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Numenorean/Gondorian iconography

Registered User

May 31 2014, 10:11pm

Post #1 of 15 (340 views)
Numenorean/Gondorian iconography Can't Post

New member here. Pardon me if this topic was allready discussed in the archives of the forum. Also excuse my english, as I am not a native speaker.

I am currently working on a personal project involving character concept art, focusing on costumes, creatures, weapons and armour of Middle Earth, that would be based on and expand upon the excelent designs by Weta Workshop. At his moment I am focusing on designing various branches of the 2nd Age Numenorean Army, fighting under the banner of Elendil, as seen in the FOTR battle of Dagorlad prologue scene. When designing military costumes that are supposed to have a feeling of authenticity and historicity to them, heraldry and icnography is key, especially in a setting with so much focus put on family trees as Middle Earth. However, after a while of constantly drawing variations of the same theme, a man can run out of ways to draw the icon of a tree, or wings.

I was wondering if Tolkien scholars here could help me out and tell me, if there are any other icons/symbol/pictographic themes associated with Numenour and Gondor, other than the usual White Tree/Winged Crown/Seven Stars of House of Elendil combo? It doesn't have to be something that Tolkien said as being specifically featured on the heraldry of Numenour or Gondor, but just any kind of visual theme that might be associated with it, will be useful. Something that features in Tolkien's writing about the two realms, that could be turned into a subject of icons or artistic ornamentation on the costumes and items of those kingdoms, and will fit with the style of themes of those cultures.

My other question is this - was there ever any mention in Tolkien's writing regarding some sort of elite, Numenorean warrior formation? Some kind of Honour Guard composed of the best warriors in the realm. The reason I am asking is that one of the character types I plan on doing, will be some sort of personal guard unit for Elendil, with it's own set of weapons, armour and fabrics, and any sort description from the original text (if there are any), would be useful. I could also use any inspiration for the name of such a formation, as I don't want to simply name them something as generic as Numenorean Royal Guard/Kingsguard/Huscarls etc.

Cheers and thanks in advance.

(This post was edited by Theprocrastinator on May 31 2014, 10:14pm)


Jun 1 2014, 5:09am

Post #2 of 15 (205 views)
Sounds like a cool project! [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know a ton about Gondor or Númenor, but the first thing that comes to mind is the mountain of Meneltarma on the isle of Númenor. It is the only place of worship that Tolkien ever discussed in Middle-earth and it surely would have been dear to the Faithful (although perhaps it would have been too dangerous to use it in their heraldry). Probably the best resource to learn more would be Unfinished Tales.

As far as elite warriors, the only thing I can think of is the tower guard in Minas Tirith (that Pippin joined). I don't recall there being a lot of detail about them, though, aside from their armor.



Jun 1 2014, 3:21pm

Post #3 of 15 (198 views)
Elite Military Units of Gondor [In reply to] Can't Post

I can think of three or four groups that might qualify. Digging out the book The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare by Chris Smith, I can find:

1. The Rangers of Ithilien, the special forces of Gondor, specializing in recon and guerrilla warfare.
2. The Fountain Guards
3. The Citadel Guards

And, from Tolkien:

4. The Knights of Dol Amroth under Prince Imrahil

The Fountain and Citadel Guards were ceremonial guards tasked, respectively, with protecting the White Tree and guarding the citadel and the ruling steward. Smith writes, "The Fountain Guards were forbidden to speak when on duty, and wore silk masks as a reminder to all visitors as well as the guards themselves." The Fountain Guards carried ten-foot long ash spears with a crescent-shaped guard bearing the device of Minas Tirith. On their belt they carried a sword with the Tree of Gondor device engraved on its pommel. They carried no shield. The Citadel Guards carried the sword and spear of the regular soldier, but also no shield.

I highly recommend the Chris Smith book.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

Registered User

Jun 1 2014, 7:05pm

Post #4 of 15 (179 views)
Thanks for the suggestions [In reply to] Can't Post

However I should probably specify my question regarding elite units - I meant specificly Numenorean elite units, not Gondorians. If Tolkien ever written even the slightest passage about some kind of royal guard for the Kings of old, etc.

I know about the various Minas Tirith Guards. I also own the Chris Smith book (hands down my favourite movie companion book).

At this point though my biggest problem is iconography. I could start substituing the standard tree/wings/stars combo, with some historical icons of meaning generally associated with martial affairs, but I am always worried it will look out of place, so basing it on Tolkiens writing would always be best. Suggestions regarding any sort of visual theme that's associated with Numenoreans will be usefull.

Registered User

Jun 1 2014, 7:07pm

Post #5 of 15 (174 views)
Thanks [In reply to] Can't Post

Meneltarma - that's a great idea. Any place of worship is perfect for military heraldry. Plus, a mountain is a icon-friendly subject. I will surely use this.

