Sunday 19 August 2012

Populations of Middle Earth - Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit: Eriador

In part 1 of this series I looked at the two great Kingdoms of men at the time of the Lord of the Rings, Gondor and Rohan. These are the countries we have the only detailed large scale figures given in LOTR, and from these figures for armed forces we can calculate sensible figures for total population. Gondor and Rohan seem to be the two largest countries described in LotR and the Hobbit. Across the rest of the wild lands of Eriador and Rhovanian we have many more settlements, but they are all considerably smaller and scattered across the wide country, almost all probably numbering their populations in tens of thousands rather than hundreds or millions. In this part I cover Eriador. And then in Part 3 Wilderland to the east, as well as the Southern Lands.

Probably the largest of the communities in Eriador is also the most familiar to any fan of Middle Earth: the Shire. Friendly, idyllic home of the friendly Hobbits. The Hobbits not having an army we have no military figures that we could use as a basis to estimate the total population, as I did for Gondor and Rohan. What we do have is the size of the Shire, some idea about roughly how densely it was settled, and various contextual references to the numbers of Hobbits. We have numerous references to groups of "hundreds" of Hobbits: at Bilbo's party, with the implication this was a sizeable part of the local population; and the hundreds of hobbits who quickly rallied to fight the Ruffians in the 'Scouring of the Shire'. We even have a few references to thousands of Hobbits, as in the following passage about Sam's work to repair the Shire - "Hobbits can work like bees when in the mood and the need comes on them. Now there were thousands of willing hands of all ages." We also have the seeming description of the Shire as a place nowhere densely packed with Hobbits and the seeming lack of any major towns or centres of population. All these point to a relatively low figure for the population of the Shire. If 'thousands of willing hands' constituted 10% of the population, as we can perhaps imagine such a popular effort doing, then that would mean a population of 10,000's, perhaps anywhere from 30,000 - 100,000.

There are other clues that point to much larger number of Hobbits. Firstly there is the size of the Shire, a country of 20,000 square miles, about 35% of the size of England. Even taking the English population as far back as Saxon times as a model, that would indicate a population of hundreds of thousands of Hobbits. This seems to conflict with the small numbers of Hobbits described elsewhere, and also the level of political and legal organisation of the Hobbits, who seem to exist with almost zero government of any kind at all, most unlike the larger populations of Rohan and Gondor who have recognisable government structures. The other fact that points to a larger population is the sheer history of the Hobbits. They have been in the Shire for 1400 years by LotR. And although there have been wars and plagues in that time, compared to Europe in the last thousand years they have led a sheltered and peaceful existence in a temperate and fertile land. To be honest their population should have grown massively in that time, which any figure below the hundreds of thousands just does not seem to match up with.&nbsp

One partial solution may come from assuming that although overall the Shire was a big place, that large parts of that area were not heavily populated. From Tolkien's maps and description it does appear that population was concentrated in a central and eastern belt. Also we are given the names of at most a few dozen settlements. Even assuming as many more un-named ones we have at most 50-100 settlements with some population scattered in between. These would have been small by any modern standard. The largest towns of Buckland and Michel Delving would not have numbered more than a few thousand, or they would have required larger scale infrastructure than the Hobbits seemed to have anywhere. Most villages would have numbered no more than hundreds. If we assume that the Shire population was spread across about half of the actual shire area, with large areas of the North-farthing, west-farthing, marish, hills, and other areas almost uninhabited, and divide the Shire up into approximately a hundred settlements (and their hinterland) with on average 1000 population each, then we start to very roughly converge on a median figure of about 100,000 Hobbits. This is a very rough figures, between the tens of thousands suggested by some information and the hundreds of thousands suggested by other information, but it's probably the best we can ever hope to do, with a likely range of perhaps 60,000-140,000 Hobbits.

