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Discussing: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Question for all you research geeks: It is clear that the Kings and Stewards were entombed on Rath Dinen. However, the descriptions leave some wiggle room:

"But that shoulder, which rose to the height of the fifth wall, was hedged with great ramparts right up to the precipice that overhung its western edge; and in that space stood the houses and domed tombs of bygone kings and lords, for ever silent between the mountain and the tower." "Minas Tirith", RotK

How strictly should one interpret the term "lords"? Are *only* Kings and Stewards buried in that location in the city? Is Rath Dinen merely one (though the most hallowed) street among several in a graveyard of nobles? If only Kings & Stewards lie behind Fen Hollen, where would the dead of Minas Tirith be put? Would another tomb area be established for other nobles? What about burials outside the walls? How might ossuaries fit into this? Differences between noble/commoner, Dunedain/non-Dunedain?

Ah, what the heck, and how would this compare with the barrow builders in the North? What do the northern rangers do now for tombs/burials?

Ang

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Ang, not sure how much help I can be, but....

In The Siege of Gondor, RotK, it says specfically: "Beyond it went a winding road that descended in many curves down to the narrow land under the shadow of Mindolluin's precipice where stood the mansions of the dead Kings and of their Stewards."

Nothing about any other lords there. But a little further on it says

"...until at last they came to the Silent Street, Rath Dínen, between pale domes and empty halls and images of men long dead; and they entered into the House of the Stewards and set down their burden. [....] And dimly to be seen were many rows of tables, carved of marble; and upon each table lay a sleeping form, hands folded, head pillowed upon stone."

Now, given the Stewards appear to all be placed in one single house, but there are many domes - do you think there is a dome for each King or another single house (or two) for the Kings, so the domes must belong to houses of other Lords?

Also, the Kings and Stewards appear to be embalmed, rather than interred. Denethor says: "'Better to burn sooner than late, for burn we must. Go back to your bonfire! And I? I will go now to my pyre. To my pyre! No tomb for Denethor and Faramir. No tomb! No long slow sleep of death embalmed. We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West. The West has failed. Go back and burn!!" (The Siege of Gondor, RotK)

Not sure if ordinary people would be embalmed, though. And if you're going to have an ossuary, you need some way to excarnate the bodies...

Also, cremation seems to be a really big taboo amongst the Numenoreans/Dunedain, since Aragorn doesn't even consider ths as an option for dealing with Boromir's body (I think they consider burial and a cairn before putting him in the boat) - and given Denethor's remarks I quoted earlier.

Umm, anyway, that's a really quick answer, off the top of my head (based on musings when having to work out for a fic what to do with 35 dead Rangers of Ithilien).

Hope it helps

Liz

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

I can imagine that each king would have an individual tomb, but that still doesn't account for the seemingly large amount of buildings in the tomb area. I was looking at the sketch Tolkien made of Minas Tirith in "The War of the Ring" and cross-referencing with all of the descriptions of the shoulder of hill that joins MT to Mindolluin. There's quite a bit of land there.

There is a sharp descent from the door in the sixth circle wall down to the shoulder of land. I imagine Rath Dinen to run along the ridge - the highest point. What I'm also imagining is that there would be tombs lower down the slopes, but not too far down, as the area also has ramparts running from the city walls to the "sheer precipice" at the westernmost reach of the shoulder - where it butts up agaisnt Mindolluin. I don't think anyone who was not a pretty highly placed noble of old family and probably related to the kings in some way would have any burial place in that area.

Which leaves what does Minas Tirith do with the rest of its dead? Cremation is not high on any list - just think of the human sacrifices in Armenlos and the fire Sauron burned in the temple to see why that is a huge faux pas among the Dunedain. As for excarnation, how do other cultures do such things? One reason why I think of an ossuary is that Gondorians in that region might be loathe to bury their dead where Orcs and Gollumish creatures might dig for a midnight snack. I also can't imagine those who live in the city would want the remains of theri forefathers to be kept at any great distance from the city, and then we're back to the storage-space issue. Where *does* one stick Great-great-great Uncle Fester's remains?

And then there is this topic on northern barrows that I keep trying to get some research elf interested in --- oh , Lyyyyyylllyyyyyyn

Ang

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Cremation is not high on any list - just think of the human sacrifices in Armenlos and the fire Sauron burned in the temple to see why that is a huge faux pas among the Dunedain.

Hmmm, that's a very good point. Leave it to Sauron to besmirch the reputation of any practice he's associated with, burial or otherwise.

-- Barbara

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Which leaves what does Minas Tirith do with the rest of its dead?

Why can they not just have graveyards outside the City in Pelennor Fields (as per the Romans and as many London boroughs did before London turned into a sprawling continuous metropolis many, many miles across)? Depending on how you bury the bodies and what the soil is like, you can "reuse" graveyards after a certain period of time because the previous bodies have either rotted away or you can lift the bones and rebury them in a much smaler space.

