A History of The Rohirrim
Language: translated as Old English.
Lands: Rhovanion, Erebor, Angmar, Calenardhon, Rohan
Time Period: Third Age
The Rohirrim, which means ‘The People of the Horse-lords’ in Sindarin, were a remnant of the race of Men who were first called The Northmen. The Northmen were a numerous people who had lived and prospered in the fields between the Celduin (River Running) and Mirkwood in the great lands of Rhovanion. They made their homes in the East Bight, which was the large indentation into the eastern edge of the forest which can be seen on any map of Middle-earth.
The Northmen were great breeders and lovers of horses. They delighted in the plains and were renowned for their skills in horsemanship and their endurance. They were descended from the same race of Men who had travelled to the west of Middle-earth and had participated in the wars against Morgoth with the Eldar. In this way they could claim kinship, though from afar, with the Dúnedain or the Númenóreans. It appears that these men could most closely have been related to the third and largest house of the Edain which was ruled by the House of Hador*.
The men of the north had served as a bulwark of Gondor, though initially the Gondorians did not realise their worth or the extent of the help which the Northmen had provided them. Even in the beginning though, there was great friendship between these folk and the people of Gondor.
During the winter of the year 1635 TA, the Great Plague ravaged Middle-earth and the people of Rhovanion were reduced by nearly half. Their main livery, their horses, shared a similar fate. It took these people a long time to recover and when Gondor was involved in the Battle of the Plains, the Northmen, in their weakened state, bore the brunt of the initial attacks.
The Battle of the Plains was fought by the Gondorians with the Easterling folk called the Wainriders. These men, apparently not affected by the Great Plague, came from the east of Middle-earth and fought in many wars with Gondor for nearly one hundred years. During the Battle of the Plains, King Narmacil II sent many of his army to the plains south of Mirkwood to try to gather some of the scattered folk of the men of the north, but they were defeated, and the King was slain in the year 1856.
The army of Gondor fled to Ithilien and they abandoned all of their lands east of Anduin. The Northmen were divided. Some travelled over Celduin and were joined with the men of Dale under Erebor, who were their kin. Others fled to Gondor, but the rest settled in the Vales of Anduin, between the Carrock and the Gladden Fields, under Marhwini son of Marhari. The folk of Marhwini, along with some other fugitives who had come through the forest, were the beginning of the people who came to be known as the Éothéod, from whom are descended the Rohirrim.
Note: Marhwini was a descendant of Vidugavia, the once “King Of Rhovanion”, whose daughter had been taken to wife by Valacar the son of King Romendacil II. This marriage, and the subsequent mixing of blood, had led to the kinstrife in Gondor, but also allows for the relationship of the Éothéod with the Kings of Gondor.
The Éothéod escaped recognition by the men of Gondor still for a long while. The Battle of the Plains continued with King Calimehtar son of Narmacil II desiring to avenge his father’s death. Around the same time as the planned attack on the lands known as Calenardhon (Rohan during the War of the Ring) by the Wainriders, the Northmen, who had been reduced to servitude during the early stages of the battle, were planning a revolt. Marhwini sent messages to King Calimehtar and they planned their own combined attack. The Gondorians were victorious, though not completely, but they never knew how much their victory had depended upon the valiance of Marhwini and his folk who had provided the Gondorian rearguard. It was after this time that the Éothéod became recognised as a distinct people.
The Éothéod continued their alliance with Gondor by providing them with information and assistance if need be. During the reign of King Eärnil II of Gondor, the Éothéod had become again a very numerous people and had outgrown their lands in the Vales of Anduin, so following their chieftain, Frumgar, they had moved near to the sources of the Great River between the Misty Mountains and the Far north of Mirkwood.
When they heard of the overthrow of the Witch-king of Angmar, the Éothéod headed north in search of more room. There they drove out the last of the people of Angmar and settled in their new home.
During their time in the old realm of Angmar, Fram son of Frumgar slew Scatha, the great dragon of Ered Mithrin, giving the lands there peace at last. Fram won great wealth but feuded with the Dwarves who tried to claim Scatha’s hoard. Fram would not give them a penny, but sent to them a necklace made of the dragon’s teeth. He said ‘Jewels such as these you will not match in your treasuries, for they are hard to come by.’ Some said that the Dwarves slew Fram for this insult and there was never great love between the Éothéod and the Dwarves after that.
