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**UT – The Battles of the Fords of Isen** 4. “The Fords were small protection without Isengard and still less against it.”

squire
Valinor


Mar 23 2014, 1:14pm

Post #1 of 14 (346 views)
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**UT – The Battles of the Fords of Isen** 4. “The Fords were small protection without Isengard and still less against it.” Can't Post

I apologize for the delay in posting these latter discussion segments! In any case, in our reading and talking about “The Battles of the Fords of Isen”, we’ve now come to the second of Tolkien’s two ‘appendices’.

Christopher Tolkien tells us that this was written as a long footnote to the text at the point where Grimbold and Elfhelm debate the correct position for defending the Fords against forces from Isengard. CT decided to reset it as an ‘appendix’.
A. Why would J. R. R. Tolkien write a footnote two pages in length?

The editor also notes that the piece heavily repeats information covered in the ‘Cirion and Eorl’ essay elsewhere in Unfinished Tales, and in the LotR Appendices, but he decided to publish it in full.
B. Was CT right to do so, or should he have ‘edited’ it to avoid needless repetition?

So, duly warned that we have gone over this material before, let’s look at it in the context of the military maneuvers that opened the War of the Ring in Rohan.

The first section is a description of the land between the North and South Kingdoms, called the Enedwaith or “middle region”. Originally part of Gondor, it was never really settled by the Numenoreans or their Gondorian descendants.
C. Isn’t this area the part of Middle-earth where in the Second Age Numenor engaged in heavy forestry operations to maintain its fleets, so much so that it permanently altered the environment?

Whether or not I’ve got that right, the land is clearly situated on the continental coastal plain. It is temperate and well-watered country, between the fertile and prosperous Gondor and the fertile and prosperous Arnor.
D. Is there any climatic, ecological or geological explanation for why the Enedwaith shouldn’t have been equally fertile, prosperous, and hence fairly heavily populated?

This map highlights the situation after the days of the Kings, i.e. c. 2000-2500 Third Age. Gondor no longer rules over the Enedwaith, but Celenardhon has not yet been given to the Rohirrim. From Gondor’s point of view, the Gap between the mountains that is guarded by Isengard is the ‘back door’ to their eastward-facing realm.

Some of the greatest and richest trade routes in Europe were over land, for instance between the Mediterranean and the Baltic, connecting Venice and Genoa with Amsterdam and Antwerp. Even Bree is said to have once been wealthy for its location at the crossroads of the East-West and North-South Great Roads.
E. Why is there no trade – which bows to no Lord, dark or light – across the Enedwaith in the latter days of the Third Age?

In the midst of this oddly howling wilderness, we learn, the people who will be known as the Dunlendings inhabit Dunland on the western slopes of the Misty Mountains. They are related to the accursed men of Dunharrow in the White Mountains, and are described as “sullen”, “hardy and bold enough” but “in awe” of Gondor’s might, and having “few dealings with other men.”
F. Are any humans as bad as all that? What are some real world examples?



Dunland-style living, from LotR Online: "Tur Morva -- Tal Methedras. The Falcon-clan has established a village in the northwest corner of Dunland."
Comment on how Frank Lloyd Wright’s Welsh heritage helps explain this image.

The text and the footnote insist that the Dunlendings never originally lived in what became Rohan, but simply crossed from mountain terrain to new mountain terrain.
G. Is this consistent with the Dunlendings’ claims in LotR, as voiced at the battle of Helm’s Deep?

The narrative moves to the latter days of the Third Age. Gondor now regards the river Isen as its boundary on the west, whose Fords are “the only easy entrance to Gondor.” This strategic crossing is guarded by the fortresses at Aglarond (aka the Hornburg in Helm’s Deep) and Angrenost (better known as Isengard).
H. Both are dozens of miles from the Fords. Why not build a fortress, or better yet a bridge, at the Fords themselves, along the lines of Osgiliath on the Anduin?

During the “Watchful Peace” (c. 2000 to 2500), the Gondorian population in Celanardhon “dwindled: the more vigorous, year by year, went eastward to hold the line of the Anduin; those that remained became rustic and far removed from the concerns of Minas Tirith.” Those left behind are accused of being “of more and more mixed blood,” i.e., blending with the incoming Dunlendings who are migrating east of the Isen.

This seems confused to me. People generally migrate for better economic opportunities, or to flee threats to their safety. Here the “vigorous” folk (what does that mean, anyway?) seem to be moving towards danger and away from the (presumably) fertile valleys and plains just east of the Gap.
I. Does Tolkien himself believe that “blood” has a relationship to character, so that “vigorous blood” will seek out challenges, while “mixing blood” is rash and ill-advised? or is he just modeling his mythology on medieval-style beliefs?

The next event is well-known: the West is over-run by invasions from the East, and the Rohirrim of the North under Eorl the Young ride heroically to Gondor’s rescue at the Field of Celebrant. The Rohirrim are granted the land of Celanardhon as their own, and they harry the intruding Dunlendings back over the Isen. The Dunlendings develop a revanchist myth of hatred of the ‘usurpers’.

