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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

I meant this for K-D's Fanfiction thread, but, since it's still down....

Posted on 2005.12.03 at 20:18
Tags:
~ Elijah Wood in the 1995 rock video for Ridiculous Thoughts, by the Cranberries:



My, my, how I love the angst on that kid's face. It's just perfect for Willow-wode's sorely afflicted hobbit 'tween hero, Rites of Passage Frodo, Middle-earth's, "Boy Who Lived" (barely).

I would have posted these remarks in Khazad-dum's "Fanfiction" thread, but it's still down....

As some of you know, I fell in love with fanfic reading Willow-Wode's Rites of Passage. Her first section, "The Hall," drove me crazy with its AU Frodo, its anachronisms and Americanisms, all jumbled into its mix of archaic forms of English speech, and its non-stop angst. But this fic changed my life. No kidding. I wouldn't have begun writing my own fic. Heck, I wouldn't have spent so much time in bed with my husband. *snicker* It has been a gift to me. I have loved this fic and its messed-up Frodo to pieces.

I am one of those fans, however, who became disoriented and a little disenchanted reading RoP's second half, "Bag End." Only on the strength of the first half have I continued doggedly to slog through all its chapters, gypsy fortune tellers and endless recuperations and all. Typically, I have waited until a few chapters stack up before wading through them, ever hopeful that things will "pick up."

Last night, I forded through chs. 21 and 22. I read ch. 23 this morning. They weren't bad chapters, mind you, they were just ... tiring. As a reader, I have been feeling as exhausted and despondent as poor, never-quite-on-the mend Frodo.

*Begin hiss of cymbals and slow drum roll*

Well! This afternoon I read the latest installment, ch. 24. (It is not yet up at WotM, but is up at Willow's site.) What do you know? I'm in loooooooooove again!

Yes, what a happy fanfic reader I am. Ch. 24 really de-livered, yessirree, bob. Oh, I kiss your feet, Willow-wode!

(OK, I'm done. I just wanted to squee somewhere.)

~ Mechtild

Comments:


shelbyshire at 2005-12-04 04:33 (UTC) (Link)
I love the fic too, but the once a month posting is testing my level of patience. It used to be once every two weeks. I could live with that. Sorry, just a short rant. I'm done.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2005-12-04 05:39 (UTC) (Link)
I love the fic too, but the once a month posting is testing my level of patience.

Ha! Shelbyshire, that makes me both laugh and cringe, since I myself haven't posted a chapter in three months (and with no chapter about to emerge). I live in a glass house and mustn't throw stones.

But I know what you mean. Fanfic writers do tend to crank out their stuff in a satisfyingly timely fashion. I've followed some long stories that seemed to have new chapters every time I opened my mail box. I just don't know how folks do it. I sure can't.

But if Willow whas been in the habit of posting every two weeks (I wouldn't know, having come to "The Hall" after she was already writing "Bag End"), I can see it would be very dispiriting to have to wait double that time, or more, for each new installment.
Hewene
sayhello at 2005-12-04 07:01 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, Willow used to update way more frequently. But that was ages ago. She's been writing this fic for over 3 years now. And the action in the fic takes place over, what? *Maybe* 3 months? The biggest span of time is Frodo's recent convalescence. Most of the story takes place over about a month's time. It's *excruciating* in it's detail. When she *tells the story*, it's great, but most times, she's just describing and agonizing, and there's no story. That's why it seems so great in Chapters like 24, where SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS.

Ah, well. If Willow wasn't such a good writer, I'd have stopped reading long ago. It's mostly hope and curiosity that keeps me going now...

Hewene
Hewene
sayhello at 2005-12-04 05:00 (UTC) (Link)
Nope, for me not even Chapter 24 can renew the love that was lost about 2 years ago. For me, it's like a train wreck, I just can't stop watching. I am really afraid that after all these years, the end of Book 2 is gonna be one huge let-down. Elanor Gardner kept saying "Trust Willow. She'll get her Frodo to where he's Book Frodo." I totally don't believe it. There's no way she's believably going to turn her damaged, freaked-out Frodo into the hobbit who gave up everything he had and was to save the Shire. She barely got him to sub-normal.

But hope springs eternal. I keep hoping she'll surprise me...

Hewene
Mechtild
mechtild at 2005-12-04 05:33 (UTC) (Link)
Elanor Gardner kept saying "Trust Willow. She'll get her Frodo to where he's Book Frodo." I totally don't believe it. There's no way she's believably going to turn her damaged, freaked-out Frodo into the hobbit who gave up everything he had and was to save the Shire. She barely got him to sub-normal.

