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Discussing: Crime and punishment

Crime and punishment

A couple of questions. I'm trying to determine appropriate punishment or sentences if you will for standard crimes such as:

physical assault, resulting in bodily harm
murder

What seems common in LotR is banishment. Criminals are taken to the borders. The hobbits deal with the Men this way; it is what happens to Gollum after his murder of Deagol.

I'm interested in examples from both Gondor, the Dunedain in the North, and the Elves.

One assumes that Thranduil used his dungeons for something other than dwarves.

Has anyone come across something that might shed light on this? Was capital punishment ever employed? Imprisonment? Or was banishment standard for everything?

Note: in a world such as Middle-earth, banishment was practically a death sentence, for no one could survive alone, on their own labours.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

I've looked into this for prelim research on some of my later chapters, not so much, yet, on the punishment, but more on the legal system of the Men of Middle-earth.

I haven't compiled anything yet, but most of what I've found is dealing with Hurin after his release from Angband. Do you have War of the Jewels? It has much more detailed info on their court proceedings than what is in the SIlm. Look in the Wanderings of Hurin chapter.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

I don't have that m-e history book. I'm finding it hard to find it in a decent binding [other than the cheap paperbacks] in my area so it looks like I'll have to break down and order them from powells.com.

That sounds very helpful, indeed! Thanks.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

I've looked into this for prelim research on some of my later chapters, not so much, yet, on the punishment, but more on the legal system of the Men of Middle-earth.

I haven't compiled anything yet, but most of what I've found is dealing with Hurin after his release from Angband.


Would you consider writing this up, Sulriel? I'm sure there are plenty of authors who would love to have this information available.

Lyllyn, flinger of resource!nuzguls

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Since Elves are one of the societies you're interested in, I suggest checking the Sil for the story of Eöl, the Dark Elf. I believe he was executed for murdering his wife, Aredhel (while aiming at his son, Maeglin, who would not have been able to betray Gondolin if Eöl had succeeded. Tolkien clearly had an eye for irony.)

- Barbara

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Just thinking about a couple of examples for Men in LoTR and possibly extrapolating a little too much...

The most serious crimes in Gondor seem to be judged directly by the King (or Ruling Steward). Aragorn personally deals with Beregond, who has committed two crimes (leaving his post and spilling blood in the hallows) that should automatically result in the death penalty.

This also suggests there are a number of clearly defined crimes for which the death penalty is specified

In Rohan, Theoden also appears to dispense justice directly and quickly in the most serious cases, as with Grima's treason. Not that Grima needs much of a trial to show he's guilty.... Here, Theoden shows that it is possible for him to be lenient (ie the law is flexible) even if there are no extenuating circumstances.

There are seem to be some defined crimes with clear penalties attached in Rohan, since Eomer is imprisoned for threatening another man's life (ie Grima) in the confines of Meduseld. The way this is phrased suggests no-one has to think too hard about whether or not this is unacceptable behaviour or how to punish hum.

And in some cases the ruler appears to be able to delegate the power to dipsense justice within clearly defined limits eg Faramir clearly has the authority to execute any unauthorised person found in the Forbidden Pool without further trial.

Not sure if that helps or not!

Cheers, Liz

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

That definitely helped, Liz. I've found a few things which were helpful, in that it seems that royalty served as both executive and judicial branches of the state. Therefore if a certain crime automatically resulted in a certain sentence, a king or similar authority figure could change the sentence, and had quite a bit of leeway [as with Beregond, who was banished from Minas Tirith, but was still allowed to serve in the army -- a most lenient sentence].

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Would you consider writing this up, Sulriel? I'm sure there are plenty of authors who would love to have this information available.

I apologize for not responding to this thread, it must have been on a busy day, I don't remember seeing this request. I'll be happy to put something together from my notes once I've made any sense of them and submit it as a research article.

