Too Few Words

Author: annmarwalk

Nominator: Larner

2006 Award Category: Races: Dwarves - First Place

Story Type: Other Fiction  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: G  ✧  Reason for Rating: n/a

Summary: When Gimli returns to the Lonely Mountain to recruit artisans for Minas Tirith and Aglarond, one dwarf-maid must make a difficult choice.

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Reviewed by: Mechtild  ✧  Score: 10

["She had crafted the brazier herself, spare and elegant; its design had been widely copied throughout Erebor.”] This line struck me; it could be compared to this story. Spare and elegant, and, if fic writers are smart, it will be widely copied throughout ficdom. The [“fine olivewood cups lined with pewter”]. Things like that. Not too much but just the right detail to reinforce the picture of Zei as a craftswoman, but one of great taste; an artist. In a way, the story is written in a way that reflects the persona of its heroine. Another example: You went a bit further describing the difference in the sounds of the voices of the two races, Elf and Dwarf, and it was a wonderful melding of the poetic and the informative, yet still spare. A Dwarf’s voice, not just big or deep or nice to listen to, but, [“deep and melodious as water rushing over rock.”] Just one phrase, but it calls to mind the rock the Dwarves love and the water that formed the glories of Aglarond, while perfectly describing the voice at the same time. For the Elf voice, you could have said it was also melodious but lighter, but you said, [“light, soft, like wind in the trees.”] It made me hear the sound of the voice, but also captured a sense of the literal lightness of an Elf (Legolas not sinking into the snow at Caradhras) and the trees they loved. Even the word “light,” used in this way, made me think not just of sound that falls easily on the ear, but the “light” that moves through those “trees” as the “wind” moved them. You pick up the visual notion of “light” immediately, as you describe Legolas’ perceptible light that needed no lantern. Beautiful. The way you handled the silent exchange between Zei and Legolas was sensitive, nuanced. Oh, perfect, I thought. But you made it better still, with the understated little epilogue about the drawing of their portrait (echoing the note about her portrait of Gimli at the story’s opening). The coda was made tear-jerkingly satisfying with the addition of the sentence from the Appendices. So elegant, spare and simple, yet so touching. The ending was made richer still by noting that although the King kept the drawing of the two friends and admired and cherished it, its provenance was unknown. It’s like a statement about the story itself: if this story turned up somewhere uncredited, readers who came across it would admire and value it, wondering where it had been found and why it had not been included in the canon text. At least Christopher Tolkien could have included it in the HoME, they would say. I enthused over this story when I read it in your LJ early this spring, but a second reading only shows it off better. You really display your craft in this story, Ann. I can see that writing short-forms has honed your skills so that when you write something story-length, it’s not as though you padded it with superfluous *stuff*, but retained your ability to say a lot in few words, merely limning out your tale in greater depth.

Reviewed by: Branwyn  ✧  Score: 10

This is a marvelous story for a number of reasons. First of all, we get too little fanfiction about dwarves and even less about the elusive female dwarves. Zei is exactly what I would imagine a dwarven woman to be like—she is self-sufficient, focused on her craft, and does not need a husband or children to complete her sense of identity. But if only she had been more outspoken before Gimli left for Imladris! When she again has an opportunity to speak with him, she quickly realizes that it is too late. This is probably the first time that Gimli has ever been passed over in favor of an apartment and a cat! *grin* Her refusal could be read more than one way. Perhaps she is afraid that Gimli has outgrown their people and would not be content with her, or maybe she sees the great love between Gimli and Legolas and knows she cannot compete with the elf (and that doesn’t necessarily mean that anything slashy is going on here; though could be…). Another wonderful aspect of this story is the focus on Zei's artistic output and the tools of her craft. I loved that she had designed something so handsome and practical—a brazier for making tea--that the design was widely copied. The little cups lined with pewter, possibly her own work, provide further evidence of her artistic sensibility. Not surprisingly, she confronts her loss through art, capturing the friendship of Gimli and Legolas in a sketch. Their future happiness will have to be her consolation. A highly original and beautifully-crafted story!

