Friday, 26 August 2016
The real Middle Earth????
How many People have read the "Lord of the Rings", or "The Hobbit" - and many other works by Tolkien and asked why they are so powerful as Stories they almost seem like History? That you read them and it feels like these things, and these People, happened at some time, very many years ago?
Why does Tolkien seem to invoke something that the similarly epic C S Lewis doesn't?
Tolkien might have answered that question himself when he said that "to make a Story believable it has to have some basis in reality!"
But what "Facts" has he based his vast Stories on? Where do all these things happen, these People come from, the Land itself?
What is interesting about Tolkien is how his Books - starting with "The Silmarillion" and ending with the Appendices of "Return of the King" - is how they are almost a study in the formation of Britain as much as they might be that of Middle Earth. That to read those you also do the ancient History of our own Land, and his Authority as an Academic - the Philology of Languages - how Words travel - the emergence of Quenya, Sindarin, Khuzdul and Westron - apply to our own Peoples as they do his.
Although CS Lewis also drew on "Facts" many of his applied to other People, other Cultures, which is why his "Narnia" Stories don't have a similar - almost archetypal - significance that Tolkien's work might. It seems apparent that to obtain his "Facts" Tolkien used his Knowledge as a Philologist as a template to construct his Characters and their Abodes and Adventures.
Paul Dunbavins Book "Picts and ancient Britons" attempts a similar Journey when he explains who the mysterious Picts were and where they came from. That by using place names and some Words found inscribed in what is now Scotland he also traces the origin of those Characters the World grew to love after "The Hobbit" was published in 1934.
So where did all this start?
To do this any Atlas with a decent map of northern Europe showing Scandinavia and Britain, along with the Atlantic Coast of Canada would help, and so - surprisingly would one of California. (All will be explained) While so might the Atlas's of Middle Earth by either Karen Wynn Fonstat or Brian Sibley. Those Maps of the First Age. Oh, and a Copy of "The Silmarillion".
Second Age Map showing the inland Sea of Helcar to the far East, Numenor before its destruction and note the small Island just to the east of Valinor....... read on!
So we begin....
Paradoxically, for someone who claimed not to be influenced by Celtic Mythology - which he described as "Unreasonable" and who had an apparent dislike of Goidelic (Gaelic) one of the biggest Clues is found in the name of his Creator - Eru. This sounds very similar to the Deity who gave her name to Ireland - Eriu or Eire, while referring to the Map of the First Age you'll notice how Valinor, the Realm of the Valar - corresponds with the Emerald Isle. But then considering his interest in Norse Mythology and the Viking Settlement of Ireland perhaps it isn't as surprising. Maybe to somehow legitimize the Norse presence in Ireland - or explain it - he fuses the Mythology of a Culture he was passionate about with one far more ancient to that of the indigenous.
We are given the Tolkien Creation Myth which I won't go into here, except the mentioning of the Two Trees (Telperion and Laurelin - more of that later) but ultimately we are told how the People start to appear. The Firstborn - the Elves - far to the East, on the eastern Shores of the inland Sea of Helcar - in a place called Cuiviennen. They begin to travel west, and while there are some who settle Areas of Arda (the Earth) collectively called the Moriquendi (Elves of darkness) from whom the Sindar descended - the Caliquendi continued and eventually reached Aman (Valinor). These two groups are thus those that have not seen the light of the Trees, and those who have.
This is where Geography and Philology fuse to reveal the Migration of People as they correspond with these Characters.
Tolkien created 2 Languages for his Elves, Quenya and Sindarin. Quenya, he based on Finnish, Sindarin predominantly on Welsh. So, his Sindar who are from the Moriquendi who settled Arda and never went to Valinor could also be a People who spoke proto-Welsh (Brythonic) who lived in Briton for 1000s of years. All Moriquendi were Teleri Elves but there were some who did make that Journey. Like some Britons who did go to Ireland. These are called the Cruthin People by the Gaels - People who it is thought were related to others in Briton.
So what is Quenya and who spoke it?
As I mentioned Quenya is derived from Finnish, part of the Finno-Ugric group of Languages spoken in Finland, Estonia and Hungary (Magar being the latter). This is where the 2 Maps (Arda - Tolkien) and Scandinavia and the Baltic (Atlas) start to help. If looked at in terms of ancient History the Proto-Finns and Balts (called the Aesti) came from that region and somewhere which straddles the Russo-Finnish border called the Veiner Karelia. It's believed that they traveled west and even reached as far as Ireland. They settled for a while, offered their Services as Warriors to an Irish King, married 7 widowed Princesses and then went to what is now Scotland. This is where the 7 Pictish Kingdoms came from. Paul Dunbavin explains how Pictish might not be a 'Celtic' Language at all - and is in fact derived from that of those Finnic People who arrived in Scotland via Ireland. Quenya is spoken by the High Elves - those who did get to Valinor, while the Sindar who didn't gradually adopted Sindarin.
