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Old 12-02-2008, 01:27 PM   #1
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Education in Middle Earth

Great was the Lore of the High Elves and Loremasters in Middle Earth, who had much knowledge of wisdom and of power, amongst other qualities. But what of other races? What level of education and skill development was available to the lesser races of Middle Earth? Did the other races truly reach their potential?

Dwarfs were the masters of craft and mining?

Wood Elves were masterful in archery, singing and secrecy?

Men were skilled in armoury and sword play, but what else?

And Hobbits? Cookery, pipeweed lore, poems, amongst other interests? Was there a school in the Shire for little Hobbits?
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Old 12-02-2008, 02:02 PM   #2
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Before schools existed parents passed their knowledge from parent to child. I imagine hobbits and other races would follow the same sort of pattern. Especially hobbits, they were an agriculturally centered society, why go to school to learn how to farm when a father or uncle can teach you?
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Old 12-02-2008, 03:02 PM   #3
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Hi Mansun and Kitanna,

I think you're pretty much right on the hobbits. Most didn't learn to read and write (mentioned in LoTR), the Gaffer worries that Sam being taught by Bilbo might give him 'ideas above his station'. (Which luckily it does ).

I wonder if the wealthier hobbits (eg Merry and Pippin) were taught by personal tutors? But agree that learning could easily be passed down in the family. There are no mentions of schools in Middle Earth that I can think of, perhaps Gondor might be the likeliest place if any existed?

Certainly the Gondorians and Dwarves were quite well educated, I guess anyone involved in trade must have had some of the 3Rs, eg the Lakemen, Sandyman, Saruman's human servants etc. Rohan appears to have more of an oral tradition (also the Beornings?), not to say that this isn't learning of course, but just a different way. No doubt the nobility of Rohan were literate and Grima seems a classic 'scribe'.
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Old 12-02-2008, 03:07 PM   #4
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Well, The Shire had its own calendar, a not inconsiderable achievement of social development.
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Old 12-02-2008, 03:14 PM   #5
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It is a pity that the Shire did not have a centre of excellence, e.g. a monastery, where new skills, lore and craft could be learned and taught from generation to generation, until a guild of stewards was formed to protect the values, ethics and development of the centre. Hobbits were not religious though, so a monastery was not really an option. This may have saved many Hobbits from disease, such as obesity, lung cancer and binge drinking, to name but a few health benefits.

Clearly history and geography were popular subjects among the lore of all races in Middle Earth. But what of sport? Surely at least Hobbits could have had a mini Olympic Games?

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Old 12-02-2008, 04:26 PM   #6
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A pie eating contest seems a more likely option than olympic games. Any sort of contest you'd find at a county fair, (cooking, livestock, vegetable contests), all are closer to a hobbit's taste than games of strength and will. They were simple folk and simple contests would have fit them well.

Olympic type games would have been better suited in the world of men. Archery, riding, etc. were already being taught to young men so contests like that make more sense in the world of Big People.
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Old 12-02-2008, 04:38 PM   #7
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A pie eating contest seems a more likely option than olympic games. Any sort of contest you'd find at a county fair, (cooking, livestock, vegetable contests), all are closer to a hobbit's taste than games of strength and will. They were simple folk and simple contests would have fit them well.

Olympic type games would have been better suited in the world of men. Archery, riding, etc. were already being taught to young men so contests like that make more sense in the world of Big People.
Hobbits had an excellent sense of direction and aim, so archery was not a problem for them to master. Hobbits (the lean ones) could also run at a good pace, almost to the level of Dwarves (excluding Bombur of course!), so they could make worthy sprinters. So on at least two fronts they could compete at a decent level in sports. But what of golf? The Hobbit did reference the subject.

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Old 12-02-2008, 05:05 PM   #8
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Well, thinking back to the passages that introduced the Mouth of Sauron, we see:

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Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien
And he entered the service of the Dark Tower when it first rose again, and because of his cunning he grew ever higher in the Lord's favor; and he learned great sorcery, and knew much of the mind of Sauron....
Makes it sound like the Mouth of Sauron learned "sorcery" during his time at Barad-dűr.

