Showing posts with label Tolkien. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tolkien. Show all posts

Monday 9 April 2012

Populations of Middle Earth in the First Age - Part 2: Men, Dwarves, Ents & Orcs

In this article I will be continuing my look at the populations of Beleriand in the First Age, as described in J.R.R.Tolkien's work.  In Part 1 (available here) I worked out estimates for all the Elven populations of Beleriand and the wider Middle Earth at a snapshot based shortly before the Dagor Bragollach, the 4th Battle of Beleriand.  In this article I am going to attempt to work out similar estimates for the other inhabitants of Beleriand: Dwarves, Men, Ents etc.

In Part 1 I started with the single actual number we are given for the size of an army or population of the Eldar and from there used contextual information, relative figures and real world comparisons to work out some reasonable population figures, which I maintain are about as accurate and reasonable as is possible to get given all the available information Tolkien gives us. I would say that I am extremely confident that these estimates are within 30% of the 'true' figure, which I think is about as good as we could possibly get given the available information.

Luckily for the Mannish population we also have a starter number for the population of the Edain that we can use as a window to climb in through.  The Edain were divided intro three tribes, that of Beor, of Hador  (originally Marach)  and that of Haleth.  In 'The Peoples of Middle Earth', the 12th History of Middle Earth volume, 'On Dwarves & Men' we are told that the tribe of Beor entered Beleriand with around 2,000 adult men.  Multiplying this by 3 to account for women and children, we have a total population of around 6,000 on entry to Beleriand.  the Marachians are described as coming in three hosts, each as large as the people of Beor, and they are consistently described throughout Tolkien's work as being more numerous than Beor's people.  This gives us roughly 18,000 Marachians.  We aren't given an exact comparison for the Halethians.  Tolkien says they are numerous than the Beorians, but they are also described as not being very great in number, so we can assume they were not more numerous by very much.  I take a figure of 3,000 adult men, and hence about 9,000 people at first.  This gives us a total of around 33,000 people originally entering Beleriand.

These groups would have made up the core population that dwelt in Beleriand until it sank beneath the waves, and of which the surviving remnant would have gone on to populate Numenor, with eventually their descendants becoming the Dunedain of the 3rd age and then the Rangers of the North and leading people of Gondor down to the time of the Lord of the Rings and into the 4th age. Of these groups the Beorians eventually settled in Dorthinion, the Hadorians in Dor-Lomin in Hithlum and the Halethians in the forest of Brethil.

Even before the coming of the Easterlings there was some churn in these groups though. We are told  in Ch 17 of the Silmarillion 'Of the Coming of Men into the West' that two groups of around a thousand men each returned over the mountains, and I would take it as likely to assume that small groups of men continued to migrate for some time, and not that all men in Beleriand arrived only in three discrete groups . Of this total a mixed group remained in Estolad, and did not move onto the main domains with the majority of their tribes. The writing we have give the impression that both any groups of men who came over later, and the population of Estolad, were relatively small and not that significant compared to the main original populations.  They are hardly mentioned in the histories at all as independent groups.  So I am going to take those original three groups as the main populations to start with, and then attempt to make reasonable assumptions to cope with additions and subtractions and the Estolad population.

Around 150 years passed between the arrival of the Edain and the Dagor Bragollach, and from the family trees of the houses of Hador and Beor we can see that 6 generations were born in between the arrival of the Edain and the battle. The important question to working out the population of the Edain at the time of the Battle is how much these original populations would have expanded over 6 generations. I think it's reasonable to assume that the population increase would have been pretty dramatic, similar to rapidly developing areas of our modern world.  Meeting the Eldar and settling in Beleriand would have been the equivalent of the Edain suddenly advancing hundreds of years of technology overnight. They went from being nomadic, primitive peoples to being settled in a peaceful (at this time) land with all the benefits of the Eldar's knowledge of medicine, agriculture, and general technology and magic. As with real world populations we can assume that nutrition would have dramatically improved, infant mortality fallen, average life span increased and population shot up, especially as they didn't seem to have any equivalent access to birth control to drive birth rates down. All of these considerations lead me to assume a figure of about 30% increase per generation during this period, which shakes down at between 1-2% a year, relatively modest by current real-world population growth rates in many developing countries. Over 6 generations this gives a population multiplier of about 5.