To the far west of the Shire stood Lindon, an ancient Elf country on the western edge of Middle Earth. Lindon was the last remnant of Beleriand and most of the Eldar from Beleriand dwelt there. It had stood through the 2nd and 3rd age but slowly and continually diminishing. In the 2nd age it was a powerful Kingdom under Gil-Galad and led the opposition to Sauron, with a mixed population of Noldor, Sindar and Nandor elves, mostly refugees from Beleriand. But with the passing of millenia many died in the wars or left Middle Earth to sail into the far West. Lindon waned, after the death of Gil-galad there was no King anymore, and Cirdan was merely Lord of the Havens. But according to the Tale of Years still well into the 3rd Age Lindon sent armies to fight. By the LotR its population had diminished to the point where this was no longer possible anymore. Working from my figures for the population of Beleriand it is possible to calculate a rough ballpark figure for the number of survivors of Beleriand of around 400,000, with perhaps around 250,000 leaving straightaway to return to Valinor and around 150,000 remaining in Middle Earth. We can guess the population of Lindon in the early 2nd age as roughly 150,000, which it itself in the same ballpark as a large Kingdom in Beleriand. We can also surmise that this population would've actually naturally grown in the early 2nd Age, in the peace that marked the early part of the Age. Until war broke out again in 1700 SA the population spread across Lindon, Eregion and Eriador may have grown to perhaps 200,000-300,000. But  this population would have declined dramatically in the War of Sauran and the Elves, the Last Alliance, and through to the end of the 3rd age, with a population of perhaps as little as 30,000-40,000 remaining, a similar size to the Falas in the 1st Age. 

Also in the Blue Mountains that gave the boundary of Eriador we are told there dwelt various groups of Dwarves. Large populations of Dwarves lived at Belegost and Nogrod during the 1st Age. These mansions were apparently devastated after the First Age during the drowning of Beleriand when the River Lune cut through the Blue Mountains, producing the geography we are familiar with in the 2nd and 3rd Age. There are a few scattered references to Belegost but not Nogrod surviving into later ages, but it never apparently amounted to much, and most of its population is recorded as emigrating to Khazadum. Various groups of Durin's folk also dwelt in the Blue Mountains throughout the 3rd Age when first Moria then the Grey Mountains then Erebor were all plundered by evil creatures. Most significantly that is where Thorin dwelt directly before the events of the Hobbit. Taking the figures from the First Age as a starting point and scaling down considerably it is probably most accurate to assume a mixed population of tens of thousands of Dwarves dwelling in various parts of the Blue Mountains. Perhaps at its height reaching the high tens of thousands shortly before the Hobbit but certainly considerably lower than that by the time of the Lord of the Rings due to a large migration to Erebor after the death of Smaug.

Spreading out now through Eriador from the Shire we get to Bree-land. Bree-land was the area around the village of Bree, which included Bree itself and the nearby villages of Staddle, Combe and Archet. Bree had a mixed population of Hobbits and Men and Tolkien makes references to Bree having "a hundred stone houses of the Big People" as well as Hobbit holes and presumably various wooden buildings. From this surprisingly low figure, and from the repeated description of Bree as a village, we can assume it did not have a large population, certainly no more than a few thousand at most. We can also safely assume that Bree was the largest settlement, and so each of the other 3 villages would be some unspecified degree smaller. All in all it would appear that Bree-land would not have a total population much more than 5,000. Certainly less than 10,000 Men and Hobbits.

This leaves us with 3 other settlements in Eriador, one well known, two barely hinted at, but all quite small. The first and most famous is Rivendell, where the House of Elrond stood. Rivendell or Imladris existed from year 1700 of the 2nd age through to the LotR. It has been depicted as of varying sizes from a large house to the size of a small densely packed village. It's importance seems to belay the small size described for it. Not just its importance to the plot either. In the 2nd age and early 3rd age it seems to take an active military role, something that doesn't seem possible for a large house. Even if we assume that a large part of Rivendell's power was in the wisdom and magic of the people who did dwell there, as well as the power of the Elven ring that Elrond wore, it still seems that the population there fluctuated. Rivendell was founded by a force led by Elrond that rescued refugees from Eregion in the 2nd age, and then came under siege from Sauron for more than a year. This group could not have numbered less than a few thousand, and this seems a reasonable guess for Rivendell's population in the 2nd Age. Certainly by the LotR it had diminished in a similar manner to Lindon and probably no more than a few hundred people dwelt there, perhaps 500 at most.

