This essay will probably be somewhat of a ramble. It’s been forty years since I wrote my college engineering thesis, so please bear with me. First of all, I never intended to embark on a project of writing LotR fan fiction. This whole thing started as a series of conversations with some of my friends on the probable history of the Reunited Kingdom during the decades following the War of the Ring.
The topics of these round robin discussions involved several issues: How was the Pelennor cleaned up so quickly after a battle as big as Gettysburg? How long did it take to rebuild Minas Tirith after the War of the Ring? What economic, political and social reforms would Elessar have instituted? What public works projects would have been launched to boost the economy and improve life for the country’s citizens? Who was going to pay for it all? Would Arwen play a passive or active role in Elessar’s reconstruction plans and administration?
I did not initially intend to write Arwen’s Journey. This project really started out as a brief scholarly essay to address some of the above questions. That was the real challenge I had originally proposed for myself. Therefore, in late November, 2005 I sat down at my PC and started to type my thesis, Pax Gondoria: Middle Earth at the Dawn of the Fourth Age. I know it should have been more like Sîdh en Gondor, but I didn’t know anything about Sindarin Elvish at the time.
Halfway through the first page and a mass of reference material, however, I suddenly found myself asking, “Who’s going to give a flying rat’s ass about a scholarly essay?” Most of my friends had only a passing interest in LotR via the movies. None of them had ever read the novels or knew anything about Middle Earth. Their eagerness to read history books in general was also somewhat in doubt. The last thing I wanted to do was write a paper for their perusal which Mark Twain would have likely described as, “...chloroform in print.”
“A short story,” I mused, staring at the keyboard, “using my essay as a backdrop. That will get their attention! This will be a brief work of historical fiction in which the issues we discussed will be plausibly addressed through the characters’ dialog and the situations they encounter.”
Usually, in narrations like this, you get an image of some guy in front of a typewriter, pulling out the half finished page in a flash of inspiration and hastily inserting a fresh sheet. In this case, however (Thank goodness for word processors), all I had to do was send the cursor back to the top and rewrite the title: A Day in Minas Tirith. For those of you reading Arwen's Journey, you will discover that I actually started writing it somewhere in the middle of the story, although I wasn’t aware of this at the time.
Things were supposed to be rather straightforward from there. Elessar’s policies, governmental reforms and building projects were to be revealed in his daily activities and correspondence. Ditto for Arwen. Then something strange happened. Aragorn decided to send his wife on a trade mission. I don’t know how it happened, it just did. Aragorn acted on his own! Such is how my muse moves me on occasion.
Another odd occurrence soon followed. I wasn’t sure about the spelling of some characters’ names or their backgrounds, so I started reading the novels for the third time. Midway through Arwen’s trip preparations, I stumbled across the brief history of Evenstar and Aragorn in the appendix of The Return of the King. As I read it to the end, I began to picture Liv Tyler’s exquisite portrayal of Queen Undómiel mourning before the King’s sarcophagus, then her departure to Lothlórien where, several months later, she died of a broken heart. Then my world changed. Suddenly, I was in love with Arwen Evenstar.
Alright! I can already hear all of you fangirls snickering and giggling out there──but that’s what really happened! Don’t try to tell me that over half of you aren’t in love with Legolas, Aragorn or Faramir. All I have to do is look at the pen names you’ve chosen and the stories you’ve posted. I have just as much a right to become enamored with a fictional character as you do. Ah! But I digress.
In a flash, my mission had changed. As the story rapidly expanded in either direction from its starting point, it became apparent that I was no longer writing a short story. This was turning into a full-length novel. It was also apparent that it was revolving around my favorite character, Arwen Evenstar. By the end of December, I had changed the title to Arwen’s Journey: A Tale of Middle Earth.
But what of my original purpose in starting the project? Had I abandoned it? Not at all. The changes I imagined would take place during Elessar’s reign are scattered throughout the story.
Ancient Rome has been one of my serious interests for decades. I’ve amassed and read about a hundred books on the subject. I view King Elessar very like the young Augustus. Both men came to rule over empires which had been torn by strife for centuries. They faced the tasks of instituting political reforms while working to rebuild local economies and promote public building projects. As Augustus had his Livia, so did Elessar have his Evenstar. Both women would be partners in their husbands’ labors.
But the comparison with these characters of Ancient Rome goes only so far. I do not see Aragorn proscribing his enemies when he achieves power. Neither do I see Arwen engaging in deadly political intrigues and poisoning her rivals.
By November of 2006, I had written about four-hundred pages and created a cast of about forty original characters. Arwen’s Journey had, by then, become a full-blown adventure story. Yet, my original purpose was still there: namely, to show the many changes taking place in Middle Earth after the War of the Ring.
I’ve heard from more than one quarter that one of the biggest reasons people write fan fiction is that they can’t bear to have the story end. “The road goes ever onward,” is a phrase that I’ve heard numerous times along the Tolkien trail. I won’t deny that I share the same feeling. Even though my novel already has an ending, I’ve already written several short stories based on Arwen’s Journey, some already posted here. So you see, the road does go ever onward, sometimes all by itself with little or no encouragement on our parts.
Of course, a wish for recognition was also a motive for writing. I’ve dabbled in fan fiction several times since I was in grade school, but always for a rather small audience of one or two friends. During the 1990’s I began a novella (never completed) about WWI, as well as a series of fanfics (AU) based on the TV series La Femme Nikita. These were read by about a dozen people at the shop were I worked. Their reactions were split between those thinking I was a talented writer to those thinking I was a weirdo with a mental problem. You can’t win them all!
It wasn’t until about 1999 that I heard the term ‘fan fiction’ and that there are websites for its devotees. In 2005 I got a new PC with internet capabilities and discovered Adoralyna’s website (www.lotrfanfiction.com--now defunct). It still took a couple of months to transfer my stories from DOS to Windows Word before I could even think about posting anything. I won’t go into the many problems a complete PC tyro like myself encountered getting that first chapter posted. My hat’s off to Adoralyna for her patience with all the questions and Emails I bombarded her with.
So, am I achieving my goals in writing LotR fan fiction? Arwen’s Journey, didn’t generated the attention I hoped it would on the aforementioned website, earning only seven reviews for 42 chapters. It remains to be seen how it will do on Faerie. For now, I’m content with telling the story the way I want to and having fun in the process, which is most important. The spin-off short stories are a pleasant diversion too.
The greatest reward that I’ve received from my stories is gaining new friends, something that I never dreamed of when starting this project. Three readers now exchange Email letters with me on a regular basis.
I'm most grateful to Spiced Wine whose knowledge of Elvish culture and Middle Earth lore has been enormously helpful. Thanks again, Siân!
Will the road go ever onward for Karlmir Stonewain’s tales of Middle Earth? Well, it will have to end someday──but not just yet.
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Disclaimer: This is an essay about fan fiction based on the world and characters created by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is written solely for the enjoyment of my readers and I make no profit from it of any kind.