Newsletter: February 2011

Table of Contents

SWG News

Back to Middle-earth Month 2011: Passport to Middle-earth

Every year during the month of March, in honor of Frodo destroying the One Ring in Mount Doom, Tolkien fandom groups participate in Back to Middle-earth (B2MeM) events. Once again, the moderators at the Silmarillion Writers' Guild and Many Paths to Tread have teamed up to host a month-long challenge event to inspire our authors and writers during the month of March.

Pack your bags, change the batteries in your camera, and don't forget the sunscreen--this month, we will take a month-long holiday to our favorite places in Middle-earth for Passport to Middle-earth, a daily creative challenge for our writers and artists. Every day, the tour will stop in a new location in Middle-earth and, with it will come a new challenge to tempt your muses. We invite you to create a response for one, some, or all of our daily challenges!

  1. Challenges do not have to be about the location for the day. Each location corresponds with a challenge asking your to explore a theme relevant to that location. The characters, events, and source material you write about do not have to involve that location.
  2. Challenge responses must be based on Tolkien's works but can be in any format you'd like; about any character, race, or event; any genre, interpretation, or rating; or based on any of Tolkien's books or derivative works based on those works (such as the LotR movies). Alternate universe and crossover pieces are welcome. While we welcome your responses on the SWG and MPTT archives, please note that the usual posting guidelines continue to apply on both sites. For example, the SWG archive accepts only Silmarillion-based work. (SWG posting guidelines. MPTT posting guidelines.)
  3. Challenge responses should be new works, created in response to the challenge, not older works that just happen to fit the challenge.
  4. There are no deadlines. While we encourage those who want to try to write a daily challenge, if you feel inspired by a challenge but don't have time for it on the day it's posted, please do feel free to write for it at a later date.
  5. You do not need to post your responses publicly if you don't want to. You can still claim your passport stamps and participate in the event; we'll take your word that you've completed the challenge. We respect that different writers have different comfort levels with posting just-written work and want everyone to feel welcome to take part.
  6. The number-one question we are asked whenever we host one of these challenges: Who determines whether my response meets the challenge? You do! We try to keep the challenges open-ended to welcome writers and artists with a variety of interests. We recognize that these types of challenges invite many different approaches. We make no attempts to judge or pronounce the suitability of challenge responses. We take your word that your piece was written in response to the challenge.

Once you've completed a challenge, you will receive a stamp from that location for your passport. You can copy HTML code to display the stamp on your profile page as soon as you complete the day's challenge. Once you've finished with all of the challenges you want to do, you can contact us, and we will put your stamps together into a passport for you to display on your profile.

In order to help our moderators put together passports, please post a comment to the day's challenge on LiveJournal, letting us know that you completed the challenge. If you've posted your challenge entry publicly, please include a link so that other participants can read your work! However, remember that you don't have to post your work publicly in order to collect a stamp for that challenge.

Questions about the event can be directed to the participating archives' moderators at or This is a fandom-wide event, and we welcome other groups who want to participate in this challenge with us. Please contact us at one of the addresses above so that we can send challenge materials to you before the March 1 start date.

Happy travels!

Volunteer Spotlight: Character of the Month Biography Substitute

Every month, we receive compliments on the comprehensive and thought-provoking character biographies that Oshun puts together for us. These essays are an excellent resource on our site (you can find all of the character bios here) that require a full month of research and writing. Not surprisingly, given what goes into a biography, Oshun occasionally needs a month off. However, we like to offer the Character of the Month column monthly, so in these instances, we request a substitute writer.

Signing up as a character biography substitute is one of many ways you can become involved in the SWG as a volunteer. We contact all biography substitutes when Oshun needs a month off and we don't already have a substitute lined up. Signing up to be a biography substitute doesn't obligate you to write a column for us; it simply means that you'd like to know when we need help. We generally do not request more than two or three substitutes each year, so you shouldn't receive more than two or three emails per year from us about it.

Who can be a substitute? Anyone! We have no special qualifications in place for this job. If you think you might be interested in this job, however, you should familiarize yourself with our expectations for the Character of the Month column.

The biographies themselves are fairly open-ended. You can choose the character you want to write about, as long as that character hasn't already been featured for a biography or claimed by another writer. (The exception to that are the Feanorians, except Feanor and Caranthir, whose only biographies are those created by Dawn for Seven in '07 some time ago. We'd like to add proper biographies for those characters, so they remain available.) The biography should give a basic summary of what the character does in the published book, aimed at an audience who isn't very familiar with The Silmarillion and wants a review of a particular character's traits and deeds for, say, a story where that character plays a minor role. After that, the approach of the bio is up to the author. Past biographies have looked at the character's evolution over the course of a lifetime of Tolkien's writings, how characters represent important themes in the book, how characters support or not various critical perspectives (i.e., feminist approaches to Tolkien's stories), and linguistic perspectives relating to that character. Those certainly aren't the only approaches. As always for essays found in our Reference Library, while personal theories are welcome, they should be backed up with evidence from the texts. Citing sources is required. The Reference Library moderators are available to help authors as needed as well, and all essays are copyedited when we put together the newsletter.

