Session 5-25: Harad

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
In theory... there could well be a coastal mountainchain in harad... there is one labeled as "grey mountains" on the shaping of middle-earth map. So afro-alpine and coastal is quite possible.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Last night's discussion touched on this, actually! We considered the question of 'coastal mountains or coastal plains?' and landed on...plains. There was a strong desire to give them plenty of farmland for agriculture. Food is plentiful and exported here, and the marketplace has foodstalls. They are a peaceful land of plenty (not unlike the Shire).

So, here's a fuller picture of our Harad-based location:

Latitude-wise, we are probably in the Sahel region. There was a desire to keep a mostly dry climate rather than a wet tropical climate. Also, no monsoon season, because the desire is that 'steady and unchanging' be a good way of describing life in this city, and yearly floods, or the river drying up to prevent trade for half the year would be the types of major changes that would occur over the course of our Frame, disrupting that presentation.

It is a coastal port city south of Umbar. While Umbar has remained antagonistic towards Gondor throughout its history, this particular city-state merely pays tribute to Umbar for protection from the north. So, Gondor is more a theoretical enemy than an enemy of recent memory here, and the city is not particularly militarized (they have guards and city walls). The Gondorian captain who is sailing here for trade purposes must have a way to pass through the waters of the Corsairs safely - possibly as a smuggler who flies Umbar flags, possibly by paying protection money.

The port itself is at the mouth of a river, and the river is not navigable to ocean-going vessels. A brisk barge trade passes up and down the river. Metals/ores/stone from inland mountains come down the river; foodstuffs and linen pass upriver. The town is renowned for its fine brightly dyed linen cloth. On one side of the river is a high bluff (maybe 20'), where the castle is located. This structure is originally of Numenorean design. There are very old city walls made of clay/mud bricks, and later construction in stone (once the port traffic picked up). The port is controlled by the city, and there are tolls/tariffs that account for the city's prosperity. The queen is from a hereditary royal family, and her position is mostly figure-head, control of port security, postmaster general, etc. Her people have a great deal of affection for her, but her power is limited and she does not control every aspect of life in her city. A Council of Elders handles the legislative/judicial responsibilities (so, oligarchical with an emphasis on the power of the traders).

At the far end of the city from the palace/castle are the ruins of the original temple of Sauron from the Second Age. This city-state was loyal to Sauron in the Sauron vs Numenor wars of the late Second Age, in a 'throw off your Numenorean oppressors!' kind of way. After Sauron's defeat in the Last Alliance, support for Sauron in this city-state waned. Now, nearly three millennia later, Sauron is remembered as an ancestral god, but the people are pretty hazy on his story. No one remembers orcs or human sacrifice or any of the darker sides of his worship. While the religion of the cult of Sauron is inactive in the years before the opening of our frame story, cultural celebrations of a holiday dedicated to Sauron have continued each year. Because of this popular support and natural good will towards talk of Sauron among her people, the queen is hesitant to openly resist the cult of Sauron. She is keen to maintain the independence of her city-state (wants no allegiance with Mordor), and the Council of Elders is mostly derisive towards the street preachers and other Sauron-supporters, who are viewed as fanatics.

Now, as our story opens, street preachers have shown up in the city calling for people to return to the worship of Sauron and the ways of their ancestors. The Mouth of Sauron herself visits the city to petition the queen to rebuild the ruined temple. As preparations for the yearly festival ramp up, there is more pressure for the people of the town to join in the activities of the cult of Sauron. The festival is celebrated with a parade/procession, and the people give gifts to children on this day. Everyone wears brightly decorated clothing and eats a celebratory meal (of curried sea bass!) The procession may or may not involve a white oliphaunt, and a child throwing tin rings to the crowd :p

Gandalf comes to town to warn of the dangers of joining with Sauron. But he is pitted against a cultural heritage that remembers Sauron as a benevolent god-king (more gift-giver Annatar persona than tyrant). And everyone loves their beloved holiday, so talk against it is seen as very wet blanket and Oliver Cromwell-like. Also, Gandalf is clearly a foreigner, so he is accused of being an agent of Gondor and an enemy. In the end, the Mouth of Sauron is able to orchestrate a revolt, in which the people rebel against their queen who, though beloved, is clearly under foreign influence and dares to speak against Sauron. She is deposed in a coup, and her younger son takes charge. He disbands the Council of Elders, and takes more direct control of the city...and also pays homage to Sauron. The older son flees to Gondor with Gandalf, where he becomes a guest in the court of Ecthelion the Steward - we will see him again when Thorongil comes to that court as well. The younger son will not be seen again until he appears at the Morannon as the Mouth of Sauron, 70 years later.

How does that sound?
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Naturally, the celebration of a mostly secular holiday that has religious roots is not one we are unfamiliar with in our culture. Christmas is a national holiday in the US, so having time off work/school to celebrate is common, even if one is not Christian. And the celebration with Santa, decorating with lights and Christmas trees, eating candy and exchanging gifts - all of these aspects of the celebration can be done in a very secular way. Similarly, the celebration of Mardi Gras/Carnival is largely secular. It's a festive party with floats and parades and costumes, and sure, it's pre-Lent, but...one doesn't need to observe Lent to celebrate Mardi Gras. Contrast this with processions for Holy Week or Las Posadas - the religious component of those observances is much more intrinsic than a Mardi Gras parade!

So, what we are picturing for our frame story is a similar situation to someone planning a Christmas celebration, and the zealots being very insistent about Sauron being the reason for the season. They are right - the holiday is meant to celebrate Sauron! But...they are also dangerous, because, well...Sauron.

