59. Madness in Middle Earth during The Third Age
AUG. 29, 2022
In this one-off special Ryan takes us to Middle-Earth to learn the history of wizards and elves, and investigate the topic of madness! Discover the sad end of Sharkey, witness the grief of a widowed king, and dive deep into the disturbing mind of a peculiarly precious hobbit!
In a special episode of History Happened Everywhere, Ryan left the Earth as we know it in order to dive into the history of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, on the topic of Madness in the 3rd Age.
Middle-Earth, otherwise known as Ennorath or Endor, is the main continent on a mythical ancient past version of Earth called Arda.
It’s a big place, estimated to be roughly 3 million square miles (about 4.9 million square km), equivalent to our own mainland Europe. It has a variety of different landscapes from beautiful green countryside, to coastal plains, ancient forests, rivers, mountains, and even a volcano called Mount Doom, but a lot of the map remains a myster, with regions in the far north remaining unexplored and rumours of a mythical desert yet undiscovered.
Over the years, the continent has been home many intelligent species, including elves, orcs, dwarfs, wizards, dragons, wargs, ents, hobbits and humans (known as The Men). Unsurprisingly this resultsin a number of native languages, including: Elven, Entish, the Black Speech, Rhorric, Westron, Valarin, a'doon-ike (Adûnaic), and kuzdool (Khuzdul) - which is the secret language of Dwarves.
Today though, Middle-Earth is almost entirely occupied by humans, of which there are estimated to be around 2-3.5 million.
Middle-Earth doesn’t have a capital, but the best fit would probably be Gondor, which is a kingdom described as ‘the greatest realm of Men’. The currency in Gondor is the Castar – with the tharni being a quarter of that and the flag of Gondor has a solid black or blue background with the image of seven stars over a white tree
Gondor even has a national anthem of sorts, called ‘The Song of Gondor’ it was sung by King Elessar Telcontar after the death of his friend, and it showcases his love and longing for Gondor.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, better known as J.R.R. Tolkein and his son Christopher, have collected 3,600 pages of detailed history on the world
JRR was a South African writer, poet and academic, who devoted himself to Catholicism, fought in the first world war and taught himself Danish, Dutch, French, German, Gothic, Greek, Italian, Latin, Lombardic, Middle and Old English, Old Norse, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Welsh and Medieval Welsh.
In Middle-Earth, Elves were married through the act of sex, and were almost always monogamous, despite having a high sex drive.
Hobbits were the only race with a postal system
Tolkien, once famously said, "I'm very fond of a beer".
History of Middle-Earth
Before there was anything, when the creator of all existence and supreme being of the universe, a God called Eru Ilúvatar, made the first beings with a thought. These were the immortal angelic spirits which become known as the Ainur, the most powerfuil of them were called the Valar, and their lesser powerful brothers / servants - the Maiar.
The Ainur sang such beautiful music that the universe, Eä, was created and within it a disc-shaped, flat-earth world called Arda.
But one of the Ainur, a being called Melkor, encouraged some of his brethren to sing off-tune and the world was made imperfectly.
At it’s start, the surface of Arda was lifeless and barren, with just one super-continent in the middle of the disc-world, surrounded by an encircling sea.
With the world created, Melkor and fourteen other Ainur descended onto it. Melkor claimed the world as his own, but the other Valar rejected this in favour of one of the other Valar becoming Lord.
This slight upset Melkor and so he did his best to prevent the Valar from shaping the world, fighting them at every step until a more powerful Valar descended to Arda to help the others, when Melkor fled.
In his absence, the remaining Valar got to work, constructing two large lamps at the north and south poles, whose glow caused animals and forests to appear. But so did Melkor, who this time brought some Maiar servants for support
Melkor built a fortress surrounded by mountains, and used it to launch an attack and destroying the lamps, causing darkness to fall across Arda.
In the darkness, the super-continent split into three lands.. Middle-Earth, as the original continent was named, remained in the middle. The uninhabited lands or Land of the Sun moved to the East, and the land of Aman moved to the West.
With Melkor on Middle-Earth, the rest of the Valar moved to Aman and built a new kingdom, settling there under the light of two giant trees.
There eagles, walking trees called Ents, and Dwarves, were created, but the Valar kept them in stasis awaiting the arrival of the Elves.
