The Roads of Middle Earth
#1
The Great East Road, The Greenway, The Old South Road, the various Roads around Gondor and through Mirkwood:

What do we know about each? When was each one built and by whom?

I vaguely remember mention about the East-West Road in Eriador being older than the North-South Road... and that the former was used more by Elves and Dwarves and the latter more by Men and Hobbits (or do I have any of that backwards or mixed up?). What does JRRT tell us about the roads of Middle Earth?
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#2
IIRC (DHBWM) the East-West Road was credited to the Dwarves and would have dated well back into the Elder Days. It seemed to have connected the old mansions of the Ered Luin with the Iron Hills and regions further east (with perhaps a branch off to Gundabad when that was the great assembly-place of the world's dwarves?). However, it seems the later kingdoms, particularly Arnor/Arthedain/Cardolan, took over the management of the portion that ran thru them; IIRC the Bridge of Stonebows over the Baranduin was built during the reign of Elendil before the War of the Last Alliance.

I think the North-South road was established by Elendil & Sons also as the main overland connection between Arnor and Gondor when those kingdoms were founded. It could be, CTTOI, the portion between Eregion and Lindon might actually date to the heyday of those realms in the Second Age.

The South road may have (speculation?) dated back to the days of Numenorean dominion in ME and might have been the work of the early princes of Umbar.

I'll recheck my library first chance.

:coffee:
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#3
The South Road (also called the Greenway) may have existed prior to the founding of Arnor, since Tharbad predated Arnor by more than two thousand years. Sauron probably followed that road up through Tharbad into Eriador.

My feeling is that it may have originated as an Elvish road. That need not be so, however, as the Edain could have blazed the path for their own purposes.

The East road through Eriador is credited to both Elendil and the Dwarves. Presumably, the contradictory traditions can be reconciled by the assumption that Elendil rebuilt the ancient Dwarf road, perhaps altering some of its path.

There is a text in Unfinished Tales (I believe in "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields") which says that the chief route between Arnor and Gondor in Elendil's time was the sea. Isildur sailed down Anduin, around the coasts, and up the Gwathlo to Tharbad. Another text, however, says that the great causeway which passed through Tharbad was guarded by forts on both sides of the river. One fort housed an Arnorian garrison and one fort housed a Gondorian garrison (until TA 1636, when Gondor withdrew its outlying garrisons).

The Dwarf road which ran through Greenwood the Great was abandoned, probably after the rise of Dol Guldur, perhaps after Smaug seized Erebor. However, Dwarves continued to pass through or around Mirkwood, going between the Iron Hills and the Ered Luin.

Sauron built a road leading from Dol Guldur to Mordor. There was another road leading east past the Morannon which I think he is also credited with building. And he had a major highway leading north through western Mordor from the Nurnen region.

There must have been a road between Erebor and the Iron Hills. I believe the great Dwarf Road turned northeast after it emerged from the eastern side of Mirkwood (north of the East Bight) and ran toward the Iron Hills.

Bard the Bowman and his descendants must have built some roads as they enlarged the Kingdom of Dale (which extended all the way to the Carnen by the time of the War of the Ring). That is not to say they would have had great highways. But they would have to have some means of sending people and soldiers to their borders. I doubt Tolkien intended for them to rely solely upon river travel. That would have been too impractical.
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#4
Quote:Originally posted by Michael
The South Road (also called the Greenway) may have existed prior to the founding of Arnor, since Tharbad predated Arnor by more than two thousand years. ...

My feeling is that it may have originated as an Elvish road. That need not be so, however, as the Edain could have blazed the path for their own purposes.

Presumably because it would have been the logical primary overland route between Lindon and Eregion (founded SA 750).

Tharbad seems to be located in association with a "fall line" where the land's geology and elevation change abruptly, comparable to the transition between the "Piedmont" and the Atlantic coastal plain in the southeastern US with which I'm most familiar. The placement of Tharbad at the 'fall line' where navigation becomes more difficult would be analogous to the founding of such inland communities in colonial America as Camden, SC and Augusta, GA (and later Columbia, SC) as gateways for river transport to the coastal ports. I'm sure European and other analogs can be cited, which Tolkien may have had in mind.

