legolas and eowyn

Minas Athrad

Minas Athrad is based on Orford Castle, Suffolk, England. The following photographs illustrate some of its architectural details.

The exterior:

Minas Athrad


A spiral staircase (left) and part of a mediaeval kitchen, showing the sink (right):



Two mediaeval toilets (left) which would originally have had a wall between and doors on the front; and a mediaeval urinal (a triangular hole through the castle wall), situated just outside the door of the governer's quarters (right):



A mediaeval shower and drain. Servants would have heated water in the fireplace then ladelled it over the person taking the shower. The floor slopes so that the water runs down the drain (right):

Shower fireplacespacerShower drain


A dark corridor...

Scary view


Parts of a castle

Found on the web. It's extensive, but interesting!

allure wall walk along the top of a curtain.
apse semi-circular projection. Tower that is round fronted or u-shaped.
arcade a range of arches.
arch the head of an opening.
armoury a weapons storage room.
arrow slit narrow slit in castle walls for firing arrows.
ashlar building stone neatly trimmed to shape. Stone with cut flat surface.
aumbry a mural cupboard for storing valuables.
bailey defended courtyard or ward of a castle. Open area enclosed by the castle walls. A ward.
balustrade ornamental parapet of posts and railing.
barbican fortified outwork defending the gate of a castle or town.
bar-hole holes behind door to receive timber bar used as door bolt.
barrel vault A vault in the shape of a half barrel split lengthways.
bartizan overhanging corner turret. Small turret.
base-court the outer or lower ward of a castle.
basement a secure storage space.
bastion an open projecting work, at the corner of a fortification.
batter inward and upward slope of a external wall.
battlement jagged stonework protecting the wall walk.
bawn bailey or ward. A defended courtyard of a castle.
bear a tower similar to the belfry.
belfry siege tower; wooden tower mounted on wheels or rollers, often covered with wet hides as protection against fire. Many had drop-bridges at the top, so that attackers could fight their way across on to the towers or wall walks.
bellcote Small gabled or roofed housing for a bell.
berm flat area between base of wall and edge of ditch or moat.
besiege surrounding a castle in order to cut off its supplies and make the occupants surrender.
boss an ornamental projection covering the intersection of the ribs in a vault.
bratticing wooden housing erected on top of walls. When erected on top of towers, sometimes also known as "war-head".
bore iron-tipped battering ram for attacking masonry, also known as pick.
bower the lady's apartment, or suite. Withdrawing-room and sleeping apartment.
brattice a wooden perimeter defence.
buttery room where wine was dispensed from barrels. Bottlery. Usually located between the hall and the kitchen. A store room for provisions.
buttress thickening of a wall for strength and support.
butts targets for town archery practice.
castellation battlements. Implying use as decorative feature.
castle: properly fortified military residence. Derived from the Latin castellum.
Constable title of governor of the castle: also warden, captain, castellan.
corbel projecting stone (or timber) feature on a wall to support an overhanging parapet, platform, turret, etc.
counterscarp outer slope of a defensive ditch.
crenellation fortification- a "license to crenellate" was official permission to raise a fortified building or fortify an existing structure. Jagged protective stonework at the top of a castle wall.
crenels low sections of the battlements.
creasing groove in a wall face insuring a weather proof junction with a roof or chimney which abuts it.
crosslet/crosslit a loophole arranged in the form of a cross.
cruck: curved timber from ground to roof ridge to support the roof.
curtain wall enclosing a bailey, courtyard, or ward, generally constructed in stone.
Custo temporary custodian or governor of a castle or lordship.
dais a raised platform for the high table, at the end of the upper hall.
dernier ressort last refuge in a fortress.
donjon keep or great tower, the main citadel of a castle.
drawbar sliding wooden bar to secure a door in the closed position.
drawbridge a bridge or roadway across a moat or ditch that lifted to make crossing impossible.
dressed stone stones worked into a smooth molded face. Used to outline angles, windows, and doors. Dressings.
drum tower tower that is completely round.
embrasures splayed opening in a wall or parapet. Arrow loops in the merlons.
enceinte enclosure or courtyard.
escalade assault on a wall or palisade by scaling ladders.
Ewerer worker who brought and heated water for the nobles.
facet straight line of defensive walling.
forebuilding projecting defensive work screening entrance of keep or other structure from direct attack.
forestair external open stair, leading to the upper floors.
fosse ditch.
gabion wicker basket filled with earth and/or stone, used in fortifications.
garderobe latrine, toilet or bathroom. A room to store personal items. Wardrobe.
garth courtyard or internal enclosure, open to the sky.
gatehouse strong multi-storeyed structure containing a fortified gate.
Gong Farmer person who cleans the latrine.
groin vault the line which two vaults, running at any angle, meet.
herisson wooden palisade.
hoarding wooden fighting platform fitted to parapet of wall as extra protection for defenders.
hornwork outer earthwork obstacle usually set before an entrance to inpede attackers.
inner ward interior courtyard, hub of castle where daily activities took place.
