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The Works & Worlds of Tolkien: The Lifespans of Tolkien's Races.

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Video from Darth Gandalf

"Ever wondered how long the different denizens of Middle-earth live for? Ever wondered how unlucky you are in comparison? Wonder no further." from video introduction

Races in Tolkien's Middle-earth: A Common Theme

"Races Divided in Three

In Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-earth, good things tend to come in threes. Except when there's three threes, of course.

Tolkien has a mythological approach to races, dividing some of them — Men, Elves, Hobbits — into three subgroups, which like ethnic groups tend to live in different areas and develop different cultures and physical characteristics.

For each race, these three subgroups tend to follow a pattern: "High, Middle, Low." By the Third Age, there's been some intermarriage, making important people like Aragorn, Elrond and Frodo a mixture of "High" and "Middle."

Races of Men in Middle-earth Faramir, who is a fundamentally decent and wise fellow in the books, sums up the groups of Men as follows: 'For so we reckon Men in our lore, calling them the High, or Men of the West, which were Númenoreans; and the Middle Peoples, Men of the Twilight, such as are the Rohirrim and their kin that dwell still far in the North; and the Wild, the Men of Darkness.' ("The Window on the West," The Two Towers) These divisions can be traced to the dawn of history, when the Men of the West migrated westward across Middle-earth to the continent of Beleriand, which sank off the west coast at the end of the First Age. The Men of the West (Elvish "Dunedain"), also called by Elves the Edain, settled among the Elf-kingdoms of those vanished lands and aided the Elves against the dark powers of the First Age. The Edain became wise and long-lived, adapting the language, lore and technology of the Elves. Their descendants sailed farther west still and settled on the island of Númenor, midway between Middle-earth and the Undying Lands. When Númenor sank, its survivors returned to Middle-earth and founded the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. Although Arnor fell after nearly two thousand years, its people the Rangers preserved some of its ancient lore and Elvish skills. Meanwhile, the Gondorians maintained the more advanced building and metalworking skills of their race but became estranged from their old Elven allies. The Edain are usually described as dark-haired and grey-eyed. The Edain were also prone to pride and to kin-strife, with dynastic struggles, arrogance and greed sinking Númenor, fragmenting Arnor into petty kingdoms that could not stand against its foes, and weakening Gondor until it was left kingless. Some rebel Númenoreans and their descendants threw in their lot with Sauron: the Mouth of Sauron, the Black Riders, and, later, the Corsairs of Umbar. The Edain rose higher than other mortal men, but also fell farther. The Men of the Twilight were unsophisticated but courageous northern tribes, equivalent to the Celts and Vikings compared to the Romans and more civilized but corruptible Mediterranean cultures. The Riders of Rohan came from nomadic horsemen who lived in the northern grasslands between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood; their distant kinfolk remained in that area as the Woodmen of Mirkwood and the men of Lake-Town and Dale. Some of their ancestors may have migrated west to Beleriand during the First Age but did not remove to Númenor when Beleriand sank and did not maintain close ties with Elves, for the most part, save perhaps the rustic Nandor Elves (see below). Men of the Twilight were tall, blond, blue-eyed. The Men of the Darkness were the Easterlings, Swarthy Men, Haradrim (southerners), and a few very primitive aboriginal tribes like the Pukel-men. Tolkien describes all of them as dark-skinned races, variously resembling Mongols, Arabs, Africans, and any non-Europeans. Tolkien's upbringing in colonial, apartheid, racist white South Africa is unconsciously echoed in his divisions of Middle-earth's human races. Not all his Men of the Darkness are evil — the Pukel-men fit the "noble savage" stereotype — but he clearly imagines them to be "noble exotics" at best or nearly-inhuman savages at worst. In addition to these major divisions, in the First Age, the Edain were subdivided into the Three Noble Houses of Beör, Hador and Haleth. Aragorn, the Númenorians and the Kings of Gondor are their descendants. Aint en-Eldar (Gifts of the Elves).." from the article: Races in Tolkien's Middle-earth: A Common Theme

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