Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Salt

Author: Dawn Felagund
Nominator: Rhapsody
2007 Award Category: Times: First Age and Prior - Second Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: Teen -- Reason for Rating: Violence, character death, and mature themes
Summary: How Caranthir's strange temperament, the sea, and his love for his mother changed the fate of Middle-earth. A strange tale about a strange Elf.


Reviewed by: Rhapsody -- Score: 10

Salt is a story so unique and is told with a beautiful and touching grace. The story is told from Caranthir’s perspective and how he sees the relationship with his mother. Dawn makes great use of imagery here, starting from Caranthir’s age, making me suddenly wish that my tears could be caught in such a beautiful vial. From there, it became an emotional journey for me as a reader where a box of tissues does come in handy. The central theme is the love of a son for his mother and it just feels like all brothers managed to break free from her, except for him, wanting to remain her child, not wanting to be grown up and not seeking solace in her embrace. The moment though when Nerdanel does hear his voice and she scoops up his tears from the sea, that is the moment where their bond - to me - is sundered. Too bad though that if Caranthir's tears & grieve could move mountains... that this did not happen earlier. Although... the sea in the end swallowed most of the destroyed Beleriand, so in the end he did move his mountains and seas. Besides this bond, the story also sheds a light on how he and his brothers fared overseas in Beleriand; this bit so beautifully illustrates that: [I stretched my thoughts to each of my brothers that night, as we lay beneath the same roof for the first time in years; I felt each of them reluctant, most of all, Celegorm and Curufin, who would speak the loudest in order to convince us that they were not cowards.] or [I felt their fear of death bitter as poison upon my tongue, and Curufin’s dread of leaving his son—estranged from Curufin but still secretly adored—alone in this treacherous land.] or [I sampled the dreams of the twins, mingled in the middle like the blood they’d once shared, that did not concern themselves with oaths and Silmarils and the dirge-like darkness of Maglor’s sleep.] or [Maedhros dreamt of Thangorodrim, always of Thangorodrim. And revenge.] This left me wondering who of the seven was really striving to get hold of the jewels. Or did, like in macho family dynamics, they provoked each other, even after Feanor's passing to be the one who found it the most important. Would this view in the so-called Dawn-verse be that impelling force that became their doom? I would say yes and the author illustrates this quite well. It leaves me as a reader wondering who truly was concerned about it the most. This way of storytelling pulls the reader into it more, in my humble opinion. [But this night was different; this night, she clutched the phials and stretched her thoughts over the sea, and I answered. Mother! Mother, I will be home soon!] The power of this moment, the ultimate love between mother and son reaches that peak in this bit. This is so incredibly strongly written, the love a child has for you is unconditionally. Maybe later in life and when they grow up, they change and become distant. Just as Caranthir becomes distant that even his mother perceives him as strange, I think that was my first pang and I wondered: Carni, do not do this to yourself and then that sentence, the eagerness, the promise and hope. Of all her sons, Caranthir answers and it just makes me sad that we all know he will never return home. However, the visual Dawn gives the reader for themselves to decide, Nerdanel standing, wishing, praying hoping that her children at war for this desperate cause will return home. This is such a harsh fate for Nerdanel, the person who lost all she loved to war. Even if they split up before Feanor left, I bet that she still loved him. It is her that ends up empty-handed and what I find so powerful in this story is that she is helping to rebuild the city that was the victim of the first kinslaying, whereas at the same time, Caranthir signifies the downfall and destruction of all that kept her family from her. This is such a great and deeply moving story, one I do read often.

