Monday 9 April 2012

Populations of Middle Earth in the First Age - Part 2: Men, Dwarves, Ents & Orcs

In this article I will be continuing my look at the populations of Beleriand in the First Age, as described in J.R.R.Tolkien's work.  In Part 1 (available here) I worked out estimates for all the Elven populations of Beleriand and the wider Middle Earth at a snapshot based shortly before the Dagor Bragollach, the 4th Battle of Beleriand.  In this article I am going to attempt to work out similar estimates for the other inhabitants of Beleriand: Dwarves, Men, Ents etc.

In Part 1 I started with the single actual number we are given for the size of an army or population of the Eldar and from there used contextual information, relative figures and real world comparisons to work out some reasonable population figures, which I maintain are about as accurate and reasonable as is possible to get given all the available information Tolkien gives us. I would say that I am extremely confident that these estimates are within 30% of the 'true' figure, which I think is about as good as we could possibly get given the available information.

Luckily for the Mannish population we also have a starter number for the population of the Edain that we can use as a window to climb in through.  The Edain were divided intro three tribes, that of Beor, of Hador  (originally Marach)  and that of Haleth.  In 'The Peoples of Middle Earth', the 12th History of Middle Earth volume, 'On Dwarves & Men' we are told that the tribe of Beor entered Beleriand with around 2,000 adult men.  Multiplying this by 3 to account for women and children, we have a total population of around 6,000 on entry to Beleriand.  the Marachians are described as coming in three hosts, each as large as the people of Beor, and they are consistently described throughout Tolkien's work as being more numerous than Beor's people.  This gives us roughly 18,000 Marachians.  We aren't given an exact comparison for the Halethians.  Tolkien says they are numerous than the Beorians, but they are also described as not being very great in number, so we can assume they were not more numerous by very much.  I take a figure of 3,000 adult men, and hence about 9,000 people at first.  This gives us a total of around 33,000 people originally entering Beleriand.

These groups would have made up the core population that dwelt in Beleriand until it sank beneath the waves, and of which the surviving remnant would have gone on to populate Numenor, with eventually their descendants becoming the Dunedain of the 3rd age and then the Rangers of the North and leading people of Gondor down to the time of the Lord of the Rings and into the 4th age. Of these groups the Beorians eventually settled in Dorthinion, the Hadorians in Dor-Lomin in Hithlum and the Halethians in the forest of Brethil.

Even before the coming of the Easterlings there was some churn in these groups though. We are told  in Ch 17 of the Silmarillion 'Of the Coming of Men into the West' that two groups of around a thousand men each returned over the mountains, and I would take it as likely to assume that small groups of men continued to migrate for some time, and not that all men in Beleriand arrived only in three discrete groups . Of this total a mixed group remained in Estolad, and did not move onto the main domains with the majority of their tribes. The writing we have give the impression that both any groups of men who came over later, and the population of Estolad, were relatively small and not that significant compared to the main original populations.  They are hardly mentioned in the histories at all as independent groups.  So I am going to take those original three groups as the main populations to start with, and then attempt to make reasonable assumptions to cope with additions and subtractions and the Estolad population.

Around 150 years passed between the arrival of the Edain and the Dagor Bragollach, and from the family trees of the houses of Hador and Beor we can see that 6 generations were born in between the arrival of the Edain and the battle. The important question to working out the population of the Edain at the time of the Battle is how much these original populations would have expanded over 6 generations. I think it's reasonable to assume that the population increase would have been pretty dramatic, similar to rapidly developing areas of our modern world.  Meeting the Eldar and settling in Beleriand would have been the equivalent of the Edain suddenly advancing hundreds of years of technology overnight. They went from being nomadic, primitive peoples to being settled in a peaceful (at this time) land with all the benefits of the Eldar's knowledge of medicine, agriculture, and general technology and magic. As with real world populations we can assume that nutrition would have dramatically improved, infant mortality fallen, average life span increased and population shot up, especially as they didn't seem to have any equivalent access to birth control to drive birth rates down. All of these considerations lead me to assume a figure of about 30% increase per generation during this period, which shakes down at between 1-2% a year, relatively modest by current real-world population growth rates in many developing countries. Over 6 generations this gives a population multiplier of about 5.

That gives us figures for Beor's people 6,000 x 5 = 30,000 people and about 10,000 adult men; For Hador's people 18,000 x 5 = 90,000 people and about 30,000 adult men. For Haleth's people we now have to do something slightly more complicated. The Halethians were devastated shortly after arriving in Beleriand by a massive Orc raid.  It is implied that a considerably number of their small population were killed, and this would have considerably impacted on their later population.  Assuming 1/3 were killed, that gives a population of 6,000 (same as Beor) and hence a latter population of 30,000 and 10,000 adult men (approximately). This gives a total population of about 150,000 people.

Now I'm going to assume that the 2000 men that returned to the East would be broadly cancelled out by smaller groups of late-comers, which are not explicitly mentioned, which I think is reasonable, and hence ignore their loss from our calculations.  I would also guess that around 15-20% of these remained in the land of Estolad, which would be a number of around 25,000-30,000 by the Dagor Bragollach. This gives population figures by area of about 25,000 people in Dorthonion, about 75,000 people in Dor-Lomin and about 25,000 in Brethil.  

