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well he's back
02-18-2014, 02:33 PM
As discussed in two other recent threads, about fictional world that make no sense / or worlds that do hold up to close scrutiny.

I said that the world Tolkien built holds up really well. I focus mainly on LOTR, by the way.
Others said that the economics of Middle Earth made no sense, that there was too much empty space, that Frodo & Sam couldn't have made it to Mount Doom.
I disagree, but am interested in what others say.

smiling bandit
02-18-2014, 03:02 PM
I said that the world Tolkien built holds up really well. I focus mainly on LOTR, by the way.
Others said that the economics of Middle Earth made no sense, that there was too much empty space, that Frodo & Sam couldn't have made it to Mount Doom.
I disagree, but am interested in what others say.

Given that we don't see a whole lot of it in detail, there's not a lot to claim that way. The action simply doesn't take place very much in heavily populated areas.

Chronos
02-18-2014, 04:17 PM
What I notice most is that it's awfully stagnant. The Middle Earth of the Silmarillion looks an awful lot like the Middle Earth of the Lord of the Rings, technologically and socially. In that time span, we went from atlatls to nuclear bombs, while Middle Earth went from swords to swords.

njtt
02-18-2014, 04:38 PM
What I notice most is that it's awfully stagnant. The Middle Earth of the Silmarillion looks an awful lot like the Middle Earth of the Lord of the Rings, technologically and socially. In that time span, we went from atlatls to nuclear bombs, while Middle Earth went from swords to swords.

We live in a very atypical era of human human history, though. Before about 2.5 thousand years ago the pace of social and technological change was glacial for many millennia. Even before about 400-500 years ago (the time of the renaissance and the scientific revolution) the pace was pretty darned slow compared to what it has been since.

Trinopus
02-18-2014, 05:25 PM
As I mentioned in the other thread, Lord of the Rings is rich with unstable situations. The whole world consists of balancing rocks (I said mousetraps in the other thread.) The hobbits come traipsing in and tip the rocks over (trip the mousetraps.)

For thousands of years, Tom Bombadil was hidden and unknown. Now, he reveals himself in much of his glory. For thousands of years, the Ents were hidden and unknown. Now, they come storming out of the hills to make total war. For thousands of years, the Balrog slept. Now, he bursts forth in mystic flames.

So, not only is Chronos right: not enough actually happens in Middle Earth -- but also, too much happens all at once.

It is a world invented for dramatic purposes. That's fine! It succeeds in this. But it is a world which is too clearly invented. It's a stage backdrop. It's "Chekov's Pistol."

It's a beautiful world. But, no, it does not withstand close scrutiny. It wasn't intended to. James Bond novels also fail if examined closely. It doesn't interfere (much) with our enjoyment.

bucketybuck
02-18-2014, 05:35 PM
For thousands of years, Tom Bombadil was hidden and unknown. Now, he reveals himself in much of his glory. For thousands of years, the Ents were hidden and unknown. Now, they come storming out of the hills to make total war. For thousands of years, the Balrog slept. Now, he bursts forth in mystic flames.


Thats rather overstated don't you think?

Tom Bombadil revealed in all his glory? To who? Four hobbits? The rest of the world still has forgotten about him. The Balrog bursts forth in mystic flames yet still the only ones to see it are the fellowship. And you certainly cannot label the Ents as waging total war, they attacked one fortress and helped relieve the seige at another, thats it.

You only say too much happens all at once because you the reader were shown these events, but the men in Bree still haven't a clue about Bombadil or the Balrog. Too much isn't happening at once for them, and if the question is Middle Earth holding up to scrutiny then they are the people we should be considering, not the reader.

gnoitall
02-18-2014, 05:37 PM
As I mentioned in the other thread, Lord of the Rings is rich with unstable situations. The whole world consists of balancing rocks (I said mousetraps in the other thread.) The hobbits come traipsing in and tip the rocks over (trip the mousetraps.)

For thousands of years, Tom Bombadil was hidden and unknown. Now, he reveals himself in much of his glory. For thousands of years, the Ents were hidden and unknown. Now, they come storming out of the hills to make total war. For thousands of years, the Balrog slept. Now, he bursts forth in mystic flames.

So, not only is Chronos right: not enough actually happens in Middle Earth -- but also, too much happens all at once.

It is a world invented for dramatic purposes. That's fine! It succeeds in this. But it is a world which is too clearly invented. It's a stage backdrop. It's "Chekov's Pistol."

It's a beautiful world. But, no, it does not withstand close scrutiny. It wasn't intended to. James Bond novels also fail if examined closely. It doesn't interfere (much) with our enjoyment.
And that's the real answer, anyway. It's a common phenomenon in fiction. No one tells a story in which nothing happens. And for a large, or continuing, story, a whole lot has to happen.

By that token, the fictional murder capital of the world would be Cabot Cove, Maine. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2191990/Murder-capital-world-Quiet-seaside-town-Cabot-Cove-named-dangerous-place-Earth.html) With a 50% higher per-capita per-annum murder rate than Honduras, which has the highest non-fictional murder rate in the world. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Honduras)

Frankly, I think it's Angela Lansbury. :p

Alessan
02-18-2014, 05:46 PM
The emptiness bothers me, too. For instance, is there any settlement of any sort in Eriador other than the Shire and Bree? If so, where are they? If not, why not? The collapse of Arnor and its successor states was centuries ago, and even if 90% of the citizenry had been killed or driven off, that's more than enough time for the land to be repopulated.

Chronos
02-18-2014, 05:51 PM
Quoth njtt:

We live in a very atypical era of human human history, though. Before about 2.5 thousand years ago the pace of social and technological change was glacial for many millennia. Even before about 400-500 years ago (the time of the renaissance and the scientific revolution) the pace was pretty darned slow compared to what it has been since.
But the history of Middle Earth spans something like 7000 years. In the great battles of the Silmarillion, the standard weapon was the steel sword. In the great battles of the War of the Ring, it was still the steel sword. The steel sword, in that world, lasted at least 7000 years, and there's no indication it was new in the early battles, or going out of favor in the later ones.

In our world, by contrast, 7000 years ago we were just starting in on leather. Metallurgy of any sort didn't show up until less than 5000 years ago, and steel not until just over 3000 years ago. Steel swords admittedly had a pretty good run, but they were still starting to be replaced by the Next Big Thing two and a half millennia later.

Trinopus
02-18-2014, 07:00 PM
The emptiness bothers me, too. For instance, is there any settlement of any sort in Eriador other than the Shire and Bree? If so, where are they? If not, why not? The collapse of Arnor and its successor states was centuries ago, and even if 90% of the citizenry had been killed or driven off, that's more than enough time for the land to be repopulated.

And barrow-wights, bad as they are, aren't enough to explain it.