To have your name added to the biography substitute list or learn more, please contact us at Thank you to all of our Reference Library columnists and volunteers who keep this section of the site ever-growing with well-researched and thoughtful information for our members and visitors!

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New at the Archive

Completed Works

Driftwood by pandemonium_213 [Teens] (8870 words)
Summary: When mortal fishermen rescue a half-drowned elf-man from the northern sea, Elrond's help is requested. Elrond travels to the village of Mousehole, hard against Lindon's northern border, to find the recovering survivor who tells Elrond of his background and his mission, which promises to bring the innovations and wonders of Aman to Lindon. Elrond is intrigued as he attempts to discover just who this mysterious fellow is.

Love's Persistence by IgnobleBard [Teens] (2065 words)
Summary: In the bleak midwinter Haldir awaits a special visitor.

Maglor and the Twin Stars by tinni [General] (3023 words)
Summary: A series of stories about Maglor and the twin stars: Elrond and Elros.

Malaise by Levade [General] (1686 words)
Summary: A rather grumpy Elrond, Glorfindel, a tent, large puddle and a High King with a quirky sense of humour.

Poor Visibility by Himring [Teens] (1190 words)
Summary: On his first visit to Barad Eithel after the Dagor Bragollach, Maedhros believes he has lost Fingon's friendship. He encounters Morwen and talks to her about Beren.

Surviving the Sack of Doriath by tinni [General] (5878 words)
Summary: How Elured and Elurin survived the sack of Doriath.

When Sorrow Sang by Ellynn [Teens] (1051 words)
Summary: What did Mandos hear, see and feel while listening to Luthien's song?

Works in Progress

Ambarussa by Silver Trails [Adult]
Summary: Did Amras really die when Fëanor and his sons burned the ships in Losgar?.
Chapters added this month: Chapter 5.

Burning Bright by by Keiliss [Adult]
Summary: The outbreak of war in Eregion and the hiding of the Rings of Power as experienced by a musician, a lord with an agenda set beyond the sea, an exiled princess and an elf with an uneasy conscience. Cameos by Durin the Deathless and Annatar, the Giver of not always welcome Gifts.
Chapters added this month: Part 3/11 and Part 4/11.

Chasing Mirages by Russandol [Adult] †
Summary: A 'what if' tale of darkness, light, love and betrayal over the Ages of Eä.
Chapter added this month: Treason.

Elegy for Númenor by elfscribe [Adult] †
Summary: Chronicles the last days of Númenor from the time Sauron "surrenders" to Ar-Pharazôn to the fall of the empire.
Chapter added this month: Chapter 19 - Love in the Shadows.

Full of Wisdom and Perfect in Beauty by Gadira † [Adult]
Summary: The History of the Downfall, from Ar-Sakalthôr´s accession to Ar-Pharazôn´s Armada. Long saga. (Rating for possible future transgressions).RESUMED:The friendship of two boys is set against a tangle of complicated interests. End of the Fifth Arc..
Chapters added this month: The Fire Altar, Piercing the Darkness and Weaving Threads.

In Darkness Bound by Fiondil [Teens]
Summary: In the aftermath of the Darkening, three kings search for meaning in the midst of tragedy. One seeks absolution; another, vengeance, while the third merely endeavors to salvage what he can from the disaster and protect his people from future harm. All may find what they are looking for, though not necessarily in the way they expect, for, as always, the Valar have their own agenda. 
Chapter added this month: Chapter 37: The Ingaran’s Ambassador , Chapter 38: First Impressions, Chapter 39: At the Court of Tirion, Chapter 40: The Prince Returns , Chapter 41: Amilessi, Chapter 42: Of Births and Betrothals, Chapter 43: Seeds of Betrayal and Chapter 44: Further Discussions Among the Valar.

Rise Again From Ashes by Independence1776 [Teens]
Summary: After spending millennia wandering Middle-earth, Maglor returns to Valinor, where he attempts to adjust to both his Valar-imposed restrictions and living once more with the Eldar.
Chapter added this month: Chapter 22 and Chapter 23.

THE GREAT TALES OF BELERIAND by Chilled in Hithlum [General]
Summary: Ongoing Screenplays covering Professor Tolkien's epic tales
Chapter added this month: Chapter 11.

The Shipwright Shrugs by Kitt Otter [General]
Summary: Short whatnots and nonsense about Círdan, spanning from Cuiviénen to Forever.
Chapters added this month: 4 – Hunting by Number.

The Singer's Girl by Lady MSM [Teens]
Summary: Andril didn't mean to get involved in all this, really. Is it her fault that an exiled prince and his family are living two miles away from her village? And is it her fault she's got a weakness for talkative, musical boys? A sort of romantic dramedy..
Chapters added this month: Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.

