The Umli dwell in the cold North of Middle-Earth, to the East of the Forodwaith.
The Umli in MERP
Like the Men called Forodwaith, the Umli are masters of the Far North. They live in the woods and highlands to the east of the Forodwaith, in the bitterly cold regions of North-Central Middle-Earth, The Umli remain in these wilds year-round, residing in caves and braving the terrible frosts of the dark winter. Unlike Mannish folk, they can withstand the coolest temperatures and thrive in the icy gales that sweep southward off the Encircling Sea. The Umli range far out across the realms others call wastes, and they subsist by hunting, fishing, and gathering- They are unparalled foragers. Subsisting on edible plants that others might never even see, the Umli utilize virtually every gift offered by the land.
The Nature of the Umli
The origin of the Umli is somewhat confused. They are known as Half-dwarves and descend from a union of Men and Dwarves that took place soon after the awakening of Aule's Folk during the late First Age. This co-mingling of blood occurred as a result of a curse on the valiant wife of Cintapher of Hildorien. Her name was Sinuphel- Her twin offspring, Ucin and Ulaphel, were the first Umli, and the ignorant Men of Hildorien believed them to be malformed monstrosities.
Ostracized by the supersticious Secondborn, Sinuphel fled northward with her diminutive children and settled in what later became known as Urd. There, she raised Ucin and Ulaphel until she was slain by the Cold-drake Lamthanc. By chat time the twins had reached the age of fourteen and proved strong enough to surviveon their own. Ucin drove Lamthanc northward into the Iron Mountains and took the Worm's lair for his own home-Neither Ucin nor Ulaphel could break the curse inherited from their mother. Ucin later wed a Dwarf-maiden, while his sister Ulaphel subsequently married a Forodwian hunter. Their children in turn married, and so began the race called the Umli. These Half-dwarves never really flourished and always remained few in number. Despite their longevity (Umli live 100-200 years), they rarely produced children and never threatened the Myr and Urdar who later settled in the nearby forests.
Stocky and only four to five feet in height, Umli resemble the Naugrim. They are strong, compact and have ruddy skin, thick brows, penetrating blue eyes, and red hair. Males keep their hair long and always have flowing beards. Just like the Dwarves, the Umli care for their relatively straight locks and keep them trim or braided. Still, the Umli can be distinguished from their Dwarven kin because they are larger and have less truncated limbs. In addition, while Dwarves employ elaborately-decorated armor and often adorn themselves with brightly-colored hoods, hats, scarves, or capes. Half-dwarves invariably appear rather drab- The Umli are pragmatic folk. They shun ostentacious displays of color and cherish utilitarian things. In keeping with their homeland, Umii wear fur-lined coats over thick shirts and pants. Their heavy boots, mittens, and large hoods keep the cold off their extremeties, for it is the wind — not the temperature — that bothers Half-dwarves. Protected from the gales, Umli are capable of roaming the ice plains even during the worst of nocturnal winter storms.
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.
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
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.