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Numenorean helmets

Part of my Weekly Tolkien Sketchblog

Several attempts at the Numenorean "Karma," a type of seafarer's helmet referenced only once in Tolkien's entire legendarium, as an explanation for this rather bizarre looking drawing of his, which appeared on the original cover of Unifinished Tales [link] (you've gotta love Tolkien for stuff like this; just when all the Bayeux tapestry-style long mail shirts and conical iron caps are in danger of getting monotonous, he'll throw a big psychedelic snail-looking thingie in the mix, just to shake things up)
trying to find some historical influences which felt fitting for a more realistic version of tolkien's illustration, I ended up drawing primarily from the classical greek corinthian, the macedonian helmets of alexander's armies, and the renaissance era burgonets, with a healthy dose of the good old roman/gallic helmets, among others. It seems appropriate, for illustrating the numenoreans, to draw (in addition to armor sources from antiquity) from a later, more advanced period in the history armor making than is generally seen in the other cultures of middle earth. despite their hubris (which ofcourse lead to their downfall) the numenoreans were indeed a superior people. I really liked the idea that that bulbous, octopus-like bulge in the back (especially on the archaic model, when worn back on the head like a greek hoplite) would give the wearer this elongated, alien like silhouette which, combined with the great stature of the dunedain (in their hey day they're supposed to have averaged at about seven feet) and their might and splendor, would indeed give the comparatively primitive men of middle earth the impression of alien, even godlike beings (basically the Middle-Earth explanation for those prometheus-esq pop science theories about tall alien (or, often enough and fittingly, Atlantean) teachers coming to earth in the ancient past; one could imagine rough, mythologized likenesses of numenoreans painted by primitives onto cave walls, or carved on standing stones)
I don't think of the Karma as one specific type of helmet per se, but rather, like real historical helmet designs such as the basinet or spangenhelm, as a particular (and evolving) 'school' of helmet construction, consisting of many different designs but charactorized by a few consistent features, nor was it by any means the only style of helmet made in Numenor. I think of them as having been a phenomenally rich culture aesthetically, much of which was lost forever in the drowning, and of the majesty of which only a small part (and perhaps not even the better part) survived and continued in the realms of Gondor and Arnor.
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themasterj's avatar

I like it! It's functional, historic, and yet it stands out from the generic fantasy style. Considering how Numenor was supposed to be "higher" than the average Man, your helmets are a nice change from the chainmail look.

Libra1010's avatar
 I'd argue that the Majesty of Numenor was maintained in Arnor and Gondor, but that the vainglorious pomp was mostly behind when Lost Atalante sank beneath the waves; I must also say Master Mohan that these are truly beautiful designs (fit to rank with some of the more peculiar elements of armour mentioned in 'A Song of Ice and Fire').

 I must also say that it's very easy to imagine these helmets being crafted by the culture depicted in Mr Abe Papakhians 'Numenoreanslr' (I hope you will forgive me for invoking the work of another artist in your own gallery; if you ask me to desist I shall try to do so, no least because one worries that it's somewhat tactless to do that sort of thing, like mentioning Pepsi in Atlanta, but that sort of connection just keeps occurring to me!). 
TurnerMohan's avatar
I was fond of Abe's take on the Karma (much less so the heavy japanese influence in his portrayal of numenorean clothing and hairstyles) like Oznerol he seems to have been more comfortable than I was embracing that crazy silhouette of tolkien's original drawing (having worked as a medieval armor maker's assistant, I tend to have functionality prominently in mind when designing armor)

with numenorean armor (as with elvish armor) it's a particular challenge to make stuff that looks sophisticated to the point of even being a little inhuman without it ever looking like it was made with modern tools, processes or materials.
Libra1010's avatar
 I must say that I saw his Asiatic influences as more 'Indian' than anything (probably the earring), but I should also admit that I rather like the cosmopolitan-within-Ceasarian-silouhette a good deal (it really plays into my image of Akallabeth as a PERFECT Biblical epic, assuming one adds The Last Alliance as a Swords and Sandals sequel); I would love to see him draw a portrait of the distaff counterparts to Elendil and his oath-sworn men (although I have to say that I suspect Ms. Jubah's own Numenorean ladies will ALWAYS be prettier!).

