TheSilmarillionWriters'Guild

Newsletter: October 2016

Table of Contents


SWG News

Mereth Aderthad 2017 Updates

Have you ever thought it would be awesome to meet people from the Tolkien fan community in real life? To hang out in a place where you can share stories, art, music, and other transformative works with like-minded fans? To share a meal, sit around a bonfire, or chill on the beach while chatting about Tolkien? And to accomplish all of the above in a setting so picturesque that it competes with New Zealand for the title of Middle-earth on Modern-earth?

In the spirit of the Mereth Aderthad in The Silmarillion, we are hoping to hold an event of our own next summer, in Vermont's beautiful and rugged Northeast Kingdom. We need to decide on dates and a shape for the event. If you think you might be interested in attending the Mereth Aderthad, please take the Mereth Aderthad survey by October 10.

If you're interested in learning more about the Mereth Aderthad, check out and follow the Mereth Aderthad LiveJournal community.

Welcome to Our New Members!

We are pleased to welcome the new members who joined us at the Silmarillion Writers' Guild during the month of September. They are fellowshipofthegay, RaisingCaiin, fivefingons, NelyafinweFeanorion, Didymus Curmudgeon, and hennethgalad.

We hope you have already found your way around our site and begun reading, reviewing or posting at the archive, but if you are still exploring or unsure about how things work around the site, you may wish to browse our Frequently Asked Questions. Also, we would love you to tell us 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

A Promise of Lightning by The Wavesinger [Adult] (4797 words)
Summary: The story of Ilmarë and Thuringwethil, from the beginning to the beginning, again. Written for Elleth for the 2016 RarePair Fest.

A Settlement by Elleth [Teens] (2493 words)
Summary: Finduilas, Niënor and Nellas all live on Amon Obel. Entanglements are inevitable.

A Summer's Ball by Elleth [Teens] (2538 words)
Summary: The King and Queen of the Noldor are holding a ball, and Indis finds herself pursued by Míriel's unwavering interest.

And Last of All by Elleth [Teens] (3037 words)
Summary: Tar-Míriel's handmaiden on the final day of Númenor.

Bone-White by Dawn Felagund [Teens] (3401 words)
Summary: After wandering accidentally near to Mandos, Caranthir encounters a procession delivering his newly reembodied brother back to the world: Maedhros. Caranthir breaks into his tent, and the two discuss healing, mutability, and the things that will never change. For Silver Trails.

Choices Seal Our Fate by Lotrfan [General] (2290 words)
Summary: Maedhros (Maitimo) receives Morgoths's message of parley. He and his brother Maglor (Makalaurë) debate their choices. Takes place just before my story They Chiose the Path.

Decent Tales make good neighbours by Chiara Cadrich [General] (2963 words)
Summary: The Gaffer shows reluctance about his son hanging in Bag-End and dreaming about elves and dragons. One particular tale irritates the worthy gardener.

Fee of Passage by Elleth [Teens] (2767 words)
Summary: Struggling with the burden of her mortality, Gilmith reaches out to an unlikely savior.

Fight Me, You Thieving Bastard by Nibeneth [Teens] (3613 words)
Summary: It is twenty-eight years, three months, one week, and six days from the date of Maedhros' rescue, meaning that starting today, he has been free for longer than he was a prisoner.

Finding Home by Independence1776 [Teens] (2166 words)
Summary: A loosely related collection of stories about Elrond and Celebrían in Aman. Final two chapters: Elladan and Elrohir bring gifts and memorializing Arwen.

Himling Isle by Himring [Teens] (1265 words)
Summary: During the Third Age, Maglor returns to Himling, the island which was the top of Himring Hill in the First Age. His contemplations are interrupted by unexpected visitors.

Museum for the Forgotten by Dawn Felagund [Teens] (9707 words)
Summary: It's the Third Age. Tirion has developed suburban sprawl, and psychotherapists are in high demand. An unkinged Finarfin experiments with political radicalism and has turned the palace into a memorial of the kinslaying. Amarië composes beat poetry. And Finrod has been reembodied into a world and among people he barely recognizes. Dark humor, for Kenaz for the Around the Fire challenge.

