In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Dúnedain (//; singular: Dúnadan, "Man of the West") were a race of Men descended from the Númenóreans who survived the sinking of their island kingdom and came to Eriador in Middle-earth, led by Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anárion. They are also called Men of Westernesse (translated from the Sindarin term). They settled in Arnor and Gondor.
|Also known as||Men of the West, Men of Westernesse, Rangers|
|Created date||S.A. 3220|
|Created by fictional being||Elendil and his descendants|
|Capital||Annúminas, Fornost Erain, Osgiliath, Minas Tirith|
|Base of operations||Arnor and Gondor|
|Language||Adûnaic, Westron, Sindarin, Quenya|
|Leader||Kings of the Dúnedain|
The Rangers were two secretive, independent groups of Dúnedain of the North (Arnor) and South (Ithilien, in Gondor) in the Third Age. Like their Númenórean ancestors, they had qualities like those of the Elves, with keen senses and the ability to understand the language of birds and beasts. They were trackers and hardy warriors who defended their respective areas from evil forces.
The Dúnedain were descended from the Edain, the Elf-friends: the few tribes of Men of the First Age who sided with the Noldorin Elves in Beleriand. The original leader of the Edain was Bëor the Old, a vassal of the Elf lord Finrod. His people settled in Eldar lands. At the beginning of the Second Age, the Valar gave the Edain Númenor to live on. Númenor was an island-continent located far to the west of Middle-earth, and hence these Edain came to be called Dúnedain: Edain of the West. Their first King was Lord Elros, a half-Elf, and also a descendant of Bëor.
These first Dúnedain are the Númenóreans. They became a great civilization, and began maritime pursuits for exploration, trade and power. Some returned to Middle-earth, creating fortress-cities along its western coasts, dominating the lesser men of these areas. In time the Númenóreans split into two rival factions: the Faithful, remaining loyal to Elves, and the King's Men, who were eventually seduced by Sauron.
Ultimately Númenor was drowned in a great cataclysm, but a remnant of the Faithful escaped in nine ships. Led by Elendil, they established the Dúnedain kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor in Middle-earth. There is a suggestion, voiced by Faramir, son of the Steward of Gondor, that these descendants of Númenóreans are higher than other Men; but his speech on the matter has been described as "arrogant" and as such not necessarily to be taken literally.
Sauron's spirit also escaped, and fled back to Middle-earth, where he again raised mighty armies to challenge Gondor and Arnor. With the aid of Gil-galad and the Elves, Sauron was defeated, and the Third Age began. Sauron vanished into the East for many centuries, and Gondor and Arnor prospered. As Sauron re-formed and gathered strength, a series of deadly plagues came from the East. These struck harder in the North than the South, causing a population decline in Arnor. Arnor fractured into three kingdoms. The chief of the Nine Ringwraiths, the Witch-king of Angmar, assaulted and destroyed the divided Northern Dúnedain kingdoms from his mountain stronghold of Carn Dûm. After their fall, a remnant of the northern Dúnedain became the Rangers of the North, doing what they could to keep the peace in the near-empty lands of their Fathers. The surviving Dúnedain of Arnor retreated to the Angle south of Rivendell, while smaller populations settled in far western Eriador. The fragmentation of the kingdoms has been compared to that of the early Frankish kingdoms.
Over the centuries, many southern Dúnedain of Gondor intermarried with other Men. Their lifespan became shorter with each generation. Eventually, even the Kings of Gondor married non-Dúnedain women occasionally. Only in regions such as Dol Amroth did their bloodline remain pure.
In the Fourth Age, the Dúnedain of Gondor and Arnor were reunited under King Aragorn II Elessar (the Dúnadan), a direct descendant of Elros and Elendil. He married Arwen, reintroducing Elf-blood into his family line.
In addition to the Faithful, Men in the South manned Númenórean garrisons at places like Umbar. Many of these folk were turned toward evil by Sauron's teachings, and became known as the Black Númenóreans.
The Dúnedain among the Half-elven
|Half-elven family tree|
Rangers of the North
The Rangers were grim in life, appearance, and dress, choosing to wear rustic green and brown. The Rangers of the Grey Company were dressed in dark grey cloaks and openly wore a silver brooch shaped like a pointed star during the War of the Ring. They rode rough-haired, sturdy horses, were helmeted and carried shields. Their armament included spears and bows. They spoke Sindarin (or some variation of it) in preference to the Common Speech. They were led by a series of Chieftains, the heirs and direct descendants of Elendil, the first King of Arnor and Gondor; Elendil in turn was descended from Kings of Númenor and the Elf-kings of the First Age.
