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Re: [mythsoc] Population Levels in Middle-earth

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  • John D Rateliff
    Hi John Nobody really knows, so any information you get is simply somebody s best guess. I suggest you either work out numbers you re comfortable with for
    Message 1 of 15 , Mar 6, 2008
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      Hi John
      Nobody really knows, so any information you get is simply
      somebody's best guess.
      I suggest you either work out numbers you're comfortable with for
      yourself (that way you'll at least know the rationale behind the
      results), or go online and search until you find figures that seem
      about right to you (just typing "Gondor" and "population" into a
      search engine shd be enough to get you started). But when using the
      results be sure to keep in mind just how speculative they are.
      Sorry not to be more helpful.
      --John R.


      On Mar 4, 2008, at 1:52 AM, John Davis wrote:
      > Hi,
      >
      > I'm looking for information on population levels for the various
      > races in
      > Middle-earth at the start of the War of the Ring. (Or at least, NW
      > Middle-earth - the usual map.)
      >
      > Fonstad has a few words to say about population in her Atlas, but
      > nothing
      > close to specific.
      >
      > Can anyone help?
      >
      > Thanks,
      >
      > John
      >
      > _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
      >
      > email: mcxg46@...
      > web: www.doganddrone.co.uk
      > web: www.enchantedisle.co.uk
      > _ _ _ _ _ _ __
    • David Bratman
      ... That s because there is nothing close to specific. Fonstad studied this as intently as anyone, and if her information is vague, that s because vagueness
      Message 2 of 15 , Mar 6, 2008
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        On Mar 4, 2008, at 1:52 AM, John Davis wrote:
        > I'm looking for information on population levels for the various
        > races in
        > Middle-earth at the start of the War of the Ring. (Or at least, NW
        > Middle-earth - the usual map.)
        >
        > Fonstad has a few words to say about population in her Atlas, but
        > nothing close to specific.

        That's because there is nothing close to specific. Fonstad studied this as intently as anyone, and if her information is vague, that's because vagueness is all we have. The Middle-earth census reports are not something findable by just looking hard enough.
      • Sarah Beach
        My suggestion would be to look up medieval population numbers for, say, the British Isles as a starting point. When you realize how sparce the population was,
        Message 3 of 15 , Mar 6, 2008
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          My suggestion would be to look up medieval population numbers for,
          say, the British Isles as a starting point. When you realize how
          sparce the population was, you get a better idea of how devastating
          the loss of a warrior and leader like Boromir could be to a people.

          But I don't think you're going to find many explicit numbers in
          Tolkien's writings themselves.


          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "John Davis" <mcxg46@...> wrote:
          >
          > Hi,
          >
          > I'm looking for information on population levels for the various
          races in
          > Middle-earth at the start of the War of the Ring. (Or at least, NW
          > Middle-earth - the usual map.)
          >
          > Fonstad has a few words to say about population in her Atlas, but
          nothing
          > close to specific.
          >
          > Can anyone help?
          >
          > Thanks,
          >
          > John
          >
          > _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
          >
          > email: mcxg46@...
          > web: www.doganddrone.co.uk
          > web: www.enchantedisle.co.uk
          > _ _ _ _ _ _ __
          >
        • Margaret Dean
          ... My husband, who s done some research on medieval population and economics (mostly for gaming purposes) tends to say that population levels in Middle-earth
          Message 4 of 15 , Mar 6, 2008
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            Sarah Beach wrote:
            >
            > My suggestion would be to look up medieval population numbers for,
            > say, the British Isles as a starting point. When you realize how
            > sparce the population was, you get a better idea of how devastating
            > the loss of a warrior and leader like Boromir could be to a people.

            My husband, who's done some research on medieval population and
            economics (mostly for gaming purposes) tends to say that
            population levels in Middle-earth are "way too low". Medieval
            Europe simply didn't have the large uninhabited tracts that
            Middle-earth does, at least in the Third Age.


