A Description of the Island of Númenor

A discussion of Tolkien's Unfinshed Tales
Philipa
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A Description of the Island of Númenor

Post by Philipa » Tue May 26, 2009 11:15 pm

A Description of the Island of Númenor

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© Ballentine Books

*Click on image to enlarge

In this post we can discuss the isle of Númenor and the importance of it's place in Tolkien's history of Middle-earth.

Perhaps this type of chapter would turn off any non-Tolkien reader and in fact, may turn off just about anyone else as well. Why do you suppose it was important to create such a detailed account of this doomed island? We know the fate of men depends on this race of peoples. What would have become of Middle-earth without the Númenoreans?

There is much to discuss on this chapters merits and importants. Feel free to raise more questions about it in this thread.
Last edited by Philipa on Wed May 27, 2009 11:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Merry » Wed May 27, 2009 1:44 am

You hit the nail on the head, Philipa! I could barely get through this chapter. I can understand why Tolkien wanted to imagine what Numenor was like for background purposes but, cripes, why did it have to be written out in prose?
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Post by Chrissiejane » Wed May 27, 2009 7:55 am

Perhaps the reaction to this here echoes how he felt himself when this account was finished, and that's why we don't have more of it in his other works!

At least it's just a short chapter, I found it fairly easy to read and not very thought-provoking. However when I read on within this part of the book (trying not to leap ahead here!!) I appreciated the topographical detail I had, because it helped to put the comings and goings of the characters in the next chapter into a more realistic context.

In LOTR the professor also gave some very detailed descriptions of the geography and topography of whatever part of middle-earth we were in at the time, and I have sometimes found those parts of the trilogy hard going; but the result of his meticulous attention to detail has been the wonderful illustrations we have from very talented people. So maybe this description of Númenor serves at least as another source for those wonderful Tolkein illustrators to work their magic!
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Post by Iolanthe » Wed May 27, 2009 10:42 am

It's possible that Tolkien never envisaged this description being published, but we know how important it is in all his works to grasp topography. Not only do you feel you know a place when you get around to reading the events that took place there, but it feels real because - in a way - it is real. It's fully imagined.

I wonder when he wrote it? I can't find a date anywhere. He was going to set much of his 'time-travel' story (the one to complement Lewis's space-travel trilogy) in Numenor, but only got past the first couple of chapters. But we meet Elendil and learn of his fears about Sauron. A complete topography of Numenor would have been essential for that abandoned work. And would still have been useful for the briefer and much changed version of events he finally wrote.
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Post by marbretherese » Wed May 27, 2009 11:59 am

Iolanthe wrote:It's possible that Tolkien never envisaged this description being published
That could well be the case, Iolanthe. Aren't the Unfinished Tales a collection of random items which Christopher Tolkien thought might be of interest to fans? I don't have my copy to hand to check the intro, unfortunately. Plus I seem to remember reading somewhere (!) that Tolkien's stories grew out of the maps as well as the languages.
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Post by Iolanthe » Wed May 27, 2009 4:33 pm

Yes - Christopher Tolkien edited them all together. I've discovered after a closer look that he covers everything in his Introduction and says he included the description because it clarifies the tale of Aldarion and Erendis that follows. Which, of course, it does! He thinks it was written just before 1965. This is long after he started his Time-Travel tale, but who knows how long his ideas about Numenor, and what it looked like, were gelling. It was certainly late before he got around to fixing it in writing.
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Post by Philipa » Wed May 27, 2009 6:20 pm

I think you all have figured out the key to his motivation to write about it.

* setting up for the next tale
* creating a place with a more familiar feel to it
* sets the back drop to stories of it's demise

It's important to know how the culture itself existed prior to what happens in the tale after Aldarion and Erendis.

BTW, is there anyone reading these chapters for the first time? If so, are we spoiling you with spoilers?
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Post by Iolanthe » Sat May 30, 2009 5:00 pm

Second time around for me - although I have dipped into this book a lot since my first reading of it! The description of Numenor is really useful for The Line of Elros and all the stuff about the Fall of Numenor in the Sil too.

