Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

From Numenor to Far Harad...

Moderators: caedmon, Greg

Glaenry
Wayfarer
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Nov 13, 2019 3:11 am

Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Glaenry »

Greetings my friends,
I am once again returning to the roots of my interest in the Bardings (after a long time developing a typical ranger kit).The persona I am developing is based during the reign of King Bain, son of Bard the Dragonslayer, up into the War of the North. To be completely honest, the garb I am developing is inspired by Bard's look in the Hobbit by Peter Jackson, the idea being that I might be a young Brand (I do have a Youtube video on the subject [youtube][/https://youtu.be/26-U2wnupUA]). I am trying to come up with elements to finalize the look.

I know the Professor does describe the men of Dale as having Longswords, though I think and arming sword is better for me, given I plan to use a bow. I am wondering what type of shields might have been used. I had it suggested that I might use a Kite shield, (I don't necessarily want to use a heater shield as IMO they are too late medieval to work well in Middle Earth). As I understand it, Kite shields were developed with the introduction of mounted warriors, hence my question: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry? Because if not, I would imagine the use of a viking or anglo saxon round shield, but if a Kite shield can be justified, I will go that root to visually separate the Bardings from the Rohirrim.

Open to any criticisms or recommendations on my new garb and weaponry, if you do have a chance to watch my video.
Cheers!
Erfaron
Dúnadan
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2022 12:49 am

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Erfaron »

I recently watched your video and I love how you put together your kit. I am unsure if the men of dale have any Calvary, however I feel that a Viking style shield would not be enough to cause similarity between your garb and a rohirim soft kit. Drawing from your choice of sword and the reasoning behind it, perhaps a square shield, like a smaller Roman scutum (I probably spelled that wrong) would fit into the idea that the armament was initially made by the dwarves and repurposed for the men of Dale.

Can’t wait for further viewings of your kit
"There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go." -Gandalf, Chapter 7, The Hobbit
User avatar
Peter Remling
Athel Dunedain
Posts: 3655
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:20 am

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Peter Remling »

Glaenry wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:18 pm
I know the Professor does describe the men of Dale as having Longswords, though I think and arming sword is better for me, given I plan to use a bow. I am wondering what type of shields might have been used. I had it suggested that I might use a Kite shield, (I don't necessarily want to use a heater shield as IMO they are too late medieval to work well in Middle Earth). As I understand it, Kite shields were developed with the introduction of mounted warriors, hence my question: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry? Because if not, I would imagine the use of a viking or anglo saxon round shield, but if a Kite shield can be justified, I will go that root to visually separate the Bardings from the Rohirrim.

Open to any criticisms or recommendations on my new garb and weaponry, if you do have a chance to watch my video.
Cheers!
On the subject of swords, the meaning of longsword has changed over time. A longsword was just a term of distinction between size. Throughout the Middle Ages and up through the Renaissance, the term longsword simply met any sword larger than a large knife (say anything with a blade length of 18"). This is an approximation as it fluctuated based on the fashion of the time. The modern day "longsword" is a term we currently take to mean a hand and a half, while single handers are considered arming swords. The current vernacular post dates Tolkien so his use of the term longsword for a single hander is correct for his time. I do believe that is what he meant, so your use of what is now called an arming sword is completely correct. Note even in PJ's LoTR, Boromir had a shield and carried a longsword with a modified pommel to allow second-hand placement.

Regarding shields, for a ranger or anyone not in a traditional militia a round shield would be preferred by many. A kite shield as you say was for mounted soldiers designed to protect the entire off side of the combatant. Anyone who has tried to use them on foot will see the issues. Heaters shields are a possibility but, I see them as the bastard swords of shields. They are better for light shock troops that are initially mounted but fight on foot as they cover almost as much of the body as heaters but are fairly maneuverable on foot. This brings us back to round shields. Round shields are light and highly maneuverable which is why so many different cultures used them. You mentioned Viking and Anglo Saxon, then there were Native Americans and several of the African tribes all used round shields.

