To Absent Friends
2010 Award Category: Races: Hobbits: Family - First Place
Story Type: Story ✧ Length: Medium Length
Rating: General ✧ Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: Frodo works to maintain old traditions and create new ones when his relatives prevail upon him to leave Bag End for Yule. A fic about nothing, and everything.
Reviewed by: The Lauderdale ✧ Score: 10
This is a wonderful story of Frodo et al at Yule in the year 1408: seven years after Bilbo left the Shire and left Frodo as Master of Bag End. Frodo has not spent a Yule in Buckland since he actually lived there, but that invitation comes from his aunt and uncle every year, and this year Merry has thrown in a special plea: his arm is broken, and with the impending arrival of a certain aggravating young cousin, he wants Frodo there to present some kind of balance. Seeing a story about Frodo at Yule, I expected something either uproarious or maudlin. Not a bit of it. It's a fairly quiet story, character-driven: some funny parts, but in the main gentle and understated. As the summary puts it, this is a story about nothing and everything: no definite plot beyond several days in the life of Frodo Baggins, which happen to be at Yuletide. Highlights include a moment of yearning at the Ferry, a conversation with Saradoc and Esmerelda about marriage vs. singlehood, an unsettling dream (in which knitting conjures up the shadow of a certain Loom), and pranks with his younger cousins (Merry is in his tweens and mildly tetchy; Pippin is prepubescent, annoying and rambunctious.) We also get a hobbit ghost story and a mysterious letter. Disparate elements come together to create a story that I know I will be rereading and recommending that other read as well. Celeritas wrote this fanfic for a prompt requesting the five "major" hobbit characters. Alas, Bilbo is not here, (though that is partly the point: his absence informs the narrative) while Sam is holding down the fort back at Bag End. There is a moment between Sam and Frodo at the end of the story which should warm the hearts of all who love their relationship. Plus Celeritas offers some gifts to the reader in the story's appendix...but I'll stop there, you really ought to read it for yourself. A very fine fanwork. I think Tolkien would have enjoyed it as well.
Reviewed by: Larner ✧ Score: 10
Herein Celeritas has managed to write a perfectly wonderful Dickensian Yuletide tale, indeed a Tale of Two Smials! It is complete with family secrets, wassailing, Yuletide journeys, gifts, family and friends, excellent food and better drink, scary ghost stories and songs sung from the heart, and reformation of characters! Merry's arm is broken, and as a tween he finds he isn't eager for the arrival of his younger cousin Pippin, no matter how much he loves the younger lad. He wants to do things with the other lads close to his own age without a youngster in tow, and hopes desperately that Frodo will somehow manage to stand as a buffer between the two of them. Frodo agrees to travel to Brandy Hall for Yule, the first time he's done so since Bilbo left the Shire seven years ago. However, he's concerned that those who live in the shadow of the Hill and Bag End should not miss out on Bilbo's storied Christmas Wassail, so plans things so that there will be plenty of food for those who appear at the door to offer tribute in the form of carols, and that the Wassail punch itself shall be as all have known it for years. Relying on the Dwarf merchants who have brought Bilbo his regular shipments of exotic spices for years, he sees to it the spice box he inherited from the old Hobbit is refilled, and starts preparing, and asks the Gaffer himself to prepare the Wassail bowl on First Yule, swearing him, of course, to secrecy as he shares the Baggins recipe with the old fellow. A delightful tale, filled with humor and seasonal joy, particularly as a post-Hobbit from the Brandywine Bridge arrives at Bag End to deliver seasons greetings from Bilbo and finds himself the recipient of delightful seasonal joy on his own behalf, and as Frodo assists two of his favorite cousins to find reason to enjoy one another's company in spite of themselves. A true joy, particularly as we start looking forward to our own customary midwinter celebrations!
Reviewed by: Virtuella ✧ Score: 9
I remember how thrilled I was with this story when I first read it. Celeritas has a great gift for writing; here stories being always carefully thought out, astutely observed and skillfully worded. Here she shines with a story that would superb in its own right as a scene from the youth of these characters, but even better with the little bits of foreshadowing and the light it throws on the relationships between them later on during the quest. With an eye for the relevant detail, Celeritas describes the pleasures of winter socialising, and I was particularly struck with her description of the spices, which triggered all sorts of associations in my mind. The characters are vibrantly rendered, and I much approved of Frodo's praise of singledom, not because I would ever seek it for myself, but because I do not believe that one form of life would suit all. Celeritas has a knack for presenting characters very believably in a manner that goes against the grain of fanon, and I confess I prefer her assertive Frodo to the poor, poor Frodo often seen. It is an enchanting story that flows beautifully and deserves every praise.
Reviewed by: Marta ✧ Score: 8
Celeritas is one of the few authors who can write hobbit family stories compelling enough to keep me reading. This is not intended as a slight to other writers. Rather, I am just aware that we all are naturally inclined to enjoy stories of a certain sort, and stories involving family and hobbits in particular for some reason aren't the kind of thing I am naturally drawn to. Celeritas overcomes that hurdle easily enough, which really speaks to her skill as a writer. I think what makes this story work for me is that the conflict isn't *just* family-based. Of course there is Merry's irritation with Pippin being so young (a struggle I sometimes faced with my own cousin, from Pippin's side), but there is also the class issues that come through with the Gaffer, and of course the regional conflicts that are hinted at, like with the Gaffer's concern over Frodo going to Buckland, and Pippin's joking over accents. I also loved Sam's discretion and how he recognized Bilbo's letter - so well done! This was a welcome treat on a cold night just before Christmas. I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by: Cathleen ✧ Score: 3
I am so impressed with this beautiful Yule story. A very talented writer, Celeritas used a prompt from the Yule Fic Exchange to create a lovely, quietly moving tale of family and friends.