So we have an Edain population of around 150,000 in Beleriand in the years leading up to the Dagor Bragollach. This is about 10-15% of the Elven population in Beleriand and seems to me to be about right.  Large enough to be fielding armies and companies in support of the Eldar, but still relatively smaller than the Eldar, who it is repeatedly implied were the dominant population of Beleriand.

Now, if you thought that was hand-wavingly vague, we now move onto trying to come up with reasonable figures for the other denizens of Beleriand, and it gets even worse.  The Dwarves in Beleriand dwelt in two great mansions in the Blue Mountains: Belegost and Nogrod. Each of these were significant Dwarven Kingdoms, but on the other hand they were carved out of mountains, so we're not talking vast populations.  On that basis I'm assuming we're looking at similar population scales to the Elven kingdoms discussed in Part 1. Especially since the Dwarven mansions seemed able to field military forces that were broadly comparable to that of one of the Elven Kingdoms, as shown in their contribution to the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, and the assault on Doriath.

Taking the 5th Battle as a starting point, it's obvious the Dwarves marched with significant forces, but presumably not as much as some of the great Elven armies. It was far less their war, and the Dwarven contribution is not referred to in the same grand manner as "Turgon's Host". On that basis I'm assuming a force of around 6,000-8,000 Dwarves from Belegost. I assume a higher population multiplier than for any of the Elven populations except perhaps Doriath.  The Dwarves were secretive and far less involved in the war with Morgoth than the Elves. They were hidden, and we have no evidence they ever sent their full strength beyond their border.  Their style, whether in the Silmarillion or later in the Hobbit seemingly was to send out a well prepared expeditionary force, presumably thought suitable to the task, rather than a muster of their whole able population, like the Eldar or Edain seemed to at times.

Taking a PM of 20 gives a population for Belegost of 120,000-160,000.  Now I have always had it in my head that Nogrod is portrayed as the larger and more powerful of the two, and hence presumably more populous Dwarven Kingdom.  However looking for a reference I can't find anything explicit.  They seem to take a more independent and aggressive policy in the 1st Age, not joining in the Nirneath and later going to war with Doriath. This would possibly suggest greater confidence stemming from size. Another suggestion is the fact that when the two Dwarven mansions are referred to they are consistently called 'Nogrod and Belegost', which may be taken to assume that Nogrod was the greater of the two and hence written first. That said, it may be for some linguist reason that has nothing to do with this. Until I can find some better evidence, or some reason to think that it is merely a linguistic convenience I am going to go with that assumption.   Hence I assume that  Nogrod had perhaps a population around 1/3 higher than Belegost, of around 160,000-220,000 Dwarves.  This gives a total Dwarven population of around 280,000-380,000 or, taking a central estimate, of around 1/3 million Dwarves.

For the Ents we have almost no information.  We know from LotR that they roamed the forests living in general isolation from other Ents. In 'The Two Towers' Ch. 'The March of the Ents' it is implied that dozens of Ents marched against Isengard, roughly the approach taken in the movies, and given their nomadic and solitary existence this would itself presumably have represented part of the Entish population of Fangorn.  I think we can assume there were in total a few hundred Ents in Fangorn during LotR.  The Forests of Beleriand were many, many times larger than that of Fangorn, looking at the maps I think it reasonable to assume the forests were at least 15 times larger in Beleriand, and hence would presumably have held as much as 15 times as many Ents.  This at least gives us a vague ball-park figure of an Entish population of around 5,000 Ents in Beleriand, and presumably several thousand more in the wider forests in the east of Beleriand.

Apart from possibly a few dozen petty Dwarves living around Amon Rudh at this point this finishes our survey of the free peoples of Beleriand. The total population of Beleriand: Elves, Men, Dwarves and Ents would then have been around 1.2 million + 150,000 + 300,000 + 5,000 = 1.65 million beings dwelling in the forests and plains, the cities, fields and mountains of Beleriand in the years leading up to the 4th Battle.

Of the evil creatures of Morgoth, and the populations of Easterlings, I don't think I can make any estimate.  The populations of Uldor and Bor, who initially settled under the Sons of Feanor, I imagine to have been of similar size to the populations of the Edain, probably each closer to that of Beor or Haleth.  After the Nirneath  though and the arrival of additional people the population of Easterlings would probably have been on a more similar scale to that of Hador.  Of the Orcs, Trolls, Dragons, Spiders and other foul creatures it is impossible to estimate.  Their numbers would have contracted and expanded dramatically as the Elves and Men slaughtered them and Morgoth bred them en masse within the grim halls of Angband. Taking the Army of Gondolin as a rough starting point it seems likely that at just before the Dagor Bragollach the combined armed strength of the Elves and Men engaged in the war against Angband (basically all minus Doriath) would have numbered around 100,000 (assuming Gondolin had the same proportion of the Eldar and Edain's warriors as it did population).  We can then assume at the Dagor Bragollach, and even more so at the Nirneath and in the years after when the Orcs overran all Beleriand, that Morgoth fielded hundreds of thousands of soldiers, with perhaps another hundred thousand based in Angband itself full-time as workers, a population perhaps rising up to and over a million by the time of the War of Wrath, and with the addition of perhaps 100,000 Easterlings.  Certainly teeming hordes of evil the equivalent of which the real world would not see until at least the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th Century.


