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Your Mileage May Vary
Fanfiction by the Lise
[Commentary]: The Heart Is Dark 
05.12.11
full moon
This is not a fic. This is a commentary of a fic, requested on a meme by idleleaves. The fic is "The Heart Is Dark" for the Silmarillion.

The title of “The Heart Is Dark” is from a song that I discovered on a Sam fanmix recently – the full title is “The Heart Is Dark But the World Is Darker.” I thought the first section worked for this little piece, though, because it’s quiet and cool and all about Curufin, whose heart is dark, and even without judgment that is so. I wrote this one because I wanted to write a little bit about Maglor and Curufin, a relationship I had thought about but never explored, and their similarity but vast difference.

Curufin didn’t yell like Celegorm had. He just sat there, silent and watchful, steel-grey eyes intent and head cocked slightly to the side, observing with silent interest. It was almost eerie, with his round young face and intense staring eyes, watching Maglor’s fingers dance up and down and over the strings. Curufin is a watcher. He will always watch something until he understands it. I think he is a very great observer and would far rather sit back and watch to be sure he understands something before acting. In that way I think he’s very unlike both Celegorm and Caranthir, who are louder and more impulsive. Curufin is a listener and a watcher first, and only once he understands something does he take action.

He looked up, finally. “What is it, Kurvo?”

Curufin just shook his head and said nothing, wide eyes never moving. I focus a lot on Curufin’s eyes in this fic. I think a lot about them too. I think they would be most expressive in his face, but also most eerie.

“What are you trying to figure out?”

“I'm not sure yet,” Curufin said in his soft, velvet voice. “I'm just watching.” Maglor wondered if Curufin would grow up to sing; there was power in his voice, if latent, quiet. Curufin has The Voice already. I think he has a very nice voice. I pay a lot of attention to people’s voices, so I think some about character’s actual voices and how they would sound. I bet Curufin would be nice to listen to. But then, everything about his little brother was quiet and strange. Not like his other brothers. Sometimes Maglor thought this one was more like him. More thoughtful. There’s the similarity. Both Maglor and Curufin are, I think, more introverted and withdrawn than their other brothers. It could have been a kinship, but Curufin has this edge of control and the need for control on him.

“Watching what?”

“Watching you.” He tilted his head at a little more of an angle. “Don’t stop.”

Maglor tried to smile. “It feels strange practicing with you sitting there staring like that.” Which it does. I hated practicing piano with my family in the room. So this isn’t just Curufin.

“I can look the other way if that makes it better.” This is Curufin joking. Almost. I have a feeling Curufin’s jokes, as stated later, are never actually very funny. Curufin smiled, barely, lips closed and eyes still intent and unchanging. Maglor had never seen him do more than that. Like Stannis, he rarely smiles, and never laughs.  “How does it make sounds like that?”

Maglor blinked. “I’ve never thought about it. The vibrations, I guess, inside the instrument, or of the string…”

“Have you ever taken one apart to see how it works?”

Maglor looked at his little brother with something like horror, and shook his head. “Why would I do that? You’d have to break it. And that’s not the part that’s important – the why, that’s not important.”

“The why is always important,” Curufin objected, seriously. “Nothing’s worth it if you don’t know the why.” Simple statement of Curufin’s basic philosophy: RIGHT HERE. He wants to understand things. And if that means he has to take them apart, so be it. Things must make sense to Curufin, or else he will make them make sense.

That was Curufin. He wanted to know how everything worked. He’d taken apart a newt the twins had caught once to see how it worked, and examined it with that same wide eyed curiosity. Cold, curious brutality. That is Curufin for you. But it’s only a newt, he would say. What does it matter?

“Don’t you dare,” Maglor said, just as a precaution, “Take my harp apart.” Aww, Maglor is so protective of his instrument.

Curufin smiled that barely-there smile again, and said nothing. Maglor frowned at him for a few moments, and then looked back down at his harp and started tuning it again. Curufin stayed where he was, just watching.

“How do you know which strings to play?”

“I just know. It’s instinct.” Curufin nodded, seeming thoughtful. “Why are you asking? Thinking you want to learn an instrument, little brother?”