According to this account, the Dunlendings had only lived in the western parts of “Rohan” for the past few centuries; for the preceding two thousand years they had lived west of the Misty Mountains, while Gondorians had both ruled and lived in the land that the Rohirrim are alleged to have “stolen” from the men of Dunland. Oddly, this reminded me of how the French, while conquering Algeria in the 1800s, decided that as descendants of the Roman Empire that had colonized North Africa 2000 years before, they could claim ‘prior ownership’ over the more recent Berber and Arabic inhabitants who had only lived on the land for the previous 1000 years or so. I’ll bet you can think of other examples where a people’s claim to a homeland ends up being historically challenged.
J. With his prominent fable of the Dunlendings vs. the Rohirrim in LotR, is Tolkien making a comment on European imperialism, which was in its historical decline when he wrote this?

Now comes the history that, I think, is not covered anywhere else, at least in such detail. And this account contains the basic point that Tolkien wants to make: although Rohan’s job as ally was to defend Gondor’s less-vital northwestern front, “nonetheless there was a grave weakness in their situation”.

The “weakness” has several components: the Stewards of Gondor did not see the the Gap of Rohan as a strategic problem, compared to that of Mordor and the East; the Stewards kept for themselves the keys of Orthanc, and manned Isengard with a Gondorian garrison rather than giving the fortress to Rohan; the Rohirrim did not settle around the Fords, but rather regarded the region with some dread due to the magical nature of Orthanc and the mysterious vales of nearby Fangorn Forest; nevertheless the Fords themselves were guarded by the Men of Rohan, operating out of the Aglarond.
K. Comments on the Rohirrim’s fear of “the ‘Lord of Isengard’ and his secret folk, whom they believed to be dealers in dark magic”?

The consequences of these arrangements constituted the “grave weakness”: Even though Rohan was responsible for guarding the Fords, the stronger fortress for doing so, Isengard, was out of their orbit and of their control even as the owners of Isengard neglected it and allowed it to decay.
L. Should someone, over the 250 years of Rohan’s history before Saruman took over Isengard, have noticed this problem and called Gondor’s attention to it?

This section includes an odd remark: “Isen…as it went on southwards [from Isengard] was still a young river that offered no great obstacles to invaders…” This is stated to explain how it was that the Dunlendings began once again to infiltrate the northern reaches of the Mark, under the compromised eye of the “mixed blood” garrison of Isengard, without confronting Rohan’s guards at the Fords: “the Dunlendings unmarked by Rohan but with the connivance of Isengard began to filter into northern Westfold again.” (emphases by squire)
M. If wandering peasants like the Dunlendings can wade across the upper Isen in such numbers, why did Saruman even bother with his famous bridge to get his armies to the eastern bank of the river?

N. So the Dunlendings entered Celenardhon/Rohan unnoticed until they presented a danger … twice. The Rohirrim evict them and harry them back to Dunland, causing a legacy of resentment and hatred … twice. Tolkien has often been accused of a lack of imagination in his recycling of plots. Is this such an instance, and does it weaken the narrative?



Well, why not? OK, here are some of Dunland’s Finest, courtesy of New Line Pictures. How are they different from the Rohirrim?

With Isengard ‘turned’ by the Dunlendish incursion, King Deor of Rohan discovered in 2710 that he was powerless to do anything about the new situation. Gondor could likewise do nothing, being otherwise occupied. Deor and his successors resorted to keeping “a strong force of Riders in the north of Westfold” against the threat of Isengard and the onslaught of Dunlendish raiding parties from the highlands around Isengard and Fangorn.
O. If Rohan could keep a strong force in the area for almost 50 years, why couldn’t it besiege and starve out the fortress itself?

It wasn’t until the dire events of the Long Winter in 2758-59 that Rohan under Frealaf was able to “starve out” the Dunlendings who controlled Isengard. In the aftermath of that disastrous time, Saruman offered to take over and restore Isengard and Orthanc as a strong point in the defense of the West. He was, as we know, welcomed by both Rohan and Gondor, with no bad results for the first few centuries or so.

Tolkien says that Saurman saw Isengard as a “bulwark against invasion from the East” that could threaten Eriador, or the far west coasts of Gondor. Yet up to now Isengard has been painted as a bastion that defended the Isen from threats to the West, which is why Gondor ignored it for so long.
P. Why would the Stewards of Gondor not have seen Isengard’s value as Saruman saw it?

And so our ‘footnote from Hell’ comes to an end: When Saruman turns evil, Rohan learns at near-fatal expense that the Fords are undefendable if Isengard is in hostile hands. And that seems to be Tolkien’s real purpose in writing this entire set of essays and commentaries: to show, as his dramatic final line puts it, “that the Fords were small protection without Isengard and still less against it.”

Yet as we have learned, Rohan had already experienced a hostile Isengard, and the resulting infiltration of enemies into the Westfold without crossing the defended Fords.
Q. Why were the commanders at the First and Second Battles of the Fords of Isen so unable to reconsider their strategic assumptions in the face of both map logic and this historical precedent?



squire online:
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noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2014, 4:54pm

Post #2 of 14 (232 views)
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Where is everyone, in Enedwaith? [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, it seems odd that it's such a wilderness when it might well be fertile land with good communications. It has also been unmolested for the Third Age, as far as I know, so it doesn't seem that everyone has been killed or driven off. Anyway there are areas in the Real World which were raided & pillaged so much you'd have thought it would be hard to get a single good night's sleep, and yet they maintained a population.