            --Margaret Dean
            <margdean@...>
          • Jason Fisher
            ... If we re going to play the game, let s at least not mix up the rules. Assuming Middle-earth to be a real place and time, it was long, long before the
            Message 5 of 15 , Mar 6, 2008
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              > --- Margaret Dean wrote: ---
              > My husband, who's done some research on medieval
              > population and economics (mostly for gaming purposes)
              > tends to say that population levels in Middle-earth are
              > "way too low". Medieval Europe simply didn't have the
              > large uninhabited tracts that Middle-earth does, at least
              > in the Third Age.

              If we're going to play the game, let's at least not mix up the rules. Assuming Middle-earth to be a real place and time, it was long, long before the Middle Ages. Some 5,000 years earlier, I believe. Applying Medieval population figures to the Third Age of Middle-earth wouldn't necessarily be accurate at all. Of course, the entire project is purely hypothetical, isn't it? Choose any population figures you like -- there's nothing to contradict you. :)

              Jason




              The world is but a word.
              Were it all yours to give it in a breath,
              How quickly were it gone.
              � William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens

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            • John Davis
              Hi, Middle-earth of the Third Age is, of course, long before Medieval Europe. But on the other hand the technological level of the societies (at least Gondor)
              Message 6 of 15 , Mar 7, 2008
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                Hi,

                Middle-earth of the Third Age is, of course, long before Medieval Europe.
                But on the other hand the technological level of the societies (at least
                Gondor) seem roughly equivalent. That said there has of course, by the War
                of the Ring, been centuries of conflict, Arnor's destruction by Angmar, and
                perhaps most destructive of all the plague. So perhaps it might be seen as
                equivalent to Europe had the plagues of the 14th Century been even more
                destructive? Also, whilst Gondor might be compared to mid-Europe (France,
                Italy, etc.), might Arnor be likened to North Europe, or even the Russian
                wilds?

                I have managed to find an essay by Martinez (I think), who posits population
                levels based on army sizes, both those put into the field and those various
                leaders said that they had hoped for. Though of course this itself contains
                many variables, such as what proportion of a population might reasonably be
                expected to fight in different circumstances, the average life-span of the
                people, etc. And I disagree with his thoughts on rural population levels in
                the Shire. Still, it is a place to start...

                Thanks for all your thoughts,

                John
              • Merlin DeTardo
                ...
                Message 7 of 15 , Mar 7, 2008
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                  ---Margaret Dean <margdean@...> wrote:
                  << My husband, who's done some research on medieval population and
                  economics (mostly for gaming purposes) tends to say that population
                  levels in Middle-earth are "way too low". Medieval Europe simply
                  didn't have the large uninhabited tracts that Middle-earth does, at
                  least in the Third Age. >>

                  I've read similar arguments online*, that even a very small surviving
                  population of Men and Elves at the end of the Second Age should yield
                  much higher populations by the end of the Third Age than Tolkien
                  presents, and so:

                  "The only solution is this: there is some major population sink that
                  is killing off most of the races of Middle-earth as fast or faster
                  than they can repopulate, at least in certain areas, and everywhere
                  at enough of a rate so that the places where population is growing do
                  not colonize everywhere else through migration."

                  *http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?
                  post=68466#68466

                  -Merlin DeTardo
                • Larry Swain
                  Some areas of Middle Earth are fairly populated. Gondor is far more populated than we see, though there are a good number of hints. Rohan likewise, and
                  Message 8 of 15 , Mar 7, 2008
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                    Some areas of Middle Earth are fairly populated. Gondor is far more populated than we see, though there are a good number of hints. Rohan likewise, and Dunland certainly has population enough to harry Rohan and be Saruman's suppliers to the Shire. We hear of villages along the eves of Mirkwood, and there are 3 towns around Bree hill (Bree itself, Arcet, Chetwood), much less the towns of the Shire. And the Dunedain live somewhere! And of course, Boromir says he asked directions to find Rivendell, so he had to ask more than in Rohan and Bree, I would think. So the North seems more or less reletively unpopulated, but does have population centers, whereas teh south seems to be what I would expect.

