02 Dec 04 11:32 PM
Reply To: 34985
This took longer to compose than I expected. Oh well. Can go to sleep now.
As always, you've given us a unique perspective on a much worked-on theme.
Thanks. It's funny, I just haven't seen much on civil
strife in the fandom, but I admit my reading habits have been drastically curtailed since I moved out here.
Could I ask about the process that led you to the quintet of drabbles? How did the idea come to you?
I'm aware of the concept of "five things that never happened to [character]" challenges, although I've never participated in one. When it became clear to me that I had more to say than a single drabble would allow, but way less time and inspiration than would be needed to write out an entire story covering these periods, a drabble cycle became the logical compromise. I suppose it's possible I might add to it, if the inspiration strikes—it is an on-going serial—but for the moment it's complete.
How did you refine it? I particularly like your selection of characters- from the most humble to the most sublime, there are things that tie us together, that we all have in common.
Well, I started with Ornendil—he was actually the first written, because I do have a well-hidden obsession with the Kin-Strife in Gondor. One Day I plan to write a story about it, but I keep having plotting problems, and then there's that little detail known as "Not Enough Time". After that, it was a matter of letting material that had been on my mind for a long time find a place in Middle-earth, which necessitated some hunting, but I found places for all of it eventually. Characters suggested themselves based on their being situated within a period of civil unrest, and I knew I had to have my cobbler in there to represent those of us without a thousand year-old pedigree. Melkor and Manwë... er... yeah, see below.
May I share my favorite parts from each drabble?
Like any author would say "no" to that!
But, I also love this:
"Widowed, she was glad Pharazôn rebuked Andúnië: stopped talk of how her man'd died for naught good."
I had never even considered this side of the story before. Those who are on the other side may also think they are doing the right thing. I love your cobbler's simple -yet deep- insight, product of love and her upbringing. This was great!
Thanks—I'm so glad that this aspect of identification came through, as it's one I struggle with in real life. Responding to your question above about how these evolved and were refined, I knew from having read this article
months ago (penultimate paragraph) that I had to write about this somehow. This is possibly the most heartbreaking thing I have read in terms of troop-testimony, though in a way, one might think it's relatively insignificant or even positive. But I have also been reading Weil's "Iliad or the Poem of Force" with my class, and this article fits so well with one of my all time favorite, most gut-wrenching pieces of philosophical literature that it was just obvious that in my post-election funk, I had to write about this attitude somehow, which I think nails a sort of national traumatic reaction.
At the same time, in the line you'd pointed out earlier, it's clear that this woman gives everything she has, and over two generations of her family in a cycle of sacrifice. I can't possibly derride that, only regret it and ask to end this sort of thing. Unfortunately, it never does seem to end.
I love the title! I have spent some time in this part of the history for a story of mine, and I am so glad you chose to portray this! (As well as Aranarth, but more on that later).
Yee ha, another closet downfall of Arnor fan (more on that later)!
This line will haunt me for a while:
"Last defender of the king's escape, Ornendil stands before Osgiliath's Westbridge, savoring the sublime irony: he'll fall to foes who but lately whispered of him, "He loves Gondor too little.""
That was the key point for me to realize, since otherwise, this would be just a standard, straightforward story about a civil power struggle gone out of control. Continuing with the response to how these came to be and got refined, this has its specific 'textual' roots in "Glory", my favorite war movie. I discovered the commentary version this summer, and something Morgan Freeman said struck me deeply and has stayed with me. If you go into the commentary version's scene selections, choose "The First Battle" and you'll hear him say this eventually:
Morgan Freeman: "The First Battle": "As far back as the Revolutionary War it's always been amongst those ... of African descent... who were shunned to all intents and purposes have always thought that they would... pay their way in blood. Every chance to pay their way in blood they would take it. To show that they were willing to fight for all that everybody else already had..."
Then you read things like this
. It's all part of a deep-seated phobia of the other, currently being "played" by those of Middle-eastern descent in our society, and that becomes the context for my reading of Ornendil's view of himself. Ornendil is part Northman; the Kin-strife of Gondor is a war that at least ideologically is about race purity and the place within Gondor's society of the "half-breed", of those of "impure" blood. And so like every generation of "foreigner" in their very own country, in time of war, he pays his way in blood. Vainly? We don't know. It's not clear what the social fall out was after the war ended, but that sort of racial divisiveness doesn't just go away overnight, and there's always going to be someone else to take his "outlandish" position. At the very least, he lost his battle; his death was totally gratuitous and the very silence about the fall out of the Kin Strife is in some sense telling, I think.
3. Blood Ties
I love the word-play here. I can only begin to image what it must have been like to be trapped in such a web of deceit, owing duty to two masters. I love your portrayal of Miriel here.
Glad you liked it—certainly living with the enemy is not exactly the easiest thing to do but women seem to manage it, historically, though with varying degrees of success.
