The Children of Alqualondë

Author: Lyra

Nominator: grey_gazania

2011 Award Category: First Age and Prior: Feanorians - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Mature  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes,Violence

Summary: Angered by absurd inconsistencies in the poets' treatment of the first Kinslaying, a Fëanorian endeavours to debunk them. A short piece about guilt, realism, and story-telling.

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Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 10

[There were no children playing on the docks of Alqualondë.] That is the stark opening to Lyra's [Children of Alqualondë], a blistering indictment of the liberties that storytellers take with history. Although I cannot say I have read the story that bothered Lyra, it is certainly a familiar phenomenon. Storytellers make tragic embellishments all the time, whether for purposes of propaganda or in a bid (sometimes heartfelt, sometimes cynical) at adding "oomph." What's more tragic than a battle? Try wholesale slaughter. Slaughter isn't enough? Try the slaughter of children - or throw in babies, or kittens or puppies, when children are no longer sufficiently shocking. In this case, as our narrator points out, the idea doesn't make any sense: [Do you truly believe that any self-respecting Telerin parents would have allowed their children to go and play outside, on the docks or elsewhere, under such circumstances? Do you think they would have allowed their children to go out into that darkness, with the Enemy who-knows-where, a not entirely friendly army encamped nearby, and doubt and fear abounding? Do you think the children would have wanted to play outside, on the docks, at that time? Do you think that, when the fighting began, any such children would have continued to play on the docks, oblivious of the killing until our swords stopped their little hearts and sullied their white frocks with blood? Don’t be absurd.] Although the identity of the Fëanorian addressing us is unstated, I somehow never felt like it was Maglor. There is a contempt and a broad-handed othering of the poet-singers ([whose faultless fingers only ever strung harps, never bows]) that, to my mind, is coming from a character who does not identify with such pursuits. Certainly a fellow poet-singer could still be derisive (who more critical than another artist?), but I never really saw that particular lens of criticism in place. This Fëanorian doesn't want a better poem-song, he wants a history: one that depicts both sides according to his ideas of fairness. And, just as an aside? I always love when someone says he isn't going to tell us something but does so parenthetically anyway. [I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.] Valid as our unnamed speaker's arguments may be, and careful as he is to say that he is not defending the Kinslaying, there's quite the defensive thread running through this little diatribe...and cynical as I no doubt am, his outrage toward poets and their audiences can still be interpreted in a deflective light. A well-crafted piece of rhetoric that nonetheless admits itself to more than one reading.

Author response: Wow, such a long and insightful review! Thank you so much - and thank you for picking up all those tiny details! Not all of them were on my mind when I wrote this, but they're certainly good valid points. And yes, of course there's always more than just one side to an argument! It's funny - so far everyone who tried to pinpoint the character who tells this story agreed that Maglor was the likeliest candidate. I really couldn't decide who's the narrator, but if the general consensus is Maglor, I guess I should bow to that. ;)

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 9

An excellent short story from the viewpoint of an unnamed Feanorian, about the intertwining between truth and fiction in art, and the boundaries between art and propaganda. I have never been much of a Feanorian sympathizer. This story made me look at the songs and myths that might have sprung up in the wake of the Kinslaying of Alqualonde; of how the rage that the Teleri must have felt could have been translated into song, and how some might have, in their anger over the Noldor's attack, exaggerated its viciousness. The image of murdered children as fallen cherry blossoms is beautiful and poetic, and would enhance the pathos of any song; but its effect on the Feanorian narrator is very well written. There were no children murdered by the Feanorians at Alqualonde; the narrator knows because he was there, killing adults who fought back. The narrator's anger over the need to invent violence even worse than that which was actually committed makes sense, who better than a Kinslayer to know that the violence done at Alqualonde needed no embellishment to prove its evil? A very interesting and unusual look at this tragic milepost in the history of the Noldor.

Author response: As someone who admittedly tends to sympathise with the Fëanorians, I'm glad this story works even for someone who doesn't! But that was the point after all - no matter what side you're on, some embellishments just don't make sense... Thank you for your lovely review!

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 8

Too much logic can break a story - or remake a story entirely. Spinning off an unfortunate line about the titular children of Alqualonde playing on the docks at the time of the kinslaying, Lyra sets out to thoroughly debunk the idea using an unnamed Feanorian minstrel, who may or may not be Maglor; I won't speculate about his identity here - he does, however, stakes a claim that should be obvious and doesn't hesitate to drive it home with force. He not only offers an intriguing look at everyday life before the Darkening, he also makes a point that should be readily apparent; about sensationalism and perhaps (quite probably?) propaganda making good use of an exaggerated Alqualonde to appeal to callous, indifferent audiences. With this notion, Lyra turns it into a very contemporary ficlet aimed perhaps as much as the writer and audience of the fic that sparked it, as much as the Feanorian aims it at his own audience. It's not often to find such a critical approach coming to a fairly wise conclusion, in a fanfic at that. Very well done!

Author response: Feel free to speculate - just because I can't decide doesn't mean nobody else should. ;) Thank you for your review!

Reviewed by: Caunedhiel  ✧  Score: 6

I loved your thoughts on the Kin-slayings and how the poets felt that they needed to add to the horror to make it seem worse. I get the feeling that Maglor wrote this - I don't know if you had that particular Fëanorian in mind when you wrote it, but it seems to me something Maglor would say. The Fëanorian's do always seem to be painted worse than they are, that the other side are completely blameless. I agree with you on that. I very much liked your story and it definitely got me thinking about some of the things written in the Silmarillion Most things are presented as very black and white, good or evil, but I think most are actually shades of grey and your characters thoughts represent that perfectly :) Thanks, Caunedhiel

Author response: Everyone who ventured a guess as to who might be the narrator seems to agree that Maglor is the likeliest candidate. I really hadn't planned on that, but if this is the consensus, I guess I should join that! I'm glad you liked this story - thank you for the review, Caunedhiel!

