bunn (bunn) wrote,

A long rambling post about the politics & economy of Lindon

As requested by martial_quill on Tumblr.

Lindon is never a focus of any of the Great Tales. What DO we know about it?  More importantly, what can I make up about it?

Well, let’s start in the First Age, simply because we know something about it. The area that will eventually become Lindon was far inland then: it lay beyond East Beleriand, between the River Gelion and the Blue Mountains, and was divided in two.

In the north was Caranthir’s land, Thargelion, notable for its trade with the Dwarves of Belegost and Nogrod, who made the dwarf-road running down to the ford of Sarn Athrad across the Gelion. We can perhaps assume that Curufin also knew this land well, since he knew the Dwarves well enough to learn their language.  This is a land of hunters, traders, and Noldorin artisans. There may be some Sindar here, but we are told that there were no Sindar in the lands originally settled by the Sons of Fëanor, and so if there were, they came along later.

In the South, Ossiriand of the Green-elves, a wooded area thinly populated by Elves so hostile to hunting and tree-felling that Men who came through the Blue Mountains into Ossiriand were declared ‘unfriends’ for their destructive habits, and ushered hastily on into Noldor lands.  It’s also the land where Lúthien and Beren lived on the Isle of Tol Galen: the ‘land of the Dead that Live’.

Tolkien Gateway declares that Lindon was only Ossiriand, but after spending WAY TOO LONG comparing maps, I disagree. You can clearly see both Mount Dolmed and Mount Rerir on the Third Age map. I think the Gulf of Lune more or less follows the line of the River Ascar.  That would make Thargelion the land North of the Lune, and Ossiriand the land south of it.

Now, we don’t know exactly what happened to that land during the War of Wrath: how far it was changed.  I believe that Beleriand fell to a combination of giant waves, Elven enchantments and volcanic action, and that Lindon escaped, possibly partly because of some lingering virtue from Lúthien’s residence there.

So, immediately after the War of Wrath, Lindon, particularly the northern section of it and the area around the Gulf of Lune, was a mess.  Probably the southern half was in a better state. That’s one reason why Mithlond is so far inland, East of the Blue Mountains (what was left of them).  

The coast was ripped open and bare.  No sand yet, probably a lot of mud and bodies in the water to start with.  The entire forest of Taur im Duinath has sunk. Lots of jagged floating tree-trunks.   A giant hole has been ripped right through the mountains, taking out probably Nogrod, and very likely a lot of Belegost, given the location of them on the map.

It’s also a landscape occupied by an enormous army.  Bigger, according to Elrond, than the armies of the Last Alliance.

I don’t see how this army can be supplied from the land via normal means, even if there are people who have already moved east of the Misty Mountains who have had a chance to set up farms.  The degree of devastation would be too enormous, and the number of people to be fed, armed, warmed, etc far too great.

The main focus at the very end of the war is ship-building, because the Teleri fleet seem to have delivered their army and left pronto at the start, and didn’t come back. The war of Wrath ends 587FA, and then the Hosts go home 590FA.

However they managed that, the ship-building seems to slow down after that, because it takes 32 years for Elros and the first Edain to reach Númenor. Those ships were built by Círdan, who went on sending ships to deliver Edain to Númenor until about 82SA.

I would therefore characterise this early period as the Military / Ship-building period.

Either they are supplying themselves by enchantment (growing trees and fruit and grain, perhaps using techniques developed by Melian in Doriath)  OR they are being supplied from the Sea. Probably both.

Up in the  Blue Mountains, the Dwarves who survived are getting help from Khazâd Dum.  Possibly they are also getting some supplies from the Elves and the Sea. There is a mention that they joined in the war against Morgoth, so you’d hope the Elves wouldn’t entirely ignore them. On the other hand, presumably they were supplying themselves during the war out of the lands East of the mountains, so they may not actually need the help

In Lindon, it’s a largely military economy, though probably not a conventional modern army, exactly. Food and supplies are delivered by Ulmo / Osse / Uinen from the water, and distributed to cooks and officers responsible for clothing and housing.  Lords make sure that the stuff is distributed to where it’s needed, and that’s who ordinary people appeal to if they are short of things.

Ingwion, Finarfin (until they leave) Gil-galad, Círdan, Celebrimbor,  Elros, Elrond, Celeborn, Galadriel, Oropher, and Amdir are all in charge of making sure their respective groups are looked after.

There’s probably an informal trading economy going on at the same time, for extra bits and luxuries that are short, but during this period, it’s all quite centralised because the military is the main structure that survived the war, and it makes sure people can actually eat.  

Men are still living in temporary camps along the coast, the Noldor and the Northern Sindar who have mingled with them have started building the Grey Havens under the command of Gil-galad, and Celeborn and Galadriel and what’s left of the Doriathrim either move south into Harlindon, or are already living in what’s left of Ossiriand, around Tol Galen.

There may have been some tension between the Doriathrim and the Nandor, who want to stay in Middle-earth and live in forests, and the Noldor and Vanyar and Edain who want to cut down trees, make a huge number of ships and sail away.  Some of the Doriathrim start moving down the coast away from the Noldor. Eventually some of them will settle in Belfalas.

After about 80SA, things start to loosen up. I shall call this the period of establishment.

The Edain have largely left for Númenor, though I imagine there are still a few living here and there in Lindon, perhaps with Elrond.  Functionally, some of them are part of the Elven group that they live among, I suspect they are culturally and economically pretty integrated at this point.

Mithlond is built, and full of Noldor and Sindar and Falathrim (and some Edain).

The sea and the Gulf of Lune have had time to clear, beaches have formed, kelp and other essential seaweeds are established again and the fish stocks have recovered (Uinen and Osse took their supplies from the great oceans) The land has regained grasses and bushes, and the area North of the Gulf of Lune is starting to regrow forests.  Poor Círdan and the overworked Falathrim are finally getting a break from ship-building, and are doing some fishing, setting up lobster pots and generally getting on with life.

The Elves and Edain set up Forlond and Harlond on the North and South sides of the Gulf of Lune, and soon the Gulf of Lune starts to become an artery of trade, with ships going regularly between the three cities of Lindon. On the coast, they are starting to find pearls again at last, and sea-washed amber, too.

Mithlond, with its outlet to the sea and impressive quays might be a good place for crab-fishing, and since that’s quite easy, the Noldor and Northern Sindar can do it too.  

They establish herds of sheep, cattle and goats grazing the renewed pastures on the western slopes of the Blue Mountains. I tend to think that the Sindar make better herdsmen, so some of them move out from the towns to practice a lifestyle that involves moving seasonally with the herds through the hills and woods, while more of the Noldor stay in the Havens, tanning and preparing leather, weaving the wool, and making pottery.  Perhaps jewelry and metal items too: more as the building work is completed and there is a little more leisure for making luxuries.

Possibly they start trading leather and fish for metal with the remaining Dwarves of the Blue Mountains, though most of those have moved east to Khazâd Dum, and there is a lot of surplus metal around to be re-used, since many of the Hosts of Valinor did not take all their armour and weapons home with them.

There are also hunters who go out into Eriador and come back to Mithlond with furs to trade.

Of course, all Elves can talk to the trees in a orchard and find out why they aren’t happy.  Is it a little too dry for the appleblossom in May? Do they desire to be mulched? Are there annoying aphids on the young leaf-buds?  This must make agriculture SO much easier, of you can coax a reluctant field into filling with oats, or call small birds to your orchards to reduce pests.

Plus, of course, Elves are immortal.  So they don’t have the constant cycle of human societies where expertise constantly gets lost as older people die and young people have to learn skills and make mistakes.

I don’t see this as a primarily money economy. I don’t think there are mints, or money taxes, at least as long as Lindon is at peace.

A lot of land belongs to the king and lords, and the produce from that land officially belongs to them, though of course they grant most of it to the people who work on it.

This is an easier transaction among Elves than it is in a historical peasant society, because lords have a specific skill to give that ordinary people need: lords and kings have the hands of healers and are gifted with enchantment.

They can cure a blight on the crops or a murrain of the cattle: they can speak to rock to ask it where the ore lies.  OK, all Elves have talents, but some Elves are more powerful than others, and that means that if you have an effective Lord like Gil-galad, you have to do SO much less drudgework.  So lords earn their share of the crop, just like everyone else.

A lot of things are done by gift or barter.   It’s considered very lucky and prestigious to have someone great and renowned, such as Gil-galad or Elrond, seen using things you made, or riding the horse you bred, so they tend to get a lot of presents.

From the point of view of the lords, this is something you have to be pretty careful about, because being seen wearing a gift can have major Implications.  You need to know a lot about who gave you things, and what they intended by it. A lot of gifts get passed on, for this reason. Sometimes you don’t want to be seen wearing it, but you can’t refuse it either: result, pass it on. (Much later, this tradition will work its way through to the Shire, and become transformed into the tradition of giving mathoms for birthdays.)

Diaspora, Settlement & Growth

At some point, it seems, the Edain who didn’t sail West, left Lindon.  We know about this because when in 600SA the Numenoreans returned to Middle-earth, they had a special meeting with the Edain of Eregion, where they found their languages had diverged and they could no longer understand one another.   The account suggests that the Edain of Middle-earth were no longer living in Lindon at that point, and I tend to think that they were probably not living in close proximity to the Elves, since they don’t seem to have a language in common with the Numenoreans, and this is not noted as a problem for Gil-galad, so even if Quenya and Sindarin had changed somewhat, it seems those languages had not changed enough to cause communication problems.