Rather like those Elves People gradually adopted Brythonic - or merged their and that Language. What's interesting about Goidelic is how it might be a Celtic Language - but it is quite different to Welsh and Breton. That it might be a Hybrid of what the Milesians brought with them and what the Natives spoke. So, maybe something similar happened in Briton - while everyday Parlance was gradually conducted in its native Language. The Noldor returned to an Arda where other Elves had already settled for Centuries and the same process happened.
So, in this context, who were the Picts? It is widely thought the name Pict derives from the Word Picti - or Painted People, referring to their liberal use of Body Art. The "Wodes" of Gerry Bruckheimers Film "King Arthur" so named for the Blue dye they adorned themselves with before going into battle. But there's another supposition about their name. According to Mr Dunbavin the Norse word for Pict was "Peti" - a somewhat derisive reference to a People not as large as they were. Thus, the 7 Picish Kingdoms become the 7 Dwarf Lords, even the 7 Dwarves of Snow White fame....... but is it that simple?
As those Proto-Finns traveled west there must have been a collision with - or merging of - them and the Germanic Norse of Scandinavia.. Like the Vikings they are described as a seafaring People whose Journeys could have started 1000s of years ago, but who influenced who here? New Age Departments in Bookshops sell Runes, strangely carved Letters or Symbols on small Stones - called the Futhark. A Norse form of Shamanism and Divination, but while the Vikings might have a certain Chauvenism about those "peti" the Dwarven Cirth developed by Tolkien as a written form of Khuzdul (Dwarvish) looks very similar. Does he suggest a mingling of the Cultures - Proto-Finnic and Proto-Norse?
SO WHO CAME FIRST - THE DWARF OR THE ELF..........OR EVEN THE PICT?
That's an interesting question, because as there seemed to be a merger between Dwarves and Elves via their Script vis a vis the Futhark Runes and Norse Mythology and Symbols, here we rediscover "The Hobbit" and the Dwarf Leader Thorin Oakenshield. Maybe his name is derived from that of a Pictish King called Tharain, so too was Thrain. But then here's something else that seems to suggest they might be merged. It was reported by the Romans that Pictish Warriors carried a Snack - rather like a Bean - that could sustain them all day. this is rather like Lembas - the Waybread the Elves prepare - which "One small bite is enough to fill the Stomach of a grown Man".
This is the proverbial Password that opens the Gate of rather more than Moria!
"The Silmarillion" is named after the cause of the eventual downfall or Curse of the Noldor and the many Battles that took place in the First Age between the Children of Illuvater (of Eru) and those of the arch antagonist Morgoth. Feanor crafts his Silmarils - Jewels wrought from the Light of the Trees. In real Life - and to this day - Baltic Amber is famed the world over as it graces Rings, Pendants, Necklaces and all other Trinkets. Amber is derived from the Sap (or Light) of Trees and has hardened into a Stonelike Substance - which is then worked into Gemstones for Jewelry. This suggests a Craft that travelled with those Finnic Balts which would have appeared anywhere they might have lived - including Ireland and Briton. Thus Feanor represents this when he makes his Jewels.
How do these appear in Briton and our History you might ask? The answer to that is found in the Dal Raitian People who settled western Scotland and some of the western Isles - the Sil Conaire - or Seeds (descendants) of Connary Mor. A Tribe from what is now Ulster they were renowned Craftspeople - making particularly beautiful Jewelry. Thus Tolkien derived his syllable "Sil" from the Word Sil - or Seed.. It is from this Line came subsequent Kings of Ireland and the Celtic Kings of Scotland including David lst and Alexander lllrd. (More of this in a moment).
How about those Trees and who or what is influencing things here?
Norse Mythology has its Yggdrassil - a giant Ash Tree. But maybe this has a Seed that came from elsewhere - somewhere more ancient? The Kalavela is the Finnish Mythology equivalent of the Norse Edda and any other Mythology subscribed to. Here we find a deity called Rauni, who is described sometimes as a Thunder God, a Woman consort to Ukko - but also a Rowan Tree. Considering a Rowan Tree is a Mountain Ash there is an obvious connection with the huge Tree of the Norse, while Geography suggests a concurrence or even a merge. Also, Viking Prowess as Sailors is legendary, but did this also come from somewhere else?
