?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

The Canon According to Dawn Felagund

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

The Canon According to Dawn Felagund

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
nelyo black and white
I am posting this because I want a public record of how I define and interpret canon that I can easily link in my stories.

I considered back-dating it to preserve flist space but then decided that some of my flist might actually be interested in it.

Of course, these are my ideas. I am not saying that all writers need to abide by my particular methodology nor am I making any claims of superiority. This is simply my attempt to explain how I interpret canon so that those readers who are interested in such things can easily access it without miles of author's notes (of which I am generally not fond) that repeat themselves from story to story.

The Canon According to Dawn Felagund
Before I even begin with specifics, I should state forthrightly that I do not believe that Tolkien's works are subject to any sort of "true canon"; that is, I believe that there are few instances where we can unequivocally say, "That without a doubt happened just as the book says."

Part of what I enjoy about writing stories based on Tolkien's works is that there are few facts that are black or white. Mostly, we deal in shades of gray, where what is said might not be what really happened, either for reason of the historical context in which the books were written or because Tolkien's own ideas on that particular aspect of "canon" were incomplete or contradictory. Like historians, we as authors are then left to take the clues that we do have, put them in context, and try to arrange them in some sensible way that then becomes our canon--or our personal interpretation of the material presented in the books.

Defining a "true canon" is problematic for several reasons. To begin with, we are working with several works that are often at odds with each other. There are obvious examples of this, such as Fingon being listed as Gil-Galad's father in The Silmarillion while Orodreth is listed as Gil-Galad's father in some places in HoMe. There are less obvious examples, such as Tolkien's original notion that Eöl raped Aredhel, followed by his proclamation in "Laws and Customs among the Eldar" that death can occur following rape, followed by removing that particular caveat from later drafts of "Laws and Customs" while also casting Aredhel as a willing bride. So which is it? We are left with a conundrum and, often, several options from which to choose.

Different writers weight the works differently in terms of their truth and importance. Any scheme is possible, and none are right or wrong; for me, the importance is more an issue of establishing some measure of consistency. My own personal definition takes into account when the works were published (pre- or posthumously) and my appraisal of the veracity or consistency of their content. For example, there are many passages in HoMe designed to show the evolution of a particular story that Tolkien later discarded or changed. Are these facts canon?

  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings--having been published within Tolkien's lifetime--are as close to absolute canon as one can get. These were finished ideas worked into publishable (and thus consistent) form.

  • The Silmarillion is canon for me so long as it does not contradict ideas offered in The Hobbit and LotR. While The Silmarillion was edited by Christopher Tolkien, much of it was J.R.R.'s own work. (There are exceptions to this, of course.) Furthermore, it has a good deal of internal consistency, which makes it convenient for me to make the rather arbitrary distinction that "I consider this truth." I could just as easily say the same of the HoMe, but the consistency is not there.

  • The HoMe series is not canon. Aside from being inconsistent, it is largely formulated based on old and unfinished ideas. However, the HoMe series is useful in getting ideas of how Tolkien saw his world and the characters in it. For example, his early idea that Elrond and Elros were fostered lovingly by Maedhros--not Maglor--might be used as evidence that Maedhros is not the cruel and heartless monster of fanon lore (while Maglor is the pie-eyed sentimental pansy) and to further combat the fanon notion that Maedhros abused Elrond and Elros. HoMe is also handy for providing background and context for much of The Silmarillion, as in "The Shibboleth of Fëanor" that traces the bulk of the conflict between Fëanor and Fingolfin to a difference in how they chose to speak the letter "Þ." I have used this idea in my stories because it is keeping with the conflict presented in The Silmarillion and the idea that Fëanor was exceptionally gifted (and assumedly sensitive) in matters of language.

    In line with this is the story presented in HoMe about the burning at Losgar where one of the Fëanorian twins was trapped and killed in the blaze aboard the ships. This also comes from "The Shibboleth of Fëanor"--and I believe that it is also one of the passages that was accidentally omitted by Christopher Tolkien when preparing The Silmarillion manuscript--yet I do not use it. Why? Because it contradicts The Silmarillion, which has both twins living well into the First Age and dying together at Sirion.


All of this would make for a fairly straightforward definition of canon. However, there is another particular challenge in defining Tolkien's canon: He didn't consider himself the author. Actually, he wished for his stories to be looked at as works from a long-gone history, and the "authors" were loremasters of that time. As such, the point-of-view of all of his stories is not omniscient and not necessarily correct or immune to bias.

Consider for a moment the real-life conflict between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East. We are all looking at the same conflict, yet an account by a Palestinian "loremaster" is going to be vastly different from that written by an Israeli "loremaster." My perspective, as a liberal and agnostic American, is going to be different as well and--despite my lack of personal involvement--not necessarily neutral. A conservative Christian American is going to have different perspectives still, so even within the same populations, there is going to be further dissention.

Complicating matters further is the idea that loremasters are often writing about events and people of which they have no firsthand knowledge. Assuming Pengolodh as the author of "The Quenta Silmarillion" (at least the part that occurs in Middle-earth), how can we trust his assessments of Fëanor and what transpired when the Fëanorians first landed in Middle-earth? Pengolodh was born in Nevrast after Fëanor's death. His writings, then, must be based on accounts that he heard from others. Is it fair to acknowledge the possibility that a loremaster loyal to Turgon (who hated the Fëanorians) might not have been necessarily conscientious in seeking those from the Fëanorian side to tell him what happened? Beyond that, is it fair to assume that perhaps those with whom he did speak might not have told the whole truth? They were speaking to the lord and loremaster of one who openly acknowledged disliking them and had their own interests, loyalties, and families to protect.

