An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Rhun was the name of the uncharted lands in far eastern Middle-earth. A race of Men called the Easterlings lived in Rhun. The Easterlings fell under the influence of first Morgoth and then Sauron, and they were enemies of the Men of western Middle-earth throughout the Ages.
Little is known about the geography of Rhun. Only the western edge of Rhun appears on the map of Middle-earth in the Third Age. Rhun was bordered on the west by Wilderland and Mordor. Khand was located south of Rhun, and farther south was Harad.
The inland Sea of Rhun was located in western Rhun on the border between Rhun and Wilderland. There were mountains on the southwest side of the Sea of Rhun and a forest on the northeast side. Wild white kine, or oxen, lived near the shores of the Sea of Rhun.
A map of Middle-earth in ancient times shows a great mountain range in the far east called the Red Mountains, or Orocarni, also known as the Mountains of the East. The eastern shore of a large inland sea called the Sea of Helcar was at the foot of these mountains. In later years, the world changed, and it is not known whether the Red Mountains and the Sea of Helcar still existed. One source (HoME XI, p. 174) speculates that the Sea of Rhun might be a remnant of the larger Sea of Helcar.
Many of the peoples of Middle-earth originated in the East. The Elves first awoke on the eastern shore of the Sea of Helcar by a bay called Cuivienen. From there many Elves began the Great Journey westward, but some remained behind in the eastern lands.
Four of the Dwarf-houses originated in the East: the Ironfists, Stiffbeards, Blacklocks, and Stonefoots. Some of these Dwarves may have turned to evil under the influence of Morgoth as did many Men who lived in Rhun.
The first Men originally awoke in the East in a place called Hildorien. Many Men migrated westward, including those who became known as the Edain, who were the ancestors of the Numenoreans. But many other Men remained in Rhun. These Men were known collectively as the Easterlings. The Easterlings were not a unified nation. Different groups that later arose among the Easterlings included the Wainriders and the Balchoth.
In the First Age, some Easterlings journeyed to Beleriand in far western Middle-earth. Some were in the service of Morgoth and were summoned by him, while others came because they had heard rumors of the lands and riches in Beleriand. Two Easterling chieftains named Bor and Ulfang made alliances with the Elves of Beleriand. But while Bor remained loyal, Ulfang was a traitor and his sons turned against the Elves during the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, leading to a crushing defeat by Morgoth's forces.
Morgoth had promised Ulfang's people a great reward, but after the battle Morgoth reneged and exiled the Easterlings to the region of Hithlum. The Easterlings continued to serve Morgoth out of fear. They oppressed and enslaved the people who lived there, who were mainly the families of the Edain of the House of Hador who had died in the battle.
Some of the women were forced to marry Easterlings. Aerin - a kinswoman of Hurin - was taken as a wife by an Easterling named Brodda, who had enslaved many of Hurin's people. Brodda was later killed by Hurin's son Turin.
The chieftain of the Easterlings in Hithlum was Lorgan. Lorgan captured and enslaved Tuor for three years, but Tuor escaped and exacted revenge on the Easterlings. Lorgan set a bounty on Tuor's head, but Tuor eluded the Easterlings for four years until he finally left the region.
Morgoth was defeated in the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age, but his lieutenant Sauron survived. Sauron established his realm in Mordor on the western border of Rhun around the year 1000 of the Second Age. He extended his influence to the East and South and many of the Men of Rhun and Harad became his minions. The Easterlings grew strong during this period. Their population was large and they built many walled towns of stone.
When Sauron distributed the Nine Rings to Men, he gave one to a Man of Rhun known as Khamul the Easterling. Khamul became the second-in-command of the Nazgul after the Witch-king of Angmar.
Easterlings fought for Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance against the Elves and the Men of Gondor and Arnor from 3434 to 3441 of the Second Age. Sauron was defeated and the One Ring was taken from him, and his spirit fled to Rhun where he hid for centuries rebuilding his strength. Many of the Easterlings who survived and returned home to Rhun remained enemies of Gondor.
