Nothing Personal...Just Business

Author: Dreamflower

Nominator: Larner

2011 Award Category: Pre-Ring War: General

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Sometimes it takes years to build a relationship… (From the Tale of Years: "Saruman...jealous and afraid of Gandalf...sets spies to watch all his movements; and notes his interest in the Shire. He soon begins to keep agents in Bree and the Southfarthing.")

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Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 10

For those who have wondered how it was that Saruman came to trade with the Shire, and particularly for pipeweed, Dreamflower’s [“Nothing Personal...Just Business”] offers an excellent explanation. She has drawn on the Tale of Years in the Appendices to note when Saruman’s envy of Gandalf reached such a state that he began to set spies on the Grey Wizard, and on the date Merry and Pippin saw branded on the barrel of Longbottom Leaf they found in Saruman’s storeroom to put together a far too plausible series of business letters sent from the Breelands and the Shire to the reclusive “Mr. White” who has begun trading with the Bracegirdles and later the Sackville-Bagginses for pipeweed and information. From the first missives from Bilimer of Dunland to those from various Bracegirdles whom Billimer puts in touch with his master, to Bill Ferny asking for more like his new guest from Isengard who might help him build up a power base in the Breelands and the final correspondence with Lotho Sackville-Baggins, who offers to become “Mr. White’s” agent within the Shire, we see how it is that Saruman’s reach managed to cover the Southfarthing and how events were put into motion to allow for the occupation of the Shire by brigands and half-orcs. Characterizations are most appropriate for each correspondent, and it’s just the type of letters that one such as Saruman was likely to have kept. A fascinating series, and one I was proud to nominate and am equally proud to recommend.

Author response: It's a gap I thought important to fill somewhat! After all, it seems so peculiar that Saruman would start spying on the Shire before he ever suspected that the Ring might reside there-- yet JRRT lays it down to jealousy and suspicion of Gandalf. It occured to me that perhaps his spying originally began not to corrupt the Shire but to keep track of his fellow Istar. And then he began to see it as a way to hurt Gandalf...

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 6

Dear Dreamflower, this is such a cleverly wrought piece of a gapfiller! Tolkien may speak in lofty terms about business that took place, but in reality (well, you know what I mean) no such thing could happen without a good deal of negotiation and, since hobbits are literate, obviously letters will be involved. I like how you have brought out the qualities of the different characters in the tone of their letters. It was a good decision, too, not to include any letters from Saruman to his various agents and business partners – his scheming personality is seen clearly enough in the missives addressed to him. This is an original and entertaining piece with delightful touches of humour. Well done indeed and thank you.

Author response: I toyed with the idea of having some of Saruman's replies, but quickly realized that it would be more effective to allow the reader to guess what he might have said. I am glad you appreciated the strategy of a one-sided correspondence! Thank you!

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 4

This is a very original story, told in the form of correspondence, about secondary characters found in the Shire. They are nevertheless important in the bookverse version of things. It is an interesting tale, and serves to remind the reader that the seduction of evil is not always obvious, even in Tolkien's world. Sometimes it seems like "just business."

Author response: I'd long been fascinated by that little nugget in the ToY that showed just how long Saruman had been interested in the Shire! Long before even Gandalf suspected there was a Ring there! It was fun to explore how his interest might have played itself out.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 4

This is an unusual story - told through letters instead of narration. But it works perfectly. Dreamflower shows Saruman's spying activities through the letters of several hobbits, written to him; he doesn't have a POV and we don't see any letter of his, but we can feel how cunning he is and how he slowly develops his plans. I think this way - story told through letters - is better and more efficient than "normal" story would be. Well done!

Author response: Thank so much! I did think it would work better to let the reader imagine what Saruman's response was.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 3

An interesting story told in an epistolary format about how Saruman might have created his business relationships with people in the Shire, and just how long those relationships may have been in place.

Author response: Thanks! I had a lot of fun writing this one!