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Comments For Character of the Month Biographies
That's interesting, Oshun!
I think I remember how the tide turned in fandom on Elemmire's gender. I wrote a fic in March 2012 involving E. as a minor character. At the time, I was travelling without access to the books, so I used online resources, especially Tolkien Gateway, which indicated that E. was male, and my impression at the time was that in fic E. was generally male, too.
By June 2013, when I cross-posted the same fic to AO3, the majority of recent fic had written E. as female and I commented on it. The Tolkien Gateway article had been rewritten in the meantime. Ncfan responded to my comment and confirmed my memory that TG had previously stated that E. was male and also said that she had been writing E. as female for longer than the recent trend, however.
I speculated at the time that maybe Christopher Tolkien had used a default male pronoun somewhere in his comments, but in fact when I looked I couldn't spot any such use, so the earlier assumption of male gender does not seem to be due to him.
Many of the fics featuring female Elemmire are femslash (because obviously for femslash writers it's especially useful to have a minor named female canon character who is not closely related to any of the major named female canon characters), but by no means all; for instance Dawn has written Elemmire as female but heterosexual.
I've seen Elemmire written as non-binary, as well.
The interesting thing to me is that Tolkien never uses a gender related pronoun with the ambiguous name. It clearly was not as important to him as it is to contemporary fanfic writers. I prefer to write Nerdanel with red hair also. I don't find the discussion very interesting in terms of canon. I do find it interesting in terms of fanfic writers and changing creative preferences over time. Fanon reflects who we are creatively as fanfic writers at any given moment in time. Canon tells us who Tolkien was. The fact is that despite his lack of female representation and paucity of role models for young women, he did engage our hearts and minds on a human level. I just today ran across a citation by Marion Zimmer Bradley which makes the point that although there are no women in Tolkien (OK some, but not enough!) that "Tolkien's books have an immense emotional power to mobilize these dormant archetypes of the psyche," less so relating to romance and sexual love than any other area. Most readers I know find Maedhros/Fingon a sexier story than Arwen/Aragorn or Beren/Luthien and for a robust femslash love story one must invent one's own out of the whole cloth. So it is no wonder that writers will shape and mold characters to their own needs when making creative use of Tolkien's canon.