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Thread: A Matter of Height

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Just wondering whether people feel the films should have made more of the relative sizes of people. Is Aragron for example tall enough? His ancestors were said to stand more than 7 feet tall (and don't ask me what that is in these new fangled metric things because I have no idea).
Also if ELendil is 7 and a 1/2 foot tall then that would make Sauron in the film opening sequence well over 10ft tall!
Galadriel is supposed to be over six feet tall and her husband Celeborn, whose name (in later versions) translates as "Silver Tall" is also meant to be huge. In general the elves in the film are all portrayed as very similar in height, yet those who lived in the Blessed Realm before the Silmirils debacle are known to be much taller.
The Rohirrim are said to be notably shorter (with the exception of the royal line associated by marriage to Morwen of Lossarnach). So Aragorn should have towered over the average rider.
Film-Aragorn appeared to be of about average height, but that average would probably have been less than the modern average. However, I don't think that the relative heights are that important, and think that getting good actors is more important than getting tall (or short) actors. Aragorn is the only one who I wish was a bit taller, but it's not that important to me.
I don't think they should have cast according to height- they don't have to- they cast a 6ft tall man as a dwarf remember so its not a matter of substituiting acting skill for the right height- they could have cast viggo and still made him look taller.
As long as the various heights of Tolkien's races look right comparatively and generally speaking, I don't think individual heights are so important.

Overall I agree with the points mentioned, but part of me thinks it would have been nice to have displayed these differences, without explanation, as a way of implying the history of each. LoTR is full of these glimpses of deeper causes and histories without explaining them in the main body of text, perhaps the film makers should have been thinking similarly.
That's a good point, petty, and I had forgotten just how tall John Rhys-Davies is. I suppose the filmmakers didn't see it as that important, though. It would have been a nice touch, but I'd give them the benefit of a doubt and suppose they had enough on their plates already making those films. They were, at least, able to give each race a distinctive look and feel down to the extras they cast for each.
Indeed Eldo, its a credit to the filmakers (and I don't say that often!) that one almost immediately forgets the relative heights of the actors whilst watching. Overall its achieved very well throughout with only a few minor errors.
Yay! a kumbaya moment :mrgreen: !

Yep. :mrgreen: Whatever my criticisms of the movies, they have some really amazing parts. 8-)
Are you referring to tall parts, short parts or long parts, Eldo? :?
Some of them are short and some are long, by minute count. <img src='/images/smileys/wink.gif' border='0' alt='Wink Smilie' />
I wonder, (I wonder because I can't be bothered to go back through the book) were the Haradrim of the south taller than the Dunedain, because of their link to reality?

[b:2pxr1sco]J Dwarf[/b:2pxr1sco]
What do you mean by 'link to reality'? :?
Yes, that phrase has me befuddled also :? .

I can't remember where, but I think I read that Aragorn was 6.5 ft tall. So yes Viggo was probably a little short for the role (not that 6ft is short) but I don't think it's a huge deal.
The Numenorean measure of 'man-high', equivalent to two [i:38pqwhxa]rangar[/i:38pqwhxa] (singular: [i:38pqwhxa]ranga[/i:38pqwhxa]), was about six feet, four inches by Imperial units (with a [i:38pqwhxa]ranga[/i:38pqwhxa] being 38 inches). Elendil was "more than man-high by nearly half a [i:38pqwhxa]ranga[/i:38pqwhxa]), or almost eight feet tall (cf. UT: The Disaster of the Gladden Fields: Appendix). I can't find any mentions of Isildur's or Aragorn's heights at the moment, though I may have overlooked something, but Elendil is said to have been the tallest of the Numenoreans who escape the destruction of Numenor.
Yeah Eldo, I had that wrong (just looked it up)
If Aragorn was around eight foot tall, wouldn't someone have noticed?
One would think so Odo <img src='/images/smileys/wink.gif' border='0' alt='Wink Smilie' /> .

Personally, I'm glad Jackson didn't turn everyone into basketball players.