 I will say that it recently occurred to me that the relative paucity of resources with which the Japanese were obliged to contend has recently made me wonder if they would not be a better partial inspiration for Sindarin than for the Noldor (Doriath in particular, given that a Maia isn't TOO different from a Kami in concept, also due to their relative isolation and sophistication); certainly the Ainu have occurred to me as a potentially interesting visual influence on The Beornings (even if they did EAT bears rather than become them). 
CeciliaArt's avatar
These helmets are awesome:D (Big Grin) 
Zeonista's avatar
Tolkien loved the splendor of chivalry, and made some mention of it every chance he got. It's not enough for his main heroes to be knightly in deed, they have to look like it as well. He was also correct; solemn colors and uniform ensembles (barring heraldry) were rare in the Medieval or Renaissance for ANY people, so the more color, the better. Our current cinematic style which favors a darker screen tone overall and uses minimal color for emphasis, really misses out. From the retro viewpoint, the karma as painted should be accepted as is. For further examples of what he considered to be good kit, see the descriptions of the gate guards that Tuor sees on his way into Gondolin in UT 1.

That being said, the helms as depicted are very handsome, with a level of decoration that suggests their wearers are men of importance, or employed by men of such importance. It is appropriate that there would be some variation, since all items of quality were one-offs in those days. (Stone's glossary shows about 12 burgonets in one plate, and none of them are exactly alike in shape, let alone decoration.) Look-alike stuff was munitions-grade gear for the rankers. :P The burgonet (and its predecessor the barbute) is a good choice, since the Renaissance artisans did use recovered Classical helms and art as inspiration. I've worn a replica burgonet before (it was a little small) and it had a nice way of fitting the head, giving protection without feeling top-heavy or being much in the way. (The big bucket-like great helms are something else entirely!)  
TurnerMohan's avatar
I think "black and white" is considered "classic:" sophisticated, old and venerable in our time largely because of film and photography, which started out basically colorless, but, as you point out, not in the middle ages, or really any other time in history. That said, tolkien was a man of "our time" (far moreso than the middle ages) and Greyscale tones (black, white and grey) are very common in the costumery and architecture of middle earth, particularly the "high" cultures (even the people of middle earth, specifically the noldor elves and beorian men, basically exist in greyscale)  Tolkien was also (more specifically a man of 'our time') a man from the victorian era, which seemed to have something of an aesthetic adoration for the purity of that colorless, "holy roman" look (that was what the production team of the BBC/HBO series "Rome" called the presentation of rome in "Gladiator", a look they wished to avoid) of white marble statues and shining, unadorned steel armor (we now know that ancient greek and roman statues were painted all sorts of gaudy colors, as were many medieval armors, a disenchanting fact for anyone raised on, and aesthetically attached to that victorian, "romantic" picture of history) so i think that modern, cinematic 'desaturated' look is not bad for middle-earth.

It's always important to me as well that nothing in middle-earth should appear mass manufactured (except chainmail perhaps)

What I like about the Burgonets is that they capture the feeling that i like for the numenoreans, which is this natural, uninterrupted evolution from classical (ancient greek and roman) to renaissance era neoclassical, you could imagine the numenorean helmets changing over three thousand years from those two more ancient, archaic types at the bottom, to the more sleek 'modern' feel of the three above, while retaining some of the classic lines and forms.
ElrondPeredhel's avatar
I have to choose what I'm gonna comment cause my time is unfortunately limited so that's why I still ddin't reply on everything you say :) You asked what I think about those helmets ? They are perfect ! More detailed and harmonious than those of Merlkir's corsairs so it make your work very coherent with his (it's logical that corsairs have more eastern, exagerated and strange design while not having the same skills in forging). Nothing to add really, they are perfect.

My thougts on Numenoreans' design are the following :

They seemed to have been a really exuberant people in term of colors (opposite to the black and silver chosen by their descendants) : the Karma which Tolkien drew is red, white, blue and green, the tents when Pharazôn army sailed in ME are blue, white and gold, his own tent is red and gold while the veils of his fleet when he try to invade Valinor are black. An other example are Merry and Pippin's swords : while I imagine most weapons in ME to be only in iron or steel with black or brown handles, the Numenorean swords (even if they were forged in Arnor after the fall of the island) are golden and red. So I imagine them with colorfull items, big plumes, painted shields and things like that.
Faramir mentionned the Heraldry of the ancient Gondor, it may be inherited from Numenor. Then we can imagin that the Lord of Andunie was using the black and the silver, Gimilkhâd and his son the gold and the red (and then the black with Sauron), the King the blue, etc...

