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Minas Tirith Forums » The Hobbit » Who was King Bladorthin?
Author Topic: Who was King Bladorthin?
Wetwang
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quote:
From that the talk turned to the great hoard itself and to the things that Thorin and Balin remembered. They wondered if they were still lying there unharmed in the hall below: the spears that were made for the armies of the great King Bladorthin (long since dead), each had a thrice-forged head and their shafts were inlaid with cunning gold, but they were never delivered or paid for;
He is only mentioned this one time. If he was so 'great' where was his realm? []
One would think it would be mentioned somewhere especially seeing as his armies used such distinctive weaponry.

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Have you been reading trivia questions? []

I've always assumed he was either a King from the East, or perhaps a King of Dale. I would presume he was a King from the East, as the name seems very un-Dale-like from other Dalian names we know.

On a side note, I believe that was the original name of Gandalf. Give me a moment to do a search. I think Laur had mentioned it years ago.

Edit:
Here’s one post, but it doesn’t give a source.
http://www.minastirith.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=000771;p=1#000008
I could swear that Laur and I had discussed this once.

Edit #2:
Check out this amazing article regarding him.
http://rover.wiesbaden.netsurf.de/~lalaith/Tolkien/Bladorthin.html

[ 11-03-2005, 09:38 AM: Message edited by: Thorin ]

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Wetwang
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[]
Yes I did see your answer in the Trivia thread [] But I came across this the other evening whilst looking up something else and thought then who was he []
I also seem to remember reading somewhere that this was going to be Gandalf's original name.
The name 'Bladorthin' seems very un-Tolkien-like in form to me, akin to 'Wetwang' if I may make so bold [] The final 'in' of the name shows up in other dwarf names like Thorin, Dain, Gloin and Oin etc, but there is something about 'Bladorthin' that feels very un-dwarf-like []
If he was a king from the east where do you think, Dorwinion maybe? After all the Elf King got his wine from there and I would have thought that the King of Erebor and the Elf King would have traded with mutual acquaintances []
This is the only kingdom in the east that appeared to be on trading (friendly?) terms with those living in the west of that part of Middle-earth at the time. All the others were in league with Sauron seemingly.

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Wetwang
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It would appear that I have come to a very similar conclusion as the authour of your second link Thorin []
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Thingol of Doriath
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An interesting sidenote: "Bladorthin" was the original name for Gandalf in the early drafts of The Hobbit. And "Gandalf" was the original name for Thorin. []
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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Now I have proof that Singy doesn't read my posts. []
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Halion
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Rothrandir’s (and Thingol’s) source is probably J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography or The Annotated Hobbit.
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Fangorn
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But was he Bald or Thin?
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Thingol of Doriath
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Sorry Mr Oakenshield! []
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Vardamir Nolimon
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I’ve developed an alternate theory to the identity of King Bladorthin: He was Beregond, Ruling Steward of Gondor TA 2763 – 2811.

This requires acceptance of at least these two primary assumptions:

  • Bladorthin’s title of King should not be taken literally. Just as Faramir described Boromir as “prince of the City” (TT, The Window on the West) though of course he wasn’t a really a prince, so could a Ruling Steward have been referred to as a king by those outside of Gondor as a shorthand way of indicating that he was that realm’s head-of-state.
  • The name “Bladorthin” may have been a way in which he was referred to in northern Rhovanion. Names can be bastardized and subjected to different accents, stresses, and so forth. We’re also relying on Bilbo’s memory of what Thorin had said. Though they certainly don’t everything in common, “Bladorthin” and “Beregond” each do have 3 syllables, begin with a “B”, and end with an “N” or “ND” sound.
Some additional points:

For Bladorthin to have made the effort to order a shipment of spears from the dwarves he may have been (1) somewhat militarily inclined at least to the point of trying to get for his armies the best materiel possible and (2) not have had any sources nearer to hand for high quality weaponry. Beregond “was the greatest captain to have arisen in Gondor since Boromir.” The Steward Boromir died in 2489 so then Beregond was Gondor’s “greatest captain” in almost 300 years. Also, in the final years of his father Beren’s rule (2758-9), Beregond, as his chief captain, had spent considerable resources repelling the invasions from Umbar and Harad and then aided the Rohirrim in driving out the Dunlendings. In an effort to restore Gondor’s depleted weaponry and gain a military edge in anticipation of future attacks it would not have been unreasonable for him to have subsequentially ordered some high-end weapons from the greatest smiths in Middle-Earth – the Dwarves – whose closest settlement to Gondor was Erebor.

