Casting: Ethnicity and Migration Patterns of the First Age

Bre

Active Member
Before getting to the specifics of who should play who, I think it's important to determine genetic similarities between the cultural and family groups present in The Silmarillion. Not only will this help unify casting decisions, but it will make us more aware about including an appropriate amount of diversity.

Tolkien does provide us with a certain amount of visual information when it comes to skin tones, hair color, and eye color, but there are still a lot of gaps to fill; so while there is canon to adhere to there is also a lot of creative room to maneuver. Within these gaps we should logic out what physical types would make the most sense based on individual and group histories, and using our own world's history concerning migration we can determine just how racially diverse Beleriand based on the size of Middle-Earth and the distance traveled by specific migration groups.

Basically, let's not just make everyone white by default based on some incorrect perception of history concerning 'medieval times.'

Below a list of genetic traits pulled Tolkien's text that will provide the canon base for this discussion (I was going to include full passage quotes, but that was becoming unruly. If you want sources just ask me; I pulled all this info from a very lengthy document I've been working on):

The Eldar
The Noldor
  • Most common: blue-grey eyes, dark hair, fair skin
  • "In many parts of the land [Beleriand] the Noldor and the Sindar became welded into one people"
  • "The Noldor had the greater power of mind and body. and were the mightier warriors and sages, and they built with stone, and loved the hill-slopes and open lands."
  • "Tall they were, fairskinned and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark."
House of Feanor
  • Finwe: Very lack hair, bright blue-grey eyes
  • Miriel: Silver hair and dark eyes
  • Feanor: Black (raven-dark) hair, tall, fair of face, piercingly bright eyes.
  • Nerdanel: Hair color unknown, but most likely red due to father and son's red hair.
  • Mahtan: Auburn hair and a ruddy complexion; had a beard at an early age.
  • Maehdros: Was tall and comely, and had deep dark red hair. He lost his right hand when he was rescued from his imprisonment in Angband.
  • Maglor: Dark hair
  • Celegorm: Fair hair (blonde) color, fair skin
  • Caranthir: As black-haired as his paternal grandfather Finwë; red-skinned (like maternal grandfather)
  • Curufin: Black hair, he resembled his father, Fëanor, very much in the face.
  • Celebrimbor: ???
  • Amrod/Amras: Dark red hair
House of Fingolfin
  • Finwe: Very black hair, bright blue-grey eyes
  • Indis: (Finwe's Vanyar wife) Tall with golden hair, and in all ways unlike Miriel
  • Findis: ???
  • Fingolfin: Dark hair; eyes shone like the eyes of the Valar when he road off to challenge Morgoth; wore silver mail and helm that gleamed like a star, with a blue shield set with crystals. strongest/most steadfast
  • Anaire: ??? (Fingolfin's wife, assumed to be a Noldor based on children's traits)
  • Irime: ???
  • Fingon: Dark hair plaited/braided with gold.
  • Turgon: Tall
  • Elenwe: (Turgon's Vanyar wife) Golden-haired.
  • Idril Celebrindal: Inherited the Vanyar's golden hair. Named Celebrindal because she always went barefoot
  • Aredhel: Tall and strong. Called White Lady of the Noldor because she was pale, though her hair was dark, and she was never arrayed but in silver and white.
  • Eol: (Aredhel's Moriquindi/Sindar husband) Tall, dark, and grim Sindar. Stooped by his smithwork. Noble though rim of face. His eyes could see deep into shadows and dark places.
  • Maeglin: Eyes more piercing than even his father’s. Resembled in face and form rather his kindred the Noldor. He was tall and black-haired, yet bright and keen as the eyes of the Nolodor, and his skin was white.
  • Argon: Tallest of his brothers
House of Finarfin (Nolodr, Vanyar, and Teleri)
  • Finwe: Very lack hair, bright blue-grey eyes
  • Indis: (Finwe's Vanyar wife) Tall with golden hair, and in all ways unlike Miriel
  • Finarfin: Golden hair (from Vanyarian mother); fairest of his siblings
  • Earwen: (Finarfin's Teleri wife) Starlight silver hair
  • Finrod Felagund: Was a Noldor, but was in part Teleri and Vanyar, and inherited the golden hair of the Vanyar through his father’s mother. He was said to be like his father in face. Was the greatest but the youngest of the great lords of the Noldor (Fingolfin, Fingon, and Maedhros).
  • Amarie: ???
  • Angrod: Was a Noldor, but was in part Teleri and Vanyar, and inherited the golden hair of the Vanyar through his father’s mother.
  • Eldalote: ???
  • Orodreth: Dark hair
  • Findulias: Golden hair (from mystery mom or grandfather)
  • Gil-galhad:
  • Aegnor: Was a Noldor, but was in part Teleri and Vanyar, and inherited the golden hair of the Vanyar through his father’s mother. His hair was stiff and straight.
  • Galadriel: Identified as a Noldor, but was also part Teleri and Vanyar. She was the most beautiful of the House of Finwe with radiant gold-silver hair that captured the light of the Two Trees. She was unusually tall (6’ 4”) and strong.
  • Celeborn: (Galadriel's Sindar husband) A Sindar of Doriath with long silver hair. Based on his name’s etymology and his relation to Thingol, he was likely tall.
  • Celebrian: likely had fair hair like both of her parents.
Other (Some possible mixed with Teleri/Falathrim)
  • Glorfindel: Tall with long golden hair. Wore a mantle embroidered in golden celadine and vambraces with gold. (Not a vanyar for only one went into exile, Noldor who went into exile with Turgon)
  • Ecthelion: The lord of the House of the Fountain, he had the most beautiful voice and greatest flute talent of all the people of Gondolin.
  • Egalmoth: Wore a blue mantle with stars embroidered in crystal. Arrayed in many bright colors, with arms set with jewels.
  • Galdor: A Nolodorian elf who wore green
  • Duilin: Wore white, dark blue, purple, and black.
  • Salgant: Heavy and squat
  • Pengold: Tall
  • Rog: A great smith and craftsmen, who revered Aule. Had strong arms and their shields bore the emblem of a stricken anvil and a hammer with sparks about it. Reg gold and black iron.
  • Aranwe: (Noldor; father of Voronwe) Was of the House of Fingolfin either in service of by blood; thus was possibly a relative through Irame (Fingolfin's sister who went into exile with him).
  • Voronwe: Half-Sindar (Falathrim), half-Noldor. His mother was a of Cirdan's kin (through Thingol's brother Elmo?)
  • Guilin: (Father of Gelmir and Gwindor) ???
  • Gelmir: ???
  • Gwindor: Dark hair [???]. Before his captivity in Angnabd he was young and strong, but afterwards he seemed as one of the aged of mortal Men because of his torments and labors.
The Vanyar
  • The 'fair-elves'
  • Golden-haired, fair-skinned
House of Ingwe
  • Ingwe: Assumedly golden-haired
  • Indis: Tall with golden hair, and in all ways unlike Miriel
The Teleri
The Sindar ('The Grey Elves')
  • All the Sindar save for those related to Melian either cited as having light hair (blonde/ silver/white) or their hair color is simply not mentioned.
House of Thingol
  • Thingol: Silver-grey hair and eyes like silver stars; was also the tallest of all elves
  • Melian: A Maiar who took on a physical form of her own choosing, but this form must have had dark hair. Among the Maiar of Lorien she was the most beautiful.
  • Luthien: Most beautiful of all the Children of Illuvatar. Eyes as grey as the starlit evening, hair as dark as the shadows of twilight.
  • Dior: Half Beorling, 1/4 Maiar, 1/4 Sindar. Known as 'the beautiful.'
  • Nimloth: Niece of Celeborn
  • Elwing: Half-elven. Fashioned white wings/was able to transform into a swan. Had to have dark hair in order for Arwen, Elladin, Elrohir to have dark hair.
  • Elured/Elurin: Half-elven.
  • Celeborn: (Galadriel's Sindar husband) A Sindar of Doriath with long silver hair. Based on his name’s etymology and his relation to Thingol, he was likely tall.
  • Annael: ???
Other
  • Eol: Tall, dark, and grim Sindar. Stoopedby his smithwork. Noble though rim of face. His eyes could see deep into shadows and dark places.
  • Beleg Strongbow: Strong, enduring, farsighted in mind and eye.
  • Daeron: ???
  • Mablung: ???
  • Saeros:
  • Nellas:
  • Oropher:
  • Thranduil: Golden-haired
  • Legolas Greenleaf: ???
Alqualondë
  • Elmo: ???
  • Olwe: Long white hair and blue eyes
  • Earwen: Starlight silver hair
The Falathrim
  • Cirdan: very tall, silver hair, bearded in old age
  • Arminas:
  • Gelmir:
The Nandor
The Green-Elves of Ossirand​

The Edain
House of Beor
  • “The Men of that house were dark or brown of hair, with grey eyes; and of all Men they were most like to the Noldor and most loved by them; for they were eager of mind, cunning-handed, swift in understanding, long in memory, and they were moved sooner to pity than to laughter.”
  • "for the language of Hador was apparently less changed and more uniform in style, whereas the language of Beor contained many elements that were alien in character. This contrast in speech was probably connected with the observable physical differences between the two peoples. There were fair-haired men and women among the Folk of Beor, but most of them had brown hair (going usually with brown eyes), and many were less fair in skin, some indeed being swarthy. Men as tall as the Folk of Hador were rare among them, and most were broader and more heavy in build."
  • Beor: ???
  • Barahir: ???
  • Beren: Dark hair or golden brown, blue or grey eyes, taller than most of his kin, broad-shouldered, strong of limb
  • Morwen Eledhwen: tall, dark-haired, pale skinned, grey eyes that shown with a light, beautiful.
  • Rian: ???
  • Andreth: Dark hair
House of Hador
  • “The Men of the Three Houses throve and multiplied, but greatest among them was the house of Hador Goldenhead, peer of Elven-lords. His people were of great strength and stature, ready in mind, bold and steadfast, quick to anger and to laughter, mighty among the Children of Ilúvatar in the youth of Mankind. Yellow-haired they were for the most part, and blue-eyed; but not so was Túrin, whose mother was Morwen of the house of Beor.”
  • "For the most part they were tall people, with flaxen or golden hair and blue-grey eyes, but there were not a few among them that had dark hair, though all were fair-skinned...
    No doubt this was due to mingling with Men of other kind in the
    past; and it was noted that the dark hair ran in families that had
    more skill and interest in crafts and lore."
  • Hador: goldenhead, tall, blue-eyed
  • Hurin Thalion: Steadfast, strong, but of less stature than his fathers or son (short because of his mother's genes, who was of the Haladin). Save for his height he was in all ways like the people of hador: golden haired and blue-eyed. After his captivity "his hair and beard were white and long, but he walked unbowed, bearing a great black staff; and he was girt with a sword."
  • Turin: Tall, dark-haired, pale-skinned, grey eyes , deep eyes in a white face, stern and proud, the most beautiful of all mortal men.
  • Urwen (Lalaith): hair like yellow lilies
  • Nienor: Fine gold hair, blue eyes, Hurin in woman form.
  • Huor: Tallest of the Edain save his son Tuor. Golden-haired.
  • Tuor: Fair of face, golden hair of the House of Hador, strong and valiant, the tallest of the Edain
  • Earendil: Probably blonde like both his parents.
  • Elwing: (Earendil's wife of Sindar/Maiar/Beor decent ) Half-elven. Fashioned white wings/was able to transform into a swan. Had to have dark hair in order for Arwen, Elladin, Elrohir to have dark hair.
  • Elrond/Elros: Was one of the Peredhil, Half-elven, and was a descendent of all three houses of the Edain, all of the three original groups of Elves, and a Maiar. Dark hair, grey and shining eyes.
  • Elrohir/Elladan: Though he he had the blood of the Noldor, Vanyar, Teleri (Alqualondë), Sindar, all three kindred of the Edain, and Maiar, he looked in all ways like a traditional Noldor, having dark hair and grey eyes. Wore bright mail, stars on their brows, and silver-grey cloak.
  • Arwen Undomiel: Though she had the blood of the Noldor, Vanyar, Teleri (Alqualondë), Sindar, all three kindred of the Edain, and Maiar, she looked in all ways like a traditional Noldor, having dark hair and grey eyes. She was also said to be in appearance Luthien’s likeness reborn, and was considered one of the fairest of the Children of Illuvatar. She is sited as both having worn a grey raiment with a girdle of silver leaves and a silver and blue mantle. Like her father, she possessed the choice to be counted either as amoung the Eldar or Edain; after the War of the Ring she chose to live as a mortal alongside Aragorn.
  • Forweg: fair-haired
House of Haleth
  • “Like to them [HOUSE BEOR] were the woodland folk of Haleth, but they were of lesser stature, and less eager for lore. They used few words, and did not love great concourse of men; and many among them delighted in solitude, wandering free in the greenwoods while the wonder of the lands of the Eldar was new upon them. But in the realms of the West their time was brief and their days unhappy.”
  • Haleth: Amazon
  • Haldir: ???
  • Handir: ???
  • Brandir: Lamed by a leg broken in a misadventure in childhood
  • Dorlas: ???
  • Arvanc: Son of Dorlas, dark-haired, short.
  • Hunthor: Brandir's kinsman.

Easterlings
House of Ulfang
  • Ulfang: ???
  • Uldor: ???
  • Ulfast: ???
  • Ulwarth: ???
House of Bor
  • Bor: ???
  • Borlach: ???
  • Borlad: ???
  • Borthand: ???
---------------
If you see any mistakes in the above information, please let me know.

But in summary, while a lot of characters and family groups are labeled as having pale skin, but Beorlings seem to be ethnically mixed with quite a few swarthy-skinned. Additionally room for added diversity in design includes: (1) the Valar who can look like anything they want, (2) the Haladrin, who are less defined and more like the Beorlings than the House of Hador when it comes to mixed-race, (3) the Teleri, who only have hair-colored mentioned, (4) the easterlings under Bor (aka colored people who for once aren't bad guys), (5) the easterlings of the House of Ulfang, (6) the dwarves who are free-game.
 

Chris Durston

New Member
I can't find the exact post but the askmiddlearth blog on tumblr has a couple of great fancast posts in which she does see different Eldar races as different ethnicities, from Native American to Oriental to European. I realise that elves aren't THAT ethnically diverse, but I don't think it would be terrible to deviate from the source for the purposes of a) avoiding casting only a single ethnicity of actor and b) providing an easy visual cue as to family ties.
 

Bre

Active Member
Checked out that askmiddleearth tumblr and it's pretty cool. I was able to find some fan casts under the 'ame-fancast' tag. Also, fan-cast photosets turn up on tumblr a lot but they're super scattered, so I'm not sure if there's one person who does them in mass or not.

Also rule bending is entirely possible, but I still think it's useful to have some sort of canon guide to at least refer to and get ideas from.

--------

Currently my own thoughts on this subject are as follows:

The Vanyar and the House of Hador are as white as they come (they even have the whole blonde/blue-eyed thing going on). Since the Hadorians are generally larger burly/guys, they're probably more Norwegian-esque, while the the Vanayar are lighter sort of Swiss variety (Switzerland mountains and Idril living in Gondolin are probably influencing me there)

I'd have Melian take on an East Asain ethnicity when she took on a more mortal form, so Luthien would at least be half that. I'd probably make the Teleri more eastern Mediterranean (I like the idea of them associated with an enthic group associated with a coastal region), so darker skin, but with white/silver hair, so that would be Thingol, and thus Luthien's other half. Though the Teleri could all just be East Asian instead (still with white/silver hair) but with more Mediterranean influences in armor and things to help account for coastal vs inland living.

And then I'd have Beren also of that eastern Mediterranean/middle-eastern variety (though the Beorlings are mixed group so they could also have some more Russian/Eastern Europe vibes mixed in there too), so the line through Beren and Luthien would stay fairly colored. In the end, the Numenorians and Gondorians should have been much more brown than they were in Jackson's films.

For the easterlings, I'd make the people of Bor very Middle-Eastern, even Pakistani, but I am more torn when it comes to the house of Ulfang since they're the bad easterlings. I'd still have to make Ulfang's people feel like they're from the east, so that means more eastern than what I'm using for the Teleri and Beorlings, so maybe pull from the Nomanic tribes of Eurasia who did make it as far as eastern Europe. That could be more mongalian/east Asain/Genghis Khan types, or more Iranian/Persian empire.

I don't have any strong thoughts of the Haladrin or the Dwarves (besides thinking both groups are fairly inter-racial), so I'm super open for suggestions on those fronts.

In terms of the Valar my mind changes all the time, but here's what I'm thinking today:
  • Manwe would be Native American since several tribes have cultural connections with eagles and the side profile is very eagle-esque to begin with.
  • Varda would be Lucy Liu; the end (I swear this is the most agreed upon fan casting; everyone always fan casts her as Varda).
  • Yavanna would be African since it suits the whole mother earth vibe quite nicely
  • Aule I picture as Egyptian/Greek, probably because of some lose mental connection to Hephaestus and also the darker colors associated with a forge.
  • Ulmo is most East Asian/Korean to me, but maybe with with some Persian elements. I know what he looks like to me, but I'm having trouble pinpoint which ethnic group he belongs to.
  • Tulkas is probably Samoan or Turkish or something,;mainly thinking of wrestlers body types.
  • Nienna, Irmo, and Mandos would all probably have to be the same to visually reinforce the connection between them. I blame Idris Elba's Heimdall for this but probably African with different colored eyes for each, with those colors representing their various elements (Nienna blue or something, Irmo gold?, idk)
  • Melkor is probably just a white Northerner with darker eye/hair coloring, so Russian I guess?
  • And while he's not a Valar, Sauron is just a skinny red-headed Viking
  • All unmentioned Valar, I simply don't have any strong thoughts on as of yet.
 

Chris Durston

New Member
Checked out that askmiddleearth tumblr and it's pretty cool. I was able to find some fan casts under the 'ame-fancast' tag. Also, fan-cast photosets turn up on tumblr a lot but they're super scattered, so I'm not sure if there's one person who does them in mass or not.

Also rule bending is entirely possible, but I still think it's useful to have some sort of canon guide to at least refer to and get ideas from.

--------

Currently my own thoughts on this subject are as follows:

The Vanyar and the House of Hador are as white as they come (they even have the whole blonde/blue-eyed thing going on). Since the Hadorians are generally larger burly/guys, they're probably more Norwegian-esque, while the the Vanayar are lighter sort of Swiss variety (Switzerland mountains and Idril living in Gondolin are probably influencing me there)

I'd have Melian take on an East Asain ethnicity when she took on a more mortal form, so Luthien would at least be half that. I'd probably make the Teleri more eastern Mediterranean (I like the idea of them associated with an enthic group associated with a coastal region), so darker skin, but with white/silver hair, so that would be Thingol, and thus Luthien's other half. Though the Teleri could all just be East Asian instead (still with white/silver hair) but with more Mediterranean influences in armor and things to help account for coastal vs inland living.

And then I'd have Beren also of that eastern Mediterranean/middle-eastern variety (though the Beorlings are mixed group so they could also have some more Russian/Eastern Europe vibes mixed in there too), so the line through Beren and Luthien would stay fairly colored. In the end, the Numenorians and Gondorians should have been much more brown than they were in Jackson's films.

For the easterlings, I'd make the people of Bor very Middle-Eastern, even Pakistani, but I am more torn when it comes to the house of Ulfang since they're the bad easterlings. I'd still have to make Ulfang's people feel like they're from the east, so that means more eastern than what I'm using for the Teleri and Beorlings, so maybe pull from the Nomanic tribes of Eurasia who did make it as far as eastern Europe. That could be more mongalian/east Asain/Genghis Khan types, or more Iranian/Persian empire.

I don't have any strong thoughts of the Haladrin or the Dwarves (besides thinking both groups are fairly inter-racial), so I'm super open for suggestions on those fronts.

In terms of the Valar my mind changes all the time, but here's what I'm thinking today:
  • Manwe would be Native American since several tribes have cultural connections with eagles and the side profile is very eagle-esque to begin with.
  • Varda would be Lucy Liu; the end (I swear this is the most agreed upon fan casting; everyone always fan casts her as Varda).
  • Yavanna would be African since it suits the whole mother earth vibe quite nicely
  • Aule I picture as Egyptian/Greek, probably because of some lose mental connection to Hephaestus and also the darker colors associated with a forge.
  • Ulmo is most East Asian/Korean to me, but maybe with with some Persian elements. I know what he looks like to me, but I'm having trouble pinpoint which ethnic group he belongs to.
  • Tulkas is probably Samoan or Turkish or something,;mainly thinking of wrestlers body types.
  • Nienna, Irmo, and Mandos would all probably have to be the same to visually reinforce the connection between them. I blame Idris Elba's Heimdall for this but probably African with different colored eyes for each, with those colors representing their various elements (Nienna blue or something, Irmo gold?, idk)
  • Melkor is probably just a white Northerner with darker eye/hair coloring, so Russian I guess?
  • And while he's not a Valar, Sauron is just a skinny red-headed Viking
  • All unmentioned Valar, I simply don't have any strong thoughts on as of yet.
I like all of those thoughts! Ulmo looks a bit like Jason Momoa in my head, possibly because of the Aquaman connection but I think more for the physique. Aule is definitely Greek/ Egyptian and I think I see Nienna as that pale sort of Japanese. Tulkas is either Idris Elba or Dwayne Johnson, because why not.
 

Bre

Active Member
I like all of those thoughts! Ulmo looks a bit like Jason Momoa in my head, possibly because of the Aquaman connection but I think more for the physique. Aule is definitely Greek/ Egyptian and I think I see Nienna as that pale sort of Japanese. Tulkas is either Idris Elba or Dwayne Johnson, because why not.
Haha, I have clearly failed in my fan casting to not have previously considered sneaking the Rock into the Silmarillion. Yes, perfect.

And oh yeah... the Jason Momoa Aquaman thing.... hmmmm. I don't know, my Ulmo is pretty close to Wavesheep's:


But Jason Momoa is a good casting in general, but maybe just an elf or a man character, not sure... this is getting more into a discussion that should be reserved for the more specific character casting threads and not just the general ethnicity discussion, but the Pacific Islander look could easily be argued for Ulmo for obvious reasons. Those same arguements could be applied to Teleri, or at least those at Falas. Jason Momoa with white hair for Cidan, lol,
 

Halstein

Active Member
Hi,
Don't know if anybody has seen Branagh's Hamlet, but he seemed to disregard the actors ethnicity. I think it an option to cast actors who might fit the role, in spite of being of the "wrong" ethnicity.
I think geting good actors is the most important thing.
 

Bre

Active Member
Hi,
Don't know if anybody has seen Branagh's Hamlet, but he seemed to disregard the actors ethnicity. I think it an option to cast actors who might fit the role, in spite of being of the "wrong" ethnicity.
I think geting good actors is the most important thing.
If it's the 1996 version of Hamlet, then I had not previously heard of it. I looked up a trailer for it, and it was just a sea of white, so I'm not sure what you meant in terms of disregarding ethnicity unless you mean in the traditional and racist way Hollywood has always done so. At first I thought you might have been referring to that recent version of Hamlet where they cast an African American woman to play the lead, which is pretty cool. But I think Hamlet and the Silmarillion are two different beasts. Hamlet has been done to death through multiple mediums and multiple directions; everyone also already knows Hamlet. It's reached the point where there isn't a need anymore to create a definitive version of that story, and more outside-the-box thinking is actively encouraged to help bring new life to the play. The Silmarillion isn't the type of thing that will ever even come close to the number of renditions Hamlet is destined to achieve.

Also plays and films based on plays/musicals are able to break the rules more in terms of continuity because the inherent nature of them; namely the fluidity of the cast (cfemale roles originally being played by males, cast member changing on a regular basis, under studies, etc) and only having a half-presentation of a world (limited sets that are never meant to be fully believed in). Essentially, plays can get away with two characters of completely different ethnicites being close blood relatives with no explanation required, whereas in a film it immediately raises questions because films try to be more immersive with their world building to begin with. It comes down to an issue of creative priorities, and when it comes to theater, the emphasis is on the art of acting even more than it is on storytelling, so it makes sense to design stage-based projects around specific actors. That certainly seems to be the case with Branagh's Hamlet, since the trailer was essentially a list of household names.

In terms of the Silmarillion it becomes especially important to consider race if you as the filmmaker are interested in showing all the various family connections between its large cast of characters because it'd be crazy to put all that family tree information into the dialogue through tedious and derailing exposition. It'd be much more appropriate to show this information through the visuals (i.e. having certain color schemes, symbols and manner of dress be similar between associated characters).

If it's a matter of really wanting to cast a character as a particular actor and then basing a culture around it, that's a another thing, and that's fine. However, you have to make sure you're consistent about casting the other characters who are supposedly meant to be related to this much-desired actor.

At the same time, one shouldn't just change the entire cultural background of something just because they wanted a particular big-name actor. This wouldn't really be a problem with the Silmarillion since the connections to real-life cultures and ethnicities is fairly weak, but in the worst-case scenario of The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan really screwed up. Not only did he white-wash the cast for characters who were based on the real-life cultures of the Inuit and Tibetan people (there are literally no white people at all in the original show), but worse, he redesigned the entire ethnicity of the Fire Nation around his casting of Dev Patel as Zuko. The Fire Nation was very clearly based on China in the original animated series, and it was a very transparently racist move on Shyamalan's part to wipe out as much Chinese culture from the film as he could with Indian culture (not to mention having the Indian characters enslave the Chinese ones) given the real-life tension between those two nations.

Ultimately though, in regards to The Silmarillion, I think designing the visuals associated with each various culture outweighs casting a particular actor. Determining the look of a group of people should be done first, and then actors should be looked for based on those prerequisites, after all there are great actors and actresses in every color; going this route insures you don't get to connected to the idea of a particular performer playing a part when it later turns out they don't visually fit said part.

Of course a good way to cheat at this is to have the film animated; then the character can look one way and sound another; it's certainly helpful for wanting to cast an older actor in a younger role.
 

Halstein

Active Member
My idea was mostly to get more options for actors. I think material culture might be as good an indicator of group identity, as ethnicity. In archaeology, cultures are often defined by their objects. A good historical example, is of course the Greek who Priscus met on his embassy to Attila the Hun's camp. This Greek had chosen to become a Hun. Ethnicity/identity is not a straight forward thing.

I will agree that casting an African as a member of the house of Hador, might be a bit extreme, but I do not feel the need for making the groups ethnically pure. Some leeway should be possible. Also we should remember one can do a lot with wigs and make-up. I doubt I would recognize Evangeline Lilly in the street, unless dressed up as Tauriel.

Also, I think it important to avoid the Silmarillion cultures to be easily connected to a real world cultures, historical or present.
 

Bre

Active Member
I will agree that casting an African as a member of the house of Hador, might be a bit extreme, but I do not feel the need for making the groups ethnically pure. Some leeway should be possible. Also we should remember one can do a lot with wigs and make-up. I doubt I would recognize Evangeline Lilly in the street, unless dressed up as Tauriel.

Also, I think it important to avoid the Silmarillion cultures to be easily connected to a real world cultures, historical or present.
I'm totally not advocating purity when it comes to these races, even the text openly suggests against that in saying that for the people of Hador (perhaps the most homogeneous group) were only mostly blue-eyed and blonde-haired and that there were indeed some among them with darker coloring, and not simply those who had integrated from the Beorlings and Haladrin. Creating a general look and set of guidelines is simply useful for designing the world.

And any references I make to real-life groups are merely starting reference points for discussion. I think it will indeed be more interesting to make the cultures both in generics, dress, and iconography as uniquely Silmarillion as possible, and only use real-life history as a means of creating believably (ex observing and employing trends in armor for a culture who dwelt by the sea in our world to help inform the armor of the Falathrim). I've certainly gone off the map with my suggestion of the Teleri being a group of dark-skinned but white-haired people (a task that would need the help of wigs and makeup).
 

Halstein

Active Member
I'm totally not advocating purity when it comes to these races, even the text openly suggests against that in saying that for the people of Hador (perhaps the most homogeneous group) were only mostly blue-eyed and blonde-haired and that there were indeed some among them with darker coloring, and not simply those who had integrated from the Beorlings and Haladrin. Creating a general look and set of guidelines is simply useful for designing the world.

And any references I make to real-life groups are merely starting reference points for discussion. I think it will indeed be more interesting to make the cultures both in generics, dress, and iconography as uniquely Silmarillion as possible, and only use real-life history as a means of creating believably (ex observing and employing trends in armor for a culture who dwelt by the sea in our world to help inform the armor of the Falathrim). I've certainly gone off the map with my suggestion of the Teleri being a group of dark-skinned but white-haired people (a task that would need the help of wigs and makeup).
Sorry, I think I might have misunderstood you. Having re-read your post, I think you are right. My main point is that actors don't have to be natural blonds etc. even if the characters are.
 

Forlavladir

New Member
I really enjoyed how Marvel/Disney treated the question of ethnicity in the Thor films. What they did was basically to disregard the question. What we need to do, in my opinion, is to give the different groups discernible traits by the way we dress them, the dialects they speak, and so forth. The only time we should have to take the actors appearance into regard is when casting roles that have close family ties (siblings do after all resemble each other).
 

Bre

Active Member
I really enjoyed how Marvel/Disney treated the question of ethnicity in the Thor films. What they did was basically to disregard the question.
Well, they only disregarded it with Thor in regards to Heimdall (Hogun, the only other POC character was depicted the same as he was in the comics), which was a good move on there part, but besides that there was no real disregard. The best example of a film actually disregarding race is the 1997 version Rodger and Hammerstein's Cinderella where the queen is Black, the King is White, but their biological son is Asain; the the stepsisters' ethnicity also do not make biological sense.

What we need to do, in my opinion, is to give the different groups discernible traits by the way we dress them, the dialects they speak, and so forth. The only time we should have to take the actors appearance into regard is when casting roles that have close family ties (siblings do after all resemble each other).
The trouble with the Silmarillion is that practically everyone is related to someone.
 

Haakon

Administrator
Staff member
Before getting to the specifics of who should play who, I think it's important to determine genetic similarities between the cultural and family groups present in The Silmarillion. Not only will this help unify casting decisions, but it will make us more aware about including an appropriate amount of diversity.

Tolkien does provide us with a certain amount of visual information when it comes to skin tones, hair color, and eye color, but there are still a lot of gaps to fill; so while there is canon to adhere to there is also a lot of creative room to maneuver. Within these gaps we should logic out what physical types would make the most sense based on individual and group histories, and using our own world's history concerning migration we can determine just how racially diverse Beleriand based on the size of Middle-Earth and the distance traveled by specific migration groups.

Basically, let's not just make everyone white by default based on some incorrect perception of history concerning 'medieval times.'

Below a list of genetic traits pulled Tolkien's text that will provide the canon base for this discussion (I was going to include full passage quotes, but that was becoming unruly. If you want sources just ask me; I pulled all this info from a very lengthy document I've been working on):

The Eldar
The Noldor
  • Most common: blue-grey eyes, dark hair, fair skin
  • "In many parts of the land [Beleriand] the Noldor and the Sindar became welded into one people"
  • "The Noldor had the greater power of mind and body. and were the mightier warriors and sages, and they built with stone, and loved the hill-slopes and open lands."
  • "Tall they were, fairskinned and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark."
House of Feanor
  • Finwe: Very lack hair, bright blue-grey eyes
  • Miriel: Silver hair and dark eyes
  • Feanor: Black (raven-dark) hair, tall, fair of face, piercingly bright eyes.
  • Nerdanel: Hair color unknown, but most likely red due to father and son's red hair.
  • Mahtan: Auburn hair and a ruddy complexion; had a beard at an early age.
  • Maehdros: Was tall and comely, and had deep dark red hair. He lost his right hand when he was rescued from his imprisonment in Angband.
  • Maglor: Dark hair
  • Celegorm: Fair hair (blonde) color, fair skin
  • Caranthir: As black-haired as his paternal grandfather Finwë; red-skinned (like maternal grandfather)
  • Curufin: Black hair, he resembled his father, Fëanor, very much in the face.
  • Celebrimbor: ???
  • Amrod/Amras: Dark red hair
House of Fingolfin
  • Finwe: Very black hair, bright blue-grey eyes
  • Indis: (Finwe's Vanyar wife) Tall with golden hair, and in all ways unlike Miriel
  • Findis: ???
  • Fingolfin: Dark hair; eyes shone like the eyes of the Valar when he road off to challenge Morgoth; wore silver mail and helm that gleamed like a star, with a blue shield set with crystals. strongest/most steadfast
  • Anaire: ??? (Fingolfin's wife, assumed to be a Noldor based on children's traits)
  • Irime: ???
  • Fingon: Dark hair plaited/braided with gold.
  • Turgon: Tall
  • Elenwe: (Turgon's Vanyar wife) Golden-haired.
  • Idril Celebrindal: Inherited the Vanyar's golden hair. Named Celebrindal because she always went barefoot
  • Aredhel: Tall and strong. Called White Lady of the Noldor because she was pale, though her hair was dark, and she was never arrayed but in silver and white.
  • Eol: (Aredhel's Moriquindi/Sindar husband) Tall, dark, and grim Sindar. Stooped by his smithwork. Noble though rim of face. His eyes could see deep into shadows and dark places.
  • Maeglin: Eyes more piercing than even his father’s. Resembled in face and form rather his kindred the Noldor. He was tall and black-haired, yet bright and keen as the eyes of the Nolodor, and his skin was white.
  • Argon: Tallest of his brothers
House of Finarfin (Nolodr, Vanyar, and Teleri)
  • Finwe: Very lack hair, bright blue-grey eyes
  • Indis: (Finwe's Vanyar wife) Tall with golden hair, and in all ways unlike Miriel
  • Finarfin: Golden hair (from Vanyarian mother); fairest of his siblings
  • Earwen: (Finarfin's Teleri wife) Starlight silver hair
  • Finrod Felagund: Was a Noldor, but was in part Teleri and Vanyar, and inherited the golden hair of the Vanyar through his father’s mother. He was said to be like his father in face. Was the greatest but the youngest of the great lords of the Noldor (Fingolfin, Fingon, and Maedhros).
  • Amarie: ???
  • Angrod: Was a Noldor, but was in part Teleri and Vanyar, and inherited the golden hair of the Vanyar through his father’s mother.
  • Eldalote: ???
  • Orodreth: Dark hair
  • Findulias: Golden hair (from mystery mom or grandfather)
  • Gil-galhad:
  • Aegnor: Was a Noldor, but was in part Teleri and Vanyar, and inherited the golden hair of the Vanyar through his father’s mother. His hair was stiff and straight.
  • Galadriel: Identified as a Noldor, but was also part Teleri and Vanyar. She was the most beautiful of the House of Finwe with radiant gold-silver hair that captured the light of the Two Trees. She was unusually tall (6’ 4”) and strong.
  • Celeborn: (Galadriel's Sindar husband) A Sindar of Doriath with long silver hair. Based on his name’s etymology and his relation to Thingol, he was likely tall.
  • Celebrian: likely had fair hair like both of her parents.
Other (Some possible mixed with Teleri/Falathrim)
  • Glorfindel: Tall with long golden hair. Wore a mantle embroidered in golden celadine and vambraces with gold. (Not a vanyar for only one went into exile, Noldor who went into exile with Turgon)
  • Ecthelion: The lord of the House of the Fountain, he had the most beautiful voice and greatest flute talent of all the people of Gondolin.
  • Egalmoth: Wore a blue mantle with stars embroidered in crystal. Arrayed in many bright colors, with arms set with jewels.
  • Galdor: A Nolodorian elf who wore green
  • Duilin: Wore white, dark blue, purple, and black.
  • Salgant: Heavy and squat
  • Pengold: Tall
  • Rog: A great smith and craftsmen, who revered Aule. Had strong arms and their shields bore the emblem of a stricken anvil and a hammer with sparks about it. Reg gold and black iron.
  • Aranwe: (Noldor; father of Voronwe) Was of the House of Fingolfin either in service of by blood; thus was possibly a relative through Irame (Fingolfin's sister who went into exile with him).
  • Voronwe: Half-Sindar (Falathrim), half-Noldor. His mother was a of Cirdan's kin (through Thingol's brother Elmo?)
  • Guilin: (Father of Gelmir and Gwindor) ???
  • Gelmir: ???
  • Gwindor: Dark hair [???]. Before his captivity in Angnabd he was young and strong, but afterwards he seemed as one of the aged of mortal Men because of his torments and labors.
The Vanyar
  • The 'fair-elves'
  • Golden-haired, fair-skinned
House of Ingwe
  • Ingwe: Assumedly golden-haired
  • Indis: Tall with golden hair, and in all ways unlike Miriel
The Teleri
The Sindar ('The Grey Elves')
  • All the Sindar save for those related to Melian either cited as having light hair (blonde/ silver/white) or their hair color is simply not mentioned.
House of Thingol
  • Thingol: Silver-grey hair and eyes like silver stars; was also the tallest of all elves
  • Melian: A Maiar who took on a physical form of her own choosing, but this form must have had dark hair. Among the Maiar of Lorien she was the most beautiful.
  • Luthien: Most beautiful of all the Children of Illuvatar. Eyes as grey as the starlit evening, hair as dark as the shadows of twilight.
  • Dior: Half Beorling, 1/4 Maiar, 1/4 Sindar. Known as 'the beautiful.'
  • Nimloth: Niece of Celeborn
  • Elwing: Half-elven. Fashioned white wings/was able to transform into a swan. Had to have dark hair in order for Arwen, Elladin, Elrohir to have dark hair.
  • Elured/Elurin: Half-elven.
  • Celeborn: (Galadriel's Sindar husband) A Sindar of Doriath with long silver hair. Based on his name’s etymology and his relation to Thingol, he was likely tall.
  • Annael: ???
Other
  • Eol: Tall, dark, and grim Sindar. Stoopedby his smithwork. Noble though rim of face. His eyes could see deep into shadows and dark places.
  • Beleg Strongbow: Strong, enduring, farsighted in mind and eye.
  • Daeron: ???
  • Mablung: ???
  • Saeros:
  • Nellas:
  • Oropher:
  • Thranduil: Golden-haired
  • Legolas Greenleaf: ???
Alqualondë
  • Elmo: ???
  • Olwe: Long white hair and blue eyes
  • Earwen: Starlight silver hair
The Falathrim
  • Cirdan: very tall, silver hair, bearded in old age
  • Arminas:
  • Gelmir:
The Nandor
The Green-Elves of Ossirand​
The Edain
House of Beor
  • “The Men of that house were dark or brown of hair, with grey eyes; and of all Men they were most like to the Noldor and most loved by them; for they were eager of mind, cunning-handed, swift in understanding, long in memory, and they were moved sooner to pity than to laughter.”
  • "for the language of Hador was apparently less changed and more uniform in style, whereas the language of Beor contained many elements that were alien in character. This contrast in speech was probably connected with the observable physical differences between the two peoples. There were fair-haired men and women among the Folk of Beor, but most of them had brown hair (going usually with brown eyes), and many were less fair in skin, some indeed being swarthy. Men as tall as the Folk of Hador were rare among them, and most were broader and more heavy in build."
  • Beor: ???
  • Barahir: ???
  • Beren: Dark hair or golden brown, blue or grey eyes, taller than most of his kin, broad-shouldered, strong of limb
  • Morwen Eledhwen: tall, dark-haired, pale skinned, grey eyes that shown with a light, beautiful.
  • Rian: ???
  • Andreth: Dark hair
House of Hador
  • “The Men of the Three Houses throve and multiplied, but greatest among them was the house of Hador Goldenhead, peer of Elven-lords. His people were of great strength and stature, ready in mind, bold and steadfast, quick to anger and to laughter, mighty among the Children of Ilúvatar in the youth of Mankind. Yellow-haired they were for the most part, and blue-eyed; but not so was Túrin, whose mother was Morwen of the house of Beor.”
  • "For the most part they were tall people, with flaxen or golden hair and blue-grey eyes, but there were not a few among them that had dark hair, though all were fair-skinned...
    No doubt this was due to mingling with Men of other kind in the
    past; and it was noted that the dark hair ran in families that had
    more skill and interest in crafts and lore."
  • Hador: goldenhead, tall, blue-eyed
  • Hurin Thalion: Steadfast, strong, but of less stature than his fathers or son (short because of his mother's genes, who was of the Haladin). Save for his height he was in all ways like the people of hador: golden haired and blue-eyed. After his captivity "his hair and beard were white and long, but he walked unbowed, bearing a great black staff; and he was girt with a sword."
  • Turin: Tall, dark-haired, pale-skinned, grey eyes , deep eyes in a white face, stern and proud, the most beautiful of all mortal men.
  • Urwen (Lalaith): hair like yellow lilies
  • Nienor: Fine gold hair, blue eyes, Hurin in woman form.
  • Huor: Tallest of the Edain save his son Tuor. Golden-haired.
  • Tuor: Fair of face, golden hair of the House of Hador, strong and valiant, the tallest of the Edain
  • Earendil: Probably blonde like both his parents.
  • Elwing: (Earendil's wife of Sindar/Maiar/Beor decent ) Half-elven. Fashioned white wings/was able to transform into a swan. Had to have dark hair in order for Arwen, Elladin, Elrohir to have dark hair.
  • Elrond/Elros: Was one of the Peredhil, Half-elven, and was a descendent of all three houses of the Edain, all of the three original groups of Elves, and a Maiar. Dark hair, grey and shining eyes.
  • Elrohir/Elladan: Though he he had the blood of the Noldor, Vanyar, Teleri (Alqualondë), Sindar, all three kindred of the Edain, and Maiar, he looked in all ways like a traditional Noldor, having dark hair and grey eyes. Wore bright mail, stars on their brows, and silver-grey cloak.
  • Arwen Undomiel: Though she had the blood of the Noldor, Vanyar, Teleri (Alqualondë), Sindar, all three kindred of the Edain, and Maiar, she looked in all ways like a traditional Noldor, having dark hair and grey eyes. She was also said to be in appearance Luthien’s likeness reborn, and was considered one of the fairest of the Children of Illuvatar. She is sited as both having worn a grey raiment with a girdle of silver leaves and a silver and blue mantle. Like her father, she possessed the choice to be counted either as amoung the Eldar or Edain; after the War of the Ring she chose to live as a mortal alongside Aragorn.
  • Forweg: fair-haired
House of Haleth
  • “Like to them [HOUSE BEOR] were the woodland folk of Haleth, but they were of lesser stature, and less eager for lore. They used few words, and did not love great concourse of men; and many among them delighted in solitude, wandering free in the greenwoods while the wonder of the lands of the Eldar was new upon them. But in the realms of the West their time was brief and their days unhappy.”
  • Haleth: Amazon
  • Haldir: ???
  • Handir: ???
  • Brandir: Lamed by a leg broken in a misadventure in childhood
  • Dorlas: ???
  • Arvanc: Son of Dorlas, dark-haired, short.
  • Hunthor: Brandir's kinsman.
Easterlings
House of Ulfang
  • Ulfang: ???
  • Uldor: ???
  • Ulfast: ???
  • Ulwarth: ???
House of Bor
  • Bor: ???
  • Borlach: ???
  • Borlad: ???
  • Borthand: ???
---------------
If you see any mistakes in the above information, please let me know.

