Nerdanel's Story. by Istarnie
Chapter One: MÃriel.
(Disclaimer: All of the characters are JRR TolkienÂ’s. All references are from The Silmarillion, or HoME Volumes 1, 3, 10, 11 and 12. Nothing is mine, except the interpretation and any mistakes.)
With thanks to Bellemaine and to Eru_Melin.
Â“Her father, Mahtan, was a great smith, and among those of the Noldor most dear to the heart of AulÃ«. Of Mahtan Nerdanel learned much of crafts that women of the Noldor seldom used: the making of things of metal and stone.Â’
(The later Quenta Silmarillion. HoME 10 MorgothÂ’s Ring JRR Tolkien. HarperCollins Ed 2002 p 272)
The house of Sarmo Urundil. Seventh Age.
I used to stand by the window of our room in the high tower of our home in Tirion. I used to stand and watch to the west when I knew, from our bond of fÃ«ar, that he was returning from a journey. Always would I hurry to give him welcome for, particularly when he and our sons had been away on long exploration, I would be delighted at the prospect of our reunion. And for a time upon his return would I alone claim his interest. Happy years were they.
When they all went into exile, when my lord and our sons went into the north to build the fortress of Formenos, I oft looked hence from my room in the high tower of my fatherÂ’s house. But a poor view had I from that location, as to the north the foothills of the mountains obscure the vista. My sons rode forth at times to pay me visit. But ever loyal to their father were they that their company was less frequent than I wished. It was MakalaurÃ«, Carnistir and the twins whom I saw most often. Tyelkormo I saw not at all.
Then, when they all left this land in the darkness on that second, that most dread exile, I said my Â‘farewellsÂ’ to each of them – but I could not watch them depart.
When we again had light, the bright light of VÃ¡sa, I oft stood atop the turret of the high tower of my fatherÂ’s house, looking into the east. Though by then I knew that my lord was slain, that our youngest son had perished, I still had hope for the remaining six and for Tyelpinquar – until EÃ¤rendil set foot in Aman.
There came the time when the Valar allowed the return of the exiles from the Hither Lands. After the War of Wrath many of those so exiled return with the armies of the Vanyar and those Noldor led by King ArafinwÃ«. I went with my mother, to the harbour that was then being built upon Tol EressÃ«a. Cloaked and hooded we went; that it was not obvious to all whom we were. It would not have done for those returning to see amongst their first sights of the West, the wife of he who had led them to such tribulation.
Though I believed that only my two eldest sons lived, neither of them returned with the fleet. So fell was the news that my husbandÂ’s youngest brother, our king, brought word to me himself rather than send a messenger.
Maitimo was dead – having killed again to seize a Silmaril from the camp of EonwÃ«, and then cast himself and the jewel into a fiery chasm in utter despair.
None truly knew what had befallen MakalaurÃ«; save he had taken the last Silmaril, but then cast it into the sea Â– it having burnt and scared his hands most terribly. Some few even said he had cast himself into the waters and drowned. Yet rumours had persisted that he had wandered to the northern shores, though none made specific claim to have seen him.
Throughout that Second Age I still looked to the east, for the return of MakalaurÃ« or of my grandson. It was never to happen.
Not that I was the only one to suffer grievous disappointment. Many were to realise the fate of those from whom they had been sundered was to bide long in the halls of NÃ¡mo Mandos. Bide long the slain of the Noldor did, save a few such as the Lords Glorfindel and Ecthelion, and Prince FindarÃ¡to.
Yet now have all returned from the Hither Lands, and very many returned from the care of Mandos that it seems I alone am still bereaved. Prince FindekÃ¡no returned of late to his motherÂ’s people, and now dwells upon Tol EressÃ«a. They say that TurukÃ¡no will also soon return. That AnairÃ«Â’s eldest son walks in the land of the living should renew my expectancy. Yet it does but make me ponder. Though the Valar understand my pain, for the good of all the Noldor they can never allow any son of FÃ«anÃ¡ro to be restored, to greet again of his mother in the Realm of Aman.