                    Larry Swain
                    >
                    >
                    > ---Margaret Dean <margdean@...> wrote:
                    > << My husband, who's done some research on medieval population and
                    > economics (mostly for gaming purposes) tends to say that population
                    > levels in Middle-earth are "way too low". Medieval Europe simply
                    > didn't have the large uninhabited tracts that Middle-earth does, at
                    > least in the Third Age. >>
                    >
                    > I've read similar arguments online*, that even a very small surviving
                    > population of Men and Elves at the end of the Second Age should yield
                    > much higher populations by the end of the Third Age than Tolkien
                    > presents, and so:
                    >
                    > "The only solution is this: there is some major population sink that
                    > is killing off most of the races of Middle-earth as fast or faster
                    > than they can repopulate, at least in certain areas, and everywhere
                    > at enough of a rate so that the places where population is growing do
                    > not colonize everywhere else through migration."
                    >
                    > *http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?
                    > post=68466#68466
                    >
                    > -Merlin DeTardo
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                    > Yahoo! Groups Links
                    >
                    >
                    >

                    >


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                  • Merlin DeTardo
                    ...
                    Message 9 of 15 , Mar 7, 2008
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                      ---"Larry Swain" <theswain@...> wrote:
                      << Some areas of Middle-earth are fairly populated. Gondor is far
                      more populated than we see, though there are a good number of hints.
                      Rohan likewise, and Dunland certainly has population enough to harry
                      Rohan and be Saruman's suppliers to the Shire. >>

                      Good point about Dunland, though Aragorn says, "I have never been in
                      Isengard, but I have journeyed in this land, and I know well the
                      empty countries that lie between Rohan and the Shire. Neither goods
                      nor folk have passed that way for many a long year, not openly." His
                      Rangers on the Shire's southern border must have been careless, if
                      they haven't noticed any traffic going south from Sarn Ford.

                      And Gondor, or at least Minas Tirith, is less than it was:

                      "Yet it was in truth falling year by year into decay; and already it
                      lacked half the men that could have dwelt at ease there. In every
                      street they passed some great house or court over whose doors and
                      arched gates were carved many fair letters of strange and ancient
                      shapes: names Pippin guessed of great men and kindreds that had once
                      dwelt there; and yet now they were silent, and no footsteps rang on
                      their wide pavements, nor voice was heard in their halls, nor any
                      face looked out from door or empty window."

                      -Merlin DeTardo
                    • WendellWag@aol.com
                      In a message dated 3/7/2008 4:13:48 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, mcxg46@dial.pipex.com writes: Middle-earth of the Third Age is, of course, long before Medieval
                      Message 10 of 15 , Mar 7, 2008
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                        In a message dated 3/7/2008 4:13:48 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
                        mcxg46@... writes:

                        Middle-earth of the Third Age is, of course, long before Medieval Europe.
                        But on the other hand the technological level of the societies (at least
                        Gondor) seem roughly equivalent.
                        The Shire appears to be, culturally, at the level of England in about 1750.
                        One of the few things I like about Jackson's movies was that the Shire
                        looked right. It would have been easy to make all of Middle-earth look
                        generic-fantasy-novel medieval, but in fact various aspects of it seem to be anywhere
                        between Dark Ages and late Enlightenment.

                        Wendell Wagner



                        **************It's Tax Time! Get tips, forms, and advice on AOL Money &
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                      • Larry Swain
                        ... Merlin, You make two errors here. First, you deemphasize the openly , when it is quite plain to Aragorn as he says this while smoking Hornblower pipeweed
                        Message 11 of 15 , Mar 8, 2008
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                          >
                          > ---"Larry Swain" <theswain@...> wrote:
                          > << Some areas of Middle-earth are fairly populated. Gondor is far
                          > more populated than we see, though there are a good number of hints.
                          > Rohan likewise, and Dunland certainly has population enough to harry
                          > Rohan and be Saruman's suppliers to the Shire. >>
                          >
                          > Good point about Dunland, though Aragorn says, "I have never been in
                          > Isengard, but I have journeyed in this land, and I know well the
                          > empty countries that lie between Rohan and the Shire. Neither goods
                          > nor folk have passed that way for many a long year, not openly."

