Races of Middle Earth
The dragons were bred by Morgoth during the First Age, when Glaurung, the first dragon, appears. Tolkien's dragons are capable of breeding on their own, and in later ages the Withered Heath is purportedly their spawning ground.
In Tolkien's works, dragons are quadrupedal, like Komodo dragons or other lizards, and are either flightless (Glaurung) or are winged and capable of flight (Ancalagon and Smaug). Winged dragons are stated to have first appeared during the War of Wrath, the battle that ended the First Age.
Tolkien refers to dragons which breathe fire as "Fire-drakes", or "Urulóki" (singular "Urulokë") in Quenya. It is not entirely clear whether the term "Urulóki" referred only to the first dragons such as Glaurung that could breathe fire but were wingless, or to any dragon that could breathe fire, and thus include Smaug. In Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings Tolkien mentions a "Cold-drake". It is commonly assumed, though not directly stated, that this term indicates a dragon which cannot breathe fire, rather than one who breathes ice or snow. Further, Tolkien calls a fire-breathing dragon in the non-Middle-earth story Farmer Giles of Ham a "hot" one.
Tolkien calls the dragon Scatha a "long-worm" but does not explicitly explain the term.
All of Tolkien's dragons share a love of treasure (especially gold), subtle intelligence, immense cunning, great physical strength, and a hypnotic power called "dragon-spell". They are extremely powerful and dangerous but mature very slowly. Because of this, Melkor's first attempts to use them against his enemies fail, as they are not yet powerful enough to be useful in battle. Despite their evil beginnings, they are not purely destructive by nature, as can be seen by Smaug, who wants to be left in peace, though he did force out the dwarves in the Lonely Mountain.
Dragon-fire (even that of Ancalagon the Black) is described as not being hot enough to melt the One Ring; however, four of the Dwarven Rings are consumed by Dragon-fire.
The Dwarves are said to have been created by the Vala Aulë, who offered to destroy them when Ilúvatar confronted him. The seven Dwarf Fathers had no true life as created by Aulë, but were tied to his power. When Ilúvatar saw that Aulë had created the Dwarves in an desire to see Ilúvatar's vision fulfilled and not out of a desire for power or domination of Aulë's will, Ilúvatar brought true life to the seven Dwarf fathers. He forgave Aulë's transgression and adopted the Dwarves as his own. His only condition was that they were not allowed to awaken before the Elves. Therefore, the Dwarves' creator Aulë laid them to sleep in hidden mountain locations until the Elves awoke. These dwarves were known as the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves, who (along with their mates) went on to found the seven kindreds of Dwarves when they awoke. The first dwarf to awake was Durin the father of the Longbeards, the oldest and wisest kindred of the Dwarves, and the main focus of Tolkien's stories. Durin founded the greatest Dwarf kingdom called Khazad-dûm, later known as Moria in the Misty Mountains. The Dwarves spread throughout northern Endor and each kindred founded its own kingdom. Only two other of these kingdoms are mentioned by Tolkien, Nogrod and Belegost in the Ered Luin or Blue Mountains. These were the home of the Firebeards and the Broadbeams, who were allies of the Elves of Beleriand against Morgoth in the First Age. The language spoken by the Dwarves is called Khuzdul, and was kept largely as a secret language for their own use. The dwarves are mortal like Men, but live much longer, usually several hundred years. A peculiarity of Dwarves is that both males and females are bearded, and thus appear identical to outsiders.
The Silmarillion introduces the Petty-dwarves who were diminutive even by dwarven standards. They had been exiled from several of the Dwarven houses. They were hunted by the elves, leading to their eventual extinction. They had other cultural differences including that they were more unsociable, and freely gave out their Khuzdul names to outsiders.
Of the races, Dwarves are the most resistant to corruption and influence of Morgoth and later Sauron. The seven rings of Power of the dwarves did not turn them to evil, but it did amplify their greed and lust for gold. The Dwarves' resistance to corruption is perhaps explained by their origin as the creations of Aulë and not being created by or original children in Ilúvatar's vision. It is said that very few wilfully served the side of darkness. Of those who did very little was written. Of the seven houses few fought on either side during The Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age, and is known that none from the House of Durin ever fought on the side of evil. During the early parts of the Third Age (or at least in legends of the previous), it is known that in some places wicked dwarves had made alliances with the goblins and orcs. It is suggested by Tolkien in some of his notes that of the dwarves that turned to wickedness they most likely came from the Dwarves of the far eastern mansions (and perhaps some of the nearer ones) came under the Shadow of Morgoth and turned to evil. It is however unclear if these refer to Dwarves beyond Iron Hills (the most eastern known stronghold of the Dwarves) Because Dwarves are not evil by nature, few ever served the Enemy of their own free will (though rumors of Men suggest the total was greater).
