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TWT: Faramir, Boromir, and the Fellowship of the Ring

In an analysis of the Fellowship of the Ring, one member is glaringly distinct from the others. Most of the Company is there out of concern for the common good, or for love of a friend. One, however, is there, at the least, simply to get home, or at the best, for the faramirfurtherance of his country’s interests. Boromir son of Denethor seems a curious selection for what is arguably the most important alliance of the Third Age. Later, when we meet Boromir’s thoughtful, grave brother Faramir, the latter appears to be a far better option for such a critical mission than a man driven by his emotions, a man who is not totally invested in the success of the quest.

Throughout the book are subtle hints that Faramir should have been in his brother’s place. Several characters mention that Faramir wanted to be the one to search for Imladris, but Boromir insisted on his own precedence. Politically, too, at such a dangerous time it is far wiser to send a younger son, not to mention the one who is not so renowned as a valiant warrior. Character-wise, Faramir is wise and prudent, whilst Boromir is rash. There is a clear disparity between the man who says “clear proofs will be required”1 when his soldiers only think to rejoice at a rumour of the king’s return, and the man who urges the use of the Ruling Ring without consideration of such a route’s pitfalls.

Should logic and common sense fail to convince, it is tenable that the Valar hoped for Faramir. An identical dream shared by two people must be supernatural, and both brothers dreamed of Imladris, the broken sword, and Isildur’s Bane. Neither Gandalf nor Elrond sent such a dream, as is evidenced by the fact that they did not expect Boromir at the Council. The Valar are the most promising source for the dream – perhaps specifically Ulmo, a Vala with a history of sending dreams as guidance, and the only one who still took an active interest in Middle-earth in later years. Faramir, it should be noted, saw this vision many times, and Boromir only once.2 Why the emphasis on Faramir, unless the Valar preferred the wiser, more cautious brother as player in a momentous game?

The reason for this hypothetical preference is unmistakable. With his greater moral strength, it is likely that Faramir would not fall prey to the Ring’s lure as his brother did. The way he reacts to its presence in Ithilien is most telling: three hundred men to follow his order in a heartbeat against two halflings barely armed, and he lets them go. Granted,boromir21 unlike Boromir, Faramir never lays eyes on the Ring. Yet I believe we may take him at his word when he declares, “Not if I found it on the highway would I take it.”3 The statement seems preposterous considering the vulnerability of all creatures, and especially humanity, to temptation. Faramir, however, is a nobleman in every sense of the word. Númenórean blood runs true in him as it apparently does not in his brother; he reverences Elves and the Elder Days. Perhaps his assertion is mildly hyperbolic, but its general theme surely holds true to his character.

It might even be proposed that Men as a race are not overly more susceptible to temptation than anyone else. The hobbits we meet in The Lord of the Rings are extraordinarily resilient to the Ring, but even that race does not have a blanket resistance – Sméagol falls immediately. The same idea, inversed, may be true of mankind. Due to a natural fear of death and the unknown, it is unsurprising that they grasp more urgently for power; nevertheless, Aragorn refuses the Ring when it is freely offered him in Bree, and Faramir refuses even to see it before he sends it away from him. If it is true that Men overall are necessarily quicker to weaken, then it must be a personal weakness in Boromir’s character that leads him to confront Frodo – a weakness which does not exist in Faramir.

All this considered, Faramir is a clear choice over Boromir. And even so it is Boromir who goes to Rivendell. I thus conclude that whilst the Valar seem to want Faramir, a higher authority seems to want Boromir. The Valar, with their far-reaching yet limited foresight, see the immediate picture, and that picture presents Faramir, a noble young prince. Eru, the All-Father, sees the full picture, and that picture presents Boromir, a noble but flawed young prince, whose mistakes ultimately lead to a greater good.

1Tolkien, J.R.R. The Two Towers (New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 2001), 272.

2Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring (New York: Quality Paperback Club, 2001), 259.

3Towers, 289.


This article is part of the March/April 2017 issue of The Ivy Bush.

Flash Fiction Challenge Day 1

Day 1: Select a book at random in the room. Copy down the last sentence and use this line as the first line of your new story.

