Forum: Research Questions

Discussing: Peoples and weather

Peoples and weather

How tolerant were the various peoples of Middle-earth of bad weather - rain, cold, snow, extreme heat, etc.?

We see Legolas apparently unbothered by the snow on Caradhras, for instance. And the crossing of the Helcaraxë would have been darned chilly - though granted, there was a high mortality rate in that episode. Does this mean that Elves didn't feel the cold the way that mortals did? Would rain have bothered them very much? We don't specifically hear of Elves anywhere but NW ME, but would there have been Avari down in the southern regions, where it was hot?

Hobbits and Men - presumably had the same reactions as modern men do? How about Dwarves? Orcs? Ents?




Re: Peoples and weather

It's not that elves don't feel cold - I think they just don't care about it, like they don't care about rain (remember Legolas in Helm's Deep was bothered by the prolonged darkness, not the pouring rain). I have the feeling that the fancies of nature don't bother the elves because they learned to appreciate all which comes from Eru, be it stiffling warmth or freezing cold.

Dwarves are endurant and proud. Gimli was cold (though not chilling like the others) in Caradhras in the borders of Fangorn, both situations when he was pro lighting a fire. But if fires hadn't been lighted, he wouldn't have complained about it like a hobbit or a man, he would've taken it like a dwarf. I‘m not schooled enough to guess about hobbits or ents, but the orcs don‘t seem bothered by anything other than sunlight (and in the Uruk-hai cases, not even that).

Miss Brandybuck, you just bore a rampant nuzgul rubbing itself madly against my leg.

I don't see why not having avari in the south. Not from top of mind, but I vaguely recall avari communities along the Anduin (who didn't follow the teleri) and around Ithilien (correct me if I'm wrong, but Legolas remarks he senses the ancient presence of elves in Ithilien). Southest than that, I guess there were only Men.



Re: Peoples and weather

Remember also that tolerance is relative to your experience. People who spent a lot of time outside in all weathers would have learned to bear up under it or find another profession. People can survive in all sorts of difficult environments, and what we consider bad weather or unbearable cold is possibly the result of us having furnaces at hand and never having learned to go without.

I'd imagine that if Dwarves were short and stocky, they might have had better tolerance for cold than a lot of Men. Ditto for hobbits, who must have damn good circulation if they could go barefoot in snow. And all that extra hair has to be good for something, right? ;-)

I think Elves being Elves, their bodies must have been set up to survive harsher conditions with fewer deleterious effects. "Bothered" or not by weather, any creature with a body is going to be subject to certain limitations of physiology, and something physical has to happen for them to survive. Like those Tibetan monks who've learned how to alter their metabolism in order to sit under wet sheets in the dead of winter outside in a snowstorm--there's a biochemical reaction going on there that is initiated through what I guess we'd call biofeedback. Elves probably are able to do something similar, and with their tremendous vitality and energy efficiency, they're able not only to survive conditions that would cripple or kill most mortal beings, but not be bothered by them particularly until things get really extreme for prolonged periods of time.

Ents... no clue. Consult horticulturalist. Orcs might be able to endure a lot (I still would suscribe to the elven theory of orcish creation), but they do complain like no other, one suspects.



Re: Peoples and weather

Legolas, being wood Elf and living in what I consider to be a sub-tropical forest, would be used to weather insanity like rather frequent rain and sudden warm fronts followed by vertiginous temperature downfalls. Same for Gimli, who lived in a mountain not too far from that forest.

I still would suscribe to the elven theory of orcish creation

Exactly. Of course the thick skin, leather wardrobe and abnormal endurance help.

And all that extra hair has to be good for something, right?

Let us not go there, please. ^_^



Re: Peoples and weather

Mirkwood sub-tropical? Too far north surely?...

Tolkien famously said that the Shire (specifically, Hobbiton), was at about the latitude of Oxford. Which puts Rivendell, and northern Mirkwood, somewhere in northern central Europe - temperate rather than sub-tropical, I would have thought (though I am no geographer, so stand correctable). Certainly the kinds of trees Tolkien describes as being in both Rivendell and Mirkwood sound like the big European temperate forests I've seen.

Any geographers care to correct me?...



Re: Peoples and weather

I don't think of Middle Earth as Earth itself, that causes me these confusions. Technically, if ME is Earth, Mirkwood could never be sub-tropical unless the continents split up millenia later.

