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In the fictional world of Middle-earth created by J. R. R. Tolkien, Rhûn (IPA: [r̥uːːn]) was the vast region of eastern Middle-earth. Rhûn (which is also the Elvish word for "east") was the name used for all lands lying east of Wilderland, around and beyond the inland Sea of Rhûn. In the world of Middle-earth, Rhûn corresponds loosely with Asia.

Rhûn
J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
Information
TypeVast lands of the further East of Middle-earth
Other name(s)the East, the Eastlands
LocationEast of Wilderland and Mordor

Rhûn is sometimes simply called the East or the Eastlands. However the East in Sauron's epithet the Shadow in the East refers primarily to Sauron in Mordor,[1] rather than Rhûn, although Sauron often held sway over Rhûn, and at times he resided there himself.

The Men of Rhûn were known as Easterlings, known mainly for their many attacks on Gondor and its allies during the Third Age of Middle-earth.

Contents

LiteratureEdit

OverviewEdit

Tolkien's Middle-earth stories are mostly set in the western lands of the continent, and so Rhûn is generally depicted as a remote region of which little is known. For example in The Fellowship of the Ring it is vaguely described as a region of "wide uncharted lands, nameless plains, and forests unexplored".[2] Nevertheless Rhûn was the scene of some key events in the history of Middle-earth, and it was a region that attracted the personal attention of some of Middle-earth's famous (and infamous) characters.

In broad terms, the vast region of Rhûn was bounded by Forodwaith on the north-west, Wilderland and Mordor on the west, and Harad on the south-west. The far shores of Rhûn were washed by the Eastern Sea.

Geography and peoplesEdit

By the Third Age, the only clear feature of Rhûn was the eponymous Sea of Rhûn and the lands on its shores. This was an inland sea which lay at the western extremity of Rhûn, on the border with Wilderland. Its relationship to the Sea of Helcar (an inland sea which also lay in the East, but only in the First Age) is unclear, except that the Sea of Rhûn (although large itself) was very much smaller than the Sea of Helcar. The land of Dorwinion lay on the west side of the Sea of Rhûn.

Some additional features of Rhûn's geography (or at least its ancient geography) can be gleaned from The Silmarillion; throughout most of the First Age the vast inland Sea of Helcar was located in the East, and beyond this sea stood the Orocarni ('red mountains'). On the far side of the Orocarni, Rhûn was bound by the Eastern Sea: the eastern ocean of Middle-earth.

Near the western feet of the Orocarni lay Cuiviénen and further east lay Hildórien, the lands where Elves and Men first awoke: all the Children of Ilúvatar could trace their ancestries back to the eastward regions of Middle-earth. Four of the seven clans of Dwarves also originated in Rhûn.[3]

The Elves were the first to wake. Many of them migrated westwards in the Great Journey, leaving Rhûn forever in three great waves: the Vanyar, the Noldor and the Teleri. Those Elves who remained in Rhûn were regarded as the lost Elves: the Avari.

Men were the last race to awake, and many of their clans also left Rhûn heading west. However many also remained; collectively they are known as the Easterlings. In the Second Age, the Easterlings fell under the dominion of Sauron of Mordor. They "built many towns and walls of stone, and they were numerous and fierce in war and armed with iron. To them Sauron was both king and god; and they feared him exceedingly".[4]

The Easterlings were Men of Darkness, who were often ready (or induced) to follow the Dark Lords (Morgoth and his successor Sauron) and fought as their allies in war. Nevertheless the Easterlings included people "both evil and good", and after the War of the Ring Aragorn "pardoned the Easterlings ... and sent them away free", although it was occasionally necessary for Aragorn to conduct military operations into Rhûn.[5]

The Easterlings consisted of numerous peoples, including many kingdoms.[6] The Easterlings called the Balchoth and Wainriders mostly occupied lands to the far east of the Sea of Rhûn, where they lived on the nomadic steppes.

By the end of the Third Age, "great roads" ran from Mordor to its tributary lands in Rhûn.[7]

The Dwarves of RhûnEdit

Dwarves emerged in Middle-earth during the Sleep of Yavanna: after Elves but before Men. When the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves awoke in far-flung corners of Middle-earth (where they had been placed by Aulë), some of them found themselves in Rhûn, and there they founded kingdoms.

These four eastern Dwarf-clans are the Ironfists, Stiffbeards, Blacklocks, and the Stonefoots.[3]

In the Third Age, Dwarves of those kingdoms journeyed out of Rhûn to join all Middle-earth's other Dwarf clans in the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, which was fought in and under the Misty Mountains. After this war, the survivors returned home.

Late in the Third Age, when war and terror grew in Rhûn itself, considerable numbers of its Dwarves left their ancient homelands. They sought refuge in Middle-earth's western lands, where some of them met Frodo Baggins.[8]

FaunaEdit

The animals of Rhûn included man-eating felines[9] and the Kine of Araw. The "wild Were-worms in the Last Desert" in "the East of East"[10] were possibly mythical.

Great PlagueEdit

Middle-earth's devastating Great Plague originated in Rhûn, where it caused considerable suffering.[11] By the winter of late T.A. 1635 the Plague spread from Rhûn into Wilderland, on the east of Middle-earth's western lands (in Wilderland it killed more than half the population).[12] In the following year the Great Plague spread into Gondor and then Eriador.

Visitors to RhûnEdit

The visitors to the great lands of the East of Middle-earth included explorers, spies, conquerors and fugitives.

