Further wrinkles in The Lord of the Rings

Following on from my last post, here’s some more oddities in The Lord of the Rings:

Where are the all people?

From my understanding of history, most areas of our earth that were agriculturally viable we’re populated to some degree, once humans arrived. But most of Middle Earth is inexplicably empty. Even in the Shire, one of the most densely populated places, they didn’t meet a single traveller on the road the whole way to the Brandywine, save for Merry. Most of Eriador is a vast Wilderness. Another example is Rohan: Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli cross this supposedly populated nation without ever bumping into anyone.

This de-population of the world actually works well the first couple of times you read the book. It ensures that each and every person you meet is relevant to the story (with the unfortunate exception of Bombadil). But from about the third reading, you start to notice the emptiness of the place.

…and what do they eat?

Apart from the Shire, the Pelennor Fields, and a tiny bit of land around Isengard, no one in Middle Earth seems to grow any food or plough any fields. Where is the food grown that feeds the household of Rivendell? Or Bree, for that matter.


For some absurd reason, I became fascinated by these two flaws in the book while I was recently reading it to my son.

I now have this fantasy (in an alternate lifetime) where I do a machinima [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machinima] interpretation of the Lord of the Rings – my version. In many ways, it will follow the book’s plotline much more faithfully than Peter Jackson did. But in subtle ways, it will be different: there will be inhabitants, huts, farms, fields. There will be side roads, lanes and paths. Shepherds and livestocks.

And everyone will need to grow, gather or hunt what they eat, somehow. Not just the humans, but subterreaneans like Orcs and Dwarves too. Edible fungi anyone? ~Termite Style~

Even the too-good-for-mortals Elves won’t e able to conjure lembas from starlight. They’ll have to grow Oats, or Barley or Corn, to bake it from. That means they’ll have to keep livestock to plough the earth. And even Arwen’s pretty little hands might occasionally be rostered on for mucking out the oxen’s barn.