Shirriff Anthony

Jun 1 2014, 7:09pm

Post #6 of 15 (182 views)
Unfinished Tales [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't read it in a while but in Unfinished Tales, the portion of the Disaster of the Gladden Fields I think had some of the best details on tactics, armor, and weapons Tolkien wrote regarding the Numenoreans.

Faramir: “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”


Jun 1 2014, 7:35pm

Post #7 of 15 (183 views)
Numenorean Arms & Armor [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I have my copy of W&W in front of me and I see some material useful to you under the sections that cover the Last Alliance of Elves and Men especially "Numenoreans," "Elendil," and "Isildur." The arms and equipment of the Fountain and Citadel Guards were supposed to reflect the traditions of ancient Numenor, so blending elements of the former with the latter might yeild some desireable results.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Jun 1 2014, 7:51pm

Post #8 of 15 (179 views)
A couple ideas [In reply to] Can't Post

Nice project!

I would suggest the Ring of Barahir, with its 2 serpents. (I don't remember the exact description, but I think one is upholding some flowers and the other snake is eating it. Which sounds rather ghastly, I've always thought.) It was an important heirloom of the Dunedain, and luckily Arvedui didn't drown with it.

The Dunedain trace their lineage to the First Age and Beleriand, so I'd think you could borrow any motif from any of their heroes, including the Silmaril that Beren and Luthien won. To my mind, that's something that would have been preserved in art and not just in song.

Tol Eressea

Jun 1 2014, 8:06pm

Post #9 of 15 (174 views)
Ideas. [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, you have the odd shape of the island itself-- a five pointed star.

You also have the poetic imagery of a lone island, the idea of solitude.

You also have the idea of the West. Numenor was the western-most land of Men.

I also remember the plant on the prow of the ships that blossomed in the sea-spray.

I remember a note about the Military formation mentioned in Unfinished Tales, 'Thangail', employed by Isildur on the Gladden Fields

This help?

Try reading Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner's Wife and anything on Numenor that you have. This is all off the top of my head, so there could be more.

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?

(This post was edited by Rembrethil on Jun 1 2014, 8:07pm)


Jun 1 2014, 9:47pm

Post #10 of 15 (174 views)
It probably wasn't a "national" army, so you have a lot more freedom than you might think [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems likely to me that the armies of Numenor were not just all uniformly equipped soldiers of the king's house, but were comprised of very many companies under the command of various noble families - in other words, you should be attempting to design a feudal army, not a national army.

The house of Elros and the subsequent Kings of Numenor may have used the White Tree but I should think you could have a field day coming up with innumerable other heraldic devices that might fit soldiers from the Five Pointed Isle (who were also 'marines' - that is, they traveled to their wars on Middle-earth by ship).

Various castles and towers, flowers and plants and trees, herd animals or animals of the hunt, ocean motifs and sailing ship motifs, weaponry, heirlooms, treasures and Elvish designs would all seem like fruitful images to explore and develop.

Now bear in mind that the Kingdoms in Exile, under Elendil at the Dagorlad battle of the Last Alliance, were based on the very few surviving nobles and warriors who had escaped the Downfall in just nine ships. These were the small number of rebels against Ar-Pharazon known as the "Faithful", led until almost the end by Amandil, Elendil's father. They had lived originally in the Andustar, or western parts of the Isle, but later moved to the east coast by order of the King. Here is a description of what they packed in their ships as they prepared to flee the disaster they knew was coming:
...the Faithful put aboard their wives and their children, and their heirlooms, and great store of goods. Many things there were of beauty and power, such as the Númenóreans had contrived in the days of their wisdom, vessels and jewels, and scrolls of lore written in scarlet and black. And Seven Stones they had, the gift of the Eldar; but in the ship of Isildur was guarded the young tree, the scion of Nimloth the Fair. (JRRT, The Silmarillion, "Akallabeth")

In other words, much of the iconography of the noble families and warriors of Numenor, as described in the Akallabeth and other writings, might not have survived if it had decorated the heraldry of those who followed Ar-Pharazon to hell in the assault on Valinor. However, for your purposes, you might take refuge in the text's note that a few of the Faithful came from other regions of Numenor than that of the Elendili!

And also, of course, you might take into account the complication that the Kingdoms in Exile of Gondor and Arnor were already populated by Numenorean colonists, and lesser men who dwelt under their rule on the mainland, at the height of the Numenorean Empire. Clearly it was not just the descendants of the crews of nine ships who marched on Mordor a century later -- so you should have some fun imagining what the heraldry and gear of the mainland fiefs looked like, under Elendil their new King.

Finally, here is the most specific info I can give you, from the Unfinished Tales gazetteer "Description of the Island of Numenor". I've edited it to focus on material images you might want to work with for the heraldry of the aristocracy of the Sceptered Isle:
But for the most part the Mittalmar [the inland center of the island, without much coastline] was a region of pastures. In the southwest there were rolling downs of grass; and there, in the Emerië, was the chief region of the Shepherds.

The Forostar [Northlands] was the least fertile part; stony, with few trees, save that on the westward slopes of the high heather-covered moors there were woods of fir and larch. Towards the North Cape the land rose to rocky heights, and there great Sorontil rose sheer from the sea in tremendous cliffs. Here was the abode of many eagles; and in this region Tar-Meneldur Elentirmo built a tall tower, from which he could observe the motions of the stars.

The Andustar [Westlands] was also rocky in its northern parts, with high firwoods looking out upon the sea. Three small bays it had, facing west, cut back into the highlands; but here the cliffs were in many places not at the sea’s edge, and there was a shelving land at their feet. The northmost of these was called the Bay of Andúnië, for there was the great haven of Andúnië (Sunset), with its town beside the shore and many other dwellings climbing up the steep slopes behind. But much of the southerly part of the Andustar was fertile, and there also were great woods, of birch and beech upon the upper ground, and in the lower vales of oaks and elms. Between the promontories of the Andustar and the Hyarnustar [Southwestlands] was the great Bay that was called Eldanna, because it faced towards Eressëa; and the lands about it, being sheltered from the north and open to the western seas, were warm, and the most rain fell there. At the centre of the Bay of Eldanna was the most beautiful of all the havens of Númenor, Eldalondë the Green; and hither in the earlier days the swift white ships of the Eldar of Eressëa came most often.

An about that place, up the seaward slopes and far into the land, grew the evergreen and fragrant trees that they brought out of the West, and so throve there that the Eldar said that almost it was fair as a haven in Eressëa. They were the greatest delight of Numenor, and they were remembered in many songs long after they had perished for ever, for few ever flowered east of the Land of Gift: oiolairë and lairelossë, nessamelda, vardarianna, taniquelassë, and yavannamirë with its globed and scarlet fruits. ... only here grew the mighty golden tree malinornë reaching after five centuries a height scarce less than it achieved in Eressëa itself. Its bark was silver and smooth, and its boughs somewhat upswept after the manner of the beech; but it never grew save with a single trunk. Its leaves, like those of the beech but greater, were pale green above and beneath were silver glistering in the sun; in the autumn they did not fall, but turned to pale gold....In the spring it bore golden blossom in clusters like a cherry, which bloomed on during the summer; and as soon as the flowers opened the leaves fell, so that through spring and summer a grove of malinornë was carpeted and roofed with gold, but its pillars were of grey silver. ...Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale; and some were given as gift by Tar-Aldarion, the sixth King of Númenor, to King Gil-galad of Lindon....The river Nunduinë flowed into the sea at Eldalondë, and on its way made the little lake of Nísinen, that was so named from the abundance of sweetsmelling shrubs and flowers that grew upon its banks.

The Hyarnustar [Southwestlands] was in its western part a mountainous region, with great cliffs on the western and southern coasts; but eastwards were great vineyards in a warm and fertile land. The promontories of the Hyarnustar and the Hyarrostar [Southeastlands] were splayed wide apart, and on those long shores sea and land came gently together, as nowhere else in Númenor. Here flowed down Siril, the chief river of the land (for all others, save for the Nunduinë in the west, were short and swift torrents hurrying to the sea), that rose in springs under the Meneltarma in the valley of Noirinan, and running through the Mittalmar southwards became in its lower course a slow and winding stream. It issued at last into the sea amid wide marshes and reedy flats, and its many small mouths found their changing paths through great sands; for many miles on either side were wide white beaches and grey shingles, and here the fisherfolk mostly dwelt, in villages upon the hards among the marshes and meres, of which the chief was Nindamos.

In the Hyarrostar [Southeastlands] grew an abundance of trees of many kinds, and among them the laurinquë in which the people delighted for its flowers, for it had no other use. This name they gave it because of its long-hanging clusters of yellow flowers; ... From the days of Tar- Aldarion there were great plantations in the Hyarrostar to furnish timber for shipbuilding.

The Orrostar [Eastlands] was a cooler land, but it was protected from the cold north-east winds by highlands that rose towards the end of the promontory; and in the inner regions of the Orrostar much grain was grown, especially in those parts near to the borders of Arandor.

[General comments about the land:]
...In Númenor birds that dwell near the sea, and swim or dive in it, abode in multitudes beyond reckoning. ... Likewise within the lands the birds of Númenor were beyond count, from the kirinki that were no bigger than wrens, but all scarlet, with piping voices on the edge of human hearing, to the great eagles that were held sacred to Manwë, ...

