Forum: Characters of Middle-earth and Aman

Discussing: Elwing

Elwing

All the stories with Elwing I've read portray her as depressed, or cold, or ensnared by the Silmaril.

Since my muse is contrarian these days, I'm almost finished with a 'sympathetic Elwing' story, trying to make it understandable to myself and readers why she may have acted as she did. I am curious as to other people's views of her and her motivation, and whether most people *could* find her sympathetic, not just pathetic.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Elwing

There's a lot on Elwing in HOME, some of it of course contradictory - the story of Elrond's parents went through a lot of revisions, becoming increasingly cheerful and more hopeful as time went on.

One thing, which I think mustn't be forgotten, is that she builds herself a tower wherein she can study flight, and build aircraft, of some sort that we mortals would probably call magical (and undoubtedly totally silent given JRRT's comments on the contradictions between the illusion of planes' serenity when seen far above from the ground, and the noise of jets and props, and the *dream/ideal* of birdlike flight that humanity aspires to), to reduplicate the miracle that was given to her by Ulmo, patron of her family.

From this tower, she flies out to meet Earendil as he returns from his outer-space voyages, and they come home to Aman together, which home is theirs because Earendil handed his choice over to her to make for both of them.

So any description of Elwing has to include genius-aviatrix-inventor-artisan, and add lover and beloved, to casualty of the Oath.

(I imagine a vessel not unlike those birdlike WWI planes called Taube (Dove), with some crystalline structure of better-than-Atlantean design, in place of an engine -- perhaps of left-over star-matter, and thus attracted to its origins by the principle of natural place, contributed by Elbereth) and Elwing with a long, long silk scarf blowing behind her as Vingelote comes glowing in under full sail through the ilmen, like something out of one of Matsumoto's films...Drat. Now I have *another* picture idea on top of everything else that isn't done...)

 

 

Re: Elwing

So any description of Elwing has to include genius-aviatrix, and add lover and beloved, to casualty of the Oath.

(I imagine a vessel not unlike those birdlike WWI planes called Taube (Dove), with some crystalline structure of better-than-Atlantean design, in place of an engine -- perhaps of left-over star-matter, and thus attracted to its origins by the principle of natural place, contributed by Elbereth) and Elwing with a long, long silk scarf blowing behind her as Vingelote comes glowing in under full sail through the ilmen, like something out of one of Matsumoto's films...Drat. Now I have *another* picture idea on top of everything else that isn't done...)


I think you may have to write that one, Bellatrys; my muse claims that's not in her job description. Sounds beautiful, though.

This will be limited to Sirion, and fairly brief. My goal is to make sense of her casting herself and the Silmaril into the sea. Unfortunately, none of the few HoME volumes I have elaborate on that episode. Do you know where there would be more?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Elwing

Oh, I mean a *picture,* to go with all the rough sketches already on my hard drive. It could be so gorgeous, like something out of Myst only wierder. But first I have to finish the things I've already begun...

The two I'm going off additionally are Lost Tales 2 and Lost Road. Now be warned, these are *messy*, and the way I work in my own stuff is by a method I call "triangulation" (hey, I have navigator blood.) That is, I don't simply read the relevant bits, I read all the other stuff as well and try to plot back to something out of them. (Sometimes then I find a relevant bit elsewhere in HOME or Letters which subsequently corroborates this, though, from a mere conjecture, so it does seem to work. On about 30 occasions, actually.)

So in the different rescencions of the Lost Tales version, which are all very terse outlines, at one point Elwing was going to be *caught* before escaping. Now this is where it gets tricky. The word "rape" is used. Sometimes JRRT uses it literally, sometimes metaphorically for theft/destruction/pillaging, as in "the rape of Gondor" intended by the Witch-king, or "the rape of the Silmarils." But sometimes not.

So -- could both have been intended? Definitely.

