Anduin, Barad-Dur, Bree, Caras Galadhon, Cirith Ungol, defense, Edoras, fortification, Galadriel, Helm's Deep, Hildebrandts, John Howe, Lothlorien, Minas Tirith, Morannon, Nenya, Offa's Dyke, Rhodes, Robinson Crusoe, stockades, Swiss Family Robinson, The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien, tree house
Welcome, dear readers, as always. As you can see from the title, this is a continuation of our previous post.
In that previous posting, we began with the novel, Robinson Crusoe (1719),
then on to Swiss Family Robinson (1812),
being especially interested in the stockade of the former
and the tree house of the latter.
The connection here was the tree house and Lothlorien, where the elves lived high up in the trees.
At least, that’s where we began. As we looked more seriously at the architecture of Lothlorien, however, we began to wonder, in a world in which darkness had gradually spread, how it protected itself. After all, Robinson Crusoe, afraid of the cannibals he had seen, had walled himself in. Part of it was the power of Galadriel herself, as she implies to Frodo:
“But do not think that only by singing amid the trees, nor even by the slender arrows of elven-bows, is this land of Lothlorien maintained and defended against its Enemy.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter 7, “The Mirror of Galadriel”)
But was there anything more besides singing, arrows, and Nenya, the Ring of Adamant?
Far to the south, Minas Tirith had seven concentric (more or less) walls,
and its opponents across the Anduin had the Morannon
and Cirith Ungol
and even the Barad Dur.
It is not so clear about Edoras. There is mention that “A dike [that is, a ditch/moat] and mighty wall and thorny fence encircle it”, along with the phrase “wide wind-swept walls and gates” (The Two Towers, Book 3, Chapter 6, “The King of the Golden Hall”), but little else. And you can see that lack of information reflected in the rather scanty look in the Jackson films—
Helm’s Deep, is, of course, a different matter—we show you versions by the Hildebrandts and by John Howe
Lothlorien is, in fact, not a single site, like any of the above. This map
gives you an idea of its complexity. There is the outer forest, with its camouflaged guard flets in trees, seemingly along its borders, and then the actual center, the city of Caras Galadhon. Here’s JRRT’s description of that center:
“There was a wide treeless space before them, running in a great circle and bending away on either hand. Beyond it was a deep fosse lost in soft shadow, but the grass upon its brink was green, as if it glowed still in memory of the sun that had gone. Upon the further side there rose to a great height a green wall encircling a green hill thronged with mallorn-trees taller than any they had yet seen in all the land.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter 7, “The Mirror of Galadriel”)
We are then told that there is a bridge, on the southern side, which crosses to “the great gates of the city; they faced south-west, set between the ends of the encircling wall that here overlapped, and they were tall and strong, and hung with many lamps.”
A fosse (from the Latin verb, fodio, fodere, fodi, fossum, “to dig”) means that there was a moat—in this case, it would appear to be a dry moat, like this one at the city of Rhodes.
(Those stone balls, by the way, are left over from the Turkish artillery and stone-throwers which pounded the walls of Rhodes in 1522–when we have another posting–soon–on the attack on Minas Tirith, we’ll say more about that.)
That “green wall”, however, is a bit of a puzzle. Is it a wall of green stone of some sort? Or is it a “thorny fence”, like that which surrounds Edoras? There are two similar defenses, or at least boundaries, in LOTR. First, there is the border between Buckland and the Old Forest:
“Their land was originally unprotected from the East; but on that side they had built a hedge: the High Hay. It had been planted many generations ago, and it was now thick and tall…” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, Chapter 5, “A Conspiracy Unmasked”)
The second such construction appears at Bree (which sounds much like Edoras):
“On that side, running in more than half a circle from the hill and back to it, there was a deep dike with a thick hedge on the inner side.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, Chapter 9, “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony”)
So what is the green wall? English hedges can be very dense things, often to mark off fields, as in this photo of Offa’s Dyke–and you can see the fosse/ditch/moat here, as well.
In at least one previous entry, we discussed Offa’s Dike, a (possibly) 8th-century-AD ditch and earthen wall between England and Wales.
Can we imagine the palisading of this reconstruction replaced with a thorny hedge? Here’s a long shot of Offa’s Dike with a bit of hedging visible.
When we consider the general look of Caras Galadhon, it is of something organic: the elves loved the trees and, instead of cutting them down, as the hobbits had done outside the High Hay, they climbed up into them. Might we then see that their physical barrier against their enemies was of the same green and growing material as were their dwellings?
What do you think, dear readers?
Thanks, as ever, for reading,