A Woman in Few Words: The Character of Nerdanel and Her Treatment in Canon and Fandom

Author: Dawn Felagund

Nominator: pandemonium_213

2008 Award Category: Genres: Non-Fiction: Character Studies - Second Place

Story Type: Non-Fiction  ✧  Length: N/A

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: n/a

Summary: Nerdanel is mentioned a bare four times in The Silmarillion, yet she remains a favorite in Silmarillion-based fiction. "A Woman in Few Words" surveys the entirety of Tolkien's published canon to reveal all that readers know about Nerdanel and to justify how she has come to be the most popular female character in Silmarillion fan fiction.

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Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 10

Nerdanel, even with sparse text-time in The Silmarillion, is a character who resonates with many fan fiction writers in the Tolkienian milieu. Dawn, with her characteristically thorough approach to Tolkienian lore, examines this attraction and fleshes out a canon character who has captured the attention of fandom. Through her careful perusal of Tolkien's writings beyond The Silmarillion, Dawn has collected textual data which reveal Nerdanel to be an exceptionally intelligent and strong woman. In addition to being a well researched essay, Dawn's exercise highlights the benefits of delving deep into the expansive writings of Tolkien for the fan fiction writer who ventures beyond The Lord of the Rings or even those who write solely within the realm of the trilogy. Sometimes the knowledge unearthed is challenging, even discomfiting, e.g., the fates of the Ambarussa and Nerdanel's foresight concerning them. The analysis of Nerdanel's hair color via the Vinyar Tengwar was especially noteworthy. All sorts of tidbits about characters and culture can be gleaned from study of Tolkien's languages as published in Vinyar Tengwar or Parma Eldalamberon. As a writer of technical documentation, I found the appendix to be a most satisfying back-up to the essay, particularly the table. I'm with Moreth...a graph with a correlation coefficient would have sent me into spasms of squeeing. Overall, an excellent resource for those who write this remarkable woman into their fiction.

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 10

First considering sometimes hard-to-locate or otherwisely elusive canon evidence, Dawn Felagund paints a comprehensive and (considering the dearth of references) extensive picture of Nerdanel, that takes into account her role as daughter, wife, mother and strong woman in Tolkien's (hi)stories. The author then goes on to debunk certain 'fanon' myths such as the colour of Nerdanel's hair, considers possible interpretations of the untranslated name and takes a look at canon history that yields yet more clues about Tolkien's possible conception of the character of Nerdanel. Dawn also emphasizes the popularity of Nerdanel in fandom by comparing and contrasting her appearances in fanfiction: She shows that despite the few mentions in the published Silmarillion Nerdanel has nonetheless gained popularity with fans; reasons enough are cited in the essay itself. The essay, as may be assumed of nonfiction character studies, could easily be a dry and boring read, but no such thing has happened here. The skill of the author as a writer of (fan) fiction and nonfiction alike easily shows and makes this a fascinating, captivating read. As one of the SWG reference-reader team who helped review this essay before its publication on the site, I can only repeat what I said then. It was a pleasure to help work on it, and it is a pleasure to read and re-read. This is a great resource for writers and readers who want or need to know more about Nerdanel, and well worth a look.

Reviewed by: dkpalaska  ✧  Score: 7

In this well-researched and well-presented essay, Dawn Felagund has gleaned many excellent and enticing facts about Nerdanel from both the Silm and HoMe. There's actually a little more available about this character than I realized, but still - there's a real dearth of solid detail concerning Feanor's wife in any of Tolkien's posthumous publications. Nonetheless, as the author aptly points out, she is a popular figure in the fandom given how little she shows up in the actual books. Dawn demonstrates that the impression of Nerdanel's popularity is statistically true. (Although nice to see the back-up info, the Appendix is anti-climactic after the entertaining essay; I might have preferred it as a second chapter, so it could be more easily skipped by the uninterested.) Even better, Dawn gathers together in one place all the "canon" facts about this character, each well-referenced. The discussion points flow smoothly from one to the next in the author's intimate and conversational style.

