Name Calling: Group Identity and the Other among First Age Elves

Author: Angelica

Nominator: Dawn Felagund

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

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

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Although the essay"Quendi and Eldar" (HoME XI) seems to deal mostly with linguistic matters, it offers a wealth of information about the way that the different Elvish groups saw each other and how they related (yes, Elves could be pig-headed and prejudiced).

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Reviewed by: Dawn Felagund  ✧  Score: 10

"Quendi and Eldar," the source that this essay discusses, is one of the more challenging of Tolkien's works. As Angelica herself states in the essay, [The essay "Quendi and Eldar" seems to be on a first reading mainly concerned with linguistic matters: a discussion of different roots in Elvish languages and how these roots evolved into different denominations for Elves and other beings]. However, hidden within this very long linguistic discourse are numerous insights about the cultures and histories of the different Elven clans. Angelica has gone through the effort of finding and summarizing this information for people interested in learning and writing about Tolkien's works with a greater understanding of how Elves interacted with each other and other races, beyond what we know from "fanon." That, for me, is my favorite part about this essay. Numerous authors have created believable Elven cultures without delving too much into the canon that Angelica discusses, yet most writers' work is remarkably agreeable to what Tolkien himself wrote. Angelica ties Elven culture into Tzvetan Todorov's work on the concept of "Self" and "Other" in the Spanish conquest, demonstrating what Tolkien himself often affirmed: that fantasy often acts best as a mirror for observing the realities of the world in which we live. For anyone with an interest in Elven culture but intimidated by in-depth linguistic discussion, I recommend Angelica's essay as a primer on Tolkien's ideas about how his Elves and other races interacted.

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 10

Oh, Angelica, this is a perfectly wonderful piece and a terrific resource, and one that I definitely will go back and read and refer to again and again. It is absolutely the best of the non-fiction entries of this year. I feel I ought apologize to others who have worked hard on exploring elements of canon and enriched our resources greatly (and I entered one of own pieces as well, so I consider myself within that grouping), but this one stands completely apart and alone in the depth of thought it reflects. My favorite section is the one exploration the original separation of the Eldar and Avari, and its consideration not just of the separation itself but the attitudes of the self-conception of those groups and their definition of the other. The article raised so many questions I had considered and not completely worked out: small thing like the degree to which such terms as Moriquendi, or even the Sindarin word lachen ('flame-eyed') used to refer to the returned Noldor, were simply words or had a distinctive pejorative connotation (always or sometimes?). Very fascinating also is to consider the attitudes of the Noldor to the Sindar: like us but not really equal or more like the Avari? I intend to read your piece again more carefully and think about these questions further. I very much appreciated the point that while the Eldar looked down upon the Avari, that the Avari, of course, considered themselves the True Elves and that they would consider that it was the Eldar who had severed themselves from who and what they were. I was also reminded of the attitude about self and other reflected in native American culture and mythology and of each groups placement of their particular ethnicity or nation within the world as they perceived it. For example, the Inca name Cuzco for their great capital, which can be translated from the Incan language as ombligo or navel—meant for them quite literally that they considered it (and themselves, of course) indisputably the center of the universe. There is a parallel in that self-concept of North American indigenous groups who referred to themselves simply as “the people” and other surrounding tribes as the others, i.e., somewhat less than human. I have not read the book you list in your bibliography, [La Conquista de América: El problema del Otro] but after reading your article, I do plan to try to find and purchase the book and read it (just hope it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg!).

Reviewed by: Fiondil  ✧  Score: 10

As a student of sociolinguistics which studies how language informs and is informed by the society or culture in which it finds itself and deals specifically with the concepts of Self and Other, I found this essay a fascinating look at the nature of naming among the various elvish clans. It can be somewhat confusing for the first-time reader of [“Eldar and Quendi”] to keep all these terms for elves in mind. Angelica gives a very concise explanation of the history of the various naming habits of the various elvish clans and helps to clear up some of the linguistic confusion that is typical when reading any of Tolkien’s linguistic treatises. I have, in my own tales, explored the social and linguistic implications of how the various elvish groups see themselves once the War of Wrath ends and those elves of Beleriand, both Noldorin Exiles and Sindar, return to Aman. The conflicts that are created between the Amaneldi or “Those who never Rebelled” and the Heceldi or “Those who were Forsaken” form the basis of many of my stories that take place in Aman during the Second Age. This essay, for me, is a vindication of my own ideas about this very subject. I’m grateful for Angelica for providing us with such a useful resource. One term used by the Sindar for the Noldor that is not mention in this essay but I think gives an indication of how the Sindar first saw the Noldor is “Lachenn/Lechenn” which comes from the Sindarin “lach-hend”, literally “flame-eyed”. I suspect that this may be a reference to the light of the Two Trees that still shone from the eyes of the Noldor as they first stepped upon the shores of Beleriand, though perhaps the fiery nature of some of the Noldor, especially the sons of Feanor, had something to do with it as well. Clearly it is meant to be pejorative and was probably not used anywhere outside Doriath, or if it was, it was not a term used in polite elvish society. It is also interesting to note that the word “Sindar” meaning “Grey-elves” is itself a Quenya word; those whom we know as the Sindar simply called themselves “Edhil” or “Elves”.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 10

