Tolkien March is drawing to a close. As it ends, I want to touch on the fanfic and fanart… and the slash… bursting onto the scene after the release of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, and gathering steam through the next two releases and then Hobbit trilogy that wrapped in 2014.
Not just any slash — Melkor and Sauron slash.
I haven’t discussed The Silmarillion during this marathon because I’m not as familiar with it as I am with the trilogy and The Hobbit. But know this: Tolkien was Catholic, and Middle Earth’s mythology, though it encompassed multiple deities (The Valar) and their servants (the Maiar, who can be thought of as angels) also had a Satan analog, Melkor, who sought to undo and pervert his fellow Valar’s divine creations. Way back during the genesis of the world, Melkor lured a Maiar, Mairon, away from the Valar and turned him towards evil.
This Mairon later turned into Sauron.
Something about this scenario, perhaps the sympathy for the devil aspect, has inspired hundreds of (mostly female) fans. I can guess because it humanizes the Dark Lord and explains his origins, and though Tolkien’s original tale was biblical and dry, the fans did as fans do, and so Melkor’s seduction becomes one of the flesh as well as one of ideals. And being the less powerful being, poor Sauron becomes physically and emotionally overwhelmed as well.
Sauron looks like he is swooning in this illustration as Melkor admires his hair — reddish-gold, according to canon. These creatures remind me strongly of two Wraeththru (Storm Constantine’s hermaphroditic post-apocalyptic pagan warriors) about to swap spit.
Tolkien fan Tyellas’ venerable (in internet terms) website depicts this moment with her fanfic “Terrible Alchemy” which features some wicked BDSM between the two. She also has a series, Gates of Steel, dealing with the origins of ansereg, an elven BDSM practice designed to refresh the spirit and reinforce close friendships. I’ve long admired the way she incorporates her creation seamlessly into Tolkien’s existing canon, even matching his tone and writing style, as if she had pulled it whole out of some alternate universe where Tolkien really did write about sadomasochism among the elves. It’s reminiscent of SF writer Philip Jose Farmer paying homage to the pulps he grew up with by rewriting Tarzan and Doc Savage as hypersexualized beings (calling them Lord Grandith and Doc Caliban to avoid copyright issues, but it’s clear who they really are.)
Russian comic artist Phobs, whom I hope to highlight more one day, portrays the same scene, but it’s more complex. Sauron frowns distastefully and holds himself stiffly, while a more masculine and humanlike Melkor cajoles him and gets touchy-feely. There’s no doubt Melkor will get his way, though. Phobs gives the act a sense of humor as well; the viewer isn’t meant to take it as the tragic downfall that Tolkien did.
With rumors of a Silmarillion movie in the works, there are sure to be more depictions in the future.
* Ho-yay = Homoeroticism, yay! Those moments of plot, dialogue, acting, etc., fans delight in interpreting as homoerotic. )