Many Guises and Many Names
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Lesser Ring: 52. Author's Notes
Gandalf indicated that before finally creating the Seven, the Nine, and the Three, Celebrimbor's Elven smiths made lesser rings which he described as practice pieces, the playthings of the Elves before they settled down to crafting the Rings of Power. As to why Sauron had to have Elven smiths create the Rings of Power so that he could then create his own Ring keyed to reveal the works wrought through the others and to control and exploit them Tolkien never explained.
It was my own thought that perhaps Sauron, having turned his back on the will of Eru to follow the lead of Morgoth in attempting to seek power over all others, had perhaps lost his ability to empathize with others, to imagine himself in another's place and thus help the recipient of the Ring to gain authority over others in such a way the others were unlikely to resist the power being exercised over them. Also, it is likely that the recipients were likely to trust such objects of power were they known to be the works of Elves where most were likely to resist accepting something known to have been wrought by Sauron himself.
For Sauron to realize this, I suspected that he'd first have had to do some experimenting with the making of possible rings of power himself, but finally recognized that they were only effective if he presented them to select recipients, ones whose greed for power was already so great they'd do about anything to augment it.
And so my "lesser rings" are most likely Sauron's own works, and are more like blunt instruments compared to the finely honed power held in the rings crafted by the Elven smiths of Eregion. They help to augment cleverness and intimidation and slyness and the feeling of personal invincibility that helps the would-be totalitarian dictators radiate command. They would also probably have been used as a conduit of control over those wearing them as well as bearing messages, communications, and orders to them from Sauron during his time of supremacy. They might have extended the life of the bearer, but they could not have made them truly undying; and apparently the spells which surrounded them were more tied to the ultimate corruption of their bearers than to Sauron himself, as their corrupting influence lasted beyond the destruction of the One Ring and the personal power of Sauron himself.
It is possible the Mouth of Sauron might have been a bearer of one such lesser ring.
Necromancy is the use of the deaths of others in order to obtain power or work magic for oneself, and during the Dol Guldur years Sauron allowed himself to be known as the Necromancer, which indicates he probably was involved in capturing creatures and sentient beings and killing them in various inventive and horrible ways for his own purposes. As it was during the time he was in Dol Guldur that he was most rapidly regaining power, it is likely that he had realized that he could somehow harvest the life forces of his victims to restore his own powers in some fashion.
Tolkien also indicated that in the lands most strongly under Sauron's control the peoples worshipped him as a god; after reading another fanfiction story that mentioned the temples in which people were slain on Sauron's altars, I began to wonder if such practices as human sacrifice on Sauron's altars might have added to the realization by Sauron that such deaths enhanced his own power and allowed him to return to might. After the loss of his Ring Sauron became for a time a formless spirit of malice and envy in the waste places of Middle Earth. Something had to help him begin to accrue power again; and so I postulated that such worship in places such as Harad might have begun the process of him returning to might, after which he would set his own servants to replicating the acts which assisted him to regain power so as to multiply the effect and speed the day on which he might crush his enemies completely. It is likely that during the Dol Guldur years he was also capturing passing individuals and torturing and killing them in ways designed to enhance particular strengths or powers he was working on, which would further increase the horror surrounding him.
Yet is was unlikely that the Haradrim and the Rhunim started out worshipping Sauron. Most likely, as was true of the Northern Edain, they began with awareness of the Valar from the days they freely visited Middle Earth and worshipped them first, with Sauron finding ways to corrupt such worship over time so as to appropriate that worship and its effects to himself.