I don't think despoliation by Orcs would be an issue on the West side of the river, since it is still fairly securely held. (It is on the East side - just whose bones do you think Sam finds in "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit" that he doesn't want Gollum to paw over? I really had to think hard about what they would do with dead Rangers in Ithilien to avoid desecration, given how difficult it would be to recover bodies back to "safe" territory.)

Also do you think the ordinary people of Minas Tirith will have quite the same sense of "ancestor worship" as the Kings and Stewards who cared more for their ancestry than having children themselves?

As for excarnation, how do other cultures do such things?

One way is to lay the bodies out on platforms and let the weather and creatures and birds do their work. It's possible there could be a place for this somewhere on the slopes of Mindolluin, away from the City?

Not sure if that provides many answers, but may give you some new questions!

Can't help on Arnor and mounds at all though, I'm afraid.

Cheers, Liz

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Also, cremation seems to be a really big taboo amongst the Numenoreans/Dunedain, since Aragorn doesn't even consider ths as an option for dealing with Boromir's body (I think they consider burial and a cairn before putting him in the boat) - and given Denethor's remarks I quoted earlier. That seems consistent with the Rohirrim as well. In LOTR, I found passages which seem to indicate that the Riders would burn slain Orcs in a pyre, and dig mass graves, or mounds, for the fallen Riders. These would then be marked with spears. My question is, how would the bodies on Pelennor Fields be dealt with after the War? Did they dig mass graves, or just burn the bodies in pyres for the sake of expediency? Also -- although I'm not sure how relevant this is -- but abusing a body in any way after the person had died seemed to be taboo also, particularly to the Rohirrim. I think there's a passage where Theoden remarks on this in reference to the devastation wrought by Saruman's armies, and other references to the war practices of the Easterlings in the Battle of Pelennor Fields.

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

[....] And dimly to be seen were many rows of tables, carved of marble; and upon each table lay a sleeping form, hands folded, head pillowed upon stone." I always interpreted this to mean that there was a marble sarcophagus for each steward; "the sleeping form" is just a statue reposing on the lid. If they left the still-fleshed bodies sitting out.....even with embalming, ewwww.

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Now, given the Stewards appear to all be placed in one single house, but there are many domes - do you think there is a dome for each King or another single house (or two) for the Kings, so the domes must belong to houses of other Lords? I believe that the House of the Kings is, like the House of the Stewards, a single mass tomb for all of the kings: "Then going to the House of the Kings in the Silent Street, Aragorn laid him down on the long bed that had been prepared for him." The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Here Follows a Part of The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen and that both of those, along with any other tombs there are on Rath Dínen, are collectively called the Houses of the Dead: "... the crown of Elendil lay in the lap of King Eärnil in the Houses of the Dead, where Eärnur had left it." The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion I suspect -- but do not know -- that the mention of "many domes" (which does sound like more than two, one for the kings and one for the stewards) refers to tombs for the other noble families of Minas Tirith. I also suspect that only nobles are buried there, otherwise the security at Fen Hollen would be useless, since there would be funerals every day: "Fen Hollen it was called, for it was kept ever shut save at times of funeral, and only the Lord of the City might use that way, or those who bore the token of the tombs and tended the houses of the dead." The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 4, The Siege of Gondor Anyway, them's my two cents worth. Don't want to even think about ossuaries -- the concept of having embalmed bodies lying around is already too gross to even think about. *shudder* - Barbara P.S. I think that you're right about cremation not being an acceptable funerary practice, especially after the Númenórean experiences with Sauron and the Temple in Armenelos. *double shudder* Edit: Ooops, I probably should have read the rest of the thread... maybe then I would have noticed how old it is. *blush*

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

I always interpreted this to mean that there was a marble sarcophagus for each steward; "the sleeping form" is just a statue reposing on the lid. That was my interpretation also. But given the references to the Númenóreans "preserving incorrupt the dead flesh of men" (in the Silm Akallabêth) and to Gondorian embalming (in RoTK), Liz's interpretation is also reasonable. Uncomfortable (to me), but most certainly reasonable... - Barbara

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Wouldn't it be possible to have the embalmed bodies underneath the sarcophagus, entombed in stone? That's how I always thought of the Rath Dinen setup. They might have displayed the embalmed bodies in a funeral procession, to the populace, prior to entombment - that would be the chief purpose of the embalming... RAKSHA THE DEMON

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

My question is, how would the bodies on Pelennor Fields be dealt with after the War? Did they dig mass graves, or just burn the bodies in pyres for the sake of expediency? Help! My Greek myth class has taken over my life and I can't find the books that actually matter! Curse you, Oedipus! Curse you and your dramatically ironic self-cursingness! *ahem* This is by way of saying I can't find my copies of LoTR in this black hole I call a bedroom. But, I do remember reading something about "the honored dead of Rammas Echor" or some such. I've read this to mean that all who fell in the Battle of Pelennor Fields were put in a mass grave somewhere around there and the ground was somewhat sanctified afterward because of it. I could be remembering something else similar, though. I've been reading a lot of really old stuff for various classes lately. This is what I get for taking Greek myth, Roman history, and a calss on archaic weapons all in the same semester. @_@ Berz.