The Elves are known as the first born of Ilúvatar: intelligent beings created by Ilúvatar alone. There are many different clans of Elves, but the main distinction is between the Calaquendi or Light Elves and the Moriquendi or Dark Elves. Tolkien's work The Silmarillion tells of how the Valar came to Middle-earth shortly after the awakening of the Elves, and invited them to come and live with them in their home in the land of Aman. Those elves who accepted and began the Great Journey to Aman from their birthplace of Cuiviénen were called the Eldar or the Middle-earth Eldar. The elves who completed the journey were sometimes called the Light Elves because they saw the magical Light of the Two Trees, the source of light in Aman. Those elves who refused the offer were called the Avari, and the Eldar who tired of the long journey west and remained behind in Middle-earth were called the Dark Elves because they would never see the Light of the Two Trees. Generally Dark Elves were considered less powerful than Light Elves, but the term 'Dark' did not imply they were in any way evil. In later years some of the Light Elves (chiefly the Noldor clan) returned to Middle-earth, mainly on a quest to retrieve precious jewels called the Silmarils, stolen from them by Morgoth.
Originally Elves all spoke the same Common Eldarin ancestral tongue, but after the long separation of thousands of years it diverged into different languages. The two main Elven languages were Quenya, spoken by the Light Elves, and Sindarin, spoken by the Sindar, the Dark Elves who stayed behind in Beleriand as mentioned above. Tolkien compared the use of Quenya in Middle-earth as like Latin, with Sindarin as the common speech. The Teleri of Valinor spoke Telerin, which was very close to Quenya but generally considered a distinct language and not a dialect.
Physically the Elves resemble humans almost identically; indeed, they are arguably the same species, as they can marry and have children (though this is extremely rare and the Half-elven are very famous as a result). However the Elves have a more ethereal and less visceral nature, and their bodies "fade" into their spirits, to the point that any Elves alive today would be totally ghostlike and invisible to most Humans.
The Elves are very agile and quick-footed. They are generally somewhat taller than Men. They are also extremely coordinated, as is evident in The Fellowship of the Ring, when the elves walk across the rope in the woods of Lothlórien. Their eyesight is hawk-like and they are also said to glow with light. Another example is when the Fellowship take the pass of Caradhras, where Legolas of Mirkwood is able to walk across the deep snow without falling through. Though they can be killed, Elves are immortal, and when they reach maturity they appear to cease aging (though they do continue to physically age, just at a rate so slow as to be almost unperceivable, such as in Círdan's case). They are also re-embodied in Valinor if they are slain or die in an accident, and in the first and second ages, had the ability to return to Middle Earth exactly as they were previously, though they very seldom opted to do so. Their ears are pointed only to a slight extent.
In Tolkien's writings the elves have been divided in several subgroups described in English as high elves, light-elves, fair-elves, deep elves, sea-elves, green-elves, wood-elves (sylvan elves), dark elves, grey-elves, and the special category half-elves. In the languages of the Elves there are additional subgroups under the above categories.
Tolkien identified Hobbits as an offshoot of the race of Men. Another name for Hobbit is 'Halfling', as they were generally only half the size of Men (Men in those times usually grew to six feet in height, and a Hobbit would be only three or four feet tall). In their lifestyle and habits they closely resemble Men, except for their preference for living in holes underground. Although their origins and ancient history are not known, Tolkien implied that they settled in the Vales of Anduin early in the Third Age, but after a thousand years the Hobbits began migrating west over the Misty Mountains into Eriador. Eventually, many Hobbits settled in the Shire and in nearby Bree. Tolkien says that there were three kinds of Hobbit: the Stoors, Fallohides and Harfoots. The hobbits who appear most prominently in Tolkien's stories are Bilbo Baggins and his nephew Frodo Baggins, who each have an important role in the quest to destroy the One Ring of Power forged by Sauron; another is Sméagol, who took the One Ring after it was found in the Anduin. Frodo is told by Gandalf that Sméagol was part of a Hobbit-like riverfolk, but long possession of the ring corrupted and deformed him into the creature Gollum. By the time of The Lord of the Rings Hobbits had long spoken the Mannish tongue Westron, though their dialect of Westron indicates that they formerly spoke a language akin to that of the Men of Rohan.