Trinopus
02-18-2014, 07:01 PM
. . . Four hobbits? The rest of the world still has forgotten about him. . . .

When four hobbits know something, the whole world knows it within a week. Consummate gossips, they are!

Colibri
02-18-2014, 08:16 PM
Others said that the economics of Middle Earth made no sense,

I mentioned this in the other thread. Neither elves nor dwarves seem to go in much for agriculture, but there doesn't seem to be enough trade with men or hobbits (who are the main farmers in Middle Earth) to support them. Maybe elves do grow some things in gardens, but there sure don't seem to be extensive fields around Rivendell or in Mirkwood. Dwarves mainly live underground where they can't grow anything at all.

The emptiness bothers me, too. For instance, is there any settlement of any sort in Eriador other than the Shire and Bree?

Ok, maybe near Gondor or Laketown elves and dwarves can conduct enough trade with men for food. But in Eriador there are elves in Rivendell and the Grey Havens, and dwarves in the Blue Mountains. The only agricultural areas in the whole region are the Shire and Bree. Hobbits certainly don't seem to have anything to do with elves or dwarves, and Bree seems too small to provide much food for trade. In any case the roads are unsafe and it's pretty far to anywhere else.

It's not really apparent what the economy of orcs is like, especially away from Mordor or Isengard. The orc communities of the Misty Mountains seem too large to support themselves by hunting or fishing, and there aren't any nearby communities of men to raid.

It is a world invented for dramatic purposes. That's fine! It succeeds in this. But it is a world which is too clearly invented. It's a stage backdrop. It's "Chekov's Pistol."

Exactly. It's a Potemkin Village. Tolkien's intention wasn't to describe a functioning world, just to have a picturesque background against which to set his grand doings. He had no interest in the economy or trade, just his narrative.

5 time champ
02-18-2014, 08:26 PM
I have heard it said that Mirkwood/Greenwood the Great are on the wrong side [east side] of the Misty Mountains. We know that Middle Earth as it were rotates from west to east. So shouldn't the windward side of a great mountain chain be more forested, while the lee side of the mountains be less vegetated?

pravnik
02-18-2014, 08:34 PM
Ironically, "too much happens all at once"" was one of the major plot hole complaints about the Second World War. :D

Lightray
02-18-2014, 08:51 PM
It's not really apparent what the economy of orcs is like, especially away from Mordor or Isengard. The orc communities of the Misty Mountains seem too large to support themselves by hunting or fishing, and there aren't any nearby communities of men to raid.
Goblin Town is particularly puzzling. It's "front door" is a cave off a high, treacherous mountain pass; hardly suitable for hunting, fishing, or farming. It's "back door" opens to pine-forest wilderness, where I guess they can maybe hunt at least.

And they have to: they're mounted on pony-sized obligate carnivores. Worgs probably need to eat about a hobbit every day or so. How the heck do the goblins keep them fed, let alone feeding themselves? They need really big herds for that, which means lots of grazing... which you don't find in barren mountains or pine forests.

Blake
02-18-2014, 09:15 PM
I have heard it said that Mirkwood/Greenwood the Great are on the wrong side [east side] of the Misty Mountains. We know that Middle Earth as it were rotates from west to east. So shouldn't the windward side of a great mountain chain be more forested, while the lee side of the mountains be less vegetated?

The Amazon in on the east side of the Andes.

The rotation of the Earth doesn't dictate prevailing wind direction to any great extent. That's mostly dependent on where the high and low pressure systems form, which in turn are primarily dependent in latitude.

While it's usually true that the seaward side of a range receives more rain than the inland, and as a result tend to be more densely timbered, that by itself doesn't dictate where forests grow. Trees will grow wherever there is enough rain. Provided the inland side of a range gets enough rain, it will support forests just fine. And the fact that there is no extensive forest on the seaward side of the range is attributed to deforestation in the book. The Old Forest is just a tiny remnant of a vast forest that once covered much of Eriador.

IOW, there is sufficient rain across western Middle Earth to support forests, but much of the area west of the range has been cleared.

Rick Kitchen
02-18-2014, 09:18 PM
Ok, maybe near Gondor or Laketown elves and dwarves can conduct enough trade with men for food. But in Eriador there are elves in Rivendell and the Grey Havens, and dwarves in the Blue Mountains. The only agricultural areas in the whole region are the Shire and Bree. Hobbits certainly don't seem to have anything to do with elves or dwarves, and Bree seems too small to provide much food for trade. In any case the roads are unsafe and it's pretty far to anywhere else.

Isn't there agriculture around Dale?

Lightray
02-18-2014, 09:27 PM
IOW, there is sufficient rain across western Middle Earth to support forests, but much of the area west of the range has been cleared.
The coasts south of Arnor and north of Gondor were once forested, but the Numenoreans razed the forests to build ships. Enedwaith, at least, is mentioned as being former forest now turned grasslands. I think Dunland is the remnant of that forest. Presumably the lands along the southern Brandywine (Minhiriath on my closest map), were likewise forest.

Mind you, it's been several thousand years since the Numenorean shipbuilding frenzy, and there is neither regrown forests nor people living there. Which seems unlikely for an area probably the size of France with enough rain to have supported forests.

Kimstu
02-18-2014, 09:40 PM
I mentioned this in the other thread. Neither elves nor dwarves seem to go in much for agriculture, but there doesn't seem to be enough trade with men or hobbits (who are the main farmers in Middle Earth) to support them. Maybe elves do grow some things in gardens, but there sure don't seem to be extensive fields around Rivendell or in Mirkwood. Dwarves mainly live underground where they can't grow anything at all.

And as I mentioned in response to you in the other thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=715045), Silvan Elves hunt.

Sedentary hunter-gatherer societies have survived for hundreds of thousands of years among humans without any need for "extensive fields". Especially if the societies in question have got Elvish-quality green thumbs, I really don't see why you keep insisting that they'd need large-scale intensive agriculture to survive.


It's a Potemkin Village. Tolkien's intention wasn't to describe a functioning world, just to have a picturesque background against which to set his grand doings. He had no interest in the economy or trade, just his narrative.

Maybe so, but nothing in the objections you've raised so far (with the possible exception of orc economies) makes a convincing case for that position. You're just projecting the expectations of modern industrial/agricultural societies, or slightly modified early-modern versions of them, back onto Middle-earth.

the_diego
02-18-2014, 10:10 PM
Lemme see if I can still write even just a background geomorphic report:

From distance references and time of travel, Middle Earth is slightly bigger than the European major peninsula starting from the North West in the Shire (British Isles) going South East to Mordor (Asia Minor or Near East.)

The entire super-peninsula is temperate and weather systems are highly localized, with no wide cloudless belt forming a desert region. There is a major divide of uplifted mountains running North-South called the Misty Mountain. The range is also fault-controlled; with the river Anduin following the surface projection of the fault from north to south. The misty mountains appear young given their shape and the quality of soil on either side. they are a bit like the Rockies in attitude rather than the Appalachians.