I also couldn't help reflecting that the NS road thru Tharbad could be compared to the old Cherokee trade roads that in early colonial times approximately followed the Piedmont side of the "fall line" and marked the boundary of their sway.

Quote:The East road through Eriador is credited to both Elendil and the Dwarves. Presumably, the contradictory traditions can be reconciled by the assumption that Elendil rebuilt the ancient Dwarf road, perhaps altering some of its path.
...
The Dwarf road which ran through Greenwood the Great was abandoned, probably after the rise of Dol Guldur, perhaps after Smaug seized Erebor. However, Dwarves continued to pass through or around Mirkwood, going between the Iron Hills and the Ered Luin.
...
There must have been a road between Erebor and the Iron Hills. I believe the great Dwarf Road turned northeast after it emerged from the eastern side of Mirkwood (north of the East Bight) and ran toward the Iron Hills.


Yes, that's basically what I had in mind. I know it was stated Elendil or Isildur built the Bridge of Stonebows, and presumably the Last Bridge as well. The Dwarves seem to have built one long E-W main road connecting several of their mansions and colonies, after they awoke and established their nations. In fact, would the original western destination of this road not have been the old mansions of Nogrod and Belegost? If so, it seems to me that the old E-W road in Beleriand between Doriath and Dorthonion was a further continuation of this ancient road.

Along this vein, it seems to me a very important road should exist, but never did. It seems to me that there was enough traffic of various kinds N-S in the Vale of Anduin east of the River to have justified a road, at least until the mid second millenium of the Third Age. Furthermore, the main gate of Khazad-Dum faced east. (The West Gate was not built until the kingdom of Eregion was founded in SA 750). How did the ancient Dwarves, of the greatest and most respected nation, travel from their most celebrated mansion to visit their kindred and to assemble at Gundabad? One would think a great road and a bridge (or at least a ford) would have existed there, at least in ruins, and indeed there is one described leading from the gate down along the Silverlode. However, it seems to lead straight into Lothlorien! Where did it go, ultimately? Through Lothlorien and somehow across the River to meet a forgotten road near Amon Lanc and across Greenwood thru the center of Oropher's old realm? This seems unlikely in view of the strained relations between Sindarin elves and Dwarves, and the lack of textual support, but it seems the best conjecture possible IMCO.

When was this old road (presumably) closed to Dwarves, and was that due to the rise of Dol Guldur around TA 1000 (and the closing of the Elven realm under the power of Galadriel)? Did the later dwarves have to leave their old road to journey north, south, or east, and if so where?
:coffee:
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#5
Quote:Originally posted by Alvin Eriol
Yes, that's basically what I had in mind. I know it was stated Elendil or Isildur built the Bridge of Stonebows, and presumably the Last Bridge as well. The Dwarves seem to have built one long E-W main road connecting several of their mansions and colonies, after they awoke and established their nations. In fact, would the original western destination of this road not have been the old mansions of Nogrod and Belegost? If so, it seems to me that the old E-W road in Beleriand between Doriath and Dorthonion was a further continuation of this ancient road.

Yes, I think that was what Tolkien intended, although I don't believe he stipulated it anywhere. Christopher comments on the roads of Beleriand somewhere in HOME, and I think he said they were built by the Dwarves (even the highway leading to the coast, if I recall correctly -- although that could have been a Noldorin road, too).

Quote:Along this vein, it seems to me a very important road should exist, but never did. It seems to me that there was enough traffic of various kinds N-S in the Vale of Anduin east of the River to have justified a road, at least until the mid second millenium of the Third Age...

It is always implied there are many roads throughout areas of Middle-earth which are not shown on the map or named. For example, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum crept past a network of roads between Mordor and Gol Guldur when they emerged from the Emyn Muil and entered the Dead Marshes.

Also, Isildur and his men were following some sort of track or dirt road northward when they were ambushed.

All too often, I think people imagine Middle-earth's geography as being largely wilderness. In fact, the landscape was peppered with ruins, roads, small groups of people, towns, and villages which -- even if named -- rarely earn much recognition in the commentaries or fan discussions.