Aragorn was "[t]all as the sea-kings of old" (ROTK, The Steward and the King), which I interpret to mean about man-high (6'4"Wink Smilie. The entire Numenorean race was sometimes referred to as Kings, and while the ROTK sentence could be specifically referring to the actual kings, I don't think it is, since the implication is that people didn't really notice Aragorn's majesty before then. It's tenuous, but I think this refers to his height as well: if he wasn't drawing attention to himself he might, at 6'4", pass for just a rather tall person, but if he were 8' I think everyone would have noticed it.
I suppose Tall=Kingly is fairly typical of Medieval thought, but 8 feet is pushing it :roll: .

Being very tall might explain Aragorns nicknames of Strider and Long-shanks in Bree.
[quote="Gandalfs Beard":3qvup5q1]8 feet is pushing it :roll: .[/quote:3qvup5q1]

I agree, and I don't think that's what Tolkien had in mind.
You know Petty, I never thought about that before, but I think you're right :ugeek: .

In Medieval Europe malnutrition and disease stunted the growth of most peasants. Only the "Nobility" escaped such a fate, usually through exploitation and appropriating the resources for themselves. I expect this is the reason for equating height with Kingliness.

Still, as most people were shorter back then, anyone over 6 feet would appear enormous. Applying this to Middle Earth, I suspect the notion of 8 foot tall people may be based on a relative scale. So Aragorn could have appeared tall as the Kings of Old without being outrageously tall.

What exactly do you mean by relative scale, GB? If you mean that Aragorn could have stood out in Middle-earth without being that much taller than normal in our world, I agree. If you're saying that a 2.5 ranga (8 feet) tall person was not actually that tall, I disagree. Tolkiien was quite precise in the appendix on Numenorean Linear Measurements.

This 8 foot figure is getting thrown around so much in this thread that I feel compelled to point out that the [b:3ik9of6u]tallest[/b:3ik9of6u] person in Numenorean records after the fall was [i:3ik9of6u]almost[/i:3ik9of6u] 8 feet tall. Nowhere is it stated that the Numenoreans were all 8 feet tall; in fact, most were about [i:3ik9of6u]man-high[/i:3ik9of6u], or 6'4". Aragorn was probably about this height.
I meant what you said in your first assessment of my statement. But I do question whether the Ranga to Feet reflects modern measurements or pre-Norman measurements. In the early Medieval period measurements were based on body parts. Generally smaller people mean smaller body parts. Given Tolkien's fascination with Anglo-Saxon culture, it's quite possible that Tolkien was not referring to modern (or Latin) measurement standards.

[quote:ro0y0u0u][b:ro0y0u0u]Russ Howlett--University of North Carolina:[/b:ro0y0u0u]
In Anglo-Saxon England (before the Norman conquest of 1066), short distances seem to have been measured in several ways. The inch (ynce) was defined to be the length of 3 barleycorns, which is very close to its modern length. The shaftment was frequently used, but it was roughly 6.5 inches long. Several foot units were in use, including a foot equal to 12 inches, a foot equal to 2 shaftments (13 inches), and the "natural foot" (pes naturalis, an actual foot length, about 9.8 inches). The fathom was also used, but it did not have a definite relationship to the other units.

When the Normans arrived, they [b:ro0y0u0u]brought back[/b:ro0y0u0u] to England the Roman tradition of a 12-inch foot. Although no single document on the subject can be found, it appears that during the reign of Henry I (1100-1135) the 12-inch foot became official, and the royal government took steps to make this foot length known. [/quote:ro0y0u0u]

This quote isn't the only source I've read on the matter, but it confirms my memory of the subject. Though it states that the 12 inch unit was also in use between the Romans and the Normans, it does make clear that it wasn't the common standard in the Anglo Saxon period.

I did also check the Wikipedia page on the subject, but it only relates the 13" (2 shaftments) measurement to the term "Foot", so I don't think that particular article is as thorough as it could have been. My memory of the subject from past studies is that most people in Anglo-Saxon Britain would have used the "Natural Foot" measurement.

