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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Edhil Populations

Mahtion
Rivendell

Oct 11 2013, 8:15pm

Post #1 of 17 (332 views)
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Edhil Populations Can't Post

Edhil Middle Earth population demographics

Having read and reread the Silmarillion along with HoME and BoLT, one of the most intriguing questions in my mind has been how large are the elven kingdoms and how many elves are living within Beleriand and later Middle Earth proper. There are several considerations which I have examined to include as evidence for the estimated populations which include standing armies, regional territories, civilization requirements, and the population decreases over the three Ages of Arda. The importance of population relates to Eldar culture and provides proper perspective and scope of the conflicts in Middle Earth against Morgoth and Sauron.

First we have references to the size proportions of the three elven kindreds which increase in direct relation to a decrease in innate power and significance. The Vanyar are smallest kindred and most like the Ainur, the Noldor are second smallest but crafty, wise, and ambitious and then the Teleri lovers of art, song, and the sea are the most populous. For relevance I have focused on dividing the population among the Noldor, the Sindar, and the Teleri though technically the Sindar are apart of the the Teleri. I consider the Sindar specifically the clan which went with Elwe and thus are Doriath culture while the Teleri include the Falathrim, Laiquendi, and Nandor respectively.

We know from the Silmarillion that the Noldor are a large clan from Tirion in Aman that have come to Beleriand under the impetus of Feanor to avenge Finwe and reclaim the silmarili. At this point in Middle Earth history the Noldor are at the largest and most diverse leading to the establishment of several city fortresses and realms ruled by the Feanorian princes and the houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin. Each of these Noldorin princes had standing armies, some measuring 10,000 strong in the case of Turgon during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. To have armies as large as these from individual princes (kings) would require a full civilian population at least around 100,000 if we consider at least 10% to be capable of battle. Even if the Eldar are able to amass larger percentages of the populations there would be children, women, and some too frail or opposed to direct warfare. It could be supposed that the 10,000 of King Turgon represented only a regiment of his full Gondolin forces who remained behind to protect the city.

Also it is important to assess culture as the Noldor were always more warlike than the Sindar or especially the Teleri/Nandor who having lost their King Denethor they did not wish to make open war against Melkor. However, it seems unlikely they would not at least have sentinels guarding their woodlands or soldiers in times of peace. Elu Thingol's realm of Doriath was protected by Mablung and Beleg and they must have had sizable defense forces due to the dense population of the city of Menegroth and the later large scale conflicts they would engage in. It should then be expected that the Noldor whose culture promotes war, glory, and victory would have a larger percentage of the (male) population participating in standing armies.
The size of the initial populations may seem large because they are estimates based on demographics and realistic logistics. Even before arriving the Noldor receive casualties from the first kinslaying at Alqualonde and then the crossing of the Helcaraxe.

This sets a pattern which will extend to all the kindreds but will be more frequent and acute in the Noldor population of a continual decline assisted by the Second and Third Age favoring of leaving Middle Earth for Tol Erresea. Thus the Noldor are a smaller population than the Teleri and Sindar, suffer greater war casualties and leave Middle Earth in greater numbers and frequency after the War of Wrath and the Last Alliance resulting in signficant smaller total populations with each Age of Arda.

Edhil Middle Earth population demographics:


Edhil population Circa First Age

Doriath (Thingol and Melian) 1,000,000 (250,000 Infantry, 100,000 Rangers)

Nargothrond (Finrod) 100,000 (1,000 Knights, 5,000 Infantry)

Ossiriand (Denethor) 550,000 (10,000 Infantry, 20,000 Rangers)

Himlad (Celegorm and Curufin) 20,000

Thargelion (Caranthir) 30,000

Himring (Maedhros) 60,000 (2,000 Knights, 15,000 Infantry)

Estolad (Amrod and Amras) 15,000

Gondolin (Turgon) 250,000 (10,000 Knights, 50,000 Infantry)

Falas (Cirdan) 350,000


Total population: ~2,500,000

Noldor: 250,000
Sindar: 750,000
Teleri: 1,500,000

Edhil population Circa Second Age

Harlindon (Cirdan)- 5,000-7,000

Forlindon (Gil-Galad)- 10,000-15,000

Eriador (Gildor Inglorion)- 2,000-3,000

Eregion (Celembrimbor)- 6,000-8,000

Lorien (Amdir)- 3,500-5,000

Greenwood (Oropher)- 15,000-20,000

Total population: ~250,000

Noldor: 25,000
Sindar: 75,000
Teleri: 150,000

Edhil population Circa Third Age

Lindon (Cirdan)- 1600-2500 (500 Guards, 100 Knights)

