TheSilmarillionWriters'Guild

Newsletter: November 2017

Table of Contents


SWG News

Silmarillion 40: The Compilation

Starting on September 15th and for forty days, thirty-five different creators shared over 100,000 words of stories and poetry and sixteen works of art. Additionally many people devoted their skills and time to planning and organization, pinch-hitting and beta reading. This great effort by so many members of our community produced a beautiful compílation that celebrates the wonders of the Elder Days as told by Professor Tolkien. You can find the whole collection at Silmarillion 40.

Don’t miss it! And if you enjoy the many different works, please leave a comment for the author or artist.

Current Challenge: Behind The Scenes

This month we ask authors to pick a key moment or event in the long history of Arda and to write a fanwork about what was happening at that moment in time, anywhere but at the site of the action. Fanworks are due by November 10 to receive a stamp.

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 moderator@silmarillionwritersguild.org and we'll try to include your challenge in our next newsletter!

Welcome to Our New Members!

All of us in the mod team give a warm welcome to Azaisya and roseofthebrightsea, who joined our Silmarillion Writers' Guild community during October.

We hope you are already enjoying reading, reviewing or posting at the archive. If you are still exploring the SWG site or unsure about how things work, check our Frequently Asked Questions. We're always keen to hear what brought you to the Silmarillion fandom and to the SWG, so why not share a little bit about your fandom persona by updating your bio? Anytime you need help, please contact the SWG mods at moderator@silmarillionwritersguild.org.


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New at the Archive

Completed Works

"As Fate" by hennethgalad [General] (1209 words)
Summary: Indis is away hunting when Fëanor is born.

A Tyrant Spell Has Bound Me by Independence1776 [Adult] (4173 words)
Summary: After an ambush by Morgoth’s army destroys the Fëanorian camp, the survivors seek refuge in the Havens. Dark AU.

All Eru's Children by Ulan [General] (4244 words)
Summary: A chance meeting at the edge of a cliff. A conversation on death and old age, the mysteries of the Secondborn, and the choice of the Half-Elves. Sequel to Arda Marred

Another Tale of Tol Eressea by Himring [General] (820 words)
Summary: In the uplands of Tol Eressea, there is a place devoted to memories of Middle-earth.

Arda Marred by Ulan [General] (5090 words)
Summary: In Valinor, a former high king and his herald come together for tea and conversation. (Gil-galad/Elrond, Elrond/Celebrían)

Bright Star - An Exile into Paradise by oshun [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (2665 words)
Summary: Elros is preparing to leave behind the land of his birth, everyone and everything he has known, to become one of the founding settlers and the first king of Númenór. Elrond is not ready to let him go.

Chess by grey_gazania [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (1673 words)
Summary: Fingolfin enjoys what will be his last moment of peace with his family.

Children of the Shore [A Halloween Story] by Lordnelson100 [General] (614 words)
Summary: Sail, sail, sail, to the West, Sail to the one that you love best!

Darker than Night by Luxa [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (9175 words)
Summary: While hunting, Amlach and Maedhros are pulled from their excursion by a surprise messenger, who asks them to take on a task great than either of them realize. They should have realized that finding traitors is no small task.

Deed of Gift by Sleepless_Malice [Adult] (8339 words)
Summary: When Celebrimbor is summoned by Annatar to his workshop late one night, he immediately grows suspicious, all the more when he finds the door locked. He imagines the worst, but the truth is nothing like what he thought. Warning for: lots of science, chemistry, world-building (Eregion/Gwaith-i-Mírdain), more science

Dreadful Wind by heget [General] (2285 words)
Summary: What is the War of Wrath if not the opportunity for most unexpected and horrible reunions? Answers to a few loose ends from Of Ingwë Ingweron, and why dragons were only the last in a long list of terrible foes that the Army of the Valar faced in the final years of the First Age.

Drinking Games by feanorusrex [General] (2014 words)
Summary: Aegnor and Andreth test their respective alcohol tolerance. 

Elwing's Balrog by Keiliss [General] (5416 words)
Summary: When 12 year old Elwing, the fey, half-elven grandchild of Beren and Lúthien, realises that she might age and die like a mortal, she goes to the person she trusts most for advice and incidentally discovers a new aspect of her heritage. Both parties in this unlikely friendship = written with love.

Escape by hennethgalad [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (4232 words)
Summary: Tuor meets the messengers of Círdan and passes through the mountains to the sea. At Vinyamar he comes face to face with Ulmo.

False Spring by oshun [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (9172 words)
Summary: The story of the Union of Maedhros, the great alliance of Elves, Men and Dwarves organized by Fingon and Maedhros, is the prelude to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. It is the return of hope for my protagonists and yet the beginning of the end of the struggle of those rash and heroic Noldor whose deeds made me fall in love with The Silmarillion.

Fewer Words, Without Song by IgnobleBard [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (4590 words)
Summary: The story of Beren and Lúthien told as a fairy tale.

Finwë’s Nose by oshun [General] (737 words)
Summary: Celebrían goes into labor. Galadriel is there to help. (Don't worry no graphic childbirth details here.) Crack fic.