In 490 of the Third Age, the Easterlings attacked Gondor. They were defeated by Romendacil I of Gondor in 500, but in 541 the Easterlings resumed their attack and Romendacil I was killed. The Easterlings were driven back by Romendacil's son Turambar, who claimed territory for Gondor east of the Anduin.
Around the year 1000, the Wizards came to Middle-earth and three of them journeyed into Rhun. Alatar and Pallando - the Blue Wizards - were sent to Rhun on a mission to help free the Easterlings from Sauron's influence. Saruman accompanied them for a time but he soon returned to western Middle-earth. Alatar and Pallando ultimately failed at their task. It is not know what became of them. They may have perished, or they may have been corrupted by Sauron and encouraged cults and magic traditions among the Easterlings.
Sauron left Rhun and built the stronghold of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood around 1050, but his influence was still strong among the Easterlings who attacked Gondor numerous times over the course of the Third Age.
In the 1200s, the Easterlings made incursions along the borderlands and corrupted some of the Northmen who lived in Wilderland between Rhun and Gondor. In 1248, Romendacil II of Gondor made a decisive stroke against the Easterlings in order to ensure the allegiance of the Northmen to Gondor. He defeated an army of Easterlings and destroyed many of their settlements around the Sea of Rhun.
From 1635 to 1636, the Great Plague spread from Rhun westward into Gondor and much of the rest of Middle-earth. The Easterlings were affected by the Plague as well, but Gondor was severely weakened. The Plague had probably been sent by Sauron for this purpose.
In 1851, Sauron's emissaries incited the Easterlings to attack Gondor again. These Easterlings were called the Wainriders because they travelled in wains - or wagons - and used chariots in battle. The Wainriders came from beyond the Sea of Rhun and first assaulted the Northmen in Wilderland who had been diminished by the Plague.
In 1856, King Narmacil II led an army from Gondor to fight the Wainriders in the Battle of the Plains south of Mirkwood. Narmacil II was killed and Gondor's forces were defeated. They retreated and abandoned their territory east of the Anduin except Ithilien.
The Wainriders suffered losses in the battle, and they delayed their plan to invade Gondor. Instead they continued their conquest of the lands of the Northmen. Many Northmen were killed or enslaved, but others moved to the Vales of the Anduin where they became known as the Eotheod.
In 1899, the Wainriders planned to raid Gondor's northern province of Calenardhon. King Calimehtar of Gondor learned of their intentions and he joined forces with the Eotheod and defeated the Wainriders on the plain of Dagorlad. While the Wainriders were at war, some of the enslaved Northmen tried to revolt. They burned many of the Wainriders' settlements between Mirkwood and the Sea of Rhun. But the rebellion was put down by the Wainriders who had remained behind, including the young women who were trained to fight in their culture.
The Wainriders were subdued for a time. They hesitated to make a further strike on Gondor since they did not know its true size or strength. Back home in Rhun, the Wainriders regrouped and their population grew and spread. As they expanded southward they came into contact with the Men of Khand and Harad. At first there was conflict between them, but the Wainriders eventually formed an alliance with their southern neighbors who were also enemies of Gondor.
In 1944, the Wainriders joined forces with the Men of Khand and Harad and launched an attack on Gondor on two fronts. The Haradrim invaded Ithilien from the south, while the Wainriders and the Men of Khand gathered a great force near the Sea of Rhun in preparation for an attack from the northeast. They marched alongside the Ash Mountains and took the Northern Army of Gondor by surprise as they approached the Black Gate of Mordor. The Northern Army was routed. King Ondoher of Gondor and both his sons were killed in the fighting - which led to the end of the line of Kings in Gondor just two generations later.
The Wainriders believed they had defeated Gondor's entire army. They made camp in northern Ithilien and held a feast to celebrate before continuing on to conquer Gondor. But they were surprised by the Southern Army of Gondor led by Earnil. Earnil's forces had already defeated the Haradrim in southern Ithilien, and now they defeated the Wainriders in the Battle of the Camp. The Wainriders were driven out of Ithilien, and many died in the Dead Marshes.
