Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Hastaina

Author: Dawn Felagund
Nominator: Lyra
2010 Award Category: Genres: Horror - Third Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: Teen -- Reason for Rating: Mature themes and moderate levels of violence.
Summary: While embarking upon an Arctic expedition in hopes of discovering secret knowledge that might relieve the marring of Arda, a loremaster of Tirion makes a much darker discovery that undermines the very foundation of his belief. Inspired by the style and mythology of H.P. Lovecraft.


Reviewed by: Russandol -- Score: 10

I read Lovecraft's Necronomicon for the first time well over twenty years ago, possibly not long after Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion came a couple of years later. I have always disliked gory, blood-splattered stories, but Lovecraft was not that, it was a horror that came from disturbing ideas, hints of ancient evil, manifested in blood-curling dreams of worlds and civilizations long vanished in our past, like Tolkien's mythical world. Worlds where "cyclopean blocks" and other artifacts were tainted by the memory of those who built them and perished in harrowing circumstances. Or did they? With Dawn Felagund's Hastaina, I am astounded at how perfectly those feelings of primaeval anguish that Lovecraft tales had the ability to awake have been mirrored in the setting of the ruins of Angband. The conclusion of the story is disturbing, and yet, as valid an interpretation of the Ainulindalë as the one more generally deduced from the other writings that form the Silmarillion. I was just left reeling at the whole clever twist that turned the vision of creation and marring on its head, that presented a view where evil was built into Ea from the beginning, where Melkor was no different from his brethren, where the creator had chosen to make all of this possible. I loved the re-interpretation of Feanor as the one who had begun to unlock this terrible secret, before his findings were censored and his voice of truth silenced in Mandos. This story is a masterpiece of imagination, a true horror tale in its most chilling but intelligent logic, written in perfect, ominously heavy Lovecraftian style. A must read.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213 -- Score: 10

Ferdinand C. Ashley, Professor of Ancient History at Miskatonic University, Arkham, Massachusetts writes: I find myself in Dawn Felagund's (Professor of Psycholinguistics) office, deserted since her mysterious disappearance last October after she had broken the codes of the strange scrolls she had found on a devastated ship, battered upon the cyclopean rocks of Cape Ann. I have found her painstaking translation, but it is the scrolls that she has translated that now lay discarded, the scolls with their eldritch script that have drawn me into a dark tale of the Faerie world, a place as full of terror as it is beauty. I find myself drawn into this tale as the narrator -- human but otherworldly, a scholar of the order called the Lambengolmor -- seeks the gobbets of truth that his scholarly mother has parsed from the records in a library, where she discerned whispered truths revealed by the apparent founder of their order, one named Fëanáro, truths that anger the very gods. The narrator thus seeks answers by undertaking a journey to an ancient place that must not be named but is all the same, to know the nature of things too profane for study, but that lie locked in the frozen grip of terrible magnificence. The narrator descends into indescribable darkness of the ancient stronghold's stygian depths, his mind increasingly spinning in a feverish dream as the screaming echos of the past haunt him. And find the truth this scholar of the Lambengolmor does, a Truth of Arda Marred that makes the Necronomicon pale by comparison: [The decadent carvings in the vast entrance chamber caper around me, all of the Valar, the Authors, writing their tales in our blood...] even as their Creator bellows Pain into Eä. I roll up the scroll, and place it back into the leather cylinder with its decadent carvings, my hands shaking all the while. To seek the truth of the divine in that chthonic realm invites horror. Pandë here: Oh, yes, Lovecraft and Tolkien crossover quite nicely! A decadently wonderful tale of psychological horror, just like Professor Ashley (cf. Lovecraft's [The Shadow Out of Time] writes.

