Newsletter: May 2009

Table of Contents

SWG News

Revisiting the Status of Our Message Archive on Yahoo! Groups

Last year at this time, the group was asked to vote on whether or not to open the message archive of our Yahoo! mailing list to the public. Until that point, only members of the Yahoo! group could read posted messages, and it was our feeling that the discussions and research being presented on the group was valuable to the Tolkien community beyond the members of the mailing list. The group voted overwhelmingly to open the message archive to the public but did so under the condition that the topic be revisited in a year, any problems or concerns addressed then, and the archive possibly returned to members-only.

Time flies. It's been a year, so it's time to reopen the discussion for those who wish to comment on whether or not the Yahoo! message archive should remain permanently* available for public reading. Members of the Yahoo! group are invited to participate in a poll on the group. If you have any questions or concerns that cannot be neatly contained with radio buttons, or if you are not in the Yahoo! group but would like to share an opinion, please feel free to contact us at We will take all opinions into consideration in deciding whether to leave the message archive open to the public.

* "Permanently" means that we will not reopen this question again unless there is reason to do so. If the public archive proves to be problematic, or if members raise concerns with having the archive public, then it will by all means be discussed and possibly returned to members-only.

New in References: "The Stars That Varda Made" by Kitt Otter

We've added an essay to our Reference Library: "The Stars That Varda Made" by Kitt Otter. Kitt provides a thorough analysis of Tolkien's published sources to provide ideas on how the stars, planets, and constellations described in his texts correspond with those that we can view in our own night sky.

The Elves are the people of the stars; the very same stars they woke under can be seen by anyone who glimpses upward at night. The stars are central in the Professor’s mythology. Some knowledge of the night sky is essential to understanding the mythology and Elves in particular, be you a fanfiction writer or plain Tolkien fanatic. Even though Elvish names for stars and constellations abound in his work, the Professor was often vague about their identities. I’ve been an amateur astronomer for some years and my curiosity finally led me to do the research (and guesswork) to match the Elvish names to their likely stars. Basically this essay is a list of possibilities. Read more ...

New in FAQs

In April's newsletter, we considered the question of what, exactly, counts as "Silmfic." This is doubtlessly our MFAQ--most frequently asked question--and is more difficult to answer than one would think. The moderators have conspired to come up with an answer to this question for the FAQ, and Rhapsody has kindly written a summary of our discussion to answer this question. Please find the new FAQ here and, remember, that questions about the suitability of works for our writing archive are always welcome at

Last Call for B2MeM 2009 Marathon Winners!

If you wrote for all thirty-one prompts for this year's Back to Middle-earth Month challenge, then you should have received an email from our moderators this month, directing you as to how to collect your icons and banners for your accomplishment. If you did not receive an email from us, please contact us at

As a reminder, to be eligible as a "marathon winner,"

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Character of the Month Biography



This biography could be entitled: “Another Wife, Another Untold Story.” There is little detail, and a certain measure of confusion, relating to the biography of Elenwë, the wife of Turgon and mother of Idril Celebrindal. Among the few things we know of her from the narrative of the events of the First Age and earlier are that she married Turgon and bore him a daughter, and is alone named among the wives of the Princes of the Noldor as having followed her husband to Middle-earth. The first reference we have to her in the published Silmarillion is the following:

they dared to pass into the bitterest North; and finding no other way they endured at last the terror of the Helcaraxë and the cruel hills of ice. Few of the deeds of the Noldor thereafter surpassed that desperate crossing in hardihood or woe. There Elenwë the wife of Turgon was lost, and many others perished also; and it was with a lessened host that Fingolfin set foot at last upon the Outer Lands. (1)

Elenwë is next spoken of when Aredhel recounts the stories of her people to her son Maeglin before they leave Eöl to come to Gondolin.

