Beneath the Birches

Author: Linda Hoyland

Nominator: elliska

2011 Award Category: Cross-Cultural: Eriador - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: When walking alone in the woods,a pensive Arwen encounters a stranger. Written for the LOTR GFIC "Hearts and Flowers" challenge and dedicated to my friend Julia on the occasion of her birthday.

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Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 10

The first meeting of Aragorn and Arwen is a great temptation for LOTR fanfiction writers. Who could not be drawn to the first encounter between the very young and rather callow Aragorn and the much older and wiser Arwen, whose beauty is as fresh and powerful as that of her famous foremother? I really like the way Linda Hoyland tackles this rather daunting scene. Her Arwen is quietly contemplative, the perfect Elven princess except that she knows her life lacks a certain savor. The idea that Arwen is not totally serene in her beauty in the grove of birches amidst the shielded valley makes sense; the Arwen Tolkien chronicled in the LOTR Appendices seemed restless, a traveler between her grandmother's domain and that of her father. A psychologically interesting look at what was, at least emotionally, the end of Arwen's long untouched youth and the beginning of Aragorn's manhood. Linda evokes the spectre of the most perfect elf of all time, Luthien Tinuviel, in Arwen's thoughts and that of the young mortal who mistakes Arwen for the legendary lady. There's a sense that Arwen is, while bemused at Luthien's choice of love and mortality, rather tired of being compared to her great-great-grandma. And that is ironic, considering that Arwen is, like Luthien, an object of veneration, of minstrels' odes and the infatuation of mortal boys. Linda's Arwen thinks somewhat wistfully, and perhaps a little hungrily, of the reality of the love she has not yet known, the love that Luthien knew. One is left to wonder, when Arwen looks favorably, if not yet lovingly upon the young Aragorn and tells him that her fate might not differ from Luthien's, is she speaking from fore-knowledge, budding passion, or a desire for the passion she has not yet felt but perhaps secretly hopes that Aragorn will ignite.

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 9

Dear Linda, this is another example of your deceptively simple pieces where you make everything look so easy. It is merely a scene from the appendices from a changed perspective, isn’t it – but oh, this change makes all the difference. Tolkien’s Arwen is an ornament; throughout the books she remains in the background and has hardly a line to speak. We see her sitting under a canopy at the banquet, but not being asked to join the Council of Elrond. Here you have her rebelling against that very existence as an ornament of her father’s house. I like that you portray Arwen first and foremost as a woman who is (or becomes, as she walks) aware of the fact that she can make choices. She is, at this point, not sure what these choices could be, but we see her as a woman not content to be an ornament, but longing to carve out her own unique life. That Aragorn stumbles upon her when she is engaged in such thoughts gives much more credibility to the scene than if she had merely been taking the air in an everyday mood. It is as if a stone has been dropped into the water and we can imagine the rings expanding from here.

Reviewed by: Elfique  ✧  Score: 4

Whilst this is very sweet in itself, it also comes across quite sombre almost, and foreboding with the heavy emphasis on Luthien's fate -not to say thats a bad thing, I think it works extremely well and highlights the 'star-crossed love' notion perfectly. A great take on how life never goes as we expect it to! I also like the insight into Arwen as a real character, there's more in this than just the notion of her and Aragorn being her and Aragorn, there's a nice glimpse into an often overlooked personality.

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 4

This little vignette describes Arwen's first meeting with Aragorn from her point of view. It is a pensive piece. Arwen is rejoicing in her rediscovery of Imladris after a long absence and meeting this young man, she puts him into the long line of men adoring her without much consequence to her, but still... I like the characterization of Arwen, her ruminations about her place in life and what to do with it.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 3

Such a beautiful ficlet. I love how Linda describes Arwen and her thoughts about Aragorn, and how she sees that there is something special about him. As always, we can enjoy Linda's poetic and gentle writing style. Beautifully done.