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Khand warriors by TurnerMohan Khand warriors by TurnerMohan
part of my weekly tolkien sketchblog.

An attempt at the Variags, for whom, based on their location, I imagine a rather persian/mughal indian style; all fine chainmail interwoven with engraved plates (also a debt to john howe for the many-horned helmet) a bit more ornate and exotic than the Haradrim [link]

I was not quite certain as to whether or not the people of Khand would have fought on Horseback, they receive only very brief mention in the Lord of the Rings, though they are said to contribute horses to Mordor, so I suppose these guys could be horsemen, and in any case I prefer to think of areas like Rhun, Harad and Khand not as isolated kingdoms with perfectly uniform armies, but rather as vast lands with a wide array of peoples and empires.

see also: Easterling [link]
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Artigas Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2013
I like this one very much because it does wat is the most difficult thing in concept art: to start from a real life stereotypical group and expand it into fantasy without being a mere copy or derivation! Love the horned helmet. 
Zeonista Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2013
As I've mentioned in a prior comment, the Variags are not described, so the artist has some license. Since the Variags are said to dwell in Khand on the eastern edge of Mordor, you can presume a few things about their appearance.

1. Khand is not a green and fertile country. It's not part of the Southern Desert, but it's no lush prairie either. maybe it is a dry plain like the Sahala or Savannah of Africa. This would make "native" men of Khand dark-skinned herdsmen, not farmers. Later on Sauron might import Men of more settled climes, and they would build urban centers to their taste. Still, both types would become sun-darkened and wind-blasted, unless they covered up a lot.
2. Since Sauronic commerce between Harad and Rhun and Mordor would tend to go through Khand, the people there would be exposed to many cultures, and could pick and choose which things to use and adapt. This would suggest a dynamic adaptive culture not unlike the civilized peoples of Khwarism or the Kievan Rus, before the Mongols bulldozed both of them.
3. Khand was never directly ruled by Gondor, so Dunedain influences there would be minimal or non-existent. (There might be a Black Nmenorian influence, but that's different.)
4. Given the terrain, horsemen or camel-men would be a key component, except for towns and fortresses along the caravan routes. An emphasis on horsemen might also be appropriate given their tendency to join up with the Wainrider Easterlings or Haradrim.

Those are the only things I can give as guidelines. Your drawing falls within those lines, to be sure! :)
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2013  Professional General Artist
I tend to think of Khand as an area, geographically and in terms of climate, similar to persia and the "stan" countries, stretching down, southeast, into lands perhaps more reminicent of india (as apposed to the more arabic/north african feel of near harad) so yeah dry steppe country for the most part, not so different from Rhun, though hotter, and like the people of Near harad, the Khandians would be richer and more 'cultured' (through trade, and possibly historical exposure to the Southern Numenoreans) than the more barbarous horde-like easterlings ("easterling being in my oppinion, morseso than Haradric or Khandian, a term applied to a very wide range of peoples and ethnicities)

Camels are one of those animals that tolkien never mentions, but that (like "the apes of the southern jungles" or the oliphants) we can probably be pretty sure exist in the south/east (i'd love to see some particular easterling tribe riding bactrian-style camels)
Zeonista Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2013
My thoughts on cultural topography of Khand comes from ICE's map for their MERP game. Although highly speculative in places, the game designers' accurate sense of geography and climate gave their map a certain degree of reality. The game staff never got around to Khand, which was a shame given all their work (and re-working) of other areas.

My own thoughts on Khand is that it would have two components. First, the civilized and highly cultured (if harsh and stratified) domains of the multi-sourced Variags, a blend of many (basicaly) honorable peoples overlayed with Mordorian Black Numenorian ideas of "proper" living. Secondly, the rural, nomadic tribes of the original men of Khand (perhaps intermarried with Easterlings and Haradrim), naturally fierce and warlike,  worshipping Sauron as a dark god.Both groups would have their place and their duties, and their own sense of worth in a world living under The Eye.
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2013  Professional General Artist
You sum up my general assumptions on Khand's social structure exactly, I always thought of the majority of the Khandian population (as with the people of near harad and) as living a rather bedouin-like existence - tribes and families of shepherds under basically abrahamic style patriarchs - basically since the dawn of time (or of man anyway) and lorded over (though having next to no contact with unless called to battle) a more "civilized" upper caste, possibly consisting of the descendants of forigen conquerers such as the variags (like the real life Aryans in India, or the nordic Rus who became the ruling class in russia, over a largely slavic population) living in great cites comparable to ancient babylon or nineveh.

