April's Challenges

Halls of Mystery

For much of the world, April is a time of rebirth. One of the most intriguing--and controversial--elements of Tolkien's mythology is his notion of Elven "immortality": that Elves who "die" spend a period of time in the Halls of Mandos before being reborn in new bodies. Different authors and researchers have interpretted and portrayed the Halls of Mandos in vastly different ways; indeed, a look back at the early drafts of the works that would become The Silmarillion shows that Tolkien also had conflicting ideas about the Halls of Mandos and the process of Elven rebirth. Early ideas presented in The Book of Lost Tales depict a hall that is "draped with dark vapours and its floors and columns were of jet" (while Nienna keeps a hall as well that is roofed with bats' wings!). Tolkien dabbled with the idea of Elves being reborn as the children of their children, being given new parents, or being remade into bodies like those they had inhabited in their first life.

So which is it? Perhaps the most reliable conclusion about the Halls of Mandos is that we know next to nothing about them at all!

This month's challenge offers you the chance to explore the place and ideas behind one of the most mysterious locations on Arda. Your story, poem, essay, or vignette should explore the Halls of Mandos or the ideas of Elven "death" and rebirth to take your readers on a journey through the surreal, inexplicable, or just plain weird.

April's Fool

All around the world--and on the Internet--on the first of April, people celebrate April Fools' Day by playing pranks on their friends, family, and associates. This lighter challenge asks you to write a story, poem, or vignette in which a character tricks or plays a prank on another. While this challenge may suggest itself to humor and parody, The Silmarillion is also full of more nefarious tricks played by characters such as Morgoth. Your piece can be as close to canon or as AU (alternate universe), as serious or silly as you'd like.

The Quote of the Month Challenge

The Quote of the Month challenge asks you to write based on the themes and thoughts the quote inspires or about the event in which the quote occurred. You may write in any format--poem, story, essay, or drabble--with any characters, genre, or rating.

This month, we have two quotes, from The History of Middle-earth, Volume 4: The Shaping of Middle-earth.

But after the death of Túrin and Nienor, Húrin was released by Morgoth, for Morgoth thought still to use him; and he accused Thingol of faint heart and ungentleness, saying that only thus had his purpose been brought about; and Húrin distraught, wandering bowed with grief, pondered these words, and was embittered by them, for such is the way of the lies of Morgoth.

The Quenta, section 14
Why should we obey the jealous gods any longer, who cannot even keep their own realm from their foe?

Fëanor, The Quenta, section 5

The Character of the Month: Eärendil

In keeping with this month's theme of new beginnings and renewal, we honor Eärendil as the Character of the Month. From his beginnings as Eärendel in Tolkien's earliest works to his role in The Lord of the Rings, the brave Eärendil has been a constant in the mythology. Yet he is not universally loved by fans and researchers, and many readers question his abandonment of his sons and his people to seek Valinor.

This month, we invite our members to share everything Eärendil: their favorite stories about him, their thoughts on him, and their own writing and artwork.

Want more challenges? Check out our complete challenge listing for almost two years' worth of challenges to inspire your writing!

Have an idea for a challenge? Some of our most popular challenges have been created by you, the members of SWG! If you have a plotbunny gnawing at your ankle, a favorite quote, or a favorite character that you think might inspire others as well, please send an email to and we'll try to include your challenge in our next newsletter!

April's News

Webpage Launched!

If you're reading it here, then you already know the big news for the month: the website that will serve as a home base for our group is ready for the public! We've debuted our Reference Library, updated our FAQs, and compiled dozens of challenges for ideas and inspiration.

And we've only just begun!

Over the course of April, we hope to offer back issues of all of our past newsletters and publish several new essays on writing and canon. In the months to come, look for our fiction archive, a place to publish and read Silmarillion-based fiction and poetry from our talented member-base. We also aim to revamp our LiveJournal community and Yahoo! group to make them more useful and user-friendly for our members.

This is an exciting time for SWG ... indeed, a new beginning. On behalf of the moderators, I would like to thank our members and especially our volunteers for their support and help over the past year-and-a-half. Keep in touch for more features and developments in the near future!

Help Wanted

As SWG expands, we're always in need of help from our members. In fact, much of what we've accomplished so far (and will accomplish in the near future!) is thanks to the hard work and talents of our volunteers.

This month, we are asking for volunteers in two areas.

Reference Readers. Several of you have signed up to help us with this already, and we thank you! But we can never have too many reference readers: members willing to check facts and sources for the essays we wish to publish in our Reference section. If you enjoy research and studying the minutia of Tolkien's canon and wish to help out in a low-stress job, please consider volunteering as a reference reader!

Expert on Customizing LiveJournal Layouts. As part of integrating our various groups and communities on the web, I would like our LiveJournal community to better match our homepage and be more helpful to our members and visitors. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about customization on LiveJournal, and short of postponing further site updates, have no time to learn. If you are adept at making customized journal layouts and wish to offer your talents and skills to SWG, please email Dawn at

Conduct Guidelines Updated

SWG has always prided itself on being a friendly, welcoming organization that seeks to discourage online drama and other destructive behaviors. In almost two years of existence, we've had next to no problems that require moderator intervention.

And we'd like to keep it that way!

The "rules" of SWG have evolved over the course of the past two years and often vary depending on which of our groups you consult. In the interest of clarity, we have updated our member conduct guidelines and will begin replacing outdated information on the LiveJournal and Yahoo! groups to reflect the changes. The new guidelines reflect the many roles that SWG members take: authors, reviewers, readers, and discussion participants and are designed to keep SWG a fun, low-stress place to discuss and share work based on one of our favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien.

We encourage our members to take a look at the new conduct guidelines. Once again, none of these things have proven to be problems on the group so far, but as SWG grows and becomes more prominent in the Tolkien community, we want our members to know that we care to protect them from the few destructive individuals who seek to take the fun out of this community.

Furthermore, we have a diplomacy standard that will apply to all story reviews left on our existing groups (LiveJournal and Yahoo!) as well as the fiction archive that will eventually be located on our homepage. This standard is based heavily on the guidelines currently in use by the 5,000-member-strong Critters fiction workshop and is designed to encourage constructive criticism in a way that limits the ensuing drama and doesn't involve any of our authors giving up writing forever.

As always, member feedback is valuable to us. Please don't hesitate to share your questions or concerns with us at

We Need Essays!

One of the features that we hope to develop on SWG is an extensive Reference Library. But we need references to make this possible! We know that many of our members have written (or are writing) research articles and essays based on Tolkien's world and the craft of writing, and we'd love to publish your work here! For more information, please check out our submission guidelines; if you have something to share that doesn't seem to quite fit what we're asking for, please feel free to query anyway. All submissions, questions, and queries should be sent to

New Email Address

It's probably readily apparent by now that SWG has a new email address! Members are still welcome to email Dawn at her personal email account, but for the quickest reply, it is recommended that you contact us at This account will automatically forward your email to the moderator in charge of the group. (Dawn does occasionally take vacations, believe it or not! ) The website and associated groups will soon reflect the change as well.

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