Follow TV Tropes


The Lord Of The Rings / Tropes Peoples

Go To

Many of the cultures and entire peoples in J. R. R. Tolkien's book The Lord of the Rings are associated with several tropes (or a "hat") as a group. You can find them here.

For tropes applying to individual characters, see here.

    open/close all folders 

    The Free Peoples 


Hobbits are the main focus of the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring and supply the primary characters of the rest of the story. They're merely an offshoot of Men, but they and everybody else (except Elves) view them as a separate people. They're most notable for their small size, about three or four feet tall; Hobbits usually have curly brown hair (on their heads and the tops of their feet) and a light tan complexion, looking very much like small, plump Men. They live primarily in the Shire, where they blissfully ignore the rest of Middle-earth aside from the occasional traveling Dwarves, living lives of leisure, gossip, feasting, and frequent parties. Despite their softness, Hobbits have good common sense and sober up quickly when trouble comes calling, taking up arms to protect their communities.

A few Hobbits also live in the town of Bree, east of the Shire, where they mingle freely with the local "Big People" and are on the whole a little more worldly.

Like all Mortals, Hobbits have the "Gift of Men" (see below).

  • Ambiguously Human: Despite both in-universe and out-of-universe speculation that Hobbits are an offshoot of Men, their official origin story remains a mystery. While Hobbits and Men have similar languages and culture, they are still rather distinct, especially in appearance and seemingly stronger resistance to magic. Are Hobbits actually a subspecies of Men? Did one of the Valar quietly make them? Really, it's anyone's guess.
  • Arcadia: Subverted. Although Tolkien's love of the English countryside are part and parcel of the Shire's conception, effort is made to show that it is no more a utopian paradise than any other nice place to live. While the Shire does have the idyllic, rural and unspoiled look of the typical Arcadia, Tolkien portrays the Hobbits as very parochial, somewhat small-minded, snooty towards 'strange' behaviour (such as Bilbo's adventurousness), and generally uncaring of what goes on outside the Shire, as well as suspicious of foreigners and foreign ideas.
  • Audience Surrogate: The Shire is the rural hinterland of nowhere as far as most big, important historical events of Middle-earth are concerned, and the Hobbits are largely ignorant of what's been going on outside their borders. They are thus used (and intended) to receive some of the exposition the audience needs. (Of course, lots of other exposition had to go into the Appendices.)
  • Author Avatar: Or Author's Neighbors' Avatars. Hobbits are, in speech, culture, and manner, more-or-less rural Englishmen.
  • Badass Normal: The Shire has only ever been invaded twice — three times if you count the wolves during the Long Winter. All three times, it ended very badly for the invaders.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Saruman found out the hard way that when backed into a corner, hobbits fight back.
  • Big Eater: Hobbits are really, really into food. Maybe it's their small size giving them a hyperactive metabolism, but they eat more than full-sized Men. Legolas at one point comments, while Aragorn tracks Merry and Pippin, that the mere fact that they sat down to eat immediately after escaping from Orcs proves the tracks were left by Hobbits. However, they don't have to be this, and can survive on short commons and function perfectly well for a long time (even if they don't like it very much).
  • Binding Ancient Treaty: The Shire is theoretically a protectorate of the King of Arnor and while Arnor no longer exists, the Rangers do, and protect the Shire from nasty artefacts and remaining creatures of the ancient wars. Hobbit laws are based on the laws of Arnor.
  • The Clan: Prefer to live in large family groups almost like Scottish clans, although usually not for self-defense reasons.
  • Close-Knit Community: Gandalf's appreciation for Hobbit-kind began when, in the brutal Long Winter of 2758-2759, he saw neighbors who had little enough for themselves taking pity on their neighbors and sharing. It was through this community spirit that the Shire survived.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Hobbits don't usually wear shoes since the tops of their feet grow curly hair and the soles are thick as well. When they do wear shoes, Dwarf boots are good enough.
  • The Everyman: Specifically created, more or less, to be an Audience Surrogate, splicing modern Englishmen into sprawling fantasy epics without overly straining the elaborate fantasy mythology that supported them.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The culture of the Shire is based on Tolkien's idealized view of the English countryside... though they're also not without rural England's perceived faults as well, such as small-mindedness, a suspicion of foreigners, and an overly provincial worldview, to the point where Frodo voices Tolkien's point of view when he remarks that he sometimes thinks that an invasion of dragons or some such would be good for the Shire, if only to shake them out of their complacency... but that at the same time, he wants to preserve the peace and innocence it represents.
  • Hobbits: The Trope Namer, Trope Codifier, and quite likely the Ur-Example. Tolkien's Hobbits are the original short, hearty, pastoral and pipe-smoking fantasy people that later fantasy works would all draw from.
  • Home Guard: Their primary defense is from a militia called the Shire-muster. Only a few times in the Shire's history has the Muster ever been called to military duty. The last time before the story opens was hundreds of years ago.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The prologue of the Lord of the Rings establishes that Hobbits are scarily accurate marksmen, not only with bows, but with stones. Bilbo is also shown to be incredibly skilled at hitting targets with stones in The Hobbit. The films showcase this ability on occasion with Hobbits consistently making difficult shots by throwing rocks. Fans often criticize these scenes for being unrealistic.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Hobbits are the less corruptible of all Middle-Earth's races and they're chosen as the ones who bring the One Ring to be destroyed in Mordor because of this. Of all the four Hobbits that had the Ring in their hands at some point, none was fully corrupted, including Gollum, who even after five centuries having the Ring, a bit of his Smeagol persona still remains in him.
  • Jerkass: Only a couple, like the Sackville-Bagginses and Déagol. Sméagol began as an example, but as Gollum, he rather transcends Jerkass.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Basically a racial trait. Hobbits in general are bucolic hedonists and tend to disdain nasty business like wars and adventures. However, those who push hobbits into conflict tend to find out that the pudgy little gardeners are seriously tough when they put their minds to it, and while they prefer frequent large meals, they're absurdly durable when pushed to it.
  • Long-Lived: Longer-lived than Men, but not nearly as much as Dwarves or Elves. They are considered adults at 33, enter middle age around 50, and can expect to live to 100, with the longest-lived hobbits reaching about 130.
  • Made of Iron: They are adapted to volcanic regions, and so the fumes in the Sammath Naur did not kill Frodo, Sam, or Gollum. Lampshaded by the House of Healing's Master when he's told that, while Faramir and Eowyn had to stay in bed for a while, Merry was going to be able to walk out of the bed the next morning. Take note that all three was ill due to exposure to the Ring-Wraiths' corruption.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Tolkien liked his pipe, so he decided to make smoking A Thing for Hobbits, with the Shire a major producer of excellent pipeweed. Indeed, it is pretty much confirmed In-Universe that Hobbits invented smoking.
  • Noiseless Walker: They pride themselves on being able to walk very quietly when they want to. Bilbo once sneaked up on trolls to steal a purse, and would have succeeded if the purse didn't squeak.
  • Perma-Shave: Most hobbits are unable to grow beards, with the exception of the Stoors.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: The upper-class hobbits, like the Baggins and Brandybuck families.
  • Rule of Three: Like the Elves and Edain, hobbits are descended from three ancestral tribes (in the hobbits' case, the Harfoots, Stoors and Fallohides), with each group having slightly different physical characteristics and lifestyles.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: It doesn't come up more than a few times in the book, but all hobbits love mushrooms with a passion completely incomprehensible to outsiders.


Humans. Men are the last of the Free Peoples to come into existence (aside from Hobbits, who are really an offshoot of Men) and are the most easily swayed to darkness. They possess "the Gift of Men" — mortality and freedom from fate — and unlike the Elves, they depart the material world after death.

Their greatest civilization in history was Númenor, home of the Dúnedain, or Men of the West. Númenor fell to hubris and its successor states were destroyed or weakened by Sauron, leaving only the crumbling kingdom of Gondor and the scattered Rangers of the North as heirs to Númenor's glory.

See also Gondor, Rohan, and the Men of Darkness below.

  • Humans Are Average: Unlike the fairly uniform cultures of the other races, human cultures are exceptionally diverse. There are peaceful nations and warlike ones, noble ones and wicked, sailors and horsemen.
  • Humans Are Flawed: Men seem to achieve a wide variety of both good and evil. This is a possible side effect of their "gift".
  • Humans Are Not the Dominant Species: While they're not under threat of extinction like most other races of Middle-Earth, Their situation at the time of the saga is one of decline, with large swathes of land deserted and many of their cities in ruins. Sauron and his forces are also pushing to destroy their last kingdoms in the West. The Fourth Age will however see the men establish their dominance over the world.
  • Humans Are Special: Unlike Elves, they have the "Gift of Men", that is, death and the freedom to do what they like with what life they have.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Except for the Bree-men, who have the remains of Arnor to look after them, most Men in Middle-earth seem to be quite skilled at fighting, mostly out of necessity.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: In The Hobbit and the first third of The Lord of the Rings, Men are seen exclusively through the eyes of Hobbits, who view the "Big Folk" as exotic, dour, and just a little scary.


Immortal beings of unearthly beauty. Elves were the Firstborn — an older race than Men, more powerful, more learned, more beautiful, and (from a mortal point of view) more "magical". They are not The Fair Folk, though, for they are no more ethereal or amoral than Men. Elves are nearly immortal — they live forever without aging, and while their bodies can be killed, their spirits can never leave the world until the end of time.

The Elves in The Lord of the Rings are broadly split into two groups: the Wood-elves of Middle-earth, beautiful but earthy people who inhabit secluded valleys and woodlands (Legolas for instance); and the High Elves, great kings and warriors who came across the sea from the West in ages long past and fought many wars against the Enemy (such as Galadriel and Elrond). The Elves are a people in decline, their realms shrinking and their numbers dwindling as more and more forsake Middle-earth to sail across the sea.

The Silmarillion is in large part a history of the [High] Elves, and goes into much greater detail on their origins and divisions.

  • The Beautiful Elite: With a few exceptions, Elves are good-looking and looked up to by most of the more artistically-inclined peoples of Middle Earth.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Averted. Some characters see it this way, like Samwise and Gimli, and all of the Elves encountered on the journey are good... because all the Jerkasses or otherwise foolish ones got themselves killed off thousands of years ago (check out the Silmarillion link above to learn how).
  • Blessed with Suck: Although Men often view the Elves' immortality, eternal youth and ability to be reborn with considerable envy, the Elves themselves consider their lot — and thus their inability to leave the world and their dying civilization behind, and their being doomed after death to linger on as phantoms until the end of time — to be on the whole less desirable than mankind's freedom from the ties of fate. Eternity is not a very kind thing when your fate is to fade and diminish for all time.
  • Born Under the Sail: The Falmari elves were taught shipbuilding and seacraft by Ossë, a Maia — demigod — of the sea, and consequently loved it more than any other elven people. They were the ones who built the swan-ships of the elves, and unlike the other elves of Aman dwell chiefly in the port city of Alqualondë and the island of Tol Eressëa.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: "And it is also said," answered Frodo: "'Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.'" Averted, however, since Elves are shown to be able to be as stupid and self-destructive as anyone else. Also somewhat justified by the history unveiled in The Silmarillion — the Elves were just as prone to stupidity and avarice as any other race, but that characteristic was not a survival trait during the many millennia of war the Elves have been through and so the ones who are left are by and large more enlightened, if still capable of negative traits like paranoia such as with Haldir. Ultimately it's a somewhat Zigzagged Trope.
  • Dying Race: Most Elves have either left for Valinor or are about to. The rest are fading in power and importance. Tolkien implies that Elves are still around in modern times, but have irreversibly faded into invisible, intangible creatures.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: Elves in J. R. R. Tolkien's works are almost invariably described as being good looking. The three best-looking females in Middle-Earth are all Elves or part Elvish.
  • Our Elves Are Different:
    • The template for modern fantasy elves, being neither the divine beings of Norse Mythology nor the little pixies of Victorian times, but essentially unfallen humans. A lot of characteristics assumed in posterior works are already addressed here, however: in spite of their superiority in many aspects, Elves are still prone to mistakes and outright evil (and when they do fall off the slippery slope, it tends to be absolutely spectacular, on a scale that mere men can't even get close to), and their immortality is treated as a curse.
    • That said, much of that addressing happens in the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, with the remaining Elves having mellowed considerably by the time of the far better known works, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Elrond and Galadriel, as their Older and Wiser selves, are far better known than Feanor (who created the Silmarils and led the first Kinslaying on the way to get them back), the Sons of Feanor (who led the second and third Kinslayings, also trying to get the Silmarils back — although not all of them really wanted to, being compelled by the Oath. On the other hand, some of them went above and beyond to be monsters), or Maeglin (who betrayed Gondolin).
    • In short, they're far more physically, and to an extent, spiritually superior to humans. This does not mean that they're morally superior, being prone to arrogance, overwhelming ambition, and Fantastic Racism between the High Elves and everyone else, then between the elves and, again, more or less everyone else, even in the Third Age, albeit in an affably condescending kind of way. As the above points note, most of the elves we meet in the late Third Age are Older and Wiser (and even then, the elves of Mirkwood, and to a lesser extent Lothlorien, are pretty close to The Fair Folk), with the real troublemakers having died a long time ago or been dragged back to Valinor by their pointy ears at the end of the First Age.
  • Perma-Shave: In general, Elves don't grow beards until they're almost prehistoric. note  The only Elf in The Lord of the Rings who has one is Círdan, who's well over seven thousand years old, and may well literally be prehistoric, if the theory that he's one of the first Elves to awaken at Cuivienen is true.
  • Proud Scholar Race: Both this and Proud Warrior Race, to varying extents (the Noldor are more the former, while the Sindar are more the latter), though all of them become more the former as they fade into their twilight.
  • Really 700 Years Old: They don't even reach adulthood until age 50 at minimum, and continue to be gloriously beautiful and youthful for their whole lives. Only their eyes show their full age.


Great craftsmen who live in mines and palaces under the Earth. Small like Hobbits but physically much tougher than nearly any other Free Peoples, except maybe Ents.

  • Dying Race: Dwarves have an abysmally low birth rate, due to their men outnumbering women three to one, their women's frequent unwillingness to take a husband, and many of their men's disinterest in marriage due to being engrossed in their crafts. Further, the loss of almost every Dwarven realm over the Second Age to cataclysms, the Balrog, Smaug and constant warfare with orcs and lesser dragons cost the Dwarves a great deal in both culture and numbers. It's implied that they become extinct some time in the Fourth Age.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: By the late Third Age, the Dwarves have lost most of their ancient kingdoms and deeply wish to take them back, expending great amounts of time, lives and effort into doing so. Erebor plays this role in The Hobbit, and Khazad-dûm in the Backstory to The Lord of the Rings.
  • Heroic Willpower: Race-wide (and justified in the story of their creation). To cite the most evident example, Sauron's One Ring utterly enslaved the wearers of the Nine (and supposedly would have done so for the Three as well): the seven dwarf-kings wearing the Rings of the Dwarves were pulled toward The Dark Side to some extent (mainly, they got incredibly greedy), but retained their own wills. Even their ageing wasn't affected.
  • Made of Iron: Played straight. The Silmarillion actually mentions that Aulë made them that way, in order to resist against Morgoth and his armies.
  • National Weapon: Axes. Even mentioned in their Battle Cry. Averted in The Hobbit, where other weapons are just as prominent.
  • One-Gender Race: Subverted. They all look male to non-Dwarves, because the women are just as flat-chested and beard-y as the men, and they all sound male too, leading some Men to think they're all guys. But Dwarves themselves can tell the difference, somehow. This is subverted in the first part of the film adaptation of The Hobbit, where in the prologue, the dwarven women of Erebor are depicted as noticeably more feminine (but still masculine by human standards, complete with short beards).
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: ...Kind of. Obviously, these dwarves are the template from which the modern fantasy dwarf was built, and share the now standard profile of a short, proud, mountain-dwelling and often fading people fond of smith-work and with a raging hatred for orcs and dragons (and they're not that fond of elves, either) — but there are notable deviations.
    • For just one example, these dwarves love music and song even more than strong drink. Every dwarf in The Hobbit is an adept musician, and a great deal of their history and culture is passed down through song — and among these songs, the melancholy poem of Durin in The Lord of the Rings devotes an entire verse to the instruments that played in Khazad-dûm when the people relaxed after the day's work was done.
    • Strongly averted for the Dwarven language and cultural background — in contrast to the stereotypical pseudo-Viking or pseudo-Scottish dwarves of virtually all later fantasy works, Tolkien's Dwarves came to be a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Jews, on top of being directly inspired by Norse myth and general Northern European folklore for their essential characterization. Their language, Khuzdul, was actually developed by Tolkien (through nowhere near as extensively as the Elvish languages) and was explicitly based on Semitic languages, with the intended direct comparison explicitly stated by the author himself. The backstory of the Dwarves losing their ancestral home and being forced to live in a diaspora among other cultures, with partial assimilation occurring over the centuries despite strong attempts to keep their identity, also fits the bill. The Norse-derived names of all Dwarves are mentioned to be "outer names", pseudonyms for interaction with their host societies and likely taken from these cultures (hence the similarity between the Norse-sounding names of e.g. the men of Dale to the Dwarven names) — the true Khuzdul names are never revealed to outsiders and only used in secrecy among themselves, just like the language. Think of, for example, the Spanish "marranos", ostensibly converts to Christianity, many of whom remained "crypto-Jews"... see the pattern? So, Tolkien's Dwarves are essentially fantasy Jews masquerading as fantasy Vikings, in a way.
    • Note however that this "Jewishness" evolved through the years starting with the creation of The Lord of the Rings, which caused him to flesh out and revamp their backstory and develop the Khuzdul language. In The Hobbit the dwarves are largely still just generic storybook dwarfs albeit with Old Norse names, and they eat pork (continued even in the later book).
  • Paradox Person: Dwarves were not created with the world and therefore would not exist in its first designing. They were created when Aulë, the smith god, grew impatient for the first of Ilúvatar's children (the elves) to awaken, because he wanted to teach them; as a result, he decided to create creatures for himself. However, because he didn't have the power of true creation, they were originally little more than automatons, with no free will. Ilúvatar questioned Aulë's intentions for stepping outside the plans for the universe which led to the creation of a mockery of real life. Aulë responded that he did it only because he was compelled by his love for creating which drove him to give life to creatures to share in that love. He then repented and was sorrowfully preparing to destroy the first dwarves but because unlike Melkor he genuinely respected his creations and didn't see them as an extension of his will, Ilúvatar, seeing Aulë's grief, gave the dwarves free will. As a result, the dwarves exist in Tolkien's world, but they occupy a strange place in it: they are like the Children of Ilúvatar (elves and humans), and yet separate from them as they technically were made by the force of craft and skill — functionally, they're the adopted siblings.
  • Proud Warrior Race: By the time of The Lord of the Rings, the Dwarven people have been warring with the orcs for a long, long time.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Although not as long-lived as the Elves, they still live for hundreds of years.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: In their backstory, they were designed by the Vala of earth, metal, and crafts, because he wanted students who loved craft-work just as much as he did. Even the typical Dwarf is good with stonework and metal-shaping, and their real craftsmen exceed the skills of Men and all but the greatest, most experienced Elf-smiths.


The "Shepherds of the Trees". The most physically impressive of the Free Peoples, but also the fewest in number. Ents are giants with vast physical strength who closely resemble the trees they protect. By the end of the Third Age, there are only few left, which isn't helped by the fact that the females (known as Entwives) have apparently disappeared, thus no Entings (Ent children) can be born. Relegated to the ancient Forest of Fangorn, they have grown world-weary and sleepy. Treebeard is the oldest remaining Ent and their leader.

  • The Ageless: As Treebeard explains, Ents don't die "from inside" (from old age). Treebeard himself is one of the oldest living beings in Middle-earth, and still strong. However, they get "sleepy" and one by one they eventually stop moving and become like the trees they protect. This is the eventual fate of the whole race.
  • Dying Race: Without Entwives, there haven't been any Entings since the end of the Second Age. They don't age, but they are getting killed or turning "tree-ish" one by one.
  • Gaia's Revenge: They were created specifically to protect trees and forests from overexploitation, violently if necessary. They are very well equipped to rip armies and castles to pieces with their bare hands.
  • Green Thumb: Both Ents and Entwives had control over plants. While the Ents watched over the great trees and the forests, the Entwives watched over fruit-trees and smaller plants. They were obsessed with gardening and apparently taught Men the arts of agriculture.
  • Made of Iron: When they are enraged, there's not much that members of any other race can do — unless they Kill It with Fire.
    Merry: ...They cannot be poisoned, for one thing; and their skin seems to be very thick, and tougher than bark. It takes a very heavy axe-stroke to wound them seriously[...] But there would have to be a great many axe-men to one Ent: a man that hacks once at an Ent never gets a chance of a second blow. A punch from an Ent-fist crumples up iron like thin tin.
  • One-Gender Race: There used to be Entwives, but they grew apart and later, they disappeared.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: And certainly more botanical. As a side note, the word "Ent" comes from an Old English word meaning "giant", and is linguistically related to "ettin" and "jotunn".
  • Plant People: It isn't clear to what extent they are literally plants — for example, they drink and speak through their mouths, and don't seem to have roots — but they seem much more like trees than humans and can become practically indistinguishable from trees if they let themselves go.
  • Plant Hair: Depicted with this in both the book and the movie. Treebeard himself has this in Weird Beard form.
  • Starfish Language: Just like the Ents themselves, Entish is not a hasty language. It is a tonal language filled with subtle vowels and is extremely long-winded. It is unlikely that any other race could speak Old Entish, for example the word "A-lalla-lalla-rumba-kamanda-lindor-burúme" is part of their "word" for "hill" (or even a part of one specific hill in Fangorn Forest).
    Treebeard: You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.
  • Treants: The Trope Makers. In-universe, the Ents were explicitly created by Yavanna to protect the wilderness from the axes of civilization (and to keep the trees from becoming homicidal). They have an odd sort of immortality: they don't age and live more or less forever, but over time become stiffer, sleepier and more "treeish", rooting themselves and not stirring for increasingly long periods, eventually becoming indistinguishable from normal trees. They still live extremely long before this happens, giving them a very patient and long-term view on things: they consider reaching a decision after three days of continuous debate almost unseemly hasty.
    • Like most of Tolkien's races, the Ents are something of an Unbuilt Trope and have a number of characteristics later imitations lack, such as a highly variable numbers of fingers and toes and a form of gender dimorphism: male Ents live in deep forests and guard nature like later examples, but the women, the Entwives, favor agriculture and farmlands and resemble various crops and domestic trees, and were the ones who taught agriculture to early Men.
    • There is also some debate about their appearance — while the Peter Jackson movies popularized the "humanoid tree" image, in Tolkien's writing they're more humanoid, generally being described as giant- or troll-like beings who come to resemble trees as they age. In fact, the word "ent" is derived from an Old English word meaning "giant", and is linguistically related to "ettin" and "jotunn". However, they are stated elsewhere in Tolkien's writings to have originated as sprits that entered the world by inhabiting or mimicking trees, giving more support to an interpretation of them as literal humanoid trees.
    • There are also the Huorns, which are creatures that start out as normal trees and gradually "wake up" in a sort of reverse process to the Ents growing treeish, growing more mobile and aware. They're just as protective of their forests and distrustful of intruders as true Ents, but can be much more malevolent and dangerous. A part of the Ents' job is to corral and calm the Huorns and keep them from becoming too much of a danger to others, hence the Ents being also know as the Shepherds of the Trees.
  • When Trees Attack: They do so in armies led by Ents, thronging out of The Lost Woods to destroy those who threaten their existence. The trees that are led are known as 'Huorns' and are either Ents that have become more tree-like or trees that have become more Ent like. Some are even capable of speech. Old Man Willow (who is also a Huorn) is another example who traps and attempts to kill anyone who enters the Old Forest.


Usually called "wizards." Not really a race, but certainly not part of any other race mentioned on this page. Unbeknownst to nearly everybody in Middle-earth, the Istari are spirits sent in the form of old men to counsel the resistance to Sauron. Gandalf is the most prominent, being a major character in both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Saruman appears extensively in the latter, and Radagast is mentioned in the former and shows up in a flashback in the latter.

  • Ambiguously Human: Per The Silmarillion, wizards are Maiar. However, what they are exactly is not explained in either The Hobbit or The Lord Of The Rings, with vague allusions to the fact that they're not entirely human (but not exactly anything else) being as close as it gets.
  • The Chessmaster: With the exception of Radagast, every Istar in the stories has played a very long game at least once.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: They each wear different-colored robes, and are called by those colors (Gandalf the Grey, Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown, and the Blue Wizards).
  • Friend to All Living Things: Radagast the Brown especially, but Gandalf also has the ability to befriend animals, such as his horse Shadowfax.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Gandalf takes up smoking a pipe while thinking, something Saruman ridicules him for. Later Saruman hypocritically takes up smoking himself and conceals it from Gandalf, being rather vain.
  • I Have Many Names: Cue Gandalf:
    Gandalf: Many are my names in many countries: Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkûn to the Dwarves; Olórin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incánus, in the North Gandalf; to the East I go not.
  • Magic Wand: They each carry staves which they use both as a walking stick and a weapon. After Saruman turns to evil and is defeated, Gandalf breaks his staff and expels him from the order.
  • Old Master: According to the Appendices, the Istari had the appearance of men, but were never young and grew older very slowly.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Despite their appearance as bent old men with long beards, the Appendices hint and The Silmarillion explicitly states that Istari are Maiar sent from Valinor to assist the Free Peoples in resisting Sauron. Maiar are the rough equivalents of Christian angels in Arda.
  • Power Corrupts: Out of the five, Gandalf is the only one who we know saw through his mission to the end, and he has a decisive role in the winning of the War of the Ring. Saruman, the most powerful wizard and their leader, ends up turning to evil. Radagast the Brown appears to have gotten lost just tending to animals (though that might have been part of his mission — he was a Maia of Yavanna and it's not explicitly stated what his specific job was), and we don't hear much about the two Blue Wizards (although supplemental materials by Tolkien suggest that they stirred up some rebellions in the Eastern lands Sauron ruled).
  • Really 700 Years Old: They do seem to age a little over time, but none of them looks his actual age. Even if you only count from the time they were incarnated in physical bodies, they're around 2000 years old by the end of the Third Age.
  • Token Good Teammate: Depending on interpretation. Gandalf is the only one we know for sure was active on the side of good. However, Radagast remains on the side of good, even if he doesn't help much with the war against Sauron — his house at Rhosgobel is found to be empty just after the War of the Ring, with Gandalf having previously mentioned that he only leaves it at great need (suggesting that he had some pressing business elsewhere, even if it isn't clear what that was). Additionally, the Blue Wizards may or may not have helped out by disrupting Sauron's business in the East, possibly inspiring rebellions against his rule (Tolkien's ideas changed over time).
  • Token Evil Teammate: Saruman.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The two Blue Wizards are unnamed in the book (several possible names are given for them, but none are definitive) and go into the east and south of Middle-Earth. What they do there, and their ultimate fate, is unknown, and Tolkien's ideas of what they did there changed throughout his life — i.e. whether they actively helped disrupt Sauron's actions there and inspired rebellions, or just ended up creating magical cults and whatnot.
  • Wizard Classic: Trope Codifier in the fantasy genre.


The personal servants of Manwë (see The Silmarillion, character sheet). Sent to intervene in the gravest circumstances.

  • The Cavalry: Once Manwë takes a more direct hand in helping out again.
  • Deus ex Machina: They frequently appear in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to dramatically pull people's chestnuts out of the fire at the last possible minute.
  • Giant Flyer: They're big enough to carry multiple human beings.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: What they are exactly is never explained. Possible explanations range from being atypical clever (but non-sapient) birds to Maiar to extensions of Manwë.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: Very firmly on the side of good, even if hands off about it.
  • Praetorian Guard: Manwë doesn't need a bodyguard but they are his household soldiers, so to speak.

    Nations of Men 


A heroic, martially inclined people, allied to the Men of Gondor, and famed for their love of horses. Originally from the valleys of the northlands, the Rohirrim rode south to aid Gondor during an invasion of the Easterlings. The Steward of Gondor entrusted them with Gondor's sparsely-populated northern province, now renamed Rohan (displacing the native Dunlendings in the process, who became the sworn enemies of the Rohirrim), and in return the king of Rohan promised to aid Gondor in any time of need. Before settling in Rohan, the Rohirrim lived near the ancient Hobbits and dimly remember them as fairy tales.

  • Binding Ancient Treaty: To Gondor, since the country was founded by Eorl hundreds of years ago after he and his warriors saved Gondor from ruin.
  • Blood Knight: And they sang as they slew for the joy of battle was upon them...
  • Born in the Saddle: Their culture seems to resolve around horses, which they love as much as their own children. It's hard to imagine even a single one of them not knowing how to ride.
  • The Cavalry: They have this down to an art.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Though the Rohirrim don't perfectly align to any real-world people, Tolkien used them to express his love of ancient Germanic culture, and their language is rendered as Old English. Going to the appendices and further back to the Unfinished Tales, the Northmen and Éothéod, the Rohirrim's predecessors, have names derived from Gothic. Also, Rohan is a real place, in Brittany, now part of France, giving them a possible dash of Celtic.
  • Horseback Heroism: The Cavalry both figuratively and literally.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Their culture is quite martial and they see glory in warfare as something to attain for its own sake.


The sole surviving Númenórean Realm in Exile following the fall of Arthedain and Cardolan and the corruption of Umbar and Rhudaur. An exceedingly ancient civilization of learning and tradition, now a Vestigial Empire fighting continuously to survive. For all of its history Gondor has fought territorial wars against the Southrons of Harad and the Easterlings of Rhûn, and now contends with the threat of Mordor rebuilt. Hundreds of years ago the last king of Gondor was killed by the Lord of the Nazgûl, leaving no heir, and the nation is ruled by the line of the Ruling Stewards — currently Denethor — until the day a rightful heir — i.e., Aragorn — returns. See The Silmarillion character sheet for its founding rulers, Elendil and his son Isildur.

  • Ambiguously Brown: The demographics of Gondor are slightly unclear. Denethor is described as having very light skin, which may be an indicator of the common Gondorian complextion, or denote his distant Numenorian heritage. On the other hand the Orcs call the clearly Germanic-inspired Rohirrim "whiteskins" but don't extend this label to Gondorians, implying the latter to be somewhat less pale. The fact that Gondor used to extend a fair bit further south also muddles the issue. Likely they're supposed to have on average a slightly tannish Mediterranean skin tone (which doesn't preclude some having a noticeably darker or lighter complexion than the average), supported by the fact that Tolkien's maps (and placement of the Shire in southern England) would put Rohan on almost the exact same latitude as Italy and Spain.
  • Binding Ancient Treaty: With Rohan, going back to the time of Steward Cirion, who granted Eorl the land in gratitude for saving Gondor's bacon.
  • Badass Bookworm: Something of a Badass Bookworm civilization. Tends records of ancient lore, and keeps alive the memory of past civilization. But they are also formidable in war.
  • Break the Haughty: The combination of several plagues, a civil war, repeated political upheaval, and the steady encroachment of Sauron with all the suffering and misery that entails have brought Gondor a lot of hardship, but brought them a little humility in the process.
  • Cincinnatus: Their effective ruling line, the Stewards, actually boasted that they have never declared themselves king, though it must be noted that this has less savoury parallels. After all the emperors of Rome (imperator was originally a military term, like "commander") never declared themselves king either... technically. In the Greek speaking world, which was much less shy of autocrats, the Emperor was commonly and informally (later formally) referred to as the basileus, a Greek word translated as 'King', which came to mean Emperor in the Byzantine period.
  • Fantastic Racism: Historically prone to this. While they incline more towards the Noble Bigot side of things, and certainly aren't the slavers that the later Numenorean Empire were, and the Black Numenoreans of Umbar are, they are the heirs to Numenor — High Men as opposed to the rest of the Edain, who are "Middle Men" or "Men of Twilight", with the attendant height, longer lives, vaguely enhanced endurance and strength, and, in the case of those with a larger dose of Numenorean blood, mild Psychic Powers. And they won't hesitate to remind you of it, although these days that's more or less all they do — about 1500 years prior to the events of Lord of the Rings, however, there was a fully fledged civil war, the Kin-strife, which was started by the prospect of the only half Numenorean Eldacar taking the throne. The war was rather self-defeating: After the rebels lost, they fled south and bolstered the Corsairs of Umbar, and in any case, it wiped out a significant number of pureblood Numenorean families.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Byzantine Empire, in its geopolitical role, right down to relying on an impenetrable yet beautiful and glorious fortress city (Minas Tirith/Constantinople a.k.a. Istanbul) to repel otherwise overwhelming enemy armies. Culturally, they somewhat resemble Ancient Egypt, specifically in their attitudes towards death.
  • Geo Effects: Gondor owes its continued existence to the Anduin. The river defines their current border, and is incredibly difficult for Mordor's armies to cross, making an outright invasion impossible until late in the story, when both crossings over the river are finally captured.
  • Long-Lived: The Númenóreans lived for 250 years in average, however during the Third Age this average lifespan slowly shortens to the point that by the timeframe of the story the Gondorians are only slightly longer-lived than normal Men.
  • Noble Bigot: Though now they are generally more willing to intermarry with other people than their northern counterparts, the Dúnedain elite are, in general, not humble about the fact that they, unlike other Men, trace their ancestry to Númenor. In the past, this feeling of superiority has led to the Kin Strife, a terrible civil war, after a King of Gondor married one of the "lesser people" (the daughter of the King of Rhovanion) and their son, Eldacar, took the throne.
  • Proud Scholar Race: As part of their obsession with the lost glory of their dead fatherland, although in the present day they're turning towards Proud Warrior Race Guy out of necessity.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Those of Númenórean lineage, at least, are described that way.
  • Vestigial Empire: Their territory was formerly much larger, and at one time they even garrisoned Mordor itself in order to keep the servants of Sauron from occupying it after his defeat at the end of the Second Age. Osgiliath, their once-capital, is now a giant ruin, and their territory is limited to the western banks of Anduin. Despite this, Mordor is unable to mount an attack on Anorien and the area around Minas Tirith until the very end because of the actions of the Rangers of Ithilien and the garrison at Cair Andros.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Stands for thousands of years between Mordor and the other Free Peoples. Boromir emphasizes Gondor's importance in this role at the Council of Elrond, and he's right: the crossings at Cair Andros and Osgiliath are the only ways across the river for many miles and both are held by Gondor.

Dúnedain of the North

The Kingdom of Arnor was once the sister realm of Gondor, one of two Númenórean kingdoms in exile after Númenór's destruction. Located in and encompassing most of Eriador, civil war, plague, and a Forever War against Angmar reduced Arnor in territory and population until it was finally destroyed when the Witch-King sacked Fornost. Descendants of the extinct kingdom now wander about the region of Eriador, acting as wardens, spies, and warriors guarding such settlements as remain in the North against "dark things". Led at this time by Aragorn (see Fellowship of the Ring above).

  • The Chew Toy: The first two thousand years of the Third Age was basically one long period of unmitigated suffering for the people of Arnor.
  • Civil War: The splitting of Arnor was done to prevent one after the death of Eärendur, leaving Amlaith of Fornost with just Arthedain. Later, the eastern state, Rhudaur, would become a vassal of Angmar, and repeatedly attack the other two Arnorian petty-kingdoms of Arthedain and Cardolan.
  • The Determinator: The Chieftains of the Dúnedain kept the legacy of Arnor alive for near a thousand years, in the hope that one day their kingdom would be restored. They got their wish in King Elessar.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The Third Age for them consisted of the untimely death of Isildur, a civil war, the fragmentation of their realm, a terrible plague, more civil war, a war against Angmar, extensive depopulation, the decline of the Dúnedain, the sacking of Fornost, the drowning of Arvedui, the loss of two of the Palantiri, one thousand years of living as nomads, the War of the Ring... and then the restoration of the king and their realm.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Cardolan and Rhudaur were rebellious states formed by the younger sons of King Eärendur and brought war to Arthedain repeatedly.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: If Gondor is the Byzantine Empire, then by extension Arnor is the Western Roman Empire in the period between the sacking of Rome by the Goths and the crowning of Charlemagne as the Holy Roman Emperor.
    • The parallels are actually quite striking once you look for them: Arnor/Gondor and Rome/Constantinople both trace their lineage to a mythical homeland from which they were displaced due to a great and self-inflicted tragedy (Numenor and Ar-Pharazon's rebellion against the Valar/Troy and Paris' abduction of Helen), Arnor/Rome's fall coming after a lengthy period of decline caused by a combination of bad luck and poor decisions by their rulers, and the eventual "resurrection" of the land by a great leader (Aragorn/Charlemagne).
    • The biggest differences are that Rome was the historical (as opposed to mythical) origin of the unified state, whereas Gondor doesn't trace its historical origins from Arnor, and that the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne and his various successors was very different to the former Western Roman Empire — for starters, Charlemagne had no blood connection to the Western Empire. And complicating things, like Arnor, Charlemagne's Empire fractured into three after the death of his son Louis, whose three sons claimed various pieces of the Empire). In general though, Tolkien was fairly explicit about the Roman parallels with the two Numenorean successor kingdoms.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: Averted for a long time, as they protected the former lands of Arnor in secret, but played straight during the War of the Ring.
  • For Great Justice:
    Aragorn: "Strider" I am to one fat man who lives within a day's march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Cardolan eventually reconciled with Arthedain and recognized their king as being king of all Arnor, owing to repeated attacks by Rhudaur and Angmar, and the failing of Isildur's line in Cardolan.
  • Knight Errant: Though much less obvious than the archetype suggests, the Rangers spend their time Walking the Earth and righting wrongs.
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: Ruined cities, like Annuminas, Fornost Erain, Tyrn Gorthad, Eryn Vorn, and Tharbad, all stand as a testament to the once-mighty Kingdom.
  • Men of Sherwood: Though they don't assemble until the War of the Ring. Would be a Badass Army if there weren't only 31 of them present, not counting Aragorn, since they gathered in haste and not everyone could make it. The army of Arnor in its prime was mighty, as well, directly challenging Sauron and taking part in the siege of Mordor.
  • More Than Meets the Eye: Only a few know what they really are. On the whole they prefer it that way and can be expected to generally play up their appearance as raggedy, seedy, homeless wanderers.
  • Shining City: Once upon a time, Annuminas and Fornost were the equals of Minas Tirth and Osgiliath.
  • The Stoic: At least the few we meet seem to be. Fighting monsters for thousands of years kind of gets you that way.
  • The Remnant: The Rangers and some ruins are all that remain of the lost northern kingdom of Arnor. The only bits of Arnor that are really inhabited are the Shire, Bree, and the Angle south of Rivendell, so that's what they protect.
  • Vestigial Empire: It spent its entire history in a state of decline. By the time Arvedui became king, Arthedain, a rump state with shrinking territory and a declining population, was the only part of the former Arnor that had any people.


The Men of Bree and a few other related towns are a peaceful folk who remain blissfully unaware of the tumultuous outside world, much like their hobbit neighbors. They're unknowingly protected by the Rangers of the North.

  • The Everyman: Similar to the hobbits.
  • Good Counterpart: To the Dunlendings, their distant ancestors.
  • Muggles: They are utterly mundane, except for co-existing with hobbits.
  • Odd Friendship: The men and hobbits of Bree-land live among each other and get along splendidly.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: The Prancing Pony in Bree is the setting for two such meetings: Frodo and friends first meet Aragorn there in The Fellowship of the Ring, and Unfinished Tales reveals that earlier Gandalf and Thorin had met there to set up the quest in The Hobbit.

Wild Men

Mysterious Men who inhabit Drúadan Forest between Rohan and Minas Tirith, they play a brief but crucial role in the War of the Ring. Their identity, history, and expanded descriptions of their characteristics are all found in Tolkien's postumously-published works.

  • Badass Native: As Elfhelm says, "Let us be thankful that they are not hunting us: for they use poisoned arrows, it is said, and they are woodcrafty beyond compare."
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: A rare aversion on the ugly side. The Rohirrim see them as "unlovely," but find them perfectly trustworthy once the two groups are on speaking terms.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: They're referred to as "woses," which is a direct reference to Medieval English legends about hairy wild men of the woods. Funnily enough, according to Unfinished Tales, they're actually less hairy than most humans.
  • Frazetta Man: Technologically primitive and beastly-looking by other humans' standards, being short, lumpy and black-eyed.
  • Enemy Mine: Ghân-buri-Ghân's dialogue indicates that the Rohirrim used to hunt the Wild Men "like beasts." But he still allies with the Rohirrim against Sauron's forces.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: In Unfinished Tales, their eyes glow red when they get angry.
  • Native Guide: This is their role in the story, maintaining a nigh-unpassable Lost Wood that they guide the Rohirrim through to avoid being spied on or intercepted by Sauron's army.
  • Perma-Shave: Both averted and played straight. Ghân-buri-Ghân has a scraggly beard, but in Unfinished Tales it's said that most of them can grow no hair below the eyebrows.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: It's said that the Rohirrim used to hunt them as if they were animals.

    The Enemies 


The foot soldiers of evil. In The Silmarillion, the Orcs (also known as goblins) were bred by Morgoth from captive Elves, twisting them into ruined creatures that know only cruelty and hate; after Morgoth's defeat, his lieutenant Sauron continued to use Orcs as the greater part of his legions, as did Saruman later. Many independent Orcs also live in the Misty Mountains, especially in Moria, which they conquered from the Dwarves.

  • Always Chaotic Evil: All the orcs we see, although Word of God is that they cannot be inherently evil. In any event, Tolkien was good enough to give all named orcs distinctive (though still evil) personalities. (Incidentally, Orcs are technically lawful evil. They serve a being who wants to bring his own version of order to the world). Orc-hood is almost as much a state of mind as it is genetic (cf. Tolkien's statement that "We were all orcs in the Great War." re: World War I). Some fans speculate that if an orc stopped being evil, it would no longer be an orc, and become an elf.
  • And I Must Scream: The bare essence of being an Orc. As noted in The Silmarillion, their lives are miserable and they only know hate: of the Elves, Men, themselves, and most of all, of their own master.
  • Ambiguously Human:
    • Adaptations portray them with distinctly non-human attributes such as green/grey skin, pointy ears, and tusks (see for example Tim Kirk's art), but none of Tolkien's writings and letters describe such attributes.note  It's perfectly possible that they're just a particularly ugly and selectively bred race of Men, and thus human (which is further hinted at by the fact that Orcs and Men are apparently inter-fertile). Notably, Morgoth's Ring contains a note from Tolkien on The Silmarillion saying: "Alter this. Orcs are not Elvish."
    Tolkien: The Orcs are definitely stated to be corruptions of the ‘human’ form seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.
    Aragorn's narration: There were four goblin-soldiers of greater stature, swart, slant-eyed, with thick legs and large hands
    • Treebeard, when speculating about the origin of the Half-orcs, says "I wonder what he has done? Are they Men he has ruined, or has he blended the races of Orcs and Men?", the implication being that he wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Man/Orc hybrid and simply a corrupted Man.
    • The section of Morgoth's Ring titled ''Myths Transformed, texts ix and x, comments on this:
    Since Melkor could not 'create' an independent species, but had immense powers of corruption and distortion of those that came into his power, it is probable that these Orks had a mixed origin. Most of them plainly (and biologically) were corruptions of Elves (and probably later also of Men). But always among them (as special servants and spies of Melkor, and as leaders) there must have been numerous corrupted minor spirits who assumed similar bodily shapes... It would seem evident that they were corruptions of primitive human types... 'Melkor had corrupted many spirits — some great, as Sauron, or less so, as Balrogs. The least could have been primitive (and much more powerful and perilous) Orcs'.
    This then, as it may appear, was my father's final view of the question: Orcs were bred from Men, and if 'the conception in mind of the Orcs may go far back into the night of Melkor's thought' it was Sauron who, during the ages of Melkor's captivity in Aman, brought into being the black armies that were available to his Master when he returned.
    • The same source also notes that the elves called any creature that caused fear and/or horror "orc", and that they applied the same label to what men called "trolls", so it's likely that multiple distinct breeds were simply being lumped under one term for convenience.
  • Blood Knight: All the Uruk-hai, but Uglúk stands out in particular.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Orcs in general are really into this. It seems to be what they do in their spare time for fun.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: The Uruk-hai in particular suffer from this, with small parties performing exceptionally well and large armies getting worsted (by a walking forest).
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Every orc officer.
  • Dirty Coward: "Standard" orcs, which is why whip-wielding superiors and/or Nazgûl stand behind them...
  • Elite Mooks: The Uruk-hai ("Orc-folk" in Black Speech, the language of Mordor), a stronger and tougher type of orc. It appears that there are two distinct kinds called "Uruk", both superior to the average orc — the Black Uruks of Mordor and the Fighting Uruk-hai of Isengard — although the latter group uses the full name much more often despite appropriating it. The Uruks of Mordor are broader and more ape-like, while Saruman's Uruks are brand-new, taller and more humanoid — and can function in sunlight. At least one Uruk of Mordor was a captain among the Moria orcs.
  • Enemy Civil War: The only thing keeping the orcs held together is the will of the Dark Lord, whoever that may be at the time. Whenever that slackens for whatever reason, they remember that they hate each other almost as much as they hate non-orcs and almost immediately go for each other's throats. Unless there are people of other races nearby, in which case different tribes of orcs will band together to kill them, then turn on each other.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: They regard accusations of cannibalism (that is, eating other Orcs — eating other races is fine) as a grave insult. (Though whether or not they do it anyway is an open question...) They also regard leaving their wounded comrades behind as disgraceful — "a regular Elvish trick", as they put it. On the other hand, when they find an old comrade trussed up to be eaten alive by Shelob at her leisure, they leave him to his fate... after having a good laugh at the expression on his face.
  • Everybody Calls Him "Barkeep": In The Return of the King, an orc called Snaga is bullied by bigger, stronger orcs. In the Appendices it's revealed that snaga is the Black Speech/Orc-language word for "slave", and that the Uruks of Mordor call lesser common orcs that.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Inverted, atypically for fantasy. On average, orcs are much shorter than men, being closer in size to dwarves and hobbits; a "huge orc chieftain" is described by Frodo as "almost man-high". Their posture is also said to be crooked, with bent backs, making them look shorter than they already are. Only the half-orcs of Saruman were as tall as men, being part-human hybrids. However, the shorter breeds of orcs were also often described as very broad, so these may have been "bigger" than men in that way.
  • Evil Minions: Of Sauron, Saruman, and anyone else who can dominate or threaten them enough to control them. Considering that every Dark Lord is horrifically cruel and treats them as canon fodder, this makes their lives literally a living Hell.
  • Fantastic Racism: Against Elves, Dwarves, Men, and even other Orcs. There's a rivalry between the Orcs of Mordor, the 'Northerners' from the Misty Mountains who are used to running their own affairs, and Saruman's Uruk-hai, who are proud of their unusual abilities; the stronger Orcs of Mordor, likely Uruks, also treat the weaker types badly and call them slaves, "snaga". Since "Uruk" itself just means "Orc" it's implied that the stronger ones thus effectively treat the weaker ones as subhuman—rather, sub-orcish, to deny them even the name of Orc.
  • Flip-Flop of God: On the relationship between orcs and goblins. At first Tolkien said that "orc" was simply the hobbit word for goblin. Later he said that goblins were a subtype of orc. Later still he said that goblins were completely separate creatures from orcs.
    • This applies in regard to the origins of Orcs as well, as mentioned under Ambiguously Human above and Riddle for the Ages below. Tolkien had great trouble settling on an answer of whether they were corrupted Elves, corrupted Men, minor spirits given physical humanoid shape by Morgoth and/or Sauron, or some combination of all three (depending on the type of Orc in question). It seems he never found an origin story that fully satisfied him.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The most likely origin of Saruman's Uruk-hai, especially given their larger size, more humanoid shape, and total nonchalance about running and fighting in daylight.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Tolkien mentions that Orcs are fully aware of their freakish, unnatural existence, and hate everyone and everything for it, including themselves. Only fear of Sauron's punishment keeps them from turning on each other, and this not infrequently fails to keep them in line when no enemies are on offer.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: They're not very... selective in their diet, though unlike in the movies they generally don't eat each other if they can get anything else. Shagrat does threaten to eat Snaga, though.
  • Keystone Army: Due to most of them being cowardly, simple-minded, poorly-organized, and prone to fighting other orc tribes as often as other races, the Orcs are reduced to minor threats in the Dark Lord's absence. After Sauron and his lieutenants are dealt with, the grand host assembled at the Black Gate quickly routs despite outnumbering their Gondor-Rohan opponents ten to one. By contrast, even as their allies flee, isolated pockets of Easterlings and Haradrim Men are described as fighting stalwartly. It's suggested that the remaining orcs are gradually hunted to extinction in the aftermath of the War of the Ring, never again able to muster large-scale organized resistance. The goblin kingdom at the Misty and Grey Mountains is the largest known "independent" ream of theirs, and its forces were still small and weak enough that a mere 2,000 Elves, Dwarves, Men, and Eagles were able to exterminate it.
  • Large and in Charge: Uruk-hai, especially Saruman's.
  • The Legions of Hell: Technically, as they're the main foot soldiers of the Satanic Archetype of the setting. The term "orc" is itself derived from an old word for demon, and Tolkien noted in his letters that the higher-ranking orcs are possibly fallen spirits taking physical form. Various adaptations play this up, especially Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated film.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Uglúk, Grishnakh, Shagrat, and Gorbag.
  • Mooks: The Mookiest of mooks, as they are disposable, cowardly, and almost entirely combat-ineffective except when in vast numbers or pursuing already beaten enemies. Their incompetence forced Morgoth, and later Sauron, to only engage when the odds are overwhelmingly stacked in their favor and to introduce Elite Mooks to stiffen the line.
  • No Cure for Evil: Averted. Orcish medicine is actually pretty good, though it tends to be somewhat painful and causes scarring. It's designed to get you back into the fight as quickly as possible, and if you're not tough enough to take it you don't deserve it.
  • Our Demons Are Different: One source of Orcs, per Tolkien's writings, is minor spirits corrupted and given physical shape by Melkor.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: They resemble goblins far more so than the typical fantasy orcs that postdate them, especially the ones at Misty Mountain. In-universe, goblins and orcs are interchangeable words.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: To a degree they are, despite being the Trope Namer. Tolkien's actual orcs are much more advanced and intelligent than, and not as physically powerful or brave as, the crude Always Chaotic Evil barbarians that orcs are generally portrayed as. They're a very diverse lot, and numerous varieties were around during the War of the Ring, largely as a result of the various dark lords breeding them like livestock to suit their needs.
    • Firstly, there are the goblins of the Misty Mountains, also referred to as northern Orcs or "Northerners". They're generally assumed to have descended from the survivors of Morgoth's First Age armies, who fled beneath the Misty Mountains following their lord's defeat. They're usually described as smaller than other kinds, possibly from having lived underground and on their own for so long, possibly from their ancestors not being as "refined" for war as later breeds. They're also suggested by The Hobbit to be smarter and more technologically innovative than their relatives, with the narration noting that they have a certain genius for weapons and machines built for cruelty.
    • The Orcs of Mordor, also called Black Uruks or just Uruksnote , are the "main" breed of Orcs during the War of the Ring, large and strong and ferocious (at least, compared to other orcs; they're still shorter than Men and prone to fleeing at the slightest chance of defeat, hence the need for the part-Man Uruk-hai). Sauron bred them during the late Third Age from the remnants of Morgoth's armies, in order to obtain a superior fighting force.
    • The Uruk-hainote  of Isengard are a new breed of Orcs created by Saruman as elite soldiers. They're stronger, faster and larger than normal Orcs, though they're still shorter than Men. They do not fear the sun (most of Sauron's and Morgoth's creatures cannot stand sunlight and do not travel by day) and are usually described as being better-organized and more dangerous foes than "common" Orcs.
    • Then there's Saruman's Half-orcs and Goblin-men. They resemble unmodified humans (Treebeard at one point speculates that they simply are Men) more so than the other Orc types, meaning that they're taller, braver, and more upright with straight backs and legs — the other Orcs are usually described as hunched over, bowlegged, and ape-like.
    • There are also several lesser Orcs in Mordor and Isengard, usually referred to as "Snaga" (meaning "slave" in the Black Speech). These appear to be used for labor and garrison duty, and are sent out to war when soldiers when numbers are needed. They tend to be described as small, impish and sneaky, preferring ambushes and other cunning tricks, while the bigger, stronger Uruks and Uruk-hai emphasize brute force and military discipline.
    • Finally, a specialized breed of small Orcs known as "snufflers" appear to be meant to act as trackers, possessing a highly developed nose and sense of smell. Only one snuffler is seen in the books, in the service of Mordor.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Uruk-hai only. Most other orcs are sneaks and cowards.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Subverted. They usually don't sound any different then a sterotyped grousing British soldier with a Cockney accent right out of Kipling; that is until they say they want some "sport" and you realize they mean torturing captives.
  • Redemption Demotion: Inverted. Compared to the Men and Elves they were (probably) bred from, Orcs are more numerous, crueler, and more subservient... and that's about it for useful traits. They're far smaller, more cowardly, and physically weaker than the average Man, and may be stupider as well. It reinforces the general theme of Tolkien's works that Being Evil Sucks.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Tolkien never settled on and published a canonical origin for the orcs, throwing out various ones over the course of his decades of writing (such as golems made of slime, corrupted elves, corrupted men, animals given sapience, or crossbreeds between men and "beasts"), none of which adequately satisfied him. It's possible that all of them are true to varying degrees.
  • The Usual Adversaries: Not the Black Uruks of Mordor or the Uruk-hai of Isengard, as they're self-contained story-relevant threats; but rather the semi-independent "northern Orcs"/goblins of the Misty Mountains. Despite being unconnected to Sauron and his servants for most of their existence, they act as a consistent low-level enemy for the entirety of the Third Age.
  • Torture Technician: Just about any orc with brains (and there are more than you think) will be one of these, though a bit more... enthusiastic about it than the norm.
  • Worthy Opponent: Ugluk the Uruk-hai captain in particular shows this, as Eomer dismounted to duel him.


Created by Morgoth in mockery of the Ents, Trolls are hulking, brutish giants with scaly, horny hides who turn to stone when exposed to the light of the sun. Most Trolls are barely more intelligent than wild beasts and live in small groups in the hills, mountains, and caves of Middle-Earth. Shortly before the War of the Ring, Sauron bred the Olog-hai, a more intelligent breed of Trolls that were extremely resistant (or even immune) to the debilitating effects of sunlight and may have been totally unrelated to the Stone-Trolls.

  • All Trolls Are Different: Tolkien's trolls are giant-like monsters and beast-like intelligence. However, since Aragorn recognises their old cave — which had a hinged door — as a typical troll-cave, trolls smart enough to build simple shelters are implicitly at least relatively common. (The talking trolls in The Hobbit may or may not have been artistic license on Bilbo's part.) They permanently turn to stone when exposed to sunlight. The exceptions are Sauron's Olog-hai, more intelligent trolls that are resistant to the effects of sunlight. A number of troll variants and breeds are mentioned at various points, including snow-trolls, cave-trolls, hill-trolls, mountain-trolls and stone-trolls, but what distinguishes these from one another is never explained in detail.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Though the standard Trolls (barring the trio from The Hobbit) are barely above animals in intelligence, it seems. The trio from The Hobbit are mentioned having been geniuses among trolls in the Appendix of LotR.
  • Dumb Muscle: Aforementioned trolls were also stupid enough to be easily tricked by a wizard mimicking their voices until the sun came up and they literally argued themselves to death. Much later, cave-trolls appear in Moria as brute force, trying to pry a barred door open or carrying huge slabs of stone so the orcs could bypass the great bridge. Later, it's mountain-trolls who operate the giant battering ram Grond.
  • Elite Mook: The Olog-hai are a new, stronger type of troll not seen before the Battle of the Black Gate.
  • Evil Counterpart: Apparently intended as Morgoth's answer to the Ents, but nowhere near as strong or wise.
  • Made of Iron: They die hard. A cave troll in Moria took a blow from Boromir's sword without effect, though Frodo's elven knife Sting pierced its foot and made it retreat.
  • Smash Mook: Big, beefy, and generally designed to break things.
  • Taken for Granite: Sunlight permanently turns at least the Stone-Trolls into stone, although the Olog-hai, a variant bred by Sauron, are immune to this.
  • To Serve Man: Trolls have absolutely no problem with killing and eating other intelligent beings.


The greatest living weapons created by Morgoth in the First Age, the dragons saw extensive use in the climactic battles of that time. They retreated to the far north of the world after their master's final defeat, and continued to plague the dwarves and men of the northern lands throughout the Second and Third Ages.

  • Bioweapon Beast: The dragons were bred by Morgoth to serve as living engines of war, a role they excelled at.
  • Breath Weapon: Urulóki are capable of breathing fire, distinguishing them from the more primitive and fireless cold-drakes.
  • Dying Race: They dragons have been steadily dying out since the end of the First Age — the wars that ended Morgoth's reign killed most of them, and the rest fell one by one to clashes with men and dwarves. While numerous lesser drakes and worms endured in the Withered Heath, Smaug was the last true dragon left by the end of the Third Age.
  • Evil Smells Bad: Dragons smell terrible. Thorin's crew note the reek left by Smaug inside the Lonely Mountain, and it took Heroic Willpower for Túrin to resist the awful stench-fog coming off of Glaurung.
  • Giant Flyer: They are, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest things to ever take to Middle-Earth's skies.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Dragons can ensnare anyone who looks them in the eyes.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Monstrous, evil, greedy serpents directly inspired by Germanic myth; Tolkien's drawings portray them as winged, four-legged and very long and snakelike, with no horns note  but possessing external ears; the wings were a secondary addition, however, and the first dragons lacked them. They can hypnotize with their gaze and reach titanic sizes, and are divided between cold-drakes, who cannot breath fire, and the later urulóki fire-drakes, who can.

Men of Darkness

A general term for human cultures not related to the Dúnedain, referring to the assumption that they were worshippers of Morgoth; essentially "barbarians." As Faramir acknowledges, it's quite a derogotory term, as the Dúnedain (of Gondor, especially) historically looked down on anyone who wasn't related to the Númenóreans, and plenty of "Men of Darkness" weren't allied to the forces of evil at all.

In the Third Age, many Men living near Gondor have been seduced and/or enslaved by Sauron, whom they worship as a god-king. Unlike the Orcs, enemy Men are not evil by nature; they evoke sympathy from their enemies (but still die in droves) and are treated fairly in defeat. The Men of Darkness fall into various cultural groups:

  • The Dunlendings (Men of Dunland), wild hill-people who were forced off their ancestral homelands by the Númenóreans and Rohirrim and squeezed into a little corner of land that the Númenóreans had turned into a desert. Understandably, they hold a massive grudge. Saruman tricked them into fighting for him by spreading lies about Rohirric war-crimes against them.
  • The Easterlings, a vast but loose collection of nomadic tribes from the plains of Rhûn with a history of territorial conflict with Gondor. Known for their use of wagons and chariots.
  • The Haradrim or Southrons, warriors from the plains and deserts of Near Harad who also clashed with Gondor over territory. They sometimes fielded mûmakil (huge elephants) as living siege engines.
  • The Corsairs of Umbar, rebels who broke off from Gondor and merged with the coastal Haradrim. Vicious pirates whose black ships were feared throughout the southern seas.
  • The Variags of Khand, fierce warriors from south of Mordor.
  • "Troll-men" or "black men like half-trolls", black-skinned people from Far Harad. Whether they're just ordinary Men with black skin that the westerners are unfamiliar enough with to find strange or actual men altered with magic to resemble trolls is unclear and varies with the source. In the original text, whether the two are even supposed to refer to the same race is unknown.

After the War of the Ring, Aragorn establishes peace with all of these peoples and grants them Sauron's former lands as their own.

  • Born Under the Sail: Corsairs are as heavily associated with ships as Rohirrim are with horses.
  • Evil Counterpart: Umbar to Gondor and Arnor. It is the third, but also the oldest Numenorean realm in exile, and unlike the two kingdoms, was populated by Black Numenoreans loyal to Sauron. In the Battle of Pelennor Fields, the Harad cavalry to Rohan's.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Dunlendings seem vaguely Celtic, at least in their language and their relationship with the pseudo-Germanic Rohirrim. The Corsairs are also vaguely Carthaginian or Barbary Corsairs. The Easterlings of the Third Age are presumably Eastern Europeans and/or Central Asians, judging by their physical description and the location of their homeland, Rhûn, which is located in to the east of Rhovanion. The brown-skinned Haradrim/Southrons native to Near Harad are reminiscent of Muslim/Arabic peoples, while the black-skinned people of Far Harad may be Africans.
  • Graceful Loser: Unlike Sauron's nonhuman servants. They make peace with Gondor and the rest of the Western Lands after Sauron is defeated, minus the odd scuffle here and there early on in the Fourth Age.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After the War of the Ring, they're implied to mostly live in peace with Gondor and Rohan. However, in the Appendices, both Aragorn and Éomer waged war in the East and South in the early Fourth Age because of Sauron's still potent legacy of hatred, but even here the wars are noted to be not clashes between good and evil but simple disputes between ordinary men.
  • The Horde: The war-carts give the Easterlings a distinctly Magyar-ish flavor.
  • Hordes from the East: The Easterlings and Variags often came as large armies of conquerors from the unmapped lands east of Mordor and Rhun.
  • Human Sacrifice: Victims of this when Sauron corrupted the Númenoreans who sacrificed their subjects in the worship of Morgoth.
  • Humans Are Warriors: From the moment the Rohirrim charge sends the orcs into retreat, the Battle of Pelennor Fields is almost entirely Mannish forces on both sides of the conflict.
  • Made a Slave: In Númenor's decadent colonialist period, it expanded its dominion into the south and east beyond the later borders of Gondor, and its colonies engaged in slavery, among other exploitative practices. The men of Gondor don't like to remember it, but their neighbors dislike them for very historically justified reasons.
  • Master Race: The Corsairs are descended from those Numenoreans who gave themselves over to Sauron, and as a result believe that they are superior to all other Men. Of course, Sauron is just using them, but of all the evil Men, they are the least repentant.
  • Mooks: Generally regarded as more disciplined and regimented than orcs.
  • One Steve Limit: Broken — there was another group of Men called Easterlings in The Silmarillion. There's no indication they were related; it was probably just a generic term for Men from the east.
  • Pirate: The Corsairs of Umbar, cruel raiders who rule the seas south of Gondor.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Easterlings and Haradrim in particular wear this hat.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Most of them fought for Sauron because he'd deceived and/or threatened them into joining him and they'd been under his sway for hundreds, even thousands of years, and many more had legitimate grudges against the Númenóreans in general and Gondor in particular.
  • Sinister Scimitar: Used by the Haradrim and Easterlings.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: The Haradrim chieftain in The Return of the King has a battle flag with a black serpent.
  • Villainous Valor: The Easterlings and Haradrim keep fighting after Sauron's defeat, which earns them Gondor's respect.
  • War Elephants: The mûmakil or oliphaunts. They're much larger and tougher than today's elephants.
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: What Sam thinks upon seeing the Haradrim killed by the soldiers of Gondor.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Easterlings and Haradrim were seen this way by the Gondorians after the War of the Ring. Some Dunlendings apparently also end up seeing the Rohirrim this way after their fair treatment in defeat.