The Unspoken by Elfique [Teens]
Summary: Many things remain unspoken, the reason for Glorfindel's apparent batchelorhood being one of them. A five part series of vignettes that seeks to explore this.
Chapter added this month: Part II.

Warping Arda by Clodia [General]
Summary: A collection of drabbles, mostly written for the LJ comm Tolkien_Weekly.
Chapter added this month: Adrift in the Ages.

Short Works

Lilac by Himring [Teens] (192 words)
Summary: An attempt at interior decoration leads to something else. Fingon/Maedhros. Virtually fat-free and not too many calories. I hope.

The Song by Himring [General](127 words)
Summary: Yes, that song.


An Anthology of Middle-Earth by tinni [General] (719 words)
Summary: A collection of poems I wrote about various Silmarillion characters.

Library of Tirion

Fell Fire by Finch [General] (1598 words)
Summary: The sad love story of Aegnor, brother of Finrod, and the mortal woman Andreth.
First posted: July 10, 2002.

Flawed and Fair by Tehta [General] (32273 words)
Summary: When Aredhel leaves Gondolin, Ecthelion is part of her escort. During the journey, he will have to deal with Finwe's grandchild, spitting Sindar, orcs, unlight, giant spiders -- and his unnatural feelings for Glorfindel. Slash, spiky humour.
First published: January 27, 2004.

Grace by lanyon [General](5098 words)
Summary: If Quendi are going to live in the Modern Day, someone should teach them how not to break hearts. Featuring Fingon, the apparently Valiant.
First published September 7, 2004.

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Character of the Month Biography

Eärendil the Mariner


In terms of his significance within Tolkien’s legendarium Eärendil the Mariner, sometimes called Eärendil the Blessed (1), deserves and could easily occupy far more research time and space that this biography provides. His tale is one among those of Tolkien’s principle characters which is most steeped in timeless and often repeated mythic themes that transcend national and cultural boundaries. He personifies the themes of the quest hero, the father of his people, the savior when others have tried and failed, and as a unifier of disparate peoples (in his case, the Noldor, Sindar and the great Houses of the Edain of the First Age). Notwithstanding his participation in the War of Wrath, the archetypal characteristics of Eärendil are based more upon the hero as voyager and explorer than the hero as warrior and combatant. Although, of course, raw physical courage is as necessary for Eärendil as it is in the case of Fingon, for example. But the warrior hero is more often characterized principally by pride and a culturally determined definition of honor, whereas the voyager hero is motivated by curiosity about the unknown and/or the challenge presented by the seemingly impossible.

In the context of Tolkien’s created world, Eärendil represents the future and past. He is the ancestor of characters whose actions will be recounted in later tales and simultaneously symbolizes the links to the history of the Elder days, to that of the Sindar, the self-declared lords of Middle-earth before the return of the Noldor, to that of the exiled Noldor, young and impetuous, entering into a barely remembered or as yet not experienced wild land to find and befriend the second-born of the Children of Ilúvatar (the first mortal men). Most dramatically Eärendil becomes the savior who is said to become an actual star in the firmament whence he is to serve as an inspiration and a guide to his descendants. Clyde Kilby, Tolkien scholar, says that

The Rings is a world and one containing its own myths and legends from the immemorial past. The star most loved by the elves is that of Eärendil, the mariner who long before had made his perilous way from Middle-earth to Valinor and there heard things too sacred for mortal lands and therefore was set to sail his ship as a star. (2)

The intent of this biographical essay is not to provide a discussion of all of the above literary themes but to present the basic facts about Eärendil and the most significant sources of information for those who wish to pursue further research.

Tolkien summarizes:

He [Eärendil] is important as the person who brings the Silmarillion to its end, and as providing in his offspring the main links to and persons in the tales of later Ages. His function, as a representative of both Kindreds, Elves and Men, is to find a sea-passage back to the Land of the Gods, and as ambassador persuade them to take thought again for the Exiles, to pity them, and rescue them from the Enemy. (3)

Therefore, it is fitting that Eärendil is best remembered by the average reader as the father of Elrond and Elros, the so-called half-elven beings who connect within Tolkien’s unbroken storyline the fates of Elves and Men. Eärendil is the son of the mortal man Tuor of the House of Hador of Dor-lómin and the Noldorin princess Idril, daughter of Turgon, High King of the Noldor and ruler of the hidden city of Gondolin. Through his father, Eärendil received the blood of the greatest of the noble houses of the Edain. ("The Men of the Three Houses throve and multiplied, but greatest among them was the house of Hador Goldenhead, peer of Elven-lords" [4]) And through the heritage of his mother Idril, Eärendil became the sole surviving conduit of the blood of the illustrious Finwë, first king of the Noldor, in the person of Elven-lord Elrond as well as in the mortal scions of Elrond's brother Elros, the intrepid descendants of Númenor who were to participate in the legendary events of the Third Age as recounted in the saga of The Lord of the Rings and who, at long last, succeed the Elves as the lords and stewards of Middle-earth.