In Númenor all journeyed from place to place on horseback; for in riding the Núimenóreans, both men and women, took delight. and all the people of the land loved horses, treating them honourably and housing them nobly. ... Therefore the roads of Númenor were for the most part unpaved, made and tended for riding, since coaches and carriages were little used in the earlier centuries, and heavy cargoes were borne by sea. ...

The Edain brought with them to Númenor the knowledge of many crafts, and many craftsmen who had learned from the Eldar, besides preserving lore and traditions of their own. But they could bring with them few materials, save for the tools of their crafts; and for long all metals in Númenor were precious metals. They brought with them many treasures of gold and silver, and gems also; but they did not find these things in Númenor. They loved them for their beauty... Of the Elves of Eressëa in the days of their friendship they had at times gifts of gold and silver and jewels; but such things were rare and prized in all the earlier centuries, until the power of the Kings was spread to the coasts of the East.

Some metals they found in Númenor, and as their cunning in mining and in smelting and smithying swiftly grew things of iron and copper became common. Among the wrights of the Edain were weaponsmiths, and they had with the teaching of the Noldor acquired great skill in the forging of swords, of axe-blades, and of spearheads and knives. Swords the Guild of Weaponsmiths still made, for the preservation of the craft, though most of their labour was spent on the fashioning of tools for the uses of peace. The King and most of the great chieftains possessed swords as heirlooms of their fathers; and at times they would still give a sword as a gift to their heirs. A new sword was made for the King’s Heir to be given to him on the day on which this title was conferred. But no man wore a sword in Númenor, and for long years few indeed were the weapons of warlike intent that were made in the land. Axes and spears and bows they had, and shooting with bows on foot and on horseback was a chief sport and pastime of the Númenóreans. In later days, in the wars upon Middle-earth, it was the bows of the Númenóreans that were most greatly feared. "The Men of the Sea," it was said, "send before them a great cloud, as a rain turned to serpents, or a black hail tipped with steel;" and in those days the great cohorts of the King’s Archers used bows made of hollow steel, with black-feathered arrows a full ell long from point to notch.

... Beyond all other pursuits the strong men of Númenor took delight in the Sea, in swimming, in diving, or in small craft for contests of speed in rowing or sailing. The hardiest of the people were the fisherfolk; fish were abundant all about the coasts, and were at all times a chief source of food in Númenor; and all the towns where many people congregated were set by the shores.

From the fisherfolk were mostly drawn the Mariners, who as the years passed grew greatly in importance and esteem. It is said that when the Edain first set sail upon the Great Sea, following the Star to Númenor, the Elvish ships that bore them were each steered and captained by one of the Eldar deputed by Círdan; and after the Elvish steersmen departed and took with them the most part of their ships it was long before the Númenóreans themselves ventured far to sea. But there were shipwrights among them who had been instructed by the Eldar; and by their own study and devices they improved their art until they dared to sail ever further into the deep waters.
(JRRT, Unfinished Tales, "A Description of the Island of Numenor")

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Na Vedui

Jun 3 2014, 2:13am

Post #11 of 15 (143 views)
There's material there [In reply to] Can't Post

for a lovely set of Numenorian coinage with a King or Queen's head on one side (take one's pick from the genealogies) and various characteristic trees, flowers, birds, horses, ships etc. featured on the other. That would be a nice project for a metal-worker!

Na Vedui

Jun 3 2014, 2:34am

Post #12 of 15 (145 views)
Numenorean Carpet [In reply to] Can't Post

In Hammond and Scull's "JRR Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator" on page 191 is a design Tolkien drew for a Numenorean carpet.
It has a certain kinship with his designs of Elvish heraldic badges, some of which are featured in the same chapter of the book, (along with various Elvish-looking random Tolkien doodles of a plant-like or abstract nature). The Numenorean "faithful" such as Elendil. might have been influenced by Elvish iconography and style, perhaps.
So it might be worth checking out (it's a really nice book anyway if you like Tolkien's art).


Jun 4 2014, 9:59pm

Post #13 of 15 (115 views)
Númenórean illustrations [In reply to] Can't Post

The dust jacket of the first hardback edition of Unfinished Tales featured a reproduction of Tolkien's sketch of a 'karma', a type of Númenórean helmet.

Also worth looking at are Tolkien's illustrations of 3 Númenórean tiles, reproduced in the 1978 Silmarillion calendar.

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk

Registered User

Jun 5 2014, 11:04am

Post #14 of 15 (100 views)
Thanks for the suggestions [In reply to] Can't Post

I would like to thank You all for your replies, especially to Squire for his extensive write up. I found some great ideas here, as well as confirmations and explanations, regarding certain things I was unsure of.

(This post was edited by Theprocrastinator on Jun 5 2014, 11:07am)


Jun 5 2014, 4:48pm

Post #15 of 15 (129 views)
I just wanted to say [In reply to] Can't Post

this sounds like a fascinating project, and I hope you'll share some of your work in the Fan Art forum here.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


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