“No,” Curufin said, after a moment, “I'm just curious.”

“Curious about what? Just how the instrument works? Better to ask a craftsman for that-”

“About you, mostly,” said Curufin, in his voice like soft and silky velvet, quiet but still managing to carry. Yes; music sung in that voice would be beautiful indeed, but Maglor doubted that Curufin’s interests lay in that direction. He was too analytical, too deliberate. Curufin is not a musician. He has the ingenuity but not the creativity. And I love this little bit between them. Curufin asking his probing questions, but it’s not the music he’s asking about, it’s Maglor.

The answer, though, surprised him. “About me? What do you mean?”

Curufin did that funny little head tilt again, expression serious, if Maglor had doubted that it would be. Another difference between Kurvo and the others; he didn’t joke or tease. When he did show a sense of humor it was barbed and often verging on cruel. Mostly he seemed to enjoy doing it to Celegorm, who was often too dense to catch Curufin’s wit, which was admittedly sharp. Blah blah blah, more establishing relationships. And about Curufin’s character. His sense of humor is undoubtedly there, but it is dry and painfully, painfully subtle. And I’m sure he loves mocking Celegorm. “Mother thinks I should spend more time with you,” he said, “And father thinks that you spend too much time with your instruments. I thought I would see what I thought.” I like here that even though Curufin is his father’s kid, he still goes to see Maglor and at least make up his own mind. I also like the little bit I put in here about Nerdanel thinking they should be closer. I can see Ner thinking Maglor could be a good influence.

Maglor felt a pang that surprised him at the latter, but then, Fëanor had never tried particularly hard to understand his sons’ interests if they did not align with his own. I don’t necessarily think that Fëanor wasn’t a supportive father. I just think he didn’t really care or understand, so he would just let it go. “And have you come to a conclusion?” He asked, and perhaps his voice was slightly more biting than necessary. It only seemed to make Curufin smile slightly. Curufin finds your annoyance entertaining.

“No. Not yet.” Curufin uncrossed his legs and stretched them out, arching his shoulders like a cat. If the other Feanorians are canines, Curufin has always struck me as a cat. “Play something again,” he said, with an air of the imperious. Curufin just expects to be obeyed.  Maglor narrowed his eyes and issued his own challenge.

“Only if you will sing with me.”

Curufin looked ever so faintly surprised, but he blinked and it was gone. He shrugged one narrow shoulder, his face seemingly expressionless. “Then play something that I know.”

Maglor had expected more resistance, and he was almost caught off guard. Looking sideways at his younger brother and feeling uncharitably suspicious, he hesitated before launching into a simple ballad that he was quite certain Curufin would know.

He’d been right about his younger brother’s voice, Maglor realized as Curufin joined him. It was rich, and surprisingly warm for all of Curufin’s everlasting coolness. His pitch was perfect and while it wasn’t a particularly talented rendition, anyone who hadn’t heard Maglor himself (and he did not think it was immodest to say so) would have called it marvelous. Curufin, I think could have done so many different things with his life, and this is kind of a bit of that. He has talent. He has skill. He’s clever and bright. But he just chooses to use his powers for evil. Oh Curufin.

At the same time, though, there was a mocking edge underneath every syllable, a lilt that suggested little respect for the music and no enjoyment. Maglor stopped early, that slight undertone, subtle as it was, making him vaguely nauseous. Maglor feels the insult, and he doesn’t like it.

Sometimes he suspected that Curufin had been born old and jaded. I love this line. I really really do. I think it just perfectly states something about Curufin and how it’s wrong. Celegorm was an idealist. All the Fëanorians had their childhood, but Curufin already acts like he couldn’t care less. It’s almost sad to me. Even moody Maedhros was not quite so – bitter.

He stared at Curufin and Curufin stared back in silence. Maglor glanced down first, plucking a string, surprised at how uncomfortable his younger brother’s stern, unyielding gaze made him. Again, the eyes. I really made that a theme in here, more than I realized. Truly, Curufin was his father’s son in a way none of his brothers were. “You have a fine voice,” Maglor said at last, “Though hardly polished. And you sing with distaste that I can hear.”

