Captain My Captain

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Fanfiction
Title: Captain My Captain
Author(s): Isabeau of Greenlea
Date(s): 2002-2003
Length: ~300,000 words
Genre: action, drama, het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
External Links: @ff.net

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Captain My Captain, known as CMC, is a popular Lord of the Rings epic novel by Isabeau of Greenlea. Set during Return of the King, it introduces her well-loved original character, Hethlin the Ranger, who forms the first-person narrator. The first half centres on her interactions with Faramir during the Ring War, while in the second half, attention shifts to Imrahil and Elrohir during the early Fourth Age, with big parts being played by relatively minor characters from the books. The author summary is:

Events in RoTK as experienced by a young Ranger of Ithilien. Main character is OFC. Faramir is featured prevalently in the first half, the second half features, among others, Imrahil, the sons of Elrond, Elrond himself, Éowyn and Éomer, Arwen and Lord Celeborn. Warning--this is a novel-length story.

Hethlin's story is continued in several other stories by Isabeau including, in chronological order:

History, Reception and Awards

Captain My Captain, Isabeau's first piece of fanfiction, was posted in installments to Fanfiction.net between January 2002 and November 2003. It was the second story to be posted on the Henneth Annûn Story Archive (since removed). The novel gained a devoted following while it was being posted, and quickly catapulted Isabeau to BNF status. It has been credited with starting fannish interest in Imrahil and his family, as well as with creating much of the fanon not only on Imrahil but also on Elladan and Elrohir.[1] It inspired illustrations by Hélène Bruneton and Hope Hoover.[2]

The central OFC, Hethlin, met with general approbation, even though she has many of the characteristics of a Mary-Sue. Dwimordene, for example, writes: For me, Hethlin was the first OFC to step into the spotlight of protagonist and survive the glare.[3] However, a few early readers did not like her portrayal; Elanor writes: Hethlin for my taste becomes too unrealistic.[3] Some recent readers have been more critical; Lanoger describes her in a 2010 rec as Shameless self insertion. Girl!Ranger...[4] As well as Hethlin, Captain My Captain introduces the OMC Andrahar, head of the Dol Amroth Swan Knights. He became a highly popular character, inspiring the sprawling Best-loved Sons series by Isabeau, Altariel, Dwimordene and Soledad.[5]

The novel became the centre of controversy during the Mithril Awards over being judged eligible as a serial for the inaugural round of the awards, while incomplete. This led to Isabeau withdrawing the second part of the novel from consideration in the 2004 round of the awards.[6][7]

The first section of Captain My Captain was runner up in the Romance/Erotica: Het voted category of the Mithril Awards in 2003.[8] The completed novel was placed second in the Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards Races: Men category in 2004.[3]

Reviews

For me, Hethlin was the first OFC to step into the spotlight of protagonist and survive the glare. Sometime around January 2002, I had seen the title pop up a few times on the FF.net listings, and always thought the title at least recommended a look. Eventually, I read chapter one and was immediately hooked, and fifty-three chapters and two years later, I had lost count of the number of rereadings I had done, the number of times I had laughed over Heth's sparring match with Éowyn or Lorend's wedding gift or Éomer's language lessons, or sighed over Imrahil (or Aragorn, let us not forget! I won't even guess how many times I've gone back to Thorongil in the garden). And no list of things I like about this story would be complete without mention of her Celeborn-a gentleman from top to toe, wise, ancient, and very much an Elf. Beyond the excellent characterizations and an emotional tone that runs the gamut without ever feeling forced, this story had a gravity to it-it felt real, from the ground up to me. Certainly, I have a hard time now reading Imrahil any other way, and part of the agony of writing that character stems from trying to thrust Isabeau's Imrahil aside long enough for anything like an original voice for that character to come through for me. More than almost any other story of Isabeau's, I think this voice felt most natural-I rarely ever was jarred out of Heth's point of view or was aware, while reading, of the gap between reader and character. So here's to a marvellous story, one that will certainly last more than one rainy day. Many thanks for the ride. (Dwimordene)[3]
What can I say about this very famous story no one else has? I guess this is the one that makes us all wish we could write such a wonderful OFC as Hethlin. From seeing her in battle, to how she stands up to the Witch King when offered the thing she wants the most, to her unrequited love for Faramir and finally to see her relationship with bratty Elrohir develop, this story has held me spell-bound from beginning to end. My favourite scene after several re-reading is the one where Heth is walking through the Grey Lands, and is found by Elrohir. Her surprise at realizing he's an elf is very funny, especially right in the middle of being rescued. (Jilian)[3]
The main character - who narrates the story - has all the characteristic of a Mary Sue, yet she isn't one. Through it you come to care about what happens to her, and to the characters around her. Isabeau has developed Imrahil and his family wonderfully. The characterisations of other major characters are perfect so their actions are never unexpected (at least not to the reader) which is impressive given it is written in first person POV. It is very long but impossible to put down. (Paranoidangel)[9]
No, I never thought I'd read a 280,000+ word story focusing on an OFC, much less recommend it. But this is a really compelling story that sucks you in and doesn't let go.

