All Shadows' Night

Author: Raksha the Demon

Nominator: Linda Hoyland

2011 Award Category: Drama: Angst - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

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

Summary: As the people of Minas Tirith prepare to celebrate Mettarë, Finduilas wages a desperate and private battle. A very short story in 600 words...

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Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 10

Dear Raksha, I was really impressed with this ficlet and am glad to see it nominated here, where it will hopefully receive the attention and recognition it deserves. It is a very atmospheric piece, and one of the best Finduilas fics I've seen. It is highly polished as all your stories, and beautifully crafted with some poetic phrases that really stand out. I remember you sayign that you wanted to write of Finduilas fighting her own good fight against the Shadow rather than being a passive victim of unspecified withering, and you have managed to render this idea very convincingly. It makes a lot of sense that Sauron woudl metally assault her, because while he knows nothing of Aragorn, the line of the Stewards must be in his estimation the first bastion against him and therefore the first object of his destructive machinations. Finduilas would not be excepted from it, indeed, he might have deemed her the weakest link, and I am glad that you have invested her with the courage and the spirit to withstand him, at least for a while. It does, of course, cast another light on Denethor's personal losses, and one that helps to develop some sympathy for the man. Very well done indeed, thank you for this.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 10

Finduilas is an intriguing character. Tolkien tells us so little about her that we can only imagine what sort of person she was. She is often portrayed as as a sort of Middle-earth version of Dickens' David Copperfield's delicate first wife, Dora, pretty and very fragile and insipid. It seems hard though, to imagine a man like Denethor with his vigour and love of lore, wanting to marry that kind of woman and Tolkien does tell us that he loved her. One of the great mysteries of LOTR is why was Finduilas not sent back to Dol Amroth to recover her strength if sea longing was making her ill. Many English people can identity with that as I get very melancholy if I've not seen the sea for a while as do many of my friends and the cure is to visit it. Many writers deal with the problem of Finduilas sea longing by making Denethor too heartless to let his poor ailing wife visit the coast. In this fascinating story Raksha takes a different view. Finduilas is ill not because she is a sickly wilting violet ype, but because Sauron is attacking her, and through her, Denethor and Gondor. Denethor would be happy to let her visit the sea but she refuses to leave him. Finduilas here,s also a passionate woman who enjoys her husband's attentions and wishes she well enough to enjoy them more often. A fascinating and well written story which is a must read for anyone who is interested in the tragic history of Denethor and his family.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 10

When I wish to read an excellent treatment of Faramir, Raksha is my go-to writer, but she does a fine job with other characters, too. I am especially taken with her vision of Finduilas of Gondor, formerly of Dol Amroth. In this well-crafted character study (and one that I find significantly inspiring, enough that my Dark Muse has been inscribing ideas for a future story), Raksha offers the reader her compelling interpretation of Finduilas, the wife of Denethor. She has been the subject of many a Tolkienian fan fic writer, and she is portrayed in different flavors, more often than not as a weak, sickly and overall highly vulnerable woman. Although the Finduilas of Raksha's vision may be physically weak and sickly, she possesses an amazing strength of character as this story shows. She fights her growing melancholy, exacerbated by the dark intimations of the Enemy, and refuses to leave Minas Tirith, indeed her husband's side. And that is something I particularly like about this story (and others) that Raksha has written about Finduilas: the love she shares with her husband. They are of a kind. Raksha offers Finduilas as a strong woman, a vision that resonates very well with this reader.

Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 10

I am not well read in the fanon of this period, but I think this piece really contributes something significant to our appreciation of Finduilas. In her canonical description in the Return of the King, which deals mainly with the way Faramir remembers her, she comes across as an unquestionable force for good, but somehow weak, because she suffered from homesickness and because she died and left her husband and sons bereft--unfair as it is to blame someone for dying! In Raksha's story she is in some ways very like her husband, not a queen, but more queenly than may who have born that title (paraphrasing something that is said about Denethor). She is someone strong, courageous and fiercely loyal who wins mental battles against the Enemy but at great cost (as Denethor later does in his use of the Palantir) and who shirks no confrontation although she already guesses she will ultimately lose her war against him. In Raksha's version of this character, her love for her husband and sons is all bound up with her defiance of the Enemy. The theme of the solstice is skilfully used to bring out this dramatic characterization of a princess who is a worthy scion of the House of Dol Amroth and who is also very much a physical being, despite her somewhat elvish and other-worldly traits. Very well done!

