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 May, 4 2007

A journal for discussion of the story "Reconciliation."


Just what the hook says. I will try actually to reply to any comments in this journal.

I've really been lax about reviewing the latest chapters, for which I apologize, considering how intensely I've enjoyed them.

No worries. I figure it's summer vacation - many people are off galavanting. Also, you know my reviewing habits are more than just lax! They're sadly, sadly deficient!

So thank you for reviewing - I do appreciate the time taken. I started responding to your comments, and discovered it was quickly becoming extremely long. So I decided to cut down to the bit about Andrahar, since there's more of a question there to respond to. Hope you don't mind!

Andrahar's struggle between worlds was very well depicted in the scene with the dead Haradrim on the beach: Very clearly, Harad may have rejected Andra, but he will never completely reject Harad. Plus, I can see how this points forward to his musings on his faith at the end. [snip/paste]

Andrahar's thoughts about faith (or the lack of it) were very interesting - do you see it as symptom or cause of his feelings of rootlessness, of being caught between worlds? I would really like to see that aspect of him explored more fully; I can only remember it getting brief mention in other places.

I'm not sure I can answer that question, since Andra's relationship to his faith is in fact sustained in a certain way, even though it is also transformed into something even he doesn't fully recognize. I don't think of Andrahar as essentially lacking faith. He isn't even really agnostic - or rather, I would say that his professed agnosticism is fundamentally in alliance with faith. In various places in other stories, it is very clear that whatever he might say about not believing, at the end of the day, and despite himself, he does believe - and his belief is very specifically Haradric, not Gondorian, in nature.

Haradrim, as I think of them, are a people marked by a shattering encounter with the divine, one that left fracture lines all through their collective psyche, resulting in a very elaborate ritual practice and organization of themselves into a society that is designed to minimize chaos in the collective body (if not necessarily in the lives of individual Haradrim), to canalize desires and relationships into a stable social matrix that is at marked odds with the world they inhabit. That's how they maintain a relationship to that divinity, which is both terrifying and desirable, illuminating and obscure at the same time – through social bonds that are highly differentiated and ritualized so as to keep at bay what would otherwise be overwhelming, but still maintain contact.

Andrahar is very clearly in my mind reflective of that way of looking at the world: his own devotion to Dol Amroth, to Imrahil, and the seriousness with which he takes his oaths, even when they put him personally at risk of the whim of the person to whom he swears - all of this is just an expression of the religious understanding that he has been formed by.

Being sent to Gondor was an upheaval, yes, but in some way, I think it almost makes him more authentically Haradric than many Haradrim who can count on the efficacy of the social bond to tame the threat of exposure to the divine within the world. Being an out-caste, and then going to Gondor puts him in touch, I think, with an experience of instability and precariousness that is at the heart of Haradric spirituality, and his sense of being uprooted and needing to find a place and an orientation are motivations that I would think very much in keeping with what drove the development of the more elaborate system of class, family, and religious life in Harad.

So by way of really long answer, I do see a connection between his sense of rootlessness and his feeling that Haradric ritual practice and creeds have failed him in a way, but I think it's a movement back to a way of experiencing the world and the divine that gave rise to those very practices and creeds. It doesn't make him less religious, it intensifies what is real about the Haradric religious experience, even as his new situation channels the expression of that experience into practices that lock him into Gondorian society.

Thus from a Haradric point of view, he seems like an 'atheist' – even to himself. He doesn't quite recognize what he's doing when he adapts himself to Gondorian customs. But when a crisis erupts, and Gondor fundamentally doesn't have the resources to let him give it an expression, I think Andrahar falls back on older habits and ways of relating that expose him as very much invested still in 'cradle creeds' and outlooks that simply are not Gondorian at the end of the day, no matter how much he may act the part otherwise. That's what happened in "Last Rites" and also in "Discovery" and even (a little bit) in "Kin-strife" (when he got worried about Imrahil looking into fires, and in his insistence that Imrahil not call upon the Sacred Fire when they swear the oath of blood-brotherhood). In this story, I'm reading that back into Andrahar and intensifying that habit (since he is younger and more unsettled and uncertain), so that later on, in "On Far Fields," his reaction there gets a clear basis.


Poor Elya! I thought you did a particularly fine job on his struggles, especially in that last chapter. His feelings towards Pel must have been mixed at the
least […] he is not only still plagued by self-doubt, but faces doubt from his friends (naturally worried, yet those concerns only exacerbate his precarious mindset and shame). The additional information about his childhood helped flesh out the "why" of his personality a lot.

Thanks. I felt kind of bad about leaving all that 'til the end, but I didn't see a very good way of putting it nearer the beginning without, perhaps, telegraphing later moves a little too much. But yes, he is feeling very ambivalent towards friends right up until the epilogue, and a lot of his vulnerability traces back to his relationship with his father.

[snip description – glad you liked that. I owe inspiration to a story about a girl who believed she might be Anne Frank… alas, I cannot recall the name of the story!]

(So what do the other esquires actually know about why Pel, Imri and Andra ended up out there? And what was behind that look that Imri and Adrahil exchanged?)

I suspect the official story was that yes, Pel, Imri and Andra feared suicide. They just happened to be mistaken in this instance – obviously, Elethil didn't kill himself and wasn't in danger (white lie), but that didn't mean they didn't have good reason to fear for him, given how poorly Elethil has been treated.

[Elethil's] wish for things to stay the same was actually understandable

Glad to hear it! It would be too easy if Adrahil solved everything with his declaration.

What do you think happened to Celdir, Faldion and all their "lads"? Did they make it? What attrition rate do you envision after Adrahil's final decree to the
Knights about their individual attitudes towards racism?

I suspect Celdir got nailed at some point and sent home. Faldion—not as sure. He was more passive towards Andrahar, in my mind, and more active towards Pel/Elya. I think he'd have an easier time adjusting, somehow.

I'm not sure what the attrition rate would be – I imagine it would be much higher in the first year or so after Adrahil's decree, and then stabilize. There would be fewer young men coming to be trained, but those who did come would probably be more invested in the idea of trying to see things from the Prince's perspective.

Believe it or not, the formatting is a bit wonky in Ch. 2 now. :-/

Ugh! Well, I will attempt the cure Mike suggested, but otherwise, I will try to upload a clean version soon. But for now, I'm going to bed!

Thanks for your lengthy commentary, Denise! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.


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