Forum: Domain of the Dúnedain

Discussing: World Building 101

World Building 101

One of the great charms of the Professor's work is the amount of backstory lurking behind the plot. But he didn't cover everything, so what do you do when faced with a huge gaping hole like life among the Rangers or Minas Tirith high society? You make up your own answers of course - which can be a lot of fun. Here is an example of such fanfictional 'world buiding' Everyday Life In Minas Tirith - An Exercise in Fanon World Building



Re: World Building 101

Morwen- This is a very interesting idea. However, I found it a bit confusing because you moved freely between, as you say, book canon, movieverse, historical models, and your personal fanons without making it clear which parts of your vision come from which sources. (You'll pardon me, I'm sure, if I don't put much trust in the movie's version of Gondor. ) There were a few places where my personal views differed from yours-- which is fine. However, without knowing your basis (i.e., you gave a citation to a certain quote in the book or scene in the movie or gave the historical reference you were extrapolating from, with perhaps a link to the primary world source materials you used) I have no clue why my person vision differs with yours. Also, how did you reach your decision when different sources conflicted? If movie canon contradicted, say, the historical models we have from 14th-century Florence, which did you go with? How about different historical models? 8th century Constantinople certainly gave women different freedoms than 11th century Rome. Detailing how you answered these questions might help other authors in their own worldbuilding. Set out without any caveats, I'd think this essay would be likely to lead to wider fanons. What I mean is, if another author happened across this and saw your statements without you saying "This is just my personal belief" and "This is what the books say", they might think that women walking the streets unescorted is canonical. To my knowledge, it isn't. Worldbuilding is a lot of fun; on that we agree. However, I think we need to be careful with how we do it, and how we present our own developments. By the way, for a fabulous example of worldbuilding I highly recommend "Writing a Green Sun," by Anglachel. It's about hobbits, not Dunedain, but it should give one good model for doing this sort of thing. Marta



Re: World Building 101

Hi Morwen there's a problem with your hyperlink it currently takes the user to a login page. I think you either need at the start or, better still, if you look in the "hyperlinks in messages" tutorial available from any forum thread page or just underneath the text box where you type replies, you will see that the preferred approach is to edit the link to give href=../stories/chapter.cfm?3622. Cheers, Liz



Re: World Building 101

I thought that's what I did, but it doesn't seem to have worked the way it should. I'll have a look at that tutorial.



Re: World Building 101

I hoped the caveat at the begining would be enough to make clear that there is little canon involved. As for what came from where; the look of the city and its citizens is from the movie. Renaissance Italian cities have been used as a model for social structure and some mores but nothing has been specifically borrowed lock stock and barrel. The position of women in Gondor is a combination of historical precedent and what I thought the Professor would approve. As an Edwardian gentlemen he would not share our 21st c. feminist sensibility but on the other hand he is on record as regarding equal legal rights for women desirable (LACE) and as a gentleman would certainly not approve of women being mistreated or disrespected. Of course it is canonical that women cannot inherit or transmit titles or offices in Gondor, (without special statute such as the Stewards have for their office) and IMO the story of Aldarion and Erendis strongly implies a right to own property and manage their own affairs free of male control. I think, Marta, you are saying that I should explain the reasoning that led me to the conclusions I have reached instead of just stating them. You have a point there but that would make for a very convoluted article. Maybe I could put such matters at the end in the form of notes? Maybe I don't take World Building as seriously as I should as a scholarly exercise; I have never seen any problem with just lifting what I want from historical models and disregarding the rest. And you're quite right, the not walking the streets unescorted is pure fanon - though this was in fact a general rule in western culture up to the early 20th c.



Re: World Building 101

I think discursive footnotes would resolve your concerns about convoluting your article and Marta's concerns about differentiating between canonical knowledge and speculation. Huge, fat discursive footnotes solve all of life's persistent problems.



Re: World Building 101

I'm glad you thinks so. Personally I *love* footnotes and appendices and all those other cool scholarly touches the Professor used to embelish his work. I have added notes to the bottom of the first three chapters, (the fourth is unfinished) which I hope will answer Marta's concerns.



Re: World Building 101

Is this any better? Everyday Life in Minas Tirith




I just wondered, how would a house in the angle have looked like. Would there be huge houses with many occupants - which would be efficient (Community, eating, heating...) - or would there be more and smaller ones.

Tolkien writes that Gilraen lived in a hidden fastness. A fastness is a stronghold, a strongly fortified defensive structure which would most likely be made of stone. Would large, connected houses fit into the picture? 




Re: Housebuilding

Tolkien writes that Gilraen lived in a hidden fastness.

"In the latter days of the last age [> Ere the Elder Days were ended],(1) before the War of the Ring, there was a man named Dirhael [> Dirhoel], and his wife was Evorwen [> Ivorwen] daughter of Gilbarad, and they dwelt in a hidden fastness in the wilds of Eriador; for they were of the ancient people of the Dunedain, that of old were kings of men, but were now fallen on darkened days. "

  HoMe 12, Peoples of Middle-earth

'After a few years Gilraen took leave of Elrond and returned to her own people in Eriador, and lived alone; "

   appendices to LotR

And that's it as far as I know for actual citations on how the Northern Dúnedan lived.  In one or two other places you read "secret and wandering" but that could refer to the Rangers and not the whole population.

As long as you make it consistent, I think you can speculate all you want.





Re: Housebuilding

Yeah, that's about all I came up with, too.

Silmarillion:  Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

And it came to pass after the days of Eärendur, the seventh king that followed Valandil, that the Men of Westernesse, the Dúnedain of the North, became divided into petty realms and lordships, and their foes devoured them one by one. Ever they dwindled with the years, until their glory passed, leaving only green mounds in the grass. At length naught was left of them but a strange people wandering secretly in the wild, and other men knew not their homes nor the purpose of their journeys, and save in Imladris, in the house of Elrond, their ancestry was forgotten.

LOTR: Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers

When the kingdom ended the Dúnedain passed into the shadows and became a secret and wandering people, and their deeds and labours were seldom sung or recorded. Little now is remembered of them since Elrond departed.

Thanks for that HoME reference, Gwynnyd.  I always wondered where the "hidden fastness" phrase came from.   I still haven't tackled my copies of the Histories, even after that last conversation on HA we had where you piqued my interest in them.  Someday...

Vilwarin, I think you could make a solid argument for a range of interpretations.  It didn't make much sense to me to have fortified structure, give the lack of resources in the North and how devastated their folk were.  Instead, I decided to interpret it more figuratively, hidden in the sense of fallen from their old days of glory and merging in with the other Men of Eriador.  So,  as long as you can support as an element of the story, I would think that you have a lot of options to choose from. 

 Good luck with your piece!




Re: Housebuilding

Even if you look to late iron age or early medieval models in northwestern Europe, you have a whole range of options.

The standard "Germanic" structure was a rectangular timber hall, ranging in size from about 25 x 15 feet (an "average" extended family) up to 75 x 15 (an elite's hall: noble family and dependents, including warband and servants).  Internal subdivisions are rare (no modern concept of privacy) and the hearth usually ran down the middle.  Continental, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse varieties have slight variations in architectural features.  British kings used very similar halls; the one at South Cadbury in Somerset was 63 x 34 feet (the greater width tells us it used a more complex roofing structure, so a single beam didn't span the whole roof); a small part was partitioned off, perhaps either to give the king and his family some privacy, or to serve as service rooms (pantry, storeroom for valuables, etc.)

When you get to the highland areas (Cornwall, Wales, Scottish Highlands, rocky bits of Ireland), stone-built structures were more common, and these were often subrectangular or round.  They range from the round houses of a single family (15-20 feet in diameter), to small stone towers (duns, about 50 feet in diameter; an extended or elite family), to large stone towers (brochs, about 60 feet in diameter); there are also interesting forms like wheelhouses and figure-of-eight houses in the Pictish areas.

The two critical factors are what building materials are readily to hand, and what is the basic social group?  Single or extended families would fit best for the Dunedain, unless you follow the model where the Angle is essentially a military stronghold, with all the communal discipline that implies.

A "fastness" wouldn't have to be very imposing.  Until Alfred felt the need to fortify his burhs against Viking attack, even kings got along quite well--in a very combative environment--with banks and ditches, palisades, or (where it was rocky) drystone ramparts.  In wetter areas, crannogs--a house on a man-made or augmented islet--are common.  A prosperous single-family steading might have a bank and ditch; a cluster of several families might have a more formidable one with a palisade on top of the bank.  Elites and/or the communities they ruled might have a hillfort, some with multiple concentric earthworks and complex gate complexs, although these were rarely permanently occupied, but served principally as refuges for people and their valuable livestock during attacks.  However, hillforts are extremely visible; some can be seen from 20 miles off (atop another hillfort).  Hardly a hidden fastness.

Stone fortresses a la the Romans or Normans requires sophisticated societies with good roads and specialist masons.  If you want something like that, you need to assume it is either the work of the Numenoreans or the pre-Angmar North Kingdom, which somehow escaped detection and destruction by the Witch King (and the road from Bree to Rivendell has its share of ruins of those that fell); or you would have to posit that Dwarves built it for them after the fall of the North Kingdom (with all the possibilities that Dwarves might not keep the secret).

All but one of Tolkien's "great" hidden strongholds are elaborated caves, even among the Elves (Menegroth, Nargothrond, and Thranduil's place in Mirkwood).  And even the exception, Gondolin, is reached by a tunnel through stone.  I haven't seen anyone suggest Men have such places, as well as Dwarves and Elves.




Re: Housebuilding

Thank you all, especially Adaneth, for voicing your opinions. This is something to gnaw at. hehe




In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

We're sorry. This is a closed discussion. Content is available only to invited readers.

« Back to Domain of the Dúnedain