[personal profile] elvenpiratelady
These are notes for the fic I wrote about Tar-Miriel for [livejournal.com profile] femgenficathon. The fic is here if you're interested.



Disclaimer: a lot of fanon from reading between the lines of Akallabeth and The Silm, proceed at your own rick.

General things:

I only realised as I was posting the fic that the title is a riff on the ‘friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears’ speech from Julius Caesar. This is entirely unintentional but aptly enough, Mark Antony uses that speech to bring a crowd around to his point of view.

There are several poems by modern authors where mythological women get to tell how the myths went from their point of view. I tried to do the same thing with Miriel here, since Numenor is a myth to later characters in LOTR. (For example: Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing by Margaret Atwood, Eurydice and Pygmalion’s Bride by Carol Ann Duffy.)

There is a Monty Python reference in the fic somewhere, props if you can spot it.


Silmarillion-specific things

In which I ramble a lot more about Miriel and the story of Numenor:
This story is not the one I began writing for femgen2011, because that story is twenty thousand words long and not half finished, but they are on the same topic – Tar-Miriel’s life before she died in the Downfall of Numenor. This version of Miriel is a lot angrier than the one in my other fic, but I think with the life she had and the way she died and how her life and death were recorded in history, I’d be angry too.

Here are the things you need to know about Akallabeth:
1. It was written by the Faithful, the people who kept to the old ways of things in Numenor, who were in ships when Numenor sank and survived the downfall. (In some versions Elendil* himself wrote it.)
2. The Downfall of Numenor as written in The Silmarillion is a cautionary tale about pride for the generations of men who came after, and thus it may not be entirely accurate.
3. The Faithful were a persecuted minority by the end of Numenor and it would be against human nature if their record of how things went down was not biased in their favour. It’s not like anyone from Numenor is there to offer a counterpoint.

*Interesting fact: in some versions of the story, Miriel was betrothed to Elendil’s uncle Elentir but rejected him in favour of Pharazon. This may have infused Elendil’s version of events with a bit of wounded family pride, but it’s telling that the version of the story that gives Miriel agency is also the one that makes her evil.

Put this all together and you have a highly suspect story. Sure, Tolkien loved his moral absolutes, but people do not work that way. Not even fictional people. The Faithful would like to have us believe that it was a closed black-and-white case of a once proud nation falling to evil with only a chosen few escaping the doom and coming away from it sadder and wiser. The Faithful are not telling us the unbiased story.

The thing is that if you look at the Faithful from the point of view of the majority of Numenoreans, they do not come off in such a good light. They are a group of people who speak a language that has been decline for four hundred years and banned for something like two hundred, they mostly live in one part of the island, they follow a religion that the rest of the Numenoreans have gradually lost with absolute fanaticism, they resist any sort of change, and they believe they are the ones in the right of all of this. To a regular Numenorean the Faithful probably come off as a strange sect whose members are zealous and arrogant, and it’s not exactly surprising that the rest of Numenor has not taken up their cause. (To be fair, the Faithful were being actively persecuted for these beliefs by the time Miriel was growing up and it’s unlikely that every single one of them was an arrogant zealot, just as it’s unlikely that every single person in Ar-Pharazon’s court was cheering on the human sacrifice that Sauron introduced. There is a spectrum here, but that is getting into the grey area of humanity.)

This all changes when Tar-Palantir becomes king, and for a while the Faithful are not persecuted, and what’s more, the king supports their beliefs and dreams of bringing the good old days back to Numenor when the Elves came and everything was wonderful. Except those days were five hundred years ago, and one king’s reign is not going to change the culture of Numenor, especially when according to the records Palantir spent more time stargazing than ruling. So the Faithful think that they have been proven right, for a time, and probably become even more arrogant. But the rest of the population probably tries to ignore the king as much as possible, which is easy because the king is apparently uninterested in ruling anyone except the Faithful, and his younger brother is very publically going against his views. This younger brother is Gimilzor and he agrees with the majority of the Numenoreans, so of course they are going to respect him more than a king who wants to drag the country back centuries. Also important: Pharazon is Gimilzor’s son. Miriel is Palantir’s daughter. So between the son of the king’s younger brother, who supports the people’s views and the daughter of a king who separated himself from most of his people and who can be assumed to support his views, it is not hard to see how Pharazon got the support he needed to take the throne from Miriel.

Now we don’t know much about Miriel apart from her death, but if she grew up in her father’s court she would have been raised in Faithful beliefs, and this puts her at a serious disadvantage when Palantir dies and she has to rule a country that she doesn’t know and whose people do not know her. Miriel is indeed acknowledged as the heir to the throne, and there were three ruling queens in Numenor before her, but it’s not a usual situation. Numenor is also in civil strife at this point, and a struggle between Pharazon and Miriel for the throne could turn into an all-out civil war. Nobody escapes when an island starts a civil war.

So Akallabeth tells us that Pharazon forced Miriel to marry him, but we must remember that the Faithful wrote it. So they’re not exactly going to write that Miriel married him willingly, or that she saw the writing on the wall and realised that this was the best deal she was going to get, are they? If Miriel willingly marries Pharazon she is turning her back on her father’s beliefs and on the people she grew up with, they believe, so it’s clearly much better to record her as a victim of circumstance.

So however it happened, Miriel marries Pharazon and becomes his queen. It’s not certain whether she was a consort or whether she ruled beside him. We don’t know what she thought about his war with Sauron or him storming Valinor. Miriel disappears from Akallabeth after that, and the next time we hear about her is her death, which I quote:

And last of all the mounting wave, green and cold and plumed with foam, climbing over the land, took to its bosom Tar-Miriel the Queen, fairer than silver or ivory or pearls. Too late she strove to ascend the steep ways of the Meneltarma to the holy place; for the waters overtook her, and her cry was lost in the roaring of the wind.

And as Miriel says in the fic: what utter bullshit. I’m not disputing the fact that she died in the downfall (by drowning, crushed by rockfall, however it happened, she died), but it’s the idea that the Faithful knew exactly how she died that bugs me. While Numenor was being destroyed the Faithful were in their ships and they would have had to deal with waves, storms, etc; there is no way that one of them would have a spare moment to look at the mountain with a telescope and see what their queen was doing in her last moments. So this reads like complete artistic license to me, and it’s not like Miriel is around to dispute it. So why did the Faithful write her death that way? Because if she did indeed turn her back on them when she married Pharazon, they want to believe she repented at the last moment (and by repented I mean went back to their beliefs) and realised in the end that they were in the right. Or if she secretly kept her Faithful beliefs for the rest of her life, they want to believe that she sought mercy from the Valar by trying to reach their holy site on the mountain. She wouldn’t have survived either way, but by writing her as repenting the Faithful turn her into a sort of sacrificial lamb. To them, Miriel represents all the people of Numenor that they could not save and that they will mourn as they begin their new colonies in Middle-earth. Even if Miriel’s death did not happen that way at all.

We don’t get to hear any of Miriel’s thoughts on her life or the downfall in Akallabeth, and that’s where fanfic kicks in. I wrote this fic because I have read so many fics where Miriel looks back on her life and does indeed repent and apologise, and does not consider her life worthy in any way. Not meaning any disrespect to the authors of those fics, but that’s not the Miriel I want to read about. I want to read about Miriel as a woman who made a difficult choice and lived with it, as a character who is morally grey, and as a person who gets angry at the people who judge her in the history books, because they were never in her place and they are not making any attempt to understand why she made these choices. By the end of her life I don’t think Miriel was impressed by the King’s men or the Faithful, and I wanted to show this woman who is deeply angry at the political groups who have used her to further their own causes, and at the people who presume to judge her.

It’s in the title, in the end. Miriel doesn’t want to be pitied or saved (whatever you define ‘saved’ as). She wants to be heard.

Date: 2011-10-07 07:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dracoena.livejournal.com
Hah. This sounds interesting, and it´s great to hear that you are a Númenorean revisionist too! Míriel is a fascinating character, and Tolkien wrote different versions of her story. Sacrificial lamb is only the one that made it to the published Silm, but I think the one in which she and Pharazôn fell in love with each other and married against everybody´s will "because they were proud and not to be gainsaid" was actually written later.
Also, I think it´s interesting that though she was married to Pharazôn she kept her ruling queen´s name. I think it was a double rule, the first "legal" double rule in Númenorean history, which together with the incest points to the origin of a system similar to that of the "god siblings" in ancient Egypt up to the Roman conquest. Nobody commits incest but a god, or engages other gods in battle. I think Pharazôn, and therefore his queen, believed themselves to be gods. But I digress...
Anyway, I´m happy to see a fic about Míriel around, and will read it as soon as I have the time (just moved to another country and in the middle of Hard Research, so I´ve even had to abandon my own fic. :(( ) I´m curious to know what she told you...