Author response: I've always thought that the mother of Boromir and Faramir might have been frail in health, but would have been an emotionally strong woman for most of her life; and a very intelligent one, and I see her as someone with a certain elven sensitivity through the Dol Amroth line. I also think she loved Denethor very much - and I don't see Denethor marrying a soft little delicate flower of a girl, rather a beautiful girl who had smarts and who could stand up for herself, since I doubt that Denethor was the easiest man to have as a husband. Given the geographical proximity of Mordor to Minas Tirith, I think that the evil sorcerous vibes and vapors of that land could have had bad effects on some of the people of the White City, and possibly been a factor in the population decline. And I do think that Sauron would have seen Finduilas as Denethor's Achilles Heel, and made a personal effort to weaken her further, which would have exacerbated any poor health she already had, such as complications from childbirth or a bad heart or whatever. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the story; and thanks much for reading and reviewing it!

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 10

It is a grim story and not one containing a lot of hope, especially for those who know the canon outcome. But it does contain courage. I recall when writing about Minas Tirith under the cloud of Mordor that it seemed very distinctly possible that living there was not healthy at all. If one had any physical problem of a respiratory nature it certainly would be worsened. (I thought of the years I spent living in Mexico City with its very poor air quality. My family and I wanted to get away for a couple of days every month whenever we could.) The ghost-story or horror element fits also. The writer mentions it could be that it also {stressed her Elvish nature}. I wonder if that is one of those Elven characteristics that Tolkien threw into his Third Age storyline. As one of those who almost exclusively write Elven characters and spend my time immersed in those earlier canon sources, I would tend to take the opposite position, that the minor, but significant differences between an Elven heredity and one of the Second Born alone, would make the person with the Elven genetic structure stronger, not more delicate. I agree that the oppressiveness of the proximity to Sauron's stronghold would take a toll on the residents of Minas Tirith, particularly during those last days immediately preceding the Ring War. I liked the small details of the description of the preparations for the holiday celebrations and her love for her husband. Her achieved the goal of conveying the shadow hanging over a city and a loving heart.

Author response: Tolkien doesn't say specifically that Finduilas' Elven heritage was stressed by proximity to Mordor, but I have always thought it possible. I find it hard to believe that she died of homesickness - Tolkien said she withered like a flower, longing for home. I thought that there would be psychic and physical bad vibes emanating from Mordor; and that people of Elven heritage, such as those of Numenorean blood, might be sensitive to both, as opposed to others of Minas Tirith, who just suffer varying bad effects from the physically bad/sorcerous emanations - lower fertility and lifespans, more respitory problems, perhaps? I also thought that Finduilas might have suffered some physical problem after/during at least her second pregnancy, and this problem was exacerbated by the influence of the Shadow. I have long thought that Sauron himself would have gone after Finduilas, realizing that she was of supreme importance to Denethor; to weaken and worry her would have been to strike at the heart of the stability of Gondor. And I wanted to show my own conclusion as to why Finduilas did not return to Dol Amroth to live and possibly regain her strength after she had given Denethor two sons. I have always viewed her as having loved Denethor deeply... Minas Tirith is one of my favorite places in Middle-earth; but it might have been depressing for many people to live there in the late Third Age, as the power of the Shadow arose in physical as well as sorcerous form. Anyway, thank you very much for this thoughtful and substantial review, Oshun!

Reviewed by: Clodia  ✧  Score: 8

Raksha the Demon has written a beautiful, thoughtful short story in [All Shadows' Night]. The unhappy fate of Finduilas, Denethor's wife and the mother of Boromir and Faramir, is one of the 'unwritten' tragedies of the Lord of the Rings - I say unwritten because, like so many other similar Tolkien tragedies, it is buried deep in obscure references in the books, thereby leaving it to fanfiction writers to flesh out the details. To some extent, Tolkien's very brevity thus becomes a gift to those of us playing in the world he created. Raksha opens a truly poignant window onto Finduilas's struggle to keep up appearances for the ceremonies to mark the year's end. I found the idea that her wasting away and eventual death might be attributed to Sauron's shadow very attractive - that the Dark Lord might have sought to corrupt not only the Steward but, before him, his lady. She puts up a brave fight here! I liked this strong, struggling Finduilas a great deal; she can truly claim the title of the Lady of Gondor. If only she (and the rest of Gondor) had not had such a terrible enemy!

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 6

This is a different take on Finduilas of Dol Amroth from others I have seen. It posits her as a strong-minded woman who diminishes, not from homesickness and a passive horror of Mordor, but from actively vying with Sauron's evil will on a daily basis. The Denethor of [All Hallow's Night] would readily have his wife return to Dol Amroth and regain her strength, but her sense of love and duty keeps her by his side. This runs counter to a fanon in which Denethor is the stern lord husband whose will or neglect confines his wife to a stifling Citadel where she finally dies. Is it a plausible depiction? The love that Tolkien describes of Denethor for Finduilas is coached in curiously measured terms: [Denethor loved her, in his fashion, more dearly than any other...], which leaves room to admit a number of interpretations. [All Shadows' Night] feels feasible within the constraints of "canon"; it also works nicely with another ficlet by Raksha, her AU [At the Turn of the Tide], also competing in this year's MEFAs.

