Domestic Arrangements

TThurston

Member
I've missed a lot of the field trips with Exploring the Lord of the Rings (Online). So, it may have already been covered, but...

What does the published text tell us about the domestic arrangements of the different races and/or cultures, and how is the reflected in the world we visit in LOTRO?

We know about Bag End, and the homes (holes?) of Bag Shot Row, all of which are presumably single family dwellings (mostly). We know some hobbits live in above houses above ground, like farmer Maggot, and farmer Cotton (perhaps). It seems like many of these are mostly single family dwellings, with room for grandparents, perhaps, and non-family live-in workers. Then there are large extended kinship complexes like those of the Tooks and Brandybucks. Do we have any hints as to whether these are extended complexes of individual family households, or whether there is some sort of communal arrangements, with shared dining, food preparation, maintenance, with separate or communal sleeping arrangements?

With men, it sounds like things are mostly one house per family (mostly), too. We know about Bill Ferny's house, for example. In LOTRO Rohan and Gondor, we have many opportunities to visit the homes of various individuals, presumably mostly for a single family. Is there any basis in the text for this? The text describes the townlands of the Pelennor as containing homesteads - I presume like the situation of farmer Maggot in the Shire. Riding through Gondor, we read that "in every street they passed some great house or court ... Pippin guessed of great men and kindreds that had once dwelt there." This sounds like grand homes for individual families or extended families, but not perhaps as extended as we suppose for the Brandbucks in Brandy Hall. Speaking of halls, though, what about all the mead halls we find in Rohan. Might they be used for more than just holding banquets? Wormtongue words "what is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among the dogs?" hints at something more, perhaps. Do the texts suggest anything?

With elves, I cannot think of anything that suggests a house for an individual family group. Rather, I see lots of hints of communal eating, and I'm not sure about much need for individual sleeping arrangements for elves. Nor do I see any hint in the text about food preparation for other than large groups of elves. I suppose being immortal must have some effect on the arrangements of families, which for men (or hobbits) often seem organized around the work of one generation caring for the next and previous generations. This seems to be reflected in LOTRO. So, what are the living arrangements for Elves, and how is the presented in LOTRO? Apparently there was some field trip in which it was suggested that elves are party-folk, or something. When was it? How was it determined?

On reflection, there is The Last Homely House. I wonder what it like for Bilbo there. I presume he has his own apartment. I wonder what it was like for Estel, when he lived there as a child; perhaps he and his mother had a private apartment. I wonder if she did the cooking and cleaning for him. I think probably not. And as I think of this question, I wonder about all those wandering Rangers in the wilds, probably mostly sleeping in a little tent beside their campfire, as often presented in LOTRO. But I wonder about their wives and children. LOTRO gives us Esteldin, a settlement of Rangers; perhaps this is where the wives and children are, but I don't remember seeing any Ranger children anywhere in LOTRO.

With Dwarves, we read of Erebor and Khazad-dum, large complexes for Dwarves. But I can't think of any indication whether these were large communal complexes, or collections of homes for individual families. LOTRO does suggest the latter, at least in some cases. Since Corey is a lore-consultant for LOTRO, is there a textual basis for this?

Perhaps these questions have been covered in sessions or field trips I have missed. If so, can someone please let me know how I can find them. If not, I would find it interesting to have a series of field trips that examine these questions, and examines the textual basis for the stuff we see as we wander the world of LOTRO (besides just discussing this or that architectural motif we see, and how it compares to what we've seen elsewhere, or why this building was built next to this rock - since I know a lot of the rock placement is auto-generated at random.)

LOTRO presents answers to most of these questions. I suppose in some cases, there is no lore and they just decide to do what they think makes sense. But it might be interesting to consider why they've answered the questions the way they have when they have very little or no lore to guide them.
 
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TThurston

Member
As I think about this now, I suppose that these questions are probably being considered (if at all) as they occur in the text of the books - Hobbit homes considered as the adventure proceeds to Crickhollow, or when we get to the scouring of the shire, and the men of Bree as the company moves through Bree and beyond, and so on. But I wonder if there will ever be a right time for talking about the things that are not directly covered in the books, like the homes and families of Elves and Dwarves. Only if we address them in field trips, perhaps.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Of the Bree-lands, we know that there were four villages (Bree, Staddle, Combe, and Archet). Hobbits lived mainly in Staddle, "though there were some in Bree itself, especially on the higher slopes of the hill above the houses of Men".

