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Artist's impression of the Flag of Rohan
|J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location|
|Other name(s)||Riddermark, Calenardhon|
|Type||Adopted home of the Rohirrim|
|Ruler||Kings of Rohan|
|Notable locations||Edoras, Dunharrow, Helm's Deep|
|First appearance||The Two Towers,
The Return of the King,
|Lifespan||Founded T.A. 2510|
|Founder||Eorl the Young|
|Capital||Aldburg to T.A. 2569, then Edoras|
Rohan (from Sindarin Rochand) is a kingdom in J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy setting of Middle-earth. It is mainly a grassland, and lies north-west of its ally Gondor, and further north-west of Mordor, the realm of Sauron, their enemy (see maps of Middle-earth). It is inhabited by the Rohirrim, a people of herdsmen and farmers who are well known for their horses and cavalry. Rohan is also referred to as Riddermark or the 'Mark'. The realm is of significant importance in the author's book, The Lord of the Rings. Much of the background of Rohan is grounded in Anglo-Saxon tradition.
Conceptualised as the "Horse Lords of Rohan" allied with Gondor in early drafts of 1939, the Rohirrim took their final form in 1942 when about one third of The Lord of the Rings was completed.
Rohan in Tolkien's works
Rohan was an inland realm. Its countryside is described as a land of pastures and lush tall grassland which is frequently windswept. The meadows contain "many hidden pools, and broad acres of sedge waving above wet and treacherous bogs," which water the grasses. The lands of Rohan are frequently described as appearing like "seas of grass", and are therefore perfect for horses (the word roch, in Sindarin, means horse). At the time of the War of the Ring, Rohan was roughly a third the size of Gondor, whose borders had slowly been shrinking for centuries.
Its warm-continental climate generally brought hot summers and brisk but short winters, marking a midpoint between the harsh winters of Wilderland (to the north) and the long, subtropical summers of southern Gondor. The winds and air masses can come from almost any direction and the weather is highly variable in any season.
The borders of Rohan were (clockwise):
- north: the eaves of Fangorn; the rivers Limlight and Anduin; and the walls of Emyn Muil, although this was later extended to the borders of Lórien
- east: the mouths of Entwash; and the Mering Stream (which separated Rohan from the Gondorian province of Anórien, known to the Rohirrim as Sunlending)
- south: the White Mountains
- west: the rivers Adorn and Isen, where Rohan bordered Isengard and the land of the Dunlendings. The area of the western border was known as the Gap of Rohan; here the Misty Mountains and the White Mountains drew near to each other. However, following the conclusion of the Third Age, "..the realm was extended west beyond the Gap of Rohan as far as the Greyflood and the sea-shores between that river and the Isen.."
The capital of Rohan is the hill fort of Edoras which is located on a hill in a valley of the White Mountains. Meduseld, the Golden Hall of the King of Rohan, is located there. "Edoras" is Old English for "enclosures", which Tolkien held to be a translation of an unknown Rohirric name of the same meaning. The city of Edoras was built by Rohan's second King, Brego son of Eorl the Young. Before Edoras was completed, Rohan's capital was at Aldburg in the Folde. Meduseld is described as having a golden thatch. Edoras is built at the end of the valley of Harrowdale, which lies under the great mountain Starkhorn. The river Snowbourn flows past the city on its way east towards the Entwash. The city is protected only by a high wall of timber, and a one-way road allows access to the city. Just before the gates, two rows of mounds line the road, which are the graves of the former Kings of Rohan. "Meduseld", a modernised form of the Old English Maeduselde, is similarly meant to be a translation of an unknown Rohirric name meaning "mead hall". Meduseld is a large hall with roof that appears golden from far off. The walls are richly decorated with tapestries depicting the history and legends of the Rohirrim, and it serves as a house for the King and his kin, a meeting hall for the King and his advisors, and a gathering hall.
Another settlement is Aldburg, capital of the Eastfold and original settlement of Eorl the Young. A third settlement is Snowbourne, named after the river of the same name which runs nearby. It is similar in appearance to the hill-fort of Edoras. Dunharrow is a refuge in the White Mountains. Helm's Deep is a valley in the White Mountains in which the Hornburg, a major fortress of Rohan, is located.
