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|Location||North of the White Mountains, South of Fangorn Forest|
Rohan was the territory of the Rohirrim, a people of herdsmen and farmers on the northern borders of Gondor in Middle-earth. Well-known for their horses and cavalry, they were Gondor's most important ally.
In the 2000s, a remnant tribe of such Northmen that called 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.
Later, in Third Age 2509, Cirion the Steward of Gondor sent summons to the Éothéod for aid in stopping a combined invasion of Men from the north east of Middle-earth, and Orcs from the Misty Mountains. Borondir reached Eorl the Young, king of the Éothéod, who answered the summons, and arrived unexpectedly at a decisive battle of the Field of Celebrant.
Eorl was given the plains of Calenardhon, a province of Gondor, devastated by the Great Plague and the survivors to a large extent slain in the recent invasion. He moved his people there driving out the Dunlendings who attempted to repopulate it without Gondor's consent.
The first line of kings lasted for 249 years, until the ninth king Helm Hammerhand. In Third Age 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 reinforcements from Gondor and Dunharrow (a refuge of the Rohirrim) arrived a year later and defeated the invaders.
It was soon after this that Saruman arrived and took over Isengard, and was welcomed as a strong ally, since it would take Rohan close to 200 years to recover its strength after the invasion. For two generations, during the coincidental conflict many thousands of Orcs tried to claim a refuge in the White Mountains and troubled the Rohirrim.
In Third Age 3014, Saruman began using his influence to weaken the King, Théoden, as part of a campaign to invade or take over the kingdom. In Third Age 3019, he launched a full-scale invasion of Rohan, with victories 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 succeeded to the throne, beginning the third line. Éomer rode with the armies of Gondor to the gates of Mordor and took part in the final battle with the forces of Sauron, who was defeated when the Ruling Ring was destroyed.
The rule of the Stewards of Gondor was now over. King Éomer and the new king of Gondor, Aragorn II (Aragorn), renewed their oath of alliance, and reaffirmed Cirion's grant of Calenardhon to the Rohirrim.
The borders of Rohan were the river Isen in the west, bordering Saruman's Isengard; the river Adorn, a tributary of Isen, also in the west, forming the border with the unfriendly Dunlendings); the White Mountains in the south; the Mering Stream in the southeast, at the border between Rohan and Gondor; the Mouths of Entwash in the east; and the Limlight, a tributary of the Anduin as the northern border.
The capital of Rohan was the hill fort of Edoras which lay on the slopes of the White Mountains. Another large city was Aldburg, the capital city of the Eastfold and original city of Eorl the Young. Other cities must have existed but are not named.
A known recluse was Dunharrow, even deeper in the White Mountains. One of the most impressive places in Rohan was the Hornburg, a great fortress which was part of a chain of fortifications at Helm's Deep.
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 decades.
Climate and countryside
The countryside of Rohan was described as a land of pastures and lush tall grassland. It was much like the Central Asian steppe or North American Great Plains, and its climate was also similar to these places. The lands of Rohan are frequently described as appearing like "seas of grass".
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 fulfill 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 Rohan lived the Dunlendings, a native people who had been hostile against the Free Peoples for a long time. The Dunlending Wulf briefly usurped of the throne of Rohan during the long winter.
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.
Other versions of the legendarium
Conceptualized as the "Horse kings of Rohan" allied with Mordor in early drafts of 1939, the Rohirrim took their final form in 1942 when the text of the Lord of the Rings was completed to about one third.
Several aspects of Rohan's culture and history seem to be inspired by both Goths, Scandinavians and the medieval Anglo-Saxons.
Just like the Germanic Ostrogoths, Rohanese culture was a mounted culture. It had separated from the Northmen, moved south, and had settled in close proximity with a civilization. In the Goths' case it was the Byzantine Empire and in the case of the Rohirrim, it was Gondor.
Especially Hervarar saga, with its Mirkwood, Gothic horsemen and shieldmaidens, appears to have inspired Tolkien when creating the Rohirrim, although he exchanged the Gothic tongue with the Anglo-Saxon.
The antipathy between the Rohirrim and the Dunlendings resembles the historical tension between the Anglo-Saxon settlers of Britain and the native Celts.