, I don't have words for how much this meant to me. Thank you for liking it, specially as I know these are people you have your own strong images of. *hugs you*

Reviewed by: Red Lasbelin  ✧  Score: 10

I've always known Keiliss had an Elwing story of her - throughout her work, there have been hints of an Elwing backstory but none had been written until now. The way she shows up, fully fleshed and almost jumps off the page with a story of her own can only be from something stewing in Kei's brain for some time. She's haunting, such a young, vulnerable little girl with a scarred past and a difficult future ahead of her. The comparisions drawn to her - I don't know how to put this - 'bird' like attributes are subtly done. (and you might be surprised to learn Kei doesn't like birds herself - I never would have guessed.) Her keeper needed a good shaking! And Kei's Gil-galad showed up again - any story in which he makes an appearance is welcome indeed. He's much younger than she normally writes him but you can easily see the fully matured adult that he will become. She's explored him as a lover, as an elf, as a King - but this story made me wonder about him as a father. I think, judging by this, he would make a very good one. Caring, never talks down to children, doesn't have too bad of a temper. Beautiful, haunting, atmospheric story about two unlikely relatives talking on a cold winter's night. Highly recommend it. I also have a feeling that Kei has a Maedhros story lurking in the depths of her brain somewhere too. Maybe 2012...

Author response: I don't have time for Maedhros, you know I don't have time for Maehdros :| Good grief. It's enough that Maglor and Gildor have already snuck into a fic that came so late in the year it's really more a 2012 ficcie than 2011. There is an Elwing story, yes. I don't know what it is, how to find my way into it, but it's there. She was so clear when she showed up, that always means there needs to be more. I think Gil would have made a wonderful father, yes - loving, practical and completely dependable. Once again I have to thank you for your help and encouragement. And for a ten point review - that is not a small thing :) *hugs*

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 9

Two characters who are more or less names in a genealogy meet one dark, cold Yuletide evening, and thanks to Keiliss's handling of them, achieve personality. Gil-galad is nicely drawn: sympathetic, attentive to the dangers of isolation of both royalty and traumatized children. Elwing, though, creates the most striking atmosphere for the story. She is disturbed and disturbing - not through her own fault, but having survived the sack of Doriath, she carries the scars of that experience, and not every other survivor is truly good for her, either. Her nursemaid comes off as an iron-fisted woman who may or may not be playing a power game; she may have saved Elwing's life, but whether she is too damaged or ambitious to save her sanity and her soul is a different question altogether. There are echoes in this story that suggest psychological abuse and manipulation of a young, already terrified child, to what end is unclear. That complicates Gil-galad's intervention, since he has to fight against the demonization of all things Noldorin without making this about Noldorin apologetics. That's a hard balance to strike. Well done, Keiliss.

Author response: Thank you for reading this and for your very insightful and flattering review. Reading it reminded me there's still a story I know has to grow out of this because you're right, there are too many unexplained echoes and twenty-five years of history to explore. It's not often a review makes me eager to go write more, lol, but this has. For that, too, I thank you :)

Reviewed by: Malinornë  ✧  Score: 9

I remember reading this before, and being touched by it much more deeply than by most of the holiday-themed stories I have seen before. Yule is not a rare element in stories, especially those written around that time of the year, but I found this one being very different, more grim than sweet, and more of fear and suffering than of joy. Elwing and her fears felt so real, the way she experienced things and how she understood them, and her behaviour very logical and easy to understand and identify with. I very much enjoyed Gil-galad as well, his way of comforting her and how he behaves as a loving father and a wise king at the same time. His comparison of young children with nervous horses was very well-found. I enjoyed your description of the horrors in Doriath - Maedhros is particularly memorable - and Galadriel's wisdom and power. I liked seeing there was hope for the little Queen. I have remembered this and suspect i will continue to do so. Thank you for a remarkable story that shows a piece does not need to be long to leave a lasting impression. I truly enjoyed it. I liked this. And that's all I have to say. Period. Lol!