And this day came when the Valar illuminated Middle-Earth using star light, bringing forth the Elves, awakening the other creatures and beginning the period of time known as The First Age.
The First Age
Unfortunately for the newly-minted elves, Melkor enslaved them, turning them by torture and pain into dark creatures known as Orcs.
The Valar decide enough is enough and travel to Middle-Earth, attack Melkor, capture him and bring him to their home on Aman.
A number of uncorrupted Elves go with them and settle there too, where an Elf called Fëanor captures the light of the two trees in three gem stones called the Simarils.
After a while, Melkor is released, but with the help of a giant spider, he steals the three simarils and leaves Aman to hide with them on Middle-Earth. With the Simarils gone, the world turns dark once again.
To address this, the Valar decide to create the moon and the sun and light returns to Arda. Some of the Elves, led by Fëanor, decide to go after Melkor, who they now call Morgoth - and thus starts the War of the Great Jewels.
When the Elves arrive on Middle-Earth though, Fëanor was killed and his sons established several kingdoms. Eventually they attack Morgoth’s fortress, maintaining a siege for hundreds of years, which resulted in a time of peace on Middle-Earth
It was during this peace, humans first appeared.
The siege dragged on, until 13,000 years ago, Morgoth broke free and set out to destroy each of the eleven kingdoms, devastating the world but losing one of the Simarils in the process.
Facing extermination, the Elves ask the Valar for help – and they agree, leaving Aman, and starting The War of Wrath, which ends with Morgoth’s defeat and subsequent punishment of being thrown into the void.
So, 12,462 years ago, The Second Age began.
The Second Age
The few remaining Elves left Middle-Earth and returned to Aman. The humans who helped Morgoth were banned from coming to Aman, but those who remained faithful were gifted an island in the great sea - there they built a kingdom.
The island men weren’t content to stay on the island though and soon learned to travel the seas – venturing forth to share their wisdom and skills with men who remained on Middle-Earth. This success went to their heads and they eventually decided they were worthy of the Elves’ power of immortality.
Meanwhile, Morgoth’s chief servant, a being called Sauron, had survived the war of wrath, and in disguise sought out a group of Elves and taught them how to craft several magic rings – these became known as the Rings of Power
In total, they made Seven rings for the Dwarves, Nine rings for the Men, and three rings for the Elves. But then, hidden away, Sauron secretly forged another more powerful ring for himself known as ‘The One Ring’. It was Sauron’s plan to use it to control the wearer of the other rings, and through them, the world.
But it didn’t quite work out like that. Despite being able to control the nine ring-wearing Men, Sauron soon found that his power didn’t work on the Dwarves, and the Elves had figured out something was amiss and had removed their rings.
So, going back to more conventional methods, Sauron waged war on the folk of Middle Earth and very nearly wons, his victory averted by the arrival of the sea-faring island Men who rode in and helped destroyed Sauron’s army and forced Sauron to retreat into hiding.
The island men begin to dominate the men of Middle-Earth, building kingdoms there on the mainland until, centuries later, Sauron has recovered and, driven by vengeance, he starts another war.
Which he loses.
Sauron was captured and brought as a prisoner to the island. But unbeknownst to all, this was exactly his plan. Now in place amongs the men, Sauron became a priest in a cult and started to encourage the worship of Morgoth.
He also encourages one of the island Men to attack the Valar by invading Aman, promising that there he will be able to find the immortality the men craved so much.
But the Valar were tipped off by others of the men in advance of Sauron’s attack and the y make a call to Ilúvatar to intervene.
And he certainly does. Ilúvatar really shakes things up – turning the world from a disc to a sphere and removing the ability for anyone other than Elves to access Aman, destroying the island and Sauron.
But Sauron’s spirit lived on. He travels in his ghostly form back to his fortress on Middle-Earth where he puts on The One Ring and slowly regains his strength.
And what’s he regaining his strength for? Another war of course.
Once again, Sauron is defeated, suggesting that perhaps he wasn’t as good at being an all-conquering evil as he thought. This time, he even has his ring-finger is chopped off and the One Ring with it, captured by the Men who determine to keep it rather than destroy it.
This doesn’t last long, though, and the ring is soon lost when it falls into a river.
