Thread: Rivendell / Imladris
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No matter what the coins were made of, they were still money. That is, they could be exchanged for goods and/or services. Gold only has value if people think of it as valuable and want it. It's not really very useful in itself, ie: you can't eat it or build houses out of it.
Valuable, yes. Money... not exactly. Or at least not in the modern sense. Early medievalists like myself hit this problem a lot, and it may be applicable here (since Tolkien was a medievalist too). Bear in mind that I rarely venture further than the 11th century in my work, so none of this necessarily applies after that.
The late Roman Empire was largely a monetary economy, and after its collapse, Roman coins remained in circulation. Gradually, however, they lost their value as "money", a (mostly) fixed unit of exchange, and became a barter good like jewels or cattle or grain. Merovingian, Carolingian, Anglo-Saxon, etc. etc. kings often minted coins of their own, but they did so not because they expected their people to start paying for goods with them but because minting coins was part of what kings did (and they pointed to Rome as an example).
Coins are often mentioned in the payment of dowries and ransoms, as part of tributes from noble and client kings, as payment for land, prayers, military support, and a number of goods and services that could be considered "bought" in the modern sense. However... they really weren't. Coins were included in these transactions because they were valuable as objects made of gold and silver, not because they were the physical representation of a complex economy backed by a nation and its government (like paper money- paper isn't valuable, but what it represents is). So the dowry of a Visigothic princess might include gold coins, jewelry, crowns, animals, servants, armed men, cities and provinces. The coins are important and valuable, but they aren't really money.
And on a humbler level, pennies (silver usually, sometimes lesser materials) often turn up in Old English and Old Norse texts- a couple of pennies could buy a sheep in the time of Edgar (late tenth century) or his grandson AEthelraed II, the last Anglo-Saxon king. But there weren't really enough of these pennies in circulation /in England/ for the English economy to have been considered monetary. I emphasize the "in England" part because pennies were far more important as a method of dealing with the Vikings than they were as a means for buying sheep. There had been a single coined currency in England since the early tenth century (under Aethelstan), but daily life was barter-based. The arrival of the Vikings brought an explosion in coin production, since the Danegeld (tribute to get the Vikings to go away) was paid in coins. Some of these were probably older coins (clever, really. what better way to get rid of old money?) but most were newly minted for the occasion. This is arguably still treating coins as a barter-good and tribute item, rather than as money. Much the same effect could likely have been achieved by giving the Vikings big piles of silver shaped as Monopoly houses rather than coins. The important aspect of coins wasn't what they meant (like modern money) but what they were.
It's much the same in Middle Earth. The money we see stands out because there isn't very much of it, and because most of it is silver and gold. A gold coin buys information because it's gold, not because it's a coin. A gold nugget or a piece of gold jewelry would probably work too. It seems likely to me that as the Fourth Age progressed, a monetary economy may have developed and become commonly accepted, because that seems like something Aragorn would have supported (enlightened fella that he is). But it seems to me that at the point in the Third Age when LOTR takes place, ME has a barter economy in which coins make an appearance as hoard goods, trade goods and even markers of nobility, but not as coins in the modern economic sense.
Elronds house /mansion /castle must have been enormous to house so many people. I am not too sure about the exact population of Rivendel, but it at its peak, it should have numbered in the thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, just after the fall of Eregion.
I wonder where did Elrond put evrybody? Large sections of the House must have been empty at the time of TLOtRs, given the exodus of elves westward and the departure of Galadriel and her people.
Seriously though. I think Rivendel must have been somwhat palatial, in order to support itself. Much like a medieval manor house.
...which takes us back to elven servants.....
About Rivendell being more like the Ted Nasmith paintings. I didn't see Rivendell between the paintings in the Art Gallery? What does it look like?
[Edited on 22/4/2002 by Grondmaster]
It also describes Rivendell as such,
The Elves of Imladris are, for the most part, refugees from the ruin of Ost-in-edhil. Determined to avoid the mistake of their predecessors, the people and lodgings at Imladris are humble and comfortable, rather than proud and majestic. The House of Elrond is a place of feasting and song.
Artwork shows the house to be like a large ski lodge, but airy, and with wide lawns, gardens etc. There are forges and stables out back.
I prefer elven homes like Caras Galadhon, open, no walls, only stairs and platforms. This is why I call my place in Middle Earth- Ossar Loominen, for only shadows are the walls of my home under and upon the trees.
Anyway, that’s the beauty of fiction- you can have it the way you want it! Both Genius and practical concept.
I still don't like Hugo Weaving as Elrond though. Too severe by far.
Rivendell was not an urban habitation; it was a lodge and a few chalets hidden in a wooded gorge, away from inhabited land, where all kinds of refugees could safely be hidden from the prying eyes of the servants of Darkness by the power of Elrond's ring,
I think the 'homeliness' aspect was the love and care put into the adornments, the woven things, the candelabra, the beautiful beds and bedding, all creating a safe, comfortable protected feeling. Added to that the kindness of Elrond and the other inhabitants, the great and majestic hospitality extended to those who were friends or would be friends.
And I certainly did imagine walls, walls, walls.
So i think that Rivendell comes very close to Tolkien's description of the last homely home.
Ah Grondy dear, I can 'hear' your voice and look out your window and see the gathering of the eagles. I wonder what delights your beautiful eyes now?