Tolkien in General

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Post by Elthir Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:42 am

I better play it safe Petty. I like my comfy tower.

And I've already said too much without saying much Very Happy

I'll think on it though. Don't want to be hasty!

[especially with Carl Hostetter's book yet to arrive. Ya never know!]

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Tue Nov 17, 2020 5:37 pm

{ Was nosing through Letters on the bog, as you do, and in Letter 165 there is a reference to an unpublished poem entitled the Fall of Arthur, which I had never heard of. A little further delving on google turns out a printed version was published in 2013 but is incomplete and I cant find much else about it. Does anyone know if it has ever been updated/revised? If any more of it ever turned up in Tolkiens no doubt copious notes and writings, has the 2013 version being revised since or is the original 2013 edition all that exists of it? Given he mentions hoping to finish way back it in 1955.}}

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Post by malickfan Wed Nov 18, 2020 2:33 am

Pettytyrant101 wrote:{ Was nosing through Letters on the bog, as you do, and in Letter 165 there is a reference to an unpublished poem entitled the Fall of Arthur, which I had never heard of. A little further delving on google turns out a printed version was published in 2013 but is incomplete and I cant find much else about it. Does anyone know if it has ever been updated/revised? If any more of it ever turned up in Tolkiens no doubt copious notes and writings, has the 2013 version being revised since or is the original 2013 edition all that exists of it? Given he mentions hoping to finish way back it in 1955.}}

I have a copy of that book somewhere (haven't read it in a long time though) and yes A) as far as I am aware the 2013 publication was the first time the poem had been published (other than the occasional line or snippet in fanzines or journals) and B) Yes the poem is incomplete, IIRC Tolkien become writing it some time in the early 30's but essentially abandoned it by the end of the decade. IIRC according to Hammond and Scull's Readers Guide he seemed to have returned to the manuscript occasionally over the years to scribble the occasional note and as you say even as late as the 1950's toyed with the idea of returning to and finishing the poem for publication..but it just never happened.

From what I recall the book publishes various early drafts of the poem, the extant final version (954 lines I think) a couple of related essays and an extensive editorial/critical commentary by Christopher Tolkien, it's been reprinted in paperback a few times and I assume the odd typo or misprint may have been corrected but as far as I'm aware there hasn't been a 'revised edition' of the book. It's an interesting little book and the poem itself is a rather striking read, despite its unfinished state...but the volume is very much more of an 'academic read' for the hardcore Tolkienist, and a reader interested in more than just the LOTR side of Tolkien, IIRC it's mostly commentary on the hows/whys of the poem and how it relates to his other writing, than speculating on how it may have been finished. I'd really have to read it again to give a more honest opinion, but it's probably worth tracking down a cheap copy or renting from the library if you are interested in that kind of poetry.

Let's not forget Tolkien was aged 67 when he finally retired from his Oxford professorship (and actually temporarily came out of retirement a few years later for a couple of terms) had a wealth of family and personal commitments to attend to including this: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Ancrene_Wisse_(book) (one other thing I learned from reading The Readers Guide-J.R.R Tolkien had an astonishingily long and extensive run of poor health and illness throughout his life), an ever increasing amount of fan mail and professional correspondence to attend to, and was supposedly foccused on trying to work the various Silmarillion writings into publishable shape, even if he could have found the time and inclination to work on The Fall Of Arthur I sadly doubt he would have brought it into a final finished form he was entirely happy with.

*This:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33956541-the-j-r-r-tolkien-companion-and-guide

https://www.amazon.co.uk/J-R-Tolkien-Companion-Guide/dp/0008214549

Yes, you read that correctly 2720 pages.

It's quite simply the reference book on Tolkien, an absolutely astonishing work of scholarship packed full of info about the man and his writing you can find nowhere else (including lots of info about various bits of unpublished writing).

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Well, that was worth the wait wasn't it  Suspect


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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Nov 18, 2020 2:51 am

{{ Thanks Malick, I'll see if my local library can get hold of a copy of it. I'm curious what Tolkiens perpective on Arthur is.
I used to have the Tolkien companaion many, many years ago when it was a single volume! More to add to the list.}}

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Post by Forest Shepherd Thu Nov 19, 2020 6:06 am

I was just talking with my mom recently about Tolkien and Arthur actually. Hmm what a coincidence.

I don't know a great deal about the source of the Arthurian tales. Isn't it all rather more French than English, despite it being about a king of the Britons?

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Thu Nov 19, 2020 6:27 am

{{ The version we have now is a total hotchpotch of bits and bobs. There is the Celtic version, from Wales, which is probably the oldest version and where Merlin comes from, being a Druid figure originally, it then got mixed up with English tales from the Dark Ages period and post Roman England, and then finally the French added all the Christian stuff to it; the Grail and Lancelot into the mix.
Which is why I was curious on Tolkiens take, as you'd expect his love of languages would draw him more to the older Celtic/Welsh traditions, especially given his love for the Welsh language, but then he was devoutly Christian too so those aspects might appeal to him, yet was not keen at all on the Frenchifing of English myth. So curious to see which way he leans in his own accounting of the myths.}}

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Post by halfwise Thu Nov 19, 2020 1:23 pm

I got the feeling he didn't particularly care for the Arthur myths, being as they were tossed to and fro by competing influences. But it looks like the Fall of Arthur stripped away all the French influences.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Thu Nov 19, 2020 2:38 pm

{{ So no Christian stuff then? }}

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Post by halfwise Thu Nov 19, 2020 4:15 pm

Nope - look it up. It's all about Britons fighting those nasty incoming Saxonses.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Thu Nov 19, 2020 4:19 pm

{{ So gone to the Dark Ages version, shame rather hoped he'd have gone further back to the Welsh versions- its got dragons in it! }}

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Post by halfwise Thu Nov 19, 2020 4:25 pm

You'd think he would given his fondness for Welsh. But it didn't really become the Arthur legend until Geoffrey of Monmouth got his hands on it.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Tue Jan 12, 2021 3:04 pm

{{ More interesting bits from Letters, in this case Letter 211. Ive always known Tolkien associated the location of Gondor with roughly the position of present day Italy, and the landscape described fits well with that.
But in this Letter he is talking not about location, but of culture and says this-

'The Numenoreans of Gondor were proud, peculiar, and archaic, and I think they are best pictured in (say) Egyptian terms. In many ways they resembled 'Egyptians'- the love of, and power to construct, the gigantic and massive. And in their interest in ancestry and in tombs...I think the crown of Gondor (the S. Kingdom) was very tall, like that of Egypt, but with wings attached, not set straight back but at an angle. The N.Kingdom had only a diadem, the difference between the N. and S. kingdoms of Egypt.'

