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[LotR] Plot Bunny - Elendil's Landing

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Taure, May 8, 2020.

  1. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    The Downfall of Numenor occurred in SA 3319. Nine ships of the Faithful fled Numenor, landed in Middle Earth, and established the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor under Elendil.

    The war with Sauron resulted in SA 3429 when Sauron attached Minas Ithil.

    That gives a period of just 110 years for Gondor and Arnor to be founded and reach the height of their strength, to the point that they can field a massive army against Sauron in the Last Alliance.

    To be blunt, 9 ships' worth of people are nowhere near enough a population base to result in such large Kingdoms.

    It has always been the case that Numenor had colonised Middle Earth during its many years of power, and that pre-existing Numenorean settlements such as Pelargir would have also provided a Numenorean population base for Elendil to rule upon his arrival in Middle Earth (though certain of those settlements such as Umbar opposed his rule).

    The premise behind this plot bunny is to lean hard on the idea of there being a substantial pre-existing Numenorean presence in Middle-Earth prior to Elendil's landing. Though not strictly canonical (e.g. in canon, there wasn't really any substantial Numenorean presence in Arnor at all), I don't think it ventures too far into AU territory.

    The focus of the story would therefore be how Elendil consolidated power over the various Numenorean peoples of Middle Earth and established himself as their overlord. The idea is to tell something a bit more realistic/low-fantasy than the ideal of "Elendil arrives and because he is of royal blood everyone immediately recognises him as their king".

    It would therefore be something of a Game of Thrones-y take on Elendil, Isildur and Anarion, telling the story of how they seized power in not-necessary-nice ways. They would still be noble of spirit, but they are still men.

    A few running themes:

    - The coalition around Umbar of the resistance against Elendil.

    - The dangers of an Isildur vs. Anarion split and how Elendil manages that.

    - The fact that even wise and noble Numenoreans are actually pretty racist against lower races of men.

    - Relationships with the Elves, with tension over Elendil expanding into historic Elvish territory in Arnor (Numenorean settlements until that time will have been focused around Tharbad).

    Obviously a key part of all this would be creating a good cast of OC characters made up of a selection of characters from the prominent Numenorean families who rule the Numenorean colonies at the time of Elendil's landing - and, indeed, a good amount of worldbuilding as to what those colonies are.

    The idea would be for the story to end with Sauron's return - at which point canon takes over.
     
  2. Steelbadger

    Steelbadger Unspeakable

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    So, if you wanted to go for something in this vein, there's quite a few things you have to consider.

    Firstly, there was a long 'cold war' of sorts going on in Numenorean politics at the time between the King's Men and the Faithful. This friction extended to the colonies that were established, as the King's Men mostly established their colonies in the south, around Umbar, while the Faithful did everything they could to avoid them, and established the colony at Pelargir, but also many other minor settlements further north. These locations were chosen not just because they were away from the King's Men's colonies, but because the Elves were their most steadfast allies.

    A key part of Elendil's identity as one of the Faithful, was the fact that he was an Elf-friend, and still held them in high regard. The larger part of the population in the regions of Gondor and Arnor were Men who had interbred with Numenoreans, and had friendly relations with the Elves. It is for this reason that Elendil was seemingly able to create his kingdom so quickly, and with no great bloodshed. Arnor, rather than Gondor, was chosen as the seat of the High King because of its closeness to the Elvish settlements in Lindon.

    Also, the strength of the King's Men was almost completely used up in their attempted attack on Valinor, so they did not contest the formation of the Realms in Exile with any real force. It wasn't until Sauron was able to consolidate his forces following the sinking of Numenor that Umbar would enter the stage again.

    You can, of course, reinterpret characters and such as you like, but if you want to frame the story as a 'missing history' kinda thing, then you have to be careful about setting Elendil/Isildur up as racist Numenorean supremacists (even 'benevolent' ones). That's simply not something that's supported by what we know about them. Now, you could claim revisionist history to cover for that, but then there's the issue that most of the history we do have from then is recounted through the Elvish histories, as recorded in Rivendell, and not by Gondorian sources. That at least means that the relationship between Elendil/Gil-galad/Elrond should be one of positive friendship. Elrond's belief that men are 'weak' is a movie-specific invention, and in canon he was actually one of their best and closest allies through thousands of years.

    The Elvish realms were very contained simply due to their limited numbers, and the fact that their numbers were only dwindling further over time. They had no need of such an expansive realm, their havens in Lindon, plus Elrond's little passion-project in Imladris, were more than enough for the relative few who remained (ignoring for now the Nandorin realms of Lorien and Mirkwood).

    In terms of characterisation for Elendil/Isildur/Anarion, the canon characters to look at are people like Faramir, Aragorn and perhaps minor characters like Prince Imrahil (all book versions, obviously). None of them really match the kind of characterisation I think you're wanting to go for. Do these people understand that the world is not simply black-and-white? Yes, they do. Aragorn is not above threatening people, or giving up the lives of his own men for some greater purpose, but none of the primary movers and shakers are ruthless enough to really drive a Game of Thrones-style plot. They aren't the type to plot the downfall of their current allies. They may go against their wishes, but only if they really believe it would be in everyone's best interests (consider Faramir going against his father's command, but he wouldn't plot his downfall).

