Where the Stars Are Strange

Author: Dwimordene

Nominator: Marta

2005 Award Category: Races/Places: Men - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: PG  ✧  Reason for Rating: adult themes

Summary: Could be titled "the existential Aragorn!" When the going tets tough (or has been for awhile), Aragorn and Indirkan (OC) have some decisions to ponder. Takes place in Harad, during Aragorn's early journeys.

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Reviewed by: Anoriath  ✧  Score: 10

Ah. I've read Dwimordene's writing off and on but, truth to be told, had been avoiding this piece. Why? You may well ask. Perhaps it initially was because I tend to read fanfic for its escapist qualities and delving into the existential after a day's work seemed a little more than my weary mind could handle. But, then again, upon further examination, perhaps not, as the questions she raises in other pieces have their own depth to them. I certainly enjoyed them thoroughly, day's work behind me or no. But, there it was, on the list of MEFA stories with the tantalizing Mithril commendation and so, the girding of loins began and I braved the link with a mere cup of thin, dry wine to fortify me. Alas, that I should have read the tale contained within with so little warning! I knew not what awaited me. It began with the deep and true characterization of Aragorn, brave Ranger of the North and lover of the elusive Evenstar. Only then did I know that I beheld my greatest fears. For, I found that, in pondering this work by the author Dwim, I soon began to channel my inner Gollum. For, we hatess her. Yess, we do, preciousss. Nassty Dwim, who paintses beautiful and stark pictureses of the desssert through cruel, hard Ranger's desspair, loneliness and longingss. We know longingses, yess we do, preciousss! Longingsss to write storiesss to match the emotional depth of this piecesses. She hurtsss us, she doess! And she doessn't stop there, doess she preciousss? Oh no, cruel, hard Dwim with her dialogue of interwined pretext and subtextsess. The ebb and flowss of tension of when the surface matchesess the depthss and when they play the game... The balanceses of action and internal dialogue! The perfect, sssatisfying ending! Cruel, cruel Dwim! No mercy for poor Anoriath, no. *Gollum!*

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 8

The "existential Aragorn" had some fascinating musings. This was probably the best romp through Aragorn's head that I have ever found. My favorite line from the story sums up what I like best about this particular characterization of Aragorn: "You value your honor too much to purchase it." That seemed to be the capstone for a lot of what Aragorn was wrestling with, first when he couldn't kill Indirkan and later when he was trying to decide whether or not to trust him. It all came down honor in the end. And also whether Aragorn could trust his own judgement, which was an interesting problem in and of itself. I loved the part where he went through what each of his incarnations might do and ultimately decided that he didn't know Aragorn well enough to know what Aragorn would do. He was definitely feverish, but his insights were still sharp, regardless. And I very much enjoyed the way this story was brought full circle once he was crowned king of Gondor. And how Indirkan turned out to be kin in more than just matters of honor. Great story! Now what about that sequel? "Dynasty," anyone?

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 7

Dwim claims in her summary that this is "the existential Aragorn". I'm not sure I necessarily agree with that statement. At least so far as I understand existentialism, it means that we determine our essential qualities, rather than having those essential qualities determined by some other before we come into existence. Throughout this story Aragorn struggles with his identity and which of his many names capture the true essence of him -- but who he is seems to be something of which he does not have control. Not to say this piece doesn't have existential moments, like Aragorn's injunction to Indirkan to "Turn your questions inward! Ask yourself: why did you not slit my throat when you could easily have done so?" All in all, it's a nice blend of philosophy, angst, and action, somehow universal but also well-situated in Middle-earth.

Reviewed by: ErinRua  ✧  Score: 7

A long time ago, or so it seems now, I found this magnificent tale. Of all attempts by writers to peer into the blank places Tolkien left us in Aragorn's early days, this remains perhaps the most compelling I have ever seen. Once again Dwim's rare gift for making Tolkien's world her own, yet without sacrificing a single jot of Tolkien's myth, has created a tale that I dearly hope will remain a high mark in LOTR fan fiction. Indirkan is such a richly-drawn OC, and Dwim does a masterful job of drawing the vast cultural differences between this son of Harad and Aragorn/Khordan. For this is a tale of character, of strength and understanding in a day long before Hope came to Gondor, and the Dark Lord's reign might be overthrown. There is a gentle dignity in the way in which Indirkan and Aragorn come to trust one another, and the final chapter to their tale is sighingly perfect. After many long roads, both men found their way to Hope, and to peace and accord.

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 6

The summary says "existential Aragorn" and describes what I thought the first time I read this story. But it is not only Aragorn's characterization alone. It is the tension arising between him and the OC Indirkan and the questions about trust and belief they ponder in the hot desert which makes this story so remarkable to me. The description of the desert is so vivid that I could see the landscape in my minds eye. It is the perfect foil to the encounter of the two protagonists of the story. Nothing distracts from the questions they have to answer. In the harsh lights of the desert the truth is the only way.