|Men of the West, Men of Westernesse|
|Founder||Elendil and his descendants|
|Leader(s)||Kings of the Dúnedain|
|Capital||Annuminas, Fornost Erain, Osgiliath, Minas Tirith|
|Base of operations||Arnor and Gondor|
|Language||Adûnaic, Westron, Sindarin, Quenya|
In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Dúnedain // (singular: Dúnadan, "man of the west") were a race of Men descended from the Númenóreans who survived the sinking of their island kingdom and came to Eriador in Middle-earth, led by Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anárion. They are also called the Men of the West and the Men of Westernesse (direct translations of the Sindarin term). They settled mainly in Arnor and Gondor.
The Westron name for Dúnadan was simply Adûn, "westerner", but this name was seldom used. This name was reserved to those Númenóreans who were friendly to the Elves: the other, hostile survivors of the Downfall were known as the Black Númenóreans.
The Dúnedain were descended from the Edain, the Elf-friends: the few tribes of Men of the First Age who sided with the Noldorin Elves in Beleriand. The original leader of the Edain was Bëor the Old, a vassal of the Elf lord Finrod. His people settled in Eldar lands. At the beginning of the Second Age, the Valar gave the Edain Númenor to live on. Númenor was an island-continent located far to the west of Middle-earth, and hence these Edain came to be called Dúnedain: Edain of the West. Their first King was Lord Elros, a half-Elf, and also a descendant of Bëor.
These first Dúnedain are usually referred to as Númenoreans. They became a great civilization, and began maritime pursuits for exploration, trade and power. Some returned to Middle-earth, creating fortress-cities along its western coasts, dominating the lesser men of these areas. In time the Númenoreans split into two rival factions: the Faithful (remaining loyal to Elves) and the King's Men (eventually seduced by Sauron, whom the Númenoreans had captured).
Ultimately Númenor was drowned in a great cataclysm in S.A. 3319, but a remnant of the Faithful escaped the destruction in nine ships. Led by Elendil, they established the Dúnedain kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor in Middle-earth.
Sauron's spirit also escaped, and fled back to Middle-earth, where he again raised mighty armies to challenge the new Dúnedain kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor. With the aid of Gil-galad and the Elves, Sauron was defeated, and the Third Age began. Sauron vanished into the East for many centuries, and Gondor and Arnor prospered during this time.
As Sauron began to re-form and gather strength, a series of deadly plagues came from the East. These tended to strike harder in the North than the South, and caused a population decline in Arnor. Arnor fractured into three kingdoms. The chief of the Nine Ringwraiths, known commonly as the Witch-king of Angmar, began assaulting the divided Northern Dúnedain kingdoms from a mountain stronghold (Carn Dûm). Eventually, he succeeded in destroying Arthedain, the last of the Northern kingdoms, in T.A. 1974.
After the fall of Arthedain, a remnant of the northern Dúnedain became the Rangers of the North, doing what they could to keep the peace in the near-empty lands of their Fathers. The surviving Dúnedain population of Arnor retreated to the Angle south of Rivendell, while smaller populations made isolated settlements in far western Eriador.
Over the centuries, the southern Dúnedain of Gondor intermarried more and more with so-called Middle Men. Only in regions such as Dol Amroth did their bloodline remain pure. Their lifespan became shorter with each generation. Eventually, even the Kings of Gondor married non-Dúnedain women occasionally.
In the Fourth Age, the Dúnedain of Gondor and Arnor were reunited under King Aragorn II Elessar (who was also called the Dúnadan). He was a direct descent of Elros and Elendil. He married Arwen, daughter of Elrond, reintroducing Elf-blood into his family line. (Elrond was also the brother of Elros, thus making the couple cousins removed by sixty-four generations.)
In addition to the Faithful, there were Dúnedain in the South who manned Númenórean garrisons at places like Umbar. Many of these folk had been turned toward evil by Sauron's teachings, and remained loyal to him after the fall of their homeland. These are referred to as the Black Númenóreans.
Tolkien's Dúnedain are superior to the other men of Middle-earth in nobility of spirit and body, although they were still capable of evil if corrupted, and tended to do more evil in such circumstances. They were tall, with dark hair and grey eyes.
In addition, Dúnedain, especially those of high rank, possessed great wisdom and discernment, and occasional prophecy. They benefited from long life-spans (three times the life of a regular man) and could retain their youth until the very end of their days. Though the reason is not fully explained in the 'Tale of the Years', one factor that almost certainly contributed to their numerical decline was an extremely low birth rate, with many couples having only one child.
- "Dúnedain". Tolkien Gateway.