But consider the United States - that was filled up (by European settlers) not only because of the worth of the land, but because of population pressures in various parts of Europe driving migrations. We hear that Minas Tirith is under-populated (is it Pippin or Legolas and Gimli or both who notice the many empty fine houses in the city ?) So maybe there is room to spare closer to Gondor and no need to migrate so far?

That said, Eriador seems pretty empty too & one does wonder what happened to the population of the North Kingdom. Depopulated THAT much by the wars with Arnor? The boring explanation is probably that Tolkien didn't write them: it suited him to have a wilderness in which his heroes could travel without being noticed, and without much chance of getting help.

I also wonder whether there is a literary reason for the emptiness. There's (apparently) a tradition in medieval tales that the land can't prosper without a king - this comes up in the tale of the Maimed King in Arthurian Legend (yes, and also in Disney's Lion King Smile). So maybe the 'healing' of Gondor by the return of its King is needed to restore the country to fertility and population?

Of course, if Enedwaith really is empty at the time of the events in LOTR, there might be no point maintaining fortifications to defend the Gap of Rohan (which otherwise would be an obvious thing to do). If there's no one over that way, perhaps cavalry border patrols are enough?

Similarly, if there are no forces likely to resist Sauron were he to conquer Gondor and Rohan & then pour armies westwards through the Gap of Rohan, then there's simply no-one to man the border from that side.

This makes me wonder about the refugees the Hobbits encounter in Bree in FOTR - it's not clear, looking back, why they would have fled all the way to Bree from troubles away south, if they've travelled through fine peaceable land along the way? Some of them, of course are Saruman's agents - perhaps they all are?

Isen the River passable, or Isen't it?
It could seem that it is or isn't passable according to the author's needs; hardly very satisfactory. As an alternative, I wonder whether it might be fordable seasonally. It presumably gets run-off from the Misty Mountains, and so might be significantly more of an obstacle in springtime (which is when Saruman attacks) than at other times, due to snow melt. Perhaps the Dunlendings made it across after a dry summer.


What about the Dunlendings?
Smile Theory 1: They had formerly been noted international bankers, but they brought about a financial crisis, and now they are Done Lending, and they are universally despised and driven away whenever they are encountered.
Smile I notice from the film that the Dunlendings have really bad teeth, compares with most of the Rohirrim, who have Hollywood teeth. Maybe they could not be allowed to settle near Rohan, because of the fear of the burden ther dental plans would cause on Eomer-care.
Serious theories as to why the Dunlendings aren't just welcomed to settle in empty land, in return for pledges of allegiance? - I don't have one. But there are, of course very many places in the modern world where 'Let's just share resources and live next to each other amicably, respecting our differences from each other' is not a viable political solution, even though to an outsider it's hard to see why.

Why so long a footnote?
I think Tolkien was inclined to give his imagination it's head when it set off on a tangent, expecting to either reject the ideas later, or to modify them when he saw issues, or to build them into his story. We're seeing this process in an unfinished state.

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2014, 7:10pm

Post #3 of 14 (210 views)
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M... why did Saruman bother with his bridge to get his armies to the eastern bank? [In reply to] Can't Post

One of the basic principles of military strategy & tactics is to have multiple avenues for attack. That allows the attacker to use maneuvers against the defender; eg. feint north to draw the defenders, then advance south to flank them.

Defenders are almost always better off if there is only one way for the attackers to advance. Dig in and reinforce that one lane with everything you've got and hold on as long as you can draw breath; that keeps things simple for the defenders. Simple is good. Less can go wrong.

Saruman seemed arrogant in his intelligence, so I'm sure he understood those principles. He may not have been a great battlefield commander, but I suspect he thought he was smart enough to outwit his opponents in contests of generalship. So he built the bridge to give himself the opportunity to show his qualities as a war leader.


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.


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2014, 7:18pm

Post #4 of 14 (226 views)
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O. If Rohan could keep a strong force in the area, why couldn’t it besiege the fortress? [In reply to] Can't Post

Rohan's strength lies in mounted men, which are extremely effective at scouting and patrolling large areas, and all but useless at sieges. Sieges are costly affairs for both sides. The besiegers are tied down to one location, eating all the provender in the immediate area, stricken by disease at least as often as the besieged, and are exposed to counterattack at all times. But patrolling cavalry are constantly moving, able to feed themselves from many locations, and almost impossible to pin down for a counterstrike. Perhaps Rohan could have won with a siege, but they weren't willing to pay the cost.


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.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2014, 7:23pm

Post #5 of 14 (220 views)
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That makes great sense. [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien must have known something about that from his own war experieces. IIRC cavalry were last used in WWI.

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


elaen32
Gondor


Mar 23 2014, 7:24pm

Post #6 of 14 (203 views)
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Yes, that is one thing which has always struck me...... [In reply to] Can't Post

Why is Enedwaith so empty? As you say, NoWiz, Arnor and Gondor are underpopulated by the Third Age. However, with its potential for coastal trade and distance from Mordor, I would have thought there were great advantages to expanding, say, Lond Daer or Tharbad.
Lol re the Dunlendings being retired bankers! They certainly need introduction to dental hygiene- or hygiene in general if it comes to thatShocked


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in April. Happy writing!



noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2014, 9:45pm

Post #7 of 14 (196 views)
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The cavalry [In reply to] Can't Post

Certainly plenty of cavalry in World War 1: one of my grandfathers served in a regiment. There wasn't much opportunity to do classic cavalry stuff, though, once it bogged down into trench warfare. (Mendelor's point exemplified)

My father served in a cavalry unit in India, and on campaign into Afghanistan, late 1930s: before the invention of helicopters, horse was still usefully more mobile than foot in rough territory. Cavalry training was still pretty traditional, he told me- he was trained to use a lance, last used in war at Omdurman, 1898.
It was nearly the end: they left their horses in India when mobilised to join the British armies in Egypt: partly because mechanised replacements awaited them there, and partly because it was thought that horses would not manage in the desert.

