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Nile River Delta=Umbar?

Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 13 2018, 8:43pm

Post #1 of 19 (3802 views)
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Nile River Delta=Umbar? Can't Post

Hello all! I was looking at some maps of ME and noticed a striking resemblance of the port of Umbar and the river delta that arises from it. Could the Nile River Delta have corresponded (roughly) to the lands of Umbar? This would theoretically make Near Harad akin to the Saudi Peninsula and Far Harad to be the Sahara north, and jungles of Africa to the south.

I know there have been a ton of Europe overlays to the ME map, but I am curious as to whether or not an overlay/study has been done on the lands to the east and south?

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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 13 2018, 9:10pm

Post #2 of 19 (3773 views)
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Is there a river there? [In reply to] Can't Post

Christopher Tolkien's maps do not show a river emptying into the Havens of Umbar, though I don't think we can draw any definitive conclusions from that. Physically, at least one overlay I've found seems to place the City of Corsairs at the approximate location of Tunis, Tunisia.

Source: http://r.search.yahoo.com/...S_l3jLUqxWfnIBCF5zA-



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


squire
Half-elven


Dec 13 2018, 9:17pm

Post #3 of 19 (3774 views)
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You have a lot of freedom in this regard [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien did not put a lot of thought and work into the East and South as they appear on his Lord of the Rings map. There were no stories associated with the geographies, and he saw the lands for their symbolic contrast to the North-West, i.e., "Europe", of the Old World.

No one I know of has done an 'overlay' of the southern edge of the map with Africa, except insofar as most European-oriented overlays inevitably show the Harad regions to be northern Africa, purely on a latitudinal basis. The coastlines don't agree at all, primarily in the sense that there is nothing even suggesting the Mediterranean basin, either in the north (no 'Spain' W and S of western Gondor) or in the south (the coast tends directly SW, rather than W to Morocco).

So you can "theoretically" associate any of the discernible features of Tolkien's South and East with any real-world feature that you fancy.

In the specific case of Umbar I have to say I don't see the slightest resemblance to the Nile delta. Umbar is, in the tales, a "Haven" and just a Haven - that is, a protected harbor for a large fleet of ships. Thus the map shows a remarkably large-scale indentation into an otherwise featureless coastline. There's no river indicated, much less a delta; note that Anduin, not far north up the coast, does feature an elegant delta, so it's not like the Tolkiens (father and son) were lacking in riverine imagination!

But could we say Near Harad is Arabia-like, Far Harad is Sahara-like, and the equatorial parts corresponding to sub-Saharan Africa are even further Harad? Surely. You don't need a Nile River to do that.



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Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan

Dec 13 2018, 11:48pm

Post #4 of 19 (3761 views)
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That overlay is really interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting how the west coast lines up so perfectly. Lorien seems to be somewhere on the border between France and Germany, by that map? It makes a lot of sense, what with Mirkwood lining up exactly with the old German forests that inspired it, Gondor sitting on the Roman Empire…really cool. I've never actually seen an overlay like that before, though I've heard them talked about before.

"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord."


squire
Half-elven


Dec 14 2018, 2:10am

Post #5 of 19 (3757 views)
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There's more than one way to do the old overlay trick [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien's map has technical issues, like scale (which he cared about, since he used the map to write realistic marches for his characters) and projection (which he didn't care about, using the same square grid for the entire map, defying the fact that longitude contracts as latitude moves north, etc.). But when I do a Middle-earth overlay, I focus on the cultural geography as much as the physical.



Thus, in this quick version which I threw together just now, I've ignored Tolkien's notes about scale, and have used a base map that a fan did with converging longitude lines. More importantly to me, I've put the Shire in Oxfordshire (of course) and - this is key - I've put Minas Tirith at Constantinople's location, rather than Venice or Florence's. Constantinople was a primary referent for Minas Tirith in far more ways than Venice was, and now Mordor is in the more arid plateau of Anatolia into the Caucasus, rather than in the Adriatic or even the Balkans. Rohan is now, appropriately, in Hungary more or less, and the coastlands of Gondor, rather than the city, are in Italy and Greece. The rest falls apart, of course - one can only take this activity so far, and no farther!

With this particular set of choices, we see that Harad is still in Africa - how can it not be? - but with a great deal to the West abandoned, just as Iberia has always been abandoned. The Havens of Umbar are quite landlocked in mid-Sahara, near neither the Nile Delta nor the Atlantic coast. On the other hand, as Cirashala speculated on one of these threads, Near Harad is now quite properly in Arabia!