to take it one step farther (though this is a thoroughly unnescesary flourish and nowhere indicated by tolkiens very scant writings on khand) I sometimes think of the people of khand, even the non-variag original inhabitants, as being themselves more closely related to the rather indo-european edain than the more "arabic" people of Near Harad, or diverse though largely central asian/turkick easterlings (though i tend to think, encompassed in the term "easterling," you would have to find some populations of slavic - and therefore indo-european - type people, I usually think of these as the easterlings from the first age: wolf haired, mustached, and slant eyed, but related to the edain nonetheless) This little theorization of mine about khand is just based mostly on its location, to the southeast (as opposed to the more directly southern haradrim or eastern easterlings) which overlays rather nicely with the long, diagonal line of the persian empire, from anatolia to india, I could see the khandians falling into the southeastern "indo/iranian" branch of the indo-european language family (or, once again, the ME equivalent thereof) with the roughly Italic, Celtic, and Nordic people of, respectively, Beor, Haleth and Hador (and I do think that parallel was very intentional) making up the northeastern branch.

(me and elrondperedhel had a lot of back and forth about that in the comments for the "harad cavalryman" piece)
Zeonista Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2013
I fully agree that the Variags might originally have been a type of men we would normally define as "Western". Sauron had begun to corrupt Men even before he approached Celebrimbor to forge the rings of power. The Oathbreakers of the White Mountains were Dunnish-style men who despite their dealings and alliance with Gondor still refused to face the Dark Lord for fear of his wrath. And this was west of Mordor, not to its immediate south or east. (The White Mountains were not that far from Mordor as the crow flies either.) Plus as Tolkien states, people are responsible for their own choices, whatever talk of Fate might be. SOme Northmen or DUnnish stock or quasi-Turkish folk could have chosen poorly based on greed or fear, and been drawn in.
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2013  Professional General Artist
well I've got some opinions about the largely antagonistic, haleth-descended men of dunland, and tolkien's treatment of them (more extensive than i really care to reiterate at the moment, but if you're interested there's a long back and forth between me and elrond peredhel about that in the comments for "Harad Cavalryman")
Ragnarok6664 Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Very well done :)
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2013  Professional General Artist
thanks bro
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2013
Love it. :)

For me the second one (does he have a problem with his eyes ?) could be a Southron. But the closest definitely looks like an Easterling in my eyes. I doesn't look noble enough and is too "evilish" to be one of the tall Haradrim.
But a Variag ? It's more looking like one of the "dwarvish looking" easterling axemen, small with beards, described by the Gondorians. And they are not the Variags, it's said (once again I'm sure of the quotation in French but I can't tell for the translation) : "Easterlings axemen, Variags of Khand, Southrons in scarlet, and black men Troll-lookings, (etc)." (Lord of the Rings, Book V, chapter 6) so they are a separated group of humans (or at least we are almost sure they are humans given to their location and to the list they are in).

Some of my friends made a lot of interesting hypotesis on this people, I'm gonna try to translate them and explain them :

Firstable we are not sure that the Variags are the inhabitants of Khand (for example the TLD team made them the main tribe of Khand) it's not sure at all and they don't have any root in common (like "Rohirrim-Rohan" or "Iathrim-Doriath" for example but we also have "Galadhrim-Lothlorien" so it's not a proof). Although when Tolkien spoke about the population of Khand as a whole he says 'men of Khand' : "[...] Numerous Wainriders passed through the south of Mordor and made alliance with the men of Khand and Near-Harad." (LotR, appendix A)

Secondly there could be something strange about them : "[...] troll-men and Variags and orcs that hated the sunlight." (LotR, Book V, chapter 6). But it's probably only for Orcs cause the men of Far-Harad are from a very sunny land... still who knows ? May be Khand is a very dark land, were sunlight is weaker, cause of its proximity with Mordor. May be Sauron did some experiment on the Variags which will be the explanation of their sunlight problems : Troll-men, Orcs and Variags would all be evil-creation.
It's also interesting to notice that they run away quickly when the Haradrim and the Easterling stay to fight kind of bravely.