Follow Me Home by Robinka [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (720 words)
Summary: Beleg meets his doom.

Gone For Soldiers by Alquien [General] (798 words)
Summary: A late night meeting between cousins just before the Last Alliance.

Keeping Up Appearances by Ulan [Adult] (8900 words)
Summary: As had now become his habit, Glorfindel strode in to Erestor's office with nary a knock or warning, and proclaimed: "I told Celegwen that we are together." Erestor looked up from his work. "The persistent archer?" he asked placidly, despite the fact that he and Glorfindel were most definitely not, to his knowledge, together. "I see. What did she say?"  ...or the five times Erestor let them pretend to be a couple, and the one time that they didn't.

Lady Aredhel's Decision by Scribe of Mirrormere [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (1259 words)
Summary: The account of Lord Eöl and Lady Aredhel, from the perspective of two of Eöl’s smiths.

Leviathan by Fernstrike [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (1784 words)
Summary: Númenor is sick. A lord out of the east comes bearing a cure - a leviathan that is also an ouroboros.

Meetings by feanorusrex [General] (1090 words)
Summary: A young Fëanor goes to great lengths to "accidentally' meet Nerdanel on one of her journeys. 

Memories are Haunted Places by Sleepless_Malice [General] (3464 words)
Summary: From the beginning of the world to the departure of the Istari  -  the story of Eönwë, Maia of Manwë.

No One by Dawn Felagund [Teens] (4764 words)
Summary: Idril sits down to dinner with her cousin Maeglin shortly after the deaths of his parents. What begins as an uneventful meal dominoes into resentment and defensiveness as her own traumatic memories of her mother's death surface.

Our Side of the World by Ulan [General] (26931 words)
Summary: A collection of one-shots based on random word prompts. (Glorfindel/Erestor)

Pain Unbearable by grey_gazania [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (540 words)
Summary: Maedhros, at the moment of his death.

Pilgrim Through This Barren Land by Narya [General] (2037 words)
Summary: Gandalf stays behind after Thorin's funeral to speak to an unexpected guest. 

Red Sun Rising by Amy Fortuna [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (1281 words)
Summary: Fingolfin passes on the crown to Fingon his son and heir.

Roads Not Taken by anthropologyarda [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (2373 words)
Summary: With Tar-Ciryatan's crowning, Númenor takes the well-traveled path – but it wasn't the only one. His sister held other dreams.

Tears by heget [General] (935 words)
Summary: One inter-dimensional phone call later, a real reunion for Aegnor and Andreth. Or what immediately happens after Mandos hears Lúthien's plea.

The City Lights Burn by Tyelca [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (2613 words)
Summary: Elrond and Gil-Galad discuss Annatar’s presence in Ost-in-Edhil.

The Duel by lightofthetrees [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (1245 words)
Summary: The (in)famous song duel at Tol-in-Gaurhoth, as told by Finrod.

The Lady and the Spectre by feanorusrex [General] (1154 words)
Summary: Perhaps not all ghosts are evil. Written for Terrifying Tolkien Week 2017. 

The Longest Day by Lyra [General] (1700 words)
Summary: During the Midsummer festivities of 472 F.A., Anairë is struck by a wrenching sense of dread. Nerdanel helps her to make sense of it.

The Promise by Tyelca [General] (1109 words)
Summary: Young Fëanor has nightmares. Finwë offers comfort to his only son.

There Was A Ship by hennethgalad [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (2881 words)
Summary: Círdan watches as the ship from Valinor reaches Mithlond bearing the Istari.

This Mortal Coil by hennethgalad [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (2220 words)
Summary: The reflections of Bëor as he is welcomed to Nargothrond.

Thousand Years by Ulan [General] (3869 words)
Summary: It was love at first sight, certainly. Glorfindel only wondered that it took him this long to find himself in that moment - past three ages in a land so changed, looking up at a stranger standing at a balcony. (Glorfindel/Erestor)

Through the Morning Mist by StarSpray [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (688 words)
Summary: At long last, Emeldir leads her people into the forest of Brethil.

Tilion's Night by Ulan [Teens] (5000 words)
Summary: It was a legend among the Sindar. It was said that Tilion loved Arien, but Arien did not love Tilion. Struggling with the pain of love unmet, Tilion implored to the Valar on behalf of all who were like him: let the lonely ones find a way to ease the ache, and help all who were left alone to find someone of their own. (Glorfindel/Erestor)

Too late to go in peace by mangacrack [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (6452 words)
Summary: Dreams tell Dior to stop the madness, but the young king doesn't listen.

Unwound Beneath the Skies by Independence1776 [Adult] (5485 words)
Summary: After a car accident, the government captures Maglor. Subira and Kate deal with the consequences.

You’ve seen my descent, now watch my rising by Sleepless_Malice [Adult] (6072 words)
Summary: Years after the escape from Angband, Maedhros is plagued by insomnia, nightmares, and endless pain. With the specter of his suffering hanging over him, he discovers a way to overcome his numbness, at least for a few hours.

Works In Progress

A Different Song by Silver Trails [Teens] (6202 words)
Summary: This is a modern times AU story, where all the events of Tolkien legendarium have already happened, but where the Elves can stay in Middle-earth without fading, or come back if they cannot not adapt to life in the Blessed Lands.

