Before Thangorodrim: The Last Fall of Himring Hill

Author: AWing

Nominator: Dwimordene

2006 Award Category: Times: First Age and Prior

Story Type: Other Fiction  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: G  ✧  Reason for Rating: n/a

Summary: Set near the end of the War of Wrath. Finarfin, Finrod and the Host of the Noldor of Aman are beseiging Easterling-held Himring. Maedhros and Maglor arrive and offer to help Finarfin take the stronghold.

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Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

Awing delivers a tense, family drama as Maedhros and Maglor are confronted with some familiar figures from their past. The army of the Noldor has come from Valinor to help fight the War of Wrath, Finarfin and Finrod among them. It's a shattering reunion in many ways--Maedhros and Maglor are on the ragged edge sanity, and self-destructive on every possible level. It's not just that Maedhros' fortress at Himring is to be destroyed (and he's the one destroying it), but both he and Maglor have despaired of any dispensation from the curse. They're eaten out and hollow, painful reminders to family of the princes they had been, and equally painful reminders of the kin-slaying they have bound themselves to in pursuit of the Silmarils. Powerful in their own destructiveness, they seem already faded, only half present to the world and numbed to the point of being unable to hear the anger and anguish directed at them by others. Into this drama comes the curious parley with a herald of the Easterling force occupying Himring. The plight of the Enemy's servants here becomes apparent--friends of neither orcs nor any of Morgoth's inhuman servants, yet bound by an oath and with their own pride, they, too, have been drawn into a net of accursed allegiances, made playthings of fate, even as Maedhros and Maglor and all the rest have been. The background of this story, of the incomprehensibility and remove of the gods, of the inability at times to discern what makes one more trustworthy than others, gets its airing here, and it is wholly appropriate that as the Amanyar debate the fate of the occupying force, it is Maedhros who states plainly the question confronting them: will they grant mercy to those who are asking for it, and for some route away from the carnage that awaits, even if they are enemies? And it is that in the end that differentiates one set of gods from another, beyond even the existence of Aman as opposed to Utumno: as Finrod reveals to his devastated cousins, those Kin-slayers who had died before them do not wander houseless, but have all been gathered to Mandos' care. It is the one moment of grace for Maedhros and Maglor, one that remains singular and seems to bear no fruit. The story goes on, for even as the Easterlings, Feanor's sons are bound by an oath they will not surrender. Compact and powerful, it's a story well worth reading.

Reviewed by: dkpalaska  ✧  Score: 10

AWing creates a vivid and compelling setting for her story. It is gritty and realistic, and I could see and feel the bitter cold and despair that permeated the land. The scene is well-set for the difficult emotions and events that follow. The Great Battle gets such brief mention in the Silm that there is plenty of interpretative freedom concerning the events that took place. AWing takes great advantage of this and weaves a very believable and canon-wise story using references both obvious and subtle. I appreciated how the noblewomen Amarië, Eärwen and Findis were shown doing their part for the battle, as well as other female elves; and that Finrod was assumed to have been reborn in time to take part, accompanied by the unending loyalty of his ten companions. The appearance of Maedhros and Maglor was as chilling for me as it was for the Noldor host, and I grieved at the unrelieved hostility between the two groups. The interactions that follow were extremely well done, outlining how great was downfall of two one-time princes of the Noldor. Much irony and insight into Maedhros breaking his own work, as his father was not able to do; yet he and Maglor still could not release their Oath despite their kin’s assurances. The Easterling herald was actually one of my favorite characters. She is an inspired villain, a reminder that honor wears different faces in different cultures. If the Easterlings were fighting on the wrong side it was due to pride and ignorance rather than being truly evil. "Grandmother's" near-successful luring of Finarfin to her level was fascinating, and Finrod the reborn was the appropriate anchor to bring his father back. The ambiguous and rather bitter ending was fitting considering some of the events to come. An extremely well-written and creatively imagined story with many subtle undercurrents, I gained more insight with each rereading.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 10

Wonderful, elegant language, effective, vivid descriptions. Skilful interweaving of canonical facts (even obscure ones), believable interpolation and original ideas. The idea of Finrod being reborn in time to fight in the War of Wrath is particularly intriguing, and it is put to good use. The portrayal of the Easterlings as resembling Mongols is an interesting and plausible concept, with well-researched details. The characterisations, relations and emotions are excellent, nuanced and evocative. The Sons of Fëanor seem of a precarious state of mind, clinging to the edge of reason and "humanity", the first impression of them - ["gaunt and ragged, lean and fell as winter wolves"] - is unsettling but fitting, evoking in the readers the same wary reaction to them as in the other characters. The use of "magic", or rather "Art", often a difficult concept, is depicted excellently, true to Tolkien's thoughts on the issue. You show very well how thin the line is, and how easiliy crossed, between right and wrong, good and evil (the Song each side sings is a particularly notable example). The parley and Maedhros' words at the end of chapter 8 are particularly haunting, as is the ambiguous note on which the story ends. I think this is my favourite passage: ["Looking at his nephew with the deeper insight, he could discern only the ash and cinders of despair. Like the Anfauglith, like Beleriand, a blasted wasteland where nothing green would grow again, though blood watered it like rain."].

Reviewed by: Rhapsody  ✧  Score: 4

A slightly AU story where it would serve the reader to know what comes out of HOME and what not to avoid confusion regarding the Silm (I felt confused often and I read both works). This story illustrates perfectly that the Valar or Aman are not the authorities as they think they are and only the Fëanorians do understand the Easterlings when it comes down to remaining loyal to Oaths. I loved the insight in Easterling culture!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 4

A fascinating account. I am intrigued by the author's description of the Easterlings, and of the being who led them--I am not familiar enough with the Silm to recall if this is canon or an OC, but it is deftly used, either way. And I can feel with the Elves their own combination of fear and revulsion for what is happening. And of course, any dealings with the Feanorians are bitter--yet this encounter, at least, ended in honor.