Sunday, January 4, 2015

Character Study: Mablung

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(WARNING:  The following post contains many spoilers for The Silmarillion)

I love the Silmarillion.  It's probably my absolute favorite book, currently.  It has so many wonderful characters that I love.  Starting with the elves, we've got Feanor, the proud and strangely villainous would-be hero who starts the great conflict.  We have his seven sons, including Maedhros, the tragic one-handed antihero.  We've got Fingolfin and Finrod Felagund, two magnificent heroes worthy of emulating, and Thingol, the mysteriously heroic and prideful king of the forest.  
Let's not forget the humans either!  There's Haleth, the woman who saved her father's people and led them to a safe land.  There's Hurin, who defied Morgoth at the cost of the safety of his family.  Turin, who as the result of his father Hurin's rebellion and his own pride leads one of the most tragic lives in the history of Middle Earth.  His relatives, Beren, who married Luthien the elven princess, and Tuor, who also married an elven princess, with much better results.  

Oh, and that's only beginning.  There are so many characters, and I love them all to death.  Literally, to their deaths.  It's depressing.  
With such a large cast, it's not surprising that some characters slip away from us as time goes on.  The standards live on, like Beren and Luthien, and Feanor and Finrod Felagund.  But today we're here to study one of the lesser known characters, and elf named Mablung.

Mablung was an elf who served as the captain of the guard Doriath, the kingdom of Elu Thingol.  He was one of those elves who never left Middle Earth, and had never seen the splendor of Valinor.  He and his people had refused to abandon their king when he went missing just before they were to leave on the ships.  They didn't know at the time that Thingol was missing because he had fallen in love with Melian, a Maia (same race as Gandalf, Sauron, and Saruman).  It worked out well for them, because as soon as Thingol returned with his new queen Melian, they set up their kingdom in the forests and became one of the greatest elven nations in history.

I don't know whether Mablung was first generation elf, or if he was descended from that first generation.  Regardless, he appears in several tales in the Silmarillion.  
We don't really know much about his history or personal life, but we can determine some things about his character if we take a close look.  


It's clear enough from his appearances in the text that Mablung is noble.  He only ever acts and speaks with honor, even when he's speaking to someone he doesn't necessarily care for.  One particular story about him stands out in my mind.  There was once a time when a human girl named Nienor was traveling with her mother to meet her brother Turin, who lived far away.  Technically, she wasn't supposed to be on the journey, since their benefactor, Thingol, had counciled her to stay behind.  But Nienor was a stubborn girl and decided to go anyway.  Mablung accompanied her for their protection.  Unfortunately, they were attacked by Glaurung, a fearsome dragon.  Mablung and his company did their best, but they were no matched for a dragon.  After that, Mablung found himself alone in the middle of nowhere.  On top of that, he comes across Nienor, who as a result of the dragon's hypnotic spell, has become mute and unresponsive.  She stands as still as a statue, and will only move when someone takes her by the hand.
So Mablung was stuck with a poor witless human maid, leading her by the hand through the wilderness, worried at any moment that they would be attacked by a pack of orcs.  (As it turns out, that's exactly what happens, but they both survive.  It isn't really Mablung's fault that he loses her in the process.)
Still, his gentle treatment of Nienor speaks greatly of his noble spirit.  Mablung spends a great deal of time searching for her after the tragedy.


Mablung isn't one of those characters who hears the hero's plan and automatically says, "Let me follow you, my brother, and I will give my life for your cause!"
Most of the time, Mablung is the one saying, "This matter does not bode well with me.  My heart tells me that this will come to naught but ruin!"  And usually, he's right.  Most of his adventures end with either failure or tragedy.  It's not really his fault, since he's always matched against some foe greater than himself.  His dealings with mortal men have all been disastrous, and it's a wonder he even has anything to do with them anymore.  
As a result of this, I think, Mablung has a rather grim outlook on life, and could be called pessimistic.  While he is wandering in the wilderness with Nienor, he despairs and says that surely he will be doomed to wander with the unfortunate mortal until they both die.  


Even when his duties stink, Mablung sticks to them.  He stuck with Nienor even when it was tough.  He stuck with Thingol even when he didn't agree with Thingol's logic.  When Turin, foster-son of Thingol, was involved in the death of Saeros (real jerk of an elf), it was Mablung who partially witnessed the event and had to arrest Turin.  He was probably very familiar with Turin, being the captain of the guard, so that can't have been easy.  Now, Turin managed to escape from him before being brought to the king for judgment, but Mablung did his best, after all.  


Mablung is Thingol's right-hand man.  He, along with his friend Beleg Cuthalion, accompanied the king and Beren when they went to fight the ferocious Wolf, Carcharoth.  He's always the one leading the important expeditions from Doriath, and often serves as a messenger/ambassador from Thingol to various warriors in the surrounding lands.  
After Thingol's death, Melian, the queen refuses to speak to anyone but Mablung.  She warns him of the trouble that is coming to Doriath, and bids him to bring one of the Silmarils to Beren and Luthien.  That's quite an errand, by the way, considering that everyone in the world is currently fighting over the Simarils.  Mablung, despite his many failed errands, must have been extremely trustworthy for Melian to have given him such a task.  Not to mention that she wouldn't speak to anyone but him- which tells me that he must have had a personal relationship with the king and queen as well as a professional one.  


