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Cartography of a Character: On (Re)Writing Nerdanel

Luna's sixth Call for Papers, Not the Fellowship. Dragons Welcome! is now in pre-order and will be released on Tuesday 14th of June. Artwork, by Jay Johnstone. Here is a chance to discover the 11 brilliant papers you will find in the book, in reverse order of appearance.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Dawn M. Walls-Thumm, presenting the paper: "Cartography of a Character: On (Re)Writing Nerdanel"


Nerdanel emerged from a pair of Tolkien’s writings, composed after he completed The Lord of the Rings. From this material, Nerdanel emerges distinct among Tolkien’s women: not particularly beautiful but highly skilled as a sculptor and metalsmith. In compiling these drafts into what would become The Silmarillion, Christopher Tolkien severely curtailed Nerdanel’s characterisation, reducing her to a mere four mentions in the published text.

This is, however, but one rewrite of Nerdanel. Christopher’s version compels the story outward to Middle-earth even as it deprives the story of an interesting woman character. Other creators of transformative fanworks, who are mostly women, take the opposite approach, seizing on the details that distinguish Nerdanel from other women in the story and expanding considerably upon them. The result is a compendium of fanworks that ultimately elevate the identities and experiences most familiar to their creators.

About Dawn M. Walls-Thumma:

Dawn Walls-Thumma is an independent Tolkien scholar whose research focuses on Tolkien-based fanfiction, fandom history and culture, and pseudohistorical devices in the legendarium. Dawn's work has been published in the Journal of Tolkien Studies, Transformative Works and Cultures, and Mythprint, and she has a chapter forthcoming in a volume on transgenerational fandoms. In 2005, Dawn founded the Silmarillion Writers' Guild, a group and archive for Tolkien fans interested in learning more and creating fanworks about The Silmarillion. In addition to contributing to the SWG as an administrator and researcher, Dawn is a prolific fanfiction writer herself and has authored more than one hundred fanworks about The Silmarillion. When not writing, reading, and debating about Tolkien, Dawn lives in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom with her husband Bobby (who has only read The Silmarillion once but can still name the seven sons of Fëanor) and their three Golden Retrievers, Guinevere, Gawain, and Hermione. Dawn works as a middle school teacher educating the next generation of citizens and scholars and is a homesteader known for her goat's milk ice cream.

Not the Fellowship. Dragons Welcome!


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