Tolkien. Is. Not. A. Reference.

My usual, gut-level, teeth-grinding reaction to certain referential allusions that occasionally come up during discussion is as follows:

Tolkien. Is. Not. A. Reference.

While Tolkien was, to be sure, a scholar with a great deal of research on the mythos and legends of Europe under his belt, he did not write, nor did he intend to, a book of pure histories (as pure as such things can be); his works were not intended as a straight catalog of those myths. He combined those myths with his own personal vision and created a functionally fictional world, with its own specific flavor of races and beings.

Yes, the ‘elves’ in Tolkien’s fictional world were in some part inspired by creatures referred to in ‘actual mythos’, such as the LiosAlfar, and the nobler strains of ‘Sidhe’ (re: W. Y. Evans-Wentz; A.E.’s tale). Yes, the Ainur and the Valar have enough similarities to the mythos regarding the hierarchies of the Judeo-Islamic heavens and the beings therein to be considered derivative of those myth systems.

That Tolkien modified those systems and shaped them into his own narrative, his own myth system; into a work intended to be fiction, discounts him as a serious reference in such discussion.

Unless you come specifically from the fictional world that Tolkien created, you cannot refer to his works as being valid references for the history of your people.

Tolkien is not history.


Neither are those myth systems from which he took so much of his inspiration. From one perspective, Tolkien’s body of work could be viewed along the lines of a modern Aeneid or Odyssey. It is an epic narrative, a heroic tale; a prose poem exploring the beauty of language for its own sake, of tale-telling for its own sake. It twines older tales together and makes of them a new storyline. How different is this from what Homer and Virgil did?

How much less viability is Tolkien given because his works were published in a modern era wherein belief in those particular myths is functionally obsolete? How much more likely would Tolkien’s works be to take their place in the folklore of Europe if they had been published without the fictional, alter-world veneer; if they had been published in an era in which there was still enough belief in the fee creatures of Europe to make additions to that line of legend possible?

There seems a tendency, indeed more than seems, as one has heard it said explicitly by various people, to discount any reference to the fee that comes published after a certain century; as if all true possibility of knowledge of those peoples ceased to exist after they ceased to be such a presence in this world. Modern works on the subject are hopelessly derivative and tangled, tainted by too much separation in time from the events, separated too much by modern life and long centuries of human influence to contain Truth. Bull. The fee have not ceased to exist. People who can see through the separation, whether it be time, distance, or some immeasurable barrier, have not ceased to exist. The tales that were told in the era from which such tales are considered viable were just as much influenced by the human society that existed then as tales that are told now are. They are no less, and no more, pure. They are no less, and no more, filtered through human perspective – the old tales, when recounted afresh during the last century or so, are only filtered through a longer timespan spent in that perspective and the shifts which have occurred therein. The works of Tolkien and other authors who further fictionalize and alter mythos do not contain The Whole Truth. The myths and legends upon which their works are based also do not contain The Whole Truth. Yet myth – The Tain, The Eddas, The Mabonigion – sometimes seem to be given a higher degree of credibility than they can rationally be owed; and are sometimes referred to in favorable contrast to modern fictionalizations to such an extraordinary extent that it seems reactionist: a knee-jerk ‘We are Not Fictional. We will not be taken seriously if We include Tolkien and other modern fictional sources among possibly viable sources of inspiration/fragments of truth/etc. We are referred to in Real â„¢ Mythology, therefore Our ideas about Our existences are valid and should be taken seriously.’

What is mythology but an established system of supposition and fiction based in some part upon observed Truths? What is most fiction but the process of creating a fanciful narrative based upon observed Truths? Why the vast divergence in opinion on the possible legitimacies of Myth as opposed to the possible legitimacies of Fiction? What is it about the existence of a spiritual reliance upon certain things that somehow brings them closer to Truth in people’s minds?

To what degree does the story of Etain and Midhir contain Truth? To what degree, at the time when it first came into being, was that story believed to be an accounting of actual events? To what degree did the populace believe in the existence of the Sidhe mounds, in the feats of Cu Cuchulainn? To what degree were such figures – the hero-men, the demi-gods – seen as real? Were they ideals; were they archetypal figures; were they, like Gandalf, Sauron, and Bilbo, designed mainly as vehicles to carry the narrative principle? (There are, of course, those exceptions to this, much as there are in Greek mythos; those figures who were known as deities, and given credence outside fictional narrative – in this case, for example; Brigit, the Dagda, Danu, etc.)