"The village of Bree had some hundred stone houses of the Big Folk, mostly above the Road, nestling on the hillside with windows looking west."

"The hobbits rode on up a gentle slope, passing a few detached houses, and drew up outside the inn." Does the mention of 'detached houses' imply that there were also semi-detached and terraced houses in Bree ('town houses' and 'row houses' for American readers)? Did JRRT mention that the houses were 'detached' so that his British readers could picture them more accurately (terraced and semi-detached houses being far more common in England than detached houses)? Or, did he mean the reader to picture that these houses (perhaps unusually for Bree) were detached?

Of course, in villages in England, detached houses would be more common than in towns or cities.

With one hundred houses of the Big Folk in Bree, plus Hobbits, living higher up the hill, we could estimate the total population of Bree village at less than 800 folk (probably considerably less). A fair number of the population seem to have gathered in the common room of the Prancing Pony. Judging by the names, and other clues in the text, there are 7 different surnames given for Big Folk of Bree present. There are also seven different surnames given for Little Folk of Bree present, with the Mugworts mentioned as 'numerous', and 'several' Underhills. As well as a couple of dwarves, 'one or two' strange-looking men, a few more dwarves, 'and other vague figures difficult to make out away in the shadows and corners.

All in all, there were probably about 24 locals, and 9 strangers (dwarves, southerners and Strider) for a total of about 33 (none of them women or children as far as we can see) in the Prancing Pony common room, plus Frodo, Pippin and Sam.

Circa 24 locals in the pub after dinner (out of at most 200 households) indicates a pretty strong pub culture in Bree village. If some locals visited the Pony at lunch time at least once a week, some visited after work and before dinner, and some came in for dinner or after dinner, then some 24 locals being in the pub after dinner on this night probably indicates that a large percentage of Bree-landers (at least the males) probably hung out in the Pony several times a week?

I think we can see that in the Bree-lands, people lived in houses (or hobbit holes) in individual families, and that they had a pretty strong pub culture.
 

TThurston

Member
Interesting analysis. It seems that this is one area where LOTRO's representation differs somewhat from the book. Was this difference considered in a Bree field trip?
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
What do we know about domestic arrangements in Rivendell?

Well, we only know 7 named Elves who live in Rivendell (Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, Arwen, Glorfindel, Erestor, Lindir). But we assume that many more actually live there:

When Frodo arrived for the feast, "The hall of Elrond's house was filled with folk: Elves for the most part."

In the Hall of Fire, "elvish minstrels began to make sweet music."

In the Hall of Fire, Frodo notes, "all about him the folk of Rivendell were gathered. But those near him were silent, intent upon the music of the voices and the instruments." Which indicates that there were not only many Elves all about Frodo, but others playing and singing.

In Appendix B, we learn that in 1697 Second Age, "Elrond retreats with remnant of the Noldor (of Eregion) and founds the refuge of Imladris". We do not know how numerous this 'remnant' was.

In Appendix A, we learn that in the final defeat of the Witch-king of Angmar, "a force under Glorfindel the Elf-lord came up out of Rivendell. Then so utterly was Angmar defeated that not a man nor an orc of that realm remained west of the Mountains." We do not know how strong Glorfindel's force was. However, we can assume that it was not the entire force of Rivendell, as presumably some would have remained behind with Elrond to defend the house.

When Bilbo first arrives at Rivendell, his company is met by a band of Elves singing the 'tra-la-la lally song. We don't know how numerous this chorus is. We do know that they are not the entire population of Rivendell as they report that "supper is preparing over there" (in the house), as they, "can smell the wood-fires for the cooking."

So, we don't know how many Elves lived in the one house (presumably a very large and rambling house) that was 'The Last Homely House East of the Sea'. I would presume as many as several hundred?

We can guess, from the feast in honor of Frodo, and from the comments of the tra-la-la-lally Elves, that cooking and eating was often done centrally and communally.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
For the domestic arrangements of the Woodland Elves of Mirkwood (Thranduil's and Legolas' people), we know quite a bit from 'The Hobbit'.

