Monday, 24 January 2011

Aragorn and Archaeology, part I

A hundred years ago, Aragorn was regarded as a myth. Fifty years ago, he was back in fashion and learned tomes were written called 'The Age of Aragorn' and 'Aragorn's Arnor'. These days, the fickle pendulum of academic interest has swung in another direction (though, perhaps, there are signs it is swinging back). The earliest stories that mention him are generally thought to date to a period of around 300 years after his death. It may be that 'history' as such can tell us little about Aragorn and his times.

But can archaeology help where history has failed? Is there are 'arcaheology of Aragorn' that can give us clues as to the context in which the legends of Aragorn arose? Is there even an 'historical' Aragorn behind the legends?

The earliest references to Aragorn - all from the North, all from around 1,200 years ago - are short, and they are simple. 'In those times Aragorn fought with the kings of the West against the Orghul, and he was their leader of battles'; '...he fed the ravens, though he was no Aragorn'; 'the Battle of Camlad, where Aragorn and Gothmog fell'.

Slightly later texts link Aragorn with the 'Battle of Sul' - a genuine historical battle mentioned by a chronicler called Galdis. Unfortunately, Galdis does not name Aragorn as the commander at the Battle (he calls it a 'Siege') of Sul. In fact, in his entire narrative lasting some 530 years more or less, he only names about a dozen people.

This constitutes the entire contemporary or near-contemporary record of Aragorn. But they do sketch out the beginnings of a 'real' Aragorn behind the myth. A real war-leader in Arnor, who fought against the 'Orghul' alongside others, in a war that is mentioned as a recent historical event by a chronicler 1500 years ago.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Amroth of Lorien and the Princes of Dol Amroth II

(being a synthetic account of the origins of the Princes, derived primarily from Unfinished Tales, with remarkably few diversions into the various traditions)

The first recorded use of the title Prince of Dol Amroth relates to the (un-named) Lord at the time of the meeting of Cirion and Eorl, as detailed in Part III of Unfinished Tales, pp288-320. A note to part of this tale states that the title of 'Prince' was granted to a family of Faithful settled in Belfalas, by Elendil, at the end of the Second Age and more than 2,000 years before the Meeting of Cirion and Eorl.

The name 'Dol Amroth' for the hill on which the tower of Tirith Aear stood is believed to relate to the legend that Amroth of Lorien drowned there in or around the year TA1981. Thus, if there were 'Princes' ruling this fiefdom before this date they cannot have been Princes 'of Dol Amroth'. It was certainly named 'for the last King of Lorien' as specifically stated in note 39, p316. I propose to use the name '*Ost-in-Earnil' (fortress of the Princes) for the earlier settlement, merely as a placeholder name to distinguish between the earlier and later (pre- and post-1981) settlement.

The possibility that Dol Amroth was so named before 1981 would rely on the story that Amroth was the son of Celeborn and Gladriel. In this case the visiting of Belfalas by Amroth, while Galadriel and Celeborn were resident there, might account for the name. However, for the reasons given in the first part of this article, I reject that strand of the histories.

In TA1944, Adrahil of Dol Amroth is listed as being a commander of the Gondorian army in the war against the Wainriders. This notice can be most easily reconciled with the naming of Dol Amroth after 1981 by assuming that Adrahil was not 'of Dol Amroth' in 1944, but 'of *Ost-in-Earnil', the gloss of 'of Dol Amroth' being added after the name change (ie, after 1981-2). This would imply that the history of the wars with the Wainriders were written or redacted more than 40 years after the events they describe.

In the Return of the King, it is hinted that Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, has Elven ancestry, and legends are alluded to of Amroth and Nimrodel. There is a note to a genealogy of Imrahil that states that Imrahil's grandfather Angelimar is '20th in unboken descent from Galador, first Lord of Dol Amroth (c. TA 2004-2129)...' (Unfinished Tales, p248). Galador is reputed to be the son of Imrazor the Numenorean and Mithrellas, an Elf-maiden of Lorien.

It is possible to reconcile these accounts (except that of Amroth being the son of Galadriel and Celeborn) by positing that Adrahil, Prince of *Ost-in-Earnil in 1944, had a brother or cousin called Imrazor. Adrahil may have lived for a very long time; the Faithful did, long lifespans were common among the Gondorians at this time, and thus he could have easily survived after 1981, even until 2004.

Thus, the death of Amroth could have taken place during the reign of Adrahil. This might imply that the re-naming of the settlement from *Ost-in-Earnil to Dol Amroth could have taken place in those years also. We suspect that by 2004 and the accession of Galador that *Ost-in-Earnil had already become Dol Amroth. Indeed, there is little doubt that 'first Lord of Dol Amroth' can mean anything other than 'first Lord to rule during or after the change of name to Dol Amroth', if Galador is pre-dated by Imrahil by 60 years, and the title 'Prince' of the Faithful of Belfalas by some 2,000 years. It may be that the name only changed during Galador's reign; he may have taken the fiefdom in the name 'Lord of *Ost-in-Earnil' and become 'Lord of Dol Amroth' some time before his death in TA2129; either way, Galador is the first recorded to have ruled with the title 'Lord of Dol Amroth', if the notice of Adrahil's title is discounted as a later gloss.