So you have a People east of the Baltic, whose journey west would have meant travelling down - or across - the Norway/Sweden Peninsular - whose Culture, Customs and Crafts traveled with them. Who met and merged with proto-Germanic Norse, and who eventually got here via Ireland. Tolkien has his Elves traveling west, crossing or traversing a Sea to the East, crossing a Land, sailing to another further west - then coming back East.
ALQALONDE, THE CURSE OF THE NOLDOR AND CONAIRE MOR.
When the Host of Feanor pursue Morgoth to retrieve the Silmarils they reach the Seaport of Alqualonde and after being refused the Ships of the Falmari a Battle ensues. Many Elves are killed and Feanors Host sieze the Ships - sailing east to Arda. For this they are cursed by the Valar. To become King of Ireland Conaire Mor kills Nuadu Necht. According to some Nuadu - or Nuada - is one of the Tuatha De Danaan - a semi-mythological People who ruled Ireland before the Milesians. Others say that he lived about 27BC-14AD, but the name Nuadu/Nuada is evocative of something very significant in the context of this.
Nuada is regarded as the first King of the Tuatha, but the name is very similar to the Finno-Baltic/Estonian words for Druid or Shaman. The Niduari, Noita, Noid - and the Lappish Noiada - all allude to something that could connect these People to semi-Mythic Ireland, so if Conaire Mor killed anyone called Nuada or Nuadu he would have been severely rebuked and cused by Druids and anyone involved in Shamanism. This also suggests substance to the Idea that a People peopled Ireland who might be distantly related to the Picts..It is reinforced by how Olwe - leader of the Falmari - had a Brother called Elwe Thingol - who refused Feanors Friendship and to give Assistance upon the latters arrival in Arda. Like he killed someone significant to both Realms, Conaire did Ireland and Briton.
Elwe Thingol was Leader of the Teleri and the King of the Eldar - of those who remained in Arda after the rest had gone and settled in Valinor. His Daughter Luthien married Beren (an Edain) and it is from this union we get to Aragorn and Arwen at the end of the Third Age. After (Elwe) Thingol is killed Beren retrieves the Treasures of his house - including the Ring of Barahir - the one we see Aragorn wear in those Films, thus this confers Sovereignty on whoever rightfully owns it. It is also from the union between Beren and Luthien we eventually get to the half-Elven Brothers Elrond and Elros - the latter becoming first King of Numenor after he chooses Mortality.
THE CREATION....................AND DESTRUCTION OF NUMENOR
This is where your Atlas proves useful - both of them.
Readers of "The Silmarillion" will know that after the Great Battle - the end of the First Age - the Edain were rewarded with the Island of Numenor for their part in the defeat of Morgoth..Numenor lay in the Sea to the west of Arda and for the duration of the Second Age flourished until Ar Pharazon - whose Line had gradually been corrputed by Sauron - defied the ban of the Valar who wreaked destruction on the Island and its inhabitants. Ynnis Mannaw - or the Isle of Mann is an Island to the west of Briton - which - according to Irish Myth was created by the eponymous Mananan Mac Llyr. He is associated with the Tuatha De Danaan - but also thought to be the first King of Mann. So the combination of Allegory and of semi-Mythological History explains how the Kingdom - and thus its Sovereignty - came into being.
Also, while being these things Mananan Mac Llyr was also a Sea deity - and while he might see his Kingship usurped - the very reason he 'created' it, in Tolkien Terms he destroyed Numenor by inundation. The Island was drowned.
Admittedly, it is of Norse origin but the name of the Manx Parliament is the Tynwald - Luthien Tinuviel anyone?
All was not lost after Numenors destruction and Elendil, with his sons Anarion and Isildur, abandon it just before and sail to Middle Earth. when the Isle of Mann was captured and inundated by the Vikings Elidir ap Sande (similar name to both Elendil and Elros) abandoned Mann and arrived in Gwynedd north west Wales. It is from this Gwraid and Merfyn Frych descend - and thus quite a few notable Welsh and Brithonic Nobles.. Elendil and his sons establish Gondor and Arnor. The latter gradually fractures and becomes Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur, but its Capital is at Annuminas on Lake Evendim. Rather like Lake Bala - while Arthedain could be Gwynedd.