(My sister & I drew completely the wrong conclusion at one point, assuming that 'cavalry' plus 'Indians' plus the Westerns on TV during our childhood meant he must have served with Custer.)

I tend to view horses the way hobbits view boats…

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


DanielLB
Immortal


Mar 24 2014, 12:11pm

Post #8 of 14 (185 views)
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The deforestation would have been the likely cause. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

The first section is a description of the land between the North and South Kingdoms, called the Enedwaith or “middle region”. Originally part of Gondor, it was never really settled by the Numenoreans or their Gondorian descendants.
C. Isn’t this area the part of Middle-earth where in the Second Age Numenor engaged in heavy forestry operations to maintain its fleets, so much so that it permanently altered the environment?

Whether or not I’ve got that right, the land is clearly situated on the continental coastal plain. It is temperate and well-watered country, between the fertile and prosperous Gondor and the fertile and prosperous Arnor.
D. Is there any climatic, ecological or geological explanation for why the Enedwaith shouldn’t have been equally fertile, prosperous, and hence fairly heavily populated?


Having speculated on the cause before, the fact that such a large forest was lost is the main reason why Enedwaith would have lost its fertility. Regardless of the cause of the change, the loss of the vast forest would have left Enedwaith rather bare.

Things like increased water erosion would have caused the soil to be drained of all its nutrients, and in turn caused the soil to be less and less fertile. Because of the resulting poor soil conditions, sustained farming after clearance would have been difficult. Anyone that would have moved into the area would have had to move on regularly, looking for more fertile soil. Which in itself would have been detrimental - the types of crops which might have been grown take the few remaining nutrients that are present from the ground, without putting anything back. Settlers would either carry on to Gondor or Arnor.

With or without agriculture, once the deforestation had ended and the land was reclaimed by nature it would have generally lacked the great biodiversity that was found there previously, being replaced largely by fast growing plants, grasses and ‘weeds’ that favour the depleted soil.

In the "real world" we know that deforestation causes the fragmentation of habitats and the loss of biological diversity. In some instances, areas that have been abandoned do return to forest showing some resilience. But in most instances, deforested areas are often converted to grasslands and show few signs of forest regeneration. The original fertility of these nutrient poor soils decreases over time, and often only becomes useful for cattle grazing. Which is why there were probably only small isolated communities and farmsteads in Enedwaith.


sevilodorf
Gondor


Mar 25 2014, 1:35pm

Post #9 of 14 (169 views)
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Could it be a subtle magic enacted by Saruman? [In reply to] Can't Post

Discouraging people from moving to the area. The rot from within that he employed in Rohan actually having success here. Somehow making sure that those who did move to the area failed to thrive thus discouraging others.

Perhaps Saruman fed the conflict between people of Dunlend and those of Rohan and used his spies and underlings to create even more distrust and fear. Thus reducing the borders of his own territory that he had to worry about.... Fangorn and Rohan he has to deal with in more active ways.

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

(Found in Mathoms, LOTR Tales Untold)




sador
Half-elven


Mar 27 2014, 11:50am

Post #10 of 14 (175 views)
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Late is the time in which this conjurer shows up. [In reply to] Can't Post

Wasn't it "chooses to appear" in the movie? Ah well, I don't know; and we're in the RR anyway, so who cares?

A. Why would J. R. R. Tolkien write a footnote two pages in length?

Well it's not as if he hasn't done that before. The chapter on The Istari grew out of an introductory note to one of the LotR appendices; and The Wanderings of Hurin began as an entry in The Grey Annals. It's like Niggle's Leaf.

B. Was CT right to do so, or should he have ‘edited’ it to avoid needless repetition?
I like it; but then, I also like HoME with its repetitiveness. I can easily understand people who read just for enjoyment rather than "research", who would complain. But this kind of people really won't have much use for any of the new information presented here. A couple of "cool to know" details, easily forgotten.

C. Isn’t this area the part of Middle-earth where in the Second Age Numenor engaged in heavy forestry operations to maintain its fleets, so much so that it permanently altered the environment?

Yes. It seems also the most likely setting for the truly unfinished, mysterious tale of Tal-Elmar.

D. Is there any climatic, ecological or geological explanation for why the Enedwaith shouldn’t have been equally fertile, prosperous, and hence fairly heavily populated?

Hmm... shouldn't Eriador have been so, as well? And even Gondor does not seem to be as populous as might have been expected. This goes for all of Middle-earth.

E. Why is there no trade – which bows to no Lord, dark or light – across the Enedwaith in the latter days of the Third Age?
Where to? Hollin, Arnor and Moria are deserted; to those farmers in the Shire? Meh.

