The Use of Memory
2011 Award Category: Cross-Cultural: Gondor or Rohan - Honorable Mention
Story Type: Story ✧ Length: Ficlet
Rating: General ✧ Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: "Memory is not what the heart desires..." Faramir and Arwen.
Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon ✧ Score: 10
This is such a pretty, and perfectly written vignette that it is difficult to pin down what exactly makes me like it so much. Each part flows so smoothly into the next...But we don't get enough fanfictional encounters of Faramir and Arwen, two such crucial characters in Ring War and Post-Ring War Gondor. Here, they meet after the celebration of Mettare in the first year of the Fourth Age, and discuss the virtues, and inadequacies, of memory, specifically their memories of their mothers. The elven power of memory is much stronger, or at least more significant to Elves, than the memory of mortals; which is very credible, considering how Galadriel seems to have fashioned Lothlorien and its mallorns in memory of Valinor. There is a lovely bittersweet tone to this story that is melancholy, but not weighed down with sorrow; the Lord of Ithilien and the Lady Evenstar are both capable of uprooting and taking on new roles. But they seem to recognize that sometimes memory is not enough, there has to be a willingness to look forward as well as look back. (which will be, perhaps, Arwen's eventual undoing after Aragorn's death, when she cannot bear to look forward to a life without him) I love the imagery of the rippling of light, and the ceremonial echoes from the old cities of Gondor to the new settlements of Ithilien and all the way back to Numenor - very nice! The Second Age is remembered as the Fourth Age begins. A lovely, philosophically intricate piece that delights the reader but leaves the reader wanting more...
Author response: Thank you for such a thoughtful review, Raksha. I'd also like to see more about the friendship between Faramir and Arwen. I'm glad you liked this piece, particularly the echoes of Gondor's old cities and the long-lost cities of Numenor.
Reviewed by: Marta ✧ Score: 10
To my great shame, I still have not read "A Game of Chess" beyond the first few chapters, though I am a great fan of that author's work. She describes this story as a sidebar to that story, but I think it works quite well without it. Certainly, some of her other work plays into it ("Lady of Sorrows" springs to mind), but I do not think those other works are essential. At heart, "The Use of Memory" is a very canon-based investigation of the lot of women in Middle-earth, and of the long defeat cast in a different light. The piece has some truly great mood-writing (the longest night ritual was eerily invocative of the ending of midnight mass from my childhood), but what truly sells it for me is the ending. The invocation of [Ithilien and Evenstar], the first being at the burst of dawn and the second [neither waxing nor waning] - perhaps making Arwen less susceptible to the usual fate portrayed for her sex? - was beautifully poignant. I did have one quibble: despite being set in the Fourth Age, Altariel connects the Gondorian new year with MettarÃ«. The story is only set in F.A. 1 so perhaps old customs had not quite died yet, but I found myself wondering why a Gondorian would not think the New Year started in April. The more I think about that, though, the more that makes sense. The very connection to the old holiday in all its meaning would be in many ways an act of conservatism, and it fits the mood quite nicely.
Author response: Thank you for this lovely review, Marta. I'm glad the story stands up without prior knowledge of "A Game of Chess". That's an interesting point about the New Year.
Reviewed by: Darkover ✧ Score: 6
As the title implies, this story is about memory and how it pertains to the lives of both Elves and Men. The implication is that Elvish memory is both more distinct, necessary, and painful than that of Men, for Elves are so tied to Arda that their memories seldom fade, while the nature of Men's memories are such that with time, we always forget. Both Faramir and Arwen recall their mothers. Faramir's memories of Finduilas have been clouded for years, whereas Arwen's memories of Celebrian have long been distinct, although now, as she has chosen a mortal life, for the first time they are fading. This is bewildering to her, and both she and Faramir are reminded that memories can bring as much pain as pleasure. A poignant but thoughtful story.
Author response: Thank you, Darkover. Difficult memories for both of them, in different ways. I like to think they brought each other consolation.
Reviewed by: Dwimordene ✧ Score: 6
A lovely ficlet on coming to terms with the haunting past. Faramir and Arwen are particularly well-matched and suited to this conversation, both of them bereft of their mothers early to Sauron's devices in different ways, and now, having settled into new lives, they are increasingly putting distance between themselves and mothers lost to the war in different ways. Couple that with the weight of memory that comes with being NÃºmenorean and Elvish, and these two will have a great deal to confront before the memory of loss can do more than weigh on them. I like that this conversation is clearly a starting point, not an ending point - they are both on a journey, and have a great deal of time and space to travel before they reach a point where this sort of talk is no longer necessary. Sad and hopeful at once - thanks for this ficlet, Altariel!
Author response: Thank you, Dwim. Yes, I definitely saw this as a starting point for them. I think this would turn into a lovely friendship.
Reviewed by: Wormwood ✧ Score: 5
Tolkien was never one for uncomplicated happy endings. This undercurrent of melancholia is one of the things that attracts me to his writing, and it is beatifully explored in this piece. Both Faramir and Arwen get to experience that memories are fickle things. Faramir realizes that life perhaps was something Finduilas turned away from in the end, and Arwen feels that the memory of her mother has started to fade. Memories that once seemed unchangable turns out not to be. But sharing even the melancholic moments always brings a consolation of sorts.
Author response: Thank you for this, Wormwood. Change means loss, but also potential transformation to a new state of being. I hope they can continue to contribute to this process for each other; I'm sure that they do.
Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel ✧ Score: 3
A very emotional scene between two characters not often paired together in fandom. I loved the Altariel's use of doubling between them; it created a wonderful sense of continuity and likeness between this two characters.
Author response: Thank you very much! I would also like to see more stories about the friendship between Faramir and Arwen.
Reviewed by: Antane ✧ Score: 3
Poor Faramir and Arwen, this would be a hard time for them both, yet I hope there is some consolation to be had, if not in the past, then in present friends and the future that is still to come.
Author response: Thank you. I'd like to think that this was only the start of much consolation and deep friendship between them.