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Arnach is said to be of pre-Numenorean origin in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings (LoTH), and that assumption is repeated in the "Rivers and Beacon-hills" essay. But a remarkable history is asserted for the name Arnen, and just as quickly a more intuitive explanation is offered as a correction. Arnen, it appears, was a name bestowed upon all the land which Isildur took as his demesne (Ithilien). But it eventually became only associated with the hills that were properly called Emyn Arnen, which the annoymous author of a Gondorion document called Ondonore Nomesseron Minaþurie (the þ symbol is called a "thorn" is associated with a sound similar to "th-" in "thank you").
The Ondonore Nomesseron Minaþurie essay is translated as "Enquiry into the Place-names of Gondor", and is attributed to the period during the reign of Meneldil, since "no events later than that reign are mentioned." The documented is only cited briefly (and may not exist, although the "Rivers and Beacon-hills" text -- as published in Unfinished Tales and Vinyar Tengwar No. 42 -- says nothing about whether Tolkien actually composed such a docunent).
The name Arnen, this anonymous Gondorian scholar argues, must have been an erroneous Quenya-Sindarin composite made by the Numenoreans who explored and settled in the region (they were mariners, soldiers, and colonists -- presumably frontier folk from the fringes of Numenorean society). These people, although derived principally from the Faithful Numenoreans of western Numenor, where many Sindarin-speaking Beorians had settled, possessed little skill or knowledge of Sindarin and Quenya. Hence, the author deduces, Arnen probably originally meant "beside the water" (of Anduin), and Emyn Arnen simply meant "the hills rising in Arnen".
Because the Faithful Numenoreans, in an apparent act of rebellion against the Adunaic-speaking Kings, bestowed Elvish names upon landmarks in northern Middle-earth, the new rulers (the House of Elendil) accepted the erroneous place-names that "had become current". That is, the rulers and loremasters accepted any place-names which were in widespread use upon the establishment of the kingdom of Gondor.
The House of Elendil brought some order to the linguistic chaos which reigned in Middle-earth. In the region of Gondor, for example, the Numenoreans found "many layers of mixed peoples, and numerous islands of isolated folk either clinging to old dwellings, or in mountain-refuges from invaders." The "many layers of mixed peoples", unfortunately, are referred to in an unfinished note on the name Bel- which places Cirdan among the Noldor. Christopher speculates that his father realized the gaffe and decided the entire passage was unsalvageable. It is this note which offers the alternative history for the haven of Edhellond, here said to have been founded by Sindar of Doriath who resented the Noldor.
Nonetheless, despite the clear indication that Tolkien abandoned the etymological note on Bel-, it seems clear that he was attempting to remain faithful to the information he had provided in the LoTR appendices. It also appears that he was drawing upon two historical influences as models for early Gondor. One of these models had to be post-Roman, pre-medieval Britain (circa mid-5th century). It was during this time when the entire area was in upheaval, and languages migrated freely with peoples.
Romano-Celts, believed by some scholars even in Tolkien's lifetime to have been only partially indoctrinated into Roman culture after 400 years, possessed the lowlands and dwelt along the coasts of Britain proper. More primitive, or less Romanized, Celts dwelt in Wales, Cornwall, and Scotland. And, of course, there were still Celts in Ireland whose contacts with Rome had been few (at least, in Tolkien's lifetime, there was darned little evidence of Roman intrusion into Ireland). Into these various groups of Celts (some of whom had arrived only just before the Romans, some of whom had absorbed or wiped out yet older peoples) came the German mercenaries from Saxony and Denmark, the followers of Hengist and Horsa.
Latin was thus mingling freely with Celtic and Germanic dialects, and eventually Latin was shunted aside by the Germanic invaders, although it survived in place-names (such as London from Londinium, Colechester, etc.) which the Germans adopted. The Germans accepted the place-names which were in current use for regions and towns, but they gave their own names to their towns, fortresses, kingdoms, and landmarks.
A parallel development, of which Tolkien was keenly aware, occured in North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. As English colonists spread along the coast of North America, they mingled with Native American, Spanish, French, and Dutch populations. The English settlers brought with them the foundations of English language and culture, but they were often little more than outcasts and rebels fleeing oppression in the homeland, particularly religious oppression. The Puritans who settled New England in some ways must have resembled Numenorean Faithful, who eschewed less doctrinaire beliefs adopted by their kings.
North America, like England before it, and like Gondor, is riddled with place-names given in numerous languages. The oldest European settlement on the east coast, for example, is St. Augustine, founded by the French, stolen by the Spanish, and ultimately ceded to the United States as a part of Florida. But there are place-names in Native American languages, and constructed from hybrids, as well as from Latin and Greek (such as Augusta and Philadelphia respectively).
