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33 Comments

 
 

The Kindness of Strangers

MJ - 10 Mar 09 - 8:02 PM

General Comment

I'm delighted to see this story back, Aiwendiel -- and completed!  You already know that I'm a sucker for a good Gandalf story; they're so few and far between, and an exceptionally well-written one such as this is a rare jewel indeed.  As we have ravens in plenty where I live, I found your use of them quite interesting -- a strange sort of Greek chorus, observing and commenting upon the more familiar action, and providing a most unusual point of view.  I also applaude the way you handled what could have been some very gruesome and grisley moments, presenting enough to convey the intensity and horror without focusing overlong on the details.  The scene atop Zirak-zigil was both disturbing and touching; I'm not sure if I want to know whether or not the ravens actually came back to... well, you know.  Yet I can easily see Gandalf giving such permission, knowing that he was dying.  What a unique way of looking at this particular event!  All in all, an excellent job!

 MJ

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 13 Mar 09 - 5:19 AM

General Comment

Thanks much, MJ, I am pleased it is now available on the reviewed list. I hope others find my tale as enjoyable and disturbing (in a good way) as you did. Your comments are greatly appreciated. A

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The Kindness of Strangers

SurgicalSteel - 18 Mar 09 - 7:49 AM

General Comment

This was an enjoyable gapfiller - I especially enjoyed the POV of the ravens. The fact that Gandalf has to figure out a way to get water, at least (and how he does it) coupled with his fear of getting food poisoning from eating rotten meat - those led sort of a gritty realism to the story that's not often seen. I liked this very much!

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 18 Mar 09 - 10:40 AM

General Comment

Thanks, SurgicalSteel (what an interesting handle, by the way..hmm, I wonder what you do for a living! Wink)

I enjoyed imagining the consequences of being trapped on the top of that tower, so underplayed in the original. Either there was room service, or...well, you know what I concluded! It was great fun inhabiting a raven's personality, too. SO glad you liked it!

Aiwendiel

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The Kindness of Strangers

Linquenóllókë - 03 Sep 09 - 7:12 PM

General Comment

This is incredible.  I love the ravens and their POV on the events of the story and on human nature.  It's great how you've made them intelligent and sympathetic without ever forgetting their animal nature:  Coräc hoping to find a drowned child to feed on and Hrafn speculating on whether it's appropriate to eat the body of a friend-of-a-relation.  Very interesting, and the matter-of-fact way that the ravens think about such things makes them seem very real.

It's interesting to see Saruman struggling with guilt over what he's done.  I imagine that the very discovery that a member of his own order can be harmed like that would be frightening enough on its own.  I really felt his despair when he found that Gandalf had escaped just a moment to soon (for him, anyway).

I really can't tell you how much I enjoyed this.  The fandom needs more good Wizard-fic!

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 07 Sep 09 - 6:44 AM

General Comment

Dear Linquenolloke, I am very honored by your comments, and glad that you enjoyed the tale. It was fun and interesting to inhabit the ravens' POV, and gave me some freedom to speculate on the nature of humanity... (or wizard-ness, as the case may be...) Thank you so much for your comments. Aiwendiel

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The Kindness of Strangers

Huinárë - 29 May 11 - 2:55 PM

General Comment

This story makes me happy on many counts.  I love the incorporation and characterization of the ravens.  Your avian knowledge really shines through in this story: it's awesome when people incorporate their passions/geekiness into their work.  Finally, the world doesn't have enough well-rounded portrayals of Saruman, so thanks for that (I'd have liked to hear a bit more from him at the end).  Cheers!  _Huin

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 29 May 11 - 5:53 PM

General Comment

Thanks, Huin, your comments are very welcome and appreciated. I am a total bird geek and happen to love ravens (obviously), and I do like to look at a story from the POV of someone/something out of the main action. Interesting challenge -- maybe I'll have to add a chapter with a few words from Saruman as the Fellowship passes back thru Orthanc... or maybe a new story.... thanks for the promt!

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The Kindness of Strangers

maeglin - 30 May 11 - 6:23 PM

General Comment

This is such an interesting tale, Aiwendiel!  One of the best long Saruman stories out there.  And a good gap-fill of one of Tolkien's more confusing gaps; how would one "take" a Wizard, indeed? 

I like your presentation of Saruman here; he has fallen into treachery, but hasn't fallen nearly as far as he will later on.

It's thought-provoking too, and highlights some remaining gaps in the canon.  What of Narya?  A Great Ring actually within Saruman's grasp, and apparently he didn't even attempt to take it.  And just how was Saruman ensnared so easily by the Palantir, when Denethor was not?  

Great story!

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 30 May 11 - 8:03 PM

General Comment

Wow, thank you, Maeglin, for the rich comments. I admit I had to just follow the Professor's lead on the thorny Narya issue. Why didn't Saruman sense it, and why didn't Gandalf use it more effectively? I postulate in places in A Bit of Rope that only another bearer of a Great Ring can really sense/see the presence of one in another's possession, so that helps with issue 1, and maybe Gandalf was just too hopeful that he could convince Saruman... but that leaves the question of how in the world did he hide it from Muzluk et al... Ah well, maybe some gaps aren't meant to be filled... And as for the Palantir... I am hatching another story that might weave together some loose threads about Saruman... AFTER I finish what I've already started, that is... Thanks again.