“You can,” murmured Curufin, voice dropping to be barely audible. Curufin never seemed to feel that he needed to struggle to be heard. A small bit that I threw in that I like. It is subtle but still says something about his character. I’m going to go ahead and be proud of that. It was another quality that he shared with their father. “But I wonder if anyone else would? Your ear is rather better than most.” He can still pay compliments, where they’re deserved. Curufin dispenses praise rarely, I think, but he’s always honest about it. Flattery is not his style, most of the time.

Maglor almost snorted. It was such an understatement, he thought, that it neared the absurd. Curufin is way into understatement, I think.  “My thanks,” he said, dryly. “For your generous compliment. I think you would be surprised what people notice, even if they can’t name it.”

Curufin snorted softly. “You give people at large too much faith,” he said.

Maglor looked directly at his younger brother. “And you give them too little.” Another little brief bit that shows something about both characters and the contrast between them. Curufin is disdainful of others, believes most everyone inferior, stupid, and so forth. Maglor has a great deal more faith in people as a whole and their ability, even as he recognizes his own skill. Curufin’s pride is exclusive, Maglor’s less so.

Curufin looked away this time, towards the woods, but Maglor did not mistake it for deference. He thought, sometimes, that Curufin did not know how to defer to anyone other than their father.  Truth. I don’t think he ever learned. There seemed to be no other person who could check him, not even Maedhros. He waited, feeling tense and disliking that his own brother could make him feel so discomfited. Is there anyone that Curufin can’t discomfit? …Galadriel, probably. But other than her, I’m pretty sure there’s something about him that would make almost anyone else uncomfortable at least some of the time. With the exception of Celegorm, who may partly just be oblivious.

He was surprised when Curufin stood up and stretched his arms. “Thank you,” his little brother said quietly, with an air of having come to some decision. “I think I’ll be going now.” I like this, again. It’s just such an announcement and dismissal all in one.

He did not move and did not fidget, though he kept his hands protectively on his instrument. “Did you learn what you needed to know?” He could hear the tart note in his voice that Caranthir and Celegorm both would have risen to. Curufin did not. More comparing of siblings. I like to show the differences, particularly between these three. Again, two quick tempers, and one that always holds back.

“Yes,” he said simply. “I did. I'm not a musician.”

Maglor had expected judgment, but he did not hear it. It sounded more…thoughtful, like Curufin had indeed been wondering and after deliberating carefully, had made his choice. I like this because it’s unexpected I think for the reader as well. Curufin here was exploring, at least a little, and somewhat curious about his brother’s life and if it could be his. “What do you think you are, then?” Maglor asked.

Curufin seemed thoughtful again, narrow black eyebrows furrowing for a moment before they smoothed again. For a moment, he looked as young as he was, little out of childhood and already deep in thought.

Then he nodded, and there was only conviction in his solid, steel-gray eyes. “I am my father’s son,” he said, and his smile was brief and cool and joyless as he slipped away. I really like this last line. Really really like it. It’s Curufin all over, in the conviction, and the statement that this is all he is and how pleased he is with that, but at the same time it’s not pride, it’s just fact. Curufin isn’t proud here of being what he is.

Also, in my head he’s relatively young in this fic, and it’s interesting to me that he’s already made up his mind on what he is, who he is, and what he’s going to do. And of course, will not change his mind.

Comments 
05.14.11 (UTC)
I think I hadn't read this one before - fail me and RL getting in the way of reading fic. :| But here I am. It was a very interesting read - I'm wondering if I shouldn't post this meme myself, come to think of it. But maybe I don't have enough fic for it. (Also, maybe I won't remember what I was thinking olololol)

ANYWAY.

Maglor tried to smile. “It feels strange practicing with you sitting there staring like that.” Which it does. I hated practicing piano with my family in the room. So this isn’t just Curufin.
OH GOD YOU AND ME BOTH. Having people staring at you when you're practicing music is creepy. I HATE IT. Makes me feel all insecure and jittery. More so because my mum would either stand behind me and look over my shoulder (something I dislike in every circumstance) or sit on the very edge of a nearby armchair and crane her head towards the sheet music. AUGH. Also, I did not know that you played the piano.