The name of Eärendil is one of the very few Tolkien admitted to borrowing directly from Saxon literature: there, as Earendel or Orendel or Horvandillus (obviously also equivalent to Tolkien's Sun-Maiden, Urwendi), he is still the Morning Star, an object of hymns of praise . . . But in the same Saxon sources, Orendel is the father of Shakespeare's Hamlet (Amlodhi) . . . (5)

Tolkien's own explanation of his creation and the choice of the name Eärendil is eloquent and, to this reader at least, does not simply reflect the importance of the Professor's philological background to his work, but is engagingly representative of the aesthetic sensibility that lies behind his specialization.

The most important name in this connexion is Eärendil. This name is in fact (as is obvious) derived from A-S [Anglo-Saxon] éarendel. When first studying A-S professionally (1913) – I had done so as a boyish hobby when supposed to be learning Greek and Latin – I was struck by the great beauty of this word (or name), entirely coherent with the normal style of A-S, but euphonic to a peculiar degree in that pleasing but not 'delectable' language. Also its form strongly suggests that it is in origin a proper name and not a common noun. This is borne out by the obviously related forms in other Germanic languages; from which amid the confusions and debasements of late traditions it at least seems certain that it belonged to astronomical-myth, and was the name of a star or star-group. To my mind the A-S uses seem plainly to indicate that it was a star presaging the dawn (at any rate in English tradition): that is what we now call Venus: the morning-star as it may be seen shining brilliantly in the dawn, before the actual rising of the Sun. That is at any rate how I took it. Before 1914 I wrote a 'poem' upon Earendel who launched his ship like a bright spark from the havens of the Sun. I adopted him into my mythology – in which he became a prime figure as a mariner, and eventually as a herald star, and a sign of hope to men. Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima (II 329) 'hail Earendil brightest of Stars' is derived at long remove from Éala Éarendel engla beorhtast. But the name could not be adopted just like that: it had to be accommodated to the Elvish linguistic situation, at the same time as a place for this person was made in legend. From this, far back in the history of 'Elvish', which was beginning, after many tentative starts in boyhood, to take definite shape at the time of the name's adoption, arose eventually (a) the C.E. stem *AYAR 'Sea', primarily applied to the Great Sea of the West, lying between Middle-earth, and Aman the Blessed Realm of the Valar; and (b) the element, or verbal base (N)DIL, 'to love, be devoted to' – describing the attitude of one to a person, thing, course or occupation to which one is devoted for its own sake. (6)

The inspiration for and the creation of the character of Eärendil and the circumstances of his life dates back to Tolkien's earliest ponderings upon his invented world and its history. The remarks above and below were written as a draft response to a letter, never sent but retained by the author who felt they held valuable information relating to not simply the origins of the name, but the character and his history and his importance in relation to his life-long fictional work as well.

Earendil became a character in the earliest written (1916-17) of the major legends: The Fall of Gondolin, the greatest of the Pereldar 'Half-elven', son of Tuor of the most renowned House of the Edain, and Idril daughter of the King of Gondolin. Tuor had been visited by Ulmo one of the greatest Valar, the lord of seas and waters, and sent by him to Gondolin. The visitation had set in Tuor's heart an insatiable sea-longing, hence the choice of name for his son, to whom this longing was transmitted. For the linking of this legend with the other major legends: the making of the Silmarils by Fëanor, their seizure by Morgoth, and the recapture of one only from his crown by Beren and Lúthien, and the coming of this into Earendil's possession so that his voyages westward were at last successful, see 1204-6 and 246-249. (The attempt of Eärendil to cross Ëar was against the Ban of the Valar prohibiting all Men to attempt to set foot on Aman, and against the later special ban prohibiting the Exiled Elves, followers of the rebellious Fëanor, from return: referred to in Galadriel's lament. The Valar listened to the pleading of Eärendil on behalf of Elves and Men (both his kin), and sent a great host to their aid. Morgoth was overthrown and extruded from the World (the physical universe). The Exiles were allowed to return — save for a few chief actors in the rebellion of whom at the time of the L. R. only Galadriel remained. But Eärendil, being in part descended from Men, was not allowed to set foot on Earth again, and became a Star shining with the light of the Silmaril, which contained the last remnant of the unsullied light of Paradise, given by the Two Trees before their defilement and slaying by Morgoth. These legends are deliberately touched on in Vol. I as being the chief ones in the background of The L.R., dealing with the relations of Elves and Men and Valar (the angelic Guardians) and therefore the chief backward links if (as I then hoped) the Silmarillion was published. (7)

Tolkien’s own footnotes within the two paragraphs cited immediately above have been omitted for the sake of brevity. They are largely, but far from entirely, of a technical nature relating to his study of Anglo-Saxon and the development of his Elvish languages. They may be found in the original text, if the reader so desires.

It is fascinating to read that Eärendil who is famous as a voyager and sailor is named as he is in reflection of a hunger for the sea on the part of his father. These are characteristics which will be passed down by Eärendil primarily through his son Elros's descendants, who become the Númenórean explorers and traders. They return to Middle-earth in the Second Age as both benefactors and exploiters and their progeny participate in a leadership capacity in fighting the war that will end with the removal the threat of Morgoth's lieutenant Sauron against the peoples of Middle-earth.

