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Old 01-09-2010, 10:59 AM   #1
Goldberry123
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Shield The Rohirrim, why horses?

The Rohirrim are defined by their love of horses, but why horses in the first place? What are their significance?

Thanks!
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Old 01-09-2010, 11:17 AM   #2
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Their connection to horses can be traced back to their ancestors who lived in Rhovanion, having settled there some time before 1250 TA.
Living in an area of large, grassy plains it was useful for them to ride horses to get around quickly and perhaps also to use them for farming.

From them the Éothéod descended, whose name does mean horse-people. They moved north between the Langwell and the Greylin and later rode back south to the aid of Gondor and received Rohan in return.

Again, in Rohan it was useful to have horses since the large, grassy plains made it ideal to ride around.
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Old 01-09-2010, 11:23 AM   #3
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I've done a lot of research over the past few days into the general significance of horses in LOTR but am drawing a blank.

In some instances they reflect the character of their rider, they can tell us a lot about a civilization. But is there more? Am I missing something?

I have many unanswered questions questions, for instance... Why does Shadowfax allow Gandalf, rather than anyone else, ride him?
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Old 01-09-2010, 11:27 AM   #4
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I have many unanswered questions questions, for instance... Why does Shadowfax allow Gandalf, rather than anyone else, ride him?
The answer to that must lie in Gandalf's nature as a Maia, sent by the Valar. The Vala Oromë could have been at work there, providing the leader of the fight against Sauron with the one horse that could bear him swifter than any other, and stand up to the terror of the Nazgűl.
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Old 01-09-2010, 02:51 PM   #5
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Horses were of great importance for most of people living in steppe, whether they were Gots, Mongols or Cossaks. Tolkien is quite accurate in his reconstructions.
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Old 01-09-2010, 05:39 PM   #6
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The Rohirrim have horses because the Anglo-Saxons lost to the Normans. Tolkien felt that if King Harold and his Housecarls had had a standing cavalry in 1066, they would not have lost the Battle of Hastings, and England, to the invading William the Bastard and his motley band of Norman barons and continental freebooters. Thus, the Anglo-Saxon monarchy would have retained sovereignity over England, and remained to subjugate, overtax and make lives miserable for the peasantry, rather than have foreigners do the same except much more efficiently.
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Old 01-09-2010, 07:34 PM   #7
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The Rohirrim have horses because the Anglo-Saxons lost to the Normans. Tolkien felt that if King Harold and his Housecarls had had a standing cavalry in 1066, they would not have lost the Battle of Hastings, and England, to the invading William the Bastard and his motley band of Norman barons and continental freebooters. Thus, the Anglo-Saxon monarchy would have retained sovereignity over England, and remained to subjugate, overtax and make lives miserable for the peasantry, rather than have foreigners do the same except much more efficiently.
Thank you for that theory. Do you have a title of a book or article in which Tolkien expressed this opinion, so I could read up in full?
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Old 01-09-2010, 08:24 PM   #8
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Thank you for that theory. Do you have a title of a book or article in which Tolkien expressed this opinion, so I could read up in full?
Where did I get that from...hmmm? Being too lazy to research, I think it came from Tom Shippey's The Road To Middle-earth, but don't quote me on that.

The revisionist Anglo-Saxon as cavalrymen angle to the Rohirrim has been batted around by Tolkien scholars for years. Or, maybe I just made it up. Yes, I made it up just now. It's fascinating how my mind works.

Ummm...what were we talking about again?
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Old 01-14-2010, 02:14 PM   #9
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The Rohirrim, why horses?