No Flame Burns Forever by Lotrfan [General] (1154 words)
Summary: Borrowed the general idea from nyx thranduillon's 100 short one-shots on fanfiction.net This is not 100 one shots--my goal is a series of one shots each consisting of less than 100 words. Tryng to see how concise I can be and still set a scene. These are all entirely from Maedhros' point of view. Could not keep it less than 100 words for the last one shot.

Reunion by Ysilme [Teens] (1770 words)
Summary: Arriving in Lothlórien for the first time, Celeborn meets somebody from his past, somebody who might not exactly be happy to see him again.

Singing to an Ocean by Lotrfan [General] (3380 words)
Summary: Set at the very end of the Third Age, just before Elrond sails. He meets someone unexpected on the shore at the Havens. Written for August 2016 Teitho Contest "Oaths" where it received 1st place.

The Dragon Helm of Dor-Lomin by NelyafinweFeanorion [Teens] (1951 words)
Summary: A fluff breakfast conversation in Himring, between Maedhros and Fingon, because they deserve some happiness. Mild Maedhros/Fingon slash. The Dragon Helm was the most meaningful gift Maedhros could have given Fingon. It always bothered me that he gave it away when it could have saved him at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.

The Missing by Elleth [Teens] (5024 words)
Summary: Far into the Third Age, Eärwen is plagued by ominous dreams, leading her and Anairë on a journey outside the bounds of Aman.

The Returnees by Silver Trails [Teens] (4416 words)
Summary: The Elves prepare to return to Middle-earth.

The Warmth He Gave by Urloth [Teens] (16536 words)
Summary: It was an elf, his horse fallen near him and dead by a snapped neck, struggling despite how thoroughly Nan Elmoth had wrapped him in her most poisonous children. He was shining, Maeglin thought, like a star that had fallen straight out of the sky. His hair like the mercury his father used, skin like the hazelnuts that his mother devoured when in her better moments.

They Choose the Path by Lotrfan [General] (3383 words)
Summary: The Sons of Fëanor react to the news that their brother has been taken hostage by Morgoth.

What Happens After by The Wavesinger [Teens] (3131 words)
Summary: Finduilas and Nienor find each other again, but that is only the beginning. Written for preplexingly for EveryWoman 2016.

What Is Lost by NelyafinweFeanorion [General] (5021 words)
Summary: Maedhros and Maglor in the immediate aftermath of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Flashbacks to Tirion. Maedhros and Fingon first realizing about their relationship and feelings for each other. My thanks to Alpha Ori for being my beta on this. Many thanks to Dawn Felagund for creating the culture and atmosphere of Tirion and Fëanor's family in her brilliant story "Another Man's Cage." It influenced my thoughts on this and the family of Fëanor.

Works in Progress

Approaching Rivendell by Ysilme [Teens]
Summary: 100 drabbles with Elrond Half-Elven through the ages, focussing on the creation of and the living in Rivendell.
Chapters added this month: Construction and A New Friend.

At the sign of the drunken goose by Chiara Cadrich [Teens]
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.
Chapter added this month: Adunaphel.

Cuiviénen by hennethgalad [General]
Summary: coming to consciousness at Cuiviénen
Chapter added this month: Chapter 1.

Drabbles for Tolkien Weekly by Winterwitch [General]
Summary: Small drabble sets about three pairs of brothers, inspired by the prompts of tolkien weekly, the Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales.
Chapters added this month: Winter Preparations I and Winter Preparations II.

Ëonwë by hennethgalad [General]
Summary: the final theft of the Silmarils
Chapter added this month: Chapter 1.

Happy Thingol by hennethgalad [General]
Summary: Thingol finds a kind of treasure during the excavation of Menegroth.
Chapter added this month: short story.

Love Over Gold by Keiliss [Adult]
Summary: Glorfindel meets a strange being beside the sea at Mithlond and is amazed months later when Erestor makes his way to Imladris to find him. But for everything, there is a price.
Chapters added this month: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Spirit of Fire by Lotrfan [General]
Summary: I recently did a series of 100-word drabbles about Maedhros (No Flame Burns Forever). It was a good exercise so I thought I would try a similar idea with Fëanor as the central character. I have been reluctant to utilize him as a character in my works, as I am somewhat intimidated when I think about writing him. These short glimpses into his life gave me a better sense of how I think of him in my head canon and made me more comfortable with his character in general. So here is a series of 100-word (occasionally more than 100 words!) drabbles from the point of view of Fëanor.
Chapters added this month: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, and Chapter 20.