This is the point where the story of the role of the Hobbits in the destruction of the One Ring seems a bit strained and forced to this reader. In looking forward to the production of The Hobbit as a film, one's thoughts might be drawn to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and even for some to the context in which Tolkien created his novel The Lord of the Rings in response to his publisher's expressed desire for a sequel to The Hobbit.

Ryder W. Miller notes that

Director Peter Jackson and company have successfully brought much of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary classic The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) to the big screen. The movies have been spectacular, majestic and epic. But much, including the historical environmental context, is not clearly explicated due to the necessary simplification of bringing the epic tale to the big screen. (8)

His remark reminds this critic of how much of the vast collection of background notes and invented history of Tolkien's universe do not make it into his most read work. Readers who know that history well have an enriched experience of those books, which surpasses the imagination of those who have enjoyed The Lord of the Rings, but know very little of the context of that story line in the broader scheme of Tolkien's world. The Hobbit-centered focus of the completed epic novel may cause the story to appear at times as though it comes close to falling into the didactic and that the polishing of the novel without the inclusion of more details of Tolkien's world history results in the creation of an unnatural division between the vast and rich legendarium upon which it rests and the narrative of The Lord of the Rings. One might see the earlier parts of the grand adventure--the tales of The Silmarillion--as bursting forth from the writer's pen with the restless energy of a young man and The Lord of the Rings, the epic novel of his maturity, bearing the earmarks of the stodgier, more conservative years of late middle-age. The fact remains, however, that Tolkien never lost his interest in that world in its explicit details and his commitment to seeing The Silmarillion published. He continued to refine and add to that history until his death.

Like many of Tolkien's earliest characters, Eärendil's place within that expanded and revised world is never challenged. The method of presenting this fictional history as the work of various authors permitted Tolkien to simultaneously take multiple points of view and to allow different interpretations of his work to co-exist. One is free to look at Eärendil from different angles.

Jared Lobdell emphasizes the scope of Tolkien’s writing about his world, describing it as an Edwardian adventure story (which might have the far corners of the British empire as its setting) written from the sensibility of a philologist, which “stretches and stretches,” (9) not unlike the manner in which the story of Eärendil touches the Lord of the Rings. One might see the stretching of Tolkien’s tale as encompassing years rather than geography per se, the connection of the Ages of Arda from the First Age through the Third. Dr. Lobdell quotes Sam in The Two Towers referring to the connection between the events of the Third Age and the preceding majestic tales of The Silmarillion.

‘But that's a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it -- and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We've got -- you've got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we're in the same tale still! It's going on. Don't the great tales never end? '

'No, they never end as tales,' said Frodo. `But the people in them come, and go when their part's ended. Our part will end later -- or sooner.' (10)

(For those who may not in the past have had much interest in pursuing Tolkien’s expanded history of his world, the above passage, in the words of Sam, is Tolkien’s version of a sign post, letting you know that The Lord of the Rings is simply the continuation and expansion of one aspect of the mythology which comprises his life’s work.)

Eärendil is one of the few characters of The Silmarillion to receive an explicit year of birth within the narrative structure of the writings. In his case the year is First Age 503. We are even told in the birth announcement that he was not surprisingly a lovely baby.

In the spring of the year after was born in Gondolin Eärendil Halfelven, the son of Tuor and Idril Celebrindal; and that was five hundred years and three since the coming of the Noldor to Middle-earth. Of surpassing beauty was Eärendil, for a light was in his face as the light of heaven, and he had the beauty and the wisdom of the Eldar and the strength and hardihood of the Men of old; and the Sea spoke ever in his ear and heart, even as with Tuor his father. (11)

One can also surmise that Eärendil is a blond, as his mother and father were. Both the House of Hador and the Vanyar were famous for their light colored hair. (Idril's mother Elenwë was Vanyarin, as was her great grandmother Indis.) As a young child, Eärendil survives the fall of Gondolin and the obsession of Maeglin son of Aredhel with his mother Idril.

Tuor sought to rescue Idril from the sack of the city, but Maeglin had laid hands on her, and on Eärendil; and Tuor fought with Maeglin on the walls, and cast him far out, and his body as it fell smote the rocky slopes of Amon Gwareth thrice ere it pitched into the flames below. Then Tuor and Idril led such remnants of the people of Gondolin as they could gather in the confusion of the burning down the secret way which Idril had prepared . . . . (12)

Finding himself among the community at the mouths of Sirion of Elven exiles, émigrés from disparate disasters, Eärendil encountered and married Elwing the daughter of Dior. There is something poignant about the union of the two part-mortal, part-Elven survivors, one of the fall of Gondolin and the other of the fall of Doriath.