In response to stewar239, it does seem that in most cases, the king listened to the evidence presented and made a decision on guilt and punishment, Hurin's trial is still the only place I have found anything different.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

I wonder if there is any sort of "due process" attached to these executive trials. Are you allowed to present a defense and/or the assistance of counsel? Are you presumed guilty or innocent? Is there some sort of corpus of statutory offenses or rules of evidence? And my personal favorite, can you be detained indefinitely for no reason if the king feels like detaining you indefinitely for no reason?

I imagine the best way to figure these out , if Tolkien himself wrote very little about it, is to look at the legal systems of Middle-ages kingdoms, since the oligarchical government of most Middle-earth states seems akin to this. If I were writing a fic (Law & Order: Middle-earth?) on it, that's how I'd go about it.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Gypsum, without pulling my notes out, which I don't have handy at the moment, the only time I remember finding 'due process' is at the Moot that Hurin was subject to. -basically he was judged by a gathering of his peers through a specified procedure.

The other judgements I have found, from Manwe banishing Feanor to Thingol's pardon of Turin to Aragorn's punishment of Beregond seem to involve only the Ruler making a decsion.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Yikes. Legal systems of Middle-ages kingdoms...

As I recall, they had some pretty barbaric ways of dealing with people. I can imagine lands under the Dark Lord would employ these, as they strike me as being under shadow (hot irons, the rack, and other things I remember from extensive reading and tours of European castles and museums but mercifully cannot recall the names of).

Possible ways of dispensing capital punishment in lands not under Shadow: (I remember Faramir and Eomer both mentioning that their lives would be forfeit if they did the wrong thing, but cannot remember if this was bookverse or movieverse, but I am sure about Beregond, having written several stories about his plight).

Death by the sword: either beheading or being struck to the heart
(probably reserved for those of higher status, thought of as an honourable death, probably not a public execution but done before the king and court, perhaps)

Death in battle: for an honourable soldier who deserted his post, for example, a chance to redeem himself by taking the most vulnerable or dangerous position when battle assignments are handed out.

Death by hanging: public execution. A disgraceful death, reserved for "common" criminals perceived as a threat to the safety of others.

Death by drawing and quartering: possibility for the Rohirrim. Not a sophisticated method of execution, but uses horses and is effective if horrible. Being dragged by a galloping horse would be another method, also horrible. Am not sure the Rohirrim are cruel enough to employ these methods, but then they might see them as appropriate and expedient, being a horse-based culture.

In the Old West, a practice I've read of for horse thieves (when they weren't hung, that is), was to turn them loose in the middle of the desert in bare feet (and no hat, I think), usually a death sentence though I have read of at least one man surviving this treatment.

Lesser punishment would most likely involve restitution for property crimes and banishment for more serious crimes resulting in bodily harm.

Castration was a consequence for rapists.

That's my .02, from long-ago study of history. Interesting, I thought it was a waste of time at the time I had to study it...

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

I'm working on researching the Hurin trial now, and will post snips here as I go. -hopefully this will tide people over until I can format the notes into some kind of sense. snips from War of the Jewels / wanderings of Hurin pg278 (typos mine) (Manthor) He went out, and sent all he could find that were willing to go as messengers to bring together all the masters of the homesteads and any others that could be spared. [struck out It was the custom of the Haladin that in all matters other than war the wives were also summoned to counsel and had equal voices with the husbands.] Now rumour ran wild through the woods, and the tales grew in the telling; and some said this, and some that, and the most spoke in praise of the Halad and set forth Hurin in the likeness of some fell Orc-Chieftain; for Avranc was also busy with messengers. Soon there was a great concourse of folk, sand the small town about the Hall of Chieftains was swelled with tents and booths. But all the men bore arms, for fear lest a sudden alarm should come from the marches. Manthor goes to visit Hurin in prison. "The Halad forbids us to admit any save the guards," they said. But Manthor who was wise in the laws and customs of his people replied: "No doubt. But in this he has no right. Why is the incomer in bondage? We do not bind old men and wanderers because the speak ill words when distraught. ... ...Meanwhile he cannot deny to the prisoner all counsel and help.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

