At the Turn of the Tide

Author: Raksha the Demon

Nominator: Linda Hoyland

2011 Award Category: Fixed-Length Ficlets: General - Second Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Can an unexpected player change the outcome of the drama around the pyre in Rath Dínen? An Alternate Universe ficlet in 400 words...(400 words)

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Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 10

As far as I know no one has written this AU scenario before which makes it all the more fascinating. For some reason,Denethor and this family are the focus of a good many what if stories, the most popular being what if Faramir had gone to Rivendell instead of Boromir, what if Boromir had lived and what if Denethor had lived? Raksha here tries a completely different what if scenario. What if Finduilas had lived? My personal view is that if she had Denethor would not have been as emotionally dependant on Boromir and would not have fallen into the dispair that led to him immolating himself and almost taking Faramir with him. This well written and thought provoking ficlet is told from Pippin's point of view. We all know that in Tolkien's book that Denethor refuses to listen to Gandalf and sets his pyre alight. In this version, though, Finduilas arrives on the scene at the crucial moment. I could vividly imagine the scene that Raksha describes here and feel like a fly on the wall as Finduilas breates her husband for his deadly plan. It is fascinating to see a Finduilas who is strong and determined rather than frail, timid and sickly as she is often portrayed, a lady every bit as formidable and determined as her husband.

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 9

Dear Raksha, I think Finduilas is a fascinating figure, because it is clear from Tolkien’s work that she had considerable power over Denethor, and that she was apparently the only one to do so. Yet she remains cast in the role of a victim due to her early death. This is a great AU examining just how crucial her role could have been had she lived. You make it believable that she could have saved him (and that, by the same token, nobody else could have) and you use a powerful scene to show this. I liked the colours you use, cool and muted all of them, but hers brighter than his and ultimately more optimistic. It was a wise decision to have the dialogue take place in an Elvish tongue and hence incomprehensible to the observing Pippin, because I believe the concrete words might have taken away from the impact of the scene, and we really don’t need to know what they say, we need to see how they act. I like how the story ends with a hint that Finduilas and Denethor lived together to a good age and shared much happiness. You were certainly kinder to Denethor than Tolkien was! Thank you for this uplifting story.

Reviewed by: agape4gondor  ✧  Score: 6

What a rich and delightful, and unexpected, story. That Finguilas would be alive and well at the time of the Ring War. Oh my! The possibilities for story upon story are endless. Makes my mouth water at the thought. Boromir - would Denethor have allowed him to be sent off? What would Faramir's relationship with his father be like? Quite different, I'd wager. Oh what a delightful panoply of ideas. Might Raksha have written more??? A small ficlet that carries such a weighty message. I can just see her! Dearest Pippin must have so rejoiced at her presence. I love his remembering, once she truly passes. But I love too that just her mere appearance caused Denethor to change his mind. He fought back. And she did too. Made it quite an interesting piece. I've seen and read of Denethor lives and Boromir lives etc etc etc.... but this is awesome. I loved it. Bravo, Raksha!

Author response: Thanks much for your thoughtful review, Agape! I'm glad you enjoyed the piece, because I had a lot of fun writing it. I think Pippin would have met Finduilas already, she would have been with Denethor when Mithrandir brought in Pippin, and I think Pippin would have been extremely impressed by her. And her influence on Denethor would have been profound, especially after a marriage that was not cut brutally short by her premature death; I thought she could have reached Denethor when no one else could...

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 5

This is a most intriguing AU, especially as it raises a question which has seldom, if ever, been asked; "What if Finduilas survived?" Brief though this story is, it is most touching and seems very logical and in-character as well. The author suggests that Denethor would have been less likely to become a hostile and embittered man, old before his time. His madness would have been stayed, his attempt at murder-suicide prevented, and by implication, he would have surrendered the White Rod to the King. The Lady and the Steward of Gondor both seem rational and in-character, even if the character has been slightly altered by circumstances. Very thoughtful for such a brief story!

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 5

Raksha the Demon creates an effective AU on the assumption that Finduilas lived to influence and divert the destructive actions of Denethor in Rath Dinen. Told from Pippin's POV as an observer, the clever switch to Elvish in the midst of the argument and the resulting incomprehensibility serves to maintain the dignity of what might otherwise devolve into yet another marital argument (if a very important one, considering what is at stake). The clarity of the descriptions and Finduilas' unexpectedly strong appearance, however, make this an appealing read.

Reviewed by: Altariel  ✧  Score: 4

I don't doubt that if Finduilas had survived, Denethor would have lived too. Pippin is the perfect choice of viewpoint character, and his memories of the Lady of Minas Tirith (her ["scent of lavender"] and similarities to Faramir) are beautifully done. If anything, I wish this piece was longer! I'd really like to hear the full conversation between Denethor and Finduilas, and I would also love to see Faramir's awakening and any scene with him and Finduilas together. Lovely piece, Raksha - more, please!

Author response: Maybe someday I'll write more in this variant Ardaverse. I think that Finduilas would have been extremely charismatic; and might well have, in feminine form, that air of elves and wizards/kings of men that Pippin senses in Faramir. She would have made a keen impression on Pippin. Thanks for the review; I'm pleased that you liked the ficlet!

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 4

Raksha's giving us Finduilas in fine form this year - and an interesting what-if starting point, to have Finduilas present at this crucial moment. Given how clearly she had been one of the centers of Denethor's affections, how would he react to her? Using Pippin as the perspective keeps us continuous in that way with RoTK, and lets us imagine what Denethor and Finduilas might've said to each other. Thanks, Raksha!

Author response: Thanks for the review, Dwim. I wondered how Finduilas would have reacted in this most dark and dangerous hour of Denethor's life, if she had lived, and Pippin seemed the perfect lens, as he was for Tolkien, to view the scene.