Category Archives: English
In one of the rare instances when J.R.R. Tolkien is actually giving a precise reference to the shape and form of the Gondorian armory is when, in describing the Crown of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings, he in passing is also making a reference to the helmet worn by the Guards of the Citadel at Minas Tirith. Tolkien says thus regarding the Crown of Gondor, that:
It was shaped like the helms of the Guards of the Citadel, save that it was loftier, and it was all white, and the wings at either side were wrought of pearl and silver in the likeness of the wings of a sea-bird, for it was the emblem of kings who came over the Sea; and seven gems of adamant were set in the circlet, and upon its summit was set a single jewel the light of which went up like a flame.
In a letter he also describes the crown as ”very tall, like that of Egypt, but with wings attached, not set straight back but at an angle.” This is obviously a reference to the royal Egyptian crown of the Southern or Upper Kingdom, called the Hedjet (see attached image to the right). This interesting information makes it clear that Tolkien envisionend the Nûmenórians as closely related to the ancient or classical cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean, i.e. the Greek and Egyptian, perhaps even the Hellenistic which was a blend of them both. Tolkien also made a sketch of the helmet which looked like this:
Now to recreate the helmet of the Guards of the Citadel we must use this information, making a version of the Crown of Gondor but with non of the embellishments and without the cone shaped enlongation. Iron Crown Enterprises have given us one illustration of how such a helmet would look like with this following drawing by Stephen Peregrine, taken from the 1984 campaign module entitled ‘Hillmen of the Trollshaws’ (Stock #8040), which looks somewhat more medieval:
Yet we could also look for the inspiration of the design of the helmet in our own history, in other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, i.e. in the Greek culture during the classical and Hellenistic eras. I personally envision the Nûmenórean culture being heavily drawn on the ancient Minoan and classical Greek civilizations, which in turn came from the Elvish culture in Valinor. (If you are trying to visualize Valinor, think of ancient Crete.) As an inspiration for the Gamemaster and as a visualization aid for the players I have attached a series of Greek winged bronze helmets, all deriving from the 4th Century B.C. and most of them being of the Chalcidian type which was a natural progression from the more well known Corinthian type helmet. If was used well into the Hellenistic era by the Hoplites. The same can be said about the Phrygian type helmet (characteristic with the the high and forward inclined apex resembling the leather Phrygian cap) which starts the series at the top row, as well as the Attic helmet pictured last, a type of helmet most popular in Italy during the classical and Hellenistic Greek era. (Klick on each picture to enlarge it.)
I in particular fancy the Phrygian type helmet which somewhat resembles the Nûmenorean Karma (S: ”Helmet”) or fish crest Helmet as pictured to the left on the following pair of illustrations, although the apex inclines backwards in the Nûmenórean example which seems to be the general classical look of Nûmenorean design as seen on the right hand painting (which actually is a blowout of a detail of the cover of the ‘Hillmen of the Trollshaws’ module by Gail McIntosh) picturing a Arnorian warrior on the watch (notice the overly Greek style of his helmet and dress):
Finally Angus McBride has presented his own beautiful view of how to picture both the Karma and the Guards of the Citadel types of helmets on his cover of the ICE ‘Sea-Lords of Gondor’ campaign module (Stock #3400) from 1987, making it even more medievalesqe and substituting actual wings for twin plumes. (His painting depicting the fierce battle between a Gondorian guard and a Corsair is seen at the head of the post.) McBride has also pictured a mounted Black Nûmenórean wearing a Kama and making an attack against a Haradaic warrior, attached to the cover of module ‘Far Harad’ (Stock #3800) from 1988, as seen below. Now I do like the design of the Kama, both in its seafarer fish crest version as seen above and the more simple and more common model as pictured below. It has a wery Greek feeling to it, quite similar to the Corinthian type helmet (and in perticular the late Italo-Corinthian type pictured to the right). It should be used extensively by the Gamemaster as a early form of the Dúnedain Kama, much like the Corithian was later in the Greek culture. However, the GM should allow for a progression of helmet types as well in T.A. 1640, leaving the original Kama to the more conservative of the Dúnedain, such as the few remaining Arnorian warriors, as well as the Corsairs and Black Nûmenóreans. Gondorian warriors should have progressed beyond the early models and developed models of later Greek, Roman and Byzantian types.
How much I like the Phrygian helmet of the later models I still believe the most optimal Greek type helmet to be the Chalcidian one as an aid to picture the Gondorian model, if we are to follow Professor Tolkien’s own guidlines, the Crown of Gondor being a tall ”hedjet” conical and ornate version of that same helmet. It might perhaps be a somewhat more conical shaped version of the Chalcidian type. But the cone of the Crown of Gondor simply doesn’t seem to be a natural progression of neither the inclined apex of the Phrygian or the Karma types of helmets, but rather a normally and sligthly cone-shaped helmet. (Another richly detailed example of a Black Nûmenórean Kama for comparison is seen attached to the immediate right, a detail from the cover of ICE’s ‘Shadow in the South’ (Stock #3900) painted by Gail McIntosh.) The use of a older model helmet in a relatively progressive culture such as the Gondorian, as exemplified by the Greek Chalcidian type, may be motivated by the fact that the Guards of the Citadel serves as a form of ”pretorian guard” (which usually are quite conservative), following old Gondorian and Nûmenorian traditions often used in a ceremonial context. Other Gondorian warriors, not attatched to the Citadel Guard of Minas Tirith, probably use the more Byzantian type of cone shaped and simplified helmet as pictured by Angus McBride.
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”.