The next day it was proclaimed that the Folkmoot for Judgements should be held on the morning following, for already five hundred of the headmen ha come in, and that was by custom deemed the least number which might count as a full meeting the Folk. The next day, long before the set time at mid-morn, the Moot began to assemble. Almost a thousand had now come, for the most part the older men, since the watch on the marches must still be maintained. Soon all the Moot-ring was filled. This was shaped as a great crescent, with seven tiers of turf-banks rising up from a smooth floor delved back into the hillside. A high fence was set all about it, and the only entry was by a heavy gate in the stockade that closed the open end of the crescent. In the middle of the lowest tier of seats was set [added:] the Angbor of Doom-rock / a great flat stone upon which the Halad would sit. Those who were brought to judgement stood before the stone and faced the assembly.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

There was a great babel of voices; but at a horn-call silence fell, and the Halad entered, and he had many men of his household with him. The gate was closed behind him, and he paced slowly to the Stone. Then he stood facing the assembly and hallowed the Moot according to custom. First he named Manwe and Mandos, after the manner which the Edain ha learned from the Eldar, and then, speaking the old tongue of the Folk which was now out of daily use, he declared that the Moot was duly set, being the three hundred and first Moot of Brethil called to give judgement in a grave matter. When as custom was all the assembly cried in the same tongue "We are ready," he took his seat upon the stone/Angbor, and called in the speech of Beleriand to men that stood by: Sound the horn! Let the prisoner be brought before us.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

*** a little more - Now it was the custom of the Moot that, when any man was brought before it, the Halad should be the accuser, and should first in brief recite the misdeed with which he was charged. Whereupon it was his right, by himself or by the mouth of his friend, to deny the charge, or to offer a defence for what he had done. And when these things had been said, if any point was in doubt or was denied by either side, then witnesses were summoned. *** Hardang, therefore, now stood up and turning to the assembly he began to recite the charge. "This prisoner," he said, "whom you see before you, names himself Hurin Glador's son, once of Dorlomin, but long in Angband whence he came hither. Be that as it may." ... In our law no man may recite an offence against himself; not may he sit in the seat of judgement while that charge is heard. Is not this the Law?" "This is the Law," the assembly answered. .... Then standing up he continued the recital. "This prisoner, the wild man," he said, "comes from Angband, as you have heard. He was found within our borders. Not by chance, for as he himself declared, he has an errand here. What that may be he has not revealed, but it cannot be one of good will. He hates this fol. As soon as he saw us he reviled us. We gave him food and he spat on it. I have seen Orcs do so, if any were fools enough to show them mercy. From Angband he comes, it is clear, whatever his name be But worse followed after. By his own asking he was brought before the Halad of Brethil - by this man who calls himself his friend; but when he came into hall he would not name himself. And when the Halad asked him what was his errand and bade him rest first and speak of it later, it it pleased him, he began to rave, reviling the Halad, and suddenly he cast a stool in his face and did him great hurt. It is well for all that he had nothing more deadly to hand, or the Halad would have been slain. As was plainly the prisoner's intent, and it lessens his guilt very little that the worst did not happen, for which the penalty is death. But even so, the Halad sat in the great chair in his hall; to revile him there was an evil deed, and to assault him an outrage. This then it he charge against the prisoner: that he came here with evil intent against us, and against the Halad of Brethil in special (at the bidding of Angband on my guess); that gaining the presence of the Halad he reviled him, and then sought to slay him in his chair. The penalty is under the doom of the Moot, but it could justly be death." Then it seemed to some that Avranc spoke justly , and to all that he had spoken with skill. For a while no one raised a voice upon either side. Then Avranc, not hiding his smile, rose again and said: "the prisoner may now answer the charge if he will, but let him be brief and not rave!"