Then we are touching the more intersiting and controversial part of those hypotesis : etimology. "Variag" is one of the three "eastern" words we know. The first one being "Mmak" in the southron language (yes in "People of ME" Tolkien do the same simplification as you do so you are forgiven :P ) and the last one "Khand".
The word is very close of the russian "Varjag" (swearing man) which became "varangian" in English (the guard of the Byzantine Emperor). This word come frome the Old Norse "varrar" which means "wage". Here Tolkien is probably not implying that the variags or some kind of ME varangian but more likely that they are mercenaries, fighting for Sauron's forces for a wage and not as slaves, vassels or for duty.

But can we go a little further ? One of my friends made a really audacious but really brilliant (for me of course) demonstration : for him the Variags are descendants of Northmen established in Khand.
How did he came to this conclusion ? Firstable it's still about etimology. Why did Tolkien choose a Slavic word (varjag) with an Old Norse root (varrar) ? Cause if Mmak is probably linked to the word 'Mammoth' or some of it's antic declination and the word "Khand" looks like a contraction of "Khan-land" or something like that, a really exotic sound, "Variag" looks more familiar.
Of course the Byzantines and the Russians are eastern people but the Old Norse is the language used by Tolkien to translate the tongue and the names of the people of Dale, who are Northmen, and the related tongues, Old English and Old German, are respectively used to translate those of the Eorlingas and the Northmen of the East Breach.
And the funny fact is that those Northmen of Rhovanion are almost the only people who had mercenaries in Tolkien's writing and they were allied at some point with the Easterlings : "Under the reign of Narmacil the Ist, [Wainriders' attacks] began again, but slowly at first; but the Rgent learned that the Northmen were betraying their oath to Gondor, and that some of them made alliance with the Easterlings -either for bounty or for friendship-" (LotR, appendix A)."
So we can imagine that they run away with the Wainriders when they were defeated and established themselves in the land of Khand, became mercenaries for the Easterlings and Sauron, and that their name was altered by their employers while they became the fighting elite of Khand, making their name famous even in Gondor.

Of course it's just an idea but I think it's in the same time coherent, respectful of the text, really based on Tolkien's writing, and really enthsuiastic. Given to that the Variags could be horsemen, while the Easterling axemen could stay as a distinct and specific people, like they are in the book.
Zeonista Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2013
I agree that the Variags are separate from the bearded axe-wielding Easterlings. Your friend has an interesting and fascinating theory of the makup of the Variags based on their nomenclature. Tolkien picked words with meaning on purpose, as he was a philologist. Certainly the Variags were Men who were by TA 3019 long under the sway of Sauron, his sworn soldiers who were rewarded for their loyalty and role as Mannish protectors/overseers of non-Gorgoroth Mordor. The Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Emperors were Norse (later Anglo-Norse) mercs who were hired for great pay and privilege because of their reputation for loyal voluntary service. That attitude has to ocme from somewhere in Middle-Earth, and it wouldn't be from the servile South or East...
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2013
Exactly. Of course Tolkien put meanings in his words but the question sometimes is "how much". I'll make a difference between the, obviously, servile South (with the exception of Umbar) and the definitely more "politically engaged" East. Tolkien explicitely said that the Easterling worshipped Sauron as a god and it is said in the Silmarilion that he had a fortress surrounded with fire in the East (it may, or may not, be Barad-Dr) so for them it's kinda different. But of course : both are vessels of Sauron. But it's logical that the country in between (Khand) is also with something between the servitude of the South and the allegiance of the East : mercenaries is a good guess for me.
Zeonista Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2013
There is also something to be said for the horrid realization (to the Free Peoples) that some Men served Sauron with eyes undimmed by fear or religious awe. He was the biggest ruler, able (through his mortal and undying agents)  to give gold and steel and other rewards with an open hand. And if those who took it served him well, he would raise them to command of armies larger than their home nations. The Variags who chose to serve Sauron for cash, booty, and weaponry from Barad-Dur would have made a "good choice" by their standards, and if their descendants chose to stay from a loyalty supplemented with pay instead of dependent on it, what was that to them?
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2013  Professional General Artist
yeah I'm a big fan of alot of Elrondperedhel's theories, they really help refine and offer perspective on my own ideas about middle earth. I would probably recast these as regular 'Khandians' (not variags) or mor likely the "bearded axe-weilding easterlings" based on our back-and-forths (I was uncertain myself, what the difference between "variags" and anyone else from khand was, but now i feel i may have to do a separate "variags" illustration)