Isn't it about the only place in Tolkien's writings where he describes a religious ceremony, with the Kings ascending the mountain, offering prayers to Eru Iluvater at the beginning of spring, praise at midsummer and thanksgiving at the end of autumn? I think his description of the absolute silence (apart from the three offered prayers) is really remarkable. There are places that have this feeling of awe where words are both unnecessary and even intrusive.
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Post by Merry » Sun May 31, 2009 1:12 am

Yes, and that's an interesting tribute for a philologist to make! I wonder if JRRT was so into words that, in prayer, they might ultimately get in the way: you're talking to God, and all of the sudden, you find that you've gone down some trail of etymology. :oops:
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Post by Lindariel » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:46 am

Finally had a chance to read this chapter today and spotted something I found very interesting about mallorns:
Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale; and some were given as a gift by Tar-Aldarion, the sixth King of Numenor, to King Gil-galad of Lindon. They did not take root in that land; but Gil-galad gave some to his kinswoman Galadriel, and under her power they grew and flourished in the guarded land of Lothlorien beside the River Anduin, until the High Elves at last left Middle-earth; but they did not reach the height or girth of the great groves of Numenor.
I did NOT know that the mallorns of Lothlorien originated from Numenor! I was always under the impression that Galadriel brought the nuts that established the mallorn groves of Lothlorien from the Undying Lands.

Isn't it interesting that the most notable characteristic of Lothlorien -- its groves of mallorns -- came about as the result of a gift from a King of Numenor? A gift to the Elves from Men. So often, the gifts seem to go the other way with Tolkien.

Fascinating!
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Post by Merry » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:23 am

I never thought of that before, Lindariel. Good catch!
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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Post by Philipa » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:01 pm

Wow, I can't believe I missed that one. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. It is quite amazing that is so. The ancestors of Aragorn donating tree seed to the Elves. Go figure...
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Post by Lindariel » Tue Jun 02, 2009 3:43 am

Mallorns appear to be the gift that keeps on giving -- or rather, the gift that keeps on being given. Check out this entry from The Encyclopedia of Arda:
Malinorni
The original Mallorn trees


Mighty beech-like trees that originally grew only in Aman. Their name comes from the Quenya for 'golden trees' (malinorni is the plural form: a single tree of this kind was known as a malinornë). They are much better known by the Sindarin version of the name that they received in Middle-earth, where they were known as mallorn trees.

These trees grew to great heights on Tol Eressëa, and during the Second Age, Eldar from that island brought them as a gift to Númenor. There they grew only on the slopes above the harbour of Eldalondë, taking five hundred years to reach their full height. Their trunks were silver, and so were the undersides of their leaves, though they were green above. In winter, their leaves turned gold in colour, giving the trees their name, and did not fall until the following spring.

King Tar-Aldarion of Númenor gave some silver malinornë seeds to his ally Gil-galad in Middle-earth, and he in turn passed them on to Galadriel. This was the origin of the famous golden mellyrn that grew in Lórien. At the end of the Third Age, Galadriel continued the tradition by passing a mallorn seed on to Sam Gamgee, which he planted in the Party Field of Hobbiton in the Shire.
From Elves to Men (Tol Eressea to Numenor).
From Men to Elves (Tar-Aldarion to Gil-galad to Galadriel).
From Elves to Hobbits (Galadriel to Sam Gamgee).

Very, very interesting!
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Post by Iolanthe » Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:39 pm

What a lovely chain of gift-giving!
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Post by serinde » Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:01 am

I rather like the detailed descriptions of Numenor

I never thought of them as 'shepherds', or even thought much about what their daily life was like. There seems to be no culture of hunting; fishing & sports only. The horse riding -- no carriages. Eventually just freight wagons.

I was thinking that the topography is detailed enough to make a sculpture . (in homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind) It is quite typical of Tolkien to have such detail on hand. He must have planned more stories about Numenor.

It is the first time I've read this book, but don't worry about spoilers for me -- my mind is like a sieve anyway!

But what is this about the time-travel story? I've never heard of that before. Could, maybe, someone IM me about this?

Serinde

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