Â“Though you do no wrong in seeking an end to your grief, yet I believe that the higher path is to endure your vigilÂ” Istyaro tells me. Â“Some things are hidden in the will of IlÃºvatar, that we know not all that may transpire. And the Valar look less willingly upon those who would be restored, having once chosen to lay down their life in hrÃ¶a.Â”
My learned friend from old has a very good point! Who is to say that if I chose to depart, one of my sons might not then be granted restoration? Who is to say that MakalaurÃ« may not Â– at last – find his way home?
Who truly knows, save for Eru?
If the Valar are yet compassionate, and what is told by those restored is true – that great love binds fÃ«ar even in that place of Mandos – I could again be with my sons – be with some of them, at a time of my choosing. Mayhap could I even be with he whom I abandoned? Mayhap that will be my choice?
But not yet!
No more watching from windows for those who do not return. No more crafting! It is time to finally put away my works of sculpting, to take up my pen to do battle with MoringothoÂ’s legacy – to set down in script those memories that are my glory and my shame.
– – – – – – –
I was born in the Year of the Trees 1180, during that time when many of the Eldar first began the bearing of children. Prince Finwion Â– FÃ«anÃ¡ro – first begotten in Aman, was himself born late in the previous year. Following the lead of their king, the Noldor began to again seek increase to their numbers. Yet all was not as joyful as it should have been; for in the bearing of FÃ«anÃ¡ro, Queen MÃriel became consumed in hrÃ¶a and in fÃ«a. She yearned from that time forth for release from life. That was the first sorrow to enter the Blessed Realm, and at it many wondered.
My father, Sarmo Urundil, also known in some writings as Mahtan, gave me the name Nerdanel. He is still a great craftsman amongst the Noldor being foremost in the regard of the Vala, AulÃ«. Though my father has a most stern streak of temperament, and is sometimes brusque with his apprentices, yet has he always loved me dearly and sought of my happiness. Only to be expected it was that he wished to bring two of his greatest loves together; so from him was I given tutelage in those skills of metal and stone that are rare amongst nissi.
IstarniÃ« was the name given me by my mother, TaurlotÃ«. Always, does she say, she hoped for a wise and knowledgeable daughter. Wisdom and patience are characteristics she has always valued highly. From her it was that I was given much understanding of the history and lore of our people, and skill in the tending of plants. My mother has a love of learning, of knowledge of many kinds. I remember her joy in sharing with me the early works of the sage, RÃºmil, who was the first to develop a written script. She also loves the stars and would, when the mood was upon her, wander with me to the seashores where we would spend long ages together watching the sky. There would she tell me of the starlit Hither Lands, to the east of the seas, whence she and my father had originally come – the memory of which was imbedded in her heart. In the service of Varda do I think my mother would have been most happy. But a true Noldo is she, who likes making things of her own cunning. When I was a child she would draw and paint the likenesses of the Valar in the physical forms they oft appeared to us. She would make carvings in stone, small sculptures for the most part, but lifelike to behold. So were my earliest works mostly imitations of hers, in drawing and painting and sculpting.
We lived then as we do now, in a sprawling collection of houses clustered at the western end of the Calacirya near the foothills of the PelÃ³ri Mountains: the dwellings of the Aulenduri. AulÃ« was ever the friend and helper of all the Noldor, but we were among those families who had entered his service. From him we received instruction in the lore of metalwork, stonework, and the crafting of gems – in weaving and shaping of wood and the tilling of the land. My fatherÂ’s good service since his arrival in Aman had ensured he was most dear to AulÃ«. He was oft a guest in the halls of that mighty Vala. My mother and I would, when chance allowed, accompany him there. Thus, from my earliest memories, was I familiar with some few of the Valar and Maiar.
I loved AulÃ«: his pleasure in works of skill, his desire to make things new and unheard of. Mostly I loved the way he – one of the Great Ones – gave praise and counsel to others, and listened to them in turn. He listened most attentively to my fatherÂ’s setting forth of plans and devices. Indeed, there has only ever been one whom AulÃ« loved and listened to more than Urundil.
