October's Challenges

A History of Tradition

This month, many around the world will celebrate Halloween, and groups throughout the Tolkien community will encourage writers to come up with something spooky in honor of it. Halloween--like many modern festivals and observances with roots in ancient celebrations--began in Ireland as the Celtic festival Samhain. Tolkien wrote his stories in hopes that they would represent a mythological history of our world, so, within his mythological framework, one can imagine that modern festivals stretch back even deeper into time than the Samhain festival that evolved into Halloween.

For this month's challenge, authors should choose a festival or tradition observed in the modern world and write a story that includes that festival or tradition as it might have been celebrated in Tolkien's mythological world. The holiday you choose may be as specific as Samhain or as general as a birthday celebration; it may be as serious as certain Christmas traditions or as silly as National One Hit Wonder Day (September 25). The holiday you write about may be part of Tolkien's canon--such as the Gates of Summer--or may be of your own invention.

Do you need to find a holiday? A complete listing of daily holidays can be found on Holidays on the Net. For more information on the history of popular holidays, check out's History of the Holidays. The Thain's Book includes a referenced list of Middle-earth holidays if you'd like to explore some of the canonical festivities Tolkien imagined.

Quote of the Month

When twenty years of the Sun had passed, Fingolfin King of the Noldor made a great feast; and it was held in the spring near to the pools of Ivrin, whence the swift river Narog rose, for there the lands were green and fair at the feet of the Mountains of Shadow that shielded them from the north. The joy of that feast was long remembered in later days of sorrow; and it was called Mereth Aderthad, the Feast of Reuniting.

The Silmarillion, "Of the Return of the Noldor"

Character of the Month: Mablung

Mablung of Doriath is one of a small number of named Sindarin Elves who, while pledging their allegiance and fealty directly to Elu Thingol, either under instruction from their King or at his sufferance, actually traveled extensively outside of the protected enclave of Doriath. Mablung, one of the principals or captains of Thingol's security forces guarding Doriath, is, like his comrade Beleg, deeply entrapped within the doom of the ill-fated children of Húrin and was involved in many of the affairs of Doriath in Beleriand. It does seem safe also to assume that Mablung would have been an active participant in the First Battle of Beleriand where the Sindar, under the leadership of Thingol, confronted and defended themselves against Morgoth's army before the return of the Noldor to Middle-earth.

The name Mablung means heavy hand, which one might interpret as a reference to his physical prowess and the fact that the principal weapon used by the Sindar in Doriath was the axe (1). Common to the genre of heroic sagas, one already has a clue as to the character of Mablung in his stalwart name. One might suspect and be right that he is to be written as another of those who can be viewed as one of Tolkien's quintessential First Age epic champions. Mablung is portrayed as bigger than life, with great force of character joined to compassion, possessing valour under adverse circumstances, and a capacity for independent action. Tolkien gives him wisdom and loyalty, while adding humility and purity of heart to his defining characteristics.

The first mention of Mablung in The Silmarillion is in the account of the Feast of Reunitin, the Mereth Aderthad (2). Thingol is said to have sent Mablung and Daeron bearing his greetings to that assembly. According to The War of the Jewels (3), Thingol did not choose to take part in this attempt by Fingolfin to organize a peaceful and friendly gathering of those who sought to be united in the struggle against Morgoth, where "many counsels were taken in good will, and oaths were sworn of league and friendship, and there was much mirth and good hope" (4). Thingol refused to come himself and is described as being cool toward the Noldor, in earlier accounts, because of his unwillingness to share the dominion of Beleriand with them or, in later versions, because he has, along with Melian, some indistinct insight into the future. One may infer that Thingol values Mablung and Daeron greatly to choose them as his personal stand-ins before the representatives of the far-flung Elven territories who gathered at that convocation.

Mablung also plays a role in the quest of Beren and Lúthien to gain a Silmaril. He is one of the messengers sent by Thingol, after he hears of the actions of Celegorm and Curufin in Nargothrond, to demand that the sons of Fëanor should assist him in finding his daughter. Before Mablung and his company have gone far, they encounter Carcharoth, the terrible Wolf of Angband. With a Silmaril in his stomach, not even Melian's protective borders can hold Carcharoth back. "Alone of the messengers Mablung, chief captain of the King, escaped, and he brought the dread tidings to Thingol" (5). Simultaneously, Beren and Lúthien return to Doriath, and are married before Thingol who softens at hearing the story of their quest. But a new threat has entered their borders.

. . . daily Carcharoth drew nearer to Menegroth, they prepared the Hunting of the Wolf; of all pursuits of beasts whereof tales tell the most perilous. To that chase went Huan the Hound of Valinor, and Mablung of the Heavy Hand, and Beleg Strongbow, and Beren Erchamion, and Thingol King of Doriath. (6)

After Carcharoth is killed it is Mablung, who removes the Silmaril from Carcharoth's body.

Then Mablung took a knife and ripped up the belly of the Wolf; and within he was well nigh all consumed as with a fire, but the hand of Beren that held the jewel was yet incorrupt. But when Mablung reached forth to touch it, the hand was no more, and the Silmaril lay there unveiled, and the light of it filled the shadows of the forest all about them. Then quickly and in fear Mablung took it and set it in Beren's living hand; and Beren was aroused by the touch of the Silmaril, and held it aloft, and bade Thingol receive it. (7)

Mablung also participates in the tragic Fifth Battle, the Nirnaeth Arnoediad or the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Organized largely by Maedhros, the Elves and Men who participate in that great confrontation almost taste victory, but lose through a combination of betrayal and the lack of unstinting support from all of their potential allies. Thingol, in his increasing resentment and mistrust of the Noldor, withholds his potentially significant support. Mablung's principled and selfless heroism is shown in his response to that battle.

Then Thingol fortified the marches of his realm, and went not to war, nor any out of Doriath save Mablung and Beleg, who were unwilling to have no part in these great deeds. To them Thingol gave leave to go, so long as they served not the sons of Fëanor; and they joined themselves to the host of Fingon. (8)

Both Mablung and Beleg survive the Battle of Unnumbered Tears and return to Doriath. When Húrin, the Lord of Dor-lómin, is taken captive by Morgoth and does not return from that battle, his wife Morwen sends her son Túrin to Doriath to be sheltered and fostered there. Meanwhile, Morgoth curses Húrin and his children.

It is in Doriath that Mablung first becomes entangled in the curse of the children of Húrin. When Túrin, son of Húrin, reaches young manhood and returns from roaming beyond its borders with Beleg, it is Mablung who accuses Saeros of provoking and insulting Túrin within the halls of Thingol. "What ails you tonight? For this evil I hold you to blame; and it may be that the King's law will judge a broken mouth a just return for your taunting" (9). And he later insists, "Take heed, Saeros son of Ithilbor, lest you do the will of Morgoth in your pride, and remember that you are of the Eldar" (10). However, Mablung's attempts at peacemaking come to naught and Saeros is accidentally killed after fighting with Túrin, which results in Túrin's self-banishment from Doriath and the beginning of a whole series of dire events.

After Beleg departs from Doriath to seek Túrin and stays to fight with him against Morgoth's minions, Mablung is left as the chief of Thingol's marchwardens.

In order to tell the next part of the story of Mablung, one must work one's way through a series of events on two diverse fronts. After the death of Beleg, Turin comes to Nargothrond where he is accepted into the close counsel of Orodreth.

Meanwhile, Morwen and Niënor leave Dor-lómin and come to Doriath only to find Túrin has already left. There they remain for a time as the guests of Thingol and Melian.

Back in Nargothrond, Orcs and others in the services of Morgoth have moved against the surrounding area. Orodreth the Lord of Nargothrond and many of its warriors are killed in a sally against that threat. While they are away, a host of the Orcs and Glaurung the Dragon attack Nargothrond itself. Túrin returns to Nargothrond to find its sack all but complete and is enchanted by Glaurung and unable to act against him, while the survivors of Nargothrond are led away as captives.

Morwen, hearing of the fall of Nargothrond and rumors that Túrin has been there, sets out to find out for herself. Mablung is sent after her to protect her, but, unknown to them, Niënor follows along with them. Despite his most valiant efforts, Mablung fails to protect either mother or daughter and both are ensnared in the traps set by Glaurung the Dragon. At one point, Mablung recovers Niënor for a short time, but she escapes from his care, and wanders distraught and irrational with her memory having been erased by Glaurung.