Bladorthin should have ruled contemporaneously with the Longbeards settlement in Erebor (TA 1999 – 2210 and 2590 – 2770). Beregond did. RoTK Appendix A states that after the Longbeards had returned to Erebor from the Ered Mithrin (2590) “they made … weapons and armour of great worth.” This suggests that the spears were made at some point during the re-settlement of Erebor by Thror rather than during the earlier period during Thrain I’s reign. Other Ruling Stewards with similar sounding names during that latter period were Belecthor I (2628 – 2655) and Beren (2743 – 2763). I can find nothing else though about the former and the only reference to the latter is that the invasions from Umbar and Harad happened during his rule.

Also, the spears were never delivered or paid for but, despite what other sites have suggested, that doesn’t mean that they weren’t delivered because they weren’t paid for. There were 7 years between Beregond’s succession and the sack of Erebor. If the spears hadn’t been ordered until later in that 7 year period then their delivery, and hence, the payment for them may have been interrupted by Smaug’s attack.

BTW, Thorin, the 2nd link in your 1st post to this thread no longer works.

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Interesting theory! Hard to prove or disprove, but it is a nice idea. It seems to fit the requirements for King Bladorthin.

Luckily I was able to find that article I originally linked to in a google cache. Unfortunately it is rather long.

The mysterious king Bladorthin
and his political identity in the Third Age
by Lalaith<andreas.moehn@wiesbaden.netsurf.de>

