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Tolkien Gateway > Council > Vexillology

I'm surprised that there is nothing about the many flags and banners of Middle Earth.

Are they appropriate for this wiki?

All flags or banners on the site can be found in this category here.--Breragor (TalkContribsEdits) 02:56, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

Wouldn't it be best to create a page for it, showing he flags and devices, the source, etc. I think I'll try to create one in my sandbox. Grond 10:12, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

This sounds like an excellent idea! I don't know what others think, but I reckon vexillology and heraldry should be separated? --Mith (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 13:29, 26 December 2009 (UTC)
I don't think there is really any use in separating heraldry and vexillology. What there is of both is really so little and so basic that it doesn't reach the point where the difference starts to matter. In any case we have no true coats-of-arms at all, so no proper heraldry, we only have some proto-heraldry. In most cases, we have either an emblem of some sorts, or a banner, in the extremely few cases we have both (Gondor), they are so similar as not to be worth the bother of distinguishing them. -- Mithrennaith 15:05, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
Well, there is quite a wealth of information and I wouldn't want to confuse people. I would separate the two in the following way:-
  1. Heraldry: the 16 or so published devices and other known heraldric information.
  2. Vexilology: flags and banners. This can include the shields of the Twelve Houses of Gondolin, banners and flags used in the films.
I entirely accept that there is a clear link between the two but I actually think (especially looking at the Forodrim article I've mentioned below which doesn't even go into the films) there is a surprising amount of information and I wouldn't want to overwhelm people with information within one article. --Mith (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 21:35, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
Eh, ah, uhm, yes, I see. What threw me off is that used in that sense, the terms ‘heraldry’ and ‘vexillology’ have virtually nothing to do with their meaning in the primary world. The shields of the Houses of Gondolin actually are what comes closest to a coat-of-arms in primary world heraldry, but you put them under vexillology, for instance. In the primary world heraldry and vexillology each have their own set of rules and quite complicated systems of description, not much of that in Arda, certainly not enough to distinguish to such sets or systems. And the banners usually show emblems that can be shown on other backgrounds and objects without any change in meaning or form. So I think using the terms in this way will only add to confusion.
But your distinction really looks quite useful. As I understand it, it separates the Eldarin devices, which form a system with specific rules (the system including a few First Age Atanic devices, but not the Gondolinic shields), from the rest. ‘Elros’ (Måns Björkman) applies the term ‘heraldry’ to that system, presumably precisely because it is a system with rules (and because Christopher and the publishers use the term, see below). But it is not heraldry according to the definition of that science, it is rather what heraldists call ‘proto-heraldry’ or ‘pseudo-heraldry’ (the Japanese system of Mon falls into that category, for instance). The other category is then simply what falls outside Eldarin pseudo-heraldry, and may be called ‘sundry emblems, banners and shields’. There is no reason to associate that category specifically with banners (or flags) nor are there any specific rules for banners, so to call it ‘vexillology’ would be quite misleading. But separating the Eldarin system from the rest makes sense. -- Mithrennaith 11:51, 31 December 2009 (UTC)
Sorry, yes, I didn't mean to confuse. I stuck with "vexilology" because that's what this thread was called and used "heraldry" because that's what CJRT uses. But, you're quite right, neither term is properly correct. Thanks for the bibliographic information below - you are clearly much more knowledgeable than I! --Mith (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 13:56, 31 December 2009 (UTC)

Yeah, this is a good idea. I'm often scrambling to find flags and symbols of the sort, and I usually end up Googling them, so this would be very helpful.--Breragor (TalkContribsEdits) 01:57, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

The silmarion-based square and circle heraldic devices, what is their source? If theose designs were approved by Tolkien, those could serve as a base for other designs. I can easily make custom heraldic devices of the Third Age basing myself on the descriptions from the books. Grond 16:41, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

I think there are some brief descriptions in The Silmarillion itself, but the devices themselves were originally published in Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien ('79?) and then more recently in J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ('95?). And I think they first appeared in The Silmarillion Calendar 1978. Sorry if this is a bit sketchy but bibliographic information isn't my area of expertise. You can view copies of the published ones here and here. A good article on matters of heraldry and banners is Emblems and Heraldry at Forodrim.
Is that the sort of thing you were after? Hopefully it helps! --Mith (Talk/Contribs/Edits) 21:35, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
I've got here a boxed set of Ballantine paperbacks of LotR in three volumes with The Hobbit, the box showing the devices of Elwë, Lúthien (2), Finwë, Fingolfin, Fëanor, Idril and Eärendil, and a Númenórean tile, and marked "Heraldry © George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1973". The books are all September 1973 printings. Exactly the same set appears on The J.R.R. Tolkien Calendar 1974 by Allen & Unwin. That is also "© George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1973", it would have been published in July or August 1973, Tolkien is known to have signed a few copies, before he died on September 2nd, so it presumably predates the Ballantine box. Pictures (1979, yes) says that the devices of Eärendil and Finwë have slightly different forms in Pictures and The Silmarillion Calendar 1978, but that is only true of Finwë’s device, Eärendil’s device is identical in the three sources I have available (1973 box, 1973 calendar, Pictures), but Artist & Illustrator gives a different version. -- Mithrennaith 11:51, 31 December 2009 (UTC)