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The New Notion Club Archives

A mysterious people about whom little was known - they shared characteristics of both dwarves and men, suggesting an ancient union between the two races; indeed, they have been called "half-dwarves".

The Umli dwelt in the cold North of Middle-Earth, to the East of the Forodwaith.

an Umit

Description

Like the Men called Forodwaith, said to be their partial kin, the Umli are masters of the Far North. They live in the pinewoods and highlands to the east of the Forodwaith and the Barl Syrnac, in the bitterly cold regions of North-Central Middle-Earth. The Umli remain in these cold wilds year-round, housing in caves wherever they discover them and braving the terrible frosts of the dark winter. Unlike purely Mannish folk, they can withstand the chillest temperatures and thrive in icy gales such as those that sweep southward off of the Encircling Sea. Even the Forodwaith can hardly compare in hardihood, as the Umli are said to sleep in blizzards without harm, where a Forodwian would freeze without shelter. Umli tribes range far out across the lands others call wastes, and they subsist by hunting, fishing, and gathering- They are unparalled foragers. Subsisting on the wild meats of Norsu and other such beasts of the ice-locked north, and on edible plants that others might never even see, the Umli exploit virtually every gift offered by the land.

The Nature of the Umli

The origin of the Umli is rather mysterious. They are known as Half-dwarves, and while it is obvious that they descend from a union of Men and Dwarves, the nature of this union is veiled in legend. There is, however, no doubt that it took place after the awakening of the former people during the early First Age. The people of that age recorded a history regarding the event, said to be the result of a curse on the valiant wife of Cintapher of Hildorien. Her name was Sinuphel, and her twin offspring, Ucin and Ulaphel, were the first blend of Man and Dwarf-blood. From whence it came, few knew in thos days, but it may be that, to escape her wrathful husband, Sinuphel sought out the Stiffbeards housed in the Spine of Arda, and became enamoured of one of their number, bearing his child. Whatever the source of their blood, be it curse or mingled breeding, the ignorant Men of Hildorien believed her children merely to be malformed monstrosities.

Ostracized by her Secondborn kin, Sinuphel fled northward with her diminutive children and settled in the land later known as Urd, and regarded by the Umli as homeland. There, she raised Ucin and Ulaphel until she was slain by the Cold-drake Lamthanc. By chat time the twins had both hardly reached the age of ten, and yet proved strong and wise, sufficient to survive on their own. Ucin drove Lamthanc, through clever arts and by heating the beast's lair with fires, northward into the Iron Mountains and took the lair for their home. Yet neither Ucin nor Ulaphel could break the curse inherited from their mother. Ucin would therefore later seek out a Dwarf-maiden to wed, while his sister Ulaphel chose to breed with a Forodwian hunter. Their children in turn married in like fashion, and when several generations had passed, such that relations would be distant enough to enable proper breeding, they mingled with one another, and so began the race called the Umli. These Half-Dwarves nonetheless never flourished and always remained few in number, as a survival tactic if nothing else; while they loved their children as deeply as other Men, they bore few in the face of the dangerous colds and environments of the north, in which a disadvantaged youth could survive not long. As a result their families were generally small, despite their long lives of 200 years, though those that found sufficient shelter sometimes bore far more children and large families indeed. Militarily, their methods of war were generally quite primitive, limited to guerilla tactics, and they seldom threatened the Myr and Urdar who later settled in the nearby forests.

Appearance:

Stocky and only four to five feet in height, Umli resemble the Naugrim. They are stout and stocky, with ruddy skin, thick brows, penetrating blue eyes, and red to brown hair. Males keep their hair long and all grow flowing beards from youth on, for like the Dwarves, the Umli take pride in their dense locks, trimming and braiding them carefully. They also share with Dwarves a large and bulbous nose; useful underground in stuffy tunnels to the Dwarves, and useful above it for heating cold air to the Umli. Still, these folk can be distinguished from their Dwarvish kin because of their greater bulk and less truncated limbs. In addition, while Dwarves employ elaborately-decorated and fortified armor and often adorn themselves with richly-colored hoods, scarves, capes, belts, boots, and other decorative garb, Half-dwarves invariably appear rather drab; they are a very pragmatic folk. They shun ostentacious displays of color and cherish the utilitarian. In keeping with their usual conditions, Umii wear fur-lined coats of hide over thick hair-shirts and trousers. Their heavy boots, mittens, and large hoods keep their extremeties shielded from cold, for it is harsh wind-- not the temperature-- that bothers Half-dwarves. Protected against anything from a draft to a hurricane, Umli are capable of roaming the ice plains even during the worst of nocturnal winter storms, and a tired family could even rest in the midst of a gale.