This one ties in with reluctance.  I could be wrong, but he seems like the kind of guy who stresses a lot.  Maybe it's because every time he appears, he is troubled by whatever events are going on.  With good reason, of course!  He's present at some of the most tragic events in the Silmarillion.  He's always the one to doubt the wisdom of the action of the heroes, and his foresight allows him to live through several events that kill off other characters. So many of his errands end in disaster through no fault of his own, and yet he blames himself anyway.  Even though we don't get to see him a whole lot in the books, when we do, I get the feeling that the poor guy needs a break.  And maybe a hug.  Just like most of the other characters in the book.

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So, there you have my analysis of Mablung the Heavy Hand.  One of Doriath's finest, and every bit as heroic as many of the more famous elven princes of the time.  What do you think?  Do you agree?  Do you disagree!  Please let me know if I've made any errors concerning the events of the Silmarillion.  I had the book in my hands while I was writing, but it's easy to miss something and make a mistake.  If I have, feel free to correct me.  Gently.  ;)

I hope you've enjoyed this Character Study.  If you have any suggestions for more characters to analyze , let me know in the comments!

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-Rayne Speryll

(DISCLAIMER:  I do not own the image in this post.  All credit for the image goes to Champchock of Deviant Art)


  1. Very well done! Mablung is a favourite of mine.


    1. Thanks! I'm thinking of doing either Beleg, Legolas, Thingol, or Thranduil next. I can't make up my mind.

  2. O_o Everyone's doing posts on elves of The Silimarillion all of a sudden. Or, at least, Hannah did one, and now you.
    I enjoyed this. Very nicely done. :)

    1. Mm, actually this post was partially inspired by Hannah. She left a comment on my character study of Prince Rilian and suggested that I do a lesser-known Tolkien character, so I chose Mablung. I read her Silmarillion post at the same time as I was writing mine! :)

      Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Awesome! I'm ashamed to admit, I don't recall Mablung.

    This is probably because I've actively avoided Turin's story (it's SO depressing), and never have cared much for Thingol. I mean, Thingol is like an elf supremest. I thought at first that the Hobbit movies were making Thranduil too much like him, but then they gave him a far better reason for his attitude than Thingol ever had. But maybe I'm forgetting something heroic about Thingol...remind me, if so.

    This is so cool! I'll have to look up Mablung now! Poor guy!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Turin's story is depressing, but it's one of my favorites from Tolkien's lore. I've read it many times. That's where you hear a lot about Mablung, and my most favorite character ever- Beleg Cuthalion. If you can handle the darkness of the story, I really would suggest taking a second look at it. It's got some fantastic characters.

      Thingol does have some heroic deeds to his name, especially in his earlier days. He and Melian managed to set up one of Middle Earth's greatest kingdoms, all without having the aid of the Valar. And though he caused Beren some trouble while he was courting Luthien, Thingol actually is a good father. I would have reacted the same way if I found out my daughter was secretly hanging out with some homeless bum.
      At the climax of the story, he leads the hunt for Carcharoth, the foul wolf who swallowed Beren's hand. By that time, he'd come to care for his son-in-law, and when Beren is wounded, Thingol abandons the fight to hold him in his arms as he lies bleeding.
      Later, Thingol invites the might-as-well-be-orphaned Turin to stay safely in his kingdom. He ends up adopting the kid as his foster-son, in honor of Beren, who was a distant relative to Turin.
      There are other stories too. I'll do a character study on him next. :)

    3. Yes, Beleg...I've never researched him, because I didn't want to fall in love, cause his death is so lousy and stupid. :/ But you're the second person to sing his praises, so perhaps I should go get my heart broken anyway. ;)

      Good points about Thingol. I guess I always got so disgusted over his pride issue and refusing to listen to his wife's wisdom. But I'll very interested to read your study on him!

    4. Yes, Thingol could be an idiot. And there's no denying that he was a jerk at times, but... I still love him. :)

      And as for Beleg? Yes, go get your heart broken. It's worth it. I was so sad when he died, but... I've never regretted it. ^_^

    5. Oh my goodness! I've just been looking up Beleg! Gah, he has such an amazing story! I must admit, I just love stories of pain and peril. I can't believe all the stuff Beleg went through. Now I have a reason to read The Children of Hurin. Still...everything he survived...just to die like he did...*smacks forehead*

    6. Ugh... I know! *bangs forehead on desk*

      But still, I love him dearly. He remains one of my favorite characters to this day. :)

    7. Where is the best place to read his story? I know there are different versions. I've read the one in the Silmarillion, but the story in Children of Hurin sounds far superior, especially with his ongoing struggle with that mortal man and the dwarf. *gasp* And here I imagined stuff like this, little knowing Tolkien actually wrote it!

    8. I would definitely go with the Children of Huriin version- there you get much more details. The version in the Silmarillion gives you the basic gist of the story, but the Children of Hurin offers much more rich detail and plot depth. :)

    9. You should do a character study on Beleg!!! :D

    10. Yes, yes I should. :) What a good idea!