I personally find either a round shied of 20-24 inches in diameter or a buckler teamed with a single hand (arming sword of Falchion) to be the best match for me anyway.
User avatar
Elleth
êphal ki-*raznahê
Posts: 2755
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:26 am
Location: in the Angle; New England

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Elleth »

I think you're right about the heater, it does seem rather late for Middle-earth.

Hrmm... we do get this about Dain's dwarves (similar part of the world, and Dalemen traded for dwarvish arms if memory serves) -
In battle they wielded heavy two-handed mat¬
tocks; but each of them had also i short broad sword at
his side and a roundshield slung at his back.
And while I've not spent a lot of time looking into the men of Dale, Tolkien Gateway mentions this about their ancestors...
Tolkien was possibly inspired by the ancient Northmen of northern Europe (These "Northmen" appear in his poem "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son".[12]) and their language is rendered with Old Norse. A significant difference is that the real Northmen were mostly sea-faring peoles while the Northmen of Rhovanion were continental.
https://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Northmen

... that's not a lot to go on, but I think absent direct evidence a round shield would be just fine. Though I might poke around the Baltics and the Rus for inspiration as regards decoration.
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
User avatar
Eofor
Amrod Rhandir
Posts: 599
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2020 11:40 am

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Eofor »

Apologies I typed this up hours ago but had an unexpected party and didn't hit send so there have been several answers since which cover the same points.

A couple of good questions in there so lets start at the top.

The army of Dale is never mentioned as having cavalry and given it's location and for several reasons it seems unlikely that they would have maintained a mounted company.

Most of their trade and travel are done by water so what small amount of horses they had would likely have been for scouts or messengers, even the use of scouts seems to have been of less importance if we take note that the description of Ravenhill given by Balin tells of numerous guard posts around the mountain to give advance warning of enemy approach.
Here," said Balin, "in the old days we used always to keep watchmen, and that door behind leads into a rock-hewn chamber that was made here as a guardroom. There were several places like it round the Mountain. But there seemed small need for watching in the days of our prosperity, and the guards were made over comfortable, perhaps - otherwise we might have had longer warnings of the coming of the dragon, and things might have been different.
Moving on from there and viewing that statement from a military point of view it seems likely that the warriors of Dale function something like an auxiliary or complimentary force to the Dwarves of Erebor and primarily fight in a defensive role. We are told in the War of the Ring of the three day battle of Dale and the final stand of Dain and Brand before the gates of Erebor so it seems that a defence was made first of the town and that the armies retreated back into the mountain and were besieged (much like at Helms Deep) Such a battle would have been particularly unsuited to cavalry.

So after all that? I think it's highly unlikely that any serious force of cavalry was maintained by Dale either before or after the fall of Smaug.

Before I begin on shields I want to mention that the professor often describes swords as 'long' in a way that suggests he isn't talking specifically about the length so much as adding a description in the same fashion as 'shining helms' and 'bright swords'. For example the men of Rohan are described in TTT as having ‘long swords at their belts’ and there is the same sort of poetic license at work in the lay of Gil Galad

His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.



So onto the main question - Shields

Once again there is no mention given of the type of shields used by the men of Dale or the Lake so we need to work with what we do have to hand. The Dwarves of both the Iron hills and Erebor use round shields as does Boromir of Gondor and the riders of Rohan so for my part I'm not entirely sure the kite or heater shield exists within Middle Earth at the third age.

Looking beyond the written word to illustration we have Tolkien's original painting 'Conversation with Smaug in which we can see many examples of shields in the hoard all of which are round or ovoid in shape. Upon hearing Bard's words to Thorin it seems entirely possible that some of those shields laying within the hoard could have belonged to the men of Dale.
I am by right descent the heir of Girion of Dale, and in your hoard is mingled much of the wealth of his halls and town, which of old Smaug stole.


Image

As an aside I love these original drawings as they give an insight into the professors own ideas of what things looked like, not just swords and shields but axes, chests, helmets and even drinking horns.