The Maiar (the singular of which is Maia) were nearly-primordial spirits that descended into Arda to help the Valar first shape the World. They were supposed to be numerous, yet not many were named. Their chiefs were Eönwë, banner-bearer and herald of Manwë, and Ilmarë, the handmaid of Varda.
Sauron was a fallen Maia, the creator of the One Ring, and the most trusted lieutenant of his master Melkor (Morgoth, the first Dark Lord). After Melkor's defeat in the First Age, Sauron became the second Dark Lord and strove to conquer Arda (Middle-earth), creating the Rings of Power for this purpose. In the Second Age, he was defeated in the War of the Last Alliance by the last line of defense: Elves and Men under kings Gil-galad and Elendil.
During that battle, Isildur managed to cut off Sauron's finger with the Ring on it, causing the destruction of his corporeal form and scattering his armies. After spending hundreds of years lying dormant and slowly regaining his strength, Sauron returned to power in the Third Age, but was finally defeated in the War of the Ring through the destruction of the One Ring by Frodo Baggins.
He was called Gorthaur the Cruel by the other Maiar.
Men were the second born of the Children of Ilúvatar, who awoke in Middle-earth much later than the Elves and (probably) also after the Dwarves. In appearance they are much like Elves, but unlike them they are mortal, ageing and dying quickly (usually living 40–80 years, though the Númenóreans lived several centuries), and also are on average less beautiful. The men involved in Tolkien's stories are mainly the three tribes of Men who allied themselves with the Elves of Beleriand in the First Age, called the Edain. As a reward for their loyalty and suffering in the Wars of Beleriand, the descendants of the Edain were given the island of Númenor to be their home. But as described in the section on Middle-earth's history, Númenor was eventually destroyed and a remnant of the Númenóreans established realms in the northern lands of Endor. Those who remained faithful to the Valar founded the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. They were then known as the Dúnedain. Other Númenórean survivors, still devoted to evil but living far to the south, became known as the Black Númenóreans. The languages spoken by Men include Adûnaic – spoken by the Númenóreans, Westron – The 'Common Speech' – represented by English, and Rohirric – spoken by the Rohirrim – represented in The Lord of the Rings by Old English. In the Third Age and the beginning of the Fourth, the King of Gondor is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. Other notable men in The Lord of the Rings are Théoden, Éowyn, and Éomer of Rohan, and the brothers Boromir and Faramir of Gondor. The term "Man" is used as a gender-neutral racial description, to distinguish humans from the other human-like races of Middle-earth.
The Dúnedain, due to their more pure Númenórean heritage, tend to live longer than regular humans. But, except in a few houses, the line has weakened both by time and intermingling with the lesser peoples.
Beorn appears in The Hobbit as a huge man with the ability to transform into a bear. Beorn often left home for days at a time to fight the enemies threatening the forest people. His origins lay in the distant past; Gandalf suspected that he and his people originally came from the mountains. Beorn is the ancestor of the Beornings, who live in the north at the end of the Third Age, allied with the Woodsmen of Mirkwood.
Orcs and Trolls were evil creatures bred by Morgoth. They were not original creations but rather "mockeries" of the Children of Ilúvatar and Ents, since only Ilúvatar has the ability to give conscious life to things. The precise origins of Orcs and Trolls are unclear, as Tolkien considered many possibilities and frequently changed his mind, leaving several inconsistent accounts. The Hobbit speaks of Goblins and Hobgoblins, and a note at the beginning of most editions explains that "orc" and "goblin" are synonymous, while "hobgoblin" refers to orcs of larger size. Late in the Third Age, the Uruks or Uruk-hai appeared: a race of Orcs of great size and strength that tolerate sunlight better than ordinary Orcs.
Tolkien also mentions "Men-orcs" and "Orc-men"; or "half-orcs" or "goblin-men". They share some characteristics with Orcs (like "slanty eyes") but are described as looking more like men. Some appear at the battle of Helm's Deep and in the Scouring of the Shire, where it is recalled that similar-looking men were seen earlier causing trouble in Bree.
