Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Scattered Leaves

Author: Aratlithiel
Nominator: Inkling
2006 Award Category: Races: Hobbits: Post-Sauron's Fall - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Other Fiction : Length: Short Story
Rating: PG-13 -- Reason for Rating: Dark themes
Summary: October 6th, 1420 S.R.


Reviewed by: Inkling -- Score: 10

This intense, haunting, and breathtakingly lyrical prose poem captures the delirium and agony of Frodo's anniversary illness more powerfully than any other fanfiction on the subject I have ever read, and I've read quite a few. The dramatic repetition of phrases, the skillfully sustained color motif, Frodo's ironic yet plausible empathy with the Witch King, the heart-rending insights about those he loves...all contribute to making this a masterpiece of angst. The dark mood and unbridled passion are balanced by a tightly controlled structure. Aratlithiel has charted a carefully layered journey to the depths of the abyss and a gradual return through the circles of hell to normalcy, or at least a semblance of it, giving a cruel twist to the cheerful model of Bilbo’s there-and-back-again adventure. Each stage in the return journey is marked by the restoration of another color to Frodo's world, as he grasps at his scattered memories like leaves in the wind. As always, Aratlithiel's portrayal of Frodo is wonderfully satisfying and completely canonical. Tortured and despairing though he may be, his courage, intelligence, and eloquence shine through nonetheless, and his spirit remains strong and defiant to the end: [“I reject the ghosts of October and send them away soulless and weeping.”] This is one of the first of Aratlithiel's fics I read (and one of the first she wrote!), and it will always remain among my favorites.

Reviewed by: Mechtild -- Score: 10

Here is a really imaginatively-written story of Frodo’s second ‘anniversary illness’ from his wounding by the Witch King’s Morgul blade. In the canon story, Sam finds his master in the study looking “very strange”; “very pale"; his eyes seem to “see things far away”. Sam asks Frodo what the matter is; Frodo answers, “I am wounded, wounded; it will never really heal”. The turn appears to pass and the next day Frodo is “quite himself”. Afterwards, Sam remembers that it was October sixth, the anniversary of Weathertop. With this paragraph from RotK as your springboard, you take a leap and sink yourself into Frodo’s POV. What might produce the behaviour Sam saw in his master, a person who normally keeps all of his emotional cards so close to the vest? You have imagined for Frodo visions that are deeply disturbing; waking nightmares; but this is not implausible, considering the break Sam sees in the mild manner that Frodo typically presents. Your writing reflects the dark subject matter (literally “black”, since Frodo [“feels in colors, all of them black”]): vivid, almost Gothic in poetic excess, full of strong metaphors and contrasts. In the first full paragraph you inundate the reader with a whole series of intense words and images: a sea of desire/an ocean of despair overtakes and overwhelms Frodo; his life lost, his soul wasted and dead; cold fingers (of the sea of desire/ocean of despair) set fire to his mind/race through his veins like molten iron/cleave to his heart [“with the breach of forged steel”]; Frodo falls [“drained and lifeless into the ruin of (his) spirit”]. Heavens! I thought, where will she go from here? Ah, you were just warming up, preparing your readers for the ordeal to come: "Hold onto your angst-seatbelts, folks, as we follow Frodo into the crucible of guilty Ring-lust, where he [continues to pay the price with the relentless rape of (his) soul]". The most powerful section for me was the part in which Frodo (in the sway of this terror and desire, which so distorts his thinking), sees himself as a false front, cloaking his true repulsiveness from which his friends would shrink from in horror if they only knew – marred, guilty, and already rotting. He is convinced he has spoiled their happiness and destroyed their lives, with (what he sees as) his poisoned love. The Breughel-esque nightmare visions continue until Frodo is raving, the mad man who haunts the streets in Tolkien’s “The Sea-bell”. Finally, Sam enters, [“a brilliant nimbus of golden light”]. Ah, relief at last, I sigh. But no, it’s the most poignant moment in the story (although its full effect is diminished by being too drawn out with too many similar sentences): [“I look to speckled hazel and see the reflection of a friend well-loved. Ah, yes – this picture of truth and good intentions is what I was once. I will let him hold to it for a while longer. (…) I will not shatter his illusions with the truth of myself. (…) I will not tell him that I murdered the one he loves in cold blood (…) I will not tell him that he holds to a corpse.”] It is here that you have Sam say, “What’s the matter, Mr. Frodo?” You could have left the reader here, and had a very dramatic little ending, but then you would have left your readers with a vanquished Frodo. You did not do that, but went on to an even better ending. The fit subsides, and Frodo recovers himself enough to demonstrate to the reader that he will *not* lie down for this. Just as he stood up to the Witch King at the ford, nearly fainting from the knife-wound, he declares these demons will not have him. When they come back to haunt him again, he says, he will be gone. Bravo, Frodo!

Reviewed by: elentari3018 -- Score: 5

This was one of the first fics i've read and i have printed it out and have reread it a lot. The angst just shatters me but i feel that it is so well written, well described and makes me cry for Frodo so much. Very realistic description and protrayal of Frodo's grief at losing the Ring. Being that it is first-person, it is even more heart-wrenching to hear Frodo's thoughts of the Ring post-Quest in that manner. I have always identified most with Frodo and find that Aralithiel does a great job of portraying him post-Quest. THis fic is no exception to her skill in making me cry for Frodo.

Reviewed by: Cuthalion -- Score: 4

To translate this agonizing view into the depth of the Ringbearer's heart after the Quest was one of the most difficult things I've ever done... Aratlithiel describes Frodo's torn spirit and broken soul in a ragged language... shrieking outbursts of pain, changing to dark visions of what the Enemy's ring has done to him and the final realization that all hopes for a healing have come to naught. It was a "terrible" read - but I return to this tale again and again. It is a brilliant yet horrible classic.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 3

This is really more poetry than story. From Frodo's POV during his anniversary illness, we are given a detailed description of his angst and shame, as he relives the time of his wounding. It is amazingly intense and even lyrical, given the subject matter.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel -- Score: 3

Haunting and disturbing images. Very good introspection, tense and gripping right from the start. The use of black and grey versus colours to contrast the inner anguish with the outside world is particularly well done.

Reviewed by: Marigold -- Score: 3

This is a chilling and beautifully written glimpse into Frodo's mind, gripped in the clutches of his anniversary illness. The language is haunting and lyrical even in its dark grimness.

Reviewed by: Bodkin -- Score: 3

Very poetic - and full of symbolism. Poor Frodo. He knows he will not be able to endure - but the resemblance between him and the leaves is not absolute. He is still the hobbit who was able to endure the storm until the last - and he is a survivor. Even if he will have to sail.