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Middle-earth kingdoms


Oct 10 2021, 5:28am

Post #1 of 9 (1500 views)
Middle-earth kingdoms Can't Post

Would Tolkien have likely modeled Middle-earth kingdoms off of British-style hierarchies?

I know Rohan is more Scandinavian in style, but there are many others, including the large elven kingdoms (Nargothrond, Doriath, etc) of the First Age, that may have been influenced more by your typical British Monarchial system.

What are your thoughts? I know this may be speculative, but I'm also wondering if Tolkien ever said anything about the structure of kingdoms in Middle-earth. I'm particularly interested in elven kingdoms, as it was (more or less) expected that the king would live forever...and yet, we see the Noldorin, and some Sindarin, crowns pass in a very patrilineal way amongst even the elves in the Silmarillion, due to the violence wrought by Morgoth's wars with the elves.

The British monarchy was also, for the longest time, patrilineal in its line of succession to the throne. There were others, as well, in Europe.

I'd be curious to know what your thoughts are, and if Tolkien mentioned kingdom system setups at all in his works, or extraneous works Smile

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Oct 10 2021, 6:15pm

Post #2 of 9 (1429 views)
Not really sure [In reply to] Can't Post

My first instinct is to say that a kingdom is a kingdom and a monarchy is a monarchy.

What are the differences between Scandinavian hierarchies or Monarchial systems and British hierarchies and Monarchial systems that you're thinking of?

I suppose in the case of the Elves, in times of peace, barring accidents, or murder, the King or Queen would rule while the world lasts. King Ingwe ought to be such a case I think.


Oct 15 2021, 4:08pm

Post #3 of 9 (1269 views)
The Anarcho-Syndicalist Commune of the Shire.... [In reply to] Can't Post

And now, for something completely different...well, not really. Just the administration of the Shire, devoid of central rule, with mayors elected for seemingly ceremonial reasons as toastmasters at parties.

Tolkien never quite explained the funding for a post office, shirriffs and bounders. Evidently, the position of mailmen and shirriff were full time jobs. Who paid them? We never hear of taxation in the Shire (or the minting of currency or postal rates, for that matter). There are numerous references to a lot of letter writing and a high volume of correspondence sent. I'm not certain a voluntary crew of high-minded Hobbits did this work gratis. Halflings gotta eat.

The only mention of a hidden tax occurs when Sharkey and his ruffians instituted the "gathering and sharing" that was detested by such upstanding Hobbits as Farmer Cotton. More of a cash grab, but what tax isn't? Wink

I guess the only thing one can say about the Shire is that it was a "squirearchy", a loose affiliation of powerful families (Tooks, Brandybucks, etc.) who maintained a limited rule over the rest of Hobbit society.

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Oct 15 2021, 10:00pm

Post #4 of 9 (1242 views)
On Postal Rates (and birthdays) [In reply to] Can't Post

Your post got me thinking about the hobbit tradition of sending other people presents on one's birthday. I wonder if that tradition held firm across all socioeconomic groups within the Shire? I don't have the book on-hand at the moment to see the text's wording of relevant passages, but it's notable that we only see this tradition through those coming/going out of Bag End - a house of considerable wealth and status. Perhaps only the wealthier, well-to-do families observed this tradition at a level comparable to Bilbo's (practically giving something to every hobbit in the Shire). In part due to having sufficient material goods to send folks, but also the means to incur the postal fees (assuming they exist!).

Or perhaps it's all a benevolent form of your squirearchy, in the end, and they're subsidizing these services rather than there being any kind of flat tariff/taxation system.

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Oct 25 2021, 9:46pm

Post #5 of 9 (739 views)
the governance and structure of Gondor during the reign of Elessar [In reply to] Can't Post

There are a couple of bits in Tolkien's correspondence that might interest you in relation to this topic, just in case not already in your collection.

Letter 244 includes a bit of exposition on the government of Gondor, during the reign of Elessar (emphasis is Tolkien's):

"A Númenórean King was a monarch, with the power of unquestioned decision in debate; but he governed the realm with the frame of ancient law, of which he was administrator (and interpreter) but not the maker. In all debatable matters of importance domestic, or external, however, even Denethor had a Council, and at least listened to what the Lords of the Fiefs and the Captains of the Forces had to say. Aragorn re-established the Great Council of Gondor, and in that Faramir, who remained by inheritance the Steward (or representative of the King during his absence abroad, or sickness, or between his death and accession of his heir) would [be] the chief counsellor."