The next 20 Lords of Dol Amroth, down to Imrahil's father Adrahil, are in 'unbroken succession'. This may imply that there was a 'broken succession' earlier. Or it may merely mean that previous Lords were 'of *Ost-in-Earnil' rather than 'of Dol Amroth'. If Adrahil (I) was the brother of Imrazor, and Adrahil was succeeded by his nephew (or perhaps the son of his cousin) Galdor, this may account for the notice of subsequent 'unbroken succession'.

This seeems to be the most coherent way to reconcile the statements made about the family of Imrahil, which cannot all be true; but this version requires only the rejection of Amroth as the son of Galadriel and Celeborn (already rejected on other grounds), and the assumption that the title 'of Dol Amroth' given to Adrahil in 1944 is a later gloss for 'of *Ost-in-Earnil'.

Of course, there is also a family tree of Adrahil in Vol XII of the Histories of Middle Earth; but I don't have access to that. Perhaps if and when I do I may have to revise my conclusions. This, then, is my provisional synthsis.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Amroth of Lorien and the Princes of Dol Amroth I

There are three variations on the parentage of Amroth, died TA1981, last King of Lorien, after whom Dol Amroth in Gondor is named.

There are two variants of his parentage explicitly stated:
1 - he is the son of Celeborn and Galadriel;
2 - his father is Amdir.

The Tale of the Years however does not list Amroth as the child of Galadriel and Celeborn, and no mention is made of this in the Lord of the Rings, so it may be safe to assume that this version was quickly abandoned.

There is however a third, implicit, version of Amroth's parentage (or at least paternity). Amdir is specifically stated to have been the King of Lorien, and Amroth's father. Malgalad is also stated to have been the King of Lorien, but is not mentioned as Amroth's father.

These two, in different texts, are said to have answered the Summons of Gil-Gald and perished on the Dagorlad at the time of the War of the Last Alliance. As Malgagld is mentioned no-where else, and nothing about either story contradicts the other, they can be assumed to be two names for essentially the same person. Thus we can posit an Amdir-Malagald figure as a single alternative to the Galadriel/Celeborn version of Amroth's parentage.

Is there any way of determining which (if either) of these names can be coinsidered 'correct'? Amdir is listed in some places as the correct version and Malgalad a variant; but this is surely an error. Christopher Tolkien cannot say which name replaced which; but in my opinion Malgalad seems likely to have been the latest version.

Professor Tolkien states that the name 'Amroth', which means 'long climb' ('anda-rosta'), is a nickname which derives from the Prince's adoption of the habit of sleeping in flets or telain, the high platforms in trees characteristic of the Sylvan Elves of Mirkwood. Previously to this, his name was obviously something else.

If this is accurate (or believed to be accurate), it has an impact on the likely name of Amroth's father. To believe his father to be called 'Amdir' and the son called something other than 'Amroth', subsequently becoming 'Amroth' only after his father's death and his own attempts to court Nimrodel, stretches co-incidence too far.

The story of the talan, in a late philological note, is likely to relate to the change from 'Amdir' as Amroth's father, to 'Malgalad'. It is more likely that the sequence went 'Amroth son of Amdir' to 'Amroth, nickname of the alternately-named son of Malgalad', rather than 'Amroth son of Malgalad' to 'Amroth, nickname of the alternately-named son of Amdir'. Otherwise one would have to posit that the name 'Amroth' was coined both because of the talan and because of it's co-incidental similarity with Amdir, his father's name.

This is of course possible; it may be that 'Amroth' was considered a sutable nickname precisely because it resembled his father's name. But this is less probable, I feel, than the alternative scenario, that the aliterative/family pairing of Amdir-Amroth was changed to Malgalad-unknown, nicknamed Amroth, after the talan story and the plot device of the wooing of Nimrodel were concieved.

Thus it seems highly likely that the form 'Malgalad' for the King of Lorien killed at the Dagorlad was the latest version of the parentage of Amroth.

In the next exciting episode, notices of the Princes of Dol Amroth a generation before the events of the loss of Amroth and the marriage of Nimrodel's maid to the local aristocracy.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Our reason for existence...

Do not be fooled, young pupil, for this is not a college for those who study what actually happened; no, we leave that to the guilds of historians.

Nor is it as the unlearned might think a college to study what did not happen. That is foolishness; any number of things did not happen. I did not punch you in the face when you walked in to this room, a table did not fall from a clear sky and kill you this morning, last week the city did not drown in fire and we all did not die.

Nor even, as the learned might believe, do we study what might have happened; no, we study something much more arcane - that which is not believed to have possibly happened.

To be honest, I'm not even sure I understand what that might mean. But this is a blog of fantasy history; not Earth's fantasy history so much (King Arthur and whatnot) but imaginary history. My suspicion is that it will primarily be a playground of ideas relating to Middle Earth and Warhammer World. But I can forsee a certain amount of forays into the Young Kingdoms, Glorantha, Harn, the Iron Kingdoms and other imaginary realms happening too.

Now, where did I put that essay on 'The Archaeology of Aragorn'...?