At first, it was nothing unusual for me
I was just thinking about where I would go if able to travel to any remote place in Middle-earth, to seek, discover, and explore.
Then I thought it would be fun to include the visions and imaginings of my readersthe online community of Tolkien fans. In my previous Out on a Limb I asked everyone to pick a place within Arda that struck their fancy and write about it. What would you see there? What would you feel? Would you encounter things of beauty or danger? This kind of mental travel is quite invigorating, and I was curious what people would contribute.
Without further ado, here are YOUR top ten choices for those hidden-away corners of Middle-earth:
- The Endless Stair (within the Silvertine)
I dream of the Endless Stair. The spiraling path of "many thousand steps" which leads from the secret depths of Moria to Durins Tower on top of Celebdil, known to the dwarves as Zirak-Zigil. Unlike other towers this one is not built, but is hollowed out of the top of a mountain! Does the exterior of this long abandoned tower look like the mountain, or is the exterior carved to simulate a thing made by the hands of the most talented of artisans? I emerge from the darkness of the stair to gaze out across the bright world from the stony spire. Lesser mountains and clouds fall away below me, unable to compete with the permanence and timelessness of the edifice under my feet. Vertigo threatens momentarily, but the world settles and seems to accept my presence. To the East the lands bordering the Anduin and the vast darkness of Mirkwood are plain to see, the forest punctuated by the even darker blotch where Dol Guldur stands, like a crouching animal. To the West the Greyflood flows purposefully to the sea, through the southern expanses of Eriador. To the southeast, Lórien lies like an emerald set in silver and gold, while Fangorn broods in mossy quietness to the south. I gaze at the view which once belonged only to the Dwarfish Father, Durin, and wonder what his perception of this land was. A mine? A treasure? A home? Perhaps a future, a bright future without the most deadly of Dwarven Banes the Balrogs of Morgoth.
- The Mountains of Mirkwood
North of the Old Forest Road lies one of the most inaccessible locations in all of Middle Earth. Despite their proximity to the realms of Thranduils Wood Elves, the mountains of Mirkwood still remain extremely remote and utterly wild. Rising out of the choking, stifling influence of the great forest this isolated range of mountains offer a look back into the deep past of Rhovanion largely undisturbed since the beginning of days. Imagine yourself in the footsteps of Nandor Elves as they wandered the many pillared halls of Greenwood the great only to suddenly see peaks thrust up in the distance. Stroll in the meadows and wade the crystalline streams perhaps untouched by any hand since the beginning.
As you climb higher and higher into the mountains you look down in wonder on the vast forest that stretches off below you in every direction. Deep in a hidden valley you come across a stream crashing down steep slopes and laugh in delight when you realize you stand at the source of the Enchanted River. Finally as you climb those mountains in the Northeast you spy, at a great distance, a faint glimmer of water and perhaps the barest hint of a single great peak rising from the horizon, the Lonely Mountain. Perhaps no eye other than yours has beheld this very scene.
- Firien Wood (Firienholt, or The Whispering Wood)
If I could tour any place in Middle-earth, I would go to the grave of Elendil in the Firien Wood. It is a lonely place among the quiet trees. The peace felt in this hallowed place must be tremendous. I would like to walk the tree-shadowed path to Amon Awar and climb the stone stair to the summit and gaze eastward to see the alfirin-adorned mound, touched by the sun. I can think of no better place for deep thought, for meditation or for restoration of the soul. And having once found this silent place, I imagine that it would be difficult to leave.
- The Submerged Númenor
Rather like the expeditions that uncovered the Titanic, I would pick the spot on the ocean directly over the highest peak of Númenor. I don't remember if it was my imagination or somewhere in Tolkien but I've pictured bells ringing in the deep as the water flows through them. And maybe at low tide you could just make out the high peak of the highest tower far below, or maybe it would even be revealed to the open air at the troughs of some waves, its banner sodden but still attached. Wow!
