Tor.com content by

Megan N. Fontenot

Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Míriel, Historian of the Noldor (Part 1)

In this new biweekly series, we’ll be exploring the evolution of both major and minor figures in Tolkien’s legendarium, tracing the transformations of these characters through drafts and early manuscripts through to the finished work. This installment is the first of a two-part look at the Noldorin weaver and historian, Míriel.

Míriel is probably best known as the mother of that most infamous of the Noldor—Fëanor, whose rash mistakes pretty much ruined Middle-earth for… well, everyone. But who was she? What role did she play in the fashioning of Arda and the troubled history of the First Age?

The Silmarillion records only the barest details about Míriel. One early mention casts her as simply “the mother of Fëanor” (60). A few pages later, the narrator points out in passing that “Fëanor” was the mother-name (63), the name Míriel gave him, before we even get a proper introduction.

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Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Nerdanel, Called the Wise

In this new biweekly series, we’ll be exploring the evolution of both major and minor figures in Tolkien’s legendarium, tracing the transformations of these characters through drafts and early manuscripts through to the finished work. In this first installment, we’ll focus on Nerdanel, the Noldorin sculptor, wife of Fëanor, and mother of seven strapping sons.

In the published Silmarillion, Nerdanel exists as little more than a background figure. We’re told that she is “the daughter of a great smith named Mahtan,” and that she, like her husband Fëanor, is “firm of will.” For a while, Fëanor is content to seek her counsel, though he isolates himself in all other respects (58), but as she is “more patient than Fëanor, desiring to understand minds rather than to control them,” they soon become estranged. Fëanor’s “later deeds grieved her.” Though she gives him seven sons, and some of them apparently have her temperament, she is left out of any further mention of the family thereafter, except in one instance, when Fëanor is referred to as “the husband of Nerdanel” because the text is specifically interested in that moment with the relationship between Mahtan and Fëanor (61). Nerdanel herself is given no voice.

But who is this Nerdanel? What were her motivations and passions, and why (and how!) does she not fall under the spell of Fëanor’s compelling voice and charismatic spirit? Tolkien does not mention her in his letters, but he does give her quite a bit more attention than we’d originally suspect, if we relied only on the published Silmarillion.

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