Reviewed by: Rhapsody  ✧  Score: 6

This essay serves two interesting purposes: what is known about Nerdanel in canon and in a way the debunking of fanon around her ánd then there is the statistical number crunching Dawn has done to measure Nerdanel’s popularity. It clearly shows to me how difficult it actually is to create such a benchmark, but you did immensely well with such a Herculean task given the different structures of the archives available! Dawn’s logical reasoning and her own musings on how Nerdanel is so popular (hah, take that Lúthien!) is more than enough to have more plot bunnies spawned and the appendix/citations are muchly appreciated once this writer cannot resist those ideas to write. This is an essay to keep bookmarked given the contents, easy to navigate structure and yes, the bibliography. Thanks so much for this Dawn!

Reviewed by: Tanaqui  ✧  Score: 6

Dawn Felagund has put together a broad-ranging essay about Nerdanel which successfully addresses several key issues. Firstly, she substantiates -- through an analysis of stories, the details of which are presented in the appendix -- her perception that Nerdanel is important and beloved by fanfic writers, especially compared with other female characters in the Silmarillion,. Secondly, she presents a comprehensive review of the canon facts about Nerdanel, and discusses the kinds of conclusions about the character that may be drawn from those facts -- as well as identifying some widespread fanons that are not supported in Tolkien's writings. Thirdly, she presents a discussion of why fanfic writers are so enamoured of such a "minor" character. I learned a great deal reading this essay, and greatly enjoyable reading Dawn's clear and engaging prose – highly recommended!

Reviewed by: whitewave  ✧  Score: 5

I've always thought that it was a shame that Nerdanel did not get as much screen time in the book as I would have wanted. She must have been of exceptionally strong character to be able to catch and keep the attention of Feanor become his wife and bear his brood of seven strong-willed sons. It must have been a daily test of endurance for a weaker woman to thrive in that sort of household, compounded by the fact that they are no ordinary Noldorin family. I appreciate the obvious hard work, research and objective analysis that went behind all of these details and am looking forward to seeing more of such work in the future.

Reviewed by: Moreth  ✧  Score: 4

An excellent overview of what is and (perhaps more importantly) is not known about Nerdanel from the published works. The essay draws a portrait of a talented and fascinating woman, one who clearly deserves the interest of the fandom! I must admit I rather enjoyed the Appendix, with the detailed data collation from different fan sites. The only thing it is missing is a set of graphs!

Reviewed by: Robinka  ✧  Score: 3

A very well written character study of Nerdanel, who is mentioned briefly in The Silmarillion, yet she is an extremely popular character among the fans of the First Age in general. Well researched, well thought out and excellently executed essay.

Reviewed by: NeumeIndil  ✧  Score: 3

Well researched and well written. This is the first time I've heard mention of her Mother Name, and you raise some interesting points about why she is so popular among Time of the Trees/First Age fans and writers. It's helped me with a challenge story I didn't know was going to incorporate her too. So, my thanks go along with my congratulations.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 3

I can certainly appreciate the attraction of Nerdanel, and have written my own stories concerning her, which considering I write primarily Fellowship fiction indicates she is one who captures the imaginations of many of us. Very thoughtful piece of research here.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 3

An excellent character study of Nerdanel, from her physical appearance to her influence on Feanor, and her popularity in fanfiction. The essay makes me appreciate Nerdanel, a character I always liked, even more as a wise and under-appreciated elf.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 3

A fascinating essay concerning Nerdanel's role in canon and fanon.Although, I've only read "the Simarillion" once,the thought of this strong woman doomed to suffer the loss of all her sons left a lasting impression and this essay explores why she has such an effect on the reader.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 3

This is a very informed, very clearly written and wonderfully coherent essay about the wife of Feanor, and the fact that she is has sparked such interest among many fanfiction writers. I love especially the diligent distinction between canon and fanon, as well as the careful quoting of sources. Very informative and a delight to read. Thank you!