Now rarely was the work of the Aulenduri disturbed, but given the location of our dwellings, as well as the requirements of our expertise by others, some visitors we inevitably had. Near times of festival our visitors were oft the highborn lords and ladies of our people, whose estates lay on the edge of Eldamar and Valinor and who were travelling to and from the fair city of Tirion. Sometimes would they halt to request of refreshment from us. At other times would they seek to take rest in the many roomed house provided for that purpose. Then it was that the neri would take of opportunity to discuss works of craft with my father and his leading apprentice, Narwasar. Though of nature were my father and our artisans reluctant to leave of their pursuits, yet was the welcoming of others a most noble duty. Despite his brusqueness, my father could be patience itself when explaining his craft to any who showed genuine interest.
My mother and our servants took upon themselves the main task of offering hospitality, so my father be not disturbed save at great need. From the first I could walk I sought to give aid to my mother in that service, though out of curiosity as well as a desire to be considerate. Fiercely proud yet beautiful to look upon were our lords and ladies, and a most intriguing sight were their colourful cavalcades to me as a young maid. I would eagerly watch their approach – and when they left I would rush up the many flights of stairs to watch of their departure from my widow until they were but specks against the distant green hill of TÃºna.
During those visits, while the lords were occupied with my father, my mother and I spent time with their ladies. Strange did I find their lack of interest in smith craft. Strange, no doubt, did many a lady find me, and though they would attempt to speak with me of broidery, herbs and plants, yet did they look perplexed when I turned conversation to sculpting.
Â“What an unusual hÃna, Lady TaurlotÃ«! So knowledgeable for her years; yet think you not she dwells overmuch in the forge?Â”
Â“Nerdanel is as Eru intends her to be. (All did bow their heads at the use of that name.) My lord Urundil does but encourage her natural inclinations, as do IÂ”
Most of the ladies would smile kindly upon me at hearing such words from my mother, but some few would continue to view me as an oddity. Once I heard what I was not meant to, and that from a lady of aloof elegance speaking to her maid:
Â“The child of this house has unnatural interests Â– but, as she has no great beauty to enthral the lords of the city, it will be no loss for her to find her place working amongst the stone masons.Â”
No great beauty! Do not all of the Eldar, all of the Quendi, possess beauty? Does it not draw us; inspire us in our thoughts and deeds? Yet beauty is not only of the kind that meets the eye. I had not thought of myself as beautiful or otherwise until that moment. But never had I heard any speak thus of another. That fine ladyÂ’s words so stung me that I hurried up the stairs to my room, where I examined my features in the mirror upon the wall.
So for the first time I made thorough study of myself, as if I would later make sketch. My hair was a touch unruly when un-braided and it had a will of its own in whether it would curl or no. My eyes were just a little smaller, a little more almond of shape than some would wish for; my mouth was somewhat small, though well curved were my lips. I knew not how I was expected to appear to meet that high ladyÂ’s criteria, but experimented with varying expressions and arrangements of hair until, after at least half of one hour, my mother found me so doing.
Moving aside the russet and green tapestry cushions, she sat upon the coverlet of my bed and spoke most gently to me.
Â“Do not confuse high-born blood with nobility, daughter, though most times do both go together. Yet some of our lords and our ladies have more arrogance – more ignorance – than is good for them.Â”
Wise words they were, from one who knew the noblest, the most beautiful of our ladies as a childhood friend, and had been amongst her companions on the great march.
Â“Beauty is important,Â” she continued, Â“but those who make comment upon what they perceive from a few momentsÂ’ glance are somewhat immature, do you not think? Nobler are they who seek to praise, rather than to belittle. Those who are truly beautiful think little of it.Â”
Â“That I understand, motherÂ” I had sought to reassure her that I was not overly distressed. Â“And I hope I am learning to know true nobility and beauty when I see it.Â”
She had smiled in return, but sought to reassure me all the same. Â“Though in appearance you make no impression upon that lady, yet are you beautiful, Nerdanel.Â”
But she was my mother! I would not have expected her to say otherwise.
