Tolkien Gateway:Canon policy

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Canon policy is Tolkien Gateway's policy on how to deal with conflicting canon. The current policy was summarised by User:Mith:

It is not - and can not - be our place to decide what is canon and what is not. This incurs too many value judgements on our part and opens us up to too much criticism. Certain things are canonical, certain things are not, and there is a lot of grey. The best we can do is admit the situation is grey. For articles in the grey we can have a "Canonicity" section. And that could list, dispassionately, arguments for and against.


Canon is a concept which cannot be uniformly applied to J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium. As Wayne G. Hammond put it,

[...] there are Tolkien's latest thoughts, his best thoughts, and his published thoughts and these are not necessarily the same.

A consistent Tolkien "canon" could only exist if a group or an individual decided what should be considered "canon" and what should not. For Tolkien Gateway editors to make such judgements would be for them to project their own views on such matters, thus violating the principles of an encyclopaedia. The search of objectivity can only reveal that Tolkien's thoughts on particular concepts changed over the course time for various reasons.

There are many famous inconsistencies in Tolkien's personal writings. For instance, while working on his legendarium Tolkien considered two very different accounts of the origins of Celeborn: in one version he was a kinsman of Thingol living in Doriath, where he met Galadriel;[2] in another writing, Celeborn was a Teler of Alqualondë where he met Galadriel.[3] Since neither of those versions were established in his published works during Tolkien's lifetime, Tolkien Gateway should favour neither version of events and both should be presented and explained to the reader.


Tolkien Gateway's current canon policy was decided at a community meeting in July 2012:

  • Tolkien Gateway editors should not judge what is canon and what is not.
  • While the "History" section of an article combines a more coherent narrative, the early or contradictory versions of the subject are discussed on "Other versions of the legendarium" section.
  • Only concepts not created by Tolkien (i.e. those created for adaptations) should be considered "non-canon". Template:Adaptation should be applied to these articles.

Former policy

It should be noted that the Tolkien Gateway's former policy was to attempt to reconcile inconsistencies in order to produce a consistent canon.[4] The content of many articles will still reflect this old policy whilst they await a rewrite.


  1. Wayne G. Hammond, "A Continuing and Evolving Creation", in Tolkien's Legendarium, ed. by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter (New York: Greenwood Press, 2000)
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Return of the Noldor"; J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn"
  4. "Tolkien Gateway:Canon" dated 4 November 2011, Tolkien Gateway (accessed 8 August 2012)