Although the Wainriders were vanquished, there were still many Men in Rhun who remained enemies of Gondor. The influence of Sauron was strong among the Easterlings. In 2063, Sauron was forced to leave his stronghold of Dol Guldur to escape discovery by Gandalf. Sauron went to Rhun, where he remained for four centuries until he returned to Dol Guldur in 2460. This period was known as the Watchful Peace.
Another group of Men from the East called the Balchoth began expanding westward from Rhun in the 2500's. The Balchoth were probably akin to the Wainriders, and they too were under Sauron's influence. Their weapons were crude but their population was large. The Balchoth occupied the lands between the Sea of Rhun and Mirkwood. They made frequent raids through the forest into the Vales of the Anduin, and the people who lived there fled before them.
Gondor's defenses along the Anduin in this region had been neglected over the years due to a decline in population and a lack of vigilance during the Watchful Peace. The Balchoth planned to launch an invasion across the Anduin into Calenardhon. They built boats and rafts on the eastern shore in preparation for the attack.
Cirion, the Steward of Gondor, sent six messengers north to ask for help from Gondor's old allies the Eotheod. The Balchoth pursued the messengers, killing all but one of them. The sixth rider, Borondir, successfully delivered his message to Eorl the Young who set out to Gondor with an army.
On April 15, 2510, the Balchoth crossed the Anduin en masse. Gondor's defenses were quickly overcome, and the army led by Cirion was cut off and driven over the Limlight into the Field of Celebrant. At the same time, Orcs came down from the Misty Mountains and attacked the Gondorians from the west.
But Eorl the Young arrived in time and the Balchoth and the Orcs were defeated in the Battle of the Field of Celebrant. The Balchoth were driven back over the Limlight and were hunted down by the Eotheod until Calenardhon was rid of the invaders. Calenardhon was given by Cirion to Eorl's people and it became Rohan.
Despite the defeat of the Balchoth, Men from Rhun continued to pose a threat to the Men of western Middle-earth. In 2545, Easterlings invaded the Wold in northern Rohan and Eorl was killed. Eorl's son Brego drove out the Easterlings.
In 2758, Easterlings again crossed the Anduin into Rohan, while at the same time Rohan was invaded from the west by Men of Dunland. The Dunlendings were driven out the next year by Frealaf, while the Easterlings were caught in the great floodwaters that formed around the Mouths of the Entwash in the spring thaw following the Long Winter. Many Easterlings died, and the survivors withdrew from Rohan.
Between 2957 and 2980, Aragorn journeyed throughout Middle-earth, and his travels took him eastward into Rhun. Aragorn's purpose was to gain a better understanding of the Men in different parts of the world, and also to learn what he could about Sauron's plans.
Sauron was gradually rebuilding his strength. He had returned to Mordor, and he summoned Men from Rhun and Harad to increase his forces. The armies from the East included swordsmen, spearmen, and archers mounted on horses, while their chieftains rode in chariots.
On June 20, 3018, Sauron launched an attack on Osgiliath with an army that included Easterlings and Haradrim. The Men of Gondor led by Boromir and Faramir held the river crossing, but Sauron's forces captured the eastern half of the city.
Frodo Baggins saw an army of Easterlings enter the Black Gate on March 5, 3019. On March 10, a force comprised of Easterlings and Orcs captured the island of Cair Andros in the Anduin and crossed into the region of Anorien north of Minas Tirith. They blocked the Great West Road in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the Rohirrim from coming to help Gondor. The Easterlings in this force were of a kind unknown to the Men of Gondor. They were broad and bearded and wielded axes.
Easterlings fought at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields on March 15. Sauron's forces were defeated in that battle, but the Easterlings and Haradrim put up a fierce resistance. They held out until sunset and were the last to be overcome by the forces of Gondor and Rohan, but at last nearly all of them were slain or driven into the river. The Easterlings and Orcs who had been in Anorien retreated and were routed back toward Cair Andros by the Rohirrim.
That same day in the north, an army of Easterlings attacked the Men of Dale and the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain. The Battle of Dale lasted three days. On March 17, King Brand of Dale and King Dain of the Lonely Mountain were killed. The Dwarves and the Men of Dale retreated inside the Lonely Mountain where they were besieged by the Easterlings.