                          Merlin,

                          You make two errors here. First, you deemphasize the "openly", when it is quite plain to Aragorn as he says this while smoking Hornblower pipeweed that very obviously came from the South Farthing, the 1417 crop too it would seem, events in the story taking place in early 1419 at this point. You also neglect the next sentence: "Saruman had secret dealings with someone in the Shire, I guess." Quite plainly Saruman has agents, and I doubt he was sending orcs to the Shire (in fact we are told elsewhere that they were Dunlanders)to deal business or to ferry pipeweed and other goods to Isengard. So there may not be much population between Isengard and the Shire, but there isn't that much distance either. 4 days on horseback following a road. There were certainly places in Ancient and Medieval Europe which had such distance between population centers, particularly in regions that had not been part of the Roman Empire.

                          Let's look a bit further: Farmer Cotton tells our heroes in "The Scouring of the Shire" that Lotho had been selling away pipeweed for a few years, and that the autumn of 4018 he sent away "loads of stuff", enough that supplies actually ran short in the Shire. To send away that kind of volume takes a large number of personnel (much less the few hundreds of "ruffians" sent north, a small tally of Saruman's total human forces, themselves only a part of the population to draw on (women and children, the too old or too young to fight, others).

                          And a bit further: In the Prancing Pony chapter we see refugees coming into Bree, not a small group and not the only group: they in fact complain of such refugees fleeing the "troubles away south". Well, our choices are limited in terms of where these folk are coming from: Dunland, Rohan, or Gondor. I think we can eliminate Rohan from consideration: it just isn't the way of the Rohirrim. Gondor? Well, the troubles in Ithilien certainly would create refugees, but would those who had lived in the Shadow so long leave Gondor and Rohan and go north? Possibly some of them. Enough to make the crowds of refugees indicated in that chapter and again mentioned on the return journey? Open to interpretation I suppose, but at best I can only think that this would make only a part of those running from troubled times in the south. Other Gondorans, esp those on the West of the White Mtns haven't really been affected yet, and even if they were, it is unlikely that they would be coming up the Greenway. That leaves Dunlanders. Boromir also says he sought Imladris for 110 days and that many had heard of it, but few knew where it lay. Other than his father, the librarians at Gondor, who else would he be asking in his 110 day journey than people and pubs encountered on the way that we otherwise do not hear about? Indications are that while between the Misty Mtns (or the northern arm of the White Mtns) and the Shire, nothing remains of Arnor save places such as the Shire, Bree, Fornost (if that is where the remains of Aragorn's folk live), and that there are a few other places hinted at, but the south seems fairly well populated.

                          His
                          > Rangers on the Shire's southern border must have been careless, if
                          > they haven't noticed any traffic going south from Sarn Ford.

                          Indeed, but such seems to be the case.

                          >
                          > And Gondor, or at least Minas Tirith, is less than it was:
                          >
                          > "Yet it was in truth falling year by year into decay; and already it
                          > lacked half the men that could have dwelt at ease there. In every
                          > street they passed some great house or court over whose doors and
                          > arched gates were carved many fair letters of strange and ancient
                          > shapes: names Pippin guessed of great men and kindreds that had once
                          > dwelt there; and yet now they were silent, and no footsteps rang on
                          > their wide pavements, nor voice was heard in their halls, nor any
                          > face looked out from door or empty window."

                          Much like Rome or London in Late Antiquity or the early Medieval period......