That's probably the best thing, for me, about doing this sketch series; I feel like there is a (vague) shared consensus on how the people/cultures of middle-earth should look and feel, and it's great to hear others' two cents.
Zeonista Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2013
It's fun playing around on the fringes of Middle-Earth, isn't it? Even when I disagree with Elrondperedhel's comments I find them interesting. Very smart people, if I do say so myself. :)
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2013
You are very welcome both ;) I enjoy discussing with you too.

Re-reading all that I was thinking to something : if we read all the list of the people of the East and their lands (Harad-Haradrim/Southrons ; Rhn-Easterlings ; Wainriders ; Balchoth ; Khand-Variags) the last are the only one to have a name on their own. There could be many reason but the more probable I see are those two :
- They had more amical contacts : may be Gondor used some Variags as mercenaries (the less convincing).
- They are an organized country. That's the best explanation for me cause Khand is less dangerous in Gondor's history than Harad or Rhn (no common border, not that much attacks, they are more fighting both of their neighbours apparently). I can really imagine a king of Khand (a Khan?) or a high-priest of Sauron ruling the entire country. In this view, Khand is more like the Seldjoukides kalifat which confrontation to the Mongolian's Wainriders turned into an alliance better than an open war. :) What do you think ?
Zeonista Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2013
There is something to be said for Khand as being like that. Like the sultans, the rulers of Khand would be "takers", not contributing much to the economy of the land but ready to make some money from trade and such tribute as the nomads might be willing (or coerced) to send. The ruler of the Variags would be a soldier, not dynastic but the successor to the throne by merit of strength, cleverness, and proven loyalty to the Dark Lord. The priesthood would probably be a separate entity, directly loyal to the Dark Tower or Minas MOrgul (depending on the period) and supporting the king but not his vassals. 
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013
I wanna say : be careful !

Here you are making hypotesis based on... nothing. It's interisting but if we want to agree on something we have to give explanations based on the text in my opinion, or at least on some historical background. Be careful also on ICE who doesn't only made hypotesis (like we do here) but invented from nothing, and worst, invented things which just don't fit with Tolkien's writing.

On Khand what can we use ?

Geography :

- Based on its location (between the South/Harad and the East/Rhn) it have to be something similar to middle-east or India (at best : something in between, feed by both influence). They are probably also close of the Edain, in analogy with the Edain and the Indo-European. That's Turner's hypotesis.

- Based on the proximity of Mordor they probably have tighter links with Mordor. May be religion ? But it will be in partial opposition with our theory of the mercenaries and will be too close of the Haradrim and Easterling who worship Sauron as a God for sure, so it's better to find another thing. May be also being a more orcish and crual society ? That's your hypotesis.
It maid me think to the slaves of the Sea of Nrnen and the human soldiers of Mordor, directly under the command of his lieutenants (they are mentionned two times in the LotR : in the army of Morgul and when Sam looks over Mordor from the gates of Cirith Ungol, not speaking about The Mouth or even Gothmog). Mens of Khand are mentionned to be among the slaves I believe and it's not stupid to think that they are a large amount in Sauron's armies. After all : it's like if men of Khand didn't like to fight themselves so it's logical that they send slaves and mercenaries to fight.