That gives us figures for Beor's people 6,000 x 5 = 30,000 people and about 10,000 adult men; For Hador's people 18,000 x 5 = 90,000 people and about 30,000 adult men. For Haleth's people we now have to do something slightly more complicated. The Halethians were devastated shortly after arriving in Beleriand by a massive Orc raid.  It is implied that a considerably number of their small population were killed, and this would have considerably impacted on their later population.  Assuming 1/3 were killed, that gives a population of 6,000 (same as Beor) and hence a latter population of 30,000 and 10,000 adult men (approximately). This gives a total population of about 150,000 people.

Now I'm going to assume that the 2000 men that returned to the East would be broadly cancelled out by smaller groups of late-comers, which are not explicitly mentioned, which I think is reasonable, and hence ignore their loss from our calculations.  I would also guess that around 15-20% of these remained in the land of Estolad, which would be a number of around 25,000-30,000 by the Dagor Bragollach. This gives population figures by area of about 25,000 people in Dorthonion, about 75,000 people in Dor-Lomin and about 25,000 in Brethil.  

So we have an Edain population of around 150,000 in Beleriand in the years leading up to the Dagor Bragollach. This is about 10-15% of the Elven population in Beleriand and seems to me to be about right.  Large enough to be fielding armies and companies in support of the Eldar, but still relatively smaller than the Eldar, who it is repeatedly implied were the dominant population of Beleriand.

Now, if you thought that was hand-wavingly vague, we now move onto trying to come up with reasonable figures for the other denizens of Beleriand, and it gets even worse.  The Dwarves in Beleriand dwelt in two great mansions in the Blue Mountains: Belegost and Nogrod. Each of these were significant Dwarven Kingdoms, but on the other hand they were carved out of mountains, so we're not talking vast populations.  On that basis I'm assuming we're looking at similar population scales to the Elven kingdoms discussed in Part 1. Especially since the Dwarven mansions seemed able to field military forces that were broadly comparable to that of one of the Elven Kingdoms, as shown in their contribution to the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, and the assault on Doriath.

Taking the 5th Battle as a starting point, it's obvious the Dwarves marched with significant forces, but presumably not as much as some of the great Elven armies. It was far less their war, and the Dwarven contribution is not referred to in the same grand manner as "Turgon's Host". On that basis I'm assuming a force of around 6,000-8,000 Dwarves from Belegost. I assume a higher population multiplier than for any of the Elven populations except perhaps Doriath.  The Dwarves were secretive and far less involved in the war with Morgoth than the Elves. They were hidden, and we have no evidence they ever sent their full strength beyond their border.  Their style, whether in the Silmarillion or later in the Hobbit seemingly was to send out a well prepared expeditionary force, presumably thought suitable to the task, rather than a muster of their whole able population, like the Eldar or Edain seemed to at times.

Taking a PM of 20 gives a population for Belegost of 120,000-160,000.  Now I have always had it in my head that Nogrod is portrayed as the larger and more powerful of the two, and hence presumably more populous Dwarven Kingdom.  However looking for a reference I can't find anything explicit.  They seem to take a more independent and aggressive policy in the 1st Age, not joining in the Nirneath and later going to war with Doriath. This would possibly suggest greater confidence stemming from size. Another suggestion is the fact that when the two Dwarven mansions are referred to they are consistently called 'Nogrod and Belegost', which may be taken to assume that Nogrod was the greater of the two and hence written first. That said, it may be for some linguist reason that has nothing to do with this. Until I can find some better evidence, or some reason to think that it is merely a linguistic convenience I am going to go with that assumption.   Hence I assume that  Nogrod had perhaps a population around 1/3 higher than Belegost, of around 160,000-220,000 Dwarves.  This gives a total Dwarven population of around 280,000-380,000 or, taking a central estimate, of around 1/3 million Dwarves.

