Forum: Dwim's Stories (was Lie Down...)

Discussing: A Very Rain of Sparrows

A Very Rain of Sparrows

Summary: Peace. Land. Life. Loyalty. A Kin-strife parable.

A Very Rain of Sparrows.

Warnings: weird dialect, historical pretention

Thanks to Altariel and Isabeau for giving this one a going over and to anyone else I might have sent pieces of it to over the years.

Dwim

 

 

Re: A Very Rain of Sparrows

Some of this felt too long for the comment feature, plus I had some questions. I have much to say about this story, so I hope that I remember it all! 

I guessed the origin of your title even before starting the story. Lovely, poetic and apt, and had me thinking ahead about what was likely to come for your OCs – so you might say I was a bit predisposed to tragedy… 

Ch. 1: 

This was a nice setup, and I liked how you bookended the story itself (so intensely personal) with these impersonal records. Nonetheless, we get the gist of Amrazar's politics even through the biased interpretation. I had wondered where the Dol Amroth people fell in your vision of the Kin-Strife. Amrazar felt curiously appropriately ambiguous. I loved the irony of it being written in 1447... I wonder if those records got burned when Eldacar returned to power, or if they are part of all the secret lore that the Stewards later protected. 

Ch. 2: 

I thought Aethrin's character and perspective was done very, very well. In my mind, it felt like just the right mix of too-old (his hard life and certain insights into "that's the way things are") vs. the still-young (his naivety about prostitution).  

Your conversations and interactions between Aethrin, Fardhan and the other villagers are all-around wonderful, realistic and grounded me in their everyday lives. I really enjoyed the dialect and did not find it distracting at all. I did notice a few times where an accent mark might have been missing in front of the t verbalizations? Such as here: "Mayhap not the catch, but t'a catch." Should it be 't'a? I could be misreading something in the rules of the dialect, though, so I won't list the others here. I can send them to you separately if you'd like. That doubled single-quote treatment (I'm sorry, I'm not using the proper terminology, I know) was the only thing about the depiction of the dialect that I was undecided about: In mentally visualizing it, 't'a and t'a seem the same to my "virtual hearing," so the first depiction seemed almost unnecessarily complicated? 

You do a great job of hinting at things that are then unveiled more completely as the story progresses: the pinch of the Queen's tithe, Fardhan's concern over Aethrin, etc. Your attention to detail is obvious throughout the entire story, I think especially in the many related impacts on the poor villagers – bonded to the King, they have to be paid more for their labor in service of others; the youth deserting the village; the girls turning to prostitution; getting the retributional market laws from Pelargir; having to go far north to meet logging demands because of the Queen's retributional tithe… These poor guys are, again quite realistically, between several rocks and hard places. 

And a curiosity question: What are snaplegs? Crawfish?  

Ch. 3:  

Tha knows he's wed to that chick the Bird-keeper hatched. Is "Bird-keeper" is a play on Vorondur's name? I'm a very poor translator, unfortunately, no matter how many Sindarin, etc. dictionaries I keep bookmarked… 

Fardhan's obvious disgust with the King had me thinking for the next two chapters that the troubles he's "been hatching worry over" related to direct opposition to the King's rule, such as acting as a spy for the Northmen, etc. (Since he'd gone north recently, and survived the raid.) I don't know if that was a deliberate misleading, but it did make for an astonishing twist at the end… 

I liked the quiet tie to "Descent" in Mal's comeback to Fardhan. ("Eldacar's queen might've done worse—driven us out 't'of our land t' give place t' the outlanders. Tha knows how they came t' Pelargir, had folk leavin' before the king turned 'em back to their lands," Malgath argued in turn.) I wondered if the two stories would intersect, and they make excellent counterpoints to each other: both from children's perspectives, from opposite sides, and from opposite ends of the war (from just before it starts to just before it ends). They are especially poignant together because they highlight how the poor people, and especially children, suffer similar fates on both sides of the issue. We miss so much of that understanding when we see these tragic events from only the perspective of the powerful. 

Wonderful description of Pelargir. I could see the city very clearly in my mind, as well as feel the whirl of the Row. 