F. Are any humans as bad as all that? What are some real world examples?
The infidel barbarians, of course. Whoever you choose to put under that label.

G. Is this consistent with the Dunlendings’ claims in LotR, as voiced at the battle of Helm’s Deep?
Of course not; and it even contradicts Gamling's description. Another whitewashing of history on the side of Tolkien (or Findegil, if we accept Darkstone's theory of heavy post-Aragorn Gondorian rewriting).

H. Both are dozens of miles from the Fords. Why not build a fortress, or better yet a bridge, at the Fords themselves, along the lines of Osgiliath on the Anduin?

The Enedwaith is empty. Why bother?
I guess that once the bridge on Tharbad was neglected, nobody bothered to build yet another one.
But now that Aragorn has regained the kingship...

I. Does Tolkien himself believe that “blood” has a relationship to character, so that “vigorous blood” will seek out challenges, while “mixing blood” is rash and ill-advised? or is he just modeling his mythology on medieval-style beliefs?

Perhaps. But when I read this I got the impression that the more vigorous were conscripted to Gondor's armies, and sent to hold the lines, after which they married local girls and settled down in Anorien or even Ithilien.

J. With his prominent fable of the Dunlendings vs. the Rohirrim in LotR, is Tolkien making a comment on European imperialism, which was in its historical decline when he wrote this?

He seems to support its claims. I'm not sure he would be as impressed with the recent Arabic claims to Spain, though.

K. Comments on the Rohirrim’s fear of “the ‘Lord of Isengard’ and his secret folk, whom they believed to be dealers in dark magic”?

Little did they know...
But on the other hand, it seems to be very much like their dread of Galadriel.

L. Should someone, over the 250 years of Rohan’s history before Saruman took over Isengard, have noticed this problem and called Gondor’s attention to it?

Well, Calenardhon was neglected before that, so it only seems to be consistent.
But yes; at least the folk around the Morthond valley should have figured out something was wrong.

M. If wandering peasants like the Dunlendings can wade across the upper Isen in such numbers, why did Saruman even bother with his famous bridge to get his armies to the eastern bank of the river?

Ha! Good catch.

N. So the Dunlendings entered Celenardhon/Rohan unnoticed until they presented a danger … twice. The Rohirrim evict them and harry them back to Dunland, causing a legacy of resentment and hatred … twice. Tolkien has often been accused of a lack of imagination in his recycling of plots. Is this such an instance, and does it weaken the narrative?

Well, this seems to be quite a likely pattern. History repeats itself, too.

O. If Rohan could keep a strong force in the area for almost 50 years, why couldn’t it besiege and starve out the fortress itself?
Besieging is problematic, especailly for cavalry. But he could have attempted a few punitive raids into what this document claims was the Dunlending's homeland.

P. Why would the Stewards of Gondor not have seen Isengard’s value as Saruman saw it?

They were directing the war from the front. He wanted to be a general from the back.

Q. Why were the commanders at the First and Second Battles of the Fords of Isen so unable to reconsider their strategic assumptions in the face of both map logic and this historical precedent?

Why did the French in Agincourt virtually repeat the mistakes of Crecy?



Thank you, squire, for this (characteristically) deep and detailed discussion! And sorry for my (characteristic) tardiness in responding.


Darkstone
Immortal


Apr 1 2014, 9:05pm

Post #11 of 14 (197 views)
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"Why Don't We Just Wade Across the River, General Saruman?" [In reply to] Can't Post

Christopher Tolkien tells us that this was written as a long footnote to the text at the point where Grimbold and Elfhelm debate the correct position for defending the Fords against forces from Isengard. CT decided to reset it as an ‘appendix’.
A. Why would J. R. R. Tolkien write a footnote two pages in length?


To show us exactly what a professional philologist has to put up with


The editor also notes that the piece heavily repeats information covered in the ‘Cirion and Eorl’ essay elsewhere in Unfinished Tales, and in the LotR Appendices, but he decided to publish it in full.
B. Was CT right to do so, or should he have ‘edited’ it to avoid needless repetition?


Though it’s the same Tolkien, it’s more Tolkien.


The first section is a description of the land between the North and South Kingdoms, called the Enedwaith or “middle region”. Originally part of Gondor, it was never really settled by the Numenoreans or their Gondorian descendants.
C. Isn’t this area the part of Middle-earth where in the Second Age Numenor engaged in heavy forestry operations to maintain its fleets, so much so that it permanently altered the environment?


Sounds just like the Phoenicians:


… for thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians.
1 Kings 5:6


That is:

1. Chop down all the trees and sell them for lots of money.
2. Sell the deforested land to rubes.
3. Move somewhere else with lots of forest.
4. Rinse, repeat.


Whether or not I’ve got that right, the land is clearly situated on the continental coastal plain. It is temperate and well-watered country, between the fertile and prosperous Gondor and the fertile and prosperous Arnor.
D. Is there any climatic, ecological or geological explanation for why the Enedwaith shouldn’t have been equally fertile, prosperous, and hence fairly heavily populated?


The Great Plague.


Some of the greatest and richest trade routes in Europe were over land, for instance between the Mediterranean and the Baltic, connecting Venice and Genoa with Amsterdam and Antwerp. Even Bree is said to have once been wealthy for its location at the crossroads of the East-West and North-South Great Roads.
E. Why is there no trade – which bows to no Lord, dark or light – across the Enedwaith in the latter days of the Third Age?