An example: It can be accepted that the peoples of that land at that time believed in the notion of shapeshifting – believed that among them, there were people who had that ability. The story of the Children of Lir includes in it this concept.

One can well imagine the common folk of the time listening to the story for the first, or the thirtieth, time, and seeing in their minds-eye the cruel sorceress Aoife cursing the children, seeing in their minds-eye the long, cold winters the children, now swans, spent struggling to survive on a frozen lake; much as folk today hear the stories of Tolkien or other fictional authors, and see Smaug sailing over the town of Dale, or see the elves sailing away from the Grey Havens.

Only here, today, our belief system is not inherently tied in to that narrative, and even we who believe in creatures such as elves, such as dragons, sometimes discount what threads of truth there may be in such works simply because by acknowledging that the separation between fiction and myth, when it comes to works classified only as fiction, is mutable and untraceable, we feel we invalidate our ideas about ourselves. This is not to say that we need give more credence to fiction, or that Tolkien and those of his ilk are a valid reference source when it comes to our histories or our people, but merely that it appears overly defensive to readily admit that myth does not contain pure fact, while refusing to acknowledge that sometimes, recently published works of fantasy, differentiated only from some myth by the changing standard of genre categorization and belief, may not always be pure fiction.

The Tale of the Star People (an origin myth)

In the deep ages before Time existed as we know it, the stars were not bound in the heavens but floated like gems in the primordial waters. The Gods, although they were not really gods then, amused themselves by diving and catching stars and soon turned to games of sport. It became a competition among them, to possess the stars. But ‘ere long, the waters of the deep grew darker and murkier, for the cherished stars could not live forever.

The Gods lamented and created Birth and Renewal, so that new stars could come into being and once again light the darkness. They were not immortal, however, for even the Gods cannot erase Death.

Millions of years passed, and as is the way of Evolution, new creatures arose from the waters and began to crawl around on those parts of the water that had become more solid and defined of form. They swam, creeped, and crawled – and one or two even flew, and these became the Dragons. But another group of beings mimicked the Gods and loved the stars. They played games of catch, but lacked the wisdom of gods and so eventually began fighting each other over their gassy treasures.

The Gods put their heads together, and said, “This will not do. If these creatures are not curbed and set aright, they will be but a mockery of Us.” And they devised a plan.

They created new worlds for the creatures to dwell in, and set some of the stars high in the night skies. Then they gathered them together in their new lands, and set before them the task of becoming as Gods, over many ages, so that one day they might be learned enough to resume their old games. And the creatures wept and lamented. Taking pity upon them, the Gods granted them a single star and told them that they must share it amongst themselves equally. And so they became known as the Star People, also called the Elves.

Taxomony of Dannan sylvanus: Sylvan Elves, a/k/a Tuatha de Dannan (Dannan sylvanus)

Full D. sylvanus taxonomy is as follows:
Species: sylvanus
Genus: Dannan
Family: Faeidae
Infraorder: Catarrhini
Order: Primates.

Genetically, Dannan sylvanus is 99.8% similar to Homo sapiens.

D. sylvanus tend to be shorter than H. sapiens. While individual D. sylvanus specimens have been found reaching as much as 1.9 meters in height, adult D. sylvanus tend to range from 1.4 to 1.7 meters (males and females show no significant size differential). It is believed that this is an adaptation to the dense forests native for D. sylvanus. D. sylvanus who do have not been raised in forested areas for long periods of time tend to grow taller then woodland D. sylvanus.

D. sylvanus bodies are more slender then H. sapiens and they generally weigh less than H. sapiens norm for their height. However their muscles are still strong and they are not fragile as they seem. D. sylvanus possess light body hair, less than is present in H. sapiens..

D. sylvanus generally possess narrow faces with slightly pointed ears and almond-shaped eyes with colour ranging from grey and silver through blue and green to violet. Brown eyes can be found but are rare (approx. 3%).

Hair changes according to environmental conditions. While blond and golden tend to be common, some specimens are completely black- haired. Superattenuated D. sylvanus have white hair. Reports of blue hair and greenish are unconfirmed, and may relate to other members of Family Faeidae.

D. sylvanus ears have a different hearing range from H. sapiens. While H. sapiens adults perceive sounds from 400 to 20,000 hertz , D. sylvanus perceive sounds from 1000 to 30,000 hertz.

D. sylvanus possess excellent eyesight especially at long ranges. They have, however, a more limited perception of colour, with a spectrum beginning in the green-blue range and running through blue and violet into the ultraviolet. Reports of vision into the infrared spectrum are patently false.

Smell and taste are roughly on par with H. sapiens, though what D. sylvanus and H. sapiens like to taste and smell is not always the same.

The D. sylvanus diet is composed on less complex carbohydrates then H. sapiens and more protein from meat. This is believed to be an adaptation to life in the forest, where small game is plentiful but conditions are not conducive to farming. D. sylvanus do consume a fair amount of simple sugars from sugar-cane berries and fruit , as well as select roots, mushrooms and tree bark. D. sylvanus cook meat (contrary to legend), usually roasting it over an open fire, although not to the degree usually preferred by H. sapiens..

Active/Sleep Cycle:
The D. sylvanus biological clock works differently from that of H. sapiens one in many aspects. The active hours of D. sylvanus are different. D. sylvanus are not strictly nocturnal but their most active hours are from the afternoon to midnight. D. sylvanus prefer to begin sleep at roughly two hours before sunrise and to wake at noon. However, D. sylvanus have shown adaptability to various sleep cycles, and can adapt to a diurnal sleep cycle with no ill effect.

Life cycle:
D. sylvanus have extremely long life spans relative to H. sapiens. However, this does not mean their cycle of life is the same as H. sapiens. D. sylvanus mature slightly slower than H. sapiens and when they mature they stay that way for a very long time before they age. Elderly D. sylvanus do not suffer for the same aliments that plague elderly H. sapiens but just the different aliments they gathered through their long lives. D. sylvanus do not develop wrinkles on their skin nor do their bodies become fragile or weak.

D. sylvanus usually develop a romantic interest in their fellows during their young adult years. D. sylvanus form strong bonds with mates, but this does not always lead to marriage. D. sylvanus are nominally monogamous, but do rarely have more than one sexual relationship at one time. D. sylvanus have learned about the formal marriage custom from H. sapiens. However, D. sylvanus couples are known to fall in love, live together raise offspring and then separate, living single lives again; marriage is optional.D. sylvanus physically perform intercourse in the same manner as H. sapiens, but treat it in a different way. D. sylvanus enjoy sex less then H. sapiens. D. sylvanus are not “slaves to their passions” and many individuals go through life without sex. D. sylvanus treat blind sexual passion as animalistic (in some researchers’ opinions, this is the most prominent difference between H. sapiens and D. sylvanus).

D. sylvanus do not have a cultural taboo regarding nudity, but sexual relations of any kind are always done in privacy.

D. sylvanus sometimes mate with partners of the same gender. D. sylvanus do not see any abnormality in this, and do not understand how can one be solely attracted to either the same or opposite gender.

This is the most puzzling aspect of D. sylvanus biology. D. sylvanus do not remain fertile throughout adulthood; rather, they maintain fertility for only a relatively short (50-year) period of young adulthood. In an evolutionary sense, D. sylvanus’ rate of reproduction is much too low to allow the continuation of the species; much speculation remains regarding how D. sylvanus has continued as a species to date. Previous theories regarding interbreeding with H. sapiens in order to maintain higher breeding rates have proven incorrect; the two species are not reproductively viable, despite their similarity in appearance.