A Parting Of The Ways by Grundy [General] (6249 words)
Summary: Elros sets sail for the new land promised to Men in the morning. But he'd like to talk to his brother before he leaves.

At the sign of the drunken goose by Chiara Cadrich [Teens] (57060 words)
Summary: The Landlord of the Drunken Goose welcomes you in his common hall to hear horror tales gleaned along the greenway, or gentle saucy rhymes from the Shire. Today, a quaint hearing at Brandy Hall.

Character of the Month Biographies by oshun [General] (140 words)
Summary: Each month, the SWG features a different character from The Silmarillion. For ease of reading and research, all Character of the Month biographies written by various authors are eventually all collected here: Character of the Month Biographies   If you know you are looking for one of mine, check the chapter list here. [Largely, but not entirely, in alphabetical order. The very newest few are at the end of the list--long story as to why which I will skip here! We do our best within the confines of the medium.]    

Character of the Month Biographies by Himring [General] (7 words)
Summary: Each month, we spotlight a new character, with a biography posted in the monthly newsletter and the Reference Library Periodicals section.

Home in the Highlands by heget [General] (2677 words)
Summary: Drabbles and short stories about the House of Bëor and their elves. Mostly light-hearted addendums to Hold Fast Ere Night Comes and other stories set in Dorthonion before the Dagor Bragollach. 

Quenya Names: First Aid by Himring [General] (685 words)
Summary: A quick and dirty compilation of Quenya names used in fan fiction and their meanings, for readers who are having problems with working out who is who in fic.

Reborn by Silver Trails [Teens] (2410 words)
Summary: There is a reason why Caranthir can sense Námo's presence.

Reconciliation by Ariana [Teens] (36331 words)
Summary: Story about the recovery of Maedhros and his efforts to find himself in this new reality, but also to stitch back what was torn among the Noldor. Lots of relations between brothers.

Tales of Fear and Woe by lightofthetrees [Adult] (3179 words)
Summary: A collection of ficlets/drabbles for Terrifying Tolkien Week 2017.

Ten Counts by Ulan [Teens] (1342 words)
Summary: Some moments can still tell a full story.

The Seven Gates by Laerthel [Teens] (111575 words)
Summary: The long and weary road from the birth of the Union of Maedhros to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the downfall of the Sons of Feanor and the construction of the last Great Gate in Gondolin. (Canonical gap-filler with few liberties taken).

Thorongil by Chiara Cadrich [General] (2539 words)
Summary: Denethor feels his authority flouted. Who is that officer who leaves him in the shade ?

Trinkets by Independence1776 [Adult] (10389 words)
Summary: A collection of unrelated drabbles and ficlets too short to post on their own. Each story has a separate rating and all are under a thousand words.Newest story: chapter 39: Views. Ficlet, rated General: Celebrían looked up from her early morning cup of tea at her husband, who stood bare-chested by the window. She'd chosen the house deliberately for its view of the water, but the view inside at the moment was just as lovely.

We Will Be Who We Are by Lotrfan [General] (8660 words)
Summary: The Army of Valinor has come to Beleriand. Maedhros and Maglor feel they must join in this battle against Morgoth but are reluctant to bring Elrond and Elros into the conflict. War of Wrath prompt focusing on the relationships between the surviving sons of Fëanor and the sons of Eärendil they are fostering.

What REALLY Happened; Elrond and Celebrian Get Engaged by Cee Cee [Teens] (3625 words)
Summary: Galadriel has a vision; Elrond has a reputation; Erestor and Glorfindel have a conversation; Celeborn has an objection; And Celebrian has a big surprise.

Short Works

A Dwarf's Memories by LadyBrooke [Teens] (398 words)
Summary: An excerpt from the memoirs of a Dwarf of Belegost, concerning her childhood in Menegroth.

Cúthalion by Narya [General] (92 words)
Summary: In Doriath, Túrin and Beleg practice archery. A drabble. Slash.

Of Linguistic Preferences by Robinka [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (99 words)
Summary: Some of the Sindar may have practical reasons to like their king’s edict that banishes Quenya from Doriath. (Drabble)

The Untold Pledge by Harnatano [General] (462 words)
Summary: Deep into Curufin's memories

The Witnesses by Himring [General] (265 words)
Summary: Aragorn is told about his ancestors by those who saw them with their own eyes.

Their Uncle's Children by LadyBrooke [Teens] (301 words)
Summary: Maedhros looks at the sleeping twins and says they look like their great-grandfather. Maglor knows Maedhros thinks Elrond and Elros look like someone else, as well.

Þerindë by Narya [General] (479 words)
Summary: "We owe it to each other to tell stories."   The result of an experiment with the SWG prompt generator.  In the Popular Characters category I got Míriel Serindë (though I prefer the alternate spelling used in the story title) and the Neil Gaiman quote above.  

Poetry

Beyond the Cirith Thoronath by Robinka [Teens] (6 words)
Summary: Death of a Golden Flower. (Poetry and Artwork)

Shining by feanorusrex [General] (267 words)
Summary: Tilion's thoughts on Arien and being the moon spirit. Companion piece to Burning. 

