Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

Author: Alawa

Nominator: Dwimordene

2005 Award Category: Genres: Drama (includes Angst): Gapfiller - First Place

Story Type: Vignette  ✧  Length: N/A

Rating: G  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Somewhere in the wilds of Eriador a company of Rangers will not be home for Yule.

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Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

With apologies to Alawa, I'm going to repeat much of what I've already said about this story in a different forum. We begin this story with a conversation between a Captain and a young Ranger one wet, soggy Yuletide's eve, and this after a rather disastrous day in the field that has resulted in some casualties. One automatically suspects that Aragorn might be the captain. But in the end, the situation is reversed in a move that serves to highlight the real dynamic that drives this story: can one really act from hope or keep hope alive at all if one always bows to necessity/expediency? What is the meaning of tradition if it is not given practical expression? This is the heart of the story—it's the battle of idealism versus realism, hope versus necessity. It's about making meaning where you need it, because to go without for the sake of sheer expediency is unbearable. As with Altariel's "Flame of the West", this story forces us to recognize the importance of practicing ritual, of making the absurd symbol embody an ideal and hope worth dying for. Aragorn, Hope embodied and so quintessentially idealist, is able to show that the mindset of realism is only correct to the extent that custom and all the things that make a people who they are and that motivate them to act in a specifically human manner, are actually dead already. In which case, the means have outlived their end—survival usurps the place of a way of life that honors more than the simple fact of being not yet dead. Because he holds to the original purpose of Rangering—the protection of humanly necessary ties to other persons, past and present, and the need to redeem the dead for the sake of present and future generations—Aragorn is able to breathe life back into that purpose by reminding his captain that sacrifice in itself is meaningless. Why continue to be a Ranger and suffer so much if one is not willing to make a moral issue of honoring in practice the ties they are trying to preserve? At some point, one has to decide what one is living for and what one is, thereby, willing to die for. That's the alchemy that transforms foolish risks into meaningful ones that cannot be easily brushed aside, because Aragorn isn't holding out for a blind adherence to tradition, either, which would deserve to lose to the necessity of a given moment. Insofar as the meaning of those traditions is honored as living in the Rangers who take a moment to light a candle, at peril of their lives, they're upsetting the whole order of war and dominion that Sauron et al would reduce them to. This is the very logic that I think the whole of LOTR is based upon. Beautiful writing, wonderful insight, without a wasted word. Bravo!

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 6

What a delightful gapfiller. Although the gap is a rather large one. We know next to nothing about Aragorn's early years with the rangers. I was surprised to see that the young ranger in this story was Aragorn. At first I thought it was about the Ithilien rangers, probably because of the title of this story. The author manages to paint an Aragorn, the youngest of this group of rangers, who is still unsure of himself and inexperienced, but is already showing signs of his strong leadership qualities. The reader can already see that he knows how to use herbs for healing and cooking. I got the feeling that the smell of his stew was more dangerous than the fire for cooking ever was going to be.

Reviewed by: annmarwalk  ✧  Score: 5

Marvelous descriptions and vivid, realistic characterizations. This tale is lovely on so many levels: the young, green Aragorn, most junior member of his patrol, boyish yet wise beyond his years; the exquisitely imagined mettare customs celebrated by those who wait patiently, fearfully at home as well as those still afield; and, perhaps most painfully, the parallel between those in our own age who wander dangerous paths in the Wild, serving, protecting, with meager reward or thanks. This simple, heartrending tale is a salute to the Rangers of our day as well.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

This is a lovely gapfiller for Aragorn's young adult period. I found it to be gentle, and a good indication of how Aragorn was raised both by Elrond and by his mother, to always care for and follow the holy days of his people; and how he reminded his people of this need even in the wilds during his first stint as a Ranger of Arnor. Excellently written, gently realized. I heartily recommend it.

Reviewed by: Aliana  ✧  Score: 3

Poignant and moving--the original characters in Aragorn's company were convincing and well-drawn, and the cold, darkness, and loneliness faced by the Rangers was palpable. A well-written testament to both the value of solemn tradition and warm, informal fellowship in the wilds.

Reviewed by: nerwen_calaelen  ✧  Score: 3

A lovely tale. The midwinter rite is simple yey effective and the way the captain gets Aragorn to say it is very clever, froshaddowig the future. I liek this view of Aragor as a young man. It is nice to see him developing his stills and to see this glimps into the lives of the rangers.

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 2

I liked this. It has a very interesting holiday observance, well-developed original characters, and hints of the canon characters we know in Aragorn and Halbarad.