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The Rohirrim were a horse people, settling in the land of Rohan, named after them. The name is Sindarin for People of the Horse-lords (sometimes translated simply as Horse-lords) and was mostly used by outsiders: the name they had for themselves was Eorlingas, after their king Eorl the Young who had first brought them to Rohan.
The terms Riders of Rohan and Riders of the Mark are commonly used and refer specifically to their mounted soldiers. The former is a chapter title in The Two Towers. The King's Riders were specifically the Riders who formed the bodyguard of the King.
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.
The Éothéod were a race of Men that lived in the vales of the Great River Anduin, but that removed to Calenardhon which was granted them in perpetuity by the Ruling Steward of Gondor, Cirion in reward for the assistance that they offered Gondor at a time of great need, the Battle of the Field of Celebrant.
At that time Calenardhon was renamed Rohan (Horse-land) after their many horses. By the Rohirrim themselves Rohan was usually called The Mark.
The Dúnedain of Gondor believed that the Rohirrim were distantly related to them (having descended from the Atanatári of the First Age) and described them as Middle Men, that being inferior to the Númenóreans in both culture and descent, but superior to the Men of Darkness who had worshipped and served Sauron. However J. R. R. Tolkien calls this a piece of Númenórean fiction meant to satisfy the national pride of the people of Gondor for the surrender of the territory of Calenardhon -- in reality there had been no common ancestry between the people of Rohan and of Gondor.
The Rohirrim were tall, blonde, and mostly had blue eyes. They prized their horses more than anything, and their entire culture was based around these. They had few cities, but lived in many villages on the plains of Rohan.
- They are proud and wilful, but they are true-hearted, generous in thought and deed; bold but not cruel; wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs, after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years. — The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Rohirrim had had contacts with Elves in their ancient history, and knew of Eru, but like the Dúnedain they did not worship him in any temples. They seem to have valued the Vala Oromë the Hunter highly, whom they called Bema.
They were ruled by a line of kings descended from Eorl the Young, who had first brought them to Rohan, and in time of war every able men rode to meet the Muster of Rohan.
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.
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.
- Main article: Rohirric
The Rohirrim spoke a language descended from that of the Éothéod, related to that of the Northmen of Rhovanion. In comparison to Westron, it was mostly archaic and was not easily understood by the speakers of Westron.
The word means "horse-lords". One person would be in the singular 'a Rohir' ("a horse-lord"), but this form was never seen in Tolkien's writings and is perhaps wrong usage. This word contains roch "horse" and hîr "lord, master"