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Death by drawing and quartering: possibility for the Rohirrim.
IMO this would go counter to what Aragorn says of them to Legolas and Gimli in TTT:The Riders of Rohan:
'I have been among them,' answered Aragorn. 'They are proud and wilful, but they are true-hearted, generous in thought and deed; bold but not cruel; wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs, after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years...'
Now the punishments for horse thievery I could understand.
~Nessime

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

(last one for now) (Hurin refused to speak because he was fettered hand and foot) - Manthor speaking : "Never before have we dragged to the Moot in fetter a man yet uncondemned. Still less one of the Edain whose name deserves honour, whatsoever may have happened since, ..." Now by custom in matters grave or doubtful the votes of the Moot were cast with pebbles and all who entered bore with them each two pebbles, a black and a white for nay and for yea. (Hurin speaks) "I am Hurin Thalion son of Glador Orchal, Lord of Dorlomin and once a high-captain in the host of Fingon King of the North-realm...." (my notes: he proclaims "In the name of the Lords of the West...." but I think that is part of his rant, not a formality of the proceedings., he also calls the name of Manwe) (Manthor's speech) "Hear me now, Folk of Brethil. My friend does not deny the main charge, but he claims that he was misused and provoked beyond bearing. My masters, and good wives, I was captain of the march-wardens that found this man ...." (tells story) ...(ending) Folk of Brethil, and I look to the assembly to amend it!" At this there was great stir and murmur in the Moot-ring; and when Avranc stood up calling for silence, the clamour grew greater. (Manthor and Avranc each speak again) Great uproar arose ..." .... Or would you set him free? ....." Thereupon there was even greater uproar, and men stood up on the turfbanks, clashing their arms, and crying: "Free!! Free! Set him free!" -end snips- The above Moot took place in Brethil (immediately Northwest of Doriath) in 499 First Age That is all the detail I am finding on the procedures of the Folkmoot, or the Moot, as it was called. I find it interesting that the Edain had such an elaborate system when in the other examples we have, the accused stands and speaks before the King and the Kings passes judgement.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

In the book, Eomer mentions Theoden's command that strangers should not be left wandering in the Mark, and when he lets Aragorn go -with horses to boot - he says that he may be placing his very life in Aragorn's hands, if the latter does not come to Edoras. The conditional tense makes me think that capital punishment, at least for this offense, was not common. BTW, as for Eol, he chose death earlier, when asked whether he preferred to dwell in Gondolin or be put to death so that he would not reveal the kingdom's location. Aredhel's death only made Turgon unlikely to be lenient on this account.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

I'm not sure how uncommon the death sentence would be. It is tossed around pretty easily in various situations. It was a death sentence to enter Doriath, it was a death sentence to try to leave Gondolin. In the above snips of Hurin, the march-warden found him sleeping in the woods and were going to kill him but didn't, when he woke he was violent and they were going to kill him, but one recognized him and so they didn't. The trial had the possibility of death, -for throwing a stool at the Halad (..the supposition being that Morgoth had released him for that purpose) - and in later pages, the Halad and the men that stood by him were put to death for his mistreatment of Hurin on his arrival. -death by crowd, it is a hard way to go.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Death by crowd? What do you mean? I must admit I'm not familiar with this story (yet). As for drawing and quartering, I don't know how "cruel" it might have been considered in that culture. It was fairly common in England at one time, wasn't it? Wasn't that one of the things they did in "Braveheart", as a matter of fact, or am I remembering wrong? (I averted my eyes, during that whole ending, but knew what was happening as I'd read a biography earlier. They really wanted him dead, didn't they? Hung, then gutted, then torn asunder, if I'm not mistaken). But then, the Scots saw the English as cruel and barbaric (as indeed a lot of their decrees were). That bit about a bride having to sleep with the lord on her wedding night, rather than her groom... horrid... Sorry if I'm rambling, have a headache I can't seem to shake.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Death by crowd? What do you mean? I must admit I'm not familiar with this story (yet). sorry. The short version is that Hurin incited the crowd and a fight (riot) broke out, and they killed the Halad and the men that stood by him.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

