Literacy in Middle-Earth?

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Rich H
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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Rich H » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:57 am

cuthalion wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:02 am
Wow, let's not bag on people for their spelling. No matter how lighthearted it's meant, that's like 5 separate people pointing out how the OP has misspelt words in their post to 1 person actually replying and being helpful. Nobody needs that.
Well said, fella, really not cool at all.
cuthalion wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:02 am
Lifstan, it's a good question. I think you're right to think twice about the Rohirrim. They are a much more martial culture, less 'developed' than Arnor/Gondor. Much more oral tradition--per Valerian--and see Horse Lords p. 8 "Songs of the Riders". They make me think of Saxons/Nordic cultures. Think of Eomer at the border of Fangorn, talking about how knowledge of the area has passed into fairy tale status.
I'd certainly go along with this. The Woodmen and Beornings would fall into this category too; sharing common and semi-recent heritage.
cuthalion wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:02 am
That said, there's probably a difference when it comes to rank/status. Is the character an elder? A marshal? Do they belong to a lineage? Do they own land? All those things would make it more likely for them to be literate.
I'd personally go with what best fits the requirements of adventure. I could see a landed noble more likely to be able to read and write but is that a necessity? Not sure it is until you get to the royalty; where there is a need for them to receive and interact with outsiders as well as being the ruler of their land and maintaining law and order by decree, etc. I'd therefore think about the role of each such person within society and decide if reading/writing is something that would greatly benefit them. If not, then I wouldn't bother. Also, if required a character could understand/recognise certain words in order to 'get by'; for example guard recognising the content of a merchant's documents/goods rather then being able to read books of lore, etc.
cuthalion wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:02 am
See also the table on p.15 of the Adventurer's Companion--or presumably somewhere in the Horse Lords supplement--which actually points to Sindarin being a possible secondary language, which surprised me, and that the language of Gondor (by which they mean the Common Tongue) is spoken in court since the crowning of Thengel King.
The Sindarin element does surprise although the language of Gondor is a good way to allow for ease of communication with outsiders for gaming purposes if not for anything else. Although, it being spoken in court is something to develop ideas from; I mean, how would some in court feel about a foreign language being spoken above theirs? I can see that and other elements as seeds to sow division if someone so wished...
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Glorelendil
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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Glorelendil » Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:32 pm

cuthalion wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:02 am
Wow, let's not bag on people for their spelling.
I did not mean to pile on...in fact I was trying to bag on Hermes Serpent for doing so...but re-reading what I wrote I see that might not be clear. Apologies to the OP.
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Indur Dawndeath
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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Indur Dawndeath » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:18 pm

Rich H wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:57 am
The Sindarin element does surprise although the language of Gondor is a good way to allow for ease of communication with outsiders for gaming purposes if not for anything else. Although, it being spoken in court is something to develop ideas from; I mean, how would some in court feel about a foreign language being spoken above theirs? I can see that and other elements as seeds to sow division if someone so wished...
That different languages were spoken at court is not at all uncommon.
In Denmark it was like this at court:
Royalty and nobles spoke French with eachother.
They spoke German to the servants.
And Danish to the dogs...

Sindarin can very well be considered as a language more suitable to court, than the rough common language of the Mark.
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Rich H
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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Rich H » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:33 pm

Indur Dawndeath wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:18 pm
That different languages were spoken at court is not at all uncommon.
In Denmark it was like this at court:
Royalty and nobles spoke French with eachother.
They spoke German to the servants.
And Danish to the dogs...
I wasn't thinking of our own world when I made that comment but more to do with playing TOR. Multiple language usage in an RPG is a quick way to bring your game to a grinding halt as well so what you're alluding to there isn't something I'd consider unless playing in a game where that was a feature of it and something to be explored/overcome/etc. I don't thinking pixel-bitching over whether your character(s) are speaking, or can speak, the correct language when dealing with someone is something that I'd enjoy being a part of so I'd therefore avoid the kind of granularity you've listed out there. And, you know, much that some real world discussion is fine we aren't talking about the real world; Middle-earth works and functions differently than ours!
Indur Dawndeath wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:18 pm
Sindarin can very well be considered as a language more suitable to court, than the rough common language of the Mark.
Possibly, but it doesn't strike me as something they would consider. In Gondor, maybe and perhaps could be something the court at Dol Amroth is known for, but not Rohan. I like to find differences between cultures and this would be a little thing that I think would be interesting to make reference to. I'll certainly make the distinction in my game.
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Otaku-sempai
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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Otaku-sempai » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:03 pm