During the War of the Ring, the Rangers of the North were led by Aragorn, but the northern Dúnedain were a dwindling and presumably widely scattered folk: when Halbarad received a message to gather as many of the Rangers as he could and lead them south to Aragorn's aid, only thirty men (the Grey Company) were available at short notice for the journey. The Grey Company met up with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli at the Fords of Isen in Rohan, and at Pelargir, along with the Dead Men of Dunharrow, they captured the ships of Umbar. The Dead Men then departed and the others continued on to fight in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. There, Halbarad was killed. They are also mentioned as part of the army Aragorn commanded at the Battle of Morannon.
Aranarth would have been King of Arnor at the death of his father Arvedui. When Aranarth was still a youth by the standards of his people, the Witch-king of Angmar destroyed the Northern Kingdom, overrunning Fornost. Most of the people, including Aranarth, fled to Lindon, but the King Arvedui went north to the Ice-Bay of Forochel. At Aranarth's urging, Círdan sent a ship to rescue Arvedui, but this ship never returned. It was later learned that the ship had sunk with Arvedui on board. By right, this made Aranarth now King of Arnor, but since his Kingdom had been destroyed he did not claim the title. Aranarth rode with the army of Gondor under Eärnur and saw the destruction of Angmar. Aranarth's people became known as the Rangers of the North, and he was the first of their Chieftains. In time, their origins were generally forgotten by the common people of Arnor. While the Rangers defended Arnor from the remnants of Angmar's evil, the Wizard Gandalf went to Dol Guldur, and drove out Sauron the Necromancer. Thus began the period known as the Watchful Peace, a time where attacks by the enemy were few and far between. All of Aranarth's successors were raised in Rivendell by Elrond while their fathers lived in the wild; each was given a name with the Kingly prefix of Ar(a)-, to signify his right to the Kingship of Arnor.
Aranarth's line descended father to son to Aragorn II, a protagonist in The Lord of the Rings. His father Arathorn was killed two years after his birth. He assumed lordship of the Dúnedain of Arnor when he came of age. He was a member of the Fellowship of the Ring and fought in the War of the Ring. He was crowned King Elessar of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor. That same year, Aragorn married Arwen, daughter of Elrond. Their son, Eldarion, succeeded him as king. In Eldarion the two bloodlines of the Half-elven were reunited, Arwen being the daughter of the immortal Elrond and Aragorn the 60th-generation descendant of Elrond's mortal twin brother, Elros.
Rangers of Ithilien
The Rangers of Ithilien, also known as the Rangers of the South and Rangers of Gondor, were an elite group who scouted in and guarded the land of Ithilien. They were formed late in the Third Age by a decree of the Ruling Steward of Gondor, for Ithilien was subject to attack from Mordor and Minas Morgul. One of their chief bases was Henneth Annûn, the Window of the Sunset. These were descendants of those who lived in Ithilien before it was overrun. Like the Rangers of the North, they spoke Sindarin as opposed to the Common Speech. They wore camouflaging green and brown clothing, secretly crossing the Anduin to assault the Enemy. They were skilled with swords and bows or spears.
The Rangers of Arnor and their lost realm have been compared to medieval tribes and societies of the real world. Like the Franks after the fall of the Western Roman Empire or the Christianized Anglo-Saxons, the northern Rangers inhabit a "romanized nobility" and keep protecting the borders of the "realms of good" while Gondor in the south is decaying and finally arrives on the verge of destruction. This protection of the weak from evil by Aragorn and his rangers has been identified as an inherently Christian motif in Tolkien's design of his legendarium.
The Rangers have been compared to the 'Spoonbills' in John Buchan's 1923 novel Midwinter, while the 'Lakewalkers' in The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold have been seen as part of a deliberate commentary on Middle-earth.
Portrayal in adaptations
With the exception of Aragorn, the Rangers of the North are virtually omitted in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, save for a few mentions in the extended cuts. Arnor is mentioned only in one line in the extended edition of The Two Towers, when Aragorn explains to Éowyn that he is a "Dúnedain Ranger", of whom few remain because "the North-kingdom was destroyed". There is however an original Ranger of Ithilien named Madril, played by John Bach. He serves as Faramir's lieutenant. He helps defend Osgiliath, but is fatally injured and is eventually killed by Gothmog by a spear-thrust. New Zealand actor Alistair Browning played another Ranger of Ithilien, Damrod.
In the game The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age there is an original Ranger character called Elegost. In The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, there are both Northern Dúnedain and Ithilien Rangers. Halbarad is featured in The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, and, together with his fellow Rangers, in The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. Rangers of the North appear in The Lord of the Rings Online, with Ranger camps and named characters such as Calenglad. Tolkien's Rangers are the primary inspiration for the Dungeons & Dragons character class called "Ranger".
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