Reviewed by: Himring -- Score: 10

I haven’t read enough Lovecraft to say much about this story as a cross-over. On the level of personal taste, I was grateful that this story, although it fully lives up to the label “horror”, doesn’t indulge in any “squishiness” (Pandemonium’s own adjective for her Lovecraft crossover Eau de Olorin, which is in an entirely different vein). Hastaina contains vivid vignettes of Angband at the time when it was occupied by Morgoth and detailed descriptions of the place in its ruined state after the War of Wrath. But the horror at the heart of this story is aimed at the mind, not at the guts. It is a surprise to realize afterwards that, although the intense discomfort caused by the Northern ice and the midnight sun are impressively evoked, all that physically happens to the protagonist is fairly banal: he ends up cutting his finger. The cruel thing about this story is how it not only reveals the hypocrisy of the Valar—whom the protagonist to some extent distrusts from the beginning—but also of Eru and, by extension, the complicity both of Tolkien and us, his readers, in the Marring of Arda. The music of the Ainulindale cannot sweetly swallow up the disharmony of Melkor, because it was intrinsically deformed by Iluvatar’s own [bellow]. Tolkien’s aim in the Silmarillion from early on (if by no means the only goal) is surely to attempt to make sense, indirectly, of the national and personal catastrophe represented by World War I within the framework of his Catholic faith. I think he failed in this—on a literary level that is (rather than a private one), although I know others will disagree—but he certainly went on trying as among other things his essay “On Fairy-Stories” shows. There the eucatastrophe of the Christian happy-end is defended by Tolkien against the supposedly more realistic tragedy and the selfish catharsis of its followers. Hastaina, however, wickedly equates the two, making the whole enterprise a hollow one, and hints that we are willing voyeurs of Feanor’s and Frodo’s pain, whether the story ends “happily” or not. In this story, Dawn has made telling use of learned details such as the history of the Lambengolmor and has spared us neither the sad fate of Alqualonde nor the humiliation of Pengolodh. Of course, perhaps the ultimate injury to a reader is the utter inaccessibility of those tempting books of Feanor’s. But does that impregnable case of silima perhaps not contain a light after all? The "found poem" embedded in the story, supposedly a damaged page from one of Feanor's books, almost seems to hint so--only not quite.

Reviewed by: Anna Wing -- Score: 8

A most impressive bit of Lovecraftian pastiche, though to a considerable extent it fails in being notably more readable than the original. The air of overwrought emotionalism is very true to the spirit of the Nutter of New England. Many nice turns of phrase. The premise is a sound one and an entirely valid reading of the Ainulindale. The One is an artist, after all, and an artist is concerned with the overall effect, not with every little element that goes into the whole (and the Numenorean genocide should have put paid to any idea of the One being essentially of a benevolent disposition). I'm not terribly convinced about the negative economic effects of the theft of the swanships upon Alqualonde, though obviously they are meant to add atmosphere and verisimilitude. Still, the impact might have been greater had Valinor actually been portrayed as a happy place; consider "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas". Also, it is unclear what persuades the narrator that Melkor's version of things is the accurate one. Still in general, it had originality and charm and I enjoyed it.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 5

A blend of HP Lovecraft and JRRT-- which may seem a bit odd, until you consider how much a master of horror JRRT could be himself. In this, as in Lovecraft, the horror is atmospheric, the sense of dread building and building, in prose as lush and esoteric as that of Lovecraft, as our POV character finds himself searching the ruins of Angband for the writings of Feanor. And the true horror comes upon him as he realizes that all he knows and thinks he knows of the world has been turned upside down and inside out. Dawn has a penchant for exploring "heresy", and in this story has postulated the ultimate heresy of Arda! It is definitely a story to make one furiously to think!

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 5

To learn that darkness and pain are truly as integral in the construction of Ea as is light and joy--what a shock to this explorer as he searches through the ruins of ice-locked Angband and then at last turns again toward the unceasing light of a polar world just past the height of the summer solstice, having been convinced that here must lie the Words that must hold the secret to undoing the Marring of the world. He finds the Words wrought by Feanor, but they are locked away within the one substance that could be breached only by one child of Eru other than the Aiunar--Feanor himself! Dawn has managed a superb blending of Tolkienesque Light and Lovecraftian despair. Suitably chilling!

Reviewed by: Beruthiel's Cat -- Score: 4

From the first line of thought, the reader is drawn into a journey of stark madness and horror. A hidden world left behind as both testament and warning to those with the audacity to seek answers for questions best left unasked. Brilliant in intensity and crafted with blood, sharp edges and darkness, truly a haunting benchmark work; the implications of this author's thought-provoking effort is guaranteed to linger long after the tale is told.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 4

A fascinating, Lovecraftian exploration of the ruins of Angband. It is also an exploration into the very nature of the Valar, Melkor, Eru and their intertwined relationships and responsibilities. Dawn Felagund does an outstanding job in describing the physical and psychological landscapes of Melkor's frozen fortress and its forbidden treasures as well as the rising fear and madness threatening to overwhelm the Elven narrator. A unique reading experience in Tolkien fanfiction!

Reviewed by: Aeärwen -- Score: 3

This is a haunting story, and such a believable premise: to search for knowledge that has been stolen and hidden away. The discoveries made are terrible, and the unnamed protagonist of the story is led from one emotion to the next as the result of them. I had not seen this before, and I am very impressed. Good work!