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Discussing: Number of children in Gondorian families

Number of children in Gondorian families

While doing research in Peoples of Middle-earth, I came across a passage that totally threw off all my Gondorian research. In a brief biography of Turin I, sixth Steward of Gondor, it said:

"He was wedded twice and had several children (a thing already rare and remarkable among the nobles of Gondor)"

Now, I knew that the Elves had few children, because it took a great deal of strength from the mother to bear them; and I knew that the line of Kings failed because men cared more about ancestors than heirs; but this is three hundred years after the Stewards began to rule, and I would have thought they learned their lesson.

But it makes sense...Finduilas was married to Denethor thirteen years and only bore him two children. Now, before finding this, I assumed that all the LOTR characters would have lots of children (after all they are very loving couples ;-), but now I am starting to wonder about this, especially in the cases of Aragorn and Faramir.

Does anyone have any theories on why children were rare in Gondor? Was it because most marriages were political? Did those of Numenorean bloodline inherit other Elvish characteristics along with their long life? Are Gondorian women of weaker constitution? Are Gondorians merely less fertile?

I don't think that having few children is just a Tolkien characteristic, since the Hobbits have very large families, and so do the Rohirrim apparently (Theoden had four sisters, his father had three, and his grandfather had two brothers and a sister). Of course, then there are Isildur and Anarion and Imrahil, who all had three or more children. So is this an abandoned concept by Tolkien that I can ignore (and give Faramir and Aragorn lots of adorable babies), or something that fits explainably into his universe and should be noted?

~MerryK 

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Hi MerryK!

Does anyone have any theories on why children were rare in Gondor?

I'm not very good at speculating, but after having worked up all of Tolkien's family trees, I can say that he was somewhat remiss in telling us about children who were daughters, at least for family trees of royal lineages (pretty much all of them, except the Hobbits).

And even where he does tell us about daughters, such as Théoden's sisters, he didn't even give us names for two of the three. *grumble*

So, I think we can assume that his family trees (again, excepting the Hobbits) simply don't always mention siblings who were not male heirs.

We do know that Eldarion has more than one sister, but do not know their names or number:
Then [Arwen] said farewell to Eldarion, and to her daughters, and to all whom she had loved; and she went out from the city of Minas Tirith.... "

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen
So, I'd say it's perfectly fine to give Aragorn and Arwen lots of adorable girl babies, but probably not boys, since I think Arwen would have said farewell to them, as well. ;)

And, as for Faramir and Éowyn, what woman could possibly resist such a fine, intelligent hunk of manhood? *ahem* I'd vote for lots of babies there, too.....

(Theoden had four sisters, his father had three, and his grandfather had two brothers and a sister).

One minor quibble with that: I interpret Appendix A to state that Thengel (Théoden's father) had two sisters, not three:
Thengel, [Fengel's] third child and only son, left Rohan when he came to manhood and lived long in Gondor....

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: The House of Eorl: The Kings of the Mark
Although that does bring up another problem: there may be even more children than were mentioned, since Tolkien focused on the kings. For example:
[Fengel] was the third son and fourth child of Folcwine.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: The House of Eorl: The Kings of the Mark
Sentences like that do not necessarily rule out the possibility that Folcwine had more than four children. That would be something like saying "Elladan and Elrohir were the eldest children of Elrond"... just because Arwen isn't mentioned, doesn't necessarily mean that she doesn't exist.

Anyway, hope this helps, and sorry that I'm really no good about speculation...

- Barbara

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

I had forgotten where this quote was, but Tanaqui told me where, in IM.... You've probably already seen it, but maybe others haven't:
Death was ever present, because the Númenóreans still, as they had in their old kingdom, and so lost it, hungered after endless life unchanging. Kings made tombs more splendid than houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry; in secret chambers withered men compounded strong elixirs, or in high cold towers asked questions of the stars. And the last king of the line of Anárion had no heir.

