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"Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?" - Tom Bombadil
This article describes a concept which is mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's works, but was never given a definite name.
This article is about the people. For the languages, see Pre-Númenórean.
"We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West."
― Denethor II
General Information
LocationsMiddle-earth (Enedwaith, Minhiriath, Dunland, Agar, Bree-land, Eryn Vorn)
MembersSquint-eyed Southerner, Freca, Wulf, Buldar, Hazad, Tal-Elmar, Barliman Butterbur, etc.

Pre-Númenóreans are the indigenous Mannish peoples of Middle-earth, in conrast to the Dúnedain who drew their heritage from Númenor.

These indigenous peoples were the descendants of the second group of the Edain who migrated to the West in the First Age; their relatives who reached Beleriand became the Haladin while themselves stayed in the eastern regions of Middle-earth that would be later settled by the Númenóreans (hence the name).

From the perspective of the Dúnedain, these Middle Men were considered unrelated to them or the Northmen.



First Age

The first Men moved from Hildórien to the West; during their migration those of the second group joined the Drúedain near the White Mountains and stayed with them. When the core of their team was pressed to wander on, some Drúedain accompanied them westwards[1], passing through the Gap of Calenardhon.

However some of them did not go through the dense forest covering the Minhiriath and the western half of Enedwaith and stayed behind. These were the ancestors of the Pre-Númenóreans. They became herd-tenders and eventually expanded to the forests of the shore-lands south of the Blue Mountains, especially in Minhiriath.[2]

By the end of the First Age the branches of those peoples must had spread as far as Cardolan in the north, and as far south as Umbar.

Second Age

With the destruction of Beleriand in the War of Wrath, evil Men and Easterlings fled from Angband and apparently took in larger numbers to the hills of Rhudaur and the Mountains of Angmar. The primitive pre-Númenóreans in the White Mountains (scattered communities of forest-dwellers without central leadership[3]) who had refused to join in the rebellion against the Valar[2] were terrorized and conquered by these evil Men.[4]

Those of the White Mountains migrated to the southern dales of the Misty Mountains during the Dark Years, and thence some passed into the empty lands until the Barrow-downs; from them came the Men of Bree.[5]

When the Númenóreans returned to Middle-earth, they failed to recognize the forest-folk of Minhiriath as "kinsmen" of the Edain, and confused them with Men of Shadow because their language was not related to Adûnaic.[2]

In Gondor there were Pre-Númenórean communities far from the sea; the shores of the Bay of Belfalas were perhaps desolate except for Agar[6] and a primitive harbour of fisherfolk. Those fled into the White Mountains in fear of the Eldar, who settled Edhellond[2][3]

Because of that, only the Númenórean settlers of Pelargir made contact with Men who dwelt in the valleys on either side of the White Mountains (S.A. 2350).[2]

Aldarion's successors continued his works and even fought with the pre-Númenóreans[7] until they attacked and ambushed the Númenóreans when they could. They became their enemies giving no thought to husbandry or replanting. The Númenóreans wrecked the banks, the shorelines, and built great tracks and roads into the forests northwards and southwards from the Gwathló.[3] They continued battling and destroying what lay ahead of them, pushing into Minhiriath and Enedwaith, establishing themselves inland as far as the river Glanduin (the southern boundary of Eregion), beyond which pre-Númenóreans and hostile peoples lived, a remnant of the peoples that had dwelt in the vales of the White Mountains in ages past.[5][3] The natives overcame their fear of the Elves and fled from Minhiriath into the dark woods of the great Cape of Eryn Vorn (south of the mouth of Baranduin). Those from Enedwaith took refuge in the eastern mountains (Dunland).[3]

Sauron recruited pre-Númenóreans and in the early second millennium he increased pressure on the West, left his stronghold in Rhûn and relocated in Mordor. He was welcomed by the natives and used the haters of Númenor as spies and guides for his raiders who caused havoc and burned their settlements.

Eriador was already ruined when the Númenórean fleet sent by king Tar-Minastir caught Mordor's troops in the rear and utterly defeated them, but brought peace in the Westlands.[3] The surviving pre-Númenóreans now apparently crossed the Glanduin back south to Dunland which now seemed safer than wrecked Eregion.

In the south the Númenóreans found a useful natural haven already called Umbar by the natives, and then Pelargir in S.A. 2350 and discovered the Men of the Mountains near Dunharrow[8] who eventually repented when Sauron left from Mordor and the power of Gil-galad had grown great.[9]

When the Elendili established the Realms in Exile, many Men turned from evil and became subject to them although the pre-Númenóreans were not friendly to them and never learned to distinguish between King's Men and Faithful, while many remembered Sauron's influence.[9] The King of the Mountains first swore allegiance to Gondor.

