Mithril Awards

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Name: Mithril Awards
Date(s): 2003-2006
Frequency: annual
Format: judged, with some voted categories
Type: fic
Associated Community:
Fandom: Tolkien
URL: (2003-2004), livejournal
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The Mithril Awards for Tolkien fanfiction, fanpoetry and critical essays were founded in 2003[1] by Eledhwen, Janet Elizabeth Swainston, Khazar and Tavia. They are believed to be the first awards for online fanworks in the fandom. The awards were named for the silver-like mithril. Their aim was "to honour excellence in fiction, poetry and critical essays relating to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and other works by JRR Tolkien."[2] They subsequently ran in 2004 and 2005/2006.

They were primarily awards judged by a panel of fans. There were also several voted categories in the 2003 and 2004 award years.


The idea of an annual categorised awards system in the Tolkien fandom was first proposed on the Henneth Annûn YahooGroups mailing list by Tavia in February 2003. Discussions revived on 11 March 2003 on the Henneth Annûn list and initially involved Adrienne, Ainaechoiriel, Arwen Lune, Isabeau of Greenlea, Janet Elizabeth Swainston, Khazar, Tavia, and others. The original proposal was to link the awards with the Henneth Annûn list and/or its (then) associated archive, the Henneth Annûn Story Archive. However, a poll at the Henneth Annûn list showed that the great majority of list members did not wish to have awards associated with either the list or the archive, and discussions moved to a separate awards list on YahooGroups by 16 March 2003.[3]

An awards committee of Eledhwen, Janet Elizabeth Swainston, Khazar and Tavia was formed. Narie designed the awards website, which was hosted by Tavia.


Banner for Best story focusing on Men (2003)

599 works were nominated across 22 judged categories, including categories for source text, genre, characterisation and Middle-earth race. There were five voted categories.[4]

For the results, see Mithril Awards/2003


Over 750 works were nominated across 26 judged categories. Poetry was split into three categories, the Fellowship category was replaced by Characterisation – ensemble, and Gapfiller and Characterisation – minor character were introduced. In the voted categories, Gen was split into three (Character piece, Drama/action adventure and Humour), increasing the total to seven. A semifinals stage was introduced.[5]





The 2005/2006 awards were run by Eledhwen and Khazar at a new Mithril Awards website (now defunct). There were 24 judged categories with no voted categories. The Characterisation – ensemble and Poetry – comic or light judged categories were discontinued. [6]




The Mithril Awards LiveJournal community includes an announcement that sought feedback on past awards so that the 2007 awards could begin. Nothing further is posted to the community about the awards, however, nor are they included on the Mithril Awards website.[7] It seems the 2007 awards did not run.

Controversies and the Award's Ending

The Mithril Awards generated controversy during their tenure. While Alcanazar identifies "health issues in the family" and the need for "more people in the executive committee to keep things rolling when one or two members are unable to contribute" as the reasons why the awards did not continue,[7] numerous critiques and chronic wank about the awards may have contributed to the decision not to continue the awards (and the difficulty the awards seems to have experienced in finding volunteers, both as administrators and as judges).

Critiques of the Mithril Awards primarily focused on the awards' tendency to depict themselves as arbiters of quality when, in fact, only a handful of judges made decisions concerning who advanced and placed in the awards. Tolkien fanfic author Sulriel wrote in a 2007 thread about improving the Mithril Awards:

I think you are trying to straddle the fence between fandom and professionalism in a way that - after how many years - doesn't look like it's going to work.
the criteria for your judges are simply that someone is willing to volunteer, yet the results are touted to be 'the best'. ... and so, at least in my mind, as I can't speak for anyone else - it's simply not possible for you to deliver what you claim. You continually set yourself up for contention and failure.
I think that if you would slide one way or the other, that these awards would be more accepted by the general fandom.[7]

In the past, the awards had faced accusations of a lack of transparency, changing policies mid-award, and not following their own rules for giving awards. In 2004, Tolkien fanfic author and archive owner Marigold was invited to be a judge. In a post on her LiveJournal, Marigold described the intentions behind accepting the judge's position:

