Category Archives: J.R.R. Tolkien
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.