Sunday, 18 March 2012

Populations of Middle Earth in the First Age - Part 1: The Elves

If you're already a paid up Tolkien enthusiast you can skip to below the Map, or at least the first two paragraphs.  That's where the calculations start. This first bit is an intro for non-hardcore geeks. I originally wrote this article assuming only a few facebook friends would read it. Hence the intro for non-geeks.

Some of you may know I'm a huge Tolkien geek.  Now when I say Tolkien, you probably thought "ahh, right, Lord of the Rings and all that stuff",  (and quite possibly, "oooh Viggo, he's so dreamy". Please stop it.  Cram your tongue back into your head.  Thank you.) But that is where we part company. Don't get me wrong. I love Lord of the Rings, book and films, but if that's your main thought then we're fishing in different ends of the pool. You see, this is what separates an ordinary fan from a Tolkien geek. A fan loves LotR or perhaps the Hobbit, but if when I say 'Tolkien' your first thought was Silmarillion, First Age, the Noldor against Morgoth, then you're a Tolkien geek. I'm a particularly bad Tolkien geek, up from your average Silmarillion waving nerd. I am the final level of evolution: Luke Skywalker crossed with Captain America, of the Middle Earth nerd world. I know LotR, the Hobbit, Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the Entire History of Middle Earth series backwards. I read the 'Lost Tales' for light bedtime reading. You have been warned.

Now, if after that you're still with me, let's get on. One of the other things I love doing is playing around with numbers. I was a mediocre mathematician, mainly due to abstract algebra, but I do love playing with actual numbers.  This brings these two together. Basically in this article I am going to look at all the evidence we're given in Tolkien's writings about the 1st Age, around 6500 years before the Lord of the Rings, to work out population estimates for Elves, Men and others in Beleriand, and Elves across Middle Earth.

One of the wonderful things about Tolkien's writings is the sheer range and depth of his description. Tolkien brought a scholar's precision and detail to creating his imaginary world but also a imaginative, creative mind and a romantic heart, to an extent that still captivates millions. Every scrap of his work is rich with detail on not only the races he invented but also the geography, the plant life, the landscape, languages, names, history, myth, legend, metaphysics: everything. In LotR all the references given to the size of the moon in the sky accurately match how the phases of the moon would in real life change over the time described as passing in the book.

But although he became famous from the LotR his true passion was for the story of the Elder Days of Middle Earth and the epic, doomed struggle between the Elves and Morgoth, the original Dark Lord. He worked on it for 50 years and never completed it but just kept re-writing and developing through a multitude of different perspectives, genres and styles. We're lucky that after he died his son, Christopher Tolkien, published the most developed parts as the Silmarillion we have today, and later all the other partial manuscripts and fragments in other books. As a historian I love this as well, because the vast collection of fragments and drafts and different thoughts and perspectives make up the closest, for an imaginary world, we could ever possibly get to the rich collection of different subjective views and partial records that as historians we use to piece together a picture of a real historical era.

One feature of Tolkien's writing is that he almost never gives any numbers for populations or armies or groups above a few people, e.g. the 9 riders or 7 sons of Feanor etc.  I think this was in keeping with the romantic, magical tone of Tolkien's works.  He wanted to paint a picture, to show rather than tell. Actual numbers bring a too sharp, bean-counting tone of realism and take you away from the individuals stories and their emotional impact. But he did give a couple of actual numbers and I use these sparse numbers as a window into his world. Although we have few actual numbers we do have more relative references, where one group are described as twice the size of another, or some such.  Also I use parallels to information about real-world historical populations and contextual information from the books themselves. For example, references to medieval styles armies: hosts and major battles won't refer to a few hundred people, or tens of millions. One final principle is that, as far as even vaguely possible, I will attempt to connect numbers given with other numbers given here, so I'm calculating all these numbers from at least something rather than just purely making up something that sounds plausible.


The 1st Age in Beleriand was predominately populated by the Elves, with Men, Dwarves, Ents and Morgoth's orcs and demons restricted to the far north until after the 4th and 5th Battles.  The Elves were divided between populations of Noldor out of the West, Sindar who had lived in Beleriand for millenia, and Nandor who had come over the mountains later in Ossirand, the land of 7 river and these Elves were divided into multiple Kingdoms as described on the map above, with Morgoth's power concentrated in the far north. To avoid the problem of dealing with dynamic population change I will attempt to give a snapshot estimate of populations shortly before the Dagor Bragollach, the End of the Siege of Angband, at the height of the Elvish Kingdoms.


Now, our window into the world of numbers we need is given by the one single, large scale figure we are given for Elves in the 1st Age.  That is the long-standing figure that "The army of Turgon issued forth from Gondolin, ten thousand strong", to the Battle of Un-numbered Tears. From this one figure we will now do a lot of magic and come up with Population Figures for all the Kingdoms and populations of the Eldar. The first thing is to estimate the population of Gondolin. What proportion did Turgon's 10,000 make of Gondolin's population, or in my jargon, what is the population multiplier (PM) to turn this figure into Gondolin's total population?

Firstly, I assume this 10,000 did not represent all Gondolin's possible soldiers. Unlike Hithlum, which seemed to send every last possible warrior to the Battle, and was left defenceless when they were all lost; Gondolin was not so committed to fighting the War or the Battle, and hence it seems reasonable to assume that Turgon would have left some soldiers behind. On the other hand, he knew how important this battle was, and hence presumably took most of his warriors. The very early text The Fall of Gondolin, which was both the first text on Middle earth Tolkien ever wrote back in 1917 and, strangely, the only full description of Gondolin or its fall he ever wrote, describes 12 companies of soldiers, of whom 8 went to the Nírnaeth Arnoediad. This would correspond to a figure of 12/8 x 10,000 = 15,000 troops in total. The 10,000 would form the core of the Army, whereas the 15,000 would form the total strength of Gondolin that could be mustered in great need i.e. when the city was being invaded.

From this figure we estimate Gondolin's population. Gondolin was effectively a city state, with the central city of perhaps five square miles surrounded by a developed area of intensive farmland of about 150 square miles. It had enough people to measure as a Kingdom by Elven standards but not endless hordes given the space constraint. It was also seemingly more peaceful and cultured and less dedicated to the military than the march Kingdoms of Hithlum or the Feanorians, which were seemingly almost solely devoted to the war. All this has made me settle on a PM of 8 on their total force of soldiers. That is Gondolin's total muster of soldiers constituted 12.5% of the population, or about 25% of the male population or about 33% of the adult male population. This gives a total population of 120,000 for Gondolin.

This figure seems about right: Compared to medieval European populations the Eldar would be both a lot less populous, and also much more urbanised, developed and specialised, with their magic providing the advantage that technology gives our modern society.  I think the best comparison is with the the Ancient Greek city states where a state such as Athens could field around 20,000 soldiers and sailors out of a population of around 250,000.  Urbanised and with a civilian army and navy that made up of a high proportion of the population compared to any modern or medieval society, but still a minority of the total male population. However this is just a best estimate, reasonable PM's of 6-10 or so give figures ranging between around 90-150 thousand, but I think around 120,000 is the most reasonable estimate.

The next trick is to go from this figure of 120,000 for Gondolin to a total figure for the Noldor population. This is possible because we are told that Gondolin's population was made up of "a third part of the Noldor of Fingolfin's following, and a yet greater host of the Sindar". Taking this in terms of 1/6ths of Fingolfin's people we have 2/6 of Noldor and "a greater host of Sindar".  I reckon this would be about 3/6 of Fingolfin's people. To me "and a greater host" sounds like more, but not 2 or 3 times as many.  If so Tolkien could have said, as he has elsewhere, also Gondolin was also imagined to have been one of the most predominately 'Noldorin' in culture of the mixed kingdoms in Beleriand, which would not fit if the Noldor were vastly outnumbered by the Sindar. Assuming then that the population of Gondolin was equivilent to 5/6 of Fingolfin's folk, 1/6 of Fingolfin's folk would be about 25,000 Elves and Fingolfin's folk would number 150,000.

From Fingolfin's folk we can now estimate the total of Noldor. They were divided between Fingolfin's folk, Feanor's and Finarfin's.  Fingolfin's people was the largest but Finarfin's was also large: Tolkien stated in more than one place that Nargothrond was the largest Elven Kingdom left after the Dagor Bragollach. Feanor's folk appeared to be relatively small in number, but containing a lot of the younger, brasher, more foolhardy Elves that would have been attracted to Feanor's assertive, aggressive style, and hence militarily able to punch more above its weight. I take as estimates that Fingolfin's folk constituted 12/ of the Noldor, and Finarfin and Feanor's sons 1/4 each. Certainly Fingolfin's folk must have been between 40-60%, given the fact they were the largest group, but also the two other groups were of similar size.  Taking 50% then that gives us a total Noldor population estimate of 300,000 Noldor, with 150,000 following Fingolfin, 75,000 Finarfin's sons and 75,000 Feanor's.

