Character Biography of Míriel Þerindë

Author: Oshun

Nominator: Oshun

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

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

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Míriel Þerindë's importance is not limited to marrying Finwë, the first King of the Noldor, and giving birth to the incomparable Fëanor. What makes her memorable is that she not only managed to determine her fate against the wishes of the powerful man in her life but that her choices profoundly affected the destiny of her people throughout the history of Arda.

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Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 10

Oshun's biographies of characters from the Silmarillion almost always cover more than just the biographical facts, although even those are often quite difficult to establish: compare the discussion here of the conflicting evidence about exactly how long Miriel lived after Feanor's birth before she died! For this biography in particular, Oshun has had to delve deep into some very recalcitrant material and deal with issues such as elven birth and reincarnation and Valarin and Noldorin morality--all subject on which Tolkien himself was prone to changing his mind. Miriel might seem to be a character not much can be said about, chiefly conspicuous by inconveniently (or conveniently, depending on your point of view) dying. But Miriel is one of the characters which are not well covered in the published Silmarillion text and even those who are very familiar with that text will learn something here. And those who have made it through some of the more forbidding texts in HoME will be grateful for the reminder just how intricate the issues involved are. Miriel turns out to be one of the female characters in Tolkien who is strong enough in will or stubborn enough to opppose Noldor and Valar alike and yet gentle enough that she might have, together with Nerdanel, succeeded in keeping Feanor's temper in check, had she survived long enough. I'm also personally struck, for some reason, by the positively indecent haste with which she is said to have accomplished her superlative needlework...

Author response: You are so kind to review this one! I put a lot of work and heart into it. (Her and Finwe also!) Thank you so much.

Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 10

Like all of oshun's character biographies, this one gives us far more than the thread of facts and events painfully extricated and pieced together from the patchwork of overlapping - and sometimes contradictory - material that is the History of Middle-earth. This is a clear case where oshun's reconstruction of the role of this character goes well beyond the enumeration of Míriel's features and the milestones in her life. Oshun adds a well researched, insightful analysis of the question presented to the Valar by the unusual decision of Fëanor's mother to renounce life following the birth that consumed all her strength. The Valar hold a lengthy debate to consider this decision and the petition of Míriel's husband, Finwë, to be allowed to wed again and have more children. It's fascinating to see how the Valar approach the dilemma in different ways, perceiving its ultimate cause in the marring of Arda brought by Melkor's evil, while providing disparate interpretations as to the best way to fulfil Eru's will for the elves. Navigating through Tolkien's shifting ideas on elvish death and reincarnation, marriage and the influence of evil is no small feat, but oshun presents a great summary to help us appreciate a story which, despite its relevance and deep consequences, was sadly removed except in passing from the published Silmarillion.

Author response: I love you! You are so kind. I worked so hard on that one, it was so complicated, and involved so much stuff that I really do not enjoy thinking about all that much (he! too many years in Catholic schools!), but which have such layers of meaning for Tolkien's created world. The woman question not least among them. Thank you so much for such a generous and thoughtful review.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 10

Oshun offers a superlative examination of Míriel Þerindë in this character biography, painstakingly tracing the development of the character and her impact, which one does not see in [The Silmarillion], but is amply illustrated in [The History of Middle-earth]. Oshun pulls references from the latter to give the reader a fuller picture of the woman whose strong will caused reverberations throughout Aman and on to Middle-earth. It is a discomfiting idea — that Míriel's decision to die triggered the Fall of the Elves. No serpent or apple of knowledge was involved though, but marring of the world by a certain Diabolus and a proud, obdurate woman was. In particular, I appreciate Oshun's analysis of the debate among the Valar on the matter of Finwë and Míriel. This is complex text that does not make for light reading, so Oshun's parsing out of the stances of the various Ainur on this issue is very useful. As Oshun intimates, the issue of Finwë and Míriel is a muddled stew, although ultimately, one wonders if Tolkien's personal sensibilities won out here. A most excellent biography, Oshun, and one I will most certainly use for reference.

Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 8

I must admit that I skipped the character biographies in the SWG newsletters. These nominations show me that I shouldn't do that! This is a useful fact-sheet that saves me from having to do all that pesky research myself. As a reliable and well-researched source, these short essays are inestimable when I just want to look up some things about characters who suddenly make an appearance in my writing. Obscure background information from the "History of Middle-earth" is taken into account as much as the information offered by more popular work. This is particularly important in the case of Míriel, who makes only the briefest appearance in the published "Silmarillion" but who plays a more important role in the "Laws and Customs" and the "Shibboleth of Fëanor". There's always something new to discover, too - for instance, I had not known that Tolkien drafted an encounter of Míriel and Finwë in the Halls of Mandos. Nicely done!

Author response: This was one of the more complex of the biographies to research and write, so I am happy that you decided to read this one and stuck with it to the end. Thanks also for reviewing!

Reviewed by: Lilith Lessfair  ✧  Score: 5

Oshun's character biographies are always a wonderful read. In each biography, Oshun truly engages in a scholarly task. In cleanly written, meticulously researched and clever prose, she provides fascinating information about each character she studies and illuminates not only that character but the larger world Tolkien created very clearly. Her biography of Miriel is no exception. I've always been confounded by Miriel, never really understanding her or her choices well. Oshun not only provides a clever analysis of why Miriel might have made the choices she did but also highlights the grave consequences the choices she made had for her descendants and her people and for the world in which they lived.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 4

In this biography, Oshun takes what I believe is one of the more intriguing characters in 'The Silmarillion' and the HoMe Volumes and manages to not only put all the material about her into a cohesive whole, but to discuss the issues raised by her death and Finwe's desire to remarry. Miriel is in my opinion one of the most important women in 'The Silmarillion,' and Oshun does a fantastic job of illustrating why.

Author response: Thank you so much for reviewing this one. I agree with you that Miriel is really important to the entire story of Tolkien's world. I enjoyed this one more than I expected.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 4

I found this biography fascinating and learned a great deal about Miriel from it.I found Miriel, mother of Feanor a mysterious and fascinating character when I great the Simarillion and I enjoyed learning more about her and how and why the various contradictions in the account of her life came about. I imagine Feamor inherited his creativity from his mother.

Author response: Thank you so much for reading and reviewing, Linda!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 3

I must confess I have often found myself baffled by the relationships of Miriel, Finwe, and Feanor. I realize now that I was looking at it through a very mortal lens. What I found confusing about the whole thing makes much more sense when placed within the context of both the immortality of Elves and the morality of the Valar. A very enlightening essay!

Author response: Thanks for reading, Dreamflower. The story of Miriel and Finwe and the dissolution of their marriage really does lay the groundwork for everything that happens in the Silmarillion and, thus, in the LotR. So glad you took the time to read it.

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 3

A truly excellent biography of Míriel. As the first Queen of the Noldor and mother of Fëanáro, she is arguably the most important woman to appear anywhere in Tolkien's legendarium.

Reviewed by: Independence1776 (Crystal113)  ✧  Score: 3

A fascinating look at Míriel, the role she had in Elven history and the philosophy and problems surrounding her fate-- both in-universe and out. Her story is much more complicated than it appears in the published Silmarillion, and Oshun does a fine job recounting it. This is one essay I will definitely be using in the future.