Near the Gap of Rohan, there is an assumed East-West trending right-lateral fault that broke the southern half of the Misty Mountains and drove it farther to the East. The Southern half of the Misty Mountains forms the Western mountainous border of Mordor.

The Eastern side, from Wilderland, going down to Gondor and Harad, appears down-thrown compared with the West. This is evidenced by low countries that are thickly forested, with marshes and swamps especially near the river and the estuarine areas.

Despite the West side being uplifted, the land appears more stable and large areas are available for human settlement, farming, and animal husbandry. This may be the result of wide deposition and uplifting from previous orogenic episodes, much older than that which formed the Misty Mountains.

The most recent tectonic activity are in Mordor in Mount Doom, and slightly older volcanic episodes in the north which, by popular legend, was inundated due to violent battles 6,000 years past.

Colibri
02-18-2014, 10:26 PM
And as I mentioned in response to you in the other thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=715045), Silvan Elves hunt.

I doubt they could support themselves for any length of time by hunting alone without depleting the game in the immediate area of their settlements. OK, maybe elves can range over very large areas to hunt, but they wouldn't have nearly as much time to sing and dance as they seem too.

Sedentary hunter-gatherer societies have survived for hundreds of thousands of years among humans without any need for "extensive fields".

This is completely wrong. There haven't been any sedentary hunter-gatherer societies that have survived in the same place for even a few thousand years, let alone "hundreds of thousands." (Modern humans have only been around for about 200,000 years in any case.)

Virtually the only sedentary hunter-gatherer societies we know about have exploited exceptionally rich marine resources, such as the Indians of the Pacific Northwest of North America. Nearly all other hunter-gatherers have at least seasonal movements to take advantage of resources in other parts of their territory, and to avoid overexploiting the game and food plants in one area. Many hunter gatherers are nomadic.

Please provide a cite for sedentary village-dwelling societies that did not practice significant agriculture (aside from those making use of rich marine resources or other special cases).

Especially if the societies in question have got Elvish-quality green thumbs, I really don't see why you keep insisting that they'd need large-scale intensive agriculture to survive.

The Amazonian Indians, Africans, and other peoples that you may think of as "hunter-gatherers" are actually agriculturalists who remain in the same villages for decades. Now their agriculture may not be enormous in scale, but villages generally have nearby fields from which they harvest their crops. These are supplemented by some hunting and gathering wild foods, but most of the calories come from agriculture. We don't see anything like this with respect to elves. The forest seems to be unbroken except in the immediate area of their settlements.

Maybe so, but nothing in the objections you've raised so far (with the possible exception of orc economies) makes a convincing case for that position. You're just projecting the expectations of modern industrial/agricultural societies, or slightly modified early-modern versions of them, back onto Middle-earth.

No, I'm working from my knowledge of traditional societies (having spent some time working with them in South and Central America and Africa). I think that you may not really be aware of how such societies actually feed themselves.

Lightray
02-18-2014, 10:38 PM
I don't think you can reasonably compare elves to any historical Earth culture without a whole lotta hand-waivin'. They have at least one super-food in lembas of which one cake supplies several days' worth of nutrition; we don't have any cultivated crop or other food that energy-dense for comparison.

And elves also have crop fertilization far beyond even our current technology -- one box of dirt from Galadriel's garden causes the entire (devastated) Shire to super-produce for an entire year.

With that sort of tech, it is probably conceivable to have high-density population centers that aren't supported by as extensive an infrastructure as we would expect from human history (or the present).

astro
02-18-2014, 10:46 PM
But the history of Middle Earth spans something like 7000 years. In the great battles of the Silmarillion, the standard weapon was the steel sword. In the great battles of the War of the Ring, it was still the steel sword. The steel sword, in that world, lasted at least 7000 years, and there's no indication it was new in the early battles, or going out of favor in the later ones.

In our world, by contrast, 7000 years ago we were just starting in on leather. Metallurgy of any sort didn't show up until less than 5000 years ago, and steel not until just over 3000 years ago. Steel swords admittedly had a pretty good run, but they were still starting to be replaced by the Next Big Thing two and a half millennia later.

On a GOT board pre-TV series and specifically re the book back history I had mentioned this as a similar quibble with "Game of Thrones" chronology where you have a static "steel swords" medieval world that has existed for thousands and thousands of years without significant scientific or cultural advancement. It was especially odd in GOT in that you had this group of people called "Maesters" who are essentially defacto engineers and scientists with thousands of years of history doing those things. You kind of had to ask what the hell they were doing if it resulted in a completely static society.

One of the people on that board told me there was actually a specific name for this literary sci-fi "static medieval culture " trope but I forget it.

Colibri
02-18-2014, 10:46 PM
I don't think you can reasonably compare elves to any historical Earth culture without a whole lotta hand-waivin'. They have at least one super-food in lembas of which one cake supplies several days' worth of nutrition; we don't have any cultivated crop or other food that energy-dense for comparison.

And elves also have crop fertilization far beyond even our current technology -- one box of dirt from Galadriel's garden causes the entire (devastated) Shire to super-produce for an entire year.

With that sort of tech, it is probably conceivable to have high-density population centers that aren't supported by as extensive an infrastructure as we would expect from human history (or the present).

Basically, you're just saying that they feed themselves by magic (AKA the "A wizard did it" explanation). Ok, but I wouldn't regard that as holding up to "close scrutiny.";)

the_diego
02-18-2014, 10:51 PM
I hate to imagine the sewerage system for Lorien. Probably no different from that of folks living in mountainous areas with little soil cover: culverts and ditches dumping the good stuff into the main rivers.

Lightray
02-18-2014, 10:53 PM
For all Tolkien's denials that the elves use "magic"... they basically use magic. So, yeah. Since that, at least, makes the elves' society internally consistent if nothing else, it's kind of uninteresting to apply "strict scrutiny" to them. What basis of comparison is there?

The other cultures, though -- dwarves, hobbits, goblins -- those seem ripe for comparison to known cultures. And they definately crumble under strict scrutiny. (Particularly the ones that are known cultures with the names changed: like, the Shire.)

edit: elf poop. heh.

the_diego
02-18-2014, 10:58 PM
An underground pit house on flat ground is ok but excavating into the side of a hill? You'll have a major collapse every month if you don't do regular maintenance and re-timbering.

