Aragorn. Éomer. Éowyn. Faramir. Boromir.
These are some of the names that come to mind when we think of the race of Men in Middle Earth, and rightly so. They’re awesome.
But what could writers get wrong about the race of Men (humans) when we are the same as them?
A lot, as it turns out.
We can thank the rich history that Tolkien provided for us for most of this, and we’re going to delve into this a little bit today. By delve, I mean barely scratch the surface because there it so much history here I could take eight or nine blog posts going through it all.
History of Men
Firstly, the Atani (men in Quenya) are the second of the Children of Ilúvatar, the Creator God. They are given the Gift of Men, mortality, and can die, whereas the Elves are immortal.
There are some beautifully tragic stories about the men in the Silmarillion, and I highly suggest you read them. Beren and Lúthien, and The Children of Húrin being two of the most classic tales of men in the First Age, I would start there.
During the First Age, Men were divided into three Houses and settled in Beleriand, many fighting against Melkor (also called Morgoth) during that time. It would be safe to say that this was the time of valiant men and that men hereafter were but a shadow.
After the War of Wrath, in which the Valar had finally had enough of Melkor goofing off and killing everyone, led an all-out assault on his stronghold of Thangorodrim. This led to everything west of the Blue Mountains sinking into the sea.
The men loyal to the Valar were gifted an island which came to be known as Númenór early in the Second Age. These men were granted extended life and they became a great seafaring people. If you have the Atlas of Middle Earth, you can see all of the places they sailed, and I kid you not, there were places that even I hadn’t heard of before!
But as men are want to do after a time, they reached for power that was not theirs to have and one of their kings sailed against the Valar, breaking the ban that had been in place. This led to the sinking of Númenór, with some of those still faithful to Ilúvatar escaping and heading to Middle Earth.
Men of Middle Earth
“You’ve skipped over tons of important information! How could you do this? How are writers supposed to know that Elros was Elrond’s dad and that *fades into incoherent screaming*”
I’ll admit, I’ve left out a lot of backstories and this is because there is simply too much to cover in one blog post. My main goal is to talk about the Third Age and where writers go wrong while giving you a general idea of the backstory. If you want more detail, check out this page on One Wiki to Rule Them All.
In the Third Age, there are several main groups of Men and many more subgroups, but I’m going to be talking about the main ones that people tend to use in their fanfictions. Here are the ones I’ll be touching on:
The men of Gondor are descendants of those who survived the sinking of Númenór. Though the blood of this people was greatly diluted by the time the Third Age rolled around, and the lifespan was that of your average human, the men of Gondor were still a force to be reckoned with.
The men of Gondor, having bred with many of the local subgroups of peoples, are very diverse in appearance, although, there are some defining characteristics that you should be aware of when writing a Gondorian character.
- They are stern-faced people. They’ve been under attack almost constantly and as a result, warfare is simply a way of life. Death is a companion that is always around. They are hardened, brave, and strong-willed.
- They are tall and well built. Again, under attack constantly. It’s like Middle Earth’s version of Crossfit.
- They are very proud people and given their heritage, it’s not hard to see why. The poster-child for this would be, of course, Boromir. While not everyone was as proud as he, it gives you an idea of where you can start.
What Writers Get Wrong About Gondor
If you are going to write a Gondorian character, you need to pick a name that is at least in that wheelhouse. Do not name your character Bob the Gondorian or Steve of Dol Amroth. One, it doesn’t fit within the universe of Middle Earth, and even if you’re doing a “Normal person falls into Middle Earth” kind of story, you would still want to change their name.
I find it very distracting when I read a story and the name is one that is clearly not part of Tolkien’s world. The lovely thing about Tolkien is that he created such a vibrant language system that almost every name has a meaning of some kind, so find a name that fits the character you have in mind!
These are probably my personal favorite of the race of men due to their Saxon like culture. They are the Horse Lords, the Ride of the Mark, the Rohirrim.
