The Making of Paper

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
1.Well, define PRIMARY ILLITERATE then. Most historians think of roman and greek urban citizens as quite literate to some degree, not like all of their scholars , but many somewhat learned craftsmen, traders and even many learned slaves seem to have been quite adapt to reading and writing to some degree, at last whatever they needed in daily business life.But the RURAL folk NOT, they had little use for it and they were arguably the larger part of the population.The more wealthy famers, those who owned their own villae rusticae and were in the military probably were quite adapt, but most likely not their slaves, and client farm laborers.

And the Shire is not an urban society, it is a society of small villages, hamlets and manors in which few wealthy families hold lot of land and most others are self-sufficient farmers or else.

2. Well, we do not know much on the literacy of germanic tribesmen so it is all speculation.However i wouldn't find it surprising if people recognized some runes, especially well-known ones such as symbols and signs connected to specific famous people like that one ancient wandering wizard.

3. Oh ABSOLUTELY! I could totally see in the ealiest days of the shire some Hobbit gentry sending their kids to university at Fornost or Annuminas... after the breakdown of that system they'd turn towards personal apprenticeship, though i'd doubt they'd still learn Quenya or sindarin -but who knows?

4. exactly ☺
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
1.Well, define PRIMARY ILLITERATE then.
Middle Vistula river area up to the 5th century A.D.? (Please ignore the Goths passing though - I do mean the few locals) ;) No own letters, purely oral culture.


2. Well, we do not know much on the literacy of germanic tribesmen so it is all speculation.However i wouldn't find it surprising if people recognized some runes, especially well-known ones such as symbols and signs connected to specific famous people like that one ancient wandering wizard.
As heraldic signs and symbols, o.k.
But e.g. the Triskelion or the Hexafoil are ancient symbols used by various cultures and still in use today but never have been letters.
Some letters can take over such symbolic meaning - but then they do not function for the people using them in this way as letters at that moment - they become just signs for a meaning and not for a sound. Take the Chi Rho "☧" - it consists of two Greek letters but its meaning transcends those completely. Plenty of people do understand the sign without recognising the letter as part of the Greek alphabet and as such misinterpreting their sound value completely - still they do get the meaning of the sign.

3. Oh ABSOLUTELY! I could totally see in the ealiest days of the shire some Hobbit gentry sending their kids to university at Fornost or Annuminas... after the breakdown of that system they'd turn towards personal apprenticeship, though i'd doubt they'd still learn Quenya or sindarin -but who knows?
I would think so - to make sure that only the initiated can read their recipies and the copies of their ancient books.

4. exactly ☺
So what - having some black currant sherbet at the 3rd level of the Tower? ;)
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Regarding literacy among the Rohirrim. We have several statements that give a partial picture there.

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Aragorn describes the Rohirrim, saying they are, "wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs, after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years."
And the description of Meduseld: "the floor was paved with stones of many hues; branching runes and strange devices intertwined beneath their feet. ... Many woven cloths were hung upon the walls, and over their wide spaces marched figures of ancient legend..."

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:
Inscription on Snowmane's tomb:
"For Snowmane they dug a grave and set up a stone upon which was carved in the tongues of Gondor and the Mark: 'Faithful servant yet master's bane, Lighfoot's foal, swift Snowmane.' Green and long grew the grass on Snowmane's Howe."
Merry's silver horn: "Wrights had engraven upon it swift horsemen riding in a line that wound about if from the tip to the mouth; and there were set runes of great virtue. ... It was made by the Dwarves, and come from the hoard of Scatha the Worm. Eorl the Young brought it from the North."

Lord of the Rings Appendix E: "The Cirth in their older and simpler form spread eastward in the Second Age, and became known to many peoples, to Men and Dwarves, and even to Orcs, all of whom altered them to suit their purposes and according to their skill or lack of it. One such simple form was still used by the Men of Dale, and a similar one by the Rohirrim."

Unfinished Tales: "The King, becoming decrepit and seldom leaving his house, fell into the habit of issuing orders to Háma, Captain of his Household, to Elfhelm, and even to the Marshals of the Mark, by the mouth of Gríma Wormtongue. This was resented, but the orders were obeyed, within Edoras."

History of Middle-earth Vol XII: 'Of Dwarves and Men': "For instance, among the Rohirrim there can have been very few who did not understand the Common Speech, and most must have been able to speak it fairly well. The royal house, and no doubt many other families, spoke (and wrote) it correctly and familiarly. It was in fact King Théoden's native language: he was born in Gondor and his father Thengel had used the Common Speech in his own home even after his return to Rohan."
Footnote: "The Kings and their descendants after Thengel also knew the Sindarin tongue - the language of nobles in Gondor."

