The Orc's Claw

Author: Jael

Nominator: Ignoble Bard

2011 Award Category: Horror: General - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

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

Summary: Erestor has a talisman that grants three wishes. But those who tamper with fate will do it to their own sorrow . . .

Read the Story  ✧  Backup Story Link

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 10

Dear Jael, I remember feeling very honoured when you asked me to beta-read this story for you and I think it made a very fitting gift for Ignoble Bard, which I am sure he enjoyed greatly. It is a swiftly paced and neatly structured tale that immediately evokes a sense of mystery and skilfully uses foreshadowing when Erestor mentions the folly of trying to flout the plans of the Valar. From this moment on, the readers know that the story is about messing with fate, fate and destiny being obviously very important concepts in the Tolkienverse. That the poor, doomed orc met his fate in the privy of all places is an element of bathos which adds a welcome touch of humour. It is surprising how well the general outline of the classic horror story fits into the Middle-earth context, though I suppose bereavement is a universal theme. The demise of Isildur may well be one of the most painful and tragic episodes of his Age, which made it a very good choice for this story. The careless wording of the boy’s and the queen’s wish illustrates how desires can cloud our judgement, and I really liked the way Elrond fought with the same kind of urge but got the better of it, probably thanks as much to Vilya as to his own wisdom and integrity.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 10

The title alone made me think of the referenced story. I'd enjoyed it as a child, though it gave me nightmares, and I had sat up trying to figure out how to phrase a wish so that nothing could possibly be misinterpreted or go wrong. The very clever Jael uses this story as a springboard for an altogether horrific retelling of the Disaster of the Gladden Fields. It's perfect, nestled snugly into canon as if it always belonged there. Which is creepy in and of itself. The background behind the orc claw was appropriately grisly, and I shudder to think of Erestor being the recipient of that gift. It's a good thing he didn't try to make use of it! And it's incredibly unfortunate (as well as tragic and dynastically catastrophic) that Valandil did. I smiled at the tale of the orc hiding in the privy, but Valandil's wish drove that smile quickly away. His reaction to the news of his brothers' death hit just the right note, and Elrond continuing to deny that anything could have possibly happened was also pitch perfect. I loved the temptation of Celebrian and the inclusion of Vilya into the story, as well as the fact that Elrond is just getting used to both of these ideas. All in all, brilliant characterization, gripping horror, and a fine tribute to both the disaster of Isildur's death and the original story from which this piece of fanfiction draws its cues.

Reviewed by: Ignoble Bard  ✧  Score: 10

“The Monkey’s Paw” is one of the creepiest, most harrowing short stories ever written, so one might think it would be impossible to translate into fanfiction. One would be so very, very wrong. To have worked the concept of a mummified artifact that grants its owner three wishes into the LOTR universe in an authentic way is nothing short of genius, which is no surprise for anyone that reads Jael’s stories. What I particularly like here is the set up with Erestor telling the story of how he came by the titular claw and Elrond’s disapproval, which turns out to be spot on after all. But of course the best part is that insistent pounding on the door caused by… Well, the curious will just have to read and see, although perhaps not on a dark and stormy night. The ending, for those unfamiliar with the original, will shock, and for those familiar it will elicit a delightful shudder. In fact, this is one of the few fanfictions I’ve read based on another work that compares so perfectly to the mood and spirit of the original. For those who like fanfiction with a bent toward the unusual or macabre, trust me when I say you will be doing yourself a huge favor by giving this one a try.

Reviewed by: Malinornë  ✧  Score: 7

I enjoyed reading this story a lot, despite not generally being a fan of horror stories. I found this one to be scary in a good way, pleasantly creepy while not scaring the wits out of the reader. The characters had every reason to be afraid, of course. I enjoyed the clever plot, and though I could vaguely remember reading the original story mentioned in the author's notes, it did not distract from my enjoyment of this fic. It's Middle-earth setting was cleverly chosen and fit in very well with what we know of Isildur's fate from Lord of the Rings. I particularly enjoyed the Queen and Valandil, as one of the 'behind the scene' glances that expands and brings to life something that could very well have happened, but was not described in the published works of Tolkien. Gap-fillers are probably my favourite type of story, whether or not compatible with canon. And, since I became fascinated with Quenya before I had heard of fan fiction, it is always pleasant to see a snippet of it used. Thanks for an entertaining read!

Reviewed by: Keiliss  ✧  Score: 5

I really enjoyed the sense of place and time, and Erestor's tale of how he came in possession of such a strange item made me wish I could read about that as well *hint*. Boys will be boys, no matter where or when, even royal ones, and the wish was a fair one - just not well thought through, as is often the case. And who, faced with death and loss, has not wanted to make it undone, bring the loved one back? Also a time when exact definitions might not come to mind. I enjoyed Elrond's moments of indecision, and the unfamilairity of Vilya to him. I don't think I've ever encountered that before, though it makes sense. This was a good read and an enjoyable reworking of an older theme.

Reviewed by: Windsurfbabe  ✧  Score: 5

A tale that begins in light-hearted and humorous tones ends in mystery and drama, as Jael teaches us that one must be careful what one wishes for, and how exactly one asks for it. The two first wishers, young Valandil and his mother, both get what they asked for, but in a twisted way that seems to mock their hopes and dreams, delivering horror and blood instead. The tale is well-told, the characterization excellent - all three elves, Elrond, Erestor and Glorfindel, have distinct and memorable personnalities. Their manner of speaking and demeanor paint a vivid image of each one of them to the reader. But it is the ending, and the disappearance of description in favor of suggestion, that bring the tension to its peak.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

A shivery-creepy horror story set in Imladris! Normally, Imladris, sunny home of waterfalls, little Estel, and kind-as-summer Elrond, is not a venue for horror fanfiction. But Jael pulls it off brilliantly by setting the story in the very early Third Age, and adapting the classic tale of [The Monkey's Paw]. Excellently, hauntingly written. The horror factor builds and builds to a boiling point. But I like the way that Jael does not overdo or under-use horror, either.

Reviewed by: Military History  ✧  Score: 4

I've read this story before, both in its original form and in the twist Jael, who's a good writer, put on it with this piece. The spirit of the orginal is kept quite intact, while still remaining within Tolkien's world. The contrast between Elrond and the Numenoreans is also striking, and continues Tolkien's theme of Elves maintaining the light against the temptation of power during the later years of Middle-Earth, while Men fell prey to it.

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 3

We all want things that we don't have, and it may seem that if we could wish for it to be true, everything would be fine. But fortunately, most wishes are just that -- wishes. But sometimes, with the right talisman, these wishes actually come true and in the worst possible way.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 3

A powerful adaption of Stephen King's "The monkey's Paw", set all too fittingly in Middle Earth just after the War of the Last Alliance. The three wishes work well in this surrounding, especially as the outcome of the first one fits well into canon. A brutal little horror story, fit for halloween. Well written and well done. Applause!

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 2

I wish I could think of something to say other than to note that this was deliciously delightfully creepy, but that's what I've got. It'd be a great Halloween read.