Hair. Because apparently people get worked up about it.

Maedhros’ short hair

It appears that the audacity of the Amazon series to depict Elves with non-Pantene hair is shedding a fair amount of Elven short hair outrage all across the web, and I seem to catch quite a bit of it. So here’s the PSA for all who want it.

Yes, I draw Maedhros with short hair. I’ve imagined him like this since I first read the Silmarillion in 1992. It’s not based on any depiction or description. I simply like it. If you don’t, that’s fair.

Fingolfin’s dark hair

Not a word is said in the Silmarillion on Fingolfin’s hair colour. Finarfin is expressly said to be blonde, which causes many people to believe Fingolfin was too, but the book doesn’t tell us anything about Fingolfin. Cf. the appendix of the Silmarillion under Finarfin: “Alone among the Noldorin princes he and his descendants had golden hair, derived from his mother Indis”, p. 330 in my Harper/Collins edition. Descendants, not siblings.

Tolkien expressly wrote later (published in the History of Middle-earth, by his son Christopher, not in the published version of the Silmarillion) that Fingolfin, as well as all his children (Fingon, Turgon, Argon [not mentioned in the published Silmarilion either], and Aredhel) had dark hair as well. “Fingolfin was his father’s son, tall, dark, and proud…” (The History of Middle-earth volume 12: The Peoples of Middle-earth. Edited by Christopher Tolkien, HarperCollins Publishers, 1996. Page 336 in a text called “The Shibboleth of Fëanor”, written by J. R. R. Tolkien in or slightly after 1968.

So, even accomplished artists like John Howe and Ted Nasmith got it wrong when they portrayed Fingolfin as golden-haired. Not that it matters, honestly. If you depict a character whose hair colour is never mentioned in the book, it’s not as if it was a terrible crime. Tolkien himself was known to be extremely liberal with people’s visions of his characters. That’s why he barely depicted the characters, only the locations, in his own illustrations. That’s why, in the first editions of the books, he wanted no illustrations prescribing readers how to imagine them. If it had been important to him how exactly we ought to see Fingolfin, he definitely would have described him in more detail.

15 thoughts on “Hair. Because apparently people get worked up about it.

  1. I actually never pictured Fingolfin with blond hair. Since it was only said of Finarfin that he was blond I figured that that meant the others weren’t.

    And I actually have The History of Middle Earth volume 12. I should look that passage up again. BTW, it’s me akai-no-akuma from deviantart.

    • “I actually never pictured Fingolfin with blond hair. Since it was only said of Finarfin that he was blond I figured that that meant the others weren’t.”

      See, and it’s incredible how such an easy piece of logic passes by so many blonde-Fingolfin-groupies. :D

      • Tolkien always made a big issue of it if someone was blond in Middle Earth, like it was a rarity. He did the same with the Rohirrim, it was specifically said they were blond people.

        So I think it’s safe to assume that if someone was blond he would have said so.

  2. I’ve got to admit that I’m the other sort of obsessed fan: I get rabid whenever I see BLOND Fingolfin. It just pisses me off (because, while so many other details are indeed unknown or at the very least pretty obscure, dark-haired Fingolfin is relatively well-documented!). I don’t remember how many depictions I’ve seen of Fingolfin challenging Morgoth and being blond. No matter how brilliant the depiction, if he’s blond, I’ll just groan and scowl and look away. I’m intolerant like that. (Well, I don’t write a flame. I’ll just quietly hate in my heart. ;))

    The Early Modern English flame is indeed the most ridiculous thing ever. Tolkien would’ve wept. Possibly with laughter.

  3. I just realised that my comment about the LOTR movies having characters with the wrong hair colour might have sounded a bit wrong, to a person that got trolled because of Fingolfin’s hair colour.
    Well, besides from thinking that Fingolfin isdark haired, I should say I really don’t care much about hair colours of characters from Tokien’s books, except… that they got wrong the only couple of characters of which Tolkien described the hair colour, like Faramir or Boromir, for example.
    (Though I have to say that Sean Bean was a terrific Boromir).
    What I mean is, they made movies out of a book where characters appearance is seldom described: the couple of times it is described they should have considered it important, I think.
    That said, Legolas surfing on a shield is much worse than a blond Faramir…

  4. Ha, I managed to log in, hit the follow button and just e-mail informed me I’ll get notifications should you post anything. I’ve forgotten it works this way, then great, I’m spying you :D Now awaiting the Lagolas’ case ;)

    Well, yes, I’m hair colour obsessed, maybe because I’m Noldorin hair obsessed in general ;) But I must admit apart your Fingolfin’s case (I remember it from Elfwood) I never saw anyone flaming other portraits of dark haired Fingolfin.

    BTW, there is also Tolkien Illustrator’s First Aid Kit: Elves at silm-club, which stresses on the Fingolfin’s hair quotation ;)

  5. Fingolfin is dark haired! I know hair colour is the least important thing in the Silmarillion, it is of course the story that matters, but something about these people who are die-hard Fingolfin-was-a-blondie-ites just pee’s me off! It is made very clear that Fingolfin was very much like Feanor but without the temper, and Feanor is described as having ‘raven dark’ hair. Finarfin’s blonde hair is emphasised by Tolkien. As Fingolfin’s hair is scarcely mentioned (except in HoME Vol. 12) it is assumed he is dark.
    As an aside, Fingolfin is my favourite character in the Silmarillion! He is just the shit! He is the only elf brave enough to take on Morgoth himself.

    • I love your depiction of Fingolfin. I don’t understand what’s the big deal about these ‘o so great’ hair colour debates. Tolkien did not always describe the physical traits of a character with every detail, and in such cases artists are free to use their own interpretions. Besides in Silmarillion, Tolkien just used golden hair as a literary device to mark out some Noldorin Princes among the others. It’s not like a crown of nobilty or something. Since all of them were Noldor, proud and noble.

  6. Wow, way to go you guys. Mouthing off about Blond-hair fanatics and being just as fanatic about it as well. Fail!

    On a more on-topic note: remember that much of the histories are early drafts so just because something is in the histories does not make it to a canon entry per se. If there is nothing to contradict it in the Silmarillion, sure it is still the most accurate and down-to-the-source thing we have, but still.
    As the mother of Fingolfin and Finarfin is a Vanyar, it is not that far fetched to think they are blond. I admit that is a long time since i read the Silmarillion from cover to cover but i thought there was a mention of both being fair etc. bla bla which could mean also in hair color. I have not yet finished the histories.

    That all being said, i do think your art is one of the best tolkien art out there, period. Even counting such guys as Howe. I hope you keep on painting more ME stuff for years and years to come :)

    • Thank you for the praise!

      As for the chronology, the part with a dark-haired Fingolfin (and Fingon) was written in the early sixties, and was thus one of the last things Tolkien ever wrote in his legendarium. I would say they can thus be taken for canon. I agree for some of the very early writings – I wouldn’t draw on some of the writings from the 20’s so heavily.

  7. For a while I actually imagined Fingolfin as brown haired (just something between Fëanor and Finarfin). I just wanted to (in my mind) set him apart from his brothers. I’m new to the Silmarillion (still stuck in chapter 9). But then again, brown hair can be considered as “dark” right? Anyway, I thank you for setting the record straight! :)

  8. That’s fair enough. I’m not sure why some of my other comments look distorted.
    I never imagined Fingolfin with blonde hair. That’s a new one to me.

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