Taken together, we see that Rohan has a culture with an oral tradition and pictorial representation for preserving its history, and a system of government that relies upon public (spoken) statements. And yet, the royal family at least is trilingual and literate in one of the foreign languages. Tolkien also claims that 'many other families' in Rohan are literate in the Common Speech. The examples of literacy we see in Rohan are not contained in books/papers/parchment/scrolls, though. Rather, we see the runes written in stones on the floor of the Golden Hall, engraving on Snowmane's tomb, and the silver horn that is gifted to Merry (even if not made in Rohan, Eowyn seems fairly confident about what the runes written on it say). We know that the Rohirrim have their own (simplified) version of Cirth, which is perhaps the Futhark used by Anglo-Saxons.

Rohan seems to be a significantly less literate culture than Gondor, the Dwarves of Erebor, or the Shire, and yet even they can not rightly be described as 'illiterate.' Let's face it; Tolkien really liked literacy, and thus included much of it within the cultures he was depicting.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I have to agree with that.Though i still like to think the mentioned examples speak for a learned upper class and learned craftsmen, it is not necessarily a hint for -or against!- their society being widely literate through all various classes. I'd also like to point out: Rohan would not be similar to upper vistula valley in 5AD. More likely i'd compare it to one of the former roman colonies like Gallia or maybe better Britannia during a somewhat later time, maybe 6th or 7th ad , with far less urban centers and society having shifted more towards hillforts and small villiga-like burgs again due to decline of earlier urbi and coloniae.

I like to work with historic analogies, though i admit JRRT's techinque of remixing various historic cultures and eras doesn't make this always very easy.
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
Rohan seems to be a significantly less literate culture than Gondor, the Dwarves of Erebor, or the Shire, and yet even they can not rightly be described as 'illiterate.' Let's face it; Tolkien really liked literacy, and thus included much of it within the cultures he was depicting.
As I said above - many of the adult Rohirric riders would not have reached that level of literacy that the Hobbiton children show: instatly recognising the letter "G" on the fireworks as a letter - not just a sign - and then instantly finding another word that starts with it. It shows they also get the concept of an abbreviation. This involves the knowledge of how letters are used to represent sounds to build a word. And that would be knowledge that the Rohirric noblemen and specialists have, not normal herders.
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
That is a speculation argumentum ad ignorantiam.
We simply do not know if the common rohan horseman would have been able to read the runes on the Halls or Barrow stones. I'd like to think even if he was not fully literate upper class he may have been able to recognize some.Especially if they had sole-standing meanings apart from just letters in a script.

Sam did not go to any school.He learned letters from his boss or employer (or "Dominus"?) as a private apprentice, his father was positive to it but hadn't send his son to any school nor he talks like somebody who is aware of the existence of public schools at all. I take that as evidence that private schooling in these things wa rhe way Hobbits learned to read and write, and it wasn't too common for the rural working man.The hobbit children who know letter G ... maybe they were took- or baggins brats... upper-class kids.Or they were what i already did describe and which has been very common throughout history.Illiterate people who know 8ne or two letters or symbols.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
That is a speculation argumentum ad ignorantiam.
We simply do not know if the common rohan horseman would have been able to read the runes on the Halls or Barrow stones. I'd like to think even if he was not fully literate upper class he may have been able to recognize some.
history.Illiterate people who know 8ne or two letters or symbols.
I am not saying about merely recognising a letter or even knowing the sound value attached to it in Rohan. I speak of understanding how the mechanics of reading works. That takes a lot time to grasp and is best done at a certain relatively young age. Why and how should the common Rohirric horseman waste his time with it?