Culture:

All of the Umli are semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers. For some, like the Ular-shi, fishing is their principal source of food. Others like the Dumalir prefer to hunt big game and rely on red meat for most of their diet. Moving along well-defined tracks between a network of comfortable delvings, the average Lat of Umli maintains over two dozen homesites. They remain in an area until they temporarily exhaust its resources. Then, they pack up their sledges and push on to a refreshed territory. Each of their homesites serves as more than a mere shelter. Most contain mines and smithies, and at least one is utilized as a ceremonial site and a permanent repository of recorded knowledge. Another shelters burial pits, which enable the Umli to return their dead to the sacred earth to which all Umli feel spirtitually bound. The Lat's Mahladom adjoins the cavern that protects the tombs of the group's dead. This carefully-hewn chamber is always shaped like a belk Here, the Umli worship Eru, whom they call Odanal, as well as the Powers that serve him. As among the Naugrim, the Umli revere Aule above all other Valar. They call the Smith "Mahlic," as Mahal is known in the Umitic tongue, and pay tribute to him as their Patron, but do not recognize him as their Father.

Outlook:

Rituals play an exceptionally important part in daily Umli life. In order to survive in the dangerous North, among the presence of Dragons and other Morgothic legacies, the Umli have developed a rigid, patrilineal society. Grim, quiet, possessive, stubborn, persevering, and fierce, they are an unyielding and determined race. The Umli travel and hunt with the same band their entire adult lives. (Wives live among the extended family of their husbands.) They marry only once, enduring a ceremony that lasts seven days and tests the male's ability to survive and support his mate. Even Umli friendships are formalized. After trading blood in a so-called "Bonding Ritual," Umli acquaintances become friends by exchanging all their mobile possessions, save their clothing and one heirloom. They even trade secondary names. This exceptional act requires the two friends to commit to one another's survival, to accept the fact that each is willing to die for the other. Always active, the Umli sleep but three hours a day. The rest of the time they hunt, mine, engage in craftwork, or spin sagas thai teach the young lessons about life and culture in Umli society.

The Five Umlati:

There are fourteen Lati (groups) of the Umli. Each is aligned with one of five larger units called "Umlati," occupying its own particular geographical and/or sociological niche. The followingis a general breakdown on their social structures:

  • Fosir-Tasir, Sasir in Dir, Umtasir-dialect,seven Lati
  • Dumalir,Mulir-Taiga, Umulir-dialect, two Lati
  • Ular-Khi, Dunirl- and Til-Taiga,Ular-dialect, two Lati
  • Shasir,Sasnar-Woodland, Shardak-dialect, one Lati
  • Ushahir, Ushashasir-Tundra,Umli-dialect, two Lati

Portions of the six Lots in Dir scarcely remain, though representatives exist now in eastern Sasir and southern Mulir. Dominated by the Ulair Hoarmurath.Dir is now an uninviting land. Hoarmurath's minions have ruthlessly hunted the Umli. Of the Five Umlati, only the Sashir ever succumbed to the stength of Morgoth. Terrorized by the demonic Lassaraukar (Q."Demons of the Leaves", "Leaf-demons"; sing. "Lassarauko"; S."Lethryg"; sing. "Lathrog"), this highly unified Umlat followed; the lead of their Shaman, Ikus Hust, and swore allegiance to the Black Enemy near the end of the Elder Days. Their homeland in the forest of northwestern Urd became a dominion of Evil, and the Sashir warred on all their neighbors, including their brethren While freed from bondage after the fall of Morgoth, they remain; ostracized. The Fustir-gost were a people related to the Umli but they had parted ways with the Umli's ancestors at an early time and were not considered part of any of the five Umlati, although both peoples recognized each other as kinsmen.

Umli of Renown

Ancanli Aluenda Bais Ikûs Hust Khazí Kôma Sinuphel Ucaphel Ucas Ucin Ulaphel Ulaphel II Ulas Tôst Unkûs Urai

Speculations

MERPs Umli are most likely based on the short description of the unknown Easterling People that appeared at the Battle of Pelennor, "(...)swarthy Easterlings who have beards like dwarves and wield great axes(...)". It has been much of a speculation if the suggested origins of the Umli as represented in the legend of Ucin and Ulaphel can be considered true or have to be seen as a twisted legend. Tolkien´s original Writings would make an intermixture of Dwarves and Hildor highly unlikely. Considering this it would be appropiate to consider the Umli a rather exotic Easterling people who, maybe in ancient days, had befriended one of the eastern Dwarf-tribes, probably the Stiffbeards, and were culturally influenced by them. This may have led to alienation with the other Easterling tribes and may have spawned the legend of the "half-dwarves".The Sashar, the tribe which came under the dominion of the dark Lord, may have been the ancestors of the Axe-Easterlings who fought on behalf of Sauron in the war of the Ring. Another hint that the half-dwarvish origin of the Umli is untrue is given in the supposed origin story of the Fustir-gost who are said to be descendants of the Umli but are considered normal men and not dwarf-blooded.

The Umlir, described in some fan-fiction, seem to have been invented to represent the descendants of the older Umli and the not-named bearded and axe-wielding Easterling-Folk mentioned by Tolkien.