JRR Tolkien s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings have inspired me to study the world he has created. One of the aspects that is of great interest to me is the armor and weapons used by the warriors and armies of Middle. In many ways Tolkien has modeled his books after our own ancient world. Particularly the Dark and Medieval ages. Obviously Middle Earth cannot be exactly equated to any period of our own world, but in a broad sense it is like our Dark and Medieval ages. The all of the weapons and armor, and some of the battle tactics used in Middle Earth are very similar to those used in our Dark and Medieval ages.
Throughout the Medieval and Dark ages (roughly 500-1100 AD), the predominant type of body armor was a coat of chain mail with a light helm (either conical or round). Vambraces, greaves, and gloves could also be added, in which case it would be consider a full suit of armor. Also for added protection a coif of chain mail could be worn around the head and neck area. The averages warrior s equipment was completed with a weapon of some kind and usually a shield. Common weapons used back then included swords, axes, and spears. Bows and arrows were also used extensively but usually not in accompaniment with heavy suits of armor.
In order to discern whether Tolkien paralleled the weapons and armor of the Dark and Medieval ages in his own creation, we must look for supporting material in Tolkien s works. In the Lord of the Rings almost all of the militant creatures had similar armor: Gimli, Aragorn, Legolas, Theodin, the Riders of Rohan, the Citadel Guards of Minas Tirith, and the Orc Captain of Moria to name just a few. Gimli wore a mail shirt, a helm of mail and iron, a shield at times, and wielded a dwarven-made axe. Aragorn wore an Elven mail coat, a shield, and wielded the sword called Anduril (made by Elves and reforged by dwarves).
Legolas wore an Elven mail coat and a shield like Aragorn s, and as weapons he used a long knife, and longbow from Lothlorien. Theodin wore a mail coat, a helm, a shield, and wielded a sword and a spear. The Riders of Rohan used the same setup as Theodin but some substituted spears for short bows. The Citadel Guards of Minas Tirith used Mithril helms, coats of mail, shields, and swords. The Orc Captain of Moria was clad in mail from head to toe, and he used a shield, a spear, and a scimitar. The Elven guards in Cards Caldron are said to be wearing Grey mail.
The Lord of The Nazgul is wearing a mail hauberk and bearing a mace when he is fighting Eowyn and Merry. Merry got around the mail by stabbing with his Barrow-Blade up underneath the hauberk and into the back of the Nazgul's knee. Dene thor wore a mail coat night and day beneath his robes so that he would not become soft with age. Boromir was equipped with a shield, sword, and helm, but had no mail coat since he was travelling afar and presumably wanted less weight for greater speed. If he had reached Minas Tirith he would no doubt have been equipped as Aragorn had been.
After Boromir's death the reader learns two important facts concerning Orcs. It is learned that there are several different factions of Orcs, each having loyalty to a different master. Some of the Orcs that killed Boromir were from Isengard and presumably sent by Saruman, and others were from Mordor, presumably sent by Sauron. The other important thing that the reader learns is that the Orcs decorated their mail, ornately in some cases. Much of their armor was decorated with runes or carved to resemble something. This fact is a strikingly parallel to the ornate decorations of weaponry during the Dark and Medieval ages.
The decorations probably helped to distinguish between friend and foe, and to show a sense of pride for one s own army. Upon Boromir's death, it was noted that the Orcs he slew had been equipped with mail, helms, and shields. The Orcs of the Misty Mountains among this group were armed with scimitars, short bows, etc. This was inferred by the comparison to the three Orcs from Isengard that he slew.
These great Orcs were armed with longbows and short, broad-bladed swords, instead of the conventional equipment. At this point it was noted that the Orcs from Isengard bore white hands on their shields, and white S-Runes on their helms, while Orcs from Mordor used the sign of the Red Eye on their equipment. It's not clear if the Orcs of the Red Eye took part in the battle with Boromir. It seems more likely that they caught up with the other Orcs a bit later on, so the comparisons in equipment seem to be made through the extensive knowledge of Aragorn. During the expedition of the mixed group of Orcs across Rohan, some notes are made referring to their hideous, jagged knives. The leader of the Orcs from Mordor, bore and interesting knife whose hilt was carved in the likeness of a head with a vicious face.
Theodin s men also decorated their armor extensively. Borne on the shields of Theodin's household warriors was the symbol of the house of E orl (a white horse on a green field). It also seems that green gems were popular in Rohan. Green gems decorate the sword hilts of Theodin's guards before his doors, and the sheath of his sword, If the weapons and armor of middle earth are the same as those of our Dark and Medieval ages then the styles of fighting would probably be similar too. In fact, the styles of fighting were similar.
In The Hobbit during the Battle of Five Armies the Wars and Goblins used a tactic called encircling the enemy, which was used in our own world as well. When you encircle your enemy you are in a position so that all of your men can attack but the enemy s men, who are on the inside of the circle, cannot. The men of the enemy, who are on the very inside of the circle, are surrounded by their own men, and therefore ineffective. In Lord of the Rings, when Isengard is being assaulted by Rohan ners on foot, shield walls are used extensively. A shield wall is formed by men of an army marching in a tightly packed horizontal line and putting their shields together. This tactic has been used extensively throughout our history, beginning with the Vikings.
Another tactic that was used during the same battle was that of using trenches for defense. Trenches were not used extensively in our own world until World War 1, but they were seldom used in the Dark and Medieval ages. In conclusion, nearly all of the weapons and armor used in Middle Earth are the same as those used in our Dark and Medieval Ages. Every belligerent creature in Middle Earth, from Aragorn to the Orc Lord of Moria, used weapons and armor common to our own world. The weapons and armor used in Middle Earth were even decorated much in the fashion that men of Earth decorated theirs; with runes, paintings, and symbols of all kinds. The several of the battle tactics mentioned in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were the same as those used in our Medieval and Dark ages, including: encirclement, shield walls, and trenches.
Tolkien was a master of combining things both familiar and unfamiliar to create a fantastically believable world. 34 a.