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Tal-Elmar: Tolkien’s Unrepresented Natives

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 Renée Vink, presenting the paper: "Tal-Elmar: Tolkien’s Unrepresented Natives"


Even many Tolkien fans who have read beyond The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and are familiar with The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and Letters may not immediately recall the character of Tal-Elmar. He is well-hidden in the final section of The Peoples of Middle-earth, and the last character in the Legendarium mentioned by name.

The story of which he is both the central character and a symbolical representation, counts less than 15 pages. It was left unfinished on two occasions and then commented on by the author himself more than a dozen years later. “Tal-Elmar”, set towards the close of the Second Age and purporting to be written from the viewpoint of an indigenous people of Middle-earth is a rather confusing text that has drawn little attention in Tolkien scholarship. As far as I know only one article (Wiemann) seriously discusses it for a couple of pages.

As this paper intends to argue, this text and its main character shed some light on Tolkien’s awareness of contemporary issues of colonialism and decolonisation. However, the existing moral framework of his Legendarium, in addition to elements The Lord of the Rings, which was in the process of getting published at the time of writing, may have hampered him in working it out in a convincing way. The viewpoint is not what Tolkien’s own assessment of the story suggests it is. This could be the reason why he abandoned the story twice – and why the Akallabêth, in a way, contains its replacement.

About Renée Vink:

Renée Vink lives in The Hague (Netherlands) and has been an avid Tolkien reader for five decades. In 1981 she co-founded the Dutch Tolkien Society Unquendor, and in 1985 its scholarly journal Lembas Extra, of which she is currently one of the editors (again). She has written numerous essays on J.R.R. Tolkien and Arda for Tolkien Studies, volumes of Walking Tree Publishers, TS conference proceedings, and other publications. In 2012 her monograph Wagner and Tolkien: Mythmakers was published, in 2020 Gleanings from Tolkien’s Garden, a volume of selected essays (nominated for the Tolkien Society Best Book Award 2021).

Her profession in the primary world is translator, and from 2009 onwards she has been the official translator of works by Tolkien into Dutch, among them The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, Tolkien’s Beowulf, Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin – but regrettably not The History of Middle-earth, which was never published in Dutch. In between, she wrote a number of historical mysteries about medieval Dutch noblemen and Holy Roman emperors, featuring runaway beguines, troubadours, and Dante as sleuths.

Not the Fellowship. Dragons Welcome!

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