I'd never really thought of Gondor in Egyptian terms but it does make sense. Especially how enamoured they became with the idea of death and somehow cheating it. }}

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Post by halfwise Tue Jan 12, 2021 3:52 pm

Oh, you can see it in the names of Numenorian kings. Al Pharazon - how's that for slapping you in the face with it? I think he had mentioned the Egyptian connection in other places, I always was aware of it.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Tue Jan 12, 2021 3:57 pm

{{ Oddly Id associated Numenor with Egypt thematically, but for some reason not with Gondor. As Gondor was more Numenor ruling class, rather than all the citizens being from there. }}

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Tue Feb 09, 2021 12:15 pm

{{ Ive been thinking about faeries, particularly the Celtic/British type and their relationship to Tolkien's reinvention and presentation of elves.
What started out as just setting down some thoughts has turned into a two part essay, that is as much a waltz through British history as it is anything else. For in the history I think we find the reality.

So i had got to wondering, what if faery myths were based on a real people? Were there ever 'real' faeries? Ones who fitted the criteria of a Tolkien elf?

Commonly fair in appearance, connected to immortal life and ideas of death, worshippers of stars, dwellers in the seen and unseen worlds, associated with the sea and water, possessors and makers of superior 'magic' weaponry and jewellery. Builders of great works and monuments. Imparters of wisdom and knowledge. Givers of gifts. Perilous to mortals.

So the aim is to first find who the British/Celtic faery folk really were and in doing so to display so many similarities to the traits associated with Tolkien's elves as to show that they are made of the same mythic historically based building blocks, and hopefully, to demonstrate the where, when and how in British history they came from.

So how do you find the faerie folk? Well a good place to start it seemed to me was to look at were they lived and what areas they were associated with.
It turns out the oldest faerie stories in the UK which have survived are mostly at its fringes, in the surviving Celtic nations of Scotland, Wales, and in Ireland.
Faeries are associated with two basic places; naturally occurring sacred spaces such as groves, forest clearings, mushroom rings (called colloquially faery rings), and certain types of tree, particularly holly and rowan.
And secondly ancient stone mounds known as faery-mounds, as well as standing stones and stone circles and other large scale stone-works said to be built by the faerie folk themselves and to be their dwellings or portals between worlds.

So if the faeries lived in these mounds what then is a faery mound? Well in tales of  faery folk they are two places at once- there is the outer remains of their once great dwellings we can see with the human eye, walls and tombs, the remaining ruins, and at the same time in the unseen world those things still exist whole and unmarred by time and the faery folk still dwell there within them- in a world almost between worlds, between the realms of life and death, in touch with both.

If on the other-hand you were to visit such a faery mound and wonder in a practically minded matter, what is that mound? A natural feature? A man made hill? What would be the answer?
Well what you'd most likely be looking at is a Neolithic burial tomb or a barrow. They came in a variety of shapes and in a variety of sizes, not all might have been tombs, or not all might have been just tombs, and some might not have been used as tombs at all. There is a lot we don't know for sure.
These impressive hollow mounds of human endeavour were built by the same people who built stone housing with indoor plumbing and underfloor heating at Skara Brae, put a massive stone sacred complex on Orkney, and set up the stone circles all over the UK and most notably at Stone Henge. At a time when Egypt was still working out how to build a mastaba and had a couple of  thousands years to go still for the pyramids.
The faery mounds and the other remnants of those people often associated with faery folk were the works of the people of Neolithic Britain, from approx 4000bc until 2500bc.

But lets go back a little in time to before these mound and circle builders arrived. Who lived in Britain at that time? Thanks to DNA examinations and remains I can show you what the original people of Britain who lived here before the arrival of the neolithic peoples looked like, this is Cheddar Man, a hunter gatherer from about 7,100BC.

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You might note that he is considerably darker than a modern Brit. Part of the reason for that is that the builders of the 'faery mounds' who arrived in the neolithic were different in appearance, lighter toned and coloured. They brought with them greater numbers, new ideas and farming. And they also brought their habit of building using massive stones.
And what they built were closely associated with the stars, with the alignments of events in the heavens. And their religion was focused upon ancestor worship and the other unseen world of the Dead, to and for whom they built the great barrow tombs and mounds and avenues of standing stones.

So we seem to be off to a good start in finding faery folk. Here we have an indigenous, dark haired and skinned hunter-gather society in Britain and it is replaced by a larger incoming group who have new knowledge about farming, a new religion, new building techniques and are fairer haired and skinned and build massive monuments.

Some of the surviving works of the original 'faery folk' of Britain spanning 4000bc to 2500bc-

Ness of Brodgar-

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Maes Howe-

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The stone village of Skara Brae-

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Ring of Brodgard-

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Stone Henge-

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Whilst these neolithic folk built the structures later peoples would associate with the faery folk, they themselves only set up a part of the template for what the faery would fully become.
They introduced the root ideas- that faeries were associated with the sea as they arrived that way, they were associated with the stars and realm of the heavens, and that they were associated with nature in a new way- they could order the land to grow what they desired and needed, make the forests ordered and to provide the right types of wood for their needs. They could train wild beasts to be peaceful and provide for them. And lastly that they were associated with the building of the megalithic tombs and the stone circles, which seemed as fantastical and mysterious to the eyes of those who replaced the Neolithic farmers two thousands years later as they still do to our eyes today.

