Newsletter: May 2012

Table of Contents

SWG News

Archive Bug Resolved

Earlier this month, we received a bug report where Firefox users were unable to enter text into several of the fields on the archive's story form. After posting an initial workaround and beginning work to resolve the problem, an upgrade to Firefox seems to have squashed this one once and for all!

Just a quick reminder as to what to do if you experience any trouble uploading or editing stories in the Archive:

You can find out more about the problem here. Thanks a million to Rhapsody and Russandol for their work--they had the problem solved and were in the midst of scheduling a site update when Firefox fixed the problem for us.

Always report any problems, no matter how small, that you notice while using the archive. We cannot fix problems that we do not know exist. Current bugs are always listed on the front page of the archive. We can be reached at a href=""> if you need to report a bug or need help using the archive.

April Newsletter Erratum

Last month, a glitch in the RSS feed reader that we use to compile the monthly list of stories resulted in quite a few Back to Middle-earth Month stories being left off of the list. Please do double-check the list of 2012 B2MeM stories to make sure you didn't overlook anything you want to read!

Back to Middle-earth Month 2012 Update

We have a few more fun things planned to wrap up this year's B2MeM and to give participants a chance to show off their best work. I (Dawn) had best intentions of doing this during April, but overseas travel and personal/family obligations prevented me from making my goal. Stay tuned in May!

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New at the Archive

Completed Works

Finwë's Crown by Silver Trails [General] (3837 words)
Summary: Maedhros and his brothers after Fëanor is killed in battle.

Works in Progress

A Great Friendship in Every Need by Urloth [Teens]† (2952 words)
Summary: They were all children once, and played as children do, with cousins playing games with cousins without the undercurrents of discontent between their fathers ruining the golden days spent in their grandfather's garden. There were secrets, though, even then but they did not care about them. Of course those days are as dead as that much beloved grandfather and Finrod barely thinks of the time he was little Finda in a child's frock, clinging to Tyelkormo's skirt with Carnistir's hand stuck to his, as they braved the "wilderness" of Míriel's garden. It seems though that there are some final lessons to be learnt, some final games to be played and a secret or two to discover that should have been left alone. In Nargothrond Finrod Felagund is both the unwitting architect and witness to the final, dying gasp of Fëanorian innocence.
Chapter added this month: Chapter 1.

Almaren by Silver Trails [Adult]
Summary: The events after the Spring of Arda, seen through the eyes of three Valar and an Oarni
Chapter added this month: Chapter 9.

As Time Unrolls by Lyra
Summary: Chronicling history is never an easy job. It is even harder when you don't always agree with the management - and cannot quit...
Chapter added this month: Sun IV .

Bits of Elven Glass by Himring [General]
Summary: This is an attempt to weave the different accounts of the making and the history of the Elessar into a coherent narrative.
Chapter added this month: Chapter 1.

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

Elegy for Númenor - Volume 1: Journey to Umbar by elfscribe [Adult] †
Summary: Chronicles the last days of Númenor from the time Sauron "surrenders" to Ar-Pharazôn to the fall of the empire. Love, lust, greed, betrayal, fate, and heroism all combine into an epic story with many characters.
Chapter added this month: Chapter 29 - Bite of the Dragon.

Eregion: The Writhen Pool by pandemonium_213 [Adult]
Summary: When the Istyari of Second Age Ost-in-Edhil deny a young master smith a place in an important — and guarded — new initiative to be taken up by the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, she struggles to make her mark in the man's realm of the forges. An opportunity arrives when the smith is offered a commission that will present challenges of both the mind and heart. Bits and pieces of B2MeM 2012 incorporated therein.
Chapter added this month: Chapter 3: Eagle of Iron.

Five Times That Nerdanel Said 'Yes' and One Time She Did Not by oshun [Teens]
Summary: This was written for the SWG 5th Birthday celebration based on the Theme: Five Things, updated to include numerous B2MeM 2012 prompts.
Chapter added this Month: Little Father.

Like a Shadow of Shifting Silver by Kimberleighe [Teens]
Summary: The backstory to Waiting for the Thunder. A story of Anairë and Fingolfin.
Chapter2 added this month: Chapter 4: Madly, madly and Chapter 5: Confessions & Proposals.

Of Draugluin by Huinare [Teens]†
Summary: Wherein a denizen of Utumno is roped into a peculiar project, the repercussions of which are inescapable.
Chapter added this month: Mando

Peculiar by Ada Kensington [General]
Summary: Finwë is worried about Fëanor, and enlists the help of a scholar, Rúmil, to help him understand his son.
Chapter added this month: The Painted Man.