And what under Varda's blighted stars would I want you for? Nice curse! *g* 

One comment: "Hey, Aetho," a voice hailed him some time later. Perched atop a stack of crates, Aethrin glanced up to see Malgath approaching. "Done already, eh?"  Since you've already described Aethrin's perch, it felt a little odd to read "atop a stack" – maybe "atop his stack"? Or not have the phrase "Perched…crates" at all? 

Ch. 4:  

Man, more hardship described. Excellent layout of the farming, and the impacts yet again of increasing taxes and the queen's tithe, and the reasons for why the Eastshoremen aren't hunters at all. 

It was nice to see the two brothers being "brotherly" in that scene by the river, waiting for their mom to finish her bath. There are others in here, too, that really emphasize how close they are, and how there is "normal" life even in the midst of building tragedy. 

I loved Fardhan's description of his father. No wonder he's trying so hard to stay true to his family's beliefs. But poor Aethrin has to eat somehow. Nice description as Aethrin is starting to figure out why his mother is considering marrying Calandil. I finally caught on here about what the mean sailor in Palargir told Aethrin on the docks, and some of Fardhan's comments – the vale folk not only didn't all join up with Castamir immediately, but some of them waited until the very end of the five-year war and literally had to be bribed onto Castamir's side. Not that you didn't drop enough hints before, but it just finally all coalesced at this point. 

Another curiosity question: In Descent you mentioned clans of the vale-folk – do clan alliances or the like play into this story at all, as with which of them stood with Castamir from the first vs. those that did not? 

Ch.5: 

All of these quoted works at the beginnings of your chapters are so well done, I think – just the right touch of authenticity and relevance to the story.  

Another comment: [Or maybe, he amended to himself, thinking of his mother and Calandil, and Fardhan's complaints of Westshoremen buying into Eastshore marriages, maybe we've enough of Pelargir here already.] Should the last phrase be italicized as part of his thoughts? 

Such a sad, horrible ending! Poor, poor Aethrin – his mother considering marrying a Westshoreman in order to feed her son, and his brother shipping out with Castamir's navy to do the same. His crushing sense of being the unwitting cause of so much misery is heart-rending – and it's all in vain. Do you know what actually happens to any of them? I don't have any hope for happy endings, no, but just curious… Not much choice, caught between blades and starvation. And the last bit, in the final record, about the Northmen finding many unclaimed steadings is quietly telling: fortune and misfortune inextricably mixed.

Ch. 6:

Arandil, King's Friend – nice irony! Unfortunately, it's the only name that I know the interpretation of. Are there others in your story that reflect back on the underlying theme?  

I was a little confused by the reference to Minas Tirith after it had been Minas Anor for the entire story. I'm not sure when the name change took place, but isn't it after 1660 T.A.? Or am I missing something in the Tale of Years? (Likely.) At any rate, I liked the reference, as the Kin-Strife was a major influence that led to the loss of Minas Ithil, etc., and the mere mention of it made me go looking through Appendix A, searching for additional impacts. 

You have terrific characters throughout, from major to minor, with lots of great insights into motivations and the decisions being made. I became very involved and immersed in the lives of these simple, everyday characters. The whole story is marvelous, layered and subtle. I really enjoyed puzzling out all the pieces, from significant to truly minor. It just invited me into deeper and deeper explorations into the text. I hope some additional pieces from your mess of Kin-Strife ideas come to surface soon!

Edit: Stupid formatting. Hope I got into a legible form this time...

 

 

Re: A Very Rain of Sparrows

Hello again, Denise.

Firstly, thanks for taking the time to comment so extensively on this story. It is, as I said in response to your Comment, something I've been wanting to write and trying to write for some time, but just for that reason, it's hard for me to step back from it and evaluate it.

I guessed the origin of your title even before starting the story. … – so you might say I was a bit predisposed to tragedy…

I figured there were probably many people who would recognize its origin immediately and take it as the warning it is intended to be. But for everyone else, there are Author's Notes. ;-)

I liked how you bookended the story itself (so intensely personal) with these impersonal records.

The bookend "Annals" chapters were actually one of the trickiest things about writing this story, especially the opening one. But I definitely wanted the impersonal, historical perspective to contrast with the personal style in which Aethrin's story was told.

Nonetheless, we get the gist of Amrazar's politics even through the biased interpretation.