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Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 14 2018, 3:47am

Post #6 of 19 (3737 views)
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That's great! And an interesting note I discovered today [In reply to] Can't Post

Turns out the Sahara was once lush and there was an inland sea (they've discovered whale skeletons and other evidence of sea life) before the earth's axis tilted just enough to move the monsoon rains further south.

So the ports of Umbar may well have been on the coast of this huge bay that once filled the middle of the Sahara desert Wink

Actually, the documentary I found on youtube covered the evidence of the Sahara being lush (interestingly enough, sea cores have shown that it goes from desert to jungle about every 20,000 years like clockwork), and the various points geologists, paleontologists, and archaeologists on this documentary made points to (us) an astonishingly different Saharan landscape than us more modern humans cannot possibly fathom. It's really interesting Smile

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIAkJg8knTI

Don't remember how to make the link clickable, but I highly recommend this Smile It's quite possible that, being interested in the history of our world, Tolkien might have known about it. Either that, or he was just incredibly lucky Wink

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Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 14 2018, 3:55am

Post #7 of 19 (3735 views)
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Your map did confuse me for a second though [In reply to] Can't Post

If you look only at the dark shaded spots, rather than the lighter ones (as I did for a split second) it looks remarkably similar to the Pacific coasts of Asia...I'm pretty confident that the peninsula protruding into the Shire looks like north and south Korea, and the darker island-y looking spots look like Indonesia and New Guinea islands, and about midway down I can see Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, etc.

It's rather astonishing to see that...

Also, if you look at the outline of the Blue Mountain region of ME, it astonishingly follows a very similar line to the submerged now but once above ground land mass that comprised the oceans and English Channel around Great Britain (don't remember its name, but there's evidence that it was once above land, then slowly turned to marsh as the sea intruded, and finally submerged and gave us the coastline of GB that we now know.

Geology, Earth history, plate tectonics- all of it I find very interesting, and how much more so when you learn what the land(s) USED to look like and what they look like now in relation to ME. I know Tolkien wrote LOTR and TH as a fictional mythos of our early world pre-history, but either the Prof did his geological homework or as I said above, the guy was astonishingly spot-on Shocked

My writing and novels:

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Happy reading everyone!


Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan

Dec 14 2018, 8:10pm

Post #8 of 19 (3662 views)
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Constantinople? [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought that Tolkien had said that, if anything, the Gondorian Empire closest resembled the Egyptian. I may be forgetting something about the exact quote, it was somewhere in letters, I think?

Also, just as a question - why is it more appropriate that Rohan, by your overlay, is in Hungary? I can't think of a single thing linking Rohan to the culture of ancient or medieval Hungary; still less the Balkans, where Rohan seems to fall on your overlay, actually. And on the other overlay, the Misty Mountains lined up (more or less) with the Alps, the Anduin with the Rhine, and Mirkwood with the old Germanic forests of…well, Mirkwood. I can see where placing Rivendell closer to Finland would make sense, since Finnish inspired the Elvish languages, but the rest is a little shakier, IMO.

Granted, it's also a matter of trying to make two completely different maps line up, when that's obviously impossible, as you said, but I'm just wondering what would make Hungary a more appropriate counterpart to Rohan?

"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord."


squire
Half-elven


Dec 14 2018, 9:34pm

Post #9 of 19 (3659 views)
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Just a little in-joke [In reply to] Can't Post

It arose from a happy coincidence (see below), but it is not to be taken any more seriously than my wish to place Minas Tirith on the site of Constantinople. The Numenoreans may have had an Egyptian-style funerary culture, but the historical resonances of Minas Tirith with Constantinople, representing the long-surviving Eastern Roman Empire in contrast to the tripartite division and then complete fall of the Western Roman Empire, are just as good as anything offered by Egyptian history. And then Tolkien said Venice was Minas Tirith in another letter. But we don't have to choose between the Serene Republic, the Golden Horn, and Memphis on the Nile in thinking about Anarion's Southern Kingdom, unless we are asked where on the map of Europe the empire has to go.

My strong feeling is that Tolkien's map just cannot be taken seriously as an overlay for Europe, except imaginatively and culturally. Where a mountain range, a river, or a seacoast haven are on the map of Middle-earth is completely unrelated to similar features in Europe and the Mediterranean basin and the eastern steppes and deserts. But what part those landforms play in Three Ages of history, and what they mean to the action and the heroes of the quest, is important and may well have analogues in the various incidents of real-world history that they evoke.

