Character Biography of Eöl

Author: Oshun

Nominator: Keiliss

2011 Award Category: Non-Fiction: General - Third Place

Story Type: Non-Fiction  ✧  Length: N/A (Non-Fiction or Poetry)

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: In the published Silmarillion, Eöl is described as a Sindarin elf with Noldorin skills and a reclusive personality. As is not uncommon with many of Tolkien's significant characters, Eöl survives several different permutations, before he is immortalized by Christopher Tolkien in his compilation of his father’s history of the Elves and their “long defeat."

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Reviewed by: Keiliss  ✧  Score: 10

What I like about this biography is the way Oshun has taken the (pitifully few) facts available about Eöl’s life and personality and asked questions that are often ignored. I found his probable ancestry and connection to the Noldor fascinating, and the picture I was left with of him and Aredhel was of a passionate relationship with intense highs and crushing lows, in which Aredhel was not necessarily the victim she is so often made out to be. The visit to Gondolin was at Maeglin’s instigation, at a time when he was on bad terms with his father – anyone who has raised a teenager can join the dots here, and it says a lot about both his and his father’s mindset at the time. In fact, a lot of the more telling details about Eöl are found in others' reactions to him. I was left convinced that Aredhel, ever the free spirit, had every intention of going back to her husband eventually. It’s highly telling that she pleaded for his life on her deathbed. I found this an extremely thought provoking read which left me with a whole new set of images regarding this hugely dysfunctional family, particularly Eöl himself. And Maeglin. It’s quite chilling how much you learn about Maeglin if you pay attention to the little asides in the canon.

Author response: I cannot believe that I have not thanked you yet for this review! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. More than ever, every review has been precious this year! I need to get out there are get a few more reviews done myself. Off to do that now. Eöl appreciates it also!

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 10

What are we to think of Eöl, the Dark Elf? Is he a kinsman to Thingol, an Avar, or a Sinda? Is his affinity for Dwarves a rare virtue in an Elf: a First Age precursor to Legolas and Gimli's friendship? Or is it unnatural evidence of his essentially twisted nature? Is his loathing for the Noldor an extension of his generally reclusive nature, or does their superiority complex in some part justify a grudge? The beauty, and usefulness, of Oshun's Character Biographies lies in her painstaking research and scrupulous approach to Tolkien's various writings: teasing out the ambiguities attending each point, faithfully setting out each contradiction. For those who want to write about Eöl - or Aredhel, Míriel Þerindë, and any number of Tolkien's characters - Oshun exposes the bedrock on which authors with a range of opinions can plausibly build their differing characterizations. Getting back to Eöl, there is probably no more controversial point than his "marriage" - forced, or mutually consensual? - to Aredhel. When the two possibilities are that he: 1) [took her to wife by force: a very wicked deed in the eyes of the Eldar], or 2) entrapped her with spells and denied her access to family, friends, and SUNLIGHT, I tend to think it's six of one, half dozen of the other. If Turgon's city was a cage, as Eöl calls it, his own household seems no less - and indeed, he ultimately drives his own wife and grown child to run away from him. But Oshun also shows how, for another reader, he could pass for a [broodingly handsome, Heathcliffian type of guy, who in possession of some mad skills, particularly relating to smithery and metallurgy, could indeed be in the eyes of a Noldorin princess a desirable match.] By demonstrating how Tolkien's writings (and yes, his frequent waffling) can support such plurality, Oshun once more demonstrates the versatility of his characters and world.

Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 7

These nominations really teach me to stop ignoring the character biographies on the SWG site! Just like the other biographies, this essay offers both old facts and new insights about characters I may not have on my usual writing radar, and is a valuable tool when I want to look up some facts from a reliable source without having to do all that research myself. In the case of Eöl, it is interesting to see the different versions of his story as Tolkien drafted them. Besides, these essays always contain some tidbits of information that I either overlooked or forgot or just never thought about, so there's always something surprising and enlightening. I enjoyed reading this essay even though Eöl is one of those characters I really can't stand - but even that certainty is shaken a little after looking at "all" the facts! I will definitely pay more attention to these biographies in the future.

Author response: Thanks again! Eöl was not one of my favorite characters, although there were things about him I respected. After I did the research thoroughly I had a good deal more sympathy for him. I usually find a lot more than I got on a first read of the highly edited, and greatly shortened, Silmarillion.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 7

As an aficionado of [The History of Middle-earth], I greatly appreciate Oshun's talent for digging back into the source texts to illustrate how Tolkien developed his key canonical characters. The biography of Eöl is an outstanding example of her approach. By presenting the textual background of Eöl, the reader is presented with a more complex figure than a brooding, possessive and paranoid villain. I throughly enjoyed Oshun's description (paraphrased here) of Eöl as Heathcliffian with mad skills. I also found it intriguing that in earlier texts, Eöl was of the Tatyar. Now that would sign, seal and deliver Eöl as one of Tolkien's many object lessons that scientists and technologists (esp. the most skilled) are Fallen. But even as a Sinda, this remains the same for Eöl. Oshun, once again, delivers on the details of this Heathcliffian and tragic smith.

Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 6

In this interesting biography, Oshun shows how the changes that Tolkien made in his versions of the story of Eol and Aredhel--and to the story of Eol's life more in general--alter the original concept so much and yet leave so much unsaid that there is room for a great deal of interpretation here: the relation between Eol and Aredhel can be read as anything from unacknowledged rape to a tragic love story--and indeed I have seen a number of different angles on the issue taken in fan fiction. Oshun quotes interesting gender-focussed research on this problem from secondary literature on Tolkien, which draws comparisons with similar scenes in other works (she has already done a biography of Aredhel in the same series). What does not change in any of the versions, of course, is that the story is ultimately the set-up for the story of the destruction of Gondolin, that is, its betrayal by Maeglin.

Reviewed by: Ignoble Bard  ✧  Score: 5

I don’t know beans about Eol but thanks to this biography of him I feel like I know him at least a little bit now. Funny how these characters went through so many permutations throughout Tolkien’s writings. I never knew Eol was meant to be a villain but trying to kill his son and inadvertently poisoning his wife certainly makes him sound that way. Although being told he was trapped in Gondolin because he came after his wife is kind of a bitter pill to swallow for one who prizes his freedom. Of course with his dour and sullen ways it’s no wonder poor Maeglin turned out like he did.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 3

I really appreciated having the story of Eol put in context for me. There are a good many characters in the Silm whose name rings a bell, but whom I couldn't otherwise identify. I am afraid that prior to this essay, Eol would have fallen into the same category. But now I won't soon forget who he was, or how he fit into the overall story!

Author response: Thank you so much, Dreamflower, for reviewing Eol. I had a great time researching him.

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 3

This is an excellent biography of Eöl Mordenhel, who is a much more complex character, and who is also more understandable and less villainous that he might appear at first.

Reviewed by: Levade  ✧  Score: 2

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 2

Another fantastic character biography by Oshun - this one explores the material around Eol, one of the more intriguing figures in the Silmarillion, in my opinion.

Author response: Thanks!!