Now there's an interesting thought: what kind of education do they give you at Mordor? Torture 101 with Professor Khaműl. Or Metallurgy 243: The Forging of Morgul Blades, with a mandatory lab component.
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Old 12-02-2008, 05:10 PM   #9
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It is a pity that the Shire did not have a centre of excellence, e.g. a monastery, where new skills, lore and craft could be learned and taught from generation to generation, until a guild of stewards was formed to protect the values, ethics and development of the centre. Hobbits were not religious though, so a monastery was not really an option. This may have saved many Hobbits from disease, such as obesity, lung cancer and binge drinking, to name but a few health benefits.
I could imagine some kind of schooling taking place at the Mathom House.
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Old 12-02-2008, 05:14 PM   #10
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I could imagine some kind of schooling taking place at the Mathom House.
Perhaps history and/or geography lessons, at best. Mathom House would make a good equivalent of a school trip for young curious Hobbits.
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Old 12-02-2008, 05:53 PM   #11
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Hobbits had an excellent sense of direction and aim, so archery was not a problem for them to master. Hobbits (the lean ones, excluding Bombur of course!) could also run at a good pace, almost to the level of Dwarves, so they could make worthy sprinters. So on at least two fronts they could compete at a decent level in sports. But what of golf? The Hobbit did reference the subject.
But that doesn't mean competitions like that would be of great interest, not when their love of the earth was most important.

And Bombur was a dwarf, not a hobbit.

Quote:
Now there's an interesting thought: what kind of education do they give you at Mordor? Torture 101 with Professor Khaműl. Or Metallurgy 243: The Forging of Morgul Blades, with a mandatory lab component.
Certainly a sort of biology class would be in order. Something that would explain fell beats, maybe as teens the Nazgul dissected that instead of frogs. Or Arachnology 202: Feeding Shelob.
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Old 12-02-2008, 07:19 PM   #12
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There is a dearth of information regarding education in Lord of the Rings, along with virtually no information regarding minting of coins, commerce (there is more commerce referred to in the Hobbit than in all of LotR), taxation, military organization (outside the 'Captain' title), and any number of professions (scribes, for instance, are not mentioned, and mortal minstrels only two times I can recall).

In the Shire, one would assume that the mass of the population was illiterate, save for the middle and upper classes (for whom there was a thriving postal service). For instance, the Gaffer, based on his colloquial and malaprop ridden speech, was illiterate, and Samwise only learned to read based on the kindly intervention of Bilbo and Frodo. Interestingly, we know some female Hobbits could read (based on their correspondence with Bilbo). I would assume the dissemination of knowledge was strictly a family affair, passed on from parents to children.

In Rohan, I would again assume the majority of the populous was illiterate, mirroring, perhaps, early Anglo-Saxon settlements where history was passed along orally by scops and not written down.

In Gondor, education of any sort is seemingly on the decline. The very rich (like Boromir and Faramir) would of course have their personal tutors as part of their households; but based on Gandalf finding information regarding Isildur in Minas Tirith's archives that had long been forgotten by Gondor's scholars, it is obvious that there is only a reverence for the form of the past and not an actual study of history. This is also evidenced by Gondor's healers being quite ignorant (the babbling Ioreth for instance), which caused Aragorn much irritation.

Of the Dwarves, we know they wrote rambling contracts in legalese (Thorin for instance), and their avidity for commerce and their natural acquisitiveness made them a likely race for cultural literacy; for where there are accountants, there is the writing of lists, documents, inventories and such. Tolkien mentions on several occasions the Dwarves' fondness for the Cirth, as well as their secret language.
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Old 12-02-2008, 08:40 PM   #13
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Of the Dwarves, we know they wrote rambling contracts in legalese (Thorin for instance), and their avidity for commerce and their natural acquisitiveness made them a likely race for cultural literacy; for where there are accountants, there is the writing of lists, documents, inventories and such. Tolkien mentions on several occasions the Dwarves' fondness for the Cirth, as well as their secret language.
We also know that dwarves could be very competent musicians--look at the effect their playing had on Bilbo.

