Oct 17, 10:39pm
'Easterling' is both generic and flexible in its usage by Tolkien, as it applied to various peoples hostile to 'the West' throughout the Ages of Middle-earth. The Easterlings of the First Age were not necessarily the same as those of later Ages. Early in the 'Akallabêth', Tolkien writes that:
Easterlings and Haradrim through the Ages
"...the evil Men who were not destroyed [in the War of Wrath] fled back into the east, where many of their race were still wandering in the unharvested lands, wild and lawless, refusing alike the summons of the Valar and Morgoth. And the evil Men came among them and cast over them a shadow of fear, and they took them for kings."
I take from this that this remnant of the First Age Easterlings became the ruling caste of much larger groups Men, who were neither good nor evil in Tolkien's typology. It's from these peoples, corrupted by followers of Morgoth, that we then likely get the much later Easterlings of Rhûn and the Haradrim. These peoples, lorded over by the survivors of Morgoth's catastrophic defeat, are also likely to be among those who Sauron came to dominate in "the east and south", many centuries later in the Second Age - and probably deployed in his invasion of Eriador. However, the first specific mention I can find of the Haradrim is from the final two centuries of the Second Age, in the shape of the renegade Númenóreans, Herumor and Fuinur, who "rose to power among the Haradrim, a great and cruel people that dwelt in the wide lands south of Mordor...". I can't find any reference to Easterlings specific to the Second Age, beyond the exodus of these surviving servants of Morgoth, and an intriguing singular reference in the 'Grey Annals' to descendants of the people of Bór having settled in Eriador. Just to complicate things a fraction more, the incomplete story of 'Tal-Elmar', as published in HoMe XII, features non-Edainic Men living in fear of their King, Sauron, in the years before the Akallabêth. Christopher Tolkien located these folk of Agar and Udul as dwelling somewhere between the Mouths of the Anduin and the Langstrand. Neither east nor south in the Easterling or Haradrim sense but just as likely to be enrolled as cannon fodder in Sauron's armies.
So, setting aside the complications of the Tal-Elmar story, Men from the "east and south" probably marched in Sauron's armies during the War of the Elves and Sauron, yes. But were they Easterlings and Haradrim as we usually understand them and as featured in either Morgoth's First Age wars or the wars Gondor fought in the Third Age? Unlikely, although the longer range links are there.
This heterogeneity and the function of these generic terms is confirmed in other writings specifically concerned with the Third Age, where 'Easterlings' and 'Haradrim' were clearly Gondor-centric terms for anyone who didn't like Gondor and happened to come from the East or South of Gondor respectively. In 'Appendix A' of The Lord of the Rings, the Wainriders, also referred to as Easterlings, are specifically described as "a confederacy of many peoples", and later Easterling invaders, from the Balchoth to the axe-men at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, seem too have little in common other than they they hailed from beyond the Sea of Rhûn. Similarly, the vast tracts on the map of Middle-earth covered by Near Harad and Far Harad, not to mention Haradrim-dominated Umbar, were shorthand for all sorts of diversity.
Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk