Elven Wig Hair Color

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
A Mythmoot preview!

Based on the work Faelivrin and I did on the Elven Hair and Eye Color thread, we've come up with a pretty decent Elven family tree with ranges of hair colors that 'make sense' for everyone to be related to who they are related to. :)

So, here's our nifty color chart, with example wigs from Wig is Fashion and Arda Wigs:

2115

The wigs are meant to match the shades specified in this chart:

2116

And...drumroll please.....the master family tree!

2117
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Here are Faelivrin's probability charts that went into putting this together.

2118

Because the shades are on a scale from 0-10, there are constraints about which parents can have which hair colors in their kids.

One of the things that came out of this is that if you set Lúthien, Elrond, and Arwen at 10 (because their hair is described to be 'dark as shadow' in the published works), then there are constraints in the rest of the family tree.

For Elrond to be a 10, he is getting 5 pigment alleles from each parent. And so, each parent must have at least 5 alleles to give! This means that his father Eärendil cannot be blond, but must be at least a 5. Since Tuor and Idril are both blond, we might expect the 'fair' and blue-eyed Eärendil to be blond as well...but there is more to it than that. Idril's father Turgon is dark-haired, and Tuor's mother Rían is dark-haired. So, while they are blond, they cannot be the lightest shades but are most likely both a 4. The 4x4 cross gives a child anywhere in the range of 1-7 on this scale. So, Eärendil is in the 5-7 range; he has brown hair.

Furthermore, if Eärendil is 5-7, then Elwing must be 8-10 for Elrond to be 10. In order for Elwing to be 8-10, her father Dior (who must be 5-10 as the child of Beren x Lúthien [10x5]), must marry someone who is at least a 3 (Nimloth). So, Nimloth can't have white hair, though she could be silver or silver roaned to look like white. [There is no reason to think she'd be more than a roan carrier, though.]

The real trick is Elwë. He has a white haired brother (0) and a black haired daughter (10). So, the lightest he can be is a minimum of 5 to be Lúthien's dad. But the only cross that will give children of both 0 and 5 in pigment is 3x2, and no combination will give 0 and 6. So, the darkest he can be and be Olwë's brother is also 5! Unless, of course, Olwë's white hair is from roaning on a 1, which would allow Thingol to be as dark as 6 or even 7. So, Thingol is a 5-7, with the strongest likelihood on 5. Using the roan factor may seem like cheating, but in Olwë's case, we know his daughter is a carrier and he is at least a carrier as well. So...giving him the trait is not too much of a stretch.

Speaking of his daughter...another question is how pale the star-like silver of Eärwen's hair might be? It would be a 1-2. Finarfin, as a blond child of a dark-haired parent, is himself a 4. So, when you look up the 4x1 and 4x2 crosses above, you see that all of their children would most likely be blond...which they are. So, always nice when that works out!
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Here are Faelivrin's probability charts that went into putting this together.

View attachment 2118

Because the shades are on a scale from 0-10, there are constraints about which parents can have which hair colors in their kids.

One of the things that came out of this is that if you set Lúthien, Elrond, and Arwen at 10 (because their hair is described to be 'dark as shadow' in the published works), then there are constraints in the rest of the family tree.

For Elrond to be a 10, he is getting 5 pigment alleles from each parent. And so, each parent must have at least 5 alleles to give! This means that his father Eärendil cannot be blond, but must be at least a 5. Since Tuor and Idril are both blond, we might expect the 'fair' and blue-eyed Eärendil to be blond as well...but there is more to it than that. Idril's father Turgon is dark-haired, and Tuor's mother Rían is dark-haired. So, while they are blond, they cannot be the lightest shades but are most likely both a 4. The 4x4 cross gives a child anywhere in the range of 1-7 on this scale. So, Eärendil is in the 5-7 range; he has brown hair.

Furthermore, if Eärendil is 5-7, then Elwing must be 8-10 for Elrond to be 10. In order for Elwing to be 8-10, her father Dior (who must be 5-10 as the child of Beren x Lúthien [10x5]), must marry someone who is at least a 3 (Nimloth). So, Nimloth can't have white hair, though she could be silver or silver roaned to look like white. [There is no reason to think she'd be more than a roan carrier, though.]

The real trick is Elwë. He has a white haired brother (0) and a black haired daughter (10). So, the lightest he can be is a minimum of 5 to be Lúthien's dad. But the only cross that will give children of both 0 and 5 in pigment is 3x2, and no combination will give 0 and 6. So, the darkest he can be and be Olwë's brother is also 5! Unless, of course, Olwë's white hair is from roaning on a 1, which would allow Thingol to be as dark as 6 or even 7. So, Thingol is a 5-7, with the strongest likelihood on 5. Using the roan factor may seem like cheating, but in Olwë's case, we know his daughter is a carrier and he is at least a carrier as well. So...giving him the trait is not too much of a stretch.

Speaking of his daughter...another question is how pale the star-like silver of Eärwen's hair might be? It would be a 1-2. Finarfin, as a blond child of a dark-haired parent, is himself a 4. So, when you look up the 4x1 and 4x2 crosses above, you see that all of their children would most likely be blond...which they are. So, always nice when that works out!

In regards to Thingol and Luthien, have you considered the possibility that the genetic material from Melian could have an unexpected effect on Luthien?
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, that was the 'magic black' gene we discussed in the other thread - the idea that there was something unrelated to the other elven genetics unique to Melian as a Maia, and it gets passed down in her family line regardless of who they marry. Basically, a simple dominant that can override any 'shading' effects.

Our impulse was to avoid that solution.

Rather, we tied black hair to silver hair, and made sure the inheritance patterns worked for both.

The best way to get around some of this is to make Lúthien and Arwen the only descendants of Melian who need to be a 10, and allow some others with dark hair to be an 8-9. Certainly, Elrond is described as having the same 'dark as shadows' hair, so thinking he is the darkest possible is reasonable, but a 9 (in the black/silver scale) will still look black. Just not, you know...super black.

If Elrond is a 9, Eärendil can be a 4 (dark gold). So, if someone were really set on making Eärendil blond, we could do that. Elwing would be a 9-10, and Dior would be 8-10.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Well, the paper has been presented! Thanks to all the folks at Mythmoot who appreciated this pseudo-serious look at elven hair color. :)

Here's a copy of the paper Faelivrin and I wrote for anyone who (for whatever reason) wants to take a look at it:


A caveat/heads up - this paper is looking at one possible model to apply to the inheritance of hair color in Tolkien's elves. There are, of course, other models that are possible. So, if people would like to use this as a resource (particularly in choosing hair color for an elf who was never described), by all means, have at it! But I do *not* recommend using this as a reason to tell an artist that they 'got it wrong' in how they wanted to represent an elf's hair color in their story or art - they are just using a different model is all.

That being said...feel free to take a look! And, of course, any feedback is welcome!
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
The first question was if Melian had something uniquely Maiar about her that would be passed down in her family. So, I brought up the possibility of a 'magic black' gene that would override the shading effect to give black hair 'dark as shadow' regardless of what the VWXYZ genes were doing. Honestly, the only reason we didn't do that in this model was to see if we could get it to work without it.

Someone else asked about Letter 153 and how that was the premise to the paper. I tried to explain that that letter was Tolkien's response to questions about the biology of his created world.

And (of course), people wanted to know about those wig companies. ;)

After the talk, I got a few more questions about methods, or how we compiled that list of hair color, etc. One person asked if Tolkien ever changed his mind on hair color (ie, if there are earlier and later passages that are contradictory). The only example I recall is the brief alternate passage to some verses in the Lay where Lúthien is blond (though of course I didn't think to say that at the time), and the problem of Orodreth, where his changing place in the family tree calls into question how 'settled' his hair color might be. Some people wanted to know if we found any elves who 'couldn't' have that hair color (or those parents), if there was a 'whose your daddy?' situation. Based on how we did this, if that happened, we revised the model to make it at least 3% plausible that the elf would have the 'proper' hair color. So...no. The premise is that Tolkien's world is how he described it, and we were just looking for a system to explain the 'observed' results.
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
Well, the paper has been presented! Thanks to all the folks at Mythmoot who appreciated this pseudo-serious look at elven hair color. :)

Here's a copy of the paper Faelivrin and I wrote for anyone who (for whatever reason) wants to take a look at it:


A caveat/heads up - this paper is looking at one possible model to apply to the inheritance of hair color in Tolkien's elves. There are, of course, other models that are possible. So, if people would like to use this as a resource (particularly in choosing hair color for an elf who was never described), by all means, have at it! But I do *not* recommend using this as a reason to tell an artist that they 'got it wrong' in how they wanted to represent an elf's hair color in their story or art - they are just using a different model is all.