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Wouldn't it be possible to have the embalmed bodies underneath the sarcophagus, entombed in stone? That's how I always thought of the Rath Dinen setup. Yes, I also assumed that the bodies inside the sarcophagi would be embalmed... They might have displayed the embalmed bodies in a funeral procession, to the populace, prior to entombment - that would be the chief purpose of the embalming... Yes, that seems reasonable... I believe that Théoden, for example, might have been embalmed... it would have certainly made the long trip back to Rohan less, er, noisome... Random morbid note: did you know that, because we modern people encounter so many chemical preservatives in our food and environment, our bodies decompose less rapidly than they used to? (Did you care? Okay, maybe not....) - Barbara, who was emotionally scarred for life by having to read William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying in high school, and who has pretty much hated literature ever since.

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

But, I do remember reading something about "the honored dead of Rammas Echor" or some such. I've read this to mean that all who fell in the Battle of Pelennor Fields were put in a mass grave somewhere around there and the ground was somewhat sanctified afterward because of it. Perhaps you're thinking of the Song of the Mounds of Mundburg? Sounds reasonable to me. (I'm in a very *reasonable* mood tonight. It's a bit scary...) - Barbara

 

 

OT for a moment....

- Barbara, who was emotionally scarred for life by having to read William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying in high school, and who has pretty much hated literature ever since. Oh, thank God, I wasn't the only one who was left with gaping wounds after being forced to read that book. And actually, AILD isn't really OT, because I know precisely how it relates to this discussion of decomposing bodies... To those of you who have not read it: let that thought fester in your imaginations. *shudder* Allie

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Random morbid note: did you know that, because we modern people encounter so many chemical preservatives in our food and environment, our bodies decompose less rapidly than they used to? (Did you care? Okay, maybe not....) I don't know that I was dying for lacking that knowledge, but it should please you to know that now that I know, I will be sure to tell everyone I know about it. I tried to get as many "know"s in that sentence as I could. hee hee

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

I don't know that I was dying for lacking that knowledge, but it should please you to know that now that I know, I will be sure to tell everyone I know about it. I tried to get as many "know"s in that sentence as I could. hee hee LOL! It takes real comic talent to make me laugh after the morbid turn this thread's taken (mostly my own fault, I should hasten to add -- but I won't...) - Barbara

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Random morbid note: did you know that, because we modern people encounter so many chemical preservatives in our food and environment, our bodies decompose less rapidly than they used to? As the gravedigger in HAMLET says, "A tanner will last you nine year." :-D

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

- Barbara, who was emotionally scarred for life by having to read William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying in high school, and who has pretty much hated literature ever since. ditto

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

As the gravedigger in HAMLET says, "A tanner will last you nine year." Um, well, that settles that then... - Barbara, who was so emotionally scared by reading As I Lay Dying that she never got around to Hamlet... maybe that was a good thing...

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Barbara, who was emotionally scarred for life by having to read William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying in high school, and who has pretty much hated literature ever since. ditto I've never read "As I Lay Dying". Is it wrong that all this emotionally scarring talk has made me want to read it? Perhaps not as wrong as the fact that when I went to type "emotionally", I had actually typed "Eom..." before I realized what I'd done.

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

How about trying to type "Pinnath" and starting out with "Peni..."? *hand hovering over keyboard* Erm, anyway, I read "As I Lay Dying" and wasn't scarred for life, although it was in university as opposed to high school. I was probably wallowing in teenage angst at the time, so maybe I was immune. But yes, Theoden's funeral procession totally reminded me of Addie. Ew. Are there any explicit references in the texts to embalming? It makes me think of Faramir's stories about Numenorean kings and the cult of the dead.

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

How about trying to type "Pinnath" and starting out with "Peni..."? *hand hovering over keyboard* !! Are there any explicit references in the texts to embalming? It makes me think of Faramir's stories about Numenorean kings and the cult of the dead. Is it possible that they completely mummified the bodies?