The other two settlements were never mentioned explicitly by Tolkien but can be deduced. Tolkien a number of times described an Eskimo like population living in the far north adapted to the arctic conditions there. These aided Arvedui, the last king of Arnor, but there is no reason to think they didn't survive to the time of LotR and their population probably numbered in the thousands scattered across a vast area in the far north.

The 2nd group is slightly more controversial. Logic dictates that Aragorn and his rangers must have been a part of a larger population, purely to account for their wives and children. Evidence suggests, and Tolkien confirmed this in one of his letters, that actually a larger Dunedein people still existed at the time of LotR, from which the rangers were drawn. This fits with their description as the last Nobility and Knights of the Lost Kingdom of Arnor. Simply put, if they were the last nobility, then you would except there to be a few other non-nobility as well. Tolkien states that they dwelt in the Angle near Rivendell, in the east of Eriador. This would have been a safe and hidden location close to Rivendell. We are never told how many Rangers there are. Halbarad gathers 30 Rangers in haste to travel south to fight in Gondor, which suggests the total number was much higher than that. The way the Rangers are described suggest there can't have been that many of them though, or they would have constituted a recognisable army. A figure in the hundreds is almost certainly accurate, but whether low or high hundreds is impossible to say. This would have been part of a larger Dunedein population probably numbering in the thousands, but again an exact figure is impossible to give.


Unknown said...

Tolkien really was a genius, deserved the Nobel. Alan Lee made ​​magnificent illustrations of his books. Namárië

Anonymous said...

Awesome! One of the best estimations I have been able to find. Looking forward to the third part :)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Wigmore said...

Karen Wynn Fonstad (1991), The Atlas of Middle-earth, revised edn (London: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 69

Karen is the foremost geographer of Middle Earth. Even the figures you give would suggest a size somewhere in the region of 15-20 thousand miles. Where would you get 8,000 from?

Anonymous said...

so what would the population of gondor be? And Mordor?

Stephen Wigmore said...

I cover the population of Gondor in this article:

I haven't investigated the population of Mordor. I don't think there's enough scraps of information to produce more than a vague guess. Hundreds of thousands of slaves and hundreds of thousands of orcs and other creatures at its height certainly.

Unknown said...

Yeah, you are right, I actually got 18,000 sq miles. Frigged my math up- sorry! I must have been intoxicated.

Unknown said...

Yeah, I was using Karen's data as well, and somehow I came up with that. I truly am a befuddled bumpkin.

Steve777 said...

Regarding the Rangers: if we assume that the 30 Rangers mustered in haste to travel South was about 10% of all active Rangers, the total number of Rangers would be about 300. Multiply by 4 to take account of wives, children and the elderly or otherwise unfit for service, you have about 1,200 in Ranger families. These are the warrior elite of their society, possibly comprising about 10% of the population, maybe fewer. I think that a population of 10,000 to 15,000 Numenoreans would be credible.

Stephen Wigmore said...

Thanks for the comment. I would expect that the Rangers constituted a much higher proportion of the Dunedain population, given that they seemed to have no industry, cities or economy outside 'Ranging' (and presumably smithing, etc, needed to support it).

Hence I think the best guess would be to assume the Rangers would make up at least 5% of the population. That would mean their families form 20% of the population and still leave a much larger group supporting them. That would give a population figure of more like 4,000 - 6,000, which I consider much more likely.

A higher population starts to raise the questions of where were all these people? Since even Lake-town (probably less than a thousand people) gets marked on the map. In Eriador terms ten to fifteen thousand people is a relatively large and notable town (larger than Bree).

Anonymous said...