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 4, Ch 5, The Window on the West


- Barbara

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Does anyone have any theories on why children were rare in Gondor? Was it because most marriages were political? Did those of Numenorean bloodline inherit other Elvish characteristics along with their long life? Are Gondorian women of weaker constitution? Are Gondorians merely less fertile?

Somebody had a theory that it might have something to do with them living so close to Mordor. There might have been somthing in the air that made them less fertile.

The number of children does not depend on whether a marriage is political or a love marriage. You can see that in the ruling eurpean houses. Lots and lots of children.

In the past children were needed in order for the parents to survive. With time it became unneccesary because we have so good care for the elderly. Perhaps this was the case in Gondor?

~Vilwarin

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

But it makes sense...Finduilas was married to Denethor thirteen years and only bore him two children.

I don't think this is very indicative of a negative trend. It seems to be a relatively normal span between children. Of course, in earlier times women became children often one after the other (see also Rosie's "record" )), but it didn't have to be this way. And Denethor was already older when he married, and preoccupied with state matters. And Finduilas might have had a weak constitution so they had to be careful not to exhaust her.

So is this an abandoned concept by Tolkien that I can ignore (and give Faramir and Aragorn lots of adorable babies), or something that fits explainably into his universe and should be noted?

Others have already provided theories and textev, but here are my 2 € worth: I think that another argument might be that once the Shadow passed - literally and figuratively - and the New Age with the Renewer and Healer Kind started, people once more began to hope and find more joy and optimism for the future.
It is hard to do that when you know that the sons you get will in all likelihood become soldiers, and the daughters face loss and widowhood ("hostage to fortune" and all that).
And it seems to me Aragorn and Arwen's (at least) 3 children show that there is a change already.

Imhiriel

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Just to drop in my 2cents...

I seem to remember that it's said that whilst Elessar was on the throne the city was prosperous and 'the houses were filled with the laughter of children', suggesting there was a baby-boom compared with the previous situation.

My personal feelings that the big gap between Boromir and Faramir is slightly unusual (aristocratic women often did have 'one baby after another', more so than the peasant women, possibly because they usually employed wetnurses, whereas the peasant women tended to breastfeed for at least several months), but considering that Finduilas died at 36, compared to (it seems) 80-something among the poplutaion and nobody's quite sure why, then she is probably not a typical example of Gondorian womanhood.

As for the vagueries of family trees, one could take the view that this follows a lot of pre-industrial European cultures- including some parts of Britain- where children were not given a 'legal' name or, if their household was 'important' enough to have one, written into the family tree until they were a year old. Until then they were 'the baby' at home and 'Baby Smith' to the neighbours. This was- apparantly, we don't know whether it worked- to minimise the pain if they died in infancy, as a huge number of children did. I'm not sure how comman this was, or exactly when it went out of practice.

This might explain why Denethor is recorded as 'the third child and first son' of Ecthalion, meaning he had two older sisters and possibly a younger brother, but these siblings are never mentioned again. Likewise Theoden and Theodwyn's sisters, though this somehow seems less likely as I think Theodwyn might at some point be noted as Theoden's 'favourite', which wouldn't make sense if the others hadn't lived. (In fact, Boromir and Faramir are given as the two sons that Finduilas bore Denethor, not the two children, so one could just about make out that Fin also had a daughter (or even more than one daughter) who was stillborn or died within a few days or weeks. I'm not condoning it, I'm just saying it's just about possible).

And the survival rates of small children could well improve after the fall of Mordor- there would be more productive farming (and so more and better food for the ordinary people), cleaner air, possibly improvements in medicine given the King's elvish education, and probably couples would spend less time separated whilest the husband was off in the army.

But also, the family trees must be incomplete, otherwise the noble houses of Gondor would surely not have enough females to breed, at least not without marrying 'ordinary' women and so presumably loosing thier distinctive genetic characteristics. (In any case, if you take the view that if someone's not on the geneology they don't exist, then most of the lords in LotR apendicies- even ones in the text, like Imrahil- reproduce by autogenisis).

