My Grandfather's Cottage

Author: Oshun

Nominator: Olorime

2011 Award Category: First Age and Prior: General - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Mature  ✧  Reason for Rating: Sexual Content

Summary: This is a coming of age romance between epic heroes of the First Age, while they were young elves in love in Valinor, inexperienced and foolish. Ecthelion, a half-Telerin nerdy musician who fancies himself to be rather worldly and fashionable, sets himself the task of seducing his best friend Glorfindel, a charming math prodigy.

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Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 10

Oshun has written about the pairing Glorfindel/Ecthelion before (it seems that both in this story and the previous one, the pairing had been requested by the recipient of the story). I loved the earlier story, "Harmony in Autumn", so when I realized that this story was not going to be compatible with it, I needed to be won over a bit - but "My Grandfather's Cottage" did win me over! In fact, I think it beautifully complements the earlier story in a way - it is the boisterous spring to its harmonious autumn, so to speak, and Oshun has chosen to describe young, adolescent love here rather than belated love. The setting (for most of the piece) is Aman during the Time of the Trees and both Glorfindel and Ecthelion still have a certain endearing coltishness. Actually the description of the setting - Ecthelion takes Glorfindel on a trip to a house owned by family on the coast - sounds very summery and warm rather than spring-like - indeed, the whole trip sounds like the very best kind of summer holiday! (Strictly speaking, it can't be summer, I guess, there being no real seasons this close to the Trees, but that question is briefly addressed in the story itself.) This story is mostly told from Ecthelion's point of view, whereas the earlier one was mainly told from Glorfindel's. Ecthelion has an engaging voice. As you would expect in a story of Oshun's, the love story combines great sincerity with a certain robust practicality and a deal of good humour. And this love affair is the beginning of something enduring - as it turns out even longer-lasting than life-long!

Author response: What a beautiful review, I am blushing and grateful beyond belief. I am so happy that so many of the points (mainly of mood and characterization) that I wanted to make were successful with you. Also very gratifying that you liked my earlier Ecthelion and Glorfindel story (that is one of my least read or commented upon stories). The old saw about writing fiction is write what you know and I have experienced beach vacations, modest family summer homes, and, not least, a serious and passionately committed young love, when like the protagonists, despite the intensity of my feeling, I was unable to entertain it with a completely straight face. The innocence of young love is not realize how complicated life and get later and stresses of it upon relationships. Thank you again. I am so grateful for such a lovely review.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 10

Oshun has always painted vivid pictures of Aman and its inhabitants. She brings in elements of our primary world to weave them into Tolkien's mythic sphere to create a sense of place that is at once fantastical and realistic. [My Grandfather's Cottage] is an outstanding example of her craft with its wonderful descriptions of Ecthelion's grandfather's cottage in North Village, which called to mind (for this reader) the blended images of a Mediterranean fishing village and Provincetown, Massachusetts. However, this story is not just about a place or the larger realm of Aman, but of the first awkward (and often funny) overtures that lead toward a romance for the ages between Ecthelion (the narrator) and Glorfindel, back when they were gawky young men barely out of elven adolescence. Ecthelion's voice is layered here. He writes as an adult, but his recollections are those of youth. Oshun negotiates that line effectively. Of course, I am partial to her portrayal of Glorfindel here for selfish, vain reasons. In this story, he is described as a math prodigy of a noble house, quite different than Ecthelion. One might think these two fellows would be oil and water, but as the story unfolds, their mutual attraction becomes apparent and makes sense. There are a lot of subtleties that touch upon class differences, too, and hint at the complex social structure amongst the Firstborn of Aman. Ecthelion's letter, written on the cusp of the Fall of Gondolin, is an excellent device, lending a poignancy with its sweet reminiscences of the halcyon days of youth, and heartrending for the reader who, unlike Ecthelion, knows what will soon befall the hidden city. However, another one of Oshun's trademarks is a light touch and humor even in the midst of tragedy. Thus, the short story has a happy ending, and a most satisfying one. Elrond's cameo is a bonus. I loved the experience of his first meeting with the legendary Ecthelion.

Author response: Thank you for the lovely review! I am honored by it. This has been a long, dry MEFA period for me. Every review has been a treasure and this one like a whole treasure chest. I have a soft spot for that story, even though it really isn't a biggie. You made it sound so good in your review!

