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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Climate of the eastern lands/Mumakil, Haradrim, etc.

Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Nov 27, 11:18pm

Post #1 of 9 (914 views)
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Climate of the eastern lands/Mumakil, Haradrim, etc. Can't Post

Hello all!

I have the Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Fonstad and thoroughly enjoy it. However, there is something that's been rather confusing to me.

She puts the non-coastal regions of Harad, etc as being scattered woodlands on the coast and short grasslands inland.

What is the inspiration for these geographic areas/features? And how would a beast the size of a Mumakil have fared in such a terrain? Would they have been more confined to the coastal areas? Interspersed throughout Harad/Khand? Could there have even been camels in the more desert-like areas?

And are there any real-world parts of the world that could correspond to such climates? I do enjoy BBC's Planet Earth series, and would be curious if one of them reflected Harad and Khand's climates fairly well, as far as we know anyway.

And to avoid clogging up the RR with posts, another question. Tolkien mentions Black Numenorians, and (without sounding racist, I hope, just seeking clarification) all indications seem to be that they are, in appearance, much like present-day Africans, is that correct?

In the films, it's hard to tell. Many of the Easterlings that showed up on the Mumakil seem to be a bit more fair-skinned, save for some notable characters (at least, in the films. Not sure about the books). Were they meant to be more a reflection of modern-day Middle-eastern races?

Or would the inhabitants of Harad and Khand have been a blend (population-wise) of both an African-appearing race and a Middle-eastern-appearing race?

I know in the films they were garbed in a similar fashion to how the Ottomans might have been (including scimitar-like weapons). I need to re-read that part in the LOTR book itself to see if their descriptions match the idea that Jackson presented.

I guess as a whole I'm just interested in what the eastern lands and its occupants (man and beast) might have been like, as we don't have a lot of information to go off of. We experience the rest of ME through the three novels (TH, LOTR, and the Sil, as well as appendices references), but the only exposure we, as an audience/reader have to Harad is them in war or battle, and fighting as part of Sauron's forces, and the knowledge that some worshiped Sauron and dabbled in black arts.

There really isn't a lot of information on them, or at least not that I've found. I'm a weird one- I like to be able to visualize the various parts of ME in my mind and its inhabitants, and yet (outside of PJ's depictions, which even of themselves were limited to these guys) I find that I cannot do so.

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Happy reading everyone!


(This post was edited by Cirashala on Nov 27, 11:18pm)


squire
Half-elven


Nov 28, 2:31am

Post #2 of 9 (883 views)
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I don't think you're supposed to be able to 'visualize' the Easterlings and Southrons beyond what the Prof gives you [In reply to] Can't Post

His whole point was that they are peripheral to Middle-earth. One can certainly project on to them any number of images of Africans and Asians from medieval times, but he himself was not particularly interested in the details beyond a sense of 'flavor'.

I would be interested what are the "all indications" you refer to, that give the Black Numenoreans a "present-day African" appearance. My understanding is that "Black" in this context refers to evil, i.e. Black of Heart. (Much as members of the early Republican Party in the pre-Civil War U.S. were referred to by Southerners as "Black Republicans", to connote their evil support of black emancipation, not their actual color.)

As you seem to acknowledge at points in your post, using the New Line films to answer questions about Tolkien's texts is a mug's game. The films are admirable in many ways, but their design solutions to the books' descriptions and vocabulary are just that, solutions. They are not 'authoritative' and shed no light on questions about what Tolkien actually wrote, thought, or knew from his deep study of medieval cultural constructs about race, region, and reputation.

It is notable that Tolkien differentiated between 'Near Harad' and 'Far Harad' (Harad means, simply, "South"). We can reasonably guess that that is his way of acknowledging that Africa is somewhat differentiated racially, and in many ways culturally, between the Meghreb along the North African coast of the Mediterranean, and the sub-Saharan heartland of the equatorial and southern regions of the continent. The people of the northern coastline have, since the advent of Islam, as much in common with the Middle-eastern regions as with the rest of the African continent. Among other qualities, they are somewhat lighter in complexion. The people of sub-Saharan Africa are, of course, darker in color and in European mythology until very recently, were regarded as highly uncivilized and savage. We see this in Tolkien's reference to them in LotR:
"...out of Far Harad black men like half-trolls with white eyes and red tongues." (LR V.6)

That is quite a different image from the warrior that Sam sees die in Ithilien:
"...a man fell, crashing through the slender trees, nearly on top of them. He came to rest in the fern a few feet away, face downward, green arrow-feathers sticking from his neck below a golden collar. His scarlet robes were tattered, his corslet of overlapping brazen plates was rent and hewn, his black plaits of hair braided with gold were drenched with blood. His brown hand still clutched the hilt of a broken sword." (LR IV.4)

In general, Tolkien's imagined cultures of the East and the South (Rhun and Harad) are based on medieval European stereotypes of Islamic-dominated empires ranging from Persia to Arabia to India to Morocco to Mali and the Congo. It's meant to be mix-and-match, just as Gondor is a combination of Byzantium, Venice, and Hellenistic Egypt, and Arnor is a mash-up of Carolingian Franco-Germany and pre-Norman England, and Rohan is a mix of Mercia and Hungary.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Nov 28, 3:08pm

Post #3 of 9 (853 views)
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East AND South [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure why you seem to be counting all of the lands outside of north-west Middle-earth as in the East. Rhûn (literally East) is used to designate those lands to the east of Rhovanion, Mordor and Khand; however, the lands of Near Harad and Far Harad are clearly those of the South. Tolkien even drew them to vaguely resemble modern Africa. Fonstad's maps of Arda are based on those rough sketches and might not accurately capture the size and geography of the lands of Rhûn and Harad, especially following the Change of the World near the end of the Second Age. Tolkien does not tell us much about these lands and peoples, but we can make some astute guesses.