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In the Shire, one would assume that the mass of the population was illiterate, save for the middle and upper classes (for whom there was a thriving postal service). For instance, the Gaffer, based on his colloquial and malaprop ridden speech, was illiterate, and Samwise only learned to read based on the kindly intervention of Bilbo and Frodo. Interestingly, we know some female Hobbits could read (based on their correspondence with Bilbo). I would assume the dissemination of knowledge was strictly a family affair, passed on from parents to children.
One wonders if each hobbit farm produced its own beer as I think once was done in English farming communities. Now brewing is a fine art! And there would be weaving and sewing and quilting as home work, for clothes and bed linens. Tapestry produced some art works of considerable historical importance in our own Ages--perhaps Arwen's influence as Queen might have been to inspire a LotR Bayeux Tapestry of the War of the Ring. We could speculate endlessly whether this would have been produced in The Shire or Gondor, or possibly by both, each society producing different sections. No doubt the reason for Tolkien's reticence in including this possibility, while he does mention Arwen's banner for Aragorn, lies more with the French ownership of the famous artefact concerning the Anglo Saxon defeat. Nothing French in his Legendarium!

Plus those family genealogies had to come from some form of literacy. And, as I posited above, any society which produces its own calendar is not devoid of knowledge.

A formal system of education is not the only means of developing character, industry, skill, and art. Just the most bureacratic.
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Old 12-03-2008, 06:24 AM   #14
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One wonders if each hobbit farm produced its own beer as I think once was done in English farming communities. Now brewing is a fine art!
It's quite possible. In pre-pasterization there was a limit to how far you could ship beer before it began to spoil so most, if not all, of the Shire's beer was likey locally produced. Pippin also mentions his desire to have stopped at the Golden Perch on the ground that they have "the best beer in the West farthing" (or something like that" which seems to indicate that that place, at least has beer that is likey locally produced, or at least in some way different from other beers Pippin has drunk.
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Old 12-03-2008, 12:19 PM   #15
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And Bombur was a dwarf, not a hobbit.

Kitanna, I have a Masters Degree in Biological Sciences from a leading UK University, so please do not insult my intelligence. I meant Bombur in relation to Dwarves as opposed to Hobbits, as one could make out despite the error, give or take a little, from the original sentence. For your benefit, I have edited the paragraph above.

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Old 12-03-2008, 12:32 PM   #16
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Of the Dwarves, we know they wrote rambling contracts in legalese (Thorin for instance), and their avidity for commerce and their natural acquisitiveness made them a likely race for cultural literacy; for where there are accountants, there is the writing of lists, documents, inventories and such. Tolkien mentions on several occasions the Dwarves' fondness for the Cirth, as well as their secret language.
I always pictured the dwarves as a class type of system. The noble's sons got the greatest tutors and learned from great philosophers and mathamaticians, like the ancient Greeks, or even better, Carthage. The Carthaginians believed that the higher ranking aristocracy was superior to the average day worker but also thought it necassary that though showed this through superiority fighting, knowledge, wisdom, and governing. They were a proud people and the Dwarf's system might not be that much different than this.

Being a secret race we have little information about them, my guess is that the lower ranking families and their sons worked in the mines while some ascended to jewel crafting or making "magical toys" like we saw at Bilbo's birthday party.
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Old 12-03-2008, 12:33 PM   #17
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Kitanna, I have a Masters Degree in Biological Sciences from a leading UK University, so please do not insult my intelligence. I meant Bombur in relation to Dwarves as opposed to Hobbits, as one could make out, give or take a little, from the original sentence.
Mansun, I note with interest you have a science degree; the problem here, unfortunately, is that you do not have an English degree. In regards to your sentence below:

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Hobbits had an excellent sense of direction and aim, so archery was not a problem for them to master. Hobbits (the lean ones, excluding Bombur of course!) could also run at a good pace, almost to the level of Dwarves, so they could make worthy sprinters.
The paranthetical phrase (which I have underlined), referencing Bombur, is in agreement with the subject of the sentence, Hobbits (which is in bold print); ergo -- and Kitanna is entirely correct -- your sentence indicates that Bombur is a Hobbit. Therefore a mistake has been made on your part, and rather than getting indignant, you should gracefully accept the correction.
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Old 12-03-2008, 12:33 PM   #18
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Hobbits (the lean ones, excluding Bombur of course!) could also run at a good pace
That implies you were referring to Bombur as a hobbit not a dwarf. There's no need to get upset because what you typed was unclear.

Edit: Morthoron seems to have said better what I was going for.