                          Larry Swain

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                        • Merlin DeTardo
                          ... I certainly welcome corrections -- thank you, Larry. I apologize for any confusion. I did not mean to argue that
                          Message 12 of 15 , Mar 8, 2008
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                            ---"Larry Swain" <theswain@...> wrote:
                            << Merlin, You make two errors here. >>

                            I certainly welcome corrections -- thank you, Larry. I apologize for
                            any confusion. I did not mean to argue that there was no trade
                            between Dunland and the Shire: as you point out, there obviously is,
                            at least between Saruman and Lotho. Rather I meant that Tolkien may
                            be inconsistent in his presentation of that trade when he has Aragorn
                            say here that there he is unaware of open movement of goods or people
                            between those lands. Does this mean that entire waggon-loads were
                            sneaked past Aragorn's Rangers (who guard Sarn Ford), or that the
                            Rangers knew of *secret* shipments, but they never bothered to
                            investigate them?

                            You also make good points that the refugees in Bree and the details
                            of Boromir's journey suggest populated lands in southern Eriador, but
                            again, Aragorn here refers to "empty countries" along the road north
                            to the Shire from Rohan -- is that another inconsistency?

                            A few additional notes:

                            << the 1417 crop too it would seem, events in the story taking place
                            in early 1419 at this point >>

                            You are correct: Pippin confirms that date is stamped on the barrels.

                            << So there may not be much population between Isengard and the
                            Shire, but there isn't that much distance either. 4 days on
                            horseback following a road. >>

                            That's a fast horse. Checking the _LotR_ map, it looks to be more
                            than 400 miles in a straight line from Isengard to Sarn Ford, and the
                            road bends a little. It takes Gandalf more than 4 days on Shadowfax,
                            racing to find Frodo before the Ringwraiths do.

                            << the autumn of 4018 he sent away "loads of stuff", enough that
                            supplies actually ran short in the Shire. >>

                            You mean 3018 (or 1418).

                            -Merlin DeTardo
                          • Larry Swain
                            ... Or that Aragorn isn t omniscient? Does this mean that entire waggon-loads were ... Do they guard Sarn Ford, and what do they guard against? Servants of
                            Message 13 of 15 , Mar 10, 2008
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                              >
                              >
                              > ---"Larry Swain" <theswain@...> wrote:
                              > << Merlin, You make two errors here. >>
                              >
                              > I certainly welcome corrections -- thank you, Larry. I apologize for
                              > any confusion. I did not mean to argue that there was no trade
                              > between Dunland and the Shire: as you point out, there obviously is,
                              > at least between Saruman and Lotho. Rather I meant that Tolkien may
                              > be inconsistent in his presentation of that trade when he has Aragorn
                              > say here that there he is unaware of open movement of goods or people
                              > between those lands.

                              Or that Aragorn isn't omniscient?

                              Does this mean that entire waggon-loads were
                              > sneaked past Aragorn's Rangers (who guard Sarn Ford), or that the
                              > Rangers knew of *secret* shipments, but they never bothered to
                              > investigate them?

                              Do they guard Sarn Ford, and what do they guard against? Servants of Sauron, not servants of Saruman, or even men claiming to be from Bree (perhaps) trading with the hobbits. Until Gandalf returns in late September after the Nazgul have already been to Sarn Ford and scattered the Rangers there, there is no reason to question or bother Saruman, who was trusted and head of the White Council, from purchasing goods in the Shire and no reason to send reports to Aragorn about it: they are after all on the watch for SAURON's servants entering the Shire, not people leaving the shire with pipeweed and taters. In one of the versions of the Hunt for the Ring, Saruman knows of the Ranger's guard on the Ford and I can only imagine it is because some of the Dunlanders were stopped.

                              > You also make good points that the refugees in Bree and the details
                              > of Boromir's journey suggest populated lands in southern Eriador, but
                              > again, Aragorn here refers to "empty countries" along the road north
                              > to the Shire from Rohan -- is that another inconsistency?

                              The lands are wide, plenty for kingdoms between Bree and the Isen Gandalf says. There can both be population centers, small most likely, and be empty lands. I hail from Montana originally and worked in Alaska on fishing boats for some time, and on farms in North Dakota. In all three places there are wide and empty lands for miles where you will not see another human being, days worth of travel on foot or horseback. Yet there are towns and cities. I imagine something like that: travel for days and not see a soul, but the occasional village, esp. toward the south, or toward the places that were larger population centers in Arnor.

