Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Changing Lights

Author: Elleth
Nominator: whitewave
2009 Award Category: Times: First Age and Prior: House of Finwe - First Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: Nerdanel's journey. From her marriage to FŽanor to coming full circle, and the recurring choice along the way: Tomorrow, or yesterday?

Reviewed by: Lyra -- Score: 10

The first thing that came to my mind when I read this story was Macbeth's famous "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..." monologue. Fortunately Nerdanel, despite the tragedy that her family has drifted into, does not give herself up, instead yet finding hope in the expectation of another day. This brief fic is constructed and executed with Elleth's usual perfectionism and attention to detail. Each paragraph is framed by observation of Nerdanel's wedding ring and her decision of postponing something - disturbing her busy husband at work, adding more children to the first, trying for a daughter, leaving her now-empty house, and finally, at the first sunrise, giving up pining for the past - to the next day. This frame structures the ficlet and gives it its particular, soothing rhythm that fits wise, patient Nerdanel excellently. And despite the overall sadness of the story's theme, it feels nonetheless warm and comforting. A sympathetic meditation on Nerdanel's development throughout the events of the first chapters of the Silmarillion until the first rising of the sun (on which she herself helped to work) that shows an almost intimate care and understanding for her character.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213 -- Score: 10

When I read Ellethís [Changing Lights], her gorgeous and haunting prose became more than words on a page for me. They became a transformative experience, like listening to a favorite concerto or viewing an especially intriguing painting or sculpture. This reader was drawn immediately into the reflections of Nerdanel, whom I find to be the most compelling female canon character in Tolkienís legendarium. The way in which Elleth has composed the story is pure artistry Ė not only in terms of vivid visual imagery (true to Ellethís talents as an artist) but also with the other senses Ė scent, sound, and touch. The five sections of the story, although written as prose, are akin to stanzas of a poem. The language itself is lyrical. Then there is the character of Nerdanel. Elleth crafts with care the changes in Nerdanelís life, at once allowing the reader to glimpse the otherworldly realm of Faerie but also experience Nerdanelís very human emotion. This is a balance not easy to achieve, but Elleth does it so well here. A truly beautiful story, Elleth, like the links of a treasured necklace reflecting a golden light from the halcyon days in the early part of her marriage to the birth of her first child (oh, that is authentic!) to the fullness and exhaustion of a large family to estrangement to the reflections of yesterday. Thank you so much for this lovely work of art.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger -- Score: 9

What an exquisitely drawn story! I love the standards of measurement chosen to represent the changes that take place over time, and I love the things they represent. The connection between the ring and light was a poignant one, and it was heart-wrenching to watch the light fade over the course of the story and to see the ring reflect less and less of it as FŽanor drifted further and further away. That seemed to indicate the status of the crescent that kept appearing. For a while, I couldn't decide if it was waxing or waning. Or both. But with the light dimming in each successive scene and the smells turning foul or disappearing completely, I'm inclined to think that it was waning. But in the final scene, the story really does come full circle (literally, in a sense) and a new crescent waxes into the disk that Nerdanel helped construct. The light is different now, silver instead of golden and high above in the sky instead of reflecting off a ring. But it's a light that Nerdanel was able to touch directly instead of basking in reflected glory, and while it won't be quite the same as before, change is not always a bad thing. A thoughtful, elegant story with poetic prose and profound insight.

Reviewed by: Rhapsody -- Score: 7

This is such a beautiful ficlet series telling the life of Nerdanel the moment she tied the knot with FŽanor. What remains central is the love she still feels, even though it diminishes and burns her over time, the final ficlet is packed with emotions and it is hard not to be effected by it. You so want to return the happiness she longs for, or that the daughter that would have made the family complete standing at her side, but alas, that is not the case. What remains is a woman who faces the emptiness that her sons and husband has left her with, and yet she still misses and loves them. I really liked how the ficlets in this series followed the moon phases and how at the end, Tillion brought them all to life, shining his light on her. She so deserves more spotlight and Elleth writes her so gracefully in this story (or in her other works for that matter), which hopefully will encourage other readers to read more of her works.