Bright Eärendil was then lord of the people that dwelt nigh to Sirion's mouths; and he took to wife Elwing the fair, and she bore to him Elrond and Elros, who are called the Half-elven. Yet Eärendil could not rest, and his voyages about the shores of the Hither Lands eased not his unquiet. Two purposes grew in his heart, blended as one in longing for the wide Sea: he sought to sail thereon, seeking after Tuor and Idril who returned not; and he thought to find perhaps the last shore, and bring ere he died the message of Elves and Men to the Valar in the West, that should move their hearts to pity for the sorrows of Middle-earth. (13)

While Eärendil is at sea, the Fëanorians attack the Havens of Sirion to which Elwing had brought the Silmaril, the one which Beren and Luthien had taken from the crown of Morgoth at great cost and which she had held onto at her escape from Doriath. Rather than relinquish the Silmaril, Elwing jumps into the sea with it, leaving their young sons at the mercy of Maedhros and Maglor. Instead of drowning and losing the Silmaril in the ocean, Elwing is transformed into a bird and does not lose the jewel.

On a time of night Eärendil at the helm of his ship saw her come towards him, as a white cloud exceeding swift beneath the moon, as a star over the sea moving in strange course, a pale flame on wings of storm. And it is sung that she fell from the air upon the timbers of Vingilot, in a swoon, nigh unto death for the urgency of her speed, and Eärendil took her to his bosom; but in the morning with marvelling eyes he beheld his wife in her own form beside him with her hair upon his face, and she slept.

Great was the sorrow of Eärendil and Elwing for the ruin of the havens of Sirion, and the captivity of their sons, and they feared that they would be slain; but it was not so. (14)

According to the version in the published Silmarillion, Maglor rescues Elros and Elrond from the ruins of the Havens of Sirion and raises them. Meanwhile, Eärendil and Elwing reach Valinor and Eärendil goes before the Valar and presents the story of the suffering in Middle-earth and the threat from Morgoth. The two are the only persons of Middle-earth to set foot in Valinor since the departure of the Noldor.

The remainder of the chapter of the published Silmarillion, “Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath,” details the meeting of Eärendil with the Valar, their ruling on the mortality of the half-Elven couple (“Elwing chose to be judged among the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar, because of Lúthien; and for her sake Eärendil chose alike, though his heart was rather with the kindred of Men and the people of his father” [15]) and the Valar’s decision to send their might to aid the peoples of Middle-earth to overthrow Morgoth. It seems a shame to rewrite it here in detail since it is short and among the most cogent and readable pieces of text in The Silmarillion.

The most often referred to passage in discussions of the events of this period is the ruling of the Valar relating to the choice of the Peredhel.

But when all was spoken, Manwë gave judgement, and he said: 'In this matter the power of doom is given to me. The peril that he ventured for love of the Two Kindreds shall not fall upon Eärendil, nor shall it fall upon Elwing his wife, who entered into peril for love of him; but they shall not walk again ever among Elves or Men in the Outer Lands. And this is my decree concerning them: to Eärendil and to Elwing, and to their sons, shall be given leave each to choose freely to which kindred their fates shall be joined, and under which kindred they shall be judged.' (16)

Another passage is cited below for its sheer poetic power relates to the transformation of Eärendil’s ship Vingilot from an earthly to a heavenly ship.

Now when first Vingilot was set to sail in the seas of heaven, it rose unlooked for, glittering and bright; and the people of Middle-earth beheld it from afar and wondered, and they took it for a sign, and called it Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope. And when this new star was seen at evening, Maedhros spoke to Maglor his brother, and he said: 'Surely that is a Silmaril that shines now in the West?'

And Maglor answered: 'If it be truly the Silmaril which we saw cast into the sea that rises again by the power of the Valar, then let us be glad; for its glory is seen now by many, and is yet secure from all evil.' Then the Elves looked up, and despaired no longer; but Morgoth was filled with doubt.

Yet it is said that Morgoth looked not for the assault that came upon him from the West; for so great was his pride become that he deemed that none would ever again come with open war against him. Moreover he thought that he had for ever estranged the Noldor from the Lords of the West, and that content in their blissful realm the Valar would heed no more his kingdom in the world without; for to him that is pitiless the deeds of pity are ever strange and beyond reckoning. But the host of the Valar prepared for battle; and beneath their white banners marched the Vanyar, the people of Ingwë, and those also of the Noldor who never departed from Valinor, whose leader was Finarfin the son of Finwë. (17)

Eärendil participated in the final battle of the War of Wrath from the decks of Vingilot without ever leaving the sky. Along the side of Thorondor and his eagles, Eärendil dealt the final blow that killed the dragon Ancalagon and cast it into Thangorodrim. One cannot help but wonder if Elros and Elrond were present at that last battle of the War of Wrath, and, if so, if they were aware that they looked upon their father, when he cast the definitive blow in that epic battle.