All these things he [Maeglin] laid to heart, but most of all that which he heard of Turgon, and that he had no heir; for Elenwë his wife perished in the crossing of the Helcaraxë, and his daughter Idril Celebrindal was his only child. (2)

The version of the story that Turgon had a wife, named Elenwë who left Aman with the Noldor and was lost on the ice, has a complicated history. Christopher Tolkien says that his father had made a handwritten note in The Annals of Aman saying

that in the crossing of the Helkaraxë 'Turgon's wife was lost and he had then only one daughter and no other heir. Turgon was nearly lost himself in attempts to rescue his wife and he had less love for the Sons of Fëanor than any other'; but Turgon's wife is not named. (3)

The account used in the published Silmarillion, cited above (4), follows from a 1951 manuscript discussed in The War of the Jewels. A newer typed copy of that same manuscript, dating to approximately 1970, along with a carbon of the same, was also consulted by Christopher Tolkien. (Both the original and the carbon of that 1970 manuscript contained markings, occasionally identical and at other times different.) In the 1951 manuscript Tolkien states that “Elenwë his [Turgon’s] wife perished in the crossing of the Helcaraxë” (5). Christopher cites the later typed copy of the same document, with notation, as follows:

Turgon . . . had no heir: for his wife, Alairë, was of the Vanyar and would not forsake Valinor'. On the page of jottings that concludes the abandoned later Tale of Tuor (see Unfinished Tales p. 56) a note which I did not include says that 'Alairë remained in Aman'. That this was the case because she was a Vanya is reminiscent of the story of Amarië, beloved of Felagund, who was a Vanya, 'and was not permitted to go with him into exile' (p. 44, §109). (6)

Christopher Tolkien says that on the two of the three copies of this document, the name Alairë is changed to Anairë (7). He goes on to note that the final determination and substitution of Elenwë as the name of Turgon’s wife in the published version of the Silmarillion

was based on the Elvish genealogies of 1959 (see pp. 229, 350), where Anairë (defined as a Vanya 'who remained in Tuna') was later corrected to 'Elenwë who perished in the Ice'; on the same table at the same time Anairë was entered as the wife of Fingolfin, with the note that she 'remained in Aman'. (8)

The general assumption by most readers that Elenwë, Turgon’s wife, is Vanyarin is still somewhat confusing in light of the multiple shifts and trades of the names and the descriptions of Alairë, Anairë, and Elenwë. The presumption in the published Silmarillion that the wife of Turgon was named Elenwë actually dates back to an earlier document than the one in which she is named Anairë. This is an example of the difficult decisions, based upon multiple, varying and contradictory documents, which Christopher Tolkien had to make to determine the storyline of the published Silmarillion.

A detail often cited in discussions of Elenwë and her demise is that Turgon struggled to rescue her and failed, while succeeding in the rescue of their daughter Idril. This comes from The Shibboleth of Fëanor.

She perished in the crossing of the Ice; and Turgon was thereafter unappeasable in his enmity for Fëanor and his sons. He had himself come near to death in the bitter waters when he attempted to save her and his daughter Itaril, whom the breaking of treacherous ice had cast into the cruel sea. Itaril he saved; but the body of Elenwë was covered in fallen ice. (9)

Itaril in the above paragraph refers to Idril, the daughter of Elenwë and Turgon, and the mother of Eärendil. Christopher Tolkien states in a footnote to The Shibboleth of Fëanor that Turgon’s saving of their daughter Idril had not been referred to earlier (10).

Finally, Elenwë is remembered as the grandmother of Eärendil the Mariner and great-grandmother of Elros and Elrond. The marriage of Turgon and Elenwë links, through their daughter Idril, the House of Finwë of the Noldor to the royalty of the Sindar and the main Houses of the Edain to form the line of the Half-elven, so significant in the history in Tolkien’s mythology. One branch of this line forms part of the ancestry of the Kings of Númenor, which many generations later is linked back to their Elven ancestry through the union of Elrond’s daughter Arwen with Aragorn at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

Works Cited

  1. The Silmarillion, "Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  2. The Silmarillion, "Of Maeglin"
  3. The War of the Jewels, Maeglin
  4. The Silmarillion, "Of Maeglin"
  5. The War of the Jewels, Maeglin
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. The Peoples of Middle-earth, The Shibboleth of Fëanor
  10. Ibid., footnote 40

View past character profiles.
Read all archived stories about Elenwë.