Love your articles. Two things I don't really agree with are the populations of Lindon and Ered Luin. If Lindon had 60,000 elves and let's say, that even 10-15% were able bodied fighters...that's 6-8000 elves of sindarin and noldorin blood. It would be a pretty formidable force for the third age. I feel there were only 10,00 elves at most in Lindon. I believe that the dwarves were in a similar range of 10-15,000. Even before dwarves of erebor swelled their numbers they were not a large group of people as most of them migrated eastward to khazad-dum in the second age. And many of them would have went back to Erebor after smaug was defeated. These are just my opinions. Thank you for writing these and putting things into perspective.

Stephen Wigmore said...

Thanks for commenting. My numbers for Lindon and the Blue Mountains are both highly speculative so you may be right that my numbers are somewhat too high. I think your numbers are probably too low though as given.

Lindon was a large area of which the Havens were merely the main ports. I imagine the Elves being spread, wandering throughout Lindon, filling it with Elven-song, rather than just being concentrated in the havens. I think the refusal of the Elves there at the end of the 3rd age to get involved was as much a choice as a necessity of numbers. They were tired and actively withdrawing from Middle Earth. Also we have little means of gauging what force Lindon could have put forward at need, because the fighting in LOTR never got anywhere near Lindon. That said my figure is possibly too high. Perhaps 30-40,000 may be a better estimate by the end of hte 3rd age.

As for the Dwarves, I could well believe perhaps only 15,000 remained there by the point of LOTR, as I say, many left for Erebor after the death of Smaug. Before that though there seem to be a relatively large mixed Dwarvish population there. It is true that at the start of the 2nd age most dwarves left the mountains for Moria. But equally after the fall of Moria, the Grey Mountains and Erebor many came back to the Ered Luin.

I have moderately edited the passage to take into account your points. Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

One thing I think your estimates haven't taken into account is the low reproductive rates of Elves and Dwarves (and to a lesser extent the Dúnedain). We know that Elves and Númenoreans had few children (possibly due to their long lifespan), and Dwarves even less so due to the low proportion of Dwarf women (only 1/3 of the population) and the fact that not all Dwarves took wives.

Stephen Wigmore said...

I'm not sure what you mean as these are spot estimates. I don't calculate them using population growth models. You may think my reference to "high tens of thousands" of Dwarves in the Ered Luin at their height, but this does not refer to one settlement but, I except, a whole network of Dwarvish settlements of possibly all three western Dwarvish houses of which Thorin's halls would have only been the largest.

Unknown said...

Hey! Great job, really interesting to read. Do you have any speculations/ ideas about the population in other parts of Eriador? I'm mainly thinking about the large areas that formerly were a part of Arnor, Minhiriath, Cardolan, Rhudaur, and also Angmar. Although large parts were uninhabited there must have been some smaller communities there since the area is so vast. However, I guess there isn't much information to go on.

Stephen Wigmore said...

That's a very good question. I agree that there must have been some people here and there, but we have too little information to even make the vaguest estimates.

I think Arnor was basically uninhabited apart from the communities mentioned. There would've been a few 'wandering companies' of Elves travelling here and there, the occasional troll coming down from the far north, a hobbit tramp, or small travelling family somewhere in the wild, and maybe the very occasional man. But that's all.

In Cardolan there were the Barrow Wights and Tom Bombadil. Tharbad was deserted but there were probably some small communities of men leaving around and near where Tharbad was. But we're talking scattered hamlets or very small villages. The former lands of Angmar may have still been inhabited by small groups of evil men, and also of course by Trolls, Orcs and even a few darker creatures, other barrow wights perhaps?

Dunland and the lands around it in the south were obviously inhabited by a significant population. They contributed a force to Saruman's army, and while they seem to have had no formal government or leadership, they must have had many villages, farms and communities, numbering at least several thousand living in the land around the bottom western slopes of the Misty Mountains.

Apart from Dunland, and possibly the Orcs of the Mountains, whatever other communities there were must have been very small, because anything larger would've been notable on the map in such an empty wilderness. If Bree with its few thousand people was considered an important centre in Eriador, then it's unlikely any larger communities existed that were uncommented on.

Anonymous said...

how large would hobbits military get if the made one?