From that evidence I think that a round shield with a pointy boss (something like a Harke-Dickinson Type 4b or a later Irish Sea type) is the most accurate option available but if you wanted something a bit different from the normal round shield to differ visually from the other races then perhaps you could make one of the more oval type shields as seen hanging on the back wall. A similar shield features on the Bayeux Tapestry and worn on the back it leaves the arms much less obstructed than a round shield does. I haven't tested it but I imagine it could work quite well for a quiver and archery set up.

Image
But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest.
User avatar
Eofor
Amrod Rhandir
Posts: 599
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2020 11:40 am

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Eofor »

Glaenry wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:18 pm Open to any criticisms or recommendations on my new garb and weaponry, if you do have a chance to watch my video.
Just had a chance to watch your video and really like the lengths you go to explaining your choices to your audience

I have three comments and please bear in mind that I'm approaching this from the conclusion that you want to create a functional reenactment style portrayal of Brand and not necessarily a cosplay or LARP outfit. If I'm wrong in that then please disregard comments one and two.

Firstly with regards to your boots I feel obliged to mention that turnshoes with proper 100% woolen naalbind socks and leg wraps covering the whole foot will keep your feet from freezing in all but the coldest of weather (and by that stage you need to be finding shelter or run a real risk of death) You can even stuff your shoes with dried moss or straw/grasses for an added layer of insulation if you need so if you are taking the modern boot path for comfort, health or even costuming reasons then I understand but temperature is probably not a justification for the compromise in my experience.

Image

Secondly the sword, my main dislike here is the aesthetics. I'm aware it's a LARP weapon and so by default looks chunky but it looks even worse when you add a scabbard to it which means you either need to be carrying it all the time or shoving it in your belt sans scabbard which realistically doesn't work.
I also question if the sword of Bard as shown in the Hobbit films would be an heirloom of his house given that it was probably an average blade as at that time Bard was an average man of Dale. The Nick Kellar concept on which the final costume is based doesn't actually have a sword at all and It strikes me that Dain would have gifted or had something made for Bard when he became King. This would give you room to take something more accurate to the original stated design of the Lake men being drawn from the various Northern Eastern European races.
On that note I find it bizarre that the brilliant gritty early concept sketches for the Lake men by Adam Anderson weren't pushed harder but that's just me.

Thirdly, keep up the good work! You have managed to capture the right blend of ingredients to appeal to a large audience which is no mean feat.
But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest.
User avatar
Elleth
êphal ki-*raznahê
Posts: 2755
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:26 am
Location: in the Angle; New England

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Elleth »

I had forgotten that drawing - perfect!

As it happens, we actually hear those shields and spears on the back wall mentioned in the text -
From that the talk turned to the horde itself and to the things that Thorin and Balin remembered. They wondered if they were still lying there unharmed in the hall below: the spears that were made for the armies of the great King Bladorthfti (long since dead), each had a thrice-forged head and their shafts were inlaid with cunning gold, but they were never delivered or paid for; shields made for warriors long dead;
It appears that King Bladorthfi is something of a mystery, but the consensus seems to be he was a king of men in a nearby region. So those shields on the wall tell us the kinds of shields at least some tribes of men were using, at least in trading distance of Erebor, at least in the time of Thorin and Balin's youth.

I do like Eofor's suggestion of a pointy shield boss, both because it gets you closer to Tolkien's drawing and because it gets you further from the modern mental image of "Viking."

