Also known as "Middle Men".
A term probably used originally by the Dúnedain of Gondor to refer to their distant kin who dwelt in various realms north of the EmynMuil and east of the MistyMountains. They were said to be descended from connections of the House of Hador: those who did not accompany their kinsmen into Beleriand in the early FirstAge, and those of the Third House who did not make the journey to Númenor after the War of Wrath. In the First and Second Ages, the Northmen were spread throughout the mountains of Wilderland and in northern parts of Eriador; those in Wilderland forged a powerful alliance with the Dwarves of the region, while those in Eriador were friendly with the Men of Westernesse. These alliances were broken in the cataclysmic War of the Elves and Sauron, which forced the Northmen of Wilderland to seek refuge in ErynLasgalen and probably wiped out the Northmen of Eriador. At the beginning of the ThirdAge, after the defeat of Sauron, the Northmen of Wilderland began to spread east and south along the eaves of ErynLasgalen, and into the valley of the Celduin; another branch settled in the upper Vale of Anduin and forged a Bree-like co-existence with the Hobbits of the region. Between 1050 and 1150, Easterlings quietly began to settle in the lower Vale of Anduin, at the instigation of Sauron; some of the Northmen allied with them to attack Gondor.
In the middle ThirdAge, the term referred specifically to the folk of Rhovanion and their descendants (the Rohirrim). But other folk counted as Northmen included the Men of the Vale of Anduin (Beornings, Woodmen) and the Bardings of Dale.
The Kin-strife nothwithstanding, there had long been a special relationship between Gondor and the Northmen, whose kingdom of Rhovanion provided an effective bulwark against invasion from the East. On at least two occasions, Northmen armies rescued Gondor from obliteration at the last moment: against the Balchoth in 2510, and on the Pelennor Fields in the War of the Ring.
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- Though the Northmen had at one time shared a common tongue, similar to Adûnaic but more representative of the original language of Men, this had by the ThirdAge divided into several dialects. Unfortunately, the only example Tolkien offers is (a translated version of) that spoken by the Rohirrim which, as Aragorn mentions in The Two Towers, is sundered from the dialects spoken in the north. Given the close relationship that existed between Gondor and both Rhovanion and Rohan, Rohirric probably reflected "Gondorian" influences; while the tongues of the Beornings, Woodmen and Bardings were possibly more influenced by those of the Dwarves (what little of their secret tongue they were prepared to reveal) and the Wood-elves.
- Tolkien says in Lord of the Rings that the Hobbits had once spoken a language closely related to that of the Rohirrim. Yet in Unfinished Tales we discover that the Rohirrim were descendants of Northmen who dwelt to the east of Mirkwood when Hobbits lived in the Vale of Anduin (the Harfoots and Fallohides abandoned the upper Vale between 1050 and 1150; the Éothéod did not reach the area until 1977), and Theoden therefore spoke justly in The Two Towers when he declared that he knew no tale about hobbits: no ancestor of his would have encoutered them (except for the Stoors of the Gladden Fields, who never migrated to the Shire). This suggests that the differences between Rohirric and other Northmen tongues were not profound.
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