Some of the earliest versions of the tales included in the history of Arda grew less grim with the passage of time and their reworking. Whether Eärendil’s story has a happy ending or not remains open to the interpretation of the reader. He is granted victory in his quests. He does reach the land of the gods. He is granted their assistance in freeing the peoples of Middle-earth from the threat of enslavement by Morgoth and, at the request of his wife, receives the gift of the quasi-immortal life of the Eldar. The latest version of the tale of Eärendil allows him return to Middle-earth to help overthrow Morgoth in the War of Wrath (18). He is also allowed to reunite with his wife Elwing, if only temporarily, that is part of time.

For many readers, however, his endless voyage in the form of a star across the sky might seem a less than happy ending. This version harkens back to the earliest versions of the Mariner’s tale in one of the drafts of the poem of Earendel printed in The Book of Lost Tales, which concludes with a tone of heartrending understated melancholy.

Then Earendel fled from that Shipman dread
Beyond the dark earth's pale,
Back under the rim of the Ocean dim,
And behind the world set sail;
And he heard the mirth of the folk of earth
And the falling of their tears,
As the world dropped back in a cloudy wrack
On its journey down the years.

Then he glimmering passed to the starless vast
As an isled lamp at sea,
And beyond the ken of mortal men
Set his lonely errantry,
Tracking the Sun in his galleon
Through the pathless firmament,
Till his light grew old in abysses cold
And his eager flame was spent. (19)

Tolkien intends that reader accept Eärendil unquestionably as a hero and permitted him the accomplishment of the goals that had driven his life. But not for Eärendil is the orthodox happy ending. He loses his sons in their childhood and, even after reunification with his wife, is not allowed to live out his life in peace but is condemned to forever travel the night skies “[t]ill his light grew old in abysses cold [a]nd his eager flame was spent,” giving light and encouragement to others. Then again perhaps this is not such a terrible fate for the tireless voyager, the intrepid sailor, who would not necessarily want to spend his days in a tower surrounded by birds, but rather would prefer to be sailing in an ocean of space far more vast even than the seas of Middle-earth.

Works Cited

  1. The Silmarillion, "Of the Coming of Men into the West."
  2. Kilby, Clyde S., "Meaning in the Lord of the Rings," Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, ed. Mark R. Hillegas (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979).
  3. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 131 To Milton Waldman.
  4. The Silmarillion, "Of the Coming of Men into the West."
  5. Hoffman, Curtiss, The Seven Story Tower: A Mythic Journey through Space and Time (New York: Insight Books, 1999).
  6. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 297 Drafts for a letter to 'Mr Rang.' The letter drafted in August of 1967 was never sent in this form. Tolkien, however, retained the notes for future reference.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Miller, Ryder W., "The Missing Historical Environmental Context of Peter Jackson's the Lord of the Rings," Electronic Green Journal 1.20 (2004), Questia, Web, 31 Jan. 2011. (This writer’s work manifests his interest in both science fiction/fantasy and the natural sciences.)
  9. Lobdell, Jared, Tolkien's World of the Rings: Language, Religion and Adventure (Chicago: Open Court, 2003).
  10. The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol."
  11. The Silmarillion, "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin."
  12. Ibid.
  13. The Silmarillion, "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath."
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. The Book of Lost Tales II, The Tale of Earendel.

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Linguistic Foolery

If you have no idea what that word means, read this article.

Darth Fingon

Chances are, when somebody mentions Morgoth's Ring and, in particular, Laws and Customs Among the Eldar, most people's thoughts will automatically turn to the rules we all know and hate love about marriage, child-rearing, and the personal lives of Elves. But within that text are three or so pages devoted to naming. And within those three pages is a concept that I personally consider to be the most important when it comes to creating names for your characters. The concept is called lámatyávë.

Lámatyávë is described therein as the 'individual pleasure in the sounds and forms of words' (1). Literally, it means 'sound taste', from lama (sound) and tyávë (taste). Yes: the idea of a person's linguistic preference is so important to the Noldor that they have a specific word for it. It is treated as very serious business.

What this means, then, for those of us who need to name new Elves, is that paying close attention to how words sound together is an integral part of the process when it comes to creating those names. I stated in an earlier article (Not Just the Son of That Guy: creating effective names for original characters) that sound is more important than meaning. I'll state it again here, and back up that assertion with a statistic I made up just now. If you give an original character a name comprising two random words that make no sense together but sound great, the vast majority of readers will neither notice nor care. But if you give your original character a name with a very relevant meaning which, unfortunately, sounds like it might be a dirty word in Black Speech, everyone will notice and care. Take Fingon, for example. Despite the revelation that it means 'hair shout' (2), everyone still thinks that this is a fine name.

Teleporno, on the other hand, is a perfect example of how a perfectly good meaning can end up being the butt of many, many snide remarks.

The ideal outcome in creating a character name is to find a balance between sound and meaning. The tricky part is that most writers, when naming an original character, have a meaning already in mind and try to find the Elvish words to fit it. I receive a lot of emails asking for help with Elvish names, and almost all of those emails say something along the lines of 'I need a name that means _______'. Sometimes a literal translation into the language of choice works. Usually it doesn't. I have this theory that Tolkien specifically made all the good Sindarin words incompatible in order to thwart fanfiction writers trying to invent original characters.