Oh good. He is, as one Pelargirien complains, a slippery character, a political creature who can change his position at the drop of a hat. That makes him tricky to represent, since he's confined more or less to the leading quotes and a couple of quick mentions in chapter 2, yet has a definite impact on how the Kin-strife played out, both its beginning and also its end.

I loved the irony of it being written in 1447...

Originally, I didn't want to give so clear a date right up front, but my betas convinced me it would be a smart move. And they were right. It also ended up that having that date forced me to look at having two royal scribes, not just one after-the-fact chronicle that was given out in two pieces, which let the irony become clear.

I wonder if those records got burned when Eldacar returned to power, or if they are part of all the secret lore that the Stewards later protected.

You know, I thought of that only after I had finished writing the story. I'm not sure what went into letting this account survive, since the idea was that the historical perspective had to survive, and this story would be read as somehow folded 'in between' the lines of a single chronicle. But to make the opening chapter work, I ended up having to double the number of chroniclers.

You'd think that one of the first things you'd do if you took over a throne (or took one back) would be to get your minions in charge of the propaganda pronto. So it would make sense for Eldacar to destroy the accounts of Castamir's partisans, yet apparently that didn't happen. I suppose chapter 1 could be represented as a part of a collection preserved in Umbar by Castamir's followers.

I thought Aethrin's character and perspective was done very, very well. In my mind, it felt like just the right mix of too-old (his hard life and certain insights into "that's the way things are") vs. the still-young (his naivety about prostitution).

Thanks! Aethrin has probably been the most consistent, and consistently sympathetic, of the OCs, no matter what alterations I made to him. He's always been, in my mind, a sweet kid, but one doomed to a life of hard labor for very little in return, and that at the very best.

Your conversations and interactions between Aethrin, Fardhan and the other villagers are all-around wonderful, realistic and grounded me in their everyday lives.

* phew! * Considering that I'm an urbanite to the core, that's a great relief to learn.

I really enjoyed the dialect and did not find it distracting at all.

And another relief. Accents can be viewed as stylistic excess or 'textual color', but it's impossible to know in advance how they'll be received. I'm glad you found it readable, and not a distraction or detraction from the story.

[snip apostrophe irregularities]

No, that's just my finger not hitting the apostrophe key on occasion. I originally didn't have the apostrophe at all, but for some reason, at a certain point, it seemed a good idea to suggest more clearly that that leading t was coming from the back of the preceding word. It doesn't do a thing to change the pronunciation, it just tries to signal a little more clearly where the t is coming from. It might be worth it to reevaluate that judgment, however.

If you feel up to it, send me a file of places where I've missed that apostrophe and I'll add them in (at some point… unless I change my mind about their usefulness). But don't make any special efforts to comb through and find them all (I'm sure I've slipped more than a couple of times). There are so many instances of it, after all.

You do a great job of hinting at things that are then unveiled more completely as the story progresses: the pinch of the Queen's tithe, Fardhan's concern over Aethrin, etc.

Thanks! I tried to make those sorts of elements as clear as I could without saying everything up front, but I was a bit worried about how all of that would read to someone not occupying the inside of my head.

And a curiosity question: What are snaplegs? Crawfish?

Yes, they're a Middle-earth species of crawfish. I needed something river dwelling and sensitive to pollution and disturbance, and which would be an attractive addition to the local menu.


[snip quote]

Is "Bird-keeper" is a play on Vorondur's name? I'm a very poor translator, unfortunately, no matter how many Sindarin, etc. dictionaries I keep bookmarked…

I'm not that good with Sindarin, either—I always aim for "close enough to pass" as a standard, since I only use it for flavor, as it were. But yes, Vorondur's name should mean something like Eagle-friend or Eagle-servant. Obviously "Bird-catcher" is a drastic down-grade by highly disillusioned peasants!

Fardhan's obvious disgust with the King had me thinking for the next two chapters that the troubles he's "been hatching worry over" related to direct opposition to the King's rule, such as acting as a spy for the Northmen, etc.

And you'd almost be correct for one version of Fardhan's character, but ultimately, that's a different Kin-strife story.