Anonymous said...

Hello, I very much enjoyed this read, it's well sourced and very logical.

I would be interested to know if you have estimates on the numbers at the Battle of Azanulbizar? I see you mention above an estimate of high tens of thousands for the Blue Mountains (population, not soldiers). I've seen a few articles dotted about the net from 6'000 to 60'000, with breakdowns of the other Dwarf Houses (though these are unreferenced).

Unknown said...

I've noticed you take a location being placed on the map of middle earth as meaning that they are the only significant places, and that no locations of significance really exist outside the map. To me it seems that the locations on the map are there because they are visited at some point in the tales of middle earth. Almost every specific place on the map was visited by at least one character in one of tales, and all others are described as part of the greater story being told. There would clearly be significant cities or towns in Harad and Rhun, but as no stories take place there, the maps are blank.

There is basically zero substantial storytelling that takes place in areas like south western Eriador, places that would have at some point been part of Cardolan and Arthedain. There's no reason to think that there couldn't have been largeish towns like Bree that survived the destruction of Anmar. Towns like these wouldn't have a part to play in the larger story, and therefore wouldn't recieve any attention, but they would likely exist. Obviously it's basically impossible to factor in something that was never canonically mentioned as part of an equation, but I prefer to think of Eriador as being deserted of any significant/pwerful factions, rather than deserted entirely.

al said...

Im also wondering if the hobbits build a military for self defense how large would it be?

Stephen Wigmore said...


Except Tolkien was quite clear that Eriador was largely deserted. Particularly Boromir travelled right through Eriador at the end of the third age and it was described as basically a journey through the wilderness. While these areas may not be visited it would be pretty weird if whole peoples were there but just never mentioned - not in LotR, not in the Hobbit, the Rings of Power in Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales or in the History of Middle Earth series. Of course this does not preclude a few scattered villages, but I think in terms of Tolkien's world we can be pretty sure there weren't other substantial populations.

Stephen Wigmore said...


Any estimates for the Battle of Azanulbizar would be complete guesses, but I think we can assume perhaps there was a force of dwarves and orcs each somewhere in the low tens of thousands. This is just extrapolating up from the Dwarvish forces at much smaller battles like at Erebor, and a guess based on the estimated populations of dwarvish settlements that the total strength of Durin's house would be somewhere around several thousand up to ten thousand, and then multiply this by other houses - though perhaps adjusting for the fact other houses would probably send an expeditionary force, but not commit their complete strength or muster.

Anonymous said...

Bit late but all the same
Truthfully i would say eriador is a bit of a hard one to figure out simply because of lack of information. For instance calculating the population of the shire is difficult because even with the timeline we do not know the original population of hobbits who settled there so estimate of 20-60k or 100-150k are probably equally likely based on the numbers mentioned in the text.
The only number i really doubt is your estimation of the dunedain Based on these interpretations
1) That 30 rangers went south to Aragorn While it is stated that they were all that could be gathered in time the actual timeline of that is 4-7 weeks from lothlorian to there arrival also considering the size of old arnor and assuming the rangers patrolled most of it that must have been a relatively local force (ie the one guarding the Shire and Bree. So working off a rough estimate that this might be a 10th of them 300 is reasonable, however I would find 600 or 900 just as reasonable presuming that they patrolled in shifts perhaps for a year at a time a second or third set of rangers to be sent out in rotation after all it is implied and likely they had family's which would be impossible if they were all out by themselves patrolling the wilderness at the same time. so on the high range of that 900 being 10 percent of the male population and assuming 2-2.5 children per family 900*10 is 9000 adult men assuming 9-10k adult women plus children i would place it at 25-35 thousand dunedain.
2) The mention in the source material that Aragorn rebuilt the north kingdom though it took several years to re-establish his authority in the north and in time it became a more densely populated region but not so populous as Gondor.
I believe it is said somewhere that in around the 20th year of the forth age Aragorn went north to his summer capitol. it is really in this that i think both of our estimations are perhaps quite low for 6-35 thousand could hardly be considered a kingdom and i would question how useful the non dunedain population would have been to rebuilding arnor.
3) There being no settlements marked on the maps, in this i have to give you the point that it makes it impossible to calculate the population of them at the time of the lotr. However from the mentions of the source material that the last king of arnor decided to disperse his people in secrecy to protect themselves and those under them from another attack also that there were not enough people for a kingdom suggests that they would have made settlements in secret and secluded themselves from the other settled men of eriador.
4) Based on 2) I would have to make an assumption that the population must have been at leas a hundred thousand to meet the timeline and usefulness of a northern kingdom had it been 4-6 thousand it would have made more sense to move them to Gondor and the time it would have taken to repopulate the northern kingdom would have had to have been more than a thousand years.

Really the other reason i would think it must have been more in the range of 25-100 thousand is that in consideration of the size of Arnor that would still be a very low population density based on the online estimate of 250,000 miles for arnor thats .1 to .4 per square mile which would certainly still classify it as unsettled wilderness or even practically deserted territory. But would give some possibility to the realm being repopulated it the time of Aragorn and Eldarion which is what i believe Tolken implies.

Damien Sullivan said...

People should re-read the chapter when Frodo comes to Bree. Tolkien is quite explicit: no other humans are settled within 100 leagues of the Shire, or at all west of Bree. There are four villages, "an island in the empty lands"; as mentioned, the chief village has 100 houses of humans.

Humans are nearly extinct in Eriador of this time. Yes, it's an ahistorical level of depopulation for a fertile area, but it's what Tolkien describes. I imagine that orcs and trolls have wiped out anything else, despite the Rangers.

The Dunedain population is an interesting question; it would feel weird for there to be more of them than Bree-folk! I'd push to the other extreme, that nearly their entire adult male population makes up Rangers, living off the land. (Lots of hunting if no one else is around.) The Angle could be a good place for gathering and horticulture: confluence of two rivers, likely wetlands. This could mean a few hundred Dunedain.

Random said...

Three things occurred to me while reading:

1)the Shire appears to be largely unknown past its borders. Even given the medieval-level system of communications, the Shire has been around quite long enough that an enormous population of hobbits should have drawn more attention from the east. There certainly should have been enough information that rumors would have reached Gondor, Rohan, and, yes, Mordor itself. Yet they needed to torture the name out of Gollum and, according to Tolkien's notes, the Witch King had to get the location from Grima. It seems a bit far-fetched that an entire population of 100k in a medieval setting wouldn't have resulted in at least some knowledge back east.

2) Less problematic, but problematic all the same, is Aragorn's claim that the Rangers had protected the Shire. If they were protecting large population centers across the Shire, that would have stretched them pretty thin. I assume Aragorn was talking about more than the occasional orc wandering around.

3) The Black Riders appeared not to have much difficulty finding the places to ask questions. They seemed to zero in pretty quickly on the region around Hobbiton, which suggests there wasn't an abundance of choices. While it could have been blind luck, of course, we're not talking about history, we're talking about fiction. There is no such thing as blind luck in fiction unless such is specified. Otherwise, it's just bad writing. This suggests considerable concentration of the Shire's population rather than dense use of the broad range of land they claimed.

Anonymous said...

I think Lindon must have been larger than those 150 000 you mention during the second age. Possibly that figure would fit the initial number that stayed after the doom of Beleriand, however several lines of evidence indicate the elves of Middle earth were prospering significantly during the 2nd age.

Firstly, we know the elves, while they may not have had levels of population growth anywhere comparable to men, still did produce offspring even in the third age (Arwen, Legolas...). Since Elves don't just die of natural causes, in the absence of war or significant emigration that alone implies significant population growth.

Now in the early parts of the second age there was no such war, and Middle Earth was apparently still attractive enough as a dwelling place for the elves to not just stay, but even found new realms (Eregion, which henceforth I'll just lump in with Lindon here), and prosper there.

Moreover most likely most immigration would have already happened after the doom of Beleriand, so whether there would have been much from those that initially chose to stay after the first age during much of the second age is doubtful.

Then, Tolkiens writings suggest he envisioned Lindon as a significant, if not pre-eminent power in Middle Earth during the second age. During the war of Sauron and the Elves in the mid-2nd age, Sauron destroyed Eregion, and seemed to be winning, but was unable to outright overrun Lindon.
This was at the first peak of Saurons power, and that he wasn't faring much worse, if at all, against the summed(if disorganized) forces of all the free peoples during the war of the ring, the Gil-Galads Kingdom during that time must have been quite powerful to hold out against Sauron at least until the Numenoreans could aid them.
And much later, after having just spend 60-odd years among the numenoreans, themselves so militarily powerful as to make Saurons armies desert him when he was again at a peak in power, Sauron returned to Middle earth and was shocked to see how powerful Gil-Galad had become. This, again, suggests not just growth (and rather rapid growth at that) but also a large absolute size, second only to numenor at that time. And it seems unlikely that on a continent as vast as middle earth that role (said to have excerted control throughout Eriador) could have been filled by a kingdom of only some 150 000 inhabitants that were a mere leftover when compared to the elven realms of Beleriand.

All this seems to imply that Lindon during the height of its power under Gil Galad was at least as large as, and probably more powerful than, any of the larger Kingdoms of men during the late third age. This also matches the prominent role still played by the elves (of which Gil-Galad was obviously the most prominent leader) during the war of the last alliance, something that simply wouldn't have been possible in the late third age after Lindon had diminished (when elves played only a minor role militarily, and even that was mostlydown to silvan elves from Lothlorien and Mirkwood, not from among the inhabitants of Lindon during the second age).

I'd envision Arnor (itself considered the senior of the two dunedain realms at least during their early years) as filling the void left by the great losses suffered by the elves during the war of the last alliance and the subsequent departure of many of them during the third age. In Tolkiens writings it is usually implied that there are some "ancient days of glory", so it also doesn't seem feasible that the power and size of Arnor and Gondor shortly after their founding was much less compared to their state at the end of the third age, which Tolkien paints rather as a time of decay for Gondor in particular. So for Lindon to have been considered so powerful during the late Second age, it must have been much larger than those 150 000.

Stephen Wigmore said...

Thanks Anonymous,

That's an interesting reflection on the Lindon question. I think you're right, there would've been some degree of growth during the Second Age.

I think the numbers I give for the Start of the 2nd Age, and the end of the 3rd Age are solid, but I agree there would've been a growth of population in the 2nd Age followed by a contraction from the War and throughout the 3rd Age. I think I will add a small edit to make that more clear.

Unknown said...

I just discovered this site, and I've found the population discussions fascinating. Very well thought out, both in terms of the articles and subsequent discussions.

I think a possible explanation for the Shire's apparently low population levels may be cultural. First, their fondness for "six meals a day, when they could get them," means that a larger percentage of their agricultural output went into food consumption than would be the case for most other cultures. This probably put a certain cap on how large a population they could, or would, comfortably support.

Second, I would imagine that periodic recurrences of the Dark Plague of T.A. 1436-37 (though at steadily lower mortality rates in a manner similar to reappearances of bubonic plague after the Black Death), combined with the apparently very serious depopulation caused by the Long Winter and the subsequent Days of Dearth (S.R. 1158-1160), probably kept the Shire's overall population down for quite a long time afterwards. It may well have inspired a cultural shift among the hobbits, in the aftermath of those disasters, to keep their overall population at a lower level than a demographer might otherwise expect in order to ensure sufficient reserves of food existed to support them in future difficulties.

Lastly, there seems to have been among most hobbits a strong sense of environmental awareness and appreciation, which may have led them to conclude that a large population would be too destructive of too much habitat for them to tolerate. If they actually *had* reached a very sizeable population initially before plague and famine reduced it, they might have discovered this awareness through prior experience.

All of these factors would help account for a total Shire population of about 100,000 hobbits scattered across 20,000 square miles--just five persons per square mile. No wonder they were overlooked by so many people!