The Dúnedain of Gondor and the Rohirrim were distantly related (having descended from the same northern stock), and the people of Gondor describe the Rohirrim as Middle Men, inferior to the Númenóreans in both culture and descent, but superior to the Men of Darkness who had worshipped and served Sauron — and this is stated as fact in The Lord of the Rings, but contradicted in later writings. The name Rohirrim is Sindarin for People of the Horse-lords (sometimes translated simply as Horse-lords) and was mostly used by outsiders: the name they had for themselves was Eorlingas, after their king Eorl the Young who had first brought them to Rohan. Rohirrim is a collective noun and should be used with the definite article (i.e. the Rohirrim). It should not be used as an adjective. (The adjective is Rohirric, which also refers to their language. Tolkien also used Rohanese occasionally in his letters.)
The names and many details of their culture are in fact based on Germanic-derived cultures, particularly that of the Anglo-Saxons and their Old English language, towards which Tolkien felt a strong affinity. Ultimately Anglo-Saxon England was defeated by the cavalry of the Normans at the Battle of Hastings, and some Tolkien scholars have speculated that the Rohirrim are Tolkien's wishful version of an Anglo-Saxon society that retained a "rider culture", and would have been able to resist such an invasion.
In any case, they did not go to Beleriand like the Edain who were later rewarded with the island of Númenor by the Valar. The ancestors of the Rohirrim were known as the Éothéod and were given the province of Calenardhon by Gondor after the Battle of the Field of Celebrant.
The people of Rohan were for the most part tall, fair and pale, with blue eyes and blond hair which they wore long and braided. In the far west however, particularly in the land between the Isen and the Adorn west of the Gap of Rohan, many Rohirrim were of mixed Rohirrim and indigenous (i.e. Dunlending) ethnicity, and were thereby shorter, with darker eyes and hair much more in evidence. The Rohirrim were described by the Dúnedain as by nature stern, fierce and grave, yet generous.
They were ruled by a line of kings descended from Eorl the Young.
- They are proud and wilful, but they are true-hearted, generous in thought and deed; bold but not cruel; wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs, after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years. — The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers
The Rohirrim had had contacts with Elves in their ancient history, and knew of Eru (God), but like the Dúnedain they did not worship him in any temples. They seem to have venerated the Vala Oromë the Hunter, whom they called Béma.
In response to a query about clothing styles in Middle-earth, Tolkien wrote:
The Rohirrim were not "medieval", in our sense. The styles of the Bayeux Tapestry (made in England) fit them well enough, if one remembers that the kind of tennis-nets [the] soldiers seem to have on are only a clumsy conventional sign for chainmail of small rings.
Horses and warfare
The armies of Rohan were largely horsemen, divided into irregular units termed éoreds (Old English for cavalry, troops), which could include up to 2,000 riders. There are also companies of infantry and archers, as seen in the Battle of the Fords of Isen. Rohan's armies were more of a very well-trained militia called upon in times of war, with the actual standing army relatively small. They are described as armed with long spears, swords, axes, light helms, round wooden shields, and mail armour. The only Rohirrim soldiers described as knights were the King's Riders, the personal bodyguard of the King of Rohan.
In time of war, every able man was obliged to join the Muster of Rohan. They were also bound by the Oath of Eorl to help Gondor in times of peril, and the latter asked for their aid through the giving of the Red Arrow. Also, the Rohirrim could be notified to aid Gondor by the lighting of the warning beacons of Gondor, a line of beacon fires on the White Mountains that were constantly manned. In times of war, the starting beacon at Amon Dîn would be lit, until the last one could be noticed in Edoras.
At the start of the War of the Ring a Full Muster would have been over 12,000 riders, while after Helm's Deep Aragorn states the entire force available to be about 20,000, nearly 10,000 Riders and an equal amount on foot.
It was because of the close affiliation with horses, both in war and peace, that they received their name. Rohirrim (or more properly Rochirrim) is Sindarin for "Horse-lords," and Rohan (or Rochand) means "Land of the Horse-lords". These names were devised by Hallas, son of Cirion the Steward.
The Rohirrim call their homeland the Ridenna-mearc, the Riddermark or Éo-marc, the Horse-mark, also simply the Mark and call themselves the Eorlingas, the Sons of Eorl. In the original Rohirric the name for their land is Lôgrad, with the element "lô-"/"loh-" corresponding to Anglo-Saxon "éo", horse.
