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Christine Kelley

Christine Kelley writes about speculative fiction and radical politics from a queer revolutionary perspective. Currently her main project is Nowhere and Back Again, a psychogeography of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Her first project was the now semi-retired blog Dreams of Orgonon, a song-by-song study of Kate Bush. Support Christine on Patreon.


  1. Aylwin
    August 20, 2021 @ 1:48 pm

    Their potency makes the wines of Dorwinion ideal for drinking contests, in which, as is customary, competitors are eliminated as they lose consciousness or are left otherwise unable to continue drinking, until one alone remains as the victor.

    This is known as

    Dorwinion natural selection.


    • liminal fruitbat
      August 20, 2021 @ 3:53 pm



  2. Aylwin
    August 20, 2021 @ 2:56 pm

    The stitching into the picture of the Wood-elves of elements drawn from Doriath reaches a surprising degree of closeness with the adaptation of the story of the Necklace of the Dwarves (but without the king’s death). It leaves the story as published in a strange, ambivalent spot which is neither its apparent early conception as taking place not only in the same world but in the same era as The Silmarillion, reflected in that extraordinary reference to Beren and Luthien, nor its eventual placement as part of the same world but much later. The separation in time is already there, but the world shifts out of focus, reframing strands of the existing mythology in a way that sits oddly with its being straightforwardly part of the same history.

    The elvish economy may be barely glimpsed, but I think The Hobbit gets us as close as we ever do in Tolkien to a recognition that elves require any kind of primary food production at all, outside of apparently limited and semi-recreational hunting. The Wood-elves may not “bother much with trade or with tilling the earth”, but at least it suggests they may till a little, even if it leaves us in the dark as to how such activities remain so apparently discretionary, to be “bothered with” or not. The necessary drudgery of food production is a point where Tolkien never quite brought himself to impose the implications of the concrete materiality of his elves onto the more fantastical source-traditions of the fairy.


    • Aylwin
      December 17, 2021 @ 7:01 am

      It turns out that I overstated the totality of this – the verse Children of Hurin mentions cultivated fields and orchards around Nargothrond.


  3. Aylwin
    August 20, 2021 @ 3:04 pm

    I don’t think any of the Wainriders’ conquests can be classed as a reclamation, unless one treats the peoples of the East as an undifferentiated mass, to a greater degree than Tolkien does.


  4. Neil Barnes
    August 27, 2021 @ 7:24 am

    It’s always stuck me as amusing that the Wainriders, both in what we know of their society and geography (if Mordor is Hungary and Rhun the Black Sea, then Rhovanion is the steppe) are a pretty good match for the Proto-Indo-Europeans as per Gimbutas’ Kurgan hypothesis. And of course the Wainriders are some of the Easterlings under Sauron’s influence.

    Someone better versed in the history of the field of Indo-European historical linguistics and Tolkienology might know whether this is anything other than a coincidence, but I can imagine that he’d be aware of these ideas long before they hit the mainstream.


    • Aylwin
      August 27, 2021 @ 7:40 pm

      In terms of historical parallels, the Wainriders map most closely onto the Huns (invading nomads from the east who conquer Germanic-speaking people with Gothic names inhabiting the great plains of eastern “Europe” and precipitate a westward migration of many of those people to escape them, subsequently clash with the “Romans” and suffer a great downfall through defeat at the latter’s hands and a major revolt of their Germanic subjects), and perhaps also the Avars (nomads of similar sort who subsequent to these events carry out a devastating but ultimately unsuccessful combined assault on the “Romans” in conjunction with “Middle Eastern” allies).

      I think Hungary maps best onto Rohan, the great mountain-fringed plain inhabited by horse-people which is located to the north of core “Roman” territory and was at one time wholly or partially under “Roman” rule, is separated from the far wider steppes to the east by a major natural frontier, and is grouped within “the West”. The plains of Rhovanion are roughly the European sreppe, Rhun the Asian steppe, and the Sea of Rhun the Caspian. Mordor sits outside of the loose analogue of early medieval history going on in the surrounding lands, but geographically is a kind of weird fusion of Anatolia and the Black Sea.


      • Neil Barnes
        August 28, 2021 @ 3:30 am

        I understood that the Yamnaya had carts & chariots but not mass horse-riding (because the horses were still too small before centuries of breeding would make them big enough to ride) which is what stood out to me because they’re specifically called ‘wain’riders and not ‘horse’riders.

        It struck me as either an amusing coincidence or interesting choice in view of how much is read into Tolkien’s racial views that you could see this match between a group that’s so ancestral to Europeans and a culture that’s under the sway of darkness in his stories.


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