... also, if memory serves someone (the Saxons?) ~1000AD had somewhat domed shields with pointy bosses. Do we think the shields of Smaug's hoard there are domed, or is that just an artifact of perspective?
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
User avatar
Eofor
Amrod Rhandir
Posts: 599
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2020 11:40 am

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Eofor »

Elleth wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 10:23 am I had forgotten that drawing - perfect!
It appears that King Bladorthfi is something of a mystery, but the consensus seems to be he was a king of men in a nearby region. So those shields on the wall tell us the kinds of shields at least some tribes of men were using, at least in trading distance of Erebor, at least in the time of Thorin and Balin's youth.
It's funny but that's the second time I've come across that name this month after not having thought of it for years. I'm working on an article on spears to go towards a wiki update and found it in the research. It definitely conjures up a vivid image.
Elleth wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 10:23 am ... also, if memory serves someone (the Saxons?) ~1000AD had somewhat domed shields with pointy bosses. Do we think the shields of Smaug's hoard there are domed, or is that just an artifact of perspective?
Lenticular shields feature far more commonly earlier in the archeological record as do these pointy shield bosses with the main exception being the viking age Irish sea bosses which are all pointy (and quite tiny compared to a normal boss) and of those earlier shields there are plenty of finds but notably most of the manuscript depictions of the Carolingians show them using shields that are depicted quite similar to these (see below)
I personally think the shields in the painting are curved, some could be skewed perspective but that one on the bottom right is clearly in profile.

I find the whole tableau the most fascinating of Tolkiens works, possibly because of the detail and for the insight into how he himself pictured what he was writing. Just look at the large jars of gold, the crowns, strands of jewels and very Sutton Hooesque drinking horns!
Where is Iodo Ionite?!?!?! I need her to translate the runes on the jars as she's far better with them than I am.

Image
Image
Image
But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest.
User avatar
Elleth
êphal ki-*raznahê
Posts: 2755
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:26 am
Location: in the Angle; New England

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Elleth »

Those are the pictures I remembered! Carolingian you say? Thank you for the correction! About what time then? 600s?
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
User avatar
Udwin
Vendor
Posts: 724
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:00 pm
Location: central Kain-tuc-kee
Contact:

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Udwin »

-An oval shield with pointy boss would be an excellent choice, both to differentiate from round-shield Rohirrim, AND to hearken back to our primary (visual!) source for hard kit of the northeastern cultural sphere.

-As for Bladorthin, Andreas Mohn (Codex Regius) comes to the conclusion that he was a recent king of Dorwinion, of mixed Northman and Dunedain (i.e. Gondorian) heritage.

-We do have apparent evidence of kite/heater-type shields in Middle-earth, but from wayyyy earlier - First Age!
"Tuor marvelling saw that on the wall behind the throne were hung a shield and a great hauberk, and a helm and a long sword in a sheath. ... the shield was of a shape strange to Tuor's eyes, for it was long and tapering; and its field was blue, in the midst of which was wrought an emblem of a white swan's wing. ... And he lifted down the shield and found it light and wieldy beyond his guess; for it was wrought, it seemed, of wood, but overlaid by the craft of Elven-smiths with plates of metal, strong yet thin a foil, whereby it had been preserved from worm and weather." UT 1:I
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA
ForgeCorvus
Silent Watcher over the Peaceful Lands
Posts: 120
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2021 8:07 pm

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by ForgeCorvus »

Eofor wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 5:18 am Apologies I typed this up hours ago but had an unexpected party ........
Thirteen Dwarves and a Wizard ?
At least they'll help with the washing-up
All debts are paid....... Nothing forgiven. Nothing forgotten.

Sullu iglukhul ya bark ra targ. (All is well with axe and beard.)

"All Things Strive" Gd Tak 'Gar
User avatar
Cimrandir
Haeropada
Posts: 753
Joined: Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:44 am

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Cimrandir »

Funnily enough, I tend to associate the oval shield with the Dúnedain and more specifically, the Grey Company. I've mentioned my Late Antiquity/Early Medieval feelings for the Rangers before and with the notion that the Grey Company fought on horseback as well as foot, a Late Roman oval shield (sometimes called a Parma) seemed appropriate. Suitable for both the cavalry and the auxiliaries and easy enough to carry around as Eofor stated. I don't know how that fits in with Dale but that is the direction I'm going with the eventual Grey Company shield I want to make.

I will toss my hat into the "Pointy shield boss" ring though if for no other reason than it would be distinctive and neat looking for your Man of Dale.

