Book Learning

Author: Branwyn

Nominator: Raksha the Demon

2006 Award Category: Genres: Romance: Gondor - First Place

Story Type: Other Fiction  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: R  ✧  Reason for Rating: Rated R for sexual situations.

Summary: "In the libraries of Minas Tirith, Faramir had learned the abstract lore of numbers, the patterns of the stars, and the healing secrets of herbs; yet his studies had not included this, the most arcane of subjects." Rated R for acts of matrimony. Written in honor of Raksha the Demon, loyal friend and beta-reader.

Read the Story

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 10

This is one of the best Faramir/Eowyn romance stories I have ever read; and I have read most of them. It is certainly one of the most sensitively told, beautifully, honestly and realistically written Faramir/Eowyn stories I have ever read. And the touches of humor, comparatively rare in the stories of Gondor's most angsty young couples, are delightful. The story chronicles the course of a not uncommon difficulty among newlyweds, occurring when Faramir and Eowyn have been married a month. They love each other and are happily adjusting to life as a married couple. But there's one problem - they are both woefully ignorant about sex, don't know if they are doing right by the other, and of course, being raised in a culture substantially different from our own, would not think to discuss it frankly between themselves. And they don't have relatives from whom they could comfortably seek guidance (Faramir thinks of his uncle, but Imrahil is back in Dol Amroth). Fanfiction writers still debate, and differ, in their perception of Dunedain sexuality, whether Aragorn, or Faramir, or others, would have been sexually experienced when they married. Branwyn makes a good and plausible case as to why Faramir has had only minimal sexual experience, and in his own words is [green as a newly-cut stave of wood] when he comes to his wedding bed. The flashback to the wedding night is wonderfully told, elegant, natural and sympathetic to the couple's earnestness and nervousness - what sex there is is explicit, but not very graphic. Faramir's view of his new bride as [small and soft] is particularly sweet, considering that Tolkien painted Eowyn as a tall steely flower, but it's quite touching and reveals Faramir's own self-confidence and inner strength, as well as his own physical height and power. In the course of the story, he also thinks of her as [strong, clever]; it is clear that he feels respect as well as tenderness and love for her. Faramir and Eowyn each realize that their knowledge of sex is deficient, and set out separately to remedy the gaps in their education. Branwyn writes the two married lovers as essentially strong, proactive people - though faced with a problem that is new to their experience, they do their best to solve it on their own, rather than sitting around and brooding over it. While I love the characterisation of Faramir, who is shown both as a noble and generous-hearted man trying to fulfill both his duties as a Steward and a husband (and in this story, he is definitely more obsessed with his husbandly duties than the charges of his office), it is Eowyn who particularly shines here. I have rarely seen her so well-written as an intelligent, strong-minded young woman and enjoying her new life as the Steward's bride in Minas Tirith. There is also an appealing poignancy to her quest, the extent of the loneliness of Eowyn's youth and young womanhood in Edoras is made quietly, subtly obvious. The way that Faramir and Eowyn find the knowledge they seek is skillfully written; with moments of quite brilliant humor as well as poignancy. The third chapter had me literally laughing so hard I cried. I am looking forward to seeing how Faramir and Eowyn put the information they've found to good and practical use.

Reviewed by: annmarwalk  ✧  Score: 10

What a wonderful story. Your use of language is both Tolkienish (if we can even imagine him writing about such things) and droll. Faramir, Eowyn, Freydis, even Eradan and the poor turnip-farmer are all marvelously well drawn and characterized. You've gotten Eowyn's voice down perfectly: shy maid, proud daughter of Eorl, confuzzled bride. The details of the ceremonial rituals are very well described, as well as the marital act itself - poor girl! All her knowledge of animal husbandry was of little use in this instance. (Though her pastoral background does emerge again, when she's studying the textbook: ["The men bore huge members, worthy of a studhorse, and the smiling women had breasts like great, round cheeses."] LOL!) You've really made us feel for her confusion and isolation. And poor Faramir – how sorely he must have felt the loss of brother, cousin, uncle; any man to whom he could have gone for advice without embarrassment. It’s perfectly in character for him to have turned to the library for answers to his queries. I love your description of the text itself, vivid illustrations and miniscule print; and searched in vain for a similar one during my visit to the Chester Beatty Library. The flashback of Boromir, Faramir, and Eldahil, whispering excitedly over the richly detailed pictures, is priceless. As was so well demonstrated in “By the Light of Earendil’s Star”, it’s obvious that you’ve put a lot of research into the tale. I’m looking forward to discovering the imaginative uses Eowyn has in mind for those vegetables, and whether Faramir will soon feel giddy from shock, or exhaustion

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 10

Now this is a work-in-progress that I would really, really like to see finished. Or at least worked on some more. Pretty please? A lot of stories out there start with the premise that Faramir or Eowyn (usually Faramir) has some substantative sexual experience before they met. It does make the beginning of their relationship easier to write, but this approach is novel and very good too. Neither of them had much of their family left to turn to, certainly not in Minas Tirith, so it would be hard for them to have someone they trusted well enough to turn to. The answers of where they *do* turn for help are in-character and enrich the world F&E inhabit. Faramir's use of the "Treatises on the Art of Healing" in particular seemed very true to form. The idea of a bunch of twelve-year-old boys poring over it reminded me of some of my male classmates' uses of "National Geographic". Boys really do not change that much! And it's refreshing to see Gondorians as not having our puritanical sexual mores. There's so much to build on here. We've got a really good start to a refreshingly new take on these two characters, and I'm sure with this author that this story will live up to its potential when it's finished. Because it will be finished, right? I'm not sure I could stand the cliffhanger of not knowing what happens next.