A good deal of The Silmarillion, then, may have been passed from person to person as a sort of myth. Consider Beren and Luthien, who had no companions for much of their journey and so no one to tell their story once they'd died. Perhaps Pengolodh sat down with them before they died and conducted an interview, but given the hidden state of Gondolin at the time and the relative remoteness of Beren and Luthien as well, it is more likely that he heard the songs and stories just as everyone else did and penned his own version. And, as anyone who has ever been in the midst of a rumor mill can attest, stories get exaggerated or even changed outrightly (whether intentionally or because of spotty memory) all of the time. No one wants to hear if the pair ever had any disagreements or misgivings over their quest. No, we want to hear of their resolute bravery and unequivocal success. And the story is more dramatic if the "good guys" are really, really beautiful and really, really brave and the bad guys are really, really depraved and really, really despicable.

This leaves a lot of wiggle room. It leaves the possibility of making Luthien less than the perfect and beautiful heroine that she is made out to be; it allows the possibility of making Beren more...well, Human. It allows one to question whether the etherealness and magic that marks this story might have been more ordinary or even invented entirely.

Of course, this ruins it for some. Some like their heroes really heroic and their villains down-in-the-dirt nasty. But considering the historical context, rather than this view being held as an absolute and all others to some degree AU, more possibilities are opened, all while staying within the confines of the canon.

This makes things more difficult and requires a slightly more skeptical reading of the books, but it certainly opens the doors to creativity and authorial invention. This, for me, is the joy of writing stories based on Tolkien's works: not only the fun of putting together a puzzle but also feeling that I am building upon--rather than merely rehashing--stories that I love and admire.

There are a few specific issues that I don't think I can escape in an explanation of how I interpret canon.

Firstly, there's fanon. Such an innocent little thing--intriguing, even--and perhaps an example of how we humans are seizing back our roots in oral history and storytelling. It becomes less-than-innocent when people start believing it to the degree that they berate authors who do not follow it.

I have no problem with fanon, and I am not immune to it myself. The entire character of Erestor in my novella By the Light of Roses was based on the idea of an uptight, conservative character with a greater love for books than other people. Even given Erestor's conservative recommendations in the Council of Elrond, one cannot derive this from canon alone. It is a fanon convention that is seen in story after story. Rarely are fan fiction portrayals of Erestor what one would call footloose and fancy-free.

But supposing that I wanted to write one, would I be wrong? No, but I'd probably have a legion of Erestor's fans proclaiming that I've violated some sort of canon when all I've really done is break ranks with the majority of authors who write the character of Erestor.

I generally find is illustrative when I receive a criticism of my canon that contains not a single quoted passage or mention of where I can find a reference to support what the reviewer is saying. Nine times out of ten, the reviewer is either quoting fanon or simply doesn't like my interpretation but wishes to make it more absolute than that by claiming that I am outrightly wrong. This post is not intended to rant at or instruct reviewers, but I will mention that it is generally helpful when criticizing an author on her use of canon to provide some sort of reference. There have been times where I have been certain that an author has made a canon error but, lo, when I check the book, it turns out that my memory is either wrong or simply twisted by too much fanon.

After fanon, I frequently hear (in my stories and in reading reviews of others') that a certain interpretation is wrong because Tolkien never would have wanted it that way.

I really think that we are treading on dangerous ground once we start claiming to be able to speak for what an author deceased for several decades would have wanted. We have no legal right and no imperative to make such a statement.

This is most often used as ammunition against authors who utilize sexuality in their stories--especially as it breaks with LaCE--and especially those who write slash. "Tolkien was a Catholic!" such authors are told. "He never would have wanted his Elves to be written as being gay!"

Of course, this ignores the fact that many Christians--including Catholics--not only support GLBT rights but also believe that same-sex marriage should be recognized, if not by the church, then at least by the government. Perhaps if Tolkien had lived to or in our era, he would have been of a like mind. Perhaps not. Unless you have a really kick-ass Ouija board, that is not for any of us to know.

Like the fanon-based criticism, this notion seems to me to be nothing more than a personal dislike for certain subjects or genres of fan fiction disguised as some sort of canon. Nowhere in Tolkien's works does it say that homosexuality does not exist on Arda. Nowhere does it say that Elves didn't enjoy sexual acts up to (and possibly including) consummation outside of marriage, depending on your interpretation of LaCE. (And if you discount HoMe and LaCE altogether, it is a moot point entirely.) Anyone who claims otherwise is attempting to make their personal misgivings more profound than what they really are: an individual interpretation.

Perhaps an important difference to recognize is that something can be absent from the canon without being non-canonical. "Non-canonical" implies that some clearly stated fact is ignored or misrepresented. If I claimed that there were four Silmarils, that would be non-canonical. No, it does not say in any of Tolkien's works that there is homosexuality on Arda or that Elves can have strong physical desires for sexual fulfillment. But it doesn't say that there is not homosexuality on Arda or that all Elves are frigid until the moment that they bond themselves to a spouse, so such authors are not breaking canon so much as adding their own inventions to it, which we all do to a certain extent. Otherwise, we'd just be copying what Tolkien himself had written.

This, then, bring us to the idea of authorial invention, which is perhaps a bit of a tangent from the original topic of interpreting canon, but it is an issue that arises a lot and that I wish to address.

