The Secret Lives of Redheads: Amrod and Amras

Author's admission: All of my life I have had a fondness for redheads. After first reading The Lord of the Rings in February of 2002, my first question (after 'why didn't I read this earlier in life?') was: 'Why aren't there any redheads in this amazing world of Middle-earth? Tolkien must not have been fond of them!' Doing some research, however, I have found that in fact there were some 'russet-tops' to be found. These are two, and I am sure there are more to be found.

Notes contained in brackets within quotes are Christopher Tolkien's editorial notes.

Amrod and Amras were Noldorian twin Elves who lived during the First Age, the final two sons of seven born to Fëanor and Nerdanel. As sons of Fëanor, they joined in uttering the oath to retrieve the Silmarils and so were bound to the tragedies that followed. They followed Fëanor and their five brothers through their journeys and wars: to the Firth of Drengist after seizing the ships they had stolen from the Teleri, leaving Fingolfin and the great Elven host at the Helcaraxë; enduring Fëanor's death; fortifying the camp at Hithlum during Maedhros' captivity at Angband; joining Maedhros at Dagor Aglareb, the Glorious Battle; then settling in Eastern Beleriand, for the most part resisting the four hundred year siege of Angbad, becoming hunters near the borders of Doriath. During the fourth great battle of Beleriand, Dagor Bragollach, they retreated to Amon Ereb joined by their brother Caranthir. They were both killed at Arvernien at the mouths of the Sirion, joining Maedhros and Maglor in a final attempt to redeem their oath and take the Silmaril which Elwing possessed. Early in The Silmarillion they are described thus: "…the youngest Amrod and Amras, who were twin brothers, alike in mood and face. In later days they were great hunters in the woods of Middle-earth;…"

Not only are they unique in that they are twins, but their very names belie another highly unusual trait among the primarily dark haired, grey eyed Noldo: they have red hair. According to The History of Middle Earth, Vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle Earth, the twins may even have been identical. Below is an extended quotation which reveals Tolkien's explanation for their names, which were originally Ambarto (which was then changed again to Umbarto and back again) and Ambarussa.

If their own mother was willing to give them the same name, and they called each other by the same name, I conjecture that they were identical twins. There is a snippet of a story regarding their death during the tragedy of the Kinslaying which will be referenced later, but it appears that even as Tolkien was naming these twins of Fëanor some story to do with the ill-omened name of Umbarto was simmering in his mind. One key aspect about these two that I have not yet been able to discover is when Tolkien changed their names from Ambarussa and Umbarto to Amras and Amrod, unless the latter names are Sindarin conversions from Quenya, but in looking at an abridged Sindarin dictionary, this does not appear to be the case.

These two with red hair apparently are not as unique as they might first appear to be, per this phrase and others: "the first and last of Nerdanel's children had the reddish hair of her kin" (emphasis mine) Tolkien elaborates on Nerdanel's father, who has two different names: Mahtan is the more common, and the one used in the 1977 published version of The Silmarillion, but his other name was Urundil. Again, per HoME XII:

Given these tantalizing hints, there could easily have been a line of Noldorian Elves who had hair of auburn and red, unnamed within the countless thousands of the First Born.

Sadly, as with all of the sons of Fëanor (save Curufin, whose son Celebrimbor became the most famous Elven-smith), Amrod and Amras never married and never had children. Given how unique Tolkien made these two red-haired twins, one wonders why he didn't give them a more prominent role in the story of The Silmarillion. Though Maglor is said to be the most even-tempered of Fëanor's sons, there is no indication that Amrod and Amras were instigators of any of the tragic events in which they participated; indeed, being the youngest sons, they were probably driven the most out of a sense of familial duty.

Tolkien originally saw their story differently, however, according to HoME XII:

This fascinating story that didn't make Tolkien's final cut provides multiple insights into these twins that cannot be culled from The Silmarillion as it was published. Amras, the youngest son of F'anor, is stealing a boat from under his father's nose to return to Valinor, thinking that his father's actions are too extreme and he can no longer follow? And Amrod, sharing those feelings, but being left behind or choosing to stay, either action separating him from his twin? Either choice Amrod made was very uncommon, and highly unlikely between identical twins, who often create their own language as infants and have an uncanny ability to sense each other's moods. So why didn't Tolkien pursue this storyline? Maybe it added one too many elements of tragedy to the House of Fëanor, or maybe it simply didn't attract his attention and he removed these dually unique red-haired twins more to the background, caught up in other eddies of the stories of the First Age.

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