The prompt sentence here is from the end of Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh. My story got rather serious! 😀


“Must be reading the wrong book – will ask Harriet to lend me War and Peace,” she groaned. Then slammed the book shut on the spooning couple and tossed it across the grass. Why she’d even thought of reading a Western romance she couldn’t say. The bantering, the flirting, the kissing. The same plot as every romance novel ever, hashed and rehashed. All so sweet and innocent. With oh so little depth.

Her polar opposite.

She rolled over, stroked her pistol with a fingertip. It wasn’t loaded – not anymore. If she had to be frank, she’d admit that was a relief. A relief, not to be on guard every moment. It was a week now since he’d been locked away. The only remaining person who wanted her dead couldn’t reach her.

Then again, maybe she deserved punishment, be it death by his hand or the life sentence he was serving. Anyone who had done what she had done deserved some sort of penalty. And yet… she’d changed. She knew she’d done wrong, and she’d sworn never to do it again. She might stumble sometimes, but she would never go back to her old life.

She picked up the pistol and flung it into the lake.

And then she went to confess.


There you have it! I have no clue whether it’s any good at all, but hey – at least I wrote something again! (Other than the million and three essays I’ve been doing for school…) Also hopefully my fic for Day 2 will be a little more lighthearted lol. We’ll see.

30-Day Flash Fiction Challenge

I’ve been running low on blogging inspiration lately, as you may have noticed. Searching around for ideas, I noticed that one of my blogger friends is doing a 30-day Phantom of the Opera challenge right now, and what better to do than something that can last a month or more?! There are so many 30-day challenges, though, and I wanted to pick something special – not something specific to one fandom, or done a million times before (a.k.a. a LOTR one).

When I found this flash fiction challenge, I knew it was the perfect one. And “challenge” is certainly the right word for it – short stories have never been my forte, so this is a little out of my comfort zone. It’ll also challenge me to do more writing; with all that’s been going on in my life lately it’s not been easy to find the time or the motivation to write.

Some of the prompts I will tweak a bit to make into proper stories – such as #5. I wouldn’t bore you with a list of supermarket items. 😛 And some of them I’ll change to things I’m more familiar with. And ones that are supposed to be about the writer specifically (like #’s 9, 10, 11, etc.) I will fictionalise.

I should have the first story up within the week! I can’t wait to see where this goes.

So, how do you like it?

I had some pretty great feedback regarding a new title for Seascape, and I ended up deciding on Sea of Crystal, Sea of Glass. To be honest, I kind of fangirl over this title because it’s awesome.

In any case, a new title calls for a new cover of course, so I played around with the original design. I wanted it to be familiar to people who read it under the original title, but I added an element that I’d considered putting in the original cover but never did: a chess king. I’m very pleased with the result; the chess piece adds a kind of focal point and relieves the monotony of the colours in the background.

My favourite thing about this, though, is the titling. In my humble opinion, it’s beautiful! And it makes the cover look very YA Fantasy, which is good.

The one thing I’m not sure about is the blurb/review/whatever at the bottom. It balances the cover out but I’m not sure about the white text, and it doesn’t show up well in a darker colour.

I’d love to hear your opinions and suggestions in the comments. 🙂

front-cover-5

A call for aid (scroll for poll)

I find myself in dire need of thine aid, my friends.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I thought it would be super cool to name all my books titles like Starscape, Seascape, Songscape… you get the idea.

This was not as good an idea as it seemed.

Starscape’s title is going to remain the same, but after getting a number of questions recently about whether it and Seascape are part of a series, I’ve finally decided to rename the latter.

I have a few possible titles right now: Though the Waves Toss and a variation thereof, The Waves May Toss, or Sea of Crystal. (Also, come to think of it, Sea of Crystal, Sea of Glass could be cool too.) In keeping with the chapter titles, I’ve taken these titles from Bible verses as I’d like to keep the theme going.

What I’d also like are your feedback or suggestions. What do you think of the titles I’ve thought of, and do you have some other promising possibilities?

TWT: Arwen’s Song

This is possibly the best poem I’ve ever written.

Arwen’s Song

We met at dusk in Imladris wood;

He called, “Tinúviel!”

As Beren called in years long past,

Far west of Rivendell.


In Lórien of singing gold

We met at length once more;

I plighted troth to Arathorn’s son

On Amroth’s hill of lore.

I turned away from Elven-home

And gave to him my love;

Immortal life I rejected then

And naught could my heart move.


Estel went far a-journeying

Till war inevitable came.