From this we can take a rough estimate of total Elvish population in Beleriand.  We just need to guess what the proportion of Noldor compared to Sindar were. This is pretty rough unfortunately.  Tolkien consistently maintained that the Sindar outnumbered the Noldor by some unspecified amount.  This conception changed at times from being roughly similar to some remarks that the Noldor were as Lords and Kings: a small aristocratic minority ruling over Kingdom's of overwhelmingly Sindar, more like the Norman minority among the Anglo-Saxon population in Medieval England.

The general sense of the texts to me though is that the Sindar considerably outnumbered the Noldor, but not by some vast factor. The references seem to indicate that Noldor and Sindar met on relatively equal terms, and when we look at the different Kingdoms and relatively large cultural impact of the Noldor they must have been a relatively large minority given that there was no military domination or educational apartheid to explain these differences as, say, in historical Norman England.  Given these factors I take a PM of about 3, possibly 4.  That gives a Sindar population of about 1 (0.9 to 1.2) million and a total Elvish population of 1.2-1.5 million depending.  Now I think you could make a reasonable argument for a figures anywhere between 1-2 million, but I think somewhere in the lower end of that range is most likely with all the evidence we are given.

I think we can do even better than that though in working out rough population figures for each Elvish Kingdom, starting with the Noldor. We've already done Gondolin with a population of around 120,000, made up of 50,000 Noldor and 70,000 Sindar (2/5 and 3/5 respectively).  The Kingdom of Hithlum had the other 2/3 of Fingolfin's folk and the rest of the Northern Sindar.  That means around 100,000 Noldor.  The Sindar population can only be guessed at. Hithlum was colder and less fertile than Nevrast, from where the Gondolin Sindar came, and would hence have had fewer people. Balancing that, many Sindar are said to have been attracted by the valour and nobility of the Noldor Kings and their cause. I think a fair estimate would be some 50,000-70,000 Sindar, the same as Gondolin, for a total population of around 150-170 thousand.

In the Kingdom of Nargothrond (including at this time Tol Sirion and the highlands of Dorthonion)  the Noldor population was the 75,000 following Finarfin's sons, particularly Finrond. We are told that Nargothrond was the largest Noldor Kingdom, at least after the Dagor Bragollach when Hithlum and Feanor's Sons took large losses. It was a large Kingdom mostly in Beleriand proper, warmer and more hospitable and hence could be expected to have a sizable population of native Sindar, especially since Finrond was part Teleri himself and hence closer to the Sindar than other Noldor princes. I assume a Sindar population roughly equivalent to that of Hithlum and Nevrast combined, some 120-150 thousand, giving a total population of possibly over 200,000. It is not higher because although it is described as the largest Kingdom, it is still described as a largely wild and empty country, without the dense rural or urban centres to account for what we would consider a sizeable population.

The other Noldorin Kingdom was that of Feanor's Sons in the East. These areas seemed to have been organised less as a formal Kingdom and more as a series of military districts or fiefs, each commanded by one or a pair of Feanor's sons with Maedhros having some kind of loose overlordship.  That said we also already have an estimate of the Noldor population of this Kingdom, the 75,000 following Feanor's sons. These would have been joined by various Sindar, but probably not that many. Although Feanor's sons controlled a large area, it was mostly uninhabited before they got there, and of all the Noldor they were least friendly with the Sindar.  That said quite a few Sindar are said to have joined with at least Maedhros at least, again in recognition of his outstanding valour and personal nobility. Hence looking relative to the other population figures we've taken I don't think we can do better than to assume a population of Sindar equal to the number of Sindar in Hithlum (an area of similar size, climate and circumstances). In other words, 60,000 Sindar for a total of roughly 130,000 Elves.




Of the purely Sindarin realms, we start with the Falathrim of the Havens on the west coast, led by Cirdan.  The havens consisted of two towns and the surrounding area. These towns are described as being reasonable stone towns, prosperous and active, but not as big as the great cities of the Noldor or Thingol.  Considering average sizes for similar Medieval cities I take a figure for, say, 30,000 for each haven with a few thousand more in the surrounding areas, giving a figure of around 70,000 in total.  On the other side of Beleriand, Ossirand was the land of the Laiquendi.  These are described as a secretive woodland people who lived a quiet dispersed life, without towns or cities.  Given that description we're not looking at a large population.  However they did cover a large area and constituted a distinct population able to even field "armies" at need.  That said I assume they had roughly the same population as the Havens, around 70,000 just dispersed over a much larger area.