CarnalK
02-18-2014, 11:01 PM
Basically, you're just saying that they feed themselves by magic (AKA the "A wizard did it" explanation). Ok, but I wouldn't regard that as holding up to "close scrutiny.";)

But what he's saying is spelled out, no? They do have super food and super fertilizer. These things aren't so fantastical for an ancient magical race to have developed - certainly not equivalent to "a wizard did it".

aruvqan
02-18-2014, 11:02 PM
Goblin Town is particularly puzzling. It's "front door" is a cave off a high, treacherous mountain pass; hardly suitable for hunting, fishing, or farming. It's "back door" opens to pine-forest wilderness, where I guess they can maybe hunt at least.

And they have to: they're mounted on pony-sized obligate carnivores. Worgs probably need to eat about a hobbit every day or so. How the heck do the goblins keep them fed, let alone feeding themselves? They need really big herds for that, which means lots of grazing... which you don't find in barren mountains or pine forests.
Oh I can [sort of] answer this!

I just got done reading The Hobbit, and the wargs are not all mounts for orcs and goblins. They make an alliance for warfare to go root around and raid for food and goodies. The wargs are actually intelligent wolves with a language of their own.

[pp185:
I will tell you what Gandalf heard, though Bilbo did not understand it. The Wargs and the goblins often helped one another in wicked deeds. Goblins do not usually venture very far from their mountains, unless they are driven out and are looking for new homes, or are marching to war (which I am glad to say has not happened for a long while). But in those days they sometimes used to go on raids, especially to get food or slaves to work for them. Then they often got the Wargs to help and shared the plunder with them. Sometimes they rode on wolves like men do on horses. Now it seemed that a great goblin-raid had been planned for that very night. The Wargs had come to meet the goblins and the goblins were late. The reason, no doubt, was the death of the Great Goblin, and all the excitement caused by the dwarves and Bilbo and the wizard, for whom they were probably still hunting. ]

So there, goblins allied with the wargs that lived outside the caverns to hunt and raid, though wargs were not subservient to the goblins and orcs.

As to world reality?
You have 4 Dwarven regions, Moria, the original Dwarven city under the Lonely Mountain that was the focus of The Hobbit, Iron Mountain and Blue Mountain. Dwarves mainly mined for minerals and gems, in the Hobbit it mentioned that after they got kicked out of the Lonely Mountain they did everything from finesmithing, to blacksmithing to falling so low as to mine for coal. They originally traded for foods and anything they couldn't get from mining for it.

You have The Shire and a sliver of area on the other side of the river towards Bree for the Hobbits in the later times, earlier they were more widespread. The hobbits did farm and raise small livestock like goats, sheep, chickens and such.

For Elves, there are more or less 3 areas left, Rivendel, Mirkwood and Lothlorien - in the time of LOTR they had been pulling back and leaving for the West. They are mentioned as hunting, gathering, trading for precious metals and gems, and one guesses stuff like fine fabrics - they get butter, wine and bacon from the humans near the Lonely Mountain as that is the side of Mirkwood they are on.

For Humans, there were several races of Human, Dunedain, Numenoreans and Dunlendings. By the time that LOTR came around, they had more or less started blending and even cross breeding with elves and orcs so Strider being pureblood was unusual. The human lands of Rohan and Gondor, and Dunland are all mainly horse nomads and farmers with a couple major cities [think Mongols and Rus], and the northerners near Forochel are much like our Sammi, fishers and ranching semi-nomads.

The shire more or less runs up into the human lands on the north, east and southern borders. Elves live more or less further eastwards along with most of the dwarves - only the Blue Mountain dwarves were off to the west. Really, the shire is stuck off to the west of almost everything. Travel time is compressed in the books - it took Beorn, Gandalf and Bilbo almost a year to get back from the Lonely Mountain, they did take a break of a couple months in Rivendel, and one of a couple months in the winter at Beorns home and I really didn't try to tack how long it took them to go to the lonely Mountain, but they did get bogged down for something like a couple months in the Elven palace in Mirkwood, a couple weeks each with Elrond and Beorn and I think a couple weeks in Esgaroth.

So if you look at it in terms of our world, think of it as being Eastern, Northern, Western and Southern Europe of probably 100 AD [though not politically, just areas of population surrounded by wilderness that was dangerous to travel through unless in an armed party.]

Trinopus
02-18-2014, 11:47 PM
Ironically, "too much happens all at once"" was one of the major plot hole complaints about the Second World War. :D

That, and the absurd "deus ex machina" ending with the atom bomb. Who the hell would believe a contrivance like that? The author obviously ran out of ideas.

Max the Immortal
02-19-2014, 12:36 AM
One of the people on that board told me there was actually a specific name for this literary sci-fi "static medieval culture " trope but I forget it.

Medieval Stasis (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MedievalStasis).

For some fantasy settings, I can buy that there would be stagnation if society's best and brightest become wizards rather than doctors and engineers and so forth, but as far as I know that's not a factor in Middle Earth.

N9IWP
02-19-2014, 05:55 AM
Doe anyone have reliable population figures?
For Elves at least, their are fading away. Are there 5,000 by the end of the Third age?

Bilbo's mithril shirt was worth more than the Shire and everything in it - and it was less than 1/14th of the wealth of Eriador. Certainly post Hobbit Dwarves could buy food from Dale / Laketown. And when Moria was in its heyday they certainly could import roast meat off the bone. (In between it becomes more problematic)

We know Sauron had slaves farming Nurn
Gondor had the Pelennor Fields

Brian

Apocalypso
02-19-2014, 07:33 AM
Didn't we just have a thread on orc food?
Someone in that thread found a quote from LOTR saying that Sauron's armies were supplied with food by the Southerners who allied with him. There's also many references to lands to the east that were under Sauron's sway.

What I notice most is that it's awfully stagnant. The Middle Earth of the Silmarillion looks an awful lot like the Middle Earth of the Lord of the Rings, technologically and socially. In that time span, we went from atlatls to nuclear bombs, while Middle Earth went from swords to swords.
Er, I don't know. Reading The Children of Hurin and the Silmarillion, I got the impression that the elves (and some of the Men, to some degree) advanced very rapidly, guided by the Valar. But when all the trouble with Melkor/Morgoth started, things went south very fast. Beleriand got sunk, and a lot of Elves died, so that set things back quite a bit. Then Men were given Numenor and the wisdom of the Valar, but screwed that up. Sauron rose to power, then fell but didn't die. There was a period of peace (2500 years, give or take), but the Kingdom of Gondor was decimated, fractured, and eventually fell apart, and much was lost.
Basically, I'm not seeing that much stagnation, more periods of advancements followed by setbacks. I think you're looking at real human history, imposing that on ME and saying they're stagnant because they didn't develop electricity and the internal combustion engine in 7,000 years. The human race was much older than that before we developed the technological advances of this past few centuries. So I could argue that humans were "stagnant" for longer than 7,000 years (well, there WAS the transition from hunter gathering to argriculture). Further, Sauramon's experiments with machinery and weapons/armor production on a massive scale would surely lead to major breakthroughs for Gondor and Rohan and lead them at least to an industrial age.

Anyway, to address the OP: Tolkien painted ME as myths and legends written after the fact (I believe he actually explained some errors as mistakes on the part of the "historians"). He made it clear that there was a ton of stuff going on that was being glossed over to focus on the main story (for example the battles going on in the north between Sauron's forces and the Elves and Dwarves are hinted at but the stories are not told). Anyway, the orcs (and most of the bad guys in general) are described as much smaller in the books than depicted in PJ's movies, so they wouldn't need that much food, and they'd presumably supplement their diet with humans, elves, and the occasional weak/sick orc. The population of ME, never huge to begin with, was (at the time of the War of the Ring) fairly small, having been decimated in wars and such. Again, Peter Jackson tried to give the impression of hugeness and massive amounts of people that (IMO) wasn't entirely accurate. I don't really see anything implausible in LOTR. There were farming communities that could support themselves (Bree, Rohan, Gondor), and those who relied at least somewhat on trading goods for food (Elves and Dwarves). I'm not seeing a problem with feeding everyone, at least not in Middle Earth...

However, if you start delving into the Silmarillion, things get a bit more tricky. I'm sure there were some Elves that farmed, and many more that hunted and fished. But Morgoth's armies made Sauron's look small and weak. What was he feeding them? His fortress was surrounded by mountains, and if he raided the Elves and humans food supplies enough to feed his armies, then the Elves and Humans would have starved. Yeah, there were evil men in Beleriand under Morgoth's service, but they didn't seem like that much of an agricultural society (more army fodder), and in any case I doubt they'd have been able to grow enough food to feed Morgoth's massive armies. I actually fanwanked this while reading The Children of Hurin by thinking that Morgoth's troops, being created from evil and twisted powers, didn't NEED to eat. Sauron, not being as powerful, did not have the ability to sustain his armies, so they did need food.

Tom Tildrum
02-19-2014, 09:30 AM
I've always just unofficially imagined that the dwarves eat mineral deposits and the elves are partly solar-powered.

I hate to imagine the sewerage system for Lorien. Probably no different from that of folks living in mountainous areas with little soil cover: culverts and ditches dumping the good stuff into the main rivers.

Elf poop was highly sought after among humans, because it would regrow hair.

Colibri
02-19-2014, 10:12 AM
For all Tolkien's denials that the elves use "magic"... they basically use magic. So, yeah. Since that, at least, makes the elves' society internally consistent if nothing else, it's kind of uninteresting to apply "strict scrutiny" to them. What basis of comparison is there?

But what he's saying is spelled out, no? They do have super food and super fertilizer. These things aren't so fantastical for an ancient magical race to have developed - certainly not equivalent to "a wizard did it".

Ok, in the context of the world of Middle Earth, where magic works, I can buy that the elves could rely on some kind of magic or enchantment to provide them with enough food. By their economy is definitely other-worldly.

The other cultures, though -- dwarves, hobbits, goblins -- those seem ripe for comparison to known cultures. And they definately crumble under strict scrutiny. (Particularly the ones that are known cultures with the names changed: like, the Shire.)

Another example. What did Balin's colony in Moria live on? They certainly weren't trading with Lorien, and there were no settlements of men nearby. The colony was small and didn't last for many years, but it's still hard to imagine dwarves supporting themselves by hunting in the areas around the caverns. Maybe they grew mushrooms.:D

Isn't there agriculture around Dale?

I was including Dale as part of the area around Lake-town/Esgaroth.

Kimstu
02-19-2014, 10:19 AM
I doubt they could support themselves for any length of time by hunting alone without depleting the game in the immediate area of their settlements. OK, maybe elves can range over very large areas to hunt, but they wouldn't have nearly as much time to sing and dance as they seem too.

You don't quite seem to have grasped the fact that elves are magic. While objections to the feasibility of Men or Hobbit economies can reasonably be based on appeals to the limitations of ordinary mortals, those of Elvish economies cannot.


This is completely wrong. There haven't been any sedentary hunter-gatherer societies that have survived in the same place for even a few thousand years, let alone "hundreds of thousands." (Modern humans have only been around for about 200,000 years in any case.)

:dubious: I didn't say "in the same place". My point is that sedentary hunter-gatherer societies are well-known throughout human history, so they seem like a perfectly reasonable model for an Elvish-enhanced version that would sustain a stable magical civilization.


We don't see anything like this with respect to elves. The forest seems to be unbroken except in the immediate area of their settlements.

That doesn't mean that the forest doesn't contain plenty of magically delicious and nourishing foodstuffs. The Elvish combination of delight in wild nature and ability to produce superfoods with superfertility means that they get a lot of calories out of what superficially looks like a wilderness, although an exceptionally beautiful and enchanting wilderness.


Basically, you're just saying that they feed themselves by magic (AKA the "A wizard did it" explanation).

Finally! You get it! ;)


Ok, but I wouldn't regard that as holding up to "close scrutiny."

You can't use the same kind of "close scrutiny" to assess the feasibility of a society of immortal beings with magically enhanced relationship to and control over the natural world as you would apply to a society of ordinary human beings, or beings with the same limitations of ordinary humans.

The economies of non-magical mortals such as Men and Hobbits are sustained in Tolkien's world by the type of large-scale agriculture you talk about, but there's no reason that Elvish societies would have to be.

I really don't understand why it's taking you so long to comprehend this. Usually people who don't have the imagination to envision how a society of beings with magic powers might work aren't interested in reading Tolkien in the first place.


Ok, in the context of the world of Middle Earth, where magic works, I can buy that the elves could rely on some kind of magic or enchantment to provide them with enough food. By their economy is definitely other-worldly.

Ya think?

Kimstu
02-19-2014, 10:26 AM
Another example. What did Balin's colony in Moria live on? They certainly weren't trading with Lorien, and there were no settlements of men nearby. The colony was small and didn't last for many years, but it's still hard to imagine dwarves supporting themselves by hunting in the areas around the caverns.

The social economy of Dwarves in Tolkien is definitely more questionable than that of Elves or Men and Hobbits. Perhaps in pioneer situations they do more agriculture than they can be bothered with when they live in more stable populous communities and can trade for food with non-Dwarves.

Colibri
02-19-2014, 10:35 AM
:dubious: I didn't say "in the same place". My point is that sedentary hunter-gatherer societies are well-known throughout human history, so they seem like a perfectly reasonable model for an Elvish-enhanced version that would sustain a stable magical civilization.

"Sedentary" means "living in the same place." Sedentary hunter-gatherer societies are very rare in human history (being limited to very rich environments, as I said earler). Hunter-gatherers generally move seasonally or are nomadic, and don't live in fixed settlements as elves do. The rise of fixed settlements with permanent structures mostly dates to the beginnings of agriculture.

