Letter 211

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“I do not know the detail of clothing. I visualize with great clarity and detail scenery and ‘natural’ objects, but not artifacts. Pauline Baynes drew her inspiration for F. Giles largely from medieval MS drawings—except for the knights (who are a bit ‘King-Arthurish’)†—Sc. belong to our ‘mythological’ Middle-Ages which blends unhistorically styles and details ranging over 500 years, and most of which did not of course exist in the Dark Ages of c. 500 AD—the style seems to fit well enough.

Except that males, especially in northern parts such as the Shire, would wear breeches, whether hidden by a cloak or long mantle, or merely accompanied by a tunic. I have no doubt that in the area envisioned by my story (which is large) the ‘dress’ of various peoples, Men and others, was much diversified in the Third Age, according to climate, and inherited custom. As was our world, even if we only consider Europe and the Mediterranean and the very near ‘East’ (or South), before the victory in our time of the least lovely style of dress (especially for males and ‘neuters’) which recorded history reveals—a victory that is still going on, even among those who most hate the lands of its origin.

The Rohirrim were not ‘mediaeval’, in our sense. The styles of the Bayeux Tapestry (made in England) fit them well enough, if one remembers that the kind of tennis-nets soldiers seem to have on are only a clumsy conventional sign for chain-mail of small rings.

The Numenoreans of Gondor were proud, peculiar, and archaic, and I think are best pictured in (say) Egyptian terms. In many ways they resembled ‘Egyptians’—the love of, and power to construct, the gigantic and massive. And in their great interest in ancestry and in tombs. (But not of course in ‘theology’: in which respect they were Hebraic and even more puritan—but this would take long to set out: to explain indeed why there is practically no other ‘religion’* or rather religious acts or places or ceremonies among the ‘good’ or anti-Sauron peoples in The Lord of the Rings.

I think the crown of Gondor (the S. Kingdom) was very tall, like that of Egypt, but with wings attached, not set straight back but at an angle….The N. Kingdom had only a diadem. Cf. the difference between the N. and S. kingdoms of Egypt.” [1]

...I did not intend the steed of the Witch-King to be what is now called a ‘pterodactyl’, and often is drawn (with rather less shadowy evidence than lies behind many monsters of the new and fascinating semi-scientific mythology of the ‘Prehistoric’). But obviously it is pterodactylic and owes much to the new mythology, and its description even provides a sort of way in which it could be a last survivor of older geological eras…

May I say that all this is 'mythical', and not any kind of new religion or vision. As far as I know it is merely an imaginative invention, to express, in the only way I can, some of my (dim) apprehensions of the world. All I can say is that if it were 'history', it would be difficult to fit the lands and events (or 'cultures') into such evidence as we possess, archaeological or geological, concerning the nearer or remoter part of what is now called Europe; though the Shire, for instance, is expressly stated to have been in this region (I p.12). I could have fitted things in with greater verisimilitude, if the story had not become too far developed, before the question ever occurred to me. I doubt if there would have been much gain; and I hope the evidently long but undefined gap* in time between the Fall of Barad-dur and our Days is sufficient for 'literary credibility', even for readers acquainted with what is known or surmised of 'pre-history'.

I imagine the gap to be about 6,000 years: that is we are now at the end of the Fifth Age, if the Ages were of about the same length as S.A. and T.A. But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh.”