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TORn interview with Philippa Boyens RE: The War of the Rohirrim

Tol Eressea

Jun 28, 6:36pm

Post #1 of 7 (2048 views)
TORn interview with Philippa Boyens RE: The War of the Rohirrim Can't Post


Lots of interesting stuff here, including a discussion of owyn's role as narrator, historical analogues they crew has drawn inspiration from, and Helm's status as a flawed protagonist who makes mistakes.

This has me feeling more optimistic about the project.


Jun 28, 8:51pm

Post #2 of 7 (2028 views)
Dramatic Reversals [In reply to] Can't Post

I believe Philippa Boyens was the interviewee who defended "Go home, Sam" as a necessary "Dramatic Reversal." Nevermind it didn't happen.

In her own original works and using story devices, her ideas might work well. But on adaptations, I lost my faith in her at that moment.

It was an interview moment equaled only by David Benioff saying "Dany Kind of Forgot About the Iron Fleet."


Jun 28, 9:31pm

Post #3 of 7 (2019 views)
Also not fond of some of her inputs on the LotR:s movies [In reply to] Can't Post

Though there's a lot of stuff in this particular interview that doesn't sound bad for the Helm Hammerhand movie.

We'll see.


Jun 30, 7:15pm

Post #4 of 7 (1906 views)
encouraging! [In reply to] Can't Post

Genuinely very interesting and encouraging, I reckon! Helm and Wulf with some nuance, fingers crossed. Not to downplay the efficacy of Wulf but I hope he isn't portrayed as a super-villain who not only takes in Rohan but also Gondor, simultaneously.

Those seaborne mega-elephants get a mention and it looks as if I'll just have to continue suspending disbelief when it comes to the logistics of ancient warfare :)

I like the 'mercenaries' angle, although I'm not 100% sure about the translation or relevance of 'Variag' in that context. The reference to Corsairs is more persuasive.

And I love the owyn narration concept!

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

Tol Eressea

Jun 30, 8:18pm

Post #5 of 7 (1901 views)
Variags [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
I like the 'mercenaries' angle, although I'm not 100% sure about the translation or relevance of 'Variag' in that context. The reference to Corsairs is more persuasive.

I think the Variag/Varangian connection is a fairly well-established bit of speculation. It's been discussed in online communities since the 1990s, in IRL fandom since at least the 1970s (Tolkien Gateway has a citation to a publication from 1978, speculating the Variags were mercenaries), and Hammond & Scull make a brief mention of it in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion (2005). This must remain speculation unless there remains some unpublished writing of Tolkien's about Variags, but it's an idea I'm happy to incorporate into my personal conception of Middle-earth. I'm tempted to draw a connection between the Variags and the maritime history of the Northmen-related peoples in the Sea of Rhn drainage basin (which includes the Long Lake and Esgaroth), but that's effectively fanfiction.


Jun 30, 9:13pm

Post #6 of 7 (1892 views)
Variags / Khand [In reply to] Can't Post

Many thanks! I'd come across the Variag/Varangian link before but not the 'mercenary' bit of it. I still don't reckon the translation is quite there though, from the Norse. And the Varangians were many things, and I wouldn't necessarily put 'mercenary' at the top of the list.

Looking again at the relationships between the various peoples of the East, on the one hand, and between them and Gondor, on the other, the mercenary status isn't a comfortable fit there either, I reckon. The people of Khand were described as 'allies' of the Wainriders in the 20th century of the Third Age ('Appendix A', LotR; 'Cirion & Eorl', UT). They're also described as 'enemies of Gondor', in the same context as the Wainriders ('Cirion & Eorl'). All of this is to posit an argument that this group (not named as Variags at this point, to be fair) don't strike me as mercenaries. They are established as disliking Gondor and happy to ally with another group - the Wainriders - who also dislike Gondor, in common cause versus Gondor. Alright, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is 1,000 years later but I struggle to make the leap that the Variags of Khand are fundamentally any different from the Easterlings and Haradrim, who are also present at the Pelennor Fields, and who also don't strike me as mercenaries.

And I very much like your fanfic conceptualisation of the Sea of Rhn basin. The Viking Rus, the earliest contributors to the Varangian Guard of the Constantinople, were master navigators of the great rivers of Eastern Europe (eg. the Dnieper, the Volga), and found their way to the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. The Sea of Rhn is a nice rough & ready analogue for either of these seas, and the Celduin and Carnen Rivers for any number of the rivers that served the Vikings so well in the East.

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

Tol Eressea

Jun 30, 10:39pm

Post #7 of 7 (1885 views)
Good to get your take... [In reply to] Can't Post

...as usual, Felagund! Wink

I probably got a little too caught up in the Secondary World history and lost sight of the context of the war in III.275859 (or the War of the Ring, for that matter). I agree with you that the Variags of Khand are neither stated nor implied to be mercenaries in LOTR. Regarding the earlier war in Rohan, I've always assumed Wulf's Haradrim allies were acting on Sauron's orders, presumably delivered through intermediaries. I have a hard time imagining Freca's wealth being sufficient to hire an army from Harad and subsidize their transport over hundreds of miles by sea. I suppose one could conceive of the Variags as mercenaries who were hired by Sauron's people on behalf of Wulf, but that seems needlessly convoluted.

If the Variags were mercenaries at some point, I'm more inclined to see that as a historical thing. Perhaps they started off as Rus' analogue Northmen who moved to Khand after being hired by local rulers, and subsequently sent for their families and/or intermarried with the locals. Obviously, we are beyond the realm of Lore here, but I think that's one way to explain the name without grafting too much onto the events of the late Third Age that we directly witness in LOTR.

Also, something that slipped my mind earlier but that I should have mentioned in my previous post is that Tolkien described Variag as a word from "the speech of Men of the East and allies of Sauron" (HoMe XII, p. 79). However, it's curious that this word should also be a term from a Primary World language. It's possible Tolkien slipped up here; it wouldn't be the only time he got the translation conceit twisted around. In The Two Towers we're told that the name Orthanc "had (by design or chance) a twofold meaning; for in the Elvish speech orthanc signifies Mount Fang, but in the language of the Mark of old the Cunning Mind." Except orthanc is an Anglo-Saxon word, not from the unattested language the Rohirrim "actually" spoke within the Secondary World, meaning the none of the characters within that world (including the authors and editors of the Red Book) would have been aware of any dual meaning.


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