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Erm, anyway, I read "As I Lay Dying" and wasn't scarred for life, although it was in university as opposed to high school. Lucky you! Are there any explicit references in the texts to embalming? It makes me think of Faramir's stories about Numenorean kings and the cult of the dead. Yes, here are some: "But the fear of death grew ever darker upon them, and they delayed it by all means that they could; and they began to build great houses for their dead, while their wise men laboured unceasingly to discover if they might the secret of recalling life, or at the least of the prolonging of Men's days. Yet they achieved only the art of preserving incorrupt the dead flesh of Men, and they filled all the land with silent tombs in which the thought of death was enshrined in the darkness." The Silmarillion, Akallabêth [this is a possible reference:] "... three and twenty Kings and Queens had ruled the Númenóreans before [Ar-Pharazôn], and slept now in their deep tombs* under the mount of Meneltarma, lying upon beds of gold." The Silmarillion, Akallabêth "'I will go now to my pyre. To my pyre! No tomb for Denethor and Faramir. No tomb! No long slow sleep of death embalmed.'" The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 4, The Siege of Gondor "'Here we will wait,' he said. 'But send not for the embalmers. Bring us wood quick to burn, and lay it all about us, and beneath; and pour oil upon it. And when I bid you thrust in a torch.'" The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 4, The Siege of Gondor - Barbara * I believe that the phrase "deep tombs" refers to the fact that the in the Valley of the Tombs (Noirinan), the tombs were essentially caves excavated into the mountainside; I do not believe that the phrase refers to sarcophagi per se.

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Is it wrong that all this emotionally scarring talk has made me want to read it? Trust me, stick to Tolkien. But if you do read it, remember that I warned you... - Barbara, who has entirely enough angst in her life, thankyouverymuch...

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Thank-you!

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

[this is a possible reference:] "... three and twenty Kings and Queens had ruled the Númenóreans before [Ar-Pharazôn], and slept now in their deep tombs* under the mount of Meneltarma, lying upon beds of gold." The Silmarillion, Akallabêth [snip] * I believe that the phrase "deep tombs" refers to the fact that the in the Valley of the Tombs (Noirinan), the tombs were essentially caves excavated into the mountainside; I do not believe that the phrase refers to sarcophagi per se. You know, this is very interesting. It puts me in mind of the Egyptians. Very advanced society, used embalming, very respectful of death... and they had their own Norinan: the Valley of the Kings. Located between Karnak and Luxor, at the sight of ancient Thebes, the Valley of the Kings was where many of the Pharoahs were buried with their treasures, and even the bodies of slaves. We've all seen pictures of the tombs: like King Tut's? With all the riches and gold, etc.? (emphasis mine: under the mount of Meneltarma, lying upon beds of gold...?) There was even a seperate valley, the Valley of the Queens, for the wives of the Pharoahs. Interesting parallels, no? I'm very struck. Allie

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Interesting parallels, no? I'm very struck. Yes, indeed! Good catch... - Barbara

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

Thank-you! You're welcome! - Barbara

 

 

Re: Rath Dinen - Only the Kings?

You know, this is very interesting. It puts me in mind of the Egyptians. Very advanced society, used embalming, very respectful of death... and they had their own Norinan: the Valley of the Kings. Hi Meril, I fully agree to your allusion to the ancient Egyptians. I envision the Gondorians to lay their embalmed dead in sarcophagi, which have a sculptured likeness of the dead person above. The Numenoreans of Gondor were proud, peculiar, and archaic, and I think best pictured in (say) Egyptian terms. In many ways they resembled Egyptians - the love of, and the power to construct, the gigantic and massive. And in their great interest in ancestry and tombs. Tolkien, Letter 211 For me there is a dome for the Kings, a dome for the Stewards, and some smaller domes for the Royal and Steward family members. Moreover, as in ancient Egypt I expect valued officials would be rewarded with a place in other smaller domes. As for the normal populace: I envision catacombes hewn into the mountain slopes behind Minas Tirith used for burials as in antiquity: Human burial in subterranean rock chambers is an ancient pre-Christian, pre-Roman custom in the Mediterranean. [snip] Ordinances forbade interment within the city limits. All the Roman catacombs consequently are outside the city gates. The Roman catacombs lie from 22 to 65 ft (6.7–19.8 m) beneath ground level in a space of more than 600 acres (243 hectares); much of this is in several levels. They date from the 1st cent. A.D. until the early 5th cent. Lining the walls of the narrow passages, generally 3 ft (91 cm) wide, are the recesses for the bodies. Some passages contained separate chambers or cubicula, usually about 12 ft (4 m) square but sometimes circular or polygonal, which were privately owned family vaults or contained the tomb of a martyr. In these the bodies were often placed in carved sarcophagi that stood within arched niches. In some catacombs rooms are arranged in groups; cited from http://www.answers.com/topic/catacombs&method=8 And concerning rock chamber burial developing into tumuli burial: see links in 'Rath Dinen – a Necropolis' in Time-line of Gondor and Rohan with respect to European history. Tumuli are domed tombs, though I expect the Rath Dinen domed tombs look more refined. Best wishes Elanor

 

 

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