There is some archaeological evidence of a 'horse tribe' in England long before the Norman conquest, which I think Tolkien may have been referring to. (Don't ask for references right now as I'm too tired!)
As to the question 'Why horses?' My answer would be, you need to have experience of horses to understand. Even today, contact with horses changes lives. In previous centuries, even up to 100 years ago, possession and knowledge of horses gave you immense power, in the 'dark ages' even more so.
Personally I couln't live without horses, they are one of the few things that make life worthwhile, so I guess I would have been a Rider of Rohan in Middle Earth.
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Old 01-14-2010, 02:51 PM   #10
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Wow - another venerable shadow from the First Age of the Downs returning from the Halls of Mandos? Pleased to meet you, Iulbahar!
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There is some archaeological evidence of a 'horse tribe' in England long before the Norman conquest, which I think Tolkien may have been referring to. (Don't ask for references right now as I'm too tired!)
You may be thinking of the White Horse of Uffington. It's quite impressive, and since I've seen it myself, I can't help imagining that the device on the Rohirrim's shields, white horse on a green field, looked somewhat like it.
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Old 01-15-2010, 02:30 AM   #11
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I would say we need to consider more the influence of Orome, who seems to have been known to them (Bema); they also seem to be quite acquainted with the mearas, who most likely are related to Nahar. The Rohirrim are also descendants of the Edain, which might have given them even greater perception of the standing of the mearas, at least. They must have become aware, at one level or the other, that near them were beings related to the blessed lands, likely filled with magical powers. Their natural affinity with the larger race of the horses might be a testimony to their affinity with the "Light side".
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Old 01-15-2010, 05:47 AM   #12
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What about the suggestiveness (is that actually a english word?) of the names of Anglosaxen leaders? Beside the legendary Hengest and Horsa and their contamporary Eomaer we have another bunch of horse related names some generations further down the line (e.g. Eormenric, Eorpwald). These names suggest a connection between the anglosaxson and Horses which is (and Was also in Tolkiens time) known to be not found archilogical relicts. But it night have influenced Tolkiens, who was profeionally very concentrated on words and names, in depicting the Rohirrim.

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Old 01-15-2010, 03:39 PM   #13
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Evening all,

Some good points made on this thread already, just a few more comments-

The Uffington White Horse doesn't belong to the English, it's Celtic or more likely pre-Celtic, estimated as going back to 1000BC. By the way its a great place to have a look at on a sunny day, and Wayland's Forge (a proper Barrow on the Downs) is just round the corner.

The Eotheod, it's been said, seem to be like Goths, known for their horsemanship, and leading an unsettled, nearly nomadic lifestyle, following the herds. The Rohirrim have settled down a bit, building towns and putting down roots but some still have a nomadic life, following the herds across the green plains. This is a deliberate development by JRRT, and the names change from more Goth-y to more 'Anglo-Saxon' over their history.

As said, the Rohirrim had no reason to lose their horse-addiction, in fact they moved from an area in the Upper Anduin that was likely OK horse country down to Rohan that was excellent horse country - so no reason to change. The Anglo Saxons seem to have been coastal people and anyway had to invade Britain by boat, so horses not so culturally important I expect. This doesn't mean that the English never used horses, they had lots of them I'm sure. For a long time it was thought that the English never used horses in battle (eg Hastings) but this is not so clear-cut nowadays. A lot of evidence points to the Northumbrians using mounted warriors (eg carvings etc).
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Old 01-15-2010, 03:47 PM   #14
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Where did I get that from...hmmm? Being too lazy to research, I think it came from Tom Shippey's The Road To Middle-earth, but don't quote me on that.
You are right, it was Shippey.
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Old 01-17-2010, 01:56 PM   #15
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As said, the Rohirrim had no reason to lose their horse-addiction, in fact they moved from an area in the Upper Anduin that was likely OK horse country down to Rohan that was excellent horse country - so no reason to change.
Maybe this comes from MERP, but I can't get it out of my head that when the Eotheod lived East of Mirkwood, they were called the Eothraim? Anyway, the rolling plains that stretch from Erebor to Rhun would certainly be conducive to a nomadic horse-culture. This being said, the Upper Vales are significantly different. The area near Framsburg was colder than the eastern plains and was comprised of hills and undulating lowlands. Rohirric culture, with its holds (Edoras, Helm's Deep, and Dunharrow), seems to be an amalgamation of the old nomadic culture of the East and the more sedentary hill-dwelling culture of the Upper Vales.
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Old 01-18-2010, 01:29 AM   #16
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The Uffington White Horse doesn't belong to the English, it's Celtic or more likely pre-Celtic, estimated as going back to 1000BC.
You're right, of course, but don't tell G.K. Chesterton! In other words, archeological knowledge is one thing, folk tradition another, and I think I can see our Prof paying hommage to the latter whether or not he was aware of the former. To quote from the site I linked to in my earlier post:
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Traditionally the horse is attributed to a number of famous figures, one of these is King Alfred, who is said to have had it constructed to commemorate his victory over the Danes in 871. The horse is also said to been cut by Hengist, the leader of the Anglo Saxon horde in the 5th century AD.
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Old 01-19-2010, 09:25 AM   #17
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Evening all,

Some good points made on this thread already, just a few more comments-

The Uffington White Horse doesn't belong to the English, it's Celtic or more likely pre-Celtic, estimated as going back to 1000BC. By the way its a great place to have a look at on a sunny day, and Wayland's Forge (a proper Barrow on the Downs) is just round the corner.
Yes sure, but in those days, people often identified with the land they occupied and one of the reasons they built barrows was to use their dead to show that they had occupied that particular area of land for a very long time. To some extenet they also cheated by "adopting" barrows etc that previous civilisations had left behind. hence obvious similarities between Anglo-Saxon burial mounds and bronze age barrows.