Ah, well, I never expected her Frodo to get to book Frodo. He was a mess from the start. By the time Book One ended, a trip to Mordor would have seemed like a picnic. But I did expect it to keep being a Ripping Yarn! That's what I was reading it for. I loved her AU melodrama. "Ee gad! What will she put poor Perils-of-Pauline Frodo through next!"

So, she actually thought, or Elanor Gardner thought, that RoP Frodo would end up in book canon? I must say, I am surprised that such a claim was ever made for the story. The story wasn't even to film canon, which was what Willow said she was aiming for in her introduction. In that case, I can see how you would be deeply disappointed.

Me, I just wanted to see the story get back its narrative vigour. I still love the characters, the ones I loved in the first place. If Frodo is a wreck, well, he was a wreck all the way through, in my opinion. It's just that he's been a total wreck for a long while, instead of the about-to-crash or starting-to-crash wreck he was previously.

In Ch. 24, for the first time in ages, I thought, "Ah, ha! The engine is cranked and running!" I think it was the reappearance of Merimac. I almost leapt upon his neck right through the monitor, his entrance was brought such a reviving breath of air. It's as if the whole story has been in the sickroom, not just Frodo.

Of course, the story could regress. The next chapter could be another, Bilbo-and-Mac-argue-about-Frodo for twenty pages, but I just have this feeling that it will not be so. I hope it will not be so. I chafed at the introduction of such silly things as gypsy-hobbit fortunetellers and fertility cults in the Shire, but, right now, I'd be happy if aliens landed in the midst of the Tithing, if it kept the drama going.

I am trying to look on the bright side!
Ann
aquila0212 at 2005-12-04 13:29 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you said this, Mech. I've been thinking it for a while now. Willow's a great writer but I'd really love to see something HAPPEN. At first, I had a hard time reading RoP -- the angst, oh the angst! -- but her writing is so good that I got sucked in. Now, like the rest of you, I'm still reading and waiting for something to happen. I'll keep it up, I'm sure -- I'm too far now to stop, I guess.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2005-12-04 14:19 (UTC) (Link)
Now, like the rest of you, I'm still reading and waiting for something to happen. I'll keep it up, I'm sure -- I'm too far now to stop, I guess.

Well, that us take deep breaths and hope for the best. I don't want Willow to simply not finish. I can't think of a story of which I have heard more people say (people like me), "That was the story that sucked me into fanfic/ made me want to write/ made have some understanding for men making love to men/ got me back in bed with my husband (and willing to try a lot of frisky stuff I wouldn't have done before)." It's been a formative story for Frodo fanfic that goes beyond itself. It's been a kindler of imaginations, a point of departure, as well as an end in itself.

To see the story peter out and never resolve would be a blow to the whole of Frodo fanfic, in my opinion. It would be like, oh, I don't know, like Dickens deciding he couldn't finish "A Tale of Two Cities" and leaving Sydney Carton in the tumbrel, just short of the scaffold where he would say, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." Dicken's whole story is great, but it consummates itself in that moment of Carton's coming into his own, as a man of noble character. Talk about story interruptus if Dickens had left off before that!

Willow has simply got to bring Frodo to a state of preparedness and resolution, to gird himself to be the Ring-bearer, because her story is so well-known, has been so influencial, and has become so much a part of the Frodo fanfic consciousness, it would be a diminution of fanfic energy generally, I think. Her failure to close this story and close it well would cast a pall that spread beyond her, personally, and beyond the story's hardcore fans. (In my opinion.) At this point, for Willow to stumble and fall is like fanfic Frodo stumbling and falling. And when Frodo falls, all of us who love him fall with him.

I am speaking of those who love him in fanfic, of course. Non-ficcers will be unscathed, of course. *wink*
Ann
aquila0212 at 2005-12-04 14:26 (UTC) (Link)
Well, it wasn't quite as dramatic for me, since I'd been reading fanfic for a while when I first encountered her story, but it did set up a sort of language standard in my mind. If you're going to write Tolkien fanfic of any stripe, you have to get the language right or you might as well forget it. The slash becomes secondary after that. For me, what Willow did and still does, is to be the standard bearer for Tolkieniana. Yes, she does at times become anachronistic, but nowhere near as annoyingly so as other stories I've read that simply take you right out of it
(Deleted comment)
Carole
abby_normal at 2005-12-04 14:21 (UTC) (Link)
I hesitated to comment here because I'm afraid it's going to sound too much like I'm defending Willow and #1, Willow can certainly defend herself, should she feel the need and #2, her work, in my opinion, doesn't need defending -- it speaks for itself. But reading the comments here has really made me wonder. I'm not surprised at what Hewene says, since she's been saying the same thing for as long as I've 'known' her and I'm not sure she and I have ever seen eye-to-eye on anything. But it always surprises me when someone mentions the 'lack of action' in RoP, since every single chapter is fairly action-packed.

