Wood Woses Picture

ah the pukel-men, one of tolkien's more unexpected, and quietly beautiful creations.

there's a lot of thinking among anthropologists that the myths of trolls, giants, ents ect, so prevalent in northern europe, probably had their origin in received stories, passed down for hundreds of generations, of early modern man's interactions with the then-dwindling race of neanderthals at the end of the last ice age (William Golding wrote a wonderful little book about it called "The Inheritors") Like all big fish stories, trolls like the ones we know from The Hobbit or the three Billy Goats Gruff are the result of thousands of years of exaggeration (i very much doubt neanderthals could smell the blood of christians, or would turn to stone in sunlight) but the folktales do paint a fairly consistent picture of lumbering, heavy featured, primitive 'others', like us but not so, sometimes gentle in nature, sometimes violent and cannibalistic, sometimes magical, usually more intuitive than intellectual, and living in a close, intimate relationship with the natural world around them. tolkien's middle-earth (being a world of essentially northern european fairie tale) is rife with many of the more fantastic iterations of troll mythology; the angry, stone hurling mountain giants, the greenman-like ents, guardians of the forests, and of course the trio thorin & co run afoul of (whose species, it is remarked, has been known on occasion, like the trolls of scandinavian folk tales, to grow multiple heads) but in the pukel-men tolkien gives us one last version of "trolls", the version that is surely closest to the historical truth.

Ghan Buri Ghan's people are a squat, primitive and, most importantly, withdrawn people. they've been around since the earliest days of mankind, but are unlike any other men, and have been pushed, chased, and hounded almost into extinction by men on horseback wielding "bright iron," and by the shifting borders of kingdoms and countries over millennia, leaving only legends of strange, ancient creatures. they have almost no technology, but have counted all the trees and all the stars. A popular theory is that the real life neanderthals were killed off by the more advanced, intelligent ancestors of people today, and there's something redemptive, apologetic even, about the men of the Druadan forest aiding the rohirrim on their road to gondor, and being given their privacy and essentially "protected species" status for all time, in reward.

Part of the Weekly Tolkien Sketchblog
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