For the Ents we have almost no information.  We know from LotR that they roamed the forests living in general isolation from other Ents. In 'The Two Towers' Ch. 'The March of the Ents' it is implied that dozens of Ents marched against Isengard, roughly the approach taken in the movies, and given their nomadic and solitary existence this would itself presumably have represented part of the Entish population of Fangorn.  I think we can assume there were in total a few hundred Ents in Fangorn during LotR.  The Forests of Beleriand were many, many times larger than that of Fangorn, looking at the maps I think it reasonable to assume the forests were at least 15 times larger in Beleriand, and hence would presumably have held as much as 15 times as many Ents.  This at least gives us a vague ball-park figure of an Entish population of around 5,000 Ents in Beleriand, and presumably several thousand more in the wider forests in the east of Beleriand.

Apart from possibly a few dozen petty Dwarves living around Amon Rudh at this point this finishes our survey of the free peoples of Beleriand. The total population of Beleriand: Elves, Men, Dwarves and Ents would then have been around 1.2 million + 150,000 + 300,000 + 5,000 = 1.65 million beings dwelling in the forests and plains, the cities, fields and mountains of Beleriand in the years leading up to the 4th Battle.

Of the evil creatures of Morgoth, and the populations of Easterlings, I don't think I can make any estimate.  The populations of Uldor and Bor, who initially settled under the Sons of Feanor, I imagine to have been of similar size to the populations of the Edain, probably each closer to that of Beor or Haleth.  After the Nirneath  though and the arrival of additional people the population of Easterlings would probably have been on a more similar scale to that of Hador.  Of the Orcs, Trolls, Dragons, Spiders and other foul creatures it is impossible to estimate.  Their numbers would have contracted and expanded dramatically as the Elves and Men slaughtered them and Morgoth bred them en masse within the grim halls of Angband. Taking the Army of Gondolin as a rough starting point it seems likely that at just before the Dagor Bragollach the combined armed strength of the Elves and Men engaged in the war against Angband (basically all minus Doriath) would have numbered around 100,000 (assuming Gondolin had the same proportion of the Eldar and Edain's warriors as it did population).  We can then assume at the Dagor Bragollach, and even more so at the Nirneath and in the years after when the Orcs overran all Beleriand, that Morgoth fielded hundreds of thousands of soldiers, with perhaps another hundred thousand based in Angband itself full-time as workers, a population perhaps rising up to and over a million by the time of the War of Wrath, and with the addition of perhaps 100,000 Easterlings.  Certainly teeming hordes of evil the equivalent of which the real world would not see until at least the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th Century.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Populations of Middle Earth in the First Age - Part 1: The Elves

If you're already a paid up Tolkien enthusiast you can skip to below the Map, or at least the first paragraph below.  That's where the calculations start. This first bit is an intro for non-hardcore geeks. I originally wrote this article assuming only a few facebook friends would read it. Hence the intro for non-geeks.

Some of you may know I'm a huge Tolkien geek.  Now when I say Tolkien, most people will probably think of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. Now, don't get me wrong, I love those movies, but if that's your main thought then we're fishing in different ends of the pool. You see, this is what separates an ordinary Tolkien fan from a serious geek. A fan loves LotR, perhaps The Hobbit, but if when I say 'Tolkien' your first thought was The Silmarillion, First Age, the Noldor against Morgoth, then you're a Tolkien geek. I'm a particularly serious Tolkien geek, up from your average Silmarillion waving nerd. I am the final level of evolution: I know LotR, The Hobbit, Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the Entire History of Middle Earth series backwards. I read the Lost Tales for light bedtime reading, and this article continues in that spirit. You have been warned.