Through Eru’s grace Ring passed away,

The Shadow fell in shame.

In City of Kings our hands were joined

At midsummer of year;

And though he’d kingdom, wealth, and power,

‘Twas me he held most dear.

But at long last his years were spent;

He lay in Silent Street

As still and cold as hardest stone.

Our son took Estel’s seat.


I chose to bear the Doom of Men

That day so long ago;

I now must bear the Doom of Men,

Would I or would I no.

I’ll not be conquered at last test –

I who renounced the Foe.

There’s life past death, Eru’s gift to Men,

Relief from bitter load.


My mortal love, I grieve for you

Beneath these fading trees

Of what was once fair Lórien,

Forsaken for the seas.

I too now lay me down to sleep

Upon this hill of ours,

To lie, perchance, forevermore

In nature’s golden bower.


O Elbereth Gilthoniel,

Your daughter Arwen sleeps.

O Eru, take me to Your land

Beyond the Sundering Seas.

TWT: Elf Poems

I don’t write much fanfiction, but when I do, it usually doesn’t make sense.

 

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“You read my poems???”

 

Elf Poems

I, Gimli son of Glóin, the Elf being asleep in the canoe, have gone through his pack and found… shampoo bottles? Ah yes, but not filled with shampoo! They are filled with scrolls covered in his squiggly Elf writing which, unbeknownst to any of the Fellowship, I can read.

Leggy writes poetry.

I shall copy down three which I believe are his best and most poignant attempts, and then I shall throw them in the Anduin.

To Moria

Oh Moria, whose walls of stone
Gleam with a mithril sheen,
I hate you, for I hear the tone
Of drums, drums in the deep.

On Waiting for Gandalf

I stand nigh Moria near trees
That guard the closèd door.
Mithrandir has the password lost;
I fear we’ll trek no more.

Lothlórien

Dear Lórien, I miss you sair;
Once Mirkwood was a part
Of you, and now your Lady fair
Loves you alone, not us.

On second thought, although it would make a satisfying plop, I believe I shall not destroy these. Perhaps I can find a chance to deliver them up to Aragorn.

Book Sacrifice Tag (shamelessly stolen)

Lover of Lembas did this tag and I thought it was cool because it’s about books we don’t like for once instead of books we love. There are lots of books I wouldn’t object to burning (although they will all remove themselves from my memory as soon as I try to answer these questions) 😛 So I hereby begin the BOOK SACRIFICE TAG.

1) An Over-Hyped book: Let’s start this off with a Zombie Apocalypse! Let’s say you’re in a bookstore, just browsing, when BAM! ZOMBIE ATTACK! An announcement comes over the PA System saying that the military has discovered that the zombies’ only weakness is over-hyped books. What book that everyone else says is amazing but you really hated do you start chucking at the zombies knowing that it will count as an over-hyped book and successfully wipe them out?!

Let’s start out controversially (it’s what I do best after all) with Harry Potter. I will admit it was a good enough story in some ways, but the writing was simply bad. I didn’t like the characters either – they were whiny and disrespectful and disobedient (and they were rewarded for it, of all things). The best thing about the series is that it’s seven thick, heavy books that will do a lot of damage to the zombies.

51kzzjmmokl-_sx328_bo1204203200_2) A Sequel: Let’s say you’ve just left the salon with a SMASHING new haircut and BOOM: Torrential downpour. What sequel are you willing to use as an umbrella to protect yourself?

Sequels, hmm; I try to avoid creatures of Morgoth. Yet everyone is forced to encounter them at some point, even I. And so I select Mother-Daughter Book Camp, really a sequel to the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. It’s not that it was horrible but it just wasn’t up to par with the happiness of the rest of the series. (Also there was not enough Darcy and Jess and there was too much Stewart angst. Can’t believe I used to like him.)

3) A Classic: Let’s say you’re in a lecture and your English teacher is going on and on about how this classic changed the world, how it revolutionised literature and you get so sick of it that you chuck the classic right at his face because you know what? This classic is stupid and it’s worth detention just to show everyone how you feel! What Classic did you chuck?

