Moriquendi: The Gendered Other in Tolkien Fanfiction

Author: adn_heming

Nominator: Marta

2005 Award Category: Genres: Non-Fiction: Elves - Second Place

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

Rating: G  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Why are the Moriquendi elves often scapegoats in fandom? A look at how common fanon interpretations of Celeborn, Thranduil and Legolas reflect colonial discourse.

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Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

This is a nice example of psychoanalytic theory at work, and I only wish I had the kind of training and familiarity with this particular branch of philosophy to really do justice to the article I'm reviewing at the moment. I wish I could analyze it more competently from within that tradition and conceptual framework, but I know just enough to know I don't know *squat* and to avoid trying to take stabs at it from other perspectives unless I'm feeling like getting my butt kicked. :-) One of the more derisory comments one can make of someone's characterization is that it is "feminized", by which the reviewer usually means a very specific set of traits that are listed off in detail and which vary somewhat according to the fic. What's missing in that litany is the analysis of the relational field in which the character (and the author) move. We know there's patriarchy; we know this means "something" for fandom (we think); but how to give that expression that counts as evidence and explanation is very difficult often times, the more so since we're dealing with a double reflection: the author's relation to his or her cultural context, and the relationship of characters within the imaginary context of the story, which itself is symptomatic of the first relationship. Psychoanalysis, despite its controversial assumptions and formulations, can give us a powerful means of addressing these points, as Adn_heming shows. So even though I always suspect psychoanalysis of harboring what I call, for lack of a better term, a "transcendental sexism", I certainly appreciate its unparalleled ability to get at the phenomenon of the perverse (in the non-technical sense of that word) that is the obverse of "masculine enlightenment rationality", and show up the unwanted but inevitable connections between them. As the author of the article notes, it's sometimes when we say that we are being sympathetic or rational or "liberated" (taking on all those positively charged positions) with regard to the canon we're writing about that we find that that perverse obverse of our own claimed position is, as it were, "in us more than ourselves", and it shows up in our fiction.

Reviewed by: Tanaqui  ✧  Score: 10

In this essay, adn_heming has taken on the challenge of presenting some extremely interesting but very complex ideas about fanfiction portrayals of Light and Dark Elves. I think it’s a shame that the style of this essay is rather opaque in places, and I would have liked to see the author rise to the challenge of presenting the same material in “layperson’s terms”. Many people without training in these areas of the social sciences might struggle to grasp its full meaning, or might give up on it early on. This would be a great pity, as I believe the majority of fanfic writers would benefit from questioning their own characterisations in the light of these observations. Also, while I found the discussion fascinating, I’m not entirely sure I agree with the conclusion that these portrayals are entirely due to an unconscious (colonialist and gender-based) justification of the superiority of Light and Dark Elves. I would be very interested to see what the author would make of applying the same concepts and analysis to Men. There are lots of stories about the “High Men” -- the Numenoreans of Gondor -- which seem to me to place Boromir in a similar role to Celeborn (as having inferior “culture” to the Northern Dúnedain personified by Aragorn), Denethor in a similar role to Thranduil (as the hysterical and weak parent), and Faramir in a similar role to Legolas (as the submissive child and often the subject of hurt/comfort fics). I’m left wondering how the colonial and gender perspectives the author sees in fanfic portrayals of Light and Dark Elves would apply to fanfic about High, Middle and Dark Men. Nevertheless, I found this to be an extremely thought-provoking essay, and I am grateful that adn_heming has shared these insights with us.

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger  ✧  Score: 7

Easily one of the most original explanations I've ever come across for the victimization of Celeborn, Thranduil, Legolas, and all other Sindar and Silvan elves. And also one of the most persuasive and logical. It has certainly forced me to run back and examine my own writings. In particular, I liked the parts dealing with Galadriel's marriage to Celeborn and how this, at least in the minds of some, could be taken as a sign that the Self was reaching out to educate the Other. And I liked how the essay dealt with Thranduil's (and Oropher's) complete rejection of the Noldor, merging completely with the Other (the Silvan). Fascinating dynamics within the elven world itself, and fascinating ideas about how fanfiction writers interpret and adapt to these dynamics using ideas of Self and Other.

Reviewed by: elliska  ✧  Score: 5

Wow! I feel like I'm back in graduate school. This is a really well researched, scholarly article. I have read enough elf fanfiction, and am a big enough fan of Celeborn and Thranduil, to agree with the author's analysis that these characters in particular are assigned traditionally 'female' and therefore negative attributes in fanfiction such as hysteria, excess and submissive or smothering behavior. I agree that this is largely because they are Moriquendi and therefore 'lesser' beings. Very interesting analysis.

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 3

I might argue with the author about whether a certain characteristic is necessarily "feminine", but that's my feminism getting the better of me, I think. But moving beyond that, this is a really fabulous essay. I do not uread enough elf-centric fan fiction to know how prevalent this phenomenon is, but you have provided a nice explanation of it.