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Rómenna Meeting Report - November 20, 1983
November 20, 1983
We began our discussion of the description and history of Númenor with a comment from Eileen that there was enough material in the bare historical outlines for a million stories. The tale of Númenor was inspired by the Atlantis theme, which had haunted Tolkien for many years. The Letters mention a recurring "Atlantis dream" or "Atlantis-haunting" in which he would see a great wave engulfing the green land. The similarity of the Quenya word for Númenor after its fall, "Atalantë" ("the Downfallen"), to "Atlantis" makes the connection pretty explicit. The earliest form of the Númenor story was to have been called "The Lost Road," which would follow special pairs of fathers and sons back in time until the story reached the fall of Atlantis/Númenor. It was suggested that the tale owed something to Edwardian boys' stories and H. Rider Haggard (cf. Jared Lobdell's book England and Always). It was generally agreed that the voyage to Númenor would make a great story.
The next problem tackled was the question of how the Three Houses of the Edain sorted themselves out once in Númenor. Were their individual "ethnic" characters preserved? We tried to deduce what Tolkien, philosophically, would have wanted. The related matter of elf-human marriages was broached. These are rare in Tolkien's writings; evidently it takes an exceptional human to attract an elf. In general, it was considered better for both races not to try to mingle too thoroughly. They are too different. Whether or not the same would hold true for different strains of Men is not as clear. The suggestion was made that the races might have mingled more in Númenor than they did in Middle-earth (the Rohirrim, for instance, seem to be descended pretty directly from the House of Hador). Still, there are indications (such as the mention of the "Bëorian" strain in the tale of Aldarion and Erendis) that the ethnic characters of the Houses were preserved. The line of the Kings of Númenor was in a class by itself, of course, because of the Elvish and Maia strain. There was, too, evidently a noble class in Númenor, probably derived from the original chiefs of the various peoples. In Middle-earth there exists the concept of "natural" nobility (that of the Elves being the most obvious example). Or Apart from these indications, however, there is the fact that there were few natural barriers in Númenor to separate one people from another. And even in the First Age there were many alliance marriages, at least, between the ruling families of the three houses. On the other hand, there is no record of anyone from any of the Houses marrying one of the Drúedain. They were compared to Haggard's noble Zulus--you might admire them and have friendly relations, but they were too different to allow marriage. The general impression given by Tolkien's published writings is that mingling of different groups is fine as long as they are not too different--which does not completely answer the question of the situation of the Three Houses, but is probably as close as we're ever going to get.
Alexei then demonstrated how the geography of Númenor corresponds to Celtic sacred geography. According to the principles of this geography, a country ideally consists of a sacred ritual center and five parts--four, in fact, with one being subdivided. The Mittalmar of Númenor can be compared to Meath in Ireland, and the Meneltarma to Tara of the Kings. Númenor is pentagram- shaped, and in fact corresponds to the Masonic nested pentagram because of the five roots of the Meneltarma. Also in Celtic sacred geography, the King's palace is supposed to be square, and not in the same place as the ritual center. We wondered whether Armenelos, the palace of the Númenorean kings, near but not on the Meneltarma, was square (we're not told). It was noted that there was no organized religion, only the three yearly festivals presided over by the King. The Númenoreans knew that the Valar were there, but also knew that they were not gods to be worshipped.
(At this point there was a digression on Druidic mathematics, if any.)
Unlike the Celtic countries, the regions of Númenor don't have characteristic inhabitants (at least, none are mentioned), but the geography has certain connections with the Celtic concepts of the characters of the various directions. The North is warlike (i.e., mountainous), the West rich in learning (the Eldar came from that direction), the South was associated with cleverness, feminine qualities, and art (connection unclear), and the East was associated with riches (the good grain-growing land and the major seaports were there). Finally, the Meneltarma with its five roots was compared with Plynlimon, the center of Wales, which is a mountain with five peaks.
The climate and vegetation of Númenor were discussed. The climate was obviously pleasant. We were impressed by the exact botanical descriptions of the various trees, especially those brought by the Eldar. It was suggested that with the development of genetic engineering, you might be able actually to grow some of these trees by bringing out the latent genetic potentials of existing species. For instance, we could point out most of the characteristics of the mallorn in one modern-day tree species or another. Getting back to the climate, was it temperate or subtropical? The latter seems likely; there are no descriptions of ice or snow; Tolkien mentions the rather "Egyptian" character of the Númenorean civilization at one point, which would go better with a subtropical climate: the Azores are said to be the remnants of Atlantis, and they and the nearby Canary Islands are blessed with a climate with temperatures in the 70's and 80's all year round. There would probably be some climatic variation due to elevation, but, as it was pointed out, "Eden is subtropical," and the earliest civilizations evolved in such a climate. This firm conclusion about the climate of Númenor was one of the few conclusions we have ever reached in this group.
From the geography and climate we passed to the history of Númenor. Aldarion's changing of the laws of succession was noted. Tar-Telperien was characterized as Númenor's "Virgin Queen" (à la Elizabeth I of England). Tar-Vanimeldë's reign and the subsequent events would have made a good story. We argued over whether her husband's taking the throne after her death was really so reprehensible. Faye Dunaway was suggested to play the role of Tar-Vanimeldë. It was noted that the historical outlines contain just enough detail to pique your interest. Nothing is just thrown away.
Though there was no organized religion on Númenor, there was what could almost be called a "religion of the Eldar"--at least, the "Faithful" were persecuted like an outlawed religious group. Someone asked if there were any unjust laws passed in Númenor, and the example of the outlawing of the Elvish tongues by Ar-Adûnakhôr was cited. The discussion ended with talk of prophecies, like those of Malbeth and Tar-Palantír, and the difference between prophecy, premonition and insight.
-- reported by Margaret Purdy