The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Books
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-09-2018, 06:55 PM   #1
R.R.J Tolkien
Haunting Spirit
 
R.R.J Tolkien's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 81
R.R.J Tolkien has just left Hobbiton.
Siege Towers, Ladders, Catapults etc

I dont remember any siege equipment such as towers, catapults etc ever mentioned in the first ages of ME. So my question is when were these first invented?
__________________
I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.
-J.R.R Tolkien
R.R.J Tolkien is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-10-2018, 02:53 AM   #2
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The Fair City of Nargothrond
Posts: 557
Huinesoron is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Sting

Well, there were most definitely siege weapons in the Wars of the Jewels... but let's step back a little further, first, in a quick review of the major wars of Arda.

The First War with Melkor

The concept of 'siege' doesn't really make sense here; this was an elemental struggle where the earth itself was the battlefield. The major technological innovation appears to have been Tulkas, who used the novel technique known as 'punching'.

The Fall of the Lamps

It's unclear in the later Legendarium how the Lamps were destroyed, but we can be at least moderately confident siege weapons weren't used - when the Valar fled to Valinor, they basically built a wall (of mountains) around themselves for defence, and Melkor never even tried to attack it.

In the earlier versions of the story, we have the wonderful detail that the pillars of the Lamps were made of ice, at Melkor's suggestion: yeah, no siege weapons needed.

The War for the Sake of the Elves

This war again featured the world being reshaped - Dorthonion and Hithlum were raised as walls, and the Bay of Balar was carved. It also includes the very first instance of a siege - the Siege of Utumno.

But... Tolkien's brief descriptions are noticably lacking in actual siege weaponry. He says that they fought a lot in front of the gates, and that they eventually ripped the roof off, but there's no indication that this involved any weapons other than elemental strength.

(Pause for breath while Melkor gets locked up for a bit.)

The Early War of the Jewels

Down to the Siege of Angband, which lasted 400 years without any breakthroughs. There are no indications of any use of siege weapons during this time, and the fact that Morgoth is never recorded as seriously attacking either Barad Eithel or Himring suggests that he didn't have any.

Spoilers: that's because he was still working on it.

The Later War of the Jewels

Most of the Elven fortresses and cities that fell in this period were taken by demonic power (Tol Sirion), by sheer force of arms (Himring), or by the defeat of their defenders away from the walls (Barad Eithel, Nargothrond). But there is one example of a heavily-defended city which was most certainly taken by siege:

Gondolin.

It is undeniable that Tolkien wrote the dragons of The Fall of Gondolin as siege weapons. They are used as armoured troop transports, as battering rams, and I'm pretty sure they coil together as scaling ladders too. From memory, Tolkien distinguishes three kinds of dragon at the battle, and all of them are described in terms that make it clear they're more mechanical than living. They are absolutely siege weapons, and they were deployed for the first time against Gondolin, with devastating effect.

... and then the War of Wrath happened, and the 'technology' was lost.

The Second Age

It does not appear that siege weapons were available on either side during the bulk of the Second Age. During the War of the Elves and Sauron, the Noldor of Lindon are able to hold the river Lhun against Sauron for quite some time, which suggests that he at least lacked catapults. The fact that they didn't withdraw behind strong walls might indicate that they feared Sauron had some method to overcome such things, but there's no real evidence.

Note, however, that Moria never seems to have even come under attack, though the West Gate doesn't seem particularly defended. A simple battering ram could have breached the entrance, but Sauron never tried.

Significantly, Imladris was sieged for three full years, but never broken. The very geography of Rivendell shows that catapults can't have existed - it sits at the bottom of a ravine, and would be a perfect target for such a thing.

The first mention of a siege weapon I can find comes right at the end of the age, in the War of the Last Alliance. The Alliance itself was pretty terrible at siege (they sat outside Barad-dur for seven years, and Sauron still had space to come out of the gates in person by the end), but Sauron seems to have invented long-distance weapons by this time: Anarion, son of Elendil, was killed by a rock thrown from the walls of Barad-dur, and I don't think that means an orc with a sling.

The Third Age

The first war of the Third Age is the war with Angmar, and instantly we see signs of siege weapons at play. Argeleb I of Arthedain fortifies the Weather Hills against Rhudaur and Arnor, but the Witch-king is able to not only take Weathertop, but also destroy it. That speaks of walls being battered down, since if he captured it intact, he would hardly have destroyed it afterwards.

(Notably, though, Rivendell was once again besieged but not taken, so we have to assume again that no catapults were used.)