Soubie

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Reply to Elena:

So, I think we can assume that his family trees (again, excepting the Hobbits) simply don't always mention siblings who were not male heirs.

I also am partial to this theory, and also to the theory that says that children who died young would not be mentioned either.

And, as for Faramir and Éowyn, what woman could possibly resist such a fine, intelligent hunk of manhood? *ahem* I'd vote for lots of babies there, too.....

ROTFLMAO I'll agree with you there!

The number of children does not depend on whether a marriage is political or a love marriage. You can see that in the ruling eurpean houses. Lots and lots of children.

That is true to some extent, but loving marriages tended to have more...see for example George III of England and his thirteen (fifteen?) children.

Reply to Imhiriel:

It is hard to do that when you know that the sons you get will in all likelihood become soldiers, and the daughters face loss and widowhood ("hostage to fortune" and all that).

Now that certainly makes sense.

Reply to Soubie:

(In any case, if you take the view that if someone's not on the geneology they don't exist, then most of the lords in LotR apendicies- even ones in the text, like Imrahil- reproduce by autogenisis)

ROTFLMAO I've noticed that before. I understand that the geneological evidence is fairly untrustworthy, but I didn't base my conclusion off that, but off of the words Tolkien used.

Thanks to everyone who replied! You definitely gave me food for thought, and several reasons to use lots of cute children in my stories. Wink

~MerryK

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Ah, the curse of patrilineal geneology.  Smile  Women have to be extraordinary indeed to get a place in the tree.  Well, Tolkien was following early medieval models, and that's what we get: lists of kings, and the occasional wife or sister who does something noteable.  Have you looked at the Dwarven lineages?  Only a single female anywhere, and that's just because her sons were so devoted to their uncle.

Smaller families often go hand-in-hand with the upper classes, unless there's a very strong positive value placed on lots of children.  First of all, upper-class children are more expensive to raise (properly) than commoners' kids.  Are you prepared to pay for college and grad school for a dozen children?  (Farm kids work on the farm and help feed themselves.)  Second, in families with power and wealth, there are the inheritance squabbles, which can lead to warfare in those very highly placed.  You want enough sons to be sure of a good heir, but not too many.  (An heir and a spare.)  And finally, unless women are very highly praised for being brood-mares, women of consequence do not want to pop out kids every year or two.  It takes a heavy toll on mortal women, as well as Elves, and the later kids are not the same quality as the earlier ones.

The very large family sizes of the early modern period appear to be due to both better nutrition, allowing shorter birth spacing, and higher disease loads due to increased population density (particularly in cities), so that infant mortality is higher.  Among many traditional small-scale societies, birth spacing was around 3-4 years (due to the nutritional stress of nursing and sometimes cultural restrictions on sex).

It probably wouldn't be too wrong to see parallels in the decline in birth rates among the nobility of Gondor and in many Western countries today (even the United States would have a declining population if it wasn't for immigration).  For all the wonderfulness of kids, they are also a burden and a responsibility, and so some people will defer or avoid them.

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

And finally, unless women are very highly praised for being brood-mares, women of consequence do not want to pop out kids every year or two. It takes a heavy toll on mortal women, as well as Elves, and the later kids are not the same quality as the earlier ones.

Now here is where my original confusion lies. In my community, there are lots of mothers who have had many children 2-3 years apart, and it they do not seem particularly abnormal (though birth control is absent). One mother I know has had twelve children, and did not have a problem with any; another mother had ten, same story. My own mother had a baby every two years, exactly, and she nursed us until we self-weaned (I am the oldest of seven). Three of my best friends come from families with at least five children. All these mothers love their children and enjoy having large families.

Now, this is obviously not normal for today's society, but it seemed a good indication to me of how historical societies worked. After all, taking a poor-ish loving couple, John and Abigail Adams, who I have been studying: they had lots of children with no health problems for Abigail. The Austens in England had eight children (and the famous Jane Austen was nearly the last), and Mrs. Austen had energy and wit even after raising them all.

I can understand your point about the cost of raising children in more wealthy families, though in Middle-earth I would more likely see younger sons taking on occupations to support themselves, but I do not quite understand the birth rate being so low unless there are other circumstances (the foul air of Mordor, fear of losing children to war, etc.) or the couples are not in love or do not want children.

~MerryK

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Hard to say, Merry--I would guess cultural differences are at work.  I'm an only child, and only one of my friends has more than one sibling (though they're the youngest of 6--all redheads  Wink  ).

There's a lot of interesting research--for obvious reasons--into what contributes to good maternal and child health, and the hard-to-define term "stress" figures very prominently.  A well-nourished woman with good social support can certainly have a child every two years too much strain; the same woman, with the same diet, in a different social setting, could have significantly more problems.  If your profession is to bear and raise children (and not do that while holding down some other career), and there are helping hands, either from relatives or friends or--as Ms. Adams and Austen had--servants, and you don't have to fret about too many insecurities, no, it shouldn't be a problem.  Sturdy farmwives have done it, as well as the gentry.

There's been some interesting stuff in the media lately: a greying feminist scholar has gone ballistic because her research shows that upper-class, highly educated, professionally successful women who have the option often choose to quit their "day jobs" to raise their children full time.  She sees them as gender traitors.  I think they're lucky to be well enough off, economically, to have the choice.  More women would, I think, if they could, but the modern Western lifestyle so often requires at least two incomes per household.

Create the kinds of families you like (or dislike), that will allow you to tell the stories you want to tell, and don't worry too much about "getting it right."  There's always been a wide range of variation, in the past as today: happy big families, rancorous big families, happy little families, miserable little families.  And a lot of times people like reading about what they don't have: I enjoy stories about siblings and big families, because I don't know what that's like.

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

The low birth-rate may also have been a side-effect of Numenorean longevity. Recall that originally they lived centuries, and their fertility would logically have had to have been reduced when the Valar did the original genetic modifications on the ancestral population, otherwise Numenor would have been bursting at the seams very shortly.

Presumably even after the return to Middle-earth and the slow reversion to the Mannish norm, some of the original physiological changes remained, especially in the purer-bred lineages.

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

when the Valar did the original genetic modifications on the ancestral population

Whoa!  When was this?  Here I thought they were just Edain culturally elevated by contact with the Exiles and blessed with environmental conditions that allowed them to reach their full genetic potential.  Barring those descended from Elros, of course.  Grin

Tolkien says of the extended lifespans of the Dunedain that they reached maturity as quickly as ordinary Men, but that the effects of aging were retarded.

Given that we find dramatically reduced birth rates over the last two centuries among humans in the "developed" world (and some women giving birth well into their 50s), I don't think you need genetic modification to explain the differences in fertility.

Cheers--

Adaneth

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

To look back at MerryK's original question:

"He was wedded twice and had several children (a thing already rare and remarkable among the nobles of Gondor)"

it could be the second marriage, rather than the large family (after all, having a fair number of children is quite a common result of marrying more than once) that was so remarkable. Second marriages in Tolkien, IIRC, are pretty rare- despite the fact that he writes any number of widowers, I can't think of more than one other example (the notorious boon granted to Finwe) where any of them remarry.

As for the genetic mutations- it could be not that the genes of the Edien were spliced with those of elves (though by the time Aragorn was born, thousands of years had passed since the choice of Elros so an awful lot of people could probably be distantly decended from him and not even realise- though it would be hundreds-of-parts human to a very tiny part elf), BUT that the men left behind- what Faramir refers to as the 'men of twilight' declined during this time, to the point that they started aging much earlier. I'm not sure, but most of the Edian men that appear in the Silmerilion are pretty 'Numanorean' in thier life expectancy, family lives and general characteristics, suggesting that either all men were once like that (quite a comman idea in such stories, I think) or that the different orders of men in Middle Earth were as different as that from the begining.

Soubrettina

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

>>As for the genetic mutations- it could be not that the genes of the Edien were spliced with those of elves (though by the time Aragorn was born, thousands of years had passed since the choice of Elros so an awful lot of people could probably be distantly decended from him and not even realise- though it would be hundreds-of-parts human to a very tiny part elf), BUT that the men left behind- what Faramir refers to as the 'men of twilight' declined during this time, to the point that they started aging much earlier.

IIRC, Elros and his descendants were granted special longevity - about 400 years - I don't think it had anything to do with their Elven heritage. (For comparison, the lifespans of Mithrellas' husband and her son were identical.) Their lifespans began to decrease when the shadow fell upon Numenor, but even in the time of Aragorn, they still enjoyed longer lives than other Men. But I think you're correct that all Men originally had longer lives.

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Yes, Tolkien definitely backed a "degenerationist" worldview for Middle-Earth.  This is the diametrical opposite of a "progressive" worldview, so that instead of things getting better over time, everything inevitably goes downhill.  (Ancient Mesopotamians and Egyptians saw the world this way; the Classical myth of the Ages of Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron is degenerationist; and so, of course, is a Biblical worldview.)  With lots of effort you can buck the trend for a while, but you end up fighting the long defeat.  And these worldviews link moral and physical decline as well, so virtuous people are healthier, live longer, etc.

Then there's that great philosophical discussion between Finrod and Andreth, where she insists that Men were also originally immortal, but Fell.  Lovely stuff.  So many possibilities.

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Yes, Tolkien definitely backed a "degenerationist" worldview for Middle-Earth.

And his Numenoreans/Gondorians are very selfish in general.  They seem to be totally focused on the length and quality of their own lives to the absolute detriment of any future generations.  As if, if they could only figure out the 'key' (elixer of life, fountain of youth, mystic passage to Valinor), they would have unlimited years to reproduce or no need to reproduce because they would live forever. They spend their time and energy looking for the 'key' and forget about reproducing.

 JRRT also has a tendency to think that the begetting of children is something that belongs to the young.  If someone does not do it by a certain age, they loose the will to do so.  There are exceptions, of course, Elrond for example, but in general people are supposed to marry young and have children or they are interested in other things and do not have children.

Gwynnyd 

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Wasn't it said in HoME that Denethor was the third child and first son of Ecthelion, which indicates he had two older sisters and one younger brother?  I've also read in HoME that Tolkien originally intended Hirgon, who brought the Red Arrow to Theoden, to be Denethor's nephew, but did not say so in the final version of LOTR.

I've always assumed that the proximity to Mordor was a key factor in the declining population of Minas Tirith - both in cutting down young men before they could sire many children, and in emitting noxious fumes that could adversely affect fertility.  

Finduilas was one of three siblings; and her brother sired four children.  One would think that, genetically, Finduilas came from a family that could produce more than one or two kids per generation.  Therefore, I think that the atmosphere of Minas Tirith was at fault, perhaps combined with some post-partum infection that might have healed farther away from Sauron's influence, for there being only two sons born of her and Denethor. 

 While it's true that Tolkien did not mention, anywhere, more than one child of Faramir, I don't think that necessarily precludes him and Eowyn having multiple offspring.  Tolkien never said that Elboron was their only son; only that (in the semi-canonical HoME) he was Faramir's successor as Steward and Prince. 

In my own fanfic sub-universe, Faramir and Eowyn have at least two daughters as well as Elboron.  And of course, Tolkien gave license for Aragorn and Arwen to have several little girls.  There's also no reason why Aragorn and Arwen couldn't have had a second son; as long as that son wasn't around in F.A. 120.

RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

(though by the time Aragorn was born, thousands of years had passed since the choice of Elros so an awful lot of people could probably be distantly decended from him and not even realise- though it would be hundreds-of-parts human to a very tiny part elf)

It seems, though, that Tolkien didn't pay close attention to genetics (as I found when I asked for advice on hair color), and that they carried for a lot longer than in the real world, because Legolas saw the Elvish blood in Imrahil when the closest Elvish relative he had was married to the first Prince...and then there is the conundrum of how Denethor and Faramir had "nearly pure" Numenorean blood...yet Boromir, Ecthelion, etc., did not.

 To look back at MerryK's original question:"He was wedded twice and had several children (a thing already rare and remarkable among the nobles of Gondor)" it could be the second marriage, rather than the large family (after all, having a fair number of children is quite a common result of marrying more than once) that was so remarkable. Second marriages in Tolkien, IIRC, are pretty rare- despite the fact that he writes any number of widowers, I can't think of more than one other example (the notorious boon granted to Finwe) where any of them remarry.

Thanks for the answer, Soubrettina! That is a very good point, and one that I had not considered.

There's also no reason why Aragorn and Arwen couldn't have had a second son; as long as that son wasn't around in F.A. 120.

Oh dear, I must really be misunderstanding something here. Do you mean that Aragorn could have a son born after his death? *blinks in shock* Or that he was just not around for Arwen to farewell?

Thanks to everyone who continued this thread and gave me a great deal to think on in this area. I decided to go with the general view that, whether it was proximity to Mordor or leftover Numenorean pride, Fourth Age people would not have to deal with low fertility rates.

~MerryK

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

There's also no reason why Aragorn and Arwen couldn't have had a second son; as long as that son wasn't around in F.A. 120.

Oh dear, I must really be misunderstanding something here. Do you mean that Aragorn could have a son born after his death? *blinks in shock* Or that he was just not around for Arwen to farewell?

I think she means that the second son would have died by 120 F.A. For that matter, Eldarion could be the second son, if the first one died.

G.A. 

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Whoa!  When was this?  Here I thought they were just Edain culturally elevated by contact with the Exiles and blessed with environmental conditions that allowed them to reach their full genetic potential.  Barring those descended from Elros, of course.

Yes. It was the business of the descendants of Elros having been "allotted" an extended lifespan that gave me that idea. We don't know anything at all about the level of civilisation that the Gondorians achieved in things like medical care, except that it was lower than the Numenoreans', but since they were fighting with pre-industrial weaponry, it did not seem to me likely that they had post-industrial levels of either sanitary or medical sophistication, which largely drove the extension of human lifespan in the twentieth century.

The "extended youth" is also not a natural feature of human beings, even for a rich individual in the rich world. It therefore seemed likely that the extended Numenorean lifespan plus neoteny was an artificial condition (insofar as the action of the the Valar in the world could be considered artificial; they were the worldmakers, after all) . 

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Yes. It was the business of the descendants of Elros having been "allotted" an extended lifespan that gave me that idea. We don't know anything at all about the level of civilisation that the Gondorians achieved in things like medical care, except that it was lower than the Numenoreans', but since they were fighting with pre-industrial weaponry, it did not seem to me likely that they had post-industrial levels of either sanitary or medical sophistication, which largely drove the extension of human lifespan in the twentieth century.

The "extended youth" is also not a natural feature of human beings, even for a rich individual in the rich world. It therefore seemed likely that the extended Numenorean lifespan plus neoteny was an artificial condition (insofar as the action of the the Valar in the world could be considered artificial; they were the worldmakers, after all) .

Hhmm, someone else who knows what "neotony" means.  Grin  (Actually, there seem to be a fair number of us with biology/biological anthropology backgrounds hereabouts.)

