Thranduil's court?

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Matt Clark
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Re: Thranduil's court?

Post by Matt Clark » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:25 pm

Butterfingers wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:24 pm
Thanks SurrenderMoney, I had forgotten all about him.

Matt, that's exactly the kind of people I imagine Thranduil would be surrounded by, in addition to idle nobles, diplomats and general yes-men... What about the royal family, is Legolas it, or are there more? maybe cousins etc.
It might be worth thinking about what happened to accommodate Legolas's maternal side of the family and what influence or positions they occupy in the societal order of Elves of Mirkwood.. Lots of scope there to fill out a whole family dynasty, including any tensions.

I imagine the Elven social order to have changed very little over the ages - a stasis so to speak. Similar to the social hierarchy and nobility of Republican Rome or perhaps a more Hellenistic Greek culture. If the former - the way it's cultural influence then continued through to the Byzantine era and beyond.

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Re: Thranduil's court?

Post by Otaku-sempai » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:43 pm

Butterfingers wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:24 pm
What about the royal family, is Legolas it, or are there more? maybe cousins etc.
According to The Heart of the Wild (page 81) Legolas has at least one brother, who is unnamed. There might be other siblings.
6. Elvenking's Apartments: Thranduil lives in these rooms when he is in the palace. When he is off hunting, he usually leaves one of his sons as seneschal.
If you want to borrow from MERP, you can add Thranduil's queen, the Lady Arhendhiril. From Halls of the Elven-king (Iron Crown Enterprises, Inc.; 1988):
"I was then formally presented to his queen and Legolas, Thranduil's son and heir. The Queen's beauty dazzled me; her hair cascaded about her like a river of silver in torrent. The lady's welcome carried like chimes or silver bells stirred by the wind. She stood as tall as Thranduil, who was taller than all others present. For Lady Arhendhiril was Sindarin, kin to the House of Thingol through the family of Elmo, his brother in Beleriand. The purity of the Sindarin strain in the Queen was reflected in her silver hair. Though abashed in her presence, I was engaged to speak of my journey as her maids scurried to prepare my lodgings."
In TOR the assumption seems to be that Thranduil's queen is out of the picture, either deceased or perhaps she acquired the Sea-longing and took ship into the West. However, the only evidence we have for this assumption is a lack of mention of her.
"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."

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Re: Thranduil's court?

Post by Majestic » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:24 pm

Butterfingers wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:43 am
That's an interesting point you make, Stormcrow. It's hard to imagine such society with immortal members... wouldn't you get bored to death doing the same job for hundreds of years on end? Maybe they would switch jobs at regular intervals to keep the tedium away? Or take long breaks to go on a long 'walkabout' or something?
From experience with my kids (when they were younger and living at home), for humans this period is about one week. At which point they tired of their chores and wished to swap them with their other siblings. ;)
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Re: Thranduil's court?

Post by Butterfingers » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:35 am

I read the Woodland Realm section in the Heart of the Wild, with a little more thought for this subject. The first observation seems to be that Thranduil is a kind of benevolent tyrant, in that he likes to keep absolute control over his realm. When the text talks about law, it's HIS law, not the realm's or the elves'. And he has several magical means of controlling the borders of this realm, and I assume monitoring strangers who enter it?

Secondly, on page 80 of the book, it says Thranduil receives visitors in his hall, and that "It is here that he receives amabssadors and hears pleas from his subjects, and it is here that his court gathers. Thranduil has many advisors and dignitaries at his court - princes and ambassadors, sages and poets, heroes and healers. Most are Elves, of course." I assume they have to practice their job at least occasionally, even if wood-elves seem particularily fond of dancing and singing all the time? :lol:

A second interesting point is on page 77: "Thranduil listens to petitions at court or at feasts, but such requests must go through proper channels. One does not just walk up and bend the Elvenking's ear about some petty request - you have to make appointment, and offer a suitable gift, and follow all the correct forms of address."

So it seems there's a sort of inner circle (or several!) who screens and scrutinizes all the petitioners and visitors, before they can make their plea. Sounds pretty byzantine, even? But this is not to say that Thranduil would be unaware of people tramping around his realm before the appear in his court, of course...quite opposite. He seems to be a bit paranoid about foreigners (and maybe with reason too), and downright hostile towards dwarves? And since we know about the wayward elves, it would be reasonably to assume there's a faction in favor of them in the court, even if it is in the minority at the start of the campaign?

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Re: Thranduil's court?

Post by Stormcrow » Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:11 pm

Butterfingers wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:35 am
Thranduil is a kind of benevolent tyrant, in that he likes to keep absolute control over his realm. When the text talks about law, it's HIS law, not the realm's or the elves'.
When you're an immortal elf, you don't carry on the accumulated traditions and laws of previous kings: those are YOUR laws and traditions. There are no democracies in Middle-earth, and egalitarianism is not a thing.
there's a sort of inner circle (or several!) who screens and scrutinizes all the petitioners and visitors, before they can make their plea.
Pretty standard medieval royal court procedures.

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Re: Thranduil's court?