I don't know if that was a deliberate misleading, but it did make for an astonishing twist at the end…

No, I wasn't trying to be deliberately misleading. Fardhan's just fifteen going on three hundred years old, worried, stressed, hungry, angry, and scared when you come right down to it.

I liked the quiet tie to "Descent" in Mal's comeback to Fardhan. [snip] I wondered if the two stories would intersect, and they make excellent counterpoints to each other: both from children's perspectives, from opposite sides, and from opposite ends of the war (from just before it starts to just before it ends). They are especially poignant together because they highlight how the poor people, and especially children, suffer similar fates on both sides of the issue. We miss so much of that understanding when we see these tragic events from only the perspective of the powerful.

That line was one of the last alterations I made. Originally, Mal's come-back was pretty weak, and even Aethrin knew it. But with "Descent" in the back of my mind, it finally hit me that what I was missing was the standard fare of any civil dispute that centers on race: the immigration issue and the way that that issue can be used to fan the fears of the impoverished lower classes. I feel kind of bad that it didn't get more of a place, but it just wasn't fitting into the story nicely, save in that one spot.

Wonderful description of Pelargir. I could see the city very clearly in my mind, as well as feel the whirl of the Row.

:-D Pelargir is a fun city to write.

One comment: "Hey, Aetho," a voice hailed him some time later. Perched atop a stack of crates, Aethrin glanced up to see Malgath approaching. "Done already, eh?" Since you've already described Aethrin's perch, it felt a little odd to read "atop a stack" – maybe "atop his stack"? Or not have the phrase "Perched…crates" at all?

Oops! I think that might be a place where one version of that set of passages got mostly replaced, but left a tell-tale phrase behind. I'll have to go fix that. Thanks!

Man, more hardship described. Excellent layout of the farming, and the impacts yet again of increasing taxes and the queen's tithe, and the reasons for why the Eastshoremen aren't hunters at all.

The non-hunters bit is probably the least realistic point, but oh well. I'm glad the farming-taxes-Queen's tithe trifecta worked well for you. This is the sort of stuff that it takes me forever to write, because it just does not come easily to me to think about economic matters, even in my own time, let alone some fictional mediaeval fishing village.

It was nice to see the two brothers being "brotherly" in that scene by the river, waiting for their mom to finish her bath. There are others in here, too, that really emphasize how close they are, and how there is "normal" life even in the midst of building tragedy.

Good—one of the things that strikes me is how 'normalized' violence and impoverishment can get. It's just part of the way things are, and relationships don't always wait for good circumstances, they just happen. Plus, if it were all completely doom and gloom, this would be totally unreadable!

[snip]

I finally caught on here about what the mean sailor in Pelargir told Aethrin on the docks, and some of Fardhan's comments – the vale folk not only didn't all join up with Castamir immediately, but some of them waited until the very end of the five-year war and literally had to be bribed onto Castamir's side. Not that you didn't drop enough hints before, but it just finally all coalesced at this point.

I'm glad it did coalesce, but I was rather concerned that I hadn't given out enough of a background for the Eastshore's peculiar position. They did stand up at one point and demand to be freed from being Vorondur's direct vassals. I don't give anything, really, on the circumstances, though there's a whole back-story in my head about how the Eastshore villagers were basically vale folk who were living in Pelargir and who wanted to go back to something more like the life their great-grandparents or what not had lived—out of the cities, doing their own thing. They got permission to settle across the river as Vorondur's vassals, but at a certain point, I think they would have had the right to apply to be released from their bond and to ask to be chartered as their own town directly under the crown.

But Valacar wouldn't grant it, since he was trying to keep Vorondur in line, and Vorondur wasn't a great respecter of feudal bonds save where they benefited him. They kept trying and getting denied, and of course Vorondur was harassing them for it, even as he schemed to make himself indispensable, yet also in a sense uncontrollable by Valacar.

Enter the Kin-strife, when suddenly, Vorondur and the Southern lords are all gunning for Eldacar. For awhile, it was relatively peaceful enough for the Eastshorefolk, but as the war dragged on and war tithes start really taking their toll, at a certain point, the Eastshorefolk (and a few others further south who were also beholden to Pelargir) realized they had, in a sense, the upper hand. Vorondur couldn't spare anyone to put them down if they stood up to him, so they demanded release as a condition for their further support in the war. Castamir ended up intervening just to get the wood and the men to sustain his army, and he did as he had said he would. But then, out of spite over their resistance to him, and also for the sake of familial peace, he basically let his wife and her father set the terms for how the Eastshorefolk would be treated.