Have to say, I'm a bit ambivalent about this one. Miriel was sort of a throw away, in a sense. She's been done before as the desperate rebel by very competent hands (Jen Littlebottom for example), but she was a natural place to put a story about civil strife. Funnily enough, the drabbles centering on female characters both take as their perspective the family as a politicized entity. Go figure. It's Middle-earth. Also funnily enough, hers was the one I labored over the most, trying to get the word-play right. If I can't go for something relatively original in content, I felt I had to make the most of the wording.
4. Olive Branches
I'm still not sure that I like, or understand, the title
This is one of those nods to irony. This should be about making peace—they've just finally defeated Angmar; this is supposed to be a symbol of the concern Gondor and Arnor naturally have for each other. Much room for fraternal political symbolism, etc., and an end to the tension over the succession. So in a sense, the title just serves to bring out that none of this actually
"Olive Branches" comes out of my other well-hidden obsession: the downfall of Arnor. The textual twist came out of a long ago e-mail conversation with SailingToByzantium over the legitimacy of Aragorn's claim to the throne versus Denethor's, which had me giving several detailed arguments about how to read the relationship between Arnor and Gondor at this point. And I realized that although it isn't obviously a case of civil strife—we don't tend to think of it as such—it is in fact intimately bound up with the succession crisis that had the potential to get truly ugly once the legalists were silenced. Now Tolkien makes this a genteel parting of ways—circumstances prevented Gondor from responding sooner, etc., but it's easy to read in that there's more going on there than meets the eye. Try analyzing it yourself. Things start to not hold up so nicely when you realize that Arvedui's last letter went totally unanswered, and then Arnor dropped off the political radar. And what with everyone speculating like mad that Powell wouldn't stay on for Bush II... 2... (heh, Bush tutu—and that leads right over to Andy Corwin's cowboy ballerina
lyrics... *brain explodes*), even though I don't approve of Powell at all or the kid glove handling he gets from the media who make him out as this moderate [strangles rant impulse], the fall out among the higher ups in a civil war, and their maneuvering made for a "subtextual" history of Arnor and Gondor.
(although it does seem appropriate because of the latin connection that named your collection
Or rather the Biblical one.
but I *love* this drabble. Bitter meeting, indeed! Such unique insight into this event- thank you so much!
You're welcome. Glad it was convincing.
This is a great line:
They meet upon the red fields, Captain and Chieftain: Eärnur and Aranarth. The kiss of peace tastes of ashes: Welcome to Arnor."
Ever since Matrix (the first and only, so far as I'm concerned), I've been dying to get in a line akin to the supremely ironic "Welcome to the desert of the real". *bows to Lawrence Fishburne for great delivery*
"But ere Eärnur can rest content with his work, Aranarth adds: "Remember this morn, cousin. For our claim stands still; we shall redeem it one day, even as Gondor redeemed us.""
I will not be able to get out of this moment. How things could have been different, had Gondor's arrival been timely. But then, there's fate to take into account- is there?
Fate, and the workings of politics. I admit to my quasi-revisionist tendencies, here. I am rather ignoring the prophetic dimension in favor of focusing on the political. I save 'fate' for the last drabble.
5. Civitas Dei
This was just a masterpiece. I love the word-play again on the middle paragraph. I think it was very appropriate that you ended with Manwe and Melko's look on things. What a masterpiece!
Thank you. This one was inspired by, of all things, my continuing efforts to write a term paper on Zizek this semester, for whom all subjects, even divine ones, are "split from within"—all subjects and intersubjective fields bear the mark of this original lack of wholeness. Augustine intervened, too, and gave me the titles, but it was Zizek who inscribed the divine within the profane, in a way, reversing the Augustinian order of things. Thus no divine plan that ultimately makes purely rational sense, no rational desires, and no transcendent God to justify all things at the end of history and from all eternity.
In a bit of good news, I may break my three year running record and hand in this essay on time rather than taking an incomplete in the professor's class, a feat I've not yet managed. Of course, that does leave the other class... *sigh*
Again, thank you so much for writing this and sharing it with us.
You're welcome. Thanks for letting me babble on.
You have sure expanded my perspective on the events you portrayed (so many of my favorite parts, too!), and changed the way I will look at things from now on.
Higher praise I cannot hope to receive. Thank you very much, Starlight.
"Such is the way of the world, that all endeavors undermine themselves in the end, and not simply for lack of good will..."
I'll be thinking about this for a while, I suspect. What is fate's role in the course of life, after all? It is a great theme with Tolkien. Can we, then, change our fate?
The great question. I think Tolkien ultimately answers a circumscribed "Yes"; the difficulty is that we often let ourselves be swept along, rather than truly challenge the unfolding of events. Man, this is reminding me of class last night. Ever want to see people hop like corn in a kettle? Make them read something that problematizes free will while demanding action and comprehension at the same time. It's... entertaining.