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-   -   A question about advancements of weaponry (http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=18212)

Glorthelion 12-08-2012 03:26 AM

A question about advancements of weaponry
 
I most likely will get lambasted for this dumb question but I can't help asking. Why are the people of Middle Earth using swords and not rifles?
I mean, it's more than 6000 years since Feanor forged the first sword (correct me if I'm wrong) so why? The first sword like weapons were from approx 3300BC and the first guns appeared around 1200's in China. Is there something I should know about the universe?

Thx, again sorry for question. I had to know.

Mithalwen 12-08-2012 04:37 AM

I hope noone will lambast you ~ this should be a pllace to share information and ideas not to sneer at valid questions. No courteous poster should be lambasted. Since I suspect the responses may be theoretical and speculative rather than text based a passing mod may movd this to novices and newcomers but that is a "housekeeping" matter mot a criticism.

I will tackle the question when I get to a real computer later.

Inziladun 12-08-2012 06:46 AM

A short answer seems to me to be that the use of substances such as gunpowder and explosives have, in Tolkien's Arda, a connotation with evil.

When the reader is first told of goblins in Bilbo's tale:

Quote:

It is not unlikely that [goblins] invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and explosions always delighted them.
The Hobbit Over Hill and Under Hill

And in LOTR Aragorn has a singular word for Saruman's use of explosives:

Quote:

'Devilry of Saruman!' cried Aragorn. 'They have crept in the culvert again, while we talked, and they have lit the fire of Orthanc beneath our feet.'
The Two Towers Helm's Deep

"Devilry' I would equate with Morgoth or Sauron in that context.

Basically, it appears that even the research of such warfare methods is frowned upon by the "good" in Middle-earth, and those who delve into those matters are either evil or heading that way.

Rhod the Red 12-08-2012 10:10 AM

Middle-earth is pre-Middle Ages for us, and "in its own time".

So it's both back in the past and its own timeline as it were.

Galadriel55 12-08-2012 01:24 PM

I completely agree with what has been said above. I also want to note that not only does ME technology seem to not develop overtime (in a positive way, not Sauron's/Saruman's things), but it also follows a general waning pattern. Start out with FA "magical" Elven swords, then lose that technique. Then you have a few bumps and spikes in the graph as you reach the height of Numenor, Arnor, Gondor, Dwarvish skills... but overall the trend goes downwards. The weapons (and artifacts in general) that are older are better and more valuable.

Inziladun 12-08-2012 02:35 PM

Having given this more thought, I wonder if it wasn't Saruman's apparent non-magical "fire of Orthanc" that may have lit the fuse (pun definitely intended) for the ultimate development of such weapons, leading to their widespread use beyond the Fourth Age.

With the Istari gone, Elves dwindling and having over time less and less contact with the kingdoms of Men, it doesn't seem much of a stretch that over time the moral equation of impersonal technology designed to kill great numbers with "Morgothian" behavior would have fallen by the wayside. With that blockage gone, and always new enemies (of other Men), the motivation would have been there.
Though at the end of LOTR the reader is left with hope that King Elessar would lay a sure enough foundation that Gondor at least would remain true in heart to its old allegiance to the West, Tolkien himself began a story set after Elessar's death in which Gondorian boys were playing at "orcs" and the people there, in keeping with the state in our own world, were becoming ill at ease with peace. All that is to say that if the reader had been given a glimpse into Middle-earth just a few hundred years later, I don't think it's impossible that cannonballs could have been flying in some battle or other.

urbanhiker 12-09-2012 04:15 PM

My opinion, and it is only an opinion, is that there are no rifles, artillery and other modern weapons of war in the Lord of the Rings because those things have little or less or no romantic or dramatic value. No one ever quested for a shotgun. No one ever reforged a broken mystical cannon that was the heirloom of ancestors. No one ever etched magic runes for the downfall of one's sworn enemies into a howitzer, at least not that I'm aware of.

Morthoron 12-09-2012 07:10 PM

For Tolkien and other Englishmen of his generation, the romanticism of war died on the fields of Flanders, on the Somme and at Verdun. There is little glory in a rat-infested trench, and no honor in picking off the enemy hundreds of yards away.

That being said, if you page through The Hobbit to the section where Tolkien describes Orcs, he says basically that they were the future inventors of weapons of mass-destruction. Also, when Gandalf strikes several Orcs dead in the goblin cave, Tolkien describes the smell of gunpowder. I would quote the passages, but the football game is starting, and I do have my priorities. ;)

Rumil 12-10-2012 06:40 PM

Iron, like Lion
 
Another aspect (in story if you like) is that the elves appear to have gone directly to the iron age without having to do all that inconvenient mucking about with a bronze age. IIRC the Valar passed on some tips.