The clue here is when Denethor llnd curses Aragorn. "I will not bow down to this Ranger of the North - last of a ragged House long bereft of Lordship and Dignity". According to The History Files a King of the ancient Kingdom of Rheged ruled about 450-490AD called Gwrast Lledlwm (the Ragged). It is from him that notables like Urien Rheged, Owain and Elffin, and someone called Elydir Llandanwyn came. That via the convoluted route of Brithonic Lineage these People are connected with Elidir - formerly of Mann - is also true.
Meanwhile, in Scotland.
To the south east of what is now Scotland lies the region of Lothian. This resonates with Lothlorien - home of Celeborn and Galadriel, but there were Elves in Lorien before they arrived. They were part of those Moriquendi I mentioned earlier, but when the Elven Royals arrived - Galadriel being one of the Noldor who came with Feanor - they tuned it into the Realm it became famous for in the "Lord of the Rings".- its Citadel being Caras Galadhon - or City of the Trees, reminiscent of that 'Light of the Trees' Feanor worked with in the First Age. If the Host of Feanor are those Sil Conaire - those Dal Raitians - who arrived in Scotand from Ireland, David lst was known as the King who turned Dun Edain - the original name for Edinburgh - into the City we know today. Coincidence? Maybe not!
Also, there's an Area of Lorien called the Naith - or Gore - so named because it's the Junction of the Rivers Anduin and Celebrant and forms a Spear point. The Cross of St Naith contained a fragment of the true Cross brought to Wales by Hywel Dda, He is descended from People who went to Wales in the 4th Century to defend what became Gwynedd - and they were led by Cunedda a Celto-Pict Warrior who was from that region of Scotland. It is from him most of the Welsh Nobles - and particularly those of Gwynedd ('Arthedain') descend.
The connections continue........
Remember the Battle of Amon Hen - where the Fellowship is sundered and Boromir is killed?
In that far off region of the North - formerly Peopled by the Votadini - is those Peoples orignal Capital - Traprain Law. as well as Amon Hen (Hill of the Eye) was also Amon Llaw - Hill of the Ear, and these formed look out posts for the Dunedain during the height of Gondor. Just to give it an added aura of something once powerful - but seemingly spent, and equally ancient is the name they had for that region of northern England and the Scottish Lowlands - Yr Hen Ogledd.
A rather ethereal View of Traprain Law
What adds credibility to the Idea that the Dunedain are somehow derived from Britons who spoke Welsh is the name for Minas Tireth. Minas appears as a Hybrid of Mynnedd - Mountain or Hill, and Dinas - Town or City. After all, what is Minas Tireth if it isn't a City carved out of a Mountain?
Still in Wales Snowdonia is described in Welsh as the Land of Eagles - the Eryri. This not only alludes to both Thorondor and Gwahir (Tolkiens Eagles) it also does both Owain Gwynedd (Eagle of Eagles), and a name Aragorn used while fighting incognito for Ecthellion - Denethors Father - Thorongil. "Eaglestar". To this day Cearnarfon has its Eagles Flag. If we trace back to Cunedda's Homeland according to the Ordinance Survey Map of Roman Britain - on the south Bank of the Forth River is somewhere called Camelon
Also, while one of Elendil's Sons was called Anarion - there was a Bard/Poet called Aneurin who wrote "Y Gododdin" - an account of the Votadini's Battle at Catraeth. Their Capital was Traprain Law in modern day East Lothian, while the Argonath - giant Statues of both Isildur and Anarion, are at the entrance to the Lake where Amon Hen and Amon Law are located.
THE KINSTRIFE AND MAELGWYN GWYNEDD.
One of the low points in Gondors History was that of the Kinstrife - a bloody Civil War that threatened the very existence of Middle Earth. Castamir felt that Eldacar - and his Progeny - weren't of pure enough Dunedain Blood to rule and went to war about it. Something similar happned with the Sons of Maelgwyn Gwynedd - one of whom, Elidir of Strathclyde, who felt that any iligitimate Child of Maelgwyn shouldn't inherit and he did the same. To make things worse Maelgwyn had had Issue from Liaisons with non-Britons - Domlech his Daughter being a Pict. Subsequently, Elidir had his War, but was defeated by an Alliance of Britons, Picts and Dal Ratians - rather like Eldacars with the Men of Rhovanion, from whom his Wife came. The Moral here being that had Castamir prevailed the Alliance with other Peoples would be jeopardized and Middle Earth weakened against any Threat from Sauron, thus Briton would be similarly compromised as Alliances formed with others in her defence would also be.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE ROHIRRIM.