Ainur visitorsEdit

In the First Age, Rhûn was visited by a number of Ainur (semi-divine beings). One of the first was Aulë, a Vala, who went to the region to deposit the eastern Fathers of the Dwarves (i.e. the progenitors of the Dwarves of Rhûn).

Ainur became more interested in the region as the Awakening of the Elves became imminent. Oromë (another Vala) made expeditions to the region, as did the servants of Melkor, the primeval Dark Lord. Melkor's servants found the Elves first, and began to terrorize them. Some Elves were captured, and taken far out of Rhûn to Melkor's stronghold of Utumno, where they were tortured into breeding the first Orcs.[13]

Oromë found the Elves by chance, when he ventured into Rhûn on one of his hunting expeditions. He stayed among the Elves for a while to engage with and reassure them. Oromë returned twice more to visit the Elves in Rhûn; on the second occasion he chose ambassadors from the Elves to go to Valinor, and on the third occasion he returned with the ambassadors to begin leading Elves on the Great Journey out of Rhûn and to the West.[14]

Melkor (now known as Morgoth) himself travelled secretly to the East upon learning of the awakening of Men.[15]

In the Second Age, Sauron, Morgoth's successor, established dominion over Rhûn from his base in Mordor. To the people of Rhûn he was "king and god"; he "surrounded his abode with fire", which terrorized them. At periods in the Third Age Sauron's fortunes were reversed, and he fled to Rhûn; he hid there from the White Council during the centuries known in the west as the Watchful Peace (T.A. 2063-2460).[16]

During the Third Age, Rhûn was visited by three Wizards: Saruman, Alatar and Pallando. Saruman "journeyed often into the East",[17] but eventually returned into the west to settle at Isengard. Alatar and Pallando, known as the Blue Wizards, remained in Rhûn or went south to the lands of Khand and beyond. The wizard Gandalf never went to Rhûn.[18]

Visits of Men from the West of Middle-earthEdit

Gondorian interest in Rhûn was initiated in T.A. 500 when King Tarostar of Gondor defeated the Easterlings and took the name Rómendacil I: 'East-victor'. Vorondil (Steward to King Eärnil II, T.A. 1998-2029) visited lands near the Sea of Rhûn to hunt their wild white cattle.[19] At various times Gondor held suzerainty over western Rhûn, but at other times the position was nearly reversed. When Gondor's line of kings failed, its influence in Rhûn and other lands declined.

Aragorn travelled to Rhûn late in the Third Age.[20] He "went alone far into the East ... exploring the hearts of Men, both evil and good, and uncovering the plots and devices of the servants of Sauron."[21]

After he became King of Gondor, Aragorn commanded military operations beyond the Sea of Rhûn together with King Éomer of Rohan.[5]

In other worksEdit

Cartographer Karen Wynn Fonstad, who created The Atlas of Middle-earth, speculated that the Sea of Rhûn may have been a body of salt water.[22]

Guy Gavriel Kay's fictional land Tigana has been seen as having many references to Tolkien's Middle-earth. Among other similar names, a land called Run occurs in Kay's novels.[23]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Robert Foster (1978), The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, Unwin Paperbacks, 3rd entry for Shadow (p. 350); ISBN 0-04-803001-5
  2. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. 10 p. 416; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
  3. ^ a b The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men", pp. 301, 322 (note 24)
  4. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1977), The Silmarillion, George Allen & Unwin, 'Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age', p. 290; ISBN 0 04 823139 8
  5. ^ a b J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix A part II p. 352; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  6. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 5 ch. III p. 72 ("many kings have ridden in from the East"); ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  7. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 6 ch. 2 p. 201; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  8. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 1 ch. 2 pp. 52/53; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
  9. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1961), The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Unwin Paperbacks (1975), poem 12 'The Cat'; ISBN 0 04 823125 8
  10. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Hobbit, 4th edition (1978), ch. 1 p. 25; ISBN 0-04-823147-9
  11. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix A part I(iv), p. 328; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  12. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1980), Unfinished Tales, George Allen & Unwin, part 3 ch. 2(i) pp. 288-289; ISBN 0-04-823179-7
  13. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1977), ed. Christopher Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 1st edition, George Allen & Unwin, ch. 3 pp. 48-50; ISBN 0 04 8231398
  14. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1977), ed. Christopher Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 1st edition, George Allen & Unwin, ch. 3 pp. 49-50 & 52; ISBN 0 04 8231398
  15. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1977), ed. Christopher Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 1st edition, George Allen & Unwin, ch. 17 p. 141; ISBN 0 04 8231398
  16. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix B, Third Age, p. 368; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  17. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix B, Third Age, p. 365; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  18. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 4 ch. 5 p. 279 ("to the East I go not."); ISBN 0 04 823046 4
  19. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 5 ch. 1 p.27 & appendix A part I(iii) p. 319 footnote; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  20. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. 2 p. 261 ("I have ... trodden ... even into the far countries of Rhûn"); ISBN 0 04 823045 6
  21. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix A part I(v), p. 341; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  22. ^ Fonstad, Karen Wynn (2006). "Writing 'TO' the Map". Tolkien Studies. III: 133–136.
  23. ^ Roberts, Adam C. (1998). Silk and Potatoes: Contemporary Arthurian Fantasy. Editions Rodopi B.V. p. 88. ISBN 90-420-0306-5.

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