I’m going to use a quote given by Aragorn because it sums them up better than I can do them justice.
“They are proud and willful, but they are true-hearted, generous in thought and deed; bold but not cruel; wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs, after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years. ‘’” — Aragorn, The Two Towers
This is why I love the Rohirrim; out of all of the races of men, these were inspired heavily by the Anglo-Saxons and are the most connect with our world.
Some notable characteristics of the Rohirrim are:
- They are tall, blonde, and a mostly blue-eyed people. Norse on a horse in other words. (Admit it, you laughed a little)
- They are big people and their women are described as being very beautiful.
- They are fiercely independent, and they have preserved their culture by not marrying or mingling with what Tolkien described as “lesser men”.
What Writers Get Wrong About Rohan
The things I see writers get wrong usually revolved around the warrior culture that is the lifeblood of Rohan. Swords are a treasure and regarded with much honor and respect, as are the horses. Rohan has old traditions, epic songs, and grand stories that are a part of its history they authors seem to forget about or just are not aware of.
The names are an issue here as well, and you need to be very thoughtful when choosing a name that fits. Here’s a link that has more info on Rohirrim Names.
Another thing I see missing is weapon choice. As mentioned above, they stick mainly to swords and spears, though, they do utilize bows while riding. Your character should reflect this as well.
Rohan does not have walled cities like Gondor, which is why they fled from Edoras. They are not super wealthy either. If you had a sword, you had a social status higher than that of your neighbor who did not. This should be reflected in your character, too, depending on your story.
If Rohan is my favorite culture, these guys are my favorite “cool kids”. The Dúnedain are the descendants of the line of King Elendil through his sons, Isildur and Anárion, who survived the sinking of Númenór. They have longer lives than that of their kin in Gondor, having stayed pure and not marrying to far outside their blood.
From this line, we get Aragorn, son of Arathorn, a direct descendant of Isildur, who is my favorite all-time character.
Some characteristics that writer need to pay attention to when writing about the Dúnedain are:
- The northern Dúnedain have a lifespan three times longer than that of their southern kin and tend to not marry outside those of Númenórean blood.
- They are dark-haired folk, usually with grey or blue eyes, and they are taller than most men.
- They are superior to the other men of Middle-earth in nobility of spirit and body.
What Writers Get Wrong About The Dúnedain
Rangers are one of the most common characters used in fanfiction, and it’s easy to see why: They’re awesome. They’re like the superheroes of Middle Earth.
Which is why so many people get them wrong. They make them out to be super-human, experts at everything, and never connect them in any way to the history of their people. Seriously, if they are Dúnedain, they should be able to trace their history back a long time.
As with the others, names are important and a large part of Tolkien’s world, so don’t just go and pick an English name for them because it doesn’t fit. If you need some help with this, here’s a link for Adûnaic Names to get you started.
Another thing is that these guys are about as noble a people as you will find in Middle Earth, so they will not be thieves, smugglers, murderers, scoundrels, and other unsavory characters. I’m speaking strictly of the Northern Dúnedain here.
While I know it’s fanfiction, we author love to take things and turn them on their heads, but we first have to understand what it is we have to work with before we do that. We also better give a really good reason why a Ranger would go to the dark side.
If you’re reading this and find yourself wanting to know more and truly get into the nitty-gritty of the history of Men in Middle Earth, I’ve posted some links to help you out. It’s no exaggeration when I say that the lore of Middle Earth is so detailed, it could pass for world history. It’s mind-boggling thorough, and Tolkien is without a doubt the greatest lore-master there ever was, and probably ever will be again.
Thank you for reading this, and if you’ve enjoyed it, please consider following me to stay up to date with the posts. I look forward to seeing you guys next week.
S. D. Howard
Author | Editor | Coach
(Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I recommend the books, Children of Hurin and Beren and Luthien because I love Lord of the Rings, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you would enjoy them.)