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Thread: Hair Colour

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It seems to me that Tolkien really liked to play with his character's hair colours. Hair colour actually signified something I think.

Take Galadriel for an example. Her golden hair is surely something that signifies light and hope, and indeed she is the only one of Finwe's house who actually survived into the Thrid Age on Middle-Earth.

The Noldor have rich dark hair and the Vanyar bright golden. And the Teleri have silver hair of course. Even the tribes of Men have such differences in hair colour. The Rohirrim and the Gondorians had different hair colour, as did the house of Hador and the House of Beor.

I find that the hair colour is really something that helps me understand Tolkien's characters more. I mean, somehow I just cannot imagine Feanor with bright golden hair, or Galadriel with dark hair. It justs seems wrong, and it would sort of change their personality images in my mind as well.

Does anyone else feel the same? Middle-Earth would never be the same without the rich descriptions of hair!

Just wanted to comment on whaty a great hair job Tolkien did. Dunce Smilie
Take Galadriel for an example. Her golden hair is surely something that signifies light and hope, and indeed she is the only one of Finwe's house who actually survived into the Thrid Age on Middle-Earth.

It isn't difficult to survive the Third Age if you're the only one of Finw’'s house left in the Third Age. And she only survived the First Age because according to UT she apparently already left Beleriand before the sack of Menegroth.

Anyway, i can't see why hair colour should signify anything. The hair colour is only dependent on genetics, that's all.

Celegorm was fair-haired for instance, and he was one of the most 'evil' of F’anor's sons, not much 'hope and light' there.

The Noldor have rich dark hair and the Vanyar bright golden. And the Teleri have silver hair of course.

Not all Teleri have silver hair. That is mentioned nowhere. As the Teleri were the largest group of Elves, i think the hair colours were uniformly distributed amongst them.

Silver hair is imo very exceptional, and perhaps only the descendants of Elw’ Singollo could have it, as Elw’ is described as getting his silver hair after staring in Melian's hair for an awful lot of time (and wives are indeed usually the most contributing factor for their husbands grey hair).

Celeborn is related to Elw’, and also had silver hair; whilst his daughter Celebr’an also had silver hair.
i like the idea of the hair signifying somthing about the character, but i just think that tolkien was trying to gereralise the race types by their hair colour...

For example... in our own culture..

Native Americans and Oriental types have black hair.
The celts generally had red hair..
Scandanavians are sterio typed as all being blond....

of course there is always exceptions to the rules, as would be in the books.

Everything has exceptions. But hair colour has played a big part in the books. I really couldn't imagine the LOTR or the Sil. without hair colour differences. It would be very different.
This is what happens when I go away. However, this seems as good a place as any for my customary rant about all the blonde Eldar in the movie version of Lorien. Either Jackson's nuts or Galadriel's been VERY busy. It irked me, becuase whenever I see a blonde Nolda/i in the Silmarillion I know they're special. Not necessarily of the House of Finarfin (though this is usually the case) but part Vanyar at the least. Making everyone from Legolas to the entire population of Lorien blonde cheapened that for me, a lot. When we look back at blonde Noldor we see Glorfindel, Idril, Galadriel, Finarfin himself; a select group of people you prefer as allies rather than foes. Probably where the idea of hair color as representative of character was born.

Though I do know someone who holds with your theory of blonde Teleri, Miruvor. We got into a discussion of that over at wotmania! believe it or not. I'm still not convinced, but since both of ya'll have read more HoME than me I'm not prepared to enter the lists on behalf of my position.
Well I'm not sure if I would call Galadriel's hair blond. It was a radiant golden with still a silver hint. Quite unique (and indeed, three strands of that hair were a greater treasure than any Ring could every be).

And if Galadriel really did get around much, then that would certainly fuel my wild theories about the relationship between Galadriel & Celeborn...

It irked me, becuase whenever I see a blonde Nolda/i in the Silmarillion I know they're special.

It's not that special to me; it's just because Finw’ took a Vanya as his second wife.
Which makes the blonde Noldor descendants of both the first High King of the Noldor AND the ONLY High King of ALL Eldar. Seems iike a big deal to me, particularly in light of how successive generations of the Eldar diminished. 'Course, I kinda like blondes anyway....
Was Indis related to Ingw’ ? I do not think that is mentioned anywhere.

'Course, I kinda like blondes anyway....

No comment about that...
My bad: I don't actually KNOW she was his daughter, and the language used to describe the relationship implies the opposite:

"She was a Vanya, close kin of Ingwe the High King, golden haired and tall...."