Larger image here.

The mûmakil are described as creatures of Harad, a.k.a. the South. My assumption is that Harad had a wide variety of terrains: deserts; rain forests; savannahs to mountain ranges. The lands of Harad would have been home to many creatures rare or unknown in other parts of Middle-earth. Camels? Rhinos? Hippos? Sure! Much the same would have doubtless been true of the lands of the distant East (home of the reputed Last Desert).

The Black Númenóreans were not called that because of their physical appearance, but because they turned against the Valar and/or became followers of Sauron. Over time they do seem to have interbred with other peoples, but you seem to be confusing them with other Southron folk. Both the East and South were home to diverse peoples and cultures united largely by the control of Sauron and his servants. We can see this especially in Tolkien's descriptions of warriors of Harad, ranging from the Middle-eastern appearance of the mûmakil riders to the black men of Far Harad who looked so strange through the eyes of the soldiers of Gondor.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Nov 28, 3:12pm)


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 3, 11:21pm

Post #4 of 9 (765 views)
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So what real-world places [In reply to] Can't Post

do you think would describe Near and Far Harad? I'm talking more climate than geography (like for example, Near Harad describes the lush part of northern and western Africa and Far Harad more resembles the Saharan desert).

I know Tolkien didn't go into superb detail when it comes to these cultures, but I do enjoy visualizing. It makes the simple words on the page come to life in my mind :) And I'd be curious to "see" these lands that we didn't get the chance to see in either illustrations (beyond a map) and in the LOTR/TH films :)

In a nutshell, I want to know what part of the world I should google images of to aid in my mental imagery of Near and Far Harad Wink

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 4, 6:11am

Post #5 of 9 (758 views)
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Tunisia, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So what real-world places do you think would describe Near and Far Harad? I'm talking more climate than geography (like for example, Near Harad describes the lush part of northern and western Africa and Far Harad more resembles the Saharan desert).


Actually, I equate much of Near Harad with the Sahara Desert and such locations as Tunisia, though more lush along the coast and river-systems. The River Narnen, for instance, would have supported agriculture and doubtless a town or city where it is crossed by the Harad Road.

I imagine Far Harad as even more diverse, with grassy plains, mountains, and dense jungle in the equatorial regions (along the Girdle of Arda).


The city of Jericho in Mesopotamia was old enough to have existed in Middle-earth in the Third Age. I'm not sure how well that lines up with Tolkien's sketches; some adjustments might be needed.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 4, 5:38pm

Post #6 of 9 (714 views)
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thanks Otaku-sempai! [In reply to] Can't Post

That works very well for trying to visualize the landscape Smile

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


Chen G.
Rivendell

Sun, 11:14am

Post #7 of 9 (319 views)
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Moreover [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
My assumption is that Harad had a wide variety of terrains: deserts; rain forests; savannahs to mountain ranges. The lands of Harad would have been home to many creatures rare or unknown in other parts of Middle-earth. Camels? Rhinos? Hippos? Sure! Much the same would have doubtless been true of the lands of the distant East (home of the reputed Last Desert).


Tolkien also describes apes and jungles with regards to the south, and one of his maps features illustrations of camels in near-Harad, so its very much supposed to represent the Middle East and Africa.

For the east, The Hobbit (while its place in the legendarium is a tricky one) mentions wereworms, which is a variation of wire-worms - a reference to the Mongolian death-worm, so its very much cognate with Asia.

This makes Tolkien's descriptions of the people of those areas not racist, but geographically and historically apt. That they sided with Sauron was a matter of circumstance and influence, rather than of predisposition.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Sun, 11:18am)


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Thu, 6:50pm

Post #8 of 9 (153 views)
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Do you think that Umbar correlates to the Nile River Delta? [In reply to] Can't Post

That seems to be logical, given the map.

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Thu, 8:53pm

Post #9 of 9 (98 views)
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Not one-for-one. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Do you think that Umbar correlates to the Nile River Delta? That seems to be logical, given the map.


Christopher Tolkien's maps do not show the region of Umbar in great detail, making it difficult to draw direct comparisons. The only maps I have that actually show any river(s) letting out at the Havens of Umbar were made for Peter Jackson's movies or the out-of-print Middle-earth Role Play game, though the configuration of the bay allows us to infer the existence of at least one such waterway. I might compare the City of the Corsairs to such ancient Egyptian population centers as Memphis or Heliopolis.

What might be a better comparison to the Nile River Delta is the delta at the mouth of the River Harnen, north of Umbar. However, there are no named settlements identified there so maybe that delta is too shallow and silty to support large ships?

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison

 
 

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