Note that I am NOT saying that this is definitively Tolkien's view of the situation, but it is an important point to consider given Tolkien's focus on the culture of that period.

Hmm... so if I get this right there is a [i:1borh0hz]vague[/i:1borh0hz] possibility that 8ft in Numenorean terms might be 6'4" in modern terms... Maths is not my strong point, but could this mean 3'6" hobbits might be between 4' and 4'6"? This would imply they might be about dwarf size. Could Tolkien have been mistaken then? Perhaps hobbits [i:1borh0hz]were[/i:1borh0hz] beardless dwarves. :o This, of course, would make Thorin's dwarves (relatively speaking)Tall Dwarves, as opposed to the somewhat shorter Short Dwarves (i.e. [i:1borh0hz]hobbits[/i:1borh0hz]). This would, by the way, not cancel out an earlier theory of mine of an African Genesis for hobbits. :ugeek:
[quote="Gandalfs Beard":1pomcoyw]Given Tolkien's fascination with Anglo-Saxon culture, it's quite possible that Tolkien was not referring to modern (or Latin) measurement standards.[/quote:1pomcoyw]

I suppose its [i:1pomcoyw]possible[/i:1pomcoyw], but I find it unlikely, since the entire purpose of the note I mentioned earlier was to compare Numenorean units to our own (presumably to give a frame of reference). Tolkien does at least acknowledge that it is possible that the "equivalence", as he puts it, between Numenorean units and ours was different due to body size and changes to units of that sort, but he is pretty clear that the "[i:1pomcoyw]ranga[/i:1pomcoyw] was slightly longer than [b:1pomcoyw]our yard[/b:1pomcoyw], approximately 38 inches" (emphasis added).
Got to agree with Eldo on this one- I just had a read through the relevant passages on the measurements used by the Numeroeans and its pretty clear, Tolkien is comparing their measurements to ours to give a relative measurement.
Whilst the points you make GB about measurement are true and interesting they don't apply here, Tolkien clearly sets out the measurements. I would be surprised if after a reread of the passages on measurement you don't concur with Eldo.
I actually don't disagree with Eldo per se, but I'm not entirely convinced either. I think the possibilities preclude a definitive answer to this question without discovering a clear statement from Tolkien himself on the matter. But, as you say, reading the passage itself could make things clearer to me.

Where can I find the passage in question? If I don't have the right book available I may ask one of you to post the passage for my perusal.

Its in the appendix to the disaster of the gladden fields in UT, GB. Under the heading 'Numenorean Linear Measures'.
If you don't have it to hand I can always post it.
Please do. Thanks Petty <img src='/images/smileys/smile.gif' border='0' alt='Smile Smilie' /> .

I did say where the passage could be found back on the second page. :P

I think petty does a good job of summing it up. I can't think of any reason why Tolkien, when explaining his measurements for modern readers (as any readers of his work would be) would use out-dated units without stating so.
Good Point! You're probably right. But I'd still like to check it out myself, and I don't have a copy of UT.

Fortunately UT is one of the books I keep at my dorm. <img src='/images/smileys/bigsmile.gif' border='0' alt='Big Smile Smilie' /> Note: a number of the words had accents that I didn't include because I'm lazy. All italicization is original.