Angelica opens her essay with a most appropriate quote from JRRT. To get a grasp on Tolkien's sometimes slippery legendarium, one cannot simply focus on [Laws and Customs of the Eldar] or [Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth]. His languages are the vital key for unlocking insight into the peoples of his Middle-earth. Angelica demonstrates this and then some in her superb [Group Identity and the Other Among First Age Elves]. This is a rich resource which I have read multiple times. Angelica's categorizations of her subject matter by the use of dichotomy -- [Eldar/Avari; Light/Darkness; With us/Against us] is highly effective in driving home the clannishness that existed among the Elves, a race just as capable of territoriality and prejudice as their mortal kin. By examining the etymology of Kalaquendi and Moriquendi, Angelica illustrates the stratification among elven society, almost creation of caste systems. In particular, I pored over the section on the Noldor and the Sindar, two major clans that often clashed. Angelica's detailing of the roots ñóle (Quenya) and gul (Sindarin) delves into wonderful subtlety and cultural implications. Although focused on Tolkien's world, Angelica's treatise and her approach to her research could just as easily be applied to language and cultural schisms in our primary world. The formatting and citations were very well done. The depth of this essay serves to illustrate the fascinating detail one can extract about Tolkien's world by digging into the details of his linguistic art.

Reviewed by: stefaniab  ✧  Score: 6

Many thanks to Angelica for this easy to read and very useful essay. "Name Calling" is a commentary on Tolkien's essay "Quendi and Eldar" from the History of Middle Earth. Angelica's piece is an excellent resource for Third and Fourth Age fan fiction readers and writers, who need clarity on all those First Age elven groups and who might not have the expertise or more than a passing interest in Tolkien's languages. Even though I've been through the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and Children of Hurin a number of times, I still get confused on where the Avari fit in, the distinction between the Sindar and the Teleri, and many other characteristics of the individual elven clans. Angelica's piece is an ideal breakdown of each group in a clear and painless fashion, including explanations of the linguistic differences that evolved among them. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by: whitewave  ✧  Score: 5

This piece is very informative and it was obvious that there was a substantial amount of research and work involved in coming up with it. The sundering of the elves had always been a fascinating subject, in that it made the seemingly ethereal beings feel more "human" to me. The Avari are the most interesting of all the groups and I wonder how different things would have been if all the elves had put aside any prejudices against each other and united against Morgoth. I wish that there had been more material from Tolkien that tells more about the Sundering and what happened to those who were left behind. I've read only one story so far that deals directly with the subject and hopefully will read more.

Reviewed by: Tanaqui  ✧  Score: 5

As Angelica notes in the summary for this essay, there is a "wealth of knowledge" to be found in the writings of Tolkien included in the History of Middle-earth series. Here, she summarises and presents some of Tolkien's fundamental ideas about Elves from the tenth volume in a form which is easily accessible and digestible for the general reader. (Or, perhaps, for those like me who are mainly interested in other cultures and races.). Her writing is clear and well-structured, and her summary gave me a better understanding of the subtleties of Elven culture than I had previously. A good and useful read!

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 5

A very helpful resource for fanfiction-writers, researchers and Tolkien-linguists alike, Angelica summarizes the 'HoMe' writings on [Quendi and Eldar] and brings some order and structure into the sometimes confusing source material. The resulting essay, not merely a reappraisal of the material, lists differences in the Eldarin groups with regard to linguistics, historical and cultural developments and draws sharp conclusions that serve to further understanding of 'elvendom' as a whole, between and within the different groups that set out (and those that did not) from Cuivienen. In short: A treat that I will definitely come back to, and well worth a read.

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 4

This essay presents an interesting look at the way different group names reflected the relationships between those varying groups. Given Tolkien's interests in linguists, I can totally see this aspect providing interesting clues to how he viewed the different groups of elves. As someone who is not the best-versed in elvish lore, I found it to be a good window into that world, and think that other readers who like reading about the First Age but perhaps are also a bit overwhelmed by it would find this essay to be an interesting read.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 3

Prejudice is alive and well among the Elves, as is evidenced by the names each uses for his own clan compared to those used for others. An instructive discussion, if a bit dry. It does take what Tolkien himself spread out throughout his works and personal notes and brings it into a relatively brief essay that can be useful for purposes of reference.

Reviewed by: Robinka  ✧  Score: 3

A very well constructed, informative and well written essay. I recently got to re-read the part of the HoME the essay deals with, and I found Angelica's work very interesting. Thank you for writing this.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 2

A very interesting and informative essay, exploring the subject in a way that makes it much easier to comprehend and follow. Thank you for writing and sharing.