My paperback Silmarillion has 363 pages of story. This excludes the indices and family trees and introductory material. Doing a quick count, that puts the story portion at about 130,000 words. My novel Another Man's Cage is about 350,000 words unto itself, solely to cover one of the many thousand of years represented in The Silmarillion. Necessarily, I have indulged in authorial invention. I have given the characters attributes and written events that are not even hinted in Tolkien's actual works. Nowhere does he make a claim that Caranthir may have been exceptionally gifted--or cursed--with mindspeak. He never implies that Rumil and Feanor may have been friends and had a strong professional rapport. Maglor doesn't study in Alqualonde, Celegorm never runs away from home for a night, and Maedhros is never said to have fallen in love with a girl. All of these things are my own invention.

But I am careful with my inventions too, and most do derive from something based in canon. To use Caranthir as an example, since he is perhaps the most dramatic example of authorial invention on my part, I created Caranthir as a character with abilities in "mindspeak" after searching for an explanation as to why he might have been so dark and moody and chose to be perpetually alone. Furthermore, his relationship with the children of Finarfin was strained, and we know from LotR that Galadriel at least used mindspeak and Finrod had "supernatural" communications with Ulmo. Is it possible that strife might have occured on this level, unheard and so unmarked by loremasters? Perhaps it is a stretch, but it is possible, and so Caranthir's character was developed along these lines.

Some authors have made success by sticking to events written in the books. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, but the more that you write, the more you will necessarily need to invent with the result that a story like AMC--longer than the original work itself--will consist largely of invention. It is not a violation of canon so much as taking the story in a direction that makes sense in the context of the canon but is itself unwritten.

And, really, when you look at The Silmarillion, it is hundreds of characters doing dozens of things over thousands of years...all in 363 pages? Looking up Maedhros in the index--doubtlessly one of the most important and influential characters in the story and one of the few to exist throughout almost the entire "Quenta"--he is mentioned on a bare twenty-nine pages, some of which mention his name once in a single sentence. Even disregarding this, that is not even 8% of the book. For a character of Maedhros's importance in one of my original novels, I could easily devote twenty-nine pages to character study and prewriting alone.

So, clearly, there is a lot going on, and it is only barely sketched into place. I have always viewed Silmarillion characters--right up to those like Luthien, Maedhros, and Fëanor who are fairly well developed by Silmarillion standards--as skeletons of characters upon which readers and authors put flesh. The result is a similarly shaped character who may nonetheless have vastly different features. But none of us are wrong.

Add to that the idea of historical bias or the variation between different sources and the vast number of possibilities that we see in Silmarillion fan fiction suddenly becomes more understandable. And we are also forced to become more tolerant of less-than-typical interpretations as a result.

There is no single right answer, and part of my point in setting these ideas to paper is to 1) give interested parties insight onto how my strories and characters have developed from these ideas and 2) express my displeasure with the number of "canatics" that I see making claims as though there is a single black-and-white true canon.

There is not, and when we threaten to discourage the vast diversity of stories and ideas being set forth in Silmarillion fan fiction, we do a great disservice to that which makes this such a fun and thought-provoking sandbox in which to play.
  • Hm. Have the reviewers for AMC at The Pit been getting to you? On the whole, it's probably a better thing in life for you to just ignore what they have to say. The Pit is not, after all, known for being a fount of trenchant, insightful literary criticism. I'm still divided about whether or not to even bother posting my Grid-willing-soon-to-be-finished-next-story up there at all.

    There are really only two places in this essay that I would take issue with. One is the bit about authorial intent. In general, you're right. One cannot say of an author who's been dead over thirty years "he would have thought this," or "he would have thought that." But. . . this is J.R.R. Tolkien we're talking about here. This was a man who, in his lifetime, was extremely opinionated and let people know about it, in his letters. He wasn't just Catholic, he was conservative even for the era in which he grew up. He might have favored GLBT rights, had he lived now. But, knowing what we know about him, the odds of that are slim to none. He tended to be fairly lenient with people who wanted to add to his world (even though I think he had a few minor qualms about fanfiction -- he was worried that most of it would be bad, prescient man that he was), and, though he might not have been too thrilled to see two of his male Elves hopping into bed with joyous abandon, I don't think he would have gotten too worked up over it. He'd have gone over the spelling and grammar with a vicious bite, though.

    The other is with the idea that "he didn't say that X wasn't in canon." Because Tolkien didn't say that the Elves had no semiautomatics, either. But if you saw Fëanor cropping up at the destruction of the Trees, shirt off, yelling "Die, motherfuckers, die!" while spraying bullets everywhere, it would give you pause. No matter how enjoyable the sight of shirtless Fëanor might be to you. This is not to say "There Is No Homosexuality In Arda," or anything*, just to say that that particular bit of logical reasoning isn't as sturdy as you make it out to be.

    For example, his early idea that Elrond and Elros were fostered lovingly by Maedhros--not Maglor--might be used as evidence that Maedhros is not the cruel and heartless monster of fanon lore (while Maglor is the pie-eyed sentimental pansy) and to further combat the fanon notion that Maedhros abused Elrond and Elros.

    Interesting that you should bring that up. If the Grid-willing-soon-to-be-finished-next-story ever does get finished (I can see the ending! I can taste it!), I was thinking about peeking into the childhood of Elrond and Elros next. . .

    I've been a bad Pony, and I haven't yet reviewed the end of BtLoR. I will get around to that, I swear. I just have to get a good wodge of time together, because I want to write a long, detailed review of the story as a whole. I will get around to doing that, promise.