So, we need to come up with a theme for the holiday - what is it they are celebrating each year? Some victory or accomplishment of Sauron? Not his 'birthday' - he's a Maia and that's not very meaningful. And naturally you wouldn't celebrate his defeat or loss. So...what, then? And when in the year is it? (The location is Northern Hemisphere, so the seasons are the same as in our other Middle-earth locations (but more tropical)).
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Naturally, the celebration of a mostly secular holiday that has religious roots is not one we are unfamiliar with in our culture. Christmas is a national holiday in the US, so having time off work/school to celebrate is common, even if one is not Christian. And the celebration with Santa, decorating with lights and Christmas trees, eating candy and exchanging gifts - all of these aspects of the celebration can be done in a very secular way. Similarly, the celebration of Mardi Gras/Carnival is largely secular. It's a festive party with floats and parades and costumes, and sure, it's pre-Lent, but...one doesn't need to observe Lent to celebrate Mardi Gras. Contrast this with processions for Holy Week or Las Posadas - the religious component of those observances is much more intrinsic than a Mardi Gras parade!

So, what we are picturing for our frame story is a similar situation to someone planning a Christmas celebration, and the zealots being very insistent about Sauron being the reason for the season. They are right - the holiday is meant to celebrate Sauron! But...they are also dangerous, because, well...Sauron.

So, we need to come up with a theme for the holiday - what is it they are celebrating each year? Some victory or accomplishment of Sauron? Not his 'birthday' - he's a Maia and that's not very meaningful. And naturally you wouldn't celebrate his defeat or loss. So...what, then? And when in the year is it? (The location is Northern Hemisphere, so the seasons are the same as in our other Middle-earth locations (but more tropical)).
Perhaps associated with harvest time? Passover?
 

Ryan Kimbell

New Member
Hi, I wanted to make a note of the parallels between this frame and Stephen King's 'Wizard and Glass' (The Dark Tower IV). I'll elaborate on this, but if you don't want to read it all, the point is: I love the "Harad Christmas" idea and think it should be the climactic moment of the frame where everything falls apart for Incanus. Naturally, **major spoiler warnings** for Wizard and Glass if you read further.

In 'Wizard and Glass', the Dark Tower series protagonist Roland Deschain describes part of his backstory. In it, the young Roland [Incanus] leaves his home on secret assignment from his father to check out the distant land of Mejis [Harad], because there are concerns about the growing power of a mysterious, never-seen bad guy John Farson [Sauron]. Once in Mejis, Roland and his two companions mingle around and try to make friends with the locals while spying on and working against the bad guy's ambassadors, the Big Coffin Hunters [street preacher], and an evil witch, Rhea of the Coos [Mouth of Sauron]. Roland also meets and falls in love with Susan Delgado. While partially successful, things eventually go really bad. Rhea has manipulated the populace into hating the outsiders. At the end, the annual celebration of the harvest Reap, which is usually celebrated by quaintly burning "stuffy guys" (scarecrows), culminates in the capture and burning of Susan Delgado in a very creepy, ritualistic scene ("Come, Reap! Charyou Tree! Death for thee, life for my crops! Charyou Tree!").

While I know we're not looking to turn the entire town into bloodthirsty Sauron worshippers by the final episode, I think that the "Harad Christmas" preparations and festive air should shift from quaint to unsettling and the final episode should have some kind of direct "reclamation" of the Sauron temple by the Mouth and her followers. Thoughts?

Btw, this is my first post, although I've been listening to SilmFilm for 3+ years, lol.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Hi, I wanted to make a note of the parallels between this frame and Stephen King's 'Wizard and Glass' (The Dark Tower IV). I'll elaborate on this, but if you don't want to read it all, the point is: I love the "Harad Christmas" idea and think it should be the climactic moment of the frame where everything falls apart for Incanus. Naturally, **major spoiler warnings** for Wizard and Glass if you read further.

In 'Wizard and Glass', the Dark Tower series protagonist Roland Deschain describes part of his backstory. In it, the young Roland [Incanus] leaves his home on secret assignment from his father to check out the distant land of Mejis [Harad], because there are concerns about the growing power of a mysterious, never-seen bad guy John Farson [Sauron]. Once in Mejis, Roland and his two companions mingle around and try to make friends with the locals while spying on and working against the bad guy's ambassadors, the Big Coffin Hunters [street preacher], and an evil witch, Rhea of the Coos [Mouth of Sauron]. Roland also meets and falls in love with Susan Delgado. While partially successful, things eventually go really bad. Rhea has manipulated the populace into hating the outsiders. At the end, the annual celebration of the harvest Reap, which is usually celebrated by quaintly burning "stuffy guys" (scarecrows), culminates in the capture and burning of Susan Delgado in a very creepy, ritualistic scene ("Come, Reap! Charyou Tree! Death for thee, life for my crops! Charyou Tree!").

While I know we're not looking to turn the entire town into bloodthirsty Sauron worshippers by the final episode, I think that the "Harad Christmas" preparations and festive air should shift from quaint to unsettling and the final episode should have some kind of direct "reclamation" of the Sauron temple by the Mouth and her followers. Thoughts?

Btw, this is my first post, although I've been listening to SilmFilm for 3+ years, lol.
First thing, welcome!

Ok, so I'm not going to pretend I understand all of the pieces you described. But I think you're pretty close to where we've been going. One of the things we are planning for the culminating episode is for the cultists to dramatize a ritual human sacrifice. No one is killed, we'll be able to see where they're going.

As to reclaiming the temple, that starts earlier in the season, with the Mouth of Sauron trying to get the temple rebuilt.
 
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