That being said...feel free to take a look! And, of course, any feedback is welcome!
Thanks for sharing the paper. I watched your talk on Mootcast, but the sound quality wasn’t great, so I didn’t catch everything.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Melian's 'magic black' - M (see Faelivin's posts in the previous thread)

Melian would be MM. Every other elf and human would be mm. Melian is the only individual who has an allele for black hair that 'takes over' any other shades of hair color that would be present. So, the effect of the M allele being present is that regardless of how many 'pigment on' alleles you have in the VWXYZ genes, you will have black hair 'deep as shadow'. It doesn't matter whether you are SS/Ss/ss or RR/Rr/rr...you will have black hair.

Melian (MM) marries Thingol (mm). Their daughter Lúthien is therefore (Mm). Lúthien has shadow dark hair
Lúthien (Mm) marries Beren (mm). Their child Dior has a 50% chance of being (Mm) and a 50% chance of being (mm). He is (Mm) and has shadow dark hair.
Dior (Mm) marries Nimloth (mm). Their children have a 50% chance of being (Mm), and a 50% chance of being (mm). Elwing is (Mm); her brothers Eluréd and Elurín could be (Mm) or (mm). They're twins...but are they identical?
Elwing (Mm) marries Eärendil (mm). Their children have a 50% chance of being (Mm), and a 50% chance of being (mm). Elrond is (Mm); Elros could be (Mm) or (mm). They're twins...but are they identical?
Elrond (Mm) marries Celebrían (mm). Their children have a 50% chance of being (Mm), and a 50% chance of being (mm). Arwen is Mm; Elladan and Elrohir could be (Mm) or (mm). They're twins...but are they identical?

One comment on the line of Elros: Because this is a simple dominant trait, it cannot skip a generation. There is a high chance the children will inherit it from their parents (50% from a heterozygous parent), but once it's gone, it's gone. Only individuals descended from Elros can have the trait (among humans). So....would it last all the way down to Aragorn? The chances are vanishingly small with that many generations. That's flipping 'heads' a lot of times in a row!

Advantages: This shows a clear and easy way in which the 'shadow-dark' hair of Melian can be passed down in her family tree. Despite marrying much lighter-haired people, the very darkest shade is preserved easily. This exception can be attributed to her special case situation of being an embodied Maia rather than an elf. Rather than there being a 3% chance that Melian (10) and Thingol (5) will have a child that is (10), now there is a 100% chance that Melian will pass on her unique trait to her daughter, and a 50% chance that it is passed on in each subsequent generation.

Disadvantages: Inventing a brand new gene that no one else has to explain a trait is the 'and suddenly, a mutation!' explanation. It can happen, but it feels like cheating because it in no way ties into any of the other observed inheritance patterns. There is no proposed model by which this gene could turn on all the pigment. Expanding the 8-gene model to a 9-gene model isn't problematic, though.

So, is this route worth considering? Absolutely! It was important (to me) to at least try to make her family tree work without it, but it does work better with it. Also, if we need roan carriers to be marrying into the family to make Nimloth work, then this solution is more elegant than that one, anyway. One possible modification would be to make 'M' only effective in combination with S (black/silver hair). So, if an individual is ss (typically would have brown/blond/red hair), the M trait would not show.

So, incorporating the 'M' dominant allele for Melian's "magic black" maiar hair into the mix, we have the following individuals who MUST have M, and therefore show the trait for shadow-black hair: Melian, Lúthien, Dior, Elwing, Elrond, and Arwen. Others in the family tree may have the trait as well.
 
Last edited:
Top