An Introduction to the Cultures of Middle-earth

A lecture originally presented at the Bree-town Hall by master scholar Nallo the Younger as part of an ongoing lecture series.


Tonight's topic is one I hope will resonate with all those of you born and raised here in this lovely land called Bree. We are going to go on a hunt for the origin of those hearty folk known as the Bree-men, and by doing so explore all the other wonderful races of Middle-earth.

Well, some of them being not all so wonderful.

We will eliminate the most obvious first, those being the intelligent beast races, of which the chief are dragons, wargs, and the great eagles. Each makes a fascinating lecture of their own, though that is not our topic this evening.

So we move on to other humanoid races. Ents, an ancient an mysterious tree-people. Giants, rare and reclusive lovers of stone. Troll and Orcs who…well, I am sure you hear enough about them already.

That leaves us with those races known as the Free Peoples, of which it makes only sense to start with the Elves.

Elves (Quendi)

The Elves will tell you they awoke upon a startlit shore no different from how they are today, save for being naked of garb and of experience. This is, however, impossible to confirm, given that not Elf who witnessed such a spectacle is available for questioning in our age.

Regardless, a mass migration of the Eldar did occur well before any trace of written history of Men. This migration fragmented into several sub-groups distinguished chiefly by their decisions regarding the Uttermost West. While the branches of the Quendi are a fascinating topic, it is a topic requiring more protracted discussion than we have time for this evening. And, as you may well have guessed, not one of these many branches begat the Men of Bree, so once again, we move on.

Dwarves

The dwarves, called Naugrim by the Elves and Khazâd in their own secretive tongue, are a bit more of a familiar sight here in Bree-land. They are known to be stout and hearty peoples, with great endurance and a deep fondness for the stone and gems of the earth.

These assumptions are all true to varying degrees, though it should not be thought that the so-called Sons of Durin are all hearty brawlers. They are as varied as Men-folk, and in fact boast some of the greatest minds within scholarly circles today.

The dwarves, like the Elves, were present in Middle-earth well before modern Men. They maintain a proud oral and written record of their heritage, believing to have all descended from seven progenitors, known as the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves. The vast majority alive today trace their lineage back to Durin I, the eldest of them all.

Next to nothing of the other six is known to us in this age, though one thing is certain: the lines of Men did not begin with them. So once again, we move on.

Hobbits

And now here is a people that needs little introduction in Bree. The hobbits, also called the Little Folk or Haflings by us and periannath by the Elves, have likely worked the lands around us for as long as Men have. Most of us know a family or two living on Bree Hill, and still others have spoken with and even visited hobbits of our neighboring Shire.

Truthfully, there is little need to introduce them, for they are much in temperament and customs like the Men of Bree, if perhaps slightly more inclined toward a pastoral and sedentary lifestyle. Anyone familiar with Bree-land knows it is they who produce the finest meat and produce and who cook the finest meals. Just last week, I purchased my favourite smoked gouda from Alfiric Bolger of Bywater, because I know him to be the finest cheesemaker west of the Anduin, and do not tell Burle Pierson I said so.

But did the Men of Bree descend from them? Nay! In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that hobbits are, in fact, the descendants of Men. When and where the two branches diverged is still unknown to us, and may always be.

Alas, though, this still does not answer our question! We now know that Men are not the children of Elves, dwarves, or hobbit-folk, but in fact their own race. But there are many cultures of Men in this Age, and it is still not certain to us how Bree-landers fit into this great puzzle.

Hildor

All Men, known as the Afterborn, fall into a group known as the Hildor (which also includes our friend Alfiric Bolger, and a secretive, forest-dwelling pygmy people called the Woses). From the Hildor also branches the Wild Men, who in turn begat the Men known today as Easterlings and the Haradrim.

The Easterlings are a proud, primarily warrior culture. Mostly nomadic by nature, they dwell in huts of straw and mud, and wear clothing of many bright colours. They dwell in wide an arid plains, where they keep herds of grazing beasts and worship various animal totems. Most Easterling tribes are said to worship the darkness, though our contact with them has been limited mostly to offensive warriors types. We do not know a great deal of their practices at home.

The Haradrim are even less known to us here in the north. They dwell where the world is hot and made of mostly sand, where it is said the sun goes to sleep at night… Their dwellings are made of sandstone and clay, and they wear loose, open linen clothing to keep themselves cool. In the years before the war, no small amount of trade came from the south, primarily textiles, spices, and exotic fruits. Since then, the trade has dwindled, due in no small part to rumours that most Haradrim support the enemy in the East. This scholar can neither confirm nor deny that supposition.

And so now, we must look for Bree-men in the branch called the Edain, from which many Men of the West sprung. The Edain were a proud and noble breed of Men, primarily descended from three original houses known as Bëor, Haleth, and Hador. From them came the Númenóreans, long-lived seafarers who dwelled close to what the Elves call Valinor.

These are the people who first explored the southern shores of Middle-earth, and who eventually founded the kingdoms of Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south. They are also the fathers of those many of you know as Rangers, the forest-dwelling folk well acquainted with the wilds of Eriador.

But yet again, we cannot find the Bree-men in this line, for they were tall and pale, dark of hair and grey of eye. In fact, Bree-men descend from a line of Hildor all their own, as ancient as the land that cradled them.

In the early half of the Third Age, the great Kingdom of Arnor fell with the death of its last king, Eärendur. His sons divided the kingdom into three smaller ones: Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan. It is Cardolan that is of most interest to us today, for it is in the shadow of Cardolan that we now stand.

The ruins that you now see dotting barley fields and poking from the plaster of Breeish homes are the worn bones of Cardolan, a kingdom that suffered more than its fair share of sorrow. But! Before there was sorrow, there was love. Quite literally! The Men of Cardolan frequently intermarried with the Bree-men, which is why even today, many folk of Bree bear distinctly Cardolani names, such as Morducai, Callumn, or Keddric.

As any scholar will tell you, an independent city-state is something of a historical anomaly. For generations beyond counting, Bree has thrived free of supervision from a larger kingdom, and free also of tithes to assertive overlords. And it is true that its success is also an exception. To confirm this, one need only travel west along the Old East road, where they will see the broken ruins of Hillshire, once a town very much like this one.

And so you have it: the story of the Men of Bree, interwoven with the colourful threads of all the peoples of Middle-earth. Bree-land may be an anomaly, but this has never bothered the hearty folk who work this land, who were born on it and raised their children upon it.

It is my hope that I have sparked an interest within you all to learn more of the wonderful cultures we could only touch upon today. Our world far bigger than I alone can show you, and so I invite you all to explore independently.

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