    *Personally, I think that it's perfectly plausible to believe that people occasionally had same-sex relations in Arda, but that their concept of what that meant would have very little to do with modern (that is, dating from about the 1880s) notions of homosexuality.
    • Have the reviewers for AMC at The Pit been getting to you?

      No, actually, aside from that one reviewer (and some anonymous jackass), I haven't gotten any harsh reviews there. I got something nasty said about "Return to Me" that brought up the issue of including author's notes to explain that my story was "AU," and I pretty much wrote this whole piece back to the reviewer (after having written pretty much the same to my AMC buddy), and thought, "This is stupid. I should have this somewhere so that I don't continually write the same thing over and over again."

      I find canatics in all their narrow-minded glory to be rather funny. I am far more disturbed when I hear of new writers terrified to post their or no longer sharing their stories because of a certain few idiots.

      So, yes, this essay will mostly be addressed to them, though these issues come up quite frequently in discussions with Nice People too that it is convenient to have it somewhere to save me some typing.

      He might have favored GLBT rights, had he lived now. But, knowing what we know about him, the odds of that are slim to none.

      I used slash as an example because it is perhaps the most prevalent example of this that I see. But I have seen this applied to lots of other things too that readers happen to simply not like, including the style in which an author chooses to write.

      I agree that Tolkien probably wouldn't have liked the idea of slash. I'm not saying that he would. My beef is with the people who whine that he wouldn't like it's some sort of canon...and it's not. It's no more canon than me saying that he would have had not had a problem with it. We simply cannot know, and using canon as an excuse to harangue slash authors is therefore incorrect, imo.

      The other is with the idea that "he didn't say that X wasn't in canon." Because Tolkien didn't say that the Elves had no semiautomatics, either.

      But I say in that section also, "It is not a violation of canon so much as taking the story in a direction that makes sense in the context of the canon but is itself unwritten." So having Legolas as a ballet dancer or building an ultra-modern shopping mall in Himring or Feanor weilding an AK-47--these things do not make sense in the context of the stories either, so I would call them non-canonical.

      This is more directed to the folks who whine, "You need to mark this as AU since nothing says that Maedhros had a girlfriend" (which no one has said to me, particularly, but I have seen this argument made before), primarily because they want Maedhros with Fingon or Maedhros to be the lonely virgin for the whole of his existence because that is keeping with their interpretation of things. If we take it to that extreme, then every story is some form of AU. There reaches a point where we have to draw some sort of reasonable line, so I am drawing it, for my own stories anyway.

      For me, if it doesn't violate something in canon and makes sense in the context, then I don't count it as non-canonical, just an authorial invention.

      I was thinking about peeking into the childhood of Elrond and Elros next. . .

      Ooh...interesting! (And please let me know when your current WiP is finished too?)

      I've been a bad Pony, and I haven't yet reviewed the end of BtLoR.

      Don't worry about it. When you get to it, you get to it. I know that you've had stuff going on aside from starting back to school, so please don't worry about it. I look forward to it, whenever you get to it. :)
    • (no subject) - rhapsody11 - Expand
  • *Firmly tongue-in-cheek. Not to be taken in a serious manner!* WARNING!!! Stereotypes ahead!! I do not mean offense to anyone who happens to be Catholic.

    I haven't read the whole thing, since I have to study and all, but...I just realized why all the Noldor seem to have many kids. There's Feanor with seven, Finarfin with five, and even both Finwe and Fingolfin have at least three. Yet LaCE (curses upon it ;P) says that Elves have "few children"...Wellllllll...Tolkien was Catholic! Catholics are notorious for having a ton of kids! So it's all relative. ;P
  • For me, if it doesn't violate something in canon and makes sense in the context, then I don't count it as non-canonical, just an authorial invention.

    That's probably something you should emphasize a little more in the context of your defense, then. If this is going to be your all-purpose rebuttal, you'll want to make sure all your points are crystal clear.

    I also (on a lighter note) give you the Spock eyebrow at the automatic attaching of the word "lonely" to the word "virgin." Just because one is a virgin does not necessarily imply that one is lonely. It is perfectly possible to live a happy, fulfilled life without sexual contact. There are, of course, those people who feel the need to beat their breasts and demand that Attention Shall Be Paid to The Asexual Community. To them I say, "Shut up, grow a spine, and thank your lucky stars that you're not gay, or you'd know what real persecution is."

    I know that you've had stuff going on aside from starting back to school, so please don't worry about it.

    Good God, tell me about it. My cousin's bar mitzvah is in two weeks. In Philadelphia. Theoretically, I'm supposed to be chanting a portion of . . . well, I presume it would be the Haftorah, but I have no idea, because my marching orders haven't shown up yet. Rumor has it that the portion and the tape with the particular chant melody should turn up in my mailbox within a day or so.
    • That's probably something you should emphasize a little more in the context of your defense, then.

      I don't really see how it can be any clearer short of me whacking someone over the head with it. To quote myself:

      "But I am careful with my inventions too, and most do derive from something based in canon."

      "It is not a violation of canon so much as taking the story in a direction that makes sense in the context of the canon but is itself unwritten."

      "I have always viewed Silmarillion characters--right up to those like Luthien, Maedhros, and Fëanor who are fairly well developed by Silmarillion standards--as skeletons of characters upon which readers and authors put flesh. The result is a similarly shaped character who may nonetheless have vastly different features."

      Personally, I don't see how that can be misread to possibly include Feanor with an AK-47. Maybe I'm missing something, but I really don't see how I can be any clearer.

      I also (on a lighter note) give you the Spock eyebrow at the automatic attaching of the word "lonely" to the word "virgin."