Bronze swords are basically a pain, lack of tensile strength etc, they were made in our history, but were no match for basic iron swords, let alone well-forged steel. Humans have been using other weapons eg spears for far longer, simple pointy-stick ones for as much as 500,000 years allegedly and stone-tipped for at least 200,000. Whether for hunting or warfare is an open question.

So in a way the inhabitants of Middle Earth are ahead of the curve instead of behind it.

As said there's much evidence of gunpowder (whether Gandalf's fireworks and flash-bang in the goblin cave or the fires of Orthanc). Also incendiary weapons, something like Greek fire - probably naptha-based - Sauron's projectiles at the siege of Minas Tirith that kindled by some nameless art and Saruman's flame projector that burnt up an ent. Debateable how much of each is 'magic' or pyrotechnics, but to be fair most medieval observers found it tricky to distinguish between the two.

The alchemists and early gunners and 'fireworkers' were often viewed supiciously as being in league with evil forces, the whiff of sulphur probably not helping their case!

cellurdur 12-10-2012 08:32 PM

Middle Earth is fortunate that the most advanced scientific minds were also the greatest humanitarians. When we look at the craft of Numenor, there is no doubt they are highly advanced. Orthanc or Minas Tirith are clear examples of this.

As others have mentioned the elves would always hold back from using their skills to create weapons of mass destruction. Even when led astray by Sauron, the three rings they constructed are still not to be used as weapons.

The same goes for Numenor. At their height, they cared only for peaceful pursuits. Like the elves even with great advancements in technology, the Faithful would not support the evil weapons of mass destruction.

That said Ar-pharazon's army was probably the most advanced in terms of weaponry. With their complete destruction this would set things back.

Galadriel55 12-10-2012 09:05 PM

cellurdur's mention of the Numenorian kingdoms made me think of a link between power, height of glory, and weapons. The height, really, is only achieved when technological pursiuts are balanced with the underlying good will behind them. When that backdrop fades away, technology (and weapons...) grows stronger, and so does the physical power of the kingdom (perhaps), but it's not in fool bloom anymore. I would not call it the height.

So if you are trying to create weapons of mass destruction, you are definitely losing track of your purpose, if you have not lost it already.

cellurdur 12-10-2012 09:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Galadriel55 (Post 677657)
cellurdur's mention of the Numenorian kingdoms made me think of a link between power, height of glory, and weapons. The height, really, is only achieved when technological pursiuts are balanced with the underlying good will behind them. When that backdrop fades away, technology (and weapons...) grows stronger, and so does the physical power of the kingdom (perhaps), but it's not in fool bloom anymore. I would not call it the height.

So if you are trying to create weapons of mass destruction, you are definitely losing track of your purpose, if you have not lost it already.

That is why I said at their height they were only concerned with peaceful endeavors.

I too agree that under Ar-pharazon they were at their most technologically advanced and powerful, but when you are burning people on altars to Morgoth, it can hardly be called the height of your civilisation.

Inziladun 12-10-2012 09:39 PM

As technologically advanced as Númenor was in Pharazôn's time, I don't see them having any sort of WMD capability. After all, some of the King's Men escaped the Downfall, becoming the enemies of Gondor. If that sort of technology had been available, surely they'd have used it against Gondor at some point?

Speaking of WMDs in Middle-earth, Sauron apparently used bioterror weapons in the Third Age. Good thing he didn't pass that along to the Easterlings or Southrons.

cellurdur 12-10-2012 09:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Inziladun (Post 677661)
As technologically advanced as Númenor was in Pharazôn's time, I don't see them having any sort of WMD capability. After all, some of the King's Men escaped the Downfall, becoming the enemies of Gondor. If that sort of technology had been available, surely they'd have used it against Gondor at some point?

I am not talking about Atomic weapons and napalm bombs. I am talking about dynamite and primitive guns.

I think that the greatest of the kings men would be at the invasion. It was said to be the greatest armada that had been seen. If they did have any secret weapons then it would have been kept at Numenor to be used for this invasion.
Quote:

Speaking of WMDs in Middle-earth, Sauron apparently used bioterror weapons in the Third Age. Good thing he didn't pass that along to the Easterlings or Southrons.
Biological weapons have been used for thousands of years, when it was just throwing dead cattle into the enemy battlements.

