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The Keys of the Realm
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Author's Notes

Author's Notes

Ah, the joy of challenges, which seem any more to keep distracting me from longer and weightier tales! This was written for the May challenge issued by the LOTR Community discussion group, to write a story about Aragorn's Coronation and include in it certain elements--in my case, a lantern, a birds nest, and a misunderstanding. I hope that I have managed to include these things to everyone's satisfaction. I chose peregrine falcons partly because of the ties to our Pippin, and even more because this particular breed of falcon has been known to build nests on ledges on buildings in several cities, including returning to the same building nesting site in Seattle for at least three years running. And what other bird would be as worthy to have nest on the window ledges of the Royal Wing of the Citadel of Minas Tirith?

As I was looking over my body of work, I noted that Húrin of the Keys barely has been included; and in this story I decided to rectify that wrong to the worthy Gondorian lord, warrior, and warden. As I wrote, I found that it was another tale that kept growing in the telling, exceeding the planned two chapters by several more. So it was that it became a novela in the end, challenging Cathleen when she went to post it on the challenge site on LiveJournal where the original was first published. It has since been edited to include Húrin as a participant in the Battle of the Pelennor, Agape having reminded me that the Master included him there. And within this story I was able at last to indicate a possible origin to the circlets of honor worn by Frodo and Samwise as they were acclaimed by those gathered in the Fields of Cormallen.

I have had a few folk question my decision to indicate Frodo and Sam were truly ennobled upon the Fields of Cormallen, much less that they were made Lords of all the Free Peoples. As authority for this, I refer those who question this to the words of acclamation called out to them; one of the lines, I've been assured, names the two of them "Princes of the West" (Conin en Annûn). That is a weighty title to be granted to two mortals with no hope of blood of Westernessë running in their veins. For them to receive such an honor, I would think that the original authority would have had to have come from the West indeed. So it is that the origin of the request they be ennobled is ever derived in my own stories as having come from the Great Eagles, and most likely have originated from their attested Master, Manwë himself, and possibly been passed to him from the Creator.

I have used some movie-verse elements here--in the movies Aragorn goes to fight before the Black Gates wearing the same armor worn in the prologue by Elendil, and I chose to follow suit. That Isildur, when coming to invest his nephew Meneldil as King of Gondor under his authority, might have brought his father's armor there is very possible--it would have been bulky for the further journey up the west bank of the Anduin during the journey back to Imladris to retrieve his wife and youngest son. We know from Unfinished Tales that Elendil's body was originally entombed on a peak in the White Mountains, but was later moved, and perhaps to the Hallows within Minas Anor/Tirith. Obviously it was brought back from the Black Gate and not buried with those of so many others on the margins of the Dagorlad where later the waters of the Dead Marshes encroached. That his armor might have proven the core of the collection of armors of past lords of the land and their sons that I depict in the "Mail Shed" just seemed very likely; and that these stores might have been raided from time to time by later lords in need of mail with no time to have it properly crafted from scratch follows. We know that Pippin's armor, for example, had originally been made for Faramir, after all; why should not the mail given Sam to wear on Cormallen be from that store, also?

As I noted in comments to those who made comments on Ruvemir's sculpting in The King's Commission, it's been a standing joke amongst sculptors that when sculpting an elephant one starts with a block of stone and starts removing everything within the block that doesn't look like an elephant, leaving one with a sculpture of--an elephant! So, in that story, as Ruvemir and the sculptors amongst the Dwarves look at the blocks of stone offered from which to carve figures of the Hobbits, they find that each block indicates which figure it holds within it, and one is even offended to have had its base cut at an uncomfortable angle to its grain. Two of the blocks don't speak to the proposed memorial at all--instead one proves to hold the sarcophagus in which Aragorn's own body eventually will be entombed (admittedly another movie-verse element), while the remaining block holds the enlarged image of the diminutive Lord of Mundolië--the Middle Earth equivalent to Mongolia.

Would not metal and jewels also somehow speak of their willingness to be used in some particular project, then--at least when the craftsman is a true master as we must assume Gimli was? So, a particular, rather small ingot of mithril catches the eye of Gimli; Imrahil's "sea diamond" and a more normal diamond of similar size and quality from the Steward's personal treasure "agree" to being used in the crafting of the circlets for Frodo and Sam; and the damaged signet ring of Oropher with its stone apparently crafted originally by Nerdanel become the housing for Aragorn's personal signet.

As for Húrin being an amputee and yet fighting in the battle--being disabled in no way keeps many folk from seeking to protect that which they treasure--lands, people, family.... That Húrin would resist being pensioned off as too damaged to help fight for his land is likely, particularly if he was relatively young yet sufficiently experienced to know what he was capable of doing when he lost his arm. I was inspired in part by Rosemary Sutcliff's Warrior Scarlet, a work I read for the first time only a short time before I read The Lord of the Rings. Drem, a Bronze Age Briton, dedicates himself to proving he is worthy of being accepted as a warrior of his people from early childhood, having recognized having an arm that is useless from birth will be seen as a major impediment to being judged fit to wear the scarlet cloth given only to the men of his people. Sutcliff herself was disabled due to juvenile arthritis, and her own limbs were foreshortened by the condition; she put a good deal of herself into her story, I think.

I was also inspired by my late husband. He'd been in the Navy two years when he was blinded in a freak accident aboard ship and was given a medical retirement. He always insisted this was unfair, as he was still capable of serving in communications or another support capacity. It's only been within the past decade that the U.S. Armed Forces have finally stopped automatically mustering out all permanently disabled personnel--a posthumous victory for my husband and many other disabled veterans. So, Tony, Sam, Lucky, Bob, Carlos, and so many others, this is for you!

Anyway, as I have been involved in disabilities rights movements and issues for most of my adult life, most already know that disabled folk will appear in my stories. And considering the kind of warfare waged by the folk of Middle Earth, amputation would, I think, be a relatively common cause of disability--here I have to agree with Surgical Steel.

So this story fell together, turning out, as I mentioned, rather longer than I'd originally intended--not that unusual a situation for my works, I'll admit.

Thanks to all who've read and enjoyed it.

For all who have known major disabilities who've nevertheless fought for the recognition of their own integrity and worth and skill. And particularly for Nance and Ruth Ann.


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