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Author Topic: Book Faithful Easterlings  (Read 2485 times)

Offline armchairgeneral

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Book Faithful Easterlings
« on: December 22, 2021, 09:59:28 PM »
Just wondered if anyone has a take on what the Easterlings were like from the LotR books? I can’t find much to go on. Axe armed with beards. So maybe Viking or Rus types?

Offline Hobgoblin

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2021, 11:04:18 PM »
There isn't much to go on, though what there is is collected here.


These two quotes seem to be about it for their physical appearance:

Quote
"These Men were short and broad, long and strong in the arm; their skins were swart or sallow, and their hair was dark as were their eyes."

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 18, Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

and:

Quote
"... countless companies of Men of a new sort.... Not tall, but broad and grim, bearded like dwarves, wielding great axes. Out of some savage land in the wide East they come...."
The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 4, The Siege of Gondor

Only the second quote is strictly "canonical", in that it's something Tolkien actually finalised and published, but the first seems to match up well with it.

So they don't seem to conform to the received image of Vikings - they're more like Huns on foot with added beards and axes. The Wainriders are Easterlings, which might strengthen the notion of them as being like Steppe nomads.

The Variags of Khand, on the other hand, conform to Vikings or Rus etymologically ("Variag" = "Varangian"). And they're differentiated from the "Easterlings with axes" (although Tolkien quite often appears to differentiate things that are identical - "orcs and wolf-riders", for instance - as an archaic rhetorical flourish). But they're not described at all, so their name is just a tantalising pointer.


Offline armchairgeneral

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2021, 08:54:07 PM »
Thanks Hobgoblin. I was hoping you would chime in. I had seen the Variag/ Varangian reference. To me though that sort of means they would just look a bit like dismounted Riders of Rohan with axes.

I see the general Easterlings referred to at the Battle of the Black Gate as quite wild looking. As you say quite like  Huns or early cossacks with axes. Just pondering over figures.

Offline Blackwolf

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2021, 09:27:10 PM »
Hobgoblin is the man!
I always picture Easterlings as the non Hunnic members of the Attila’s confederation,essentially dark haired Goths and so forth,particularly in the Silmarillion. However these days that is my focus,as I find Lord of the Rings slightly overstated and not a little laboured,that comes from reading it too many times :) The Silmarillion is ,to my mind much more subtle,and mythic .
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Offline nicknorthstar

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2021, 10:10:59 PM »
Don't forget Frodo's vision:

Horsemen were galloping on the grass of Rohan; wolves poured from Isengard. From the havens of Harad ships of war put out to sea; and out of the East Men were moving endlessly: swordsmen, spearmen, bowmen upon horses, chariots of chieftains and laden wains. All the power of the Dark Lord was in motion.

I've always been intrigued by the chariot reference. Chariots are such an archaic weapon, out of place in what is mostly an 11th/ 12th century war setting.

Personally I've always gone with a steppes peoples/ hun look for the Easterlings. But I used to know a Tolkien-fanatic wargamer who used traditional fantasy barbarians, and actually they looked really good.


Offline armchairgeneral

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2021, 10:20:10 PM »
Personally I've always gone with a steppes peoples/ hun look for the Easterlings. But I used to know a Tolkien-fanatic wargamer who used traditional fantasy barbarians, and actually they looked really good.

So any suggestions for figures?

Offline Hobgoblin

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2021, 10:33:34 PM »
Don't forget Frodo's vision:

Horsemen were galloping on the grass of Rohan; wolves poured from Isengard. From the havens of Harad ships of war put out to sea; and out of the East Men were moving endlessly: swordsmen, spearmen, bowmen upon horses, chariots of chieftains and laden wains. All the power of the Dark Lord was in motion.

Aha - I'd forgotten that entirely!

That's a great reference, and it certainly compounds the Steppe-peoples impression with the mounted archers. You know, every time I've read that after the first, I've probably thought of the Haradrim rather than the Easterlings. But with the chariots and wains, it's clearly the latter. Interesting that the axes don't pop up there - presumably, they were added as the Easterlings "came into focus" in the later sections.

I've always been intrigued by the chariot reference. Chariots are such an archaic weapon, out of place in what is mostly an 11th/ 12th century war setting.

That's a great point too! I wonder if there was a bit of "outside influence" at play - perhaps JRRT looking beyond the Germanic world to Ireland or even to Homer.

Or maybe it was just a natural martial extension of the Hunnic/Avar wain concept.


Personally I've always gone with a steppes peoples/ hun look for the Easterlings. But I used to know a Tolkien-fanatic wargamer who used traditional fantasy barbarians, and actually they looked really good.