Why is the exposition of the evolution of certain emotions not considered action? Why is the development of some very important relationships not considered action? Why is Frodo slowly learning to write again not considered action? The book he will write in the future will be one of the most important to all of Middle-earth; is no one interested in the fact that what happened to him almost took his desire to write at all away from him?

I've really never understood why I so often see others lamenting that 'nothing's happening' when there is so much happening all the time in these characters' heads. It's like saying 'nothing happened' on the way from CU to Mordor because all Sam and Frodo did in that space is walk. Who wouldn't love to get a Real Look inside their heads during that time?

I've also never understood why RoP Frodo is so unbelievable as Quest Frodo to some. I have seen RoP Frodo learn quite a number of things over the expanse of this story that would temper him for what lies ahead. I've seen the first glimpses of that iron will that will keep him going when others would lay down and die; I've seen him fight for and hang on to his mind and body when others would seek to take the control of such away; I've seen him express wonder and enthusiasm for things hobbits generally disdain and I have seen him come to understand that maybe that's not such a bad thing. These things take time and I, for one, am very interested in watching these things evolve.

Too often I've seen RoP compared to that wretched god-awful 'Legacy' and told that Legacy Frodo is much better-suited to the task of the Quest than RoP Frodo, to which my jaw usually drops and I wonder how it is that someone who would drop to his knees and hand out blowjobs at the first threat of physical force could possibly be better-suited for what is to come than someone who fights tooth and nail for what's Right. And truthfully? I have found that those who do prefer 'Legacy' to RoP also prefer a docile Frodo who couldn't figure out what that funny thing between his legs was until Sam taught him how to use it -- not that he was allowed to use it on Sam, of course, because you know, Sam's the Top and the Real Hero of LotR.

And Mechtild, my dear -- you've read 'Nexus'. Why on earth would you think RoP is only building up to F/S? *whacks your knuckles with a ruler* And neither Willow nor Elanor ever made the claim that RoP Frodo would end up as Book Frodo -- rather that the Frodo that will finish RoP will be one who could believably take on the Quest and all it encompasses and one who can withstand the temptations and unending soul-rape the Ring will force him to endure. The ages of the characters are movie-'verse but everything else is a mix of book and movie -- in some cases she takes a movie scene and explains it from a book perspective and, since you obviously know my feelings on the movies, those in particular please me immensely. ;)

So, tell me: what would be wrong with Bilbo and Mac discussing Frodo for twenty pages if it gives us yet more insight into these characters and their relationships with each other? And I know you don't know me very well but I hope you know me well enough to understand that I am not casting aspersions on you or your preferences -- I really do want to know.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2005-12-04 15:12 (UTC) (Link)
This was a great reply. I have to go to church so I can only start on it. I'll start from the bottom and go back up.

So, tell me: what would be wrong with Bilbo and Mac discussing Frodo for twenty pages if it gives us yet more insight into these characters and their relationships with each other? And I know you don't know me very well but I hope you know me well enough to understand that I am not casting aspersions on you or your preferences -- I really do want to know.

Absolutely nothing. I spent four huge chapters on twenty-four hours of narrative time in my own story. Maybe mine feel just as "stalled" to my readers. Hewene likened reading latter RoP to watching a train wreck. No, I have not agreed with that, quite. Frodo himself is a wreck, but the story is not.

I would use a different train metaphor; maybe I have whined about this in the fanfic thread, forgive me if I am repeating myself. I feel as though Willow's first half was a melodrama, a Ripping Yarn. I, as a reader, found myself on one heckuva train, charging full steam ahead. There'd be stops here and there, in the Old Forest, under the moon on a haystack, in the middle of sexual ecstasy, and they were wonderful stops. You could hear the hiss of the steam. And then the train was off again. I feel as thought that narrative engine came to a stop with Frodo's breakdown. I was used to some stops along the way, so I looked at the scenery, twiddled my thumbs, kept a hopeful attitude. But then the train stayed at that stop and stayed and stayed. I became restive. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with the train. Should I stay on? Should I walk to the next station?

