Elven spinning

From Lorien to the Undying Lands...

Moderators: caedmon, Greg

User avatar
Sorrel
Wanderer
Posts: 43
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2020 2:31 am
Location: North of the Angle

Elven spinning

Post by Sorrel »

So, elves obviously have to spin their own threads and harm (I mean, everybody does, and galadriel is specifically mentioned to weave - with her handmaidens, I think). But I have trouble actually picturing what they might use to do this. Regardless of whether the spinning wheel is present in Middle-Earth (perhaps only in the Shire? Idk), both the spinning wheel and drop spindle do not seem to fit well with my image of elves, and I'm having trouble imagining what a suitably elven spindle might even look like in a way that isn't an issue with any of the other people's of Middle-Earth (I suspect this is also an issue with elves and a variety of basic tools tbh)
User avatar
caedmon
Balku'npâ
Posts: 838
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:30 am
Location: Palmer Alaska

Re: Elven spinning

Post by caedmon »

My view on elves isn't that they do things differently, so much as what they do turns out better.

Maybe it's their nature, maybe it's that they can spend more years in practice than we have in our lives.

That said, my natural inclination is toward the drop spindle. It's simple. has an elegant look, not overly mechanical.
-Jack Horner

----------------------------
Impression: Boater Wesman ( Balku'npâ Adúnerama ) bronze founder living in Archet, Breelander of mixed dúnedain descent. c. 3017
Elleth
êphal ki-*raznahê
Posts: 2339
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:26 am
Location: in the Angle; New England

Re: Elven spinning

Post by Elleth »

I agree I think... the drop spindle has such a mythic sense about it.
Shades of the three fates there as well.
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
User avatar
Sorrel
Wanderer
Posts: 43
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2020 2:31 am
Location: North of the Angle

Re: Elven spinning

Post by Sorrel »

I agree, but I think I just have difficulty imagining elves performing mundane tasks in general lol, and at least all the drop spindles I've seen have a more rustic elegance than I usually attribute to (at least non-sylvan) elves

Like picturing Gildor washing the dishes :lol:
User avatar
Manveruon
Thangailhir
Posts: 2272
Joined: Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:11 am
Location: Littleton, CO
Contact:

Re: Elven spinning

Post by Manveruon »

I agree - it’s strange to think of Elves doing certain specific tasks. Elf butchers, for example. Or elvish sanitation workers :lol:

But in the end, I tend to try and imagine them as doing mundane tasks with a certain kind of grace and elegance that most people don’t. Like... even the smallest, most monotonous drudgery, they treat as if it’s high art, and do it with the same kind of care and poise.

So yes, I would agree that the drop spindle seems appropriate - particularly with its prevalence in myth and fairy tales. I could absolutely see young elven maidens learning spinning and weaving at the hands of wiser matrons like Galadriel - but again, with an almost religious sanctity.
User avatar
caedmon
Balku'npâ
Posts: 838
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:30 am
Location: Palmer Alaska

Re: Elven spinning

Post by caedmon »

Sorrel wrote:I agree, but I think I just have difficulty imagining elves performing mundane tasks in general, lol
** I bring up my personal faith here, please don't take this as an attempt to proselytize. **

I get that, for me it's the opposite. I'm an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and every Sunday I'm surrounded by art that depicts these mundane tasks in an elevated light. For example, here's an detail from an icon of the Annunciation, where Mary is interrupted from her spinning by the Archangel Gabriel to be told that she will bear Jesus.
annunciation.jpg
annunciation.jpg (64.36 KiB) Viewed 744 times
I consider this germane because I think Tolkien conceived of Galadriel as a reflection of his concept of the Virgin Mary who, through the art and legends he new as a Catholic, did these same tasks. (I'm not suggesting a Galadriel = Mary allegory, this isn't C.S. Lewis "Jesus Lion goes roahr!". it's more in line with Tolkien's ideas of sub-creation.)
-Jack Horner

----------------------------
Impression: Boater Wesman ( Balku'npâ Adúnerama ) bronze founder living in Archet, Breelander of mixed dúnedain descent. c. 3017
User avatar
Sorrel
Wanderer
Posts: 43
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2020 2:31 am
Location: North of the Angle

Re: Elven spinning

Post by Sorrel »

That's actually a very good way of putting it, I think! I think that's a beautiful way of framing it and think its right tbh. I think I wrongly considered elves as above the more and muck of humanity, rather than (transforming?) it

And yeah I don't think for a second that spinning or weaving cannot be elegant - but that I have not seen spindles or whorls which match the kind of elegance or style I would expect of elves

But I do think that's a good parallel, and yeah I don't think you're suggesting allegory there dw - there are are a variety of Marian figures in LOTR (elbereth gilthoniel, nyenna, galadriel, etc.)

