What does the "common folk" know?

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PalmettoMike
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What does the "common folk" know?

Post by PalmettoMike » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:15 pm

Hello all. I'm preparing for my first AIME session. Does anyone have a sense of how much Arda history/legends the "common folk" generally know? I'm not including scholars or elves in this question. How much would your average denizen know about the first age, Morgoth, the wizards, etc.? Conversely, would the events of the later years, leading up to this age, still be fairly known? Or has all of this fallen into legend, and people are generally ignorant of the past, or regard it as fanciful? For example, would Bree-folk know about the Rangers being descended from the Númenóreans, or who Sauron is? It seems like the people of Minas Tirith certainly do. Do all know Eru Ilúvatar as the creator? I know religion isn't really a concern in Middle Earth, but just a general sense of people's beliefs.

Looking forward to connecting to fellow fans!

Grimboldfrood
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Re: What does the "common folk" know?

Post by Grimboldfrood » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:03 pm

Not really an answer, but convert some of the LOTR dates to our calendar. If AiME is supposed to start in 2946 Third Age, then Sauron fell in 928BC (200 years before Rome was founded), the shire was created in 672AD (The Dark Ages), and the Rangers were formed after the fall of the north kingdom in 1047AD - that's pre-Norman Conquest in the UK.

So what do people know today about things that happened all that time ago? At least we are supposed to be in the Information Age, and can draw on the internet, books, TV and film (and Hollywood is so well known for historical accuracy, after all :roll: ). I doubt that the "common folk" would know much - unless they came from a society that relied heavily on sagas, stories etc.

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Geomtje
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Re: What does the "common folk" know?

Post by Geomtje » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:16 pm

I remember reading a passage about common folk not knowing a lot about what’s happening outside their borders. Since they are 'cut off' and do not have any modern tools like phones and internet. I would also assume that most common folk would not delve into the history books that much, because of work and hardship; and that most tales would be passed on as campfire stories, changing every generation and eventually being lost in time.

"History became legend. Legend became myth. And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost." If I remember correctly.
J.J.R. Tolkien wrote:...so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

Otaku-sempai
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Re: What does the "common folk" know?

Post by Otaku-sempai » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:37 pm

What do the common folk know?

Well, in the late Third Age it might take weeks or months for news to get from Gondor to Bree (to give one example) and that news might not be very accurate by the time it arrives. Even then, such news might only be of any interest because of its novelty, something to talk about besides the weather, the crops and local gossip. Folk in the Shire or Bree have probably heard of King Bard the Dragon Slayer, but some might think the story of the slaying of Smaug is greatly exaggerated or completely made up.

And think of the Bree-landers who will absolutely swear that they are descended from Northmen who were kinfolk to the Men of the West, when it seems much more likely, from what is known, that the first Bree-folk were related to the Dunlendings, driven north when Númenóreans started felling large quantities of trees in southern Eriador.
Last edited by Otaku-sempai on Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he."

MrUkpyr
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Re: What does the "common folk" know?

Post by MrUkpyr » Sat Apr 07, 2018 4:49 pm

Cue "I wonder what the King is doing tonight" from the musical Camelot!
MrUkpyr
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

MrUkpyr
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Re: What does the "common folk" know?

Post by MrUkpyr » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:45 pm

One example of what the "common folk" know would be Barliman of the Prancing Pony.

He only knows Aragorn as "Strider". He is a Ranger, and they are considered dangerous and secretive. He has no idea that Aragorn is one of the Dunedain, nor what purpose the Rangers serve within Eriador.

As another example, in the TOR book "Horse-lords of Rohan" it is mentioned that Elves and Dwarves have not come to Rohan for a long while, and thus little is known of them. They have *never* seen a hobbit.
MrUkpyr
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

Enevhar Aldarion
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Re: What does the "common folk" know?

Post by Enevhar Aldarion » Sat Apr 07, 2018 6:26 pm

This sort of came up in another thread here where we were discussing literacy. A lot of the common folk around Middle Earth probably did not know how to read at all, and the printing press does not exist yet either, so random people being able to pick up a random history book just does not happen. That leaves the spreading of news/stories/history/etc to traveling merchants and minstrels and bards, etc, however few there may even be wandering between the settlements of Eriador. So the further the common folk live from an event, both in distance and in time, the less truth about it they will know, if they know at all that it happened.

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ThrorII
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Re: What does the "common folk" know?