      Who said that it was automatic? It's just an adjective; I could have just as easily had him a footloose-and-fancy-free virgin, but it didn't make my point as well. No offense to virgins was intended; I was one much longer than most people would probably believe and yet hardly lonely.

      My cousin's bar mitzvah is in two weeks. In Philadelphia.

      Eep. That seems quite a trek for you! Good luck with it (and let's hope that the USPS doesn't screw up with delivering your marching orders in a somewhat reasonable manner. Hopefully, they weren't sent UPS.... o.O)
  • I still can't help but be frustrated by all the gaps in Tolkien's "canon" because when I read a book, I like to "know" things rather than have to guess too much for myself, but I have to admit, with some of the things I've seen in The Silmarillion and HoME, the idea that a somewhat biased narrator is telling the story makes it a lot more interesting...

    Like, "Feanor laughed as one fey" when Maedhros asked how the rest of the Noldor would get across the water with the ships in Middle-Earth kind of made me raise an eyebrow. I always read that line and thought, "Wow, 'fey' is kind of a strong word... almost makes Feanor seem cartoonish here!"

    And I wondered why Luthien would fall so head-over-heels in love with Beren so seemingly quickly. Maybe she was overprotected/oppressed by Daddy and fell for a guy she knew would freak her father out as a way of asserting "I will do what I want!" Or maybe to diss another Elf who was trying to marry her? Or maybe she liked Finrod, heard about his rescue and the Ring of Barahir, and her feelings got redirected to the guy in front of her with that ring? Who knows--but where nobility and legends are concerned, I can see how the story could be warped to sound nicer and more "magical" than it really was.

    (Which also makes me wonder how many of the royal and noble Elves were really as "beautiful" or "fair" as it's claimed they are... I can easily see some Elves' beauty being exaggerated because who wants to be the one caught describing Thingol's and Melian's daughter as "plain" or "ugly," seeing how they were an Elf king and a Maia queen and could possibly order heads chopped off if they wanted to, and seeing how beauty apparently makes a character more sympathetic and clearly "good" as far as the narrators and apparently their cultures are concerned? :P)

    Well, if I don't particularly like the "gaps" while I'm reading the book itself, it certainly makes the fandom and fanfiction more interesting :D

    Sorry, rambling. Off to bed and giving you a rest from my incessant comments now. ^_^;
    • I have to admit, with some of the things I've seen in The Silmarillion and HoME, the idea that a somewhat biased narrator is telling the story makes it a lot more interesting...

      This is why I write fanfic for this book and nothing else. I'm never even tempted to write in other fandoms, though I enjoy other fandoms certainly. But it feels like an actual contribution to the story rather than simple rehashing the same event over and over; also, the amount of thought that I put into my "canon" before starting any story sometimes amounts to bona fide historical research, which is fun too.

      Like, "Feanor laughed as one fey" when Maedhros asked how the rest of the Noldor would get across the water with the ships in Middle-Earth kind of made me raise an eyebrow. I always read that line and thought, "Wow, 'fey' is kind of a strong word... almost makes Feanor seem cartoonish here!"

      But when you think of what is going on here: First of all, a story is being told--and being told by a narrator who was not there. He is writing a good story and one that is in keeping with the political views of his leader.

      Secondly, he is writing it after Feanor has committed all of his admittedly crazy actions, so there might be a little of a confirmation bias going on here. To give an example, imagine that I--little white American Dawn--was taking pictures of Key Bridge. Okay. Now imagine that a young Middle-Eastern man in a turban was doing the same. How easy to cast his behavior in such a light that it appears malicious or suspicious while my identical behavior seems benign. Likewise, Feanor laughs and says, "None and none!" then proceeds to do something rather radical. How easy to make that laughter something indicative of his insanity.

      Maybe she was overprotected/oppressed by Daddy and fell for a guy she knew would freak her father out as a way of asserting "I will do what I want!"

      Now I'm picturing Luthien with a lip ring and purple hair listening to Marilyn Manson up inside her treehouse....
    • (no subject) - aramel_calawen - Expand
  • *breathes*

    I already said a lot in the comment to FP, but... yes I do agree in extent with you, well besides the Tolkien might have approved slash, because knowing him as the utter conservative as he was (much alike to his mother Mabel who was very devote). I sometimes just shake my head when people use historical notions of homosexuality in history and immediately assume Tolkien must have secretly woved it in there because he was an in-closet homosexual as well (trust me, I heard that too). It is just the reasons I hear when people want it to defend it to be canon when it just isn't. Sure author's priviledge to fill in the gaps (I cringed a bit when you mentioned Erestor because I did write a kinda gap filler story about him which portrays his life from Valinor to beleriand to Rivendell and back again- - is my take on him that bad?) with own interpretation, but with that also comes the risk that someone else has a complete different view on it. Which is all fine and great, as long as both parties realise that and remain open minded to the ideas of the other person.

    If people want to write slash, well let them. But I am a bit peeved by now that we never get treated to some hot and steamy femme slash. My hubby often complains that maybe fan fic would be more interesting if he saw that happening O.o... but honestly, why don't we see that? Does anyone know? Why don't we see any Aredhel/Idril? or Galadriel/Melian.. Or Estë/Melian. I only tracked down one Arwen/Galadriel pairing at the library of Moria and that is really it!