Eofor wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 6:31 amOn that note I find it bizarre that the brilliant gritty early concept sketches for the Lake men by Adam Anderson weren't pushed harder but that's just me.

Totally an aside but whoaa! I've never seen those before but they are awesome. Makes me want to put together a Dale kit too!
Persona : Cimrandir - late 3rd Age Dunedain
User avatar
Elleth
êphal ki-*raznahê
Posts: 2755
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:26 am
Location: in the Angle; New England

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Elleth »

Oh... that is a nice concept.

... I'd dial down the Saami/ Athabascan look on the second drawing by quite a bit, but I much prefer it to what we ended up with - the first one especially.

link for those that haven't found it -
https://atanderson.blogspot.com/2014/06 ... l?q=hobbit

and reduced size images in the event the link dies -
ATAnderson_Bard_1.jpg
ATAnderson_Bard_1.jpg (94.13 KiB) Viewed 235 times
ATAnderson_Bard_2.jpg
ATAnderson_Bard_2.jpg (98.38 KiB) Viewed 235 times
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
User avatar
Eofor
Amrod Rhandir
Posts: 599
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2020 11:40 am

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Eofor »

Poor Glaenry, we've derailed his thread!
ForgeCorvus wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 6:23 pm Thirteen Dwarves and a Wizard ?
At least they'll help with the washing-up
Well it was international Hobbit day and so I invited friends to a second HUGE breakfast.
Elleth wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 12:51 pm Those are the pictures I remembered! Carolingian you say? Thank you for the correction! About what time then? 600s?
Various sources, the Utrecht and Stuttgart Psalters are both dated to around 820AD so it seems the lenticular pointy bossed shield remained in use on the continent later than the Isles. By that stage the Anglo Saxons were favouring tall sugarloaf type bosses.
Udwin wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 1:29 pm -We do have apparent evidence of kite/heater-type shields in Middle-earth, but from wayyyy earlier - First Age!
That is a wonderful find and makes me happy as from childhood I imagined Fingolfin battling Morgoth with a heater shield.
Elleth wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 10:32 pm link for those that haven't found it -
Eeeeek! My bad, I often assume people have seen something and don't link it.
But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest.
User avatar
Iodo
Thangailhir
Posts: 1795
Joined: Mon Sep 25, 2017 5:58 pm
Location: North west england UK
Contact:

Re: Did the Men of Dale have a cavalry?

Post by Iodo »

Maybe not quite so much as Smaug's hoard, but this thread is GOLD!!!

everyone has already discussed in detail all the points I would have made but it has been fascinating to read, and Glaenry, it's cool to see you back on the forum :P

Glaenry wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:18 pm I know the Professor does describe the men of Dale as having Longswords though I think and arming sword is better for me, given I plan to use a bow

Aside from the fact that in medieval times anything bigger than a large knife was often described as a longsword, when Tolkien gives a very broad description of weaponry or equipment like this, I have always see it to mean that "a large number of the men of Dale are swordsmen, they have longswords", simply because the chance that any large group of people would all have the exact same thing is very slim. There's probably going to be a popular choice but it makes plenty of sense that someone who practices a different discipline, like archery, would probably have different other stuff

Glaenry wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:18 pm I am wondering what type of shields might have been used. I had it suggested that I might use a Kite shield, (I don't necessarily want to use a heater shield as IMO they are too late medieval to work well in Middle Earth)

As many others have already said, I wouldn't see a round shield as being at all out of place in Lake-town or Dale, I think it's interesting that some of the shields on the painting of Smaug's hoard (the ones at the top on the right) appear to be slightly octagonal and the one on the furthest left is pointed on the bottom edge, it may just be a painting error, but maybe it's something you could be inspired by to create a variant of a round shield that looks less viking and more Dale, possibly even dwarven made?
Gimli: It's true you don't see many Dwarf-women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they are often mistaken for Dwarf-men.
Aragorn: It's the beards.
Post Reply