The Dunlendings, ancestors of the Celtic clans
J.R.R. Tolkien regarded Arda and in particular Endor (Middle-earth) to be a mythical prehistory to our own world and that the two worlds blended somwehere in the Fifth Age, the Fourth Age marking a transition between the mythical and the historical. My own take on this, in the house rules system, is that Arda and Earth existed as parallell worlds which eventually merged into one. In this process, the mythical prehistorical events in the Third and Fourth Ages spilled over into our world, giving incentive to the development of the early mannish civilisations and cultures, such as the Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, etc. Thus, these historically verified cultures and civilisations reflected the ancient cultures and races of the Middle-earth, the latter serving as spiritual ancestors to the earthly races.
In this post I will address the Dunlending clans. It seems that Tolkien gave some hints to Dunlendings being drawn from Celtic or Gallic inspiration when he envisioned them, and that the Rohirrim represented the Saxon invasion of their lands in Britain, the Northmen of Rhovanion of course being heavily drawn on the Germanic Saxon and Norse tribes. Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) capitalised heavily on these hints and expanded them into developing the Dunnish clans into full fledged Gallic-style cultures, such as historians envision them. This can be assertained by the ICE campaign modue from its Middle-earth Series entitled ‘Dunland and the Southern Misty Mountains’ (Stock # 3600) published 1987, especially seen in its cover painted by Walter Velez:
Thus, I have attached a series of paintings of Angus McBride which depicts Gallic warriors from antiquity. Thankfully, he made a lot of paintings on Celtic or Gallic warriors of different shades. That was probably due to his own Scottish Gallic descent. I in particular fancy Angus McBride’s paintings, which started to appear in the Iron Crown Enterprises catalouge in 1985 and which would become the staple of ICE’s Middle-earth products. Many of the modules produced in their Middle-earth Series line would become memorable because of Angus McBride’s cover art. By then he was already a respected painter of military historical reenactment. The only McBride painting for ICE which actually bore a Celtic design to the Dunlendings where the cover of the Middle-earth Adventure module ‘Ghost Warriors’ (Stock # 8016) from 1990 depicting the Daen Coentis of the White Mountains, the ”oathbreakers” who are depicted roaming the hillfoot as terrible spectres dressed in kilts.
Of Angus McBride’s Gallic painting I will only show a few, which may serve as inspirational art. The initial painting at the head depicts some Gallic worriors (supposedly forward scouts) from the 2nd or 3rd Century BC (all of the paintings that follow depicts scenes taken from the first few centuries before the Common Era), probably scouting at Roman legionaries and engaging them with shouts and slurs, which incidentally I depict as the enbodiment of the Dúnedain of Arnor (i.e. the Roman spirit) of the Third Age. So, if we allow ourselves to be transported back to Middle-earth, looking at the same picture we see instead some Dunlending warriors defending their Dunnish homeland – Dunland – with the Misty Mountains in the background. Following this scene we look at a Dunlending chieftain riding a chariot with a Dunnish fortified town in the background (notice its similarities with Walter Velez’ cover painting above):
Next we see some Dunnish warriors looting and spreading mayhem in a Nûmenórean Temple, probably sometimes in the late Second or early Third Age era, killing some poor Temple servants or devotees in the process. You may easily spot the typical Greek flavour of achitecture and clothings of the early Nûmenóreans. There is something ominous about this picture, as the Dunlendings are being punished by the Valar for their sacrilegious acts, who sends thunderbolts striking at them and inciting fear into their faces:
Next we see a formation of charging Dunlendings carrying spears and bronze helmets and shields, trying to make a desperate attack mounted on chariots against the orderly formation of disciplined Nûmenórean soldiers. This battle is probably set on a Arnorian plain in the mid or late Second Age. The approximate age depicted may be ascertained as the Dunlending warriors are seen being equipped with old style Dunnish weapons:
Next we see some Wildmen of Dunland assaulting the enemy from a fortified hill on the plains of Dunland. In a typical heroic Dunnish berserker mode, which means using no amour and only being armed with crude weapons, such as slings and small bucklers, they charge down the slope taking advantage of the higher ground. Notice the typical Dunnish style tatoos on their bodies, serving a magical purpose:
Next, in this scene taken from the late Second Age or early Third Age, we see a Dunlending chief with his elite vanguard fending off an ambush staged by Nûmenóreans set in a Dunnish forest, with the Misty Mountains clearly seen in the background. Notice the various styles of patterns and colours on the Hillmen’s clothing. Here is also seen a head hunting custom, the severed heads of course being claimed by the proud Dunnish chieftain himself:
Next we see some proud and victorious Dunnish warriors returning back home to their village in Dunland, after a successful raid against the Nûmenórean enemy. We see them being greeted by cheerful children and making a spontaneous victory parade mounted on a chariot. The typical Dunnish custom of wearing no armour and exposing the naked tatooed breast is clearly seen in this scene:
Next we see a attachement of well armed and protected Dunlending warriors with their Chief on a raid deep in Arnorian territory, preparing a surprise attack against a Nûmenórean city in the Second Age under the cover of the night. These elite Dunnish warriors are seen wearing a variety of heavy armour:
Next is a painting, again drawn by Angus McBride, which depicts a Dunnish assault on the battlefield against a Arnorian Dúnedain legion somewhere in the first half of the Third Age, who are seen throwing their javelins back at the Dunlending warriors. In this picture the tribal plaid patterns and braided hair typcal of the Dunlendings are clearly shown:
In the following painting by McBride we see a proud Dunlending chieftain standing in his plaided mantle and old style bronze helmet and shield. This places the set somewhere in the second half of the Second Age. In the background we catch a glimpse of a grand gate of a fortified Dunnish town. We also see the typical Dunnish chariot, a vehicle that the Dunlendings use with great tactical proficiency:
Lastly we se a scene from the mid-Third Age, possibly approximating T.A. 1640 (the general game time of MERP and ICE’s Middle-earth Series) depicting an assembly of four Dunnish chiefs, all wearing heavy armour, oveseen by a Dúnedain lord at the far right indicating that the Hillmen represent clans which has been subdued by Gondor and has pledged loyalty to the King of Gondor. One of the remaining opposing and unfaithful Dunlending chiefs is also seen paying tribute to a Dunnish chieftain, after his defeat to the faithful Dunlendings, against the background of a Gondorian castle or fortified city wall:
In this post I have shown the reader some few and good examples on how a creative Gamemaster may transform plain historical paintings and illustrations into fantastic occurances in a mythical Middle-earth setting during the Second and Third Ages. I recommend the Gamemaster of a Middle-earth campaign to use the images and illustrations painted by Angus McBride as a primary source, preferring his designs over the more ”fantastic” and otherworldly ones made by Alan Lee and John Howe (being much in vouge today because of Peter Jackson’s movies, who used Lee and Howe as conceptual artists), as McBride partly is responsible for creating that special historical realistic feeling of ICE’s Middle-earth Series and because he is so intrinsically associated with the aestetics of ICE’s game products. There are lots of more pictures in the same vein and I reccomend the Gamemaster or player to do a through resarch on Google on Angus McBride’s artwork using the search words ”Celtic” or ”Gallic”.