05 · Peoples and cultures


The Grey Moun­tains area is still lar­gely an unta­med wil­der­ness. There are few set­tle­ments, no cities or other large concen­tra­tions of people.

In T.A. 1640

Beor­ning groups still live in the Nar­rows, as they have done for nearly two thou­sand years. Now, though, they are few — per­haps five hun­dred of these rugged, proud North­men remain. They are the nor­thern kin of the Beor­nings of the Anduin vales, a land to which many of them have been forced to flee. The ones that remain are beset by nume­rous foes upon all fronts : Wolves, Orcs, man­nish ser­vants of the Witch-king, and even Dra­gons. They are a people under siege.

In the moun­tains at the small Dwar­ven out­post of Sil­ver­plunge all has gone quiet. A small amount of trade was once conduc­ted with the Beor­nings, but no more. Rumors tell of the Great Plague wiping out the set­tle­ment com­ple­tely. While many doubt this (attri­bu­ting the silence to strange Dwar­ven ways), few have any ink­ling of the awful truth.

In the North­lands the Ice-orcs reside at their Dark-ice for­tress. Recently the Witch-king has become aware of their pre­sence. They too have been absor­bed by his ever gro­wing Empire, for they now guard his north-eas­tern flank.

In T.A. 2580

The situa­tion in the Grey Moun­tains has chan­ged much since the time of the Great Plague. For five hun­dred years the Dwarves of Durin’s tribe have been mining the moun­tains, trying to recall the splen­dor of their lost Khazad-dum.

In the last twenty years much of their work has been undone. The incur­sions of Dra­gons have begun to overw­helm the Dwarves.

The Nar­rows are now devoid of any human set­tle­ments, the lands retur­ning to wil­der­ness. The last of the Bei­ja­bar were driven out five hun­dred years ear­lier, and since the fall of Angmar traf­fic along the Men Mithrin has all but ground to a halt.

Freed from the yoke of the Witch-king the Ice-orcs have been expan­ding in the North ; they do as they please, and now menace the Los­soth and Loran peoples.

5.1 The Beijabar (1640)

The Beor­nings have always remai­ned aloof from other races, and even their own kin. This is due mostly to their self-impo­sed iso­la­tion ; they are not a sociable people, pre­fer­ring to live alone or in small family units.

The Beor­nings are dis­tinct from all other North­man groups cur­rently living in Rho­va­nion. Less urba­ni­zed they are one with their sur­roun­dings. In past years, when the North­men lived in Eria­dor, they were the mas­ters of the cult of the Bear (one of many such types). They migra­ted across the Misty Moun­tains during the latter years of the Second Age. In later years their trail was used by other North­men groups.

Most of the Beor­nings today live in and around the Nan Taur­duin, with a few remote set­tle­ments in the high­lands near the moun­tains.

There is no obser­ved form of govern­ment among the Bei­ja­bar. Lea­der­ship, such as it is, is held by the eldest male in each family unit. A High Shape-chan­ger (Rh. « Waetan »), elec­ted as a repre­sen­ta­tive of the people to the out­side world, leads the Bei­ja­bar in reli­gious affairs and times of strife. During such times the Faird (Levy) can be called. This consists of every able-bodied male over the age of fif­teen.

Reli­gion is cen­tral to all Beor­nings. Their out­look on life is shaped by the famed cult of the Bear ; nature in its mani­fes­ta­tions in the phy­si­cal world is wor­ship­ped, and the Great Bear spirit is held in the highest esteem. Many of the Beor­nings are Shape-chan­gers, being able to assume Bear form at cer­tain times. In most cases, this takes place during the ela­bo­rate rites and dan­cing rituals of the wor­ship of Bema, the Great Bear spirit (Oromë).

In appea­rance the Beor­nings are tall, heavy-boned indi­vi­duals. They have a great deal of hair (usually a shaggy red color) and dress in fur tunics and woolen leg­gings. Males may also wear rein­for­ced lea­thers. The Bei­ja­bar employ two lan­guages : Atly­duk, which is deri­ved from ancient Eria­do­rian, is their eve­ry­day speech ; Wail­dyth, the other, is a form of trail sign, which they use in the wilds.

5.2 The Dwarves

The Chil­dren of Aulë are per­haps the stran­gest of the free peoples, for although they have played a signi­fi­cant part in the his­tory of Middle-Earth, they are a secre­tive race who jea­lously guard their lands and pos­ses­sions. The most open of the Seven tribes is the tribe of Durin, the Death­less. This is hardly sur­pri­sing for they have played a grea­ter part in the struggles of the free people than the rest of their bre­thren.