Rich H wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:33 pm
Indur Dawndeath wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:18 pm
Sindarin can very well be considered as a language more suitable to court, than the rough common language of the Mark.
Possibly, but it doesn't strike me as something they would consider. In Gondor, maybe and perhaps could be something the court at Dol Amroth is known for, but not Rohan. I like to find differences between cultures and this would be a little thing that I think would be interesting to make reference to. I'll certainly make the distinction in my game.
This practice was probably begun in the time of King Thengel who spent many years in Gondor before he succeeded his father. Also, Thengel's queen and mother to Théoden was Morwen of Lossarnach, a woman of Gondor.
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Rich H
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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Rich H » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:11 pm

Otaku-sempai wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:03 pm
This practice was probably begun in the time of King Thengel who spent many years in Gondor before he succeeded his father. Also, Thengel's queen and mother to Théoden was Morwen of Lossarnach, a woman of Gondor.
Yep. A nice little fad then! Which Theoden kicks into touch when he takes the throne. :)
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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Jussi Marttila » Wed Feb 14, 2018 10:00 pm

A nice historical touch to put in:

Reading and writing have for most of history been two separate skills. So it's highly likely that there's more people out there who know how to read at least on a rudimentary level, but not all of them know how to write.

Hobbit literacy might be a function of Hobbit upper and middle classes being really into genealogy: people like Bilbo and Frodo learn how to read because it's important to know how everyone is related. In general, Hobbits might have cultural quirks about such things, like how they probably are far more formally legalistic society than any other ones in existence in Middle-Earth.

Elves probably are literate for the most part, though we could argue that the lifestyle of the Mirkwood Elves doesn't really require extensive literacy. Dwarves have the problem of having an impractical alphabet, though this isn't even in the real world uncommon.

Rohan probably has scribes for whatever purposes they're necessary, but are not a literate society. Gondor might have Roman-era levels of literacy on account of being the most developed and oldest human state in Gondor.
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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Stormcrow » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:29 pm

I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that any elf societies are literate. They have little need to be: they don't need to record history or poetry, they just remember it. On the other hand, they probably consider writing an art to be practiced for its own sake, and they'd all have plenty of time to learn it.

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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Glorelendil » Thu Feb 15, 2018 4:18 pm

Jussi Marttila wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 10:00 pm
Reading and writing have for most of history been two separate skills. So it's highly likely that there's more people out there who know how to read at least on a rudimentary level, but not all of them know how to write.
Could you say more about that? I thought reading was traditionally taught before writing, in the sense that whole numbers are taught before fractions, but not that they are two entirely separate things. Or is that all that you meant? That some people will have learned to read a little bit but would have broken off their studies before learning to write?
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Re: Litteracy in Middle-Earth?

Post by Otaku-sempai » Thu Feb 15, 2018 4:27 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:29 pm
I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that any elf societies are literate. They have little need to be: they don't need to record history or poetry, they just remember it. On the other hand, they probably consider writing an art to be practiced for its own sake, and they'd all have plenty of time to learn it.
I would generally assume that Noldor or Vanyar Elves (or Telerin Elves in the West) are literate. I expect that Elves in the Grey Havens and Rivendell are generally literate. That might not hold true for the majority of Wood-elves in Mirkwood or Lothlórien, or for most Avari.
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