"... the spears that were made for the armies of the great King Bladorthin (long since dead), each had a thrice-forged head and their shafts were inlaid with cunning gold, but they were never delivered or paid for..." (H, xii)
This single phrase, not even a complete phrase, is all that was ever told about King Bladorthin. He does not reappear in any genealogy or chronology of the kingdoms of Middle-earth written ever since. The reason simply is that Tolkien subsequently forgot about him, and so he involuntarily created a mystery that attracted the adventurous spirit of many a researcher. Who was then the ominous King Bladorthin and how may he be fitted into the Tale of Years?
To make matters worse, Thorin Oakenshield boasted that "Kings used to send for our smiths, and reward even the least skillful most richly" (H, i). It is certainly reasonable to assume that Bladorthin was one of these kings; the others may well have been the Dwarf-kings of the Iron Hills. For fitting one otherwise unaccounted kingdom into Middle-earth is already a challenge, but fitting several is a nightmare!
The what
Let us start with the most simple question: What does the name Bladorthin actually mean?
In structure it looks very much like early Goldogrin or Gnomish, the ancient Elvish language that was to become Noldorin and finally Sindarin. In this context, we may divide the name into the following components::
• Blador: "wide earth; flat earth"; according to the Gnomish Lexicon from the roots PALA and NDÔR, cf. entry Palúrien
• thin: "grey", from the root THIN
The entire name may therefore be literally interpreted as "wide earth-grey" or more loosely "the Grey One of the wide lands". If Bladorthin had wanted to sign an official document in contemporary Qenya he would probably have rendered his name as *Palursindo. We do not know what he connected with that: his name of ascension may had no specific meaning to him or simply recalled a hero of old legends.
Note: In the early drafts of H, Bladorthin was not an ominous king but the name given to the wizard. This seems quite apt, for in meaning it would then be the direct precursor of Mithrandir, "the Grey Pilgrim". Shall we assume that king Bladorthin's father had actually met Gandalf and was so impressed that he named his son after the wizard?
A German critic once wanted to interpret the change of the wizard's name as the first step towards the more serious mood of LR. After all, a name hardly concealing the meaning "Bladder-thin" did not appear quite fitting to an Ainu...
The who
To which one of the Speaking Peoples did king Bladorthin belong? Many have assumed that he was an Elf (CG, CO) because of his Elvish-style name. There are, however, sound arguments against this hypothesis:
1. The kings and kingdoms of the Light Elves are all accounted for. Bladorthin could then only have been a Dark Elf. But Dark Elves would not use names that are legible in Gnomish or Sindarin.
2. Elven kingdoms of the Third Age did not maintain armies to be equipped, so there would have been no need for Bladorthin to order a delivery of such size.
3. No Third Age Elf, however dark, would have ordered his arms from Dwarves.
4. The fall of a major Elf-king (long since dead) would have been remembered much more profoundly in the histories.
5. The custom of using Elvish names is known not only from Elves but also among the Dúnedain of Arnor and Gondor. They rarely occur as well among other peoples under the cultural influence of Westernesse (p.e. Girion Lord of Dale).
6. The indiscriminate use of the title "king", rather than "Elven-King" or "Dwarf-king", suggests that he was of the kind most familiar to the hobbitish author and the reader.
All of this strongly speaks for the assumption that Bladorthin was: a Man.
Another quite common hypothesis suggests that Bladorthin had been king of Dale. But this can be discarded on the following grounds:
1. Dale is never called a kingdom before the coronation of Bard. The distinction made between lord and king of Dale is not restricted to H but continues into the drafts of TY where it is stated that Smaug destroyed the "town and lordship of Dale". (YT).
2. Exiled descendants of kings usually keep a title such as prince or chieftain. Bard had none.
3. If "the great king Bladorthin" was an ancestor of Girion, then Bard would no doubt have claimed descendancy from him, maybe even his heirloom - including the famous spears. This would have become an important issue during the siege of Erebor.
Note: In the time it was published, it seems that H meant to evoke the impression that Hobbiton was located in a living kingdom. This is suggested by a comment that in the Trollshaws "they have seldom even heard of the king" (H, ii). Bladorthin may perhaps have been meant to be one of this king's ancestors. The prologue of LR refers then to a hobbitish proverb relating to the Kings of Arnor (long since dead): "Yet the Hobbits still said of wicked things and wild folk (such as trolls) that they had not heard of the king." Maybe. But in H, it was a Dwarf who said that.
The when
According to KR, there were two periods of settlement in Erebor: once between 1999 and 2210 TA, another time during the reign of Thrór II., grandfather of Thorin Oakenshield, from 2590 to 2770 TA, ending by Smaug's invasion. The first settlement seems to have stayed rather isolated and did not maintain any visible contact to the outside (non-Dwarvish) world. The second one, however, had intense trade connections as Thorin Oakenshield himself witnessed. It is thus evident that Bladorthin was a contemporary of Thrór II.
We may further narrow down the age of Bladorthin's reign by examining the reasons why the thrice-forged spears (often misinterpreted as thrice-forked, i. e. tridental) were not delivered. Both Tyler and Foster believe that his death prevented the trade, and Foster tells us even that his heirs may then have refused payment. But there is nothing stated anywhere to suggest this bold assumption. All we are told is that the forging took place long ago and that Bladorthin has died in the meantime. Is it then not natural to assume from the context that it was the very arrival of Smaug what prevented delivery? In that case, we may conclude that Bladorthin was alive in the year 2770 TA.
The where
Where then was his realm? In the 28th century, both Dúnedainic kingdoms had long ago collapsed. Vidugavia, self-proclaimed king of Rhovanion, and his kingdom were memories from the distant past, and it is not demonstrated that he wasn't first and last member of his dynasty at once. The only Mannish kingdom existing was Rohan. But Rohan did not record a king named Bladorthin or a king using an Elvish name at all. Moreover, Rohan was too removed to allow for trade with Dwarves (and not that Dwarves were considered viable trading partners at all).
A possible clue to its location may be found in a statement that Gimli gave about Thrór II: "he and his folk prospered and became rich, and they had the friendship of all Men that dwelt nearby. For they made not only things of wonder and beauty but weapons and armour of great worth ... Thus the Northmen who lived between Celduin (River Running) and Carnen (Redwater) became strong and drove back all enemies from the East" (KR).
It is evident that the chief trading routes both of Erebor and the Silvan Elves ran along the courses of the Celduin and Carnen that offered themselves as natural roads down to the Sea of Rhûn: To each other they did not maintain contact for historical reasons, and West and North there was no potential trading partner available. So was Bladorthin's kingdom then located between the two rivers? Was the lordship of Dale maybe just a province of Bladorthin's realm?
Many arguments speak against this assumption. If there was a king of such power in the vicinity of Dale, certainly he could have provided military and humanitarian aid. There is no indication of either, and the Men of Dale took refuge in Esgaroth but not in Bladorthin's realm. Second, when king Brand "whose realm now reaches far south and east of Esgaroth" (FR) brought the same territory under his control he would have met opposition from the living successor of Bladorthin; but since there was none, what would in the meantime have happened to the kingdom? The obvious conclusion is that the lordship of Dale was the central authority among the Northmen between Celduin and Carnen, and Bladorthin lived outside that region.
The realm of the great king Bladorthin thus has to meet the following criteria:
1. It was inhabited by Men who were not under the sway of Sauron.
2. It was or had been exposed to the influence of Númenórean civilisation long enough that its rulers acquired the habit to assume throne-names in an Elvish language.
3. In 2770 TA, it was peaceful and prosperous enough that its king could order a set of Dwarvish arms and wait for delivery after completion. It was, however, exposed so much to danger that the need to equip troops with this set was felt necessary.
4. It was located close enough to Dale to maintain trade and transport routes with Erebor but not close enough that it would get into military conflict with the Bardings.
5. It was strong enough to be self-sustainant but not strong enough to provide military support against Smaug or even give humanitarian aid.
There is only one place which fulfills all these requirements: Dorwinion.
The why
Like Bladorthin himself, Dorwinion was only mentioned once in the published history of Middle-earth in connexion with a wine that the Silvan Elves imported via Lake-town: "The wine, and other goods, were brought from far away, ... from the vineyards of Men in distant lands. ... This wine, it would seem, was the heady vintage of the great gardens of Dorwinion." (H, ix) On the map of Middle-earth as drawn by Pauline Baynes, Dorwinion is situated at the northwestern coast of the Sea of Rhûn, and this location makes it pre-destined for the throne of the great king Bladorthin. There were indeed Men who were not Sauronians, the export of wine "and other goods" brought considerable wealth, and it lay well outside of the Bardings' sphere of influence while having access to the region via the Celduin-Carnen river system. Moreover, it was not only exposed to Númenórean culture, it had been a province of Gondor during more than a millenium! Even after regaining independence it had stayed sufficiently númenórised that in late TA it was - other than p.e. Esgaroth - still known by an Eldarin name only.
What is known of Dorwinion from other sources allows us to reconstruct some of its history, if only on a crude level. It first appeared in the annals, not yet by its proper name, in the First Age when the migrating "Folk of Hador discovered that a part of their host from whom they had become separated had reached [the Sea of Rhún] before them, and dwelt at the feet of the high hills to the south-west", (PR) from which sprang the Bëorians; they however left the country soon due to increasing pressure by "Servants of the Dark" (PR). The mentioned hills were part of the land of Dorwinion; the name as written on Pauline Baynes' map stretched only across the plain north of them, but in this location (48 and 50 degrees of northern latitude, see A Meridional Grid on the Middle-earth Map) the southern slopes of hill ranges provide much more direct sunlight and thus better wine-growth than level ground; compare the wineyards of the Rheingau and Mosel valleys at the same latitudes. But wine did not yet grow there. When the ships of Númenór accessed Middle-earth, they did import the plantation of wine among other cultural benefits: "The Númenóreans taught them many things. Corn and wine they brought, and they instructed Men in the sowing of seed and the grinding of grain, in the hewing of wood and the shaping of stone, and in the ordering of their life." (AK) But at the Sea of Rhún this left no trace for the Númenóreans never came that far inland. Vintage, however, follows migration and colonisation patterns, not trade routes. Therefore it is evident that wine growth was introduced to Dorwinion by Gondor after the land had become its easternmost province in 541 TA (TY). The Gondorians may have recognised the suitability of soil and climate due to the levelling influence of that large inland body of water while otherwise conditions would have been rather continental and subject to extreme changes of temperature. It was then probably them who gave Dorwinion its name - a Sindarin name, as has always been tradition among Gondorian cartographers, not a Northern Mannish name of the kind we otherwise use to find in Rhovanion. It was probably also in that time that regular trade with the Northmen of the later Dale territory was first established, and from that period may date the unusual Elvish-Dúnedainic name of Esgaroth, otherwise known as Lake-town.
We do not know of what peoples the local population of Dorwinion in the Second and Third Age comprised. Gondor tried to populate its territory East of Anduin with Northmen from Rhovanion who "had increased greatly in the peace brought by the power of Gondor", (KR) and yet, "the wide lands between Anduin and the Sea of Rhûn were however never effectively settled or occupied." (DM) But the people of Dorwinion were not reckoned among the Northmen - chiefly of Hadorian origin -, for the Wainriders and later "the Balchoth were destroying the last of their kin in the South" (CE) and they "never returned to their former homes". (CE) On the other hand, it is certain that the inhabitants were Middle Men of some kind, not Easterlings, for they negotiated trade with the Silvan Elves and they survived the massacre of 1248 when "Minalcar ... led out a great force, and between Rhovanion and the Inland Sea he defeated a large army of the Easterlings and destroyed all their camps and settlements east [read: west?] of the Sea." (KR) Most likely it is thus that they were still descendants from the original proto-Bëorrim of the First Age, thoroughly mixed and mingled with Easterling blood as was their wont of old, and in their remote enclave they were, like the hobbits, always overlooked by the Mighty of their ages.
According to TY, Dorwinion remained the east-march of Gondor till 1856 TA when it found itself cut off from the mainland by the expanding Wainrider empire (see The History of the Men of Darkness). Very likely, the throne was then claimed by local nobility, maybe partially of Dúnedainic origin, who continued the traditions of their old overlords such as using ascension names based on Elvish languages (unless this was a honour to their trading partners, "the Sindarin Princes of the Silvan Elves", see GC). It seems thus as if this tradition continued unbroken to at least 2770 TA and Dorwinion was never subdued nor its aristocracy routed or expelled by the Wainriders, the Balchoth, or other subsequent Easterling invasions. This may be due to the particularities of the territory: The Wainriders (as their name implies) and related peoples relied in battle on chariot and, more rarely, cavalry units. This strategy was well adapted to level ground combat in which they could deal out their high mobility, and they thus posed much a challenge to the troops of Gondor on the classical battlefields between Mirkwood and the Ash Mountains. But on sloped and elevated territory, chariots and riders are at a tactical loss against defending infantry. The hill range of southern Dorwinion thus was almost inaccessible to them, and if the defenders retreated to there they could hold out against the Easterling pursuers by a long-lasting partisan defence. No wonder thus that alone of the Middle Men of Southern Rhovanion, the people of Dorwinion survived the turmoils of the late Third Age unscathed, enjoying long periods of peace and safe commerce.
What exactly did Bladorthin then do there to earn remembrance as "the great king"? If he was alive in 2770 it is quite probable that he was already on the throne during the fatal year 2758 when Gondor and Rohan were under concerted attack by Easterlings and Southrons, the Long Winter held Middle-earth in its grasp, and there was certainly need for a great king East of Anduin. Maybe Bladorthin gained his merits by defending Dorwinion against the pressing Easterlings and by coping with the disastrous effects of the Long Winter upon his realm. And he may, when time had come, have seen the necessity to re-arm or improve the arms of his troops with the skills of Dwarvish smiths, so to maintain Dorwinion's sovereignty against the increasing menace from Rhûn: A project that, alas, stayed unaccomplished but was certainly worth to recall in the ballads and memories of the Northmen.
One interesting question will remain unanswered, though: When king Elessar reclaimed Dorwinion as east-march of Gondor in the Fourth Age, was he welcome?
And the whether
Of course it cannot be known whether Tolkien, had he ever thought about it again, would have made Bladorthin king of Dorwinion. But this is definitely the most plausible place to stow him away.

