Spell of the Crossing

Author: Elleth

Nominator: grey_gazania

2011 Award Category: Elves: General - Second Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes

Summary: Crossing Helcaraxë, the Noldor find themselves both enticed and changed by their surroundings. For B2MeM 2011, Day One: Voltaire said that it's not enough to conquer: one must learn to seduce.

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Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 10

Elleth has a knack for writing vivid and evocative stories, and "Spell of the Crossing" is no exception. I felt cold just reading it! Aside from its beautiful (albeit chilling, pun fully intended) imagery and realistic description of the dangers and losses the Noldor must have suffered on the Grinding Ice, this story also offers a novel and unique perspective on the Helcaraxë: That, after a while, the Noldor may have become attuned to their forbidding surroundings - some of them so much that they gave up their lives to the ice willingly, while others marched on but likewise slip into the rhythm of the Ice. By the time they reach Middle-earth, that rhythm has grown natural to them, and when they leave the Ice behind them, they actually miss it. Unlike it is reported in the chronicles, there are no triumphant trumpets to celebrate their arrival, and probably no flying banners, either. Instead, the Noldor have come to love and miss their tormentor - a rather unique case of Stockholm syndrome, one might say. In a ficlet full of great language, two sentences stand out particularly: ["Helcaraxë begins to sing, and they learn to listen to its language, for are they not Quendi?"] - this is my favourite - and in the end: ["Those who say there were trumpets, they lie."]. I also liked the idea that the worst losses were suffered while the Noldor did not yet follow the rhythm of the Helcaraxë while later they know how to avoid its dangers. Poignant, spot-on and very moving!

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 10

This is an absolutely gorgeous ficlet with a very creative approach to a Back to Middle-earth month writing prompt in which seduction had to play a central role. Elleth has rendered the power of the treacherous landscape of the Helcaraxë in such a way that it becomes a character unto itself, one that bewitches with its cruel beauty requiring the elves attempting to cross to listen to its song and learn its ways and to change fundamentally who they are. [“Helcaraxë begins to sing, and they learn to listen to its language, for are they not Quendi?”] I admire the wisdom in this piece – the idea that treachery requires the occasional kindness to work; the idea that the elves must learn the secrets of the terrible terrain to survive; that some become so beguiled that they purposefully become lost; and that the others who find their way, they lose some part of who they are too; and the inspired description of how they learn to talk in the bitter cold, yes with a rise of eyebrows, and no with a frown. And then there is Elleth's poetic language that sings and soars, and we hear the groan and grind and creak of the wind and the ice, and every word carries meaning and weight. When I tried to pick one line to quote, I ended up wanting to quote the entire piece. And finally there is the ending that catches one’s breath. Fabulous work!

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 7

A truly wonderful personification of ice, told elegantly and with a flair that captivates the reader. The author's style of detailing the journey and slow evolution of the Quendi as the ice tears away at their humanity and molds them anew was very interesting, and the word choice and portrayal of images was simply wonderful. More than anything, this piece is a study on characterizing an inanimate entity, giving it a personality and a will of its own; these are things the author did very well. The ice's singing, and the Elves' method of listening and adapting seemed very real; the ice's slow seduction of the refugees as the Grinding Ice becomes their whole world was beautifully poetic. And the last line: [Those who say there were trumpets, they lie.], was chilling, and spoke more eloquently that anything on the plight of the Noldor who were left behind. A truly haunting and lyric tale, and certainly one of the best perspectives on the crossing of the Helcaraxë I've read to date.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 7

Chilling - in more than one way! Elleth takes on a challenge and manages to show how the wasteland of the Helcaraxë can still show a dangerous beauty, one that will shape the Noldorin survivors of the crossing as powerfully as the sons of Fëanor ever will, I think. The song of the ice makes perfect sense to me, in that Middle-earth is never a voiceless, mute landscape simply to be seized and used: as Elleth aptly puts it: [Helcaraxë begins to sing, and they learn to listen to its language, for are they not Quendi?]. However, that capacity to hear the speech of other beings is not a gift without risk, as she also shows, and in a way that again highlights love and its dangers: love can be fusional, and one partner can be lost in the other. On the Helcaraxë, "loss" is literal - those too enamored lie down and die. There's an element of narcissism in Helcaraxë's spell, if one can use that word of an icy wasteland: it claims and changes those who listen, but not with any concern for the listeners. Beautifully and powerfully written, Elleth.

Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 6

Oh, what a fabulous concept to address the original prompt for this story! Is it weariness, even madness at the relentless hardship, or seduction by the ice, almost a sentient being that claims the lives of the Noldor? I savoured the descriptions, gorgeous and cruel, truly evoking the vastness and desolation that the walkers faced. The cold and exhaustion must have lured many to their deaths, but in this short tale this surrender becomes a sort of willing choice to appease a "creature" that they can't tame. The words are beautiful, like the song of the ice and the shapes of its frozen landscape. Chilling that the survivors almost regret leaving that familiar though treacherous foe. This is a great bit of writing, visual, gritty and poetic all at once.

Reviewed by: grey_gazania  ✧  Score: 6

I nominated this story for a simple reason: because I really, really love it. Elleth responded to the B2MeM prompt in an unusual way, and she manages to convey the horror of the crossing with beautiful writing, resulting in a piece that is wonderfully unsettling and disquieting. She has a gift for lush, descriptive prose, and she puts it to excellent use in this frigid, chilling piece. The rhythm and word choice are pitch-perfect for her seductive Helcaraxe, and the detached style brings to mind the numb weariness that Fingolfin and his group of exiles must feel. This gorgeous, horribly wrenching piece left me shivering all the way through to the devastating final line, and I would recommend it to any Silmarillion reader.

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 5

I like this story a lot. I like the description of the beginning of the journey and the inevitable losses, which grow in number over time--the seduction of the cold which eventually they no longer feel, separation from the main body, and the lying down in the snow and watching the wheeling stars as they slowly freeze to death beyond all pain at last. And then finally, the survivors begin to adapt and cope. The atmosphere is fabulously done. You seduced me. I don't want to read stories about crossing that horrible ice! Could a tale be grimmer, or more horrific? But you hooked me, held me, and gave it to me with poetry. Thank you! Great ficlet.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 5

In The Silmarillion, we read the seminal passage: [The fire of their hearts was young, and led by Fingolfin and his sons, and by Finrod and Galadriel, they dared to pass into the bitterest North; and finding no other way they endured at last the terror of the Helcaraxë and the cruel hills of ice. Few of the deeds of the Noldor thereafter surpassed that desperate crossing in hardihood or woe. ] Elleth uses this as a foundation, and illuminates the harsh reality of the crossing of the Grinding Ice in stark relief. So much power and anguish are packed into this ficlet, thanks to exquisite phrasing, word choices, and rhythm. She presents a people collectively under great duress, yet their struggles feel personal, intimate, even without one central narrator. And the song of the ice! It is fatally enticing. The denouement offers the plausible (and poetically rendered) reality behind the myth seen from thirty thousand feet in the quoted passage of the source text. This is a masterful piece of writing

Reviewed by: Red Lasbelin  ✧  Score: 4

This is just - there are no words, which is really hard when the word count depends on it. I don't have enough words to make this a 10 point review, but it very much deserves it. This is a definitive look at the Helcaraxë crossing, surpasses anything I've read on the subject so far. Beautifully crafted, poignant, saddening - a perfect look at a horrific point in the Elven history and in such few words - edited perfectly. Just - amazing.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

While I am not sure I agree with the last line; this is a gorgeously written piece that is not as much a story as a prose ode to the bitter beauty of the Helcaraxe, and the fatal price it exacted for the passage of the Noldor. I'm not exactly sure how Elleth blends the almost lyric tone with a harsh, almost dark fantasy horror-like ambiance; but it's very effective. The Helcaraxe itself becomes a dominant, powerful character here. Makes me shiver and be glad I live in a nice snug home with central heating!

Reviewed by: Keiliss  ✧  Score: 4

This is a quite wonderful picture of the Crossing as I've not seen it before, because never before has the ice itself seemed a living, sentient thing. The elves learning its language - yes, of course they would, because as Treebeard once told us, the elves wanted to wake everything up and talk to it. Feeling the moods and fits of the ice, living in an almost symbiotic relationship with it --- cold and white and pitiless. A marvellous piece.

Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 3

A very original idea and convincingly written--quite an unusual angle on the dangers of the Crossing of the Helcaraxe. The strength of the lure of the Ice and its eerie beauty come alive in the description--extremely effective.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 2

Beautiful, impressive ficlet I read in one breath. For me, the best part is the very end - the last paragraph. It left me totally speechless. So well done.

Reviewed by: goldleaves  ✧  Score: 2

a beautiful short ficlet that aptly describes the emotions and the feelings of those crossing from Valinor.