Although the White Horse at Uffington goes back thousands of years and is probably pre-Celtic, it would never have survived if not look after by local people. The chalk is soft and the grass grows quickly and in less than a lifetime there would be no visible remains left if ever peopel stopped looking after it. Hence we know that every single people or culture that occupied the area cared for and hence identified with the White Horse.

It is thus entirely fair to say that the White Horse was an Anglo Saxon symbol, just as it is right to say it was a Celtic or a pre-Celtic symbol. In Reading museum there is actually a bronze trinket that somebody must have worn around their neck. Guess who made it? The Romans. Guess what it depicts? The White Horse of Uffington.
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Old 01-22-2010, 01:01 PM   #18
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[There is some archaeological evidence of a 'horse tribe' in England long before the Norman conquest]

I had always envisioned the Rohirrim as likened unto the Sarmatian horse people. The Romano-Britons were also very much like this, horse-people, who patterned much of their combat style after the Roman cavalry in Britain.
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Old 01-26-2010, 08:38 AM   #19
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You're right, of course, but don't tell G.K. Chesterton!
Chesterton knew it was pre-Anglo-Saxon. In the Ballad of the White Horse, when he plays the harp among the Danes, Alfred says:

"All things achieved and chosen pass,
As the White Horse fades in the grass,
No work of Christian men.

Ere the sad gods that made your gods
Saw their sad sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale,
That you have left to darken and fail,
Was cut out of the grass."

So yeah, he knew it was really really old.

Your point about tradition vs. history is right, of course. But I just read The Ballad of the White Horse so I had to comment.
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Old 01-26-2010, 11:40 AM   #20
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I stand corrected, Erchamion (and welcome to the Downs!). Yes, he knew, but he still paid hommage to the tradition that links the Horse with Alfred's victory - probably agreeing with the point shadowfax made above, that symbols belong to those who care for them, whatever their origin.
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Old 01-26-2010, 09:03 PM   #21
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Tom Shippey's Road to Middle-earth does indeed posit an explanation for the presence of horses in The Mark.

Shippey argues that Tolkien is 'calquing' (a word from Tolkien's professional study of philology).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shippey
A part of the answer is that the Rohirrim are not to be equated with the Anglo-Saxons of history, but with those of poetry, or legend.
At some length Shippey discusses the similarities between "The King of the Golden Hall" and the Old English poem Beowulf, to say nothing of the similarities between Aragon's song and the Old English poem The Wanderer.

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Originally Posted by Shippey
However, Tolkien was trying to go beyond translation to 'reconstruction.' And this is what explains the horses. The feeling of Anglo-Saxon poetry for these was markedly different from that of Anglo-Saxon history. Thus the retainers of Beowulf joyfully race their mearas back from the monsters' lake as they singe their praise songs. . . . Maybe the infantry-fixation of historical periods was the result of living on an island. Maybe the Anglo-Saxons before they migrated to England were different. What would have happened had they turned East, not West, to the German plains and the steppes beyond?
It's a fascinating argument in part because it employs the same technique that Tolkien employed to develop his languages.
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Old 01-27-2010, 05:35 AM   #22
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(and welcome to the Downs!).

Thanks!

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Yes, he knew, but he still paid hommage to the tradition that links the Horse with Alfred's victory - probably agreeing with the point shadowfax made above, that symbols belong to those who care for them, whatever their origin.
Very much so.

(It's interesting how Chesterton manages to 'have it both ways'. Certainly it gets used as a symbol of Alfred's victory - "the White Horse stamps in the White Horse Vale" and all that - but the poem also makes a point of it being pre-Christian; Alfred uses that as part of his condemnation of the Danes:

"The White Horse of the White Horse Vale,
That you have left to darken and fail,
Was cut out of the grass.