Of course, that doesn't rule it out, but you'd think if Indis was daughter to Ingwe Tolkien would've just said so. But perhaps he hadn't decided yet. On the upside, it's from the Silm, so it's canon at least, if vague canon.
Well if Ingw’ equals the "Imin" (the very First Elf to awaken at Cuivi’nen and who later picked the group of Elves that would be named as "Vanyar") from HoME, then "close kin" would mean that she is his daughter, as it would be impossible for him to have siblings.

If we just look at the Sil though, we do not really have an idea. It would be logical though for the High King of all Quendi to be the very first Elf to have awakened at Cuivi’nen, imo. I don't think they decided it by picking a straw.

Anyway, if the House of Finarfin is related to the High King of all Quendi himself, then so much for Caranthir lashing out at them, eh? F’anorians can be so amusing, if they're not making a complete mess.
Indis was said to be the daughter of Ingwe's sister in The Shibboleth of Feanor. Earlier in The History of Middle-Earth, from text in Morgoth's Ring, she had been Ingwe's sister.

I wish I could keep all the characters straight! My brain just can't hold all the details and I won't use age as an excuse. That being said, I too really like to know what a character's hair and eye color are; if I can get a good mental picture of them it makes the story much richer :-)
Some time ago I took a look at some general statements regarding the Elves, and also a more specific look at the interesting sons of Feanor. It's not meant to be exhaustive, but perhaps it might help.


'In general the Sindar appear to have very closely resembled the Exiles, being dark-haired, strong and tall, but lithe.' JRRT Quendi And Eldar

Tolkien also published that the Eldar were dark-haired in The Lord of the Rings (noting the golden house of Finarfin there). This would seem a general statement since other colours were seen in certain of the Eldar of course.

'Elwe himself had indeed long and beautiful hair of silver hue, but this does not seem to have been a common feature of the Sindar, though it was found among them occasionally, especially in the nearer or remoter kin of Elwe (as in the case of C’rdan).' JRRT

The passage in The Lord of the Rings seems to leave out the Eldarin Vanyar who were said (WJ) to be in nearly all members of the clan yellow or golden-haired. Perhaps the description there is (or could be said to be) more concerned with the Eldar of Middle-earth, considering the history of the Vanyar.

The Sons of Feanor

Maedros was said to have inherited some of the rare red-brown hair of Nerdanel's kin (Russandol 'Copper-top')

The twins named Amros (in the context of the Shibboleth the two younger sons were named Ambarussa/Amros) were both red-haired too. It was said the first and last of Nerdanel's children had the 'reddish hair' of her kin, and Nerdanel gave the twins both the name Ambarussa ’ for they were much alike and remained so while they lived (though at one point it was said of the elder Amros that he: 'grew darker in hair, and was more dear to his father. After childhood they [?were not to be] confused...'

Curufin was said to have resembled Feanor very much in face and was called Atarinke 'little father' 'referring to his physical likeness to Feanor...' (partial quote)

Caranthir Morifinwe was said to be black-haired like his grandfather -- but under 'mother-names'... 'he was dark (brown) haired but had the ruddy complexion of his mother'.

Celegorm: in Quenta Silmarillion (The Lost Road) 'golden was his long hair'. In the Lay he has 'gleaming hair', and his Old English name was Cynegrim F’gerfeax ('Fair-hair'). Christopher Tolkien explains his choice to leave out the detail with respect to the published (constructed) Silmarillion 'on account of the dark hair of the Noldorin princes other than in the golden house of Finarfin..' but he remains 'Celegorm the fair'.

There's a marginal note describing that Nerdanel 'herself had brown hair and a ruddy complexion' (Vinyar Tengwar 41)

Still working on Maglor Smile Smilie

Great post, Galin!

I agree about hair colour in the ME being dependent on genetics. It is mentioned in the books quite often and quite often it also implies that some other characteristics will also be crucial for that particular family. But when I was reading "Narn i Chin Hurin" the other day I caught myself wondering about Turin's and Niniel's hair colours. Him being the child of Morwen - also black haired - doesn't really legitimise his look in my opinion. I can't imagine Turin having different hair colour than raven black - it suits his story perfectly, it suits the mood and Turin' character - he was called "Mormegil" after all.  And Nienor was blonde (after her father I suppose ), but I also can't see her being dark-haired - her character was so innocent and delicate.
I remember Turin's and Nienor's appearances as an important aspect in the story - Turin thought that his sister would look similar to him and his mother and therefore he couldn't believe that they can be both Morwen's children. It is also what delayed the suspicions about these two being closely related to each other. I'd say that Niniel had to be somewhat similar to Finduilas of Nargothrond - it was crucial for Nienor/Turin relationship in my opinion.
 I also have a feeling (previous posts in this topic prove that it is wrong though) that in the ealier days (when many had the chance to see the light of Two Trees, many visited Valinor and the friendship between Valars and Children of Iluvatar was closer) there were more fair haired characters than for example in the Third Age. In LOTR golden hair are characteristics for only few people.