On March 18, the armies of Gondor and Rohan set out for the Black Gate of Mordor. Easterlings and Orcs tried to ambush them on March 21, but they were thwarted by the vigilance of the Rangers of Ithilien. As the Host of the West approached the Black Gate, the main force of the Easterlings awaited in the shadows of the Ash Mountains.
The Battle of the Morannon was fought on March 25. It lasted until the One Ring was destroyed in Mount Doom and Sauron was utterly defeated. When that happened, most of Sauron's forces scattered in fear and confusion. Some Easterlings fled eastward, while others surrendered. The most hardened Easterlings and Haradrim made a last stand against the Host of the West, but they were defeated.
News of Sauron's defeat spread to the Lonely Mountain in the north. The Easterlings' siege was broken, and Brand's son Bard II and Dain's son Thorin Stonehelm drove them away into the East.
After Aragorn became King of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor, he pardoned the Easterlings who had surrendered, and he also received ambassadors from the peoples of Rhun. Not all of the Easterlings were at peace with the Men of western Middle-earth, but Aragorn and King Eomer of Rohan rode out beyond the Sea of Rhun and subdued them.
There is no definitive chronology of the Years of the Trees or the First
Age. These dates are based on "The Annals of Aman"
History of Middle-earth, vol. X, Morgoth's Ring and "The
Grey Annals" and
"The Tale of Years"
in The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, The War
of the Jewels. Other chronologies differ. One year during the
Years of the Trees is equivalent to 9.582 solar years.
The Years of the Trees:
The first Elves awake at Cuivienen in far eastern Middle-earth.
Many of the Elves begin the Great Journey westward from Cuivienen to the Undying Lands, but some remain in the East.
Men awake in Hildorien in far eastern Middle-earth. Some migrate westward while others remained in the East and become known as the Easterlings.
Easterlings come to Beleriand. The Easterling chieftains Ulfang and Bor form an alliance with the Elves.
The Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Ulfang the Easterling betrays the Elves, leading to their defeat.
Tuor is captured by Lorgan, the chieftain of the Easterlings of Hithlum.
Tuor escapes captivity.
Brodda the Easterling is killed by Turin.
Some Easterlings fight for Morgoth in the War of Wrath.
Morgoth is banished from the world. End of the First Age.
Sauron establishes his realm in Mordor on the borders of Rhun.
Sauron extends his power eastward.
The Nazgul appear around this time. One of them is Khamul the Easterling.
3434 - 3441
Easterlings fight for Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance. Sauron is defeated and the One Ring is taken from him. His spirit flees into the East. End of the Second Age.
Easterlings attack Gondor for the first time.
The Easterlings are defeated by Romendacil I of Gondor.
The Easterlings resume their attack, and Romendacil I is killed. His son Turambar defeats the Easterlings and expands Gondor's territory east of the Anduin.
The Wizards arrive in Middle-earth. The Blue Wizards travel to Rhun to try to free the Easterlings from Sauron's influence. Saruman accompanies them but soon returns to western Middle-earth.
Sauron leaves Rhun for Dol Guldur in Mirkwood but his influence remains among the Easterlings.
Romendacil II defeats a large army of Easterlings.
1635 - 1636
The Great Plague spreads from the East across Middle-earth.
The Wainriders come from Rhun and attack the Northmen in Wilderland.
The Wainriders defeat the forces of Gondor in the Battle of the Plains and King Narmacil II of Gondor is killed.
The Wainriders' plan to invade Calenardhon is thwarted by King Calimehtar of Gondor and they are defeated on Dagorlad.
The Wainriders join forces with the Men of Khand and Harad and launch an attack on Gondor on two fronts. King Ondoher of Gondor and both his sons are killed. Earnil of Gondor defeats the Haradrim and then surprises the Wainriders at the Battle of the Camp. The Wainriders are defeated and driven into the Dead Marshes.
Sauron leaves Dol Guldur to escape discovery by Gandalf and hides in Rhun. The Watchful Peace begins.
Sauron leaves Rhun and returns to Dol Guldur. End of the Watchful Peace.
The Balchoth from Rhun cross the Anduin into Calenardhon. They are defeated in the Battle of the Field of Celebrant by the Eotheod led by Eorl and the Gondorians led by Cirion. Calenardhon is given to the Eotheod and it becomes Rohan.
