Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

The Lesson

Author: Branwyn
Nominator: annmarwalk
2007 Award Category: Genres: Drama: Gondor Drabble - First Place

Story Type: Fixed-Length Ficlet : Length: True Drabble
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: 100 words, written for the "Point" challenge at Tolkien_weekly, complete In the woods of Ithilien, young Faramir learns a bitter lesson.


Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 10

This drabble actually made me cry. I *know* that's not Branwyn's intent, but it did. While I am something of a pacifist in my "real world" life, I do recognize that our options for diplomacy would not have been realistic in Tolkien's Middle-earth. This is how I reconcile myself with the glamorization of heroics in war--within Middle-earth, it truly was self-defense, no matter what I think about it outside of fiction. But the way Faramir is schooled in the ways of war in this drabble was heart-breaking, because I know that it would be all too easy to fall into this trap. While I think Faramir would very rarely have to hunt for his dinner in Minas Tirith, certainly if he was ever expected to travel in a reasonably small group (which seems like a real possibility), it would be a useful skill to have. And arguably it's not "wrong", at least not in the way that killing a human could be. And so, step by step, Faramir is gently eased into the ways of killing until he can aim his arrow at an enemy soldier (who is still a man). Truly this is the captain who does not ["slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed"], yet he is not so over-ridden with angst that it paralyzes him. It's a very nice, almost quiet, commentary on how war might affect a sensitive soul like Faramir.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 6

This drabble is one of the best-crafted I have seen of this very specific form of ficlet. The craftsmanship is subtle; the reader doesn't realize it, but if you look, it's there; and adds to the effect. The drabble is a wonderful bit of introspection perfectly framed by an action sequence - beginning, middle and end all linked by the lesson that Faramir has learned and is now putting to use. Faramir is written perfectly in character here - he is at once the calm, seasoned, warrior and hunter of foes, and the philospher-prince who understands the price that warriors pay, and regrets it, though he knows there is no choice. There's a faint tinge of irony and regret that is very Faramirish... Beautiful, quiet and effective.

Reviewed by: Tanaqui -- Score: 6

Oh , this drabble is so very much in keeping with Faramir's philosophising as written by Tolkien. Faramir's awareness of the slow steps by which he has been led along the path to accepting an act killing another person which in all other circumstances except war would be anathema to him and many others is quite brilliantly exposed. In just a few words, Branwyn gives us a clear understanding of the details of how his training is carried forward in terms of both physical and mental advancement. Every word Branwyn uses has clearly been chosen and weighed carefully, and contributes to the final picture without a wasted syllable. This drabble could itself stand as a "lesson" in how to practice the art of drabble-writing. Bravissimo!

Reviewed by: annmarwalk -- Score: 5

[How gently men are schooled in war, so gently that they see not the lesson.] Another thoughtful tale from the pen of Lady Branwyn. Faramir ponders how effortlessly, yet efficiently, men are taught to kill. For the most noble of reasons, of course: to feed themselves and their families, to protect their wealth, for the survival of their homeland. All quite necessary purposes, yet to the insightful Faramir, there's a melancholy undertone to the lesson. I wonder what he would think of our age, where killing is glorified as recreation and entertainment; yet we cry out in dismay when madmen take that fateful step from fantasy to reality.

Reviewed by: Radbooks -- Score: 5

Very well done, Branwyn. It's a very moving drabble that makes you think about how men at that time were trained for war. My mind was, unfortunately, drawn to watching my nephews playing a video game where they actually shoot down people in a simulated war situation. At least Faramir could use his skill to hunt and to kill wolves to protect the flocks and herds. Sorry, a bit off track there! Anyway, your story was wonderful and each line clearly showed the progression that boys and men went through to get to the place where they had to use the skill that they'd been learning through the years. Thanks for sharing!

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 5

[How gently men are schooled in war.] Faramir's reflections here give an insight into the way that the slaying of one's fellow human beings forms a continuum: from the playing at war that a child does, to the active hunting of progressively larger, more dangerous animals, and there is never any reason to think that one is doing wrong in any of those situations. Whether or not any of them are wrong in themselves, the way in which they are used, a training ground for the far more morally ambiguous (at the very least) act of war is surely troubling. The steady wearing away of horror at the thought and then the sight of death that you wreak all comes to a head when you have an enemy soldier at the point of your sword or in range of your bow.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel -- Score: 5

The progression of the effectiveness and force of Faramir's weapons and the things they are aimed at are on the one hand so common and natural, but on the other hand increasingly difficult to one of tender conscience. Each task, separately, is needful: for food, for protection, for defence. But they also desensitise, train children in such a society from early on to not doubt or hesitate about future duties as a soldier expected to kill enemies. It seems very in-character for Faramir to see this clearly, regret it, and yet also see the necessity and do his duty.

Reviewed by: EdorasLass -- Score: 4

Ah, this is a wonderful drabble, and it seems very, very true to Faramir's reluctant solider nature as well. I like how in his learning, he progressed from feeling sorry for the animals he hunted, to thinking it was only necessary to protect helpless creatures from predators, to the rather bleak realization that all the teachings he had acquired were inexorably leading him towards the inevitable: taking men's lives with his hard-won skill.

Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke -- Score: 3

The language of this drabble is lovely, and it is formed very nicely of those successive paragraphs, each one taking something from the one before and moving forward with it. But the end is, sadly, poorly done. It was a wonderful idea, but the content of the drabble belies it, as each example clearly demonstrated Faramir got the lesson all along.

Reviewed by: Marigold -- Score: 3

I had never given much thought to the insidious progression of how a man of this time could be desensitised to killing another thinking being. The progression here makes perfect sense though. I thought that it was very much in Faramir's character to realise and ponder this learned desensitation even as he did his duty.

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 2

Ah, how Branwyn has managed to show how those intended to be men of war are led into their profession, and how insidious our beloved Faramir finds that process. Exquisitely done.

Reviewed by: phyloxena -- Score: 2

Sad and chilling. The line about wolves ["surely it wasn't wrong"] ring so piercingly uncertain, while it wasn't wrong, indeed.

Reviewed by: Lindelea -- Score: 1

Masterful in its irony and contemplation of a dreadful truth. ["How gently men are schooled in war, so gently that they see not the lesson."]