Your inspiration is also very good : some kind of more modern acient greeks with some early roman and macedonian influence. I also imagined them that way : more greek at their beggining, when they were just sailors, and more like early-romans at Isildur's time.

On the symbols it's interesting.
The karma told us that they used "sea-related" emblems (fish and others) may be also boats.
In the RotK, when Aragorn is crowned, we learned that the Kings of Numenor used sea-birds (gulls probably) as a symbol of their lineage. It's probably a reference to Eärendil (who fought with all the birds of the sky) and especially to his wife, Elwing (changed in a sea-gull) but it could be also Tuor's emblem, still used by his heirs (I think in the UT it's said to be the wing of a swan but in all the writings before it's related to a sea-gull).
The star obvisouly will be very common : sign of the Dunedain until the FA, representing in the same time Eärendil and the Island itself. As a symbol of their elven origins and of Numenor as a gift of the Valar it was probably slowly abandonned after Tar-Minastir, except by the Faithful.
Nimloth, the White Tree, could be a symbol too but not for long cause a sign of the alliance between Numenor and the Eldar. But I don't think Isildur will claim this as an emblem if it was already used by the ancient kings of Numenor.

We can also imagine division by regions :
The Forostar is known for the Eagle's pike (Sorontil) : may be their shields, or even their Karmas, are wearing an eagle ?
The Andustar is famous for its trees so may be they used it as a symbol ? As I said before it's here that their was Andunie which means "sunset" so it may also be an emblem (like a red sun or half of a sun).
The Hyarnustar is almost only populated by fisher-men so it's easy.

On their appearance it's important to be careful and not confusing the Dunedain of ME with the Dunedain of old. Most of Aragorn's kindred (Faramir, Boromir, Denethor, Hirgon, the Rangers of Ithilien and the Rangers of the North), all with dark hair and grey eyes, are not representative of the Numenoreans. Indeed from the three house houses of the Edain the less important in number was the House of Beor, outnumebered by three by the House of Marach (Hador). When Dothonion fell almost all of the Beorlings men were killed to protect their wife and children, and I don't remember any place they went to so they probably lived since then in small communities or mixed with other men. The House of Hador was enslaved and lose most of its men but was not moved and last longer so they probably keeped their advantage on Beorlings, if they didn't increase it. The House of Haleth was really toughly harmed by the destruction of their realm and they were the more suspicious with Elves so I think they probably choosed to stay in Beleriand in a greater number.
So at least half, probably a majority, of Numenoreans were in fact from the House of Hador : blond hair and blue eyes. The Dunedain of Gondor and Arnor or in fact dark hair with grey eyes cause most of the faithful were from the House of Beor ;)

Finnaly on weaponry.
In the UT3, when Tolkien describe the Numenorean escort of Isildur, it's crazy how they look like the Roman Legio : tough fighters, divided in two or three ranks : Unexperimented soldiers (?), Ohtar ("Soldier"/"Warrior", experimented soldier) and Roquen ("Knight"). Remembering the Early Roman Republic : Hastati, Princeps and Trarii. The use of auxiliaries, the great shields, used in formations, the javelins, the discipline, a lot of things look alike. A tactic really different from the Noldor who used phalanx (Gondolin) and/or heavy (Feanorians) and light (Hitlum) cavalry. Seems kind of Macedonian, no ?

One big difference : no gladius but a long sword. Boromir's sword is in the same fashion than Narsil so the Numenoreans probably kept the same ways of shaping swords since, at least, Elendil time : great swords (cause Anduril is told to be "of great size"). There is also this big dagga, the 'Ekket' mentioned in the UT. I always wondered if the galgals swords were not some kind of Ekkets cause they are made for war and too small to be swords. Who knows ? At least it make sense. Could it be borrowed from the Noldor this time ? Cause Elves seemed to use daggas too : Sting of course but also Angrist (but here it could be Dwarvish cause maid by Telchar while Azaghâl also had a knife).

Food for thougts, you probably know most of it but I like to say a lot of stuff and may be someone will be interested. It's also useful for me to write in English and to summarize my thougts on Tolkien stuff.
TurnerMohan's avatar
Well thank you, that's about as good as I could hope to hear!