You could be Elven if…

[Written by Tiernan and Robin. Taken from the TNO archives, Issue #1, October 1995. ]

  1. Are people spooked when you walked up behind them and they never heard you coming?
  2. You are always the first one to hear something in the distance (ie: aproaching car, person, storm…)
  3. You can smell a troll for miles and miles and miles…
  4. You couldn’t care less about gun control as long as they don’t outlaw bows.
  5. You think “Lord what fools these mortals be” should be in Bartletts Quotes.
  6. You are frequently offered ‘Santa’s Helper’ jobs at Christmas without an interview.
  7. Your best friends are nymphs, pixies, and fairies.
  8. You think trees are a great place to live, and holes in the ground are for worms and hobbits.
  9. Your friends cat, who hates EVERYONE including your friend, loves you.
  10. You HATE ear jokes
  11. You catch yourself referring to David Bowie as ‘cousin’
  12. The only iron you care to work with is the one that takes the wrinkles out of your clothes.
  13. You can smell what kind of mood the people around you are in.
  14. You HATE plastic.
  15. You LOVE mushrooms.
  16. You can be spun around at night with a blindfold on and you stop spinning pointing to true North every time.
  17. You find yourself arguing that Vulcans and Romulans are your long lost cousins with a Trek fan.
  18. Almost no-one understands your sense of humor
  19. Trolls stress you out.
  20. You have pet dragons.
  21. You would rather listen to bird songs than the radio.
  22. You can sleep on the floor, ground or a wood waterbed, but not a metal frame bed.
  23. Orcs are the cousins you don’t talk about.
  24. You have a fascination with edged weapons.
  25. Most of your clothing has ties and laces instead of buttons and zippers.

Untitled poem in Quenya

Glorsoron atar celndu
a varda vilya!
oranta ramamel le
himsul pella i earon dinalin
tuile edri galenramar
aidar lissilin ne silivren ered
anna anara
tintiliel telprin coire iore

(Golden eagle feather float down from on high
O exalted sky!
lift up winglove to thee
cool winds beyond the great sea sing silent
spring opens green wings
trees sing sweetly on shining mountains
gift of the sun
sparkles silverlike stirring the heart)


I am reaching out to you
Through the walls of my body
But my arms are not my heart
In the end you must find me
In the centre of my soul
Rests a fiercely glowing light
Through the blackness of my mind
Casts a glimpse of burning white
Round that star hang walls of glass
Colours through a prism swirled
Only shadows of that light
Live to reach the outside world
And the one who made that star
Is an elf of ancient lands
In my mind her essence dwells
In the lines upon my hands
I must meet another elf
In the light of the same star
Then I would not be alone
Come to me, if elf you are
So if you know how it feels
Reaching for the starlit sky
At the same time pulling back
No one hears your wordless cry
If your soul lies in that light
Form a land forgot by man
From the depths of ancient woods
Find me waiting if you can

Long Lonesome Road to Old Texarcadia: A Country&Elvish song

Not exactly a filk, but I’m sure it can be sung to *some* Johnny Cash song or other trucker’s favourite.

Well it’s a looong, lonesome road, down to old Texarkadia…
Can’t seem to get nothing, on this here old radia…

Been hauling this load, for ten thousand stadia,
at the end of the road, well, I got something to say to ya….
Well, they said that Dun Ailinne was pretty darn big,
Nigh as big as the wheel on the Dagda’s own rig, …

But that was a long time ago…
Nothing lasts for me, now, don’t y’all know,
Yeah, I had all the lady I’d ever seen yet,
And we parted one day that I’ll never forget…

“Yeah, I’m drivin, I’m drivin, that Elven Express,
Gonna find me some diesel damsel in distress….”
Ain’t had a clean shirt since the Castle of Glass,
and if I had one right now, I could wipe my own…

Yeah, I ain’t seen my homeland in three thousand years,
That’s one for each tooth on these sixteen gears…
Got my neon Dana up on the dash board,
My girlfriend waits tables and washes the Ford.

Well, I’m drivin’, I’m drivin, that Elven Express,
Three beds of Fianna, that’s my home address:
A dotted white line, that’s my highway path:
got the gas and the time, but I can’t do the math…

Yeah, the wheels are still rolling, the tanks I did fill,
Got a chrome Awen screwed to the top of my grille,
And if that ain’t enough to keep me on the road,
got a jug of cold coffee, and a face full of woad…

It’s a long lonsesome road, down to old Texarkadia,
Got a song for my lady, on this here old radia
Gonna buy us a house, and a big shiny car,
And we’ll both come no more, into old Ballynar.

The Real Elf Shady

(With Apologies to Eminem and blame to Rialian. Don’t kill me Kyrin!)

