Burning Son

Author: Aruthir

Nominator: Dwimordene

2007 Award Category: Times: Mid Third Age: 2851 - 3017 TA

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Medium Length

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: These stories features some brief, bloody violence and dark themes.

Summary: When Helm Hammerhand slew Freca of the Dunlendings, it sparked off years of blood and fire, which are explored in this series of vaguely inter-connected vignettes.

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Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

This set of inter-connected vignettes falls into two halves for me. The first is a portrait of Wulf, in his relationship to his father and the destiny he believes is his. It provides a certain framing for what I think is the second part, but also in many ways the heart of the story: namely, the story of how wars end, and the relationship that the end of war has with those who began it. Wulf is a classic megalomaniac, with an eye that is sharp where the weakness of his father is concerned, but blind where he himself is concerned (a trait he seems to share with his father, though he does not recognize this). Freca, the drastically overmatched challenger of Helm, was a fool in the eyes of his son, but a fool who made one worthy gesture: he dared to try to give more to his son than he himself had. Wulf therefore treats the invasion of Edoras as a moment vengeful justice -- the accomplishment of his father's dream at the hands of the more worthy son. When the tables finally turn, and the Rohirrim return to drive Wulf and his people from the city, Wulf is paralyzed by failed dreams. He has failed to mold the wills of his people into a conquering force that would bring all Rohan into his grasp; he has failed to rule effectively. He claims that all common concerns - such as cold and fear - are beneath him, and he exacts the ultimate price from those about him who, as it were, feel these things on his behalf. His is the end of a MacBeth, if we follow Levinas's reading: Wulf's greatest pain is that the world does not end when he does - that his own callous defiance (his madness, as others, even his own people call it) of the world is not in the end the sustainer of the world, so that destroying him does not bring down darkness. We see this point driven home, among others, in the second part, where we discover how the war ended. Helm's daughter and her warriors come upon Wulf's wounded young cousin, Reth, alone. The lad does try to defy them, but Feanwen convinces him to put down his sword, with the fateful words: ["In another world, we could have been friends. In another world, I could have been your Queen. Put down your sword."] And the boy at last does. But when he does, and Feanwen approaches, he discovers that he, too, has a blind spot, just as his cousin did. But where his cousin's blindness concerned his own invulnerability and greatness, Reth's blindness is the blindness that marks a man still human - he trusts that the enemy, too, can weary of war, can act sincerely towards another, and so discovers the kernel of truth falsely presented in Feanwen's words. War ends with the extermination of all those who could raise it again - the cousin of Wulf, one imagines, could not be allowed to live, for he might become a symbol, and a spur to action - if not of his own will, of the will of others who dream as Wulf does and wish, through the chance position that others have occupied, to advance their own vainglorious wishes. The world doesn't end with Wulf, but he would have been most affronted to learn that not even the war ended with him - that it ended with a cousin he would have deemed too weak to be allowed to live (and who, alas, was slain by taking advantage of that 'weakness'). This, Aruthir intimates, is the price for the innocence of the children of Rohan, who listen to the loremaster's tales of this time without understanding their significance. And sadly, while the war may have ended, wars continued - we know that in the Third Age, the Dunlendings will rise again to continue the cycle of hatred. So Wulf's cousin, in a sense, dies in vain - and Feanwen's honor, too, is wrecked for no reason. Who knows what might have happened had trust won the day in that one moment? Might history have been different? Who knows?

Reviewed by: Llinos  ✧  Score: 3

This really reinforces the insanity of war and the way that such conflict brings out the worst (and sometimes the best) in people. Harsh and vividly written, which is right for the subject matter.

Reviewed by: Marigold  ✧  Score: 2

The author does a vivid job here of describing the bleakness of war and its cause and effect.