In the time­less pas­sages before the awa­ke­ning of the Elves, before Men trod the paths of the Earth, the Dwarves were made by Aulë the Valar. He could not await the coming of the Elves, for he desi­red to teach his lore and crafts. In his pas­sions he diso­beyed the wishes of Eru. Eru knew of Aulë’s deeds, in the very hour of their making Eru spoke to him, and rebu­ked him for his efforts, remin­ding him that it is not for the Valar to create life. Aulë repen­ted and took up his hammer to des­troy his crea­tions, although he was loathe to do so. But Eru showed mercy to the cowe­ring Dwarves ; he gave them true life and a will of their own. They were cast into a long sleep, ready for their awa­ke­ning. The Elves were to be the First­born.

When Aulë crea­ted the Seven fathers he had no clear idea of what the races to come would look like. The Dwarves are hence short and stocky, with power­ful limbs. Aulë also made them able to carry great bur­dens and resist all extremes of tem­pe­ra­ture. Dwarf-men vir­tually always wear beards, brai­ding them and tucking them into their belts. Dwarf-women, who com­prise but a third of the race, are gene­rally sligh­ter in build than their male coun­ter­parts.

The King of Durin’s folk holds abso­lute power over his people. Mun­dane affairs and day-to-day busi­ness is dele­ga­ted to offi­cials. There is also an enclave, a body of Dwar­ven coun­ci­lors who advise the King. Govern­ment is effi­cient and there is an unwa­ve­ring loyalty to the crown.

Dwarves work and live in close proxi­mity to one ano­ther in their moun­tain stron­gholds. They may seem cold and aloof to out­si­ders, but to their own kin they are warm and friendly. They are pas­sio­nate about their craft-work, and are sur­pri­sin­gly emo­tio­nal beneath their tough exte­riors. Dwarves are indus­trious, wor­king long hours in their mines and smi­thies. During rest per­iods, Dwarves will meet and talk in the large gathe­ring halls, or listen to music played by fine har­pers.

The Dwarves are a war-like race, their stan­ding armies large and well-equip­ped. In times of war these forces can be sup­ple­men­ted with a gene­ral call to arms. There are no finer heavy infan­try forces in all of Middle-earth. The suc­cess of the Dwar­ven war machine in bat­tles can be attri­bu­ted to two fac­tors : their superb equip­ment and their deadly skill with axes and mat­tocks. Dwarves relish contests of a phy­si­cal nature ; war is simply an exten­sion of their natu­ral way of life.

The Dwarves of the Ered Mithrin mint some coi­nage — mostly silver which, through trade, is cir­cu­la­ted throu­ghout Rho­va­nion. The coins are of a high qua­lity, being uni­formly pure and exact in weight. As such they are gene­rally used as a stan­dard in exchange rates.

Within their large under­ground hol­dings the Dwarves have fashio­ned for them­selves lod­gings simi­lar to those found in their lost Khazad-dum. While they are simple struc­tures, the three- to seven-room grou­pings are spa­cious and invi­ting. Deco­ra­tive rugs and tapes­tries cover the floor and walls ; a bright fire­place and soft lamps give a warm light to the rooms.

The Nau­grim (S. « Dwarves ») hold strong reli­gious beliefs concer­ning their ori­gins and the future of their race. They revere the « Maker » (Aulë) and equate him with Eru, tur­ning to him when trou­bled or in times of need. Prayers and simi­lar rituals are pri­vate affairs —a Dwarf will go to the chapel of Aulë see­king solace and silence.

The secre­tive nature of the Dwarves is best illus­tra­ted with the example of their lan­guage — Khuz­dul. It is known to few out­si­ders, and the Dwarves will not even commit its sacred let­ters to the gra­ves­tones of their decea­sed. When they converse with the rest of the world they will speak the local tongue. This is usually Wes­tron, Sin­da­rin or one of the various North­man dia­lects. Khuz­dul is now to the Dwarves a sacred lan­guage or lore and has chan­ged little since Aulë first inven­ted it. It is a harsh-soun­ding tongue, one heard rarely, save on the bat­tle­field (e.g., Baruk Khazad, Khazad ai menu).

5.3 The Ice-Orcs

Far to the North, beyond the Grey Moun­tains, there can be found a race of crea­tures often thought to be legen­dary. Few people have ever seen an Ice-orc ; of those who do, few live to speak of their know­ledge. The Ice-orcs have made the cold, barren tundra-lands their home, and they will not suffer anyone to tra­verse them without their leave.