As I said before, please provide a cite for a hunter-gatherer society that had fixed settlements, other than those in exceptionally rich environments.

I really don't understand why it's taking you so long to comprehend this. Usually people who don't have the imagination to envision how a society of beings with magic powers might work aren't interested in reading Tolkien in the first place.

Magic is certainly present in Tolkien's world, but it has its limitations. Elves don't fly about through the air, or dematerialize, or turn people to ashes with their gaze. Why shouldn't they, if they are magical beings? It's reasonable to examine just how far elvish magic extends. Tolkien's world doesn't require that elves should have to rely on magic to feed themselves. It just seems that magic is the only way to explain it, given the evidence we see.

Kimstu
02-19-2014, 10:43 AM
Tolkien's world doesn't require that elves should have to rely on magic to feed themselves. It just seems that magic is the only way to explain it, given the evidence we see.

I think you're not paying enough attention. Everything that Tolkien says about elves' interactions with the natural world, especially with growing things, reflects powers that mortals consider "magical". Their foods are incredibly delicious and abundant and sustaining, and their garden earth is super-fertile. Why would anybody even start out from the assumption that feeding an Elvish community requires the same amount of ordinary agricultural land and labor that it would take to feed a pre-industrial human community?

nevadaexile
02-19-2014, 11:24 AM
The noticeable lack of ethnic diversity has always bothered me. Since the "default" coloration of mankind is some shade of brown (and it was even when Tolkien was writing) then the majority of the people in Middle Earth should be some shade of brown.Middle Earth demographics don't reflect that fact (neither do Peter Jackson's films).

I can "buy" the slow progression of technology. Gunpowder was invented by the Chinese in 10th century but was put to its fullest effect until 19th century, almost 1,000 years later. Also Babbage's difference engine to more than 100 years to be developed into a practical computer. Technology is as "fast" as its users need it to be.

Kimstu
02-19-2014, 11:36 AM
The noticeable lack of ethnic diversity has always bothered me. Since the "default" coloration of mankind is some shade of brown (and it was even when Tolkien was writing) then the majority of the people in Middle Earth should be some shade of brown.Middle Earth demographics don't reflect that fact (neither do Peter Jackson's films).


This to me is one of the fundamental ways that Tolkien deliberately limited the perspective of his fantasy in order to give it the ring (no pun intended, heh) of an actual ancient saga of Anglo-Saxon peoples.

On the one hand, the people in this saga clearly think of their story as being hugely significant for the whole world across timeless ages (hello, the disaster of Numenor even changes the physical shape of the world!). On the other hand, from a broader perspective their story is ultimately a tale of petty chieftains squabbling over a region that could fit between New York and Chicago, in which "swarthy" peoples from the eastern and southern regions are so exotic as to seem barely human.

Inside the Middle-earth world, the story's universal; outside that world, it's much more limited and contingent on a particular ethnic perspective, and the lack of ethnic diversity is one of the "tells" revealing that. I think this was a brilliant stroke of craftsmanship on Tolkien's part.

nevadaexile
02-19-2014, 11:44 AM
This to me is one of the fundamental ways that Tolkien deliberately limited the perspective of his fantasy in order to give it the ring (no pun intended, heh) of an actual ancient saga of Anglo-Saxon peoples.

On the one hand, the people in this saga clearly think of their story as being hugely significant for the whole world across timeless ages (hello, the disaster of Numenor even changes the physical shape of the world!). On the other hand, from a broader perspective their story is ultimately a tale of petty chieftains squabbling over a region that could fit between New York and Chicago, in which "swarthy" peoples from the eastern and southern regions are so exotic as to seem barely human.

Inside the Middle-earth world, the story's universal; outside that world, it's much more limited and contingent on a particular ethnic perspective, and the lack of ethnic diversity is one of the "tells" revealing that. I think this was a brilliant stroke of craftsmanship on Tolkien's part.

While the stories are entertaining, I would hardly call any of Tolkien's work "brilliant." He was just fortunate enough to be born and have lived and written at a time when his works could be easily translated into a mass market for wide consumption.

That's LUCK.
Not brilliance.

Chimera
02-19-2014, 11:53 AM
The only issue would be the way the forests were portrayed in the movies, but let's take a look at The Amazon and the North American forests when the Europeans arrived. They were basically Human engineered parks. Fruit and nut trees abounded everywhere. Berries were commonplace. It is estimated that as much as one third of the eastern (US) forests were Chestnut trees. I would strongly expect a forest that the Elves have been living in for several thousand years to be similar. Wide meadows filled with root and seed vegetables, a heavy percentage of the trees bearing fruits and nuts. They don't need modern style agriculture, they have everything they need in abundance.

The forests being cut down thousands of years ago and not coming back? Yeah, that's an issue. Earth examples show that is not the case. Forests come back with a vengeance within a couple of hundred years at most.

Goblin Town and the Wargs? Now that's a serious fucking problem. The Goblins may subsist on the same fruit, nuts and roots that the Elves do, but they do need meat and those Wargs definitely need it in abundance. The only suggestion I can make is a feast/famine boom and bust cycle, where periods of raiding by large numbers is caused by the fact that their population has grown to outstrip their food sources, forcing them out of the mountains to raid other lands.

Feeding Eriador doesn't seem to be an issue, they have the Lake and all of it's surrounding communities to bring them food. Feeding the Blue Mountains doesn't seem so unlikely either with the Shire very nearby. Moria, on the other hand, is a serious conundrum. There don't seem to be any agricultural communities anywhere nearby.

Colibri
02-19-2014, 12:08 PM
I think you're not paying enough attention. Everything that Tolkien says about elves' interactions with the natural world, especially with growing things, reflects powers that mortals consider "magical". Their foods are incredibly delicious and abundant and sustaining, and their garden earth is super-fertile. Why would anybody even start out from the assumption that feeding an Elvish community requires the same amount of ordinary agricultural land and labor that it would take to feed a pre-industrial human community?

They ride horses, not flying carpets. They use swords and spears, not beams of light. They do require food of some kind - they can't live on air. They are depicted as being somewhat magical, but that magic has limits. Tolkien doesn't state that they get their food magically - this is just an extrapolation from the fact that he doesn't show any fields.

Kimstu
02-19-2014, 12:15 PM
While the stories are entertaining, I would hardly call any of Tolkien's work "brilliant."

I think you missed my point. I'm not trying to evaluate Tolkien's works on their merits as literature, and I'm not arguing that the works or writing themselves rank as "brilliant".

I'm just saying that from the standpoint of what he was trying to do in creating a sort of "English peoples' saga", I think it was a brilliant idea to deliberately limit the saga's perspective in the ways that he did.