Down in the south, the technology doesn't seem to have been used: the Wainriders never seemed to lay sieges, and while Osgiliath was under siege, it's reported as being 'sacked and burned', suggesting the destruction came from the inside.

A possible reason for this lies in the Numenorean stonework used in the walls of Minas Tirith. If your enemy's walls are totally impervious to attack, why bother trying? Instead, the favoured tactic was to lure the enemy out and defeat them in the field. We'll hear more about this later.

There were several wars involving the dwarves in the later Third Age, but much to the surprise of anyone who thinks of them as Middle-earth's artificers, Durin's folk don't seem to have employed siege. Certainly, Moria's East Gate showed no signs of being attacked when the Fellowship came out, despite being the side of the great Battle of Azanulbizar. (Of course, one of the original siege weapons was employed against them, or employed himself: Smaug, breaking the defenses of Dale and Erebor.)

The War of the Ring

We first encounter siege weapons in the War of the Ring during the battle of the Hornburg. Battering rams are employed against the gate, and siege ladders against the wall. These aren't seen as new technologies, and in fact the Hornburg seems to have been designed to defend against their like.

What is most definitely new is the blasting fire used by Saruman's forces. No-one in the Hornburg was prepared for it, so it's a definite innovation.

Later on, we find the Battle of Minas Tirith. Here Sauron employs a battering ram, which is made unusual by its size (and enchantment), not by its very presence.

Another indication that Sauron was using tried-and-true technology is the catapults set up during the brief siege. The Gondorians clearly recognised the technology - but equally clearly, they weren't familiar with what it could do. They expected it to be deployed against the outer wall, never considering that Sauron could attack the inner city with his catapults.

Conclusions

Other than dragons (which I acknowledge are a special case), the main form of siege appears to have been battering rams and other close-up weapons. Catapults of some description were present by the end of the Second Age, but were not widely deployed, and likely offered only short range and low altitude. During the War of the Ring, Sauron and Saruman deployed several new technologies, including: truly effective catapults, a monstrous battering ram, and blasting fire.

hS
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-10-2018, 05:32 PM   #3
R.R.J Tolkien
Haunting Spirit
 
R.R.J Tolkien's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 81
R.R.J Tolkien has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Well, there were most definitely siege weapons in the Wars of the Jewels... but let's step back a little further, first, in a quick review of the major wars of Arda.

The First War with Melkor

The concept of 'siege' doesn't really make sense here; this was an elemental struggle where the earth itself was the battlefield. The major technological innovation appears to have been Tulkas, who used the novel technique known as 'punching'.

The Fall of the Lamps

It's unclear in the later Legendarium how the Lamps were destroyed, but we can be at least moderately confident siege weapons weren't used - when the Valar fled to Valinor, they basically built a wall (of mountains) around themselves for defence, and Melkor never even tried to attack it.

In the earlier versions of the story, we have the wonderful detail that the pillars of the Lamps were made of ice, at Melkor's suggestion: yeah, no siege weapons needed.

The War for the Sake of the Elves

This war again featured the world being reshaped - Dorthonion and Hithlum were raised as walls, and the Bay of Balar was carved. It also includes the very first instance of a siege - the Siege of Utumno.

But... Tolkien's brief descriptions are noticably lacking in actual siege weaponry. He says that they fought a lot in front of the gates, and that they eventually ripped the roof off, but there's no indication that this involved any weapons other than elemental strength.

(Pause for breath while Melkor gets locked up for a bit.)

The Early War of the Jewels

Down to the Siege of Angband, which lasted 400 years without any breakthroughs. There are no indications of any use of siege weapons during this time, and the fact that Morgoth is never recorded as seriously attacking either Barad Eithel or Himring suggests that he didn't have any.

Spoilers: that's because he was still working on it.

The Later War of the Jewels

Most of the Elven fortresses and cities that fell in this period were taken by demonic power (Tol Sirion), by sheer force of arms (Himring), or by the defeat of their defenders away from the walls (Barad Eithel, Nargothrond). But there is one example of a heavily-defended city which was most certainly taken by siege:

Gondolin.

It is undeniable that Tolkien wrote the dragons of The Fall of Gondolin as siege weapons. They are used as armoured troop transports, as battering rams, and I'm pretty sure they coil together as scaling ladders too. From memory, Tolkien distinguishes three kinds of dragon at the battle, and all of them are described in terms that make it clear they're more mechanical than living. They are absolutely siege weapons, and they were deployed for the first time against Gondolin, with devastating effect.

... and then the War of Wrath happened, and the 'technology' was lost.