"They loved best the edges of the woods, from which they could escape at times to hunt, or to ride and run over the open lands by moonlight or starlight."

We know that Thranduil lived in (and had his dungeons in) a, "great cave, from which countless smaller ones opened out on every side, (it) wound far underground and had many passages and wide halls; but it was lighter and more wholesome than any goblin-dwelling, and neither so deep nor so dangerous." It had 'huge doors of stone (which opened and shut by magic), (before which) "a river ran out of the heights of the forest and flowed on and out into the marshes at the feet of the high wooded lands." There was a bridge over the river.

This cave, however, was the palace of the King, and a fortress of the people, but not where most of them lived. "The subjects of the king mostly lived and hunted in the open woods; and had houses or huts on the ground and in the branches."

From the palace, "Companies of the Wood-elves, sometimes with the king at their head, would from time to time ride out to hunt or to other business in the woods and in the lands in the East."

Besides hunting, and perhaps farming and herding on the plains to the east of Mirkwood, the Wood-elves traded. "Wine and other goods were brought from far away, from their kinsfold in the South, or from the vineyards of Men in distant lands." These goods came into the fortress caves via a water-gate, defended by a portcullis, which led to an underground stream flowing beneath the palace.

From the song of the stevedore Elves, we learn that kine and oxen live in the parts where the barrels floated on the river come from, and also gardens on hills, which grow berries. Also, some of the barrels have held apples. So, the Wood-elves may also trade for other agricultural products such as these.

From the numerous sightings of Elvish feasts in the forest, when the Dwarves are lost in Mirkwood, we guess that the Wood-elves may have often cooked and eaten communally and out of doors. Though there also appear to have been feasts in the palace, as the 'chief guard' says to the butler when proposing that they taste the new wine, "There is a feast tonight and it would not do to send up poor stuff." 'Send up' seems to imply a feast in the palace, as if the feast were to be in the woods, the guard might have said 'send out'. This is confirmed shortly, "As a matter of fact there was a great autumn feast in the woods that night, and in the halls above. Nearly all the king's folks were merrymaking."

So, domestic arrangements for the Wood-elves are that they live in houses or huts, on the ground or in trees, in the forest, presumably in family groups. They roamed out of the forest into the plains. They hunted, both in the forests and on the plains. They may have practiced both woodland and grassland agriculture or herding, but they also traded (mainly for wine and food items) with populations living south of the Long Lake. They often cooked and feasted communally, usually in the open in the forest, but also within the palace-fortress of their cave.
 

Forodan

Active Member
In Appendix A, we learn that in the final defeat of the Witch-king of Angmar, "a force under Glorfindel the Elf-lord came up out of Rivendell. Then so utterly was Angmar defeated that not a man nor an orc of that realm remained west of the Mountains." We do not know how strong Glorfindel's force was. However, we can assume that it was not the entire force of Rivendell, as presumably some would have remained behind with Elrond to defend the house.

When Bilbo first arrives at Rivendell, his company is met by a band of Elves singing the 'tra-la-la lally song. We don't know how numerous this chorus is. We do know that they are not the entire population of Rivendell as they report that "supper is preparing over there" (in the house), as they, "can smell the wood-fires for the cooking."

So, we don't know how many Elves lived in the one house (presumably a very large and rambling house) that was 'The Last Homely House East of the Sea'. I would presume as many as several hundred?
Elrond may have had a fairly large 'manor house' with space for many people of his household, not just family, but it seems unlikely that the actual Last Homely House was the only dwelling place in the valley. He is leading an army in retreat when he founds Rivendell. That's got to be thousands. We don't necessary have an account of all the structures in the valley, but there must be more than just the one house even if it's a large sprawling 'manor house' style of structure. After the defeat of Sauron there must have been a steady flow of leavers going to the havens. Maybe they have been pulling down structures and 're-wilding' as people left? That sounds like an Elvish thing to do. But if there were enough to send out as an army against Angmar, the population of the valley was still at least a few thousand at that point. Even this was some time ago by the time the events of The Lord of the Rings take place, though. Even more of the residents who originally arrived with Elrond had probably traveled to the havens and left Middle-earth by that point. Elrond's house is still probably not the only one, but it's is probably the dominant structure in the valley by now, though it may have been all along. :)
 
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