Reviewed by: Rivergift  ✧  Score: 5

This is a unique piece and depiction of Finduilas. As he did with many minor characters, Tolkien hardly gave us two sentences about her, but from those many have drawn inspiration and their own conclusions to write about this lady who faded in the city of stone. Here she is seen as a passionate, strong woman, who loves the sea but who loves Denethor more. It is nice to see a piece that shows the love between the two, as many degrade their love to mere duty and Denethor taking a beautiful and socially acceptable wife. But Denethor, too, was passionate and strong-willed. I enjoyed the fresh take on both characters and the love and pride of this lady. Good work!

Author response: Thanks much for reviewing this story, Rivergift. I've always felt strongly that Finduilas was a strong woman who loved her husband and fought hard to survive. I think Denethor loved her very much indeed, and for him, the world went dark the day she died. I'm pleased you enjoyed it!

Reviewed by: Levade  ✧  Score: 5

I've never seen Finduilas portrayed quite like this, but let's hope Raksha is setting a trend. This is no weakling wife, fragile and brow-beaten, this is a strong woman who is waging her own battle with Sauron. She's fading, but she never gives up. You can clearly see why Denethor would so miss his helpmeet. I have to wonder if he realized what she was going through or if he was tied up in his own struggles. Just as anyone living near a toxic waste site would certainly become ill, so does Finduilas, and I congratulate Raksha for coming up with this.

Author response: Thanks much for reading and reviewing this piece, Levade. I definitely never saw Finduilas as a brow-beaten woman. I saw her as a woman who loved her husband, was loved by him; and may have been increasingly ravaged by physical illness (exacerbated by proximity to Mordor and Sauron's interest), but who would fight hard for her family and her life. I think that Finduilas realized that Denethor was over-burdened, but I doubt she knew about his palantir-wrestling sessions with Sauron. And I don't think Finduilas would have told Denethor about Sauron's attacks on her; she would have thought that he had enough of a struggle without taking on hers. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 3

The idea of a combination of psychic attack and the fading/dwindling aspect of Finduilas' Elvish blood makes her vulnerable, is fascinating, and very well explored. The second part is AU, but also well written, and had it transpired would doubtless have changed many things. This is a very good if sad story, and should not be missed.

Reviewed by: Altariel  ✧  Score: 3

A desperately sad glimpse into the mind of Finduilas as she tries to gather up her strength to continue her own personal battle against Sauron. I'm sure his Eye was on her. There is some lovely writing in this piece, and Raksha gives Finduilas a passionate, powerful, and brave voice.

Author response: A belated thank you for these lovely reviews, Altariel! Tolkien's descriptions of Finduilas and her relationship with Denethor are open to various interpretations, though a common denominator in my opinion is that Denethor did love her very much. I've always thought that Sauron would target Finduilas as Denethor's achilles heel; and that the elven heritage in Finduilas' Dol Amroth blood might simultaneously make her more aware of his attack and more able to offer resistance. I think her health problems and the closeness to Mordor and Sauron's psychic attacks made Finduilas the center of an increasingly vicious circle, each element exacerbating the others. I also thought she would have been a proud woman, and would not have left her husband out of fear of Sauron to return to Dol Amroth, short of occasional visits. The piece was easy to write; parts of it had been in my head for awhile. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 3

Really poignant story about Finduilas; I love Raksha's idea that she tries to stay strong for Gondor, and that no place is a home for her without Denethor. Also, I like the idea that her illness might be the influence of Sauron's evil.

Author response: Thanks for the review, Ellynn. I had carried the idea of this short story in my head for a long time, a year at least, before I finally started writing it, it was something I very much wanted to do, to show that Finduilas had a heart as strong and proud as that of her sons. I don't buy that she withered away out of homesickness; and the proximity to Mordor, and an Enemy that could have zeroed in on her as Denethor's weakness, made me think that Finduilas might have had physical problems (post-childbirth complications) that could have been strongly exacerbated by Sauron's psychic attacks. But I think Finduilas loved Denethor, and would have fought fiercely for her life and their love.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 3

Short and bitter - Denethor is not the only one with a personal relationship with the Enemy. Finduilas's battle is an interesting interpolation, and lets her stand strong in her own right as a force to be reckoned with in Gondor. After all, Sauron's taking her seriously enough! Nicely done!

Author response: Thanks for the review, Dwimordene! This short story sat in my brain for a few years, waiting for the right time to come out and be written; so I'm very glad you liked it. I think Sauron homed in on Finduilas as one of Denethor's few weaknesses; to wear her down was to strike a blow at the stability of Gondor. FInduilas could have been more vulnerable than Denethor to Sauron's assault, because her physical health was worse; I see her having not chronic ill health but a problem resulting from childbirth, and her getting worse, not better, because of the bad air from Mordor and the stress from Sauron's taunting...I also felt that Finduilas would have definitely been a proud and strong woman in her own right.