As Britain became England, the ancient Roman culture was pushed aside or abandoned and the Germanic invaders had to build up a whole new cultural heritage in terms of literature, scholarship, and architecture. As the breakaway English colonies formed their own nation, they struggled to retain their ancient English identity. For decades the wealthy families had sent their sons off to study in English universities. They waited for the latest fashions to arrive from England (and France). The newly organized United States, like the newly organized Gondor, had to build its own society almost from scratch.
North America was blessed with a substantial cross-section of younger sons and daughters who, leaving the English gentry and mercantile classes, brought some wealth but much knowledge and a determination to establish their families in the New World, to the colonies. They built up an educational, literary, and industrial foundation upon which North American culture was built by succeeding generations (all influenced by millions of immigrants from around the world).
Early Arnor and Gondor were cut off from Numenor, just as England cut off the United States. Elendil and his people had to build their civilization with fewer resources than the United States possessed. The nine shiploads of Faithful who survived the Downfall of Numenor may therefore have provided the frontier regions of Arnor and Gondor with a small but self-sustaining intellectual class. The "Rivers and Beacon-hills" essay all but says that the intellectuals -- the properly educated people who understood Quenya and Sindarin -- came last. It is therefore reasonable to infer that Elendil's arrival in Middle-earth unleashed a cultural revolution which forever changed the social and technological map of the northern world.
The significance of the late arrival of an intellectual class cannot be overemphasized. Everything would have changed. Whereas previously the frontiersmen eeked a living, possibly joining with the native clans of Gwathuirim and other people who inhabited the Ered Nimrais, Elendil and his sons brought a cadre of Numenorean purists to the shores who decided to rebuild Numenor in their own image. The "Rivers and Beacon-hills" essay implies they even retained some of Numenore's botanical traditions (for lack of a better phrase).
In discussing the meaning of the names Arnach and Lossarnach, Tolkien decided that the "loss-" referred to the blossoms of the fruit trees in the region, which was planted with orchards by the Numenoreans. These orchards provided fresh fruit to Minas Tirith even up to and during the War of the Ring. They had to be as important to Gondor as olive trees were important to the Greeks. The blossoms of Lossarnach were so varied and beautiful that the people of Minas Anor/Minas Tirith undertook "expeditions to Lossarnach to see the flowers and trees...."
Ioreth, the old woman working in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith, spoke of wandering through the woods with her sisters, and she mentioned the roses of Imloth Melui, which she enjoyed when she was young. She was well-versed in old rhymes and knew the common names of plants (at least, of athelas, which she only recognized as kingsfoil). Something of the frontier tradition survived the civilizing influence of Elendil's folk, or else the veneer of civilization was lost through the centuries as Gondor's fortunes rose and fell.
The Peoples of Middle-earth indicates that Isildur and Anarion founded the cities of Minas Anor, Minas Ithil, and Osgiliath. In fact, Osgiliath was the first city they built. They must therefore have gathered up as many of the local people as they could find and gave them crash courses in how to build cities. Each passenger on the nine ships must have been worth his or her weight in mithril, for their knowledge of how Numenor had functioned would have proven invaluable. The native-born Numenoreans would have been to their Middle-earth cousins like Noldor fresh-returned from Aman settling among the Nandor.
Concerning the peoples of Middle-earth, the "Rivers and Beacon-hills" essay also contains a passage -- crossed out by Tolkien -- which discusses the practice of building temples, which the Numenoreans did not follow prior to their corruption by Sauron. The Paths of the Dead are said to contain an ancient temple, which the ill-fated Baldor tried to break into. He was attacked from behind by enemies (apparently Gwathuirim who revered the area) who followed him into the Paths of the Dead. Tolkien readers have generally assumed for decades that Baldor's inexplicable death owed something to the Dead themselves, but that is apparently not the case.
These essays provide new insights into Tolkien's vision of Middle-earth. But they also raise new questions even as they struggle to answer old ones. A door has been opened and we cannot help but peak around the corner, for the treasures which lie beyond that once-forbidden threshold are unimaginable. We will, of course, never get it all right, because Tolkien himself never got it fully right. But with each revelation we come one step closer to seeing the panorama of his heart. The legions standing on the hills and the clans moving quietly through the woods, the girls laughing in the meadows, the farmers with their orchards -- even the old mariners mending their nets and reminiscing about how they first went to sea -- all combine to show us a world filled with the wonder and delight of man's youth.
Michael Martinez is the author of Visualizing Middle-earth, which may be purchased directly from Xlibris Corp. or through any online bookstore. You may also special order it from your local bookstore. The ISBN is 0-7388-3408-4.