Reviewed by: dkpalaska  ✧  Score: 10

A very touching and bittersweet story. Excellent rendering of a PoV from a female dwarf; I had a definite sense of femininity without feeling I had been hit over the head with it, and you captured the brief quote from Tolkien extremely well, with very sparing prose. The descriptions are beautiful; I had an extremely clear image of her quarters, for example, and of the appearances of Gimli and Legolas and the sound of their voices. The prologue clearly shows both her special skills and her feelings for Gimli in such a short space. I love: ["It was her first drawing of a living creature.."] I also love how she carefully moved to have the meeting with Gimli happen - even though she knew she could not bear to join his group without becoming his significant other. His reaction to her serene refusal (and her corresponding continued calm) were perfectly rendered and very funny. The wordless exchange with Legolas at the end, with their recognition of shared affection for Gimli, was just wonderful. I did wish for a more concrete revelation as to why she didn't think she had a future with Gimli, as I didn't get a "slash" feeling about Gimli and Legolas' relationship. Finally, I really liked thinking of having anonymous evidence of her love continuing on through the sketch she made at the end.

Reviewed by: EdorasLass  ✧  Score: 7

Oh oh oh, I love Zei. [Not One Word] was one of the very first Tolkien fanfics I ever read, and I was so happy when this continuation of her story appeared. I don't often think about Dwarven romance, and I love the quiet depth of emotion that Zei has for Gimli. She's already decided that she's not going to travel to Minas Tirith, yet she allows him to visit her, and lay out his proposal, so that she may have just a bit of time with him. He is, of course, clueless, and his reaction to her refusal is utterly perfect. The dynamic between Zei and Legolas is wonderful as well; they seem to understand each other perfectly. I like very much that Zei doesn't appear to harbour any ill-will towards Legolas, and that he, in return, realizes that she has unspoken feelings towards Gimli, but that she doesn't wish to put them forward if she'll be unrequited. And I love the notion of Aragorn somehow coming into possession of Zei's sketch. He must be alive with curiousity. Absolutely lovely.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 5

This is quite unique, and I very much enjoyed this look at the understated courtship of Dwarves. Work forms the context, the restoration of Gondor's gates, and the opening of Aglarond--Gimli's animation is evident, while Zei remains a quiet presence. She has a definite dignity, and there's no question she's attracted to Gimli, but it is not quite enough, it seems--not when, perhaps, there's an elf in the way, a friend who might come to dominate all other relationships. The turn-down line is classic, and the sketch that ends up in Elessar's private papers a poignant testimony to Zei's skill and love: that she should draw Gimli with Legolas, the block to her own relationship, speaks volumes of her character.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

Ann Marwalk is the queen, in my estimation, of those capable of saying a great deal in a very few words. This look at the love Gimli misses, who chooses not to answer the call to accompany his party to Minas Tirith to help in the restoration of the city due to too few words is marvelous, particularly when she considers and later uses her cat as an excuse. A truly thought-provoking story on how we are often blind to interest shown in us.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 4

What an interesting character sketch. I find myself wondering even more about this intriguing Dwarven woman, and I'm impressed. She's a very memorable OC for such a short fic! I love her dignity, and the way in which she keeps herself to herself, even if it makes one wonder whether both she and Gimli might have been better served if she did not. And the silent exchange with Legolas was just beautiful!

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

Subtle, intricate portrait of a lady of too few words, but an abundance of heart and veiled emotions. Nice look at dwarf-culture, and the uplift from the fallout of the Ring War in terms of new projects, work, and contact with the cultures of Gondor and even Elves. I liked the non-verbal exchange between Zei and Legolas; that told volumes without a single word....

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 3

Lovely descriptions, of both setting and characters. Flowing language: The story is told like a saga, which fits Dwarvish culture, I think. I like this dignified, restrained Dwarf-woman, somehow she reminded of a Geisha, because she seems so conscious of all her expressions, words and movements (and because of the tea).

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 3

How thoroughly dwarven! The way you draw Zei here is very convincing, especially the way she turns her unrequited love into a craft. it's sad, but it's also realistic. I love the use of details, too, like the way she designed the brazier.

Reviewed by: Bodkin  ✧  Score: 3

I found this to be a very touching story. Poor Zei. I'm sure she and her cat had a very happy and successful life, but, if Gimli had been a bit more observant, it could have been more fulfilling. It seems males of all species are equally gormless. I'm glad Legolas observed her reason for remaining and silently promised to look after Gimli.