No argument, but a few observations:

First, preindustrial health statuses are extremely variable.  As a general rule, low population densities are correlated with better health: better nutrition, less exposure to endemic (and other) diseases, less interpersonal conflict leading to trauma.  Preindustrial populations with comparatively low levels of these stresses routinely contain people over 60 years of age, often representing as many as 5% of individuals recovered.  I have seen 16-18th century cemeteries in rural Scotland with a significant number of headstones for people who lived into their 70s and 80s.  (That traditional Biblical lifespan of "three-score and ten.")

Of course, that's not the 150-year normal lifespan for the Chieftains of the Dunedain, or the still longer ones of the early Numenoreans, but this may be one factor among many promoting longevity.

I agree that neotony is a factor, because of the otherwise puzzling issue of beards, especially the bit where Elves and Men descended from Elves (including the house of Dol Amroth) are beardless, but there are representations of Numenorean and early Gondorian rulers with beards.  And Cirdan the Shipwright, the eldest known Elf at the end of the Third Age, is bearded.  My personal interpretation of this is that part-Elven Men develop beards later in life than normal Men--so august elder kings would have them.

Now we get into the fuzzy grey area, where Tolkien's cosmology butts up against modern science.  This is where the degenerationist worldview comes into play.  From an evolutionary perspective, degeneration is nonsense, but it is a major theme for Tolkien, so ignoring it is difficult.  If you're looking for a compromise, perhaps you could explain that people were better/more perfect in the past because there had been fewer deleterious mutations from the original design, and so under optimal conditions they lived significantly longer.

But this runs afoul of the fact that, from almost the time that Men first appear "on stage," there are significant lifespan differences among Men, and that Men tend to live longer when they're hanging out with Elves.  And the explanations we are given--not that you have to believe them--are that these differences are based on "grace" or moral status.  (Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth is a delight for those who like that kind of philosophical debate, and its heart is whether or not Men were meant to be immortal before they "fell." Or were they pushed? Wink )

This is not a perspective without its discomforts, since it has that early 20th-century racist vibe, where morality is in some part heritable, as part of a people's geist or spirit.  (Latins are lovers, Irish are alcoholics, etc., etc.)  But that was the scientific/popular mainstream during Tolkien's formative years and most of the time he was writing.

Why does Aragorn live so much longer than his immediate Chieftain ancestors?  Did the Valar re-engineer his DNA as soon as Sauron was defeated?  Hm; not a very parsimonious explanation.  The "magic" of grace is a more elegant solution.

If you want to go straight to the theological angle, Tolkien has very definite things to say about the Valar's interpretation of Eru's plan, not all of them favorable.  The Valar are the builders, not the architects, although they have a certain amount of authority to "ornament" the work within their own expertise.  The architect is still on the project, and tweaks things occasionally.  If simply bringing the Elves to Valinor did not turn out well, how could "revising" the Second Children of Iluvatar?  (Eru himself did not see fit to significantly modify the Dwarves when Aule made them, which would suggest--along with the fact that "making/distorting" creatures is an activity of the Enemy--a strong support for integrity of the original vision.)

Not that you couldn't do something with that: the Valar genetically engineer the Edain when they bring them to Numenor with the best of intentions--but it ultimately contributed to Numenor's Fall, because as when they brought the Elves to Valinor, they didn't foresee all the consequences.

I love the mash-ups you can make with this stuff.  Grin

 

 

Re: Number of children in Gondorian families

Oh dear, I must really be misunderstanding something here. Do you mean that Aragorn could have a son born after his death? *blinks in shock* Or that he was just not around for Arwen to farewell?

In The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, it says that after Aragorn's death, Then she said farewell to Eldarion, and to her daughters.  If there had been a second son alive at that time, Arwen surely would have bid farewell to him.  But there could have been a second son who died, or was killed, prior to his father's death.  And, as G.A. notes, Eldarion could have been born second, after an heir who predeceased Aragorn (and sired no children). 

RAKSHA

 

 

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