I couldn't get much of that into the story, however—almost nothing, save the deal with Castamir and the way their actions were viewed by people in Pelargir.

Another curiosity question: In Descent you mentioned clans of the vale-folk – do clan alliances or the like play into this story at all, as with which of them stood with Castamir from the first vs. those that did not?

I hadn't worked that out in such detail. It's an interesting idea, and if I do end up writing more about them, I might explore that possibility. I get the feeling that the vale folk have absorbed a lot from Dúnadan culture—their names are more or less Sindarin-esque, they have adopted certain Numenorean devotional practices, intermarried, moved into the cities, all that sort of thing, although they still are distinct from the Dúnedain. I haven't done much to try to work out how they are distinct (aside from the obviously lesser life span, darker features, and the fact that many of them seem to be among the lower classes in Gondorian society).

If there were a clan structure that still functioned, that might account for the simultaneous 'up-rising' of the Eastshorefolk and vale folk further south in the Ethir area.


All of these quoted works at the beginnings of your chapters are so well done, I think – just the right touch of authenticity and relevance to the story.

They're my fanfictional weakness. I love lead quotes, especially the ones I get to make up—no hunting around, no relevance issues.

[snip italics mistake]

Yes, that should be italicized. Oops, again!

Such a sad, horrible ending! Poor, poor Aethrin – his mother considering marrying a Westshoreman in order to feed her son, and his brother shipping out with Castamir's navy to do the same. His crushing sense of being the unwitting cause of so much misery is heart-rending – and it's all in vain. Do you know what actually happens to any of them?

No. That's part of the point—we don't know what happens to them. They staked everything on Castamir to try to protect their own interests, only to end up as a part of that vast number of people that history can dispense with in a footnote. Their story never becomes more specific than the second chronicler's account of them: uncounted, and uncountable for that very reason. They'll end up buried under Castamir's unwanted legacy and forgotten.

Arandil, King's Friend – nice irony! Unfortunately, it's the only name that I know the interpretation of. Are there others in your story that reflect back on the underlying theme?

Well, Arandil is a chronicler of the Eldacarian restoration, so his name is appropriate. Daerthandur's name actually means 'servant of praise'. (I know, I know, no one would ever name their child that, but that is why this is fiction!) So he's a flatterer, and just what Castamir wants and needs. "Fremgang" is a sort of badly bastardized German: Fremd-gang, 'foreign-way/path/going', possibly suggesting 'adventurer'—appropriate for somebody whose descendents end up going to the aide of foreign peoples.

I know it's a cross-fandom pet peeve, that people give characters names that have some 'appropriate' meaning, but I figure if Tolkien can get away with "Arwen," I'm entitled to make up names that sound nice but which no parent would ever choose for their offspring!

I was a little confused by the reference to Minas Tirith after it had been Minas Anor for the entire story. I'm not sure when the name change took place, but isn't it after 1660 T.A.?

No, you're not missing anything. I glanced through the Tale of Years and somehow conflated moving the royal household to Minas Anor (happened in 1640) with changing its name to Minas Tirith. There's always something to screw up your nice, neat little conceptual games. Oh well. This means I can move the date to something closer to the actual events…

I hope some additional pieces from your mess of Kin-Strife ideas come to surface soon!

I'd like to write more on the Kin-strife, but for the moment, I've been possessed by LDID, a fairly massive lower-decks story featuring Andrahar * shakes fist at Isabeau *, and my dissertation. I don’t' want to say in that order, but those nuzgûl are vicious.

Thanks again for your lengthy comments on this story! I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

Dwim

 

 

Re: A Very Rain of Sparrows

Amrazar's politics

I admit that the first time I read the opening annals, my only thought about Amrazar's quote was, "What a strange thing to say." It was certainly enough, however, that I was able to put it immediately into context when I came to your further brief references.

(I really enjoy stories that keep me thinking and guessing to the end, and upon finishing make me say, "Now I have to read that again just so I can catch all the allusions and undercurrents I missed the first time!" I like the process of adding pieces together as I go along, so you can take all of my comments in that light...)

I suppose chapter 1 could be represented as a part of a collection preserved in Umbar by Castamir's followers.

Yes. Although I don't see it being impossible that Eldacar would have saved some of those, just not made them part of the public record. A reminder, if nothing else, of the power of the other side's perspective.

[apostrophe usage]

In fairness, I should note that using two apostrophe's did tip me off right away as to its intention (that the extra t came off the preceding word).

The non-hunters bit is probably the least realistic point

That's true, I guess, but I thought it still worked OK given that we know the desperate pinch of hunger has only gradually deepened the last few years, and that the Rangers and Eastshoremen are not particularly friendly (where the first could be teaching the second, and/or selling them equipment). Plus it is human nature to cling to what you know, and hope that the hard times pass before change is forced onto oneself. Even if a few of the fisherfolk had tried to pick up archery, it takes quite a while to develop the skills to actually bring down game, and they don't exactly have an abundance of free time to practice it.

I was rather concerned that I hadn't given out enough of a background for the Eastshore's peculiar position.

I ended my first reading feeling that I understood enough for the story to make its impact, which only deepened with my second reading. The complete backstory is really interesting, and no, I didn't get that much of it out of AVRoS, but I don't think I have to...

They staked everything on Castamir to try to protect their own interests, only to end up as a part of that vast number of people that history can dispense with in a footnote. Their story never becomes more specific than the second chronicler's account of them: uncounted, and uncountable for that very reason. They'll end up buried under Castamir's unwanted legacy and forgotten.

Yes. *looks unhappily at our own world's history books...*

Well, Arandil is a chronicler of the Eldacarian restoration, so his name is appropriate.

Oops - I didn't express that well; I was reflecting more on the irony of the opposing annals, I guess. I was thinking of Arandil as a supporter of Eldacar, and as such he would have been a "king's enemy" before the restoration.

I've been possessed by LDID, a fairly massive lower-decks story featuring Andrahar * shakes fist at Isabeau *, and my dissertation.

*ahem* I won't say which one I'm rooting for...Grin

Denise

 

 

Re: A Very Rain of Sparrows

[snip Amrazar's weird utterances – sneaky bastard]

I like the process of adding pieces together as I go along, so you can take all of my comments in that light...

Will do. And this fic certainly needs some addition!

[snip]

I said:
The non-hunters bit is probably the least realistic point

You said:

That's true, I guess, but I thought it still worked OK given that we know the desperate pinch of hunger has only gradually deepened the last few years, and that the Rangers and Eastshoremen are not particularly friendly (where the first could be teaching the second, and/or selling them equipment).

I was hoping that would be just enough to overcome that point, without becoming ridiculous in its own right.

Plus it is human nature to cling to what you know, and hope that the hard times pass before change is forced onto oneself.

It is true that change is the worst enemy, in many ways, for people who count on a definite regularity to their lives in order simply to survive. Additionally, if they had gone off into the woods, who knows whether the Rangers might not have ended up following them to make sure they weren't off to do a little illegal logging or plot rebellion or something? Could get ugly.

[snip Eastshore's unwritten political background]

I ended my first reading feeling that I understood enough for the story to make its impact, which only deepened with my second reading. The complete backstory is really interesting, and no, I didn't get that much of it out of AVRoS, but I don't think I have to...

Hash mark next to that one, then. It would have been nice to be able to integrate the larger story, but given that that wasn't working out, my aim was to make sure there was enough there to get the reader through without being unduly confusing or having that history erupt in ways that would demand explanation.

[snip the indifference of history]

[snip names]

Oops - I didn't express that well; I was reflecting more on the irony of the opposing annals, I guess. I was thinking of Arandil as a supporter of Eldacar, and as such he would have been a "king's enemy" before the restoration.

Ah, I see. Well, there is certainly that aspect! I don't think I gave anybody else a name that was quite that ironic.

[snip nuzgul possession]

*ahem* I won't say which one I'm rooting for...Grin

Not that I can't guess on my own. *glares in the direction of Kentucky*

Dwim

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

We're sorry. This is a closed discussion. Content is available only to invited readers.

« Back to Dwim's Stories (was Lie Down...)