Easterlings invade the Wold of Rohan. Eorl is killed. His son Brego drives out the Easterlings.
Easterlings invade Rohan from the east while Dunlendings invade Rohan from the west. The Long Winter begins.
The Long Winter ends. In the spring thaw, there is great flooding around the Mouths of the Entwash. Many Easterlings perish and the rest retreat. Frealaf drives out the Dunlendings.
2957 - 2980
Aragorn travels throughout Middle-earth including Rhun where he learns about the Easterlings and Sauron's plans.
June 20: Sauron launches an attack on Osgiliath with an army that includes Easterlings. The War of the Ring begins.
March 5: Frodo Baggins sees
an army of Easterlings enter Mordor.
March 10: An army of Easterlings and Orcs capture Cair Andros and enter Anorien. They block the Great West Road to try to prevent the Rohirrim from coming to Minas Tirith.
March 15: Easterlings fight in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and are among the last of Sauron's forces to be defeated. In the north, Easterlings attack Dale and the Lonely Mountain.
March 17: The Men of Dale and the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain are besieged by Easterlings.
March 21: Easterlings and Orcs try to ambush the Host of the West in Ithilien but are defeated.
March 25: Easterlings fight in the Battle of the Morannon. The One Ring is destroyed and Sauron is vanquished. Some Easterlings flee, others surrender, and others continue fighting until they are defeated.
March 27: The siege of the Lonely Mountain is broken and the Easterlings are driven away.
May 1: Aragorn becomes King
of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor. Afterwards he pardons the
Easterlings who surrendered and receives ambassadors from Rhun.
Some Easterlings remain enemies of the Men of western Middle-earth, and Aragorn and King Eomer of Rohan ride to Rhun to subdue them.
The name Rhûn means "east" in Sindarin. (App. E of LotR, p. 401)
Rhun was also referred to as the Eastlands or simply the East in the Common Speech.
Easterlings was a collective term for all the Men of Rhun. Different groups of Easterlings included the Wainriders and the Balchoth.
The Wainriders were so called because they travelled in wains - which is another word for wagons - and their chieftains rode in chariots. (App. A of LotR, p. 329)
The name Balchoth means "horrible horde" from the Westron word balc meaning "horrible" and the Sindarin word hoth meaning "horde." (UT, p. 313 note 24)
The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Council of Elrond," p. 258-59, 261; "The Breaking of the Fellowship," p. 416-17
The Two Towers: "The Black Gate Is Closed," p. 247-48; "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit," p. 267-68; "The Window on the West," p. 274, 279, 286-87
The Return of the King: "Minas Tirith," p. 27, 38; "The Siege of Gondor," p. 95; "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields," p. 121, 124; "The Black Gate Opens," p. 159, 161-62, 167, 235; "The Field of Cormallen," p. 227; "The Steward and the King," p. 246-47
Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings: "Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion," passim; "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen," p. 341; "The House of Eorl," p. 345, 347-49, 352
Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings: "Writing and Spelling," p. 401
The Silmarillion: "Of the Coming of the Elves," p. 48-49; "Of Men," p. 103; "Of the Coming of Men into the West," p. 141-42; "Of the Ruin of Beleriand," p. 157; "Of the Fifth Battle," p. 193, 195; "Of Turin Turambar," p. 215; "Of the Ruin of Doriath," p. 227; "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin," p. 238; "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," p. 286, 289-90, 293-94
Unfinished Tales: "Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin," p. 17-19; "Narn I Hin Hurin," p. 68-70, 104-109; "Cirion and Eorl," passim; "The Istari," p. 390, 397-99
The History of Middle-earth, vol. IV, The Shaping of Middle-earth: "The Ambarkanta," Map IV p. 249 and Map V p. 251 (maps showing Middle-earth in ancient times), p. 256
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "The Heirs of Elendil," p. 197-201, 205; "The Tale of Years of the Third Age," p. 240; "The Making of Appendix A," p. 258-59; "Of Dwarves and Men," p. 295-96, 301, 323 note 28
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Letter #211
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