It's true, compared to their numenorean ancestors (or maybe the 'faithful' were simply always this way) the gondorians seem very conservative, ascetic even, in their aesthetic sensibilities, which seems fitting with a cultural tendency to distance themselves from the proud excesses of the numenoreans (atleast in the increasingly wicked, corrupt years before the fall) though the gondorians cant help coming off just a tiny bit prudish in my opinion, so for that matter does gandalf in rebuking saruman for his change from "white" to "many colored." the numenoreans are, you might say, "many colored," morally as well as aesthetically; they seem to have more dimensions to them as a culture, some good and some bad, and the gondorians seem to have purged themselves of alot of those dimensions (or like i said, being "the faithful" possibly they never had them in the first place.) One could imagine the accusations of the kingsmen against the faithful of adunie; of being servile and pathetic in their slavish devotion to the elves, not fully embracing the greatness of their own (human) culture's acheivements, or their king. Tolkien of course takes the side of the faithful, who are pretty monumentally vindicated when it turns out that by this act of turning away from the friendship with the elves (and by extension the valar, and by further extension god) and overconfidence in their own human greatness, the king and his followers end up as pawns of the devil (or the closest thing still at work in the world) and cause their own destruction. this is not so different a dilemma (in essence) from feanor, a creative genius, but one who is too arrogant to acknowledge that his genius (not to mention the light of the silmarils) is not originally his own, but comes from god. It's this seed of pride that grows into arrogance, and gets fueled by evil (morgoth in feanor's case, sauron with the numenoreans) into rebellion against divine authority. I like to think of the Numenoreans, when drawing their armor or clothing or architecture, as a Very proud people, but with a lot to be proud of, and not afraid to show it; as you said very exhuberant, in color and i would think in form aswell.

As for their ethnic makeup, yes I was aware that the numenoreans would have to have been a mostly Hadorian people, and that exuberant, hadorian "go get 'em" attitude seems to have been a big part of their culture of exploration and later conquest, as opposed to the more reserved, (though bold and fierce, if need be) mostly beor-ian people of Adunie. The large percentage of Hadorian blood in the Numenoreans is a part (the other part being not caring) of why boromir and faramir being blonde in the movies (considered by some to be a travesty on par with the also far-too-often-obsessed-about travesty of Blonde Fingolfin) never bothered me.

good tips for the regional heraldry, and good info about the weapons as well, very much appreciated; i lost my old copy of Unfinished Tales some time ago, and have been unable to find a PDF copy online so I'm a little hazy on some things at times, besides it's more fun to glean technical details from conversing with a fellow fan anyway, and gives you a new perspective.
ElrondPeredhel's avatar
I'm trying to add as much as I can to your work :) I can't draw like you so I try at least to help you to draw something compatible to my thougts but with your own imagination and your own references. As far your design really satisfy to my vision of ME, more than anyone. I read again the tale of Isildur's death (a really good one) and here are my remarks :

1. I said "javelins" cause that's what the french version said but it's in fact "spears", I verified :/

2. Numeoreans use formations like the Thangaïl (shieldwall on two ranks) and the Dirnnaith (triangle to charge).

3. They used axes too (UT II and the statues of Isildur and Anarion at the Argonath) even if their main weapons were swords.

4. An othar is a squire and a Roquen a knight but it's not clear, as othar is a title for an already experimented and courageous soldier if there is a lesser rank for the younger soldier.

5. You were right to give a cape to the officer you maid : Isildur had one (he use a hood when he wear the ring, to hide his crown, the Elendilmir).

6. Unfortunately the Dunedain didn't seems to have plate armor (but I can imagine it still, especially as an ornament and cause they are said to have armors of great weight). Here is Isildur equipment : chainmail, helmet, shield, great sword and the eket.

I don't approve your theory on the faithful being less extravagant in fact. Faramir speak about the ancient lords of Gondor, thinking more about heraldry than about their sons and thing like that. And Gondor seems to stay a glorious place for a while, one of the king is really rich and extravagant himself. Also Elendil and many of his descendants couldn't forget Numenor. I think in Tolkien's mind the line of Isildur had to spent some time in exil, in the wild-lands to learn humility. That's why Aragorn is a good king : he seems to be a king of acient time but he's not obsessed by them (unlike in the movies).
I think what you said is true for the stewards' times : their white and empty banner is a good example of the ascetism you describe.