Quote:...Furthermore, the main gate of Khazad-Dum faced east. (The West Gate was not built until the kingdom of Eregion was founded in SA 750). How did the ancient Dwarves, of the greatest and most respected nation, travel from their most celebrated mansion to visit their kindred and to assemble at Gundabad? One would think a great road and a bridge (or at least a ford) would have existed there, at least in ruins, and indeed there is one described leading from the gate down along the Silverlode. However, it seems to lead straight into Lothlorien! Where did it go, ultimately? Through Lothlorien and somehow across the River to meet a forgotten road near Amon Lanc and across Greenwood thru the center of Oropher's old realm? This seems unlikely in view of the strained relations between Sindarin elves and Dwarves, and the lack of textual support, but it seems the best conjecture possible IMCO.

I think Tolkien intended for the reader to infer there were more roads in the Misty Mountains and the Vales of Anduin than he mentioned. This is a case where it is reasonable to infer in the abstract without being able to infer explicit paths and locations.
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#6
Quote:Originally posted by Alvin Eriol
Presumably because it would have been the logical primary overland route between Lindon and Eregion (founded SA 750).

Tharbad seems to be located in association with a "fall line" where the land's geology and elevation change abruptly, comparable to the transition between the "Piedmont" and the Atlantic coastal plain in the southeastern US with which I'm most familiar. The placement of Tharbad at the 'fall line' where navigation becomes more difficult would be analogous to the founding of such inland communities in colonial America as Camden, SC and Augusta, GA (and later Columbia, SC) as gateways for river transport to the coastal ports. I'm sure European and other analogs can be cited, which Tolkien may have had in mind.

I also couldn't help reflecting that the NS road thru Tharbad could be compared to the old Cherokee trade roads that in early colonial times approximately followed the Piedmont side of the "fall line" and marked the boundary of their sway.

Except I think Tolkien specified that the river above Tharbad was much slower, with swampy banks far upwards.
Quote:Originally posted by Alvin Eriol


Yes, that's basically what I had in mind. I know it was stated Elendil or Isildur built the Bridge of Stonebows, and presumably the Last Bridge as well. The Dwarves seem to have built one long E-W main road connecting several of their mansions and colonies, after they awoke and established their nations. In fact, would the original western destination of this road not have been the old mansions of Nogrod and Belegost? If so, it seems to me that the old E-W road in Beleriand between Doriath and Dorthonion was a further continuation of this ancient road.

Along this vein, it seems to me a very important road should exist, but never did. It seems to me that there was enough traffic of various kinds N-S in the Vale of Anduin east of the River to have justified a road, at least until the mid second millenium of the Third Age. Furthermore, the main gate of Khazad-Dum faced east. (The West Gate was not built until the kingdom of Eregion was founded in SA 750). How did the ancient Dwarves, of the greatest and most respected nation, travel from their most celebrated mansion to visit their kindred and to assemble at Gundabad? One would think a great road and a bridge (or at least a ford) would have existed there, at least in ruins, and indeed there is one described leading from the gate down along the Silverlode. However, it seems to lead straight into Lothlorien! Where did it go, ultimately? Through Lothlorien and somehow across the River to meet a forgotten road near Amon Lanc and across Greenwood thru the center of Oropher's old realm? This seems unlikely in view of the strained relations between Sindarin elves and Dwarves, and the lack of textual support, but it seems the best conjecture possible IMCO.

Well, we have no mention of any significant places close to and to the East of Anduin except Amon Lanc and the hall of Beorn... I think that the sensible connections for Durin would have been to travel North between Anduin and the Misties either to Mount Gundabad, or to cross at High Pass and go west to Eriador and the Blue Mountains, or turn East between Gray Mountains and Greenwood. In FoTR, it is emphasized that the western foot if the Misties is much more hostile land than the eastern foot.

The road to Lothlorien might have ended at a river port. Navigation upward of Lothlorien seems to have been easy, and then it might make sense to bulid a road for heavy cargoes only, while light traffic would have gone north y much less permanent tracks.
Quote:Originally posted by Alvin Eriol

When was this old road (presumably) closed to Dwarves, and was that due to the rise of Dol Guldur around TA 1000 (and the closing of the Elven realm under the power of Galadriel)? Did the later dwarves have to leave their old road to journey north, south, or east, and if so where?
:coffee:
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#7
Quote:Originally posted by Michael
It is always implied there are many roads throughout areas of Middle-earth which are not shown on the map or named. [...]
All too often, I think people imagine Middle-earth's geography as being largely wilderness. In fact, the landscape was peppered with ruins, roads, small groups of people, towns, and villages which -- even if named -- rarely earn much recognition in the commentaries or fan discussions.