Though neither my mother nor I travelled to the city in the days of my childhood, we knew a little of what transpired in Tirion. My father would travel there himself six times a year, or more often should the king summon him. A few of the Aulenduri had set up a small enclave within the city walls, to be at hand for the immediate requirement of the kingÂ’s house as well as of others. Amongst them were my fatherÂ’s sisterÂ’s family. So were we kept informed of the desires and delights of those seeking to build new dwellings or to make decoration of their existing ones. Also were we informed of the marriages and births amongst the folk with whom we were aquatinted. All of the Aulenduri knew of the most disconcerting news – the weakness endured by our queen – and of the fast growing reputation of the son she sacrificed so much to bear.
Â“It is said that the young Finwion has much of the look of MÃriel about him,Â” my mother had commented one instance at late meal. The first comment I was to consciously hear of him, it was.
My father, who had recently returned from a visit with King FinwÃ«, had nodded in agreement.
Â“So I have observed, TaurlotÃ«. Though dark of hair is he, like unto his father. I met him but once. Swift of thought and word is he for a child. OnÃ³non has begun tutoring him in smith craft, Tulcavaryar in sport and the hunt and Niecarindo in lore. He holds much promise, I deem, to have the skills of both his parents, and a great love of knowledge.Â”
Â“And great impetuousness and temper too, it is said – that MÃriel named him FÃ«anÃ¡ro!Â”
My father made a wry expression that suggested there was some truth to this mother-name of insight. Â“OnÃ³non said that he finds the prince – challenging!Â”
But FinwÃ« was a strong king who commanded great respect. We thought he would also be a strong and guiding father. No need had we to be overly concerned with the Â‘Spirit of FireÂ’sÂ’ seemingly complex nature. The children of the Eldar are normally most biddable, and Prince FinwionÂ’s parents would assuredly teach him of restraint, as he grew older.
Now, there was one time when Tolfaen, the renowned Teleri silversmith, paid us visit at my fatherÂ’s request. He stayed at our house for several days as honoured guest, rather than in the separate dwelling. I liked him well; for he was very different in appearance and demeanour from the apprentices whose company I was used to. Gently spoken was he, though enthusiastic when talking of the skills he had learnt from the Maia, Salmar. On one particular occasion did he call me Â‘Nerdanel the WiseÂ’, for the vast amount of my childish Â‘wisdomÂ’ I freely bestowed upon him; and he gave me a necklace made from seashells. (Though of nature am I one to listen carefully to others, yet in my younger days could I talk overmuch to those whom I esteemed.) Most knowledgeable was he that my father – who preferred working with copper – sought to learn more of silver craft from him. A friend of my parents from that time forth, Tolfaen was to visit with them many times in the following years, and even to offer me an apprenticeship in the skills of the Teleri smiths.
So it was that we lived fairly quietly in the days of my childhood. I was most content with the life that had been granted me. Then, when I was almost two years of age, King FinwÃ« himself came to visit.
– – – – – – –
Now as is well known, the stonemasons of the Noldor quarrying to find marble with which to build, had come across those gifts of AulÃ«, those gems of the earth whose radiance so enchants us. Freely we gave of them to each other and oft to the Teleri, with whom we had a deep friendship. It was in answer to the prayers of our king that Ulmo brought the Teleri into the west in the first place. My parents said that there had been rejoicing amongst our people when those of the third kindred had, at last, set foot upon these shores. Not so long before I was born, my parents had themselves given aid in building the Swan Haven, the city of AlqualondÃ« for King OlwÃ«. (Alas for the horror that befell that friendship, for the abomination of Teleri blood spilt by the Noldor – by my family!) But, at the time I would write of, work had been undertaken amongst the Aulenduri of crafting the most impressive of the gems into fine jewellery. There was to be a gift of one friend to another, a gift from FinwÃ« to OlwÃ«. To see what progress my father had made with that work was the reason for our guestÂ’s presence.