We also know that Galadriel left and went to live by Lake Evendim, and presumably at some point, Oropher & Thranduil left too. Some of the Doriathrim go off to Belfalas to get away from the Noldor.  Then in 750, Celebrimbor leaves and together with Galadriel, founds Eregion.

So, this is a time when Eriador is relatively safe, and not heavily occupied, and people are moving out to explore and settle.  I think this suggests a population boom for Men, and probably Elves too. Lindon, after several hundred years of settlement, is prosperous, a centre for manufacture and trade.  I think people probably come back to Lindon regularly to begin with, to exchange items like furs, meat, grain, novelties from far lands, for the manufactured items of Lindon, and also to enjoy the benefits of civilisation in the cities : libraries, bath-houses, theatre, food and drink brought up the coast by ship from the mouths of the Anduin, down the River Lune from the land around Lake Evendim, and out of the East from Khazâd Dum and beyond.

As more and more Elves move away into the East, Lindon probably becomes rather less of a hub; not so much because it’s less important, as because other areas are developing, and the population of Lindon has reduced.  This seems to be already a concern for Gil-galad, when he appealed for help from Númenor in 739, and was one motivation for Aldarion to found Vinyalondë (Lond Daer). We don’t know why Celebrimbor chose to go East to Eregion after 750 years in Lindon, but perhaps there was some connection with Gil-galad’s concerns about Sauron there.

After that, I think the manufacturing base moves East to Eregion with Galadriel & Celebrimbor: Lindon is still an important place politically, but economically it becomes rather quieter.   Long distance exchange of goods moves to Eregion, and trade travels up and down the river Greyflood, probably all the way to Númenor, certainly once Vinyalondë is established, rather than all of it going through Lindon.

At this point, Númenor is actively in regular contact with the Elves of Tol Eressëa, too, so possibly there is even some communication between Eregion, Lindon and Aman, perhaps even trade.  In the early days of Eregion, it probably seemed like a true Golden Age: Middle-earth recovered and thriving.

Fall of Eregion

Economically as well as in every other way, this period is a disaster.  The Numenoreans may have felled a lot of the forests along the Greyflood, much to the dismay of the people who lived there —  but it was Sauron who burned most of what was left of them. The Numenorean activity may have been unwelcome, disruptive and exploitative, but at least it was economic activity by a related group of people with a different way of life: no doubt there were opportunities for some people, even while others found it unendurable.

Sauron’s activity was a deliberate attempt to wreck the entire place and render it uninhabitable for everyone.

Eregion was in ruins, the doors of Moria were shut, and suddenly Lindon, from being a land largely at peace (if looking somewhat askance at both the Numenorean activities to the South, and the Men of the East who were thought to be in alliance with Sauron) is back to being an army camp, this time for the Numenoreans, whose ships filled the harbours of Forlond, Mithlond and Harlond.  

Furthermore, Elrond, who had lived in Lindon up to this point, had left with a ‘host’ to try to relieve Eregion and stayed to found Rivendell.  So this must have been a major and dramatic change for Lindon: suddenly the place is full of heavily-armoured Numenoreans, they have to supply two armies (Elrond’s, which rode out East, and Gil-galad’s, which stayed to defend Lindon) and probably try to feed and supply the Numenoreans as well.

No doubt there were some mixed feelings about that.  The Numenoreans defeated Sauron and drove him from Eriador, and that must have been a huge relief, but the arrival of a huge foreign army could be quite difficult, even if they have just saved you from disaster.  If the Sindar in Lindon were already feeling conflicted about Numenorean expansion and the felling of the forests, having the Numenorean navy save them from inevitable defeat might have been hard. Maybe some more people move to Belfalas at this point? Or perhaps East to Lorien or Greenwood. And Gil-galad was fighting a battle for Mithlond when the Numenoreans finally arrived. Probably there were casualties. Perhaps some Elves decide to leave and go into the West. The population of Lindon is reduced again. Inevitably, that affects the economy too.

The first White Council was held in Rivendell at this time. We know Gil-galad and Elrond were there, and we can deduce that so were Galadriel, Celeborn and Celebrían, because this was the moment when Elrond first saw Celebrían and loved her.  We don’t know if Ciryatur, the victorious Numenorean commander, was there though, or Amdir of Lórien, or Durin of Khazâd Dum. I’d love to know about that, since it would tell us a lot about how later Lindon and Eriador may have recovered after that war.  

Sadly, I don’t think there is much information about the next thousand years, and this is already way longer than I intended so I’m going to stop now.

Tags: ramblings, tolkien, writing

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