Eriador (Gildor Inglorion)- 50-150 (20-30 swordsmen)

Imladris (Elrond)- 200-300 (50-100 knights)

Lorien (Galadriel & Celeborn)- 1000-1500 (300-500 Archers, 200-300 Sentinels)

Greenwood (Thranduil)- 5000-10,000 (800 Soldiers, 100 Infantry, 50 Royal Guards, 500-700 Rangers)

Total population: ~ 50,000

Noldor: 5,000
Sindar: 15,000
Teleri: 30,000


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 11 2013, 10:05pm

Post #2 of 17 (207 views)
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Brilliant! [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome to the Fellowship of the Room, Mahtion, and thanks for such an extensively developed analysis. I think many readers are left wondering, "Just how many Elves are we talking about here? 100s? 1,000s?" The only finite number given is Turgon's army, and that feels like a logic puzzle where you're told Fingon has twice the number of Turgon's soldier's and Maglor has the difference between them, while Cirdan has the square root of the sum of all of them minus the Elves of Ossiriand.

I always like to think of Gondolin as a huge city just because it seems like it should be. The number you gave puts it up there. Interesting idea about Doriath--yes, it seems that having absorbed groups at different times, and as an old kingdom, it should be populous. Amrod & Amras strike me as having few since they're a wandering folk.

Questions, since you got me thinking:
1. What would you estimate Fingon/Fingolfin's numbers at? Do you think Turgon took a third of their Noldor? What's tricky to figure out is that the Sindar he took with him outnumbered his Noldor, so hard to determine his original Noldor base.

2. Thingol was confident of war against Nargothrond but not against the combined sons of Feanor (minus the people of Celegorm and Curufin that stayed in Nargo). Do you think the Feanorian numbers might be higher?

3. Lorien: I agree it should be less than Greenwood, but it played a significant role in helping Elrond once, and Caras Galadhon was a great city. Would you maybe consider a higher number for them?

All in all, great stuff--thank you.


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 12 2013, 3:35am

Post #3 of 17 (225 views)
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this question has [In reply to] Can't Post

 
this question (the question of just how many elves, edain, dwarves, etc.) has been dogging me for years. quite a few times in the past few months, i've almost written a post about it. thank you for kickstarting this particular discussion, and with so much consideration and detail.

my take on the elven populations of lotr is a bit higher than yours. i will also recall the colony that legolas started a thriving colony in ithilien.

aside from warfare (ratios of soldiers to the general population), we also have to consider agriculture / food gathering. elves are immortal, but they do need food. to support these colonies and kingdoms, a sizable portion of the elven population had to be pointed at growing and processing food.

also, 'though i do think that a portion of all the elven armed forces were "standing," i'm not as equally certain that every elf that could be called to battle was part of a standing army. i think it's equally arguable that a great portion of those armies went about their elven ways (creating art, growing food, being loremasters, etc.) until there was a time of need.

again, thank you for posting this. i've been wanting to discuss this topic for some time.
.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Mahtion
Rivendell

Oct 12 2013, 5:30pm

Post #4 of 17 (182 views)
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Difficult Estimations [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the kind replies!

I keep forgetting the armies and domains of Fingon/Fingolfin as well as the mixture of Sindar and Noldor in many of the Beleriand kingdoms and cities. Also many of the cities transition or have populations transferred to another location as in what happened with Nevrast.

I suppose I always overestimated the cultural divide between the Noldor and Sindar but that only existed within Doriath. Since Gondolin and later Eregion were Noldor realms I always assumed they were more culturally Noldorin and had a larger Noldo population.

Also Eregion had the capital of Ost-en-Edhil and also had many towns or cities within the region. It is very difficult to determine the population of the major capital in comparison to the entire kingdom. Then the survivors of Eregion went on to live at Imladris. Comparing the size difference between a small valley and an entire kingdom indicates that either most of the Eregion elves died fighting Annatar (Sauron) and/or many left to Lindon and possibly crossed the Sea into the West.

The size of Lorien may have been too small but I determined this based on the geographic size difference between Greenwood and Lorien and the fact that Mirkwood had many Silvan elves which vastly outnumbered the mixed population of Sindar/Noldor/Nandor in Lothlorien. Also I determined this based on the standing forces. In TTT movieverse the Galadhrim could only send a small force of 200 warriors to Helm's Deep. I reasoned that a larger population would be able to send a larger regiment or several regiments.

Considering Greenwood do we go with the fact it had decreased in population from the Second Age when the capital was Amun Lanc to the hidden halls of Thranduil or did the realm increase due to the destruction of other elf havens?

There are just so many variables and considerations that estimating populations in Middle Earth, especially Elves is near improbable. Was Gondolin as big as Minas Tirith? Do we determine population size by comparing human kingdoms or regions? By applying human standards of agriculture and civilization sustainability based on logistics and productivity? How many younger generation of elves replaced the dead and departed to Valinor which belonged to the preceding population?


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Oct 12 2013, 11:19pm

Post #5 of 17 (145 views)
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well done for this [In reply to] Can't Post

when reading JRRTs work this is one aspect that has always left me perplexed. Numbers are rarely given and I can only think of Turgon's 10,000 so estimating hosts that are described as 'great' only are hard to give perspective. The War of Wrath is a good example, the host is the Noldor left in Valinor which is much smaller than those that went into exile, the Vanyar always described as the least numerous of the Eldar and the Maia who I for some reason doubt would be in the tens of thousands. Yet this host is described by Elrond as greater than the Last Alliance of Elves and Men at the end of the Second Age. We know the host of the Last Alliance was very great as Aragorn says that his host approaching Mordor was hardly as big as the vanguard of Gondor at the height of it's power which may be reffering to the army that Elendil had.


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 12 2013, 11:56pm

Post #6 of 17 (143 views)
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also to add [In reply to] Can't Post

 
in between the exodus from valinor and the war of wrath many elves had died -- perhaps tens of thousands? i wonder if they or at least a portion of their numbers were part of that great host.

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Mahtion
Rivendell


Oct 13 2013, 12:36am

Post #7 of 17 (145 views)
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Elves Rehoused for the War of Wrath [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
in between the exodus from valinor and the war of wrath many elves had died -- perhaps tens of thousands? i wonder if they or at least a portion of their numbers were part of that great host.

.


That is an astounding suggestion. It implies that despite all the hate, death, ruin caused by Morgoth, the Valar used his very victims to dethrone him. It screams of poetic justice and I wonder if Tolkien ever alluded to this occurrence.

Honestly Tolkien doesn't keep track of armies, he neglects to give a realistic depiction of them. After Eregion is destroyed the Last Alliance somehow is comprised of maybe hundreds of thousands of elves, where did they come from?

He also states that the Last Alliance stayed at Rivendell for three years making weapons and plans. How many forges does Rivendell have and at what rate could they continue to make weapons and armor? Where would the resources come from, where would thousands of soldiers abide and prepare?

Many times it seems the war demanded thousands of elves so they just were there despite having a slow reproduction rate and an ever declining populace. I suppose the great ages of peace like the siege of Angband that lasted 400 years or the age of Hollin that lasted 700 years was full of new elves being born and having their own children to repopulate.

I still do not understand why the Union of Maedhros waited 400 years to assault Morgoth after the Glorious Battle. If your enemy has low forces and resources why not continually press against him and destroy him rather than wait for all of his armies to strengthen?

Allow not the shadows of the Enemy to dull your courage or shatter your resolve. We are yet to all pass from the walls of Arda. The light of Aman still shines upon our fair faces, for we are the Calaquendi.


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 13 2013, 12:49am

Post #8 of 17 (147 views)
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thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

 
thank you for your kind words, mahtion. : ) the question of returning to the mainland is something i think of often. no doubt many elves might have wished to stay in valinor, after experiencing so much horror and hardship. however, many of the elves that were eventually rehoused in valinor would still have had close family (wives, children, siblings, parents) on the mainland.

when the war of wrath was being prepared in valinor, did they want to be part of the host? once there, did they want to stay? would they have been allowed to be part of the fight? and, if so, would they have been allowed to stay? did any of the noldor who hadn't left in the original exodus, but now on the mainland after the war of wrath... did any of them wish to stay?


.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 13 2013, 1:39am

Post #9 of 17 (138 views)
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btw... [In reply to] Can't Post

 
nice to see you with an avatar. is it any elf in particular?

also, re your username.... what does it mean in elvish? (or is it elvish?)

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Mahtion
Rivendell


Oct 13 2013, 3:08am

Post #10 of 17 (130 views)
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Not just any Elf [In reply to] Can't Post

My avatar is of my favorite Noldo, Ecthelion and he is wielding Orcrist, you can see it is the same design as in the Hobbit trilogy.

My name is kinda Elvish, it was a name I made up for my own science fantasy I have been on and off writing. I work opposite of the way Tolkien did, I make up names that sound interesting and then devise the vocab around it. I think I got the name from my misunderstanding and mispronunciation of German "Machen".