I think another thing that may help in reconciling this is that I find it unlikely there are elvish butchers, elvish sanitation workers, etc. In the way we think of them. I think elves may butcher in the morning, clean or hunt or weave in the afternoon, sing in the evening, etc. without ever becoming weavers, singers, or butchers [except in the broadest possible sense that they are people who know how to do those things]. Like sure obv elves may have particular passions but I don't get the impression they have occupations per se, since they're (in the overall span of human history) fairly recent inventions, and that way of organizing things makes even less sense if you're immortal I think
User avatar
Sorrel
Wanderer
Posts: 43
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2020 2:31 am
Location: North of the Angle

Re: Elven spinning

Post by Sorrel »

Like to illustrate here's a medieval spindle I made - I think it's very pretty, and I love using it, but nothing about it screams elvish to me, none of the... ageless majesty, I guess. I'm not really sure what about the aesthetic it lacks that would make it elvish lmao but there's smth ineffable. Maybe I've just been trained to expect Weta elves too much idk

Image
User avatar
caedmon
Balku'npâ
Posts: 838
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:30 am
Location: Palmer Alaska

Re: Elven spinning

Post by caedmon »

Ok, so what would an elven drop spindle look like?

Well, mechanically very similar.

I expect the elven lady goes into the woods, thanks a tree for it's branch. Gently pinches it at the point she wishes it come off, pulls the bark off like we might strip the leaves off a willow withe, grabs a pebble that just happens to have a perfectly placed hole with one hand, and a cobweb with the other. and five minutes later has skein of silk thread. Later her leman takes the whorl, graves a design on it, and returns it to her.

So what would I do? The corkscrew end on yours is elegant and I'd keep that. I'd probably turn the spindle on a lathe to make it perfectly smooth, and put a beeswax finish on it (if that doesn't mess with the thread?). I'd turn the whorl out of soapstone or antler in a shape that compliments the spindle and decorate it with an Art Noveau design (because, try as I might, that is the style that screams elvish to me).

p.s.
How big is your whorl there? I've made some drop spindles for ladies in my 14th century reenactment guild and they keep pushing me to smaller & finer whorls.

That looks like the size I originally made. Also is it soapstone?
-Jack Horner

----------------------------
Impression: Boater Wesman ( Balku'npâ Adúnerama ) bronze founder living in Archet, Breelander of mixed dúnedain descent. c. 3017
User avatar
Sorrel
Wanderer
Posts: 43
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2020 2:31 am
Location: North of the Angle

Re: Elven spinning

Post by Sorrel »

I oiled this one with lanolin, I'm not sure if beeswax would have an effect or not, might be worth a try tho

And yeah, soapstone. It's 34g, which is iirc historically feasible tho towards the heavier end for sure.

I think also fine glasswork could make an appropriate bead, though perhaps in a style other than the usual 'viking bead' one

I should make a pole lathe this year tbh (for many reasons!), this one I hand carved and then finished on the belt sander lol
User avatar
caedmon
Balku'npâ
Posts: 838
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:30 am
Location: Palmer Alaska

Re: Elven spinning

Post by caedmon »

Sorrel wrote:I oiled this one with lanolin, I'm not sure if beeswax would have an effect or not, might be worth a try tho
Don't take any recommendation I make here as anything more than speculation. I know very little about spinning.

Sorrel wrote: I should make a pole lathe this year tbh (for many reasons!), this one I hand carved and then finished on the belt sander lol

Oh, I thought it looked roughly whittled. You know, I think I misinterpreted the grain of the oak with facets. Ignore my lathe remark. Though perhaps a clearer grain wood, maybe something like maple or cherry, might be a good way to Elven it up?