When Sauron returned, Isildur summoned the Men of the Mountains to fulfill their oath, they would not because they were afraid of Sauron. They hid in the mountains isolated till slowly dwindled in the barren hills and became the Dead Men of Dunharrow.

Third Age

The indigenous Men of Eriador were absorbed by the civilisation of Arnor.[5] By the time of Valandil this mixed population was diminished and there was not enough people to maintain all the places built by Elendil, until eventually Arnor was split into smaller realms.[9] However when the Hobbits came to Arnor, Númenóreans, allies and enemies were numerous.[2] The Númenorean element was stronger in Arthedain and thinner in Rhudaur until utterly failed. Eventually Angmar was populated by evil men gathered by the Witch-king.[10]

The indigenous Men were also absorbed in the South Kingdom of Gondor, which pursued an expansionist policy. Gondor's borders were extended by the Ship-kings, subduing the pre-Númenóreans. Their blood was mixed and in the following generations the Dúnedain's power and wisdom was diminished.[9]

Hill-men practiced magic[11] and from the 14th century on, fortified the hills of Eriador with dark structures[12] harassed Rhudaur until an evil lord, allied with Angmar, seized its throne and eventually all of Rhudaur was occupied by evil Men subject to Angmar. The Dúnedain were either slain or fled west[10]. The Angmar War however caused those populations to perish.[2] Cardolan was also deserted and could not be repopulated[12]. Rhudaur came to be inhabited only by monsters. After the Great Plague, Minhiriath was deserted except for hunters in Eryn Vorn. Other known Mannish settlements included only the Bree-land and the Lossoth in the far North.

As Gondor expanded East and South, the few remote Dunlendings resisted the Númenórean influence and Enedwaith had no such settlements,[13] other than Tharbad.[2] They remained unaffected, independent and even unfriendly to the Dúnedain, holding their own manners and Dunlendish language.[5] However the Dunlendings also remained hostile to those with Orc-blood.[14] The Dunlendings also dwelt alongside the Stoor Hobbits during their Wandering Days and the latter even formed a related language to theirs.[5]

The Dunlendings suffered from the Great Plague less than other peoples owing to their isolation[5] and were still found in the foothills of the Misty Mountains. By the time of the Ruling Stewards they ceased to be subjects of Gondor and, being surrounded by barbarous folk[3], they moved to settle the region of Calenardhon as its people dwindled during the Watchful Peace.[13]

In T.A. 2510 Calenardhon passed to the Northern Eotheod who came from Rhovanion and were viewed as usurpers by the wild hill-men and Dunlending herd-folk. Kings Brego and Aldor drove the Dunlendings out of Rohan beyond the Isen until Enedwaith. As the ensuing enmity did not concern the Stewards, the Dunlendings kept hostilities to the Rohirrim and attacked whenever the latter were weak or in trouble.[13]

After the death of King Aldor, and as Isengard became more friendly to them, the Dunlendings passed and settled northern Westfold, the mountain glens around the Ring, and southern eaves of Fangorn, becoming openly hostile.[13] This allowed the two peoples to mingle in some peaceful circumstances; and the dark-haired Landlord Freca was said to have Dunlendish blood[10] When it became clear that the raiders were coming from near Isengard, in T.A. 2710 King Déor led an expedition to the north. He found and defeated a host of Dunlendings, but discovered that Isengard was held by hostile forces.

Freca's son, Wulf, allied with the Corsairs of Umbar who were in turn stirred by Sauron, keeping safe his properties at Adorn. Joining his kin from outside of Rohan with enemies of Gondor that had landed in the mouths of Lefnui and Isen, Rohan was invaded from the East, the Isen and Isengard, finally losing Edoras. Gondor, fighting Corsair fleets, could not help.[10] The usurping Dunlendings were reduced after the Long Winter and finished off by Fréaláf. The Rohirrim now kept a strong force in north Westfold.[13]

Eventually many Dunlendings were found later in the West-March, until again Folcwine, aided by Gondor, reconquered it.[10] But the people remaining between Isen and Adorn were largely of mixed blood, and not loyal to Edoras.[13]

Before the War of the Ring, Saruman found in those peoples an opportunity for creating crossbreeds of Orcs and Men. The Dunlendings allied with him and joined his forces in the Battle of the Hornburg. After the War, under King Éomer, there was relative peace.[10]


In anthropology, archeology and linguistics, the prefix Pre- is used to indicate a prehistoric state before the arrival or emergence of a dominant state of peoples or languages (a superstratum). Compare with the scientific terms Pre-Celtic, Pre-Germanic, Pre-Greek or Pre-Indo-European.

External links


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Drúedain"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men"
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named GC
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "XVII. Tal-Elmar"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "A Description of the Island of Númenor"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VIII. The Tale of Years of the Third Age"
  12. 12.0 12.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VII. The Heirs of Elendil"
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Battles of the Fords of Isen"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring"