The Fords of Isen

Author: Branwyn

Nominator: annmarwalk

2006 Award Category: Genres: Adventure - First Place

Story Type: Other Fiction  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: PG  ✧  Reason for Rating: Non-graphic violence.

Summary: Do the bonds of friendship endure beyond the grave? A Rohirric ghost story, written for annmarwalk’s birthday.

Read the Story

Reviewed by: annmarwalk  ✧  Score: 10

This is such a wonderful tale! I’m awed by how skillfully you’ve woven the setting and the story-within-the-story together. The opening scene is cozy and unassuming: aged grandparents, caring for the grandson for a few days; the grandmother occupied with her weaving and handiwork, listening and commenting a bit cynically over what she thinks is “one more war story” until she finally realizes this is a tale she has never heard from her husband before. We join her and the young grandson, spellbound by the fire. The grandfather’s storytelling skills are impeccable: simple, droll, without additional embroidery; it is the vividness of his recollection that makes it extraordinary. As always, your attention to detail is fabulous: Théodred’s careful cleaning of his sword, to protect it from rust; the squelching sound of Boromir’s boots; his continual dripping of cold water everywhere he goes. Their banter is a delight, their affectionate companionship (and obvious chagrin at the methods of their demise) shining throughout their conversation. Théodred’s play-by-play narrative of his final battle, complete with diagrams, would have fascinated the Captain-General. Obviously the passion of old campaigners for war stories doesn’t end even after they are dead!. You’ve written Boromir and Théodred both so perfectly here that I’m speechless with delight each time I reread this.

Reviewed by: Anoriath  ✧  Score: 10

One of the many things that I particularly enjoy about Tolkien’s work is his use of parallels. He draws people and events into alignment through subtle uses of images and word choice and it’s through the comparison and contrast of these parallel things that much of his deeper themes come to light. Quite often, characters who are strongly parallel are never portrayed as coming into contact with one another, and yet, there is this strong undercurrent of a relationship between them. Theodred and Boromir are just such a pair. Sons of the rulers of their respective lands, warriors, fiercely loyal to their kin and lands, and dead within days of each other, their relationship is fertile ground. I love the ease of the relationship you have portrayed, here. They are men’s men, masters of their craft and share each other’s enthusiasms. The joy with which they attack the orcs gives the sense that they have been released from their most immediate earthly concerns but the fierce fire of their loyalty and determination to oppose the Enemy still drives them. And so the opportunity to fulfill that purpose brings them joy. I also especially like how you’ve embedded the story within a story, giving it the ring of myth and forcing the reader to draw conclusions about the two men based only upon a third party’s observations.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 9

I do not normally care much for ghost stories, even if set in Middle-earth, but this one is really outstanding. Using the framing device of a Rohirric grandfather telling his young grandson a story of the days of his youth, when he rode with an Eored during and after the Ring War, a tale of battle, danger, and friendship beyond death is splendidly woven. The physical details of the story are wonderfully written - such as the sound of the old grandmother's loom, the atmosphere in the old people's house, the clash of arms and the difficulty in fighting in and around a river, and the barnacles on the shield of a dead warrior. I almost felt sorry for the Orcs - they must have had such a shock when Theodred awakened to do some house-cleaning. Theodred and Boromir are scary ghosts to their enemies, dead yet fully physically present, and kind to the terrified young Rider who is telling the story. I loved their conversation, old friends talking of battles, and their full, rather ironic knowledge of their own deaths. The bit with Boromir's problem in starting a fire is funny in a low-key way that is typical of the touches of humor in the story.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 7

A very interesting ghost story--save for the water, the scent of mouldering earth, and the oysters, and the bits of conversation, you'd think that Boromir and Théodred were quite alive. I loved Boromir's comment that, with regard to his expectations about death, he'd just assumed neither of them would ever die. The matter-of-fact, down-to-earth talk and comfortable manner of the two ghosts towards each other makes death just a slight disruption of an otherwise contiuous life. Théodred's comment about disliking the damp of the river, though he knows he shouldn't complain to Boromir about it, is hysterical. The dialogue throughout captures the spirit of two men who were warriors first and foremost, and great friends. The poor narrator, though, terrified out of his wits by these ghosts, even if they are his benefactors! Good of him and of his friend to return to honor the dead, and attempt to assuage their longing for certain missed pleasures of life.

Reviewed by: Bodkin  ✧  Score: 5

What a terrific story. Boromir and Theodred are just as great dead. Although being constantly dripping must be a bit of a trial. The touch of oysters attaching themselves to Boromir's shield was delightful. I really enjoyed seeing these two catch up with each other - they must hope for regular orc attacks on the Fords of Isen, just to give them something to occupy them. Great background, too - the whole build-up of disapproving grandmother getting drawn into the story, the loom, the cold floor, the blanket. And the real horror of the times and the attack on the farm, that set off a pair of ghosts who were the heroes of the day. Loved it.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 5

A most fascinating ghost story this one, as a Rider of Rohan tells his grandson of an encounter with Boromir and Theodred and Theodred's men--a year after they fell at the Fords of Isen. A small troupe of Riders is aided by a warrior from Gondor, and then the injured Rider was saved by Theodred's men when those orcs who'd not taken part in the earlier attack came out of hiding in the woods. There is humor here as well as horror, and the finding of an oyster shell when the Rider's fellows return to his side adds to their befuddlement. If there is indeed a proper ghost story to be told about the fires of the Mark, this is definitely the one.

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 4

I really like this story. Usually ghosts in Tolkien fanfic don't work for me because what Tolkien told us about the ghosts not normally lingering in Middle-earth. But I can see Rohirrim, especially rural ones like the old couple in this story, having less than full knowledge of those truths. More to the point, the action and horror and sense of desperation is palpable. I love what you've done with Boromir's battle-lust in particular. That was a nice connection to use, and it was really effective.

Reviewed by: Isabeau of Greenlea  ✧  Score: 4

A great ghost story! I've always liked the idea that Boromir and Theodred were good friends-it makes sense, given that they were both warriors, heirs of their respective countries and of an age to each other. A very tragic symmetry, that Rohan and Gondor both lost their heirs on the same day. It's nice to think that Boromir would be able to come once more and aid his old friend in battle. The business with his continual dripping of water and the oyster shells growing on his shield was sort of gruesomely funny.

Reviewed by: EdorasLass  ✧  Score: 4

I love this! The grandfather's voice is perfect, as are the grandmother's interjections, and the little boy listening with rapt attention. The story itself flows so well - I can imagine it being told round campfires years from now with all sorts of embellishments having been added. And the dynamic between Boromir and Theodred is wonderful - they sound like two old friends who haven't let death bother them (much) or get in the way of their friendship. The oyster shells and this :[I should not complain to you of all people, but this river dampness settles in my bones] are particularly nice touches.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 3

A ghost story of best tradition, spooky, evocative and full of suspense. The tale itself is imbedded very neatly into the surrounding story. Vivid descriptions with excellent details (e.g. Boromir constantly dripping water, Théodread casually ["reaching a bare hand into the coals"]).

Reviewed by: Marigold  ✧  Score: 3

An exciting ghost story, and I especially loved the unexpected appearance of the Man of Gondor! I could easily see the grandfather relating the tale to Elfwine, while the disapproving (but interested) grandmother worked her loom.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 3

Exciting, a bit creepy, and yet very touching, to see these two warriors, friends in life, still watching over others in their deaths. I love the framing story as well, the OCs--grandfather, grandmother and grandson--and their interactions. A good story, well executed.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 3

I just loved the way you built up the tension here,a perfect ghost story for a chilly night.A wonderful atmospheric piece in which an old warrior of Rohan tells his grandson of a ghostly encounter.You do Tolkien proud !

Reviewed by: Súlriel  ✧  Score: 2

Very very nice, Branwyn. Chilling and uplifting at the same time and well done with the framing of the story within the story. - I can see it becoming lore among those people.