Wednesday Fanart (plus one)

So, it’s more of a Thursday fanart this week as I had to work late yesterday. Anyway, this week I’ve chosen something that departs a bit from the theme of the blog in not having any women in it, but which I really love nonetheless. It’s Catherine Karina Chmiel’s painting of Maedhros, Maglor, and a very young Elrond and Elros at the Third Kinslaying:

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(Although the scene it depicts is hardly a laughing matter, I always chuckle at the fact that one of the twins is so much smaller than the other in this picture! OK, so the artist must have been operating under the assumption that Elrond and Elros are not twins. In my head, however, I always imagine that Elrond is the undersized one, probably because he’s the more Elvish of the two in spirit, and they grow up slower than human children. I hope that he thrived a bit more under the care of the Feanorians – well, once they’d stopped killing his family…)

Actually, Chmiel’s gallery is absolutely chock-full of lovely artwork. Here is her Feanorian gallery, which also has one of my favourite depictions of Feanor (in which he looks more than a little deranged, as he should!) She also has a lot on Gondolin and on Gondor (particularly Boromir, with some Faramir and the rest of the family).

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Crossovers, slash and Mary Sue

Earlier in the week, I really enjoyed this BBC radio documentary on the weird and wonderful world of fanfiction, presented by novelist Naomi Alderman: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p0bmx

I particularly enjoyed the parallel drawn between modern fanfiction and types of literature which were very popular in previous eras (notably the Middle Ages), although at one point the discussion also touches on the fact that fanfiction is overwhelmingly written by (and apparently also read by) women, and what this says about female readers and how we respond to texts. I must say that a lot of Tolkien fanfiction in particular seems to respond (whether intentionally or not) to the paucity of female characters in his work, whether that’s through the inclusion in the Fellowship of a spunky teenage girl with a gift for archery who ends up getting with Legolas (the infamous “Mary Sue”) or by trying to breathe life into some of the women who are only fleeting presences in, or even entirely absent from, the texts (such as Amarie, or Celebrian, or Finduilas). Some time down the line, I am planning to have a good look at women in Tolkien fandom and the representation of female characters in fan works – not sure whether I’m looking forward to the research, or sort of dreading it…

The LoTR Project

A friend of mine just alerted me to the existence of the LoTR Project, a spectacularly nerdy site that catalogues Tolkien´s world in fantastic detail – including a timeline of major events right the way from the Years of the Trees to the Fourth Age, an interactive map showing the journeys of the Fellowship during LoTR – and best of all, the mother of all Middle Earth family trees. Check it out here.

(One tiny quibble – I can´t find Andreth on the tree. Am I looking in the wrong place, or is she missing? I know she only appears in HoME, but a bunch of characters from the HoME version of the “Fall of Gondolin” make it in – as do characters created specifically for the movies or for games, so she definitely deserves to be included).

The site also includes a number of interesting statistical analyses of aspects of Middle Earth. These include – you´ve guessed it – a breakdown of characters according to gender! Turns out Tolkien´s works are just as much of a sausage-fest as we´d all suspected – 81% of named characters are male, compared with 19% who are female. The Valar and Maiar are at the top of the tree when it comes to equal representation, while the hobbits are doing best when it comes to the races of Middle-Earth. Dwarves are hopelessly underperforming, with just the one named woman (Dís, mother of Fili and Kili, and apparently noteworthy only for that fact).

See the full chart here.

(On a side note, this got me thinking – are there any characters in Tolkien whose gender is not explicitly stated? I can´t think of any. Even monsters such as Balrogs, dragons and giant arachnids have an ascribed gender, and (with the exception of Ungoliant, Shelob and Thuringwethil) they too are usually males. Come to think of it, even the mysterious anthropomorphic fox at the beginning of FoTR is male, as is Old Man Willow (unless Bombadil is talking bollocks, which I suspect he does quite often). How about the Watcher in the Water? The Barrow-wights? Are some of the Orcs we meet actually female? Hmm).

Art recommendation

A year or so ago, I discovered this fantastic gallery by liga-marta on deviantART – some really beautiful drawings of various characters and scenes from the Silmarillion, including (you’ve guessed it) quite a lot of the women!

This one of Idril, Tuor and Earendil escaping Gondolin is probably my favourite (I love the haunted, sad expression on Idril’s face), while this is the best attempt to capture Luthien I’ve ever seen.