High probability roll on the Wandering Monster Encounter table


In the midst of this oddly howling wilderness, we learn, the people who will be known as the Dunlendings inhabit Dunland on the western slopes of the Misty Mountains. They are related to the accursed men of Dunharrow in the White Mountains, and are described as “sullen”, “hardy and bold enough” but “in awe” of Gondor’s might, and having “few dealings with other men.”
F. Are any humans as bad as all that?


Sure.


What are some real world examples?

The Sentinelese, the Korowai, and the Mashco-Piro.

Luckily the first contact with the Pintupi went better because apparently the appeal of the music of Midnight Oil is universal:

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/...frf7l6-1111112932308


Dunland-style living, from LotR Online: "Tur Morva -- Tal Methedras. The Falcon-clan has established a village in the northwest corner of Dunland."
Comment on how Frank Lloyd Wright’s Welsh heritage helps explain this image.


Dunno. But I do know he wouldn’t put in any sidewalks until a few months later, then put them in wherever there were footpaths in the grass. Looks like this is a new building.


The text and the footnote insist that the Dunlendings never originally lived in what became Rohan, but simply crossed from mountain terrain to new mountain terrain.
G. Is this consistent with the Dunlendings’ claims in LotR, as voiced at the battle of Helm’s Deep?


Reality usually isn’t anywhere near consistent with claims.


The narrative moves to the latter days of the Third Age. Gondor now regards the river Isen as its boundary on the west, whose Fords are “the only easy entrance to Gondor.” This strategic crossing is guarded by the fortresses at Aglarond (aka the Hornburg in Helm’s Deep) and Angrenost (better known as Isengard).
H. Both are dozens of miles from the Fords. Why not build a fortress, or better yet a bridge, at the Fords themselves, along the lines of Osgiliath on the Anduin?


Fords and bridges tend to get flooded out. And remember Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp.


During the “Watchful Peace” (c. 2000 to 2500), the Gondorian population in Celanardhon “dwindled: the more vigorous, year by year, went eastward to hold the line of the Anduin; those that remained became rustic and far removed from the concerns of Minas Tirith.” Those left behind are accused of being “of more and more mixed blood,” i.e., blending with the incoming Dunlendings who are migrating east of the Isen.

This seems confused to me. People generally migrate for better economic opportunities, or to flee threats to their safety. Here the “vigorous” folk (what does that mean, anyway?) seem to be moving towards danger and away from the (presumably) fertile valleys and plains just east of the Gap.


This is Anglo-Saxon custom. Young warriors were encouraged by their elders to go off and raid (rather than hang around and cause trouble). The young warriors would either come back with loot, send back word they founded a village in a nice green place, or else just vanish off the face of the earth never to be heard from again. The village elders considered it a win-win-win situation.


I. Does Tolkien himself believe that “blood” has a relationship to character, so that “vigorous blood” will seek out challenges, while “mixing blood” is rash and ill-advised?

Then why did he marry Edith, whose own genetic circumstances led to social ostracism by the other Oxford wives?

(BTW, doesn't "Oxford Wives" sound like a British remake of "The Stepford Wives"?)


or is he just modeling his mythology on medieval-style beliefs?

This.


The next event is well-known: the West is over-run by invasions from the East, and the Rohirrim of the North under Eorl the Young ride heroically to Gondor’s rescue at the Field of Celebrant. The Rohirrim are granted the land of Celanardhon as their own, and they harry the intruding Dunlendings back over the Isen. The Dunlendings develop a revanchist myth of hatred of the ‘usurpers’.

A revisionist of a revisionist myth. While not exactly infinite regression, such a process can take all of a day and part of a night.


According to this account, the Dunlendings had only lived in the western parts of “Rohan” for the past few centuries; for the preceding two thousand years they had lived west of the Misty Mountains, while Gondorians had both ruled and lived in the land that the Rohirrim are alleged to have “stolen” from the men of Dunland. Oddly, this reminded me of how the French, while conquering Algeria in the 1800s, decided that as descendants of the Roman Empire that had colonized North Africa 2000 years before, they could claim ‘prior ownership’ over the more recent Berber and Arabic inhabitants who had only lived on the land for the previous 1000 years or so. I’ll bet you can think of other examples where a people’s claim to a homeland ends up being historically challenged.

Everybody lives on stolen lands.


J. With his prominent fable of the Dunlendings vs. the Rohirrim in LotR, is Tolkien making a comment on European imperialism, which was in its historical decline when he wrote this?

Or Cowboys and Indians.


Now comes the history that, I think, is not covered anywhere else, at least in such detail. And this account contains the basic point that Tolkien wants to make: although Rohan’s job as ally was to defend Gondor’s less-vital northwestern front, “nonetheless there was a grave weakness in their situation”.