Also, love to compare note on your pole lathe plans when you get to building. I'm selling my machine lather, and a pole late is on my summer Project list.
-Jack Horner

----------------------------
Impression: Boater Wesman ( Balku'npâ Adúnerama ) bronze founder living in Archet, Breelander of mixed dúnedain descent. c. 3017
User avatar
Manveruon
Thangailhir
Posts: 2272
Joined: Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:11 am
Location: Littleton, CO
Contact:

Re: Elven spinning

Post by Manveruon »

caedmon wrote:
Sorrel wrote:I agree, but I think I just have difficulty imagining elves performing mundane tasks in general, lol
** I bring up my personal faith here, please don't take this as an attempt to proselytize. **

I get that, for me it's the opposite. I'm an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and every Sunday I'm surrounded by art that depicts these mundane tasks in an elevated light. For example, here's an detail from an icon of the Annunciation, where Mary is interrupted from her spinning by the Archangel Gabriel to be told that she will bear Jesus.

annunciation.jpg

I consider this germane because I think Tolkien conceived of Galadriel as a reflection of his concept of the Virgin Mary who, through the art and legends he new as a Catholic, did these same tasks. (I'm not suggesting a Galadriel = Mary allegory, this isn't C.S. Lewis "Jesus Lion goes roahr!". it's more in line with Tolkien's ideas of sub-creation.)
This is very much where my mind was at as well! Great insight here! Also, “Jesus Lion goes roahr!” Is one of my new favorite phrases :lol:
Last edited by Manveruon on Thu Feb 11, 2021 10:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Manveruon
Thangailhir
Posts: 2272
Joined: Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:11 am
Location: Littleton, CO
Contact:

Re: Elven spinning

Post by Manveruon »

Sorrel wrote: I think another thing that may help in reconciling this is that I find it unlikely there are elvish butchers, elvish sanitation workers, etc. In the way we think of them. I think elves may butcher in the morning, clean or hunt or weave in the afternoon, sing in the evening, etc. without ever becoming weavers, singers, or butchers [except in the broadest possible sense that they are people who know how to do those things]. Like sure obv elves may have particular passions but I don't get the impression they have occupations per se, since they're (in the overall span of human history) fairly recent inventions, and that way of organizing things makes even less sense if you're immortal I think
Yes, I would also tend to agree with this, for sure. I mostly meant that I sometimes find it hard to imagine elves doing those sorts of jobs, more than any of those necessarily being their primary profession.
User avatar
Sorrel
Wanderer
Posts: 43
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2020 2:31 am
Location: North of the Angle

Re: Elven spinning

Post by Sorrel »

I don't really have any solid plans, save that I'm hoping to attach it to something existing rather than building a frame for the pole if possible

I decided last night to reduce the weight of the whorl a bit - it was tiring to spin with in the hand (which I'm just learning now, before this it was all American-style spinning), I thought it might reduce the amount it 'kicked' up as well, as well as your comment about people asking you for smaller ones. I finished polishing it right where I wanted it, well balanced and at 27g... And proceeded to immediately drop it onto the concrete floor of my basement and take a large chunk out of the bottom
:(
After grinding that out it ended up at about 20g, still sound much more nicely than at 44 thoImage

For the record I wasnt trying to make an elvish spindle here, just a medieval one, but it seemed a convenient example of a spindle I thought looked elegant and beautiful but not elvish

And yeah, that was my hangup as well manv - but I do think imagining them as skills rather than professions makes it easier to imagine them doing so, and I wasn't sure if you meant it was hard to imagine the actual act or the profession or both
User avatar
caedmon
Balku'npâ
Posts: 838
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:30 am
Location: Palmer Alaska

Re: Elven spinning

Post by caedmon »

Manveruon wrote: Yes, I would also tend to agree with this, for sure. I mostly meant that I sometimes find it hard to imagine elves doing those sorts of jobs, more than any of those necessarily being their primary profession.
I don't know, seems like Elven society is stratified, at least among the Elves of Mirkwood, there are elven jailers and butlers, as well as nobles and royalty.

How that plays out for immortal beings? Seems rather limiting, and unfulfilling after a few millennia. But that's also from a 21st c. American perspective. If that's just how life is, maybe it's not the burden I see.
-Jack Horner

----------------------------
Impression: Boater Wesman ( Balku'npâ Adúnerama ) bronze founder living in Archet, Breelander of mixed dúnedain descent. c. 3017
Post Reply