Rohirric bears a similar relationship to Westron, the Common Speech of Middle-earth, as that of Old English to modern English, and so Tolkien rendered Rohirric names and phrases into Old English (English of the Anglo-Saxon period), just as the Common Speech is translated into English. Examples include words such as mearas (another Old English word for "horses", which survives into Modern English as "mares") and éored. Tolkien was a philologist, with a special interest in Germanic languages.
Many archaic Hobbit names bear similarities to Rohirric, since the ancestors of the Shire hobbits lived on the upper reaches of the Anduin, close to the ancestors of the Rohirrim, and there was apparently a good deal of linguistic cross-fertilization. The name Hobbit itself is believed to be derived from the Rohirric Holbytlan (hole builders). These names are also translations of the original Westron Kuduk (Hobbit) and Rohirric kûd-dûkan (hole dweller).
In The Two Towers, chapter 6, the Riders of Rohan are introduced before they are seen, by Aragorn, who chants in the language of the Rohirrim words "in a slow tongue unknown to the Elf and the Dwarf", a lai that Legolas senses "is laden with the sadness of Mortal Men". To achieve a resonant sense of the lost past, the now-legendary time of a peaceful alliance of the Horse-lords with the city of Gondor, Tolkien has adapted lines of the Old English poem The Wanderer.
Where is the horse gone? where the rider?
Where the giver of treasure?
Where are the seats at the feast?
Where are the revels in the hall?
Alas for the bright cup!
Alas for the mailed warrior!
Alas for the splendour of the prince!
How that time has passed away, dark under the cover of night,
as if it had never been.
Tolkien's adaptation, comparably heroic in its anguished nostalgia, is characteristic of his approach to remaking his sources:
Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harp-string, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning?
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?
"Thus spoke a forgotten poet long ago in Rohan, recalling how tall and fair was Eorl the Young, who rode down out of the North," Aragorn explains. Tolkien has managed to incorporate into the imagery elements of plot (the horn that was blowing), his consistent thematic imagery of West and shadow and imagery of the constant seasonal and linear flow of irretrievable time that gives The Lord of the Rings an authentically Anglo-Saxon note. In the last two lines Tolkien has also introduced the character of answers familiar from Old English riddle literature, while he has extended the staccato Anglo-Saxon lines of his model to adjust to our expectations of five-beat stress in heroic poetry in English.
In the thirteenth century of the Third Age (T.A.), the Kings of Gondor made close alliances with the Northmen of Rhovanion, a people said in The Lord of the Rings to be akin to the Three Houses of Men (later the Dúnedain) from the First Age.
In the twenty-first century, a remnant tribe of such Northmen calling itself the Éothéod moved from the valleys of Anduin to the north west of Mirkwood, clearing out what remained of the recently defeated witch kingdom of Angmar, east of the Misty Mountains. While there, some dispute arose between them and the Dwarves over the treasure-hoard of Scatha the dragon.
Eorl the Young, king of the Éothéod, answered the summons, and arrived unexpected at a decisive battle at the Field of Celebrant, routing the orc army, and then destroying it as it fled.
As a reward, Eorl was given the plains of Calenardhon, and he moved his kingdom there. This land had earlier been part of Gondor proper, but had been devastated by the plague of 1636, and the survivors to a large extent slain in the invasion mentioned above.
The first line of kings lasted for 249 years, until the ninth king Helm Hammerhand died. His sons had been killed earlier, and his nephew Fréaláf Hildeson began the second line of kings, which lasted until the end of the Third Age.
In 2758, Rohan was invaded by Dunlendings under Wulf, son of Freca, of mixed Dunland and Rohan blood. The King, Helm Hammerhand, took refuge in the Hornburg until aid from Gondor and Dunharrow (a refuge of the Rohirrim) arrived a year later and defeated the invaders.
In 3014, Saruman began using his influence to weaken the King, Théoden, as part of a campaign to invade or take over the kingdom. In 3019, he launched a great invasion of Rohan, with victory in the two first battles (at the Fords of Isen; Théoden's son, Théodred was killed during these attacks) and defeat at the Battle of the Hornburg, where the Huorns came to the aid of the Rohirrim.