    I have some nice bunnies hopping around here (Serenity/Firefly fandom) where I do want to explore that (so no I am not anti-slash, I just don't think it fits the Tolkien fandom, but there are plenty of fandoms where it gives you plenty of bunnies).

    his early idea that Elrond and Elros were fostered lovingly by Maedhros--not Maglor--might be used as evidence that Maedhros is not the cruel and heartless monster of fanon lore (while Maglor is the pie-eyed sentimental pansy) and to further combat the fanon notion that Maedhros abused Elrond and Elros.

    Word. I am betaing a slash story featuring Elrond/Picard (oh and some Glorfindel/Erestor) where the author wanted to mention about Maglor/Elrond. And I said... girl, you do realise that Maglor fostered them as kids and that after *that* period when they found at the falls of Sirion... they still were kids? I really don't think you want to include paedophelia as well... so yeah. This is what I do as canon beta/sounding board. Giving the author more options with quotes from the original works to play with.

    Is there any reason btw why you didn't include The Letters of Tolkien and the Biography written by Humphrey Carpenter? Tolkien himself contributed greatly to the biograpy and the Letters are his words and explanations of his works. To me, especially the Letters, are placed above HOME (but I wuv HOME because of the bunnies)

    Oh and

    to Turgon (who hated the Fëanorians)

    This is completely new to me because I read the complete opposite elsewhere somewhere in Tolkien's works (yeah this is me) while we were drafting the story outline for Written in the Starlight.

    I did review Return to me yesterday... did I say anything offensive?
    • Rambling...the slashy half

      well besides the Tolkien might have approved slash

      I have to put the brakes on here a bit because slash was used as an example to illustrate the larger point of people who find something that they personally do not like in a story and--rather than admitting that it is a simple matter of personal preference--attempt to stop the author from posting such a story because it's "not canon."

      What they are saying--whether about slash or Maedhros having a girlfriend or writing a piece that sympathizes with Melkor--has nothing to do with canon. It has to do with them not liking what the author has to say but seeking some ammunition larger than personal preference and opinion.

      I am 99.9% certain that Tolkien would disapprove of slash pairings. I do not consider them canon; there is a reason why BtLoR is an AU novella. The premise alone of Erestor as Feanor's apprentice is not so AU; the premise of Erestor as Feanor's lover, imo, is.

      But at the same time, I do not possess the personal audacity to claim that I know how a person feels about something unless I have some claim from that person to back it up. As I said, I agree that there is a 99.9% chance that Tolkien would disapprove of slash. But did he ever say that there was no homosexuality in Arda? No. So I can't nudge that opinion into absolute certainty.

      To use myself as an example, I am a very liberal person, and it is no secret that I hate (enough to use the h-word) guns. Honestly, when the band 311 said, "Guns are for pussies," I agree with that. Now, imagining that I die tonight, and someone uncovers a massive trove of my unpublished writing, and it is published posthumously to great acclaim. People start writing fan fiction about it, and someone writes a story where an American character owns a firearm for personal protection.

      Now, my die-hard fans who know my hatred of guns will probably jump on the person and claim that premise uncanonical because I am a liberal (and therefore most likely for banning personal-use firearms) and I hate guns.

      Those die-hard fans would be wrong.

      I am a liberal, and I do hate guns, but I would never advocate eliminating the Second Amendment that grants individuals the right to possess firearms for personal protection. Probably nothing about me indicates that view, and I stand at odds with the majority of people who share my ethics and beliefs.

      And honestly, I would be pissed off at those presumptuous people who do not know me yet claim to speak for me.

      So slash, for me, is non-canonical. But never, ever would I argue against slash, claiming to speak for Tolkien, using my beliefs about his beliefs as some sort of canon. I can say that I don't believe that Tolkien would agree with slash, but to say, "This shouldn't be written because it goes against what Tolkien would want"...no.

      (And actually, I do have a close friend who is a conservative Christian...and she openly supports same-sex marriage. Go figure. People can be surprising in what they believe sometimes.)
    • More rambling...the not-so-slashy half :^P - dawn_felagund - Expand
  • (no subject) - levadegratchets
  • Super post, Dawn! Congrats! It needed to be done, if only for the simple reason that you gave - it beats repeating yourself over and over to dissenting critics on FF.net or elsewhere.

    Of course you know that I'm older than most of you. This is why I prefer to keep things on a fairly simple (and less energy-producing) level rather than get into intellectual discussions. All the comments you received on this post interested me greatly, not least the ones on why some women like slash, so I wanted to put in my two cents.

    First, I believe that Tolkien was an intelligent man and in doing research on different cultures, nationalities, languages, etc. throughout his life in order to invent his own world, he would have been aware that homosexuality has always existed on Earth, and not just among humans, but some animals as well. I don't believe for a second that he would have written it blatantly into his stories, but rather I like to think that he made some of the relationships in his works ambiguous enough to be open to interpretation. Was he far-seeing as far as fanfic goes? Maybe he was.

    Now for why I like slash. Well, it's a complicated issue, but for starters , slash is different for me and therefore more exciting than reading a lot of about obvious het pairings (apologies to those who write interesting het stories. I don't mean you! Not terribly different, but different enough from writing (and reading) stories involving het pairings that it became rather naughty and therefore more interesting for me to read and then try to write compated to the het stuff. I don't want to get into too complicated a territory here, but as a parent of both a girl and boys, I believe that there is a certain innocence about boys that is lacking in girls (who seem to possess more calculated reasons for choosing their lovers/friends). Therefore the thought of two pulchritudinous boys approaching each other and exploring/experimenting with each other is titillating (to say the least). Let me stop here and say I was sorely tempted to insert a photograph of a lovely pair of male athletes who recently posed together for a calendar, but held myself back for those who may have been offended by said pic. If interested, please check out my last few LJ posts.