Quote:
Being a secret race we have little information about them, my guess is that the lower ranking families and their sons worked in the mines while some ascended to jewel crafting or making "magical toys" like we saw at Bilbo's birthday party.
So dwarves rose as a sort of middle-class society of Middle-Earth? This is of course assuming there was a chance for social mobility among dwarves. If there was such a chance then education would have become pretty important for dwarves that weren't in the aristocracy.
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Old 12-03-2008, 03:09 PM   #19
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Closed to give everyone time to cool down. The thread will reopen tomorrow.

Reason: Way too many personal remarks and insults! I don't care who starts, but must all of you jump on the bandwagon? All posts which are not primarily concerned with the topic of the thread will be edited or deleted.
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Old 12-04-2008, 05:00 PM   #20
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Dwarves took an interest in music, as did Men, Elves, Hobbits, and even Orcs (at least in singing evil songs), within different tastes and circumstances. Dwarves, I believe, were the only race to play a musical instrument, and as this activity is known to boost spatial brain power, this could have explained their immense skill in craft and mining. But the great lore masters, such as Gandalf and Elrond, saw little use or need for such activities. Note though that Gandalf, like Hobbits, found the subject of blowing smoke rings very amusing, so there is a similarity!

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Old 12-04-2008, 05:26 PM   #21
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Hi Mansun,

Looks to me like all the races played musical instruments-

Esty's Music Thread

(and links within)

Though the orcs seemed fondest of percussion and braying horns, so exactly how musical that was I don't know .

The dwarves seem to be the only clarinet-ists, those metal keys and twiddly bits look tricky to make so perhaps only they had the necessary metal-working skills?

The Saucepan Man reckoned Gandalf was a demon on the Hammond Organ, but I'd take that with a pinch of salt if I were you.

Oh, and Elrond was a harpist. It often used to be reckoned a useful accomplishment for men and women of 'noble birth' to learn an instrument, perhaps Elrond had harp classes back in the the First Age?

Was thinking on the more general education question and apprenticeships seems to be how trades and skills were learnt in the Shire. Wasn't the Gaffer 'prenticed to Old Holman to learn his gardening?
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Old 12-05-2008, 08:15 AM   #22
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There may be no mention of schools in The Shire, and we may have Sam being taught 'his letters' by Bilbo, but this does not add up to the population being mostly illiterate. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that the general population of The Shire could read and write.

Bethberry has already mentioned calendars - if the population was mostly illiterate how would they be able to read calendars? There is also a Message Service which would not exist were most of the people unable to read and write letters. The Shire also has a legal system of sorts, having both Shirriffs and Bounders, and Lawyers dealing with property and inheritance law. Presumably the Mathom House also has those little cards telling visitors what the various exhibits are?

There's also economic evidence in that most people seem to have leisure time, suggesting they have gone beyond the limits of feudalism and have entered a more modern age where there is commerce (so Bilbo could go and buy a new weskit instead of having to have a wife who could sew him one) instead of everyone just having to sort themselves out, and they have specialised labour (Sam being a gardener for example, not just a farm labourer).

Yes, there are no schools we know of, but that doesn't mean there is no education! There may even be more education
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Old 12-05-2008, 03:21 PM   #23
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Bilbo seems to be a high flier by comparison to a somewhat poorly educated and lacklustre Shire, though he had expert pupillage from Gandalf and the Elves to thank largely (and perhaps Dwarves too). The same could be said for Frodo Baggins. Perhaps an indication that if Hobbits were to progress in Middle Earth a lot depended on their willingness to explore new things within the outside world beyond the Shire. The Shire, being valued as less than a shirt of Mithril, was obviously not economically developed in industry beyond the basic pipeweed, food and beer trade!
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Old 12-06-2008, 03:01 AM   #24
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The Shire, being valued as less than a shirt of Mithril, was obviously not economically developed in industry beyond the basic pipeweed, food and beer trade!
Apart from the fact they obviously also had trades in: tailoring; bookbinding; stationery manufacture; forging tools; cutlery manufacture; wine making; umbrella making; and manufacture of personal care items such as mirrors. Amongst other clues pointing to a reasonably modern economy.