Author response: I'm so touched to find this stayed with you, Mal. Thank you for all the kind words about the story itself and the characters, reading this has left me smiling. What I kept in mind with Elwing was that children do tend to be logical within the facts available to them, and when you add deep trauma and memories no child should have, it's easy to understand how she could believe Maedhros was out there, waiting, and would come for her. As for Gil-galad, he is 'my' elf, lol, and I love him dearly. I'm glad you enjoyed him. Thanks so much for finding time to reread and review.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 5

This is a beautiful and deeply moving story. Gil-galad is written in such a way that illustrates his strength, perception, and kindness. Elwing is written in a most convincing fashion; even Elves are subject to trauma, and the Kinslaying was certainly traumatic. "Red-haired Maedhros of the One Hand" certainly sounds like a creature that any child would fear, especially a child already traumatized, and especially when her caretaker added to that trauma by putting ideas in the child's head! Galadriel's role is brief but equally impressive; I liked the display of her character and power. This story is brilliantly written, and should not be missed. Well done!

Author response: I had to smile - Galadriel had so few lines, but she knows how to fill all available space, doesn't she? Elwing's story has always tugged at my heart: poor traumatised little girl who grew up to see her childhood nightmare come to life ... Anyhow. I was really touched by your thoughtful review, such a lovely compliment. Thank you so much for reading the story.

Reviewed by: Azalais  ✧  Score: 5

For an LoTR-lover who doesn't spend very much time in the Sil, stories like this are a revelation, bringing alive characters I tend to think of as mythical. And indeed, it seems that some of the Doriathrin Elves who surround little Elwing in this story are so awed by her position as their child-Queen and descendant of Luthien that they have forgotten what Gil-Galad sees at once; she is a traumatized, frightened little girl. The bitter divisions between different Elven peoples show up painfully in this story, but offsetting them is the warmth and comfort Gil-Galad is determined that all those under his protection this Yule shall share.

Author response: I know exactly what you mean about 'the First Age characters seeming almost mythical, (been there, lol), and I'm delighted to find that both my favourite king and little Elwing, appealed. Thank you for taking the time to read and for giving the story such a lovely review.

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 5

I always like Keiliss's Gil-galad wherever and whenever he appears. He is a warm and generous character, who has the self-assurance to rise above his own concerns and take notice of the needs of others--I guess that is what makes him a fabulous kind. I am sure there was a whole layer of sensitivity to Elwing that I have missed because the original character annoys me so. Anyway, I am so sorry that this is such an inadequate review. The story, however, is well told and well worth reading. I love mainly for its sense of place and for the opportunity it gives me to get another look at my favorite interpretation of Gil-galad.

Author response: How can I not be thrilled when someone speaks so well of my king? Thank you for a lovely review, Oshun, it was more than kind.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 3

This is very touching throughout the whole story. When Elwing speaks of One-handed Maedhros and his red sword, I can't help but shiver - one day, he will come after her and she'll face her childhood nightmares. What a terrible detail, and brilliant of Keiliss to mention it. So well done.

Author response: You picked up on what was the main point for me, the way Maedhros was already the stuff of nightmares to Elwing years before they finally met. Thanks for a very kind review, I really appreciate it :)

Reviewed by: Melusine  ✧  Score: 3

This is a well-written, bittersweet tale, hopeful in spite of the darkness. Gil-galad is portrayed as both wise and kind, the perfect one to draw Elwing out of her shell. Beautiful!

Author response: Bittersweet, yes. That's the perfect word for it. Thank you so much for reviewing this one too, Mel, I really do appreciate it. *hugs*

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 3

An excellent story, in which a very young Elwing finds a friend in her cousin Gil-galad, who helps her understand the meaning of the Yule celebration is a time to remember as well as something to enjoy and look forward to.

Author response: Thanks for making the time to read this story, and thank you very much for this clear, succinct review, I really appreciated it.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 3

Powerful story with a yet untamed, child-Elwing and a surprisingly understanding Gil-Galad, who has to get his bearings to understand the child's meaning. The retelling of the horrors of Doriath's fall, cryptic as they are, are all the more powerful because we get them from the child. Wonderful story, excellently written. Applause!

Author response: Thank you for finding time to read this and for giving it such a complimentary review. I really do appreciate it and am glad you liked my king and my fey, traumatised child - they're both dear to me :)

Reviewed by: grey_gazania  ✧  Score: 2

This actually made me tear up, Keiliss. It's sad and sweet and wonderfully done, and your characterizations of Elwing and Gil-galad are excellent.

Author response: Thank you for paying the story one of the ultimate compliments, and thank you for leaving such a lovely review. You are most kind :)