Trading Pledges

Author: Adaneth

Nominator: Dwimordene

2008 Award Category: Races: Dwarves - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Romantic kissing and some beard-rending (whether that's violence or passion is for the reader to decide ; ) ).

Summary: Courtship negotiations are always tricky, but in a time of war? A dwarf-woman makes her choice.

Read the Story

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

Adaneth's Dwarves are always a delight to read. Dwarves are rarely done justice in any case, and Adaneth chooses a rare setting even among Dwarves: not the Longbeard clan whose members figure so centrally in Tolkien's work, but another clan, descended from a different Dwarven father - the Firebeards. In all her stories, she works out the culture of her characters, and her Dwarves especially benefit. Possession, negotiation, freedom, knowing the value of any act or object and carefully judging their courses of action in light of these things - these Dwarves give the lie to the slander of Elves, which Galadriel rebuked when she claimed that none should ever say in her presence that Dwarves were unskillful with words. Thekk and Auth in their rushed courtship, nevertheless open us onto a rich tradition of gift-giving and craft, and suggest the greater freedom of Dwarf-women, to choose their suitors and to give gifts in return, rather than always simply receiving them. We get a sense that Auth has substance, not because she is somebody's symbolic treasure, nor because she just 'is' such, but because she can make her own way with her own skill as a craftwoman. The mother-daughter relationship, too, was very nicely portrayed. For those who love Dwarves and underwritten corners of Middle-earth, along with the romantics - give this story a try!

Reviewed by: dkpalaska  ✧  Score: 10

Adaneth has established herself in my mind as a world-builder extraordinaire. She has focused on Dwarves and on the Dunadain of the (far, far) North, and this short story takes the first culture and adds a wonderful depth and warmth to the premises established in her longer works. Both Dwarven society in general and - delightfully! - the close-kept particulars of Dwarven women are explored. There are enough similarities with human romance to strike a sympathetic spark in a reader's heart, but it comes with a very, very rich Dwarvish flavor. The setting is excellent, plausible and well laid-out, with simply divine characterizations: some that faithful readers know and others that are new. No matter: every individual (and they are all OCs) is a whole and three-dimensional figure, and by the end they feel as familiar as old friends. The entire piece is wonderful, leading us along through the main female character's exploration of her heart and how/why she makes her final decision. I love the description of the women's hearts burning as hotly as those of their men; and of how women have their own secret skills and arts, and how they pass them on to the next generation. And I especially love the ending: awesome! Another terrific addition to the Dunhabaid Cycle, Adaneth.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 10

I think one of the big opportunities for writers of Tolkien fanfiction is to open up doorways into the cultures that Tolkien only hinted at. And there are many of them, not least of which would be the dwarves. Tolkien gave us a few tidbits to work with, but by and large, they're a reticent group. That is, they are until Adaneth grabs hold of them. This is easily one of my all-time favorite dwarf stories, and also one of my favorite romances. I'm not generally a fan of the latter (which should tell you something about how much I like this story) and I have lots of favorites among the former (which should also tell you something about how much I like this story). Simply put, this is a masterpiece that wedges its way into a hidden world and makes it accessible. It's completely dwarven. This could never be mistaken for anything else. But it's dwarven in a way that readers can comprehend and understand. We feel along with the dwarves. We get a sense of the propriety of courtship, the fear that lingers behind the battle preparations, and the feel of choice and destiny and pledges made on the eve of war. Finally, I have to award large kudos for bridging territory into the lives of the elusive Firebeards. Durin's line tends to hog the spotlight. All in all, this is a very full and very encompassing look at a culture that is only briefly glimpsed by canon.

Reviewed by: Alassante  ✧  Score: 8

This is a very sweet story by Adaneth. I'm not a dwarf expert nor do I know alot about the early Third Age so it was nice to see a little snippet of what life might be like for the dwarves getting ready for the War of Dwarves and Orcs in Third Age 2792. Plus this is my first romantic story about a female dwarf! I enjoyed Adaneth's story and her characterizations were wonderful for a short fiction. The story about making the shirt and the specialness of the shirt plus her choice on who to make it for was really unique and I enjoyed it alot. The exploration of dwarf customs is new to me so I am not sure if this is based on canon or just Adaneth's own universe but I am interested to read more about it plus Adaneth's writing is so engaging that you could not help but be intrigued about what happened next for Aud, the female original character, as well as Trekk, the original male character. When the story ended I found myself wanting more so hopefully Adaneth has more on this couple. Plus I got a little bit of an education about dwarves, a race I have not read much about.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 8

This story is a prequel of Adaneth's Dûnhebaid Cycle. We meet familiar characters in their younger days, and characters who have died before/when the main series begins. I very much enjoyed this slice of Auð's life, seen through her eyes and not always fully explained, but giving depth and layers to her story, together with the clear descriptions of the bustle of preparing for war, and her work as a seamstress. A wonderfully complex piece of "culture-building", plausible and vivid, told with obvious care for prose. I like the obviously deep bond between brother and sister. The mother was also a very interesting character. And some things really seem to be universal: a man courting his his best friend's sister always seeming to be somewhat awkward; the wish for love and marriage, for a deep bond before setting out to war, so as to have something hopeful and joyful to sustain the warriors in grim times. And, of course, the most important aspect: it was very, very romantic! I'm glad Adaneth gave us this chance to see both halves of this couple in happier times, alive and in love.