Anonymous said...

If we consider that Gondor (which from the start was more populous of the two kingdoms) had a population of about 1-2 million people at the time war of the ring and it was stuck on relaltivy small territory compared to Arnor. I'd put population of Arnor between 15-75 thousand. Rangers ware elite force. And the dunedain ware in hiding, so I think that every village or small settlement had some force of rangers for defence.

Also there is one tiny thing of house of Elros/Elendil - people of this house had a custom of intermarrying so that nobility (long life) of the house is preserved. There are nuenors examples of this in Númenor and later Gondor (kin-strife), and the line of Isildur was mentioned multiple times that Aragorn ancestors ware decedent from Isildur, heck even Halbarad was described as Aragorn cousin and was the only dunedain that accompanied when Aragorn lookde at the palantir.

The force that Halbarad brought to Rohan was probably small amount of ranger who's position ware known at the time. Rangers didn't exactly leave marks "Ranger was here, find me at next crossroads"

Dunedain of Arnor ware more friendly with Elves (then their Gondorian counterparts) and they ware sheltered by Elros in Rivendell and in the past they ware known to be in good relationship with Lindon. I think that the Elves helped to hide a part of the Arnorian population. Arnor is huge and if the dunedain rebuild any kind of city or showed that the line of Isildur is alive - it would be like a huge mark for Sauron to destroy them.

Even with the reestablishment of Arnor, it's still large territory for settlement. Dunedain would take years just to regroup and rebuilt some of their former cities. This fits well with Tolkien description of Aragorn's slow rebuilding of Arnor.

BR Hrvoje

Anonymous said...

Hi! Your posts are awesome! I was wondering if you had any estimates or thoughts on the population of the dwarves of the Iron Hills, I may have missed it but I would love to find out. Also, great work on all these populations!

Stephen Wigmore said...

Thanks very much! Yes, I covered the Iron Hills as part of my article on 'Lands of the Hobbit'

Anonymous said...

Ah, thank you so much! I see it now, awesome figures!

David said...

I was wondering about the population of the lone lands. I totally agree that breeland had the largest towns BUT the trolls mention eating a village and half so there were presumably more villages in the lone lands. I assume similar to medieval, so 50 up to maybe 300 people? any thoughts?

Stephen Wigmore said...

"You can't expect folk to stop here forever just to be et by you and Bert. You've et a village and a half between yer, since we come down from the mountains. How much more d'yer want?"

Yes, I'd forgotten about that quote. My reading is that the troll means 'you've eaten enough people to make up a village and a half' rather than that they've eaten a whole village.

I'd agree that there were probably isolated farmsteads and even small hamlets scattered around Eriador, but I'd say each of these probably 10-100 people. Very small by modern standards. Partly because I'd think even a village of 300 would be too large to be threatened by three small, wild trolls.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I was wondering if you have any rough estimates for the population of Khazad Dum at its height, pre-Balrog awakening. Thanks so much! Love your work!

Stephen Wigmore said...

Thanks for commenting. I haven't tackled Khazad-Dum, but in my article on Beleriand I estimated populations of around 100,000-150,000 for the Kingdoms of Belegost and Nogrod. Khazad-Dum at its height would have been larger still, though by the awakening of the Balrog in the 3rd Age we're told it was already declining.

I'd guess perhaps at its height Khazad-Dum might have been as powerful as Belegost and Nogrod combined, perhaps 250,000 dwarves, but in its decline it was more like 150,000 by the time the Balrog awoke.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Thanks! I love your work!

Anonymous said...

Indeed the calculation was about dunedain (racially pure, or most racially pure). Not about middle man settled across eriador. Or across the former si called northern realm. Which must had been a massive lager population, for sure

Anonymous said...

Will you work at part 3?

Chris H said...

Great Article, though no mention of the other men in Eriador such as the Dunlendings of Dunland, and the men of Eryn Vorn, also JRRT makes mention of wandering companies of Elves and other houses similar but lesser to Rivendell

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