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for The scorpion doesn't burn

6/18/2018 c1 21cycas
This is very interestingly written and compelling: I don't think I've seen anything like it before. Thank you!
12/22/2015 c1 Guest
This is, like, really good. Seriously.
3/25/2015 c1 Sauron Gorthaur
(Here's the rest of my review, since FFN is touchy about long reviews...)

I liked the irony of Sauron’s confident self-assurance that he will keep what is his, in reference to the palantir. Sauron does have a way of managing to lose the things he thinks he’s got the firmest grip on, doesn’t he?

The final, and most creative and vivid, theme that you work throughout the story is the idea of Sauron as a painter, which I really liked. I particularly liked the sentence: “If I am an artist, charged with painting Arda's fate, I am an artist who paints in darkness…” Sauron of course is an actual artist as a smith, but I liked the concept that he considers himself “charged with painting Arda’s fate”. That’s so Sauron! His pride, his determination, his arrogance shine through with that statement, but he also realizes he’s not the artist he wants to be, forced to paint only in darkness, charged to paint this way by one he hates. Throughout Sauron and Aragorn’s whole mental battle, it was fascinating to watch you play on the painting metaphor. Sauron and Aragorn’s battle here actually reminds me of Sauron and Finrod’s battle of song very much, in how each one throws painful or shameful memories at the other in a battle of wills that is both magical and highly based on imagery. I loved the sentence “We both dip our brushes in the spectrum of history” and many, many others, too many to list here. I love how you take such an abstract concept as how they use their wills to control the palantiri, something Tolkien doesn’t go into much detail about, and make it so vivid and powerful. And as “the Eye”, it’s not surprising that Sauron’s imagery would be so visual, or that his language would be so artistic. I like how you play with the scene from the movie where Sauron shows Aragorn a dying Arwen in the palantir (I’m assuming that’s what you were playing with or that’s what I thought of at least) but that here, Sauron isn’t able to lie through the palantir.

This is a lovely, if terrifying, piece of writing and does Sauron justice. His brokenness and suffering makes my heart go out to him, even as you starkly portray his cruelty towards characters like Gorlim and the Numenorean prisoner. I fear this review turned out rather jumbled – there were so many themes, images, and concepts all weaving in and out of each other that I wanted to comment on that I had a hard time organizing all my thoughts into some coherent order. I can just say that I’m impressed as usual, I enjoyed seeing your vision of Sauron, and I loved the flowing, intricate language and inventive imagery. Keep on writing, and cheers!

-Sauron Gorthaur
3/25/2015 c1 62Sauron Gorthaur
Fantastic work! As I’ve come to expect from your fics, this is a complex piece that skillfully weaves together a variety of themes and vivid, creative images, all created from a mesmerizing web of words and sentences that are both beautiful and alluringly dark. All of which makes for a piece that fits Sauron’s artistic, twisted, complicated, sinister character in an imaginative and intense manner. I enjoyed both the ethereal, elaborate imagery of the mental battle over the palantir and your insight into Sauron’s character and the themes that are woven through his life, as the Lord of the Rings books draw to a close. I can see the skeins of Skye’s headcanon about Sauron and Melkor in here, and I think it’s cool how you used her ideas as that springboard to create something that has your very distinctive touch – that’s the sort of thing I just love about the fanfiction community! It’s very much like the way actual mythologies and bodies of folklore arise: everyone using everyone else’s ideas and inspiration and all of it building on top of one another into a rich body of lore. In fact, I was actually inspired by this myself to go off and write a one-shot piece for a one hundred theme challenge I’ve been working on off and on for a very long time!

Speaking of folklore, I love the concept you’ve placed as the foundation of this story, in both the title and the tidbit of information you begin the story with. This folk saying about scorpions is not something I was previously familiar with, but I am impressed with your ability to take a tidbit of unrelated information and connect it so powerfully with Sauron. And it does fit Sauron exceedingly well. It is a tragic fact of Sauron’s life that he himself is always his own undoing. He goes out to fight Huan because he wants to be the big bad wolf that gets the glory and reward of killing Huan and capturing Luthien, instead of staying safe inside Tol-in-Gaurhoth. He’s the one who arranges Pharazon’s attack of Valinor, which so ironically ends up in his own death as well. And of course, the biggest example of all is that he creates the one thing that can bring about his ultimate defeat and death, the Ring. He always “stings” himself to death in one way or another. You show this best in the sentence: “This is the venom of my triumphs; each is laced with drops of agony.” I liked how you connected the scorpion imagery here with the reference to “venom” and how it shows the futility and bitterness that Sauron has come to accept.