What Sauron did is probably breed some from of disease or easier still just transport a disease that had already been found in the south or east.

Galadriel55 12-10-2012 10:01 PM

Is it possible that in Pharazon's time gunpowder was, actually, legitimately, not invented yet? I mean, not invented at all? Are there references to it before Saruman's and Sauron's late Third Age battles?

As for the plagues, they could have just been plagues. Imagine living next-door to a place as filthy as Mordor or Angband. Every once in a while, epecially with Morgoth's/Sauron's guiding hand, some epidemic is bound to errupt. I do believe they have had a part to play in it by guiding/directing/enforcing it, but they did not have to overtax themselves with conjuring diseases.

Puddleglum 12-11-2012 12:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Galadriel55 (Post 677657)
When that backdrop fades away, technology (and weapons...) grows stronger, and so does the physical power of the kingdom (perhaps), but it's not in fool bloom anymore.

<chuckle> Come to think of it, "fool" bloom may actually be an accurate description after all. ;)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Galadriel55 (Post 677663)
Is it possible that in Pharazon's time gunpowder was, actually, legitimately, not invented yet?

Possibly not. Men of Middle Earth seem to have regressed during the Second Age (at least compared to the Edain of Beleriand under Noldorin tutelage). That civilization seems to have been represented as comparable to the Western European Dark or Middle Ages - which was before Gunpowder appeared in that region - (I think we can discount the Arab and Cathay learning which would have been far in the South or East of the places our tales center - the North West of Middle Earth).

If the knowledge existed in the South or East of Middle Earth, the tales that survive to us (primarily via the Red Book) don't say.

The Numenoreans, following the lead and learning of the Noldor and other Eldar, seem to have developed their own arts and "technology" (if that is even the right word). Consider the work they did fashioning the citadel of Orthanc. They may not have felt the need for such devices - may even have had their own "tools" that were more powerful but whose secrets have since been lost.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Galadriel55 (Post 677663)
As for the plagues, they could have just been plagues.

Quite probably, I think. However, it's also possible that Sauron had a hand in starting them - as the Great Plague served his purposes well (esp of unmanning the forts guarding Mordor). Even if it's only a matter of instructing his subservient peoples in the east to ignor such tedious things as sanitation, and then chasing plague carriers out of their homes and into the West as "refugees".

Galadriel55 12-11-2012 06:36 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Puddleglum (Post 677664)
<chuckle> Come to think of it, "fool" bloom may actually be an accurate description after all. ;)

:D The things I say when I don't pay attention!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Puddleglum
Quite probably, I think. However, it's also possible that Sauron had a hand in starting them - as the Great Plague served his purposes well (esp of unmanning the forts guarding Mordor). Even if it's only a matter of instructing his subservient peoples in the east to ignor such tedious things as sanitation, and then chasing plague carriers out of their homes and into the West as "refugees".

I think that is Sauron had a hand in them (which I do believe he did), it was more on the metaphysical side than the medical/sanitarian side. I think it was he that brought the elements of fear and darkness into it. Every plague has a bit of that, but I mean the supernatural qualities of fear and darkness.

Elemmakil 12-12-2012 02:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rumil (Post 677647)
Bronze swords are basically a pain, lack of tensile strength etc, they were made in our history, but were no match for basic iron swords, let alone well-forged steel.

Categorically untrue. Plain or wrought iron is actually softer than a good 90/10 tin bronze. Iron came into ascendence because it is much more available and thus cheaper than bronze, which requires two much rarer relatively speaking metals (copper and tin) that are generally not found in close proximity together and, in addition to their scarcity, also require extensive and sometimes long range trade networks to bring together.

Tuor in Gondolin 12-12-2012 02:51 PM

Insiladun has a key point here:
Quote:

With the Istari gone, Elves dwindling and having over time less and less contact with the kingdoms of Men, it doesn't seem much of a stretch that over time the moral equation of impersonal technology designed to kill great numbers with "Morgothian" behavior would have fallen by the wayside. With that blockage gone, and always new enemies (of other Men), the motivation would have been there.
In Tolkien's Middle-earth universe men and mannish related peoples seem more easily corrupted then elves and dwarves. With the Istari also gone and the valar increasingly only indirectly montoring things you have people (including hobbits) more susceptible---see ted Sandyman and the shirreefs (a minority) who rather liked lording it over other hobbits, and the way men like Grima and the Dunlendings (and ewasterlings and Southrons by Sauron) were susceptible to dominant personalities and technological "improvements."


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