The narrator is Hethlin, a young woman who ends up with Faramir's rangers in the years leading up to the war. Before you start screaming "Mary Sue!" at me -- really, she's not. This OFC is very much imperfect and self-aware. She doesn't always know the answers, and she isn't beautiful. While some Sue-like comparisons are inevitable, this is a real character, and it's her unique point of view that makes the story interesting, offers some really different insight into the canon characters, and keeps everything moving.

There is plenty of drama and some angst, but there is also wonder, and humor, including some laugh-out-loud moments. What I especially like is that this story is NOT an AU (as much as I like LotR AU's). It fits into canon effortlessly, and enhances it at the same time, developing characters like Imrahil and Elrond's sons, who are in the books but usually in the background.

If you like this story, look on Isabeau's web site under "Hethlin of Anorien" for related works. If you like her Imrahil (and you will) you might be interested in the stories she has listed under "Princes of Dol Amroth" too. Don't blame me if you start thinking her version of Dol Amroth and its characters are canon, but it's not such a terrible thing. (Melina at Crack Van)[10]
I've read some really wonderful stories (thinking of Captain, my Captain by Isabeau on HASA) that technically would be considered a Mary Sue. Her character is a OFC who survives an orc attack to become an Ithilien Ranger who is in love with Faramir who is incidentally the ONLY male who doesn't fall in love with her. She has an affair with one of the twins, Imrahil falls in love with her, she is a great warrior who defends Faramir on the Pelennor fields and turns out to be a close relative to Aragorn. Yet it's a great well-written, wonderful story. (Leaward)[11]
*squeals* Oh my god (or rather, "Oh, Valar!"). This is a wonderful wonderful story. It took me an entire day to finally complete reading 53 chapters of this awesome goodness. The fic makes me wish that Tolkien had written more about the ruling families of Gondor. I am very much impressed by the author's knowledge of Tolkien's Gondor. Highly recommended. I'm still dazed and terribly incoherent after finishing the last chapter. Excellent story! *squeals some more* (Maywind)[12]
A wonderful piece of fiction - humerous, witty and romantic, told in the perspective of a not-so-average member of Faramir's rangers. (Shandy)[13]
Very engaging exploration of Faramir as a Captain, in contrast to the usual explorations of his character. (Estelle B.)[14]
My favorite fanfiction author is Isabeau of Greenlea, who writes wonderful Lord of the Rings fanfiction set in Gondor largely after the end of the Third Age. The place to start with her is Captain, My Captain a novel-length story that introduces her primary protagonist, an unlikely female soldier in the Ithilien Rangers. The first chapters of Captain are probably Isabeau's weakest writing (since they're her earliest), however, so don't give up immediately if you think you might like it- the writing gets much better and the characters improve as it goes on. This story is impressive because it manages to be so well written, and be an interesting exploration of the social and political landscape of post-war Gondor, while still having the surface features of a self-insertion fanfic. The protagonist is a strong woman, many of whose difficulties arise from the conflicting attentions of several astonishingly admirable suitors, and yet all of the characters are plausible and realistic, and the story is incredibly well-drawn. This is a story that I've read probably five times in its entirety, which is not something that can be said of many original works that I've read. (Foxen)[15]
[In a review of Blackbow] The first Tolkien fanfic novel I ever read—well over five years ago, I think—was [Captain My Captain]. Of course, I had no idea at the time how lucky I was to have stumbled on that among all the thousands I could have hit upon in those early days of my exposure to the fandom. You proved definitively to me that fanfiction can be every bit as compelling or more so than the majority of fiction published in the real world and did a lot of inspire my own efforts. (Oshun)[16]

References

  1. Discussion on Henneth Annun (10 August 2003 & 10 Jan 2007) (accessed 28 August 2012)
  2. Elfwood: "Hethlin and Imrahil" by Hélène Bruneton (accessed 28 August 2012)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards: Archive: Captain, My Captain (accessed 28 August 2012)
  4. Lanoger: Rec five (accessed 28 August 2012)
  5. best_loved_sons: Best-loved Sons (accessed 28 August 2012)
  6. Mithril Awards: Report on 2003 awards (accessed 28 August 2012)
  7. Open Scrolls: Mithril Awards WIP Announcement (accessed 28 August 2012)
  8. Mithril Awards: Award Winners 2003 (accessed 28 August 2012)
  9. Haven Reviews: Lord of the Rings (I) (accessed 28 August 2012)
  10. Captain My Captain by Isabeau of Greenlea (PG-13) (accessed 29 August 2012)
  11. Writers' Haven: I HATE LOTR (accessed 28 August 2012)
  12. maywind_recs: (LOTR) Captain My Captain, and Sequel by Isabeau (Various/OC) (accessed 28 August 2012)
  13. There He Came (accessed 28 August 2012)
  14. lotr-fic-recs: REC CHALLENGE #87 - PORTRAYAL OF FARAMIR - ANY (accessed 28 August 2012)
  15. Library Thing: Foxen's books for 2010! (accessed 28 August 2012)
  16. Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards: Archive: Blackbow (accessed 28 August 2012)