In short, the Middle-earth people's lack of awareness of human ethnic diversity isn't a bug, it's a feature. A brilliant feature, in my opinion, since it accurately reproduces an important "blind spot" that the hypothetical authors of an ancient "English peoples' saga" would actually have had.

mbh
02-19-2014, 12:23 PM
My fanwank is that Elvish agriculture is not easily visible to humans.

The forests of Lorien and Greenwood are not wilderness. They are vast orchards. Between the trees, what looks like a grassy meadow, is actually a field of grain. That clump of shrubbery over there, has vegetables underneath. Everything that grows in an Elvish kingdom is either edible, or a medicinal herb. It is designed look like an uninhabited wilderness, but it is as natural as a bonsai tree.

Fenris
02-19-2014, 12:45 PM
But the history of Middle Earth spans something like 7000 years. In the great battles of the Silmarillion, the standard weapon was the steel sword. In the great battles of the War of the Ring, it was still the steel sword. The steel sword, in that world, lasted at least 7000 years, and there's no indication it was new in the early battles, or going out of favor in the later ones.

In our world, by contrast, 7000 years ago we were just starting in on leather. Metallurgy of any sort didn't show up until less than 5000 years ago, and steel not until just over 3000 years ago. Steel swords admittedly had a pretty good run, but they were still starting to be replaced by the Next Big Thing two and a half millennia later.

I thought the Elf Rings were being used intentionally to stagnate Middle Earth (to prevent it from "diminishing", IIRC). To stop change and to leave things exactly where they were. And that was the point of Galadrial's rant when she was offered the One Ring--that she could freeze everything where it was or go into the West and let everything be "diminished" (ie: progress).

I never understood why the Elves were the good-guys (other than by comparison to Sauron) given that.

Malthus
02-19-2014, 01:46 PM
The noticeable lack of ethnic diversity has always bothered me. Since the "default" coloration of mankind is some shade of brown (and it was even when Tolkien was writing) then the majority of the people in Middle Earth should be some shade of brown.Middle Earth demographics don't reflect that fact (neither do Peter Jackson's films).


What about the Southrons, or men of Harad? Aren't they depicted as "Brown" in both book and film?

We have no idea of the relative demographics of Harad vs. the North. Anyone adventuring around in Europe during the Middle Ages would also not find the majority of the population "some shade of brown".

Miller
02-19-2014, 01:52 PM
The Elf Rings may be the answer to this question. They're explicitly named as the only thing that allows the Elves to remain a power in Middle Earth, but their exact function is unclear. I think it would be in keeping with the tenor of the books if the main function of an Elf Ring was to keep elven lands at peak fertility. While the rings exist, elf lands don't know droughts, or blights, or deep snows, or poor harvests. While they still hold their power, this is enough to make the wilderness around the elf cities fertile enough to support the populations.

This could also help explain the stagnation. There doesn't appear to be such a thing as a poor elf. There aren't any tenements in Rivendell. If there's no need in elven society, there's no impetus to invent. This also changes the equation on how much food is necessary to support an elven city, too - elf cities have a much lower population density than human cities of similar sizes.

I'm also partial to mbh's idea: that elven agriculture looks like untamed wilderness to humans. Plus, elves aren't human - while their diets are plainly similar, they may be able to live off food that humans can't. If an elf can live off oak leaves, then that forest is the equivalent of a wheat field.

Sicks Ate
02-19-2014, 02:04 PM
Isn't it also possible that elven metabolism is such that they don't require the same daily diet as a human? Perhaps their digestive systems are 100% efficient...is there any record of an elf excreting? ;)

mbh
02-19-2014, 02:22 PM
My "stealth agriculture" theory also includes the woodland animals. They keep herds of deer and flocks of bovids, the way Saami and Eskimos keep herds of reindeer. When they look like they are hunting, they are actually just culling the herd. After tending the garden for a few thousand years, they work out the ecological relationships, to the point where it looks like a natural ecosystem.

Filbert
02-19-2014, 05:30 PM
For Humans, there were several races of Human, Dunedain, Numenoreans and Dunlendings. By the time that LOTR came around, they had more or less started blending and even cross breeding with elves and orcs so Strider being pureblood was unusual. The human lands of Rohan and Gondor, and Dunland are all mainly horse nomads and farmers with a couple major cities [think Mongols and Rus], and the northerners near Forochel are much like our Sammi, fishers and ranching semi-nomads.

(bolding mine)
Eh? The human/elf crossings happen in the early days apart from Aragorn's own marriage, and for from being a pureblood, he's one of the very few humans who does have elves in the family tree, however distantly (as well as a Maia).

I don't think we have nearly enough information about food production in Middle Earth to say if it's realistic or not.

The Goblins of the Misty Mountains seem to make a living by raiding nearly villages (and catching fisheses), but who knows how the Wargs eat when they're not joining in a Goblin hunt. How many are there? Are they there all year round?

The area to the west of the mountains is described as 'fertile' (the company climb up pine trees, but it's mixed deciduous further down), with woodmen and villages living there. It's a vast area, so I don't see why there shouldn't be enough prey for quite a few smart, non-picky wolves. It looks like we see pretty well all the Wargs in the area at once, so presumably they spend the rest of the time widely spaced.

Orcs and goblins seem to go through a boom and bust cycle, when the population is small, they mostly live in small groups, scavenging and attacking travellers, then when the population gets big they form proper armies and start raiding the neighbours. They appear to breed and grow fast, so neither Sauron nor Morgoth should have had to worry about feeding vast armies for long.

By the way, I wonder what the technology looks like in the Undying Lands- are the Elves of Middle Earth a sort of Amish enclave? Are there no Elves around now 'cos they left Earth? ;)

Chronos
02-19-2014, 05:43 PM
Quoth nevadaexile:

The noticeable lack of ethnic diversity has always bothered me. Since the "default" coloration of mankind is some shade of brown (and it was even when Tolkien was writing) then the majority of the people in Middle Earth should be some shade of brown.
What makes you think they aren't? So far as I know, Tolkien never says anything about the skin color of the Hobbits, nor of Gondorians. The Haradrim, we're told, are considered dark by the main characters, but then again, the Rohirrim are considered light. All that tells us is that the main characters consider "normal" to be somewhere in between those, but it doesn't say where in between, nor how far apart the extremes are.

And there is considerable racial diversity, just expressed in different ways than color. The Druedain are definitely what we would consider a minority race, but distinguished by body shape instead of by pigmentation. So, for that matter, are the Dunedain, though they're a privileged minority. Heck, the Hobbits themselves are a minority: Tolkien made clear in some of his peripheral writings that they are, in essence, human, just of a different size.

Sir Prize
02-19-2014, 06:41 PM
The Elf Rings may be the answer to this question. They're explicitly named as the only thing that allows the Elves to remain a power in Middle Earth, but their exact function is unclear.This could also serve as an explanation for why human technology did not progress. An undercurrent of pressure from the rings that prevented change.

