Rangers of the North
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Rangers of the North, or simply the Rangers, were the northern wandering people of Eriador, the last remnant of the Dúnedain of Arnor who had once peopled the North Kingdom of Arnor. They protected the lands they wandered although their secretiveness made other peoples consider them dangerous and distrustful in Bree and the Shire, where they were known as "Watchers".
They were grim in appearance and were usually dressed in grey or dark green, with a cloak-clasp shaped like a rayed star.
The term 'Rangers of the North' was used most often by those who lived in the southern lands of Rohan and Gondor, perhaps to distinguish this people from their distant cousins, the Rangers of Ithilien. Like the Rangers of the North, these were also Dúnedain, but they belonged to the South-kingdom of Gondor, and their ancestors had been divided from the Northern Dúnedain for some three thousand years.
- Main article: Men of Arnor
The Dúnedain of Arnor dwindled after the breaking of Arnor into three kingdoms and the wars with Angmar. Cardolan and Rhudaur soon fell and only the petty-kingdom of Arthedain maintained the noble line of Isildur. Finally, that too was destroyed in the Battle of Fornost and Arvedui, the last King of Arthedain was lost in the sea.
Arvedui's son and heir, Aranarth claimed the title of the Chieftain, who would rule the remnants of his people. Elrond had in his keeping the heirlooms of the house of Isildur: the shards of Narsil, the Star of Elendil, the Sceptre of Annúminas and later the Ring of Barahir, ransomed from the Lossoth.
Each of Aranarth's heirs (who, like him, could trace his descent back to Isildur himself) would be secretly born and raised in Rivendell.
The Rangers became a secretive wandering and nomadic people around Eriador, far from Sauron's spies, little known or remembered, and their deeds were seldom recorded.
The Watchful Peace followed the loss of Arnor and after its end, the enemies concentrated mostly against Rhovanion and Gondor. During that time, the Rangers fought minor battles and skirmishes against orcs and wolves in order to keep the region safe. The hobbits of the Shire flourished under their protection.
During the rule of Arassuil, the Orcs of the Misty Mountains became more bold, daring to invade Eriador. The Rangers fought many battles trying to hold them back, but one party managed to reach the Shire, and were fought off by a party of brave Hobbits under Bandobras Took in T.A. 2747. Soon after, the Long Winter arrived and many lives were lost. Gandalf came to the aid of the Hobbits, and with his help, many survived.
In 2911, during Argonui's rule, the Fell Winter began with the Brandywine freezing over. This was a catalyst for White Wolves invading Eriador from the North. In the last year of his reign, great floods devastated Enedwaith and Minhiriath leaving Tharbad ruined and deserted. The following years were peaceful although Arador was killed by hill-trolls and his son Arathorn II was killed while hunting orcs.
Arathorn's son, Aragorn II succeeded him, who between 2957 to 2980 took great journeys, serving in the armies of King Thengel of Rohan, and Steward Ecthelion II of Gondor. Many of his tasks weakened Sauron and his allies.
Saruman, jealous of Gandalf, secretly followed Gandalf's interest for the Hobbits and put spies in Bree and Southfarthing. In the years leading up to the War of the Ring, his spies saw that the Shire was closely guarded by the Rangers. When Gandalf suspected that Bilbo Baggins possessed the One Ring the guard was doubled (perhaps at his request to Chieftain Aragorn). He also asked Aragorn to locate Gollum.
At that time Aragorn's Rangers were scattered and diminished. When Halbarad led a troop of the Rangers into the south to Aragorn's aid in the War, in haste he could muster no more than thirty in this company who fought in the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
Portrayal in adaptations
2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:
- The Rangers of the North are called simply Rangers in the game. There were some scattered about Middle-earth, but there were also many who were organized. There was a group that Aragorn led to keep track of the Enemy's movement during "Stirrings in the Darkness". The main Ranger factions in the game are the Rangers of Esteldín, the Wardens of Annúminas, and later they merge into the Grey Company.
- The Rangers of the North first appear in the Prologue of the game. They have set up several barricades at Sarn Ford to prevent the Nazgûl from entering the Shire. They, however, fail to maintain their positions and are defeated. Many Rangers are killed, some have reorganized their camp at Sarn Ford while others are patrolling and scoutring the surrounding lands.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Passing of the Grey Company", p. 778
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"
- The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, Prologue
- The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, Chapter 2: Barrow-downs, Prologue