Beyond the Pale
2010 Award Category: Times: Ring War - Third Place
Story Type: Story ✧ Length: Ficlet
Rating: Teen ✧ Reason for Rating: Violence.
Summary: They met beyond the city walls, who should never have met at all... (For B2MEM 2009: Innocence prompt)
Reviewed by: Marta ✧ Score: 10
This is one of those stories that I can read time and time again, and it will (seemingly) always move me. Often as not, it moves me to tears, but sometimes -- as with this latest reread -- it moves me to something else, compassion and hope, I think. It's the last bit that brings about that last reaction: [ "Water," he said hoarsely, and motioned towards the riverbank the damnable river that had cost so many so much and pointed to the earth. "Here." Then, glancing back at the wreck of a city miles distant but still far too near, and never to be shelter to either of them - finished dully: "Then we run some more." ] Reading this, I am reminded of Augustine, particularly Augustine's philosophy of language. Augustine pointed out that it's a mystery how we learn our first words. Because how can you tell someone what words mean except for using other words? You can perhaps point to water, as the Dunadan-lad does here and hope your companion sees the world in the same way you do, so he will interpret your word to mean water, as opposed to distant, or wet, or river, or sacrifice, or whatnot. But that only works because of a uniform human nature, and even then it only works at a very basic level. The Gondorians and Haradrim were taught to hate each other, but here we have two boys, bound not only in their experience but also in the fact that they share a common mannish nature, so that they can understand attempts at communication even before there is a shared language. There is shame to share, and (one grasps from the fleeing) a hope of escape - hope of some kind, which their fallen fellow soldiers no longer have, and which neither of them would have if they followed that impulse to ["to end one life, and so master one's own"]. But the most moving thing is the desperation in lads who really are too young to understand the situation they find themselves in. There is a great difference between the hero's prospect, even the hobbit-hero's prospect -- I'm thinking of Bilbo's musing about the road sweeping him away here -- and that of lads who really are swept off by their feet and damned for the falling. An underexplored side of Middle-earth, and one that is as compelling as it is moving.
Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger ✧ Score: 9
The beginning quotes set this story up beautifully, and Dwimordene throws us headlong into a situation that was never depicted in Tolkien's canon but (at least on an individual level) was probably one of the most common situations out there. Brutal, gut-wrenching, and utterly sincere, this story hit me hard. Dwimordene introduces two original characters who, for all their differences, might as well be mirror images of one another. Mirror images who should never have had to meet. Both have been taught about the evils of the other, both are running, both feel the bite of dishonor, and neither is quite able to assuage that bite. So many times in the great epics, ordinary people find themselves caught in dire circumstances not of their making and rise to be heroes and heroines. Instead of taking that tried and weary track, Dwimordene gives us two ordinary people caught in dire circumstances not of their making who remain true to what they are. These are boys who have become victims, and seeing the truth in the face of their counterpart, they remain such. An original and realistic portrayal of the War of the Ring.
Reviewed by: Dreamflower ✧ Score: 5
Two unidentified warriors, and an encounter which should never have taken place. Joy and sorrow, courage and fear, love and loathing-- all are examined in this brief story. There are no names, no more than hinted backstory, for these two who met as enemies but recognized one another as kindred. By leaving the smaller questions of detail unanswered, Dwimordene leaves the reader to ponder on the larger questions at the heart of the story-- also left unanswered. What are the implications of battle to those who are actually facing it? This story will leave the reader furiously to think.
Reviewed by: The Lauderdale ✧ Score: 5
In the chaos of a battle where children on both sides have been put to the task of slaughter, a son of Harad and a son of the Dúnadan attempt to carry out their duty and fail miserably. The description of the terror and confusion, of the two boys physical and emotional reactions are intensely visual. The ending is a surprise, albeit a welcome one. I would actually love to see this as part of a larger story, based in Middle-earth but centered on these two original characters. Surely they cannot run forever. Surely there can be leniency, mercy, for two soldiers who are, after all, only children, forced into a role that is monstrously adult.
Reviewed by: Virtuella ✧ Score: 4
As a pacifist, I tend to approve of deserters, though the set-up of this particular battle makes it hard to do so. Dwimordene, however, manages to give a stark yet sympathetic account of two nameless young men - mere boys - who have found the prospect of the battle too much and ran. Meeting each other throws them back on their feelings of guilt and shame and stirs in them hatred for the other, if only because he is a witness. Their tentative truce at the end leaves the reader to wonder what their story might turn out to be.
Reviewed by: Larner ✧ Score: 4
Two youths have literally run into one another outside a beleaguered city, and fought because one was Dunadan and the other Haradri. Which is the aggressor, and which has the right--or duty--to kill the other? Or will the cycle of violence and mutual hatred finally begin to unravel with these two? As is common with Dwim's work, this is very thought provoking, and displays her mastery of spare but beautiful language.
Reviewed by: Russandol ✧ Score: 4
Two young lads, probably with little or no training, are given weapons and thrown into a horrific battle. Is it so strange that they should bolt in panic? And yet, they would be classed as deserters without honour by their respective people. I loved the way these two, despite meeting as enemies and carrying their shame, felt incapable of doing what was expected of them, and instead realised they had the same goal, to run as far as they could. I wonder what happened to them? Great food for thought.
Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland ✧ Score: 2
A powerful ficlet which vividly depicts the horrors of war through the eyes of two youths, barely out of boyhood who find themselves on opposing sides.