As for the Hungarian plain for Rohan, I was referring to Tom Shippey's suggestion that the Rohirrim have a wild emotional streak not to be found in Englishmen. His solution for that is to suggest that Tolkien was mashing up the Mercian Anglo-Saxons, whose language and legends he completely appropriates for the Rohirrim, with eastern tribes like the Goths and the Huns, who were in fact horse-mounted nomadic cavalry.
"Maybe the infantry-fixation of historical periods was the result of living on an island. Maybe the Anglo-Saxons before they migrated to England were different. What would have happened had they turned East, not West, to the German plains and the steppes beyond?

"In creating the Riddermark Tolkien thought of his own 'Mercia'. He also certainly remembered the great lost romance of 'Gothia', of the close kin of the English turning to disaster and oblivion on the plains of Russia. No doubt he knew the dim tradition that the word 'Goths' itself meant 'Horse-folk'. This is what adds 'reconstruction' to 'calquing' and produces fantasy, a people and a culture that never were, but that press closer and closer to the edge of might-have-been. The Riders gain life from their mixture of homely, almost hobbitic familiarity with a strong dash of something completely alien ....

"Eomer is 'taller than all the rest; from his helm as a crest a white horsetail flowed.' A horsetail plume is the traditional perogative of the Huns and Tartars and the steppe-folk, a most un-English decoration, at least by tradition." - Shippey. (2003), The Road to Middle-earth. 126-27.




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Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan

Dec 14 2018, 10:45pm

Post #10 of 19 (3650 views)
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Oh, now I see! [In reply to] Can't Post

Quite interesting; I haven't read Road to Middle-earth in a while, and had completely forgotten that. I suppose it does make a good deal of sense, in a way.

The historical similarities between Gondor and the Eastern Roman Empire are unmistakable, certainly. Did Tolkien once say that Pelargir equated to the site of ancient Troy?

"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord."


squire
Half-elven


Dec 15 2018, 1:23am

Post #11 of 19 (3644 views)
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Not that I know of [In reply to] Can't Post

But to repeat a theme here:

I don't readily believe Tolkien would say that Pelargir "equated to the site" of ancient Troy. It would not be about location to the Prof, at least not the specific location. Of course Minas Tirith is to the South and East of the Shire. Of course Harad is to the South of Gondor (heck, its name means "The South"), and Mordor, the heart of evil, is in the East of Middle-earth (in the sense of the book's map, not the theoretical continent). But the site - the site is up in the air. A few hundred miles here, a river there, a mountain range that cannot be just to the north and yet it is, that kind of map-play is more his style as he created the landscape that served his story, not that equalled every feature of real Europe and environs.

All that said, I would be curious to know if you can prove me wrong and come up with a comment of his that equates Pelargir and Troy, not just as cities and civilizations, but as geographic coordinates.

One thing I have always thought about Pelargir, is that Tolkien more or less deliberately ignored his story-line that Pelargir was a Numenorean haven on the mainland in the Second Age. Having survived the cataclysmic events that opened the Third Age, surely the city and port would be Gondor's most ancient continuously occupied site, with records going back twice as far as anything to be found in Osgiliath or the fortress-cities? Yet never in his various attempts to trace The Silmarillion legends from the First Age to the Third does he mention Pelargir as a source and library for the tales and legends that Men learned from the Eldar in ancient times.

(And regarding your memory about it, the thing about Troy, the mother city of Rome as the Aeneid legend tells, is that it was destroyed, while Pelargir never was.)



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Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan

Dec 15 2018, 1:33am

Post #12 of 19 (3638 views)
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It's interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

because somebody on another thread around here said about an hour ago that he thought that Tolkien had once said Umbar was at about the same coordinates as Troy. Does that ring a bell for you? I don't have a copy of Letters, but I was pretty sure it was in there somewhere.

I get what you mean, though; it's not really about "equations" or anything like that, or at least it wasn't for Tolkien himself, in all likelihood.

I've also thought that about Pelargir. I wonder if he was planning to write more about the city in The New Shadow, since at least in the first few pages Pelargir seems to be the focus of the new rebellion against the King?

"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord."


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 15 2018, 2:28am

Post #13 of 19 (3633 views)
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Pelargir and Troy [In reply to] Can't Post

This is what Tolkien wrote in Letter #294:

Quote
If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be at about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy.


Umbar is another 400 miles to the south of Pelargir, placing the City of the Corsairs at about the latitude of Athens, Greece.

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


Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan

Dec 15 2018, 9:07pm

Post #14 of 19 (3585 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

So there you go, squire; there's the evidence! Wink
Thank you, Otaku-sempai, for providing that.