Date: 2011-10-07 11:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elvenpiratelady.livejournal.com
I know Tolkien loves his moral absolutes, but Numenor is more interesting this way! Also the more I thought about Miriel's life the more I realise how utterly set up to fail she was by the narrative, and of course she'd be mad. I don't think I'd call it love between her and Pharazon (not the way I write it, anyway) but they appreciate each other for politics and cleverness and they work together and so they can rule better as a couple than either of them would on their own. Because if they actually had warred for Numenor, apart from all the damage done to the country, when it was over whoever won had to either kill the loser or exile them and spend the rest of their life watching them in case they started a rebellion. So it would make sense to both of them to marry and weather the scandal instead. (And besides, between Miriel being the heir and Pharazon being the darling of the people, and nobody wanting a civil war, is anyone going to say anything outright? I'm sure the Faithful were aghast but they are not very good at politics at the best of times.) But this thing about not marrying anyone closer than your third cousin sounds really impractical and something only the high-up nobles and royalty would do; I doubt the peasants bothered with it. Especially when you're living on an island with a limited population and have a thing about racial purity.

By "legal double rule" do you mean that Miriel had a set of positions and duties as Queen instead of just supporting Pharazon? Because I imagine all the consorts had something like that in place. I've been using Tuckborough.net for information and I agree with their theory that Miriel gets the Ar prefix as an acknowledgement that she was the heir (which is interesting to think about - if Pharazon is admitting her status as the last king's heir right after he overrules her claim and takes the throne for himself). But this is the first case in Numenor of someone who is not the heir taking the throne while the heir is still present, so maybe they were making it up as they go along.

(I should warn you that Miriel is not telling the reader things so much as going on an extended rant...) Good luck with the research!

Date: 2011-10-07 03:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dracoena.livejournal.com
I see that your Míriel and your Pharazôn are quite reasonable people -or at least they were before Sauron came. Most pretendants of the throne would have so killed each other. Maybe getting along since they were young helped. Anyway, your Míriel is lovely as an angry revisionist, which is great. She shares my view of the Faithful being anachronistic and not even knowing it, though I tend to see Palantír himself as more than just a stargazing guy (there´s a difference between trying to change the world by holding hands and praying and trying to change the world through war and politics, even if you fail in both cases). But the way Tolkien describes it it could work both ways. "Akallabêth" referring to Míriel as some kind of cultural myth of a sacrificial woman is a fascinating idea.

But this thing about not marrying anyone closer than your third cousin sounds really impractical and something only the high-up nobles and royalty would do; I doubt the peasants bothered with it.

Actually, I think it would be even more difficult for the nobles, since there were much fewer of them. But only first cousin was incest, AFAIK.

By "legal double rule" do you mean that Miriel had a set of positions and duties as Queen instead of just supporting Pharazon? Because I imagine all the consorts had something like that in place. I've been using Tuckborough.net for information and I agree with their theory that Miriel gets the Ar prefix as an acknowledgement that she was the heir (which is interesting to think about - if Pharazon is admitting her status as the last king's heir right after he overrules her claim and takes the throne for himself). But this is the first case in Numenor of someone who is not the heir taking the throne while the heir is still present, so maybe they were making it up as they go along.

Yeah, they pretty sure were making it up as they went along, and of course we will never know if whatever they did was supposed to become institutionalized in sucessive reigns.(*sigh*) What I mean with "double rule" is a system where both consorts are equally ruling kings. It happened in Ptolemy Egypt (as a result of ancient Egyptian traditions meeting Greek culture) and its basis was incest, both siblings-consorts being "direct heirs" of the royal blood. Of course that does not mean that both did actually rule (when both tried to rule one usually ended up killed by the other at some point), or even that they ever shared a bed, but it was their official title. This went hand in hand with the belief that these kings and queens were not normal people, but gods, who were the only beings who were not affected by the incest interdiction. I think that the situation with Pharazôn and Míriel, with the double royal title and the incest, parallels that quite closely, and we do know for sure that Pharazôn believed he could triumph over the gods, aka the Maiar and Valar. The basis of the typical Deluge Myth (and more clearly in the Atlantis story in which Tolkien based this one) is hubris -men forgetting their place, and there is a good round example of that.
Geez, now you got me wishing to write again! And I should be working... :(

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elvenpiratelady

May 2012

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