Etymology :

- Variag : We know it's a word in an Eastern language and as it doesn't sound at all like "Khand" (like "Rohirrim" to "Rohan") we can make the guess that it doesn't mean "people of Khand". Then what ? Based on the hypotesis that "Variags" is, less or more cloesly, related to "Varaguian" they could be mercenaries, payed by Sauron to fight on his side. If we try to make a tighter relation to the historic Varaguian guard we can relate them to the Northmen mercenaries who fought on the Easterling's side centuries ago, they could be their descendants, established in Khand.

- Khand : The word does sound like "the Khan", the Mongol ruler (but also a word for "king" used from Mongolia to Egypt, including India), reinforcing the "near-Asia feeling". It's also the only country name we know from an Eastern language (we do not know if the people of Khand name their country this way but we know at least that it's a word of Eastern origin).
My hypotesis  is that it is a country on its own. It's teh only name of region we know in the language of its people, for Harad there are many kingdoms, for Rhn even the Wainriders are a confederation of people (like the Hun) so there are probably hundreds of kings in this area. Khand coul be different. That would be the explanation to why the people of Gondor know the name of this region since centuries.

To finish on that we talked about the various influence of the Haradrim (Persians, Sarrasins, may be India) and the Easterlings (Huns, Mongols, may be the Rus), Khand is someway in the between. A reference I like is Khwarazmians : they had an empire just in the right place (in the area where Khand will be in our world) and they share many similarities (invaded by a semi-nomadic people, Mongols/Wainriders, fighting as mercenaries, etc.).

To end some, as a miniature painter and player, some referencies I would like to paint as Variags :

- This Rajput with the complete chainmail mask : that is scary ! indusminiatures.mybigcommerce.…

- One of those Arab warriors (the second at the right with the chainmail mask) :…

This is nearly all my thougts about Khand and that's already a lot for a so small and unimportant part of ME.
Why do I think you are going too far ? I agree on the "takers" idea : if we go for a crual and slavist people it fits. But why should the ruler be a newcomer ? It doesn't fit with the idea of a stable kingdom. If we go further than I wish we can imagine either a dinasty or even a nomination by the Dark Lord himself (but I don't like this idea : Sauron was not there for a while and doesn't care about Khand anyway). It could be clever to mix both ideas : a dynasty supposed to be sustained by God/Sauron himself.
As for the separate priesthood. We don't have any clue in this way. Most of the time the closest thing we have is "messengers of Sauron" (Nazgl ? Or men ? We do not know). An organized "sauronic" clergy seems weird for a people which stayed carefully in its region, invading Gondor only once (to be compared to the many eastn and southern invasions).
Zeonista Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2013
My thoughts on Khand's ultimate organization are based on MERP's "Empire of the Witch-King", which depicted Angmar circa 1640 as a totalitarian state that on the surface offered acceptance, toleration, and minimal prosperity for all Men. (With immunity from Orc raids tossed into the bargain.) Under the skin of course was service to a brutal regime, frequent call-ups to miitary service, mandatory Dark Religion as both agitprop and mind control, and swift, ruthless punishment for breaking The Rules. To me the writer's premise of Angmar as a social model for Mordorian regime seemed about right for any land willingly or unwillingly under the Shadow for a long time. Ultimately ethnicity, culture, religion, and martial spirit all get mixed into a ruling culture of Servants of the Eye (the loyal Party members, to use a more modern context) and the masses who provide resources, labor, and spear fodder.

Then again, Khand didn't have to have a monolithic culture all through its history either. If Arnor and Gondor can undergo societal and racial changes in their histories, Khand must have gone through differences as well. Khand might well have different societies in SA 3429, TA 1, TA 1640, and TA 3019.