Reviewed by: dkpalaska  ✧  Score: 10

What an wonderful story: superbly written, marvelous tone and pace, great characterizations. I laughed so hard throughout the entire tale; it was funny and charming and heart-warming and - oh, yes - quite sexy. Faramir and Eowyn's innocence in this particular regard was set up extremely well and believably, and their attempts to rectify this lapse in their education were hilarious. Entertaining tie-ins of the turnip farmer and head loremaster to connect the searches of the Steward and his wife - wry, subtle Eradan was especially priceless. One could well imagine he had seen it all before... I loved Faramir's complete inability to concentrate, described perfectly by Freydis: [" is plain to see that Lord Faramir is happily bedded. He has that stunned look, as if a pole axe had struck him in the head."] Freydis herself was another delightful character. I was glad that Eowyn found her for the in-depth vegetable lesson, although I'd have to guess that the studies on aphrodisiacs were totally unnecessary. Eowyn and Faramir's different perspectives were each enlightening, showing us how their personal worries were feeding on each other. The author's skill extended to a tasteful and yet very steamy ending for the lovers, as well as a marvelous handling of Faramir's frequent fantasies and Eowyn's recollection of their wedding night. Definitely, this story is going on my "reread" list. *vbg*

Reviewed by: stefaniab  ✧  Score: 5

A naughty and wonderful story that brings up the question, just what was in that Gondorian edition of "Joy of Sex that Faramir perused eagerly, like a modern college boy before his first date with the hot babe?" For her story, Branwyn has done the research on Medieval notions of sex, aphrodisiacs, and other related topics that very possibly would have made Tolkien himself blush. I didn't blush at the tale. I laughed. Branwyn has lovingly taken the heroic archtypes that Faramir and Eowyn sometimes become in fanon and put them in a situation that is just so human. I half expected the last chapter to end with a food fight. But instead, well, you have to read it--if you are over 18, of course.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 5

Excellent style. Some wonderfully succinct yet subtle turns of phrase and details of plot that fit perfectly into the culture of M-e: the wording of the deed, Éowyn's loom, sentences like ["She had turned away from their lively gossip about the weaponed sex; such churlish talk did not befit a daughter of the House of Eorl."] etc. Faramir constantly being distracted by erotic fantasies about his newly-wedded wife is sooo endearing, as is the nervousness of both at doing things right for each other. Master Eradan is a true treasure (and quite sneaky *g*). I was chuckling repeatedly about their trials and tribulations; the farmer with his turnips was a hoot, as was the "vegetable lesson".

Reviewed by: Bodkin  ✧  Score: 5

I am loving this. Faramir just would look on the library as the perfect resource for finding out more - yes, he might have gone to Boromir if he was available, or possibly spoken quietly with Imrahil or his sons, but he is quite likely to have treated the subject like a research topic anyway! Eowyn, on the other hand, was very fortunate to find Freydis. A delightful afternoon of gossip and - shall we say - wide-eyed illumination is much more likely to be informative for a young woman who has a decided lack of female kin! Cucumbers, indeed. I do look forward to finding out just how Faramir and Eowyn - er - share the results of their learning. Good stuff.

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 5

What a charming, erotic tale. It left me giggling and with a huge smile on my face. It is hard for Faramir and Eowyn to get the necessary education with no experienced friends of the same gender around. I think it natural for Faramir to turn to books for enlightenment. I loved the not so near-sighted archivar with the blank look on his face. I was a bit surprised that Eowyn's first thought was also books, but then she remembered the only other married female from Rohan she met. Their talk was quite educational. I will never look at vegetables quite the same way. The ending was very fitting.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 4

This was very amusing--to see the newlyweds each fearing that he or she was inadequate in the bedroom. It's a state of mind that inexperience makes likely, and I loved the way each of them, although approaching the problem from a totally different mind-set, came up with the same solution, LOL! The OCs here are also delightful, and I would not mind seeing more of Freydis--she was absolutely wonderful! Very nice little story, and even though it dealt with "adult" topics, it was also handled tastefully, and not OTT. A good read.

Reviewed by: Gandalfs apprentice  ✧  Score: 3

I just read the last chapter of this tale. Congratulations on finishing before the end of voting! This story is warm and funny, with great eroticism. I love the scene with the vegetables. Cucumber, LOL!

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 3

Oh dear, both of them each thinking the other must find him or her wanting as a lover. We'll have to see whether the discursive explantion of books on anatomy or the demonstration-by-vegetable-analogy is the more effective, though I doubt either one would manage to banish all concern. Amusing tale, Branwyn!

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 3

A most delightful tale of uncertain newlyweds seeking knowledge on how to "do it rightly" from books or friends. And Eowyn's final decision to accept the instruction she receives is wonderful.