Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Inner Light

Author: pandemonium_213
Nominator: Dreamflower
2011 Award Category: Cross-Cultural: Eriador - First Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: During the darkening weeks before they depart Rivendell with the Fellowship, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took tell the Istyanis, an elven smith who has recently returned to the West, of Yule customs in the Shire. In turn, she describes a festival of light celebrated in a distant land where she had lived for many years, illustrating that not all of the East lies in darkness.


Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel -- Score: 10

Inner Light an interesting cross-cultural piece. I enjoyed the author’s exploration of winter-solstice traditions from many of Middle-earth’s races, and the underlying shared significance between all of them. The information/facts were wrapped very nicely in a narrative format, and as a reader I by no means felt I was being lectured or given an info-dump in any way. The author’s choice in characters—two hobbits—helped in that regard, I think. Because of the very nature of Merry and Pippin, the reader was spared from boredom, even though the two characters were not used as comic relief in any way. Another thing I liked about this was the way the author adds on to pre-existing pieces of Tolkien’s writing. The detailed accounts of winter solstice festivities, in Aman, in the Shire, and in the tertiary world of Bharat, were all unique and seemed to be quite plausible, given what the reader knows about the respective cultures. Little pieces here and there, thrown in to give the story a bit more flavor, went a long way, and I was impressed by the end result. One thing to note and think on is the long-term effects this interlude in Rivendell would have had on Merry and Pippin’s thought processes. Not only does this piece explore cultural differences, it provides the hobbits with a background from which to transform themselves into the renowned men they become eventually.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 10

This is such a very delightful holiday story! Pandemonium doesn't usually write about hobbits, but in this tale featuring her OC, the Istyanis and Merry and Pippin we see just how well she understands them. I love the way she captures the differences in their personalities. Pippin, more intuitive, simply accepts the Istyanis and her proffered friendship with an open heart and trust. He's happy to find someone who is interested in him and what he has to say, and doesn't much mind that it's an Elf of ancient and mysterious lineage. Merry on the other hand is more concerned with dignity and making sure that they do not offend her. He is more thoughtful about why she wants to befriend them, and he is intuitive in his own way; he senses that ancient and mysterious lineage and wonders about her far travels. I also love the way that pandemonium manages to weave the mythologies and cultures of "our" world into that of Arda in a way that makes it blend seamlessly. The custom she introduces seems perfectly appropriate. And the way in which the Istyanis is able to give the young hobbits hope for the long journey that lies ahead of them is just beautiful. A lovely story for the holidays or any time of year.

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 10

When I first read the Lord of the Rings, one of my favorite themes was how each of the "free peoples" we encountered did their part in aiding the fellowship. Some supplied members, others supplied treasures like Galadriel's phial and Rohan's Shadowfax, but it seemed like all the free people of the west were bound up in that quest. In this fanfic, pandemonium_213 shows us how the free peoples of the *East* made a rather unique contribution: a sense of spirituality and inner light that can be relied upon [when all other lights go out]. It is a truly remarkable custom, and beautifully told - a real feast for the senses. That could easily be my favorite part of the story, and I think the first time I read this fic it *was* my favorite part. But on a second read what really impressed me was the many subtle connections to Eregion: the reference to holly, the speculation she might have been of Feanor's kin, the accent that marks her as strange even among the elves of Rivendell. She has the quality of a sage, almost a bit like Radagast in her own way, but she is this in spite of (or perhaps because of?) her technical cumen. It is a nice shot across the bow, as it were, against Tolkien's anti-science themes. That, too, was a true treat. Nice work, Doc B.! This was really well done.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 10

Although the evocation of the exotic Eastern holiday is lovely and beautifully written, I find this story most notable for the interaction between the younger hobbits and the mysterious Istyanis in Imladris. Merry and Pippin are preparing for a great and terrible mission that will take them into very dangerous, far lands; the Istyanis is a powerful elf who is both enriched and scarred by her experiences in lands other than the haven where they all are currently resting and recharging. The three characters yearn for a common tie, the remembrance of happier days in safer places, the joys and comforts of their youth, the families they have loved. The Istyanis calls forth these things from the hobbits, ostensibly to learn both the idioms of Common Tongue and to learn more of Hobbits in general, but I think there is a deeper need there. Pippin's happy chattering about his triumphs at various hobbit seasonal festivities, the hobbits' Yule carol seem to touch the Istyanis; break through the hard veneer that seems to guard some of her childhood memories. She is trying to be kind to these very young people, to befriend them and learn something of their ways; and in turn, the Istyanis becomes kinder to herself, opening up a window on that guarded early life, mention her parents and the special Yule dish they cooked. She lets herself share the hobbits' Yuletime joys, and enriches that enjoyment by sharing both her own memories, the food,and the Deepavali festival of the more distant land of Bharat. That [Poldamassa] bread sounds absolutely marvelous, too! And I got a kick out of Bilbo's cameo as a Linguistic Detective in speculating on the Istyanis' origin.

Reviewed by: Elleth -- Score: 6

Pandemonium writes her OFC, the Istyanis, with her usual curious grace, and the author once more demonstrates the immense scope of her storytelling capacities by ranging from a conversation with Merry and Pippin and the familiar Yule in the Shire, to Bharat and its Deepavali customs without making either seem out of place. While I sometimes regard the crossing over of real-world customs and traditions into fic verse (although I have done so myself occasionally) with a grain of salt, I have learned to trust Pandemonium's ideas and visions as respectful and readable - and with this story, especially, fitting the season, it was a delight to revisit. The message of the story, and the image of the lights floating on the pond, will stay with me for a while.

Reviewed by: Caunedhiel -- Score: 4

I love the mystery of Istyane's character. I'm guessing she is a child of one of the children of Feanor. for some reason I'm thinking she is Maglor's child? This was an interesting piece and your inclusion of different celebrations was very good and nicely done. I loved the idea of the lilly candles floating on the pond representing the driving away of darkness. and Merry and Pippins character's were perfect. I enjoyed reading this :)

Reviewed by: agape4gondor -- Score: 4

Never having read any of Pan's writings, I brought no preconceptions with me. So I was delightfully surprised at how wonderful this story is. Delving ubto the customs of the Hobbits and seeing how they are reflected in other cultures was a treat. Though how the woman ever got a word in edge-wise with Pippin there, I can hardly imagine. Great read with beautifully expounded themes.

Reviewed by: obsidianj -- Score: 3

This is a heartwarming story about fortifying Merry and Pippin for the long road on the Quest. I like the idea of the good memories driving away the bad in times of need. Merry and Pippin sound just like themselves. Merry is wise to not want to know exactly what the future brings.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel -- Score: 3

I liked the interaction between the author's original character and the canon characters (Merry and Pippin) very much. I also really liked the comparisons of various different cultures' festivals of light (the Indian Diwali versus the more European Christmas) as seen through the lens of Middle-earth. A great holiday read.