The Tip of the Iceberg: New Information About Middle-Earth
"Osanwe-Kenta" ("Enquiry into Communication of Thought") has been regarded as one of the most revealing of the previously unpublished writings of Tolkien to come along in years. I think "Osanwe-Kenta" may now be set aside in favor of a more inteersting text. That is "The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor".
Both essays are important to Tolkien research, and the linguistic aspects are not necessarily primary. One can glean interesting insights about the philosophies and history of Aman's peoples from "Osanwe-Kenta". "Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" equally provides new information and revelations about Gondor's history and constituent peoples. Given that more people want to know about events in the Third Age than events in Aman's early ages, I think "Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" will ultimately prove to be the more important work.
Vinyar Tengwar is primarily concerned with linguistic material, of which there remains an immense body of unpublished essays and notes. Tolkien's linguistic musings, however, usually include asides and often whole essays concerning the histories and philosophies of his principle races. The linguistic material is thus of special interest to researchers who study Tolkien's world construction, pseudo-history, and artificial philosophies.
Christopher Tolkien published fragments of the "Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" essay in Unfinished Tales. Regrettably, Vinyar Tengwar also publishes only fragments. Much like the situation with "Narn i Chin Hurin", which was published in pieces in both Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion, we must piece the entire work together. If enough of these lengthy writings are published in two parts like this, it may one day behoove HarperCollins to publish a Completed Works of J.R.R. Tolkien volume which combines the separated texts. Such a book would be a landmark attempt to provide a coherent representation of something written by Tolkien outside of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
The relevant passages from Unfinished Tales are to be found in the chapter on the history of Galadriel and Celeborn, specifically in the appendices dealing with Amroth and Nimrodel, and the port of Lond Daer. Some material was also placed in the section "Further notes on the Druedain" in the chapter on the Druedain. That section of Unfinished Tales also begins with a fragment about the Druedain which Christopher Tolkien lifted from "Of Dwarves and Men", which was mostly published (sans fragment) in The Peoples of Middle-earth. Most likely, we'll never see the full texts published all together, but we can still dream on occasion.
In a letter which accompanies the "Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" essay, Vinwar Tengwar launches a cascade of miniscule revelations of "fact" which will ultimately force us to re-evaluate many theories about Middle-earth. For example, Tolkien writes:
...In the earlier centuries of the Two Kingdoms Enedwaith (Middle-folk) was a region between the realm of Gondor and the slowly receding realm of Arnor (it originally included Minhiriath (Mesopotamia)). Both kingdoms shared an interest in the region, but were mainly concerned with the upkeep of the great road that was their main way of communication except by sea, and the bridge at Tharbad. People of Numenorean origin did not live there, except at Tharbad, where a large garrison of soldiers and river-wardens was once maintained. In those days there were drainage works, and the banks of the Hoarwell and Greyflood were strengthened. But in the days of The Lord of the Rings the region had long become ruinous and lapsed into a primitive state: a slow wide river running through a network of swamps, pools and eyots: the haunts of hosts of swans and other water-birds.
"Mesopotamia" is an old word for "between the rivers", and Tolkien was undoubtedly making a little joke by offering the translation of "Mesopotamia" for "Minhiriath" (which means the same thing). One may wonder how much this translation will upset arm-chair geographers who have developed precise correlations between Tolkien's map of Middle-earth and maps of Europe and Asia.
But for me the most interesting comment is the oblique reference to "river-wardens". What could Tolkien have been referring to? Were these law-men roving up and down the river, arresting pirates and curmudgeons? Or were they perhaps charged with arresting the wayward travels of the river? Were the river-wardens of Tharbad engineers who maintained the 'drainage works" and the reinforced banks of the Hoarwell and Greyflood rivers? And if no Numenoreans lived in the region, why were the banks of the rivers reinforced?
Tharbad itself is a curious place. In Unfinished Tales we learned that the great bridge and quays of the city were constructed by Arnor and Gondor, apparently to replace the ruined port of Lond Daer Ened. And yet, Tar-Aldarion is said to have met Galadriel at Tharbad in one note accompanying the text "Aldarion and Erendis". In another place, the second history for Galadriel and Celeborn, Tharbad is said to be lightly defended against Sauron's invasion of Eriador in SA 1695. It may be that Tharbad was originally an Elven colony, perhaps an outpost established by Cirdan to facilitate trade and communication with Eregion. The Numenoreans may have been the first people to fortify Tharbad (in preparation for the war with Sauron, they also fortified the Baranduin and Luin rivers).