                              > << So there may not be much population between Isengard and the
                              > Shire, but there isn't that much distance either. 4 days on
                              > horseback following a road. >>
                              >
                              > That's a fast horse. Checking the _LotR_ map, it looks to be more
                              > than 400 miles in a straight line from Isengard to Sarn Ford, and the
                              > road bends a little. It takes Gandalf more than 4 days on Shadowfax,
                              > racing to find Frodo before the Ringwraiths do.

                              It takes both Gandalf and the 9 four days. The 9 cross the Isen on Sept 18 and cross Sarn Ford the evening of Sept. 22, stopping to make plans, split up, and question travellers on the road and study maps. Gandalf crosses the Isen on the 24th and Sarn Ford on the 28th. It would appear that the horses of the 9 are Mearas as well, or Gandalf didn't push Shadowfax all out on his way north, but did so after his chat with the Gaffer on the 29.

                              > << the autumn of 4018 he sent away "loads of stuff", enough that
                              > supplies actually ran short in the Shire. >>
                              >
                              > You mean 3018 (or 1418).

                              I do.


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                            • Merlin DeTardo
                              ...
                              Message 14 of 15 , Mar 10, 2008
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                                ---"Larry Swain" <theswain@...> wrote:
                                << Do they guard Sarn Ford, and what do they guard against? Servants
                                of Sauron, not servants of Saruman, or even men claiming to be from
                                Bree (perhaps) trading with the hobbits. >>

                                According to "The Hunt for the Ring" notes (HR), and
                                perhaps "Bombadil Goes Boating", they do guard the ford. And I agree
                                with you that they were guarding it against known enemies, not
                                traders or even Saruman's men. Tolkien writes in HR in _Unfinished
                                Tales_ that Saruman, gathering information about the Shire, employed
                                Hobbits under the direction of Men ("of Dunlendish origin", as you
                                previously noted), and that the Rangers "did not actually refuse
                                entry to the servants of Saruman". Since Tolkien describes the
                                Rangers as "suspicious" of these men, I would have expected them to
                                share their uneasiness with their leader. However, Aragorn says in
                                the Prancing Pony that he "went away on a journey of [his] own" after
                                meeting Gandalf in May, and that after his return he was "watching
                                the East Road anxiously", they may never have reported to him.

                                And perhaps that timing is what explains what I thought strange:
                                Aragorn's apparent belief that there is no open travel along the road
                                from the Isen to the Brandwyine. I return to the line by Aragorn
                                that started our discussion: "I know well the empty countries that
                                lie between Rohan and the Shire. Neither goods nor folk have passed
                                that way for many a long year, not openly. Saruman had secret
                                dealings with someone in the Shire, I guess." If Aragorn's Rangers
                                had obeserved "secret" travel, I think they would have told him. And
                                we know from HR that his men had observed open trading. I suppose
                                Tolkien could have meant for readers (remembering the southern
                                travelers at Bree) to take that statement as an empty boast, one of
                                Aragorn's flawed moments -- certainly it would not be his only
                                mistake. But probably, to take up your helpful ideas, it just means
                                that trade started up again only after he had last been on the south
                                end of the Shire.

                                Thanks also for the further thoughts on how to resolve
                                Aragorn's "empty countries" with the other evidence of life in
                                Enedwaith and Minhiriath, and also for your note about the Black
                                Riders needing only four days to go from the the Crossings of Isen to
                                Sarn Ford. I had overlooked the latter in Appendix B, and likewise
                                misread that section when I wrote that it took Gandalf "more than
                                four days" to make that journey. In fact, it seems to have taken
                                Gandalf three days and nineteen hours, according to the excerpts of
                                HR that were published in Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's _The
                                Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion_. According to that material
                                (pp. 251-2), the distance between those points is 475 miles --if my
                                math is correct-- and Gandalf makes the journey between 7 a.m on Sep.
                                24 and 2 a.m. on Sep. 28.

                                -Merlin DeTardo
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