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Re: [mythsoc] Re: Population Levels in Middle-earth

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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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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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