The final Elven Kingdom would have been the largest, that of Thingol in Doriath.  This was where most of the Sindar lived, and given the fact they are described as outnumbering the Noldor by quite a distance, and the fact many of Beleriand's Sindar retreated to Doriah after Morgoth's return, and the description of Menegroth as a great city, we must assume a relatively large population. In an attempt to connect numbers to other numbers we have I take as a guess that roughly half the Sindar population lived in Doriath and half remained outside scattered among the other Kingdoms.  Given the numbers we have already taken for the various Sindar populations that gives us a figure of around 450,000, which seems about right compared to our other figures, with say around 100,000 living in Menegroth and the rest scattered throughout the forest.

Taking all these figures together we have a total Elven population in Beleriand of around 1.3 million, made up of around 1 million Sindar and some 300,000 Noldor. This figure gels nicely with my previous estimate based on assumptions for the general proportion of Noldor to Sindar. It also means a population of about 400,000 in Northern Beleriand and about 800,000 in Beleriand proper roughly.

That finishes off discussion of Beleriand. But we can go a bit further, and use relative figures to estimate elven population of the entirety of Middle Earth at this point. This can be done using information in Quendi and Eldar, from The War of the Jewels, one of the HoME books. The Elves were originally divided intro three kindreds, the Minyar, The Tatyar and the Nelyar, which basically translate as First, Second and Third.  The original elven population was 144 individuals, divided between each kindred 14, 56, 74 respectively, and it is stated that these proportions held roughly true into later in Elven history.

We are even given further breakdown using this basis of the proportion from each group that became Eldar, taking the road into the west, and those who remained behind as Avari, as well as for the Teleri those who made it to Aman and those who stayed behind as Sindar and Nandor. Basically, all the Minyar became the Vanyar, half the Tatyar became the Noldor and 2/3 of the Nelyar became Teleri, of whom about half made it to Aman.  All in all this gives us proportions as follows. Out of 144 Elves: 14 became Vanyar, 28 Noldor, 28 Tatyar Avari, 28 Nelyar Avari, 20 Teleri, 26 Sindar & Nandor.  We can now use these proportions to work out figures for each population at roughly the point our snapshot is being taken (around Year 400, 1st Age of the Sun).

First thing is to work out the total population of Noldor. We have 300,000 for the Noldor in Beleriand.  But the Silmarillion tells us that "a tithe" of the Noldor never left Aman, and that also after the Doom of Mandos Finarfin and other Elves turned back. Assuming Finarfin and another tithe turned back that means 80% of the Noldor came to Middle Earth, and 20% remained in Aman. That figure gives 10/8 x 300,000 = 375,000 Noldor in total. We can know calculate the Vanyar figure as 14/28 x 375,000 = 190,000, and the figure for Teleri in Aman as 20/28 x 375,000 = 270,000.

This is where it gets a bit more tricky though. If we assume these proportions can be carried straight across to the Avari and Sindar we hit a contradiction. 28/144 Noldor, 28/144 Sindar & Nandor.  If we assume the same rate of population growth and assume, say, 8/144 Nandor then the Noldor should have outnumbered the Sindar by a proportion of 22 to 18, (knocking off the 20% who stayed in Aman).  But it is repeatedly stated that the Sindar considerably outnumbered the Noldor, e.g. "though the Sindar were not numerous they far outnumbered the hosts of Fëanor and Fingolfin" from War of the Jewels.

We can get round this by assuming that population growth was different in Aman to those left in Middle Earth. We can take some principles to make the numbers vaguely fit.  Firstly, to assume that population growth in Valinor was slower, generations following 50 years of the Trees rather than 50 years of the Sun as Tolkien stated for Elves in Middle Earth. This itself makes sense for other reasons, particularly to explain the fact that although the Eldar were in Aman for the equivalent to thousands of years of the Sun, and were meant to have children at about 100 years old, Finwe's family only had 4 generations over that entire period. Secondly, we can assume that population growth among the Avari was also slower, justified by the fact that whereas the Eldar built civilisations the Avari are said to have become a scattered woodland folk, who faded and diminished in the face of harassment by Orcs and other evil creatures in the later ages. We can hence assume they could not have supported as large populations as the Eldar.

