In Nargothrond, Curufin deals with a lot of identity issues...
- A scene which would happen some times after the 10th chapter of my fanfiction "Anathema"
- Written for the “30-Day Character Study” Challenge - The Mirror Cliche.
1. Chapter 1 by Harnatano
Stepping out of the bathroom, Curufinwë walks straight to the wardrobe and starts rummaging through the robes, cloaks and tunics. Silk, furs, velvet, various colours and hues, various styles and shapes, but always the same high-quality garments. Robes fashioned by the best tailors, and accessories which he himself designed years ago. But none of them satisfies him, and even after a tedious excavation of the closet, he finds nothing that matches his mood.
With a frustrated sigh, he surrenders and lies down on the bed, his head falling heavily upon the heap of pillows.
It is of no use. He cannot focus. He cannot settle down. For the past few days, he has felt increasingly restless, uneasy with himself. Nothing seems to satisfy him, nothing seems to catch his attention. He is not particularly nervous, no. He feels agitated by the mysterious disquiet which has stemmed from an accumulation of small events and reflexions, of comments and dissatisfaction. And they bring no epiphany, not even the foreboding of one.
He knows he will not sleep, but the softness of the blanket upon his bear skin feels good, reassuring - the illusion of stability, at last.
After another long sigh, Curufinwë turns his head to the left and finds himself looking into the mirror which is standing one the other side of the chamber. He has not expected to meet his own eyes, nor has he expected to find this gloomy look upon his face. For a second or less, he even wonders who this dark Elda might be, this stern and tired face staring at him from the other side of the room. When he finally realizes that this figure is actually his own, Curufinwë stands up slowly. He pays no attention to the towel which falls from his waist, and walks carefully to stand in front of the mirror.
He does not look like himself. At least, not to the self he is used to. He looks older, the grey in his eyes is darker, the lines on his forehead seem deeper.
He looks tired. Worn out. As if his very energy has been absorbed.
It is definitely not his usual face, and yet it reminds him of a face he furtively saw, long ago. He cannot exactly replace it though. Stepping closer to the mirror, he slowly turns his head to the right, then to the left, examining all sides and details under the flickering light of the lamps. It is only when he brushes his hair backward with his two hands that he remembers. He actually sees it again, as in a flash - his father’s face. Not his father’s usual face either, not the determined face everybody was used to, not the handsome face everybody remembers, no. It is the face of his father on the day he died. The feverish and almost frightening face of his father when they found him - injured - when they carried him - agonizing- laid him down and watched him burn.
This face, this look, this expression are Curufinwë’s now. And it is the face of death, exhaustion and anger. It only lacks hope. The hope his father still held to, the day he died.
He would rather look away, but he is too much fascinated by the painting offered through his own reflection.
It is terrifying, appalling and enthralling at the same time. There is also something transcending about it, like a tragic aura – not the aura of heroism which Curufinwë yearned for, but of something much deeper, an inner power, a possibility which could enable him to create and to kill – an unbalanced strength which leaves him wavering… He could fall or shine. For if his father both shone and fell, Curufinwë already knows that his own path is much narrower.
And as those thoughts roll through his mind, Curufinwë looks straight into his eyes and pinches his lips. A self-bashing fever runs through his veins; No, his father did not fall – how can he even think so? That is what they say – was Curufinwë so weak, so easily influenced to adopt this despicable perspective? He hates himself for this weakness of mind, for this insane corruption. The greatness of Fëanáro would never fall, and still it shines, beyond death and fear and despair. Curufinwë knows it, and he knows he must believe in it if he wants hope to return. He has almost forgotten it. He should be ashamed.
It is he, Atarincë, who is the fallen one. The fallen prince, the fallen lord, the fallen heir. Not his father.
He repeats his name slowly, voicelessly, his eyes traveling from his face to his arms and chest. Scars - several small ones, a few deep ones – merging with the dark ink which shapes the lines that adorn his skin, muscles tired but still strong and stiff, tensed under the pressure of his mind, veins disappearing under the skin. There is still life in these veins - and this blood, does it not carry the heirloom of his family? Is it not his father’s blood? Should he not treasure it? Should his mind not feed on it, on the proud determination and strength carried by his blood. As for hope, can it not rely on the faith he had in his father’s blood? It certainly can, and how ungrateful he was to forget it!
Shoulders and arms which have wielded swords, spears, bows and hammers alike, which have carried the burden of the oath, the burden of his duties, but which have also embraced and carefully held those who have mattered. Some of them whom he might never see again. Behind the skin, the muscles are still sore. Always so tensed. A smarting rigidity, as to challenge the erratic wanderings of a tormented mind. But he does not complain. This severity he brought upon himself – a shield against the fire that burns within him.
