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Comments For In the Court of the Dragon Emperor
My MEFA 2011 review:
I love the fable style of this tale, full of details painting an exotic, unexpected backdrop for a tale set in the Tolkien world, but completely convincing as a very recognisable historic setting in our primary world. I would have doubted it was possible to succeed at creating a tale of the Istari in ancient China, but pandemonium_213 pulls it off as though it were the most natural thing in the world and the Blue Wizards did indeed stand before the Dragon Emperor, but Tolkien just forgot to record it.
The descriptions are so vivid that it's easy to imagine the smell of the camelias and spices of the far east, and to picture the lavish, tempting gifts paraded before the wizards: glittering treasures and lovely concubines (plus unnecessary remedies to enjoy their company!) I particularly admire the flavour of this story as a tale taken out of ancient teachings recorded in a remote land, a tale that the philosopher Lao Tzu (quoted as having spoken Pallando's words) could have narrated or written himself.
The nature of the test is not perceived by Alatar so that, watching the scene through his eyes, I also fear for his head for an instant. I am intrigued by the hint of a background story to explain the contrast between the struggling Alatar and the serene Pallando, and I hope to see it written in more one day soon.
Reposting my Mefa review:
Pandemonium's story "In the Court of the Dragon Emperor" packs so much into a short space that I feel I've read a piece of a much larger, fully-developed story. Like her story "The Man who Grew Tomatoes," she has taken characteristics of non-Western cultures and incorporated them into Middle-earth in quite plausible ways. I loved the idea of the Blue Wizards, Alatar and Pallando going to visit the Dragon Emperor. ["the Son of Heaven and the Supreme Ruler of Kitai, a man who could order them beheaded at any moment."] With that ominous but attention-grabbing beginning, I'm pulled into Pandë's fragrant, colorful court scene, where Alatar is tugging on his figurative shirt-collar wondering if he's about to make a quick trip back to Mandos. I enjoyed the characterization of both wizards, Pallando the serene, athletic sage who seems to have an earthy appreciation for lovely women, and Alatar, who is more concerned with keeping his hröa intact. The dragon emperor tempts them with all manner of worldly riches, including a manticore bone with special properties that you'll need to read the story to discover. All these riches will be theirs if only the Blue Wizards will grant the emperor perpetual youth. Pallando's answer and the result give this story a sense of fairy-tale timelessness. Pandë promises another story about her Blue Wizards and I'm looking forward to it.
It's always fascinating to see a ficlet woven with bits of Middle Earth universe and eastern mythology by your hand. This is very interesting and, as ever, beautifully written. Great approach to the challenge! Thank you.
I wonder if you could try Slavic mythology some time :)
Thanks so much, Binka, and by golly, you have piqued my interest in a big way! Slavic mythology, here I come! :^D
Unique and fascinating. I'm of two minds concerning crossovers of the primary world and Tolkien's Arda, but you always pull it off to the best of effects - this was no exception, and it was delightful meeting your Ithryn Luin.
Thanks so much, Elleth! Because you're on the fence, as it were, concerning crossovers and liked this, I take that as a high compliment indeed! Tolkien drew quite a bit from our primary world (as we know). I'm just reaching for a bit more. I'm hoping to pick up the blue fellahs' trail in the future.
This is a really unique take on the wizards. Admitting to not having focused at all on the canon relating to them. I loved the description and organization of this ficlet. Seems like you could expand at will to give us other aspects and details of their story. Thanks for sharing the story and the interesting link also to the maps.
Thanks, Oshun! There's not much canon pertaining to them, just snippets here and there, and contradictory ones at that. Of course, this makes it that much more fun for me to speculate about these fellows, who have the potential to fit nearly into the Pandë!verse.