    As far as friendships go, I do believe that there are some great stories out there about non-sexual male friendships (and female too). However, just out of curiosity, I wrote a male friendship story (well, it was an Elf/Man friendship story about Legolas and Halbarad) and it was probably the most poorly-received thing I ever wrote. I really didn't think it was that bad, either. My sister read it and she loved it. However, maybe it was because it lacked sex, it did not hold readers' interest. I don't know.

    Anyway, Dawn, to get back to the whole canon and fanon issue, you are so right about the ambiguities in the Silmarillion and the room left for interpretation. I feel that all of the points you made were valid. What a great post. I'm going to ask for your permission here and now to link people to this site in order to check it out whenever I get another complaint. Actually, I find that nowadays I rarely visit the sites where I post anymore, so I have no idea if people are reviewing or what they are saying.

    Thanks a million for this.
    • You're welcome! And you may link to me whenever you'd like. Once I get it up on my website, it'll be neater and tidier there, but for now, here it is. ;) It's also linked now on my ff.net profile. *evol snicker*

      And btw, I looked at those calendar photos that you posted.... >:^D

      Anyway, you brought up an issue that I didn't mention because, hell, this thing is long enough as it is without me adding layers to the layers. You know how I am. I could write a book. Anyway, the issue of a character's morals matching an author's morals, I think, is a valid point to bring up. For example, in my Midhavensverse, my main character (Belegil) is about to knowingly lure an innocent man to a trap, where he will be captured and subjected to gruesome things. He knows this. He does this.

      Now I oppose 99% of violence; I oppose vivisection in the majority of cases. But I am writing this, making a character who will become the "moral compass" of my story knowingly lead a man to be used in cruel "experiments."

      Because my characters don't have to believe as I do. I fully acknowledge that my characters will believe and do things that I vehemently oppose. French Pony said something (iirc) about how she believes that there must have been homosexuality on Arda. There almost surely was. Even if the author himself opposed it, the characters are not bound to the author's morals.

      I think that why women like slash is a really complicated issue that gets back to fundamental issues of psychology for us. Then there's Juno's theory that I love: "One hott man is good; two hott men is better!" :^P Sadly, most people realize that the majority of men are turned on by lesbians, but feel no need to scathe that. Yet the idea that women might like the same thing--two attractive men together--seems disgusting and weird and reprehensible to many. We are vilified for what has been shown in studies to be normal female behavior.

      Personally--and you know this--I believe in "live and let live." People want to write het...cool. People want to write slash...cool. People want to write completely asexual Elves...cool too. I know great examples of all three. I do a bit of all three myself, and I am always careful to mark as "slash" or "AU" when need be. I don't really understand why canatics have to get their panties in a twist over what people are choosing to write, as though in their choosing to write it, the canatics will be forced to read it. *sigh*

      As for reviews...well, at the Pit of Voles, there are a few canatics marauding about, slamming anything that they believe "non-canonical," which--in most cases--has nothing to do with canon but personal preference. If you want an example, without mentioning names (though the name is mentioned on this page :^P), look at the last review that I got for "Return to Me." Yeah. (And if you ever want five minutes of entertainment, I'll send you my reply! >:^D)

      I think it's sad. This is fun for me. Those people seek to ruin it. I shouldn't feel that I need to post this sort of essay, yet I do. *sigh*

      Oh and *big hugs* I squeed when I saw I had a comment from you! I hope life is treating you well. :)
  • Aww, Dawn, I so needed to read a post like this and by gods, here it is. I've gone quite gaga between RL shit and being off in pervy fantasy world with my anime muses. It was great to go through the paragraphs of this essay and remember having discussed these things at some point or another, in this context or that.

    I won't ramble much because I agree with most of the things you have said and you know where I stand when it comes to canon. I'm probably the opposite thing to what a canatic believes himself/herself. For me, pretty much anything goes, whatever genre, whatever type of relationship between characters (preferably of the same race), however AU or far-fetched. The only thing that I can't stand are black&white characters and black&white situations. I will never like extremes, either in canon or in fanon. Otherwise, my "canon" (if it can be called as such) is a permanently changing thing and most people wouldn't go O_O when reading about certain characters of mine. Feanor is the finest example.

    Like Jenni, I haven't been to most of the sites where I've posted the stories written during the first half of this year. But I do know that "canon" is something that makes my muses raise their eyebrows and wonder: "What does canon do, precious?"

    Thanks so much for this post and I hope that I'll have the time to catch up on your other posts as well.

    *lots of hugs*
    • *hugs back* I'm so glad that you liked the post! It has garnered quite a few comments. Which I did expect; I actually wrote this a month before posting it but waited until I had the time and strength to deal with the influx of (possibly negative) comments.

      Canon is so nebulous. I don't know if its my instincts as a social scientist or a writer or what, but how people define canon simply fascinates me, as does the amount of energy and vitriol that people are willing to direct in their assertions of creating a "true canon" and fighting those who violate it. You say that you hate black and white, and the more reading and research that I do, the more I become convinced that "black and white" is about as non-canonical as one can get. It's just not that simple. The Silmarillion as it stood when Tolkien died was still an evolving work written from a biased historical perspective. If that doesn't leave wiggle room, then I don't know what does. :^P

      If you ever want to be appalled, hop over to the Pit of Voles and read some of the comments being left over there. Actually, you need to hop no further than some of my stories. If ignorance is bliss, then I don't understand why these people seem so crotchety. :^P Because they're sure as hell ignorant when it comes to understanding how canon functions in both fanfic and in Tolkien's universe.