The Army of the North by darthfingon [General]
Summary: The armies of the Last Alliance gather in Rivendell to prepare for their assault on Mordor. Elrond worries, Oropher weasels, and nothing goes according to plan.
Chapter added this month: Weasels.

The Bard's lost scrolls by Rhapsody [Teens]
Summary:For B2MEM2012 I wrote many pieces for two Maglor in History Cards, per request of Keiliss. Join me on a travel through time to see how he would have viewed events that were prompted on these two bingo cards.
Chapters added this month: The evening consultation, The convenient solution, The Tidal Wave and The Sun King's legacy.

The Fall of Doriath by gamil-zirak [General]
Summary:This is an attempt at writing an account of the destruction of Doriath by the Sons of Feanor. It shall include the battle and aftermath. Hope you enjoy it..
Chapter added this month: Estrangements.

The Loneliness of the Fishermouse by Clodia [Teens ]
Summary: In 2509, Celebrían wife of Elrond was journeying to Lórien... the rest, everyone knows. But this isn't about her. Not really. What remains for the bereaved but need and anger?
Chapters added this month: Dragonfly, Galleon and Coracle.

The Starlit Sky by Maglor Makalaure [General]
Summary: The story of the sons of Elwing, from the time they were captured to the time they were released. Told from Elrond's point of view.
Chapter added this month: Chapter Eight.

Short Works

With a cold rush of blood... by Rhapsody [Teens] (402 words)
Summary: Nerdanel is plagued by a nightmare, can Irmo’s wisdom shed a light on it?

Waste Paper by Himring [Teens](865 words)
Summary: Maedhros has been re-embodied and is living in Findekano's house in Tirion. But where is Nerdanel? Maedhros is suffering from the worst kind of writer's block. In some ways, it turns out, he is not so very different from his mother.


"Utulie n'aure!" & Other Poems by Himring [Teens] (124 words)
Summary: Three poems written about the Sons of Feanor for Poetic Forms prompts during B2MeM 2012, now posted here for (American) National Poetry Month. "Utulie n'aure": Maedhros on the Nirnaeth and the death of Fingon (sonnet). Also a haiku (Maglor) and a tanka (Maedhros to Elwing).

Library of Tirion

Narn Gil-galad by Earonn [General] (141685 words, incomplete)
Summary: The life of the last High King of the Noldor.
First published: December 28, 2002
Chapter added this month: Chapter 21: The War of Wrath II: Meetings, Chapter 22: The War of Wrath III: Battles, Chapter 23: The War of Wrath IV: Morgoth Defeated, Chapter 24: The End of the First Age and Chapter 25: Mithlond, .

The Follower by Ivanneth [General] (19774 words, incomplete)
Summary: The story of Fingon
First published: December 28, 2002 Chapter added this month: Chapter 5: Strife .

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Character of the Month Biography

Vairë the Weaver

Dawn Felagund

Vairë joins the long list of Silmarillion women who receive so perfunctory of treatment in the published text that they serve as little more than names waiting to be made flesh by writers of transformative fiction. And, through her association with Míriel, the mother of Fëanor, Vairë has received attention in transformative work that belies her painfully minor role in the published texts. However, as is often the case, delving deeper into the texts that Christopher Tolkien and Guy Kay drew from when assembling the published work reveals a woman deeper than her glancing treatment in the published Silmarillion. Indeed, in the case of Vairë, these foundational texts present her as a Valië surprisingly relatable and, yes, even human.

Vairë's History in the Published Silmarillion

Like most of the Valier--or female Valar--Vairë receives very little page-time in the published Silmarillion, appearing on a scant two pages. One of those pages doesn't mention her except to list her next-to-last among the Valier.

What the published book does tell us about her is that she is the wife of Námo Mandos. Given the epithet "the Weaver," Vairë's chief responsibility seems to be weaving tapestries depicting "all things that have ever been in Time." These tapestries decorate the halls of Mandos--if as frivolous-sounding a word as decorate is permissible in the same sentence as the phrase halls of Mandos--with the implication that as the halls swell with time (and, presumably, more residents), Vairë keeps pace with her "storied webs."1

Vairë in Earlier Works

The Book of Lost Tales contains Tolkien's earliest work on his Arda-based mythology. In this work, Vairë is a not name belonging to a Vala but rather an Elf of Tol Eressëa, the hostess of Eriol (Ælfwine) in his travels. 2 In this earliest version of the story, the wife of Námo Mandos was Fui Nienna, a character considerably creepier but also seemingly more assertive, given that she appears more than twice in the text. However, as I documented in my biography of Námo Mandos, the Valar concerned with death faded into the background as the mythology evolved, both out of necessity, given the limited knowledge of the fictional Elven loremasters who recorded the stories of The Silmarillion, and from the evisceration of the elaborate descriptions of the Valar in the Lost Tales.