And this waterlogged-jewellery moment marks the start of the Third Age, about 9,000 years ago.
The Third Age
After the defeat of Sauron, many of the Elves return to Aman but a few remain on Middle-Earth.
Then, 8,000 years ago, five angelic beings called the Istari arrive on Middle-Earth – they take on human form and become known as Wizards.
Centuries later, a hobbit, which is a small human-like person, finds Sauron’s Ring, a great plague sweeps across Middle-Earth and half the population is killed.
With his ring back in play, Sauron returns to strength and starts to build alliances.
Meanwhile, the ring changes hands and falls in the possession of another hobbit, one Bilbo Baggins, who was out on a quest to help some Dwarves recover a great treasure from a vicious dragon.
Perhaps fortunately for Bilbo, he thinks the ring only grants the wearer the power of invisibility, and is oblivious to its true nature.
Years later, Bilbo gifts The One Ring to his nephew, Frodo. And thus begins one of the greatest adventures in the history of Middle Earth.
Frodo joins a fellowship of hobbits, elves, dwarfs, and men and together they set out on a mission to destroy the ring by throwing it into the lava of Mount Doom.
Sauron tries to stop them and the fellowship falls apart, leaving Frodo and his friend to complete the mission – which they do despite huge odds, destroying the ring and Sauron.
The Fourth Age
The fourth age begins 6000 years ago – a time where Elves and Dwarves fade away and the little hobbits are hunted by men for sport. Eventually, Middle-Earth eventually becomes a place solely inhabited by humans.
Over the next 5,000 years, the continent of Middle-Earth breaks up again and the face of Arda starts to look similar to our present-day Earth.
As for the future, legend has it that Morgoth will return from the void and launch a final destructive war - Dagor Dagorath – the Final Battle.
It is said that this clash will end with Morgoth’s total destruction and Ilúvatar’s second song which will rebuild the world – but perfectly this time.
So that’s something to look forward to.
The word Madness originates in the 13th century from the Old English, gemædde, which means being "out of one's mind".
Doctors of the past used the word to describe the mental health of patients that were acting outside of ‘normality’.
Such as being ‘Mad as a March hare’, a popular phrase which appeared in the 1520s as a way of describing people who acted in a crazed manner – similar to a rabbit running around excitedly during breeding season
Or ‘Mad as a Hatter’, a phrase that appears in 1829, and describes someone who is "demented or enraged". Supposedly this originated with the idea that people who made felt hats would sometimes display erratic and crazed behaviour as a result of exposure to poisonous doses of the mercuric-nitrate they used in making the hats.
Or a ‘Mad Scientist’ a term being used in 1891 to describe an eccentric or insane scientist.
In today’s usage the word ‘madness’ is still used by the public, you might hear people say in passing that they’re going mad, or being driven mad with jealousy, or that the UK leaving Europe was madness, but not by doctors or health professionals in reference to mental health.
‘Madness’ as a catch all term to describe mental illness is understood today to be both inaccurate and unhelpful. There are many mental health conditions – each differently affecting a person’s emotions, thinking or behaviour and their ability to function.
Doctors today have access to a much wider variety of categorisation with ‘diagnostic labels’ include terms such as autism, schizophrenia, dementia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), in use.
That said, the rise in diagnostic labelling comes accompanied by an increase in use by non-professionals and armchair analysts, which can be unhelpful.
But that doesn’t stop History Happened Everywhere in this episode, but given the ‘patients’ are fictional characters and the analysis that follows is conducted for entertainment purposes only, we think it’s probably ok.
The story of Saruman
At the end of the second age, shortly after Sauron's first defeat, a council was called by the leader of the Valar who was concerned that while Sauron had been overthrown, he had not completely disappeared.
The council decided to respond to the threat by sending five powerful Maiar to Middle-Earth as emissaries to help the Men and Elves unite against Sauron.
It was agreed that the five would appear in the form of men, “forgoing their might, and clothing themselves in flesh."
One of these Maiar, called Curumo volunteered to lead the group. However, when he was introduced to the rest of the team, he had a problem. Olórin, Aiwendil, Alatar and Pallando were not his idea of the A-Team.
And this frustration got worse when he was forced to accept Olorin as his second-in-command.