Post by Butterfingers » Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:31 pm

Fair enough, but about your earlier statement:
Stormcrow wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:03 pm
I wouldn't expect an elven court to much resemble a human court, since it would lack the ambition and intrigue of the courtiers. It's not like there is much room for advancement after thousands of years of the same people. Rather, I would expect the courtiers to be satisfied with their particular jobs, which probably aren't all that rigorous anyway. What point would there be to being an immortal yes-man?
As for the laws, you're then saying Thranduil wouldn't follow any tradition (for example, his father's before him?) So he'd make decision based on his current moods and information, and it would then become a law; or would everything be handled as individual cases, and he'd just rule as he felt? It sounds pretty chaotic, would his subjects stand for such a master?

Not saying it's impossible fo course, and in Hobbit and indeed in the DoM campaign his actions might seem a bit rash and whimsical. Is he portrayed as a good or able ruler?

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Re: Thranduil's court?

Post by Glorelendil » Thu Jan 11, 2018 4:02 pm

Butterfingers wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:31 pm
As for the laws, you're then saying Thranduil wouldn't follow any tradition (for example, his father's before him?) So he'd make decision based on his current moods and information, and it would then become a law; or would everything be handled as individual cases, and he'd just rule as he felt? It sounds pretty chaotic, would his subjects stand for such a master?
I think what he is saying is that in most monarchies the "laws", whether codified or traditional, are handed down generation after generation. When you are immortal you don't have that, so the system of laws isn't handed down to you, it's yours. You aren't a steward of the legal structure, you are the legal structure.

Certainly some erratic personalities (no comment) might change their mood and their mind on a daily basis, but I suspect Thranduil likes consistency.

As for the composition of the court, I would start by just trying to imagine an interesting and diverse cast of characters, and then justify them being there, rather than starting with a bunch of job descriptions.

For example, "hero" is one of the examples listed in HotW. Ok, what does an Elven hero look like? We have Glorfindel and Legolas as examples, but of course we would want our new hero to be different. He might be a mighty archer, but this is a hero not just a huntsman, so I'm picturing something else. (And, again, we already have Legolas.)

Why is he a member of the court? It's not like Thranduil needs a "champion" to fight single combats for him. Bodyguard? Possible...but, that doesn't ring true for me. Maybe he's simply invited as an honor for past deeds. So what was this past deed? Is he simply a mighty warrior who performs heroic deeds in war? Or did he do just one 'heroic' thing that won him fame?

This is starting to coalesce for me: he's not obviously a warrior, but he is skilled and courageous, and at some point he did something on his own initiative that was foolish and dangerous and selfless, but he succeeded. And now he is honored and renowned, but he didn't do his deed for fame, and he's not terribly comfortable or happy hanging around in Thranduil's throne room. This is made worse by the fact that he himself thinks he got more than a little luck ("...good thing that Troll stumbled...") or credits the success to his friend who didn't survive, so he doesn't believe he deserves his fame. Maybe his achievement was tinged with, or motivated by, a great loss, and his acclaim does little to assuage his lasting grief. What he really wants to be doing is...something else. (Chasing spiders from Mirkwood? Finding and tending a vanishing species of tree? Searching for something/somebody he lost?) And maybe he likes hearing stories from people who get to do what they want.
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Matt Clark
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Re: Thranduil's court?

Post by Matt Clark » Thu Jan 11, 2018 4:35 pm

If there is any associated reference to be drawn on from Tolkien canon and about how Thranduil's court might work and, that one might say is 'typical' of an Elven court, again I think of the scenes depicted in Thingol's court...

There is an extended scene in Children of Hurin (I've not long listened to it read by the great Christopher Lee) where Thingol holds a court of judgement and various members of that court petition on behalf of Turin who I think has slain Saeros at this point. Beleg petitions 'the most passionately' and therefore influences Thingol most. Perhaps even more significantly Melian as with other of the Elven 'higher order' also has a strong influence on the King but a little more 'behind the scenes' so to speak (the Anima at it's work). A more detailed reading of that scene might give you more examples of who is doing what in the court.

Additionally there is also the scene of Thingol's court when Beren petitions him either about Luthien or after the quest for the silmaril when he returns empty handed.

Unfortunately I don't have the references to hand to quote directly from them now but it strikes me this is more like a communal 'court.' The King listens to all the opinions etc and then makes his verdict, though with no small influence of his wife or most trusted advisor/s.

Later Turin would, in his own forceful way, 'usurpe' the advisors to Orodreth at the court of Nargothrond and as such hold the most influence. Orodreth adopts a more aggressive military position and commands the bridge to be built to better able to facilitate the movement of his warriors.

Then there's the 'intriguing' at the court of the King Turgon in Gondolin where his nephew (?) Maeglin eventually betrays the city. it all sounds very typical of the in-house plotting and scheming for favour or grievances.

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Re: Thranduil's court?

Post by Glorelendil » Thu Jan 11, 2018 4:52 pm

For the same reason that Thranduil's laws are his own laws, and not an inherited, codified set of laws, I would think that there isn't a formal court in the sense of only people with certain titles having a voice. It's more like that over centuries and millennia it becomes common knowledge who is invited to weigh in and who is not. It becomes tradition ("law"?) in itself.

Sort of like how in a lot of societies land ownership isn't formalized and recorded in deeds, but everybody who matters knows who "owns" which land. (c.f. de Soto's "The Mystery of Capital")
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