For all the rest I agree :) Looking forward for more "perspective gifts"...
TurnerMohan's avatar
Tolkien and his goddamn chainmail! I sort of doubted that any people in middle earth (atleast those mentioned) were supposed to have worn solid plate. It speaks to the anglo-saxon-centric perspective of his fictional world, same with the gondorian weapons and accoutrement being (despite an undeniable "romanness" to the gondorians) more northern european/dark age/medieval than ancient roman. I think that, with ancient recountings of encounters with other cultures (like the writings of bede, gildas, or roman writers like tacitus) very often the story will get confused, or simply retold for the home team, describing the foreigners and their trappings in language and concepts that the audience can understand. Similarly the Numenoreans with their axes and longswords seem like a dark age english retelling of the Romans. That is not to say that I think the numenoreans "really" had plate armor and looked just like romans, and tolkien's narrative voice is merely that of a skewed interpreter (although that would certainly open up some aesthetic possibilities beyond the rather monotonous mail shirts) middle earth takes place Inside the world of ancient story telling, so i would think that within it such "interpretations" are not interpretations at all, but the truth (though i suppose I can just pull a john howe and keep doing plate armor and horned balrogs, as need dictates ;)

Hm, yes i suppose i would revise my oppinions concerning the shift from the extravegant numenoreans to the more conservative realms in exile. it seems that is the general trend, over the 3,000-plus year course of the third age, especially after the line of anarion fails, but the line of elendil and his sons were still plenty numenorean in (some of) their attitudes, and their penchant for grand displays of power. i like your idea about their time in exile in the woods teaching humility, wood craft, and compassion for living creatures (in a hands on, not "up in the ivory tower" sort of way) to the line of Isildur, sort of a (not quite voluntary) return to their early edain roots, and the wisdom thereof.
Zeonista's avatar
Just a note in passing, that the Romans used mail and scale armor more often and longer than any plate armor. (Breastplates were the sole perogative of the wealthier officers, anyway, after the reorganization of the army following the Gallic invasion of 390 BC.) Roman cavalrymen of Constantine's era (and probably Constantine himself in battle dress) were wearing full mail coats with armored leggings and sleeves eight centuries before they were depicted in Medieval art. So much for all those statues of Augustus and Trajan in their cuirasses!  :) (Smile)

Tolkien's deliberate use of archaic English also keeps things authentically vague. In period language "mail" generally meant "metal body armor", while "breastplate" or "corselet" meant "metal torso armor". It was rather disconcerting for me as a gamer used to precise modern terminology to read original sources, and getting bewildered by the rather non-technical language. In Tolkien's Middle-Earth where crossbows and primitive firearms never forced mail into the background, it would be the first choice of the well-armored warrior,. Especially if a craftsman of great skill made the coat of mail in question, making it a flexible breastplate of sorts. (Frodo's mithril mail shirt is a great example!)

Isildur's guard seems to have been more late Roman or top-notch Byzantine than the Roman legions of Polybius and Tacitus. (I think of them as resembling the foot guards of Justinian II or Belisarius's best footmen.) The Gondorians wear as full a mail armor as they can get, with helmet and limb guards possibly independent of the mail. They have long shields as well, but that is a given for heavy foot. Instead of the pilum though, they have long thrusting spears with double-edged heads , possibly "winged" to aid a parry or prevent over-penetration. Instead of short swords they have long swords, probably true bastard swords for the officers and picked swordsmen. (Although I at least would need 2 hands to use an ostensibly 1-handed sword made for a Numenorian roquen the size of a NFL lineman. Sweating a little... ) This makes sense, since the Dunedain were tall and strong men, able to wield the longer blade with speed and force. (Tolkien described Isildur as having a "greatsword" in UT, but a 2-handed sword doesn't go well with his other equipment. The FOTR movie Isildur carries a bastard sword into combat, which looks right.) The "eket" refers to a class of forearm-length daggers able to sub in for a sword in a pinch. Tolkien may have been thinking of the scramseax or basilard here, but even the wasp-waisted pugio of the legions could be 12 " in length.

Axes seem to have been a supplementary weapon, although the Byzantines used them as issue weapons to second-rate troops who didn't seem to merit an expensive sword. Tolkien's Nordic interest seems to make one-handed axes available to the troops of the Free Peoples in general, with heavier 2-handed weapons available to specialists and champions. (The axe could also hew firewood and help with camp chores as well as split skulls, which would make it especially handy.)

For ranged weapons the Gondorians had bows; what we would call "longbows" although they would have been "convenient size" to the Dunedain. Archery seems to have been held in the same esteem as hand weapons, although Isildur's guard didn't have many archers when they were attacked near the Gladden Fields. (Isildur hadn't expected trouble, so maybe the best archers among them had ready bows, while the rest had theirs unstrung for the march?) 