The Depths of Moria by hennethgalad [General]
Summary: Durin, after the discovery of Mithril in Moria. Elvish names used.
Chapters added this month: Chapter 1.

The Song Remains The Same by Lotrfan [General]
Summary: Fingon arrives at Lake Mithrim and learns of Maedhros' capture. His search, discovery and rescue of Maedhros. No slash.
Chapters added this month: Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.

Trinkets by Independence1776 [Adult]
Summary: A collection of drabbles and ficlets too short to post on their own. Each story has a separate rating.
Chapter added this month: Nellas in early autumn.

Werewolves by hennethgalad † [Teens]
Summary: a letter from Beren to Galadriel concerning Finrod's death
Chapters added this month: Chapter 1.

Short Works

Secrets by Zdenka [Teens] (199 words)
Summary: Two cousins on opposite sides of a river, and a shared secret. (Two drabbles. Celebrimbor/Maeglin.)

Writ in Water by Zdenka [Teens] (768 words)
Summary: A series of seven drabbles about Nargothrond and those who became involved with its fate, based on a set of river-related prompts from Tolkien Weekly.

Poetry

A song of welcome (Aya Findekano) by Himring [General] (98 words)
Summary: There is a scene in "Children of Hurin" in which Turin watches Fingon ride over the bridge near his home. I believe, in canon, this is meant to be about Elves being remote and elusive--but, personally, I can't image Fingon on that bridge in white and silver with his knights unless he were actually dropping in to visit Hurin (or Morwen), even if it was on the way to somewhere else. So--in my Gloom cycle--he does visit Hurin. ( Turin, I suppose, may be just too young to be in on most of the proceedings.) Now, maybe Rian was there, too--and what more natural than that, as a maker of songs, she would make a song to welcome him? And this bit of song here would have sounded a lot better when Rian herself sang it to the tune she had made up--all spontaneously, of course!


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Character of the Month Biography

Ungoliant

Oshun


Ungoliant, the mother of all of Tolkien's hideous and terrifying spiders, appears first in his earliest written work on the legendarium, a greatly altered pre-history "full of mythology, and elvishness"1 that is found in The Book of Lost Tales. Although the story of the theft of Elven jewels is quite different there, it is useful to consult it. In particular we may find insight there into the origin and nature of this creature. (Ungoliant is therein referred to as Ungoliont.2) The events are switched around, but the most interesting part of The Book of Lost Tales version of the role of Ungoliant is her description and possible origin:

Very deep and winding were those ways having a subterranean outlet on the sea as the ancient books say, and here . . . dwelt the primeval spirit Móru whom even the Valar know not whence or when she came, and the folk of Earth have given her many names. Mayhap she was bred of mists and darkness on the confines of the Shadowy Seas, in that utter dark that came between the overthrow of the Lamps and the kindling of the Trees, but more like she has always been; and she it is who loveth still to dwell in that black place taking the guise of an unlovely spider, spinning a clinging gossamer of gloom that catches in its mesh stars and moons and all bright things that sail the airs.3

She is given a series of other names in this early version. It is irresistible to cite the exact passages again, instead of a paraphrase, because of their eerie and sinister tone:

Ungwë Lianti the great spider who enmeshes did the Eldar call her, naming her also Wirilómë or Gloom-weaver, whence still do the Noldoli speak of her as Ungoliont the spider or as Gwerlum the Black.

Now between Melko and Ungwë Lianti was there friendship from the first, when she found him and his comrades straying in her caves, but Gloomweaver was ahungered of the brightness of that hoard of jewels as soon as she saw them.4

Christopher Tolkien explains how the story's

essential elements were present ab initio: the doubt as to her origin, her dwelling in the desolate regions in the south of the Outer Lands, her sucking in of light to bring forth webs of darkness; her alliance with Melko, his rewarding her with the gems stolen from the Noldoli (though this was differently treated later), the piercing of the Trees by Melko and Ungoliont's sucking up the light; and the great hunt mounted by the Valar, which failed of its object through darkness and mist, allowing Melko to escape out of Valinor by the northward ways.5