One thing must be noted though. In the Battle of Pelennor Fields the Variags are in the elite reserves, along with the Easterling axemen, and the troops of Very Far Harad (sic). Not mere spear-fodder like the Orcs conducting the overthrow of Minas Tirith, they were originally supposed to be set on the lands of Gondor to finish the job of conquest. So they would get slaves and plunder and maybe some land grants, if things had gone the Dark Lord's way? Better rewards than the Orcs, anyway. Gothmog putting them into the battle was a decision made from necessity. It was quite the revelation to me a few years back that although the action around the city received the most mention, the Free Peoples did the most and hardest fighting against the Men of Sauron's empire, who willingly fought to nearly the last man in his service.
(1 Reply)
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2013  Professional General Artist
well, all very thought provoking theories. I had considered the inhabitants of Khand, just based on their geography (northeast of the very arabic people of near harad and south of the vast central asian steppe lands of Rhun) to be Middle-earth's version of a persian/hindustani people, or in other words the eastern branch of the indo-european language family, and therefore distantly related to the more western indo-european peoples of the edain, certainly more closely related to them than the (following this analogy) semetic people of Harad or the Turkic/mongoloid people in the east are. But this theory of the Variags specifically as being a special group, the long descendents of northmannish mercenaries, is quite attractive to me. I'd been aware of the apparent similarity of the words 'variag' and 'varjag/varangian' for some time, but had not really known where tolkien was going with it. But this theory would parallel the history of many northern/germanic mercenary tribes, who in late antiquity found themselves employed by rome and byzantium (and by various generals and warlords fighting eachother) and relocated to all over the known world, and to think of the Variags specifically as being one such group of people is a satisfying speculation (the geopolitical climate of the early-to-mid third age seems very 'late roman antiquity,' with the gondorians making alliances with various peoples, and fending off waves from the east) It would be fun to do a revised take on the Variags as the decendents of east germanic (or in middle earth terms, "east-northmannish) people.
I had started drawing the figure in front with intention to make him one of the dwarf-like axemen from the east, which I suppose he still could be, as nowhere is it stated that all the easterlings must be hunnic/mongoloid people. I tend to think (as I expressed in a reply comment below) that the identity of "easterling" is a broadly, pejoratively assigned term, which could really start with the slavic people (for whom, though they are an indo-european speaking people, there is no given equivalent among the men of middle earth, and certainly not among the edain) and encompass everyone east of them. I suppose the reason I settled on a Khandian (and therefore, in my mind, Persian/Indian) origin for him was to cash in on the beautiful, elaborate style of armor of those cultures; ancient armor gets a bit plainer and more bare bones as you look north into central asia/russia, though the overall silhouette of the form fitting chainplate shirt (and/or lamellar cuirasse) and 'onion dome' helmet with a chainmail aventail (sometimes closing to a full face cover) is a pretty popular type of armor, some variety of which you could find just about anywhere to the south or east of europe for centuries, just like the popular and long lived european combo of conical spangenhelm and long, unadorned mail hauberk.
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2013
I like to "thought-provoke" you : I'm sure it could end in amazing concepts.

I think your consideration on the culture of the men of Khand are right : I'm not even sure that Tolkien thought about it but it's definitely logic considering their location. Your guess, making them cousins of the Edain, could also give a clue for the reason which lead the Variags to stay in this land. The mix of culture (persian, Indian and germanic) could give great results I think and provide this "quite similar to what we know but still" different that is so ME.

Something I like in the John Howe painting of a Variag is the mask. Merlkir took this idea too, may be influenced also by the movies given to the japanic influence of his Variags, a bit too much for me. I think that could be a great idea to keep them cause it lets the mystery on this really mysterious people ;) We don't know their origin, we don't know if they are completely humans (are at least the Gondorian and their allies can have doubts on that if you remember the way they describe their reaction to sunlight that could be in fact due to a weaker loyalty coming from their mercenary status... just pulling the rope a little further). It will also make them look more "evil" to mark their status in Khand and make us remember they are close of Mordor. Finnally this tradition could come from the contacts with the dwarves of the Orocani, far in the East. Some of those Dwarves who could have been allied with Sauron given to his dwarves allies during the War of the Last Alliance mentionned in the Silmarilion. But it could aldo be a custom coming from the time when they were considered as traitors and may be didn't want to be recognize (yeah : combining ideas make my brain smoke).
But it could be also masking their faces with chainmail like the guy behind. Or with saxon-inspired masks.
Make some blue eyes shining behind masks, or some fair braided hair dropping under the helmets could be a "must-have" effect.

