Thursday, August 2, 2012

Numenorean Army and Armour

What we can surmise…
When we return to the Arthadan army, the following prerequisites for the introduction of large archer-contingents are met:
• The Dúnadan realm often has to fight against the numerical odds. The need for an effective, massed, ranged weapon that weakens the enemy before the melee begins is therefore great.
• Large contingents of its enemies, such as Orcs and tribal Easterlings, tend to be not overly disciplined and only lightly armored on the battlefield (at least compared to 14th and 15th century European knights).
• It has sufficient numbers of skilled bowmen to form a powerful archery corps.

This last requisite is extrapolated from Tolkien’s statements about the Númenóreans. In Unfinished Tales, we read that “… shooting with bows on foot and on horseback was a chief sport and pastime of the Númenóreans. In later days…it was the bows of the Númenóreans that were most greatly feared (UT.170).” Considering the overall conservatism among the Dúnedain, it seems very likely that the Faithful preserved their old military traditions in Middle-earth, as long as these did not contradict their philosophy. Even if we allow for a decline in skill and lore and the slow disappearance of the powerful steel bows, the tradition of skillful archery should have been active even among the indigenous and mixed people of Arthedain who are heavily influenced by the culture of their lords.

During the Second Age, the Númenórean armies made extensive use of massive archer contingents: “…in those days the great cohorts of the King’s Archers used bows made of hollow steel… (ibid).” Even at the beginning of the Third Age, the archers of the Dúnedain were still feared and highly skilled, as we learn in the essay about the disaster at the Gladden Fields: “They [the Orcs]… kept at a distance out of the range of the dreaded steel-bows of Númenor… (UT.273).” Considering all these facts, it seems very likely that the widespread tradition of archery was preserved in Arthedain (the Dúnadan realm in Eriador with the purest Númenórean tradition).

In one respect, however, Dúnadan knights differed significantly from their medieval European counterparts: they were not inclined to true cavalry warfare:
The Númenóreans in their own land possessed horses, which they esteemed. But they did not use them in war…. In war they were used only by couriers, and by bodies of light-armed archers (often not of Númenórean race). (UT.278)
Therefore the typical Arthadan knight might use his horse(s) for transportation to the battlefield, but whenever possible would fight on foot.

Citadel Guards and Fountain Court Guard [film version]
Founded as an order of elite guards answerable only to the king of the southern realm. Only the best warriors that Gondor has to offer are picked to join the Guard, to be clad in their ancient armour and to carry blades of Westernesse and Númenorean steel composite bows, heavy with both age and honour. The guardsmen themselves are the very image of the first Men of Núménor to settle the shores of Middle-earth, tall and stern, proud and steady in battle. They protect the lords of Minas Anor and the sacred places of the Mound of Mindolluin with a resolute devotion. In the absence of a king, the guards take their orders from the Steward of Minas Anor, sworn to obey his every command until death claims them.

Steel Bows
The Númenórean steel bow should be an almost devastating weapon. I suggest using it sparsely because of its power and the loss of lore among the Dúnedain in Endor. In my opinion, it should possess ca. 150% the strength (damage) and range of a normal longbow. If you use Hârnmaster, treat a steel bow as if it were two categories higher than usual (e.g., a steel longbow is treated as a strongbow, a heavy steel longbow as a greatbow, etc.), but only one category higher in Strength requirements (e.g., a steel longbow uses the strength requirements of a heavy longbow).

Even in the case of the fabulously gifted Noldor and Naugrim, there are absolutely no indications in Tolkien’s writings that they ever possessed something similar to the elaborate plate armor of the 14th and 15th century.

Where Tolkien wants to describe advanced technology, he usually does not describe anything significantly more modern than the legends he draws from, from Beowulf to the Edda and the Chanson de Roland, but moves within the time frame set by these and their contemporary sources. Instead, he uses the levels within that time frame, and occasionally uses more advanced materials for items that were not, historically, used. For example, Tolkien sometimes describes blades as damascened steel to accentuate their superiority, while their real historical counterpart was of inferior material. Similarly, in The Hobbit, he describes how the Dwarves expanded the concept of mail armour to hose, another development which occurred much later than the introduction of coats of mail.

Thus, I believe that while Tolkien did not plant people 1:1 from our world to Middleearth, he mixed even the very Anglo-Saxonlike Rohirrim with Ostrogoths and consequentially put them on horseback. He used material from within the framework of his sources, and additionally described weapons and armour from a time frame that spans from the mythical time of Beowulf in the 5th or 6th century to the Bayeux tapestry and the first crusade in the late 11th or 12th century. This is the end of the historical scope of his sources though; barring any plate-equipped knights in a true-to- Tolkien scenario in Middle-earth. --- by Oliver Haussth.
The exception but a very unique singular one:
Now the traffic of the Dwarves down from the Blue Mountains followed two roads across East Beleriand, and the northern way, going towards the Fords of Aros, passed nigh to Nan Elmoth; and there Eöl would meet the Naugrim and hold converse with them. And as their friendship grew he would at times go and dwell as guest in the deep mansions of Nogrod or Belegost There he learned much of metalwork, and came to great skill therein; and he devised a metal as hard as the steel of the Dwarves, but so malleable that he could make it thin and supple; and yet it remained resistant to all blades and darts. He named it galvorn, for it was black and shining like jet, and he was clad in it whenever he went abroad. - Chapter 16 Of Maeglin - Silmarillion


Eöl loved the night and the stars, and among all the Firstborn of his time he was the one closest in friendship with Dwarves, who instructed him in smithcraft and who were in turn later taught by him in techniques of his own. His greatest creation as master smith was the so-called galvorn, a black metal harder than steel but light in weight and supple, whose most special component was iron from a meteorite. He forged two swords with this metal, Anglachel and Anguirel, and they were powerful weapons indeed. But when he had used all his stock of meteorite iron, he became obsessed with finding a way to make an alloy of earth-delved metals that could resemble the properties of his prized galvorn. He spent long years trying more and more complicated processes, and visiting the Dwarves to exchange knowledge and find a way to achieve his goal. Finally, he discovered the way to create an alloy better than steel for forging weapons and armor, which he called morglân, but this was still insignificant when compared with the mighty galvorn. However, he found it useful because he could produce it in much greater quantity than galvorn, despite the process needing several years to be completed. He shared his secret only with his younger brother, Dúhir.-addition by José Enrique Vacas de la Rosa - MERP


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