Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Unravelling

Author: Elleth
Nominator: Lyra
2010 Award Category: Genres: Character Study: Vignettes - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: Teen -- Reason for Rating: Teen rating for implicit depictions of violence as pertaining to the kinslayings of Doriath and the Havens of Sirion.
Summary: Written for SWG's B2MeM 2010 'Near Death Experience' prompt: The Doomsman's eyes see many things. Elwing's life, its odds and chances are just a few of them.


Reviewed by: The Lauderdale -- Score: 10

An exquisite story, though I found it almost overwritten at the start: particularly in the first paragraph, as the complex imagery and detached, formal narrative voice made it difficult for me to understand what was going on. There is one crucial aspect that I missed until I came back to review: it is Mandos who is speaking throughout, not Vaire. Since there is actually a reference to “Vaire's weavers” in the first paragraph (unlikely to come from Vaire, unless she likes to speak of herself in the first person), it was a silly mistake for me to make, but I based it on the narrator’s intimacy with the fabric of the tapestry, the close attention to warp and woof, the frequent contact with individual threads. All conjured up a sensibility that I took for granted as the Spinner's. It’s a compelling voice but a disturbing one, as the refrain throughout of “Little Elwing” can come across as sympathetic, loving, patronizing, or creepy. When the narrator says as often as (s)he does that there can be no pity, I tend to go with the latter. I like fan works that cause me to take fresh interest in a character. Elleth's characterization of Elwing is haunting and beautiful, and makes me want to seek out more stories about her. Further points for the Louis McNiece reference: “Prayer Before Birth” is lovely in its own right, and deeply apt here.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger -- Score: 9

The thing that intrigues me most about this story is the way the dead and the living exist simultaneously in the eyes of Namo. He sees them all, and beyond the state of their tapestries, Namo doesn't seem to make many distinctions among them. He notes both the teeming hordes of dead and living with the same regard, which adds another layer to the idea that he is without pity. Actually, this rambling narrative seems to be as much about Namo as about Elwing. That's hard to do, especially since Elleth's [watcher] never turns the mirror back to himself except to say that he should not be feared. But through what he observes and how he makes those observations, a reader can get a sense of what interests Namo and his perception of the world around him. It's characterization by inference, and it's genius. Of course, there's also a fascinating character portrayal of Elwing as she is carried away from the ruin of Doriath. I love how Namo sees the flaws developing in her character and I particularly enjoyed the constant references to birds, foreshadowing as only the Doomsman can prophecy. Beautiful and elegant in an otherworldly sense.

Reviewed by: Mirach -- Score: 8

This is really a beautiful story, winding through times and places like the threads of tapestries, and shining with inner light like that pure jewel that caused so much red splashes across the pictures. Eärendil and Elwing are my favourite Silmarillion characters, and telling of the story from Námo's unique and intriguing perspective makes it very interesting to read. It shows a great insight into the characters and their fates as well, and the way of telling the story, as Námo speaking directly to Elwing who cannot hear him, adds to the spell of the story. Even before she flew up like a seagull, with the Silmaril in her necklace, we see her like a little bird, scared and yet brave. But Námo is not allowed pity, as he says himself. He has been always a fascinating character to me, a mysterious Vala ruling the realm of silence and oblivion, infinite halls of tapestries and stories. Those tapestries are something very fascinating also... That’s why seeing the events through his eyes, and through the tapestries was really a wonderful experience to me.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 7

Elleth's Námo does not proceed in straight lines. I'm not sure it's fair to say that he proceeds, in a sense: Námo at one point says linearity is a myth, and the return to the same words at beginning and end help to make that sense of recurrence. And the circle, of course, was considered perfect motion for those who were not themselves eternal. Going along with that perfection of vision that Námo has is a corresponding pitilessness - pitilessness not in the sense of ruthlessness, for he has no part in acting against anyone (["But when we will meet, do not fear me. I am only a watcher"]), but simply made without the capacity to pity, lest he be other than the needed Doomsman. He is concerned with what is, and has a certain serenity that the drama of life does not touch and that emerges as a kind of gentle and quite innocent interest in meeting those whose lives he knows already. This is a good portrayal of a character who is very difficult to capture - well done, Elleth!

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 5

This tale is told as a monologue by Namo, ever addressing the doings of Elwing as seen in the tapestries woven by Vaire and her maidens. Ever he sees her as birdlike, fragile, her heart beating rapidly in the cage of her ribs, herself ever ready to fly. One senses the fascination she holds for the Doomsman from childhood on, until she at last falls to the sea only to fall through death and burst out of it once again as a seabird. Here Elleth inserts some of the imagery from Tolkien's own poetic description of the rising of Vingilot carrying the Silmaril. It is a most compelling tale, and the point of view and language are particularly laconic in tone. A tale I find moves me.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 3

A lyrical and poignant tale of Elwing's life from the sacking of Doriath to that of Sirion, as observed by the Weaver. Vaire's POV is both detached and compassionate at the same time-- she cannot interfere, only watch.