Casting: Ethnicity and Migration Patterns of the First Age

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
I love the idea of the Valar and Maiar having a very diverse appearance, in human skin-tones and so forth. And you don't have to limit yourselves to American actors for an imaginary series that will never be filmed. :)

The Dwarves can be whatever color we want, really -- I don't know if their skin-tones were ever specified. Be careful, though -- the Dwarves of Nogrod destroyed Doriath while the Dwarves of Belegost stayed home. Best not to accidentally make the bad guys darker than the innocent ones. The Petty-Dwarves were descended from exiled members of all seven Kindreds, so they could be very diverse in looks, other than being smaller than other Dwarves for... some reason. Not sure Tolkien ever specified why they shrank.

Nerdanel and Caranthir are confirmed to have ruddy skin, so there are some light-red-brown Noldor. But I think the texts are clear that most Elves had paler skin than that. I think East Asian actors would work, but not Black actors.... I also think that all of the Third Kindred (Teleri, Falathrim, Sindar, Green Elves) should have the same ethnic make-up. They were not divided from each other by many elven generations, and the eldest of each group were from Kuivienen anyway.

Miriel had silver hair, but was a Noldo.

I am certain that Earendil had golden hair and blue eyes, though I didn't record sources in my list of character appearances. But both his parents were golden-haired, so something bizarre would have to happen for him to turn out otherwise.

The Lossoth were the last survivors of the ethnic group that Bor came from, yes. Other than Easterlings being generalized as swarthy, broad, and hairy, there isn't much detail. I picture an Arabian or Mediterranean look, personally, but they could be darker -- "swarthy" could be interpreted as any shade of tan or brown, really. And there were more than just the two tribes of Easterlings -- the Feanorians allied with the largest two tribes, but there were other groups who get mentioned only as coming into Beleriand and then... disappear from the narrative. Presumably they either got killed by Orcs as random bystanders in the Fifth Battle, or took sides on their own initiative, or fled the heck back to Eriador after the Fifth Battle.

I also see the Folk of Haleth as being "swarthy", and some Beorians definitely were so. In The Unfinished Tales, the Numenoreans met a bunch of people related to the Haladin in Minhiriath and Enedwaith, and treated them only slightly less horribly than the Europeans treated the Native Americans. The Folk of Haleth had died out so thoroughly that almost none of their descendants made it to Numenor, and these people in Middle-earth were different from the Numenoreans both in language and appearance... so the Numenoreans just assumed that they were bad Sauron-worshippers.

Druedain looked like... no real-world ethnic group. I have the impression Tolkien meant them to be the equivalent of Neanderthals, but the description of them has no physical resemblance to real Neanderthals...
 
Last edited:

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
There are some few quotes about nildor with dark hued skin and swarthy skin.. But as we are dealing wirh european mythology here the execs chose not to include black african and eadtern asian actors into our elf- casting.

One reason though was that they didn't wish to show the cuivienen elves divide themselves along ethnic lines... Why would only the more white elves migrate westwarda while the more dark ones stay in east and south?

However as we avoid this with elves, we'll soon have just the exact problem with the hildorien men...

Those tribes that eventually go to the westlands and enter beleriand are seemingly all of european appearance.. Probably even the druedain and the proto- lossoth/ borians.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Do we know? Even if we imagine the borians/ lossoth as more like lapps or finns i would call both people very european in appearance..

In hildorien we would have to deal wirh the ancestors of the other humans from harad and rhun the great - if we include that episode in the series ( which i would love)
 

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
They were specifically among the "Swarthy Men" who were dark-skinned and very hairy. So definitely not north-European looking. You could argue for Mediterranean (we southerners are very hairy), but I'm going argue for at least Arabic. I could argue for an Inuit-like look, except for the "hairy" part ... do the Inuit and Aleutians have a lot of body hair?
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I have polish family members who look exactly like the description :)

I think a lot of people in southern and eastern europe could fall into that description and a lot of people in the near east would not. Nevermind... You know what i mean?
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Yes. I would like to cast some latino, southern european and near eastern actors for halethian, beorian and noldor characters too. The ethnicity of the druedain also is still open..
 
Last edited:

Marielle

Well-Known Member
But I think if there is an opportunity to make one of the good guy factions look like "people of color" without contradicting the texts, that's a rare opportunity and should be taken.
I knew I had commented about dividing the good guys and bad guys by race sometime before... found it!

With plenty of mixing and exceptions, I confess I have largely fallen into the pattern of imagining the Edain as the largely Celtic or Mediterranean peoples who populated Western Europe around the time of Julius Caesar, with the Easterlings looking more like the Germanic peoples who migrated into Europe throughout the history of the Roman Empire. That may not be what Tolkien was thinking, but given his interest in the Germanic peoples and languages, I don't think it's unforgivable.

That being said, the differences I would like to emphasize would be more of costuming, beard and hair norms, and culture, rather than skin or "ethnic" features. The Germans, as much as for anything else, were weird to the clean-cut Romans for their full beards and wild hair (at least Tacitus felt so). Having the Easterlings look like they could pass as Edain, if they cut their hair and changed clothes, but having their culture be more tribal/strong-man chieftain based, more migratory, etc, might very well help us avoid a lot of the criticism I've seen of works like GoT, and their non-white "savages".
That was on the Men casting thread, and a lot of people said more intelligent things than me before and after...
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Wrong in a strictly historical sense , but true in context.

I'm sorry but i feel i have to add: tacitus grew up or at last lived in gallia belgica. He would gave known mostly clean- cut well romanised gauls and germans - those - "wild germans" he likely met or had heard about would have - if seen face to face- looked far less exotic to him than to his peers in rome. His accout was largely topic is what i mean.

On the other hand this just fits very well : i think the easterlings of both tribes and the beorians and halethrim maybe were not that different at all, last not in terms of ethnicity or tone of skin.. But they arrived in beleriand at a later time. At first the edain probably were close to random stone- age tribes: bearded, long haired, tribal and dressed in skins.. But in a few generations they adapted to eldar, for a more clean- cut and clear shaved look and nicer clothes and suddenly two other tribes appear and look like savages to the edain, while in fact they just look more or less like their own ancestors, just a few generations ago.
 
Last edited:

Marielle

Well-Known Member
Not to devolve this into a historical discussion...

Yes, Tacitus' account is known to be flawed and inaccurate in many places: I didn't in any way intend to present it as the unvarnished truth. And yes, you're right that Tacitus would have seen and known romanized Gauls and Germans, being born 100 years after Julius Caesar conquered much of the Gallic territory. Even those who had not fully romanized themselves in the area and outside it would have still had absorbed various degrees of influence in dress, customs, behavior, cuisine, etc., through trade and emulating their social superiors. And yes, he at times writes with as much bemusement boarding on scorn (or so I interpret it, my Latin isn't perfect) of the politicians in Rome.

But that is kinda what I meant: that the "wild" Germans living outside the Roman provinces he describes as so, well, "other" are so because of dress, customs, and behavior, not because of genetics or any such thing. The Romans got quiet good at this; they were able to look at two groups of the same peoples (Gauls first, then Germans and Britains, etc.) and say "this one is ours" and "this one is not yet ours". Of course, there was a sense of superiority for first Romans and then Italians, but slowly in the Roman model Gauls and other provincials were able to enter the government as well as the army, eventually even the Senate, provided they met the economic qualifications; there were even provincial Emperors (there's an especially famous and sometimes great group of emperors from Illyrica, who rule parts or all of the empire, on and off, from 249 to 565). In 212, or roughly 120 years after Tacitus, citizenship was granted to almost every freeman in the Empire (granted, that was probably done to increase the tax pool, but whatever).