Reviewed by: Virtuella -- Score: 7

I delighted in this exquistely polished piece of very poetic prose. The structure worked out very well and the repetitions - ring, light, smells, crescent, tomorrow - appear never forced, but create a sense of unity and continuity that contrasts wonderfully with the profound changes that are being portrayed. In particular, I liked the way the references to tomorrow appear at the end of each section, a very adequate reflection of the Elven Condition, where tomorrow always comes, whether one likes it or not. The gradual estrangement between the lovers, the changes in their lives and in their house link in neatly with the hints to the changes in the wider context. So much love and so much heartache is shown in such a small space, the longing for a daughter perhaps the most poignant in spite of the mroe dramatic events that were to follow. Altogether, a beautiful piece of writing, thanks for sharing it.

Reviewed by: Keiliss -- Score: 6

This was written with a great deal of empathy. Iím glad I got to read it. I had several more fics to read last night, but I had to take a break when this was finished to let the atmosphere sink in, allow the sadness its time. What a wonderful study of the unraveling of a marriage that started out with such immense hope, promise and love and died in arguments, darkness and the horror of the Oath. Nerdanel as a young wife and Nerdanel at the time of the making of sun and moon are the same woman, but all the hope and all the dreams are now ashes on the wind. Iíll wonder for a long time if the messenger gave her any hope. I suppose not, but how very sad for her, returning to a place that once rang with laughter and the sound of childrenís voices, now deserted and heavy with dust. Most definitely recommended.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 5

This reminds me of the history of a marriage montage in [Citizen Kane]: instead of breakfast and the table, there is the ring, the room, the bed and the scent of the house that provide the constant reference points, as Elleth takes us through the four stages of Nerdanel's marriage, and then its aftermath. Interesting choice of sense as the most telling sign of time and affection slipping by - it isn't the obvious one. I also was intrigued by the idea that there was someone missing in the lives of Nerdanel and FŽanor, though what impact that may have had on their marriage, we don't know. Nicely staged introspective piece, in a very short space.

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 5

A ring is mentioned in each of the ficlet vignettes that are used to tell this tale. Not THE Ring, of course; I'd guess it is Nerdanel's wedding ring relecting--or not--the different lights to be seen. From waking that first morning in her marriage bed with the scent of newness surrounding her to the final visit described just as the newly finished Sun rises from the West before taking its duties of then rising in the east to mark each day, we see her reacting to the changes in her life and her relationship with her husband. Warming and sad by turns, the ending of each vinette, including the last one, still gives room for hope....

Reviewed by: whitewave -- Score: 4

Ladyelleth's pictures and stories about the Feanorians are always a treat for me. She has the talent of creating words that evoke pictures and vice versa. I really enjoy her different portrayals of this star-crossed family, especially of Nerdanel. This piece has a sort of "time-lapse" effect in showing the different pivotal stages of her life but very neatly "unified" by the key words. This could make a good "introduction" of Nerdanel to new readers as well.

Reviewed by: Robinka -- Score: 3

A beautiful, emotive story that flows gracefully thanks to its poetic language. The life of Nerdanel is told in a few separate parts, beginning from the happiness of a bride and closing the series with the sorrows of a widow. I love the usage of the repeated words, which sound like a refrain of a song. Insightful, poetic tale, crafted with great care. Thank you.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 3

A short series of interwoven paragraphs, each one beginning with a golden ring and ending with the use of [tomorrow], chronicling moments in Nerdanel's journey from joyful young bride to wise but lonely widow. Heartbreakingly descriptive without being overdone; Nerdanel's passion and power comes through in this series of windows into her life.

Reviewed by: Ellynn -- Score: 3

Beautiful story. The change from the happiness in the beginning to the sadness in the end is very well writen. I like how you begin every part of the story with the same words and then change the rest of the sentence, bringing different pictures and moods.

Reviewed by: NeumeIndil -- Score: 2

Very poetic and melancholy. I like the use of the ring metaphor to mimic the cycle of light, and the reference to her father. Well done.