My mother spoke to me with thinly veiled concern, however. Â“This visit is as much an attempt to bring some lightness of heart back to our queen,Â” she had whispered. Â“Look to the needs of Queen MÃriel, as will I. For I fear that she may be beyond cheering and, valiant though her heart is, she is without strength or joy.Â”
So young I was, so innocent of the world about me. To me, life was joy: the pursuit of knowledge, delight in creating, wandering this Blessed Realm in wonder at the gifts given to us. The visit of Queen MÃriel altered my perceptions somewhat.
As the kingÂ’s party approached along the avenue of oaks and elms, dismounted from their horses and crossed the circular courtyard before our house, I had made to stand beside my mother near the door of the main hall, to await a formal introduction. My first sight of the king, at the head of the group, was of a tall, lithe figure, broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, whose hair of silken black fell loose to his waist. Garbed was he in a tunic of white, embroidered with thread of silver and gold, that reached to mid-thigh, over pale grey trousers. His leather belt was embossed with silver and sapphires; grey leather boots were upon his feet and a plain silver circlet upon his brow. Never had I seen a lord I thought to be so dignified, so commanding. But it was his eyes – thoughtful, powerful grey-blue eyes – that drew my attention, so I noticed neither his entourage nor almost the lady at his side. Yet as the group entered the main door; no doubt did I have that lady was his queen, for it was to her those grey-blue eyes most frequently glanced, and with the light of love in their depths.
Though my mother had oft spoke to me of MÃriel it was my first sight of her, also. Slender, and delicate of form for a Noldo was she, though most regal in demeanour and beautiful to behold. Her hair, confined in a net of small opals, was unusual in colour, like unto shimmering silver. The sapphire blue gown that she wore that day was overworked with elaborate silver designs amongst which were set further gems. And it was whispered by FailiÃ«, who stood behind me, that MÃriel had made the designs herself! A queen she was, embroidering her own gowns! But then, there were never any who could compete with MÃriel ÃžerendÃ« in finesse of hand at embroidery.
Yet weary did Queen MÃriel look. It seemed to me that her heart was heavy indeed. She stood at the side of her lord, speaking softly to all of those who greeted her. She smiled briefly, but most radiantly at my mother! But before my father had finished his introductions or could escort the king and queen to our great hall, she drew aside. Asking leave of her lord, then gesturing for her ladies to leave her be, she walked out of the entrance hall towards the gardens. My mother nodded to me, so it was that we both followed discreetly. Was it not what my mother had feared would come to pass?
We were not to speak with King FinwÃ« at that time, nor hear the exchange concerning the progress of the gifts for OlwÃ«, my mother and I. Neither were we to hear FinwÃ«Â’s long account to my father of his pleasure in the fast growing skills of his beloved son, who had seemingly chosen not to accompany his parents on that particular visit.
(After the king had left, my father told us all that was said. He told us he had been apprehensive King FinwÃ« would ask of him to oversee the instruction of his son, who, it appeared, was still proving challenging to OnÃ³non. Though my father would have done whatever FinwÃ« asked of him he was not overly enthused about having the strong willed, hot-tempered prince as an apprentice, no matter how promising he was.)
Â“You need not be concerned. I will but take a short rest here, for the fragrance of your garden is a pleasing tonic unto me.Â” The delicate enunciation of MÃriel greeted us as we rounded the corner of the walled pleasance.
My mother made a curtsy gesturing for me to do likewise, but the queen waved that the gesture was unnecessary. She and my mother had been friends in their youth. It seemed she would have no unnecessary ceremony from TaurlotÃ«.
Confident of their relationship, my mother spoke familiarly in response. Â“I am concerned for you, MÃriel,Â” said she, taking a seat in the bower opposite our guest. Â“You have a steadfastness about you, but it is not a form that springs from true hope – only from resignation. I wish to be of assistance, if you will but so permit?Â”
MÃriel smiled faintly. But then she fixed her brilliant eyes upon me that I could see of the stubborn strength within her fÃ«a. Weak in body, consumed by giving birth to such a son, they said; yet as I watched her expressions, her movements, I saw how unassailable she was in spirit.