Then at last Mablung returned to Doriath bowed with grief and with shame. 'Choose you a new master of your hunters, lord,' he said to the King. 'For I am dishonoured.'

But Melian said: 'It is not so, Mablung. You did all that you could, and none other among the King's servants would have done so much. But by ill chance you were matched against a power too great for you, too great indeed for all that now dwell in Middle-earth.' (11)

Melian's words may have held Mablung's despair at bay, but did not relieve him of his sense of continuing responsibility for his charges.

For not only was Niënor now run witless into the wild, but Morwen also was lost. Neither then nor after did any certain news of her fate come to Doriath or to Dor-lómin. Nonetheless Mablung would not rest, and with a small company he went into the wild and for three years wandered far, from Ered Wethrin even to the Mouths of Sirion, seeking for sign or tidings of the lost. (12)

Niënor, wandering in the wilderness of Brethil, encounters Túrin. He does not recognize his sister and she cannot tell him her name, since she still is held under the spell of forgetfulness cast upon her by Glaurung. They fall in love and marry.

Hearing Glaurung is rampaging in Brethil, Mablung makes his way there, where he finally encounters Túrin again. The story that Mablung tells of the loss of Niënor causes Túrin to understand that the women he has taken as his wife is actually his sister. Túrin kills himself in horror at the thought.

But Mablung came and looked on the hideous shape of Glaurung lying dead, and he looked upon Túrin and was grieved, thinking of Húrin as he had seen him in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and the dreadful doom of his kin. As the Elves stood there, men came down from Nen Girith to look upon the Dragon, and when they saw to what end the life of Túrin Turambar had come they wept; and the Elves learning at last the reason of Túrin's words to them were aghast. Then Mablung said bitterly: 'I also have been meshed in the doom of the Children of Húrin, and thus with words have slain one that I loved.' (13)

Mablung returns to his duties in Doriath and is killed during the Sack of Doriath by the Dwarves of Nogrod, but not before he once more has responsibility for the Silmaril thrust upon him. After the death of Thingol, Melian speaks to no one except Mablung, entrusting the care of the Silmaril to him.

For there was battle in the Thousand Caves, and many Elves and Dwarves were slain; and it has not been forgotten. But the Dwarves were victorious, and the halls of Thingol were ransacked and plundered. There fell Mablung of the Heavy Hand before the doors of the treasury wherein lay the Nauglamír; and the Silmaril was taken. (14)

The Children of Húrin, various chapters
The History of Middle-Earth XI: The War of the Jewels, "The Later Silmarillion, Part Two"
The Silmarillion, various chapters
Unfinished Tales, "Narn i Hîn Húrin"

Works Cited
  1. The Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
  2. The Silmarillion, "Of the Return of the Noldor"
  3. The History of Middle-Earth XI: The War of the Jewels, "The Later Silmarillion, Part Two"
  4. The Silmarillion, "Of the Return of the Noldor"
  5. The Silmarillion, "Of Beren and Lúthien"
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. The Silmarillion, "Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
  9. The Children of Húrin, "Túrin in Doriath"
  10. Ibid.
  11. The Children of Húrin, "The Journey of Morwen and Niënor"
  12. Ibid.
  13. The Children of Húrin, "The Death of Túrin"
  14. The Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Doriath"

Character profiles by Oshun.

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

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

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

October's News

New Reference Readers Needed!

As the SWG continues to grow, one of our priorities has become developing our Reference Library. Here, visitors to the site can find essays on Tolkien's world, the craft of writing, and the culture of fandom and online life.

One of our chief goals with the Reference Library is assuring that information about Tolkien's canon is accurate and not based on wild conjecture, hearsay, or "fanon." To help us with that task, the SWG employs a group of reference readers. Reference readers are volunteers who review essays submitted to the Reference Library and check the facts in the essay against the cited canon source.

We are looking for more reference readers to help us with this task! Reference readers are people who like learning more about Tolkien's world, delving into some of the more obscure canon sources, and reading non-fiction about canon issues. We hope that, by working on the Reference staff, our reference readers will get the chance to learn and explore new canon sources and share their existing knowledge with others.