Reviewed by: Doc Bushwell -- Score: 10

Dawn’s magnum opus, _Another Man’s Cage_, was my first introduction to Tolkien fan fiction. I spent a good chunk of my New Year’s vacation of 2007 immersed in it. Yet again, Dawn draws me into her secondary world of the Fëanorians with [Salt], a story that so lovingly, tragically, and convincingly paints a vivid portrait of Carnister. Carnister’s narrative begins in Aman. The mother-son relationship is beautifully drawn here, and Dawn illustrates Nerdanel’s love for each of her sons with the detailing of the phials. These are consistent with Dawn’s overarching fictional take on Tolkien’s Firstborn. She portrays the Elves as fully human (as explicitly noted by Tolkien himself), but still possessing the sense of the Other that sets them apart from mortals. The eldritch touch of the phials conveys the strangeness here. Tolkien’s legendarium, _The Silmarillion_ in particular, lends itself to the interpretative fan fic writer, and Dawn, as characteristic of her work, takes this and runs with it. In Salt, Fëanor is a Noldorin Cassandra; few listen to his misgivings. Dawn also fills the white spaces between the lines with her description of the harsh realism likely to underlie the more general descriptions written by Tolkien. This is starkly illustrated by Dawn’s description of the commandeered ships foundering and drowning of the Noldor, and furthermore, the terror experienced by Fëanor and his sons at the mercy of the fierce ocean, and most intensely by Carnister as he takes another’s life. The symbolism of the ocean and its intimate connection to Carnister are interwoven skillfully throughout the narrative. The sea offers peace to Carnister yet displays its lethal force to him. Salt is given to the ocean by the tears of a god, and yet is benign and trivial as flavoring on popcorn. Through this theme and the interlaced connections between the force of nature and the protagonist, Dawn effectively conveys Carnister’s inner anguish and depth of feeling that lie beneath his carapace of the weird. Throughout the story, the sea lies in wait for Carnister, ready to take his tears. Salt is a haunting story and for this reader, evokes a dream-like quality. It is an excellent addition to Dawn’s expansive compendium of First Age tales.

Reviewed by: dkpalaska -- Score: 8

Dawn has a knack for developing the odd, surprising, decidedly unusual twists in her personal Feanorian storyverse. Yet her own logic and vision run consistently throughout, tying it all together so that I never disengage from the story - even when my eyebrows are raised as high as they can go. Her incredibly engaging prose also helps with this, artfully dropping beautiful and startling phrases and imagery at every turn. What strikes me most in this story about Caranthir is how his talent for osanwe-kenta is used as a wholly reasonable explanation for his strangeness. I felt tremendous sympathy for what should on all accounts be an unsympathetic character, especially because there seems to be noone available to mentor him through his struggles, and he seems incapable of broaching the subject with his family. His uniqueness results in almost total aloneness. Caranthir's unhappy connection with the sea, and how the sea speaks and responds to him, is an incredibly powerful theme; and the final scene, where he forgoes the Silmaril for a final communion with his brother - breathtaking.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel -- Score: 8

The beginning sets the mood for a strange tale, quite in keeping with the theme of strangeness set forth in the summary. I'm used to your portrayal of Caranthir as an odd character, but that it is Nerdanel who collects the tears of her children into phials to wear as a necklace takes it to a new level of pecularity! Very intimate portrait of Fëanor's family, and the special abilities and character of Caranthir provide unique insight into the dynamics. Tightly interwoven narrative, beautiful language and very good use of symbolism and imagery, particularly, of course, of the Sea. Although Caranthir talks about a broad span of time of his life, he still comes back again and again to his earliest memories, showing how they shaped him and influenced him even in much later times. How extraordinary that the brother who is said to have no feelings is so overcome at Celegorm's dying that he lets Elwing - and with her the Silmaril - go without any hesitation. It is difficult to single out one passage, but I think the one beginning with ["At last, I understood why the sea had always risen in wrath against my father and my brothers..."] in ch. 2 may be my favourite.

Reviewed by: stefaniab -- Score: 6

"Salt" is a demanding tale and an angst-ridden one, at that. Dawn Felagund's remarkably evocative style drops you deep into the viewpoint of Caranthir, the "strangest" (by his own admission) of Feanor's brood of strange sons. The result is a stark, almost gothic presence, especially the sections where Dawn presents the reason for Caranthir's lack of emotion--his stubborn refusal as a child to contribute his tears to the vial that his mother Nerdanel wears upon her neck. As a full-grown elf, Caranthir sheds not a tear in sadness but instead tastes salt on his lips. I recommend "Salt" to readers with a good working knowledge of the "Silmarillion. People with this background will certainly enjoy how Caranthir views such iconic moments as growing up in Aman, the kin slaying, and the sons of Feanor's attempt to steal the last remaining Silmaril.

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 5

Caranthir is one of those characters I've really only come to love through fanfic. He was always vague and uninteresting to me in canon, but writers like Dawn have made him a stoic hero, taking what comes his way with determination and resiliency. "Salt" is a heartbreaking portrayal of his connection to the sea and the things that have made him cry over the years (and perhaps even more, the things that haven't caused him to shed tears). I think my favorite part is the first one, where his melancholy and outright sorrow are so at odds with the peace of Valinor, bringing out the ill fate that plagued his house even in the times of peace. Nice work, Dawn; I heartily enjoyed this.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 3

[spoiler warning for some plot details] An interesting, unusual look inside Caranthir's head. I found the last part, "Doriath", the most compelling; Caranthir's mental union with his dying brother was sharply and poignantly written. The writing style is both sophisticated and subtle.