If all that really does float your boat, however, please do read on. One of the other things I love doing is playing around with numbers. I was a mediocre mathematician, mainly due to abstract algebra, but I do love playing with actual numbers.  This brings these two together. Basically in this article I am going to look at all the evidence we're given in Tolkien's writings about the 1st Age, around 6,500 years before the Lord of the Rings, to work out population estimates for Elves, Men and others in Beleriand, and Elves across Middle Earth.

One of the wonderful things about Tolkien's writings is the sheer range and depth of his description. Tolkien brought a scholar's precision and detail to creating his imaginary world but also a creative mind and a romantic heart, to an extent that still captivates millions. Every scrap of his work is rich with detail on not only the races he invented but also the geography, the plant life, the landscape, languages, names, history, myth, legend, metaphysics: everything. In LotR all the references given to the size of the moon in the sky accurately match how the phases of the moon would in real life change over the time described as passing in the book.

But although he became famous from the LotR his true passion was for the story of the Elder Days of Middle Earth and the epic, doomed struggle between the Elves and Morgoth, the original Dark Lord. He worked on it for 50 years and never completed it but just kept re-writing and developing through a multitude of different perspectives, genres and styles. We're lucky that after he died his son, Christopher Tolkien, published the most developed parts as the Silmarillion we have today, and later all the other partial manuscripts and fragments in other books. As a historian I love this as well, because the vast collection of fragments and drafts and different thoughts and perspectives make up the closest, for an imaginary world, we could ever possibly get to the rich collection of different subjective views and partial records that as historians we use to piece together a picture of a real historical era.

One feature of Tolkien's writing is that he almost never gives any numbers for populations or armies or groups above a few people, e.g. the Nine Riders or Seven Sons of Feanor etc.  I think this was in keeping with the romantic, magical tone of Tolkien's works.  He wanted to paint a picture, to show rather than tell. Actual numbers bring a too sharp, bean-counting tone of realism and take you away from the individuals stories and their emotional impact. But he did give a couple of actual numbers and I use these sparse numbers as a window into his world. Although we have few actual numbers we do have more relative references, where one group are described as twice the size of another, or some such.  Also I use parallels to information about real-world historical populations and contextual information from the books themselves. For example, references to medieval styles armies: hosts and major battles won't refer to a few hundred people, or tens of millions. One final principle is that, as far as even vaguely possible, I will attempt to connect numbers given with other numbers given here, so I'm calculating all these numbers from at least something rather than just purely making up a figure that sounds plausible.

The 1st Age in Beleriand was predominately populated by the Elves, with Men, Dwarves, and Ents there as well, and Morgoth's orcs and demons, which were restricted to the far north until after the 4th and 5th Battles.  The Elves were divided between populations of Noldor out of the West, Sindar who had lived in Beleriand for millenia, and Nandor who had come over the mountains later in Ossirand, the land of Seven Rivers. These Elves were divided into multiple Kingdoms as described on the map above, with Morgoth's power concentrated in the far north. To avoid the problem of dealing with dynamic population change I will attempt to give a snapshot estimate of populations shortly before the Dagor Bragollach, the End of the Siege of Angband, at the height of the Elvish Kingdoms, some 450 years into the First Age.

Now, our window into the world of numbers we need is given by the one single, large scale figure we are given for Elves in the 1st Age.  That is the long-standing statement that "The army of Turgon issued forth from Gondolin, ten thousand strong", to the Battle of Un-numbered Tears. From this one figure we will do a lot of magic and come up with Population Figures for all the Kingdoms and populations of the Eldar. The first thing is to estimate the population of Gondolin. What proportion did Turgon's 10,000 make of Gondolin's population, or in the jargon I will use, what is the population multiplier (PM) to turn this figure into Gondolin's total population?