May I have your mead cup please?
May I have your mead cup please?
Will the real Elf Shady please get drunk
I repeat, will the Real Elf Shady please get drunk?
I think we’re gonna have some entertainment here…

Ya’ll act like you ain’t never seen a toxic elf before
Laughing all on the floor like Cel, Like Esh just ran through the woods,
chasing each each like every year before, shakin ass on the way to the showers
It’s the return of the.. “Dude, wait, gimme more..”

He just drank what I think he did, did he?
Then Rialian said abandon all H.O.P.E
Rialian’s pet cliche, almost printed on cards
Elven women love the toxic one
“Toxic elf, I worship him, look at him, walking around
talking about who knows what, drinking who knows what,
cursing at gods know who…”
“Yeah, but he’s so loud though”
Yeah well, he the first thing you hear in the morning
And the probably the last thing you hear at night
Sometimes, he’s all you can hear in the camp,
Sitting by the fire with a fork of doom
“Did I get that drunk, did I get that drunk”

And if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see it again
And there’s a message behind all this scarasim
But we just aint’ figured out quite what it is

So of course we laugh it up and drink by the fire
by the time midnight rolls around
we’re all gonna be staggering about
“We ain’t nothing but elves and others” well, one if us is
Louder and harder than all the rest
But he’s one of us so we put up with him and tehre’s no reason for him not to leave when
We all sometimes feel like he feels
Everyone grab your cup, sing the chorus and it goes

(Chorus, x2)
I’m Elf Shady, yes the real Shady
All you other Elf Shadys are just imitating
So won’t the Real Elf Shady please get drunk, please get drunk, please get drunk.

The Very Model of an Elven Individual

I am the very model of an Elven Individual,
I’ve information memorable, magical, and mythical,
I know the kings of Faerie, and I quote the tales bardic-wise
Of Thomas Rhymer, Taliesin, Tam Lin and some otherwise;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters of Awakening,
I understand Rememb’rings, both the quiet and the quakening,
On matters of linguistics I am teeming with a lot o’ news,
With many cheerful facts about what spelling of “des’tai” to use.

With many cheerful facts about what spelling of “des’tai” to use..
With many cheerful facts about what spelling of “deshtai” to use.
With many cheerful facts about what spelling of “desh’tai” to use.

I’m very good at keeping track of lifetimes that are serial;
I know the True Forms and the names of beings nigh ethereal:
In short, in matters memorable, magical, and mythical,
I am the very model of an Elven Individual.

In short, in matters memorable, magical, and mythical,
She is the very model of an Elven Individual.

I know our mythic histories, the true ones and the fictional
And even on occasion write a new one that’s original
I filk in constant counterpoint the doings of Rialian,
At times this has necessitated large amounts of Valium

I can tell undoubted elven-types from satyrs and from angelforms,
I know the common hideaways of fairy folk and unicorns.
Then I can draw an elven star inscribed inside a heptagon,
And improvise from tales in that dreaded Mabinogion.

And improvise from tales in that dreaded Mabinogion.
And improvise from tales in that dreaded Mabinogion.
And improvise from tales in that dreaded Mabinogion.

Then I can write a courtly speech in “Elenari politic,”
And tell you ev’ry detail of the Gate creators’ travel ships:
In short, in matters memorable, magical, and mythical,
I am the very model of an Elven Individual.

In short, in matters memorable, magical, and mythical,
She is the very model of an Elven Individual.

In fact, when I can trace in full Tuatha geneaology,
When I can theorize about draconical biology,
When such affairs as Alardans and Gathers I will travel to,
And when I know precisely what the politics unravel to,
When I have learnt what languages the Elenari babble in,
When I know more of Camelot than Guenivere’s best chatelaine–
In short, when I’ve a smattering of nigh to useless trivia,
You’ll see an Elven Individual who’s just been ribbin’ ya.

You’ll see an Elven Individual who’s just been ribbin’ ya.
You’ll see an Elven Individual who’s just been ribbin’ ya.
You’ll see an Elven Individual who’s just been ribbin’ ya.

For my otherworldly knowledge, though I’ve hardly scratched its minimum,
Is only manifesting at the start of the milennium;
But still, in matters memorable, magical, and mythical,
I am the very model of an Elven Individual.