In the year 2510 TA, Eorl was the Lord of the Éothéod. During this time, Gondor was threatened by wild men from the North-east who had come out of the Brown-lands and had crossed the Anduin on rafts, and Orcs who had descended from the mountains. The enemy overran Calenardhon, and Cirion, who was the Steward of Gondor, sent for help from the Éothéod.
Cirion chose, from many volunteers, 6 riders of great courage to be sent out in pairs to seek for the Lord of the Éothéod to deliver the message of the need of Gondor. The journey was perilous and only one rider made the journey: Borondir Udalraph, whose name is long remembered in the song Rochon Methestel ‘The Riders of the Last Hope’, who claimed descent from the very Northmen he was to deliver the message to.*
At length, Borondir reached Eorl and told him of the Steward’s need. Eorl travelled with a great host of his people to the Field of Celebrant, which was the name of the land between Silverlode and Limlight. The armies of Gondor were in great peril and were cornered and near defeat when the Éothéod rode up behind the enemy and sent them fleeing. Eorl chased the enemy and ‘so great was the fear that went before Horsemen of the North that the invaders of the Wold were also thrown into panic, and the Riders hunted them over the plains of Calenardhon’. The armies of Gondor were notably rescued by the Éothéod for the second time.
When the war was over Cirion came to Eorl and, near the Mering Stream, he turned to the Lord of the Éothéod and asked that he and his folk watch over Calenardhon until three months time when they would meet again and hold counsel. After three months had passed, Cirion came to the crossing of the Mering Stream with his son Hallas and the prince of Dol Amroth, and Eorl came with three of his chief captains. No one knew why they had been brought there.*
A long-standing tradition, known only to the kings of Gondor and then the stewards after them, was the ‘Tradition of Isildur’. It was said that when Isildur returned from the War of the Last Alliance he travelled to a high hill that was called Eilenaer and there he made a level space and at its eastward end a mound was raised. Inside this mound, Isildur laid a casket and he said: ‘This is a tomb and memorial of Elendil the Faithful. Here it shall stand at the mid-point of the Kingdom of the South in the keeping of the Valar, while the Kingdom endures; and this place shall be a hallow that none shall profane. Let no man disturb its silence and peace, unless he be an heir of Elendil.’ As he and a few men who had earned his trust came down from the hill, they built also a stone stair and before it Isildur said, ‘Up this stair let no man climb, save the King, and those he brings with him, if he bids them follow him.‘ The tradition was such that each King would bring only their heir there and that none other would come to that place. Eilenaer was then renamed Amon Anwar ‘The Hill of Awe’ and the woods there were called the Whispering Wood and they seemed to have indeed been watched over by the Valar and nothing could disturb them.*
So it was that on that day that Eorl met Cirion at the crossing of the Mering Stream, he said to Eorl, ‘I go now to the Hill of Awe. Follow me, if you will.’ Eorl followed him to the foot of the stone stair and Cirion declared to those who stood nearby that to Eorl son of Léod he was offering all of the lands of Calenardhon from Anduin to Isen ‘in recognition of the valour of his people and of the help beyond hope that he brought to Gondor in time of dire need.’ Cirion also said about Eorl, ‘There, if he will, he shall be kind, and his heirs after him, and his people shall dwell in freedom while the authority of the Stewards endures, until the Great King returns. No bond shall be laid upon them other than their own laws and will, save in this only: they shall live in perpetual friendship with Gondor and its enemies shall be their enemies while both realms endure. But the same bond shall be laid also on the people of Gondor.’*
Eorl was amazed by the generosity of the steward and saw his great wisdom on that day. Cirion sought to protect his own realm but he was aware of the needs of his friends, the Éothéod, for their people had again grown quite numerous in the time of Léod, Eorl’s father, and they needed more land. The gift of Calenardhon was a gift which was beneficial to both realms.
Eorl accepted the gift and the two ascended Amon Anwar by the stone stair and there they each took an historic oath. Eorl took his spear and set it in the ground. Then he took his sword and threw it up into the air, caught it, and touched its blade to the ground and spoke then the Oath of Eorl in the tongue of the Éothéod:
‘Hear now all peoples who bow not to the Shadow in the East, by the gift of the Lord of the Mundburg we will come to dwell in the land that he names Calenardhon, and therefore I vow in my own name and on behalf of the Éothéod of the North that between us and the Great People of the West there shall be friendship for ever: their enemies shall be our enemies, their need shall be our need, and whatsoever evil, or threat, or assault may come upon them we will aid them to the utmost of our strength. This vow shall descend to my heirs, all such as may come after me in our new land, and let them keep faith unbroken, lest the Shadow fall upon them and they become accursed.’