In The Silmarillion we first encounter Ungoliant when Melkor has need of her. There she is introduced into the narrative simply "as a spider of monstrous form."6 She is still of mysterious and cloudy origin, e.g., "[t]he Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë."7 This language is similar but not as mystifying as the Lost Tales version when even the Valar are uncertain of her origin:

Thus unseen he came at last to the dark region of Avathar. That narrow land lay south of the Bay of Eldamar, beneath the eastern feet of the Pelóri, and its long and mournful shores stretched away into the south, lightless and unexplored. There, beneath the sheer walls of the mountains and the cold dark sea, the shadows were deepest and thickest in the world; and there in Avathar, secret and unknown, Ungoliant had made her abode.8

In The Silmarillion version, one might assume she is possibly some form of fallen Maia, while in the Lost Tales one, she seems more likely to be a primal creature created earlier by Eru and existing autonomously from the Ainur. The Silmarillion calls her "one of those that he [Melkor] corrupted to his service. But she had disowned her Master, desiring to be mistress of her own lust, taking all things to herself to feed her emptiness."9

Melkor is asking for trouble here when he approaches this nasty and powerful creature for assistance. A powerful, malevolent creature weaving black webs in a cleft of the mountains, she lives in a dark ravine . She sucks any light she can find and spins it "forth again in dark nets of strangling gloom, until no light more could come to her abode; and she was famished."10 She is actually starving for light, not to hoard the light but in order to consume and destroy it.

After murdering Finwë in Fëanor's stronghold in Formenos and escaping with the Silmarils, Melkor goes to Ungoliant to seek her assistance in destroying the Two Trees of Valinor. At first she appears to hesitate out of fear of the Valar, but Melkor makes her an offer she cannot refuse saying that he will satiate her terrible hunger in any way she wishes: "Therefore Melkor said to her: 'Do as I bid; and if thou hunger still when all is done, then I will give thee whatsoever thy lust may demand. Yea, with both hands.'"11 So she joins him and they enter Valinor together:

. . . Melkor looked north, and saw afar the shining plain, and the silver domes of Valmar gleaming in the mingling of the lights of Telperion and Laurelin. Then Melkor laughed aloud, and leapt swiftly down the long western slopes; and Ungoliant was at his side, and her darkness covered them.12

Undetected—covered by Ungoliant's dark shadow, while the Valar and all of the peoples of Valinor gathered at Taniquetil for the great feast called by Manwë to resolve the troubles of the Noldor—Melkor and the giant spider reached the Trees without inference.

Melkor sprang upon the mound; and with his black spear he smote each Tree to its core, wounded them deep, and their sap poured forth as it were their blood, and was spilled upon the ground. Ungoliant sucked it up, and going then from Tree to Tree she set her black beak to their wounds, till they were drained; and the poison of Death that was in her went into their tissues and withered them, root, branch, and leaf; and they died. And still she thirsted, and going to the Wells of Varda she drank them dry; but Ungoliant belched forth black vapours as she drank, and swelled to a shape so vast and hideous that Melkor was afraid.13

Despite having consumed all of the light of the Trees, the spider is still ravenous and demands all of the jewels that Melkor had taken from Fëanor's stronghold. Then having eaten all of Melkor's plundered treasures, she demands the Silmarils. When he refuses, she binds him and he would have been a goner if his Balrogs had not come to his aid:

But Ungoliant had grown great, and he less by the power that had gone out of him; and she rose against him, and her cloud closed about him, and she enmeshed him in a web of clinging thongs to strangle him.14

It seems entirely possible at this point that Ungoliant might have overcome Melkor's power to withstand her, if he had not cried out for helped and received it:

Then Morgoth sent forth a terrible cry, that echoed in the mountains. Therefore that region was called Lammoth; for the echoes of his voice dwelt there ever after, so that any who cried aloud in that land awoke them, and all the waste between the hills and the sea was filled with a clamour as of voices in anguish. The cry of Morgoth in that hour was the greatest and most dreadful that was ever heard in the northern world; the mountains shook, and the earth trembled, and rocks were riven asunder. Deep in forgotten places that cry was heard.15

Morgoth's cry reached to vaults far beneath the halls of Angband. Balrogs lurked there awaiting the return of their Dark Lord. Hearing, they "arose, and passing over Hithlum they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire. With their whips of flame they smote asunder the webs of Ungoliant, and she quailed, and turned to flight, belching black vapours to cover her. "16 It was a narrow escape for Morgoth.