I reckon the Frostgrave barbarians could work really well in this role. They're slightly "squat and broad" to begin with, and I think they have relatively long arms - I've found them to work well with the gnoll kits. The horned helmets capture that "fantasy barbarian" look perfectly, of course, and there's no shortage of axes or beards.

Offline armchairgeneral

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2021, 10:56:58 PM »
I reckon the Frostgrave barbarians could work really well in this role. They're slightly "squat and broad" to begin with, and I think they have relatively long arms - I've found them to work well with the gnoll kits. The horned helmets capture that "fantasy barbarian" look perfectly, of course, and there's no shortage of axes or beards.

Good shout. I like the look out those.

Offline Hobgoblin

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2021, 11:09:45 PM »
If you were to use Victrix Vikings for the Variags, the Frostgrave Easterlings would certainly look "short and broad" next to them - but not at all out of scale. I can post a picture of them side by side if that would help.

Offline armchairgeneral

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2021, 12:04:30 AM »
If you were to use Victrix Vikings for the Variags, the Frostgrave Easterlings would certainly look "short and broad" next to them - but not at all out of scale. I can post a picture of them side by side if that would help.

Thanks for the offer. I have a Foundry Viking army I can draw on for the Variags if need be but I like the idea of something more generic using those Frostgrave figures.

Online Cubs

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2021, 12:04:47 AM »
I know Gripping Beast do Mongolians in metal, or used to. In plastic I know Fireforge do 'Steppe Warriors' (foot) and 'Mongol Cavalry' (lighter mounted, archers and such) plus 'Mongol Heavy Cavalry' (heavy armoured lancers, mounted). They're what I would personally go for.

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Offline Porsenna

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2021, 02:04:08 AM »
Don't forget Frodo's vision:

Horsemen were galloping on the grass of Rohan; wolves poured from Isengard. From the havens of Harad ships of war put out to sea; and out of the East Men were moving endlessly: swordsmen, spearmen, bowmen upon horses, chariots of chieftains and laden wains. All the power of the Dark Lord was in motion.

I've always been intrigued by the chariot reference. Chariots are such an archaic weapon, out of place in what is mostly an 11th/ 12th century war setting.


I think this is one place where it would have been nice to know how well Tolkien was versed in non Western history. Like, was he aware of the (relatively late) usage of Chinese 'Chariots', and rolled these in as an inclusion to describe what is honestly an unknowable expanse of land east of the given map?

I'm of the opinion that outside of Mordor which seems like a stand in for the Turks of later, that LoTR stands as a dark age setting, what with the themes of fallen empires, plagues, barbarians at the gates, migrations of peoples etc.

I think a hunnic general inspiration of the easterlings is appropriate, but as part of that a whole 'hunnic confederation' of different peoples (from Goths and Varangians to Sarmatians and Alans and Huns all the way over to far eastern elements) would be a good path to go down, if only to help show the expanse of Sauron's dominions in the east.

On the flip side, the Blue Wizards are supposed ot have been stirring up rebellion and resistance to Sauron in the east, so a setting perhaps with 'eastern empire' as Gondors cognate also fighting these hordes might be a neat narrative path to go down one day!

Offline armchairgeneral

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2021, 10:58:47 AM »
Thanks for the figure suggestions.

I have the GB Black Hoods in my Rus army as well as Varangian guard so they should work okay. As well as Fireforge I notice TAG do Mongol heavy infantry. I do like the Frostgrave barbarians though. I will have a think. I wonder if Northstar are having a January sale?  :)

Offline Hobgoblin

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2021, 11:49:00 AM »
One option might be to swap some bearded heads onto the Steppe nomad bodies. But the Frostgrave barbarians do give you the axes. Frostgrave heads would work OK on the nomad bodies, though the neck attachments would need surgery at both ends. I think the arms would look a bit big, though. But you could probably mingle bit and pieces (bow cases, fur cloaks, etc) across the ranges to get figures that would work well together.

Another line to throw into the mix are the Fireforge Russians, which give you some axes and bearded heads:


Offline Emir of Askaristan

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Re: Book Faithful Easterlings
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2021, 12:08:50 PM »
Geography might give some clues. Easterlings come from the steppe land beyond Rhovanion and around Rhun. The Variags are of Khand, south east of Mordor. These correspond to the areas of (roughly) the Ukrainian and Pontic steppe and Bulgaria and Romania respectively.

So that would tie with Huns, Avars, Magyars, Slavs and Khazars for Easterlings (and Bulgar, Byzantine types for Variags).

There are so many eastern tribes and peoples depending on how you feel middle earth correlates in terms of timescale and historical periods, you can take your pick.

The axe could be Bardiche like or equally the Turks and other central Asian peoples certainly made use of hand axes will into the 19th century.

Wains pretty much equal yurts....but chariots ....no idea ☺️

 

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