And it was this second group who arrived in about 2500bc that brought the second influence on the faery tale. For it would have been them who first remembered those they had replaced and began the mythologising of them, associating their memory to that of the mounds they built, but they also added their own elements to the story.
For these new people, known as the Beaker people (named after their distinctive pottery), and who were even lighter in skin tone than the Neolithic farmers they were replacing had brought something wholly new with them, they had brought the Bronze Age.
And here we have the introducing of our first wave of magic weapons. For magic they must have seemed to those who had no prior knowledge that the creation of a metal was even a conceivable thing. To turn stones into a sword or an axe was an act of magic, made with closely guarded secrets, passed down, the blacksmith was akin to a magician and his art as closely guarded as the workings of a spell.

And with their knowledge of metal work the Beaker people brought not only better pottery and new weapons to dominate with, but they turned their skill to jewellery and art too.

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And so this second wave of invaders from over the sea brought in their own elements to add to the cultural memory.
The story of faeries was now the same story woven from memories of both those who were defeated and those who were conquered.

Those who survived first being conquered, the indigenous dark skinned hunter gatherers remembered the pale skinned, fairer haired people who came from the sea tamed the land and its beasts and built their great stone works, worshipped the stars and came to dominate.
The Beaker people who conquered the Neolithic mound builders turned the mound builders into mystical beings who could move huge stones around at will and who built halls of stone to the Dead.
And the Neolithic builders who had survived the Beaker people remembered the new weapons made of unknown substance, weapons of magic none could stand against and the beautiful metal jewellery.

And all these folk memories were merged together in time, attributed to the one imagined people who were quickly becoming more a people of the spirit world and legend than the real thing. Becoming faery folk.

Imagine the Beaker people have arrived. But now its nearly one thousand years later and you are one of their descendants living in Britain. The year is approximately 500BC. Those Neolithic mound building farmers your ancestors conquered are now a mythic people who dwell in their ancient mounds with the dead (as by 500AD people had got curious and broken in to find chambers, inscriptions, grave goods, and of course bones laid carefully out).

You as a 500Ad Brit are as far from those mound builders in time as we are now from our imagined Briton.

At this point we have to turn to what the culture had become in Britain by the time of  500AD. By now the Celtic culture and the Druids were in full play, and they were particular strong in Wales, and Ireland, Scotland we know less about at this time to be sure, but they were probably just as active there.

The Druids were in operation much later than our Neolithic faery mound builders, they arose in Europe in about 1200BC but did not find their way to Britain until later, about 750BC, their religions roots and practises are largely unknown and often inferred, but it possibly had remnants of the Neolithic religion they were replacing mixed in. They were in full operation and the Celts dominated all parts of the islands in Britain by the time of the Romans who reported on them in 200BC. The Celts like the Beaker people before them they were now the dominant culture and had brought a new magic weapon with them, they brought the weaponry and tools of the Iron Age. This was another reinforcement of the cultural idea of a superior people coming from the sea with magic weapons.

What the Druids gave to the faery story was it seems compatibility to what had already been established in folk tales. Their realm of the spirit world, and in particular with the idea that the human soul was an unseen spirit, that we had a spirit body, like the wind, that it blew away upon death and entered the land of the dead -  Faeries often are heralded by a wind, or arrive with it or on a breeze (Mary Poppins has a touch of the faery about her arrival)- were very compatible lines of thought with existing faery ideas. The burial practises during the Celtic years shifted more towards cremation and 'sky-burial' where the corpse is left open to the elements until picked away and only bones are left which are then either buried or cremated- this oneness with nature and association with death rites for entry to the unseen world all fitted nicely existing in the very same spirit world it seems that the souls of the Dead of the of the Neolithic religion must pass through. What the two had was synergy.

Reverence for natural clearances and groves and for certain trees such as holly was also a druid peculiarity that crept into the faery narrative. By the time of the middle-ages the most famous Druid of them all, Merlin, was said to be half-faery, the medieval writers intuitively uncovering a truth that was always clearly there between some Druid religious symbolism and some pre-existing traits of faery folk and their haunts. Enough that after the Druids were gone the two could easily be conflated in time.
Druids are to this day wrongly associated with places like Stone Henge, and still gather there every summer solstice to this day,

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they have become muddled up in popular folk memory with the stone circles and mounds. But Stone Henge was built by Neolithic farmers in 2,500BC at the peak of a culture and belief system that had dominated for at least two thousand years by then. And the Druids came along about 750BC, nearly two thousand years lay between them. Or to look at it another way, the Druids were as distant in time from the builders of Stone Henge as those Druids are from us.

Yet the memory of the Druids as much as the reality of them informed the idea of the faery folk, the groves, trees and the like that were sacred to the Druids linked to the faeries and their power over nature, bringing a closer association between faery and trees, woods and forests and in return overtime the Druids became associated with the earlier stone circles and mounds. But with the important distinction that such Druid locations in groves and woods were locales where faeries could appear, or cross paths with mortals, or be called to, or have business at, or even just to hold dances or celebrations in them like Tolkien's woodland elves in the Hobbit do.
What they are far less commonly are dwelling places of the faeries. Their great cities where they still dwell hidden in the unseen world are only at the Neolithic mounds and greater works of stone.
Just as Tolkien's elves of Mirkwood may be encountered in the woods and in groves yet they do not live there but in a great stone palace below the earth. They live in a glorified faery mound.

Back to our 500ad Briton, from their perspective what was their time about? What defined a 500AD Brit from the Neolithic mound builders of old in world outlook? And what was left of the older religion and beliefs they had supplanted, if anything?

Well the Neolithic religion we know only small clues about, inferred usually from the works they left. We know they were very keen on astronomy, everything they built was done in a way that interacted with landscape and sky.
We think they practised some form of ancestor worship, the burial tombs were almost certainly reopened at least every solstice for ceremony (the tunnel passage of Maes Howe for example has a 'light-box' above the doorway which directs a shaft of sun or moon light down through the tunnel to strike the rear wall of the main chamber on the solstices, the wall is quartz causing it to brighten and glow till the strange unearthly light fills the entire chamber, an effect only possible to witness from inside. Further the dead are not so much buried as laid out on shelves and stone slabs. There is never an entire skeleton or solitary burial, and its nearly always a jumble of various peoples bones, of a wide date range, implying the tomb is reopened and other bones added, or maybe even some taken away).

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People also seem to have carried pieces of their ancestor with them in the form of bones, especially on long journeys. All this points to a great reverence for the dead and for the ancestors, as does going to the lengths of constructing the mounds and barrows to place them in.

For our 500AD Briton, they are 300 years into the Iron Age now, the southern coast of Britain is trading with the Mediterranean through the Phoenicians who want British tin and bring wines and new foods and precious minerals, along with new ideas. Southern Britain is becoming much more connected to mainland Europe through trade. Most folk are a Celt and Druids rule the roost religiously and probably socially too interpreting laws, settling disputes, handing down punishments and rewards.

From Neolithic to our 500AD Briton the association with death and stone has remained a through-line of belief. Though the great barrow and tomb mounds are no longer in use smaller stone built coffins are, and for cremation cysts burials which are a smaller variant which the ashes are placed into and can easily be built just with a pile of manageable sized stones one person could construct in about an hour. This association between the dead and stone would last as a part of British culture from neolithic all the way to present day and the practise of putting up a headstone on a grave.

The Bronze Age Beaker People had displayed an interest in boundaries in their religion, they were fascinated it seems by where things met and in particular where one thing was neither one or the other.
This led them to have a religious thing for bogs and certain streams, springs and lakes. Bogs in particular seem to have been used for a lot of things, there are examples of ritual sacrifice in bogs, the deliberate placing of the dead in reverential manner into bogs, and most commonly the casting of precious goods or valuables into the bogs. Including high quality rare bronze swords and gold jewellery.
The association between spirits, the dead and faery lights with will-o-the-wisp appearing over bogs probably stems from this time too.

Their interest seemed to lie in finding that gap where land and water were both and the same, where the boundaries of two realms touched and merged. They also had a similar reverence for two particular times of day, dawn and dusk, for the same reason- the times when it was neither day nor night, but both. The spaces between worlds were of great importance to them.

This seems to have lasted on and though it was not as common as before was probably still in practise by the time of 500Ad and Druid rule. But very soon the Romans will arrive and they will bring their own reverence for springs and pools of water and their own version of offerings to the water continuing the tradition under different religious guises. The widespread acceptance of this Roman trait hints towards it being similar enough to what the natives had already been doing for generations that it neither caused offence or was stifled by opposition. So it probably continued as a practise unbroken from the Bronze Age until the present day when people still throw money into wishing wells.
This association between gift giving and boundaries between worlds would eventually give us in the Arthurian legends the faery Lady in the Lake and her gift of a magical sword Excalibur to Arthur. Bringing together in one legend our original hunter-gatherers, the neolithic farmers, the Beaker people, the Druids, Romanised Briton and Norman Britain in one combined mythos of faery.
And in a similar vein in Tolkien it would give us Galadriel's gift giving to the Fellowship near water and in a land that is unmarred by time living between the real world and the unseen.

All the elements and main ingredients of Tolkien's elves; water and sea association, in touch with the realm of the dead and great builders, star worship, able to tame nature, association with trees and groves, bearers of magic weapons and  beautifully worked jewellery, fair of skin, living on between worlds at the boundary points, have all come together in the form of the developing faery mythos by the time the Romans turned up in 55bc, and conquered what is now England by 43AD.

And its here when the faery snowball of cultural accumulation slows. The Romans were not keen on the Druids and had been wiping them out all across Europe, much of what we know about the Druids that is contemporary to their time comes unfortunately from the Romans. Unfortunately because it is impossible to know what might be truth and what might be slanderous Roman propaganda.
For example the image of the blood soaked Druid offering up human sacrifices or burning people and animals alive in wicker effigies comes entirely from the Roman side. But did they really, or was it propaganda or was it merely exaggeration?

The Romans ruled large parts of Britain until 400AD and in that time the Druid religion and control was wiped out in areas of their rule. But it was not gone, it fled to the extremes. I said at the beginning that the oldest faery tales comes from the Celtic nations of the UK, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and this is because of a chain of events sparked by the Roman invasion. It drove the older religions, the older folk tales to the edges, away from Rome's reach.

These are Asterix and Obelix and their Druid Getafix's Gauls, harkening back to this time of Celtic tribal dominance across Europe. But like Asterix's indomitable village they opposed Rome and were not in reality indomitable and so were slowly but surely all but eradicated, driven to and surviving only at the fringes of Empire such as in the far flung parts of the British Isles.

The story in England was very different however, with the fall of Rome England saw waves of invaders, first Angles and Saxons from 500AD, and then the Danish and Vikings (878AD - 1035AD), and finally in 1066AD the French.
None of these cultures so much as added to the faery nature as they did introduce similar or other spirit world creatures which came to populate the imagined world of faery. So now there were trolls and other Norse and Germanic influence spirit creatures added to the narratives and an association with rainbows, later to diverge into the leprechaun mythos, the French brought their own ideas of chivalry and used the old tales of faeries and their spirit world to reflect their growing Christian views.

By the time of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 England was a mix of a small element of those original hunter gatherers, a small element of the neolithic farmers and mound  and circle builders, a larger dash of the Beaker people, much bigger amounts of Angle and Saxon, and an added dose of Danish.
A soldier on the field at Hastings is closer in time to us now than he was to the Neolithic mound builders. But the folk stories of the faery folk who built and yet dwelled in them persisted and were embellished with the new additions each new culture brought with them.