On the heels of this victory, Théoden rode with an army to Minas Tirith and helped break its siege in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, where he was slain. Éomer, the nephew of King Théoden, then took up the reign, beginning the third line. Also in this battle, Éowyn, niece of King Théoden and sister of Éomer, slew the Lord of the Nazgûl. Éomer rode with the armies of Gondor to the Black Gate of Mordor and took part in the Battle of the Morannon against the forces of Sauron, who were defeated when the Ruling Ring was destroyed.
The rule of the Stewards of Gondor was then over. King Éomer and the new king of Gondor, Elessar, renewed their oath of alliance, and reaffirmed Cirion's grant of Calenardhon to the Rohirrim. At this time, Éowyn married Faramir, Prince of Ithilien and Steward of Gondor, thus joining the lines of Gondor and Rohan.
In the Fourth Age, Rohan remained in peaceful coexistence with the Reunited Kingdom. A Dwarven community developed in the caves of Helm's Deep, which became prosperous from its mining of precious materials.
Rohan was an absolute monarchy, though the nobles and Marshals had important power in the governance of the realm. The King led the army during wartime. The country was divided into districts, such as the Eastfold and the Westfold, led by Marshals, though it is not clear whether their functions extended beyond the purely military. Originally the First Marshal was responsible for the area around Edoras, while the Second and Third Marshals were assigned various territories depending on the need at the time. After the War of the Ring the First Marshal was replaced with the position of Underking, and the Second and Third Marshals were renamed Marshals of the East-mark and West-mark, holding those lands permanently.
Alliance with Gondor
The alliance between Rohan and Gondor came into existence in the year 2510 of the Third Age. In that year the Easterlings launched a massive invasion of Gondor. The army of Gondor was defeated and trapped between the Limlight and the Celebrant. Gondor, which had always been on friendly terms with the different tribes of the Northmen, sent messengers to the closest tribe, the Éothéod. Although it was unlikely that the message calling for aid would come through, it did. Then Eorl the Young and his fierce Éothéod Riders unexpectedly took the field during the Battle of Celebrant and turned the tide in the favour of Gondor. As a reward Cirion, the Steward of Gondor, gave Eorl the depopulated province of Calenardhon for his people to settle, while fulfilling Gondor's need for a strong ally. The Oath of Eorl was sworn by both Cirion and Eorl. Neither nation has ever broken the alliance ever since. Rohan has gone through great lengths to fulfil their part of the treaty including sacrificing two of its heirs when Gondor was under threat from the Haradrim in 2885, when Fastred and Folcred, the twin sons of King Folcwine, were killed during the Battle of Crossings of Poros. King Théoden once again honoured the alliance in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
War with the Dunlendings
To the west of the Gap of Rohan lived the Dunlendings, a native people who had been largely hostile towards the Dúnedain and their Allies for a long time (although they tolerated the exiled Dwarves of Durin's Folk in Dunland). The Dunlending Lord Wulf led a victorious Army of Dunlendings and briefly usurped the throne of Rohan during the long winter, avenging the murder of his father Freca by Helm Hammerhand.
Rumours of tributes paid to Sauron
During the early days of the War of the Ring, rumours were spread that the Rohirrim supplied Sauron's armies with horses. These rumours were obviously false: the Rohirrim valued their horses more than anything, and would never send them away, even as tribute. Still these rumours had some effect, in that they obscured the fact it was Saruman who had fallen, rather than Rohan. The basis of the rumour was that Sauron's Orcs stole many of Rohan's black horses during raids, thus making black horses rare; however, this was theft, which angered the people of Rohan.
When King Théoden began to grow old, he took as an advisor Gríma, later called Wormtongue. Gríma quickly became Théoden's chief advisor, but unknown to all he was secretly working for Saruman. Gríma played on Théoden's fears to further weaken the strength of the king and all of Rohan, always advising retreat where an attack was needed. He may have also begun poisoning the king at this time. This nearly proved disastrous for Rohan, and also for Gondor, by robbing them of their strongest ally in the north. Gríma Wormtongue's plans were not revealed until Gandalf arrived in Edoras during the War of the Ring.
After King Théoden's son died, Gríma attempted to have the king's nephew Éomer disinherited; he may have intended to marry Théoden's niece, Éowyn, the only remaining member of the royal family, and thus take the throne as her consort.
- Déorwine (died March 15, 3019 Third Age) was a knight of the Rohirrim. He was chief of the King's knights (that is, the King's Riders, the personal bodyguard of the King of Rohan). He fell with six of his men at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in the War of the Ring before the gates of Minas Tirith.