Trolls were made of stone. The Ent Treebeard describes them in The Lord of the Rings as "mockeries of Ents, they are stupid creatures, foul mouthed and brutal". Daylight turned such "stone trolls" back into stone. In "Roast Mutton" in The Hobbit, three trolls catch Bilbo and his Dwarf companions, and plan on eating them; but they are turned back to stone by the light of dawn before they get the chance. Tolkien also describes a race of trolls bred by Sauron called the 'Olog-hai' who were larger and stronger than ordinary trolls, and who could endure daylight. Other varieties mentioned include cave-trolls, hill-trolls, mountain-trolls (which dwarf all other troll kind), and snow-trolls. In The Hobbit, Gandalf alludes to trolls that have more than one head: "I am afraid trolls do behave like that, even those with only one head each." Some soldiers from Far Harad are described as Half-trolls or troll-men.
The Nazgûl were once nine great Kings of Men, all of whom were given Rings of Power by Sauron. The Nine took them and used them to achieve great power, wealth and prestige in life. But as time passed, the Rings continued to exert their corrupting influence. The Rings eventually left the kings spectral, invisible to all but those who could see into the wraith world, and slaves to the will of Sauron. Their lives and power became bound to Sauron's via the One Ring; as Sauron grew or diminished in power, so too did the Nazgûl. Only two of the Nine were ever named: the Witch-king of Angmar and Khamûl the Easterling.
The Nine were first seen around 2251 of the Second Age, and soon became established as Sauron's primary servants. Despite being Sauron's most useful servants, not much is known of their activities during the Second Age. They were temporarily dispersed after Sauron's downfall in SA 3434 during the war of Last Alliance of Elves and Men, losing the ability to maintain any sort of physical form as Sauron did after losing the One Ring. However, the Ring was not destroyed, and as such, both the Nazgûl and Sauron were able to endure.
The Army of the Dead, also known as the Dead Men of Dunharrow or Oathbreakers, were the ghosts of deceased Men of the White Mountains, cursed to remain in Middle-earth by Isildur after they abandoned their oath to aid him in the War of the Last Alliance. They haunted the caverns beneath the Dwimorberg, and the valley of Harrowdale that lay in its shadow, though they were said to appear in the valley only in times of trouble or death. They were led by the King of the Dead, the most fearsome and terrifying of the whole Dead Army. Since the line of Isildur had "ended" (after a couple of hundred years), no one could call upon the Dead Army to aid them in their hours of need, as they would only answer to an Heir of Isildur.
A wraith is someone who has been killed yet lives on by some dark sorcery (necromancy or a Morgul-blade), or someone who died in darkness or serious dishonour.
Uruks were first created by Sauron late in the Third Age. In the War of the Ring, the Uruk-hai made up a large part of Saruman's Army, together with the Dunlendings, man-enemies of Rohan. There are suggestions that the Uruk-hai of Isengard were the result of crossbreeding orcs and men. Certainly, there were other creatures in Saruman's armies, and under his command in the Shire, that appear to have been hybrids. "Half-orcs" were as tall as Men and are never described simply as orcs, as the Uruk-hai frequently are. It has also been suggested that the Uruk-hai are the cross-breeds of goblins and half-orcs. Saruman's army of Uruk-hai fought against King Théoden of Rohan and his people at Helm's Deep.
The Uruks first appeared about the year TA 2475, when they conquered Ithilien and destroyed the city of Osgiliath. The Uruks in the service of Barad-dûr, the folk of Mordor, used the symbol of the red Eye of Sauron. The Red Eye was also painted on their shields. The Uruks of Saruman the White used an 'S' Elf-rune wrought in white metal on the front of their iron helms. It was clear this 'S' stood for Saruman, because their shields had a small white hand (the symbol of Saruman) centered on a black field. Aragorn commented that their gear was not in the manner of other orcs at all. Instead of the curved scimitar, they used short, broad-bladed swords. Their great bows were made of yew wood, of the same length and shape as those of men. Unlike the smaller orcs of the Misty Mountains, the Isengarders appeared indifferent to the Sun.