Sam did not go to any school.He learned letters from his boss or employer (or "Dominus"?) as a private apprentice, hif father was positive to it but hadn't send his son to any school nor he talks like somebody who is aware of the existence of public schools at all. The hobbit children who inow letter G ... maybe they were took- or baggins brats... upper-class kids.Or they were what i already did describe and which has been very common throughout history.Illiterate people who know 8ne or two letters or symbols.
They would recognise a letter - but still do not get abbrevation part not would be able to find another word starting with the same letter - that is above just mere recognising a sign. A more complex cognitive process that requires the brain to get used to it by repeated training - I do have a child that has just finished her 1st grade this year - I do still vividly remember how long it takes for this process to finally automatize... (a couple of months of frustration and tears"...)
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Aragorn describes the Rohirrim, saying they are, "wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs, after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years."
This is actually interesting and tells us something about the culture - "writing no books" - hobbit do write books. Writing books brings a huge change in perspective in a culture - it also fixates a language in time and slows down its natural change - and this does affect even those illiterate among a given culture - who often imitiate and start also to use the techniques and attitudes that the literate use in their daily speach - and forget some of those that oral cultures use - like the fixed formulae or the frequent use of repetitions - a new level of intraspection and precision appears, the over-exagerad interpunction pauses when speaking - but first and foremost things like side-remarks - taken from notes scribed on margins in a book - comments - insertions mirrowing footnotes - certain textual metastructures - speaking in points - making a point - very specific things connected to construction a text that then work back on the spoken language and forever change it... In a culture that writes books in its one landuage the speach gradually becomes more text-like - the process has its limits but is clearly there... And as some thought processing involves "inner speach" it also influences thought and the perception of world and self...
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
That rider would have to be very ignorant if he always sees rune inscriptions on important places like chieftains halls or holy burial places and doesn't recognize them...
Doesn't mean he'll have to learn to read or write! A smith might know runes, a nobleman for sure, a trader maybe, a herdsman or farmhand... i doubt it!

Hobbits write...largely genealogies. But i agree. Rohirrim do not write books.Maybe inscriptions, maybe even letters, or scrolls, but not books.They are not very learned.

Hobbits also have the reputation of being simple but unlearned-but they are learned in their own ways, they write family chronicles and letters, if little else. And i doubt there are Gamgee or Roper chronicles... Took, Bagginses, Brandybuck chronicles -sure!

A 6 or 7 year old child ... that is very different from a 10 year old child or a 21 year old adult.People will,learn what they need and catch up lots of things which they are confronted with on a regular basis.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
According to the Hobbit, the map that Gandalf gives Thorin is paper:

Gandalf: "Your father could not remember his own name when he gave me the paper, and he never told me yours; so on the whole I think I ought to be praised and thanked."

This map predates the fall of Erebor to Smaug in TA 2770.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
This is all really interesting, and probably a bit deeper into this than we ever needed delve. At this point, I'd consider the linguistic evidence enough that the Elves utilize paper. That the Hobbits use paper makes it unlikely that the cultures around them do not. Especially since, as Marie points out, the dwarves do as well. I'll monitor this thread more casually going forward, but thus far I have not seen anything that would dissuade me from paper use in our scripts. Good work everyone.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
According to the Hobbit, the map that Gandalf gives Thorin is paper:

Gandalf: "Your father could not remember his own name when he gave me the paper, and he never told me yours; so on the whole I think I ought to be praised and thanked."

This map predates the fall of Erebor to Smaug in TA 2770.
Oh, very interesting! Because it is made to look like parchment in the movies - do not have a printed The Hobbit by hand. Is the word used not to alienate the children - the intended audience of the story? Do we have paper somewhere else in the story in the Hobbit outside of the Shire?

But could the map predate the Fall of Erebor? Smaug is drawn on it it already. The "Desolation of Smaug" is a place name placed in the centre - Dain Lord in Dale is put in past tense - "here was"?

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It could have been made in exile. It was not needed before, before the Fall of Erebor a map would have shown how to get to the secret door from the inside - the knowledge how to find it from the outside has not yet been required - one just used the main door?

It was yet an emergency exit, not a possible future break-in point?

We know dwarves flew to the Blue Montains - and that way led though the Shire at some point - they very well might have drawn the map on their way on any sheet they could get hold of while their memory was still fresh?

So either the map was drawn after the Fall of Erebor or Bilbo replaced the original map in his oral deliveries of that tale (to the children - maybe even handing the modified and simplified version around) and later in book to be merely a prop/visual help for the listener/reader. If he has done so, he was not above rephrasing Gandalf's statement accordingly.

We already do know that Bilbo tampered with his story for various reasons - to enhance the performance of the tale and to contextualise it for the hobbit children I would find the most innocent of those, actually - [or having Tolkien handing the map to his own children while telling the story ;) ].

Imho Bilbo is first and foremost an entetainer and chronicler second.

Insomuch his way of story-telling is still more audience-oriented - more "oral" - that e.g. that of Frodo or Sam.

Doesn't mean he'll have to learn to read or write! A smith might know runes, a nobleman for sure, a trader maybe, a herdsman or farmhand... i doubt it!
So we do agree here.

Hobbits write...largely genealogies. But i agree. Rohirrim do not write books. Maybe inscriptions, maybe even letters, or scrolls, but not books.They are not very learned.
Which means family trees - which means structures - which means analytic thinking how to express complex intertwined multidirectional relationships in 2D. Quite a complex task.

