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"...It is a long tale..." — Aragorn
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Bows were a common weapon in Arda. Though mainly associated with Elves, all peoples, Good and Evil, were known to used them, most notable of them being the Numenoreans, Rohirrim, Orcs and even Hobbits.



Bows varied in shape, size and material. While Elven flawless bows were made from wood, Numenorean and Orcish bows were made of steel, forged in armories.

Bows by Faction

  • Elves used longbows (in the case of the Elves of Doriath and Lothlórien) which were ,as their name suggests, longer bows and shot farther and higher then any other types of bows. Elves were the first race to develop and master the use of bows, and later passed their knowledge to Men.
  • Númenóreans, as described in Unfinished Tales, used a type of bow called the steelbow, which was hollow and made of steel, as its name implies. As it is made of steel, one can make a parallel to the medieval arbalest. Like the arbalest, the Numenorian steelbow probably required much strength to pull, and thus perhaps a lower rate of fire. It was much feared by their enemies.

Notable bowmen


It is possible Tolkien's fascination with bows came from Red Indian stories:

"Red Indians were better: there were bows and arrows (I had and have a wholly unsatisfied desire to shoot well with a bow)"
On Fairy-stories
"But he [Tolkien] liked Red Indian stories and longed to shoot with a bow and arrow."
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography