Numenorean design motifs

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Elleth
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by Elleth »

Interesting. Cedarlore work reads (in Middleearth context) as rather Dunlendish to me. But as caedmon notes, there's a LOT of time between La Tene and the Book of Kells.

... I dunno. I SUSPECT that between the ongoing presence of living Sindarin elves and the somewhat gunshy conservatism of post Numenor Dunedain, there's less artistic change across the Third Age than in our own dark age history, but that's just a wild guess.
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Cimrandir
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by Cimrandir »

Interesting. I don’t mean to seem argumentative but I’d love the reasoning behind both of you rejecting this as Dúnedain. The floral motif and (sorta) arc seems to fit ok-ish to my eye but I am a mere novice. Like I’ve said, art theory is not my strong suit so I’d love to look beyond my own conceptions. What makes this not Dúnedain to you?

Re: Living Elves. I’m not so sure about using them for a justification for stasis. From the prologue to Fellowship - Concerning Hobbits.
The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten. Only the Elves still preserve any records of that vanished time, and their traditions are concerned almost entirely with their own history, in which Men appear seldom and Hobbits are not mentioned at all.
Emphasis mine.

Granted that is history, not art, but based on this passage I suspect cultural rigidity stemming from the Elves to be less than previously thought. My two cents at least.
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Elleth
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by Elleth »

Good points!

I'm afraid I've only a short time this morning, so I'll just talk to "What makes it not look Dunedain" and try to come back later for more.

First, keep in mind this not only just a personal opinion, but one in which I have low confidence. I simply don't think I've done the work yet to think I have a good idea what Dunedain art *should* look like, so I'm only going off vague hunches and a half-remembered gestalt at the moment. But that said:

- the knotwork has a later-Celtic vibe, which I don't think we've seen in any of Tolkien's artwork (and he himself was a bit wary of Celtic culture IIRC, though that might be an artifact of being Anglo during the period of Irish uprisings) Particularly look at the measured, intentional variation in the width of the "ribbons" of the knotwork. That's also (if I recall correctly) more characteristic of post-Celtic Renaissance knotwork. The real period stuff (speaking generally, I'm sure you can find a counterexample) tends to have pretty consistent "ribbon" width. Sometimes you'll have a wide strand and a narrow strand (like say in Urnes style when little viney florets are intertwining with the thicker ribbons of a knotwork beast), or seeing one ribbon decorated and one plain to better show the weave - but not so much things like getting clumpy at the corners to add visual weight.

- the long stretchy bit in the middle up the socket reads sort of art nouveau/art deco. I can't offhand think of a pre-19th c. piece that does something similar. It's pretty, I love it, but it reads modern-ish revival to my eye. (though I could be wrong here)
(edit - there may be some antecedents in Egyptian or Roman sources, which might work for a more Gondorian vibe. I'd have to do some digging)

- however, the circle-in-a-diamond on the sheath/blade cover DOES very much put be in mind of Elvish heraldry, though I think all the Professor's drawings are more regular without the concave edges. I'd have to look closer, but I might change my mind on that part.

Anyhow, all I got at the moment, more later.
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by Greg »

My opinion is even less learned than Elleth's, and it comes mostly from the "Unadorned" descriptions of the Grey Company. Numenoreans, of course, liked to decorate things and were likely prolific in design work...we have a surprising number of 'extant' examples from the Professor's drawings that give us material to work with and adapt...but they're Numenorean. I can't know for certain that the same design language would culturally continue to be passed down and be used to the same degree. I think it's a great way to add life to a persona, and I've used a few of them myself.

Looking at Cedarlore's work, it's stunning. It's incredibly detailed. It shows a clear presence of skill at a high level. It's just...SO detailed and art-like that it doesn't ring in my ears the tune of a people in exile. A people wandering. A people largely ostracized and in hiding. If you're living in that time/mindset/world, you just don't go to the lengths Cedarlore does to forge and engrave intricately detailed pattern-welded pieces (though an argument could be made that pattern-welding by necessity, rather than choice, was likely the name of the game due to scarcity, cost of materials, and recycling.) He largely uses carved wood handle materials, and the more I do this, the more I'm drawn to a simple leather grip wrap. It makes sense. It's functional and comfortable. It's cheap and easy to make and repair.

So, in short, I'm not learned enough in REAL history to have a basis for my conclusion. All I have to go on is lore-knowledge and personal field experience, and when I put the two together, for the 3rd Age time period of the Dunedain in exile, it doesn't feel right to me. I still feel 100% that Elleth's Arming Sword design that Odigan brought to life hit the nail on the head.
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by caedmon »

Cimrandir wrote: Tue Mar 22, 2022 9:43 pm My thought was to get away from the standard Tree (too Gondorian) and Star (already well represented).


