A Response to “Thoughts On the Population of Gondor and Arnor”
Jason Beresford — Afamado Lane, Diamond Bar, CA 91765 – 1802, USA
Several regions Gunnar Brolin assigns populations to seem to be overpopulated when compared against both the writings of Professor Tolkien and other regions detailed by Gunnar. The areas that stand out in particular are Anfalas and Amor. Additionally, the population of Umbar requires some discussion. As 1 am revising the old Umbar module, I naturally have my own thoughts on Umbar’s population levels. But before I enter my discussion, 1 wish to commend Gunnar for an excellent and thought-provoking article. His analysis of Gondor’s population is very valuable and, I feel, highly accurate.
Anfalas and the Enedwaith are the territories farthest removed from the population centers of Gondor. As such, one might expect that they would have a lower population density than lands closer to the center of the kingdom, such as Lamedon and the coasts of Harondor. With a population density of 2 — 5, the Enedwaith compares favorably with a population density of 10 for both Lamedon and the coasts of Harondor. Gunnar, however, has given Anfalas a population density of 10. This is much too high, barring a strong reason for people to settle this remote corner of the kingdom.
When Gondor’s population peaks around TA 1400, a density of 5 would seem appropriate for Anfalas, giving it a peak population of 500,000. At the time of the Last Alliance, Anfalas was not part of Gondor, but many of the native Daen Coentis/Daen Lintis and Drúedain in Gondor might have migrated to Anfalas. Thus its population density and total population would most probably be about the same or slightly less as that in TA 1400. However, by the time of the War of the Ring, Gondor’s population should have consolidated somewhat due to the external threats to the kingdom, with people from the most remote corners of the kingdom migrating back to the core provinces. A 25% to 50% drop from Anfalas’ peak population would not be excessive and an actual population of around 350,000 seems appropriate.
Arnor is a much harder region to evaluate. What little information there is about it is primarily from the late Third Age. But there is some information that can be gleaned from The Silmarillion regarding the relative population levels of Gondor and Arnor at the time of Elendil, Isildur, and Anarion. Upon their arrival, Tolkien makes specific reference to the existing Númenórean colony that becomes the kingdom of Gondor and to the many people that dwell there. This is in sharp contrast to Arnor, where no such mention is made. Thus at the beginning of the Third Age, one can assume that Arnor had the lesser population. Furthermore, Tolkien illustrates the works of the Númenóreans/Dúnedain of Gondor in detail, yet provides only the barest sketch about those in Arnor. This reinforces the view that Arnor’s population was much less than that of Gondor. Yet at this time, Gunnar gives the population of Arnor as approximately 5,000,000, while giving Gondor a population of only 3.5 to 4 million. I propose that Arnor’s population is not more than 2,000,000 at its height, at the start of the Third Age.
|Arnor (TA 1)*||Density||Size||Population|
|Upper Baranduin (A)||25||15,000||375,000|
|The Shire, Baranduin West Bank (A)||15||10,000||150,000|
|The Shire (A)||5||25,000||125,000|
|Lake Evendim (A)||25||5,000||125,000|
|Middle & Lower Baranduin, East Bank (C)||15||15,000||225,000|
|Gwathló, West Bank (C)||15||15,000||225,000|
|Minhiriath, Coast (C)||5||10,000||50,000|
|En Egladil, River Banks (R)||10||5,000||50,000|
|Central En Egladil (R)||5||10,000||50,000|
|Northern Eregion, Bruinen River Bank (R)||10||5,000||50,000|
|En Eredoriath (R)||5||3,000||15,000|
|Pinnath Tereg (R)||5||5,000||25000|
*(A) = Arthedain, (C) = Cardolan, (R) = Rhudaur
One can surmise (based on the general lack of information about the population of region and the sense Tolkien gives of the region’s abandonment) that Arnor is largely unpopulated at the time of the War of the Ring. Additionally, the lack of any large, inhabited settlements being mentioned (other than Bree and the Shire) implies that there are no large concentrations of people. Gunnar suggests a population of around 3.5 to 4 million. If one were to assume that small villages predominate, an average village (including outlying farms) might number 1,000 inhabitants, and that the 3,500 to 4,000 villages are evenly spread over the 450,000 square kilometers of Arnor, then there would be one village every roughly every 10 to 11 kilometers (6.5 to 7 miles). There is no indication that any settlements outside of the Shire are anywhere near that close together. If one assumes an uneven distribution of settlements, then there must be areas of large population concentrations, and the only one mentioned by Tolkien is the Shire. Given this, at the time of the War of the Ring, a population of a million seems reasonable.