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The Kindness of Strangers

Glîrnardir - 13 Aug 11 - 3:02 AM

General Comment

It's official: I want the Ravens of the Isen Clan in "A Bit of Rope"! Such wonderful characters. So different, so peculiar, so... beastial. I think this story is now in my Tolkien's Canon. Very, very, very well-conceived. Congratulations!
(and please... THE RAVENS INTO "A BIT OF ROPE!!!!)

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The Kindness of Strangers

Larner - 12 Mar 09 - 11:46 PM

Ch. 1: To Take a Wizard

A superb story--one I'm bookmarking with great pleasure!

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 13 Mar 09 - 5:20 AM

Ch. 1: To Take a Wizard

I'm honored to have a story bookmarked by you, Larner! Thanks and enjoy. A

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 29 May 11 - 7:36 PM

Ch. 2: An Intruder

Reading this earlier story of yours now.  Coräc made me grin - and moreover, your use of a raven as a character may have given me an answer to a plot pickle of my own...

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The Kindness of Strangers

ziggy - 14 Aug 11 - 1:13 AM

Ch. 2: An Intruder

I love this story. Corac is superb- love the sense of difference in bird and wizard perspective! Thanks to thelauderdale for commenting and pinging it up

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The Kindness of Strangers

TariElfLady - 16 Mar 10 - 12:00 PM

Ch. 3: A Civil Conversation

What a fascinating concept; Saurman walking up all those steps to the top of Orthanc just to see if Gandalf had finally repented.  This shows how little he really knows Gandalf.

I like the arrogant raven very much and can't help wondering if he will somehow come to Gandalf's rescue even though I don't see how that is possible.  Only an eagle would be strong enough to carry Gandalf to safety.

 

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 16 Mar 10 - 8:01 PM

Ch. 3: A Civil Conversation

Thanks for your interest, TariElfLady, and I hope as you read on you won't be disappointed in my speculations! Agreed, a raven would be too small to carry a full grown wizard, but I hope might help in other ways. And Saruman has hardly begun to demonstrate all the ways he doesn't understand Gandalf! Aiwendiel

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 30 May 11 - 8:41 AM

Ch. 4: The Means to Persuade

Reading on, reading on... I will say that it is curious that Gandalf has not tried to ask Coräc serve as a messenger for him, or in any way besought his assistance.  I think...and this may not be entirely kind of me, but I think he is too proud.  That or stubbornly maintaining a world view and an idea of Saruman that simply does not work anymore.  This is not something that Gandalf can fix on his own.  He *will* need the help of others to get out of this situation, he can't do it all under his own power, and he does not want to realize that.  That's all I can think, anyhow.

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 30 May 11 - 10:53 AM

Ch. 4: The Means to Persuade

To thelauderdale: OH oh oh OH yes, your reading of why our proud captive wizard isn't able to ask for help at this point is right on, righter on than I even consciously planned, I will admit! He's open to speaking to a raven, but unlike his "cousin" Radagast he'd be unlikely to think that a mere raven could actually help. AND he's just stuck on trying to fix his "other cousin" Saruman and bring him back into the fold. He will learn from his errors all too soon. Thanks for reading this one! A

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The Kindness of Strangers

ziggy - 14 Aug 11 - 1:27 AM

Ch. 4: The Means to Persuade

This sort of detail is what brings Corac absolutely to life. He is so vivid and distinct a character:

A bright green beetle scurried across the floor right at Coräc's feet. Without the slightest hesitation, he snatched it up with his beak and swallowed it whole. The bird looked up, and it crossed his mind that it may have been impolite to eat in front of a hungry man. But then again, one never knew when the next meal would come, and only an idiot passed up food that walked right in front of you

but he asks questions that are very sensible too and notices the condition of Gandalf and that just gives such a strong visual imagery.

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 30 May 11 - 9:32 AM

Ch. 5: Waiting

"Even the woman from Khând mentioned how firm his muscles had become."

Ew, ew, ew, ew.  Thank you for that, Aiwendiel, that's just what I needed.

And you write a consistent, highly feasible depiction of Saruman, by the way.  Smug, superior, convinced of the rightness of his own actions, always with armed with justifications and reasons...but petty and selfish at the heart of it, with a cowardly streak as well.

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 30 May 11 - 9:52 AM

Ch. 8: The Cleverest Creature

Glad Morigian is in on it now: I was becoming curious about Coräc's wife. I am enjoying these two industrious birds: their practicality, the morbidity of their highly natural corvid thoughts and behaviors (loved the detail of Coräc casing the stream for a drowned child to nibble on) contrasted with their compassion for someone in distress, a compassion that is tempered in turn by exasperation with the silly fellow.

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 30 May 11 - 10:00 AM

Ch. 9: Strange Kindness

You managed to be very brutal, largely by means of implication.  Saruman's malevolent, jaded and, even so, occasionally shocked perspective is an excellent lens for this chapter.