But still, in matters memorable, magical, and mythical,
She is the very model of an Elven Individual.

Based on “I am the very model of a modern Major-General” from “The Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan.

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(from “Under the Sun” by Sugar Ray)

“Now this is somethin’ from back in the day
I’ll always remember the mallorn tree
And all of the wisdom
That we brought from the sea
Beauty of Lothlorien
Living amongst my hand
Maybe I’m dreaming
Can you tell me

Do you remember
The living that lasted so long
Elven haven
where we learned to sing all the songs
Do you remember
All of us together
As we grew in Lothlorien

I’ll always remember everything we’d do
But it was all good when I’m with my crew
I remember Elbereth
The Stars, and Gilthoniel
Seems kind of funny on Earth
But it’s taking me back
We’d always sing a song
It was great just to be elves
Don’t want to stop dreaming
Can you tell me


I want to rewind every time
‘Cause my Hand had so much meaning
They were there when nobody cared
Always knew what I was feeling
Come to me, don’t leave me reminiscing
All I do is wind up missing you
Are you missing me?
Are you missing me?
Na na na na na

Do you remember the living that lasted so long
Back in the day, back back in the day
Do you remember all of us together

As we grew in Lothlorien?”

Portal to Try

(from Ticket to Ride by the Beatles)

I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The elves are making me mad
They’re going away

Sidhe have a portal to try
Sidhe have a portal to try
Sidhe have a portal to try
And Sidhe don’t care

Sidhe say that living on Earth is bringing them down
They would never be free while still on this ground

Sidhe have a portal to try
Sidhe have a portal to try
Sidhe have a portal to try
And Sidhe don’t care

I don’t know when they’re going to try;
They oughtta think twice and get a portal for me!
Before they get to saying goodbye
They oughtta think twice they oughtta do right by me!

I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The elves are making me mad
They’re going away!

Sidhe have a portal to try
Sidhe have a portal to try
Sidhe have a portal to try
And Sidhe don’t care

I don’t know when they’re going to try;
They oughtta think twice and get a portal for me!
Before they get to saying goodbye
They oughtta think twice they oughtta do right by me!

Sidhe say that living on Earth is bringing them down
They would never be free while still on this ground

Sidhe have a portal to try
Sidhe have a portal to try
Sidhe have a portal to try
And Sidhe don’t care
My brethren don’t care
My brethren don’t care
My brethren don’t care
My brethren don’t care
My brethren don’t care

Lord of the Rings movie review

I was in wonder watching the Lord of the Rings last night. I had gone with my fiancee and a mutual friend. *sigh* It was just….wonderful. Rather than critique the movie, I will highlight my opinion on how the elves were portrayed, from the perspective of a reincarnate elf. Overall, I think the movie was really well done in all aspects (save the missing Tom Bombadil, minor point).

I was very pleased by the portrayal of the elves. They looked, walked, acted and even spoke like elves. They were very remniscent of what I remember. In full elven form can look that unearthly (especially as in Lothlorien). That’s part of who we are. My view overall is very positive and awe-filled Even when speaking English the elves had an elvish accent. Rivendell, while very pretty and inviting looking for me did not move me as did Lothlorien. There’s a place that could have easily existed on Sel’ar, the way it was depicted. *sigh*. I found Eowyn’s voice to be very elvish in timbre. I was moved by her Voice when speaking the words at the river and her mannerisms. I have to give the cast credit for studying elvish with aid from Tolkien societies to strive for correct pronunciation.

You’ll probably note that I have mentioned a lot of things I am pleased with and the lack of comments about things like Legolas’ hair color. Perhaps when there are more movies with elves in them, and when they all have the same quality in their portrayal of the elves, I will have the heart to be more ruthless in my critique of elven portrayals in the cinema. The critiquing also just does not sit well with my feeling of peaceful joy when thinking on the movie, and seems petty to me by that light (no offense to those who enjoy critiquing it). My experience of the movie was wonderful, I care to focus on the wonder of the movie rather than detract from that wonder by focusing on the not-quite-perfect bits.

So overall, a very enjoyable movie. Bring kleenex not only for when the “sad” scenes happen, but for the breathtaking beauty. Prepare to be moved.

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