Although I would never ever chuck a book at a teacher (at anyone, come to that), I shall agree with Lover of Lembas that A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court was a terrible book. It had so much potential and I honestly didn’t think the author of Tom Sawyer could screw up so badly…

He did.
4) Your least favourite book of life! Let’s say that you’re hanging out at the library when BAM global warming explodes and the world outside becomes a frozen wasteland. You’re trapped and your only chance for survival is to burn a book. What is the book you first run to, your least favourite book of all life, what book do you not fully regret lighting?
There are So. Many. Let’s go with Twilight. And Harry Potter. And my Spanish history text.

I tag anyone and everyone who has ever hated a book.

My Characters Are People Too!

Whenever I read another author’s explanation of how they create their characters, I think, Wow, that looks so professional, I would love to have a neatly organised character sheet too! And then in a fit of busyness I start making one just like it, only to get to the “Character Traits” section and stall.

Einur's mother croppedI can’t remember one book where I’ve sat down first and started plotting out who my characters will be. Instead, I sit down and plunge into the writing itself, letting the characters be whoever they turn out to be. And yet I’ve had comments from reviewers saying that my characters are well-rounded and believable, even though I put basically no work into making them so.

Every now and then I wonder about cliches in fantasy, such as – whenever there’s a group of people going off to save the world they tend to be men, with maybe one woman in the mix. And then I think that maybe I should break that cliche and make a group of women save the world. Which would certainly be interesting considering the dynamics in a group of women… Actually, the more I think about it, the more I want to write that story 😀

The sad thing is, however much I want to write Einurthat story, I don’t really choose my characters, the characters choose me. I start the story, and the characters come in as they see fit. For example, Gonor in Starscape. I originally put him in because I got the idea that every fantasy book should have an annoying character, a Gollum-esque character. I was going to make Gonor the character everyone wanted to rip out of the book and do nasty things to. In the end, he turned out to be more Gollum-esque than I planned. He wasn’t annoying, he was tragic, and that happened without me ever planning him as anything more than the irritating weirdo.

I’ve pretty much decided to give up on trying to make my characters go where they want to. It’s like they’re people with minds of their own, and I can’t do anything about it :/ I shall let them wend their merry ways (or, knowing me, not always so merry #Einur #Gonor #Royaleisia), and I’ll just wend my subservient way in their footsteps.

(TWT) A Shadow Indeed: an (old) review of “Shadow of Mordor”

 

I wrote this in April 2015 when the game Shadow of Mordor was coming out. If you want to make an enemy of me, imitate pop culture’s twisting of Tolkien for their own ends.


The theme of The Lord of the Rings, as seen by Tolkien, is that of immortality and its opposite. But there is another theme which seems very important as well to the story, and this is the use and corruption of power. The One Ring is the epitome of corrupted power in Middle-earth; yet a third idea that is central to LOTR is that the Ring’s power cannot be used for good. The powers of darkness cannot be used to fight darkness, no matter what; the end never justifies the means. If a person takes one thing away from a reading of The Lord of the Rings, I think this should quite possibly be it. And if there is one thing that those who seek to commercialize Tolkien do not take away from the story, it too is often this. In the new ‘Tolkien’ video game, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, this whole point is skewed into something dreadful.

This article is not a review of the game per se. I don’t play video games; I have no interest in the mechanics or graphics of Shadow of Mordor. What I am interested in, or rather passionate about, regarding this game, is how it portrays the messages of Tolkien’s life-work. Instead of gushing over how wonderful (or otherwise) is the technology of the game itself, I want to look at the story which the game tells, and show that it is wrong: wrong in a moral sense and utterly contrary to what Tolkien was trying to say.

In the game, players take the character of Talion, a ranger who sees his family killed by Orcs just before he himself is killed. Talion is then resurrected – by a “spirit of vengeance”[1], no less – as a wraith, and forthwith goes out to avenge his family. The first write-up for the game puts it this way: “Resurrected by a Spirit of vengeance and empowered with Wraith abilities, Talion ventures into Mordor and vows to destroy those who have wronged him.”[2] At first glance, this should sound terrible to one who shares Tolkien’s worldview. At second glance, it should look even worse. In Middle-earth, wraiths are always evil. The Ringwraiths are the most obvious example; the Barrow-wights on the borders of the Old Forest are a second. There is no such thing as a ‘good’ wraith in Middle-earth. Therefore, it would seem that the gamer, in the role of Talion, is certainly using the powers of darkness to fight darkness. This is only one problem with Shadow of Mordor; the whole idea of making a game out of a search for vengeance is far more appalling.

