Take Pity upon Him: Did Maedhros Really Threaten to Kill Elrond and Elros at the Third Kinslaying?

Author: Dawn Felagund

Nominator: Marta

2010 Award Category: Genres: Non-Fiction: Character Essays - Third Place

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

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: When Maedhros and Maglor found Elrond and Elros at Sirion, Maedhros threatened to kill them. Or did he? This essay looks at a common fanon surrounding this popular event and how the evolution of the texts and characterization of Maedhros debunk the idea that he threatened Elrond and Elros with death.

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Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 10

Not being an expert on the large body of Tolkien-authored texts published after his lifetime (I've read the Silmarillion exactly once, and gone back occasionally to check details against The History of Middle-earth and other works that I haven't read from cover to cover either), I also haven't read as much Silmarillion fanfic. So I can't say I know that branch of fandom as well as I might, or that I know its attendant controversies and fanon. This was, therefore, an interesting essay on a subject that I really knew nothing about (not even remembering the incident in question: the fostering of Elrond and Elros by their parents' enemies). Why people (fans) think the way they think, and how certain ideas gain credence and spread, is a fascinating aspect of study, and I think Dawn Felagund explores it very nicely. Her disputation of the fanon in question, drawing on characterization and earlier events in the narrative (Maedhros' fruitless search for the abandoned Eluréd and Elurín and his deep repentance), is persuasive. Drawing also on HoMe, she identifies unpublished drafts in which it is Maedhros who is Elrond and Elros' personal savior rather than Maglor, and even asserts that the roles of Maglor and Maedhros were accidentally misaligned in the published Silmarillion. Imagine: the Silmarillion fanbase might just as easily be vilifying Maglor! One can, based purely on the reading of the Silmarillion, still come to a different interpretation of the events and the two characters in question (Maedhros and Maglor). Bonus round: Dawn's essay is framed in a blog post, and the responses she receives provide further discussion of the topic from different perspectives. (A further comment on this essay in its entirety: as I said earlier, I am not as familiar with the work as either Dawn or most of her readers would be. The fact that I still understood everything that she was talking about and the points that she was trying to make owes much to the - seemingly effortless! - job she does of contextualizing her discussion: who the characters are, what they are doing, what has gone before, all accompanied by concrete examples quoted from the text. In other words, she wrote an essay that even someone who is unfamiliar with the texts and the characters discussed can still understand and enjoy.)

Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 10

Maedhros has always been (in case my penname does not give me away at once) one of my favourite Silmarillion characters, since the very first time I read the book, well over twenty years before I stumbled upon fanfiction. many years ago. Therefore, like Dawn, in fics where Maedhros raises his sword over Elrond and Elros, I also consider him as totally out-of-character. I cannot believe Maedhros capable of the cold-blooded cruelty required to kill two young children. For me, he was a flawed hero who lived to regret his choices more than most (how many times would he have questioned himself about following his father while he hung from the cliffs at Thangorodrim, I wonder). I was thrilled to see Dawn articulate a most convincing defence about his part in the episode with Elwng's sons, one deed about which, at least, I was sure of his innocence! All the sources dealing with this scene are meticulously presented and analysed to show that Tolkien never implied his desire to kill the boys, even if it would have added dramatism to the scene. As Dawn argues, there is enough material in the canon writings to point at a character who is rational, conciliatory and merciful, not a child murderer. Bravo for this essay, Dawn!

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 7

In this essay, Dawn takes on one common motif seen in Silmfic: the idea that Maedhros wanted to kill Elrond and Elros, but that the twins were spared through Maglor’s mercy. She insightfully shows how this runs counter to much of what canon says about the scene, giving a plausible origin of the fanon and explaining how it could be read differently. The essay also offers a convincing look at how this fanon changes the characterizations of Maedhros and Maglor. I agree with Dawn on that poing; it takes away some well-deserved sympathy, especially for Maedhros. But what is most interesting, at least to this only-occasional Silmfic reader, is the look at what counts as canon. This is an issue even in Tolkien’s published works, as Lord of the Rings writers must look at authorship, perspective, and other issues to get at the “truth” of Middle-earth’s history; but this task is even more challenging in Silmfic. This side point alone makes the article worthy of time and thought. Nice work, Dawn!

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 7

A thorough dissection of a bit of fanon that many have thought was canon -- that Maedhros threatened to kill Elrond and Elros and that Maglor saved them. It is always good to go back to the actual document in these issues. And I appreciated Dawn's look at the HoME versions in which originally it was Maedhros who took pity on the twins. I would be curious to see what story first originated this idea but it works from a dramatic perspective to have an argument between the two Feanorians, so I can see how the idea was perpetuated in fanfic and since the Silm says explicitly that Maglor took pity on the twins, the bad guy role would fall to Maedhros. I appreciated Dawn's examination of Maedhros' actions in both the Silm and earlier versions in the HoME and her conclusion that such an act would be out of character as Tolkien depicted him. A well researched and well reasoned essay. Her discussion at the end of the [emotional power] of the [two kinslayers at the end of their lives who still have love and mercy enough in their hearts to aid two orphans] is a fine prod for writing more stories with yet new interpretations of that scene.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 6

Congratulations, Dawn, on writing one of the most lucid articles I think I've read yet. As one who is not particularly an afficionado of First Age lore, I admit to having read the Silmarillion thoroughly through only twice, once cover to cover and perhaps a time and a half in a far more hit and miss fashion when looking for particular passages to refer to in writing to particular themes. To learn that originally it was Maedhros who was supposed to have taken Elrond into his home, and that only fairly late in the process Elrond was joined by a twin brother Elros while Maedhros ceded his position as the fosterer to his next younger brother Maglor was most enlightening. It was with a good deal of satisfaction to learn something new today from someone who has so clearly studied the matter as you have! Thank you so!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 5

You know, I'd always taken this scenario for granted. It's a fanon so deeply ingrained that I just accepted it. I'm simply not as familiar with the Silm to be able to detect a fanon on my own, so I am very glad that Dawn has taken the time to debunk it. Dawn's own take is much more logical, come to think of it. If Maedhros had really held the two children at knife-point and threatened them, would they ever have been able to live as his foster sons (along with Maglor)? Surely they'd have been terrified of him. I really do like how carefully she deconstructs this fanon-- very well-reasoned and well documented!

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 5

Dawn Felagund presents a very well researched essay that argues against a popular fanon. She asks all the most relevant questions: Is this fanon consistent with the known evolution of the text? Does it match canonical characterisation? Does the text bear out other interpretations and are those perhaps more convincing? Does the fanon reflect the wider context and the intentions Tolkien had on a meta level? Are there obvious reasons and motivations for the fanon that are based on aspects other than the text? The examination of all these questions leads to a well-founded dismissal of the fanon. A very interesting essay indeed.

Reviewed by: NeumeIndil  ✧  Score: 4

Well-written and well-researched. Having read the source materials prior to reading much Silm fic, I always treated the last-minute rescue of Elrond and Elros with suspicion. It does, as was mentioned, lend to drama, but has always seemed Ooc for the eldest of 7 brothers who showed such despair over the fates of the (many) other sets of twin children mentioned in canon. :D Thank you.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 2

A wonderfully detailed and well-researched essay which challenges a popular fanon notion and refutes it with Tolkien's own words. Really informative!