Artwork

Arien the Sun Maiden by feanorusrex [General] (1 words)
Summary: Drawn as a companion to my story: Burning. Acrylic paints. 

Beyond the Cirith Thoronath by Robinka [Teens] (6 words)
Summary: Death of a Golden Flower. (Poetry and Artwork)

Dagnir Glaurunga by Robinka [Teens] (6 words)
Summary: The dragon and his executioner. A take of the death of Glaurung, but with a twist. (Artwork)

Endorenna by Lyra [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (6 words)
Summary: "But when the devouring wave rolled over the land and Númenor toppled to its fall, then [Elendil] would have been overwhelmed and would have deemed it the lesser grief to perish, for no wrench of death could be more bitter than the loss and agony of that day; but the great wind took him, wilder than any wind that Men had known, roaring from the west, and it swept his ships far away; and it rent their sails and snapped their masts, hunting the unhappy men like straws upon the water." (Artwork)

Nessa the Dancer by feanorusrex [General] (1 words)
Summary: Drawn with Krita. Warning for artistic nudity. 

Ravens over Doriath by Hrymfaxe [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (6 words)
Summary: In the aftermath of the Second Kinslaying (some gore and horror themes). (Artwork)

Strife about the Nauglamír by Robinka [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (21 words)
Summary: Strife about the Nauglamír. (Artwork)

The Dead That Live by fortunaavversa [Author Chooses Not to Rate] (6 words)
Summary: Beren and Lúthien win a Silmaril. (Artwork)

The Woods Are Dark by feanorusrex [General] (6 words)
Summary: And Aredhel strayed from her companions and was lost. (Artwork)

There was battle in the air by Lyra [Teens] (6 words)
Summary: "But Eärendil came, shining with white flame, and about Vingilot were gathered all the great birds of heaven and Thorondor was their captain, and there was battle in the air all the day and through a dark night of doubt. Before the rising of the sun Eärendil slew Ancalagon the Black, the mightiest of the dragon-host, and cast him from the sky; and he fell upon the towers of Thangorodrim, and they were broken in his ruin." (Artwork)

Uinen by feanorusrex [General] (1 words)
Summary: "To her mariners cry, for she can lay calm upon the waves." 




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Character of the Month Biography

Ancalagon

Oshun


Ancalagon the Black, Tolkien's biggest and most threatening dragon, appears but once briefly in the storyline. He enters into the narrative of The Silmarillion in the account of the War of Wrath as the "greatest of the winged dragons of Morgoth, destroyed by Eärendil."1 The War of Wrath was the occasion of the final defeat of Melkor/Morgoth at the end of the First Age. At the plea of Eärendil, the Valar finally organized a mighty host in Valinor, including the Vanyar and the remaining Noldor, to travel to Middle-earth and join with the Men, Elves, and Dwarves there to fight Morgoth. After over forty years of war, Morgoth, facing defeat, called upon his greatest weapon held in reserve until that point:

Then, seeing that his hosts were overthrown and his power dispersed, Morgoth quailed, and he dared not to come forth himself. But he loosed upon his foes the last desperate assault that he had prepared, and out of the pits of Angband there issued the winged dragons, that had not before been seen; and so sudden and ruinous was the onset of that dreadful fleet that the host of the Valar was driven back, for the coming of the dragons was with great thunder, and lightning, and a tempest of fire.2

This impressive show of force was to be Morgoth's final effort. However, terrorizing though it was, it would not be enough:

But Eärendil came, shining with white flame, and about Vingilot were gathered all the great birds of heaven and Thorondor was their captain, and there was battle in the air all the day and through a dark night of doubt. Before the rising of the sun Eärendil slew Ancalagon the Black, the mightiest of the dragon-host, and cast him from the sky; and he fell upon the towers of Thangorodrim, and they were broken in his ruin. Then the sun rose, and the host of the Valar prevailed, and well-nigh all the dragons were destroyed; and all the pits of Morgoth were broken and unroofed, and the might of the Valar descended into the deeps of the earth.3

If Ancalagon can be referred to as darkest and most powerful weapon of Morgoth, then it is Eärendil bearing a Silmaril that is the ultimate resource held in reserve by the Valar.

In one of those multitudinous references to history and ages past that add such richness of texture to the narrative of The Lord of the Rings, Ancalagon is also referred to early on in that book in a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf wherein they discuss the nature of the One Ring:

But there is no smith's forge in this Shire that could change it at all. Not even the anvils and furnaces of the Dwarves could do that. It has been said that dragon-fire could melt and consume the Rings of Power, but there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough; nor was there ever any dragon, not even Ancalagon the Black, who could have harmed the One Ring, the Ruling Ring, for that was made by Sauron himself.4

In this reference one is reminded of the death of Ancalagon, indestructible except by Eärendil who uses a Silmaril to bring him down, the only power available to the armies of the West that day that was strong enough for that task.