Firstly, I assume this 10,000 did not represent all Gondolin's possible soldiers. Unlike Hithlum, which seemed to send every last possible warrior to the Battle, and was left defenceless when they were all lost; Gondolin was not so committed to fighting the War or the Battle, and hence it seems reasonable to assume that Turgon would have left some soldiers behind. On the other hand, he knew how important this battle was, and hence presumably took most of his warriors. The very early text The Fall of Gondolin, which was both the first text on Middle earth Tolkien ever wrote back in 1917 and, strangely, the only full description of Gondolin or its Fall he ever wrote, describes 12 companies of soldiers, of whom 8 went to the Nírnaeth Arnoediad. This would correspond to a figure of 12/8 x 10,000 = 15,000 troops in total. The 10,000 would form the core of the Army, whereas the 15,000 would form the total strength of Gondolin that could be mustered in great need i.e. when the city was being invaded.

From this figure we estimate Gondolin's population. Gondolin was effectively a city state, with the central city of perhaps five square miles surrounded by a developed area of intensive farmland of about 150 square miles. It had enough people to measure as a Kingdom by Elven standards but not endless hordes given the space constraint. It was also seemingly more peaceful and cultured and less dedicated to the military than the march Kingdoms of Hithlum or the Feanorians, which seemed almost solely devoted to the war. All this has made me settle on a PM of 8 on their total force of soldiers. That is Gondolin's total muster of soldiers constituted 12.5% of the population, or about 25% of the male population or about 33% of the adult male population. This gives a total population of 120,000 for Gondolin.

This figure seems about right: Compared to medieval European populations the Eldar would be both a lot less populous, and also much more urbanised, developed and specialised, with their magic providing the advantage that technology gives our modern society.  I think the best comparison is with the the Ancient Greek city states where a state such as Athens could field around 20,000 soldiers and sailors out of a population of around 250,000.  Urbanised and with a civilian army and navy that made up of a high proportion of the population compared to any modern or medieval society, but still a minority of the total male population. However this is just a best estimate, reasonable PM's of 6-10 or so give figures ranging between around 90-150 thousand, but I think around 120,000 is the most reasonable estimate.

The next trick is to go from this figure of 120,000 for Gondolin to a total figure for the Noldor population. This is possible because we are told that Gondolin's population was made up of "a third part of the Noldor of Fingolfin's following, and a yet greater host of the Sindar". Taking this in terms of 1/6ths of Fingolfin's people we have 2/6 of Noldor and "a greater host of Sindar".  I reckon this would be about 3/6 of Fingolfin's people. To me "and a greater host" sounds like more, but not 2 or 3 times as many.  If so Tolkien could have said, as he has elsewhere.  Also Gondolin was imagined and stated in various places to have been one of the most predominately 'Noldorin' in culture of the mixed kingdoms in Beleriand, which would not fit if the Noldor were vastly outnumbered by the Sindar. Assuming then that the population of Gondolin was equivilent to 5/6 of Fingolfin's folk, 1/6 of Fingolfin's folk would be about 25,000 Elves and Fingolfin's folk would number 150,000.

From Fingolfin's folk we can now estimate the total of Noldor. They were divided between Fingolfin's folk, Feanor's and Finarfin's.  Fingolfin's people was the largest but Finarfin's was also sizeable: Tolkien stated in more than one place that Nargothrond was the largest Elven Kingdom left after the Dagor Bragollach. Feanor's folk appeared to be relatively small in number, but containing a lot of the younger, brasher, more foolhardy Elves that would have been attracted to Feanor's assertive, aggressive style, and hence militarily able to punch more above its weight. I take as estimates that Fingolfin's folk constituted 12/ of the Noldor, and Finarfin and Feanor's sons 1/4 each. Certainly Fingolfin's folk must have been between 40-60%, given the fact they were the largest group, but also the two other groups were of similar size.  Taking 50% then that gives us a total Noldor population estimate of 300,000 Noldor, with 150,000 following Fingolfin, 75,000 Finarfin's sons and 75,000 Feanor's.