And I like how you’ve carried that theme through this particular episode in Sauron’s life. Sauron has a tendency to overthink things (hence the fact that he plans all sorts of intricate schemes to defeat his enemies when the one simple thing he should have been doing was guarding Orodruin) and I see him doing that here. Aragorn really doesn’t have to do a whole lot – it is interesting to see the cycle of Sauron attempting to fling poison in Aragorn’s face but each episode ends up having more poison and pain for Sauron himself than for Aragorn. And you show Sauron gradually falling apart more and more as the mental battle goes on, losing another little piece of dignity and sanity each time a scheme of his to break Aragorn ends up backfiring. Just as with the whole deal with the Ring and Mt. Doom, Sauron sets himself up to lose this battle with Aragorn. Sauron’s own horrific past, his poison, unravels him.

I like how you begin and end the one-shot with almost identical passages, bringing us around full circle, in this syntactical Ring that is itself highly symbolic of course for Sauron’s character. The repetition of the phrase “I find myself always in darkness” is fascinating to me, as it echoes something that I have long believed about Sauron myself: the fact that Sauron doesn’t naturally *like* darkness. There’s some evidence that Sauron is associated with the fire element, like Arien and the Valaraukar, not with darkness, like Morgoth. It also strikes me that Sauron seems to live in darkness by necessity, not choice – he hides out in Mordor because of its strength as a strategic location and to use Mt. Doom, and he creates the cloud darkness so that his army doesn’t keel over. However, in Annatar’s speech, we see what Sauron’s *real* desires are (and I do believe they are real) – a beautiful, ordered land to rival Valinor itself. I see Sauron as a person who worships order and beauty (over and over, characters refer to the Ring as being beautiful, after all), but instead of his own Valinor to rule, he ends up trapped in a hideous, “dead” land of ash and barren rock. You point towards this again with the concept of Sauron being a prisoner with his image of phantom bars appearing over his window.

It’s cool how you tie that concept together in the beginning with the fact that Melkor never left Angband, just as Sauron stays holed up in Barad-dur. It’s an interesting parallel, and Sauron’s immediate abhorrence of the comparison between himself and Melkor sets up the rest of the story nicely.

I loved your (and Sauron’s) play on words and darkly humorous reference to the “Eye” and Sauron’s almost nonchalant dismissal of the concept. It seems in fact that Sauron places a great deal of trust on the rather exaggerated views that his enemies have of him, when in fact he is portrayed here as being surprisingly frail, paranoid, and even broken. Sauron is aware of his own frailty, especially at the end, which I found particularly interesting, and I think made him more “human” and sympathetic, especially the heart-breaking image of that broken figure sitting curled up on the floor, anything but “the Great Eye” and the “Shadow” in that moment. I am struck by both Sauron’s sense of hopelessness and paranoia, in his “what use would it be?” aside on considering whether to go down from his room and in his veiling of the palantir and his paranoid glances to make sure he’s alone, a stark difference from the cool, confident, almost seductive persona he takes on when he encounters Aragorn, “purring” his arrogant, boastful, falsely certain thoughts.

You slowly reveal why Sauron feels the brokenness, hopelessness, and paranoia that we see in the opening scene, which is also where I see the inspiration from Skye’s works coming in most clearly. I really don’t see much written about Sauron during the LOTR years, and most of what I do see shows him as either a crazed being consumed with the single thought of getting his Ring or as a distant and arrogant Dark Lord shadow figure. Interestingly, I believe the Ring is actually only mentioned once in this whole story – you show Sauron’s brokenness coming primarily from the “bonds of evil” that Melkor set to rot in him and from which the Ring is only one cavity.