Â“There are none who can help me. What I desire must wait yet awhile,Â” she mused. Then, breaking the intensity of her gaze upon me, she turned again to address my mother. Â“So this is your daughter, TaurlotÃ«?Â”
Â“Yes; forgive me, my queen. This is my daughter – Nerdanel.Â” My mother spoke with a pride that warmed me, bringing a smile to my face. I had nothing to be ashamed of, to be concerned for. MÃriel was kindness itself. She smiled back at me in a thoughtful manner.
Â“Such rare colouring! Her hair is of a most unusual brown. It seems to have the odd streak of red lurking in its depths. I have not noticed such hair colour before,Â” she observed.
Â“Has that not oft been said of you, MÃriel? Most rare is silver hair amongst the Noldor.Â”
Â“Unknown is copper-brown hair amongst the Eldar, save for your husband and his sister,Â” MÃriel countered immediately.
My mother smiled at having drawn so swift a response. Â“Nerdanel has the colouring of her father, it is true, though of a far more muted tone. The glint of redness is only lit to flame in the full light of Laurelin.Â” She beckoned for me to sit next to her, and then raised a hand to stroke my hair as if it were something most precious to her. Â“That is not all she has inherited from Urundil. She has skill with stonework that makes him proud, though it is a little unusual in a wendÃ« to have such interests.Â”
I coloured with emotion, as was my nature, at my motherÂ’s words and I was concerned that the hue of my face was matching the red glints in my hair. Strong emotions were always hard for me to hide. One had but to look to my complexion to see what I felt in my heart. But, high lady though she was, MÃriel did not seem to find this unbecoming. She appeared to behold me with ever more esteem.
Â“Your mother says she wishes to assist me. Do you also wish to be of help, little maid?Â”
There was the sound of sudden laughter, and we three turned abruptly to see what the commotion was about. But it was only the neri, crossing the courtyard to the forge. They would be examining the quality of the work done for FinwÃ«, and we could be excused yet awhile.
Â“I will help, if I can, my queen!Â” I brought MÃrielÂ’s attention back to the moment.
Â“Ai, yes! Then there is something I would ask of you. Something that, with the skill your mother speaks of, you could do for me.Â”
Â“Willingly!Â” I had replied. Though little did I know to what that response would lead.
Â“Craft something for me – a sculpture, something from stone that I may admire. Make me something of life and of joy as you perceive it, and I will gift you in return.Â”
I was startled at the request, as well as at her generous offer of a gift. How could I make something fitting? MÃriel was talented far beyond the likes of me. But I would not dishonour my father, or the skills he had taught me. So I curtseyed to her.
Â“That I shall do, my queen. I will start straight away.Â”
MÃriel laughed openly, a sweetly musical sound that brought more animation to her face than I had previously seen. She was so very beautiful, I thought.
Â“Such eagerness in one so young! Wait at least until this visit is over. For will there not be feasting and singing and dancing to come?Â”
Putting a hand upon my shoulder, my mother spoke for and to me. Â“Indeed there shall be. And my daughter shall be part of it, though she would prefer to be making study, or out wandering in the hills.Â”
MÃriel nodded thoughtfully, but there was a strange look in her eyes. Â“All to the good.Â” she whispered, and leant forward to me. Â“But life is for happiness with others, also. Do not shut yourself away, little maid. Now, you shall send me my gift as soon as you may. And it will be something to lift my heart; I have no doubt. My gift you may not have, I think, for a year or more. Though it will be something most precious,Â” she added enigmatically.