[quote="Unfinished Tales":1ba6q7sb]Measures of distance are converted as nearly as possible into modern terms. "League" is used because it was the longest measurement of distance: in Numenorean reckoning (which was decimal) five thousand [i:1ba6q7sb]rangar[/i:1ba6q7sb] (full paces) made a [i:1ba6q7sb]lar[/i:1ba6q7sb], which was very nearly three of our miles. [i:1ba6q7sb]Lar[/i:1ba6q7sb] meant "pause," because except in forced marches a brief halt was usually made after this distance had been covered [see note 9 above]. The Numenorean [i:1ba6q7sb]ranga[/i:1ba6q7sb] was slightly longer than our yard, approximately thirty-eight inches, owing to their greater stature. Therefore five thousand [i:1ba6q7sb]rangar[/i:1ba6q7sb] would be almost exactly the equivalent of 5280 yards, our "league:" 5277 yards, two feet and four inches, supposing the equivalence to be exact. this cannot be determined, being based on the lengths given in histories of various things and distances that can be compared with those of our time. Account has to be taken both of the great stature of the Numenoreans (since hands, feet, fingers and paces are likely to be the origin of names of units of length), and also of the variations from these averages or norms in the process of fixing and organising a measurement system both for daily use and for exact calculations. Thus two [i:1ba6q7sb]rangar[/i:1ba6q7sb] was often called "man-high," which at thirty-eight inches gives an average height of six feet four inches; but this was at a later date, when the stature of the Dunedain appears to have decreased, and also was not intended to be an accurate statement of the observed average of male stature among them, but was an approximate length expressed in the well-known unit [i:1ba6q7sb]ranga[/i:1ba6q7sb]. (The [i:1ba6q7sb]ranga[/i:1ba6q7sb] is often said to have been the length of the stride, from rear heel to front toe, of a rull-grown man marching swiftly but at ease; a full stride "might be well nigh a [i:1ba6q7sb]ranga[/i:1ba6q7sb] and a half."Wink Smilie It is however said of the great people of the past that they were more than a man-high. Elendilw as said to have be "more than man-high by nearly half a [i:1ba6q7sb]ranga[/i:1ba6q7sb];" but he was accounted the tallest of all the Numenoreans who escaped the Downfall [and was indeed generally known as Elendil the Tall]. The Eldar of the Elder Days were also very tall. Galadriel, "the tallest of all the women of the Eldar of whom tales tell," was said to be man-high, but it is noted "according to the measure of the Dunedain and the men of old," indicated a height of about six feet four inches.[/quote:1ba6q7sb]

I think that's the relevant portion (it's first paragraph of the appendix, not counting Christopher Tolkien's three-line introduction.). It is the main part of the Appendix that discusses modern units, with a brief later mention of Hobbit sizes.

In any event, as I'm sure you can see, Tolkien does discuss impreciseness, but I think he is talking about our lack of certain knowledge about the Numenorean system, not about previous versions of our modern units. Note the first sentence: Tolkien is trying to give conversions to modern units.
You beat me too it Eldo! I had also just copied out the text! Ahh well, at least GB has it to read that's the main thing.
[quote="Eldorion":3rxq4gnz]I can't think of any reason why Tolkien, when explaining his measurements for modern readers (as any readers of his work would be) would use out-dated units without stating so.[/quote:3rxq4gnz]

No - and I was never sold on eight foot Numenoreans either...
Well that passage more than clarifies all the issues I raised. The first sentence absolutely clinches the fact that Tolkien's conversions were to modern units of measurement. Thanks for posting it Eldo :mrgreen: .

I love the fact that Tolkien also discusses the historical human basis of measurement units.

Though he doesn't discuss non-human mesurements (hobbits, that is). Curious and curiouser. :ugeek:
It does mention that Halflings are so called because they were approximately half the height of the average Numenorean. Which would make hobbits about a rangar in height I think.
You're very welcome, GB. :mrgreen: I highly recommend getting a copy of UT; I think you'll be amazed at the level of detail Tolkien put into his work and his backstories, especially if you haven't read it before.
[quote="pettytyrant101":2cxt127n]Which would make hobbits about a rangar in height I think.[/quote:2cxt127n]

Indeed; part of the appendix that I didn't quote states that "the Hobbits of the Shire were in height between three and four feet, never less and seldom more." One [i:2cxt127n]ranga[/i:2cxt127n] falls into this range, near the low end.
I don't think I've read Unfinished Tales in the last 15-20 years :roll: . And I don't have a personal copy. So your assistance is most welcome Eldo and Petty 8-) .

Glad to be able to help, GB. <img src='/images/smileys/smile.gif' border='0' alt='Smile Smilie' />