Melkor is at first a distant background figure in this, mentioned only briefly at the beginning. In that moment, we see Sauron’s knee jerk reaction to just that brief thought, giving us a clear idea of the fact that Sauron does not think fondly of his former Master. As the mental battle plays out though, Melkor begins forcing his way more and more and more into Sauron’s thoughts and memories, until he overwhelms them. You build this up very well, from brief thoughts that Sauron quickly and easily shoves down to an overwhelming flood of crushing emotion and brokenness where everything seems to remind Sauron of Melkor, memories and thoughts that Sauron fights vainly against. And Sauron seems well aware that he won’t win, which explains the hopelessness, brokenness, and paranoia he’s still experiencing in his outlook on life. After all, why would he cling to hope when he knows he can’t escape Melkor, even if he was King of the Earth? His paranoia comes from someone living *inside* of him, which makes it clear why he feels like a prisoner, trapped in the eternal darkness of Lord Morgoth.

I can sense Sauron’s terror of becoming Melkor, even as he realizes he can’t escape that fate no matter how hard he fights it. You show us this in his refusal to think about his and Melkor’s similarities in never leaving Angband/Barad-dur, and in his threat to Aragorn that he, Sauron, will be “a little piece of death” in him, the same thing he later reveals that Melkor has done to him. And that description of Melkor laying a vulture’s egg in him was truly disturbing and horrific – it reminded me actually of something I watched in a documentary once about a certain type of wasp that hunts tarantulas, paralyzes one with a sting, and lays her eggs on it. Then, when the wasps hatch, they begin to eat the still-alive spider. That idea that Melkor poisoned Sauron in some way, some terrible, paralyzing poison that’s slowly, painfully eating away at Sauron still explains so much. As the story progresses, you show the blending of Sauron and Melkor further, as Sauron begins to confuse the two, almost referring to Melkor by his own title “Lord of Gifts.” I also found it interesting that Sauron *realizes* how mangled he is and actually seems to hate himself for it, which is a definite thread from Skye’s headcanon. Again, it makes Sauron tragically sympathetic – I kind of relate him to Macbeth at the point when Macbeth knows how despicable he is but realizes he’s waded in too deep to even consider going back. Considering this, I like what you did with Sauron’s memory of sacrificing the Numenorean, as Sauron realizes this prisoner he’s about to murder has more than he can ever have – Sauron can take his freedom and his life, but though Sauron has his own freedom and life, his mind and heart are completely enslaved to Melkor.
1/14/2015 c1 Mornen again
*hums innocently* So...I wanted to read the story again...and then I had to write another review.

The battle was a fascinating one; it was confusing and understandable all at the same time. I loved how Sauron was trying to get hold of bits and pieces that he could use to manipulate the picture.

I loved the line, "She looks more like Elrond than herself." I liked how the people's faces were blurring together and changing like that, grasping at each other. Uhg. It was so wonderfully handled.

I also loved all the bits and pieces that mentioned painting. It made me want to go paint. Do you paint? Just wondering. I wanted to feel paint and touch paint and blend colours…

"I am an artist who paints in darkness, and whose works are of blind, tangled strokes, and look like dead things." is one of my favourite lines of all times. As is the ending sentence, which I already mentioned in my other review (but feel obligated to mention again) "I find myself in darkness, always; in the strange, sad places where stone and ash devour light." The beauty and sadness of these lines is mesmerizing.

Again, this has to be one of the best Sauron stories I have ever read in my life.

Amazing story, Crackers!

*hums innocently again and stares up at ceiling*
11/16/2014 c1 511TolkienGirl
Oooh, amazing. What a vision you have! Great images and turmoil and insight. I loved it!
11/9/2014 c1 Allyse
...Wow.
10/30/2014 c1 15teh Michiru
Oooh, this was quite excellent. I love your Sauron here! A very potent mixture of power and vulnerability, and his interactions with Aragorn are just perfect. Superb dialogue, too, and I love all the little nods to Silmarillion details.