It's also noticeable that the Romans were not the only one to use germanic auxiliaries : the huns were also composed for a great part of germanic people. Coincidence ?

For the weaponry it's difficult to say : Beorn (probably not a Northman but leading a group of Northmen) use a axe, the Eothod are riders (spear-men and archers, both on horse-back) and the Northmen of Dale seems to be good archers (Bard and the fact that his lineage, the lord of Dale, kept the Black Arrow as their main heritage). We don't know anything about Rhovanion, the most important kingdom of this time. I will just say that they should be distinct from their neighbours for me.

It's perfect if your axeman is a "dwarf-like" Easterling cause he it really fits my criterias while bringing me a new approche (I had difficulties to figure them either as big dwarves or as savages with furs). The "John Howe" helmet is really cool though, do you know if it's inspired by something ?

I agree on your vision of Easterlings. As far as we know there could be people equivalent to chinese and japanese far in Rhn who will still be called "Easterlings", even if they may not be under Sauron influence and/or divided thanks to the Blue Wizards and/or too far to be brought to Gondor so they don't appeared.
For the slavic people they were indo-European but also considered as invaders by Western Europeans most of the time. It's possible that some of those people related to the Edain lived more in the East and fell under Sauron's influence (who didn't ?)
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2013  Professional General Artist
ooh, blue eyes or blonde hair where you would not expect them, I love that.
I like the idea of metal face masks as a cultural contribution of the dwarves in the east, the face mask is such a visually powerful component of armor, wherever it has been historically employed, that I've been thinking I'd like to do some more designs with them, probably everyone in middle earth has atleast experimented with face masks at one point or another, even among the numenoreans possibly ("in the dwarvish mode" as it might be referred to, like how the romans took on the gallic style of helmet, or how all of europe was in love with ottoman furniture at one point)also the idea of presenting the variags as, as you said, possibly not entirely human, like the (ridiculous in it's context but not bad for middle earth) portrayal of the persian immortals in 300.
As for the weaponry of characters in the hobbit, yes they all do seem to fall under the category of "Northmen" although that seems like it was far less intentional in The Hobbit than any cultural allusions in the lord of the rings. the hobbit is much more regional, never leaving the northlands, and it's much more of a fairy tale; it doesnt really give you the impression that it takes place in a world that is kind of a mythic doppelganger of our own (I remember being so excited, back when I was first reading the two towers, when frodo and sam encounter dark men and war elephants from the south, or when tolkien references the orcs at helm's deep climbing up the ladders "like the apes of the southern jungles", I hadnt expected that such things existed in the very english/northern european world of middle earth)
In answer to your question, no I have never seen a helmet like that except on John Howe's Variag, although he also put a horned 'onion dome' helmet on the Persian hero Rostam in one of his paintings, so I would imagine it is not without some sort of historical precedent.
I would certainly imagine there to be a middle earth equivalent of a chinese empire so far out in the east that it never really features the tales of the elves and men of the "northwest part of middle earth" as tolkien refers to it. even a pacific ocean and a north and south america are alluded to at one point (I believe the numenorean sailors are referenced as sailing east around the world and coming to the gates of the sun across an eastern ocean, around california I suppose) but, as you've said, because the more "classically oriental" cultures (chinese japanese, korean) were not really known about by ancient europeans, I think it was largely a mistake to draw from those cultures, as the movies did, for the easterlings, it has the affect of shrinking the world, making it seem smaller, less populated and easier to traverse than it should feel, and yeah I hear you on Merlkir's variags, although I beleive he was working for a gaming company when he did most of the tolkien work on his page, and he remarks once or twice about being asked by higher-ups to spice up his designs. john Howe said something similar in the "art of the lord of the rings" books; that he'd be working on a very straight forward, historically influenced version of a piece of armor and architecture, (alot of his and Lee's unused concepts are better than what made it into the final films IMHO) and would be asked by Jackson or Richard Taylor to make it less "boring." That's a real problem for me with alot of fantasy art, and something I try to avoid. middle earth isnt always the most aesthetically exciting place (very nearly everyone wears cainmail, for one) atleast not for the sensebilities of people used to the gaudy, overblown "epicness" of Warcraft-style fantasy art, where everybody's shoulder guards are as big as garbage cans. It's not "boring," it's subtle, and alot of fantasy artists (especially industry professionals) take this sort of "humanity's greatest hits" approach, where you take the funkiest, most extravagant single case of some costume or decorative piece of armor, throw it together with a few similarly out there bits and pieces from other cultures, and you've got... a standard infantry soldier. some small degree of that is bound to happen, it is fantasy art afterall, but too much of it doesnt work for me.
speaking of funky, I just posted a couple attempts at the Numenorean "karma" one of tolkien's most out-there designs, and one of the few for which he provided visuals. I'm going to make it the first of what i hope to be a rather extensive series of design work on the numenoreans, I'd be interested in your impression.
as always, a real pleasure :D
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2013
Glad you like the idea of blond hair and blue eyes. Keep in mind that there are centuries between both events (Northmen betraying their kindred and the Variags on the Pellenor) so it should be a minority : they probably didn't take most of their women with them (except may be some shieldmaiden if they had the same tradition as their descendants) so they had to mix with the local population.

