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Old 03-06-2012, 05:32 PM   #18
A Mere Boggart
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: under the bed
Posts: 4,804
Lalwendė is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendė is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
What lies beyond the door in the Paths of the Dead? Something that Men wanted to keep secret, somewhere that they were engaged in very dark and unpleasant things. This is from an issue of the journal Vinyar Tengwar, and one of my very favourite chilling passages in all of Tolkien's work:

The special horror of the closed door before which the skeleton of Baldor was found was probably because the door was the entrance to an evil temple hall [of the same Men of Darkness to which the Oathbreakers presumably belonged] to which Baldor had come, probably without opposition up to that point. But the door was shut in his face, and enemies that had followed him silently came up and broke his legs and left him to die in the darkness, unable to find any way out.
I suspect that what lies in there could potentially be very interesting to an Middle-earth archaeologist but it could also be very unpleasant, and with a story attached to it like this, almost like a 'curse', who would want to go in there? It's a shame, as the way to the path under the mountain is clearly truly ancient, much more ancient than the Numenorean culture and part of the intriguing past of the Woses. Then other Men, with sinister intent came along and things changed. But it was once different, and I've said before that the whole description of this 'complex' reminds me of Avebury, West Kennet and the Sanctuary

At each turn of the road there were great standing stones that had been carved in the likeness of men, huge and clumsy-limbed, squatting cross-legged with their stumpy arms folded on fat bellies. Some in the wearing of the years had lost all features save the dark holes of their eyes that still stared sadly at the passers-by. The Riders hardly glanced at them. The Pukel-men they called them, and heeded them little: no power or terror was left in them; but Merry gazed at them with wonder and a feeling almost of pity, as they loomed up mournfully in the dusk.
The Dead Marshes fascinate me for other reasons. These are like the meres and mosslands I grew up amongst, and which were once so much more extensive, forming England's biggest lake before the land was drained. Peat moss preserves bodies very well as seen by the 'bog bodies' that have been found, often sacrificial victims, and log boats used to be turned over by the farmers in the fields where I used to live, preserved there for centuries but falling to nothing as soon as they were exposed to the air (I imagine a weapon taken from the Dead Marshes might do the same). Nobody would wish to pass through the Dead Marshes if they could avoid it as they would be treacherous, and to add to this, the stories of fallen warriors tempting the unwary to their deaths would only add to the sense that this was a place to be avoided. In the world I know, Celia Fiennes took great care in 1698, during her horseback tour around England, to avoid Martin Mere as it was treacherous.

I think the third main place that intrigues me in Middle-earth would be the Barrow Downs of course. But the tales of wights would be enough I think to again put off any prospective archaeologists. That again is echoed in the real world as I don't think there can be many ancient monuments which come without an attached legend or cautionary tale.

This is probably why you don't hear much of archaeology in Middle-earth. The myths and folk tales are still in the reach of history and not in the far, distant past, and who would want to go poking about in a sinister temple or the site of a terrible battle that's also a treacherous mere when these stories were fully believed?
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