But in summary, while a lot of characters and family groups are labeled as having pale skin, but Beorlings seem to be ethnically mixed with quite a few swarthy-skinned. Additionally room for added diversity in design includes: (1) the Valar who can look like anything they want, (2) the Haladrin, who are less defined and more like the Beorlings than the House of Hador when it comes to mixed-race, (3) the Teleri, who only have hair-colored mentioned, (4) the easterlings under Bor (aka colored people who for once aren't bad guys), (5) the easterlings of the House of Ulfang, (6) the dwarves who are free-game.
Ok I've been thinking, shouldn't we start a thread in which we put all possible elves, every actor and actress we can come up with who would be ok as some kind of elf, with suggestions but totally open minded? So we have some common references, and we can discuss which actors could play relatives and such things? And then a similar thread for dwarves and one for men?
 

Bre

Active Member
Ok I've been thinking, shouldn't we start a thread in which we put all possible elves, every actor and actress we can come up with who would be ok as some kind of elf, with suggestions but totally open minded? So we have some common references, and we can discuss which actors could play relatives and such things? And then a similar thread for dwarves and one for men?
Ohhh, that could be a good idea, rather than just jumping straight into naming actors like most of the casting threads have done.
 

Phillip Menzies

Moderator
Staff member
I think this can be done broadly in terms of ethnicity because many of the minor elements such as hair and eye colour can be done through makeup and digital effects. Case in point Orlando Bloom in the Hobbit wore a blonde wig and his eye colour was changed to blue digitally. Stature can also be fiddled around with as we saw with John Rhyse-Davies (Gimli) being the tallest cast member of the Fellowship.
 

Bre

Active Member
I think this can be done broadly in terms of ethnicity because many of the minor elements such as hair and eye colour can be done through makeup and digital effects. Case in point Orlando Bloom in the Hobbit wore a blonde wig and his eye colour was changed to blue digitally. Stature can also be fiddled around with as we saw with John Rhyse-Davies (Gimli) being the tallest cast member of the Fellowship.
As long as no one suggest painting someone's skin, we are in good territory
 

Carlia

Member
I agree with you... making everyone white would be... a bit unfitting.

I am not sure about making the Teleri Mediterranean due to the silver hair, but elsewise it would be fitting, seeing ther conection to the sea. However that can also be said about many other cultures such as Vikings and Japanese, and others....

I am do believe that a Mediterranean look would suit the House of Beor.
 
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