Amen. Another thing to remember is that the White Tree was reserved for the tower guard, it wasn't everywhere. And the Dunedain star? We don't know what it represented. But it's entirely likely it was only for the Rangers, or even only for the grey company. It's kinda like seeing a single picture of a group of Texas Rangers, and assuming that every person west of St. Louis between 1867 and 1905 work a tin star to proclaim their "Old Westness".

Elleth wrote: Mon Mar 21, 2022 11:53 am Then maybe even use the early American experience as a model for degrading / simplifying patterns in a rustic environment to evolve a pretty book-accurate Third Age Dunedain aesthetic.


It's not even an early American trend. It's really a 16th-19th c folkart trend. You see the same at least in Scandinavia, Germany & Russia.


Regarding the Cedarlore spear...
Cimrandir wrote: Tue Mar 29, 2022 2:13 pm Right? I think it’s that arc and the floral motif that really struck me as 3rd Age Númenórean.
There are definitely Numenorean analogs, as well as non-Numenorean design elements in this spear. It doesn't fit MY conception, but perhaps it would be more fruitful to identify the design elements? I disagree with Greg that it feels Dunlandish (Dunland was Tolkien's celtic analog). The non-Numenorean elements in the Cedarlore spear are more reminicent of Viking (for the diapering) and modern (the Herringbone crosshatch). That said, these are exactly the type of things that could be introduced by cultural contact or innovation.
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by caedmon »

So I'm thinking of design elements that Third Age people might see and copy. We do have three things from Tolkien.

The white tree, the throne, and Crown of Gondor. Will be pondering this for a while.


Anyway, what is the bottom section of the crown sketch? Is it hair or the back of a helm?
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by Tom_Ranger »

caedmon wrote: Fri Apr 01, 2022 10:16 pm Anyway, what is the bottom section of the crown sketch? Is it hair or the back of a helm?
crown of gondor.png
I'm thinking it's the helm. But it doesn't look so much like a battle helm to me so it may be more for formals and such, so why would he need back head protection? Or maybe it's for stability.

Make one and see if you can get it stable without that part of it.
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by Elleth »

I disagree with Greg that it feels Dunlandish (Dunland was Tolkien's celtic analog).
... I think that's my fault - and (here) it's the knotwork that pushes me to Celtic. Though that might just be growing up in the Celtic Renaissance of late 1980's-1990s. Even knowing lots of NW European peoples used knotwork in some fashion or another, most modern renditions still read (neo)Celtic to me.

.. also I'd always read that portion of the drawing as part of the helm - though I've no way to justify that. Also - do we know it's Late 3rd Age design? Or might it be a holdover from an earlier period?

... and by "diapering" do you mean the way the knotwork interlaces, like the leather stitching across the top of your pouch?
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by Cimrandir »

Wow, thank you to everyone for the discussion and response to the spear. I'll admit, the brain-worm has finished implanting and now I'm constantly thinking about the issue of Third Age Arnorian art and motifs haha.

To start -
caedmon wrote: Fri Apr 01, 2022 10:06 pm
Cimrandir wrote: Tue Mar 22, 2022 9:43 pm My thought was to get away from the standard Tree (too Gondorian) and Star (already well represented).


Amen. Another thing to remember is that the White Tree was reserved for the tower guard, it wasn't everywhere. And the Dunedain star? We don't know what it represented. But it's entirely likely it was only for the Rangers, or even only for the grey company. It's kinda like seeing a single picture of a group of Texas Rangers, and assuming that every person west of St. Louis between 1867 and 1905 work a tin star to proclaim their "Old Westness".
Hmm, I think we actually do have a decent idea of what the Star represented. Considering the influence of Elendil on the Northern Kingdom and the passage in "Fog on the Barrow-downs" -
The hobbits did not understand his words, but as he spoke they had a vision as it were a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords, and last came one with a star on his brow.
Letter 211 -
I think the crown of Gondor (the S. Kingdom) was very tall, like that of Egypt, but with wings attached, not set straight back but at an angle….The N. Kingdom had only a diadem. Cf. the difference between the N. and S. kingdoms of Egypt.
With the tentative identification of the individual in the barrow with the last prince of Cardolan, I think it's well within the limits of probability that the star on the brow is referring to the diadem of the North Kingdom, making the Star a sigil of the Royal House of the Northern Kingdom. This is further re-enforced by the great standard Arwen made for Aragorn and the Grey Company.
There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor, but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for year beyond count.
So to my mind, this says that the Star is not so much an Arnorian/North Kingdom motif but one specifically signifying the Royal House. When the Grey Company rode openly with the Star upon their breast, they were proclaiming their allegiance to Aragorn and the royal line. Given that assumption (and assumption it is), I think it's highly unlikely that an average late Third Age Dúnedain would openly wear a Star motif in their daily life, much less a Ranger wandering in secrecy in Eriador.

So that brings me to the problem of what would a Ranger decorate his kit with? I agree with Greg when he says that intricacy rings false for Rangers given the nature of their work. I'm not so sure about northern Dúnedain as a whole though. I suspect that they might have been far less "wandering" than we've assumed in the past. The Nature of Middle-earth does give us a rather concrete location of Dúnedain settlements. What this means for cultural development, I haven't the foggiest.

I also agree that it's fallacy to project Númenórean design elements onto Third Age Northern Kingdom remnants. With the frankly massive gulf of time between the two cultures and the numerous upheavals, wars, mingling with other societies, and other bits of change, I think that it's impossible to say what would be right for a Ranger.

Regarding the idea of the northern Dúnedain maintaining a more conservative style as an attempt to hold on to their Númenórean heritage as their bloodlines dwindled and inter-mingled with others, I've got some thoughts on that. Far be it from me to inject modern social beliefs into a medieval fantasy book written in the 1950s but I'll admit I don't know if I'm comfortable with that concept. I won't get too much further into it lest we stray from the topic but I think I prefer the idea that the focus on Númenórean bloodlines is really only to strengthen Aragorn's claim to the throne and that for the average northern Ranger, it wasn't as big of a deal. Entirely my own belief of course but I just think there is some unpleasant undertones if we focus on the "purity" of Númenórean heritage. Not that I'm saying anyone here is doing that. Tolkien was a gifted writer and clearly able to write viewpoints other than his own so I’m sure he didn’t necessarily subscribe to that sentiment personally anyway.

Which leads me to the idea of perhaps there was quite a bit of cultural transmission between the Dúnedain and the so-called "Middle Men." There's some evidence that this is the case with the adaptation of using the barrows to inter their dead as with the last Prince of Cardolan. (As an aside I wish the Professor had elaborated more on the blue-jeweled brooch Tom took for Goldberry as I believe this is the only actual Arnorian art mentioned in the story.) This is not to say that there is or should be a "Celtic" vibe to the Ranger. I think one should definitely stay away from knotwork or interlace as a primary Dúnedain "mode." I hate to harp on again about actual history yet again especially because it's, y'know, fantasy but I definitely see some parallels to Romano-British art. For example, this ornament from this British Museum is rather evocative of some of the swirls and arcs of Númenor. Entirely my impression of course.
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Perhaps we could look to a knotwork-less version of Insular art as a model of cultural fusion between the Dúnedain and other peoples of Eriador? Or maybe Merovingian like this chalice from the Treasure of Gourdon?
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Hmm maybe though we should advance the clock a hair and look at Carolingian or Ottonian art styles? They are mentioned as a sort of "throw-back" to Roman art which might be like a "throw-back" to Númenórean art? Or I guess one could just look at the explicitly Romanesque art style.
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I hesitate to go any further forward in time lest we get too complex for the Third Age. I think keeping it Continental in influence and staying away from British art after about 7th century or so despite the Professor's love of Britain works better for Dúnedain. It still works as a post-Roman/Númenor aesthetic and the Anglo-Saxon style is explicitly Rohirric in nature which would be hard to adapt as a Dúnedain. Although I would be interested in seeing examples of the folkart you mention here, caedmon. I don't know much about anything post-12th century haha.
caedmon wrote: Fri Apr 01, 2022 10:06 pm
Elleth wrote: Mon Mar 21, 2022 11:53 am Then maybe even use the early American experience as a model for degrading / simplifying patterns in a rustic environment to evolve a pretty book-accurate Third Age Dunedain aesthetic.


It's not even an early American trend. It's really a 16th-19th c folkart trend. You see the same at least in Scandinavia, Germany & Russia.


So this has been rather stream of consciousness and "thinking out-loud online" so I think I'll stop the word-vomit here before I further embarrass myself but as general thoughts on Third Age decorations, I wish we had more to go on.
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by caedmon »

Elleth wrote: Sat Apr 02, 2022 1:13 am ... and by "diapering" do you mean the way the knotwork interlaces, like the leather stitching across the top of your pouch?
I have more thought on the other stuff here, but little time. Yes, like the leather stitch on pouches. It's a standard Norse motif in the 8-12th centuries. Here are some good examples.

diapering.png
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Re: Numenorean design motifs

Post by Cimrandir »

caedmon wrote: Sun Apr 03, 2022 7:44 pm
Elleth wrote: Sat Apr 02, 2022 1:13 am ... and by "diapering" do you mean the way the knotwork interlaces, like the leather stitching across the top of your pouch?
I have more thought on the other stuff here, but little time.
That was a lot for me to post all at once so that’s my bad. Sorry about that. :( :wink:
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