What reference readers don't do is pass subjective judgment on non-fiction works, edit or beta submissions, or vote which essays will and will not be included on the site. We will never ask you to pass judgment on the work of your peers. And if you don't own everything Tolkien ever wrote, don't worry! We will help you to get the books that you need.

Working as a reference reader is a low-pressure way to get more involved with the SWG while learning more about Tolkien's works. If you are interested, we will add you to our list of readers and will contact you when we have a new essay that needs references checked. You will choose which essays you work on, and there is no minimum requirement. You work on what you want, when you want!

Please check out our reference reader page in the Library for more information. If you have any questions or are interested in being added to the list of reference readers, please contact us at

Sexual Content Warning Poll Results

Last month, we asked for the input of our members and guests in a poll about how best to label sexual content on our archive. We received many responses and thank all who took the time to consider this matter and share their opinions with us!

The results of the poll are as follows:

Option 1: continue using the current system6
Option 2: create a drop-down menu of specific and general pairing descriptions1
Option 3: create a field where authors can enter whatever pairing information they want their readers to know11
Option 4: label stories on two tiers--sexual content and sexual orientation7
Not Counted7

"Not Counted" are responses that selected more than one option without clarification as to which was the preferred (3), spam (2), no option selected (1), and votes that required additional terms or caveats that we could not honor from a technical standpoint (1).

Option 3 emerges as a clear favorite. This option would allow authors to enter into a text field any pairing description their readers need to know. If their story includes a pairing, they will need to enter something, but it is up to the author what terms s/he would like to use. For example, a Maedhros/Fingon story could be label as "m/m," "Maedhros/Fingon," "slash," or something else entirely, whichever designation the author is most comfortable with.

Unfortunately, from a technical standpoint, this is the most difficult of the four possibilities to implement as it will require altering the code of the software we use. In the weeks to come, my comoderators and I will be researching how best to go about doing this. It may take some time to get the specifics worked out, but we will do our best to honor the wishes of the group.

Again, we would all like to thank those of you who not only took the time to consider and vote in the poll but those whose suggestions helped bring the issue to our attention and who suggested possible solutions. Please remember that if, at any time, you have a suggestion for how we might make the SWG a better place, we would love to hear from you! Simply drop us a line at

Around the World and Web

A Long Expected Contest

In honor of Halloween (October 31), ALEC's October theme will be Death and/or Dead Things. Maybe you'll be inspired to write about the Nazgul or the things in the Dead Marshes. Or a death of a popular character (can be AU). Ooohh or maybe there is a haunting going on! Spooky or tragic - beware of the tricksy lights, don't head the candles of corpses!

It does not have to be based on documented events in the book and the words in the theme do not have to be included in the fiction. Each writer has until October 31st PST to turn in the story. To find ALEC, check out our LJ community and Yahoo! group.

Come join us! Good luck and happy writing!

Teitho Challenge

At Teitho, the challenge for October is Healing. It is quite easy to break something or to hurt someone: a moment of inattention or a few ill-chosen words can be enough to shatter something precious. It is much harder to heal what was broken. Sometimes it's impossible. For the new challenge, we want you to focus on this process of healing. The challenge will end October 25th. If you want to participate, head over to the website to see all further info.

The Men of Middle-earth Awards

Voting has begun for The Men of Middle Earth Awards, celebrating new and classic FPS. Voting will be open until October 31 at 11:59 pm. To vote you need to be a member of the comm or send an e-mail to to request a ballot. Click here to see the nominations.

With 28 different FPS pairings represented, you're bound to find your favorites on the ballot. Stop by and check out the exceptional stories.

Spooky Arda

Middle-earth is a scary place! From Moria to Mirkwood to Mordor, spooky things happen and scary things lurk. Even in pleasant Hobbiton, danger and fright are not far away.

Until now, though, spooky LotR fanfic and fan art haven't really had a home of their own on LJ. Thus, Spooky Arda was created to be a place for enjoying the spookier side of Middle-earth. From Morgoth to the Mewlips, from horror to humor, if it's got spooky, scary, or creepy elements, we want it!

So come and curl up by the fire--and don't mind the noises from the shadows!

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