Nevertheless, the group came to Middle-Earth, arriving separately and introducing themselves to the humans and elves, who called them ‘Wizards’, possibly because of their pointy hats and staffs.
In an effort to fit in, they also took on new names:
o Curumo became ‘Saruman’
o Olorin was called ‘Gandalf’
o Aiwendil became ‘Radagast’, and
o Alatar and Pallando just became known as ‘The Blue Wizards’
One person on Middle-Earth, an elf named Cirdan the shipwright, knew who these wizards really were and why they were there. He also knew that Saruman was the leader of the group, but he was not a Saruman fan.
In fact, he thought that Gandalf, the second-in command, was the wisest and greatest of all of the wizards. So he gave Gandalf a gift - ‘the ring of fire’, one of the Rings of Power which had originally been made by Sauron for the Elves; a ring which had the power to inspire others and resist tyranny, domination and despair. And it didn’t look bad on the finger either.
When Saruman found out about Cirdan’s gift to Gandalf he was displeased and his resentment of Gandalf grew in intensity.
1500 years later, Sauron’s return to power prompted Saruman to form The White Council, a group determined to stop Sauron in his tracks.
Saruman appointed himself their leader, as he was wont to do. However, the council were divided. Galadriel, one of the greatest of the Elves, suggested instead that Gandalf be given the top job.
Saruman refused to step down – but division was averted when Gandalf declined the job in any event.
But the damage was done. Saruman concluded that the only thing which could help him cement his position as the most powerful of the wizards was Sauron’s One Ring.
But he also feared that Gandalf had similar ideas. So Saruman sent spies to follow him and report back.
Saruman even disguised himself for a spy mission once, but he got caught out and relied on others to spy for him after that
Anyway, during this time, Saruman had settled into a place called Isengard where he found in a tower with a magical glass ball in it, known as a Palantir. This crystal ball had magical powers and allowed the holder to communicate over long distances and spy on people. But sometimes, those you spy on, spy back.
Meanwhile, Gandalf had been doing some digging, and found confirmation that Sauron was indeed back to his old tricks, and so he approached the White Council to tell them. They proposed an urgent plan to attack Sauron - but Saruman decided against it.
Why? Well Gandalf for one suspected an ulterior motive. And he was right (the don’t call him ‘the wise’ for nothing). Saruman had vetoed the attack because he wanted Sauron to build up enough strength such that The One Ring would reveal itself, at which point he could swoop in and nab it for himself
Not necessarily a band plan - because a hundred years later, Sauron was indeed stronger and the ring was soon to be back on the scene. At this point, Saruman recalled the White Council, and told them the time was right to attack .
Remember ‘sometimes they spy back’? Well Sauron devised a plan to contact Saruman through the Palantir, messing with his mind and making him servant to his evil will.
So, with renewed vigour, Saruman took over a nice tower at Isengard, built up an army of Orcs, and started making trouble.
Enter the One Ring.
Gandalf found the One Ring in the shire and rushed to tell Saruman the news. At which point Saruman told him that he was now pals with Sauron and, terribly sorry, but he was going to have to attack and imprison his old friend Gandalf.
But Gandalf escaped and told the White Council of Saruman’s deception and, at the same time, Sauron also learned that Saruman secretly planned to get the ring for himself as well, so he disowned him too.
Abandoned by everyone and now on his own, Saruman gave up all pretence at playing nice and doubled efforts to capture the ring – sending his army of orcs across Middle-Earth to attack, torture or kill anyone who stood in his way.
This was not a great success. The forces of good attacked him at Isengard and the place was destroyed, leaving Saruman hidden inside his tower and refusing to come out and face the music.
Gandalf expelled Saruman from the order of Wizards by breaking his staff and cutting off his access to the executive bathroom.
Powerless and alone, Saruman finally left his tower, going on to spend his final days as a small-time criminal known as Sharkey, until he was finally murdered.
That said, Saruman (Sharkey) was still a Maia, which meant that when his physical body died - his spirit separated. So he kind of lived for a while. Sad for Saruman though, when normally a Maia spirit would be resurrected, Saruman’s spirit was refused this – and he spent the rest of his days wandering powerless, never to return to Middle-Earth.
Right from the start, Saruman thinks highly of himself, he is eager to apply for the important job of lead emissary to Middle-Earth, thinking that he deserves the position more than anyone else.