Leo K. ODrudy, III
- Mórenorë (The Dark Land)
If I was to wander one of the many lands of Arda, I would visit the Dark Land, smallest of the three continents (discluding Númenor of course). Of all the places in Arda, Mórenorë is the place that none truly know much about. Endor and Aman have been visited by the children of Eru, but not many have visited this small dark continent. It is said to be haunted and populated only by wild people and strange monsters. This information sounds intriguing to me. Imagine standing on a hill (sorry Treebeard) and looking across a strange plain, shifting with wraiths and other inanimate forms like shadows under a wandering sun, or observing the crude barbarism of a native tribe, living a normal hunter-gathering life and then erupting into chaos as it must defend its leader from a pack of strange monsters. Of all the places in Arda, this is where I would travel.
Fuinrauko (Quenya: "Gloomy Demon")
- The Paths of Daeron
Not so much a place, more a geographical mystery: What became of Daeron, Sindarin rune-smith and bard of Doriath? Where did he tread his long, lonely march? Does he wander still? First, we could follow him through the landscapes of Beleriand. But this is the Beleriand of the later First Age, harsh and overrun with orcs and the creatures of Morgoth. There is danger at the fringes of knowledge: In the depths of mists, exposed high of barren hills, under the leaves of woods. There is always terror just out of sight. The homes of many men and elves are now abandoned, occupied by fell things. It is similar in many ways to the landscape of Beowulf and Grendel. Isolated homesteads, besieged by fear as much as monsters. Who and what did he encounter in those last days of the First Age? From afar did he perceive the host of Valinor?
If Daeron survives the destruction of Beleriand, what of his Second Age? We must presume he avoided others of his kind in the west. He would have seen the coming of the Númenoreans to Middle-earth, where they came as masters. Perhaps he saw the deforestation of Eriador or felt the contest between Númenor and Sauron for the mastery of Men in other, undetailed regions. Perhaps he reached Númenor itself, seeing the descent into darkness and the fear of death.
And of the Third Age where did he tread? The frozen north and the realm of dragons? Or perhaps the bazaars of Umbar? The deserts of Harad? Or beyond the maps and imaginings of our author?
I Am Not A Gun
- Withered Heath
I imagine this place as reminiscent of Northern Scotland. Cold, bleak and cheerless. I picture skeletons of both the winged dragons and the slithering drakes dotting the landscape. I'm sure that when nobody else is around (such as a wandering dwarf from the Grey Mountains and Iron Hills or one of the Northmen ancestors of the Rohirrim) they fight among themselves. The battles must be awesome to behold, like watching dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
This island sits smack out where Beleriand used to be. I'll bet it is covered with relics and ruins. Perhaps it has some sort of isolated elf colony that hasn't had contact with anyone since the Eldar Days. Actually, if I'm not mistaken, the island is at the same site of Maedhros' and Maglor's old fortress. Maybe we'll find Maglor wandering on the shore singing his eternal lament.
- The Great South (Haradwaith)
I would like to visit the great south, way lower than lands of Gondor ever reach. Into the tropical reaches of Harad and the cities of the Corsairs. It must be exotic, with rain forests, maybe a band of deserts surrounding it, and nice beaches opening on the shore. But you'd also have to consider the religion down there. True, they did seem to be allied with Mordor, but how were they in their homeland? They could have been kind and loving, not knowing any other ally besides Sauron. And what was their equivalent of the Maia and the gods? Did they have orcs? Or was it like any other tropical place with more dangers like snakes and predators?
I'd like to live in Lebennin, along the River Gilrain, at the fork in the river near Ethring. The region of Lebennin seems especially picturesque, and I imagine lazy, rolling plains with green aplenty, and many colorful local folk to chat with. Of course, Minas Tirith is a boat-ride away, or a trek through gorgeous terrain, a trek that makes me shudder with anticipation. Well there you have it; not too creative perhaps, but honest and simpleminded in the tradition of Master Samwise. Thanks again for the inspiration!
And of course theres much more that I dont have room to print here. Last month, I sought to enroll people in this activity with the following suggestion:
I was astonished by the many delightful responses! This is a great start to something that can be revisited and expanded upon. If I receive more submissions as thoughtful as the ones above, I will gladly publish them in the near future.
This exercise lays out one simple idea based on the vast expanse of Tolkiens fictional world. An idea at the root of which we find a powerful testament. Basically, that what is at first a ripping good adventure tale gradually becomes a world we inhabit. The remarkable places that are on the page become embedded in our subconscious, our dreams
an extension of our own creative selves.
How extraordinary that one man, with such skill and beauty, could influence the daydreams and creative spirit of so many!