The Second Age

It does not appear that siege weapons were available on either side during the bulk of the Second Age. During the War of the Elves and Sauron, the Noldor of Lindon are able to hold the river Lhun against Sauron for quite some time, which suggests that he at least lacked catapults. The fact that they didn't withdraw behind strong walls might indicate that they feared Sauron had some method to overcome such things, but there's no real evidence.

Note, however, that Moria never seems to have even come under attack, though the West Gate doesn't seem particularly defended. A simple battering ram could have breached the entrance, but Sauron never tried.

Significantly, Imladris was sieged for three full years, but never broken. The very geography of Rivendell shows that catapults can't have existed - it sits at the bottom of a ravine, and would be a perfect target for such a thing.

The first mention of a siege weapon I can find comes right at the end of the age, in the War of the Last Alliance. The Alliance itself was pretty terrible at siege (they sat outside Barad-dur for seven years, and Sauron still had space to come out of the gates in person by the end), but Sauron seems to have invented long-distance weapons by this time: Anarion, son of Elendil, was killed by a rock thrown from the walls of Barad-dur, and I don't think that means an orc with a sling.

The Third Age

The first war of the Third Age is the war with Angmar, and instantly we see signs of siege weapons at play. Argeleb I of Arthedain fortifies the Weather Hills against Rhudaur and Arnor, but the Witch-king is able to not only take Weathertop, but also destroy it. That speaks of walls being battered down, since if he captured it intact, he would hardly have destroyed it afterwards.

(Notably, though, Rivendell was once again besieged but not taken, so we have to assume again that no catapults were used.)

Down in the south, the technology doesn't seem to have been used: the Wainriders never seemed to lay sieges, and while Osgiliath was under siege, it's reported as being 'sacked and burned', suggesting the destruction came from the inside.

A possible reason for this lies in the Numenorean stonework used in the walls of Minas Tirith. If your enemy's walls are totally impervious to attack, why bother trying? Instead, the favoured tactic was to lure the enemy out and defeat them in the field. We'll hear more about this later.

There were several wars involving the dwarves in the later Third Age, but much to the surprise of anyone who thinks of them as Middle-earth's artificers, Durin's folk don't seem to have employed siege. Certainly, Moria's East Gate showed no signs of being attacked when the Fellowship came out, despite being the side of the great Battle of Azanulbizar. (Of course, one of the original siege weapons was employed against them, or employed himself: Smaug, breaking the defenses of Dale and Erebor.)

The War of the Ring

We first encounter siege weapons in the War of the Ring during the battle of the Hornburg. Battering rams are employed against the gate, and siege ladders against the wall. These aren't seen as new technologies, and in fact the Hornburg seems to have been designed to defend against their like.

What is most definitely new is the blasting fire used by Saruman's forces. No-one in the Hornburg was prepared for it, so it's a definite innovation.

Later on, we find the Battle of Minas Tirith. Here Sauron employs a battering ram, which is made unusual by its size (and enchantment), not by its very presence.

Another indication that Sauron was using tried-and-true technology is the catapults set up during the brief siege. The Gondorians clearly recognised the technology - but equally clearly, they weren't familiar with what it could do. They expected it to be deployed against the outer wall, never considering that Sauron could attack the inner city with his catapults.

Conclusions

Other than dragons (which I acknowledge are a special case), the main form of siege appears to have been battering rams and other close-up weapons. Catapults of some description were present by the end of the Second Age, but were not widely deployed, and likely offered only short range and low altitude. During the War of the Ring, Sauron and Saruman deployed several new technologies, including: truly effective catapults, a monstrous battering ram, and blasting fire.

hS

Great post thanks for the knowledge. I am curious about the dragons of The Fall of Gondolin as siege weapons. I will have to reread the account but i dont ever remember coming away with that. I think the length of the early sieges points to no siege weapons.



It may be that mordor had catapults during the last alliance but it does not directly say. Do we know how far Anarion was away? could a hand trow from higher elevation reach him?
__________________
I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.
-J.R.R Tolkien
R.R.J Tolkien is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-11-2018, 02:34 AM   #4
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The Fair City of Nargothrond
Posts: 557
Huinesoron is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Now that I have (in a reverse of that old refrain) my books to hand, here's the quotes from The Book of Lost Tales: The Fall of Gondolin. Remember that this was the only long version of the Gondolin tale that Tolkien ever finished, so it's as close to 'canon' as we have.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FoG, after Maeglin's capture
But the rede that Meglin gave to Melko was that not all the host of the Orcs nor the Balrogs in their fierceness might by assault or siege hope ever to overthrow the walls and gates of Gondolin even if they availed to win unto the plain without. Therefore he counselled Melko to devise out of his sorceries a succour for his warriors in their endeavour. From the greatness of his wealth of metals and his powers of fire he bid him make beasts like snakes and dragons of irresistible might that should overcreep the Encircling Hills and lap that plain and its fair city in flame and death.

