donderdag 29 november 2012

Constellations in Lotro

The nights in Lotro's Middle Earth are wonderful. Sometimes thousands of stars can be seen during a crisp and cloudless sky. Have you ever stand still a moment and behold the splendor of the Heavens?

I did, and when you look carefully you can find a white face and three distinct star-patterns in the sky, which have a special meaning in the world of Middle Earth.

Ithil or Isil, the Moon

The most striking light in the night is Ithil, or Isil, the Moon. In the human world she is seen as a lady, and if you look carefully you can see her face.

The Moon could be a lady or a flowerlamp, carried by Tilion

If you look closely to the Moon you will see here move between the stars. If you follow here day by day, you will see that the moon always follows more or less the same path in the sky. The elves believed that the movement of the moon was caused by a vessel which carried the Moon. According to the old verses the moon was created by Aulë, a Valar (Valars are a kind of Power, like a deity). Aulë has chosen Tilion, a Maia (Maias are spirits who help the Valars), to guide the vessel along her path.

The creation of the moon is connected to the legend of the Two Trees, a silver one called Telperion and a golden one, called Laurelin.These trees were created by the Valar after the destruction of the first two lights in Arda, which were two enormous lamps. These lamps, a silver one in the North and a golden one in the south, were cast down by Melkor. After the destruction the Valar went to Valinor (a place in the west) and Yavanna (a female Valar comparable to the earth goddess Gaia) sang into existence a silver tree Telperion and a golden tree Laurelin. The Two Trees existed at a time when the only other source of light were the stars. These stars, in turn, were created for the Elves' benefit by Varda (a Valar) from the dews collected from the Two Trees.

Sadly enough, the Two Trees were doomed by the jealousy of Melkor. With the help of the giant spider-creature Ungoliant (an ancestress of Shelob) Melkor destroyed both trees. Concealed in a cloud of darkness, Melkor struck each tree and Ungoliant devoured whatever life and light remained in them. But Telperion, the White Tree, bore one last flower of silver before its end. According to the lore of the Elder Days, Aulë (a Valar) and his people made a vessel to carry the silver flower into the sky and it became the Moon. The vessel was guided in the sky by one of the hunters of Oromë, called Tilion.
According to the legends of the Elves, Tilion was an unsteady steersman, sometimes dwelling overlong beneath the Earth, or appearing in the sky at the same time as the Sun. He was also drawn to the bright new Sun, launched from Valinor shortly after his own vessel. One one day he came too close to the fiery Sun, which caused a darkening of the Moon's face.

The Elves called the moon Isil, and later Ithil. A poetic name for the Moon was The Silver Flower and Gollem called the moon just The White Face.

The Moon was valued as higher than the Sun by the Elves, because it came from the Elder Tree and because it rose first in the sky, before the Sun was created. They believed that the moon was made in memory of the Elves and that the Sun was made in memory of Men.

The Constellations

The Constellations in the sky were made by Varda (a Valar, a Power comparable to a deity) to signal the Elves to Valinor. Thus were formed the constellations Wilwarin, Telumendil, Soronúmë, Anarríma, and as the most important ones, Menelmacar and Valacirca.

Soronúmë: the name means "Eagle of the West" in Quenya. This translation suggests a connection with the constellation we know today as Aquila, but this was never confirmed by Tolkien.
Wilwarin: Tolkien gave no description of this constellation, nor any counterpart in our modern-day constellations. Wilwarin means "Butterfly" in Quenya. Christopher Tolkien suggested that it could be the constellation Cassiopeia, because of its "W"-shape and a reasonable match of this constellation to that of a butterfly.
The modern counterparts of Anarríma and Telumendil  are unknown.

Menelmacar - The Swordsman of the Sky

Menelmacar is Quenyan (the tongue of the High Elves) for the 'swordsman of the sky' or 'swordsman of the heavens'. It is one of the star constellations in the heavens of Middle Earth. On a clear night you can see it low above the horizon, with three stars in the middle and four bright ones in a rectangle around it.

Menelmacar, the Swordsman of the Sky (to the left)

Menelmacar was created by Varda, just before the Awakening of the Elves, as a symbol of light and hope. It also forebodes the Last Battle prophesied at the End of Days. If you take a moment you can see three bright stars close together, which is the belt of the swordsman. That belt is also know as a separate constellation in Middle Earth, called Eksiqilta or Ektaqilta. To the right of the 3 belt-stars you see 6 small stars in a shallow crescent, which is the starsword of the swordsman.

Menelmacar was originally called Telumehtar in Quenya (language of the High Elves). Later the Swordsman in the Sky was more usually called Menelvagor in the Sindarin (Middle-earth language of the Grey Elves and Dunedain). Menelmacar was characterized by his sword of stars, his shining belt, and the red star Borgil that sat on his shoulder. Borgil is known in modern times as the red star Betelgeuse and its the bright star directly left above the three belt-stars (the right shoulder of the Swordsman).

Together with Valacirca, Menelmacar was one of the brilliant constellations placed in the sky by Varda to bring light to the World in defiance of Melkor. These stars were profoundly significant in Elvish legend. It was said that when Menelmacar first rose in the sky, the first Elves had awoken at Cuiviénen. What's more, the swordsman was said to be a sign of the Last Battle foretold by Mandos, and was even said to represent Túrin Turambar, who was prophesied to return and join the final war against Melkor.