Tolkien Loved Dragons

What is not to love about a story with a dragon? This is Tolkien's position entirely . He expresses this love in reminiscences of his early childhood and carries this fascination into the plots of some of his most lauded fiction. He cannot even resist discussing his fascination in one of his most read and respected scholarly lectures—"Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics." To start at the beginning, Tolkien claims to have loved dragons even before he developed his much-discussed obsession with language. He ties the two together when reaching back into his earliest memories.

I first tried to write a story when I was about seven. It was about a dragon. I remember nothing about it except a philological fact. My mother said nothing about the dragon, but pointed out that one could not say 'a green great dragon', but had to say 'a great green dragon'. I wondered why, and still do. The fact that I remember this is possibly significant, as I do not think I ever tried to write a story again for many years, and was taken up with language.5

Actually, word order comes naturally to native English-speaking children. They rarely mistake the order of adjectives. It seems possible what Tolkien's mother did not perceive when she read his sentence was that her fledging fantasist had just invented a category of creatures called "great dragons" and the individual dragon to whom he referred incidentally happened to be green.

In "Monsters and the Critics," Tolkien writes that, in literature and folklore, "[t]here are in any case many heroes but very few good dragons."6 Tolkien took it upon himself to write some excellent dragons. We have Smaug in The Hobbit, who is a crafty, greedy, devious dragon in a familiar storybook sense, sitting upon his pile of treasures, jealous of the loss of the smallest item from his hoard. Dead is dead and Smaug causes a lot of deaths in the story, but Glaurung in The Silmarillion is perhaps Tolkien's truly most malicious dragon. He is the dragon as evil personified. When speaking of Beowulf's dragon. Tolkien notes:

But for Beowulf, the poem, that is as it should be. In this poem the balance is nice, but it is preserved. The large symbolism is near the surface, but it does not break through, nor become allegory. Something more significant than a standard hero, a man faced with a foe [the dragon!] more evil than any human enemy of house or realm, is before us, and yet incarnate in time, walking in heroic history, and treading the named lands of the North.7

The point Tolkien is trying to make is that the dragon is not an allegory in these tales (which is the basis for his complaint about allegory, but that is another discussion). The dragon is real. He walks and talks in a world of "named lands"—not some remote location. What we all love about Middle-earth is that it is such a world—we can see it, we can imagine its scents, we learn its regions and landscapes, and we feel we can all but touch it. Glaurung lives in that land. He first appears as a baby dragon during the First Age—the first fire-drake included in The Silmarillion. He harasses its population; he sets fires and destroys. Fingon and his horse archers in a heroic face-off drive him back to his master:

Glaurung, the first of the Urulóki, the fire-drakes of the North, issued from Angband's gates by night. He was yet young and scarce half-grown, for long and slow is the life of the dragons, but the Elves fled before him to Ered Wethrin and Dorthonion in dismay; and he defiled the fields of Ard-galen. Then Fingon prince of Hithlum rode against him with archers on horseback, and hemmed him round with a ring of swift riders; and Glaurung could not endure their darts, being not yet come to his full armoury, and he fled back to Angband, and came not forth again for many years.8

But Glaurung grows up and wages a war of fire and terror in the Battle of Sudden Flame. Fingon finally meets him again at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, at the pinnacle of his terrifying maturity:

There came wolves, and wolfriders, and there came Balrogs, and dragons, and Glaurung father of dragons. The strength and terror of the Great Worm were now great indeed, and Elves and Men withered before him; and he came between the hosts of Maedhros and Fingon and swept them apart.9

We next encounter Glaurung the Golden in the story of ill-fated Túrin. When Glaurung wages his war of marauding terror upon realm of Nargothrond, he burns, tortures, kills, and lays waste to the surrounding lands. He finally reaches Nargothrond, where he encounters Túrin and freezes him with a dragon spell of horror and then tortures him with words, more painful than any physical punishment:

'Evil have been all your ways, son of Húrin,' said he. 'Thankless fosterling, outlaw, slayer of your friend, thief of love, usurper of Nargothrond, captain foolhardy, and deserter of your kin. As thralls your mother and your sister live in Dor-lómin, in misery and want. You are arrayed as a prince, but they go in rags. For you they yearn, but you care not for that. Glad may your father be to learn that he has such a son: as learn he shall.' And Túrin being under the spell of Glaurung hearkened to his words, and he saw himself as in a mirror misshapen by malice, and he loathed what he saw.10

Finally, breaking out of the spell, with his dying breath, Túrin manages to slay the dragon, but the losses of life and destruction of land have been incalculable.

Smaug by comparison to Glaurung is a chatty, entertaining dragon, despite his lethal and destructive tendencies. Tolkien comments upon him in a more generalized discussion of dragons:

I find 'dragons' a fascinating product of imagination. But I don't think the Beowulf one is frightfully good. But the whole problem of the 'intrusion' of the dragon into northern imagination and its transformation there is one I do not know enough about. Fafnir in the late Norse versions of the Sigurd story is better; and Smaug and his conversation obviously is in debt here.11

The details of Smaug in The Hobbit, and there are pages and pages of them—he is after all a major character in the story— have the tone of a children's tale (which it is). For example,

"I have always understood," said Bilbo in a frightened squeak, "that dragons were softer underneath, especially in the region of the—er—chest; but doubtless one so fortified has thought of that."