So now you have an image for a well-equipped Dunadan household warrior at the time of the Last Alliance.  ;) (Wink)
ElrondPeredhel's avatar
Yeah, what is surprising in Middle Earth it's the lack of evolution (except for the slow decline of the Elves, Dwarves and Dunedain). The equipment is the same for a Dunedain of TA 2 and for a Guard of the Citadel more than three thourthens years later ! Same for the Elves : Merlkir did a really impressive work on the evolution of Elven Swords and the learning of new technics making more elaborate weapons. But unfortunately it's not accurate with Tolkien's writing : the best smith of Elvish History is probably one of the first to build swords and the swords of his people in the Dagor-Nuin-Giliath, the "Battle-under-the-Stars" are said "long and terrible" while Merlkir's first sword is looking like an antic short sword (like a Roman gladius).

I guess you can make an exception for the King and some soldiers of Numenor as long as most of the army use chainmail : after all even romans did. Dwarves, Rohirrim (and it's the royal guard of Meduseld so it's probably gondorians armors) and Haradrim use corslets so it's your occasion to take some change. Also nothing is said of Easterling's armors but lamellar armors like you did seems accurate to me :)
But yeah Tolkien didn't seem to like plate armor.
For the axes of the Numenorean it's not negociable :P Cause one or two appear on the statues of the Argonath, probably built in the early age of Gondor, after Isildur's death but soon after probably, at a time when Gondor was recalling somewhat of the might of Númenor, ere it fell. ("High towers that people built, and strong places. and havens of many ships; and the winged crown of the Kings of Men was held in awe by folk of many tongues...") But it can be more an honorific weapon than an item built for war. After all Isildur use a sword and Elendil too.

"The left hand of each was raised palm outwards in gesture of warning; in each right hand there was an axe; upon each head there was a crumbling helm and crown."

Horned Balrogs don't surprise me that much. Of course not giving horns and satanic legs to a Balrog give it a more original apperance. But in the same time the whip, the fire, the dark wings of the fallen angel, everything reminds our own demons. And you did put horns on the "Balrog looking" helm for the Orc-King of Moria. :P
TurnerMohan's avatar
and BTW, good to hear from you again, as always (i was wondering when you'd pop up) :D
TurnerMohan's avatar
that lack of evolution you're describing (which is a real pitfall in tolkien's writing) is a somewhat common trope in fantasty/fiction called "medieval stasis" the basic definition of which is "a situation in which, as far as the technological, cultural, and sociopolitical level are concerned, thousands of years pass as if they were minutes" (and yes i know M-E doesnt ENTIRELY fit that definition but certainly close enough, considering how much changes in, say, 6,000 years in the real world) tolkien's writing is one of the founding fathers and defining examples of "medieval stasis" (though "dark age stasis" would probably be more appropriate) and it's one of the reasons I dont usually do drawings of characters/events/costumery from the 1st age events covered in the silmarillion; the 2nd and 3rd ages (despite technology seeming to slowly regress rather than progress) feel more earthbound, realistic, and historical (with numenor and the second age functioning as a sort of "high age" or "golden age" like the real-life roman empire, or like other examples in fiction like star wars episodes 1 2 and 3, and the 3rd age being the long, post fall-from-grace dark age, again like the real life dark ages or, again, starwars 4 5 and 6) the problem for me with the silmarillion and the events covered therein is that, though it takes place some 6+ thousand years before lord of the rings, alot of the technology and costumery is exactly the same (that would be like if anyone walking around on the streets of Ur in the ancient past were transported to the modern day, and blended in seamlessly) and yeah as you mention, swords in middle earth (to use the example) were not a long, slow technological evolution (as merlkir's noble effort suggests) but the singular concept and creation of feanor (as far a we know) and once again, as with so many things in tolkien's world, it's a case of "original and best." This is (along with the often surprisingly narrow, non deviating anglo-saxonness of everything) one of the frustrating things about tolkien's Middle-earth, and like the Dan Brown books, one of the things that makes middle earth hold up on paper, but fall very short in visual medium. for one (to go all the way back to our very first sticking point) middle earth never seems to have had a bronze age, or even really an iron age (referring to a time before the process for making steel was known)