Therefore your end is on you,
Is on you and your kings,
Not for a fire in Ely fen,
Not that your gods are nine or ten,
But because it is only Christian men
Guard even heathen things." )

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Old 05-18-2010, 06:56 PM   #23
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I considered the horses of Rohan to be part of the "freedom-loving self-sufficent mighty warrior" kind of thing. Also horses, once part of a culture, do not leave easily. Horses represent speed, independence, and, to an extent, military superiority. A soldier on horseback has a huge advantage over a soldier fighting on foot.
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Old 05-19-2010, 07:53 PM   #24
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A soldier on horseback has a huge advantage over a soldier fighting on foot.
Amusingly, that was not always the case in Middle-earth (and certainly not the case for the flower of French chivalry at Crecy and Poitiers). For instance, the Numenorean infantry was the most formidable force of the 2nd Age. Sauron's legions folded up their tents and headed for the mountains at the very sight of them.
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Old 05-19-2010, 08:06 PM   #25
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For instance, the Numenorean infantry was the most formidable force of the 2nd Age. Sauron's legions folded up their tents and headed for the mountains at the very sight of them.
Indeed. The Númenóreans (who effectively saved Eriador twice in the Second Age, when Sauron was too much for the mighty Eldar) weren't much into cavalry.

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But [the Númenóreans] did not use [horses] in war....they were of great stature and strength, and their fully-equipped soldiers were accustomed to bear heavy heavy armour and weapons.
UT Disaster of the Gladden Fields (footnote 7)
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Old 05-20-2010, 12:11 PM   #26
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Amusingly, that was not always the case in Middle-earth (and certainly not the case for the flower of French chivalry at Crecy and Poitiers). For instance, the Numenorean infantry was the most formidable force of the 2nd Age. Sauron's legions folded up their tents and headed for the mountains at the very sight of them.
I didn't know about the Numenorean infantry. They sound pretty cool.

The "flower of French chivalry" lost most of the advantages of horseback combat when they decided to use Clydesdale-sized warhorses and loaded themselves and their mounts with a couple hundred pounds of armor. In doing so, they became more like the equivalent of modern-day tanks. The Rohirrim, on smaller, lighter horses, were more like helicopters - able to dart in, take advantage of their elevated (compared to infantry) position, and get back out quickly if needed. In addition, the horse itself could be used as a weapon, knocking enemies out of the way with 1,000 pounds of momentum. Not as much as a European knight's 1,800 pound armored beast, but still effective.
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Old 09-22-2010, 09:50 PM   #27
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Mearas

First, it is important to note Tolkien himself was intimately involved with horses during World War I., where he trained with King Edwards Horse.

I have a personal theory about Shadowfax and the Mearas. One of the types of horses Tolkien would have come in contact with was the Percheron, a silver draft horse from northern France (this is NORMANDY we're talking about) that was imported in great numbers for British use -- not only because it is intelligent and responsive, but because it lacks the fetlocks of similarly sized horses. And this was one HEFTY horse. Like most 'draft' breeds, it shares ancestry with today's 'Baroque' horses (such as Lipizzaners and Lusitanos), in that both are presumably descended from the mediaeval Greathorse (a.k.a. Destrier).

So, thus the war horses of the Rohirrim, a combination of the Percheron on which the British relied and the Destrier which Tolkien -- a philologist -- would have known from mediaeval texts.

I also have heard the theory that Tolkien suggested that Anglo-Saxons might have won Hastings, with the use of horses. I do not know the veracity of that claim. But there is another reason, more credible, that Tolkien might have included the horsemen in his lore.

HENGEST and HORSA. The names mean (roughly) 'stud' and 'stallion'. They were brothers in Anglo-Saxon lore, the first conquerers of British land and founders of the Anglo-Saxon people. See Michael D. C. Drout's "J.R.R. Tolkien encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment" page 275, for his argument that "Marcho and Blanco" (the founders of the Shire) are derived from these figures.

It is worth noting that Hengest and Horsa probably did not exist, any more than did Beowa and Sceafa (other mythic predecessors of the Germanic peoples, their names deriving from harvest terms rather than horsemanship). And for those of you who enjoy cross-cultural lore, Hengest and Hersa show up everywhere from the Ashwin twins of India to Castor and Polydeuces from Greece.

This is my first post, so I hope I was more help than hubris?

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