The dragon stopped short in his boasting. "Your information is antiquated," he snapped. "I am armoured above and below with iron scales and hard gems. No blade can pierce me."

"I might have guessed it," said Bilbo. "Truly there can nowhere be found the equal of Lord Smaug the Impenetrable. What magnificence to possess a waistcoat of fine diamonds!"12

Yet despite the tone of his exchanges with Bilbo, Smaug is lethal and vicious. Glaurung, of course, is the stuff of nightmares. By comparison to either of them, Ancalagon is but a massive blunt instrument, although horrifying in his proportions and through his implicit manifestation of the power and malice of his creator. Yet, despite the fact that he only appears once briefly and did not win a single battle, his size makes an indelible impression upon Tolkien's readers.

How Big Was Ancalagon?

His size has been a popular ongoing discussion on the Internet for well over a decade. Whether engaged in by gamers, Tolkien enthusiasts, or bona fide scholars, it raises this reader's hackles . The method implies that one should be able to scientifically explain how large Ancalagon would have to be to crush the towers of Thangorodrim, presuming we know precisely what Tolkien envisioned when he wrote of the "towers of Thangorodrim." We are not told exactly what Tolkien meant by those towers and, therefore, we certainly have no means of extrapolating their breadth or height. Various proponents of the size debate have provided us with approximate measurements and based their calculations of the size of Ancalagon upon those numbers. Needless to say, their variations are wide.

One could spend hours, if not days, reading all of the available arguments and pontifications about the size of Ancalagon. If one enjoys discussing Balrog wings, one might want to take on that task. (Author's note: I did it for a couple of hours and regretted it, with a few exceptions—one enlightening blog and some well-executed and entertaining drawings.) John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War, dedicated an entry on his blog to explaining why the ongoing Ancalagon-size argument is specious: Dragon scale: Why It's Impossible to Size Up Tolkien's Middle-earth.13 He makes relevant points sympathizing with readers' desire for specificity. For example, he opines that "it is inevitable that we should want to see more clearly into the misty distances – in fact, that's exactly the sense of yearning that Tolkien aimed to instill."14 He goes on to elucidate, rather gently, why precision cannot be obtained. He also notes that, "Tolkien's pictures cannot be taken as empirical evidence. They are heavily stylized, as befits a story with medieval or legendary/fairy-tale overtones. So, frequently, are his Middle-earth writings."15 On the other hand, this edition of Garth's blog is a resource for some of the intriguing graphics/artwork floating around comparing the sizes of Tolkien's dragons. While those illustrations necessarily cannot be definitive, they are definitely worth a look.

One will not find an answer to the size question in the texts either. Tolkien tells us what happened to Middle-earth as a result of that war, although without enough precision to even pin all of the destruction upon that single last battle. We have no basis upon which to assume that the damage was caused by Ancalagon himself dropping onto those mountains and exploding like a nuclear bomb.

If anything, one might read into the available information an implication that the damage to Beleriand could have occurred over a period of time in a war of more than forty years involving clashes among multiple powers and elements suspended somewhere between the mundane and the miraculous:

Thus an end was made of the power of Angband in the North, and the evil realm was brought to naught; and out of the deep prisons a multitude of slaves came forth beyond all hope into the light of day, and they looked upon a world that was changed. For so great was the fury of those adversaries that the northern regions of the western world were rent asunder, and the sea roared in through many chasms, and there was confusion and great noise; and rivers perished or found new paths, and the valleys were upheaved and the hills trod down; and Sirion was no more.16

The above paragraph is an account of a result of the War of Wrath, but not a detailed description of how a large part of Beleriand disappeared into the sea.

What is this writer's final position on the size of Ancalagon? He was huge, but not so big that Eärendil, wielding a Silmaril, with a corps of Maiarin-grade giant Eagles at his back, could not take him down. Size is secondary to the fact that forces of light finally outgunned the forces of darkness. In such an epic book, within which readers often point out "everyone dies," it takes a big monster for his defeat to bring one to the point of eucatastrophe. Tolkien describes eucatastrophe as

the "sudden joyous 'turn'" of apparently disastrous events, the moment past all hope when we know that everything is going to be all right. Tolkien makes it clear, however, that the joy of the turn, the consolation of eucatastrophe, is dependent on the fear of its opposite, the bad turn toward sorrow and failure.17

The defeat of Ancalagon and the capture of Morgoth, however, might be called an interim eucatastrophe within Tolkien's legendarium. We still have considerable sorrow to suffer through before Tolkien's long saga of Middle-earth ends. To mention only a few, we still have to read of Maedhros and Maglor's ultimate rejection by the Silmarils; the return of Sauron; the destruction of Eregion, the marvelous realm of the Noldorin Elves in eastern Eriador; the drowning of Númenor; and the Ages-long struggle of Elves, Dwarves, and Men against the return of darkness under Sauron culminating in the victory of the free peoples of Middle-earth in the War of the Ring. Nonetheless, the joy of that moment of Eärendil knocking Ancalagon out of the air and watching that greatest of dragons crashing down upon the peaks of Thangorodrim is a satisfying interim eucatastrophe—a true triumph of good over evil.