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Halion
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‘Wayback’ link to the article
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Vardamir Nolimon
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Fascinating. Many thanks Thorin and Halion for finding it. Our friend in Wiesbaden seems to have given quite a bit of thought to this conundrum. I disagree with only one of his (her?) premises. Unfortunately it is a crucial one.

quote:
Where then was his realm? In the 28th century, both Dúnedainic kingdoms had long ago collapsed.
Not exactly. Though a king, using that title, did not rule in Gondor they of course had Ruling Stewards who were in loco regis. So the dunedainic kingdom of Gondor had not really ceased to exist. The disagreement is one of semantics but is a key one because both Lalaith of Wiesbaden and I base our respective hypotheses on the recongition, or not, of a Kingdom in Gondor.

Even if one accepts Lalaith's point that literally speaking no dunedainic kingdom existed in TA 28th century, that doesn't mean that other non-dunedainic peoples (specifically those of northern Rhovanion) would have appreciated the distinction between a King and a Ruling Steward. If that distinction was not made then the argument for Beregond of Gondor is stronger. Otherwise Lalaith's well developed and comprehensive thesis that Bladorthin was a king of Dorwinion carries the day.

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Roll of Honor Varnafindë
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quote:
that doesn't mean that other non-dunedainic peoples (specifically those of northern Rhovanion) would have appreciated the distinction between a King and a Ruling Steward.
To confirm that such confusion is possible, I'll relate a real life example.
100 to 150 years ago, Scandinavia had lots of songs that were sold (a sheet with the text, perhaps even the music) for a shilling. One of these were about the murder of the King of Northern America. I thought that this would be some total invention, until I read that it was about the murder of President Lincoln.

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Mithrennaith
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Well, Lalaith's article that Thorin quotes (in a form so uncomfortable to read) is still alive and kicking on the internet, at http://lalaith.vpsurf.de/Tolkien/Bladorthin.html.
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Roll of Honor Herendil
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A point where I disagree with Lalaith is that I believe that it is more likely that Dorwinion was an Elvish realm than a Mannish.
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