I think the value of the Mithril shirt in comparison to the value of The Shire was more of a reflection of the rarity of Mithril and the outrageous worth of a whole shirt made of the stuff rather than a reflection of The Shire's real value.
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Old 12-06-2008, 10:57 AM   #25
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Apart from the fact they obviously also had trades in: tailoring; bookbinding; stationery manufacture; forging tools; cutlery manufacture; wine making; umbrella making; and manufacture of personal care items such as mirrors. Amongst other clues pointing to a reasonably modern economy.

I think the value of the Mithril shirt in comparison to the value of The Shire was more of a reflection of the rarity of Mithril and the outrageous worth of a whole shirt made of the stuff rather than a reflection of The Shire's real value.

I did not say other means of trade and industry did not exist (such a thought is embarrassingly narrow-minded and absurd), I meant that the Shire was not economically strong beyond the obvious trades. The trades you mention were all relatively small and unimportant. The Shire was way, way behind the other countries of Middle Earth economically. Mithril may have been rare and valuable, but Gandalf rated it as far more valuable than the Shire and everything in it. I do not think he would have said such a bold statement to dismiss Loth Lorien, Rohan, Gondor, Isengard, Mordor, or even Dale. Bring forth the mail shirt before the Lords of Gondor and Rohan and receive an envious glance of wonder at this antique piece of armoury, but no more.

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Old 12-06-2008, 11:13 AM   #26
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I did not say other means of trade and industry did not exist, I meant that the Shire was not economically strong beyond the obvious trades. The trades you mention were all relatively small and unimportant. The Shire was way, way behind the other countries of Middle Earth economically. Mithril may have been rare and valuable, but Gandalf rated it as far more valuable than the Shire and everything in it. I do not think he would have said such a bold statement to dismiss Loth Lorien, Rohan, Gondor, Isengard, Mordor, or even Dale.
I think you're mixing economic size with economic prosperity. The Shire was certainly prosperous, though not as large as Gondor.

I'm not sure that you could assign traditional economic value to someplace like Lothlorien. In fact, I don't know of any trade, industry, or currency which the elves of Lothlorien used, and that if you tried to explain trade and the ME equivalent of GDP to Celeborn, he'd be quite uninterested. I would even venture that the only valuable things the elves there had, besides bows (which they didn't trade) and Lembas (ditto), were the articles of yore that they had collected over the years. And those were either kept safe, used personally, or bequeathed as gifts for service.

As for Mordor, the value would theoretically be whatever some buyer would want to pay for it. I'm not so sure what kind of monetary value one could assign a place that was hot, choked by ash, ruled by an evil god, populated by slaves and monsters, had fertile land only around Lake Nurnen, and in which all of the buildings were caked with layers of filth.
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Old 12-06-2008, 11:19 AM   #27
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I think you're mixing economic size with economic prosperity. The Shire was certainly prosperous, though not as large as Gondor.

I'm not sure that you could assign traditional economic value to someplace like Lothlorien. In fact, I don't know of any trade, industry, or currency which the elves of Lothlorien used, and that if you tried to explain trade and the ME equivalent of GDP to Celeborn, he'd be quite uninterested. I would even venture that the only valuable things the elves there had, besides bows (which they didn't trade) and Lembas (ditto), were the articles of yore that they had collected over the years. And those were either kept safe, used personally, or bequeathed as gifts for service.

As for Mordor, the value would theoretically be whatever some buyer would want to pay for it. I'm not so sure what kind of monetary value one could assign a place that was hot, choked by ash, ruled by an evil god, populated by slaves and monsters, had fertile land only around Lake Nurnen, and in which all of the buildings were caked with layers of filth.
The Shire had potential for economic growth, I certainly did not rule that out. But so long as Hobbits lived in their own little country, unconcerned by the events beyond their borders, economic growth would be very difficult. They would need to develop their trades further afield to prosper. On economic size, the Shire was not a rival to other countries. The other drawback is that Hobbits were not always suited to the trades of Men, e.g. clothing, weaponary, pottery etc due to their size and taste. A cultural hurdle existed here, and one would wonder if Hobbits could adapt to the market needs of men in other countries. I would welcome any economists out there to prove me wrong!

As for Loth Lorien and Mordor, they are simply too incomprehendable to measure their true value and prestige economically.

