|Location||North of the White Mountains, South of Fangorn Forest|
Rohan is the territory of the Rohirrim, a people of herdsmen and some farmers on the northern borders of Gondor in Middle-earth. Well-known for their horses and cavalry, they are Gondor's most important ally.
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, Rohirric culture was a mounted culture. It had separated from the Northmen, moved south, and had settled in close proximity with a civilisation. 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.
Tolkien rendered Rohirric as Old English, but also included Scandinavian names, such as Westfold. Even words and phrases that were printed in Modern English showed a strong Anglo-Saxon influence. Old English was supposed to render an archaic form of Westron, which was supposedly rendered by Modern English. This solution occurred to Tolkien in 1942, when he was searching for an explanation of the Eddaic name of the dwarves already published in The Hobbit.
Rohirric nouns were pluralized with the suffix "-as", as were Old English nouns of the strong-masculine declension.
Théoden was referred to as "Théoden King", rather than "King Théoden", just as Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon kings had the word "konungr"/"cyning" ("king") added after their names, e.g. Hervarðar konungr, rather than before.
Many Rohirric names appear to be derived from Old English words. These include:
- Éothéod: from "eoh" ("war-horse") and "þeod" ("folk", "people", "nation")
- Gríma: possibly from "grima" ("mask", "helmet", "ghost")
- Eorl: from "eorl" ("nobleman")
- Théodred: from "þeod" ("folk", "people", "nation") and "ræd" ("counsel")
The antipathy between the Rohirrim and the Dunlendings resembles the historical tension between the Anglo-Saxon settlers of Britain and the native Celts.
In the 2000s, a remnant tribe of such Northmen calling 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.
Eorl the Young, king of the Éothéod, answered the summons, and arrived unexpected at a decisive battle at the Field of Celebrant.
As a reward, Eorl was given the plains of Calenardhon, and he moved his kingdom there. This land had earlier been part of Gondor proper, but had been devastated by the plague of 1636, and the survivors to a large extent slain in the invasion mentioned above.
The first line of kings lasted for 249 years, until the ninth king Helm Hammerhand died. His sons had been killed earlier, and his nephew Fréaláf Hildeson began the second line of kings, which lasted until the end of the Third Age.
In 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 aid from Gondor and Dunharrow (a refuge of the Rohirrim) arrived a year later and defeated the invaders.
In 3014, Saruman began using his influence to weaken the King, Théoden, as part of a campaign to invade or take over the kingdom. In 3019, he launched a full-scale invasion on Rohan, with victory 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 took up the reign, 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, Elessar (Aragorn), renewed their oath of alliance, and reaffirmed Cirion's grant of Calenardhon to the Rohirrim.
Important places and the borders of Rohan
The capital of Rohan is the hill fort of Edoras which lies on the slopes of the White Mountains. Another large city is Aldburg, capital city of the Westfold and original city of Eorl the Young. Other cities must have existed but are not named.
A known recluse is Dunharrow, even deeper in the White Mountains. One of the most impressive places in Rohan is the Hornburg, a great fortress which is part of a chain of fortifications at Helm's Deep.
The borders of Rohan are: 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, the border between Rohan and Gondor); the Mouths of Entwash (in the east); and the Limlight (a tributary of the Anduin, the northern border).
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 is described as a land of pastures and lush tall grassland. It looks a lot 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".
The Rohirrim are descendants of the Edain of the First Age. They did not go to Beleriand like the Edain who were later rewarded with the island of Númenor by the Valar. The ancestors of the Rohirrim were known as the Éothéod and were given the province of Calenardhon by Gondor after the afore-mentioned Battle of the Field of Celebrant.
The Rohirrim are famous as skilled horsemen, masters and breeders. Among the horses of the Rohirrim are the famed Mearas, the noblest and fastest horses who have ever roamed Arda; Shadowfax was the greatest of all Mearas. There were very few Mearas left in Middle-earth at this point, but there were enough that a breeding population was present. The armies of Rohan are almost exclusively cavalry, divided into irregular units termed éoreds. Rohan's armies were more of a very well trained militia called upon in times of war, with the actual standing army relatively small. The professional career-soldiers of Rohan may have been limited to the royal bodyguard at Edoras.
It was because of this close affiliation with horses, both in war and peace, that they received their now famous name. Rohirrim (or more properly Rochirrim) is Sindarin for "Horse-lords," and Rohan (or Rochand) meant "Land of the Horse-lords." These names were devised by Hallas, son of Cirion the Steward.
Rohirric is, like the languages of all Men, akin to Adûnaic, the language of the Edain. The Rohirrim call their homeland the Ridenna-mearc, the Riddermark or Éo-marc, the Horse-mark, also simply the Mark and call themselves the Eorlingas, the Sons of Eorl. In the original Rohirric the name for their land is Lôgrad, with the element "lô-"/"loh-" corresponding to Anglo-Saxon "éo", horse.
Rohirric bears a similar relationship to the Common Speech of Middle-earth as that of Old English to modern English, and so Tolkien renders Rohirric names and phrases into Old English (Anglo-Saxon), just as the Common Speech is translated into English. Examples include words such as Mearas (Old English for horses) and éored. Tolkien was a philologist, with a special interest in Germanic languages.
Many archaic Hobbit names bear similarities to Rohirric, since the ancestors of The Shire hobbits lived on the upper reaches of the Anduin, close to the ancestors of the Rohirrim, and there was apparently a good deal of linguistic cross-fertilisation. The name Hobbit itself is believed to be derived from the Rohirric Holbytlan (hole builders). These names are also translations of the original Westron Kuduk (Hobbit) and Rohirric kûd-dûkan (hole dweller), of course.
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 fulfil 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.
Rumours of tributes paid to Sauron
During the early days of the War of the Ring, rumours were spread that the Rohirrim supplied Sauron's armies with horses. These rumours were obviously false: the Rohirrim valued their horses more than anything, and would never send them away, even as tribute. Still these rumours had some effect, in that they obscured the fact it was Saruman who had fallen, rather than Rohan. The basis of the rumour was that Sauron's Orcs on raids into Rohan stole their horses for use in Mordor's army, but this was outright theft that angered the Rohirrim against Sauron.
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.