Kind of like Mexico’s ability to help us fend off the threat of the Soviets’ Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) ICBMs coming over the South Pole during the 1960s. (I.e, there was a SEATO to NATO, but no SORAD to NORAD.)

http://www.ausairpower.net/...ov-FOBS-Program.html


The “weakness” has several components: the Stewards of Gondor did not see the the Gap of Rohan as a strategic problem, compared to that of Mordor and the East; the Stewards kept for themselves the keys of Orthanc, and manned Isengard with a Gondorian garrison rather than giving the fortress to Rohan; the Rohirrim did not settle around the Fords, but rather regarded the region with some dread due to the magical nature of Orthanc and the mysterious vales of nearby Fangorn Forest; nevertheless the Fords themselves were guarded by the Men of Rohan, operating out of the Aglarond.
K. Comments on the Rohirrim’s fear of “the ‘Lord of Isengard’ and his secret folk, whom they believed to be dealers in dark magic”?


There stood a tower of marvellous shape. It was fashioned by the builders of old, who smoothed the Ring of Isengard, and yet it seemed a thing not made by the craft of Men, but riven from the bones of the earth in the ancient torment of the hills. A peak and isle of rock it was, black and gleaming hard: four mighty piers of many-sided stone were welded into one, but near the summit they opened into gaping horns, their pinnacles sharp as the points of spears, keen-edged as knives. Between them was a narrow space, and there upon a floor of polished stone, written with strange signs, a man might stand five hundred feet above the plain.
-The Road to Isengard

Oooo! Spooky!!


The consequences of these arrangements constituted the “grave weakness”: Even though Rohan was responsible for guarding the Fords, the stronger fortress for doing so, Isengard, was out of their orbit and of their control even as the owners of Isengard neglected it and allowed it to decay.
L. Should someone, over the 250 years of Rohan’s history before Saruman took over Isengard, have noticed this problem and called Gondor’s attention to it?


Who said there wasn’t? Cassandra is an archetype for a reason.


This section includes an odd remark: “Isen…as it went on southwards [from Isengard] was still a young river that offered no great obstacles to invaders…” This is stated to explain how it was that the Dunlendings began once again to infiltrate the northern reaches of the Mark, under the compromised eye of the “mixed blood” garrison of Isengard, without confronting Rohan’s guards at the Fords: “the Dunlendings unmarked by Rohan but with the connivance of Isengard began to filter into northern Westfold again.” (emphases by squire)
M. If wandering peasants like the Dunlendings can wade across the upper Isen in such numbers, why did Saruman even bother with his famous bridge to get his armies to the eastern bank of the river?


One remembers the tale about how just before the Battle of Fredericksburg, Union division commander Major General Winfield Scott Hancock witnessed a herd of cows crossing a ford of the Rappahannock River. He suggested the Union army do the same, only to be rebuffed by commanding General Ambrose Everett Burnside who insisted on waiting for a pontoon bridge to be constructed. This gave time for the Confederates to organize Fredericksburg defenses, thus resulting in an appalling bloodbath for the Union army when it finally did cross.

Of course a ford may be suitable for cows, wandering peasants, and even infantry, but it may not be for supply trains and siege equipment. General Burnside certainly made many questionable decisions, but waiting for a proper bridge for his army to cross the Rappahannock isn’t necessarily one of them.


N. So the Dunlendings entered Celenardhon/Rohan unnoticed until they presented a danger … twice. The Rohirrim evict them and harry them back to Dunland, causing a legacy of resentment and hatred … twice. Tolkien has often been accused of a lack of imagination in his recycling of plots. Is this such an instance, and does it weaken the narrative?

As we see in Dr. G. T. Wrench’s Reconstruction By Way of the Soil (1946), it’s hard to beat off continual peasant incursions into fertile lands and forests. Just ask hundreds of years of European nobility with their Royal Forests, current South American countries abutting the Amazon Jungle, not to mention participants of the Lincoln County War, the Pleasant Valley War, the Mason County War and the Johnson County Range War.


Well, why not?

“The farmer and the cowman should be friends.
Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends.
One man likes to push a plough, the other likes to chase a cow,
But that's no reason why they cain't be friends.”

Not.


OK, here are some of Dunland’s Finest, courtesy of New Line Pictures. How are they different from the Rohirrim?

I have to admit they definitely look like they’ve been rolling on the floor of a thatched barn with the dogs.


With Isengard ‘turned’ by the Dunlendish incursion, King Deor of Rohan discovered in 2710 that he was powerless to do anything about the new situation. Gondor could likewise do nothing, being otherwise occupied. Deor and his successors resorted to keeping “a strong force of Riders in the north of Westfold” against the threat of Isengard and the onslaught of Dunlendish raiding parties from the highlands around Isengard and Fangorn.
O. If Rohan could keep a strong force in the area for almost 50 years, why couldn’t it besiege and starve out the fortress itself?


Countering a raiding party might take a week or two. Conducting a siege might take months or years.


Tolkien says that Saurman saw Isengard as a “bulwark against invasion from the East” that could threaten Eriador, or the far west coasts of Gondor. Yet up to now Isengard has been painted as a bastion that defended the Isen from threats to the West, which is why Gondor ignored it for so long.
P. Why would the Stewards of Gondor not have seen Isengard’s value as Saruman saw it?


Because it only becomes a bulwark against the East once Gondor has fallen. So it’s kind of like France worrying about Great Britain’s defenses against Germany during the World Wars.


And so our ‘footnote from Hell’ comes to an end: When Saruman turns evil, Rohan learns at near-fatal expense that the Fords are undefendable if Isengard is in hostile hands. And that seems to be Tolkien’s real purpose in writing this entire set of essays and commentaries: to show, as his dramatic final line puts it, “that the Fords were small protection without Isengard and still less against it.”

