In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Rangers of the North, also known as the Dúnedain of the North, were the descendants of the Dúnedain from the lost kingdom of Arnor. They were Men, and one of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. Their menfolk ceaselessly patrolled the boundaries of Eriador and were by necessity skilled with the sword, bow, and spear.
The Rangers were grim in life, appearance, and dress, choosing to wear rustic green and brown. The Rangers of the Grey Company (see below) were dressed in dark grey cloaks and openly wore a silver brooch shaped like a pointed star during the War of the Ring. These Rangers rode rough-haired, sturdy horses, were helmeted and carried shields. Their armament included spears and bows.
The Rangers of the North were led by a series of Chieftains, who were 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. The Chieftains were also related to the Kings of Rohan.
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.
Chieftains of the Dúnedain
- Aranarth (T.A. 1938/41–2106) would have been King of Arnor at the death of his father Arvedui in T.A. 1975. 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 (or Dúnedain), 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.
- Aranuir (2084–2247) succeeded his father Arahael in 2177.
- Araglas (2296–2455) succeeded his father Aragorn I in 2327, while still very young by the reckoning of his people.
- Arahad I (2365–2523) succeeded his father Araglas in 2455. During his chieftainship it was confirmed that Sauron had returned to Dol Guldur, and the Watchful Peace came to an end. In Rivendell the White Council was formed, of which he became a member, together with the Wizards and many Elf-lords. Some time later the Misty Mountains were once again invaded by the Orcs. Elrond's wife Celebrían was taken by Orcs and tortured. She later left Middle-earth for Valinor.
- Arahad II (2563–2719), named for his great-grandfather Arahad I, succeeded his father Aravorn in 2654. During his chieftainship the Hobbits of the Shire prospered under the protection of the Rangers. The first pipe-weed was planted in the Shire's South Farthing, and Thain Isengrim II commenced excavation of the Great Smials.
- Arassuil (2628–2784) succeeded his father Arahad II in 2719. During his chieftainship the Orcs of the Misty Mountains became more bold, daring to invade Eriador. The Rangers fought many battles trying to hold them back, but one party of Orcs managed to reach the Shire, where they were fought off by a party of brave Hobbits under Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took. Also during his rule, many lives were lost in the Long Winter of 2758; Gandalf and the Rangers had to help the Hobbits of the Shire survive.
- Arathorn I (2693–2848) succeeded his father Arassuil in 2784. His chieftainship was largely uneventful, as the Dúnedain and other peoples of Eriador were recovering from the Long Winter. However at the southern fringes of his nominal realm great events occurred: the Dwarf-king Thrór was slain by Azog, an Orc of Moria. From 2793–2799 the War of the Dwarves and Orcs was fought all through the Misty Mountains, as Dwarves from all Seven Houses gathered to avenge Thrór, the Heir of Durin. After the War ended in 2799 at the Battle of Nanduhirion Eriador was safe from Orcs for many years, which meant that the Rangers of the North had a relatively safe period, aside from fighting the occasional Orc refugee. Most Orcs fled south to Rohan, trying to settle the White Mountains. Arathorn was killed by wolves in 2848.
- Argonui (2757–2912) succeeded his father Arathorn I in T.A. 2848. During his chieftainship, Gandalf entered Dol Guldur and discovered that it was Sauron who ruled there as he long had feared, and not the Witch-king of Angmar his servant. Thráin II the Dwarf died after giving Gandalf a map and a key. The White Council met in 2850, where Gandalf urged an attack on Dol Guldur to drive Sauron out, but Saruman overruled him. In 2890 Bilbo Baggins was born in the Shire, son of Bungo of the respectable Baggins family, and Belladonna, daughter of the Old Took. Near the end of Argonui's chieftainship in 2911 the Fell Winter began and White Wolves invaded Eriador from the North, some of them crossing the frozen river Baranduin into the Shire. Argonui died in 2912, possibly as a result of the Fell Winter.
- Arador (2820–2930) succeeded his father Argonui in 2912. This was after the Fell Winter, and great floods devastated Enedwaith and Minhiriath. The city of Tharbad at the southern end of the former realm of Arnor was ruined and deserted. In 2930 Arador was captured and killed by Hill-Trolls north of Rivendell.
- Arathorn II (2873–2933) married Gilraen, a descendant of Aranarth, though her father Dírhael initially opposed the union as he foresaw that Arathorn would have a short life. The couple had one son, Aragorn (born T.A. 2931). Arathorn II succeeded his father Arador as Chieftain in 2930 but was killed by Orcs three years later at the age of 60.
- Aragorn II (T.A. 2931-F.A. 120), one of the major characters in The Lord of the Rings, was born in T.A. 2931. His father was killed two years later. He came of age in T.A. 2951, and assumed lordship of the Dúnedain of Arnor. He was a member of the Company of the Ring and fought in the War of the Ring. In T.A. 3019 he was crowned King Elessar of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor. (Aragorn was a descendant of Fíriel, a princess of Gondor who married prince Arvedui of Fornost a few generations before the line of the kings of Gondor ended.) The 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.
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 motive in Tolkien's design of his legendarium, while the Rangers themselves bear resemblances to the outsider heroes of medieval tales like Hereward the Wake, William Tell or Robin Hood.
The Rangers have also been compared to the 'Spoonbills' in John Buchan's 1923 novel Midwinter and 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 series, save for a few mentions in the extended cuts. Arnor itself 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". The film calls them "Dúnedain Rangers", perhaps to distinguish them from the Rangers of Ithilien, though Tolkien calls both groups Dúnedain (men of the west).
Jackson's terminology appears in some of the film's merchandise, like the computer and video games by Electronic Arts. In the game The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age there is an original Ranger character called Elegost. In another, The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, Dúnedain Rangers are playable units, but they are like the 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.
The role of the Rangers of the North has been greatly expanded in The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, which includes numerous Dúnedain spread across the remnants of Arnor. It features several Rangers (including some created expressly for the game) as key characters in the first volume of its story. The Dúnedain in the game have at least two major permanent settlements: Esteldin near the ruins of Fornost and Tinnundir near Annúminas on the shores of Lake Evendim. When the Grey Company rides south, it consists almost entirely of named Rangers with whom players have already interacted. (Aragorn and Halbarad are the only northern Rangers named in the book.)
- J.R.R. Tolkien (15 February 2012). The Return of the King: Being theThird Part of the Lord of the Rings. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 20–. ISBN 0-547-95204-X.
Yet the line of the kings was continued by the Chieftains of the Dunedain, of whom Aranarth son of Arvedui was the first. Arahael his son was fostered in Rivendell, and so were all the sons of the chieftains after him; and therc also were kept
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