What Writers Get Wrong With Lord of the Rings Fanfiction: Elves Part Two
(Continuing with the Elves, brought to you by my good friend, Julianne)
Hello again! Julianne here (Silmarilz1701), from the article on Elves a few weeks ago. Today I’m going to tell you a few things about creating names for elven characters. We’re also going to touch on a few other customs that many of you might not be aware of! Let’s get started.
Names are vital to an elf. They have meaning and generally relate to something in the particular elf’s life. All elvish names are in one of two languages: Quenya and Sindarin. So what’s the difference?
The original language of the elves was Quenya and originated in the Blessed Realm, Valinor. Think of it as Latin compared to English. In Quenya naming customs, each elf has multiple names.
Soon after birth, a father name is given (ataressë). It is chosen by the father and presented at a ceremony. Typically it relates to the father, grandfather, or mother’s name. It is a public name, a name anyone can use in conversation. Examples include Curufinwë, Nolofinwë, and Arafinwë, three names for the sons of King Finwë.
The next name an elf receives is the mother name (amilessë). Sometimes the mother name is prophetic, as some elven mothers receive a vision or a premonition upon birth. Secondly, the name might be used to highlight a skill the child has. Another reason for a mother name would be relating to their personality. Examples include Makalaurë (Gold-cleaver in honor of Maglor’s singing talent), Umbarto (the fated… Amras original mother name heralding an early death), and Carnistir (red-face… Caranthir’s mother name in reference to his quick temper).
The Epessë is a nickname given to an elf by friends. It’s a public name but not used as frequently as father or mother name. Unless the epessë is specifically chosen by the elf himself, in which case that becomes the name most used. Examples include Alatariel (Galadriel’s epessë), Russandol (Maedhros’ epessë in honor of his red hair), and Gil-Galad (epessë by the last High King of the Noldor, used as his normal name).
Most of the names you’re going to encounter while making characters are in Sindarin. They are the English to Quenya’s Latin. In Middle Earth, it is common for men as well as elves to use Sindarin elvish names. Most Sindarin elvish names are compounds of two words.
Important Facts — Naming and Otherwise
Elves do not reuse names. This especially extends to historical names, like Luthien Tinuviel, or Idril. A lot of fanfic authors get this wrong and think that naming their characters after historical elves are cool or accurate. It’s not. In an elven society that’s like trying to impersonate someone. This is distinct from mannish cultures that use elven names. They DO use historical names. But leave out Luthien, she’s pretty much off limits to everyone.
Marriage is forever. There is no instance of rape, adultery, or divorce in elven culture. Rape would result in the death of the elf involved, a literal fading of the soul. Adultery and divorce are unthinkable. In fact, the only time there’s ever been a remarriage of an elf was Finwe, whose wife died in childbirth. It never happened again probably because of the massive mess it created.
Elves do not have surnames. The father name acts sort of like one. In the name Legolas Greenleaf, Greenleaf is merely a translation of the name Legolas. Don’t give elves surnames!
Elves do not die of old age, but they do weary of the world and fade out of physical existence with time and injury. They cannot die of illness, but they can be poisoned, one prominent example being Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, the White Lady of the Noldor. They can also be killed in battle.
The biggest error I see in Tolkien fanfiction with elves is simple. The author doesn’t give them an elvish name! Usually, the author makes some sort of made up, pretend English name. It makes no sense because elves only use elven names. A great resource for elven naming is Realelvish.net.
Elven names often feature specific suffixes with regards to men, women, and relationships. -eth, -dis, -wen, -iel, and several others are female specific. -ion and -on are male-specific.
Just research! It’ll make your work infinitely better……
(So ends the tale of Elves, and a big thank you to Julianne for her hard work in putting this all together!)
S. D. Howard
Author | Editor | Coach