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Linguistic Foolery

Twenty-Two Words You Never Thought Tolkien Would Provide

Darth Fingon

Fair warning: some of the listings herein are of a biological or personal nature and may cause offence to those with delicate sensibilities. If you don't want to read about Elvish wee-wees and hoo-hoos, stop reading now and scroll on by.

You read it correctly. I have assembled here twenty-two words you never thought you'd see on any Elvish wordlist, ranging from silly to vulgar. All of these are found in Tolkien's earliest material: the Qenya and Gnomish Lexicons. Because of this, the words listed here are not necessarily compatible with later Quenya and Sindarin. So you won't want to be using any of these in your fanfiction; they could very well be either wrong or inappropriate in your context. The words are listed for purposes of reference and hilarity only.

One brief digression before we get onto the good stuff. In last month's column about food, I missed two items: tea and sugar. So you can now sleep soundly at night knowing that Elves can drink sweetened tea.

Now, all of the words listed below are from three different publications: Parma Eldalamberon 11 (the Gnomish Lexicon), Parma Eldalamberon 12 (the Qenya Lexicon), and Parma Eldalamberon 13 (Gnomish Lexicon Slips and Early Noldorin Fragments). For citation purposes, they are listed as 11, 12, and 13. A citation of 11-45 means PE11 page 45, in case you want to look it up and make sure I'm not fibbing. A G before the word indicates that it is Gnomish (which later became Sindarin); a Q indicates that the word is Qenya.

22) Drunken (G balfaug 13-138)

Loosely translated, this means 'thirsty in an evil way'. Clearly, somebody has gone overboard and consumed too much wine.

21) Vomit: to vomit (G hich- 13-163, Q qama- 12-76)

This may very well be what happens as a result of the previous word. 'Nausea' is also listed.

20) Feces (Q muk 12-63, G gorn 11-41)

We all knew they did it. We just thought Tolkien was too polite to make up a word for it. Apparently not.

19) Urine (Q mis 12-62, G piglin 11-64)

And, of course, it would be silly to have a word for poop but not for pee.

18) Louse (G gwef 11-45)

Do Elves get lice? I don't see why not. They have a word for 'louse' right here. One more thing to make the Siege of Angband more uncomfortable.

17) Shave: to shave (G thas- 11-72)

You may well ask why Elves needed a word for 'shave'. How's that for a plotbunny?

16) Temple (G alchar 13-109, Q alkar 12-30, Q korda 12-48)

There are actually quite a few religious ideas showing up in the early wordlists, including 'temple', 'shrine', 'sacred fire', 'idol', 'blessed', 'worshipful', and more. These date back to a time when the word Vala was translated as 'god', indicating that, at one time, Tolkien did envision the Elves as having a pagan-style religion.

15) Government (G gomaithri 11-41)

I was hoping to come across a word for 'politician' or 'bureaucrat', but alas I had no luck. This was the best I could find.

14) Lawyer (G fedhirweg 11-34)

This almost made up for the lack of 'politician'. The Qenya Lexicon also has kos(t-): 'legal action' (12-48).

13) Ignorant: to be ignorant (G gwista- 11-46)

Not all Elves are impressive and wise, and they have a specific verb to illustrate this fact.

12) Poverty (Q oise or oiste 12-71)

Nor is Aman a perfect paradise where everyone lives in carefree happiness. Related words from the same root include 'poor' and 'lack'.

11) Bitch (G huil 11-49, Q suni 12-82)

Yes, it's literally a female dog, but in the event that anyone needs a canonical insult, here's proof that the word exists in both major languages.

10) Slave (G guinir 11-43, G drog Q norka 11-31 & 13-142, Q vartyo 12-102)

There are a few different words for 'slave', and they have slightly different meanings. Drog means 'thrall' or 'someone taken into bondage'. Guinir, on the other hand, is related to the words for 'property' and 'chattel' and doesn't have the explicit relationship to having been taken into slavery and forced to do base work that drog does. The Qenya word norka is equivalent to drog, while vartyo means both 'slave' and 'servant'.