Post by ThrorII » Sat Apr 07, 2018 6:41 pm

To piggy back on what others had said, remember:

The Shire folk had little knowledge of what occurred beyond their borders. The Dwarf travelers coming back over the Misty Mountains brought news that was called 'Strange as News from Bree', meaning it was only to be half believed (remember Ted Sandyman's take on such news).

The Bree folk had no knowledge of who the Rangers were, and even though the 'Southrons' were coming up the Greenway escaping war (Dunlandings?) there was little actual 'news', more rumors.

The Rohirrim, despite only being a few hundred miles down the Greenway from Bree and the Shire, never heard of Hobbits, and relegated them to sprites or pixies of mythology. The Elves of Lorien were unknown to the Rohirrim, despite being on their own border. The 'Golden Wood' and the 'Sorceress of the Golden Wood' were boogeymen. Same with Fangorn. The Rohirrim had never seen an Ent, although they had old myths about them. Eomer had knowledge of Elves and Dwarves, but it is unclear if he had actually seen one ever.

Remember, using today as 2946TA, the fall of Sauron was during the Trojan War. Common People today would put as much weight in Sauron (before his Return) as you or I would of Zeus or Hades.

PalmettoMike
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Re: What does the "common folk" know?

Post by PalmettoMike » Sat Apr 07, 2018 9:55 pm

These are fantastic replies, thank you all for taking the time to type your thoughts.

What about the religious angle? Certainly the Elves know about Eru, being Firstborn and all. The Dwarves know likely as much being "Durin's Folk." But what about the rest of the population? Do the Lake Towners know about Eru? What about the Dunlanders? If you asked a Beorning or Man of Minas Tirath who created Middle Earth what would they say? Are all content in the single cosmology of the Silmarillon, or are matters of creation & divine purpose not given much weight?

Is Middle Earth our Earth without a church? Are there just a a few in the know (like the Elves) and the rest simply are too busy with their lives to contemplate what happens to them with they die? They make mention in Rohan about the halls of ancestor, I think. I'm trying to get a bead on knowledge and beliefs of NPCs my players might encounter.

A follow-up question I had was in regards to population. How many people inhabit Lake Town? In colonial America 20,000 was a big place. Is Bree as large as Minas Tirith? If a census was done, what would be final tally (not counting Orcs) people to be found in Eriador and the WIlderland? 1000,000? What do you think, less or more?

Looking forward to your thoughts! All the best

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ThrorII
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Re: What does the "common folk" know?

Post by ThrorII » Sat Apr 07, 2018 10:38 pm

PalmettoMike wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 9:55 pm
These are fantastic replies, thank you all for taking the time to type your thoughts.

What about the religious angle? Certainly the Elves know about Eru, being Firstborn and all. The Dwarves know likely as much being "Durin's Folk." But what about the rest of the population? Do the Lake Towners know about Eru? What about the Dunlanders? If you asked a Beorning or Man of Minas Tirath who created Middle Earth what would they say? Are all content in the single cosmology of the Silmarillon, or are matters of creation & divine purpose not given much weight?

Is Middle Earth our Earth without a church? Are there just a a few in the know (like the Elves) and the rest simply are too busy with their lives to contemplate what happens to them with they die? They make mention in Rohan about the halls of ancestor, I think. I'm trying to get a bead on knowledge and beliefs of NPCs my players might encounter.

A follow-up question I had was in regards to population. How many people inhabit Lake Town? In colonial America 20,000 was a big place. Is Bree as large as Minas Tirith? If a census was done, what would be final tally (not counting Orcs) people to be found in Eriador and the WIlderland? 1000,000? What do you think, less or more?

Looking forward to your thoughts! All the best
The elves revered the Valar, who were Eru's representatives to the world. I don't know how much they new of Eru. The Men of Westernese had a temple to Eru in Numenor, but it fell in to decay in the 2nd Age, after Sauron was captured and brought there. The Men of Minas Tirith had a similar 'high mount' to worship Eru, through their King (who acted as High Priest). But after the line of kings failed, in 2050TA, formal worship stopped.

Tolkien does not speak of the worship practices of the Men of the West. We only know that the Easterlings and Haradrim worshipped Sauron.

There are no hard or fast numbers on population (other than estimates on Rohan). I'd say Bree had about 500-1000 people/hobbits (100 stone houses of men, and hobbit holes). Bree-land in total might have had 5,000. Lake-town might have 2,000 people. I'd guess Minas Tirith, at the time of the War of the Ring had about 10,000 soldiers (including the 3,000 who showed up from the western fiefs). The city is described as sort of a ghost town, as many civilians fled beforehand. Maybe MT had 20,000 people?

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