When he is not put in charge, he reacts with contempt towards his newly appointed team mates, in fact, looking down on almost everyone as inferior to himself.
Saruman monopolizes conversations, he fails to recognise the needs of others, he expects unquestioning compliance, he tries to take advantage of others to get what he wants, he is impatient and angry and prone to flying into a rage
This pattern of inflexible mental behaviour is commonly characterised by those diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
Could he have benefited from intensive therapy? Maybe. Would that have made for a gripping novel? Probably not.
The story of Denethor
Shortly after the dark lord Sauron turned the wizard Saruman to his cause, the city of Gondor got a new steward, which is like king.
This new steward, a man of great wisdom, was called Ecthleion II. He spent his years strengthening Gondor's defences, generally being a noble leader for his people, and becoming the proud father of three children, one of which was a son, named Denethor.
Over the years, Ecthelion made many powerful and loyal friends, including the wizard Gandalf and a man named Thorongil - both of which he held in great esteem, bringing them into his inner circle and bestowing gifts and honours.
But Ecthelion’s son, Denethor, grew jealous of his father’s friends, wishing that his father would spend more time with him instead of them. Which happens.
His resentment towards his father grew stronger. But life went on, and Denethor fell in love, married, and had two sons - Boromir and Faramir
When Ecthelion eventually died, Denethor replaced him, becoming Denethor II. Just four years into his reign though, his wife lost a battle to ill-health and died
Denethor was devastated by this loss and grieved deeply for his lost wife. He never remarried and became more and more grim and silent, sitting alone in his tower deep in thought, obsessing about Sauron.
Desperate to know what was happening with the Dark Lord, Denethor started to use a Palantir to keep a close watch on Sauron.
Unfortunately, exposure to the ball’s magic prematurely aged him and combined with the constant grief he experienced from the loss of his wife, Denethor became increasingly unhealthy, both physically and mentally.
That being said, he still had the wherewithal to put time and effort into making sure that Gondor was well defended, but when Sauron did eventually attack the preparations just weren’t good enough, and Denethor had to watch in horror as certain doom closed in
This despair grew profoundly deeper when his favourite son Boromir was killed in battle.
And when his remaining son, Faramir was severely wounded, Denethor was on the edge. He looked to the Palantir for any signs of hope, but Sauron used this as an opportunity to trick Denethor, showing him a false vision of the fall of Gondor.
Denethor fell for the trick, saw disaster ahead and gave up all hope.
His heart broken and all hope vanished, he ordered his men to build a great funeral pyre for him and his wounded son Faramir to lay on in a final blazing act of fiery suicide.
Fortunately for Faramir he was saved in the last moment by Gandalf, but Denethor remained in the flames and as his body burned, so his stewardship of Gondor ended
In some severe cases though, as it appears with Denethor, grief is overwhelming, leading to patterns of unhealthy behaviour. The prolonged intensity of his loss results in expressions of anger and pain, pushing him ever deeper into depression and eventually starting to lose contact with reality.
These psychotic symptoms though might not just be the result of grief. Denethor’s distant relationship with his father and the jealousy he had towards the closeness his father had with others could well have led Denethor to feelings of abandonment.
Either way, it seems undeniable that the effects of his grief affected his mental health over a long time, impacting his behaviour and ultimately resulting in a deadly act of extreme violence.
The story of Smeagol
Hobbits were an ancient race of people – usually no more than 4 feet tall with slightly pointed ears and furry feet with leathery soles.
Native to Middle-Earth, Hobbits mostly lived in a place called The Shire, a green and verdant land in the north-west region of Eriador.
Smaller groups of hobbits existed outside of the Shire too, like the Harfoots who lived in the foothills of mountains, the Fallohides who lived in the northern forests, and The Stoor, a group of hobbits who lived in swampier areas.
Physically heavier and broader in build than other hobbits, The Stoor had large hands and feet and were the only hobbits to grow facial hair and also had their own dialect of Hobbitish too.
One Stoorish hobbit, called Smeagol, spent his early years living as a member of a wealthy and influential family under the firm hand of his grandmother - a wise woman who was influential among the river folk.