As for horned balrogs, I like them (my "balrog helmet" design, for the record, was done more specifically as a movie design, to match with peter jacksons established world, whereas, say, my numenorean stuff is more me just illustrating tolkien, not trying to fit with the movie designs) and I like John howe's very late medieval, rather than dark age, take on middle earth, it's not strictly tolkienian, but he's going with his gut, and i think that's what gives his work its real punch. That's just the thing really; I tend to prefer, as have all notable tolkien illustrators (except perhaps alan lee) and peter jackson and his film team, to let faithfulness to the "feeling" evoked in tolkien's writing about a race, culture, or their trappings take precedence (in my minds eye and in my depictions) over the exact to-the-letter way tolkien describes them (ideally you want the two to overlap, as they often do effortlessly, and often I will bend a design alittle more over toward making it fit with his writing, even at the expense of making a 'better design', but sometimes, as with my Ar-Pharazon, who started out with a scale mail shirt, I just had to go with my gut and put him in plate)

I tend to consider "tolkien artists" (though as i said, perfect allignment between the most satisfying design and the most accurate is the gold standard to be striven for) as being given a unique free licsence by the Man himself when he said, as I may have refferenced before, "I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story... The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama."
ElrondPeredhel's avatar
Your reflexions on the lack of evolution are really interisting.

I think Tolkien finnaly came to this idea and tr to change things a little. If you read is last writings in HoME (I think the 11) you see that his last efforts were to rationalise his world. Like trying to find finnaly an origin to Orcs, including Arda in the solar system and making the time before the 1st Age a lot longer. He never finished all that, if it was even possible to do it without destroying all his stories, but we can see some evolution in the chronology : he said that the year of the trees were in fact a lot longer than he previously imagined them. Making the long travel of the Elves to Valinor lasting thourthens of years and not dozens, and same for the first times of the Humans before meeting with the Dwarves and the Elves.

I think you can search those stone-age, bronze-age and iron-age there. For example the first weapon appeared in two different places, around the same time, the first are from Fëanor and the others from the dwarves of the Ered Luin. But Tolkien said it was incoherent and that the Elves should have used spears and bows to protect themselves during the Long Walk and to hunt. Not swords so I guess those arrows and spears were built without metal : just with wood and may be stone. The knowledge always come from the Valar (from Aulë to the Dwarves and to the Noldor) so it's possible to imagine the Nandor with primitive weapons. Tolkien give a description of each Elve family (Vanyar, Noldor, Teleri, Sindar, Laiquendi) and the last are said to be "the club-elves" so you can imagine them as "stone-age-elves" or kind of elvish-amerindians : using clubs, bows and spears. It can explain the massacre of Oropher's and Amdir's armies : they didn't have that much contact with their western cousins at this time and their equipment was really bad. Later they probably get weapons from the Elves of Lorien (after Celeborn and Galadriel "get the things in order") or the Dwarves of Erebor, explaining the swords they use in the Battle of the Five Armies. Still : Legolas short-bow is really lower than the longbow of Lorien, showing the gap between Lorien's population (Nandorin mainly but with some Sindar and Noldor and with a Noldor as ruling Lady) and Mirkwood's (Nandorin and Sindarin but with Sindar who chose to come back to the wilder lives of their cousins and ancestors). Legolas is described in the LotR as a wood-elve more than a Sindarin Prince and is closer to Haldir than to Celeborn.
For Men you can imagine the many tribes of he fathers of Men (as Tolkien will say) evolving between stone age and bronze age before they met the Dwarves and later the Noldor who learnt them to use steel. I made a draft some month ago, inspired by Merlkir drawig on Elven swords, on the evolution of the helmets of the tribe of Marach before they met the Dwarves and then after in Beleriand, becoming the House of Hador, and then of their descendents in Numenor (wip) and in the East of ME until they become the Rohirrim.

In fact writing all that I realise with all those examples that there are some examples of evolution in Tolkien's world.
It remembers me a tale in the HoME XII, I didn't read it but heard about it, talking about the Numenoreans in the eyes of the people of Middle Earth. The narrator is a guy, called Tar Elmar, from an unknown place called Agar (may be in Enedwaith or Dundland, or may be in South Gondor, there is some clues for both and Tolkien himself wrote it without knowing where it was) and his people don't have swords like the Numenoreans (which they fear a lot) and neither bows (they use casting-stones). But as Buldar (Tar-Elmar's grandfather) brought a sword back from the war with "the king of the north" (the "king of the mountain", aka the future "king of the dead" ?) against "the fell folk of the East" (Easterlings ?) we can guess they used one.