But I take the examples of trees, soil, animals and weather Tolkien states or hints at and Mirkwood sounds awfully like the place where I live: sub-tropical. Temperate would also be good, perhaps better than sub-t because of the pluvial average.

Oddly enough, the Shire strikes me as terribly equatorian.



Re: Peoples and weather

I guess it is more what you are used to, but I also never saw Mirkwood as anything but temperate. The few species he does mention from the Shire are temperate species, not subtropical and Mirkwood is roughly (by the map) at the same latitude.

Temperate forests, especially if they are particularly mesic, can be just as dark and closed as Mirkwood is described. Also take into account Bilbo's own descriptions of his travels. I don't have my books handy, but weren't there several descriptions of he and the dwarves being terribly cold and wet and miserable prior to meeting up with the trolls? That was in April and roughly on the same latitude as Mirkwood as well.

Ah, well, I should know better than to come unarmed to a debate with experts. Feel free to trout me...




Re: Peoples and weather

Well, a lot of plants, trees, and animals are not exactly limited to one region - especially on modern earth, where a great many things have been moved around by men and become naturalized.

In terms of global positioning, Hobbiton and Rivendell were conceived of as being at about the latitude of Oxford, Minas Tirith about the latitude of Florence, the mouth of Anduil about the latitude of Troy. (letter 294)

So definitely not intended to be sub-tropical! One can have rainforests in temperate climates, too, of course - the forests of the Pacific Northwest in the US and Canada would be an example.




Re: Peoples and weather

I'm no expert either, Ariel.

A temperate climate would be much closer to Mirkwood than sub-tropical, that's for sure. Though I wouldn't bet on a rainforest trapped among three chains of mountains.



Re: Peoples and weather

I know there has been a lot of talk about elves and temperature zones and forests...but if you would like a little info on cold resistence in general, pertaining to humans, gender specific, then this might be of interest.

Men and women's metabolisms work completely different, no surprise there. But in the cold that difference can mean the difference between living and dying.

Women are more than 30% more likely to survive cold or shock of any kind. ( I was a nurse until a few years ago when I decided I wanted to be an artist instead) The reason for this is that in hypothermia or shock, heat is not distributed properly to vital organs.
The body gets out of whack from shock or exposure and then the bodies ability to maintain homeostatic temperature fades. (Homeostatis is the range for any given mammal that is it's normal body temp and cardiopulmonary function. It's what keeps you the right temp when the outside around you isn't 98.6 degrees.)

Women, when they end up injured or in bad weather and can't get out of it, have a metabolic trigger that tells their bodies to centralize their heat, to preserve the organs. This is thought to be an evolutionary means to protect the womb in the event that it is occupied. This is acomplished by the peripheral narrowing of vessels and capillaries, restricting the flow of blood much more to the body cavity and brain, the things essential for life. So Gals, even though we may complain, we are much better suited to survive the cold then men.

Conversely, men, when they are under extreme cold or shock, don't have a metabolic trigger that centralizes heat, in fact, they have one that distributes it, causing blood flow to disperse, sometimes unevenly. This general dispersment of the blood supply means that men's bodies have to work much harder to keep the blood temperature in that aforementioned homeostatic range. And their hearts have to work harder to do so. This is one of the reasons men who labor in the cold suffer heart attacks if they aren't fit. HOWEVER; because they distrubute heat better to the peripheral vascular system, they can be physically active better in the cold, and are about that same 30% LESS likely to suffer the loss of limbs and digits from extremes.

So, in the end, women are much better suited to survive the cold, but much more likely to be damaged by finger, toe and earlobe frostbite and necrosis. Men have a harder time managing to keep a healthy body temp, but they lose a lot less digit's in the whole gamble.

Plus we have, on average about 13% more body fat, a great insulator up to a certain point. After about 30% body fat on a human woman though, fat becomes detrimental because human fat, Unlike marine mammal fat, contains a lot of water, and eventually, the body must compete to keep the excess body water heated.

So there it is.......A comparative of cold resistence in humans. I'l write back in a little while on some relative temperature issues.




In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

This forum is open to all HASA members. It is read-only for the general public.

Membership on HASA is free and it takes only a few minutes to join. If you would like to participate, please click here.

If you are already a member, please log in to participate.

« Back to Research Questions

Stories linked to the forum