The mightiest southern empire in our world was that of Egypt, which retained its identity for thousands of years; it seemed to make sense that if the portion of Middle Earth where Gondor and Arnor grew was a proto-Europe, then Harad was a proto-Egypt. There were several different cultures that grew in Egypt and lived side by side--in the Nile Valley were the sedentary farmers who settled in villages and growing towns and cities; in the wildernesses the nomadic tribes, each of which developed its own small pantheon of gods and traditions. Then as central government grew over all these individual groupings, many of these local gods began to be lumped together. The Scarab, or dung beetle sun god, was one image of the sun with the ball of the sun containing proto-life being rolled eternally across the sky by an invisible beetle. Another image of the sun god was as Horus, the golden falcon, the bolt of power from on high which often goes unseen until it appears to drop right out of the sun itself onto its prey and enemies. Then there was Ra, the humanoid idea of the sun on his bark sailing the river of the sky to bring light to the world during the day, and sailing the rivers of the underworld during the night to bring him back to the east to start it all over again the next day. Centralized government accepted all these images of the sun god, and indicated different aspects showed different powers of the sun.
Similarly with the various gods of death being brought together and then sorted out into different parts of the expected processes of death, with the guide of the dead bringing the souls of those who'd passed from this world before the great judge, who weighed their souls against the Feather of Truth.
I appropriated many of the Egyptian gods and goddesses and twisted their names and worship a bit to make them more appropriate to Middle Earth and the nature of the Valar, making the sun as a symbol of Manwë and Neryet as the Lady of Stars predominant; and showed Morgoth and then Sauron seeking to draw the worship of all the others to themselves. Set becomes Seti, the Haradri embodiment of Morgoth; and the story of Isis and Osiris becomes substituted for the tale of Eärendil and Elwing and the Silmaril; while in Haradri tradition the coming of the other gods to cast out Seti was in revenge for the loss of Osiri from their number, which I admit is from the Norse tale of Baldur the Beautiful.
And so, if the land of Harad is familiar, it is intentional. Slavery is endemic; their leadership has been dominated by Sauron and the forces of Mordor for at least the last age if not longer. And Sauron, known as the Eastern Lord or the Death Eater, seeks to stamp out as much of the worship of the rest of the pantheon as possible, but remains aware that to do so completely may be counterproductive. The Valar have vowed not to return to the mortal lands and do not appear to be paying a great deal of attention to what happens there; if some in Harad should wish to pay them what he sees as empty honor, as long as the deaths on his own altars continue, what does he care?
But oppression isn't tolerated indefinitely, and it is inevitable that eventually Sauron's rule will be resented in Harad. And if Aragorn's own trip to Harad after leaving the service of Ecthelion should have coincided with a time when such unhappiness should begin making itself known in the royal household of Harad----
I used several Egyptian name elements and conventions. Nefir in Egyptian was a name element that meant beautiful; ner is an element of the name of Neryet, and ini and ani have become, in my adaptation of the naming, feminine endings. Nefirnerini's name, therefore, would roughly mean Beautiful daughter of the Lady of Stars or something similar; while her mother's name Nefiramonrani would mean something to the effect of beautiful daughter filled with the light of the Sun.
Sea' and Sa' are honorifics I created that indicate the priesthood (feminine and masculine) of the individual so named; while An' indicates one who has been crowned Farozi.
The idea of the black Dúnedain was inspired by the Ethiopian Jews. Apparently during one of the diasporas a group of Jews migrated to Africa and were welcomed into a black tribe there. Those who married them apparently accepted conversion to Judaism, and their descendants have black skins and appear to be negroid in all features; but they live as Jews, practicing the Jewish faith, honoring Jewish holidays, reading the Torah in Hebrew, having synagogues, and even keeping track of Levite and Cohenim families. When the Jews of the rest of the world became aware of them there was much discussion as to whether these could indeed be considered Jewish--until DNA testing became possible.
It had become known that those of Cohenim lineage, those descended father to son from Aaron the brother of Moses, had a particular marker gene that was not seen in non-Cohenim families. In testing for the marker gene in the Africanized Jewish tribe in Ethiopia it was learned that those of identified Cohenim lineage had the same marker gene seen in their caucasian brethren. They are now accepted by Israel as being as fully Jewish and acceptable for citizenship as any other Jew.
If it has happened in our world, it seemed possible that the Dúnedain might also have experienced a similar phenomenom. And it is always interesting to play "what if?" and imagine an extra ship that got blown even further afield than the ones accounted for by those who landed near Elendil in what became Arnor and those who landed near the Mouths of the Sea and founded Gondor along with Anárion and Isildur.
In my vision of Middle Earth Aragorn is quite a contrast to Denethor. Raised to be a Dunedain Ranger of the North, he knows servants are not to be belittled and ignored, and he sees the caring for a servant or former slave as no different from caring for a wounded soldier or a great lord or lady suffering from a dread malady. He will serve them all the same. He and Arwen are secure enough in their own royalty that they do not allow the burden of expectations of separation of classes to deter them from what needs doing and what they are best suited to doing.
In my version of Arwen, she also carries the healing abilities of the descendants of Eärendil just as do her father, brothers, and cousins however many times removed; and by aiding her father over the millennia of her life she has become an herbalist whose knowledge is now invaluable to her husband and to the other healers serving in the Houses of Healing.
Aragorn must have been quite a shock to those who accounted themselves the powers of Gondor. He serves among the healers, and will cleanse the ill, injured, and dying; he cares for his own garden when he is home; he cooks for himself and has learned, in over eight decades of life, to cook well, whether on the road or settled in his own houseplace, whether in Imladris, a keep in the Angle, or the Citadel of Minas Anor; he sings with gladness and shares the lore he learned in his adar's home with others; he has learned the languages of his world; he has learned to use his gifts. He must have dreaded the times when those he came to care for and whom he saw simply as friends left him to return to their own lands and homes and families.
Ruvemir has come to be a part of my world of post-Mordor Middle Earth, the human dwarf forensic sculptor who received the commission to create a memorial to the Pheriannath who came out of the obscurity of the Shire to aid in the War of the Ring, and who must recreate the image of Frodo from the memories of those who knew him, served him, loved him, miss and honor him. In doing so, he has come to serve as father confessor to hobbits and kings and innkeepers, helping each to deal more effectively with grief and loss as so many wish to understand how Frodo could have begun to fade and they remained either unaware of it or felt helpless to aid him.
He has become a friend to Aragorn, in some ways serving as a surrogate for Merry, Pippin, and Sam when they are home in their own land. He's the one Man who can move freely between the Shire and lands of Men and Elves in my version of the early Fourth Age. And his own developing love for the Frodo Baggins he has never seen with his own eyes allows him to become the extension of us as we look at the stories he has learned and that he collects.
Faralion, the minstrel who created the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers, is a far different character. He is familiar with court etiquette, has moved through the keeps of lords of the realm. He is attracted to the King who yet bewilders him. He is slowly developing a relationship with Aragorn similar to that the King knows with Ruvemir, but must fight the expectations of society drummed into him throughout his life so far. A lord who would happily walk about the Citadel followed by his hound and with a kitten on his shoulder, who sings comic songs to children as he weeds his herb garden would be a shock to the sensibilities of someone whose experience with lordship is the distance and strict protocol of Denethor's court.
And then, in the final chapter, we see Frodo knowing a moment of communion seen earlier from Aragorn's point of view, then from the observations of Sa'Harpelamun; and then receiving an introduction Pippin had dreamed of--meeting the one inhabitant of Aman who shares many of his own experiences. Frodo deserves to know such moments, isolated as he is as the only mortal now living in the Undying Lands. I see him living a quiet, almost monkish existence on Tol Eressëa; and some of those aware of the usages of the liturgical churches may find themselves recognizing the significance of Frodo's choice of breakfast items and his actions afterward. After all, Tolkien himself equated the lembas with Communion Hosts. As I'm not Roman Catholic, I have him drinking wine as well.
I hope that others appreciate the story I've written and that it will continue to be happily read in the future. Thanks for reading this far.
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