Mostly he seemed to enjoy doing it to Celegorm, who was often too dense to catch Curufin’s wit, which was admittedly sharp. Blah blah blah, more establishing relationships. And about Curufin’s character. His sense of humor is undoubtedly there, but it is dry and painfully, painfully subtle. And I’m sure he loves mocking Celegorm.
I wonder if there isn't one of this brothers who just ignores Curufin's jabs. On a good day, Cara might, but he's too temperamental for it to be a regular thing. I can see Finrod doing that, or Galie, but neither are actually siblings.

Is there anyone that Curufin can’t discomfit? …Galadriel, probably. But other than her, I’m pretty sure there’s something about him that would make almost anyone else uncomfortable at least some of the time. With the exception of Celegorm, who may partly just be oblivious.
Yeeeaeh, goes with what I was thinking about up there. But you're right, creepy Curufin is creepy to pretty much most. I think in order to be impervious to that superpower of his, you need to either not notice, or simply not care. (This also reminds me: Curufin/Galadriel hasn't happened in a while. We should consider doing them when we have a chance, mehbeh? ^^)

Maglor had expected judgment, but he did not hear it. It sounded more…thoughtful, like Curufin had indeed been wondering and after deliberating carefully, had made his choice. I like this because it’s unexpected I think for the reader as well. Curufin here was exploring, at least a little, and somewhat curious about his brother’s life and if it could be his.
Oh, totally for the reader as well. I did not see that coming! And it's interesting, because it makes you tilt your head at Curufin and wonder what else lies beneath...

Also, in my head he’s relatively young in this fic, and it’s interesting to me that he’s already made up his mind on what he is, who he is, and what he’s going to do. And of course, will not change his mind.
This bit is... actually something that makes it all the more creepy. I'd imagine Curufin to be a smart, creepy kid that stares a lot, and throughout the fic I thought of him as an adult. With that comment in hindsight, the whole exchange gained in uncanniness. Gah. It was an interesting feeling. *g*
08.22.11 (UTC)
... IDK HOW I MISSED THIS. I WAS SERIOUSLY THINKING ABOUT THIS THE OTHER DAY.

Er. Anyhow.

Curufin is a listener and a watcher first, and only once he understands something does he take action.

This is something that I think makes him all the more dangerous, when he's older, because it gives him the extra time to sink into something and plan and understand the nuances of what he's heading into and what he's about to do.

I think they would be most expressive in his face, but also most eerie.

To me, it would seem that he'd be one of those people who rather freaks you out when he looks at you, because he has that calm gaze that makes you feel like he can see right through you, like everything you think or are is laid out in the open.

.He wants to understand things. And if that means he has to take them apart, so be it. Things must make sense to Curufin, or else he will make them make sense.

And this is an example of why I love your characterisations so much. They're not surface. There's a lot going on underneath that isn't stated, and I always get the feeling that you *get* these characters on a level that most people don't care to explore. Not just behaviours, but reasons for them. Not just personality quirks, but what's at the heart of them.

I love this line. I really really do. I think it just perfectly states something about Curufin and how it’s wrong. Celegorm was an idealist. All the Fëanorians had their childhood, but Curufin already acts like he couldn’t care less. It’s almost sad to me.

I love it too, and again, it makes sense for him. It's like he was headed down the wrong path from the start, instead of being like Celegorm, who started off differently.

I really like this last line. Really really like it. It’s Curufin all over, in the conviction, and the statement that this is all he is and how pleased he is with that, but at the same time it’s not pride, it’s just fact. Curufin isn’t proud here of being what he is.

I loooove the last line. It's just... like you said, such a statement of fact. Not pride, not hope, or anything like it. It just... is. *flaily hands* Have I mentioned how much I love the characterisations of everyone - not just Maglor and Curufin, but all the incidentals that worked in - in this? The actual surface interaction between the characters isn't even half the picture, and yes. Yes.

♥ Thank you so much for doing this, even if it did take me a thousand years to come across it. Oops.
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