Saruman appeared to aid his orcs with his wizardry as well: when Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas followed the party of Uruks who kidnapped Merry and Pippin, Saruman's will caused weariness of the heart for the pursuers and lent speed to the orcs. This was the group that slew Boromir, and was annihilated by Éomer and the Riders of Rohan.
The Valar were the fourteen (fifteen including Melkor) Ainur who entered Arda after its creation to give order to the world and combat the evils of Melkor. They helped to begin the shaping of Arda through the music of Ilúvatar and often referred to one another as brother or sister. Each of the Ainur added his or her own part to the music creating the world incarnate. All except Melkor. His vision of what Arda should have been was different than Eru's. This led to the casting out of Melkor and his great rebellion that caused so many of the ills of the world of Arda. The Valar originally dwelt on the hidden Isle of Almaren, but after its destruction, long before the Awakening of the Elves, they moved to Aman and founded Valinor.
The Valar were powers of the world created by Ilúvatar, or Eru, who rarely directly intervened in the world's course of events. They were part of the Hierarchy of Spirits that is a major part of the Tolkien Myth. Eru (the One), also called Ilúvatar by the Elves, was the Creator. The angel-like spirits he created were the Ainur, which comprised the Valar and the Maiar. The Valar were the greatest of the Ainur, but the Maiar were also spirits whose being began before the world, of the same order as the Valar but of less degree.
Though less powerful than the Valar, the Maiar were powerful nonetheless, and included Melian, Sauron, Olórin (later known as Gandalf) and the other Istari, the Balrogs, and many others. A Maia would often associate himself with a particular Vala. For example, Ossë and Uinen, powers of the oceans, served under Ulmo, while Curumo (later known as Saruman), served Aulë the Smith. Sauron also served Aulë before he was corrupted by Melkor.
It was originally Melkor's intention to rule Arda for himself, but Manwë called other spirits to help him confront Melkor. Among these were the other Valar and the Maiar. Melkor withdrew from Arda, and the others continued their creation of the World. But Melkor saw this, and returned to fight for control of Arda.
In the Undying Lands around TA 1000, Manwë became aware that the spirit of Morgoth's most dedicated lieutenant Sauron was rising in power again, and summoned a council of the Valar to send three messengers to Middle-earth to protect the free peoples and assure them the Valar had not forgotten them. Two Maiar came, Curumo (later known as Saruman) sent by Aulë, and Alatar (Morinehtar), sent by Oromë. Manwë asked where Olórin was, and he came, after returning from a journey. Manwë asked Olórin (later Gandalf) if he would go as the third messenger. Olórin said that he was too weak, and he was afraid of Sauron, however Manwë said that was all the more reason to go, and that he commanded Olórin to go as the third. Then Varda said "Not as the third." Yavanna begged Curumo to take Aiwendil (Radagast), and Alatar took Pallando (Rómestámo) as a friend. They were forbidden to dominate the free peoples of Middle-earth or to match Sauron's power with power. When Saruman, the greatest of the Wizards, disobeyed this injunction, he was cast from the order and banished from Valinor.
The Wizards were known by various names, and were arrayed in different colours. Of those who came to Middle-earth, sent by the Valar, five are known, the Heren Istarion (Order of Wizards). After arriving in Middle-earth, the two Blue Wizards apparently went east before the War of the Ring; whether they played a part in the events of that war is currently unknown. (According to Tolkien's letters they may have formed cults for magic worship and practice among the Easterlings.) Radagast the Brown concerned himself mainly with plants and animals, and lived in Mirkwood for many years. Curumo (or Curunir, also known as Saruman) and Olórin spent time with the Free Peoples, the Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Curunir was wise and respected and became head of the White Council in TA 2463. However, he became prideful and jealous of the potential and purity of spirit of Gandalf, who would eventually surpass him in power. Saruman slowly came to betray the original purpose of the Wizards, and sought power for himself. During the War of the Ring he was overthrown, and he was finally killed within sight of Bag End by his tormented servant Grima Wormtongue, who slit his neck after a failed attempt to rule the Shire. Saruman's spirit looked to the West, but was blown away.
At the end of the Third Age, the Wizards passed from sight, with the fall of Sauron their work was done. Gandalf passed over Sea with the Last Riding of the Keepers of the Rings. Saruman became a naked spirit, and wandered Middle-Earth forever, since he was banished from Valinor. Radagast stayed in Middle-Earth, tending to the wilderness. The fate of the Blue Wizards is unknown.
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