Given these points I make a few assumptions to come up with reasonable figures. I assume that the Avari population expanded at a rate 50% slower than that of the Eldar in Aman.  That gives figures of 375,000/1.5 = 250,000 for the Tatyar Avari and the same for the Nelyar Avari (see original proportion figures). This gives a total of some 500,000 Avari scattered over the East of Middle Earth. For the Sindar we take our previous population figure of about 1 million and for the Nandor I assume the grew at a rate 50% slower than the Sindar, and subtract the 70,000 Laiquendi that ended up in Beleriand, giving a figure of around 200,000.

Taken together this gives the figure for the total global Elven population of about 2.5 million, with a little less than 1.7 million Nelyar, 200,000 Minyar and 550,000 Tatyar.  With about two million Eldar and 1/2 a million Avari, or, by geography, around 550,000 in Aman, about 1.2 million in Beleriand and 700,000 in the lands to the East (as of Yr 400 1st Age).

That finishes my tramp through the populations of Elves in the Elder Days.  I give tables below for the breakdown of Elves by realm in Beleriand and for the Global population.  In the 2nd part of this series, I attempt to work out similar estimates for the other free creatures of Beleriand, Men, Dwarves and Ents.  So, if you've made it this far, join me in the next article in this series.

Part 2 of this series giving populations numbers of Men, Dwarves, Ents and Orcs in the 1st Age
 http://www.stephenwigmore.com/2012/04/populations-of-middle-earth-in-first.html

And finally, sometime in the future I hope to attempt to use these figures to work our estimates for the number of troops from the groups at the climatic Battle of Un-numbered Tears. The final great battle between the Eldar and the Morgoth, when the Eldar went down into terrible defeat.


Gondolin Hithlum Nargothrond Falathrim Sons of Feanor Doriath Laiquendi Total
Total 120,000 160,000 200,000 70,000 130,000 450,000 70,000 1,250,000
Sindar 70,000 60,000 130,000 70,000 55,000 450,000 70,000 950,000
Noldor 50,000 100,000 75,000 0 75,000 0 0 300,000

Noldor in Beleriand 300,000Bugger Vanyar 200,000 Bugger Nelyar 1,700,000
Noldor in Aman 75,000 Teleri270,000
Total Noldor     375,000 Total Elves 2,500,000 Sindar 1,000,000
Nandor 200,000
Tatyar Avari 250,000 Eldar 2,000,000 Avari 250,000
Tatyar 550,000 Avari 500,000


EDIT: These figures have been adjusted from those in the original article as a result of discussions had in the comments.  Basically this resulted in my original figures being scaled down by 0.8. Or, alternatively, the original figures were a factor of 1.25 higher.  You can see the discussion that motivated this change in the comments below.  My thanks to all those who have commented and added to my thoughts on these numbers.


* I'm informed by a reader that the Map I use is Tolkien's 2nd Silmarillion map, by Christopher Tolkien.

25 comments:

Clarafy said...

Steve, you need footnotes. Where did you get the figures for the area of Tumladen, or the ratio of soldiers to population in Athens? Also, where are the tables that you promised?

Stephen Wigmore said...

Fair comment. To be honest I just posted as soon as I had the total text finished as I was just heading out for the evening. I do have sources (though looking again I got the figure for Tumladen wrong. I did pi*D rather than pi*r^2, that's embarrassing). I will clean it up and add sources and promised tables by tomorrow evening. I promise.

Liftigger said...

Woo Chart is now up!

Stephen Wigmore said...

I've put in some references and one of the two tables. To be honest my HTML is not up to actually installing footnotes. When I go home for Easter I will dig through my copies of the Similarillion and HoME and attempt to come up with some more thorough referencing. This is the problem of trying to write these things from memory. :)

Please do point out if I've got anything wrong or if you disagree with any of my reasoning.

Clarafy said...

Brilliant! I hope you didn't take my whinging as a complaint. I just wanted to point out that as a whole, it's amazing, even if it's not as nerdy as it could be. :p

Stephen Wigmore said...

That's okay. :D

To be honest I have always hated references and referencing. I used to try to get away with as little as possible in all my academic essays.

