Breaking Bread

Author: Elleth

Nominator: Himring

2011 Award Category: First Age and Prior: Feanorians - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Shortly after the attack on the Havens of Sirion, Maglor and Maedhros endeavour to win the trust of Elwing's sons. For B2MeM 2011: Write a story or poem, or create a work of art, featuring food.

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Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 10

This piece came as a surprise to me when I first read it. It was offered as the response to a B2MeM prompt on the subject of food, and it certainly fulfils that requirement extremely well. But the wording of the prompt also happened to mention the Shire and its cuisine by way of inspiration--and anything less like a hobbits's birthday party than the setting of this story is difficult to imagine, for it is set in the camp of the Feanorians after their retreat from the Havens of Sirion, in a time of defeat and loss when there was nothing left to celebrate. Nevertheless, the story manages to capture the basic reassuring quality of food that would have surely been felt by Elf and hobbit alike, and I am confident any hobbit would have approved of the Sindarin ritual described here, whether they actually shared it or not. Hobbits would not have needed to be told that eating together creates a strong social bond... This ritual was, in fact, adapted by Elleth from a custom that is attested in various versions in human history (in other words, RL), but it makes a very convincing Sindarin custom, too. In the story, it links Maglor and Maedhros with Elrond and Elros and harks back beyond war and destruction to a brief and fleeting period of peace and harmony between Noldor and Sindar: Maglor's deceased wife Lasbaneth (an OFC that appears in others of Elleth's stories) was distantly related to Elrond and Elros's mother Elwing. The emotional desolation and alienation of Maglor and Maedhros after the Third Kinslaying is very vividly described here; Maglor (from whose point of view the story is told) is so devastated that he becomes almost indifferent to the children's fate, although he feels he would not be able to harm them intentionally any further at this point, even if it were to his political advantage. But the memory of his wife and the ritual she taught him enables him to overcome his emotional paralysis and reach out to the children and, in reassuring the children, the brothers are able to return a little to themselves.

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 8

The ceremony of bread and salt is one I had either not heard of or not fully registered before reading this, though I certainly looked it up afterward. I liked Elleth's adaption of this custom as a Sindarin ritual, which Maglor uses to make an overture to the two runaways on their own terms. It is natural to imagine Elrond and Elros attempting escape after their initial capture, though this is the first time I have encountered the idea in a fic. Maglor's instincts serve him well here. It is also worth noting that his efforts, as written, seem chiefly undertaken on his brother Maedhros' behalf. While Maglor does not wish the boys harm, the mercenary thought does cross his mind that they would be two less mouths to feed. His main desire for finding them is to minimize his brother's pain. This is in keeping with an interpretation of Tolkien's posthumous writings which holds that it was not Maglor but Maedhros who [took pity upon Elros and Elrond] and who [cherished them], at least at first. Dawn Felagund's essay [Take Pity upon Him: Did Maedhros Really Threaten to Kill Elrond and Elros at the Third Kinslaying?] makes interesting reading on this point. Perhaps this is the moment in which Maglor's own love for the two will take root.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

Some rituals are universal, or almost universal, among humankind. Elleth presents the giving of bread and salt as a Sindarin rite, and one that the war-weary Maglor uses to gain the trust of the young twins Elrond and Elros. Excellent conception of Elven cultural subtleties and good use of Sindarin. I could definitely see this transaction as the first shared experience between the remaining sons of Feanor and the boys they took from Sirion.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 4

This is very vivid and sad, but with a good ending. Clearly, it is not just the children who are going to have to learn to trust again. In spite of the fact that he is a Kinslayer, my heart ached as much for Maedhros as he is portrayed here, as for Elrond and Elros. The symbolism of the bread and salt is a good idea, and probably not going to be lost on most readers. Both the author's writing style and the plot are good. Well done!

Reviewed by: curiouswombat  ✧  Score: 4

This is a fascinating insight into what must have been a very traumatic relationship, at least at that point; the older brothers traumatised by the loss of their own brothers, the younger ones by the loss of their mother and everyone else dear to them - and that at the hands of their new companions. This simple ritual of sharing bread and salt fits well into Middle Earth - and it seems very right for it to form a bridge between these four.

Reviewed by: Erulisse  ✧  Score: 4

Elleth has crafted a poignant story here that brings forth the ancient tradition of bread and salt with characters we have all learned to enjoy over the years. She also gives slight mention to her OFC, Maglor's wife, who appears in others of her stories. I love the gentle way that she explores the beginning of the relationship and establishment of trust that comes with this simple act of sharing bread and salt with the two children of Elwing and Earendil.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 3

I very much enjoyed this transposition of an ancient primary world tradition into Tolkien's secondary one. I also quite liked how the elven capacity to sleep without seeming to was used here, making Maedhros even more of an uncanny character than he might ordinarily be.

Reviewed by: Mysterious Jedi  ✧  Score: 3

Beautiful little story. It gives a realistic view of the relationship between Maglor and Maedhros, and between them and the twins when Elrond and Elros were first taken from Sirion.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 3

Elleth's breaking bread is a touching look at these four characters, who are moving slowly towards reconciliation. I liked the incorporation of a the author's idea of a Sindarin tradition, as it was both interesting and enlightening. Very appropriate, it seemed to me.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 3

A very interesting look at how Maglor and Maedhros could have gained the trust of Elwing's small sons. I like the tradition being used here in this way, and I like how protective of his brother's state of mind Maglor is, as well as showing young Elrond being protective of his own brother.

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 2

Just as actions speak louder than words, certain customs are often the key to understanding others and overcoming distrust.