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 6

Through fiction, the author reminds us that historical accounts are often altered, and that when that occurs, it never happens for the better. As the fictional character from whose POV this tale is recorded insists, the reality of what happened was bad enough, but the poets clearly felt that was not sufficient; that more details had to be added before the Kinslaying could be considered evil! This story also makes the point that even the Kinslayers had reasons and motives for their behavior; such motives may not have been justifiable, but the horrific deeds they committed were not done on a whim. Although the "voice" of the person telling this story is not identified, I suspect either Maglor or Maedhros is meant to be the storyteller.

Author response: It's funny, everyone who ventures to guess who might be the narrator of this piece mentions Maglor. I guess I should bow to consensus ;) Thank you for your lovely review!

Reviewed by: curiouswombat  ✧  Score: 6

Every year I try to read some MEFA nominated stories totally at random - taking me out of my comfort zone and introducing me to new writers, new parts of the great web of stories set in Tolkien's world. This is one such randomly chosen story - and it is a true gem. Lyra considers the truth of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, which I know of mostly as 'history' for the characters I write and read - and tells it so much more as it would have been. And she is absolutely right; there would have been fishing spears, and gutting knives gutting, now, the hot blooded Noldor rather than the cold blooded fish, as well as the swords. And there really wouldn't have been innocent children playing ball games along the edge of the harbour. And I will always think this whenever I see a mention of the slaying at Alqualondë in future.

Author response: So glad you enjoyed your foray into "unknown terrain", and glad you find "my" account believable! Thank you for your lovely review.

Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 5

It's easy for someone with pro-Feanorian sympathies to get tetchy on the subject of Alqualonde. Some writers of fan fiction don't really distinguish the events there from the later Kinslayings in Doriath and at the Havens of Sirion, but they are to my mind quite obviously different in kind. There is little point in getting canatic about it in reviews and comments, though (especially when, like myself, one has the tendency to tweak canon in the other direction). Lyra has opted for a more adequate response here and incorporated her arguments into a fiction written from a Feanorian POV. She certainly convinces me--but then I already was of her opinion!

Author response: Birds of a feather... ;) But I'm still happy you enjoyed this ficlet, even if you didn't need convincing! Thank you for your review.

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 4

I think that a lot of us are first moved to write fanfiction as a reaction to/polemic against fanon that we do not like. I know, certainly, in Tolkien fandom I spend a lot of my time debunking slanders against the Noldor. So, of course, I was attracted to this story! The author admits:Written in an attempt to deal with a line that absolutely annoyed me in a fanfic I read a while back: I figured tackling the issue creatively was healthier than running around screaming, foaming at the mouth and starting a flame war...} {

Author response: Some things are just too absurd to shut up about! And while the narrator of this piece humbly says he isn't trying to place the blame elsewhere, I'll cheerfully and unashamedly root for the Fëanorians ;) Glad you enjoyed it!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 4

The idea that the truth is embellished by poets, that the truth even *should* be embellished by poets, is one we all take for granted. There's even a phrase for it, that excuses the truth-stretching: poetic license. But is poetic license always necessary? Is it that the truth can't be grasped without stretching? If so, why not? These are some of the questions asked by our unknown Noldorin narrator, and any possible answers are left to the reader to answer.

Author response: Thank you for your thoughtful review!

Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 4

I so agree with the premise of this story, and not just in the context of Middle-earth but also in our own world, so shockingly thirsty for tabloid fodder. I'm glad to see a fanon fabrication demolished so elegantly with flawless logic instead of a flame war. Not only that, but without becoming an impossible defence or justification of the Noldor (that would defeat the original purpose of the fic), it sets the record straight about how the conflict started. Great job!

Author response: Thank you! This was actually quite enjoyable to write (nothing to make the fingers fly like angry inspiration!), and I'm thrilled that other people find it enjoyable to read, too. :D

Reviewed by: grey_gazania  ✧  Score: 4

This story is a fantastic and thought-provoking take-down of a piece of fanon that I personally find rather outrageous (and so, it seems, does Lyra). We don’t know which son or follower of Feanor is speaking here, but we don’t need to; the narrator seems less upset over an inaccurate portrayal of himself, and more disturbed by what the propaganda written into the historical record reveals about those who believe it.

Author response: Outrageous is the right word! I can see how this particular piece of fanon would be popular with people who hate the Noldor (or the Fëanorians, at least) anyway, but it's still absurd (and, just as you say, disturbing!). Thank you for your review!

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 3

This is a very poignant story about the first Kinslaying and told by a Feanorian. It appears that poets as well as politicians are skilled at rewriting history to suit their own ends.

Author response: They are indeed! Thank you for your review, I'm glad this story works for you.

Reviewed by: Independence1776 (Crystal113)  ✧  Score: 3

I love how Lyra presents the realities of the Kinslaying, and how poetic license can make an already horrible event worse with untruths. The ending in particular-- and especially the concluding line [“If there is a need to embellish the horrible truth, if it must be made poetic, if it is not horrid enough on its own – what does that tell us about the poets, and their audience?”]-- rings both true and frightening.

Author response: I'm glad you enjoyed this story, and found that it rings true! Thank you for taking the time to review it. :)