Umbarean trade with Eriador: A neglected topic
Jason Beresford, 3469 Legato Court, Pomona CA 91766 – 0977, USA
The people of Umbar are generally portrayed as either pirates and/or agents of Sauron, but little has been written about their role as principal maritime trading nation in Endor. This is a situation I am trying to rectify in my revision to the 1982 Umbar module.
In reading the recently published Arnor Realm module, I noticed that the only association of Umbar with Eriadoran trade is that the hostilities between Umbar and Gondor have disrupted the Gondorian sea trade with Tharbad. No mention is made of any trading with Umbar itself. This article, while not as detailed as what I am writing for the revised Umbar module, is intended to provide a brief summary of Umbarean trade activities in the region.
Trade ties between Umbar and the people of Eriador date from the first founding of Númenórean colonies in Middle-earth. As the Númenóreans became estranged from the Elves, that portion of Umbarean trade diminished, with lucrative trading relationships, except when the risks outweighed the potential gain.
This situation continued well into the Third Age. Following the final Gondorian victory over Umbar in T.A. 1050, Gondorian trade links with Arnor and the nearby Dwarven and Elven communities reinforced existing ones between Umbar and the region. Castamir’s defeat did little to change the Umbarean trade links since most of the principal Gondorian maritime traders sided with Castamir in the Kin-strife, and then fled to Umbar following his defeat.
Umbarean trade with the region essentially ceases when they lose their principal trading partners. Cardolan is depopulated, Arthedain falls to Angmar and Moria is abandoned. As Umbar falls under Sauron’s influence, the limited trade with the Elves of Lindon and Dwarves of the Ered Luin is finally abandoned and all regular trade contact ceases. Only sporadic independent trading ventures continue to visit the region for the rest of the Third Age.
As the War of the Ring nears, Umbarean traders visiting Eriador do act as agents of Sauron against Gondor and Rohan, supplying the Dunlendings and other “allies” with war materiel; however, Saruman’s dominant position in the region far outstrips that of all Umbarean agents.
In the mid-Third Age, Umbarean trade is almost exclusively focused through Tharbad, and is principal trading partner (as measured by the value of goods exchanged) is Khazad-dûm. Cardolan has little to offer following it’s fragmentation, and trade with Arthedain is limited due to the expense of land transport.
Umbarean merchants provide rare and exotic woods, herbs, spices, silks, precious substances not generally available in Eriador (such as perils), and manufactured/crafted goods from around the world. In return, they purchase Dwarven-made weaponry and armor, miscellaneous craft/manufactured goods, precious metals (gold and mithril), gemstones, exotic animals (such as chetmig, glutani, and bears) local herbs, local exotic woods, furs, Cardolani glassworks, Arthadan optics (their telescopes are accounted among the finest in all Endor) and (to fill out a cargo hold) Cardolani woolen goods.
A limited trade, both open and clandestine, is also conducted with Rhudaur, Angmar, and Dunland through agents in Tharbad. Umbarecan ships also trade at Sudúri (aka: Mistelondë, Lond Gwathiló) and other river towns downstream of Tharbad as they travel to and from Tharbad along the Gwathiló.
A few Umbarean merchants regularly venture to ports other than Tharbad. Those with contacts among the Elves of Lindon dock at Mithlond, while those with contacts among the Dwarves of the Ered Luin dock at Caras Celairnen. The Umbarean contacts with both groups are ancient, dating from Númenórean trading activities prior to the founding of Umbar and are carefully maintained by the Umbarean merchants.
A small amount of trade with Arthedain and the Rivermen of Numeriador is funneled through Caras Celairnen. Goods exchanged in both ports are similar to those traded at Tharbad. For Arthedain, lower transport costs to Caras Celairnen allow for a higher volume of trade with Umbar than at Tharbad, however the total value of the goods exchanged is significantly less. Infrequently, Umbarean merchants visit the smaller ports of Eriador, such as Annon Baran and Cairc-faergus. The more exotic goods available at Tharbad, Mithlond, and Caras Celairnen are generally unavailable.
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