Now --could Elwing -- with all kinds of power and knowledge in her blood, grandaughter of Luthien & Beren, great-granddaughter of Melian and Elu Thingol, friend and student of Idril Celebrindal during their years as fellow refugees and DPs at Sirion -- have had enough foresight to see what would happen if she stayed? Again, I think that could be answered Sure! without a canonical twinge.

Is it possible to reconcile both these versions - the outline in which she is caught and either deprived of the Silmaril by force, or bodily integrity by force, or both, and subsequently escapes into the sea, then the sky by the power of Ulmo; and the one in which she escapes *before* being captured? I think so.

If she could *See* what would happen -- and remember, the Silmaril is an immensely powerful object: he prospect of it in the hands of someone who has made a habit of wiping out anyone who stands in the way is *not* necessarily reassuring (let's just give Darth the superweapon, so we'll be safe...eeh, maybe not) -- then getting it, and herself -- remember, she is an incredibly valuable hostage, just like Maedhros himself was -- out of their reach, out of the reach of the people who killed her parents and brothers and the Powers alone know how many other fellow Elven beings -- might well be the least unacceptable of very few bad options.

So that just leaves the fanfic author (in this case, you) to decide which of the two remaining brothers would do what, and why -- perhaps a toss-up to decide who would get the girl, who the jewel -- and how they would rationalize their actions, in the future that Elwing tries to avert. Perhaps also Seeing them kill her sons in front of her, the way Maeglin tries to do to Idril in Lost Tales as well, as Idril foresaw and was able to avert.

Again, I'm just triangulating all this from the bits that are there, plus the character foundations given before and after, and it might be a false "fix" -- but I've been able to work out all kinds of hidden stuff that has subsequently been proven (like the presence of Huan with Beren in Mandos, or Elenwe sacrificing herself to save Idril, not passively giving up on the Ice) by HOME. So I do think it's at least warrantable, given that we don't have a complete, detailed-level final version -- even if I do say so myself! -- and I hope all this speculation helps your muse.

 

 

Re: Elwing

All the stories with Elwing I've read portray her as depressed, or cold, or ensnared by the Silmaril.

Another thing that all the "cold Elwing" stories that *I've read* (not sure if we've read the same ones) seem to miss is -- the reality of war. I don't know that one *has* to have experienced a war, a fire, a a natural disaster, or other world-shattering chaos to be able to understand it enough to write about it, but I think one is at a distinct disadvantage and needs to do a lot of work to put yourself in the place of the characters, including reading plenty of first-hand accounts.

There seems to be this odd assumption that decisions made in this sort of here-come-the-Cossacks, burning and hacking, scenario, are going to resemble decisions made in the calm of a board room or distant strategy room. I get no sense that the authors understand any of the multifold and intense *passion* that can overcome people confronted with violence, chaos, and no clear or acceptable solution -- the passion that infuses the last act of Tosca (a very parallel situation) for example, or even Gone With The Wind, which is not a terribly accurate Civil War film, but has still its moments. Watching even that -- though I think that Kurosawa's Ran might be still better -- would be far better preparation for writing fanfic than (to be very snarky!) listening to Blind Guardian over again as so many writers seem to believe.

I know that the explosions of modern warfare are different from the sounds of ancient war, but one form of "practical research" I've done for WWI which at least helps to convey that sense of uttter, insignificant helplessness which reading, and writing alone cannot get you, is going to the fireworks *as close as possible* to the launch site, which in my area is downtown bewteen old tall buildings, so that when they are lit, the air itself shakes so fully in the enclosed area that windows in the buildings behind me rattle, the concussion feels like a wind on my face (it is one, after all) and burning bits are a genuine risk - and the light is so bright that even closing one's eyes does not help much. It isn't too hard to go from there to imagining -- now if these were real shells -- and the noise alone is enough to make rational thought (like remembering where the car is parked) past the adrenaline and/or remoteness an effort like wading through mud, even for some time afterwards.

