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Bows and arrows but where are the guns and cannon?



Isn't it strange that despite the huge mental/psychic powers and the general level of ingenuity of innumerable characters and races over several thousand years in Tolkien's histories that there appears to be little if any technological development beyond a certain point?

From the earliest skirmishes between Fëanor's bunch and the Telerin mariners on the quays of Alqualondë to the clean-up of the remaining renegades immediately after the War of the Ring, swords, axes, lances, etc as well as the usual "terror ranged against noble valour", etc have been the primary weapons of war.

Only a "blasting fire" (presumably an analogue of gunpowder which appears during the battle of Helm's Deep) shows any sense of such development.

Lembas, shipbuilding, subtle textiles, the Palantir, unbreachable masonry (the tower of Orthanc) etc are all redolent of minds capable of marvellous invention and device.

Is Tolkien's adherence to the "bow and arrow" culture merely an attempt to preserve a certain characteristic consistency throughout his histories or did he feel that the essence of his mythology would be spoiled by such technological advances as the steam engine?

I haven't read any biogs of Professor T but I get the impression (from the LotR prologue) that he was at the very least a country dweller not given to creeping industrialisation.

Is there a justification for the glaring ommission of a sense of evolutionary technologies which must surely be the preserve of any intelligent beings far less than those in Tolkien's tales?

How successful would the fight against Sauron have been had he developed a version of the internal combustion engine?


Upper Class Twit
Dec 24, 2001
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this post evokes so many thoughts in my little mind.

I see Orcs riding Harleys on the Morannon, Trolls driving school buses, Ringwraiths on MIGs, etc.

This is similar to the question I first saw on Saturday night live, would the west have won WW II if superman had been Uberman in Nazi Germany HAHA

What if the fellowship had snowmobiles at Caradhras?

It always sort of bothered me the lack of industrial advances, but I think that in UT Tolkien sort of hinted that Men moved forward a great deal in technology (a lot of it in reference to Ar-Pharazon, thus some of this scientific advance is in the pursuit of evil) in Numenor (stone work, seamanship, etc) and also that Feanor and the Noldor advanced a great deal. It seems like in order for this to happen in ME, a great deal of stable time is required (peace), such as the thousands of years of Moria where much was done. Celebrimbor did a lot before Sauron made the one ring.

Then as evil came, the technology was lost.

Whereas in the real world, it seems like advance was done in the case of real need, and much of the time in war.


Lord of Balrogs
Staff member
Sep 10, 2001
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Cardiff, United Kingdom
It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the would, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in thoses days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far.
The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill : page 69

This refers to the Goblins or Orcs in the misty mountains. Tolkien conciders that the tecnologies of warfare to have com from this source at a later time. So the matter had already been addressed in the book that Tolkien used as the starting point for the Lord of the Rings.


Grand Master (Funk)
Dec 28, 2001
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During the Battle of Pelennor and at the Gate of Minas Tirith, I thought Sauron had composed some new devilry and was using large seige engines and catapults of the most advanced design. I imagined something like exploding ballistas, which dont explode like grenades, but burst asunder and send wood and metal everywhere.


Morgoth's Mace
Oct 31, 2001
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Somewhere in a Tolkien story.
Our own civilizations have recorded wars back as far as 4 or 5 thousand BC. That gives us 5 or 6 thousand years before any significant industrialized warfare took place in our own world. Before 1000 AD, there were a few catapults, but little else. Gunpowder existed in China before then but its use in warfare had not yet been discovered. I don't find that too terribly out of line for ME. The world was just on a different time frame and maybe lacked some of the basic elements necessary to come up with an explosive mixture.


Nah...Trolls would drive Trash Trucks and smoke really smelly cigars made from Pipe Weed...


I remember the first time I saw "Gladiator" and in the beginning when they start fighting the "Germanians" and they are lobbing the clay jars of oil into the trees I thought of the siege you speak of, with the Catapults and the Fire.


Nov 20, 2001
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In Tolkien's early years he spent about for years with his family (mother & brother) in the countryside near Birmingham at Sarehole. There he seemed to develop a sense and a great love for intact nature. Whereas when they later had to live in the city he was greatly suffering from the lack of trees and flowers and everything his little "paradise" at sarehole had provided and the sight of rooftops and chimneys and every form of industry seemed to depress him and make him sick.

Maybe this explains why industrialisation and technical progress in his books was something that belonged to the dark side whereas the "good guys" (elves, hobbits, ents, etc.) always had a sense for intact nature and tried to preserve it.

Off topic but interesting - at least to me: When little JRRT had just started to walk he is said to have been bitten by a poisenuous tarantula, I wonder if that had placed the roots for Ungoliath & Shelob...
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