(My personal interpretation of this is that one would use drog or norka in reference to Elves captured by Morgoth and forced into slavery, while guinir and vartyo are reserved for socially acceptable household slaves and servants.)

9) Ravish (G maitha- 13-149, Q amapta- 12-34)

The fact that there is a specific word for this in both languages, rather than simply a descriptive phrase, suggests that it happens more often than just the one known example of Morgoth and Arien.

8) Buttocks (G hacha Q hakka 11-47)

This is also glossed as 'the hams', which is somewhat more amusing. It appears to be related to the verb 'to sit down'.

7) Breast / Teat (G tith Q titte 13-154, Q tyetse 12-50)

Tith and titte are not expanded, but tyetse comes from the same root as the verb 'to give suck' and the word for 'tiny baby'.

6) Cunnus (G huch 13-147 & 163)

This appears as part of the expansion of hoith (see #3 below) and then again on its own. The second listing has the word pukku written beside it, which, though unexplained, looks like the Qenya equivalent.

5) Penis (G gwî, gwib 13-162, Q puntl 12-75)

Both gwî and gwib are translated as the Old English teors. Gwî is also listed as membrum virile, and puntl is listed as vir. All of those are just fancy ways of saying penis without actually using the word penis. The difference between gwî and gwib is that gwî is the archaic or poetic word, while gwib is presumably what one would use in everyday life.

That's right. They have a poetic word for it. Interpret that as you will.

Fun side note: the name Mandos is translated in the Gnomish Lexicon as Bandoth Gwî. The Gwî there means something entirely different (it's the Gnomish equivalent to Qenya ), but still. What an unfortunate homonym.

4) Semen (G gwaith 11-44, Q milt 12-61)

I guess if you have words for 'penis' and 'impregnate' (G gwectha-), you kind of need this one, too. The Qenya word is related to 'seed', while the Gnomish word is listed among words for 'male', 'manhood', 'masculinity', etc..

3) Coitus (G hoith 13-147 & 163, Q pukta 12-75, 13-147)

Yes. This word exists.

For some reason, all of the 'personal' words can be found in PE13. Hoith is listed outright, while pukta in PE12 is listed as 'a gloss that can no longer be read'. However, it appears under the root PU(HU) (generate), which also provides putse (baby) and puntl (see #5 above). An expanded description of the word hoith in PE13 confirms pukta as the Qenya equivalent.

The verbs are G hoitha- and Q pukta-, with an additional verb being G hug-. While hoitha- is translated as 'to have intercourse with; to marry', hug- means 'to copulate'.

The second listing of hoith in PE13 gives the meaning as 'coitus (one act)' and provides an alternate Qenya spelling of puhta (which is more in line with later Quenya spelling conventions). Beneath this is huis: coire (trans.), futuere, and the Q form pukse. So that gives us a third Gnomish verb: huis-.

2) Consort (G hauthwaid 11-48)

You can translate this as 'bed buddy': literally, it's composed of the elements hauth 'to lay' and gwaid 'companion'. Its second meaning is 'wife or husband', probably indicating that the person one lies with ought to be one's spouse.

And that brings us to the number one word you never thought Tolkien would provide. What do you think you would be least likely to see on an Elvish wordlist? How about this:

1) Hermaphrodite (G gwegwin 11-44)

Composed of the elements gweg plus gwin, this is directly translated as 'man-woman'. I wonder if he ever planned on using this word in a specific tale, or just created it for fun. Too bad we'll never know.

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. I have a tentative plan to look into Elven families, family structure, and interpersonal relationships for my June article. If there's any particular family-related discussion you'd like to see, let me know and I'll try to include it.

View past Linguistic Foolery columns.

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Current Challenge

The Plot Thickens

There saw I how the secret felon wrought,
And treason labouring in the traitor’s thought,
And midwife Time the ripened plot to murder brought.

