I have long been fascinated with Dorwinion, the land down the River Running where the Elves of Mirkwood get their especially potent wines. RPG tradition considers the inhabitants Easterlings or Northmen or a mix. Yet Dorwinion is Sindarin for “Young-land Country,” suggesting to me long-lived inhabitants (Elves or Dúnedain or Half-elves), but it could just refer to the fertility of the land. Recently it was asserted that Tolkien wrote “Here may be Entwives” in the Dorwinion area of one map. Since he also stated in Letter 144 that “some [Entwives], of course, may have fled east,” and since we can imagine Dorwinion is a notably fertile land (like the Shire, another land with Entwives connections), this seems at least a good seed for a game. Thoughts?
It seems there is a Dorwinion in Aman (Ælfwine in Tol Eressëa “smelt afar the undying flowers in the meads of Dorwinion” — HME V). It could be Elves named a place in Middle-earth wistfully evoking the “original” — similar to what they did with Lórien.
And in HME III the mention of Noldor drinking the wine of Dor-Winion [sic.] because they can “the vine-clad valleys now view no more in the land of the gods.”
But as with all of Tolkien’s uses and re-uses of names, they are still functional. Both Lóriens are dream-lands and both Minas Tiriths are guard-towers.
Thanks for the Entwives link; I hadn't heard about that. Beautiful map!
I think Dorwinion sticks in our minds is because it one of the few named "civilized" places in the Hobbit that is outside of the main action. It gives greater depth to the Middle-Earth of the Hobbit - the world continues off the edge of the map. It doesn't seem that Tolkien ever really thought about it further. It's too bad he didn't get asked about it a letter and create some more info on it in answer.
One of the few MERP products that I have in print is the "Perils on the Sea of Rhun" (1989). It's one of the modules ("ready to run"), so it mostly focuses on three adventures, but it includes some notes on Dorwinion culture (all ICE-invented/intuited material, of course), as it is one of the regions bordering on the sea. They place it further south than that Entwives map, basically where that map has "Sea of Rhun" written.
The first adventure I ever ran was a total homebrew adventure set in Dorwinion. I loved the idea of a Rhûn-based 4th Age campaign. I wanted to set it in the early 4th Age so LotR characters could still be alive, but I wanted that “Age of Men” feel. I was drawn to Dorwinion because it seemed to have only positive connotations, whereas everything else in the East seems purely hostile and warlike (the Balchoth, the Wainriders, the Variags, probably the Blue Wizards). So in that context, they are a clear opportunity to draw contrast.
I always thought that Dorwinion was inhabited by humans who sold wine to the Wood Elves of Mirkwood. MERP lists them among Men, apparently a mix of Northman and Easterling stock. However, some websites devoted to Middle-earth have speculated whether Elves inhabit Dorwinion.
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Nice find! I need to share this with my friends on the History of the Ages forum.
Bladorthin makes an appearance in MERP, specifically in Lords of Middle-earth vol. 1. He is described as a Sindarin scout/rogue who lived in Dol Amroth and later in Edhellond. The text describes him as a somewhat shady figure who may have been assassinated by his own bodyguards. Yes, I know ICE made it all up, but it's an interesting note anyway.