A Lord of the Rings Primer: The Rangers of Dúnedain

lord of the rings

For people who have only seen the Lord of the Rings movies, a lot of the franchise’s lore can be overwhelming, even confusing. And it’s not just the movie fans: even book fans of LotR can get their facts of Middle-earth mixed up. We’re here to clear up a few things and ideally make both book and movie fans more fascinated about the world of the Lord of the Rings.

Before, we discussed who the Maiar were in LotR, but in this article, we’ll be talking about the mysterious Rangers: roving hunter and sworn protectors of Middle-earth. Despite their lack of representation, both in the books and film, the Rangers actually have a history that stretches all the way back to the Second Age.

Who are the Rangers in LotR?

The Rangers, or, the Rangers of the North, were a militaristic group of hunters from Eriador, in northwestern Middle-earth. Eriador is home to the Dúnedain of Arnor, a nation of peoples from the North Kingdom of Arnor before the fall of Arnor. Despite the loss of their Kingdom, the Rangers swore an oath to protect their ancient lands from ‘the Enemy’, i.e. Sauron, Morgoth, and the other dark creatures of LotR.

Although the Rangers keep to their own and protect travelers from roving bands of orcs and other dark creatures, their secretive manner and culture have made other people, particularly in the Shire and the village of Bree, where the Rangers are referred to as “Watchers”.

The Rangers dedicate their lives to the protection of Eriador and thus are usually found patrolling the vast tracts of forestlands of the region. Rangers often wear dark green or grey cloaks that help them blend in with their surroundings, with their six-pointed star clasps the only thing identifying them as Rangers.

Although usually known as Rangers, or Rangers of Dúnedain, they are also sometimes referred to as Rangers of the North, to differentiate themselves from their southern cousins, the Rangers of the South, or, Rangers of Ithilien. Much like the Dúnedain Rangers, the Ithilien Rangers are also of Dúnedain stock, although their ancestors dwelled in the Southern part of the Kingdom of Arnor, in Gondor.

Rangers of Ithilien

If the Rangers of Dúnedain swore to protect the lands of Eriador, the Rangers of Ithilien swore to protect Ithilien, the easternmost province of Gondor, on the border of Mordor. Apart from Orcs and Goblins, the Rangers of Ithilien also protect Ithilien from excursions by the Haradrim, a race of strange and violent men from the deep south of Middle-earth.

Unlike the Rangers of the North, however, the Rangers of the South had the backing of the Stewards of Gondor: the reigning government of Gondor by the time of the Third Age. The Rangers of Ithilien were chosen from the descendants of Ithilien natives, before its fall in the second millennium of the Third Age. The Rangers of Ithilien used the secret cave of Henneth Annûn as their home base and conducted their raids and patrols from this fortified position.

During the events of the War of the Ring (i.e. the events of the Lord of the Rings movies), the Rangers of Ithilien were commanded by Faramir, Captain of Gondor, brother of Boromir, and the son of Denethor II, then-Steward of Gondor. His band of rangers was charged with conducting ambushes against Orc Scouts, Harardrim, and were responsible for keeping the roads between Osgiliath and Minas Morgul safe for all travelers.

A Brief History of the Rangers of the North

The Rangers of the North are descended from the Dúnedain of Arnor, a race of peoples descended from the Edain, considered to be the Fathers of Men. The Dúnedain started the Kingdom of Arnorm which ruled Eriador and most of the northwest of Middle-earth, and the Kingdom of Gondor, which ruled Gondor and most of the central and eastern parts of Middle-earth. The two kingdoms became the default nation of Men for centuries until the War of the Last Alliance.

After the death of Isildur, the Kingdom of Gondor fell into disarray because Valandil, Isildur’s son, claimed the throne of Arnor, but not Gondor. Gondor was then ruled by the Stewards.

Over time, Arnor itself was split into three kingdoms: Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan. The latter two kingdoms fell to the forces of the Witch-king of Angmar, who was defeated by the petty-Kingdom of Arthedain. However, eventually, the Kingdom of Arthedain was also destroyed, with only Aranarth, heir to the throne of Arthedain, and a small band of his people having survived.

It was Aranarth who became the first chieftain of the Rangers after the destruction of Arthedain. As a descendant of Isildur, Aranarth was also heir to the throne of Arnor and Gondor, which the rangers strived to reclaim and rebuild in the far future.

Once the Rangers were established, they kept their wanderings, and most of their culture, secret as to prevent Sauron’s spies from finding them. This means that, from the time of Aranarth up to the time of Aragorn II (who will later become King Elessar of the Reunited Kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor), much of the culture, deeds, and history of the Rangers is shrouded in mystery.

Treasures of the Rangers

The Rangers of the North, apart from keeping Eriador safe, also swore to preserve the Line of Elendil and the culture of the Dúnedain. As such, the Rangers kept within their possession certain treasures that were regarded as the crown jewels of the Old Kingdom of Arnor:

Shards of Narsil

Narsil was the longsword used by King Elendil during the War of the Last Alliance. Although King Elendil was killed and Narsil broke, his son and heir-to-the-throne Isildur picked up the shards of Narsil and used it to sever the One Ring from Sauron, thus defeating him. The shards of Narsil were eventually reformed into Andúril, the flame of the West, and was gifted to Aragorn II.

Star of Elendil

Also known as Elendilmir or the Star of the Northern Kingdom, the Star of Elendil was a jewel made of mithril and was used as a royal gem during the Kingdom of Arnor. It was lost during the Disaster of the Gladden Fields and remained lost for centuries until Aragorn II found it once again in the tower of Orthanc during the War of the Ring.

Scepter of Annúminas

A silver rod originally used by the Lords of Andúnië in Númenor, the scepter became a chief mark of royal authority in the Kingdom of Arnor. It was kept in Rivendell until it was presented to Aragorn II during his coronation as King Elessar.

Ring of Barahir

The oldest relic of Men, the Ring of Barahir was a ring given by the Elven King Finrod Felagund to Barahir, heir of the House of Bëor after Dagor Bragollach during the First Age. Barahir had saved King Finrod’s life during the Battle of the Sudden Flame, and as a reward, presented him with an ornate ring that would serve as a reminder of the eternal friendship between Men and Elves.

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