It’s All in the Family: The Finweans – Michael Martinez’ J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth

by Sep 13, 2001Other News

“Galadriel’s history is as convoluted and puzzling as Gildor’s ancestry. Tolkien changed her history more than once, and in doing so altered her relationships with both Celebrimbor and Celeborn. Celeborn was originally a Wood Elf, but in time he was changed to a Sindarin Elf related to Elwe through a younger brother Elmo. Yet, in the last year of his life, Tolkien decided that Celeborn should be a grandson of Olwe, born in Alqualonde. It seems that Tolkien had forgotten about the ancient (in terms of his life) Eldarin restriction against marriage between first cousins (which principle is referred to in the story of Maeglin, although as published in The Silmarillion that story is mostly the work of Christopher’s editing and compression of older materials).”
The second of two articles examining the families of the Eldarin kings. With the publication of The Peoples of Middle-earth, we learned Tolkien’s final decisions on who was related to whom, and how.

Here is an excerpt from Michael’s August 31st Suite101 article:

The central role of Tolkien’s mythology is assigned to the family of Finwe, the first King of the Noldor. Unlike the Minyar (Firsts), all of whom migrated to Valinor and became known as the Vanyar, the Tatyar (Seconds) and Nelyar (Thirds) divided themselves into two groups. Those Tatyar who undertook the Great Journey became the Noldor, and Finwe was their leader. Those Nelyar who undertook the Great Journey became the Teleri, and the brethren Elwe and Olwe were their leaders. Hence, Finwe, Elwe, and Olwe were only kings over those members of their clans who followed them on the Great Journey. The remaining Elves, collectively known as the Avari, were ruled by other (unnamed) chieftains.

The significance of this distinction is that Finwe’s isolation from the Tatyarin Avari reinforces Tolkien’s emerging view that Finwe should not be a first generation Elf. Although Tolkien never says so, it would be respectful of Finwe’s primacy if all the Tatyar were to accept his decision to go Aman. Since Ingwe, Finwe, and Elwe had to persuade their people to undertake the journey, we know that they did not have the autocratic power of Eldarin kings while all the Elves lived in Cuivienen. The social structure of the primitive Elven culture must therefore have been substantially different from that of the Eldarin realms in later ages. Feanor, too, had to persuade the Noldor to follow him into exile, but he was making an emotional appeal during a time of crisis while he was still under the ban of the Valar. His legitimacy as their king was questionable, since Fingolfin was technically still the acting king in Tirion. In Middle-earth, Turgon does not appear to have had to persuade his people to follow him when he moved from Nevrast to Gondolin. He simply made the decision and the entire kingdom moved.

It is thus evident that there was a process of evolution for the authority of the Eldarin leaders. It is certainly arguable that a less sophisticated society may not have provided the eldest Elves with the power of monarchs. But if that is the case, then the assumption that Finwe must be identified with Tata, the eldest of the Tatyar, is further weakened. Such identification need not be limited to identification of character with character. It is not apparent that Finwe has to be a descendant of Tata and Tatie. He could have come from any family and risen to prominence through his courage and wisdom.

Please click on the link below to read the entire article.


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