jamb vertical side of a doorway, window, archway, or fireplace.
keep the main citadel of a castle. A great tower. A fortified tower containing living quarters. A self sufficient tower.
keystone central wedge shaped stone at the top of an arch.
kife tub or vat used in brewing or bleaching. Kive.
lavabo a stone basin for the washing of hands.
light compartment of a window.
lintel horizontal beam or stone placed over the head of a door or window and suporting the wall above.
loophole vertical slit for air, light, or shooting through.
louver/louvre opening in the roof of the hall/turret to let smoke escape from a central hearth.
machicolation openings in floor of projecting parapet or platform along wall or above archway, through which defenders could drop or shoot missiles vertically on attackers below. Murder holes.
mangonel siege engine for hurling heavy stones.
mantle simple curtain wall without towers.
mantlet wall wall covering or protecting an entranceway or courtyard.
Mark unit of account, though not a coin, valued at 13s. 4d.
mason's mark cut on dressed stone by a mason to identify his work.
merlon the "teeth" of battlements, between the crenels or embrasures. High sections of battlements.
mezzanine floor or landing between two main storeys. Entresol.
moat water-filled ditch around the castle. A body of water around the castle.
molding continuous ornamental contour formed on a surface or bevelled edge.
motte artificial or improved natural mound on which castle was built.
mullion vertical member dividing a window.
mural stairs stone stairs in the wall.
murder holes openings in the roofs of passageways through which missiles and liquids could be dropped onto attackers.
newel stair circular or winding stair. The treads radiate from a central post or column called a newel.
Noble a third of a pound, or half a Mark. The sum of 6s. 8d.
offset slope or ledge on a wall or buttress where the upper face is set back.
ogee double curve, partly concave partly convex, usually a window or door.
oillet an eye hole. Roundel at the end of a cross shaped arrow loop.
ope opening.
oratory a small private chamber for prayer.
oriel large projecting window supported on corbels.
oubliette tiny cell where prisoners were left to die. Secret chamber.
palisade wooden fence used for a fortification.
parados the inner or rear wall of a wall-walk.
parapet protective wall on outer side of wall walk.
penthouse covered passage, built of stout(strong) timber and covered with raw hides, which protected soldiers or workmen when constructing a sap or mine within the range of the enemy, or those building a causeway across a ditch, or hacking with picks, axes at the footing or lower face of a wall.
pilaster shallow buttress strengthening a wall.
pit prison underground cell, with access through hatch in ceiling. Dungeons. Bottle Dungeons.
plinthplatforms that keeps were raised on to prevent mining.
portcullis heavy wooden, iron, or combination grille protecting an entrance. Raised and lowered by winches in the gatehouse.
postern small door or gate, usually some distance from main entrance of castle or ward. Often hidden to allow defenders to enter and exit castle without detection. Sallyport. Secondary gateway or back doorway.
putlog hole holes left by the withdrawal of timbers used to secure scaffolding.
quoins stones, frequently dressed, used in the angles of buildings.
rampart a protected fighting platform for castle defenders. A defensive bank of earth or rubble
rainures hoisting beams of a drawbridge.
Reeve senior officer of a borough.
relieving arch roughly constructed false arch.
rere-arch arch on the inside face of a window embrasure.
revetment an outwork or embankment faced with a layer of masonry for additional strength.
revetting facing applied to the wall or bank.
ringwork small enclosure with a high rampart around it.
rubble walling of rough, undressed stones. Fill stone.
screen narrow passage at the lower end of the hall. Screen passage
shingles wooden tiles for covering roofs.
siegework an eathwork raised for the protection of a force besieging a castle.
sill lowest horizontal member of a window frame or partition.
shutter movable device for closing the crenel or other opening.
slighting the process of rendering a castle useless to prevent its future use. Dismantling a fortification. This was done by breaching walls, undermining walls, and later, by blowing them up with gun powder.
solar private living quarters of lord, usually adjacent to great hall.
splay an aperture which widens as it progresses inwards.
springer lowest tilted stones of an arch or vault.
squinch masonry arch bridging an angle to carry a stone structure in the angle.
transom horizontal bar of stone or wood in a window to divide the lights.
trunnions axles on which a drawbridge turned.
turning bridge: early variation on drawbridge, operating on "see-saw" principle.
turret a small tower.
undercroft plain room under a domestic building of a medieval house or castle most often used as storage.
vault an arched roof usually of stone.
voussoirs stones or bricks used in the construction of an arch. Usually wedge shaped.
wall plate beam laid along the lateral wall tops to receive the feet of the rafters.
wall walk walkway on a wall top, protected by a parapet.
ward courtyard enclosure of a castle. More confined version of a bailey with a stone wall.
Warder person nominated for the duty of watching the lights in the castle chapel. Night-watchman.
weeper hole for carrying off rain water from the wall-walk.
wicker centering/centring frame of wicker built to hold the vault in place while being constructed.
windlass mechanical device used to raise and lower the drawbridge.