Colibri
02-19-2014, 08:11 PM
Aside from the mysteries of orc ecology, orc reproduction also leaves some gaping questions (probably best left unanswered). It was suggested by Tolkien that orcs are debased elves, and so reproduce sexually, but we never see any females. IIRC, in The Hobbit it's mentioned that Gollum sometimes gobbles baby goblins. Jackson shows Saruman brewing up Uruk-hai in pits of slime, but that's not in the books.

Measure for Measure
02-19-2014, 11:12 PM
...and for all that Middle Earth felt incredibly real.

Many (not all) of the problems mentioned here are outside of the main camera's frame as it were. I mean trade patterns and orc reproduction and even physiology isn't something the casual reader thinks about, except in retrospect.

Allegedly Middle Earth has a pretty detailed backstory outside of the main books. Presumably it involves detailed lore, but not state of the art social or natural science.

Slow Moving Vehicle
02-19-2014, 11:43 PM
I think you're not paying enough attention. Everything that Tolkien says about elves' interactions with the natural world, especially with growing things, reflects powers that mortals consider "magical". Their foods are incredibly delicious and abundant and sustaining, and their garden earth is super-fertile. Why would anybody even start out from the assumption that feeding an Elvish community requires the same amount of ordinary agricultural land and labor that it would take to feed a pre-industrial human community?

Keep in mind, too, that there's no reason to assume that elves have similar metabolic needs as humans. In fact, Tolkien hints that they don't: During their long night run in pursuit of the Orcs who kidnapped Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, Aragorn and Gimli are exhausted, but Legolas is able to send his mind into "waking dreams" that are as restful as sleep to him. He runs all night and then, as they are dropping out of the barren hills into the grasslands of Rohan, says "Ah, the green smell! That is better than much sleep!" and start to run faster. (This is a further demonstration of Aragorn's nobility - he's able to resist the temptation to kick the smug bastard in the balls.) Elves, and for that matter dwarves, orcs and hobbits, may not need the same amount of food - and thus agriculture - that humans do.

MrDibble
02-20-2014, 03:36 AM
Well, Legolas must weigh all of, what, a few grams, since he doesn't sink into snow. Probably a breathatarian.

Brynhildr Budladóttir
02-20-2014, 04:40 AM
Didn't we just have a thread on orc food?
Someone in that thread found a quote from LOTR saying that Sauron's armies were supplied with food by the Southerners who allied with him. There's also many references to lands to the east that were under Sauron's sway.


Er, I don't know. Reading The Children of Hurin and the Silmarillion, I got the impression that the elves (and some of the Men, to some degree) advanced very rapidly, guided by the Valar. But when all the trouble with Melkor/Morgoth started, things went south very fast. Beleriand got sunk, and a lot of Elves died, so that set things back quite a bit. Then Men were given Numenor and the wisdom of the Valar, but screwed that up. Sauron rose to power, then fell but didn't die. There was a period of peace (2500 years, give or take), but the Kingdom of Gondor was decimated, fractured, and eventually fell apart, and much was lost.
Basically, I'm not seeing that much stagnation, more periods of advancements followed by setbacks. I think you're looking at real human history, imposing that on ME and saying they're stagnant because they didn't develop electricity and the internal combustion engine in 7,000 years. The human race was much older than that before we developed the technological advances of this past few centuries. So I could argue that humans were "stagnant" for longer than 7,000 years (well, there WAS the transition from hunter gathering to argriculture). Further, Sauramon's experiments with machinery and weapons/armor production on a massive scale would surely lead to major breakthroughs for Gondor and Rohan and lead them at least to an industrial age.

Anyway, to address the OP: Tolkien painted ME as myths and legends written after the fact (I believe he actually explained some errors as mistakes on the part of the "historians"). He made it clear that there was a ton of stuff going on that was being glossed over to focus on the main story (for example the battles going on in the north between Sauron's forces and the Elves and Dwarves are hinted at but the stories are not told). Anyway, the orcs (and most of the bad guys in general) are described as much smaller in the books than depicted in PJ's movies, so they wouldn't need that much food, and they'd presumably supplement their diet with humans, elves, and the occasional weak/sick orc. The population of ME, never huge to begin with, was (at the time of the War of the Ring) fairly small, having been decimated in wars and such. Again, Peter Jackson tried to give the impression of hugeness and massive amounts of people that (IMO) wasn't entirely accurate. I don't really see anything implausible in LOTR. There were farming communities that could support themselves (Bree, Rohan, Gondor), and those who relied at least somewhat on trading goods for food (Elves and Dwarves). I'm not seeing a problem with feeding everyone, at least not in Middle Earth...

However, if you start delving into the Silmarillion, things get a bit more tricky. I'm sure there were some Elves that farmed, and many more that hunted and fished. But Morgoth's armies made Sauron's look small and weak. What was he feeding them? His fortress was surrounded by mountains, and if he raided the Elves and humans food supplies enough to feed his armies, then the Elves and Humans would have starved. Yeah, there were evil men in Beleriand under Morgoth's service, but they didn't seem like that much of an agricultural society (more army fodder), and in any case I doubt they'd have been able to grow enough food to feed Morgoth's massive armies. I actually fanwanked this while reading The Children of Hurin by thinking that Morgoth's troops, being created from evil and twisted powers, didn't NEED to eat. Sauron, not being as powerful, did not have the ability to sustain his armies, so they did need food.


Re the technological advancement: Exactly what I wanted to say.

Sir Prize
02-20-2014, 11:22 AM
Men and elves where designed by god. Dwarves were designed by a Valar. Dwarf physiology may be more unusual than elves'. Dwarves may be able to sustain themselves on nutrition found underground, even if the food would not nourish men.

Tom Tildrum
02-20-2014, 11:43 AM
Isn't it also possible that elven metabolism is such that they don't require the same daily diet as a human? Perhaps their digestive systems are 100% efficient...is there any record of an elf excreting? ;)

Pooping is Eru's other, lesser-known Gift to Men.

DrDeth
02-20-2014, 12:06 PM
Thats rather overstated don't you think?

Tom Bombadil revealed in all his glory? To who? Four hobbits? The rest of the world still has forgotten about him. The Balrog bursts forth in mystic flames yet still the only ones to see it are the fellowship. And you certainly cannot label the Ents as waging total war, they attacked one fortress and helped relieve the seige at another, thats it.

You only say too much happens all at once because you the reader were shown these events, but the men in Bree still haven't a clue about Bombadil or the Balrog. Too much isn't happening at once for them, and if the question is Middle Earth holding up to scrutiny then they are the people we should be considering, not the reader.

Yes, in fact Elrond, Galdor etc had little info on who Bombadil was, and Gandalf seemed to only know a little.

After the War, Gandalf does drop by and has a long talk with Tom, it is told.

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