...

Then on a time Melko assembled all his most cunning smiths and sorcerers, and of iron and flame they wrought a host of monsters such as have only at that time been seen and shall not again be till the Great End. Some were all of iron so cunningly linked that they might flow like slow rivers of metal or coil themselves around and above all obstacles before them, and these were filled in their innermost depths with the grimmest of the Orcs with scimitars and spears; others of bronze and copper were given hearts and spirits of blazing fire, and they blasted all that stood before them with the terror of their snorting or trampled whatso escaped the ardour of their breath; yet others were creatures of pure flame that writhed like ropes of molten metal, and they brought to ruin whatever fabric they came nigh, and iron and stone melted before them and became as water...
Quote:
Originally Posted by FoG, during the assault
But now Gothmog lord of Balrogs, captain of the hosts of Melko, took counsel and gathered all his things of iron that could coil themselves around and above all obstacles before them. These he bade pile themselves before the northern gate; and behold, their great spires reached even to its threshold and thrust at the towers and bastions about it, and by reason of the exceeding heaviness of their bodies those gates fell, and great was the noise thereof: yet the most of the walls around them still stood firm. Then the engines and the catapults of the king poured darts and boulders and molten metals on those ruthless beasts, and their hollow bellies clanged beneath the buffeting, yet it availed not for they might not be broken, and the fires rolled off them.
... I mean, that's a direct statement that Turgon had catapults, even if you ignore the dragons.

As for Anarion, I can't find any statement other than that he was killed 'in Gorgorath', which isn't terribly helpful. (Though I did run into the fact that the Reunited Kingdom was prophesied to last for a hundred generations of Men... I may have more thoughts about that elsewhere.)

hS
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-11-2018, 05:14 AM   #5
R.R.J Tolkien
Haunting Spirit
 
R.R.J Tolkien's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 81
R.R.J Tolkien has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Now that I have (in a reverse of that old refrain) my books to hand, here's the quotes from The Book of Lost Tales: The Fall of Gondolin. Remember that this was the only long version of the Gondolin tale that Tolkien ever finished, so it's as close to 'canon' as we have.





... I mean, that's a direct statement that Turgon had catapults, even if you ignore the dragons.

As for Anarion, I can't find any statement other than that he was killed 'in Gorgorath', which isn't terribly helpful. (Though I did run into the fact that the Reunited Kingdom was prophesied to last for a hundred generations of Men... I may have more thoughts about that elsewhere.)

hS

well that sure seems to say catapults and rams. Thanks once more for the sources. But this does not come from the published sillmarillion or does it? I dont remember that. Was this written pre lotr?
__________________
I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.
-J.R.R Tolkien
R.R.J Tolkien is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-11-2018, 09:01 AM   #6
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The Fair City of Nargothrond
Posts: 557
Huinesoron is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
The quotes come from the Fall of Gondolin, which was begun in 1916, while Tolkien was recuperating from the Somme. It doesn't appear in the published Silmarillion, but is directly referenced in it: the Silm has a line about how 'much more is told in the Fall of Gondolin' (it's the line that references Ecthelion killing Gothmog), but doesn't go into any detail. It will almost certainly be published in this year's Fall of Gondolin standalone novel.

It's worth remembering that the published Silmarillion is a chimera of different sources, cobbled together by Christopher Tolkien after his father's death. There's a book called Arda Reconstructed which goes into exactly where every piece of the Silm came from; I've not read it, but I'm pretty sure the Fall of Gondolin section stands alongside the Nauglafring chapter as being written almost entirely by Christopher to cover a gap in the Professor's Quenta Silmarillion.

It's impossible to know how Tolkien would have finished the (post-LotR) story in Unfinished Tales referred to as 'Of Tuor and his coming to Gondolin'. However, 'Of Tuor...' and the 1916 'Fall' both share the same attention to detail, particularly in how the list of the gates of Gondolin in 'Of Tuor...' mirrors the list of the noble houses in the 'Fall'; I suspect Tolkien was inspired by the Welsh tale of 'The Dream of Rhonabwy' in this, though I have no proof. Point is, they were definitely written in similar styles, and at times 'Of Tuor...' directly follows the older story, so we shouldn't think Tolkien actively rejected it.

hS
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 06:51 PM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.