Armour and mail was cleaned by being placed in a leather sack, or a barrel, half-filled with sand and vinegar and agitated or rolled. Pumice was use to clean off more difficult rust. The armour was then stored in cloth sacks or a cloth blanket until it was needed again. Leather straps and buckles needed to be repaired and replaced frequently. In 1567 it was noted that armour might be tinned or painted black to protect it from rust. In 1647 (too late!) one Wolfen Miller applied for a patent for "a certain oyle to keep armour and armes from rust and kanker". Some authors suggest that the primary purpose of the tunic or surcoat, worn over the armour, was to keep the metal clean and dry.

The picture below shows a repair kit, consisting of a piercing awl, a large thimble ring, a wooden needle case, medieval spring shears, linen thread, a roll of (artificial) sinew, a 1 oz cube of archer's wax, 6 leather thongs and two pewter and two bronze buckles, as supplied by a company called Historic Enterprises. The cube at the centre is the archer's wax, made according to a medieval English recipe, using gum rosin and beeswax. It was used for waxing bowstrings.

repair kitspacer


The Orford Merman

The story of the Orford Merman was told by Ralph of Coggeshall in about 1207; the incident occured 40 years earlier.

Men fishing in the sea caught in their nets a wild man. He was naked and was like a man in all his members, covered with hair and with a long shaggy beard. He eagerly ate whatever was brought to him, but if it was raw he pressed it between his hands until all the juice was expelled. He would not talk, even when tortured and hung up by his feet. Brought into church, he showed no signs of reverence or belief. He saught his bed at sunset and always remained there until sunrise.

He was allowed to go into the sea, strongly guarded with three lines of nets, but he dived under the nets and came up again and again. Eventually he came back of his own free will. But later on he escaped and was never seen again.

A few years ago I climbed to the top of the castle and came, without warning, upon a wax effigy of the merman in his cell. However, some 'ladies' recently decided that that experience was too traumatic for their children and complained to English Heritage, threatening to cancel their memberships if he was not removed. So the merman is no longer there...


Mediaeval monsters

Some of the creatures mentioned by Maglor.

Then there is another island, south of the Brixontes, on which there are born men without heads who have their eyes and mouth in their chests. They are eight feet tall and eight feet wide. The Wonders of the East, (The Cotton Tiberius Manuscript).

And in another yle, toward the southe, duellen folk of foule suture and of cursed kynde, that han no hedes: and here eyen ben in here scholdres. Mandeville's Travels, Sir John Mandeville.

A blemmye (left) and a sciapod (right):


A mermaid:




8 Girithron: Council of war.
10 Girithron: Berryn capsizes and first sees the Merman.
11 Girithron: Elves arrive at Minas Athrad.
12 Girithron: Eowyn sees the creature; first orc raid.
13 Girithron: Maeglin found dead; Berryn is captured by the elves when he returns to Minas Athrad; the elves move camp; Finrod is missing; the elves search the castle keep by torchlight.
  08.00 Dawn
  09.30 Elves search the castle
  10.00 Dinendal makes his report
  11.00 Interrogation of the Uruk Hai
  11.30 The elves plan the next raid
  12.00 Berryn arrives
  14.00 Berryn and Gimli find the caves
  18.00 Elves move camp (four hours)
14 Girithron: Legolas sends Berryn to Eryn Carantaur; Legolas Eowyn and Gimli search the Keep and find the nest; Berryn meets Maglor; Eowyn sees Fëanáro near the Healing Cave; the elves carry out the second raid; Legolas plans the third raid; Berryn falls asleep in the library; Legolas talks to Nolofinwë.
15 Girithron: The elves carry out the third raid at dawn, Eowyn is wounded; mermaid 'dream'; Berryn sets off for Minas Athrad; at midday, Legolas 'duels' with the merman; Orc attack; Eowyn enters the castle at dusk; Berryn returns; Legolas and Eowyn defeat the Merman; celebration.
16 Girithron: Return to Eryn Carantaur.

Girithron is the equivalent of 'December'.



A cracker is a small cardboard tube covered in a twist of brightly coloured paper. Running through the centre of the cracker is a 'snap', consisting of two narrow strips of paper, impregnated with chemicals, and lightly bound together. When the cracker is 'pulled' (by two people, each holding one end) the pieces of the snap rub against one another and the friction causes the chemicals to explode. At the same time, the paper wrapper tears and a gift, a joke and a paper hat tumble from the cardboard tube.

(Crackers were invented in 1847 byTom Smith, who, having imported 'bon bons', sugared almonds wrapped in a twist of tissue paper, from Paris, decided to add a small love motto inside the tissue paper. These proved so popular that rival companies began to make them, so he replaced the almond with a gift, and added a snap).



Please use your browser's Back button to return to the Story.


The time of the Orcs has come
Contents page

Story 3

Back to main References page

Reference page

The parts of a castle


Maintaining armour


The Orford merman
A true story.


Other mediaeval mosters
Some of the creatures Maglor describes.




In case you've never seen one!
(A traditional Christmas novelty).