Here is where your own lámatyávë comes into play. You will need to compromise in order to create a name that both sounds good and has a decent meaning, and it will take some work. While working on your name, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Most important of all: does it sound silly? Stupid? Weird? Awkward? Say the name out loud. Sometimes if looks fine in pixels but proves to be a disaster when spoken.
  2. Is it too long? Four syllables is the standard maximum for names in both Sindarin and Quenya. Sindarin names are frequently shorter: two or three syllables.
  3. Is it hard to pronounce in any way? Any unwieldy clusters of letters? You don't want anything that takes a few tries to get it right.
  4. Does it sound alright when pronounced in all possible ways? You have no control over how readers will say names in their heads, so make sure yours is good from all angles.
  5. Does it sound too close to anything that might lead to a potentially annoying or embarrassing association? (*cough* Teleporno)

A 'yes' answer to any of those questions above should be taken to mean 'try again'. Often changing one word element will be enough. Instead of 'skilled soldier' (Maendog, which will sound like either Mine Dog or Main Dog depending on how readers pronounce it, and both options are equally goofy), try something a little more poetic like 'skilled heart' (Maengur: not bad, but not great), 'skilled flame' (Maellach: also not bad, though may have unwanted associations with Maalox or Morlocks) or even 'skilled brother' (Maendor: not terribly original in either meaning nor sound, but to me seems the most authentic and the best fit with other Tolkien names).

In the end, always go with what sounds right to you. It's your story, and therefore your lámatyávë (and that of your character) that matters. If the name that sounds best happens to mean 'hair shout', run with it. I make up names by sound all the time and nobody's called me out on my BS (yet). Sometimes it's better to go with a nonsensical Hair Shout than a well intended Silver Tree.

Works Cited

  1. Morgoth's Ring, 215.
  2. Peoples of Middle-earth, 345.

Have a question or item you'd like to see discussed in a future instalment of Linguistic Foolery? Send an email to and share your ideas.

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Current Challenge

When the Storm breaks...

No matter where we turn to these days, a storm seems to have an impact on our lives. We either face it head on, or seek shelter until the worst has passed. The word storm can both be taken literally or figuratively of course. As the writer, you can approach this from many angles. Imagine yourself:

There is a multitude of possibilities to explore and we challenge you to find one.

Challenges Revisited: One True Love

Many of us are guilty of it: that one pairing that captures our fantasies, the love story that Tolkien never wrote...but we just know it should have been. It torments our thoughts, expresses itself in awkward behavior in our otherwise well-behaved characters, and many times, goes unwritten for shame. It is wholly unjustified by the canon or is just too weird. Maybe the characters lived too far apart in time or geography to be brought together; maybe their differences were insurmountable to friendship much less romance. The characters might be different races, different species, or the same gender.

But for this challenge, we want you to forget all of your qualms, cast aside your inhibitions, and write your one true pairing.

No matter how odd, no matter how wrong it feels, share in a story why this pairing captivates you. Whether it is an AU (alternate universe) pairing as common as Maedhros and Fingon or as strange as Galadriel and Aulë (or even stranger!), your goal for this challenge is to build a story around the premise of love between two characters that we never see in Tolkien's canon. Het or slash is acceptable, but both characters in the pairing must be canon characters (although only one needs to be from The Silmarillion) and the story should be more than just a raucous love scene. Create characters and build a story that convinces your readers that these characters belong together, and use love scenes to advance your plot and characterization.

Quote of the Month

"I think that when we look for love courageously, it reveals itself, and we wind up attracting even more love. If one person really wants us, everyone does. But if we're alone, we become even more alone. Life is strange."
- Paulo Coelho

Want more challenges? Check out our complete challenge listing for more than three 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!

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Around the World and Web

Naice a Nilme: Podquest

Naice a Nilme's birthday contest is starting early! The archive now allows you to add podfic and what better way to introduce a new feature than with a contest: Post podfic on Naice a Nilme and earn yourself one of five prizes! This contest will run till March 1st, so there is plenty of time to sit down and record one of your stories! More info about the Podquest contest can be found here.

LotR Genfic Community: February Challenge--Hearts and Flowers

The February Challenge will have the theme "Hearts and Flowers". Each participating writer will be given three elements: a type of love (puppy, true, etc.), a type of heart (joyful, broken, etc.) and a flower. (The flower will also have its meaning in the language of flowers, but that does not have to be included.)

The February challenge stories will be due the weekend of Friday, February 11. For more information or to request your elements, please leave a comment to this post.

A Long Expected Contest (ALEC): February Challenge -- Warm Feelings

The theme for February's challenge is "Warm Feelings." At a time when the weather outside can be quite chilling, we all enjoy the sense of security and satisfaction that arises when those around us are in harmony with us. This month's challenge is to explore the many ways warm feelings both can be expressed and influence the lives of loved ones both near and far.

Entries are due February 26. Please see the ALEC website for more information.

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