Nothing much is known about Sméagol's birth or schooling, but we do know that he was a lonely boy who enjoyed making mischief and spending time burrowing under trees to look at roots. He was generally spiteful to others and had only one friend - a cousin called Deagol.
Hobbits tended to live longer than men, and were generally only considered an adult when they turned 33 years old and on Smeagol’s 33rd birthday, he decided to celebrate the day in the company of Deagol, so they went fishing together.
On their trip, Deagol caught a fish that was so large it pulled him right out of the boat and into the water. While submerged, Deagol happened to spot a gold ring lying on the river-bed.
Ooh, a ring.
He showed it to Smeagol, who was mesmerised.
Smeagol demanded that Deagol give the ring to him for a birthday present, but when he refused, Smeagol flew into a rage and fought with his cousin. The fight intensified, and ended Smeagol strangling his only friend to death.
Sméagol put on the ring and discovered that it was a magic ring and could turn him invisible, which was handy after just having committed murder.
The community discovered the truth behind his role in Deagol’s death and banished him from their land.
With the ring as his only friend, Smeagol found a new home in a cave in the depths of the Misty Mountains.
There, the power of the Ring kept Smeagol alive much longer than a normal hobbit would and he lived inside the cave for over four hundred years –– eating raw fish, bats and small goblins.
ver the centuries, Smeagol started to hate the outside world and his body adapted to the dark, turning his skin pale-yellow, and making his eyes grow large and bulbous.
It was during this time that Smeagol also started to develop another personality - a personality that was slave to the ring.
His old and new personalities would often argue with each other. Particularly on the day when, during an argument with a cave goblin, he lost the One Ring.
But that ring would not stay lost for long. Another Hobbit called Bilbo Baggins had found it as he navigated his way through the network of caves on a mission to steal gold from a dragon.
Smeagol discovered Bilbo had the ring but, after a round of riddling that Bilbo won, he let him go.
But he couldn’t let the ring go. Years later, Gollum finds the courage to finally leave his cave, determined to recover the ring and eventually he headed underground, into Moria - the abandoned ancient realm of the Dwarves.
Here he waited here until, by chance, another hobbit came his way, a hobbit called Frodo Baggins. Accompanied by a fellowship of warriors, Frodo just happened to be carrying The One Ring, a gift from his uncle Bilbo, and was now on a mission to destroy the ring in the lava of mount doom.
Gollum took pursuit.
When Frodo was vulnerable, Gollum seized the opportunity to take back the ring, but was captured and nearly killed, until Frodo took pity on him and showed him some rarely experienced kindness.
In return for this kindness, Gollum agreed to help the hobbit on his mission and together they make their way to Mount Doom.
All was well for a while, until Frodo briefly allowed Gollum to be taken prisoner. Gollum felt betrayed by his new friend - and the darker side of his personality took over.
He reconciled with Frodo, only to lead him to a giant spider whom he hoped would kill the hobbit. But Frodo managed to escape.
Undeterred, Gollum followed Frodo to the top of Mount Doom and attacked him just as he was struggling to drop the ring into the lava.
They fought and Gollum won, by biting off Frodo’s finger and taking back his precious ring.
For a second.
For a second.
For one second, an overjoyed Gollum danced on the edge of the volcano. Then he stumbled and fell, with the ring, into the boiling lava.
The ring and its final bearer were both destroyed.
It’s fair to say Smeagol / Gollum could be described as having a substantial number of mental health issues. But, in his defence, was it his mental health, or that evil ring he insisted on wearing?
As Gollum he frequently shows hatred for himself, calling himself a murderer, liar, and thief. Which he is, of course.
He appears to have difficulty controlling his thoughts and actions, he is obsessive and paranoid and shows signs of dissociation, sometimes labelled as multiple personality disorder, but is more accurately referred to today as a Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID.
Worth also considering is diet, which has been shown to contribute to mental wellbeing – Gollums diet of raw fish, bats and goblins would likely cause a severe lack of Vitamin B-12, which is known to cause irritability, delusions, and paranoid psychosis.
Given his symptoms, some people might also diagnose Gollum with schizophrenia, which is a serious mental disorder where reality gets interpreted abnormally for a person, they might experience delusions and extremely disordered thinking – and sometimes this can lead to violence.
Or maybe, just maybe, poor Gollum had nothing more than a severe addiction to The One Ring.