With an area of 450,000 square kilometers, Arnor is always sparsely populated. However, her people are not scattered evenly. Tolkien is careful to point out that settlement in the kingdom is principally along the courses of the rivers Lhûn and Baranduin. Additional settlements were around Lake Evendim, Fornost, Tharbad, in Cardolan, and “in the hills of Rhudaur.” It is not unreasonable to assume that settlement beyond these areas was limited. Thus, much of the land in Arnor was sparsely settled or unsettled wilder-ness. The settled territory of Arnor is best evaluated by the regions (later kingdoms) of Arthedain, Cardolan, and Rhudaur. The rivers Lhûn and the upper Baranduin, Lake Evendim, and Fornost all lie within Arthedain and most of her people live there. The land later called “The Shire” by the Hobbits lies along the western bank of the middle Baranduin and would also be settled (though to a lesser degree than elsewhere in Arthedain). As the lower Baranduin forms the western border of Cardolan, one can presume that the eastern bank is one of the principal settlements of that region. The Gwathló forms the eastern border of Cardolan. The city of Tharbad straddles the river and considerable settlement should exist along the western bank, both up and downstream of the city. Additional settlements can be expected along the coast of Minhiriath. Rhudaur is the hardest region of Arnor to evaluate. Clues about human settlement can be deduced from the settlement patterns of the Hobbits who crossed the Misty Mountains. After crossing the mountains, the Stoors followed the Bruinen downstream and settled for a time along the riverbanks in the En Egladil between the Mitheithel and Bruinen in southern Rhudaur. If the Stoors found this portion of Rhudaur to their liking, it is probable that the riverbanks in En Egladil and Northern Eregion were also extensively settled by Rhudaur’s people, though most were gone by the time the Stoors arrived
Other settlements in Rhudaur would be in the En Eredoriath, the Oiolad, and the Pinnath Tereg, primarily concentrated along the Mitheithel and her tributaries. The table above gives the size (in square kilometers), population density (inhabitants per square kilometer), and total population of each region described above at the time of Arnor’s peak population The total area given below is only 140,000 square kilometers, or roughly one third the total area of Arnor, and the population equals 1.65 million. If one assumes that the remaining 310,000 square kilometers of territory have an average density of 1, then Arnor has a total population of 2,000,000, with Arthedain having approximately 1,000,000, Cardolan having 700,000, and Rhudaur having 300,000. This gives Arnor an average population density of slightly less than 5 at its height.
These population numbers should be good up until TA 861, when Arnor is divided. After then, the population of all three kingdoms begins to decrease. The population of Arthedain remains the most stable, while the population of Rhudaur the is most unstable. Rhudaur is largely abandoned after the Great Plague and most in Cardolan have either fled to Arthedain and Gondor or died. Arthedain remains largely intact, thanks to the influx of refugees from Cardolan, though the Shire had been abandoned soon after the Witch-king’s invasion and was only resettled by the Hobbits in TA 1601.
After the fall of Arthedain to Angmar, the total population of Arnor probably numbers not more than 500,000, including the sizable population of Hobbits in the Shire. Roughly 100,000 each live in the Shire and in Cardolan, while the remainder dwell in Arthedain. Rhudaur is completely abandoned. The population of Arnor slowly increases during the remainder of the Third Age, rising to a million by the time of the War of the Ring. The greatest growth occurs in the Shire and in southern Cardolan.
When the Númenóreans established their colony at Umbar, they laid claim only to the lands immediately surrounding the Bay. In SA 2280, Umbar was fortified and the borders of the colony were formalized: The Annabrith to the south; the coast and Rath Annun to the north; and ten leagues (30 miles) cast of the junction of the Rath Khand and the Hyarmen. The colony encompassed a total area of approximately 75,000 square kilometers.
All die lands between the Nen Belfalas and the Hyarmen north of the Rath Annun and south of the Harnen were controlled by Gondor and administered in Umbar by the Captain of the Haven.
However, the people of Umbar consider only the lands within the boundaries established in SA 2280 to be part of Umbar, and any other lands they might controlled and the people in them were considered to be separate.
At all times in Umbar’s history, the bulk of her population has lived along the coasts of the Nen Umbar. Additional major settlements are along the lower Annabrith and the coast between the Annabrith and the Nen Umbar. The northern coast and the hills of Umbar’s northern peninsula are inhabited, but lightly settled. The remaining lands are virtually uninhabited
The population of Umbar peaks twice: just before the Great Plague and at the time of the War of the Ring. It is also at a minimum twice: just after the sinking of Núménor and in TA 930 (due to a civil war). The Great Plague, though not as devastating to Umbar as to Gondor, still resulted in the death of one fifth of its population. After the Plague, population levels were static until TA 1810, when Gondor seized Umbar for a second time and many fled to Umbarian-held territories along the Harnen. After Gondor loses Umbar in TA 1940, its population grows slowly until the War of the Ring. The slow growth is due to many leaving Umbar proper as Umbar gains new territories as it expands into Harad and as the alliance with Sauron grows. The tables below give Um-bar’s population at its maximum of 625,000 inhabitants and minimum of 350,000.
|Umbar (TA 1635/TA 3000)*||Density||Size||Population|
|Coasts, Nen Umbar||40||9,000||360,000|
|Coasts, Nen Umbar/Annabrith||30||2,000||60,000|
|Lower Annabrith River Valley||30||1,000||30,000|
|Umbar (SA 3320/TA 930)||Density||Size||Population|
|Coasts, Nen Umbar||15||9,000||225,000|
|Coasts, Nen Umbar/Annabrith||10||2,000||20,000|
|Lower Annabrith River Valley||5||1,000||5,000|
* In TA 1400, when Gondor’s population peaks, Umbar’s population numbers only 450,000. The influx of Castamir’s followers in TA 1448 boosts Umbar’s population to 500,000.
To the south of Umbar, at the mouth of the Gondeithel, is the city-state of Dûsalan. It was founded by the Númenóreans as a logistics base for construction of the Hyarmen over the Talath Naur. After the road was finished, many remained behind. Since its founding, Dûsalan has always been independent from Umbar and it remains independent for all of the Third Age and into the Fourth. Dûsalan claims the Gondeithel river valley, the Cuiviërant river valley, the coast north to the ruins of Khurd, and the coast for ten leagues (30 miles) west of the lower Cuiviërant.
Dûsalan’s territory encompasses a total area of 11,000 square kilometers and its population grows slowly and steadily for all of the Third Age, stumbling only due to the Great Plague in which one tenth of the population died. At the start of the Third Age, Dûsalan had only 50,000 inhabitants. Just before the Great Plague struck, its population doubles to 100,000, 10,000 of which later succumb to the Plague. Growth after the plague is slower than before, but by the end of the Third Age the population has climbed to 150,000.
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