Ch. 31 – Fate

Fate – Finduilas POV – 1 of 6

In which a prince returns on the wings of swans, and many fates are changed.


And we are back to Finduilas. The opening of this chapter will make better sense if you read the last few paragraphs of Ch. 30, Cunning, to pick up the story. I introduce 14 new characters in this chapter, though most are only in passing. Don’t worry, they will all come back in at some point – it’s a long story. There are a lot of Silmarillion references, direct and oblique; see if you can pick them out. There is also a reference to one of my favorite fairy tales.

One of my interests in HotK has been to portray female characters who are clearly limited to certain kinds of roles and acts because they are female, but who are thoughtful about those roles and who are able to act effectively within their societies in great part because of the structure of the roles. Limits can strengthen as well as restrict, after all, as anyone who has studied the power of institutions can tell you.  The next several chapters on Finduilas are a look at how she begins to become a dominant political and economic actor in Gondorian society.  One key is the way in which she learns to manipulate public opinion.

I also spend some time allowing Finduilas to contemplate fate, free will, mythic echoes, and the heart of what Nietzsche called the eternal return. How can you have predestination and also free will? The motif of the swan (and, more broadly, of pale sea birds) in Tolkien is usually a signifier of this tension, of Powers who cannot act and Children who refuse the roles given to them in the drama of Arda. Fate is not something passively endured – it is very much a performative. It’s also not a mistake that good old Ulmo is deeply ensconced in the acting out (both performing and defying) of fate.


But Ulmo was alone, and he abode not in Valinor, nor ever came thither unless there were need for a great council; he dwelt from the beginning of Arda in the Outer Ocean, and still he dwells there. Thence he governs the flowing of all waters, and the ebbing, the courses of all rivers and the replenishment of Springs, the distilling of all dews and rain in every land beneath the sky. In the deep places he gives thought to music great and terrible; and the echo of that music runs through all the veins of the world in sorrow and in joy; for if joyful is the fountain that rises in the sun, its springs are in the wells of sorrow unfathomed at the foundations of the Earth. … And thus it was by the power of Ulmo that even under the darkness of Melkor life coursed still through many secret lodes, and the Earth did not die; and to all who were lost in that darkness or wandered far from the light of the Valar the ear of Ulmo was ever open; nor has he ever forsaken Middle-earth, and whatsoever may since have befallen of ruin or of change he has not ceased to take thought for it, and will not until the end of days.

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 1, Of The Beginning of Days

Unlike Manwë, Ulmo is not enthralled by the end-point of Arda and reunion with Eru. Heaven is not his bag. He sees not redemption and triumph, but joy rising out of suffering and sorrow, and so he (like another somewhat solitary character) has a fundamentally tragic view of life. It’s not a mistake that Denethor carries his favor, in both sense of the phrase, nor that Finduilas conquers under the sign of Ulmo’s greatest champion, Tuor.


6 thoughts on “Ch. 31 – Fate”

  1. There are so many Silm references and threads of connection… which is one reason this story is so enthralling. The connections are of a different style that those of LoTR, but share the same feeling of rich history. “We come back once more to the same ground, eternally returning, retelling, remaking, that which came before.”

    Whew, I’m glad Finduilas had a talk with her father. (What a talk!)

    Gonna take a wild guess… The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?

    (Sorry, I have wanted to comment on the last few chapters, but haven’t had much time…speaking of time, if you ever find yourself without enough of it to fix up chapters, I do that sort of thing as a mercenary.)

  2. Hi Wheelrider,

    The next chapter is up for you. 🙂

    I like weaving the mythic in with the more straightforward storytelling. It’s also how to bring in the more philosophical stuff as JRRT himself used the stories to give himself space in which to call into question the beliefs of this world and to wrestle with his own faith.

    The story reference is to Grimm’s Seven Swans, where a girl with seven brothers spins clothing out of nettles to release them from their enchantment as swans. One brother is left with a wing instead of an arm because she had no time to finish. There are several variations on the tale, including a Celtic version, the Children of Lir, that is far darker.

    The fairy tale reference is in the creation of the badges for the soldiers (who must have them before they reach Minas Tirith lest they remain mere soldiers), but also more broadly for the life fabric she weaves from stinging and painful things to protect those she loves – and what happens when there is not enough of it. For the soldiers themselves, Finduilas is making something for them to wear that will be an uncomfortable garment (service away from their homes, war) , but which they will bear for love of her and out of determination to overcome their curse (living in the time of the Enemy). The banner itself has a more direct Silm reference, though it, too, comes under the fairy tale. It’s also in her dream of the swans flying up in circles around her – which is both a Brothers Grimm and a Silm reference.

    The chat with Adrahil was one of the most difficult parts of the chapter to write. I don’t want her at odds with her family, and Adrahil is still furious over the whole thing.

    Comments are always appreciated, whenever you get a chance to make them. What do you mean “as a mercenary”? I enjoy doing my own posting even if it means being slow. It’s therapeutic.


  3. “Mercenary” = editing/proofreading as a freelancer, in my day job… but also occasionally for fanfic authors (free of course). Was referencing our earlier conversation. Sorry, in the light of day it comes across as way more obscure!

  4. Ah, OK, now I get it.

    HotK was pretty thoroughly edited by a group of people, though all remaining problems (of which there are quite a few) are my own mistakes. Whatever state it is in is how I will post it.

    After I repost HotK, I will return to my very earliest forays and begin reposting my Shire Stories. There are a few stories that predate HotK, and now a completely new one that nobody except my two long-suffering beta readers, Julie and Nath, have yet read. If you’d like to be in ahead of the crowd on Lithe (working title), let me know. God knows it needs work.


  5. Sounds like you’ve got it well in hand, though if two betas is not enough, do let me know and I’ll be glad to join in.

    Gotta say, I’m intrigued by the fact that you also write about hobbits, and will be looking forward to reading. The hobbit-centric fic I tried long ago was so sickeningly saccharine I ran far away.

  6. I’ll take all the pre-publication reviewing I can get. 😉

    My hobbits are anything but saccharine. Heh. Go Read “The Ford” for a taste of they’ll behave.

    Before I got irritated by doormat damsels and evil Stewards, I had had it up to here (hand just over head) with, well, ALL fandom writing about hobbits. Care bears with swords. Gah! And the hideous, awful slash writing that put Frodo in bed with everything in pants, and I was ready to hurl. So, I wrote a story about what homosexual desire would look like in a society like the Shire (Legacy) and then followed it up with a critical essay on *how* you go about imagining a fantasy world in which this could happen (Writing a Green Sun).

    I think you’ll like the hobbit stuff, even if it is very different in scale and tone than HotK.


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