Tolkien laments 1066 as when England lost its cultural heritage, its own myths and legends. But in truth the line had been broken already by the arrival of the Beaker people and their subsequent replacement by the Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons and Danes.
The French were the final blow certainly, but they were only the straw that broke the camels back.
And nor did they lose all the old tales, by the middle-ages the Arthurian legends would arise, with many elements of the faery and Druid past of Britain merged with French ideals of chivalry and knights and imbued with Christianity. But whilst it might have held onto its religious morals, it found its popularity in the older pagan elements of the tales, in faery and magic and Druids.
But it was this type of Frenchifying of English myth Tolkien found so distasteful.
So much like Tolkien we can dismiss much do to do with faery after 1066 as having any historical truth or basis in it. The period adds little to the idea of faery and nothing from its own historical impact, but only adds to the world of faery itself with the inclusion of more fantastical magical spirit beings.

But there was still a more direct line in existence. If you wanted an unbroken line of thought and in blood back to those original neolithic faery folk you had to go where neither Rome, Saxon, Angle or Dane had gone- to the Celtic survivors in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. For it was in these places that the old tales lived on and where the character and nature of the faery folk would be better defined in new tales and where they would run right into the new kid on the block, Christianity.

And that will be part 2, taking us though Celtic faery land and the development of faery all the way up to Tolkien's present day when he sat down to write about elves.

But just to sum up the criteria I set out at the start for finding a match to Tolkien's elves in real history and see where we have got to-

'Commonly fair in appearance' -  Successive waves of successful conquerors who went on to become the main population were fairer skinned and haired than those conquered through to the Celts.

'connected to immortal life and ideas of death'- the Neolithic tombs permanently connected them to ideas of death and their ancestor worship to connections with realm of the dead, later cultures would add the idea that they lived on within their own creations immortal and unmarked by time.

'worshippers of stars' - The Neolithic builders were very keen astronomers and built their scared sites in alignments with the heavens.

'dwellers in the seen and unseen worlds'-  The later Beaker people probably began the mythologising of them as associated with the unseen world of the dead and spirits from about 1000 years after the neolithic society was gone. And it was continued in the Celtic era.

'associated with the sea and water'-  In all cases the superior invaders came from over the sea, and as late as Roman times offerings were still made in sacred pools and bogs in a practise going back to at least the Bronze Age.

'possessors and makers of superior 'magic' weaponry and jewellery.' - From the Beaker people onwards who ushered the Bronze Age into Britain all the invaders who arrived did so with new weapons made from new materials, first bronze, then iron and finally steel. But it was probably those first bronze weapons that made the magical impression most. The Bronze Age also ushered in a style of intricate metal working and jewellery.

'Builders of great works and monuments.' - The circles and mounds built by the Neolithic people were never equalled in scale again, or anything like them attempted again until the late iron age brochs and hill fort towers. And even then they never attempted anything using such huge single pieces of stone until the castles of the Normans. Much like the pyramids of Egypt the works of the ancient Brits were never equalled, and no-one ever quite figured out how they did it. Their abilities seemed magical and mystical to everyone who followed them from the Beaker people onwards.


For the last set of criteria: 'Imparters of wisdom and knowledge. Givers of gifts. Perilous to mortals.'  we will have to follow the faery tale through Ireland, Scotland and Wales in part 2.}}


Last edited by Pettytyrant101 on Tue Feb 09, 2021 3:03 pm; edited 3 times in total

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Post by halfwise Tue Feb 09, 2021 12:22 pm

Too busy to look at this now, but appears quite interesting!

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Post by azriel Tue Feb 09, 2021 6:18 pm

It is, I just read it Smile I was born in Hastings & the old town has quite a historical feeling that goes right under your skin. The rest of Hastings is a shithole, until you get to an area called The Ridge, then it slopes off to a village called Battle where Battle Abbey is situated. Ive seen things ( on the internet, cant get air miles with brooms ) that Im sure Tolkien, being clever and all, would have known about & used them for his dream Tale, names also. These are the fruits from a bowl richly picked I say.

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Post by Mrs Figg Tue Feb 09, 2021 7:47 pm

Thanks for this history Petty is was very interesting. Thumbs Up
I wonder if we still have relics of these beliefs in our modern daily lives? like the phrase 'touch wood' I suppose this is Druid origin. The Italians have a similar saying 'touch iron' but I am not sure why.
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Post by halfwise Tue Feb 09, 2021 8:56 pm

We say "knock on wood" at which point someone raps their head.

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Post by halfwise Wed Feb 10, 2021 2:16 am

Just ready Petty's treatise. Very stimulating, I say with a little polishing it should be sent to a Tolkien journal. I'm not familiar with Tolkien journals, but I think you'd want to find one that's more literary and less footnotey.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:42 am

{{ Thanks for reading folks. Part 2 is under construction! As I hadnt planned this out, just decided to set down some thoughts Ive been musing on for a while there is no real plan for how to present it either, so excuse the roughness here and there, you are very much reading a first draft, and as is usual with me new ideas, connections and possibilities come to me as I'm writing. }}

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Post by Mrs Figg Wed Feb 10, 2021 3:49 pm

well its very original so keep up the good work. Thumbs Up
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sat Feb 13, 2021 6:29 pm

{{ Part Two.

What exactly is faery? I think at this point we can afford to begin to more narrowly define our term as history will proceed to do.
Up to this point in our examination of British history we have followed one group into becoming faeries- the farmers of the Neolithic who thanks to the impressive and enigmatic structures they built, and their association to the spirit worlds, led each subsequent incoming people to associate them with the core traits of what would become faery folk.

But the idea of faery and indeed the word itself does not come into existence until after the arrival of Christianity. From the original hunter-gathers, through the times of the neolithic farmers and the Beaker people, on through Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Danes and Vikings there were of course many spirit creatures, lots of long lost folklore and some surviving, which had nothing to do with our neolithic farmers, or often each other.
From the point in time when our Neolithic circle and tomb builders become officially 'faery' however they will be joining a larger world than ever before, populated one by one over time by all those other spirit and fantastical creatures, collected together under the banner of faery.

So whilst the Christian monks who first set down the folk lore and racial memories of the British Isles recognised our Neolithic farmers as the official faeries, they also made Cat Sith one too, a large black spirit cat.
Kelpies and Boogles, Giants galore, the Nuckelavee and many other fantastical creatures, even much later some witches, would all become creatures of faery land.
We have no way to know for sure if this process had already happened by the time the monks set the stories down and they recorded them as told, or if they themselves began the tradition of bringing all these things together under the one realm of faery. But it is the moment in history we can be certain it had started happening by.

To follow the thread of the how of that we have to look back to the Celts arrival.
The Celts, unlike the Beaker people before them, did not come all at once. Or even in large waves. They seem to have slowly arrived in smaller numbers over several centuries between about 500BC-100AD.
Their culture came to dominate and their numbers seem to have congregated greatest in England at first. They did similarly culturally and socially dominate Wales, Ireland and Scotland, but probably with smaller numbers.
The upshot of this is that unlike the Beaker people who had arrived either all at once or in fairly large waves over a very short time period and consumed the native Neolithic population that they didn't kill, the Beaker people in Britain, and in particular in places like Wales, Scotland and Ireland still made up the the largest part of the population even after Celtic society had taken full dominance.

So how did the Celts dominate if they were not a large force of invaders? Well probably a combination of superior technology, they brought the Iron Age with them and all that entailed and that they were a warrior people who had already been doing the warrior thing all across Europe for most of the last thousand years. They were practised in it.

Celts were not a single unit, they were a  large group of different tribes who shared the same religious and general world views and culture. But as they had no central control they were often just as happy to fight each other as they were anyone else.
They liked to fight, their religion and culture raised the warrior up above all else and gave him special status in the spirit world of the Dead.

The Beaker people therefore were conquered, and as more Celts arrived over time dominated and made part of the new Celtic Britain, but they remained.  And so their folk tales survived too and over time became entwined with the Celtic beliefs, as the Celts marvelled at the great stone circles and mounds as mystified and puzzled by them as much as those who had come before them were. And one presumes they would have asked after them of the natives, and so heard their tales of the people who lived on immortal beneath the mounds hidden from mortal sight, existing in the space between this world and the next.

From roughly 3000 BC onwards the climate across Britain began to change for the worse, becoming colder and harsher. This had may have been exacerbated by the fact that both the Neolithic peoples and the Beaker people of Britain were extensive farmers. They are largely responsible for shaping the British landscape. And in their intense farming they cleared a great deal of  forest.

It was said a squirrel could travel from Scotland to the south of England without ever leaving the trees. This is eluded to by Tolkien in the words of Treebeard who says almost exactly the same about the great forests of old Middle-Earth.

But thanks to the harsh climate change and forest depopulation the land had altered dramatically. The Great Forest had become separated woods, farmland dominated the landscape.

Among the many changes this led to was a change in water drainage without the great tree roots to drink up the water and to bind the earth together things altered dramatically, increased by the greater rainfall and colder, harsher winters. Low-lying land that was once farms or small communities were eaten up by peat bogs and marshlands.
This alteration also coincides with the increased practise of offering valuable items into these bogs and mires. Perhaps remembering those who once lived beneath the dark pools in their homes or tilling the land now lost and made treacherous and deadly. Placing them in that same in-between shadowy realm between life and death.

The population of the Beakers who lived here were hit hard by this combination of events; crops failed or were poor and their numbers fell.
So whilst they were still a majority population under the initial Celtic incomers they were in a weakened position when the better and and practised invaders arrived.
But the increasing climate issue persisted. During this later period the Celts began to build iron age hill forts, indicating there was increased strife and more need for people to huddle together and gather in safety behind defensive wails in hard to reach places.
But just as the Beaker people were no match for the Celts with their iron age technology so the Celts iron age forts were no match for the arrival of the Normans with their new technology, the Age of the Castle.

The Normans can be said to have controlled Wales but never to have done so wholly or continuously. This meant that though shorn of much of their connections to their roots, reduced in numbers and authority and entirely of power in many areas the old Druid led religion in Wales did survive but took on new aspects.
Druids had to perform many functions, from wise man and spiritual leader, healer and advisor, to legal expert, judge and jury, and the tellers of the sacred tales, songs and folklore. Stripped of their rule they lost al but wise man and teller of tales and songs.

And it was that last part that would both partially break off from the root Druid tradition and partly be always associated with it, the story telling and singing aspect became its own thing when marred with Celtic culture, it became the Bardic Tradition.
And in Wales in especial this Bardic tradition was strongest, and continues to associated with Wales to this day in the annual Bardic Contest the Eisteddfod and in the popular British stereo-type that everyone in Wales is born with a fantastic natural singing voice.



Something similar would happen in Scotland only the Bardic tradition there would combine with and be replaced by the Norse tradition of saga and song. The combination of the two resulting in the Gaelic language but Norse named mòd (the word originally meaning an assembly of people) annual competition.



In both Scotland and Ireland there still persist a respect and admiration for people who are natural story tellers, in Scotland its good 'patter' and in Ireland good 'crack'.
Billy Connolly, though he does it for comedic effect, is a great example however of that long tradition as all his jokes are in the form of just telling stories.
Its another of those cultural details which also got added in the faery mix, their ability to tell and love of hearing stories. It combined with with idea of greater wisdom and knowledge attributed to the stone builders and we have something akin to an Elrond style elf with his house full of song and tales, stored with wisdom and knowledge.

It also seems highly likely with this moving away from their roots and loss of authority, which met its final blows in the arrival of Christianity, that the Druids themselves may have begun associating themselves in lineage with the stone circle builders and the mounds. In much the same way that Boris Jonson likes to evoke an aura of Winston Churchill, hoping that by association he will gain in authority, so too the Druids may have made similar claims of the mythical people of the long past to bolster their own waning authority.

Or perhaps it was their own offshoot, the Bardic lineage which did survive down through the ages which first placed them in association with mounds and circles and begin the persistent confusion that remains to this day.
But however it came to be it added another dimension to the faery people, for now they became lovers of music, story and song too. Beneath their mounds they didn't just live, now they danced and sang, and music was always in the air.
Those Bardic Druids were now another aspect of faery folk.
Just as Tolkien's elves would sing at the dwarves in The Hobbit, or Luthien dance for Beren and send Morgoth into slumber with her singing, or bring forth spring so he was connecting elves to that tradition and to Druids and so back to the circles and mounds and to the immortal magic faery folk within them, in a lineage of British folklore going back more than 5000 years.

Now we must turn to Ireland and Scotland. Together because their links to faery and each other are intertwined in history.
Here we have the same pattern- post ice age some brave hunter-gathers arrive first, replaced by the Neolithic farmers and stone builders, replaced by Beaker people.

It should be noted that much of the latter stuff talked about from the arrival of the Romans onwards has been about England.
The situation was always different in Ireland and Scotland. Rome never conquered Ireland, And although they made a few attempts on Scotland, and held territory in various places at different times, they were always eventually driven back and out.

The other thing of note, and currently an unexplained mystery is regards our Neolithic farmers.
Until very recently the accepted wisdom was that as they had arrived in Britain from continental Europe they had started in the south and gone northwards over time until they inhabited all of the British Isles.
Stone Henge at 3000BC was considered the earliest of their stone works, and their greatest.

Unfortunately for the notion these people and their technology spread northwards were the discoveries made at the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland, where a huge stone temple complex has been partially uncovered with dates to at least 300 years prior to Stone Henge, and it would appear the technology and the religion behind the circles and the mounds began in the north and spread southwards.

The issue here is that these early dates for it happening are very close to when they are supposed to have arrived in Britain. It would indicate that for some reason within a few generations the incomers pushed as far north as it was possible to go, even risking leaving the land to strikeout for Orkney which is an island, and as soon as they could set up some farming and somewhere to live, and then began constructing immense stone monuments.
By the time this had spread south to the building of Stone henge the Orcadians had invented underfloor heating, insulation, indoor plumbing, controlled ventilation, shelving, cupboards and the chest of drawers. All in stone.
Why it began there, or even why the incomers seemed to determined to get so far north so quickly when England and Wales already provided plentiful land space is a bit of a mystery.

In Scotland however we can narrow down where our myths of faery actually began. It begins in Orkney, with a huge temple complex of stone buildings, and in the Ring of Brodgar and the Barrow mounds of their dead. Here is the well spring of the Neolithic tomb building culture that will inspire the faery tales of the future.

And as the beliefs and the knowledge of this building technology spread it came to dominate Ireland, Wales and England too. And in England each wave of invaders that followed  increasingly turned the builders into beings of the spirit realm in their mounds, before those tales in turn were taken on by the Celtic tribes who spread them back again north and west and across the Irish Sea when they took dominance of Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
There was back and forth between nations of folk lore traditions.

The Celts added their own warrior flavour to the mythos, now our people in their mounds were also at need great warriors and could summon spirit armies. And wielded their now many magic weapons and devices.
Te Vikings arrival to settle the northern islands and large areas of mainland reinforced the narrative and added to it further with their own array of magic weapon wielding beings.

The climate issue however was still ongoing and Orkney was increasingly becoming harsher to survive on, its population fell dramatically over the years and its position of being a seat of power was lost.

Besides folk tales among the dwindling island's population they were more forgotten by everyone else, so much so that the rediscovery of the temple complex at the Ness and its early dates has literally turned the neolithic period in Britain, and the map, on its head.

But it is in Ireland where we find, for the very first time, absolute proof in written history that the myths of faery folk and of those Neolithic farmers were indeed one and the same in the eyes of accumulated folk lore and knowledge.

Tolkien lamented the Norman conquest because he felt it robbed England of its true mythology and legends.
But in this I believe he was wholly mistaken. It was not that the myths, legends, folk tales were lost it was that they had fled the Shadow of Rome to the edges. They had outrun the Shadow and preserved their traditions, like the Rangers of the Dunedain hiding at the margins, preserving their lineage and knowledge in secret.
And you would think it might have pleased Tolkien that it was the meeting of these preserved traditions of the Celts of Ireland with the sudden rise to dominance of Christianity which gave us our faery folk in the modern sense nailed down in time.

Christianity arrived in Ireland from about 300AD onwards. And it took an immediate hold for the good reason it was instantly accepted by the Druids and welcomed, if not embraced. This in a sense was their Achilles heel. Whether the earlier Roman tales of sacrifice and burning people alive were true or not, by this time in history the Druids of Ireland were considered highly educated, spiritual leaders and intellectuals of their age by many other parts of Europe. The Druids were known for their intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn as much as possible. And it seems they did not view new ideas as in competition with what they already knew, so much as simply more knowledge to add to what they already had.

The result was that Christianity in Ireland did not so much come to take control as it tended to do elsewhere by stamping out the opposition, or where it could not stamping on it by using already existing sacred places as locations for churches and shrines or simply incorporating entire pagan festivals such as Harvest festivals or Easter into their own religion, and making them Christian. In Ireland Christianity more merged with the existing Celtic Church. Resulting in a hybrid Celtic Christian world view.

The symbol of the Celtic Cross is itself a hybrid of the original non-Christian Celtic cross and the Christian cross, with the circle representing the Solar Deity of the Druids and the cross appropriated to represent Christ (later the Church would claim the pagan solar imagery as being a halo).

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And it is of course usual to see the Celtic knot pattern on such early crosses, and indeed the Celtic cross and knot patterns are still popular as jewellery or tattoos to this day, but it points again to that blending of Celtic and Christian traditions.
It is also not uncommon on surviving large stone inscriptions to see on one side  imagery from the Bible, and on the other pagan imagery from the Celtic tradition, often depictions of tales now lost, but presumably of similar moral and narrative implications to the Christian ones on the opposing side. Showing up similarities and not differences.

