tolkienmatters: Umbar was a major Númenorean port city in Harad,…

Thursday, November 28th, 2019


Umbar was a major Númenorean
port city in Harad, off the Bay of Belfalas, that went from a major Gondorian trading port to a pirate haven. Founded by the Númenóreans during their colonizing of Middle Earth, under Ar-Pharazôn it was the staging point for his invasion and subjugation of Sauron. When Númenor collapsed the city came under the control of the King’s Men (Black Númenóreans who sided with the dark cult of Morgoth). With
Númenor destroyed and the remaining Númenorean colonies under control of
the Faithful (Those who stayed loyal to the Valar), Umbar became more closely
aligned with Morgoth’s other allies such as neighboring Harad. By the beginning
of the Third Age the city remained under Gondor’s control, and they were able
to repel many of the Harad invasions until the Kin-strife (Castamir’s attempt to seize power). The civil war weakened Gondor and allowed Umbar to become independent and the city become a corsair haven. The Corsairs of Umbar
were a mix of the King’s Men, Castamir the Usurper’s supporters from the Kin-strife, and local
Haradrim who joined the powerful city-state. Gondor was not able to reclaim the
city for hundreds of years due to the Great Plague, Mordor’s incursions into
Ithilien, and Corsair raids along the Belfalas coast. Significant battles in
the latter half of the Third Age include The Corsair raid on Pelargir which killed King Minardil. Minardil’s ancestor King Umbardacil briefly recapturing Umbar but
being ousted by the Haradrim, and Thorongil (Aragorn) leading
a raid that sabotaged the Corsair fleet just prior to the War of the Ring.
During the War of the Ring Umbar had joined Sauron and sent their remaining
fleet to attack Gondor, however Aragorn summoned the Army of the Dead
(Oathbreakers from the Second Age) to frighten and ultimately rout the
Corsairs. With the destruction of Sauron came the scattering and ruin of his
cult, and Umbar fell back into the fold of the Reunited Kingdom. Aragorn 2, Corsairs 0.

“There at
Pelargir lay the main fleet of Umbar, fifty great ships and smaller vessels
beyond count. Many of those that we pursued had reached the havens before us,
and brought their fear with them; and some of the ships had put off, seeking to
escape down the River or to reach the far shore; and many of the smaller craft
were ablaze. But the Haradrim, being now driven to the brink, turned at bay,
and they were fierce in despair; and they laughed when they looked on us, for
they were a great army still.

Aragorn halted and cried with a great voice: “Now come! By the Black Stone I
call you! “ And suddenly the Shadow Host that had hung back at the last came up
like a grey tide, sweeping all away before it. Faint cries I heard, and dim
horns blowing, and a murmur as of countless far voices: it was like the echo of
some forgotten battle in the Dark Years long ago. Pale swords were drawn; but I
know not whether their blades would still bite, for the Dead needed no longer
any weapon but fear. None would withstand them.

‘To every
ship they came that was drawn up, and then they passed over the water to those
that were anchored; and all the mariners were filled with a madness of terror
and leaped overboard, save the slaves chained to the oars. Reckless we rode
among our fleeing foes, driving them like leaves, until we came to the shore.
And then to each of the great ships that remained Aragorn sent one of the
Dúnedain, and they comforted the captives that were aboard, and bade them put
aside fear and be free.”

– Gimli
telling how the Three Hunters captured the Corsairs’ ships. Return of the King, The Last Debate

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mirkwoodest: mirkwoodest: mirkwoodest: One of the ballsiest things Tolkien ever did was write 473k…

Friday, November 15th, 2019




One of the ballsiest things Tolkien ever did was write 473k words about some hobbits called frodo, sam, merry, and pippin and then write in the appendices that their names are actually maura, ban, kali, and razal. 

This just in: Eowyn and Eomer’s names actually start with the letter “L.” [source for other nerds

#wait so they have hobbitish names and common names?

No, they have Westron names and English names.

What you’ve got to understand is that everything Tolkien wrote was him pretending to merely translate ancient documents. He was writing as if the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were actually been written by Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam (or Bilba, Maura, and Ban) and he was just some random contemporary academic translating it all into English for us. 

There are many languages in his books, but generally speaking, everything written in English in the books is a translation of the language “Westron.” Therefore any names that come from Westron, he translated. Names coming from other languages, like Sindarin, he left as they were. Why? IDK. Maybe because the stories are from a hobbit perspective and hobbits speak Westron, so he wanted the Westron parts to sound familiar and the other languages/names to remain foreign? 

“But Mirkwoodest!” you cry, “The word ‘hobbit’ isn’t an English word! And the names Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Peregrin Took, and Meriadoc Brandybuck” all sounds super weird and not like English at all!”

Psych! They are in English! (Or Old English, German, or Norse.) Once again you underestimate what a nerd Tolkien was. Let me break it down: 

In Westron, hobbits are actually called “kuduk,” which means “hole-dweller,” so for an English translation, Tolkien called them “hobbits” which is a modernization of the Old English word “holbytla” which comes from “Hol” (hole) and “Bytla”(builder)

“Maura” is a Westron name which means “Wise.” Weirdly enough, “Frodo” is an actual Proto-Germanic name that actual people used to have and it means the same thing. 

“Banazîr” is Westron for “half-wise, or simple.” In Proto Germanic, the prefix “Sam” means half, and wise is obviously a word we still use. 

“Razanur” means “Traveler” or “Stranger” which is also the meaning of the word “Peregrin(e)” This one is a twofer because  “Razar” means “a small red apple” and in English so does “Pippin.”

“Kalimac” apparently is a meaningless name in Westron, but the shortened form “Kali” means “happy,” so Jirt decided his nickname would be “Merry” and chose the really obscure ancient Celtic name “Meriodoc” to match. 

Jirt chose to leave “Bilba” almost exactly the same in English, but he changed the ending to an “O” because in Westron names ending in “a” are masculine. 

I’m not going to go on and talk about the last names but those all have special meanings too (except Tûk, which is too iconic to change more than the spelling of, apparently). 

The Rohirrim were also Westron speakers first and foremost, so their names are also “translations” into Old English and Proto-Germanic words, i.e. “Eowyn”  is a combination of “Eoh” (horse) and “Wynn” (joy/bliss)

“Rohirrim/Rohan” are Sindarin words, but in the books, they call themselves the “Éothéod” which is an Old English/Norse combo that means “horse people.” Tolkien tells us in the “Peoples of Middle Earth” that the actual Westron for “Éothéod” is Lohtûr, which means that Eowyn and Eomer’s names, which come from the same root word, must also start with the letter L. 

The names of all the elves, dwarves, Dunedain, and men from Gondor are not English translations, since they come from root words other than Westron. 

The takeaway from this is that when a guy whose first real job was researching the history and etymology of words of Germanic origin beginning with the letter “W” writes a book, you can expect this kind of tomfoolery.

Notes: Sorry I said “Razal” instead of “Razar” in my original post I’m a fraud. 

Further Reading: 

Rohirric , Westron 

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joannalannister: “high above the plains of Mordor, such wonder and terror came on him that he stood…

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019


“high above the plains of Mordor, such wonder and terror came on him that he stood still forgetting all else, and gazed as one turned to stone. A brief vision he had of swirling cloud, and in the midst of it towers and battlements, tall as hills, founded upon a mighty mountain-throne above immeasurable pits; great courts and dungeons, eyeless prisons sheer as cliffs, and gaping gates of steel and adamant: and then all passed.”

The Return of the King 

“the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and […] the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare.”

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