-Geoffrey Chaucer

In shadows, in secret spaces, people lean close with their heads together and plot ...

Plot what? This challenge asks writers to consider characters in the act of plotting something. Plotting often calls first to mind conspiracy and overthrow, but characters could just as easily plot something good: a surprise for a loved one, a marriage proposal, a wondrous invention. Or, take the meta angle and consider the plotting of stories and epics by historians and writers.

I am a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.
-J.D. Salinger

Challenges Revisited: Trinkets and Treasures

The Silmarillion is full of stories pertaining to or involving items that are magical or valuable in some way to their owners. Write a piece in any form--short story, drabble, poem--about how one of these items influenced history or its possesor, how the item was acquired or created, or how the item was lost.

The Silmarillion canon is full of items that could be used for this challenge, but also, there are items that must have existed by receive no special mention and items that exist only in the imaginations of fanfic writers. Any item--canon or not--is suitable for this challenge. Here are some examples to get you started:

Quote of the Month

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
-Ecclesiastes 9:11 (King James version)

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


At Teitho, the challenge for May is Crime and Punishment: You could take this challenge as an opportunity to explore how "crime and punishment" would have looked in Middle Earth. Or you could approach this challenge on a more personal level: How would Aragorn be punished by his wife if he forgot their anniversary? The deadline for this challenge is May 25th. If you want to know more and/or participate, please visit the website.

LotR Genfic Community: "Fix the Movies" Challenge

The theme for the May Challenge will be "Fix the Movies"! This is your chance to add or change a scene from Peter Jackson's version of The Lord of the Rings! Choose any scene you want, and rewrite it in the way you think it should have gone, or add a missing scene, or explain a scene! Visit the LotR GFic LJ community for more information and to sign up!

Ardor In August Sign-ups!

Sign up now for Ardor in August 2009!

From the Years of the Trees through the Fourth Age – it’s time once again to make your Tolkien FPS fanfic dreams come true...

Have you always wanted to read a certain pairing or scenario, but couldn’t write it yourself? Or have a plot bunny that’s been rolling around in your mind, but just can’t see yourself writing that particular story?

Have it written for you – specifically and especially for your own sweet self! And share your own fic gift in exchange -

That’s right, it’s time for Ardor in August brought to you by the same folks who sponsor the renowned Slashy Santa and My Slashy Valentine Exchanges.

This year, the exchange will focus solely on the Elves, Men, Valar and Maiar of J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium. Maybe it’s Gildor and Glorfindel you love, or perhaps Boromir-on-Theodred strikes your fancy... or maybe Maedhros is your main man – from the First Age to the Fourth, from sultry tales of the Silmarillion to Ring War romances and beyond – spread the word, recruit your friends and fellow authors, and have some fun!

For more information on how to participate in the exchange, please see the rules/FAQ.

A Long-Expected Contest (ALEC)

The topic for April/May is Last Words. Think of all the many deaths during the War of the Ring or earlier wars from the Silmarillion. What were the last words spoken by those that died? Or perhaps you choose to write about a departure of a different kind. What did Elrond say to Celebrian when she sailed or the elves that did not answer the call of the Valar say to those that did?

It does not have to be based on documented events or characters in the books and the words in the theme do not have to be included in the fiction. Each writer has until May 31st to turn in the story to Please include the proper formatting for LJ/HTML for bold, italics, etc.

Good luck and happy writing!

Middle-earth Fanfiction Awards (MEFA): Changes to 2009 Awards

A few changes have been made to the MEFAs for 2009. Find out more here.

JRRT's Translation of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún Available on May 5!

JRRT's translation of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún will be available on May 5 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Read the Foreword here or pre-order the book on Amazon here.

Around the World and Web is provided for our members to inform them of events in the larger Tolkien community. SWG is not affiliated with and does not endorse the groups that we feature in Around the World and Web, and we are not responsible for content on sites outside of our own. Please use discretion and caution when visiting unfamiliar sites on the Internet.

Would you like to see your group or event featured on Around the World and Web? See our Promotions Page for more details or email us at

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