I think Tolkien intended for the reader to infer there were more roads in the Misty Mountains and the Vales of Anduin than he mentioned. This is a case where it is reasonable to infer in the abstract without being able to infer explicit paths and locations.


Discussion of even explicit examples like the Forsaken Inn seem to founder on a lack of definite fact. I'm sure that in some heyday or another -- across, let's face it, 3000 years and more -- most areas of Middle-earth had their successful phase. The deforestation of most of the map (also not to be assumed to be absolute!) at least stands evidence of that.

But I was a bit surprised on re-reading LOTR for about the third time (in my late teens?) that the lands were quite that empty. I had indeed assumed Middle-earth to be fairly populous, but when the Fellowship boated down Anduin they really didn't pass river traffic that wasn't significant enough to mention in the tale, but were in a deserted land. "Wilderland" doesn't seem to have been a relative term. By the late Third Age, heading towards the Dominion of Men, Men seem to have been in a serious slump.

I would gladly cling to any reference to even "lonely" or "lordless" Men anywhere east of the Misty Mountains and north of the Argonath, or any hint of a detail as to whether there were 20 Woodmen or 20,000!

--Os.
[SIZE="1"]Osric of Ossulston, at your service.
Venerable he seemed as a king crowned with many winters, and yet hale as a tried warrior in the fulness of his strength.
[/SIZE]
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#8
Quote:Originally posted by Osric
[color=darkblue]

Discussion of even explicit examples like the Forsaken Inn seem to founder on a lack of definite fact. I'm sure that in some heyday or another -- across, let's face it, 3000 years and more -- most areas of Middle-earth had their successful phase. The deforestation of most of the map (also not to be assumed to be absolute!) at least stands evidence of that.

Where does Tolkien say most of the map was deforested? The only forests I know of which were destroyed were the ones lining the Gwathlo. Minhiriath and Enedwaith were reduced to plains. And the East Bight represents a huge section of Mirkwood that was deforested, but still only a small part of it.

Elsewhere, Tolkien describes plenty of trees dotting the landscape across Eriador and the Vales of Anduin.

Quote:But I was a bit surprised on re-reading LOTR for about the third time (in my late teens?) that the lands were quite that empty. I had indeed assumed Middle-earth to be fairly populous, but when the Fellowship boated down Anduin they really didn't pass river traffic that wasn't significant enough to mention in the tale, but were in a deserted land. "Wilderland" doesn't seem to have been a relative term. By the late Third Age, heading towards the Dominion of Men, Men seem to have been in a serious slump.

The Fellowship only traversed a small portion of the river, and they passed through lands which were much like the border regions of, say, medieval Spain -- hotly contested between opposing powers (Dol Guldur/Mordor in the east and Lorien/Rohan in the west). Their intentioned was to travel stealthily, and thus avoid contact with people as much as possible.

I don't get the sense that Men are in a slump at all. They seem rather numerous to me, although the Free Men of Eriador, Gondor, and Wilderland appear to be in the minority.

Quote:I would gladly cling to any reference to even "lonely" or "lordless" Men anywhere east of the Misty Mountains and north of the Argonath, or any hint of a detail as to whether there were 20 Woodmen or 20,000!

There were still plenty of Men living in the lands north of Lorien. The Beornings and the Woodmen were numerous enough to merit a third of the great forest, after Sauron was defeated.
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#9
Quote:Originally posted by Michael
Where does Tolkien say most of the map was deforested? The only forests I know of which were destroyed were the ones lining the Gwathlo. Minhiriath and Enedwaith were reduced to plains. And the East Bight represents a huge section of Mirkwood that was deforested, but still only a small part of it.

Well, it is maybe fair to say that most of the map was non-forested. When the Elves passed west (after the Dwarves had awoken and sent Petty-Dwarves to Beleriand!), they found that the Greenwood was the greatest forest they had yet encountered. This means that even before the Sun rose, there were forests - but most of the landscape east of Greenwood, and the Vale of Anduin, were non-forested even then!
Quote:Originally posted by Michael

Elsewhere, Tolkien describes plenty of trees dotting the landscape across Eriador and the Vales of Anduin.


Fair enough: plenty of small groves and suchlike in the Vales of Anduin and also south of the Road in Eriador, not shown as forest on the map.

By contrast, Eriador north of the Road except Chetwood and Trollshaws was thoroughly devoid of trees of any sort, as was area between Old Forest and Road, and Calenardhon. It is emphasized in the description of travel and events that one could see leagues away, even from fairly low vantage points like low hills, horseback, standing. But if you have assured sightlines of leagues, even very scattered trees are ruled out (if an orc or a rider or a walker is seen leagues away, a lonely tree is much more conspicuous! And a small number of them would cover the horizon.)

Quote:Originally posted by Michael


The Fellowship only traversed a small portion of the river, and they passed through lands which were much like the border regions of, say, medieval Spain -- hotly contested between opposing powers (Dol Guldur/Mordor in the east and Lorien/Rohan in the west). Their intentioned was to travel stealthily, and thus avoid contact with people as much as possible.

I don't get the sense that Men are in a slump at all. They seem rather numerous to me, although the Free Men of Eriador, Gondor, and Wilderland appear to be in the minority.



There were still plenty of Men living in the lands north of Lorien. The Beornings and the Woodmen were numerous enough to merit a third of the great forest, after Sauron was defeated.


In any case - the Beornings had heavy Dwarf traffic west and east, and levied tolls from it. At the same time, they were completely isolated southward. Aragorn - moving around since 2951 or so - knew of boat traffic down Anduin to Gondor. Boromir - born in 2978 - had heard of it, but said hardly any boats had come in his time.
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#10
Quote:Originally posted by Jaak
By contrast, Eriador north of the Road except Chetwood and Trollshaws was thoroughly devoid of trees of any sort, as was area between Old Forest and Road, and Calenardhon...

There is no textual support for these statements.

We know that the Hobbits traveled through some regions where grass or brush dominated the landscape. But nowhere did Tolkien say these lands were "thoroughly devoid of trees of any sort" or anything like that.

Quote:...It is emphasized in the description of travel and events that one could see leagues away, even from fairly low vantage points like low hills, horseback, standing. But if you have assured sightlines of leagues, even very scattered trees are ruled out (if an orc or a rider or a walker is seen leagues away, a lonely tree is much more conspicuous! And a small number of them would cover the horizon.)[b]

That is not correct. I have driven back and forth across America many times. I often drive through flatlands where there are numerous stands of trees. I can see for miles and miles beyond and around the trees. The lands are not truly flat, of course, and Eriador had plenty of hills and vales through which the Hobbits passed on their journey.

It sounds to me like you are judging all of Eriador by the Midgewater Marsh, in the description of which Tolkien mentions no trees. But there had to be trees near Weathertop because there was wood in the area. In fact, when Aragorn led the Hobbits out of the marsh, they made camp under some trees:

Quote:At the day's end they came to a stream that wandered down from the hills to lose itself in the stagnant marshland, and they went up along its banks while the light lasted. It was already night when at last they halted and made their camp under some stunted alder-trees by the shores of the stream. Ahead there loomed now against the dusky sky the bleak and treeless backs of the hills.


Quote:[b]In any case - the Beornings had heavy Dwarf traffic west and east, and levied tolls from it. At the same time, they were completely isolated southward. Aragorn - moving around since 2951 or so - knew of boat traffic down Anduin to Gondor. Boromir - born in 2978 - had heard of it, but said hardly any boats had come in his time.


Which doesn't mean the upper Vales of Anduin had become depopulated (although that is a possibility, since Sauron's forces returned to Dol Guldur in 2951). The growing power of Dol Guldur might be sufficient to choke off trade between the north and the south. Also, as Sauron's forces took control over the east bank of Anduin from the Gladden Fields south toward Mordor, such a journey would be immensely perilous. I doubt Tolkien envisioned much incentive for anyone to make the journey in the final years of the Third Age.

The economy of the North was shutting down, slowly being choked off. Bree was no longer enjoying the traffic it had once known, even with the Shire. But that doesn't mean whole populations were suddenly dying off. The only significant population decrease Tolkien mentioned for this period was the departure of the Eldar.
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