Vairë makes her first appearance in the 1930s, in a work called the Earliest Annals of Valinor, as a penciled-in note listing the Valar. At this point, she became the spouse of Námo and Nienna assumed her single status, as she would remain into the published work. 3 In the Later Annals of Valinor, recorded a few years later, Vairë receives her epithet "the weaver.4 The earlier Quenta Silmarillion provides her with the description that would stick with her until the published version some forty years later.5

By all appearances, Vairë's evolution was brief and complete. Yet any reader who is familiar with transformative fiction about Vairë knows that she is often depicted in the company of Míriel Þerindë, the mother of Fëanor. This adds an appealing fullness to Míriel's story, a purpose beyond her role as Fëanor's mother and the only Elf to perish in Valinor (up to that point, anyway), as well as underscoring her considerable talent: Her work is literally up to the standards of a goddess. Yet aside from their shared penchant for the textile arts, a relationship between Vairë and Míriel isn't even hinted at in the published Silmarillion.

Instead, it comes from the Later Quenta Silmarillion, more specifically from a scene during which Vairë proves herself beyond the mere wife of a more important male character and the fulfillment of an archetypal (and traditionally feminine) role as "the weaver." While debating whether it would be lawful for Finwë to take a second wife, Vairë speaks suddenly and in favor of granting Finwë's request. Vairë asserts that she knows the spirit (or fëa) of Míriel, having kept company with her, and knows her to be willful: If she says she does not mean to return, then she will not return. Finwë, Vairë adds, would know this also because of the special connection between the fëar of spouses. Vairë goes on to say,

When on of the Queens of the Valar, Varda or Yavanna, or even I, departeth for ever from Arda, and leaveth her spouse, will he or nill he [whether he wills it or wills it not], then let that spouse judge Finwë, if he will, remembering that Finwë cannot follow Míriel without doing wrong to his nature, nor without forsaking the duty and bond of his fatherhood.

Vairë's speech is one that allows the Elves a great deal of agency in deciding their fates and also extends considerable empathy: Until the Valar so quick to deny Finwë his second marriage have suffered the loss of a spouse, she contends, then they have no right to pass judgment on what perceived flaws may contribute to Finwë's desire.

Manwë ultimately rules that "though [Vairë] speaketh not without knowledge, she uttereth opinion and not certainty" and cautions against the presumption of "certainty with regard to the wills of the Children." Nonetheless, Vairë's speech stands out as one of surprising humanity and understanding of the Elves.

It is Nienna who next suggests that Míriel should be permitted to return to her body so that she could "have the joy of her body and the use of its skills in which she delighted" by being permitted to work alongside Vairë. Námo ultimately rejects this request (neither does Míriel seem particularly inspired to advocate for herself), but when Finwë dies and comes to Mandos, the issue is reopened. Mandos--ever cold and unwilling to extend kindness without first extracting a measure of suffering--agrees under the condition that Finwë serve as a ransom for Míriel: By refusing to return to life in his body, Míriel will be allowed to return to hers. Her mood improved by Finwë's company but nonetheless not wishing to return to the Noldor,

she went to the doors of the House of Vairë and prayed to be admitted; and this prayer was granted, although in that House none of the Living dwelt nor have others ever entered it in the body. But Míriel was accepted by Vairë and became her chief handmaid; and all tidings of the Noldor down the years from their beginning were brought to her, and she wove them in webs historial, so fair and skilled that they seemed to live, imperishable, shining with a light of many hues fairer than are known in Middle-earth. This labour Finwë is at times permitted to look upon.6

This whole episode sheds some light on the character of Vairë. She stands almost as a foil to her husband, showing a surprising degree of insight and empathy. Although she makes but a single speech during the debate, the whole of that speech is founded on her firsthand knowledge of the Elves in question rather than philosophical abstractions. Her regard for and willingness to harbor Míriel as an equal suggest an uncharacteristically egalitarian (for the Valar) view of the Elves. Given this, it seems a shame that Vairë does not emerge more fully from the published text.7

Another interesting extrapolation about Vairë can be gleaned from the notes to this document, where Christopher Tolkien angsts at some length about the confusion of referring to the House of Vairë while earlier documents state that she lived with Mandos. He concludes that "in this final text it seems certain that Vairë in some sense dwelt apart [from Námo]."8 This reader finds less interest in speculating about the possibility of geographical separation between Vairë and Námo than the effect that Tolkien's repeated references to the House of Vairë creates: It gives a sense of autonomy to Vairë that she would lack otherwise, as a mere part of her husband's halls. Even if the so-called "Halls of Vairë" are little more than a portion of the halls of Mandos, that they bear her name separates them from him and assigns them to her, a designation that fits nicely with her outspokenness at the conference about Finwë's remarriage and her deviation from her husband's pitiless treatment of the tragic couple.