Ungoliant's Offspring
The Spiders and Aredhel17

After Ungoliant was chased from Lammoth by Morgoth's Balrogs, she bred spiders in her own image in a valley below the Ered Gorgoroth. She left the land infested with her horrific offspring, causing it to be named Nan Dungortheb ("Valley of Dreadful Death"18). After the entire area had been befouled, few ever attempted to cross it.19

Two hundred years after Turgon had founded his hidden city of Gondolin, his sister Aredhel grew weary of being restricted and told her brother that she needed to "ride again in the wide lands and to walk in the forests, as had been her wont in Valinor." He was adamant about his reluctance to allow her leave, but she argued with him until he relented, insisting upon giving her a small armed escort of lords and wringing from her the promise (which she had no intention of keeping) to visit only their brother Fingon and then return.20

When Aredhel and her lords reached the point of heading into Hithlum, she insisted upon turning in the other direction to instead seek out her friends, the sons of Fëanor. The travelers sought passage through Doriath but were, of course, denied entry. Aredhel and her companions then had no choice but to proceed northward along "the dangerous road between the haunted valleys of Ered Gorgoroth and the north fences of Doriath," crossing through "the evil region of Nan Dungortheb [where] the riders became enmeshed in shadows, and Aredhel strayed from her companions and was lost."21

Aredhel's protectors fought off attacks by the evil spawn of Ungoliant, until they were forced to flee back to Gondolin without their royal charge. Upon hearing their story, Turgon, grief stricken and furious, thought he had lost his sister to the fearsome spiders.

Unknown to Turgon, however, Aredhel has survived the passage through the valleys of Ered Gorgoroth, "for she was fearless and hardy of heart, as were all the children of Finwë," ending her journey in Nan Elmoth, where the story of Maeglin begins.22 In the tale of Beren and Lúthien, Beren is also said to have survived passage through the land of these terrible spiders.

Beyond lay the wilderness of Dungortheb, where the sorcery of Sauron and the power of Melian came together, and horror and madness walked. There spiders of the fell race of Ungoliant abode, spinning their unseen webs in which all living things were snared; and monsters wandered there that were born in the long dark before the Sun, hunting silently with many eyes.23
The Mirkwood Spiders and Shelob in Lord of the Rings

When Sauron returned to Middle-earth, his arrival led to a darkening of the great forest of Greenwood. The blight of much of this land led it to become known as Mirkwood. The children of Shelob, one of the last and greatest of Ungoliant's offspring, as well as bats and Orcs dwelt within the forest, barely contained by its resident woodland Elves. Once arguably the most beautiful forest of Middle-earth, it became dark and covered in cobwebs.24 The Hobbit contains an account of the blighted forest and its ghastly spiders:

He had picked his way stealthily for some distance, when he noticed a place of dense black shadow ahead of him, black even for that forest, like a patch of midnight that had never been cleared away. As he drew nearer, he saw that it was made by spider-webs one behind and over and tangled with another. Suddenly he saw, too, that there were spiders huge and horrible sitting in the branches above him, and ring or no ring he trembled with fear lest they should discover him. Standing behind a tree he watched a group of them for some time, and then in the silence and stillness of the wood he realised that these loathsome creatures were speaking one to another. Their voices were a sort of thin creaking and hissing, but he could make out many of the words that they said. They were talking about the dwarves!25

When questioned about the relationship between these vile creatures and Sauron, Tolkien himself opined in a letter that

The giant spiders were themselves only the offspring of Ungoliante the primeval devourer of light, that in spider-form assisted the Dark Power, but ultimately quarrelled with him. There is thus no alliance between Shelob and Sauron, the Dark Power's deputy; only a common hatred.26

When Frodo and Sam encounter Shelob in The Lord of the Rings, she earns a long and detailed description that evokes the horror of Ungoliant's line and alludes to her story in the then-unpublished Silmarillion:

There agelong she had dwelt, an evil thing in spider-form, even such as once of old had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West that is now under the Sea, such as Beren fought in the Mountains of Terror in Doriath, and so came to Lúthien upon the green sward amid the hemlocks in the moonlight long ago. How Shelob came there, flying from ruin, no tale tells, for out of the Dark Years few tales have come. But still she was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dûr; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness.27

This last of Ungoliant's direct descendants is given an ambiguous outcome, much as her malevolent mother:

. . . Shelob was gone; and whether she lay long in her lair, nursing her malice and her misery, and in slow years of darkness healed herself from within, rebuilding her clustered eyes, until with hunger like death she spun once more her dreadful snares in the glens of the Mountains of Shadow, this tale does not tell.28
Conclusion

The end of the story of Ungoliant is as mysterious and obscure as its beginning. We remain uncertain of her true nature and also of the final resolution of her long and villainous life. The final clues we are given are that "[o]f the fate of Ungoliant no tale tells. Yet some have said that she ended long ago, when in her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last."29




Works Cited

  1. The Book of Lost Tales I, "Foreword."
  2. "Ungoliont, her Gnomish name in the Lost Tales [page cites deleted]. (Replaced Gungliont.)" The Book of Lost Tales I, "Searchable Terms," an index unique to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kindle Edition.
  3. The Book of Lost Tales I, The Theft of Melko and the Darkening of Valinor.
  4. Ibid.
  5. The Book of Lost Tales I, "Commentary on The Theft of Melko and the Darkening of Valinor."
  6. The Silmarillion, "Of the Darkening of Valinor."
  7. Ibid.
  8. The Book of Lost Tales I, "Commentary on The Theft of Melko and the Darkening of Valinor."
  9. The Silmarillion, "Of the Darkening of Valinor."
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. The Silmarillion, "Of the Flight of the Noldor."
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. I am well read in classic Silmarillion fanfiction (that which has stood the test of time), although I never make fic recs here. This time I will make an exception and point to one of the few about Aredhel and the infamous spiders of Nan Dungortheb: Flawed and Fair by Tehta.
  18. The Silmarillion, "Index of Names."
  19. The Silmarillion, "Of the Flight of the Noldor."
  20. The Silmarillion, "Of Maeglin."
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. The Silmarillion, "Of Beren and Lúthien."
  24. The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders."
  25. Ibid.
  26. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 144 To Naomi Mitchison.
  27. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair."
  28. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise."
  29. The Silmarillion, "Of the Darkening of Valinor."



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Current Challenge

Companies, Clubs, and Cliques

Tolkien's canon gives us many formal divisions among his characters: groups such as the Naugrim, Sindarin, and the Edain or family groups such as the Fëanorians. Through the Lambengolmor and the Gwaith i Mirdain, we also know that there were formal societies established around a shared interest in study and trade, while groups like the Aulendur suggest alliances existed along quasi-religious lines.

This challenge asks you to imagine what other character groupings might have existed beyond those we are provided in the texts. What other guilds and trade groups might have existed? Were there specialized or elite military companies? What about political, philosophical, and religious societies? Did characters join together in social clubs, or how did informal but powerful alliances in cliques shape the events of The Silmarillion? Your story can look at any aspect of a group--formal or informal--in Arda that Tolkien didn't identify or describe in his own writings.

Challenges Revisited: Halls of Mystery

One of the most intriguing--and controversial--elements of Tolkien's mythology is his notion of Elven "immortality": that Elves who "die" spend a period of time in the Halls of Mandos before being reborn in new bodies. Different authors and researchers have interpretted and portrayed the Halls of Mandos in vastly different ways; indeed, a look back at the early drafts of the works that would become The Silmarillion shows that Tolkien also had conflicting ideas about the Halls of Mandos and the process of Elven rebirth. Early ideas presented in The Book of Lost Tales depict a hall that is "draped with dark vapours and its floors and columns were of jet" (while Nienna keeps a hall as well that is roofed with bats' wings!). Tolkien dabbled with the idea of Elves being reborn as the children of their children, being given new parents, or being remade into bodies like those they had inhabited in their first life.

So which is it? Perhaps the most reliable conclusion about the Halls of Mandos is that we know next to nothing about them at all!

This month's challenge offers you the chance to explore the place and ideas behind one of the most mysterious locations on Arda. Your story, poem, essay, or vignette should explore the Halls of Mandos or the ideas of Elven "death" and rebirth to take your readers on a journey through the surreal, inexplicable, or just plain weird.

Quote of the Month

"Over the Merlock Mountains a long and weary way,
In a mouldy valley where the trees are grey,
By a dark pool's borders without wind or tide,
Moonless and sunless, the Mewlips hide."
~ J. R. R. Tolkien, from "The Mewlips"

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!


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Around the World and Web

Articles of Interest

Each month, the SWG newsletter features links to articles that our members might find interesting. Do you have something you'd like to suggest? An interesting essay or discussion going on in your journal or blog? Drop us a line at moderator@silmarillionwritersguild.org and we'll add your article, essay, or post to our next newsletter!

It should go without saying, but just in case it bears repeating, any opinions expressed in these links are not necessarily that of the SWG and its moderators.

The Journal of Tolkien Research Volume 3, Issue 3 and Attainable Vistas: Historical Bias in Tolkien's Legendarium as a Motive for Transformative Fanworks

A new issue of the Journal of Tolkien Research has been published and is freely accessible at the link above. Beyond papers on authorizing Tolkien, Tolkien fan films, transmedia storytelling in a Tolkienian context, and digital gaming, it also contains one of SWG owner Dawn Felagund's papers. Attainable Vistas: Historical Bias in Tolkien's Legendarium as a Motive for Transformative Fanworks, which examines the role of inner-textual historical bias by loremasters like Pengolodh, and its influence on community-specific modes of fannish storytelling.

The Silmarillion Fandom Primer

Silmarillion fan AmyFortuna has written up a primer to the Silmarillion fandom for the fandom_dealer community over at Imzy. The heading "Tolkien's Drawerfic" should give you an impression of the tone (hint: it's ever so slightly lovingly irreverent), but it offers a funny and comprehensive overview for people who are new to the Silmarillion, would like to refresh their Silmarillion knowledge, or find inspiration for a reread. The primer also includes a collection of fandom websites and resources, as well as a round of fic recs.

J.R.R. Tolkien on Fairy Tales, Language, the Psychology of Fantasy, and Why There’s No Such Thing as Writing “For Children”

Maria Popova at Brainpickings takes commentary on writing "for children" (or not, citing arbitrary distinctions for child-suitable literature) as a reason to review and contextualize Tolkien's essay On Fairy Stories in this light. She follows Tolkien's reasoning as he explores the same misconceptions and cultural phenomena at the root of seeing fairy stories and fantasy as suitable only for children, rather than a valid mode of literary engagement on their own.

Darkness in Elfland: Tolkien on Whether Fairies Are Demons and a (Hopefully) Fuller Account of Enchantment and These Are Not the Elves You're Looking For: Musings on Tolkien and Faërie

David Russel Mosley views the darker side of Faërie and its origins in medieval tradition that not only asserted that there were dark fairies, but also clearly associated some with demons, while Tolkien himself acknowledged that Faërie itself was a "perilous realm" (so-called also in the title of one of Tolkien's story collections) and its enchantments were not always benign. In a similar vein, Alas, not me takes a closer look at the literary origins of Tolkien's Elves and the role of Tolkien's translation of Sir Orfeo as a "master-text for Tolkien's portrayal of the elves".

Northern Courage, Ofermōde and Thorin Oakenshield’s last stand

In Northern Courage, Ofermōde and Thorin Oakenshield’s last stand, A Tolkienist's Perspective sheds light on Tolkien's use of the concepts of so-called Northern Courage, to not surrender against overwhelming odds, that is displayed by central figures like Beowulf throughout the sagas and epics Tolkien based his works on, and its counterpoint, overly prideful behaviour that often leads to disaster. While the terms are discussed in the context of Thorin Oakenshield primarily, the two concepts can be applied to figures of the Silmarillion just as well and just as easily.

Analysing The Children of Húrin: The Curse of Morgoth

In a continuation of their series on the Children of Húrin in the course of the TheOneRing.net's reread, Demosthenes explores Morgoth's curse on Húrin's family, briefly puts it into context with other oaths and curses of Middle-earth, and shares thoughts on their influence on Middle-earth as a whole.