Cirion then took his oath in return. He spoke in Quenya and then in the Common Speech such an oath as had not been heard since Elendil swore allegiance to Gil-galad King of the Eldar. These were the words that he said:
‘Vanda sina termaruva Elenna-nóreo alcar enyalien ar Elendil Vorondo voronwë. Nai tiruvantes i hárar mahalmassen mi Númen ar i Eru i or ilyë mahalmar eä tennoio.’
‘This oath shall stand in memory of the glory of the Land of the Star, and of the faith of Elendil the Faithful, in the keeping of those who sit upon the thrones of the West and of the One who is above all thrones forever.’
Eorl sent for his people and they removed to the lands of Calenardhon and they renamed the lands the Mark of the Riders and they called themselves the Eorlingas. But, in Gondor the land was called by the Sindarin name of Rohan and the people called the Rohirrim and the Éothéod came to use those same names for themselves more often than not. The Whispering Wood was called by the Rohirrim ‘Firien Wood’ and Amon Anwar was renamed Halifirien ‘The Holy Mount’ and it was atop that hill that one of the beacons of Gondor could be lit in times of need. After the lands of Rohan were given to the Rohirrim, Cirion removed the tomb of Elendil and so it was allowed that Halifirien could become the beacon closest to the lands of Rohan.
Eorl ‘chose for his dwelling a green hill before the feet of the White Mountains that were the south-wall of his land.’ He became the first King of the Mark and all those who followed after him kept the alliance with Gondor and it long endured through to the time of The War of the Ring, when Théoden King came to the aid of Gondor in the largest battle of the Age. There he was slain and the title of King passed to his nephew, Éomer son of Éomund who continued the alliance into the Fourth Age.
The Kings of the Mark
2485-2545: Eorl the Young: named ‘The Young’ because he succeeded his father so young and remained golden haired and ruddy to his death. Eorl’s father, Léod, had been thrown from one of the great mearas to his death. Eorl tamed that horse and named him Felaróf. He was the same horse which Eorl rode to the Battle of the Field of Celebrant and to many battles afterward. Eorl finally fell in battle with the Easterlings and was laid in the first mound with Felaróf, his horse. He was succeeded by his son, Brego.
2512-2570: Brego: Drove the enemy out of the Wold. In 2569 he completed Meduseld. At the feast in Meduseld his son Baldor vowed to tread the Paths of the Dead and did not return. Brego died of grief the next year. He was succeeded by his second son, Aldor.
2544-2645: Aldor the Old: Brego’s second son. He was known as the Old because he lived to a great age and was king for 75 years. During his time the Rohirrim increased and drove out the last of the Dunlendings who lingered east of the Isen. He was succeeded by his son Fréa. Little is said of the next 3 kings because they ruled in times of peace and prosperity.
2570-2659: Fréa: Eldest son but fourth child of Aldor. He was succeeded by his son Frëawine.
2594-2680: Frëawine. He was succeeded by his son Goldwine.
2619-2699: Goldwine. He was succeeded by his son Déor.
2644-2718: Déor: the Dunlendings begin to raid over the Isen and occupy the deserted ring of Isengard during his reign. He was succeeded by his son Gram.
2668-2741: Gram. He was succeeded by his son Helm.
2691-2759: Helm Hammerhand: The Rohirrim lose many of their people and horses during the Long Winter and the times of war during Helm’s reign. Helm dies and his sons Haleth and Háma also perish leaving Helm’s sister-son (nephew) as King. The full tale of Helm Hammerhand, after whom was named Helm’s Deep, can be found here: Helm Hammerhand.
2726-2798: Fréaláf Hildeson: Saruman comes to Isengard after the Dunlendings are driven out. The Rohirrim profited from his friendship at first. He is succeeded by his son Brytta.
2752-2842: Brytta: called Léofa by his people for he was loved by all. He was known for being openhanded and helpful to the needy. There were wars with Orcs who had been driven from the North and were taking refuge in the White Mountains during his reign. He was succeeded by his son Walda.
2780-2851: Walda: only king for nine years. He was slain with all his companions when they were trapped by Orcs as they rode on the Mountain Paths from Dunharrow. He was succeeded by his son Folca.
2804-2864: Folca: A great hunter but would hunt only Orcs while they remained. When all were destroyed he went to hunt the great boar of Everholt in the Firien Wood and killed it, but he dies of the tusk wounds it had given him. He was succeeded by his son Folcwine.