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One wholly new thing these early monk/druids of Ireland did do that Druids had never before was adopt writing, and boy did they take to it and their scribes became known as among the best in Europe.
And as they saw no discrepancy between the Celtic beliefs and traditions and their Christian religion they wrote down alongside the Christian texts many of the Celtic tales and legends too often in the form of being real histories of Ireland.

And it is in such a legend where we can find the historical evidence for the association between the Neolithic mound builders, the myths that had grown up about their immortal lives within them and when they become faery.

For this we find ourselves in the 10th Century AD and the writing down of the The Book of Invasions, Lebor Gabála Érenn It is a collections of songs, poems and lore that seeks in its overall aim to bring closer to the Christian tradition the older pagan tales by setting out a history of Ireland, one that inevitably leads it to Christianity.

In these tales we hear of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a supernatural race of beings said to have come from four great cities, one in the direction of each of the cardinal points. They brought with them magic objects, the Stone of Fal which would scream whenever a true king of Ireland would place his foot on it. The Sword of Nuada,  which once drawn would only ever inflict a mortal blow. The Spear of Lugh, which always hit its target. And lastly the Cauldron of Dagda, from which never ending food came from.

Now for a moment consider that the  Tuatha Dé Danann were the real historic Neolithic farmers who built the circles and mounds. But as written from such a later perspective the later notions of magic weapons and Celtic and Norse gods have been incorporated.

In this myth the Tuatha Dé Danann conquer a monstrous race who inhabited Ireland before them (this would have been our darker skinned hunter-gathering Brits) but how do we know they are our neolithic builders? Because when their own eventual defeat comes at the hands of the Milesians the myth tell  us that the Tuatha Dé Danann agreed upon being defeated to retreat within the mounds they had built.

As further proof towards this train of thought Milesians of the myth come from Spain, which is thought to be the origin place of the Beaker people who replaced the Neolithic mound builders.
And other myths relating to these people also back up that they were the ones who built the mounds.
So much so they became known as the The People of the Sidhe, Sidhe translates as 'burial mound.' And also as the People of the Aos Si. Aos Si is the oldest recorded word we have for the later English equivalent faery (which is derived from French via Latin) and Aos Si literal translation is 'People of the Mounds'.
They were said to live in the mounds, come from across the western sea, and live in the invisible world which coexists with the land of the living and mortals. They are variously claimed to be dead ancestors, nature spirits, and even deities.

In this last part we bring together the mythos- from the neolithic tomb builders comes their ancestor worship in the claim they are ancestors, nature spirits from the neolithic builders also being the first farmers and shapers of the land to man's needs, doubled up by the addition of the later Celtic Druid nature traditions associated to them. And Gods and deities from the Romans and the Normans and the Norse and Celts with their warrior Gods.

Here in this 10th century manuscript is the culmination of to that point 4000 years of British history and developing mythos, all based on those neolithic farmers who built their monumental stone mounds, circles and temples.

As an interesting aside to the legend of the Tuatha mDé Danann the Miliseans who defeated them also were said to have taken the name of the Tuatha Dé Danann's main Goddess to be the name of their new Kingdom, this name was Eriu (present day Eire).
I assume a coincidence given how Tolkien constructed his languages that only one letter separates the main deity of the faery folk to the elves worship of Eru.

From here in the 10th century we have what I would call the template for the fully formed fairy- all the elements are in play.

From the Neolithic we get the Stone works and reputation as great builders on an almost magical scale and the association to the unseen world of those who have died.

From each group that has lived here we get the association with sea and water as each invader has come from water and with some greater secret knowledge each time.

From the Bronze Age Beaker invasion and the Celtic Iron Age takeover we get their 'magic 'weapons and affinity with making beautiful jewellery.

And from Beaker and Celt their offerings of magical gifts.

From the Druids we get their close associations with nature.

From the Bardic Druids, their love of music and dance.

From Norse and Celtic cultures we get the faery warrior with a faery army to command and many more magical weapons and devices.

And from Irish Celtic Christianity we got the drawing of all this together into the template for the faery.

The scribes would over time add much more to it, drawing in as I mentioned previously everything from giants to cats into being faery.

In what is hopefully the final unexpectedly needed third part I'll cover how this template set up the middle-ages faery and why the French led inevitably almost to the trivialisation of faery by the Victorians that so upset Tolkien. And wrap it all up with Tolkiens greatest triumph.

Oh one last addition. The Tuatha Dé Danann you may recall had a magical stone that when a rightful King stood upon it would scream out. When the Irish Dal Riata colonised western Scotland and set up their new capital there it had a stone with a foot shape carved into it where they crowned their Kings.

Tolkien in General - Page 32 C73b9a6235e2ec8974b422f6dc1d8512

When they were joined with the other tribes of Scotland they lent their latin name of Scotia to the new name of the entire country, the Land of the Scots and into it they brought the ancient King making stone tradtion.
And to this day every Monarch since James the 5th of Scotland (who was also James 1st of Enlgand and Wales), including the present one, has been crowned sitting upon the Stone of Scone, also called the Stone of Destiny, the descendant of that ancient stone magic tradition whose roots lie 5000 years in the Neolithic past.

Tolkien in General - Page 32 Stone-of-Scone-1051390

Without that magic, they have no right to rule the people. Its a little touch of faery in real Britsh modern life.}}

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Post by halfwise Sat Feb 13, 2021 8:16 pm

That throne upon the stone of scone looks awfully uncomfortable. Never heard of it before, I suppose because nobody uses it, being hard upon the body.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sat Feb 13, 2021 8:23 pm

{{ Every time you see Queeny on her throne she is sitting on the stone. And when Charles or whoever next gets crowned they will sit upon it too.
You can see it here in this pictue from our current Queens coronation (you cant see it when she sits down because of the Royal bustle- ask Figg for details! }}

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