Lúthien: Tolkien’s Badass Elf Princess

Jeff LaSala published an extensive, illustrated summary of Tolkien's tale of Beren and Lúthien on tor.com. Beyond the summary, "Tolkien's Badass Elf Princess" also places Beren and Lúthien into a larger Tolkienian context and stresses Lúthien's claim to fame as the eminent one among Tolkien's most outstanding heroines.

On Fanfic and Emotional Continuity

Foz Meadows on tumblr talks about about the importance of characterization in fannish writing and the way of constructing emotional continuity as a core concept that holds true through various incarnations and different tropes that a character may be placed in by a fanfic writer. The article also covers the importance of fanfic as a learning tool for constructing characterization out of various types of canon information. Read the post here.

Announcements

Not Oxonmoot-moot

On November 5, the Tolkien Society is planning an event for attendees (and non-attendees) of Oxonmoot: "To help those who both were and weren’t at Oxonmoot, we’re giving everyone a chance to get together in Oxford on the 5th November to meet friends old and new. You do not have to be a Society member, so feel free to come to any part of the day. Friends and family are more than welcome." The program includes a visit to the Ashmolean Museum, a pub visit, and fireworks in the evening. Read about the event on the Tolkien Society website.

Liverpool Hope University Tolkien Day

Liverpool Hope University has announced a Tolkien Day on November 11. They write: "Tolkien lovers are in for a treat as Liverpool Hope University dedicates a day to The Lord of the Rings author and his lesser known links to Liverpool. Alan Lee, Academy Award winning Concept Artist for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films will headline Tolkien Day at Liverpool Hope University on Friday 11th November. He will also judge the finalists of a Tolkien inspired art competition for 16-19 year olds. As well as discussing the films, fans and literature lovers will have the chance to learn about Tolkien’s early manuscripts, his experience of World War 1, his faith - and his hidden links to Liverpool."

SilmFilm Adaptation with Ted Nasmith

Signum University has been working on a Silmarillion movie using the MMORPG Lord of the Rings Online for a while; and they have just announced a collaboration. They announce: "In this special Silmarillion Film Project discussion, Nasmith will join Dr. Corey Olsen for a wide-ranging chat on visualizing the Silmarillion, touching on many of the sets and characters and scenes from Seasons 1 and 2 of the SilmFilm Project. They will also be taking questions and comments from the audience, of course!" The event begins at 7:30PM on October 3rd, and you can find more information about participating on the website.

Yuletide featuring Tolkien's Smaller Works

'Tis the season to sign up for the Yuletide fic exchange! Although the Silmarillion, Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are not eligible for this exchange, several other smaller of Tolkien's works have made it into the Yuletide tag set for this year: Farmer Giles of Ham, The Father Christmas Letters, Leaf by Niggle and Smith of Wootton Major. If this appeals to you, you can find more information on the Yuletide profile page or the LJ community. Signups for this exchange will close on October 10.

Library of Moria Horrifying October

The Library of Moria has launched a spooky event for October! LoM's Horrifying October "will issue a prompt every day until the 31st with a villain, an evil place from Tolkien's Legendarium, or a horror trope.

You can fill the prompts with recs or work you created for the prompt. The fills can be tricks (dark) or treats (sweet). While the Library of Moria is a slash and femslash archive, this celebration welcomes all genres." Find more information here, and make sure to check the community for the daily prompts. The event is also running on tumblr.

Tolkien Femslash Recs: Week 9: Stories Over 1,000 Words

Tolkien Femslash Recs is a new tumblr to share the femslash love by reccing your favourites along a weekly theme. This week, if you have any favourite femslash fics of over a thousand words, make your favourite authors happy and write up your own rec list to share.

Inktober 2016

The annual Inktober 31-day art challenge of producing an ink drawing per day has come around again. It was created in 2009 as a personal challenge and has since grown to include artists worldwide in an effort to hone art skills and create a regular drawing habit, including, in the past years, a number of Tolkien artists. If you're stuck for inspiration, find the official 2016 Inktober prompt list here, and remember to use the hashtag #inktober or #inktober2016 if you share your results on social media.

Fansplaining Fic Preferences Survey

The Fansplaining Podcast is looking for respondents to a survey on fanfiction habits and your preferences in tropes about anything from various types of AUs to different fictional relationships. Find some notes on the survey and a link to the document here at the Fansplaining Podcast tumblr.



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