The omission of the story of Finwë and Míriel entirely from the published Silmarillion makes it hard to classify Vairë among the list of woman characters marginalized during the editing process. Tolkien depicted her fully just once, and that "just once" also just happened not to make it into the final work. As a result, she is unfortunately reduced to a name and an archetype as a weaver goddess involved in the afterlives and fates of those on earth (as weaver goddesses often are). Nonetheless, if Tolkien had to set any character opposite the pitiless and cold Námo, Vairë--with her empathy, assertiveness, and surprising humility--seems the perfect woman to temper somewhat his ruthlessness.

Works Cited

  1. The Silmarillion, Valaquenta.
  2. The Book of Lost Tales 1, The Cottage of Lost Play.
  3. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 4: The Shaping of Middle-earth, Earliest Annals of Valinor, note 2.
  4. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 5: The Lost Road and Other Writings, Later Annals of Valinor.
  5. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 5: The Lost Road and Other Writings, Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Valar."
  6. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 10: Morgoth's Ring, Laws and Customs among the Eldar, "Of the Severance of Marriage."
  7. Tolkien later revised the story of Finwë and Míriel (HoMe 10, "Laws and Customs among the Eldar"). In this revised version, unfortunately--as is often the case with Tolkien's revisions where women and Valar are concerned--much of the detail that allows us to draw inferences about Vairë's character is removed. Speaking to her husband Námo, Vairë indicates that Míriel has been dwelling with her and, therefore, she knows her spirit and that she does not intend to return. Since the context is no longer one of a conference between all of the Valar, Vairë's pointed and empathetic admonishment to the Valar who have never lost a spouse or considered the loss of one was among the content removed.
  8. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 10: Morgoth's Ring, Laws and Customs among the Eldar, "Of the Silmarils and the Darkening of Valinor: Of Finwë and Míriel," note 9.

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Current Challenge

Just Say It with a Gift!

In Tolkien’s legendarium there is a lot of gifting happening, including in The Silmarillion. The gift-giving in The Silmarillion does not always have a generosity behind it. Take Sauron, for example, who named himself Annatar, the Lord of Gifts. Then there is Ilúvatar himself who bestowed gifts on the Ainur, who at their turn bestowed gifts upon the Elves. There are gifts of freedom which is bestowed on the Secondborn or gifts as atonement, such as when Maedhros gifted horses to Fingolfin. Weapons appear to be a much-gifted item as well.

We would like to challenge you to write about gift-giving (be it material or immaterial) by your characters or perhaps to write about traditions of gift-giving amongst the people who lived during the ages represented in The Silmarillion. What motive would they have to bestow this on others? What would they consider the greatest gift they ever received or which one disappointed them the most?

Songs of Arda

Music is important in The Silmarillion. It is the force behind the creation of Arda and is central to many of the most important myths, from the creation of the Two Trees to the story of Beren and Lúthien. Exceptional musical talents are central to many of the characters of The Silmarillion, and songs such as the "Noldolantë" capture history, yet are never written for us to read.

This month's challenge asks authors to look at the role of music and songs in Arda. Stories and poems should focus on music, whether the casual influence of music in daily life or on a specific song on instance where music was used. Here are a few examples:

Quote of the Month

Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?
~Friedrich Nietzsche

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

LotR Genfic Community: May Challenge--Bunny Hutch (writing) and Sky (art)

The May Story Challenge is somewhat different than our usual: we had eighteen participants contributing 65 different plot bunnies, for our first "Bunny Hutch" challenge! Your element for this challenge will be one of those bunnies! To request your elements, please leave a comment to this post, and I will send you your elements. Please specify if you have any preferences as to which Race and Age you would like to write about. Or if you would like to take your chances on something unexpected, just say "random". The May challenge stories will be due Monday, May 14th.

The May Art Challenge theme is "Sky". Any media is welcome! Your element will be something associated with the sky: e.g. clouds, birds, rain, etc. All art must be rated G or PG. See our ratings guidelines here! To request your elements, please leave a comment to this post, and we will send you your elements. If you have not participated before, please leave an email address so that we can send you your elements or email the mods. Upload pictures of your project to your favorite photo-sharing site (Photo-bucket, Flickr, LJ scrapbook, etc.), and then post the picture to the community by Thursday, May 17.

Teitho: May Challenge--Heirlooms

Heirlooms are the theme for this month's challenge. The deadline for this challenge is May 25th. The Teitho website has more information.

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