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 30 May 11 - 11:00 AM

Ch. 9: Strange Kindness

Again, my deep appreciation for your very thoughtful comments. This was a very difficult chapter to write. I think it was Isabel Allende who said you can't write about these things directly. Brutality can all too quickly degenerate into prurient voyeurism. A delicate balance.

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 30 May 11 - 12:05 PM

Ch. 12: And Need of Vittles

Oh dear, Muzlúk and pals. [shakes her head] This isn't an Orc story, but you have vividly conjured up their viciousness and their vulgarity, even in their absence.  ESPECIALLY in their absence, with the images of their handiwork left behind them.

On the subject of ravens again, I like how Coräc's avian intelligence limits his counting abilities, but how his personal intelligence navigates this shortcoming, using the moon to communicate the passage of time to Gandalf.  And of course, Morigian is impressive.  It's good that Coräc has her to wife, or he might well be impossible.

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aganaphel - 06 Nov 08 - 12:49 AM

Ch. 16: Lord of Thieves

This is a wonderful story exploring what might have been during Gandalf's captivity in Orthanc.  The ravens are delightful. The old Gray wizard and Saruman are very much in character. I really loved the portrait of Saruman: not yet wholly evil, but with some remorse and pity left. I hope you will continue and tell about Saruman's meeting with the Nine. In Unfinished Tales Saruman kept the nazgul outside, beyond the Gates,  but in your fic he let them enter Orthanc: it is bound to be even more perilous and exciting. Cheers, Aganaphel.

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The Kindness of Strangers

Aiwendiel - 06 Nov 08 - 3:56 PM

Ch. 16: Lord of Thieves

Thanks, Aganaphel! I so appreciate your comments, I didn't expect any since I hadn't submitted this for review yet. I am very pleased you like the characterizations and the ravens. Yes, it is a work in progress, and I am musing on the meeting between Saruman and the Nine, and probably one more chapter. Hmm, perhaps you shouldn't assume that they enter Orthanc... that light at the door doesn't necessarily mean "welcome, come on in..".  I'm sort of following Unfinished Tales, version "C" of the story.

Aiwendiel

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 30 May 11 - 12:23 PM

Ch. 16: Lord of Thieves

"But I don't see why you didn't just come out and ask me in the first place!"

Indeed!  And while I suppose that, had he asked outright, the eagle might have said no at once...but then again, he might not have.  Or he might have proved amendable to persuasion and the invocation of his uncle (as he finally does in this instance.)  Sometimes Gandalf's penchant for cleverness, indirection, and manipulation are his undoing.

By the way, I liked our raven friends' discourse on the less...noble traits of the great Eagles.

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The Kindness of Strangers

TariElfLady - 02 Nov 10 - 11:12 AM

Ch. 17: A Hopeless Fool

For a moment I thought there was hope for Saruman.  I should have known better.  He is too consumed by evil to actually change sides.  Nice idea though.

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 30 May 11 - 1:04 PM

Ch. 17: A Hopeless Fool

I can only echo what TariElfLady said about this chapter.  It is an appalling but, sadly understandable journey that we share with Saruman in this chapter, as we see him careening between hope and despair, the possibility of redemption and the ultimate succumbing to darkness, the impulses of human warmth and the corruption of those same impulses.

Say what one may about Saruman, though, he shows some steely nerve at the end of this chapter, in his dealings with the Nazgûl.  (Not to put too fine a point on it, I'd have been on the floor like a wuss.)

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 30 May 11 - 2:31 PM

Ch. 18: Last Gift

What a remarkable exchange in this chapter between Hrafn and Gandalf.  Terribly morbid, but, indeed, "it was, after all, what a raven was meant to do."  And Gandalf - heh.  Leave it to Gandalf to know what a raven is thinking and to offer such permission.  (Horrible, though, to think of Gandalf lying there alone in such suffering.  You are the queen of filling in unpleasant gaps.)

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The Kindness of Strangers

TariElfLady - 02 Nov 10 - 12:39 PM

Ch. 20: Author's notes

What a wonderful job you did of filling in the gaps.  This was a most enjoyable read.

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The Kindness of Strangers

thelauderdale - 30 May 11 - 2:50 PM

Ch. 20: Author's notes

This was an excellent story all around, and I enjoyed your notes at the end.  I recognized The Morrigan influence for Morigian's name, and I saw the Irish influences in Fiach and Annan, but I did not know who Fiach or Annan were per se, and I would never have known the meanings for Hrafn or Kruk.

I did wonder about one "loose thread" in form of the Khândian woman, whose presence in Orthanc has formed a running subplot through the story.  The last we ever see of Saruman, he is going to seek her out.  Interestingly, while her place in this story has been a source of distaste, evidencing Saruman's corruption (the exploitation of the disadvantaged, and the snare of lust) it is also the one sign we have left of Saruman's humanity: the sign that he in some way recognizes the woman and cares for her, and even a point of self-recognition: seeing his own failure to learn her name, and seeking to rectify that failure.  I wonder what may have passed between them, beyond the usual, and I wonder what ever happened to her.  Maybe I don't want to know; I suspect it wasn't very happy.  But maybe I infer darkness where there might as easily have been some light.

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