In the Cards

Author: Dwimordene

Nominator: Dwimordene

2010 Award Category: Genres: Character Study

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet Series

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Violence.

Summary: For the 2009 Advent Calendar at There 'n' Back Again. Four lives and five journeys in twenty-five cards. Fatty Bolger, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Lúthien Tinúviel, and Melkor.(Twenty-three drabbles and two ficlets written for the 2009 Advent Calendar Challenge at There 'n' Back Again)

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Reviewed by: Clodia  ✧  Score: 10

This is a beautiful and poetic collection of tarot-inspired drabbles in which are artfully entwined four narrative threads following "Fatty" Bolger, Lúthien, Lobelia Baggins and Melkor. Each narrative thread is told in a strikingly different authorial tone, as befits the different characters. When I started reading this collection, I expected to like Lúthien's cycle best, since the tale of Lúthien and Beren is one of my favourite parts of the Silmarillion and I'm pretty fond of the Lay of Lúthien as well; and certainly this section is stunningly written in rhyming couplets after the style of the Lay itself. But as much as I loved Lúthien's cycle (and I very much did, not least the way in which, at the end, it meets up with the 'Melkoriad'), my favourite narrative strand ended up -- just -- being the Lobeliad and its sympathetic take on a character whom I have never seen being treated sympathetically before. I cannot confess to having read a great deal of Hobbitfic, since my interests are mostly Silmarillion-based, so this may just be my lack of experience speaking, but Lobelia has always seemed to be immune to the fondness of fanfic writers for reenvisioning villains into, well, if not heroes then at least *sympathetic* villains -- she too often appears, when she appears at all, simply as a spiteful old dragon of a cardboard cut-out character. This has always disappointed me in the past, so I was delighted by Dwimordene's take on a Lobelia made hard by a hard start to life: [Hardbottle was winter in her tweenaged years. Summer, spring, fall – no matter, Hardbottle was winter. It was slate.] Lobelia is possessed by a [Longing] -- not a sea-longing, as with the Elves, but [a groaning of unseen stones yearning for more, for broader, gentler, more], and she desires Bag End not so much for herself as for Otho and Lotho, although caught in the throes of her Longing she [doesn't notice the deepening silence – that she's more often on the road than in someone's home. That even Otho's grown silent.] Lobelia's eventual retirement to Hardbottle, her hard childhood home, brings her cycle neatly into line with the Bolgeriad. The relationship between Lúthien's cycle and the Melkoriad is more complex, since more allusive. Melkor's narrative strand removes us from the familiar Tolkienesque context, at least that of Elves and Hobbits and Middle-earth; we find ourselves on a different level, that of Valar and the Song and madmen in different times possessed by a mad Dark King. The resonance between the madman's angel and Lúthien's rhyming couplets, where Lúthien in her cycle gives Melkor [a gift he couldn't spurn] -- Nienna's gift, to [Burn / With her godfire love for thee / Bond whence none can e'er be free!] -- and the angel in Melkor's cycle [pours her tears over his head] and remonstrates ["To the world that is our destiny, Brother, and make right lament."] -- is allusive and uncertain and all the more exquisite for that. In short, this is an absolutely delightful set of drabbles and ficlets. Thank you, Dwimordene!

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 10

What struck me first and foremost in these little drabbles was the sheer variety in the writing. And it isn't just variety in that a different topic or development was approached. It's the approach itself. It's the methodology of the telling and the perspective and tone associated with that telling. Even with Lobelia and Fatty, two series I expected to be somewhat similar, there are marked differences. Lobelia's drabbles seem to dwell on something, reluctant to move on and only doing so because the next drabble forced the issue. Fatty's drabbles, on the other hands, have a much swifter pace to them and seem to be moving through events so fast as to be almost jarring. Which, given the nature of Fatty's drabbles, is perfect. Speaking of Fatty, his drabbles were my favorite. That was another unexpected pleasure. I thought I would enjoy Melkor or Luthien more. I certainly enjoyed the poetry of the latter, and the words are woven as skillfully as Luthien wove Song and dance. Melkor's drabbles have an abrupt, harsh quality that somehow shares space with an otherworldly power and voice. A very compelling juxtaposition. Lobelia is downright fascinating, and I love that her drabbles go full circle. But it's Fatty who really steals the show. I love the idea of something stirring in him the night Bilbo disappears, and I love the way Merry is described as ["frowns and secrets"]. But more than that, I love the continued insertion of hobbit sense. A particularly good moment is when Fatty decides that rebellions areuncomfortable things. Things like that really grounded the character development, allowing him to grow and learn as an individual but also drawing him back to his roots and to the Shire.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

Last December's There and Back Again Community's Advent Calendar challenge was particularly interesting--to put characters from other worlds into the places of the major arcana cards from the Tarot deck. Dwim did so by dividing the various cards up into different story series, involving characters one ordinarily doesn't see as the centers of story arcs in their own rights. A fascinating set of ficlets, well thought out and carefully managed, and filled with Dwim's hallmark unique and so appropriate use of language.

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 4

I confess that some of these ficlets left me puzzled, which is, without doubt, my own fault for not understanding the background well enough. Of the four characters Dwimordene follows here - Fatty Bolger, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Lúthien Tinúviel, and Melkor - I was most struck with her portrayal of Lobelia. The combination of winter, harshness, the name "Hardbottle" and the vague sense of emptiness and emotional hunger make for a very compelling character study, one that is pleasingly ambivalent and multi-facetted.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

Choosing the lives of Luthien, Melkor, Fredegar Bolger and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins for a Tarot-inspired drabble series takes serious chutzpah. Well, Dwimordene has such authorial (word?) confidence, and takes up this challenge with these four very different and not usually linked characters. Somehow, she pulls it off. Dwim's blending of philosophy, the grand theme of redemption, and the turbulent lives of these characters does work, very well. I'm partial to the Lobelia-themed pieces, but the set works as a whole too.