I joined their Yahoo list this year with the intention of being a fair and impartial judge. I had been asked to do so by several people who felt that I could be trusted to be honest about what went on, that if I said that things were in fact aboveboard they would accept my word on the matter, and that they weren’t recognized last year because others were simply better.[8]

Marigold proceeds to outline a number of problems that she observed with the awards process, claiming, "Now that I have been on their Yahoo list, and know how they operate, I have since declined to have anything to do with these awards."[8] From Marigold's LiveJournal post:

  • In 2003, the awards claimed that stories were shortlisted at least in part on the basis of nominations. Partway through the awards, the administration decided to change this rule; Marigold claims it was on the basis of only two or three "proven cases" of ballot-stuffing: "What they decided to do instead was to have the fics screened by one or two screeners. If these one or two people didn’t like your fic, it was not passed on to be shortlisted. That was it." This change in rules was not communicated to the public, according to Marigold. Part of Marigold's concern with the lack of communication is that many writers "assumed, as well they might, that it was a large number of people in the fandom that chose not to recognize their work." She also expressed concern that fewer than ten people had to read a story in order for it to be pronounced a winner.
  • Lengthy stories were sometimes shortlisted without being read in full.
  • Although works-in-progress were not eligible, in 2003, three works-in-progress won awards.
  • Marigold claims that she was contacted off-list by awards administrators, telling her to keep her questions and opinions to herself about the awards: "I asked many questions on the list, something that several people involved do not seem to like. These people were quite rude, e-mailing me off list and telling me to mind my own business, and worse."

In a LiveJournal post later that same day, Marigold claims that she was being attacked for her post on the Mithril Awards' mailing list. She quotes another Tolkien fanfic writer, E.W./Hope Hoover, who dismisses Marigold's criticism of the awards and asserts she was "trying to find fuel to feed the little band of insecure, malcontented sycophants that crowd sround your feet for petting."[9] In another thread discussing the incident on the LiveJournal community fanfic_hate, an anonymous commenter claims that E.W. has no official position within the Mithril Awards.[10] Marigold later claims to have been banned from the Mithril Awards mailing list, based on a retroactively applied rule forbidding the quoting of content from the mailing list.[11]

Others contended that the Mithril Awards showed favoritism toward authors from the Henneth Annûn Story Archive and Henneth Annûn mailing list, which some people seemed to believe were unofficially affiliated despite official claims that they were not.[12] Isabeau of Greenlea offers numerical evidence that, while HASA stories may have been nominated more often than stories from other archives, they did not win at higher rates; in fact, other archives fared much better in the winners' results.[13] Others asserted that the awards showed favoritism toward writers of Elves and explicit bias toward writers of Hobbits.[14]


  1. ^ Accessed November 9, 2008
  2. ^ Mithril Awards: Index (accessed 9 February 2011)
  3. ^ Henneth Annûn mailing list archive
  4. ^ Mithril Awards: 2003 report (16 January 2004) (accessed 9 February 2011)
  5. ^ Mithril Awards: Award Winners 2004 (accessed 9 February 2011)
  6. ^ Mithril Awards: 2005 Final Results (accessed 9 February 2011)
  7. ^ a b c What's wrong with the Mithril Awards?, mithrilawards LiveJournal community (accessed 25 November 2017).
  8. ^ a b On My Soapbox :), by marigoldg (Marigold) on LiveJournal (accessed 25 November 2017).
  9. ^ Friends, see what all of you are :), by marigoldg (Marigold) on LiveJournal (accessed 25 November 2017).
  10. ^ Lord of the Rings, Re: An error in a Mithril Winning fic?! Surely not! (thread), on the fanfic_hate LiveJournal community.
  11. ^ Banned from the Mithrils List!, by marigoldg (Marigold) on LiveJournal (accessed 25 November 2017).
  12. ^ Lord of the Rings, And getting a Mithril Award is hardly an accolade (thread), on the fanfic_hate LiveJournal community (accessed 25 November 2017).
  13. ^ Lord of the Rings, Re: And getting a Mithril Award is hardly an accolade (thread), by Isabeau of Greenlea on the fanfic_hate LiveJournal community (accessed 25 November 2017).
  14. ^ Lord of the Rings, Re: Clutching at straws now! (thread), on the fanfic_hate LiveJournal community (accessed 26 November 2017).