Thanks Indis. And I guess I'm still working on Maglor

Anyway there's some 'new' text on hair from Tolkien's linguistic jottings. To sum them up briefly, Tolkien wrote (his words are italicized, see Parma Eldalamberon 17)...


A) 'The Noldor were generally hróva or morna' [these Elvish words are noted] 'morna black of hair: hróva 'dark, dark brown' -- although in another entry JRRT seemed to think absolute black was not the case (same source): 'The predominant colour of Noldorin hair was very dark brown (no Elf had absolute black hair: morna)'

B) Yet in a pretty late account, Tolkien appears to imagine black hair (morna) among the Noldor -- in The Shibboleth of Feanor, dated 1968 or later -- for example, there Finwe has 'black' hair (note 19). Or concerning Urundil (note 61): 'His hair was not as dark or black as was that of most of the Noldor, but brown, and had glints of coppery red in it.'



With respect to Turin, yes I agree dark hair fits him and goes well with a black blade. And I'm a little surprised that the great (in my opinion) Alan Lee illustrated Beleg with what seems to be light hair, considering Tolkien's own, albeit admittedly early illustration of Beleg and Gwindor (which however seems to include a beard for Beleg).

Artistic license I suppose, on Mr. Lee's part.

I can only answer this question of hair color by pointing to the Truman Show, the movie starring Jim Carrey. He lived in a totally artificial world from the moment he was adopted by the head of a movie studio until the electrifying moment he found out this cruel deception . He accepted the world and all the characters introduced to him and it was how it was.

To my mind, if Tolkien had given the characters different hair coloring and used the same genius in describing the people etc, we would have felt the same about the characters and their coloring as we do now. We accepted the world he created and the people the way he created them.

Lovely to see and hear you Lee Lee.  Missed you. 

I think hair colour, In our own world, has great significance.  In our ancient days there was far less variance within cultures of hair and skin colour.  Villages would have contained mostly the same hair and skin colours.  This of course changed as mankind spread and genetics became mixed.  There are fabulous tales passed down by Australian Aboriginal elders regarding the first site of light haired and skinned Europeans.  At first they were seen as Aliens or Spirits, come to spread wisdom.  Of course the opposite was true unfortunately.  Also recently on a visit to Shanghai, elderly people would walk up to me, stare, and try to touch my hair.  I simply let them, as they had only seen ginger blonde hair on TV.

I like Tolkiens use of the two hair colour strains in the Noldorian princes.  This also seemed to denote mood and temper as well as blood line.

I agree with you, Brego. Maybe now, when we can have hair in every colour of the rainbow it isn't that important, but I guess it had more significance in the past. Hair colour was important in some superstitions, prejudice, myths - I remember that redheads had particularly important role in some cultures. Hair colour (along with skin colour, facial features, height, eye colour etc.) was probably one of the factors that affected the way people perceived themselves - differences in appearance not always were accepted in social groups. It was often treated like an anomaly in the earlier, cloistered societes. Different hair colour could lead to rejection or adoration.

In the ME realm it isn't that important of course, and I see your point, LeeLee. But it still can influence the character - as I said before - Turin is one of the most noticeable examples for me. Also often the names of Tolkien characters are related to their apperance, it is quite natural.

You are correct Brego and I too have had the same experiences with those of First Nations folk. It is the truth about how others respond to color. I am talking about accepting our worlds as we have been introduced to them. For instance if a pup is raised with a kitten, both nursing from the same mum, or if a baby of color is raised with an adopted baby that is white, they both nurse from the same mummy, it will be of no consequence, big deal and it will feel perfect and right. But if someone say in deepest Africa ,never having seen a white person in all there life or even knowing one exists suddenly sees the two babies together playing and having a wonderful time, they may be shocked out of their socks. And they might ponder on it forever. Same thing with Tolkien characters. If we perceived them to only be as Tolkien imagined them would it be in our thoughts to even think that with different coloring of hair the story or the characters themselves would be hard to accept? You have said spot on the truth about this, at my home Clayton just said that he agree with you because he said if one takes note, each group of people and their hair color seems to correspond with either a time of enlightenment or a dark time. For instance Galadriel and Elrond. He came forth at the darkest of times and his baby hood was shattered. She came at a time of immense light and hope and excitement no matter what followed.  I merely imply that like Truman, i never have considered a different thought about it all since the world that Tolkien gave me is complete, end of story.Strange you know, I have always thought , since meeting you, that your personality is rather like Clayton's and that is fascinating to me.

By the way dearest Brego, I don't want what happened to Galin to happen to you. You won the post of the week. go take a look dear. Congratulations.(P.O.T.W.)