I hope it's now at least vaguely up to your standards. :P I've realised half-way through writing these that I have actually lost my copy of the Silmarillion (Disaster). This hasn't helped.

Matt said...

Isn't that a colour Tolkien original map, judging by the style, republished in one of the 284 presentation editions by CT?

Very similar to the foldouts in my posh 1960s india paper (?) binding of LOTR.

I'm not quite such a nerd, and I draw the line at reading about Bombadil's early background in the bath, but I enjoyed the post.

I have £10 that says you listen to TMS. What ground did Bradman score his 364 at?

Stephen Wigmore said...

I'm glad to hear from such a connoisseur of Middle Earth maps. It is a lovely map. To be honest though you know more about its provenance than I do. I just pulled it off google to help those who don't carry a map of beleriand around in their heads to quite the same extent I do.

I can't claim to listen to TMS, nor know where Bradman scored his 364 without googling it. I do gently follow Test Cricket, but can't claim to any great degree of knowledge.

80HD said...

Amazing, glad I found this page! Subscribed.

Anonymous said...

Can you postulate your formula to work in reverse?

Kaue Tadaieski said...

Impressive job. But you did it thinking elves are like men, they do not reproduce themselves as the same number men do, and also you must see that when in battle such as nirnaeth all eldar adults go in to battle, then when you count full-grown elf male out of an army thats not quite correct and you would be increasing the population.

Stephen Wigmore said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm not entirely sure what you mean though.

Elves reproduce slower than Men but in the same manner. That's not relevant to my figures though because I'm taking a snapshot worked out on a comparative basis from given figures.

I disagree that all Eldar adults go into battle. Do you have text references to base that on? Certainly in unpublished writings on the fall of Gondolin and the fall of Hithlum there are clear references to adult males who were not part of the Army. No human society is entirely composed of warriors and I don't think there is any reason to assume Tolkien considered Elven societies to be that different. Of course his stories concentrate on the warriors and heroes, and barely mention ordinary peaceful life, but I don't think that is any reason to assume there wasn't any.

Kaue Tadaieski said...

I´m sorry i was talking about the Noldor. In Nirnaeth all Noldor(adult male i supposed) from Hithlum fought, "For there all the Noldor of Hithlum were assembled" and also from the kingdoms of the suns of Feanor, " Maedhros, having gathered all the strength that he could of Elves".
Concerning Gondolin you can see that the houses of that city were not made only for war but they also had specifics jobs, such as in the house of Rog where the majority of them were blacksmiths. When batlle came they were prepared(all of them).
What i´m trying to say is that, when battles of huge magnitud concerning all their lifes(not just battles to ensure borders) all Noldor go to battle.In base on that and the numbers of Noldor you wrote, Fingon would lead an army of 40 to 50 thousand Noldor and that is quite big.

Stephen Wigmore said...

I still disagree.

There are clear references that after the Un-numbered tears Turin was supported by renegade Noldor who still lived in the mountains of Hithlum. But no elf returned from The Un-numbered Tears who went with Fingon. I see no reason to believe these were purely women and children who succoured Turin.

I am sure in the description of 'The Fall of Gondolin' in the Book of Lost Tales, the only description of Gondolin's fall we have, that there are clear references to peoples who are not soldiers, and again, I don't believe can be interpreted purely as women and children.

It's also just not credible to assume that all male adults would be soldiers, for reasons of logistics, training, equipment and social organisation. There is a clear interpretation to the statement ""For there all the Noldor of Hithlum were assembled" meaning all the fighting Noldor. Not literally all Noldor or even all adult male Noldor. References of this kind are common in Middle Earth, and in the historic Norse and Saxon sagas that so much of Tolkien's description is based on.

That said I agree that in Hithlum, among the Sons of Feanor, and at the Fall of Gondolin the war would have involved a much higher proportion of the population, more resembling an atmosphere of Total War, than in less militarised Kingdoms like Narogothrond and Doriath, and this is reflected in my estimates.

Kaue Tadaieski said...

Yes, all adult male Noldor were in that battle since there were no defense left in Hitlhum just like in the case of the Hadoreans where Turin was in the house full of women an old mens because his father(hurin) and all the men of that people were in that battle. You are saying that all the full grown men of Hithlum went to war but the male Noldor didn´t, that´s very wrong.
Hahaha!!! Turin was never supported by "renegade" Noldor,he was supported in Doriath by Thingol. The only one who was supported by elves in Hithlum was Tuor son of Huor and those were not Noldor,they were sinda and their leader was called Annael. Read Silmarillion or wikpedia "Androth, complex of caves in the Mountains of Mithrim. After Nírnaeth Arnoediad, some of the Sindar and Edain that survived the battle took refuge there". Tuor was fostered by the Elves of Androth..
And lets be realistc if there was a population of 150 thousand elves In gondolin and almost half of them fought in the walls and protected the gate there should be an army beyond our imagine to invade that city.