"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord."


squire
Half-elven


Dec 16 2018, 2:36am

Post #15 of 19 (3567 views)
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It is definitely interesting that he put it that way. [In reply to] Can't Post

That is, it's interesting to me that he would choose Troy as the referent for the latitude of Pelargir. I wonder if he was looking for an example of 'antiquity' to demonstrate how far South Gondor's realm extended, in its own 'antiquarian' history. After all, most people have no idea where Troy was located, although I am sure the number was much higher among Tolkien's classically educated set.

But as we were looking for an equivalence of site, not latitude, I remain dubious that we can take very much about the Middle-earth map as a prevision of historical Europe and its peripheral neighbors.

Troy is at roughly 40 N latitude. So is Brindisi in Italy, Madrid in Spain, and Ankara in Turkey. Pelargir is a major port city situated in the delta of a continental river like Alexandria on the Nile or New Orleans on the Mississippi. Neither Madrid, Brindisi, Troy, nor Ankara fit that description. Why then did Tolkien name Troy as an illustration of how far south Pelargir is? As I said, I suspect it was due to coincidence of antiquity, rather than coincidence of geography. It would be meaningless, it seems to me, to tweak a Europe/Middle-earth overlay until we could get Pelargir right on top of Troy, just because Tolkien identifed them as having equivalent latitudes.



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Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan

Dec 16 2018, 3:14pm

Post #16 of 19 (3510 views)
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I don't think tweaking the map in this case would even work [In reply to] Can't Post

I might be wrong, but if Minas Tirith is over Florence, how can Pelargir, which is to its south, be at Troy, which is far east of Italy? Troy, in any case, as you said, bears no resemblance whatsoever to Pelargir.

But anyway, you had simply asked for evidence, I think, of a clear link between the geographical coordinates of the two cities, and I (or, rather, Otaku) provided that. I wasn't suggesting, anyway, that we should look at the Middle-earth map as a prevision of historical Europe - I don't think it's possible. But as I had remembered something about Pelargir and Troy being linked, I just wanted to note that since it touched on the subject at hand.

"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord."


squire
Half-elven


Dec 16 2018, 4:54pm

Post #17 of 19 (3502 views)
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Yes, thanks for that [In reply to] Can't Post

I really appreciated the reminders by you and Otaku that, for whatever reason, Tolkien did compare Pelargir and Troy on at least one scale.

I shouldn't have been, or perhaps seemed, so sceptical! He often used Europe's dimensions and places to illustrate the scale and scope of his map, as part of his conceit that his Middle-earth is in fact Europe, at a much earlier "time". (Time in scare quotes, because he admitted the geographic changes implied between his version and the real version were insuperably greater than could be accounted for within the longest imaginable reaches of human history.) His use of Troy for Pelargir is not to be taken literally, as we agree. But like you, I find it very intriguing that he used Troy at all!



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Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan

Dec 16 2018, 5:50pm

Post #18 of 19 (3495 views)
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haha - it is quite a peculiar comparison, I agree [In reply to] Can't Post

If I place Minas Tirith at around the location of Florence, Italy, then Pelargir should, I think, be somewhere around Sardinia? Somewhere in the western Mediterranean, at any rate. But Troy…not so much.

"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord."

(This post was edited by Thor 'n' Oakenshield on Dec 16 2018, 5:52pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 16 2018, 10:13pm

Post #19 of 19 (3469 views)
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Latitude [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But anyway, you had simply asked for evidence, I think, of a clear link between the geographical coordinates of the two cities, and I (or, rather, Otaku) provided that. I wasn't suggesting, anyway, that we should look at the Middle-earth map as a prevision of historical Europe - I don't think it's possible. But as I had remembered something about Pelargir and Troy being linked, I just wanted to note that since it touched on the subject at hand.


Christopher Tolkien's maps are not drawn to represent how Middle-earth might look on a globe, so it is difficult--if not almost impossible--to perform a direct comparison between it and modern Europe. However, once we know that the Shire and Rivendell are at about the same latitude as Oxford, UK, we can calculate the approximate latitude of locations in Middle-earth. Longitude is much harder to determine. I performed some new measurements using C. Tolkien's original M-e map from the LotR hardcovers.

~ Minas Tirith is 600 miles south of Rivendell, at about the latitude of Florence (according to Tolkien).

~ Pelargir is 750 miles south of Rivendell, at about the latitude of Palermo and Athens.

~ The Havens of Umbar are 1100 miles south of Rivendell, at about the latitude of Tripoli.

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

 
 

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