Orion the Giant Hunter

In the human world, the most likely modern counterpart of Menelmacar is the constellation of Orion.
According to human legend, Orion was a huge hunter, with a belt which hold his sword. The three belt-stars were also known as a separate asterism (star-group): the three kings. In his right hand Orion has a club to strike his foes. In his left hand he has a curious shield made of a very tough hide of a giant lion.

Valacirca - The Sickle of the Valar

Valacirca, which is Quenyan for 'Sickle of the Valar' is another very famous star constellation in the heavens of Middle Earth. It was created by Varda just before the Awakening of the Elves as a warning to Melkor of his eventual downfall.

Valacirca, just above my head!

Valacirca was also known as the Seven Stars, the Sickle and the Wain by the Hobbits. The Dwarves called it (probably) Durin’s Crown. If you watch closely in Lotro's Middle Earth, you can see this seven stars on the elven ruins. It is also believed that these seven stars are the symbol of Durin, which can be seen on the secret entrance door of Moria when it opens. In Esteldin, the ranger refuge in the North-Downs, the seven stars can be seen above some doors . If you want to see it for yourself, just visit the Craft Hall in Esteldin or look above one of the doors of the Crafting Guilds inside.

According to man, Valacirca is Ursa Major

Valacirca inspired also a song of defiance from Beren:

"... And in answer he sang a song of challenge 
     that he had made in praise of the Seven Stars, 
     the Sickle of the Valar that Varda hung above the North
     as a sign for the fall of Morgoth. ..."
     Quenta Silmarillion 19, Of Beren and Lúthien

According to the Silmarillion, Valacirca was set in the Northern Sky as a sign of doom for Melkor and a sign of hope for the Elves. Together with Menelmacar and Remmirath, Valacirca is one of the few constellations which is mentions in the books of Tolkien.

According to Man, the constellation of Valacirca is comparable to a section of Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The seven stars forms a so called asterism (star-group) which is known as the Big Dipper and can be seen at every clear night in the northern sky. Some people regarded the Big Dipper as a plough, sickle or saucepan.
The seven stars above the door of the Jeweller's Guild in Esteldin

Remmirath - the Netted Stars

Remmirath, the netted stars, is a very fine cluster of seven stars, close together. It can be found above and to the right of Menelmacar, the Swordsman in the Sky.

Remmirath, the Netted Stars, right above my head.

According to Man this dazzling tiny star cluster is called the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. Each star is a Sister and has a name. There names are Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Asterope, Celaeno and Merope. These Six sisters are very easy to find in the sky, especially during a crisp and clear winter night. The seventh sister, Merope, is a pain for the naked eye. According to legend this sister is so shy, that she always tries to hide from your eyes.

Man called Remmirath the Seven Sisters, or the Pleiades

This is their story.
On an unlucky day, the seven sisters - the Pleiades - met the great hunter Orion, just by chance. The hunter fell in love with all of them and the sisters became the object of his pursuit. He pursued them all over the face of the Earth and the girls couldn’t get rid of this horny hunter. The sisters called for Zeus, ruler of all Gods. Zeus changed them into a flock of doves, which he set in the heavens.
Of course the sisters where shocked by the pursuit of Orion and their fate, and cried a lot. When you see them low in the eastern evening sky, it will be autumn. Because of their weeping, the rainy season will start soon after their yearly first appearance in the eastern evening sky (after sunset).

Another story tells us that once seven maidens camped near the river in a region known to have many bears. One of the bears began to chase the maidens and they knelt to pray for help, calling upon the gods. Suddenly, the ground was raised into the sky to protect the maidens from the chasing bear. A Great Spirit had placed them in the sky as the seven sisters, the Pleiades. Did you now that the Japanese called these sisters Subaru and that you can find these 7 stars on vehicles with the same name?

The Crown of Durin

Then hidden entrance to Moria, note the 7 stars above the Crown

"...He stooped and looked in Mirrormere
    And saw a crown of stars appear,
    As gems upon a silver thread,

    Above the shadow of his head. ..." 
 From Gimli's chant in Moria - The Fellowship of the Ring II 4, A Journey in the Dark

A group of seven stars mysteriously reflected from the surface of the Mirrormere), even when the Sun was shining in the sky above the lake.

In the ancient days of the First Age, a group of seven stars were glimpsed by Durin the Deathless. He saw them as a reflection above his head when looking in the Mirrormere. Durin took them as a good omen, since the sun was shining in the sky above the lake. After this revelation he decided to build the dwarven city Khazad-dûm (Moria) in the Misty Mountains adjacent to that mystical lake (now called the Dark Pool ...). The seven-starred crown became an emblem of the House of Durin and can be seen when opening the secret gate to Moria.

The Northern Crown is a good candidate for the Crown of Durin
This small constellation can be seen at Northern latitudes.
Note the bright star Gemma, which is Latin for gem.

It's unclear whether the stars of the Crown of Durin represented a real constellation. Some sources suggest a link with the seven stars of Valacirca, although there's is no direct evidence to support this hypothesis. Another good candidate would be the constellation of the Northern Crown, Corona Borealis. This constellation is also made up of seven stars (one is a bit small), but in a curving crown-like chain. The middle star of the Northern Crown is the brightest and called Gemma, which means gem. Personally, I think that this constellation fits Gimli's description of 'gems upon a silver thread' very good. Furthermore, the shape of the Northern Crown matches the crescent shape of stars on the Doors of Durin.
But ... it is also possible that Durin's Crown wasn't connected to any real stars at all. Maybe the crown reflected in the Mirrormere was just an unique meteorological effect, unrelated to the actual stars in the sky.

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