Yeah I see a lot of civilisations which may have face masks :D :
- Dwarves of course.
- The Eothod : they did business with the Dwarves of the Grey Mountains and Fram had to have something to protect himself against the fierce eyes of the Long-Worm. That will make the difference between the Eothod and the Rohirrim. May be the Rohirrim abandonned the face masks cause of Eorl who was showing his face to the ennemy ?
- The Sindar of the Blue Mountains ?
- The Numenoreans ? Especially Ar-Parazon : as he went older he decided to cover his face with a golden mask, making him look like a fair young man.
- Etc...

Merlkir was working for a mod for a video-game called "Mount & Blade". If you are not in that stuff : a mod is a fan-work that you can download and add to a game to change some part of it. Here it was not changing the basis of the game but it was bringing the universe from a medieval-fantasy world (Calradia) to Middle-Earth. An awesome and huge work, probably making it the best ME video-game ever. So yes the team asked sometimes for something more "spicy" but it's still far above most works of this kind.

And I just have to say that I totally agree with what you said on the ME-style compared to WoW. I'm just bored with "purple-and-golden-heavy-plate-armor" xD
Felipenn Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Amazing as usual!!! I've always imagined them as russian or slavic medieval infantryman, but your interpretation is very good too!!!
I'm loving to see your Tolkien Sketchblog!
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2013  Professional General Artist
good idea! I've always tended to think that broadly assigned identities like "easterling," as far as the very western european edain would be concerned, would begin with eastern european slavic people (or the middle earth equivalent of that genetic type) and basically encompass everything east of them, so yeah slavs, cossacks, magyars, turks, russians, khazars, tatars, huns, mongols, would all fall under the category of "easterling." I'm not overly fond of when people try to break it down, super cut and dried like "there are easterlings and there are variags and there are southrons" there are ofcourse differences, but generally speaking I think of the "evil" men in service to sauron as a huge, broad range of ethnic types, identified simply (and pejoratively) by the men of the west under broad titles like "easterling" or "southron." I'd love to do a drawing of some more slavic, Vlad the Impaler-looking warriors from the east, with curved swords, exotic armors and those wonderful thick, bristling mustaches (I'm doing that for sure), but I guess I always thought of the Varaigs as Persian/Indian just based on their location, east of the (in my mind) rather arabic Near Harad, and south of the very central asian Rhun.
Felipenn Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I would love to see a drawing like this from you! I think that the words "easterling" (and the others...) refers to various different ethnic peoples too, like the Persian armies during the Greek wars. I think that Tolkien did it porposely, to make it sound like "pagans", "barbarians"and any other names like this that we constantly find in the ancient books.
Sure, the movie contributed to fix the "single kingdom" East in the minds of fans, but this is inevitable...
I have tons of old sketches here from before the movies, I'll see if I find some worthy of posting here, if so, I would like you to take a look at them!
Really like your art!
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