I would like to dedicate this bio to IgnobleBard in honor of his Halloween birthday. He has given a preliminary read to so many of my past bios and just this week presented my family a Baby Black Winged Dragon.




Works Cited

  1. The Silmarillion, "Index of Names."
  2. The Silmarillion, "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath."
  3. Ibid.
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, "Shadows of the Past."
  5. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, "163 To W.H. Auden."
  6. J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays, (London: Allen & Unwin, 1983), p. 17.
  7. Ibid.
  8. The Silmarillion, "Of the Return of the Noldor."
  9. The Silmarillion, "Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad."
  10. The Children of Húrin, "The Fall of Nargothrond."
  11. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, "122 To Naomi Mitchison."
  12. The Hobbit, "Inside Information."
  13. John Garth, "Scale Why It's Impossible to Size Up Tolkien's Middle-earth., John Garth Blog, January 18, 2015, accessed October 19, 2017.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. The Silmarillion, "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath."
  17. Verlyn Flieger, Splintered Light: Tolkien's World, Revised Edition (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2002), Kindle Edition



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Articles of Interest

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Please R&R! … or the Practices and Perils of Leaving Feedback on Tolkien Fanfic

A key tenet of Dawn Felagund's Tolkien survey - covered in several meta posts on the Heretic Loremaster - has been feedback in the Tolkien fandom. She has now published her findings about the Tolkien fandom's practices of reading and reviewing - in conclusion, while it is valued and considered important, it is rare. Many respondents admitted that they find reviewing difficult, or believe their comments will not be valued by the writer. As a remedy and to encourage future reviewers, Dawn suggests a list of comment starters. Read the whole article at Heretic Loremaster.

How do you review, and what are your thoughts on Dawn's findings? There's a lively discussion going on in the comments - leave your own!

More on the Tolkien Biopic

After the casting announcements of Lily Collins as Edith Bratt and Nicholas Hoult as young J.R.R. Tolkien, filming has started for the Tolkien biopic: Liverpool's Ellesmere Port stands in for Birminham, first images of Hoult as Tolkien have emerged, and actor Colm Meaney has been cast as Father Francis Morgan, J.R.R and Hilary Tolkien's legal guardian after their mother's death.

Reality Check: J.R.R Tolkien's Astronomy

Tolkien's love of detail in many aspects of the Legendarium is familiar to fans, and with the importance of stars and all things celestial in Middle-earth, from Varda to the Elves to moon phases in The Hobbit, it is perhaps not surprising that they are covered in detail, and allow a comparison to real world celestial phenomena. J.D. Voyek at Adventures in Poor Taste does just that, devoting two posts to the realism of Middle-earth's astronomy and its relation to our primary world: Part I and Part II. He comes to several interesting conclusions, including a thorough consideration of the in-world belief in a flat Arda before the Third Age, elvish night vision and the stars it might enable them to see, and Eärendil as the planet Venus and its dragon-slaying capacity, and (of course) the sun and moon.

Harp the Magical

What do Maglor, and Thorin Oakenshield have in common? That's right, they both play harps. It's a famed and famous instrument in Middle-earth, and Middle-earth Reflections lists these and several more instances of harps in Tolkien's Legendarium, but also covers the occurrence of harps in history, myth and folklore that may have served as an inspiration to Tolkien. Read the article here.

Why build new worlds

At the Times Literary Supplement, Dimitra Fimi writes about the importance and distinguishing characteristics of fantasy versus science-fiction, and the focus on thought-experiments versus escapist, immersive storytelling, exploring Tolkien's famous idea of sub-creation and the importance of coherency in worldbuilding to maintain enchantment. She examines a number of fantasy worlds from Middle-earth to Westeros, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and the realms of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea as well as several others, and finds connective threads in their worldbuilding through language, sprace, a sense of history and culture, the long-standing engagement often has in their work - sometimes from childhood, and the recombination of known things into new and unknown phenomena, perhaps not unlike Tolkien's "green sun". Find Dr. Fimi's essay here.

Faërian Drama: the Final Curtain?

Where Dimitra Fimi covers fantasy writing from a Doylist perspective, Thomas Hillman at Alas, not me covers the enchantment and realism of Tolkien's 'Faërian Drama' in a Watsonian sense by considering the transformative power of elvish song and its capacities of evoking understanding even among people who do not speak any of the elvish languages. Galadriel's Lament in Lothlórien, contrary to that, stands out as an example of a lack of understanding, and the conclusion must be that after rejecting the One Ring, the fading of Middle-earth's 'Faëry' has already commenced.

Tolkien fan science and the flora of Middle-earth

We already covered the botanically-based monograph The Flora of Middle-earth in October's newsletter, but none of the articles addressed a key point that is being made by Harley J. Sims at MercatorNet: "We should resist the temptation to identify a fictional world with our own." While the writer praises much of the effort of the book, they are critical and find it shatters the enchantment of Middle-earth - best described by the enchantment Frodo experiences in Lothlórien - and remain sceptical of 'scientific analogies', such as the identification of Middle-earth's holly with our primary world's, and the comparison or Athelas or the White Tree with existing plant species. What the author does not mention is that, by Tolkien's own words, Middle-earth is our world, so how far does fantasy need to be removed to be effective? Read the review here.