Remember the: "He's my second cousin once removed on his mother's side" line from the movies? This is far more reflective and requires counting the generations on a diagram than just to claim somebody to be his/her fraternal or maternal kin or "sister's daughter". It also requires the awarness that something can be viewed from multiple points of view - like the different family connections from several sides.

But constructing a text differs from mere telling - weaving - a story. A word once said is gone. You do not self-edit - you have to work with what you have said (as any adult who told an inprovised self-invented story to children will notice soon enough... ;) ) . As such it is far more important how and when something is said that what words exactly has been used. When people start to use text they tend to pay less attention to how something is said but get fixated on the specific word they use - they start to self-edit - rephrase (the: "let me rephrase this" line) - correct - take words back - listen to oneself speaking as they would reflect on a sentence that they write - focus more on the topic than on the audience and the immidiate effect they have on their recipient. It also makes word-plays more sophisticated.

And the Rohirric nobles would for sure dictate and read letter - at least with the outer world. Would they write them by hand themselves? I think they would have scribes for that - who would also do the editing - maybe before signing one would re-read the written text to check if it was as intended and the just sign or put one's seal on it.

Hobbits also have the reputation of being simple but unlearned-but they are learned in their own ways, they write family chronicles and letters, if little else. And i doubt there are Gamgee or Roper chronicles... Took, Bagginses, Brandybuck chronicles -sure!
As I said literacy tends to "bleed down" into broader society as people tend to immitate the upper classes with time. Some - even if not all - figures of speach and elements of text-construction tend to be used also by people who whoud never construct a real text themselves. And some - who for whatever reason cannot write fluently themselves - can learn how to dictate a functional text or letter by having heard plenty of texts/letters read to them.

A 6 or 7 year old child ... that is very different from a 10 year old child or a 21 year old adult.People will,learn what they need and catch up lots of things which they are confronted with on a regular basis.
Yeah - it is usuallly considered harder to learn to read the older one gets. Beyond some very gifted individdums once this learning windows closes in childhood it becomes very difficult to become really fluent in it... ;) Usually one has to learn reading any language in any script untill a certain age - then the brain gets used to the concept and it is easier to learn other systems. Forcing an adolescent or older to learn to read from scratch is quite difficult for all sides involved - and in some rare cases might even be found impossible. Otherwise no one would keep to torture relatively young children with it.
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
This is all really interesting, and probably a bit deeper into this than we ever needed delve. At this point, I'd consider the linguistic evidence enough that the Elves utilize paper. That the Hobbits use paper makes it unlikely that the cultures around them do not. Especially since, as Marie points out, the dwarves do as well. I'll monitor this thread more casually going forward, but thus far I have not seen anything that would dissuade me from paper use in our scripts. Good work everyone.
I am fine with paper being used as long it is a a conscious decission aware of the consequences and implications for the world-building and with some ready answers for those among the fans who will ask about it - remember Tolkien fandom is huge and there will always some fans who will find the use of paper problematic - and as controversy sells - it will be picked up by some of the "influencers" - as such it is well to have a in-world working explaination provided for it in advance. In "Meta-Tolkien" terms - it would need some "retcon" or better even - a story behing it.

As - as we see now - a vocal part of the potential audience will not simply take "because we tell so" from the producers and script-writers as an answer. ;)

Tolkien - for the most part - tried to engange with those kind of questions from his readers - tried to preempt some of those - by giving us a long passage on pipe-weed - he generally thought it a sign of his readers taking his story seriously and has not felt threatened by it.

Tolkien was a scholar, a scientist and a teacher - he was used and expected and welcomed peer-review, which, while not always pleasant - is a usefull tool in science on its jorney towards "finding out the truth". This truth might be fictional, like in the Arda's fictive world, still the process to get there stays the same. Tolkien himself questioned and critiqued others - as a teacher and as a fellow scientist this was a big part of his job - but was ready to be questioned in return, too.

And he keept re-adapting his own stories - the Simarillion started in the imagination - the Hobbit started orally - while tLoTR started out written as a text.

Has somebody read the begun rewritten Hobbit? - The map has to feature there too - has it been moved to parchment in it? Has it been re-drawn into an "adult" version?

And speaking of adaptation choices - now it is clear while the Jackson's Hobbit trilogy choose to move the map on parchment in its own visual adaptation of the material.

This is all really interesting, and probably a bit deeper into this than we ever needed delve.
I do think Tolkien would delve as deep - otherwise we would never get neither the hobbit genealogies nor the history of pipe-weed.

The whole purpose of this thread is the be aware that "paper" comes with its own amount of cultural and historical baggage just like "tobacco" does. As long as we adjust for it as Tolkien did with his "pipe-weed" - then it should be fine.
 
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