Kaue Tadaieski said...

I see what is happening, i´m not saying all Noldor were fighters i´m trying to say that when Fingon comes out with his army and so Turgon those were many of their men especially in fingon´s case, so you must reduce the population Of Noldor in hithlum and Gondolin.
Also the population of feanor sons were similar with those of Fingolfin, the substancial differences between the initials hosts was finrod people that was counted with Fingolfin. The sons of Feanor didn´t have an army bigger than Fingon in Nirnaeth because they were more affected in the previews war and the people of Celegorm and Caranthir joined Nargothrond.

Rene Korda said...

Great analysis, I really hope it spreads around and becomes part of Tolkien scholarship canon.

I would like to elaborate a bit on the PM for Gondolin though (which is the basic assumption underlying the calculation) and whether all of the adult men of the kingdom should be considered warriors. Unfortunately I don't have the necessary materials on hand, so I'll have to write from memory, please correct me whenever I'm wrong. I see three lines of thinking here:

1. Economic.
Considering the fact that the distances and, hence, time involved in getting from Gondolin the battlefield at Anfauglith were small, the disruption of economic activity should not have been too much of an issue. The medieval world has known quite large armies raised for very short periods of time (think medieval Spain for example), it's sustaining them that has always been a problem.
Another economic issue is the production of equipment. Gondolin warriors all seem to be outfitted with proper metal armor and costly to produce weapons (longswords). For a historical medieval society to equip all of its male population in this fashion would have been impossible, as the economy simply wasn't productive enough to sustain that kind of drain on itself (setting aside the restrictions that social relations themselves would've imposed on this kind of venture). Unfortunately, to my knowledge there is not enough information to correctly estimate the level of productivity of Elven economies in the First Age Beleriand, so we're basically at a loss here. Assuming the Elves were able to conserve weapons well and slowly amass them during the years of the Siege, perhaps they would've been able to outfit all of their men the way their warriors were outfitted during Nirnaeth. Unless someone can come up with a clear reference from sources though, I don't think we can reliably pinpoint this issue, so all kinds of assumptions are possible.

2. Logistical. The relatively short distances and time involved make fielding 2/3 of Gondolin's adult male population for Nirnaeth quite feasible, I don't see any major issues here.

3. Societal.
Here we get to the least well-understood part - we don't really know that much about the Elven societies, their structure or the way they operated. Were all males trained for combat in the manner of ancient Germanic tribes or medieval urban communities? If yes, was it true for Gondolin as well? Here it is assumed that Gondolin was less militarised than some of the other kingdoms, with much of its male population being non-combatants (or at least not directly involved in military endeavors), and that assumption is quite fair.

Still, one could assume the opposite - that 15,000 was actually the whole adult male population of Gondolin. Then the correct figure for its total population would be ~40,000 and the overall Elven population of Beleriand would be somewhere around 400-450 thousand.

This is all basically rooted in what one imagines the Elven societies to be. Thanks to the author of this article we can quickly scale the population of Beleriand to our own idea of what life in that place looked like.

Anonymous said...

Hey Stephen!

I really liked this! I have also tried to count Middle-earth's people's populations, and also have almost same results, though I'm only 14 years old! I still disagree some of your conclusions. 1 I think that in Beleriand lived less Sindar, because Feanor's sons won Dior though they have lost many battles and they were all exiles from their realms. I think that their army must have been 10 000-25 000 elves strong and Dior must have gathered a large army, because Girdle of Melian was lost. 2 I think that in Falas lived some Noldor. For example Finrod has built Barad Nimras and there must have lived Noldor. 3 I think that Feanor's Noldor has about 35-40%, Fingolfin's 30-35% Noldor and Finarfin's sons' 25-30% of Noldor. These were only estimates, and I can't justify them. What are you basing your review?

Waiting for your replies!

A big Tolkien fan from Finland

Stephen Wigmore said...