    You're kinda left with an entire cast of Eddard Starks, and some bad guys that are well established as being a long way away, which I'm not sure works. I don't think this is a drama, more a 'civ-builder' with lots of talking about where best to build roads, and how Annuminas' streets should be laid out.

    Now, if you want to comment on the mixed failings/strengths of Men in Tolkien's works, a story covering the end of Tar Palantir's life, and the rise of Ar Pharazon (perhaps compressing time-scales a bit to include his take-down of Sauron) has everything you need for some nice Game of Thronesy Drama/action. No brother/sister incest, but Ar Pharazon does force his cousin to marry him to cement his claim to the throne.
     
  3. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    There's a few different things there.

    Firstly, I think we have different interpretations of the canon characters.

    It's a common view among the good guys of LotR to mourn the dilution of Numenorean blood with "lower" races of men resulting in a people who no longer possess the nobility of their ancestors. Characterising Elendil etc. as racist isn't really a stretch of characterisation in my view - rather, it reflects the standard view of their culture. The intention is not to make them seem evil, but rather to depict them in a way that accurately reflects their cultural norms, and how some of those are very different to values which we consider good in real life.

    Similarly, it's clear that the good guys of LotR all possess pretty regressive views about the role of different classes - certain people have a right to rule by virtue of birth; people have a certain nobility of character and spirit by virtue of their descent, etc. I don't think we should ever forget that the good guys of the story are all essentially nobles. Those arms and armour don't come out of nowhere. Nor do the horses or the food or the castles. Beneath each of our heroes will be a toiling underclass of peasants and merchant classes, whom our characters view themselves as having a right to rule. The good guys seek to rule justly and fairly, whereas the villains seek to exploit. But both seek to rule.

    Again, this isn't about turning good guys into bad guys. Rather it's about depicting the characters as existing within their setting - a setting very different to the modern world. Such views were not unusual in the equivalent real life time period.

    Turning to Elendil as an elf-friend: the intention was not to remove this characteristic. Rather, it was to depict it realistically. There surely must be complexities and disagreements between Elendil and the elves, notwithstanding that they have friendly relations. Two nations cannot exist next to each other without some conflicts of interest, especially when one of those nations is rapidly increasing in power.

    Being someone's friend does not mean you will always agree. Nor does it mean that when your interests conflict you have to just surrender. This is doubly so for a character who is the leader of a people. The fact that Elendil is an elf-friend doesn't mean you have to whitewash their relationship such that Arnor is basically an Elvish puppet state.

    The goal here should be to depict an Elendil who has great respect for the Elves, and who has strong personal ties with some of them, and who has a temperament and wisdom which the Elves in turn respect. This is, I think, sufficient to legitimately classify him as an Elf Friend. Against that background, you then introduce geopolitical tensions which those characters must navigate as the rulers of their respective peoples.
     
  4. Arthellion

    Arthellion Lord of the Banned ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I think you can do what you're planning Taure and it would succeed at what you're planning...I just don't see it being an enjoyable story. You're subverting the nature of LOTR a la rian johnson here imo.

    It just gives me the vibe of all the indie harry stories or revisionist stories of "no this is what really happened."

    You could write it and I'm sure it'd be well written and thought out...I just don't see the point of subverting LOTR like that. LOTR's heroes are not of the grim-dark kind. They're not even really of the High Fantasy kind that was spawned in so many other texts. They are heroes of a mythic sort. Tolkien set out to create a modern mythology. It's why we don't see near as much fanfiction for LOTR as other series.
     
  5. Steelbadger

    Steelbadger Unspeakable

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    In that case, yes, I think we do have different interpretations of canon characters.

    There is a pre-occupation in Tolkien with the notion that the world is in an endless descent. This descent is not really a moral one at all, but something much more nebulous. I think of it as a kind of fantasy inversion of entropy. Within Tolkien's work, everything starts as incredible and fantastic, and the world is populated with wonders and people who are larger than life. They are not better people, just look at Feanor and all the shit that went down in the First Age, they're just bigger (both figuratively and literally), more mythological figures.

    Mourning the loss of the memory of Numenor is an extension of that. The Elves mourn the lost days of Gondolin or Doriath. The Dwarves miss the days when Khazad-dum was the greatest and richest city in the world. Men of Gondor lament the lost days of Numenor.

    But here's the thing, it's a fundamentally melancholic notion. These people do not rage against that loss, instead they accept it as a fact of the universe they live in. Aragorn's heritage is not valued so much because it has intrinsic value, but because it is a reminder of those lost days. A brief echo, that all know will soon be lost, but which is no less beautiful for all that. Had he tried to 'Return of the King' before the shit hit the fan, he would have been turned away. It was because of his actions and nobility, a reflection of the greater days of Elendil and Isildur, that he was eventually hailed as King. He was a great captain of men, with more experience than anyone else in the armies of Gondor at the time.

    Attempting to stay that slow descent is generally represented as folly for the simply reason that it can never be truly stopped. That ability, the ability to stay the decline, is what Sauron uses to tempt Celebrimbor into creating the Rings, and can be seen as the root cause for almost every bad thing done by good people within the canon.

