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Tolkien Gateway > Council > Canonicity

I know that this issue has been debated and discussed before (mainly here and here), but it seems that it never really came to a conclusion - or at least what was decided wasn't wholly enforced. At the moment we have a few different ways by which we highlight articles to show that they're not canon: some are simple 'This is not considered canon', on other pages it's the canon scale. I personally liked the Canon scale discussion and the idea to put a scale on each article. I'd like to see a better set of images to use for the canon scale, and with the <imagemap> extension visitors could click on the image to find out what it means. What are your thoughts on the matter? -- KingAragorn  talk  contribs  edits  email  12:54, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

I always liked the Canon scale, but thought it was outdated. If we're going for it again, we definitely need the <imagemap> idea you're suggesting. Maybe we also need to redefine the scale. -- Ederchil (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 13:18, 12 September 2010 (UTC)
I personally don't like the idea of the clutter at the top of an article (and I agree that the scale is outdated from that respect, although the design is quite nice), but am sort of indifferent to the idea of a canon In any case, ultimately, how do you discuss what is an isn't canon? I imagine if surveyed we'd have different opinions on Celeborn, for example?
I know it's naughty, but I tend to just avoid making edits of canonical ambiguity...
On a side note, you don't need imagemap; you could do this:
John Howe - Icon Dale.pngJohn Howe - Icon Dwarves.pngJohn Howe - Icon Elves.pngJohn Howe - Icon Gondor.pngJohn Howe - Icon Harad.pngJohn Howe - Icon Mordor 2.pngJohn Howe - Icon Rohan.pngJohn Howe - Icon Saruman.png
(Sorry, is that another of those "tricks" I've been keeping to myself?) --Mith (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 17:37, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

I agree, I don't like to see big 'This page is not canon' boxes, or even the scale cluttering up the top of a page. A three state scale should be sufficient:

  1. Canon
  2. Unknown canonicity
  3. Non-canon

Instead of a large box we could have a simple image that floats in the top right hand of the page. Perhaps just a small fancy image denoting unknown canonicity and non-canon (Canon articles needn't have an image)? -- KingAragorn  talk  contribs  edits  email  15:49, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

I (mainly) agree with KingAragorn, I don’t think large boxes are needed - except probably for completely non-canon subjects: not from Tolkien’s writings at all. I like the idea of icons, and Mith’s trick is perfectly workable, certainly when implemented as template(s), that can also e.g. put the article in the relevant canonicity category.
As to scale, I prefer Narsil Palùrfalas’ 0-5 scale to KingAragorn’s three options, because it fits my overview of the diversity of the Legendarium materials much better. There is much in Arda that is neither quite canon nor completely non-canon, yet very disparate in importance and acceptability. In KingAragorns scale of three, most if not all of that will end up in the middle ground of ‘Unknown canonicity’, and that term neither fits the nature and relations of sources in the Legendarium particularly well nor is it particularly helpful to the reader. In particular, there are many ‘facts’ or data that fit a ‘reasonably coherent structure’ of Eä, yet are not absolute, undoubtable, or incontestable canon. That is quite something else than saying they are of ‘unknown canonicity’.
In my view icons should be reasonably unobtrusive, yet reasonably informative. I picture, just as a suggestion, taking Narsil Palùrfalas scale as a basis, a circle with a number, surrounded with above ‘canon level’ and below a suitable desciptive term, e.g. 5 – ‘indisputable’, 4 – ‘acceptable’, 3 – ‘contradictable’ (or: ‘disputable’), 2 – ‘doubtful’ (or: ‘contradicted’), 1 – ‘deprecated’, 0 – ‘from adaptations’ (the zero level icon may not be needed as it might be better to retain the existing box for that), and probably differently coloured backgrounds, on a scale e.g. from green to red. They may be ‘pimped’ a bit more, but not to much, as they must remain rather small, yet readily readable at the same time.
With Mith’s imaginary survey of our opinions on Celeborn we should be careful to distinguish two different issues. On the one hand, we may have different opinions as to whether Celeborn is a grandson of Elmo, a grandson of Olwë, or merely a Sinda of Doriath of unknown parentage. On the other hand, we may not differ nearly so greatly on the possible canonicity range of these options. We should also not forget that articles, while they might adopt one possibility as most appropriate or coherent, other versions must nevertheless be mentioned, as Hyarion stated.
And in the case of longer (and even not so long) articles, different sections may be of different canonicity. Maybe in those cases sections should be individually marked with the appropriate icon. Should we then have an icon ~ - ‘variable’ for the top of such articles (and place the article in every occuring canonicity category)? Or should we label the article with the canonicity of its basic subject (and place it in that category), only marking those sections that have different canonicity with an icon (without category)? Probably the latter course makes for less clutter and would be more helpful as a guide. — Mithrennaith 23:44, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
I think this is the best solution, though I'd like to see some option for "outdated"; "doubtful" and "contradicted" doesn't always cover it. -- Ederchil (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 09:18, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
Just going by word sense, ‘outdated’ might cover or be covered by ‘deprecated’. But I think in a sensible distinction of levels as Narsil Palùrfalas’ describes ‘outdated’ fits better in level 2. However, not all level 2 stuff will fall under that title, there is also e.g. stuff in Sil that turns out not to be tenable because of things later revealed or discussed in HoMe. I’m reluctant to create two canonicity levels out of this, there doesn’t seem to be enough difference in degree here and I think 5 levels (+ 0=adaptations) is quite enough. Maybe one of the terms ‘displaced’, ‘sidelined’, ‘out-of-focus’, ‘non-coherent’, ‘discordant’ or ‘discountable’ might cover everything likely to fall in level 2. — Mithrennaith 02:25, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
I have to say I tihnk any five-, six- or seven-numbered system is going to cause more trouble than it's worth. The definitions will have to be flexible enough to work, but rigid enough to properly categorise and I don't think we'd ever reach that. Furthermore, if a reader can't understand the system without reading an in-depth explanation, does it really add value?
I also think you underestimate how much people will disagree simply due to the different ways people judge canon (for instance some people say "Whatever's more recent is de facto canon, trumping earlier writings." whilst others go down a more "Consistency with published works." route, etc. etc.). I notice, for instance, The Fall of Gondolin is labelled "2 - Non-canon", something which, if the true belief of the editors here, would mean all derived articles (Twelve Houses, e.g.) would need to be similarly labelled - I personally would put it in "3 - disputable" under Mithrennaith's system.
The is why I prefer a "Canon", "Non-canon" and "Canoncity Unknown/Disputed" system because it is a) easy to understand, b) easy to implement and c) avoids all the inevitable discussion. At the end of the day, the various shades of grey in the middle are just the result of an/a-group-of individual(s) making a value judgement. Should we be making such value judgements? --Mith (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 13:23, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
I do see your problem, and I’m not saying it won’t be a problem. But, at the risk of repeating myself, I don’t think the ‘Canonicity Unknown/Disputed’ label is going to be helpful or useful in any way, it’s just going to be a big lump of things that have very little in common. Maybe we should just merge the ‘disputable/contradictable’ and the ‘displaced/discountable’ labels into one level, or perhaps we should have 3 – ‘neutral’ and 2 – ‘disputed/discountable’.
That ‘the reader’ — a number of readers, at least — will need explanation is not really an argument on a wiki. We have to explain about canon, its difficulties and its grayscale nature in matters Tolkienian anyway. We have to indicate to readers that articles, or rather facts, have different canonicity. The icon’s could and should be links to the explanation. — Mithrennaith 09:20, 17 September 2010 (UTC)