JRRT was, after all, a combat veteran of some of the worst hand-to-hand as well as mechanized fighting in history, and saw what urban warfare was like, and what it did to the towns and cities it passed over. This should come through somehow...

 

 

Re: Elwing

Again, I'm just triangulating all this from the bits that are there, plus the character foundations given before and after, and it might be a false "fix" -- but I've been able to work out all kinds of hidden stuff that has subsequently been proven (like the presence of Huan with Beren in Mandos, or Elenwe sacrificing herself to save Idril, not passively giving up on the Ice) by HOME. So I do think it's at least warrantable, given that we don't have a complete, detailed-level final version -- even if I do say so myself! -- and I hope all this speculation helps your muse.

Sorry for bringing this up in a thread about Elwing.

You mentioned Elenwe sacrificing herself for Idril before, in a HA discussion. I remember asking you for the source, but somehow, my question must have been lost in the heat of the debate, for you never replied. I've tried to find the answer myself, but for some reason I can't. And I'd really like to know, as I may need to change a passage in one of my stories - and the change probably would improve the story.

Finch

 

 

Re: Elwing

Well I don't think it's completely OT, because unless someone is raised completely ignorant of their personal history, all family legends and stories are also part of that background information that makes them who they are -- and affects the actions/decisions of people around them: think of Merry and Pippin, growing up in the traditions of "Bullroarer" and the Fell Winter, or how the fact that Theoden's parents married and lived in Gondor, combined with Rohirric emphasis on family, makes it quite impossible that without severe external controls, the Eored would find it more *prudent* not to come to the siege -- you could almost say that that geneological fact in the Appendices explains why it was imperative for Saruman to corrupt Grima. So none of the *known* past is OT really.

It may take me a couple days, because if I can't find the relevant 3x5 card out of several densely written dozen, it's in one of the hc vols that I don't have, which means a trip to the, ah, reading library a middling drive away -- it was in fact a very Pyrrhic victory, since it *was* confirmation, but meant that the entire scenario of attack on the camp of posited arctic megapredators had to be scrapped and rewritten (after a bit of angsty struggles with casuistry -- can I both go on as if I'm just working off the outline form in the Sil, while claiming validation from this, but ignoring the actual statement I've just read?)

 

 

Re: Elwing

I definitely agree about decisions from a war zone. I'm much less familiar with WWI, but have a fair knowledge of WWII. There were many odd behaviours in towns being bombed, on the beaches of Normandy, etc. Heck, we don't react rationally in much milder crisis situations, it happens all the time. Sometimes when survivors are asked why the did something apparently crazy or unlikely to allow them to survive, they'll admit they have no idea.

So even though there were no big guns at Sirion, the battle environment is not a place for most of us to make sensible decisions.

I had read Lost Tales 2 and the Lost Road, and come across the rape, but until you discussed it above, I hadn't thought of using it. Most of the elements to allow me to use it are already in my story (and I am thankful not to rewrite too much!) and it may drop right in with nary a ripple.

I have written her as very loving of both children and Earendil. I took the liberty of giving her a prophetic dream, visions of Earendil in Valinor, and at the War of Wrath "shining with white flame." Seeing him thus, she knows that if the Silmaril is lost to the Feänorians, he will not succeed on his quest, and most likely die. She also has some expectation that the Vala will intervene, having sent her the blasted dream in the first place. Finally, Maedhros has found the twins, and offers to trade them for the Silmaril. Her jumping is an act of desperation, true, but done as the only way to save both her children and her husband, by sacrificing herself.

Quite close to your scenario, except for the rape, actually.

But the fear of rape and being used as a hostage could add to her decision tremendously.

Thanks a lot, Bellatrys. I'm glad to find someone who seems ripe for a 'sympathetic Elwing' attempt. Any comments on what I've briefly outlined most welcome. I'll be doing a final clean-up over the next week, and hope to post 'In Defense of the Light' in beta by Friday or Saturday. With this inspiration it could be sooner, of course, as it's only a few pages.

Lyllyn

 

 

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