Anonymous said...

When you say
"25,000 men in Dorthonion, about 75,000 men in Dor-Lomin and about 25,000 in Brethil."
Do you mean men as in Humans, or men as in Males?

Stephen Wigmore said...

I mean humans at that point. My apologies, my use of terminology is confusion. This stems from Tolkien never referring to humans but always 'the race of men' (in the traditional gender neutral sense). I've edited the article to hopefully make it clearer what I mean at that point.

Unknown said...

I have nothing to disagree about humans well done!!

Anonymous said...

The only issue with the human population is, that unlike other races at that time, they would be very dependent on multiplying because of their short lifespan (30 - 40 years?), so it is easy to assume that their population didn't grow as fast as one can assume.

Stephen Wigmore said...

I'm not quite sure what you mean. But the growth rates I use are taken from real world examples of rapidly developing countries, so not that speculative. We must remember that although Men die a lot faster than Elves or Dwarves they also have children much, much faster. So in times of peace and plenty, and especially times of dramatic increase in 'technology' they would increase rapidly.

Unknown said...

Really enjoyed this one too (and sorry I didn't stumble on this earlier). My only question would be about the Haladin. I think of their population as smaller (and obviously less concentrated). They suffered losses not only during the Orc attack in Thargelion but also when crossing through Nan Dungortheb on the way to Brethil. Plus the people were divided between Edain and Druedain. Hope you keep posting!

Stephen Wigmore said...

Thanks for your comment. I have deducted 1/3 of the Haladin to adjust for losses taken in the orc raid. It is possible losses were considerably greater than this, maybe 1/2 or even more, but it is complicated by not having any concrete figures for their initial population.

I think the figure I suggest is reasonable, it does just seem that Tolkien envisaged both the Beorians and the Haladin as small populations. The Marachians alone accounted for over half of the Mannish population.

What figure would you think appropriate?

Unknown said...

I support your reasoning. The other thing that makes me think of them as smaller is that they lived scattered apart from one another, so that even if their numbers equaled the Beorians, their population density was much lower.

Anonymous said...

(I am anonymous since I can't be bothered to sign up :D)

How many men woke up originally ? If the Edain numbered 33 000 in FA 300 and we assume a 1% population growth each year (which is apparently not unusual for a growing hunter-gatherer population according to a an article I read once) the ancestors of the Edain numbered at roughly 1700 in 1 FA. This does not include Middle men, Easterlings and Haradrim. If we assume the Edain made up 25-50% of human populations, we get a waking population of ca 3600-7200.

I had in my mind the figure 500 men, are we somewhere given the awoken population of men as with the elves ?

Stephen Wigmore said...

We are given no information at all about the awakening population of Men. It would have to have been of about the scale you describe. Tolkien never set down any coherent account of the early wakening of Men, it always happens 'off screen', though you later have the reported tale that was included in the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth. A lot of what he wrote, especially in the later period, would seem to suggest that Men must've awoke earlier than the rising of the Sun, something he hinted at in his later thoughts on the nature of Middle Earth, described in the HoME book 'Morgoth's Ring', but this was never converted into a coherent story.

The incongruities come in the description of the awakening of Men being in the 'ancient past', 'years uncounted', etc, of the Edain, in the spread of Men across the world so quickly, and had differentiated into Edain and Easterlings, including the statement that Druedain entered Eriador before the Edain. That the tribes of the Edain in Beleriand were just part of a much larger people, many of whom ended up in Eriador, but that these themselves were only a small part of the people of Men that rejected the worship of Melkor, etc. There just doesn't seem enough time and opportunity for this development and diversity of Men if they started from a small number in the east of Middle Earth only 300 years before.

Artakano said...

" Taking the Army of Gondolin as a rough starting point it seems likely that at just before the Dagor Bragollach the combined armed strength of the Elves and Men engaged in the war against Angband (basically all minus Doriath) would have numbered around 100,000 (assuming Gondolin had the same proportion of the Eldar and Edain's warriors as it did population)."

You calculated that the Noldorin population in Beleriand was 300k before Bragollach, and and the combined noldorin forces were around 100k, the other 2/3 were either children, or women etc... I dont really think they took their women with them, they were going to their own death and they knew it, it would make no sense if they took their wives with them...

Kinda very late comment but hey! :D

Artakano said...

Taking the Army of Gondolin as a rough starting point it seems likely that at just before the Dagor Bragollach the combined armed strength of the Elves and Men engaged in the war against Angband (basically all minus Doriath) would have numbered around 100,000 (assuming Gondolin had the same proportion of the Eldar and Edain's warriors as it did population).

Its kinda impossible for the noldor to have only 100k before dagor bragollach, you cant siege Angband with such low number, angband was MASSIVE... :P

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