That sort of fluidity, on the part of the audience if not the characters themselves, is what I was suggesting. An Adan should be able to grow more Esterling in look or outlook, becoming almost indistinguishable from the others, and the reverse should be true, as well. I guess what I'm saying is I want to be able to reuse extras for scenes in the Edain and Esterling camps ;)
 
Last edited:

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
Your suggestions have merits and would work.

But reusing extras shouldn't be a worry. We have an infinite supply of hypothetical fantasy actors for extras we aren't planning to actually cast. ;)
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Orlin is a hadorian collaborator wirh the easterlings... He could look perfectly like one of uldors people, despite only having blonde hair - which would be uncommon among easterlings, but not unheard of, especially after the uldorians move to hithlum, where many of them marry hadorian women. It's never explicitly stated, but remains of the mixed populance of hithlum and maybe borian survivors mixed with the edain refugees of the falas might have been part of those people who later become the numenoreans.

Another example: outlaws like the gaurwaith: they should optically fall back into atavistic tribal ways and looks.

What about more civilized easterlings? Wouldn't bors and uldors men also quite soon begin to adapt to noldorian culture? And later to angmarian?
 
Last edited:

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
I have another reason for dark-skinned Swarthy Men, or specifically the Folk of Bor and their close kin in Forochel and northern Eriador in the Second and Third Age.

These discoveries found that many ancient Europeans, ancestors of today's Europeans, had dark skin:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180207202447.htm
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/stone-age-spaniard-had-blue-eyes-dark-skin

I'm not suggesting we pair dark skin with blue eyes, because however realistic that may be it could look really strange or unrealistic to modern audiences since nobody looks like that anymore. But the dark brown skin would be both plausible and distinctive. Northwest Eriador and east Beleriand are sort of geographically analagous to Great Britain, which is why I thought of the Folk of Bor and the Lossoth.

The Folk of Ulfang, being unrelated, would look different in some way -- maybe Mediterrranean.
 
Last edited:

Bre

Active Member
My Beren has progressively been evolving into something similiar to this brown skin/blue-eyed look, so when the Cheddar Man reconstruction was unveiled the other day, I sort of freaked out in my little moment of vindication.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
My Beren has progressively been evolving into something similiar to this brown skin/blue-eyed look, so when the Cheddar Man reconstruction was unveiled the other day, I sort of freaked out in my little moment of vindication.
Like Thulsa Doom?

 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
My Beren has progressively been evolving into something similiar to this brown skin/blue-eyed look, so when the Cheddar Man reconstruction was unveiled the other day, I sort of freaked out in my little moment of vindication.
This will be quite a departure from the text, since the House of Beor, which includes Beren, have dark hair, brown or grey eyes, with fair or swarthy skin. They’re supposed to look close to the Noldor.
 

Bre

Active Member
(1) Grey eyes = blue eyes in a lot of medieval texts, and we know Tolkien sometimes meant blue when he wrote grey, (2) swarthy is dark, (3) dark hair is still dark. Basically the text encourages a diverse array of interpretations.

And no, not like Thulsa Doom. I don't really think of actual actors when I design these things because I'm one of those people who thinks that the Silmarillion should be animated, as opposed to live-action. I end of having these races that don't actually exist, as a result. However, I did fancast Jake Gyllenhaal awhile back in some thread on here... so I guess my Beren would be someone like him but with different coloring; Beren isn't full Cheddar Man, he's just the link between him and Jake Gyllenhall =p
 

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
Most Beorians are fair-skinned and look Elvish. Beren has light/golden brown hair, but some (a minority of) Beorians are “swarthy”, so Beren could be a light brown. Although presumably the Swarthy Men got that nickname by being darker than all or most Edain.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Most Beorians are fair-skinned and look Elvish. Beren has light/golden brown hair, but some (a minority of) Beorians are “swarthy”, so Beren could be a light brown. Although presumably the Swarthy Men got that nickname by being darker than all or most Edain.
Well, I'm dead set on a particular actor for Beren.
 
Top