His eyes travel down his arms and to his hands; he opens them, stretches his fingers – calloused skin, burnt skin. Here too, the scars cannot be hidden. The small cuts due to his years of apprenticeship, as well as the large scar left by the fire which had consumed his father’s body. They are parts of him now, in body and mind, part of his identity. This self, unique and yet so deeply dependent on his father’s identity; if these scars define him, their very existence relies on Fëanáro - and there is the epiphany, the truth which somehow has always been there, silent and veiled until this very moment…
Curufinwë can only define himself through his father.
In these scars he sees the last pledge, the second commitment – his father’s last hope. There is pain. There is faith. Both notion which he could use to define himself: they are part of himself. As his father is.
He clenches his fists, and his eyes move again, ignoring the inscriptions upon his skin, the signs and lines. Stomach, pelvis, hips, groin, genitalia.
He reflects upon masculinity; what it means, how it is seen, its symbols and manifestations. Strange thoughts, which he usually does not consider. He looks at his sex. Instrument of pleasure and life, siege of desires and – to some extent – power. Yes. There is power in this strange appendix, a power he has always regarded with pride and confidence, despite the complexity of his own sexuality. A dangerous power, he thinks, that one should learn to control. He tried, and discovered that the strength of one’s passion cannot easily be tamed. Curufinwë himself, despite his tendency to repress, restrain and control, and his many successes, has often found himself powerless against his own impulses. But in his egotistical fears and distrust, he would rather keep these impulses for himself, turn them against himself, and the torturous calls of desire would be turned into something else. It was not exactly a claim for salvation – salvation was but a mirage – but for oblivion and control. Domination.
He believed in discipline and penance, now more than ever. They seemed much safer, although they relied on lies and pretence.
This claim for chastity is not deprived of hypocrisy – he unwillingly acknowledges it – but he cannot bring himself to associate the dark waves of his sex-drive with the purity of procreation. There is a dichotomy, a broken bridge between the lewdness of his desires and the fact that it was precisely desire which, long ago, led to the conception of his son.
His son. For him he would always pretend. To protect him. To protect himself. To make himself appear, in Tyelperinquar’s eyes, as the unstainable image of reason, discipline and strength. Curufinwë failed at being a hero, failed at being just like his father, but he can still try to be a guide for his son, or at least, a shield.
He shivers again, uncomfortable and nervous under the assault of doubt, and instinctively, his fingers quickly brush the thick and dark hairs.
The thighs now. Curufin stares at them, the lines of the flexed muscles, which have carried him for all these years on so many paths and roads, which squeezed the horses’ flanks, tread so many soils, brought him on so long errands. Were they still capable of it now? Sometimes he feels like running away from Nargothrond, from his duties, from his son, from himself. But his legs, he knows, would not accept it. They would tense even more and forced him into a static position which he knows too well. Stasis as the frustrating safeguard of his sanity – unless it is the contrary. Perhaps this very stasis, as comforting as it seemed, only digs deeper into his folly. Or perhaps there is just no escape, no answer, no key. After all, the last time he tried to move forward, it only brought him back to the same alienated point, humiliated and shameful, and even more damaged.
He can still stand up though. His legs have not given way to his doubt. Not yet. He can stand up and still, he can stand his ground, he can hinder, obstruct and stop whatever threat occurs. He can still stand for his values – no matter how tainted they are in the eyes of strangers - he can still endure and compete. And if these long and tired legs cannot carry him any farther, they still support the weight of his decaying spirit.
He steps back, his eyes locked on his reflection, and tries to have a broader perceptive, to have his eyes embrace the whole of him. He cannot. He can neither grasp himself, nor the image of himself. Even this incapacity he cannot explain. What happened to him so that he cannot understand himself anymore? Who has he become? He used to delight in his reflection, in the so many hints that pointed at his inheritance; all these details that reminded him – and everybody around - his father and grandfathers. He used to be able to see them everywhere in his face, and he loved it – his own reflection could have been that of Fëanáro, and Curufinwë used to define himself through these similarities. But now he can barely see them anymore. And even what he sees of his father in his face is not what he expected – not what he was used to.
Did the similarities vanish? Or has he become blind to them?
Who was he without them?
A wave of anxiety washes over him as he felt his very identity crumble. But his face expresses nothing. Nothing but a discreet twitch of his left eye.
Before he can stop himself, Curufinwë is rushing toward the mirror and he has just the time to see a threatening flame in his eye before his fist comes hit the cold, sharp surface of his reflection.
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