Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

A Star in Midwinter

Author: Cairistiona
Nominator: Linda Hoyland
2010 Award Category: Genres: Drama: Aragorn or Hobbits - First Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Medium Length
Rating: Teen -- Reason for Rating: Rated teen for a scary wolf hunt scene.
Summary: A young man's journey to belonging. A Mettarë story of the Dúnedain, featuring Aragorn, Halbarad, Dirhael, Ivorwen, Elladan and Elrohir and an original character, Denlad.


Reviewed by: Marethiel -- Score: 10

This author has a tremendously deft touch at creating original characters that blend seamlessly with Tolkien’s creations, always multi-dimensional and very “human,” regardless of their race. Cairistiona’s Denlad is a charming, fully developed character with whom the reader can relate with ease; relate, and understand. His motivations, his reactions, his fears and dreams… all are so very real and accessible. And yet, while the story rests around him, the subplots are equally engaging and developed just as thoroughly. We have several plots running side by side: first, we meet a young man, at least half Dúnedain, raised without benefit of family who is suddenly “adopted” into Aragorn’s clan, despite his own concerns about his less-than social status. We watch him manage to overcome fear and insecurity as he, like the rest of the Dúnedain, rallies to Aragorn’s side and exceeds his own beliefs in his capabilities. A true testament to the human condition, and being able to rise above where we are to soar to where we hope to be. Then, we have this author’s always capably-drawn “big time drama”… Aragorn and the Rangers battling nature and nearly losing but hanging on through ‘true grit’, among other things. We have some Twins and Halbarad thrown in there to really make the story sing, and what a joy it is to read! The third theme I spotted was that of Teacher and Student. While Aragorn often filled that role, more often than not it was Dirhael, Aragorn’s maternal grandsire, who populated that role, filled out occasionally with Halbarad, Ivorwen, or other members of the Dúnedain. Few write this theme as well as Cairistiona, never making the lessons heavy-handed or cumbersome; always deft and very natural. Loved it. And a final theme I’ll tackle (though there were maybe two more, for me, anyway) was Aragorn himself, and the role he plays amongst his people: Healer, Leader, Playmate and benevolent Pied Piper of the little ones, Fierce protector of his friends and equally fierce combatant of his enemies. Through her careful and believable glimpses into everyday Dúnedain life, the reader receives a rich and full view of a people, not merely a 2-dimensional rendering to support a story-line, and their relationship with their Chieftain. This theme is robust enough to fill a storyline of its own. I absolutely loved this story, and am so grateful it received a nomination for this year’s MEFAs. It deserves a win!

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 8

This story, written specifically for Yule, is a heartwarming tale of a young man being welcomed among the Dunedain of the village in which Aragorn lives, with his cousin and his grandparents and many of their people. Denlad has no idea as to who his father might have been, whether a Rohir or another of the peoples who once filled Eriador. But when his mother dies, he is brought to the village and introduced the the ways of his mother's people. And he watches the Chieftain as Aragorn rejoices in his family's warmth, and as Aragorn and others of the men ride forth to protect the folk of the Breelands from a pack of ravening wolves. A blizzard keeps the warriors from returning perhaps as quickly as they would have wanted to, and while they are gone Aragorn's grandfather does his best to teach the boy what it means to be a Dunadan, and what it means that Aragorn is their Chieftain. Filled with details that are true to the people and the lives they must live, this is a tale that truly gives a feeling for the lands and people of northern Eriador. May others enjoy it as much as I have!

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland -- Score: 6

This lovely and heart warming story is one of my favourites of the year.Although the story is set firmly in Middle-earth, it deals with questions that many of us ask. How am I? What is my place in society? Am I of worth? Cairistiona answers these questions and more in the story of Denlad, a young man with a Dunedain mother and unknown father.Denlad has had no one in the world save his mother,and now she has died, he is all alone in the world, at least until Aragorn takes him under his wing and suggests that he join his mother's people. We see how Denlad is welcomed by the Rangers and learns to fit in, while at the same time Aragorn and Halbarad face perils while out hunting. The end of the story, where Denlad finally becomes a Ranger ,is deeply moving and brought tears to my eyes. A deeply moving story and a must read for anyone who loves Aragorn, Rangers and heart-warming tales.

Reviewed by: Ellynn -- Score: 6

The story about Denlad's youth and joining the Dunedain made me love him even more - after reading about him in The Ranger and the Hobbit. Denlad is definitely one of the best original characters I've ever read about: he is so well portrayed - from the very beginning, from the memories of his mother and childhood all the way to being accepted as one of the Dunedain. Of course, young man has his fears and worries, and Cairistiona describes it very good. But little by little, we readers see how he starts to feel accepted and finally we rejoice with him when he becomes one of the Dunedain rangers. The moment when he receives his star brought tears to my eyes. As usual, Cairistiona's writing is rich with interesting details, descriptions of nature, weather, customs of the Dunedain and other things which give her story the highest quality. Wonderful, beautiful story.

Reviewed by: curiouswombat -- Score: 6

From the beautiful description, in the opening scene of the building of the winter bonfire this story had me captivated. Aragorn's sympathy for a young man alone amongst the Dunedain, all new people to him, is all too easily understood; he too must have felt lost at times when he returned to his own folk. The bitter cold of winter, wolves, frostbite, chickens (you'll have to read it to understand that mixture...!) - all skilfully woven into this tale of a young man coming to know himself, and also of the everyday life of the Dunedain. The scene with the candles, in the last chapter, brought a lump to my throat which was made larger still by Denlad's oath and the mixture of sorrow and joy in the epilogue. A story to return to again and again at mid-winter, this one.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 5

While my first love is hobbits, I have to say I have a soft spot for stories about the Dunedain as well. This lovely coming-of-age tale about an OC finding his place among his people is sensitively and well-written. Aragorn, his foster brothers Elladan and Elrohir, and various minor canonical characters play a role as well. We get to observe Aragorn through the eyes of Denlad, the OC, as he comes to understand who and what his Chieftain is. It's also a warm holiday story, with a bit of adventure and some Aragorn h/c to spice it up. All in all a fine absorbing read!

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 4

I like the idea of this story: the outsider coming into the close-knit society of the remaining Dúnedain of Arnor, and yet who isn't Aragorn or any of his ancestors, but a lowly, ordinary boy of no breeding. How would he react to this situation? What would he see? Very sweet, and Halbarad has a couple of very funny exchanges with different people! But for some reason, it's the two hens whom I fell in love with. They were just so delightfully bird-like and their place in Denlad's affections reminds me of a friend and her bird (or vice versa).

Reviewed by: Inzilbeth -- Score: 4

This story of Aragorn nuturing the young Denlad is one of my favourites for the wonderful glimpse Cairistiona provides us of life in a Dunedain village. Dirhael and Ivorwen are completely plausible and their concern for the newcomer is a most touching part of the tale. The story is beautifully written, as we would expect and, as always, remains faithful to canon while still providing a distinctive take on life in Eriador in the days before the War of the Ring.