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Old 12-06-2008, 11:25 AM   #28
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The Shire had potential for economic growth, I certainly did not rule that out. But so long as Hobbits lived in their own little country, unconcerned by the events beyond their borders, economic growth would be very difficult. They would need to develop their trades further afield to prosper.
I think they were already prosperous. Food was plentiful. Cottage industries abounded. And, it seems, their pipe weed was exported both to Bree and Isengard.

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As For Loth Lorien and Mordor, they are simply too incomprehendable to measure their true value and prestige economically.
They always gave me the impression of being outside of the traditional economic system. In fact, the early MERP game (from ICE) went into some fair detail describing elven society as a "hierocracy", with gifts and honors as "currency", rather than money. Maybe later I can find those books in the attic.
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Old 12-06-2008, 11:37 AM   #29
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I think they were already prosperous. Food was plentiful. Cottage industries abounded. And, it seems, their pipe weed was exported both to Bree and Isengard.
Pipeweed and beer trades, and perhaps food, were the chief international trades that the Shire boomed on economically. But again, what of housing, clothing, transport etc? Could Hobbits really adapt to serve the physical and cultural needs of men, be it in Bree or Dale? I would have thought the Dwarf market was more obvious in theory, but the needs of Dwarves for such things were not as apparent, being masters of many a craft themselves. The other factor is, Hobbits mostly worked for themselves and their own needs. I don't think the equivalent of many companies/organisations existed in the Shire.

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Old 12-06-2008, 11:47 AM   #30
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Pipeweed and beer trades, and perhaps food, were the chief international trades that the Shire boomed on economically. But again, what of housing, clothing, transport etc? Could Hobbits really adapt to serve the physical and cultural needs of men, be it in Bree or Dale? I would have thought the Dwarf market was more obvious in theory, but the needs of Dwarves for such things were not as apparent, being masters of many a craft themselves. The other factor is, Hobbits mostly worked for themselves and their own needs. I don't think the equivalent of many companies/organisations existed in the Shire.
Probably not. But what evidence of companies do we have in the rest of Middle Earth? Remember that the first company to issue stocks in the world was the Dutch East India Company, and that wasn't established until after the Renaissance, in 1602.
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Old 12-06-2008, 12:00 PM   #31
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Probably not. But what evidence of companies do we have in the rest of Middle Earth? Remember that the first company to issue stocks in the world was the Dutch East India Company, and that wasn't established until after the Renaissance, in 1602.
Michael Delving was a museum that existed in the Shire. In Bree, we come to the Prancing Pony. In Dale we have the Lake Town network. Just a few examples of equivalants to organisations. Not quite up there with Wall Street or Liverpool Street, but companies did exist in Middle Earth.

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Old 12-06-2008, 01:07 PM   #32
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I think the Shire (and Bree?) exported a fair bit of food to the Dwarves, who weren't intertested in, or suited to, farming. No doubt this was traded for metalwork, coinage etc. remember the silver pennies?

I guess the main customers must have been the Blue Mountain dwarves, though dwarves from 'the east' (ie Erebor and the Iron Hills) were passing through Bree, it seems a long way to transport ordinary foodstuffs (salted meat etc probably so as to be non-perishable) when they could get supplies through Esgaroth.
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Old 12-06-2008, 01:15 PM   #33
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Michael Delving was a museum that existed in the Shire. In Bree, we come to the Prancing Pony. In Dale we have the Lake Town network. Just a few examples of equivalants to organisations. Not quite up there with Wall Street or Liverpool Street, but companies did exist in Middle Earth.
I wouldn't mix together the notions of traders, guilds, and actual companies.
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Old 12-06-2008, 01:18 PM   #34
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I wouldn't mix together the notions of traders, guilds, and actual companies.
Your reference does not support your theory that the equivalent of companies (i.e. businesses of some form) did not exist in Middle Earth.
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Old 12-06-2008, 01:19 PM   #35
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Your reference does not support your theory that the equivalent of companies did not exist in Middle Earth.
But there is no proof that there are.

Given the societal and technological level which Tolkien took great pains to detail, there is nothing to support even the notion of an actual company, however. Given, it's a world of magic and the fantastic, but a company would be anachronistic in such a setting.
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Old 12-06-2008, 01:29 PM   #36
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But there is no proof that there are.
I think Hobbiton had a Post Office. Michael Delving, being a museum, would count as an organisation.
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Old 12-06-2008, 01:39 PM   #37
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I think Hobbiton had a Post Office. Michael Delving, being a museum, would count as an organisation.
So, post office and museum = companies? I'll just say that's a bit of a conjecture.

In any event, I got involved in this part of the discussion to add more to the notion that the Shire wasn't worth much and had an insignificant value compared to some other places. I've explained that Lothlorien doesn't have monetary value the way we think it does, and Mordor would only have value in what someone would theoretically be willing to pay for it.

The Shire was prosperous and conducted trade with other place, notably Bree and Isengard, therefore, no, it wasn't as valueless as you gave the impression of it being at first.

However, organized companies didn't come into being in this earth until after the Renaissance- a time of social and technological advancement which Middle Earth never saw. A post office and a museum are nothing special- ancient societies had those. But something like the Central Eriador Export Company is anachronistic- there are too many things, societal, technological, and governmental preceding such a notion to simply assume it could exist in Middle Earth.

I'm sure businesses existed. "Hornblower Longbottom Leaf", or something, could well be a family business, with other hobbits in employ. But an actual company is something different.
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Old 12-06-2008, 01:45 PM   #38
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So, post office and museum = companies? I'll just say that's quite a conjecture.
Yes, indeed, small private companies at least. Not up there with Wall Street investment banks, as I mentioned previously, but companies all the same, such as there were in the Shire.
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Old 12-06-2008, 03:58 PM   #39
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I did not say other means of trade and industry did not exist (such a thought is embarrassingly narrow-minded and absurd), I meant that the Shire was not economically strong beyond the obvious trades. The trades you mention were all relatively small and unimportant. The Shire was way, way behind the other countries of Middle Earth economically. Mithril may have been rare and valuable, but Gandalf rated it as far more valuable than the Shire and everything in it. I do not think he would have said such a bold statement to dismiss Loth Lorien, Rohan, Gondor, Isengard, Mordor, or even Dale. Bring forth the mail shirt before the Lords of Gondor and Rohan and receive an envious glance of wonder at this antique piece of armoury, but no more.
They'd probably have ripped each other's throats out in order to get their mitts on it. Remember it was lust for this rare Mithril which made the Dwarves do the stupid thing that was delving too deep in Moria and releasing the Balrog. A shirt of Mithril was probably worth as much as mansion constructed entirely of diamonds.

And nations do not have to engage in much international trade to be successful. They can manage pretty well in an isolationist position providing they have the resources, which is something The Shire had in abundance - as shown by Saruman the asset-stripper coming in and selling its resources off.

The Shire was likely much, much more economically successful in the late Third Age than either Gondor or Rohan, the former existing in a state of war and the latter being in virtual chaos due to the king being under the influence of outsiders. Nations cannot run effective economies when under poor leadership or in a state of war.

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The other drawback is that Hobbits were not always suited to the trades of Men, e.g. clothing, weaponary, pottery etc due to their size and taste. A cultural hurdle existed here, and one would wonder if Hobbits could adapt to the market needs of men in other countries.
There's no reason why size or taste of the peoples of a nation would affect the things they could manufacture - look at all the stuff China provides the West with, things they do not use, but they still make and export. The only limit is where the skills to make things don't exist and skills can always be acquired.
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Old 12-06-2008, 07:49 PM   #40
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Mithril, whilst rare and valuable, would not stir the Lords of Rohan or Gondor into a fight over it - that view is totally unjustified in context with their real challenges in Middle Earth. If it were so, they would be sending men to mine for it like the Dwarves. Economies can only grow with increased market growth nationally and internationally. Where do you think the manufacturing material in China and India ends up? Mostly to companies abroad at a lower price, of course, hence their growing market share and booming economies. And Hobbits do not have the mind set or culture of Men. They would have to prove that they can adapt to the tastes, wants and needs of Men and acquire much more knowledge about them before manufacturing items for them. Most Hobbits avoid men like the plague, unconcerned by their affairs. War may help to stir a recession, and affect leadership in Gondor or Rohan, but why do you assume the same cannot affect the Shire? Saruman virtually destroyed the Shire single-handedly!

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