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 10

This lovely little story recalls those heady days when the first flush of love is upon two young people and they cannot get enough of each other, a sweet, innocent, awkward time. Oshun conveys those emotions so well. I enjoyed the voice of her narrator Ecthelion as he reads something he wrote many ages earlier describing a trip to his grandfather’s cottage in Alqualondë with his friend Glorfindel. The story attains poignancy because the document was written shortly before Gondolin was destroyed and we know what happened to both Glorfindel and Ecthelion during that time. Oshun does such a fabulous job creating three-dimensional and believable characters so that I feel I know them. In this story Glorfindel is a budding mathematician and terrible at riding and Ecthelion is a musician, and a bit of a rake until he falls hard for his friend, and then gazes longingly from afar before he figures out that the feeling is mutual. I love Oshun’s descriptions that paint vivid word pictures. [“Glorfindel had a smile that, in those days, even more easily overtook his face than it does now. The mixture of mischief and sweetness in the arrangement of his features, the crinkling around his light blue eyes, his teeth so very white contrasted against his golden skin, all of those elements combined to pull at my heart in a way that no one before or after him ever has.”] Oshun’s dialogue is so natural and feels so fresh and true to character. They are such boys too; the teasing is perfect. [ “Do you realize how lucky you are that I have decided to sleep with you?”] and [“I love you with all my heart, Laurefindil,” I said. “I don’t mind how homely you are or who knows either.”] I really admire Oshun’s word-smithery, her skill at describing a lush, believable world that I’d like to sink my fingers and toes into. This story reminds me a bit of scenes in “Call Me by Your Name” by André Aciman for the sense of being immersed in that world of youth and first love in a beautiful place by the sea. I would gladly read a whole novel like this.

Author response: Thank you so much for the generous review. I really appreciate it more than I can say.

Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 10

This story is a pleasure to read, and not exclusively because of a wonderful pair of young men in love, whose past story is told after the War of the Ring. Elrond delivering the precious letter, survivor of many ages, is a great way to take us back into the memories of Ecthelion; the timing of its writing - the eve of the destruction of Gondolin - adds poignancy, but not unnecessary drama. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and banter between Ecthelion and Glorfindel on their journey to Ecthelion's grandfathers's cottage in a fishing village, and avidly watched their attraction overcome the awkwardness, misunderstandings and doubts of youth. Ecthelion's insecurity due to the gap between their relative social stations was also a realistic element of their interaction, not at all overdone or patronising on Glorfindel's part. As well as the engaging dialogue that frequently made me smile, I loved the vivid description of the fishing village (which to me echoed of the whitewashed towns of Southern Spain) and the cottage, and all the details about the elvish society in Valinor, including the (apparently pointless) stilted summer vigil that both men so wanted to avoid. And of course I loved their lovemaking, so eager and hot. A great optimistic, cheerful love story!

Author response: Thank you so much! I enjoyed working on the story although it was a little lightweight maybe. I have a soft spot for young people and vivid memories.

Reviewed by: Ignoble Bard  ✧  Score: 10

I love this sweet, charming story of Glorfindel and Ecthelion in their early years, two good friends exploring their feelings for each other. As always, Oshun sets a scene beautifully as the two plan to spend a holiday at Ectelion’s grandfather’s cottage. I love the contrast between the sea folk of Ecthelion and the mountain folk of Glorfindel. It’s these subtle little touches, these insights into the culture of Aman that sets Oshun’s work apart. Her Glorfindel is gallant and playful, just as I like to think of him, and poor, worried Ecthelion needn’t be so worried as who could fail to be smitten by his beauty, modesty, and intelligence. I like reading the story from Ecthelion’s point of view. Seeing Glorfindel through his eyes made me fall in love with the character all over again. Coming of age stories in the LOTR fandom are a dime a dozen, the Glorfindel/Ecthelion pairing as common as dirt, but in Oshun’s hands the characters and situations are fresh and endlessly fascinating. Highlights are Glorfindel’s cheeky (pun intended) banter and the scene which bookends the story of Elrond returning a letter Ecthelion wrote before the fall of Gondolin. This is such a great romance, perfect for the Valentine gift for which it was written and a pleasure to read on a dreary winter night as well.

Reviewed by: Lilith Lessfair  ✧  Score: 10

I've always thought that crafting a story in response to a prompt offers a very unique challenge. The pairing might not be one a writer is familiar with and the other requested element might prove tricky to incorporate in an organic fashion into the tale. But, in this case, Oshun certainly rises to and more than answers any challenge. In this tale, as any every story of hers I've read, she creates a very well realized world in which her characters belong. These aren't young men (or women) existing in a white room or divorced from any other connections or context. Indeed, Oshun's characters always feel very much a part of Tolkien's world and the additional backstories she divines for them (or extrapolates from his works) feel very well rooted in it, so much so that I've frequently convinced myself that they are (one will never convince me that Fingon and Maedhros weren't canon nor that Glorfindel didn't bear a striking resemblance to Jamie Campbell Bower). In addition to the terrific building out of Tolkien's world, she also makes characters, such as Glorfindel, who tend to seem larger and more regal than life wonderfully and terrifically human. These are characters who talk and laugh and make jokes. They are characters who may be petty and jealous and insecure. None of this detracts in the slightest from the strength of the story but rather makes it all the more engaging. In this case, the initial steps towards a romance between the Glorfindel and Ecthelion is funny, awkward, tender and very natural in the manner in which it unfolds. The story itself is all the more touching because of the manner in which Oshun frames it with other events later in their lives. Very well done.

Reviewed by: Keiliss  ✧  Score: 8

Well of course, how could anyone not want to read a story with such an intriguing title? There is no way I could have passed on by without taking a look, and it is as much fun now as it was when first I read it. Liked the slightly unlikely setting for a tale about these two. Using a physical reminder of the past as the catalyst for this story was a very good idea, it gave him an excellent reason for the retelling instead of it all feeling contrived or forced as this kind of ‘looking back’ so often is. And using Elrond as the audience was a very nice touch, very fitting. Thoroughly enjoyed their journey and the descriptions along the way, as well as the references to a wider social world out beyond them – nothing happens in a vacuum. I’ve had my experiences with hard saddles, I could sympathise while howling with laughter. The banter between them is really sweet --- they are such boys and so darn young, aren't they? I also loved the pictures that were used to set the scene, they fit the story and the sense of everything being still young and new and fresh really well.

Author response: Thank you so much for reviewing this story. I cannot be happier that you enjoyed it, since your stories have given me so much pleasure over the years.

Reviewed by: DrummerWench  ✧  Score: 8

Oshun captures the awkwardness and uncertainty of youth, no matter their beauty or Elvishness. Her Elves are human, first, imperfect and as mistake-prone as any young Second-Born. The relationships and personalities are carefully and clearly drawn; youthful Ecthelion and Glorfindel believably hesitant as any young person unsure of his acceptance. The throwing of caution to the winds is just as recognizable, Elves or no, as they begin to explore their mutual feelings. Oshun's gift for dialogue is enviable; her characters are witty, awkward, loquacious, silent--real people with real feelings, different voices, and greater or lesser facility with expression. She makes Ecthelion and Glorfindel's verbal sparring appealing and realistic. The physical settings are just as evocative, clearly based on careful observation of actual real world places, grounding them and contributing to the story's realism. I'd like to visit them, especially the titular cottage, but realize I'll have to settle for their real-world shadows.

Author response: Drummerwench! Thank you much for the lovely review.

Reviewed by: Levade  ✧  Score: 6

Take two of my favourite characters, add in humour and several dashes of sexy interludes and voila! How could I not love this story after asking for such a goofy list that you fulfilled so perfectly? They're so young, and so lovely still, and I thank you for indulging a few of my musings on Ecthelion. It's a very visual story, even without the photos you provide (which are gorgeous). You clearly have it all pictured in your mind and show it to us in everything from Glorfindel's grand home to the fishing village. I love the backgrounds for both characters, their humour and the awkward affection they have for one another. It's easy to see why they stayed together through everything. Your affection and understanding of young men shines here, Oshun. I can only hope to see more of these two from you!

Author response: Thank you, Levade, for reviewing "My Grandfather's Cottage"!

Reviewed by: Erulisse  ✧  Score: 6

I loved this tale. Not just because I loved the characters and the twists that Oshun placed on the "normal" perceptions of them, but because it was just so obviously perfect. This journey of Ecthelion and Glorfindel to the cottage of Ecthelion's cottage, as described in a letter brought by an unusual messenger, is just perfect. The mutual seduction of the two of them rings happily through the words - these are not characters ridden with angst yet, although that will come in their future. These are two young ellons discovering their mutual love in the best of ways. I will say without apology, that you could read anything by this author and not be disappointed. Oshun crafts a finely honed story, and whether it is a "factual" biography or an off-the-wall humorous tale, it will be well worth putting the time in to read it.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 1

This was delightfully fun and oh, so very hot!

Author response: Thank you so very much.