Here you can find more informations :…

I really want to read this tale (most of the HoME are not translated neither disponible in France, I'll have to command them) caue it really suggest things about the unknown times of the Second Age, on land deserted by the Dunedain and the Elves, which really looks like our own ancient times, with tribes fighting, slaves brought back, small battles, etc.

I think the problem is the Valar, as Gods walking among men, and their messengers, the Elves and the Numenoreans, they kinda "broke" the natural evolution of the people of Middle Earth. But still we can find some similar situations in our own History : the Dwarves are like Ancient Egyptians (building huge monuments and steel weapons while the Elves and the Humans are living with mud and wood-craft) and the Numenoreans in Middle Earth like Hernan Cortez in Mexico (for weaponry, on the rest the Numenoreans have a really "Aztecish" culture : huge monuments, slaves, astronomy, sacrifices, etc...)

Btw : I don't think the best swords are Fëanor's work but Dwarves craft. Indeed we don't know anything of the swords of Fëanor, while the most important swords in Tolkien's work are either unknown (Ringil), from Eöl who learnt stuff from the Dwarves (Anguirel & Anglachel) are directly form Telchar or other Dwarves (Narsil & Aranruth).

And I'm glad I had the occasion to write to you again :D I don't have internet in my appartment so I have to go to my grandparent's house to stay connected :/ As a bonus :

- A family tree of the Silmarilion's Elves :…

- A really "Renaissance" Boromir (George VIII ?) :…

- Some ape-like Orcs, roman-like dwarves and greek-likes Elves :…
( I'm not found of the Dwarves : the roman influence is too obvious while I think the Dwarves should have more Frankish/Carolingians origins, and too much spears and they are not mentionned as dwarven weapons like axes).

Gabbanoche's avatar
I personally think nr4 the Lobster helmet is the best!might be because i thought HBO made them work beautifully on Baratheon troops.but i think a moore grim Ornamentation would be interesting :)

and the Hoplite helmets ornament looks really great!( hope you know that they flip it down for battle :)) doesn't give me a Tolkien feeling tho,but then again his own drawing of the helmet didn't give me a good feeling either, glad that one wasn't in the movies hehe.

I just got this idea in my head thought i pass it along hehe
what if you used a Late Roman Ridge helmet like this one [link] with a Greek face gard like this one[link] ? Think about it :)
Gabbanoche's avatar
Ignore it all, i realise now that it just sounds stupid.hehe
TurnerMohan's avatar
not really. I'm quite fond of those macedonian 'sculpted' cheek guards, and was planning to use them in atleast one of these, but just couldnt make them fit with these helmets, next time (I'd actually like to experiment with a full blown polished steel classical face mask, like the big scary dude in gladiator had, maybe something for guards of the royal palace in Armenelos). As for that studded, jeweled helmet from the late romans, it has what I call (for lack of knowing what the style is really called) a very "frankish/byzantine" look; that style of strips of gold riveted together and studded with kind of crude looking precious stones, often hung with pearls, its a look i ascosiate with the dark ages and early middle ages, appearing on everything from kings crowns and broaches to covers for the bible (though, as this piece makes clear, the style originated in antiquity) so for middle earth I tend to think such a style would work well in the post-Numenorean third age, where gondor, like rome in the dark ages, is a constantly dwindling shadow of the splendor of numenore; it seems fitting that alot of the older but more sophisticated arts of numenor are becoming lost (I purposely used this frankish/byzantine style for the 6th century TA gondorian crown worn by queen beruthiel) but that style is (for my taste) a bit to rustic and thrown together looking for numenor in it's prime, for which I imagine a very sleek, almost modernist aesthetic, speaking to a very subtle understanding of metallurgy (among other trades)

I know what you mean about these (and the tolkien drawing that inspired them) not feeling especially "tolkien" and i think that's why I was drawn to his karma design, and wanted to try and explore and to some degree "make sense" of it, because it's such a curve ball in the world of conical spangenhelms and mail hauberks, and suggests (to me anyway) a whole other, grander (or atleast less conservative) world of aesthetics, which was lost forever.
Gabbanoche's avatar
well i dont really know jack shit of tolkien's world i'm sad to say, i have only red the LOTR books once as a kid, but always liked watching the fan art for some reason. so se my comment as mainly historical/artistics or something like that. the helmet is East Roman(if im not wrong, not that good on Rome's history) witch eventually kind a became the Byzantine empire.

and for that full shine face guard you could once again look up the romans, their face helmets are very impressive :)
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