And then at less length is the intriguing reference in Letter 294 to Elessar's kingdom being "like the re-establishment of an effective Holy Roman Empire with its seat in Rome", with Tolkien apparently at pains to point out that there was nothing 'Nordic' about Gondor as a realm.

I'm going to guess that Tolkien may have had more Charlemagne or Otto I's resurgent Holy Roman Empire in mind here, than a later Habsburg version but who knows! At any rate, we have a couple of insights into what looks like a kingdom based on significant devolution, comprised of multiple fiefs - Letter 244 name checks the principalities of Dol Amroth and Ithilien as the 'greatest' of these - and ruled by a king who was chief 'law officer' (but not 'law giver'), advised by a standing body comprised of various magnates and military leaders. Other fiefs and lords are named in the LotR chapters dealing with the siege of Minas Tirith, its lead-up and aftermath: Lossarnach, Ringló Vale, Blackroot Vale, Anfalas, Pinnath Gelin and Lamedon.

While we're on the subject, the aforementioned Council of Gondor is likely one and the same institution as that which decided the succession crisis prompted by the death of King Ondoher and his sons, in III.1944. As set out in 'Appendix A', the then Steward Pelendur (and presumably primes inter pares) successfully led the Council's efforts to reject the claim to the crown of Gondor, launched by Ondoher's son-in-law and distant cousin, King Arvedui of Arthedain.

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Nov 7 2021, 12:08pm

Post #6 of 9 (495 views)
If Tolkien did mean the holy roman empire example [In reply to] Can't Post

Then the Gondorian monarch or steward (would the steward be referred to as a monarch?) was more like a constitutional monarch than an undisputed dictator. Mind in either case the situation in ME been what it was matters like leadership and competency would have made a large difference in the ruling in whatever case.


Nov 8 2021, 4:51pm

Post #7 of 9 (464 views)
Minhiriath = Mesopotamia? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm still reading The Nature of Middle-earth and I've come across an interesting passage in "The Rivers and Beacon Hills of Gondor" (Part Three, Chapter XXII) that seemingly equates the region of Minhiriath with Mesopotamia: The short essay was from a letter dated 30 June 1969 that Tolkien wrote to Mr Paul Bibire who had written him a week before.

In the earlier centuries of the Two Kingdoms Enedwaith (Middle-folk) was a region between the realm of Gondor and the slowly receding realm of Arnor (it originally included Minhiriath (Mesopotamia)). Both kingdoms shared an interest in the region, but were mainly concerned with the upkeep of the great road that was their main way of communication except by sea, and the bridge at Tharbad.

There is another reference to Mesopotamia found earlier in the book that seems to contradict the essay above. This is a note to a text dated about 1960 published as "The Awakening of the Quendi" (Part One, Chapter VI). The notation reads:

35 Far south and, presumably, far east of Utumno. At one point Tolkien baldly stated that: "The Great Central Land, Europe and Asia, was first inhabited. Men awoke in Mesopotamia" (IX:410).

Here Tolkien seems to say that Mesopotamia is Hildórien, the land where Men first awoke.


(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Nov 8 2021, 4:52pm)


Nov 8 2021, 6:10pm

Post #8 of 9 (458 views)
Linguistically, yes [In reply to] Can't Post

Both translating as 'Between the rivers', in Sindarin and Ancient Greek respectively. The comparison grinds to a halt there though, I reckon, with Mesopotamia being one of the cradles of human civilisation, whereas Minhiriath is never described as much more that a liminal zone.

The match-up with Hildórien is intriguing. The etymology doesn't have anything to do with rivers but it has some resonance with the 'cradle of civilisation' descriptor. Maybe worth hunting around HoMe for riverine clues?

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Nov 8 2021, 6:16pm

Post #9 of 9 (454 views)
Minhiriath as Mesopotamia as Metaphor [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, Tolkien might have intended that as a metaphor. I think it would have been more effective to simply state: Minhiriath (Between the Rivers) and leave the name Mesopotamia out of the passage entirely.



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