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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.
  • 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.
  • Rohan included archers in its army. They used shortbows, possibly because they fought mounted on horses. The shortbows were much less powerful than those used by other Men, having a range of only 125 yards.
  • Orcs used bows for hunting, as well as for a weapon in war. Orcish bows were made of steel, and probably were much heavy and difficult in use. Bows and crossbows were used as a weapon by the fierce Uruk-hai in the Battle of Helm's Deep.

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