Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mahtan's Bride

One cliché solution for a missing role play parent is "she died long ago". I prefer to make the absence more interesting, with a hint that the role could be played when the player appears.

My dear friend Maralee plays Nerdanel, Fëanor's wife. Her character father, Mahtan, played on occasions by other players as suits them, merits several lines in Chapter 4 of "The Silmarillion".

While still in his early youth he [Fëanor] wedded Nerdanel, the daughter of a great smith named Mahtan, among those of the Noldor most dear to Aulë; and of Mahtan he learned much of the making of things in metal and in stone.

(note that Feanor is a youth, so she is therefore older than he!)

Bitterly did Mahtan rue the day when he taught to the husband of Nerdanel all the lore of metalwork that he had learned of Aulë.

Thus, Mahtan doubtless awoke in Cuiviénen and made the great march to Aman, became a magnificent student of crafts that Aulë taught everything he could, then taught the next generation of Noldor elves, including Prince Feanor, what he knew. One can even invent stories about Mahtan easily:

When the Teleri were welcome new arrivals and guests in Tirion for a year, Mahtan was torn because he dearly wanted to be the master architect of Alqualondë for the Teleri, but was newly wed. So in such a time, to choose between go and build, as he loved doing or to stay and be the husband his lady deserved was no easy burden to him. But it was the lady herself who resolved it by insisting that Mahtan teach her stone craft during the building of Alqualondë, so both they went and made themselves a home in Alqualondë as he and the Noldor and Teleri constructed the rest of the city. Then they returned to live in Tirion just before Fëanor's was birth and their home is still there near the palace on the hill.

And of Mahtan's wife, Nerdanel's mother? There is nothing, not even a name on JRR Tolkien's copious genealogies. "Mahtandil" [mah- "great" + tano "smith" + -ndil "beloved"] would be one of her titles. We can guess that Mahtan's bride was not royalty or she would have merited some mention if she were..and we can guess that she, like he, was among the first of the created elves, awoke on Cuivienen and had the urge and courage to make the trek to Aman with King Finwë and others. Without doubt she loves him deeply, not only for who he was, but what he made.

Perhaps the mother was like Nerdanel ["nerdo" strong man +"anel" daughter] .

Nerdanel also was firm of will, but more patient than Fëanor, desiring to understand minds rather than to master them, and at first she restrained him when the fire of his heart grew too hot; but his later deeds grieved her, and they became estranged. Seven sons she bore to Fëanor; her mood she bequeathed in part to some of them, but not to all.

Maralee suggests poetically:
My father loved her as one loves their next breath
yet they were never demonstrative with their love
I do not think I ever remember then holding hands, for instance
but she cared for him in ways that supported his creativity
He spoke of how he would spend long hours sharing his ideas with her
and how she had a gift to refine his ideas without him suspecting this
and she left a longing in my heart for the gentleness she possessed
I only know that my father kept her memory alive always with his enduring love of her
and he was never the same...
He seemed to take her loss and create a new energy with it
perhaps it is why some of his inventions were so intense..

Or perhaps she is something like Yavanna, (Aule teh Smith ::Yavanna = Mahtan the Smith :: [his wife]?), implying that she is intensely interested and skilled in plant and animal life and independent in her thinking and actions.

Perhaps she was close to Miriel and Finwë, the first King and Queen of Noldor, would have been her contemporaries. Perhaps she was like Miriel ["shining jewel daughter"] some in this story:

Míriel was the name of his [Fëanor's] mother, who was called Serindé, because of her surpassing skill in weaving and needlework; for her hands were more skilled to fineness than any hands even among the Noldor. The love of Finwë and Míriel was great and glad, for it began in the Blessed Realm in the Days of Bliss. But in the bearing of her son Míriel was consumed in spirit and body; and after his birth she yearned for release from the labours of living. And when she had named him, she said to Finwë: 'Never again shall I bear child; for strength that would have nourished the life of many has gone forth into Fëanor.'
Then Finwë was grieved, for the Noldor were in the youth of their days, and he desired to bring forth many children into the bliss of Aman; and he said: 'Surely there is healing in Aman? Here all weariness can find rest.' But when Míriel languished still, Finwë sought the counsel of Manwë, and Manwë delivered her to the care of Irmo in Lórien. At their parting (for a little while as he thought) Finwë was sad, for it seemed an unhappy chance that the mother should depart and miss the beginning at least of the childhood days of her son. “It is indeed unhappy,” said Míriel, 'and I would weep, if I were not so weary. But hold me blameless in this, and in all that may come after. She went then to the gardens of Lórien and lay down to sleep; but though she seemed to sleep, her spirit indeed departed from her body, and passed in silence to the halls of Mandos.
The maidens of Estë tended the body of Míriel, and it remained unwithered; but she did not return. Then Finwë lived in sorrow; and he went often to the gardens of Lórien, and sitting beneath the silver willows beside the body of his wife he called her by her names. But it was unavailing; and alone in all the Blessed Realm he was deprived of joy. After a while he went to Lórien no more.

And this, being almost everything JRRT wrote, leaves us digest it and imagine what might have happened to her. And since I don't play the role, I do not get to decide motivations and "speculative history", but can suggest fates:

  1. "Mírindil" she chose to be called: Míriel's dearest and closest friend, from the first moments elves walked in the world. Since they were not sisters, they arranged that their children be married, even before thy had taken husbands, that they might become true sisters. Indeed, each took a fine husband, Mírindil naming her daughter after her husband's legendary strength. Nerdanel grew to adulthood, but as events unfolded decades later at Fëanor's birth, Mírindil finally escorted Míriel and Finwë to Lorien, staying behind happily, while Finwë had to return, his kingdom to guide. She sometimes appears in elvish dreams, happy under silver willows beside her sleeping, dearest friend.

  2. Or we can go back to "she died."

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