Very compelling scene- I found myself rooting for Sauron in a way. The little flashes of insight he has throughout, the sort of foreshadowings of his own defeat are poignant in a way. Great use of language as well; I love the duel of visions and how you describe it.
10/11/2014 c1 9EverleighBain
Okay, I'm sitting here with a serious case of the shivers feeling very haunted and pensive and a little hollow inside because this is just incredibly powerful and also very. very sad. I think I could read this fifteen times and each time have a new "Oh. OH!" moment as I realize a new layer of subtlety or a moment that is more than it seems at a glance.

And the LANGUAGE you use just astounds me in all its startling elegance. If I highlighted every part that made me catch my breath I would end up quoting the whole piece back to you. But the bit that starts with Sauron seeing that Luthien "looks more like Elrond than herself" (*flails* of COURSE she does when I remembered who it is envisioning her here... so brilliant!) and goes on to paint the story of how Gorlim was broken at last ("Love has ruined enemies before...")...these images I won't soon forget.

Forget that. NONE of it will I soon forget. This is the kind of story that wrecks me for writing anything of my own for a long while, and then when I recover I feel as if I need to learn new words and new ways to string them together and new reasons to do so, in the hopes that someday, (someday!) I might spin a story that moves someone as much as this moved me.

And then I glance at your profile and joy of all joys we have the same Daddy ("His love for you and me is beautiful, powerful, and unconditional...") and it makes me smile to know someday I'll get to meet you in person and tell you again how lovely your writing on earth was ;D

Blessings,
Everleigh
8/4/2014 c1 mornnenn
Oh. Oh.
This is the saddest. THE saddest Sauron story that I have ever read in my life. I am actually crying over it, and no one has made me cry over Sauron before. And now I got teardrops on my computer screen, and I can't think clearly, much less write.

The last two sentences broke my heart. They mean so much. This whole story means so much. I love it. It's breathtakingly beautiful.
5/17/2014 c1 24Galad Estel
Wow! This is thrilling, fantastic. I love how you ended with the beginning, and all those beautiful descriptions and feelings that shiver between. You show us the darkness, fear, power and hopelessness that is Sauron. Your flashbacks to the past in comparing Aragorn to the enemies Sauron has battled before gives a continuance from The Silmarillion to The Lord of the Rings that is just amazing. And your comparison to Sauron as artist using shades of black was great. Great work, keep writing.
5/13/2014 c1 46The Wayfaring Strangers
Oh Valar above! How did I miss this?

Just wow. I'm practically speechless, Crackers. You've really outdone yourself. The writing style is absolutely beautiful and lyrical. You did an amazing job with characterizing Sauron so that he is not a victim, but not quite a villain either: we pity him, but he has made his choice. It rather recalls how Tolkien himself handled tragic characters. And Aragorn was perfect: kingly, resolute, steeped in history. I love how you brought out the link between him and his ancestors.

The way you portrayed the use of the palantir as an artistic, creative work was a stroke of sheer genius. I love how Aragorn uses the history of Middle-Earth against one who has lived through it all.

'This is the venom of my triumphs; each is laced with drops of agony.' I don't think I've seen a more astute, powerful, and concise summary of Sauron's victories. The 'blind artist' theme repeating was also brilliant.

The scene with Luthien and Huan was breath-takingly portrayed. I could see it all. The way you wove together Gorlim and Sauron's fates was masterful, though. All the things Sauron means to use against Aragorn come back to bite him because his own ruin was written there long ago.

His recollection of Numenor was perhaps the most powerful; Sauron made his choice, in the end. He didn't want to, but he did. Morgoth started something that could not be reversed.

I love how you tied the closing words back to the beginning: a circle, a ring of thought, is fitting motif the Lord of the Rings himself.

All in all, this is staggering. You've combined beautiful, poetic style, astute characterization, and creative genius. Definitely one of my favorite one-shots, and possibly the best characterization of Sauron I've ever seen. I understand him now, as a character, in a way that I haven't before. Thank you so very much for sharing this!
-RandomCelt
4/23/2014 c1 5Elf from Downunder
I've started to grow really fascinated with Sauron, and reading this was just ... I love it. :) You're writing simply amazes me.
'My shadow follows me; my shadow breaks me. I find myself in darkness, always; in the strange, sad places where stone and ash devour light.' Will never forget that line.
Great work, as always! :D

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