Brief Description   
Annotations and Comments   
The Wainriders in Historical Context   

Brief Description    

People, or a confederacy of many peoples, from the East; they were stronger and better armed than any that had appeared before. They journeyed in great wains (wagons or carts), and their chieftains fought in chariots. They first ventured west of the Sea of Rhn in ThA 1851 and in 1856 attacked Gondor. They were destroyed by Ernil in ThA 1944.


Wainriders was the name given by the Men of Gondor to groups of Easterlings who, encouraged by the agents of Sauron, first assaulted the kingdom's eastern territories in 1851, and "sapped the waning strength of Gondor in wars that lasted for almost a hundred years" (The Return of the King).

The Wainriders were so called because they travelled in great "wains", or carts, and because their chieftains rode chariots into battle. While they were not the first Men from the East to assail Gondor, they were stronger and better armed than any of their predecessors. They slew Narmacil II of Gondor in ThirdAge 1856, in the disastrous Battle of the Plains (i.e. the plains south of Mirkwood), and enslaved Gondor's allies, the Northmen of Rhovanion. Some of these escaped north to Dale, others retreated to Gondor; but a few took up with Marwhini, whose father had fallen in defence of Rhovanion and Gondor, and settled in the Vale of Anduin, the first of the othod. Gondor was forced to withdraw its borders to the Emyn Muil and the line of Anduin (though it retained Ithilien), and it is believed that the Nazgl seized this opportunity to re-enter Mordor.

The Wainriders were not satisfied with these victories, however. Marwhini made contact with Gondor in 1899, warning the new king Calimehtar of the Easterlings' plans to invade Calenardhon over the Undeeps, but his messengers also spoke of revolt brewing among the occupied Northmen:

Calimehtar therefore, as soon as he could, led an army out of Ithilien, taking care that its approach should be well known to the enemy. The Wainriders came down with all the strength that they could spare, and Calimehtar gave way before them, drawing them away from their homes. At length battle was joined upon the Dagorlad, and the result was long in doubt. But at its height horsemen that Calimehtar had sent over the Undeeps (left unguarded by the enemy) joined with a great eored led by Marwhini assailed the Wainriders in flank and rear. The victory of Gondor was overwhelming--though not in the event decisive. When the enemy broke and were soon in disordered flight north towards their homes Calimehtar, wisely for his part, did not pursue them. They had left well nigh a third of their host dead to rot upon the Dagorlad among the bones of other and nobler battles of the past. But the horsemen of Marwhini harried the fugitives and inflicted great loss upon them in their long rout over the plains, until they were in far sight of Mirkwood. There they left them, taunting them: 'Fly east not north, folk of Sauron! See, the homes you stole are in flames!' For there was a great smoke going up.
Unfinished Tales - Cirion and Eorl

The Northmen (and, it should be noted, Northwomen, who were also trained in arms) had indeed put the dwellings of the Wainriders to the torch, but at significant personal cost, for they were resisted, and their survivors followed Marwhini back into the Vale of Anduin and never again settled in Rhovanion.

The Wainriders retreated beyond the Sea of Rhn. Believing Gondor to be mightier and more populous than it actually was, the Wainriders left it unmolested for almost half a century. They instead consolidated their power in their own lands, and in time came into conflict with their southern neighbours in Khand and Harad. But Sauron, aware of Gondor's weakness, fashioned an alliance between these peoples, plotting a massive two-front stroke against the Dnedain. The attack came in 1944, and Gondor was not entirely unprepared (having been warned by Forthwini of the Northmen), having divided its forces into Northern and Southern Armies. Nevertheless the Wainriders gained a tactical advantage by creeping west along the Ered Lithui, instead of sweeping in from the north as Gondor expected. Their host, much larger than Gondor had guessed, fell upon the head of the Northern Army oustide the Morannon, and King Ondoher and his son Artamir were slain on the same mound upon which Aragorn would stand, centuries later, in the final battle with Mordor. The Northern Army retreated, and the Wainriders marched into Ithilien, believing the conquest of Gondor was secure.