As for drawing and quartering, I don't know how "cruel" it might have been considered in that culture.
In RL it was "family entertainment" - you couldn't miss the fact that small children were present in that crowd. The same was true at hangings, floggings - you name it. Makes the stuff in some of today's movies seem tame (no PG-13 labels back then) I found this lovely explanation and description at The Straight Dope.
But then, the Scots saw the English as cruel and barbaric (as indeed a lot of their decrees were). That bit about a bride having to sleep with the lord on her wedding night, rather than her groom... horrid...
I'm not sure, so please don't quote me on this, but IIRC that custom existed among the Anglo-Saxons prior to the Norman conquest, and the Norman's simply "adopted" it. Mind you, this is recalled from a bit of information I came across - *cough* - several years ago, so I'll have to do a bit of research again to see if I can find any historical documentation on the subject. [see Addenda below] The caveat here, of course, is that Tolkien never mentions such customs in his writing. That doesn't prohibit us from using them, but I tend to proceed with caution to be sure that it fits the culture and times as he wrote them. That's why I can't envision the Rohirrim drawing and quartering anyone (example: the reaction of the Dunlendings following the Battle of Helm's Deep - see The Road to Isengard in TTT). ~Nessime Addenda: I went a-Googling and came up with a couple of good sites with some rather indepth information on the entire question of jus primae noctis (law of the first night). I won't even attempt to summarize them here, except to say that some think it should fall under the category of myth and legend, or at the least, tales embellished and taken out of context: Did medieval lords have "right of the first night" with the local brides? The jus primae noctis as a male power display: A review of historic sources with evolutionary interpretation. Jus Primae Noctis (A study of Rights and Wrongs) Jus primae noctis ~N.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Goodness, after reading "The Straight Dope" I am stunned. Number one: Encyclopedia Britannica got something wrong! And apologised! (My dad instilled in me a great respect for EB) Number 2: I never quite understood the entire bit of "drawn and quartered". I had heard about the hanging/disemboweling thing, and thought it had a different name. I thought D&Q was simply the fastening of chains to the limbs of a man (sometimes alive and intact, and sometimes already dead but this was a way to dishonour the body) with horse on the end of each chain and then driving the horses in different directions. Saw it in a movie once as an impressionable young child and never forgot it. (But the guy who was being so served had not been hung & disemboweled first... he was rather a grandfatherly guy shouting encouragement to his sons/friends/whoever as the guards fastened the chains to him and tried to keep the horses from taking off prematurely--I forget, it was a long time ago and I don't even remember the plot of the movie, just that one terrible scene)

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

Saw it in a movie once as an impressionable young child and never forgot it.
I remember reading the short novel A Walk With Love and Death that John Huston filmed as a vehicle for his then teenaged daughter Anjelica (for an overview of the movie see Walk with Love and Death, A (1969) - though the writer of the synopsis made an egregious error: it took place during the Hundred Years War in France, not the War of the Roses in England). I never saw the movie (which by all accounts was horrible - Anjelica Huston won't even talk about it, though Barbara Walters tried ) but in the novel there is a horrible description of a man being pulled to pieces by four horses - while still alive. Very brutal. *shudders even now, recalling the passage* ~Nessime Addendum: I notice they changed the synopsis after I posted a note to them about the error - it's an entirely new synopsis, posted by a different reviewer.

 

 

Re: Crime and punishment

I never saw the movie (which by all accounts was horrible - Anjelica Huston won't even talk about it, though Barbara Walters tried ) but in the novel there is a horrible description of a man being pulled to pieces by four horses - while still alive. Very brutal. *shudders even now, recalling the passage* Yup. My feelings exactly, about this movie I dimly remember (who knows, perhaps it was the one!). Even though back in those days, they didn't show graphic violence, rather implied it, (think how Ben Hur compares to the average body count flick these days) the suggestion was enough to haunt me for decades.

 

 

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