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 8

We know so little (canonically speaking) about the dwarves that it is often hard to develop their culture in a way that feels both realistic and true to what Tolkien wrote. The custom of giving and receiving gifts seemed very appropriate, as did the way that the gifts were chosen. I especially liked the theme of the limitation of gifts and the need to bestow them wisely; that seemed very Tolkienesue, and I think that is a lesson that would come very close to heart for craftsman-races like the dwarves. And the almost absolute equality between men and women, without there being no such thing as "masculine" or "feminine" for this people. It's beautiful, and beautifully told. All of these things seem natural in light of the few hints Tolkien dropped, but they are also highly original. Having struggled to accomplish much the same thing (with IMO not nearly as much success)... well, I have nothing but admiration for an author that can write dwarves well, in a way that feels both convincingly dwarvish but also graspable to those of us not of Durin's line.

Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke  ✧  Score: 7

This is an excellent piece of work. You so fully imagined so many aspects of dwarven culture, and let those aspects deeply permeate your characters, their language, and their actions. I just loved how you took a story we've seen before, that of the sought after maiden (essentially) who has had no need for adult responsibilities, suddenly forced by uncontrollable forces to make a life-binding decision. But, again, you couched it so completely in your envisioned Dwarven culture that it became something quite new and fresh. There are so many pieces of this I absolutely loved I couldn't possibly list them all but a few were how the females' work was equally industrious and valued as the males', how secretly Aud's mother kept her treasures, how Aud evaluated her suitor by the quality of his work and gift, and the element of magic which made the whole scene between Aud and her mother sparkle. Just excellent work.

Reviewed by: Jael  ✧  Score: 6

Adaneth loves the Dwarves. And when you have finished reading Adaneth's stories you will love them too. This author has a unique talent for describing the Naugrim without trivializing them or falling into the trap of turning them into comic relief. Here you will find them in all their gruff, pragmatic glory. This story is even more enjoyable in that it gives us a look into a world we never see in Tolkien and seldom see in fanfiction: the private lives of Dwarf women. A young woman makes a decision, all the more bittersweet if you are familiar with the author's other stories. My favorite parts were the quiet romance inherent in doing the dishes together. And the unusual way she obtains a hair from her beloved's beard -- to what purpose, he does not know. But we do. This is a wonderful story -- check it out!

Reviewed by: annmarwalk  ✧  Score: 5

Oh. Oh. Oh. What a lush and lovely piece of writing! The bare-bones of the tale are universal and familiar: before going off to war, a young man wishes to secure a pledge or marriage; a young woman is torn between fear and desire. What makes this story unique are the seamless insertions of dwarven culture and tradition, history and mythology and craft, and the utter and absolute sensuousness of the manner in which the dwarves express their affection one for the other. Rich and vivid while at the same time spellbinding and erotic - an exquisitely memorable tale.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 4

What a wonderful story! I love all of the hints about the culture and society of the Dwarves. JRRT gives us so very little to go on, after all. But this was marvelous--I love the hints about the courtship customs, and also about the place of Dwarven women in their society. And I am very impressed by Thekk and Aud, a pair of very well-drawn OCs, who make me wonder about what becomes of them later on. And the prose is very dignified and glows like gems--very appropriate to the subject matter!

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

I love how so many stories of the Dwarves appear to focus on their love-lives--Gloin giving his new bride a necklace to wear close to her heart; lovers sharing the moment of looking down into the Mirrormere together; and then this one! How does a young Dwarf court the object of his affection, and right then on the eve of war? This story displays how it is done, and how the Dwarf maiden seeks to pledge herself to him. A most wondrous tale, and so fitting!

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 3

This is a fascinating look in a culture not well-explored within fanfiction, which is particularly interesting in that it gives a fresh insight into one of the possibilities of what it might mean to be a dwarf and be female. Written in the characteristic straight forward style this author always brings to her stories.

Reviewed by: NeumeIndil  ✧  Score: 3

Wow. A deep delving into the murky realm of dwarf women and how they contribute to the fighting and working of their men. I really, really liked it, though I think there are related pieces I should read before I know the whole story.

Reviewed by: nancylea  ✧  Score: 1

a lovely peek beyond the curtain of secrecy