Announcements

LotR Secret Santa 2017

It is almost time for the 2017 round of the annual LotR Secret Santa! While dates are still to be announced (watch the community for announcements), the mods invite you to weigh in into the creation of a tag set on AO3 to run this year's exchange. Find the community on LJ.

Khazâd November 2017

It’s almost time for Khazâd November again! The principle is the same as always: one day, one dwarf – create something featuring that dwarf! There is one free day (on November 15) to give you a little time to catch up, catch your breath or create something not on the list. You don’t have to create something for each day if you don’t want to, but the aim is to create something for the dwarves that usually get less love.

Love Dwarves? Find participation info and prompts on tumblr.

NaNoWriMo 2017

November is upon us, and with it the annual National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo - the endeavour to write 50,000 words in one month, in the format of your choice. Signups are still open, so if you feel up to the challenge, why not join?

Holly Poly 2017

Holly Poly is a pan-fandom multimedia gift exchange. Requests are for polyamorous groupings of any type. Fic, remixes, podfic, fanart, meta, and vids are all acceptable offer and request formats. Nominations currently under way. The tag set is here.

Dates:
Nominations: Sept 23 - Oct 13
Signups: Oct 16 - Nov 7
Assignments go out: Nov 10/11
Assignments due: Jan 10
Open: Jan 13
Reveal: Jan 21

Archive Your Fandom Stuff

In an effort to preserve fanworks and fan history, thebyrchentwigges on tumblr lists fanworks you should archive, and how you can do so. With fannish internet infrastructure in constant flux and net neutrality in question, it may not be a bad idea to do so.

"Celebrate Tolkien" event to be held in South Carolina (9th-10th November 2017)

A brand new event "Celebrate Tolkien", also announced by the Tolkien Society will take place at Greenville, South Caroline on the 9th and 10th of November 2017. Limited to 180 people, it will include two days of talks from artists, academics and performers, as well as games, themed-music and a pipe-smoking competition. More information also at tolkiensociety.org.

Silmarillion Roundtable Talk in Manhattan

Are you a Tolkien fan in or around New York? November 18 will see a moderated roundtable gathering to discuss the beginning of the Silmarillion, the Ainulindalë. Find information and how to attend here.

Calls for Papers

TWC Special Issue CFP: Fans of Color, Fandoms of Color (3/1/18; 3/15/19)

The editors invite the submission of short and long scholarly essays by and about people of color who self-identify as fans (“fans of color”), and about fan communities that have formed around media characters and texts that predominantly or prominently feature characters of color (“fandoms of color”). The editors are particularly eager to review contributions that involve methodological innovation, and/or draw on sources from historical periods other than the contemporary.

As both the scholars and objects fan studies have, to date, been predominantly white, we seek work from fan scholars of every ethnicity about their own experiences, and the experiences of people of color, in and with fandom.

Due date is March 1, 2018, for estimated March 2019 publication. For Submission Guidelineas and more information, visit Special Issue CFP at TWC Tumblr.

Special Issue CFP: The Future of Fandom (1/15/18; 9/15/18)

The Future of Fandom full CfP

This special 10th anniversary issue of Transformative Works and Cultures seeks to explore the future of fandom while looking back to its past. How might scholarship on fandom's past and present invite speculation about its future? And what might the possible futures invoked by technological, ecological, and political discourses mean for fandom's communities and practices? Science fiction in particular--the field whose strategies spawned fandom, and the genre in which much fan activity occurs--has used imagined futures to shed new light on the present and the past. In turn, studying where we are and where we have been allows us to imagine where we may be heading.

We invite essays that seek to historicize and contextualize fans, fan works, and fandoms across past, present, and future. Scholarship on fandom’s futures can open connections between technology and interfaces, fannish discussions and trends, fictions of imagined futures, and cultural and political changes in order to illustrate how fandoms may be understood in their historical contexts and cultural interactions.

This issue will feature a special section, “Predictions,” that will allow fans and academics to imagine fannish futures. We particularly invite personal and creative responses, including essays from the future, documenting trends that haven’t yet come to be.

Submission guidelines

Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC, http://journal.transformativeworks.org/) is an international peer-reviewed online Gold Open Access publication of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works copyrighted under a Creative Commons License. TWC aims to provide a publishing outlet that welcomes fan-related topics and to promote dialogue between the academic community and the fan community. TWC accommodates academic articles of varying scope as well as other forms that embrace the technical possibilities of the Web and test the limits of the genre of academic writing.

Theory: Conceptual essays. Peer review, 6,000–8,000 words.

Praxis: Case study essays. Peer review, 5,000–7,000 words.

Symposium: Short commentary. Editorial review, 1,500–2,500 words.

Please visit TWC's Web site (http://journal.transformativeworks.org/) for complete submission guidelines, or e-mail the TWC Editor (editor AT transformativeworks.org).

Due date— January 15, 2018, for estimated September 15, 2018 publication.




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