We took a stroll around the pleasance, through the formal garden, the rose garden and on to the orchard, across the stepping-stones that led to my favourite grotto. We spoke of other matters, of memories of childhood shared, of games and dances and festivals. Soon enough, we returned to join the main party. FinwÃ« was to surprise his wife with a necklace that my father had forged in secret, on the kingÂ’s instructions. Sapphires and diamonds shone brilliantly in a setting of finely wrought silver, creating an illusion of stars in a darkened sky. MÃriel smiled, thanking her lord most profusely, but she had again become weakened and her mind was elsewhere by then.
As the queen departed some time later, her eyes sought me out in the crowd of well-wishers. Â“Remember!Â” Her voice was like soft music in my ears. Â“Remember my gift, Nerdanel, and care for it well when you receive it. I shall not make its like twice.Â”
Â‘Embroidery!Â’ I had thought. Â‘It will be a piece of magnificent embroidery that I may show in future times to my own descendents, as an example of the queenÂ’s esteem for me.Â’
I never saw her again. MÃriel died! And her gift? It was not embroidery.
– – – – – – –
MakalaurÃ« Â– Maglor
Carnistir – Caranthir
Tyelkormo Â– Celegorm
Tyelpinquar – Celebrimbor
ArafinwÃ« Â– Finarfin
FindarÃ¡to Â– Finrod
FindekÃ¡no Â– Fingon
TurukÃ¡no – Turgon
AnariÃ« Â– FingolfinÂ’s wife
Maitimo Â– Maedhros
Curvo Â– Curufin
Ambarussa the younger – Amras
Moringotho Â– Morgoth
Finwion Â– Childhood name of FÃ«anor.
Aulenduri – Servants of AulÃ«
NÃs / nissi Â– Adult she-Elf. / she-Elves
HÃna – Child
wendÃ« – girl, young she-Elf
ÃžerendÃ« Â– SerendÃ«. See The Shibboleth of FÃ«anor HoME 10 for FÃ«anorÂ’s insistence on using the original Ãž rather than Â‘sÂ’.
Regarding NerdanelÂ’s hair colour: I canÂ’t find an exact reference to her hair, though in Â‘The Shibboleth of FÃ«anorÂ’ The Peoples of Middle-Earth it says Carnistir had dark brown hair and the ruddy complexion of his mother. I assume from the manner in which this is expressed that she did not have dark brown hair. In The Shibboleth it also says that the first and last of NerdanelÂ’s children (Maitimo and the twins) had the reddish hair of her kin. (p353) (Not necessarily her!) Of her father, Urundil, it is said Â‘ His hair was not as dark or black as was that of most of the Noldor, but brown, and had glints of coppery-red in it.Â’ (p336)
In Â‘The problem of RosÂ’ The Peoples of Middle-Earth it says Â‘Â…referring to red, red-brown hair of the first, sixth and seventh sons of FÃ«anor, descending to them from their maternal grandfather, father of Nerdanel, FÃ«anorÂ’s wife, a great craftsman, devoted to AulÃ«.Â’. (p368)
There is the issue of the epessÃ« given to Urundil of Â‘ruscoÂ’, meaning Â‘foxÂ’, and, of course Russandol, Â‘copper-topÂ’ for Maitimo. The twins name, Ambarussa, is given as Â‘top-russetÂ’.
I have also been told that in the work Â‘Vinya Tengwar: 41Â’ it is stated that Nerdanel has brown hair.
From all of this I am writing as if her hair is a medium brown with some red / copper glints in it. I am assuming that Maitimo and the younger of the twins have UrundilÂ’s colouring. The elder twin is said to grow darker in hair colouring as he grows older. (p355)
Saying all this, I am no expert on Tolkien or on Quenya, so I could well be wrong.
Regarding MÃrielÂ’s hair colour, it says in Â‘The Later Quenta SilmarillionÂ’ MorgothÂ’s Ring, that her hair was like silver. It also says that FÃ«anor in childhood was like his mother in voice and countenance. In all the references I can find, FÃ«anor has raven-dark hair. FinwÃ« is recorded in notes to Â‘The Shibboleth of FÃ«anorÂ’ as having black hair and brilliant grey-blue eyes.(p357)