Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Pale faced Tark

Author: Canafinwe
Nominator: Inzilbeth
2010 Award Category: Genres: Character Study: Dunedain - Second Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: Teen -- Reason for Rating: This story is rated "Teen" for explicit descriptions of deprivation, passive torture, and themes of warfare.
Summary: In the deserts of Harad, an old man witnesses the torment of a stranger from the North...


Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger -- Score: 9

Absolutely brutal! The setting is described in vivid, fascinating detail, and the setting drives the entire story. Just as movements in the desert are dictated by sun and by water, so the actions in the story are dictated by sun and by water. The lives of everyone that appears in this fic are subject to these two elements. Canafinwe weaves such a stark, grim setting completely dominated by heat and thirst. If I hadn't been so engrossed while reading this story, I would have gone off in search of a drink. Even the old man who narrates the story seems to take second place to his unforgiving environment. Speaking of that old man, I loved seeing the world through his eyes and listening to the tale of how a village grew up around a well. I also enjoyed all the hints he dropped throughout the story about his dead sons and the mysterious Eye in the north. It all links together in the end, and as powerful as Aragorn must have been upon the battle-field, even he succumbs to the sun. But the irony and twist in the story is that even as the desert claims the spotlight, both the old man and Aragorn find a way to defy it. And in the end, we know they're both successful. A lovely bit of writing!

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 7

For the basketweaver, the sight of the pale faced man tied to the village pillory brings memories of his dead sons, slain in Umbar by raiders from Gondor when the Umbari fleet was destroyed by sword and flame. But in spite of his unacknowledged identification of the northerner with the leader of those who slew his sons, the basketweaver knows compassion, and offers the stranger both succor and additional torment. If the man lives to sunset he will be released from his bonds and sent on his way, and the basketweaver sees his intent to survive. Serendipity allows the basketweaver to offer unexpected strength to the one who was responsible for the greatest grief the Haradri could ever know. And we find we, along with the northern stranger, thank the man for his humanity. Canafinwe has given us characters we can empathise with, even in the persons of the boys who come deliberately to taunt the stranger with water they have no intention of sharing with him. Excellently done!

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 6

Canafinwe's grim diptych lets her put her talents for writing extreme physical hardship to work again, as Aragorn, in an ironic act of what might be called justice, repays in part the blood, sweat, and tears he brought to Harad when he burned the Corsairs' shipyards. No one knows this but him, of course, but I appreciated that that point was actually addressed - he's no innocent, and he knows it. His savior does not, and perhaps his being half-blind is s symbol of that permanent ignorance, which allows him to aid a desperate Aragorn when the latter begs for help. Canafinwe integrates that quote about the need to be able to let go of treasures or be fettered by them is put to good use here, and gives us a very painful piece of history for Aragorn.

Reviewed by: RS -- Score: 5

A very painful story to read. I cringed through it. The first sentence sets the mood. Hot...so hot that you can feel it. And what you see in that scene... It just opens up and unfolds like a movie... you see and feel despair. You feel everything that each character is going through, so detailed the descriptions are and so much clarity. Though you feel empathy for the main character, it is the old man, as they say, that "stole the spotlight". So endearing was he that you want to know what becomes of him at the end. A beautiful story that shows the message that there is truly hope and goodness in human beings. A tear jerker.

Reviewed by: Inzilbeth -- Score: 4

This story of Canafinwe's set in the desert of Harad is almost too painful to read. Aragorn's suffering at the hands of those who don't appreciate the arrival of this pale faced stranger makes far from comfortable reading. The story however is so well put together that I found I had to see it through to the end. And in the end it is the unexpected kindness and compassion shown to Aragorn which stays in the memory. This is a powerful tale which is also very well written.

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 4

This is a nicely nuanced view of what Aragorn might have experienced in Harad, and of Haradric culture in general. With equal parts visceral detail and believable world-building, and a nicely-drawn original character thrown in for good measure, I found this to be a thoroughly-engrossing read. Not necessarily a pleasant bit of mindspace to crawl into, of course, but given the subject matter I consider that a strength.

Reviewed by: nau_tika -- Score: 3

This author has presented us with an original character and a POV I havent seen very often. The ending both surprised me and made me sad. It's a story I will likely read again in the fututre.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 3

A brutal and brilliant story, that really shows the worst and best of human nature; as Aragorn receives mercy and then kindness from an unexpected source in Harad. Canafinwe excels in descriptions and characterization of both Aragorn and the original character.