How they appear - obtain Rohan, and ally themselves with the Men of Gondor is rather like the Saxons who arrived at the invitation of Vortigern - to fight for the Britons. They were given Thanet to settle - like Cirion gives Eorls Eotheod Calenhardhon - which becomes Rohan, There were also Alliances formed by Alfred with Britons from Wales as he fought to defend Wessex. History tells us that relations between Briton and Saxon weren't always quite as amicable, but Tolkien seems to draw on examples when they were and it was mutually benificial.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE RING AND THE START OF THE 4TH AGE.
How many People are familiar with the Grail Legend? How the quest led to Galahads death, and its retrieval by Gawain and Peredur? How does this relate to the final destruction of the One Ring? you might ask. But maybe this can be explained in the contrast between the Hobbits and even other Protagonists. Galahad we are told was the result of a union between Lancelot and Elaine of Astolat, but Lancelot was the result of a union between a mortal Man and the Lady of the Lake, while Gawain and Peredur are altogether more earthy - both of mortal Parents. Frodo makes his Journey helped throughout by the similarly earthy Sam Gamgee, but who would never have made it without. At the Grey Havens we see the Departure of some, but not others. That those some had fulfilled their Part in a Tale that begins with the killing of the Two Trees in Valinor by Melkor, continues with the emergance of his Servant Sauron, and ends at Orodruin - Mount Doom. Gandalf and the other Istari were sent to help the People in their continuing War, Galadriel - a Noldor - was cursed after Alqalonde - but also had her part to play and thus readmitted - while Frodo suffers from the Wound given him by the Wraith at Weathertop. Those that were left behind were meant to be in the Fellowship - but had further business. Galahad saw the Grail, and thus his destiny was fulfilled and he expired, the Ring found Bilbo and thus Frodos destiny was laid. The other Knights continued like Sam Gamgee does. The One Ring is destroyed - and thus Narya, Nenya and Vilya - the other 3 Rings - lose their potency.
That the final Journey from the Havens is symbolic of Death is explained in a moment.
As the 4th Age starts other Peoples time gradually ends too. The Elves all eventually leave - so do the Dwarves and Hobbits - the Dominion of Men begins. So it's like these too also had their Part in the Conflict that started with Melkor and ended with Sauron - and they also depart. This is rather like the arrival of the Milesians in Ireland - who gradually replace the semi-Mythic Tuatha who have played theirs in the formation of the Land - and Eire becomes what we know today. Maybe the Hobbits gradually became similar to the Leprechauns of Ireland, once powerful beings whose time has elapsed and thus lived underground as the Little People!
INTO THE WEST..........TOL ERESSEA AND AVALLONE.
And so - as Gandalf says - we have reached the end of our Fellowship, but what happens once that Ship disappears to Annie Lennox's Song?
This is where those Atlas Maps suddenly get very big. "What do you see on the Horizon" the Lady asks - but the destination could be close - or 1000s of Miles away. If we looked into the West from the Coast of Harlech in Wales (the name for the Grey Havens being Harlond) we might see Bardsey Island. If we sailed from Ireland* we might end up in Newfoundland, and believe it or not - if we did from California we might Santa Catalina. What all of these have in common is something evocative of a famous Story in our Legendum - Avalon.
* In Irish Myth this corresponds with the Journey to Tir Na Nog - the Land of eternal Youth
Bardsey Island - where something like 20,000 Saints are buried - has occasionally been described as Affalach - the Welsh word for Apples and maybe a Root for the name Avalon, a Crop it was famous for and a very ancient Tree grows there still reminiscent of the White Tree of Gondor. It has also been suggested - and I find it quite believable - that it was to there Arthur sailed after the battle of Camlan, while others say it was Merlins final resting place. Newfoundland has its Avalon - a Peninsular originally settled by Edward Wynn, while Santa Catalina a few miles off the Coast of Califonia has its Township of Avalon too. Because of this even when Galadriel, Celeborn, Gandalf, Frodo, Eowyn, Aragorn and Arwen become plain old Cate, Marton, Ian, Elijah, Miranda, Viggo and Liv they are still affected by this as Hollywood sees that particular Avalon when they look "Into the West".Tolkien says how the keen eyed can see the gleaming Spire of Avallone - the Citadel on Tol Eressea - the Undying Lands - like you could the Lighthouse on Bardsey.- while it was said that the mortally wounded Arthur made his last Journey by Boat to Avalon.
So, this brings us to the start of the 4th Age and what it was that helped bring us to it. Arthur had his Sword - Excalibur or Caliburn, Tolkien had his - a Sword forged by the Dwarves, reforged by the Elves and wielded only by someone who had to right to use it..
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