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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 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.
- The Gondorian army contains units of archers who use a longbow. The bows are made of heartwood, about 68 inches tall. The arrows are about 28 inches long with four-inch steel tips. They're accurate up to 200 yards. The longbowmen of the army wear their quiver (the case that holds the arrows) on their hips rather than on their backs like most archers. Bows were aslo the primary weapon of the Rangers of Ithilien.
- Beleg Cúthalion who bore Belthronding
- Bard the Bowman who slew the Dragon Smaug with his Black Arrow
- Legolas, a member of the Fellowship of the Ring
- The Men of Númenor who's hollow steel bows had a fell reputation
It is possible Tolkien's fascination with bows came from Red Indian stories: