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J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
Other name(s) Wilderland; the Land Beyond
Type large inland region
Notable locations Dimrill Dale, Dol Guldur, the Emyn Muil, Fangorn, the Gladden Fields, the Great River, Lake-town, the Lonely Mountain, Lothlórien, Mirkwood
First appearance The Hobbit,
The Lord of the Rings
Location north-west Middle-earth

In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Rhovanion or Wilderland was a large inland region of north-west Middle-earth. It is the scene of action for much of The Hobbit and some episodes of The Lord of the Rings.


Tolkien generally uses the name 'Wilderland' rather than 'Rhovanion'. Wilderland was introduced in The Hobbit, where Rhovanion does not appear at all. In The Lord of the Rings Rhovanion appears on the Middle-earth map and in the appendices, but nowhere in the main narrative body. In the main story, Wilderland is mentioned several times, including by wise characters such as Gandalf and Treebeard.

Tolkien stated that Wilderland is an "invention ... based on wilderness ... Supposed to be the CS [​Common Speech​] name of Rhovanion (in the map, not in the [main] text), the lands east of the Misty Mountains (including Mirkwood) as far as the River Running."[1]

Middle-earth narrative[edit]


The large region of Rhovanion extended to the east as far as the inland Sea of Rhûn; north to the Grey Mountains and Iron Hills, home of the Dwarves; west to the range of the Hithaeglir, or Misty Mountains; and south to the line marked by the Limlight river, Anduin, Emyn Muil, Dagorlad, and the Ered Lithui.

Important rivers in Rhovanion included the Anduin or Great River, the Celduin or River Running, and the Carnen or Redwater.

Other major features were the forest of Mirkwood, the Long Lake of Esgaroth, and Erebor, the Lonely Mountain.

General history[edit]

In the First Age the Elves passed through Rhovanion during the Great Journey,[2] and much later the Atanatári (Fathers of Men) followed them. It is not otherwise mentioned until the Second Age, when the Sindarin lords Oropher and Amdír established two Silvan Elf kingdoms in Northern Greenwood and in Lórinand (Lórien).[3]

Dagorlad, the great battlefield of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men against the host of Sauron, lay in the south of Rhovanion; and in the Gladden Fields of the Great River Isildur son of Elendil, the King of Gondor and Arnor, was killed.

In the Third Age Rhovanion was well-populated by Elves, Dwarves, and Men.[4] Oropher and Amdír were killed in the struggle against Sauron at the end of the Second Age; their realms in northern and southern Greenwood were taken over by their sons Thranduil and Amroth. Easterlings from Rhûn often invaded the area, starting from T.A. 490. Sauron entered the Greenwood around T.A. 1000 and built his fortress Dol Guldur near the Anduin in the southern reaches of the great wood. From this time the Greenwood began its descent into blackness and evil, eventually becoming known as Mirkwood. Hobbits who had lived along the Anduin began migrating west over the Misty Mountains to escape the evils of Wilderland, though a group of Stoors remained near the Gladden Fields for many years.[5]

As the Third Age progressed, several tribes and princes of Northmen occupied areas of Rhovanion, living in the Vales of Anduin, around and in the great forest, and across the grassy plains. By T.A. 1250 one of these princes, Vidugavia, claimed the title "King of Rhovanion", though his realm lay only between Mirkwood and the River Running. Vidugavia allied himself with Gondor (which claimed much of the southern part of Rhovanion); his daughter Vidumavi married into Gondor's royal house, and his grandson Vinitharya became King Eldacar of Gondor in T.A. 1432.[6]

The Great Plague of T.A. 1636 began the long decline of Rhovanion. It was heavily felt in this land, killing off roughly half the people and half of their horses. When the Wainriders came from the east and assailed the people of Rhovanion in T.A. 1851, most of their kingdoms were destroyed and the remaining people enslaved. Gondor withdrew its eastern border to the Anduin. About this time the Éothéod formed in the lower Vales of Anduin from people fleeing west from the Wainriders. A revolt against the Wainriders in T.A. 1899 was suppressed. When the Wainriders were finally defeated by Gondor and the Northmen in T.A. 1944, eastern Rhovanion was so exhausted that it makes few appearances in the later history of the Third Age.[7]

The defeat of Angmar in the west (T.A. 1975) and the emergence of the Balrog in Moria (T.A. 1980) triggered several changes in western Rhovanion. Dwarves fled from Moria and Elves from Lórien;[8] with the disappearance of Amroth, Galadriel and Celeborn returned to take the rule of Lórien.[9] The Éothéod moved north into territory formerly controlled by Angmar near the source of the Anduin (T.A. 1977).[10][11] Dwarves from Moria founded the Kingdom under the Mountain at Erebor, first in T.A. 1999 and later returning from the Grey Mountains in T.A. 2590.[10] About this time, the Mannish Kingdom of Dale grew up near Erebor.

Coming to the aid of Gondor in T.A. 2510, the Éothéod moved south beyond Rhovanion, settling in the plains of Calenardhon, later called Rohan.[11] The Dwarves of Erebor and the Men of Dale were destroyed and scattered when the dragon Smaug took Erebor in T.A. 2770.[10] By this time (possibly much earlier) Lake-town had grown up on Esgaroth south of Erebor, and Men, notably the Beornings, still lived around the forest.

Despite the turmoil, this later period is remembered in The Hobbit as a time of prosperity. Before its destruction by Smaug, the Kingdom Under the Mountain grew fabulously wealthy through extensive trade with Men and Elves throughout Rhovanion. Even after the destruction, Thranduil and the Men of Lake-town traded down the River Running, with, among others, the land of Dorwinion. Dorwinion was the source of fine wine prized by Thranduil; it lay (according to Pauline Baynes's map, our only source for this) along the River Running just before it enters the Sea of Rhûn.

Toward the end of the Third Age, the Kingdoms of Erebor and Dale were restored after the death of Smaug and the Battle of Five Armies, and, attacked by the White Council, Sauron withdrew from Mirkwood to Mordor.[12] During the War of the Ring the Elves and Men of Rhovanion held off an invasion by Sauron's forces, and after Sauron was defeated Mirkwood was cleansed again, and renamed Eryn Lasgalen, or "Wood of Greenleaves".[13]

Kingdom of Rhovanion[edit]

The Lord of the Rings location
Other name(s) Rhovanion
Created by J. R. R. Tolkien
Genre High fantasy
Type Monarchy
Ethnic group(s) Northmen
Language(s) northern tongue akin to Dalish and Rohirric

The Mannish Kingdom of Rhovanion came to prominence in the mid-13th century of the Third Age, when Minalcar of Gondor served as Regent for his uncle, King Atanatar II of Gondor. About this time Vidugavia, "the most powerful of the northern princes"[6] called himself King of Rhovanion, though the land he governed lay only between Mirkwood and the River Running. The Regent led a great expedition into Rhovanion in T.A. 1248 and utterly defeated the Easterlings, with substantial help from the Northmen and from Vidugavia in particular.

Vidugavia became Gondor's strong ally, and in T.A. 1250 the Regent sent his son Valacar as ambassador to Vidugavia. But Valacar, much taken with the culture of the North, "far exceeded his father's design"[6] by marrying Vidugavia's daughter Vidumavi, and their son Vinitharya was raised among the Northmen.

When Minalcar acceded to the throne of Gondor as Rómendacil II, Valacar became the heir to the throne. The mixed ancestry of Valacar's son (known as Eldacar in Gondor) became a matter of contention: many were not prepared to allow as king a man whose Númenórean blood was mingled with that of a "lesser" race, and many feared that he would prove to be short-lived (as his mother's people were, compared with the ruling line of Gondor). This led to the Kin-strife in Gondor, a bloody civil war that decimated the ruling families.[6]

Tolkien makes little further reference to the "Kingdom of Rhovanion". It is clear from his discussion of the early history of the Éothéod in Unfinished Tales[14] that the Northmen in this area were defeated by the Wainriders. The "Battle of the Plain" (in T.A. 1851) was fought by Gondor and the Northmen against the Wainriders; King Narmacil II of Gondor and the Northman Marhari (a descendant of Vidugavia)[15] were both killed in this battle. Tolkien does not, however, call Marhari "king", nor is there any direct evidence that the kingdom had survived to this point.

Refugees from this defeat were reorganized as the Éothéod on the other side of Mirkwood in the lower Vales of Anduin, under the leadership of Marwhini, son of Marhari.[14] Much later, the history of the House of Eorl recounted in Appendix A[11] states that "The forefathers of Eorl claimed descent from kings of Rhovanion, whose realm lay beyond Mirkwood before the invasions of the Wainriders, and thus they accounted themselves kinsmen of the kings of Gondor descended from Eldacar." Tolkien does not state that the kinship came through Marhwini and Marhari, though they are the only leaders of Northmen mentioned in this time.

Concept and creation[edit]

The men of Rhovanion who come to the aid of Gondor in the Third Age and their descendants throughout Tolkien's stories have been interpreted as partly representing "primeval, Garden Eden types" reminding their Gondorian contemporaries of the early days of Mankind. The names of Rhovanion's royal family, Vidugavia, Vidumavi and Vinitharya are of Gothic origin and are attested in sixth-century chronicles by Cassiodorus, Jordanes and Procopius. Vidugavia has been seen as an almost certain synonym for Vitiges, king of the Ostrogoths in Italy from 536 to 540.[16]

While Tolkien represents the Rohirrim, who developed out of the Éothéod, by Anglo-Saxon culture and language, their ancestors are given Gothic attributes. This parallel can be found in the relationship of real-world Old English and the Gothic language.[17]


  1. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1967), Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings, published in Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull (2005), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, HarperCollins, p.779; ISBN 0 00 720308 X
  2. ^ The Silmarillion, p. 54.
  3. ^ Unfinished Tales, pp. 240, 258.
  4. ^ Unfinished Tales, p. 259; many references in The Lord of the Rings, Appendices A and B.
  5. ^ The Lord of the Rings, Appendices A and B.
  6. ^ a b c d The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, I (iv) "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion".
  7. ^ These events from the history of Northmen in Rhovanion and the Éothéod are recounted in Unfinished Tales, "Cirion and Eorl", pp. 288–290.
  8. ^ The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, T.A. 1981.
  9. ^ Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", p. 245.
  10. ^ a b c The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B.
  11. ^ a b c The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, II "The House of Eorl".
  12. ^ The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, T.A. 2941 and T.A. 2944.
  13. ^ The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, Text following entries for T.A. 3019.
  14. ^ a b Unfinished Tales, "Cirion and Eorl", (i) "The Northmen and the Wainriders", pp. 288 ff.
  15. ^ Unfinished Tales, "Cirion and Eorl", note 5, p. 311.
  16. ^ Chance, Jane (2004). Tolkien and the Invention of Myth: A Reader. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 107–108. ISBN 978-0-8131-2301-1. 
  17. ^ Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, p. 51, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1