A Question of Breeding

Author: tyellas

Nominator: The Lauderdale

2011 Award Category: Character Study: General - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes,Mature Language/Themes

Summary: About thirty years before the War of the Ring, Elladan and Elrohir give Saruman counsel about orcs, and in turn come to doubt their long vengeance against the orcs. Radagast and Gandalf share their own opinions about the matter.

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Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 10

The story of Celebrían's torment by Orcs is a grim aside in LOTR's appendices, as disturbing for what it does not say as what it does. But the quest for extermination led by her sons can be viewed as disturbing in its own right, particularly when compared with genocidal campaigns in our own history. When Saruman calls Elladan and Elrohir to Orthanc, it is to solicit their opinions as renowned Orc hunters with great knowledge of their prey. This has sinister connotations for the reader, who already knows where Saruman's research into the nature and habits of Orcs is leading, but the dark purpose the White Wizard may or may not have at this stage is more of an ominous shadow. The true focus of the story is the crisis of self-examination he has inspired in Elladan and Elrohir. ["We told Saruman the orcs are like the other peoples of Arda in many ways, but we ourselves hunt them like beasts. If Saruman the Wise thinks their evil might fade... have we been doing the wrong thing all along?"] Tyellas frames the two warriors' search for enlightenment as a wizardly triptych: their meeting with Saruman is followed by separate meetings with his two colleagues Radagast and Gandalf. This approach is an appealing one and I actually find it strange not to have seen it elsewhere. It is a great way to compare and contrast the three wizards, and to see their different brands of wisdom brought to bear on a particular problem. I enjoy [A Question of Breeding] for its exploration, in fictional terms, of Orkish nature (Tyellas' own essay, [The Unnatural History of Tolkien's Orcs], makes a fine companion piece to this story), and as a character study: of the three wizards, but of Elladan and Elrohir as well. So far as I can tell, Tolkien’s depiction of their quest for vengeance is essentially neutral, neither condemnatory nor approving, and most fanfiction to express any unease restricts its concern to mental health implications for one or both of the twins: “Surely killing all those Orcs can’t be good for you!” [A Question of Breeding] shows an Elladan and Elrohir who are more reflective for a change as they are forced to think critically about their chosen course of action and its implications for a people that they hate.

Reviewed by: ziggy  ✧  Score: 10

There is so much to like about this beautifully crafted piece of fiction. It is absolutely compelling, utterly believable and credible - stylistically it could be written by Tolkien himself. It deals, as it states, with lore. But the darkness underneath the veneer is this malice that is almost blind to anything else. Saruman here is almost unaware, using his Voice to lull and flatter Elrohir and Elladan, but seems careless toobecause of it. And tha tis very skilful writing indeed. He is very present, and although the visual details are almost sparse, they are placed with such care that the scene is vivid and tangible. The other touches, the younger Grima, the irritation at not being addressed in his own right but as 'son of Elrond' give this a depth. The assertion from Saruman that the 'half-dissected creatures floating within.' are "Specimens sent as a courtesy by my colleague Radagast." fail absolutely to convince me that Radagast would send his animals to be dissected. And that underlines the sense of menace already built into the fabric of this tale. And the fact that his questions lead the twins ot wonder if they do wrong shows a moral ambiguity that is never present in Tolkien, even though we also know that Saruman's reasons are corrupt. And this theme continues with the pathos of the female orc arched over the whelp. The contrast between Radagast and Saruman is strong and where Saruman has Grima, Radagast has a blind old wolf. Loved the detail with the kitten and Elroihr thinknig only of the fleas he would catch now. Finally the story turns ot the most familar- Gandalf and in his quiet way that never seems as humble as it is, but noble and wise, he gives real insight to the brothers, both about the nature of Orcs and in doing so, themselves and their quest for vengeance. As always, Tyellas writes a complex and intriguing story, with precise language and a mood that is all the darker for the lightness of the telling.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 6

This is a thoroughly interesting story that produces many thinky-thoughts. Saruman, in his never-ending quest for knowledge that might be useful and turned to his own end, asks some questions of Elladan and Elrohir that sets the two of them to having their own rather disturbing thinky-thoughts, after which they seek the advice of the other two Istari that they know. The question of evil and of evil beings in Tolkien's Arda is a never-ending debate, but I think that the conclusions and extrapolations that this author has come up with are some of the most plausible. And I like the advice she puts in Gandalf's mouth. Indeed, in Tolkien's world *will* is everything, and it is *will* that distinguishes the Eruhini from other creatures. A good read, and I like the unusual (at least to me) characterizations of the twins.

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 4

This story shows Elladan and Elrohir in rare roles as diplomats for their father. A journey to Isengard leads them to question many things that are happening there but after meeting with Saruman, they are diverted from their original misgivings and tell him much more than they could ever imagine. Leaving Isengard, they meet with Radagast and then with Gandalf, and only after the last two meetings (and many years later) do they realize their folly.