Rene,
You raise many interesting questions and points and in as far as you leave those questions open I entirely agree with you. I don't think we can give a precise figure at all. We just don't have enough information about how Elven societies worked.

Personally I just don't think from the hints we do see of Lorien, of Doriath, the descriptions of Gondolin, of Elven life in Valinor that there is any reason to support the somewhat standard presumption that all Elven males were warriors. Partially because is no urban human society in history where that has been the case and I see no reason to think Elven societies are imagined by Tolkien to be that different, especially considering the Elves' artistic, cultured nature. They are very effective warriors but only as a last resort.

That said, since originally writing this article I have come to think that perhaps my estimates for population were too high. I think 10 PM is probably a fair estimate compared to the figure at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, but at the fall of gondolin when everything was going down I think that there would have been a higher degree of mobilisation than that. I would lean towards a PM of more like 8 giving a Gondolin population of 120,000 and an Elven population in Beleriand of 1.15 million and globally of 2.35 million, though these are still very vague estimates.

I have been very busy recently with PhD work. I would like to give all the comments I've received proper thought and then post an update to this article giving any changes to my conclusions. Hopefully you will read it when I do.

Rene Korda said...

Stephen, thank you for answering.

Myself I am inclined to agree with your idea of ancient Athens being a good counterpart for Tolkien's elven societies in terms of proportion of warriors in them. There is one issue though, which seems to be a problem to me.

Gondolin Elves are marching off to the decisive battle of a total war with the ultimate evil of their world. It is logical to expect them to commit if not all (as Tolkien himself states, only 2/3 of the kingdoms military forces were actually committed to the battle), than most of their resources. Yet if we assume that Turgon actually takes only 2/3 of some kind of warrior class, rather than 2/3 of all able-bodied men, this has certain repercussions, which we have to acknowledge in one way or the other.

For instance, why doesn't he take all the warriors and leave other able-bodied citizens as his city's defense force? After all, medieval cities mostly tended to defend themselves on their own, not be defended by feudal or royal garrisons. One thing is not to be a professional warrior, completely another to be defenseless. Medieval merchants and craftsmen were not warriors in their daily life, yet they took to arms whenever necessary.

On the other hand, it is quite possible to imagine Gondolin society - with its absence of endemic warfare - to evolve towards a much more peaceful model, where a large proportion of able-bodied men would be untrained and not in possession of any kind of arms. The military force would be composed of a separate warrior class then, most likely Noldor veterans of the Second Battle. Again it all boils down to what one assumes the society in question to be, though we can infer certain limits that apply to these assumptions.

There is one amendment to your calculation I would like to suggest. I think the PM should be applied to the 10,000 troops that went off to Nirnaeth Arnoediad, not to the overall 15,000 troops that Gondolin possessed. This would be consistent with the source of the PM - ancient Athens - where it is calculated from the quantity of expeditionary armies, not the citizens who were in the city and available to defend it. This would give us an estimate of 80,000-120,000 for overall Gondolin population and 1,570,000-2,356,000 for total Elven population.

Thanks again for this great analysis and good luck with your PhD!

Stephen Wigmore said...

Dear Rene,
I entirely agree with your last suggestion. If you look at the last paragraph of my last comment I say basically exactly the same thing with the same conclusion: a population of around 120,000 or even closer to 100,000 for Gondolin.

I don't think Turgon would have sent all his soldiers to the Unnumbered Tears. Turgon just didn't place that much faith in fighting Morgoth in the open, if he had then he really should have got involved in the 4th Battle when it could have made a huge difference.

Also, there is an obvious reason to leave some troops behind to protect Gondolin, in case the Battle did not go as hoped, it would make no sense to leave Gondolin totally unprotected.

I think that part of my analysis is sound, but I entirely agree that the 15,000 probably represent a higher proportion of the total population than I originally assumed.

80HD said...

The map is a redraw of Tolkien's 2nd Silmarillion map, by Christopher Tolkien.

Scott Britton said...

Great read and very compelling! Since we're talking pre-Bragollach, does the count for Nargothrond include numbers for Tol Sirion and Angrod and Aegnor's hill forts in Dorthonion (which may have been nearly all military vs. civilian)?

Stephen Wigmore said...

Yes it does, since I've just apportioned all those following the Sons of Finarfin to Nargothrond. I think I'll edit the passage to make that clearer. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I dropped something, but as far as I can understand you didn't take into account Noldor losses due to passing of Helcaraxe, which however maybe not substantial, might be significant.

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