The fore­fa­thers of the present-day Ice-orcs were the Orcs of Mor­goth who wat­ched over the North-lands, beyond the reaches of Ang­band. They were also used to main­tain a guard at the cros­sings of the Grin­ding Ice. Mor­goth alte­red their forms slightly to enable them to serve him better in cold cli­mate. Fol­lo­wing the over­throw of their Dark Master, a small band of these Orcs fled east across the arctic plains, later tur­ning south for the Ered Mithrin.

The dif­fe­rences bet­ween Orcs and Ice-orcs are not evident from a dis­tance, but in pro­file the dif­fe­rences are quite marked. At five to six feet, Ice-orcs are taller than common Orcs. They appear half-star­ved, but their gaunt frames are asto­ni­shin­gly strong and agile. Their skin has a pale cast to it, and they have a grea­ter amount of body hair. In most other aspects they are simi­lar to their sou­thern kin. One excep­tion is their abi­lity to withs­tand the light of the sun — a neces­sary adap­ta­tion in view of the nature of the arctic summer.

Just as with normal Orcs, there are both lesser and grea­ter Ice-orcs. The lesser are by far the most common. Of sligh­ter build, the lesser breed less tall (ave­rage 5”) and less mus­cu­lar. The grea­ter Ice-orcs are not only grea­ter in sta­ture (very strong, ave­ra­ging 6” tall), but they are also more intel­li­gent.

A fur­ther inter­es­ting fact about the Ice-orcs is their gender pro­por­tions. At 70%, male births are much higher, and des­pite the cor­res­pon­din­gly higher male infant mor­ta­lity rate there are still more males than females.

The Ice-orcs live in what could best be des­cri­bed as an orde­red chaos. As with all Orcs might means right, the stron­ger ruling the weaker. A hapha­zard monar­chy has exis­ted since the foun­ding of the Dark-ice For­tress. While the rei­gning King has a firm grip on the throne his rule is abso­lute. The change of power is often accom­pa­nied by much blood­shed.

Ice-orcs live like all others of their kind, their lives domi­na­ted by fear and vio­lence. Living condi­tions are filthy, but not quite as bad as in other Orcish set­tle­ments— many bac­te­ria cannot live in the cold cli­mate. Males spend much of their lives out on the Tundra patrol­ling the region. Females are kept as vir­tual pri­so­ners in the bree­ding cham­bers and rarely ven­ture beyond the castle walls.

The main social event in an Ice-orc’s life is one of the four reli­gious « fes­ti­vals » that are held by the priests each year. These week-long cele­bra­tions essen­tially consist of an orgy of tor­ture and sacri­fice. The pries­thood wields consi­de­rable power in Ice-orc society, their popu­la­rity gained from these fes­ti­vals. All such reli­gious cere­mo­nies are dedi­ca­ted to Mor­goth, who the priests say will one day return.

Ice-orcs speak a pecu­liar dia­lect of Orkish, ele­ments of which are found in most other Orkish tongues. Given their iso­la­tion it is pro­bable that their speech is archaic Orkish — a lan­guage dating back to the Elder Days.

The Ice-orcs will eat any­thing that moves (and some things that don’t), but their diet is based sub­stan­tially on the Los­ran­dir.

Being self-suf­fi­cient, the only cur­rency the Ice-orcs have is that gained in raids on other crea­tures. For prac­ti­cal pur­poses cur­rency is use­less in their com­mu­nity, but each Orc will hoard his trea­sure — much like a Dragon would.

Ice-orcs are always ready for battle. They constantly raid the Lotan and Los­soth peoples, and have the occa­sio­nal confron­ta­tion with Gun­da­bad Orcs. In addi­tion to their figh­ting skills, the Ice-orcs are renow­ned for their superb tra­cking abi­li­ties.

The Ice-orcs have no mines beneath their castle, simply because there is nothing to mine there. Ins­tead they main­tain a series of mining set­tle­ments in the nor­thern Ered Mithrin. The lar­gest of these is called Thol­la­kar (aOr. « Deep Cleft »). The mining out­posts are strictly control­led from Kala Dula­kurth, and the war­riors and guards are rota­ted regu­larly from the castle to the mines.

The Ice-orcs main­tain a strong vigi­lance over the Forod­waith at seve­ral out­posts — dere­lict castles from the Elder Days.

Other Ice-orcs lead a more pri­mi­tive life­style, roa­ming the Forod­waith in small noma­dic bands. The size of these bands can vary greatly, from less than ten indi­vi­duals to more than one hun­dred. The larger bands are much like small tribes, and they date back seve­ral gene­ra­tions. The smal­ler bands are more likely to be rebels, deser­ters, or splin­ter groups from the larger bands. These noma­dic Ice-orcs are sub­ject to the ruler of Kala Dula­kurth ; but, of course, the smal­ler and more remote the group, the less the control.


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