    This seems a strange notion, but it comes as a result of Tolkien's intention to create a modern myth. It is heavily rooted in the old english myths, where the world of their past was always similar, but so much greater than today. The Lament for the Rohirrim is based on an old english poem called 'The Wanderer', which is itself a lament for the days and greatness that once were, but would never be again.

    It is fundamentally at odds with the modern (rather Protestant) idea that we can, through our actions, make the world as a whole a better place, and that that is both natural and good. The people of Middle-earth do what they can to be good and noble and true, but the world will never be as grand, or as beautiful, as it once was.

    So this is a case of imposing history on a fundamentally mythic work. Aragorn does not believe himself to be a fundamentally better man than anyone else in the setting. Think in terms of the divine right of kings, where it actually, pretty concretely exists. Aragorn is the last remaining heir of Elros, specifically gifted the right to rule over Numenor by divine fiat. Consider the fact that Gondor has gone hundreds of years with only ruling Stewards to sit beside the throne. Look at the Noldor Kingdom, which was left as a people, with their own settlements, but without a King after Gil-Galad died. Elrond could have named himself King after him, or Denethor could have called himself King.

    But they didn't, because within the mythological framework, they simply weren't. They are no better or worse than Kings, but they are not King.

    Galadriel is more powerful and more noble than any other Elf in Middle-earth at that time, and yet she is not Queen (except, tellingly, in her imagining of what she would do should she take the Ring).

    Basically, ruling is their duty, as passed to them by whatever authority originally granted that responsibility to their blood-line. It is not their right. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one that Tolkien really seems to lean into. You are welcome to change the setting, to re-imagine it as a historical retelling rather than a mythological one, but you have to accept that that's what you're doing, and doing that requires a lot of additional thought on how the earlier ages can be explained to remove explicit divine interventions.

    That's fine, but again, this falls into the realm of a 'historical AU', not really founded in the setting that Tolkien describes.

    The use of the term 'Elvish puppet state' is rather telling, really. It implies the assumption that any non-contentious cooperation between Men and Elves automatically leads to an Elvish supremacy but this is simply not the way Tolkien's setting works. Indeed, within Tolkiens work, there is the very real sense that it is Men, not Elves, who are the favoured Children of Eru. Elves are there to lay the foundations, to teach and to guide and then, once Men have found their feet, to retreat from their world, and diminish into myth and memory.

    There was no conflict between Elendil's new kingdom and the existing Elvish one, because the Lord of the Rings is a setting without modern geopolitics. The growth of Arnor did not require the fall of the Elves. The Kingdoms operated with their own collective and mutual benefit in mind because that is something possible in the mythologic of Tolkien's setting when enlightened people choose to work together. Attempting to enforce historicity upon the setting will very quickly break it, and the result will be a fairly drab and, for me at least, uninteresting GRRM bleakfest with none of the wonder of the setting Tolkien describes.
     
  6. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    In addition to having different interpretations of the characters, I think we also have different interpretations of interpretation XD

    My approach to the work is the same as I take to HP or Star Wars or anything else: the author gets to determine the facts of the work, but not the interpretation. So, for example, JKR gets to say what actions Snape took and what his motivations were for doing them but she can't say whether or not Snape was a good man. That is a value judgement in the hands of the reader.

    Similarly, with Tolkien, he gets to determine the facts of Arda: who does what, when, and why. But the themes are not a part of the fictional universe. The fact that Tolkien intended the universe to be melancholy or have a theme of decline is not an innate part of the world, it is a theme which the reader can view in the events of that world.

    The fact that the Elves are leaving Middle Earth gives reader the sense of melancholy. The fact that the great cities of men are depopulated gives the reader a sense of melancholy. But that sense of melancholy is not itself a rule of the LotR universe. If a fanfic had some event take place that resulted in the Elves' halting their departure West, then this would be a canon-compatible divergence. If fanfic had some event which led to a resurgence in the success of the Kingdoms of men, that would also be a canon-compatible divergence.

    Something can be canon-compatible with LotR without reflecting the themes Tolkien liked or intended. Canon compatibility is about factual compatibility, not about thematic unity.

    With that in mind, I disagree that there's any factual incompatibility canon and the idea of "benevolent Numenoreans" viewing themselves as innately better than lower races of men by virtue of their heritage. It's not just a looking back at the past and missing what was lost. It's about the present too - a continued regret that the men of the past made a poor choice to dilute their blood.

    You can bet Elrond has passed this view on to Aragorn, and I doubt that Elendil would have had a different view on the idea of Numenoreans being a superior race of men to others.

    Similarly, when Gandalf praises Denethor's abilities, he expresses that praise in terms of blood:

    I don't think there's any escaping the fact that, at least among the Elves and Numenoreans, certain races are viewed as better than others. The fact that they're right - those of concentrated Numenorean blood do possess greater abilities than other races of men - does not completely excuse them of the moral implications of this view, and I think it would be interesting to explore this canonical situation in fanfic, since in canon we very rarely get to see characters interact with the common man i.e. "lesser men".
     
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