Another name which merits special attention is "Gilrain", which is the name of
a river in Gondor. Tolkien compares it to "Gilraen", the name of Aragorn's
mother. "The meaning of Gilraen as a woman's name is not in doubt. It meant
one adorned with a treasure set with small gems in its network, such as the
treasure of Arwen described in L.R. I 239." (This treasure is the "cap of
silver lace netted with small gems, glittering white" which Arwen wears to
the feast held in Frodo's honor in Rivendell.)
Tolkien suggests that Gilraen could have earned this name as a nickname, but
"more likely, it was her true name, since it had become a name given to women
of her people, the remnants of the Numenoreans of the North Kingdom of
unmingled blood. The women of the Eldar were accustomed to wear such
tressures; but among other peoples they were only used by women of high rank
Rangers, descedants of Elros, as they claimed. Names such as
Gilraen, and others of similar meaning, would thus be likely to become first
names given to maid-children of the kindred of the
Lords of the Dunedain."
The strong implication of this passage is that the Rangers were a subset of a larger people, and that they were all of noble blood, descended of Elros, and perhaps were the only Dunedain of pure blood left in Arnor. But whether that was Tolkien's intent or merely a rough note which he never reworded, we cannot say.
As a side note, Tolkien reveals that the root for -raen in Gilraen, denoted a knitwork and that the adornment Arwen and other Elven-women -- as well as the noble women of Aragorn's people -- wore was woven with a single thread.
The story of Amroth and Nimrodel is slightly elaborated, too. And we learn the full extent of the note which suggests that Edhellond may have been established by former Doriathrim who left Mithlond. It is abandoned in mid-sentence because, Christopher Tolkien guesses, his father realized that his assertion of Cirdan as a Noldo whom the Sindar wanted to get away from was entirely inconsistent with other texts. Hence, the legend of Edhellond's founding by former Doriathian Elves should be discarded. The haven must have been founded for other reasons, and perhaps the legend concerning the ships fleeing from the doomed Brithombar and Eglarest is the most authoritative after all.
Nonetheless, the abandoned note does agree with another source published in The Silmarillion concerning where the Nandor may have settled in Eriador. That is, the note fragment says the Eldar of Lindon "found scattered settlements of the Nandor" on both sides of the Misty Mountains. The Silmarillion includes a passage in "Of the Sindar" where the Dwarves tell Thingol that "your ancient kindred that dwell [in the land east of the mountains] are flying from the plains to the hills." It would appear, therefore, that Melkor's creatures drove the Nandor east toward the Misty Mountains before Melkor himself returned to Middle-earth.
More snippets lie beyond these, and the implications for Tolkien historians are extensive. Middle-earth reveals yet another layer -- indeed, several more -- to us. The significance of Arwen's tressure may imply some sort of Vardaic reverence. It is Arwen, after all, who apparently sings the hymn to Elbereth as Frodo and Bilbo leave the Hall of Fire in Rivendell. Gilraen and other women of her family may have shared that Elvish reverence for Varda.
The idea that people of only partial Numenorean blood continued to live in Eriador is tantalizing. Although we know that there could not be settled communities of Men west of the Mitheithel, does this revelation give new meaning to Elrond's words at the council, where he says that few of Aragorn's people still live? Was Elrond perhaps omitting any reference to a larger people governed by Aragorn's Elrosian clan? Those people who wonder where Aragorn found the population to reclaim Eriador may now have sufficient reason to argue that a substantial population dwelt near Rivendell in the Angle.
More revelations await us, especially concerning the early years of Arnor and Gondor. Also, it turns out, the Elves had both a decimal and duodecimal system. So, everyone is right. We all win again. And that's just the tip of the iceberg....
Michael Martinez is the author of Visualizing Middle-earth, which may be purchased directly from Xlibris Corp. or through any online bookstore. You may also special order it from your local bookstore. The ISBN is 0-7388-3408-4.