Yet as we have learned, Rohan had already experienced a hostile Isengard, and the resulting infiltration of enemies into the Westfold without crossing the defended Fords.
Q. Why were the commanders at the First and Second Battles of the Fords of Isen so unable to reconsider their strategic assumptions in the face of both map logic and this historical precedent?


"They are proud and willful, but they are true-hearted, generous in thought and deed; bold but not cruel; wise but unlearned, writing no books..."
-The Riders of Rohan

Just goes to show you should always write stuff down.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”


(This post was edited by Darkstone on Apr 1 2014, 9:08pm)


Felagund
Lorien


Apr 3 2014, 10:50pm

Post #12 of 14 (175 views)
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Saruman, no warlord [In reply to] Can't Post

This is a great Unfinished Tale, and your posts have been brilliant. I've loved the attention to detail, especially the maps, and the Tur Morva image from LoTRO (one of my fave pastimes!) was a nice touch.

The Battles of the Fords of Isen have always made me curious about the match-up between the armies of Isengard and those of Rohan. In particular, they make me wonder if Saruman's plan to dominate / destroy Rohan were ever realistic - at least on the issue of force of arms. From what this Unfinished Tale and LotR tells us, Isengard could field about 10,000 Orcs (including Uruk-hai battalions), an indeterminate number of wolf-rider skirmishers (several hundred?), and an unknown number of Dunlendings and their kin from the lands between the Isen and the Adorn Rivers (a few thousand?). On the other side of the ledger, a full Rohan muster can produce "10,000 spears". In other words, the Rohirrim were never massively outnumbered by Saruman's maximum force, and had an overwhelming advantage in cavalry. Compare this to the massive numerical asymmetry evident between the armies of Mordor and Gondor.

My point is that although the Battles of the Fords of Isen show that Saruman's troops could hold their own, how could Saruman have ever expected to occupy Rohan, even if he had won the Battle of Helm's Deep, and the Ents hadn't turned up? Rohan is a big place, with a population big enough to field 10,000 men. Even at their peak (before any casualties were taken), Saruman's armies would have struggled to hold down a conquered, and presumably rebellious, population.

I realise that there were other threads to Saruman's strategy, namely decapitating Rohan's leadership. And he may not have had much interest in ruling over Rohan as such anyway - perhaps he would have just let the Dunlendings and Orcs run amok. However, I'd argue that there probably wouldn't have been enough of these left to do so effectively. Another point is that the ultimate puppet-master, Sauron, wouldn't have cared one way or the other what Saruman did, as long as Rohan was knocked out of the fight, even if only for a while. Keeping Rohan and Gondor from reinforcing each other seems to have been enough.

All this said, I still reckon Saruman's vanity seriously got the best of him (something, no doubt, Sauron played on). Saruman acted the warlord but his position was actually pretty precarious. And that's even before you add the Ents and Huorns to the equation. Morgoth and Sauron deployed hordes of Orcs, which partially made up for their relative lack of quality vs Elvish and Edainic-based warriors. Saruman neither had the numbers nor enough quality - Tolkien is pretty specific that the small number of axe-men who took down Théodred were Saruman's best fighters, and none survived the First Battle of the Fords of Isen. The next best were presumably the Uruk-hai, and they appear to have been a minority component of the total force available to Saruman. Basically, I don't reckon Saruman's military plans ever had a great chance of success.

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


squire
Valinor


Apr 3 2014, 11:06pm

Post #13 of 14 (172 views)
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Great thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for taking the military equation to the next level. I agree that the numbers seem to argue against Saruman prevailing in a real war with Rohan, but as we've seen there are factors that give Saruman some advantages: he counted on Rohan's morale and leadership being crippled, he was prepared to use terror and scorched earth tactics, and he recognized that cavalry alone are not always effective in battles for fixed or fortified positions.

It's hard with Tolkien to perform this kind of analysis, because he wasn't really interested in the level of wargaming detail that military history favors. These essays are remarkable for him in that regard; I see him as always deciding his battles purely on grounds of moral superiority. Thanks again for your thoughts (and kind words)!



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'.
Footeramas: The 3rd & 4th TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion and NOW the 1st BotR Discussion too! and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Apr 6 2014, 8:23am

Post #14 of 14 (181 views)
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Saurman the strategist, and Tolkien the wargamer [In reply to] Can't Post

It's an interesting question whether Saruman could hope to finish his war (or indeed why he feels he needs to start it right now). One can always blame his increasing insanity, due to regular brainwashing with his palantir, or his increasingly unbalanced wish to get the Ring (or any other explanation for him being increasingly bonkers)!

I think Tolkien is, and is not, interested in wargaming - there are several battles which are lovingly crafted in such a way that 'realistic' military factors can get an exciting ebb and flow of our heroes fortunes. He does seem to feel it's important to describe the lay of the land where the opposing forces start and so on. I don't think it's exclusively a 'late Tolkien' phenomenon. The battle of the Five Armies in The Hobbit, with it's ambush and serial outflankings, is one of his best, from a wargamers point of view. But then, The Eagles tend to appear to settle things (or at least, to demonstrate how things are about to be settled on the basis of moral superiority, as Squire says). So 'it's not all down to 'realism' other story needs are served.

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

 
 

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