- Eorl the Young
- Helm Hammerhand
- Gríma Wormtongue
- Various captains in the War of the Ring, such as Grimbold, Gamling the Old, Háma, Elfhelm, and Erkenbrand
Concept and creation
Tolkien rendered Rohirric as the Mercian dialect of Old English. Even words and phrases that were printed in modern English showed a strong Old English influence. Old English was supposed to render an archaic form of Westron, which was supposedly rendered by Modern English. This solution occurred to Tolkien in 1942, when he was searching for an explanation of the Eddaic names of the dwarves already published in The Hobbit.
Théoden is referred to as "Théoden King", rather than "King Théoden", just as Scandinavian and the Anglo-Saxon era kings had the word konungr/cyning ("king") added after their names, e.g. Hervarðar konungr, rather than before. Compare with Alfred the Great, king of England whose name appeared as Ælfred cyning in Old English.
Portrayal in adaptations
For New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, the Poolburn Reservoir in Central Otago, New Zealand was used for Rohan scenes. The theme for Rohan is played on a Hardingfele. A fully realised set for Edoras was built on Mount Sunday in the upper reaches of the Rangitata Valley, near Erewhon in New Zealand. Some of the set was built digitally, but the main buildings atop the city were built on location: for example the mountain ranges in the background are not added in with computer-generated imagery, but part of the actual location shot. The interiors of buildings such as the Golden Hall, however, were located on soundstages in other parts of New Zealand; when the camera is inside of the Golden Hall, looking out the open gates, the image of the on-set Edoras set is digitally inserted into the door-frame. It was known among the cast and crew for being extremely windy, as can be seen during the film and DVD interviews. After filming, Mount Sunday was returned to its original state.
Rohan is also the setting of an expansion for Lord of the Rings Online released on 15 October 2012.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Book V Ch. 5, The Ride of the Rohirrim: "his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green"; Book V Ch. 10, The Black Gate Opens: "the banners of Rohan and Dol Amroth, White Horse and Silver Swan"; Book VI Ch. 4, The Field of Cormallen: "white on green, a great horse running free"; Appendix A, II, The House of Eorl: "the White Horse upon Green flew in many winds until Éomer grew old.", ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1994). "The White Rider". The Two Towers. Book III, Chapter 5. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- J.R.R Tolkien, The making of Appendix A, in 'The Peoples of Middle-Earth'
- Bosworth, eodor
- Bosworth, medu-seld
- Shippey, T. A. (2005) . The Road to Middle-earth (3rd ed.). HarperCollins. p. 132. ISBN 0-261-10275-3.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Book III, Ch. 6, The King of the Golden Hall: "a small shield he also took. It bore the running horse, white upon green, that was the emblem of the House of Eorl.", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #211, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- Bosworth, eóred
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, Unfinished Tales, (1980). It is also explained in this passage that: "... before the attacks of Saruman a Full Muster would probably have produced many more than twelve thousand riders ..."p. 315.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor,The War of the Ring, Houghton Mifflin, (1990), p.249, Aragorn states there are nearly ten thousand "well horsed, fully armed" men and, "...as many again there are of men on foot or with ponies (etc) ..." or twenty thousand altogether.
- Bosworth, mearh
- Solopova, p. 84.
- Bosworth, mearc
- The Two Towers, ch. 6; the comparison is repeatedly noted in the Tolkien literature; recently by Grigsby (2005) and Solopova (2009).
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien, ed., Unfinished Tales, Ballantine Books, Part III, V, Appendix.
- "Déorwine". Encyclopedia of Arda. Mark Fisher. 23 May 1999.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Appendix F, On Translation, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- "New Zealand The Home of Middle-earth". Film New Zealand. Retrieved 2007-04-17.
- Brodie, Ian (2002). The Lord of the Rings Location. Harper Collins. ISBN 1-86950-452-6.
- Bosworth, Joseph; Toller, T. Northcote. An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Online). Prague: Charles University.
- Grigsby, John (2005). Beowulf & Grendel: The Truth Behind England's Oldest Legend. London: Watkins. ISBN 1-84293-153-9.
- Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1
- Wynne, Hilary (2006). "Rohan". In Drout, Michael D. C. J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. pp. 575–576. ISBN 0-415-96942-5.