This search for vengeance is undeniably evil. The theme of vengeance and its consequences runs deep in The Silmarillion, where Fëanor and his seven sons spend their lives seeking revenge against Morgoth and any other who comes into possession of a Silmaril. It is clear in the book that this desire for retribution causes much suffering in Middle-earth during the First Age. Now compare this to Shadow of Mordor, where the entire point of the game is, once Talion is resurrected by this spirit of vengeance, to get back at Sauron and the minions of Mordor! And all this seemingly without consequence.

I will admit that I don’t know how far the ‘no consequences’ goes; I don’t know if Talion will eventually discover somehow or other the error of his ways and the evil of a desire for revenge. To be sure, Samantha Ryan, senior vice president of the company producing the game, says, “…players will explore the dark and very personal theme of vengeance in a world where decisions have a consequence, and those consequences persist even after death [emphasis mine].”[3] But despite this I am not hopeful. On closer study, I doubt that Ms. Ryan is referring to the consequences of revenge. Immediately after the above statement, she goes on to explain the new technology which the game employs: “Through [this] system, enemy relationships and characteristics are shaped by player actions and decisions to create personal archenemies that remember and adapt to the player and are distinct to every gameplay session.”[4] Taken in context, Ms. Ryan’s words do not seem to be about revenge and its consequences, but to the consequences of the player’s decisions during battles with different enemies.

My opinion here is reinforced by Scott Juster’s review of the game on popmatters.com. Juster gives in detail how his enemies react to what happens during the battles, and how when the particular enemy returns to fight again, it has taken into account different features of what Juster-Talion did in previous battles.

Juster, however, does not seem to be a fan of the game, despite the ‘fun-ness factor’ of the new system that makes the enemies’ tailored actions possible. He begins his review with, “Sauron and I don’t know each other very well, so I don’t know if he plays video games. If he does, I bet he is pleasantly surprised by Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.”[5] Not a very promising beginning if one is trying to reconcile the game with authentic Tolkien morality. Juster concludes by stating,

Another round of killing, enslaving, and power grabbing […] To what end? To no end, really. Even when you finish the game, the orc horde continues to replenish itself and provide more grist for entertaining assassinations and ability upgrades. It’s a mill that exists simply to power itself. You dominate some orcs and gain more power. You use this power to dominate more orcs. Why do you need to dominate orcs? To get more power to dominate more orcs, obviously. You save some slaves here and there, but the game doesn’t end with any major change to the status quo. Unlike Frodo’s journey, Talion’s quest doesn’t really end a war or culminate with him relinquishing his power after learning about its consequences. You become an unstoppable death lord who oversees a kingdom of violence that exists thanks to its own circular logic.

Like Sauron’s power, Shadow of Mordor is seductive. The more you indulge, the better it feels (it starts off feeling amazing). […] Every time that you think you can stop, you realize … you’re close to gaining a little bit more power, which in turn allows for more killing and domination. You’re soon lulled into a pattern of unreflective enslavement and murder. By the end, you’re the most powerful, terrifying force in the land. It feels great, despite its dubious morality.

Somewhere the Dark Lord is laughing because you slipped into the cycle just as easily as one might slip a little gold ring onto his or her finger.[6]

Power – who doesn’t want power in some degree? Like Shadow of Mordor, The Lord of the Rings is about power. But how different are the two messages promoted by the two! The Lord of the Rings warns against a hunger for great power; it enumerates the consequences of power; many of the characters want power and are destroyed by their lust – Boromir, Sméagol, Saruman, Denethor… I could name far more. On the other hand, Shadow of Mordor feeds the player’s desire for power and tries to make absolute power seem good, ignoring Lord Acton’s warning that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In the end, what war video game is much better than this? But Shadow of Mordor is worse in a way than even Call of Duty, because it so blatantly contradicts what Tolkien was trying to say throughout his writing. The Professor would without the slightest doubt be heartily ashamed to see a Middle-earth label on such a product. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is, indeed, a shadow of Mordor.


Notes

[1] http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20131112005633/en/Warner-Bros.-Interactive-Entertainment-Deliver-Original-Dark#.VOiRhfnF9X8, retrieved 21 February 2015.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] http://www.popmatters.com/post/190246-seductive-power-in-middle-earth-shadow-of-mordor/, retrieved 21 February 2015. The entire review is worth reading in its entirety.

[6] ibid.