From this we can take a rough estimate of total Elvish population in Beleriand.  We just need to guess what the proportion of Noldor compared to Sindar were. This is pretty rough unfortunately.  Tolkien consistently maintained that the Sindar outnumbered the Noldor by some unspecified amount.  This conception changed at times from being roughly similar, to some remarks that the Noldor were as Lords and Kings: a small aristocratic minority ruling over Kingdoms of overwhelmingly Sindar population, more like the Norman minority among the Anglo-Saxons of Medieval England.

To me, the general sense from the texts is that the Sindar considerably outnumbered the Noldor, but not by some vast factor. The references seem to indicate that Noldor and Sindar met on relatively equal terms, and when we look at the different kingdoms and relatively large cultural impact of the Noldor they must have been a relatively large minority given that there was no military domination or educational apartheid to explain these differences as, say, in historical Norman England.  Given these factors I take a PM of about 3, possibly 4.  That gives a Sindar population of about 1 million (0.9 to 1.2) and a total Elvish population of 1.2-1.5 million.  Now I think you could make a reasonable argument for a figures anywhere between 1-2 million, but I think somewhere in the lower end of that range is most likely with all the evidence we are given.

We can do even better than that though in working out rough population figures for each Elvish Kingdom, starting with the Noldor. We've already done Gondolin with a population of around 120,000, made up of 50,000 Noldor and 70,000 Sindar (2/5 and 3/5 respectively).  The Kingdom of Hithlum had the other 2/3rds of Fingolfin's folk and the rest of the Northern Sindar.  That means around 100,000 Noldor.  The Sindar population can only be guessed at. Hithlum was colder and less fertile than Nevrast, from where the Gondolin Sindar came, and would hence have had fewer people. Balancing that, many Sindar are said to have been attracted by the valour and nobility of the Noldor Kings and their cause. I think a fair estimate would be some 50,000-70,000 Sindar, the same as Gondolin, for a total population of around 150-170 thousand.

In the Kingdom of Nargothrond (including at this time Tol Sirion and the highlands of Dorthonion)  the Noldor population was the 75,000 following Finarfin's sons, particularly Finrond. We are told that Nargothrond was the largest Noldor Kingdom, at least after the Dagor Bragollach when Hithlum and Feanor's Sons took large losses. It was a large kingdom mostly in Beleriand proper, warmer and more hospitable and hence could be expected to have a sizable population of native Sindar, especially since Finrond was part Teleri himself and hence closer to the Sindar than other Noldor princes. I assume a Sindar population roughly equivalent to that of Hithlum and Nevrast combined, some 120-150 thousand, giving a total population of possibly over 200,000. It is not higher because although it is said it is the largest kingdom, it is still described as a largely wild and empty country, without the dense rural or urban centres to account for what we would consider a sizeable population.

The other Noldorin Kingdom was that of Feanor's Sons in the East. These areas seemed to have been organised less as a formal Kingdom and more as a series of military districts or fiefs, each commanded by one or a pair of Feanor's sons with Maedhros having some kind of loose overlordship.  That said we also already have an estimate of the Noldor population of this Kingdom, the 75,000 following Feanor's sons. These would have been joined by various Sindar, but probably not that many. Although Feanor's sons controlled a large area, it was mostly uninhabited before they got there, and of all the Noldor they were least friendly with the Sindar.  That said quite a few Sindar are said to have joined with at least Maedhros at least, again in recognition of his outstanding valour and personal nobility. Hence looking relative to the other population figures we've taken I don't think we can do better than to assume a population of Sindar equal to the number of Sindar in Hithlum (an area of similar size, climate and circumstances). In other words, 60,000 Sindar for a total of roughly 130,000 Elves.