2830-2903: Folcwine: The Rohirrim finally recover their strength after the Long Winter. They reconquered the west-march (between Adorn and Isen) that the Dunlendings had occupied. He heard that the Haradhrim were assailing Gondor and sent many men to their aid. He had wanted to go himself but instead sent his twin sons, Folcred and Fastred. They both died in Ithilien and Turin II of Gondor sent Folcwine a rich weregild of gold. He was succeeded by his son Fengel.
2870-2953: Fengel: Third son and fourth child of Folcwine. He was greedy of food and gold and was not much loved by his people. He was always at strife with his marshals and his children. His son Thengel, his third child and only son, left Rohan when he came to manhood to serve Turgon of Gondor where he won great honour.
2905-2980: Thengel: Took a wife late in life but when he did, it was Morwen of Lossarnach in Gondor, who was of high Númenórean descent. She was 17 years younger than he. She bore to him 3 children in Gondor, Théoden was the only son. When Fengel died the Rohirrim called for Thengel and he returned unwillingly.
He was a good and wise king though the speech of Gondor was used in his house and not all men believed that to be good. Morwen had two more daughters in Rohan, and the youngest, Théodwyn, was the fairest of all and Théoden loved her dearly. Soon after Thengel’s return to Rohan, Saruman began to call himself Lord of Isengard and he troubled Rohan and encroached on its borders and supported their enemies. Thengel is succeeded by his son Théoden.
2948-3019: Théoden: Called Théoden Ednew because he ‘fell into a decline under the spells of Saruman, but was healed by Gandalf, and in the last year of his life arose and led his men to victory at the Hornburg, and soon after to the Fields of Pelennor, the greatest battle of the Age.’ He died before the gates of Mundburg during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
For a time his body rested in Gondor but it was returned to Rohan and was laid in the eighth mound. He had married Elfhild, who died giving birth to Théodred, their only child. He did not remarry. Théodred fell in battle with Saruman at the Crossings of Isen so the kingship passed to Théoden’s sister-son (nephew).
Théodwyn, Théoden’s beloved sister, married Éomund of Eastfold, the chief Marshal of the Mark in 2989. Her son Éomer was born in 2991 and their daughter Éowyn in 2995. Sauron had risen again and the shadow reached out to Rohan. Orcs began to slay and steal their horses.
Éomund was a great lover of horses and a hater of Orcs. He would often ride against them unwarily and with few men. So it was that he died in 3002 because he pursued a small band of Orcs to the borders of the Emyn Muil and was surprised by a large force waiting to waylay them.
Soon after, Théodwyn was ill and died, to the great grief of Théoden. He took in her children and called them son and daughter. Éomer and Éowyn grew up at Edoras and they saw the shadow fall on the king. Éowyn had a grace and pride that had come from Morwen of Lossarnach from the South who the Rohirrim had called Steelsheen.
It should also be noted here that Éowyn is remembered as the bane of the Witch-king of Angmar, delivering him his death upon the Pelennor during the War of the Ring. Thus the prophecy told long ago was fulfilled that the Witch-king would not come to his death ever at the hands of a man.
2994-63 FA (3084) Éomer Éadig: When he was young he became a Marshal of the Mark (3017) and was given his father’s charge in the east marches. Since Théoden had no heir, he named Éomer his heir and called him king on the Pelennor.
He was a young king and a great one. He reigned for 65 years. He made the friendship of King Elessar and Imrahil of Dol Amroth and he rode often to Gondor. In the last year of TA he wedded Lothíriel, daughter of Imrahil. His son Elfwine the Fair ruled after him.
During Éomer’s rule the Rohirrim increased and so did their horses. King Elessar renewed the gift of Cirion and Eomer took again the Oath of Eorl. ‘Wherever the King Elessar went with war King Éomer went with him; and beyond the Sea of Rhûn and on the far fields of the South the thunder of the cavalry of the Mark was heard, and the White Horse upon Green flew in many winds until Éomer grew old.’
To learn more about the Rohirrim, please see the article about the Hymn of Eorl, by Figwit.
Research by Nienna-of-the-Valar
Information compiled from The Lord of the Rings, especially Appendix A, The House of Eorl. Some information also from The Silmarillion
* denotes information compiled from Unfinished Tales by Christopher Tolkien. Though many consider this information to not be canon, the stories included herein only add detail to information already presented in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings.