Fair and Foul

Author: DrummerWench

Nominator: Kara's Aunty

2011 Award Category: Drama: General - Second Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: A fairy tale of Middle-earth, for Elves and ... others.

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Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 10

One of the great satisfactions of reading DrummerWench's [Fairy Tales of Middle-earth] is the recognition of patterns and devices familiar from our own knowledge of fairy tales. Last year's MEFA entry, [A Son of Eärendil], borrowed elements from Odysseus and the many antecedents of Rip Van Winkle. Reviewing [Fair and Foul] elsewhere, I tried not to name the tale this story "adapts," but it is one of the more clear-cut adaptions - at least, it is on the surface. Here's the thing about setting [Beauty and the Beast] in Middle-earth. I've seen it done. I've even seen it done with Orcs (well really, they're sort of obvious, aren't they?) But DrummerWench is just so dashed cerebral about it, and the narrative tack she takes is so confident, that any prospective clichés drop dead before they can become an issue. It is no rose that Iaurel picks, but three fateful crystals. Given leave to return to his children, he doesn't mention [the orc's proposal that one of them take his place] (something that always perturbed me about the father in the original fairy tale), but returns faithfully alone to his mysterious jailor. Even Gathnur, the Orc, is not as he at first appears - and Gathnur, unlike the Beast of the original tale, has children: three of them, just like Iaurel. The developing bond between these two is not that of a naive maiden and a secret prince, but of two adults, both carrying the experience and the weight of several Ages of the world. Their final reunion reminded me as much of Húrin and Morwen as it did of Belle and her Beast, and Gathnur's story is firmly rooted in the eschatology that Tolkien devised. We find satisfaction in the familiar. We find zest in its subversion. But the real transformation lies not so much in those altered details and devices as in the meaning of the story itself. This a [Beauty and the Beast] that takes its resonance from the world in which it is set: the world of Tolkien's Middle-earth, from which this story draws, not only the particulars of its expression, but its final message and significance.

Author response: The Lauderdale, thank you so much for such a wonderful review! I'm really glad you enjoyed it enough to delve into it so insightfully.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 10

DrummerWench's [Fair and Foul] is another brilliant and especially poignant addition to her [Fairy Tales of Middle-earth] series. This is an absolutely gorgeous, and I will admit it, tear-inducing rendition of one of my favorite childhood fairy tales: [Beauty and the Beast]. DW skillfully interweaves the threads of Tolkien and the traditional fairytale to yield another wonderful panel in her tapestry of fairy tales The protagonists are beautifully drawn here, and I love the interpretation of an orc who retains a fundamental core of humanity, and likewise, her orcish offspring who also exhibit good human behavior as well as the more fractious. This treatment rings far more true to me (an indefatigable humanist) than thoroughly evil and unredeemable flesh-and-blood automatons under the near complete control of a dark demiurge (or his lieutenant). Drummerwench develops the story like a flower unfolding, layer by layer, until Iaurel finds love when looks deep within the orc. This is a fantastic interpretation of Tolkien's concept that orcs were derived from Elves and an examination of its consequences. I am also in awe of DrummerWench's stylistic prose. She consistently hones right in on the tone of a fairy tale. A truly lovely story, DW, and like the original [Beauty and the Beast], it is one of my very favorites of your series. That said, long may you keep writing these!

Author response: Thank you, Pandë, for your lovely and thoughtful review! I, uh, also got a little teary-eyed while writing ... B & tB has always been one of my favorites as well; I so happy that you think I have done it justice, and that you enjoyed it.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 8

DrummerWench's collection of Middle-earth fairy tales has given years of enjoyment to readers, and this installment is sure to please for the clever interpolation of the story of Beauty and the Beast into Arda. DrummerWench picks her setting well, but also deals with one of the toughest themes Tolkien gave us, namely, the nature of the orcs, and what hope for redemption and healing they may have. In so doing, she brings in the Avari, the War of Wrath, the creation of orcs, and touches on the role of the Valar and the scope of their judgment over the fates of individuals. Yet the story never gets bogged down in its details - it moves quickly, as fairy tales are wont to do, preserving what is essential and leaving aside the claims of a more naturalistic genre. That stylistic decision works beautifully and lends this story a very great charm. Beautifully done, DrummerWench - I highly recommend this story to other readers who love the intermingling of fairy tale and history that is Tolkien's Middle-earth. Now we get to see this same combination *within* Arda.

Author response: Dwim, thank you for your marvelous and thoughtful words, both for the tale and for the series. I love your analysis of my rendition of the traditional tale.

Reviewed by: Kara's Aunty  ✧  Score: 8

Having recently re-read The Silmarilion, I was pleased to read this and find that it has that same bittersweet, haunting air which seems so synonymous with elves (whether they are portrayed at the towering height of their power or in the fading years of the late Third Age). Fair and Foul is a beautiful re-imagining of 'Beauty and the Beast' which the author cleverly and flawlessly adapts for use in Tolkien's wonderful world - in fact, she does it so well, and so seemlessly, one has to wonder if the two worlds were not specifically made for each other. A clever plot (I don't want to give too much away here, but there is a twist in the tale at the end), elegant prose, creative settings, and truly beautiful, heart-wrenching dialogue. Reading this story felt like being lost in a fairy tale within a fairy tale, and it was twice as magical for all of that. So sit yourself down, relax, and prepare to lose yourself in an enchanting, bittersweet story with a moral as pertinent today (perhaps even more so) as it would have been then. I cannot reccomend this gem highly enough.

Author response: Kara's Aunty, thanks for nominating this little tale; I really appreciate it! Thank you also for your reviewing and commenting so thoughtfully!

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 8

This is one of my very favorite of your Middle-earth fairy tales. I supposed I am particularly attracted to it because it deals with the origins and the outcome of the long years of the Elves in Middle-earth. We also tend to be very keen in knowing all about the intricacies of the named big movers and shakers among the Elves and no so little of the ones who fell back along the trek from the shores of Cuiviénen to the sea. I was surprised to find myself smitten with this story as I have never been keen to accept the explanation that the Orcs were made from fallen or captured Elves. Nevermind, you made the preference unimportant by the skill with which you constructed your story and the degree to which you convinced me to suspend all disbelief. An Elf-to-Orc tale with a happy ending, is, I really do believe, also one of the rarest flowers of Tolkien fanfiction. I definitely do not think that I have ever encountered one of those before. This is seriously beautiful work and a lovely, satisfying story. Look forward to you continuing to add to your body of work.

Author response: Oshun, thank you so much for your insightful review. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and pleased the premise and the suspension of disbelief worked for you.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 3

A powerful re-imagining of the classic story "Beauty and the Beast", only in Middle-earth, with an Elf and a she-Orc. DrummerWench weaves a bittersweet story where love ultimately does triumph over some pretty heavy pain and sorrow; and the resolution strikes me, ultimately, as appropriately Tolkienesque.

Author response: Thanks so much, Raksha! I'm happy you liked it, and appreciate you reviewing it.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 3

This is such a touching, wonderful, poignant tale - one of those to "read in one breath", as we say in Croatian. It has sad parts - when Gathnur speaks of her past and the pain she endured, but in the end, all the evil is forgotten in a happy reunion. Beautifully written.

Author response: Ellyn, thank you so much for reading, and for your lovely review! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reviewed by: Lilith Lessfair  ✧  Score: 3

This is yet another wonderful installment of DrummerWench's Fairy Tales of Middle Earth. This one, crafted in truly gorgeous prose, is delicate, tender and haunting -- a truly marvelous read.

Author response: Thanks so much for reviewing, Lilith! I'm glad you enjoyed the new tale as well as the series!