      I hope the real-life hoopla settles down a bit. We misses you, precious. :) And you, Tarion, and I have to get to work on the Canatics Hate This project. :^P
  • I really like your points.

    What is cannon in Tolkien? It is my view that all of the works are canonical to some extent; but there are degrees of canonicity, I agree with you that the Hobbit and the LOTR are the most canonical in regards to his other works for the simple fact they are the most complete. The works published posthumously are of less canonical value because of the fact that they were works in progress. Some of my favorite works of Tolkien are those written early in his life because they show the most amount of folk style fantasy. The sin of many Tolkien enthusiasts is that do not let them selves’ become divorced from the works and look at them in an objective way. The fact is that all version of the Silmarillion have value. I find it interesting to exam them from a historian’s perspective, as Tolkien himself expressed a interest in history because it is applicable. Looking at the HoME, the Silmarillion, the Unfinished Tales, and Children of Hurin, the problem is clear to me. All the accounts come from in some way the accounts of Pelegodh of Gondonlin (might have misspelled that), either through translations in the Red Book or from Eriol Ælfwine the Mariner. So one most obiviously ask oneself: what axes does the chronicler have to grind? The answer is quite a few actually, in particular the bias of the author is noticable in connection to the House of Fëanor. Therefore all the cannon we do have should be taken with a grain of salt. Things like whether Ereinion Gil-galad was the son of Fingon or Orodreth is one that the fans of Tolkien should not discount any of the versions; personally think that Gil-galad was the son of Orodreth the son of Angrod, but that Fingon adopted him to be his hier, Fingon having no heir in Middle-Earth. This is not to say that he did not have one in Aman. I think that the exiles left a lot of family back in Valinor. Another example of bias in the histories Tolkien gave us is the matter of the succession after the downfall of Morgoth. Gil-galad eventually suceeded but I think that this caused a split amoungst the remaining Eldar in Middle-Earth. Why else did Celeborn and Galadriel migrate to Lothlorien, or for that matter Celebrimbor go to Hollin, or Thranduil to Greenwood? The answer I believe in politcal strife amounst the Eldar. But I digress, the point I was trying to make is that Tolkien probably created the most complex piece of fiction of all time, certainly in the 20th century, and it was left unfinished. Morover he designed that his mythology be a foundation for which other could come and build upon and expound. There are things in fanfictiondom that I reget, such as the view the Maedhros was a homosexual with Fingon, that I consider not in keeping with the intent of the foundation material, and something that I know Tolkien considered debasing. Tolkiens work contains things that are debased but they usually shy away from those concerning sex, of course the creation of Orcs and Morgoths thoughts of Luthien are the exceptions. I hope to start posting some fan fiction of my own. I hope that I can equal the care, scope, and quality that you have shown and in keeping with the intent Tolkien.
    • Re: I really like your points.

      I find it interesting to exam them from a historian’s perspective, as Tolkien himself expressed a interest in history because it is applicable. Looking at the HoME, the Silmarillion, the Unfinished Tales, and Children of Hurin, the problem is clear to me. All the accounts come from in some way the accounts of Pelegodh of Gondonlin (might have misspelled that), either through translations in the Red Book or from Eriol Ælfwine the Mariner.

      Exactly. And if you add in the problem of translation, it gets even dodgier.

      In the Foreword to HoMe 1, Christopher Tolkien admits that he made a mistake in not acknowledging that The Silmarillion was intended to stand as a translation of the Red Book of Westmarch that Bilbo had done based on the living and written sources he found in Rivendell. So this introduces many other points, even beyond Pengolodh, where canon could have erred and become twisted by bias, not to mention the inherent difficulty of a Hobbit whose native language is Westron translating sources that are written in Quenya and Sindarin. It's certainly not unreasonable to assume that mistakes and distortions occurred; in fact, given the context in which The Silmarillion is presented as a historical source, it is actually rather ridiculous, imho, to assume that everything happened the way that Pengolodh and the string of loremasters/translators said that it did.

      There are things in fanfictiondom that I reget, such as the view the Maedhros was a homosexual with Fingon, that I consider not in keeping with the intent of the foundation material, and something that I know Tolkien considered debasing. Tolkiens work contains things that are debased but they usually shy away from those concerning sex, of course the creation of Orcs and Morgoths thoughts of Luthien are the exceptions.

      Personally, I consider Maedhros/Fingon AU, but I have no problem with it; I have written short works as requests for friends using that pairing. To each her own. Incidentally, I consider it AU primarily because of the close familial relationship between the partners, not because of their genders.

      Now homosexuality in Middle-earth ... I've no doubt that Tolkien--being a Catholic in his day--was opposed to homosexuality. But I don't see what Tolkien's personal views have to do with the incidence of a particular behavior in his world. To give a different example, I'm sure he wasn't approving of incest either, but incest occurs in his world; we have canonical proof of this. What it comes down to, for me, is that JRRT was an educated, rational man (religious inclinations aside) and surely understood that homosexuality is and always has been part of human nature, and, even if it wasn't something he approved of, that it was something likely to appear in his world as well, if indeed he intended M-e to be a version of our modern world.

      I hope to start posting some fan fiction of my own.

      Best of luck to you! If I can be of any help, please let me know. :)
    • Re: I really like your points. - kuehndawg - Expand
    • Re: Your points are *interesting*. - - Expand
Powered by LiveJournal.com