But it was not to be. Gondor's Southern Army, led by Ernil, had gained the victory over the armies of the Haradrim, and marched north to the aid of their kinsmen. With the aid of the retreating Northern Army, they came upon the Wainriders in the midst of their feasting, and routed them from Ithilien, destroying many in the Dead Marshes in what would become known as the Battle of the Camp. The chariot-riders of the East would not be seen in the West again, until the War of the Ring.

Annotations and Comments    

The Wainriders in Historical Context    

Wheels were first invented in Mesopotamia, probably in the 2nd half of the 4th millenium BCE. The earliest known chariots, shown in Sumerian depictions from about 3000 BCE, were not real chariots, but four-wheeled carts or wagons with solid wooden wheels [1].

Chariots with spoked wheels appeared first in the first half of the 2nd millenium BCE in Asia Minor, roughly at about the same time the Hittite king Mursilis (Murshilish) invaded Babylon. Whether this is just a timely coincidence or whether Mursilis had "imported" chariots (or just the idea and maybe the "know-how" of their construction) is not known for sure. Also the Hittites - like the other early Indo-European? tribes - were already in possession of horses and the combination of the horses with the two wheeled chariots represented a major "breakthrough" in warfare, since they proved superior to all titherto known warfare techniques.

Only little later those wagons and chariots accompanied most - if not all - Indo-European (Aryan) tribes on their migrations. They became known as "chariot conquerors" and literally "overran" the entire Near and Middle East, India (and there extinguished the Indus civilization) and Europe. Even in China (~ 14th Century BCE), rulers of the Shang dynasty were using chariots and bows very similar to those of the Aryans in the west.

-- ChW

It's amazing how much of real history is so masterfully interwoven into Tolkien's myths! His mythology is believed to be based upon / inspired by other myths, but one goes back and deep to find the "roots" of those myths and finds people and events that really existed!

History became legend.....
Legend became myth ...

-- LR

Yes indeed, and "digging" for those roots can become obsessive... -- Walter
True, but it is such a pleasant obsession to live with!

The East, from the RiverRunning thru Dorwinion and off the right edge of the map, is a great steppes or prairie. Sauron co-opted nomadic tribes, like the Mongols, whose lifestyle arose there. They herded cattle there (the great "kine" of the east), and travelled with them on wagons. --PhlIp

No wonder I associate the Easterlings (as much as we know of them from the books) with the Mongol tribes (incl.the proto-Bulgarians ... ask me about the Khaganat!) that poured into the territory of today's Europe. The impact of their coming and presence left deep traces in the European history. -- LR

I'm not sure Tolkien had the Mongols in mind when he invented the wainriders. I haven't found anything that would suggest that their leaders fought in chariots -- Walter

From the Lost Road"

Men there marvelled, in the mist standing
of the dark islands in the deeps of time:
laughter they knew not, light nor wisdom;
shadow was upon them, and sheer mountains
stalked behind them stern and lifeless,
evilhaunted. The East was dark.

Could this not refer to the peoples coming from the Est, the Ural Mountains behind them?
Maybe it could, but I have not been able to trace the history of the Longbeards (or any other Germanic tribe) farther back than to Scandinavia, neither in Tolkien's elaborations nor in real history. The legend of King Sheave is full of curiosities.
Little have I found out about the Nordic Bronze-Age? at about 1500BCE and even less about the following ~1000 years. But it seems that during this period occured a significant decrease in culture and wealth not only in Scandinavia, whatever the reasons were (whether it was the deterioration of the climate or the ceasing trade-connections with the west and south). It is possible that Tolkien's allusions - as well as the according myths - are correct and there came indeed an "ignition spark" from the British isles which then probably would represent a Celtic influence. But it may well be that the legends of "King Sheave" (Scyld - Scef - Yngvi) go much further back in time...
However that may be, maybe you are more lucky with your planned research on the history of the "Lombards" and can throw more light on that issue... -- Walter

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