Of course, the train actually was moving, but, so slowly, I had difficulty noticing it. If the train of the first half -- which already was a long, wild ride -- hadn't moved at such a clip, I wouldn't have found it so disconcerting when it stopped and began to crawl -- along with its hero. Do I not think these chapters have been good? Did they not give great insights? Yes, but I was not "prepared" for their pace. If these chapters were their own story, apart from the thrill ride that came before it, I would not be moaning about how long it's taking, and when is Willow going to bring on the dancing girls. I love stories and films best which delve deeply into character, where the action that matters is the internal action, the outward plot action being the catalyst for the stuff going on inside, which is what counts. Many of my favourite books and films are thought "slow" by others. One of my fave films is "Remains of the Day." My sister, an action film fan, sat through it with me and said, "How can you like this? Nothing happens." I thought TONS happened.

OK. My "excuse" is that Willow has written a blockbuster fantasy thriller for her first 100,000 words, and then, all of a sudden, it turns into Remains of the Day. Do I not love Remains of the Day? Of course I do, but I don't expect to see it when I went to see Goblet of Fire.

Mechtild
mechtild at 2005-12-04 15:21 (UTC) (Link)
A quickie before I go out the door (I'm dying to answer you on Nexus and S/F/M etc.).

If this story weren't issued in installments, I wonder if I would feel this way. If it were complete and I were reading it fresh, straight through, I might better see the gradual telescoping in what had become her central section of the story: Frodo's breaking apart and reassembling into something else. I think it almost guarantees reader grumblings that chapters have to be anticipated and thirsted for for quite a long time. The longer the wait the greater the expectation that the chapter will "deliver." "Deliver" according to expectations - the sort I have described above. When the chapter doesn't "deliver," there is disappointment. Serial-written stories encourage authors, because of the regular feedback, but they also are their own burden, being more reader-driven than ones that are published complete.

Just a thought.

Be back in a couple of hours!
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2005-12-04 16:46 (UTC) (Link)
I haven’t read any of Willows work yet but I have been considering to do so. Are these numerous chapters long?

Estë
(Deleted comment)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2005-12-04 16:37 (UTC) (Link)
False alarm. We aren't singing today (I'm in the choir); I can be there later.

I've really never understood why I so often see others lamenting that 'nothing's happening' when there is so much happening all the time in these characters' heads. It's like saying 'nothing happened' on the way from CU to Mordor because all Sam and Frodo did in that space is walk. Who wouldn't love to get a Real Look inside their heads during that time?

I hope I have got a little of my point across, above, that it's not that "nothing is happening" in the real sense, but what is happening is happening at a pace for which I felt unprepared.

Would I love to have Tolkien open up Frodo's head in CU? Of course! But, to be honest, if he still had Sam dashing through his "choices" up in the pass, storming Cirith Ungol, and bursting into the upper chamber to find Frodo in distress, if Tolkien at that point spent four or five chapters detailing what was going on inside Frodo during his orcish torments and Sam's ministrations, I would be ... unprepared. It simply wouldn't match the more cursory way Tolkien had been moving through the material up to that point. Tolkien's narrative train takes its little "station stops", too, but they really are quite brief. The hobbits are slogging through Mordor in his tale, as you say, but he recounts that slog with not many words, marking important stops with fairly spare observation.

Now, having said that, do I expect Willow to do what Tolkien did? No. I don't even want her to. I am not reading her story as if it were the undiscovered drafts of Frodo's early life. She is an extremely different writer than Tolkien, with different concerns. Like many modern authors, she is extremely interested in understanding what is going on in a character's mind and letting the reader see that. That did not seem to be a primary interest for Tolkien (although it was an interest, for the sake of telling the tale). If Tolkien had provided the sort of limning out of his character's inner lives that many, more psychological authors have done, there probably wouldn't be LotR fanfic. What does LotR fanfic do but flesh out what Tolkien left skeletal?

Again, I am not peeing and moaning over the fact that Willow has gone into such detail to depict Frodo's demise and extremely arduous recovery, it's the fact that I wasn't prepared for it, as a reader, based on what had come before. And, repeating what I said in my post immediately preceding, I think that effect will be ameliorated once the story is finished. From what you have written, I am guessing we still are in the middle, not the end of RoP. In which case, this section I am saying "feels" like a train stalled and creeping through a station, inexplicably, will show itself to be her centrepiece, instead.

I myself have four fat chapers which cover only twenty-four hours of narrative time. Do I regret that or think I was mistaken to do that? Not at all. The twenty-four hours I zoomed in on were extremely important for the "action" which, in my story, is just the sort you are talking about, Aratlithiel -- internal action -- the stuff characters go through inside as they work things out in their relationships. People who don't like reading in-depth character stuff no doubt give up on my story early on. "Gawd! It's just scenery and talking, or else they're in bed (or talking in bed)." But, unlike Willow's, my story has never been what any reader would call "action-packed" or "thrilling". Willow's really was. It is, you say, "action-packed," now, but it is so in an extremely different way.

Carole
abby_normal at 2005-12-04 16:52 (UTC) (Link)
Hey, believe me, I've seen some real vitriol spewed toward Willow and RoP by some people who can't just live and let live, so I know this isn't even anywhere close to something like that. I can see that what you say comes from a love for the story and respect for its author and I never thought you were actually 'bad-mouthing' either Willow or her work. And you're right in one thing: reading the work as a whole when the serialization is complete will most likely make a huge difference. I read 'The Hall' as it was being posted and then, during the break until 'Bag End' started going up, re-read it as a complete work and it was like reading something new. So many things that you don't notice from one post to the next (or six chapters back, since you maybe read those months apart) but that are so 'THERE' when the story is read as a whole. I've no doubt it will be the same for Book II.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2005-12-04 16:48 (UTC) (Link)
(sorry this is going on and on. I guess you can stop reading at any time!)

And neither Willow nor Elanor ever made the claim that RoP Frodo would end up as Book Frodo -- rather that the Frodo that will finish RoP will be one who could believably take on the Quest and all it encompasses and one who can withstand the temptations and unending soul-rape the Ring will force him to endure.

Well, see, I don't know either of these writers, so I only know what Willow put in her forward. (Which I haven't read for a year and a half.) Of she can get Frodo in gear to take on the Quest, great. Personally, it has been my observation that while people do learn from making mistakes in their lives and become stronger overcoming hardship, people who have been seriously traumatized tend to remain unstable. I have never felt confident that Willow's Frodo would be better able to endure the Quest by going through such an ordeal as his whole life has been. I think Frodo per Tolkien is able because he is, in fact, extremely well-adjusted and extremely solid in himself before he ever is commissioned. Just like, a horse with a good health history is more likely to endure a tramp over the Rockies than one that has sustained previous serious, debilitating injuries. Not that Frodo is a horse or even Bill the Pony, but I think the hobbit we see at the Farewell Party is sound and whole. It provides the contrast to what he will be after the Quest. It is grievous to see Frodo unable to be whole after the Ring because he actually once was whole.

And Mechtild, my dear -- you've read 'Nexus'. Why on earth would you think RoP is only building up to F/S? *whacks your knuckles with a ruler*

Sorry, I was over-assuming. I have read (and loved) Nexus. I also have read (and not loved) Symbiosis and Pipe Dreams. In Symbiosis, Sam is brought in as a participant of a three-way the night Bilbo leaves. It seems clear that there is some mutual interest going on with Frodo and Sam at that point. Merry is acting as catalyst, I thought (wrongly?). In Pipe Dreams, Sam is not present for the companionable hobbit pile, but he is spoken of, as if he and Frodo were an "item." Therefore, I have been assuming that Willow is headed for a standard S/F relationship for the two hobbits. It's just too early, in RoP, to do more than lay the groundwork for it. What sort of relationship they end up having will be interesting to see. Frodo in these other stories seems comfortable having a sort of hot but companionable, "male bonding" sort of sex with the friends he loves. But, already, I can't see Sam as anything but a "one-hobbit hobbit", sure to throw himself whole-heartedly and exclusively into a relationship that means his being a lover. How he will go about sharing Frodo with Frodo's friends, I can't imagine. But my imagination is pretty limited to my own life experience. In my life, friends, even gay friends, who crossed the boundaries of friendship into sexual intimacy, unless they entered the realm of "lovers," they almost always ended up destroying their friendships, whether immediately and embarrassedly, or through slow drifting apart.

Too often I've seen RoP compared to that wretched god-awful 'Legacy' and told that Legacy Frodo is much better-suited to the task of the Quest than RoP Frodo, to which my jaw usually drops and I wonder how it is that someone who would drop to his knees and hand out blowjobs at the first threat of physical force could possibly be better-suited for what is to come than someone who fights tooth and nail for what's Right.

Sorry, I read Legacy, and, although I thought it was a pretty good story as story, I found the Shire and the characters in it unrecognizable. I was impressed that she dared give Frodo hobbit colouring (imagine!), but that was all. I thought her Frodo was like no Frodo I ever have dreamed of, before or after the films. He was somebody else, period.

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