I can stretch the name Mahtion to be like Quenya "Mahtar" warrior or swordsmen and "ion" son of. So the name transliterated means Warrior Son or Son of Swordsmen.

In my own language I constructed called Arisa ai Firaa (Songs of the Foundation) or simply Arisale (The Song Spoken), Mahtion comes from the morphemes Mahte etia eon which means Hunted by the Glorious or the Hero Besought. He is a minor but important character who drives the main story.

Allow not the shadows of the Enemy to dull your courage or shatter your resolve. We are yet to all pass from the walls of Arda. The light of Aman still shines upon our fair faces, for we are the Calaquendi.


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Oct 13 2013, 4:15am

Post #11 of 17 (128 views)
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In the Silmarillion it says [In reply to] Can't Post

that the remaining elves of Beleriand had no part in that final war and only heard fetails of it afterwards in Aman. By then the exiles and the native elves of Beleriand had been decimated, their numbers a small fraction of what they had been.


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Oct 13 2013, 4:30am

Post #12 of 17 (121 views)
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And I just realised I misunderstood your statement [In reply to] Can't Post

rehoused elves going back seems unjustified and unfair, why risk suffering a second violent death. I think their prescence would have been noted, but saying that it was not specifically discounted either.


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 13 2013, 5:10am

Post #13 of 17 (110 views)
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if [In reply to] Can't Post

 
if joining the fight ("it is our fight!" tauriel quoted some ancient noldorian warrior) is what those elves wanted, then why not? it could be deemed unfair to deny them their wish to defend their homeland, to defend their families and friends.

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Mahtion
Rivendell


Oct 13 2013, 5:11am

Post #14 of 17 (117 views)
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Good Points [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
that the remaining elves of Beleriand had no part in that final war and only heard fetails of it afterwards in Aman. By then the exiles and the native elves of Beleriand had been decimated, their numbers a small fraction of what they had been.


That was my understanding as well, I just got excited by the suggestion of rehoused slain Beleriand elves taking part in the War of Wrath. It brought to mind the concept of the dead coming back to take place in eschatological end battles such as Ragnarok or End Days.

This is exactly my point! If as implied by Tolkien the Exiles and Beleriand elves were severely reduced and then many departed after the War of Wrath or even died during the breaking and sinking of Beleriand, then how many remained? Surely as you mention if the fallen Noldor would have participated Tolkien would have noted it. Only the Noldor under Finarfin would have participated in the War of Wrath and Ingwe leading the Vanyar and Eonwe leading the Maiar. I agree it would seem cruel for Mandos or Manwe to expect the fallen or recently rehoused elves to fight again and experience ever more sorrow and pain.

We know that the survivors and those unwilling or unable to return to the Utter West crossed into Lindon over the Ered Luin and then founded Eregion and some mingled with the Nandor in Lorien and Greenwood. So it would be reasonable to assume that the populations of the Second age was bolstered by the elven communities who had always lived East of the Ered Luin. If the Noldor under Celembrimbor founded Eregion and many of them also stayed under Gil-Galad in Lindon then there must have still been a significant population of Noldor remaining despite the many who perished.

By the Last Alliance, the Noldor had lost Eregion and only a small fraction remained to join the Noldor of Lindon. Most of the Sindar/Nandor/Silvan armies of the Last Alliance failed to reach Mordor because they would not follow Gil-Galad and made poor military decisions leading to defeat in the Dead Marshes. Yet the Noldorin army of Gil-Galad remained tens if not hundreds of thousands strong and was arrayed with many princes as recounted by Elrond. Certainly something seems amiss, where did all these Noldorin princes come from if so few remained especially after Celembrimbor himself was slain?

By the Third Age the Noldor had lost many of the Last Alliance survivors as they left Middle Earth and their numbers must have been significantly less as Elrond did not even claim kingship when Gil-Galad died. Only small groups remained in Rivendell, Lindon and Lorien and over the centuries they continually departed.

Allow not the shadows of the Enemy to dull your courage or shatter your resolve. We are yet to all pass from the walls of Arda. The light of Aman still shines upon our fair faces, for we are the Calaquendi.

(This post was edited by Mahtion on Oct 13 2013, 5:15am)


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 13 2013, 5:24am

Post #15 of 17 (107 views)
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just to say [In reply to] Can't Post

 
[ mahtion ]
Surely as you mention if the fallen Noldor would have participated Tolkien would have noted it. Only the Noldor under Finarfin would have participated in the War of Wrath and Ingwe leading the Vanyar and Eonwe leading the Maiar. I agree it would seem cruel for Mandos or Manwe to expect the fallen or recently rehoused elves to fight again and experience ever more sorrow and pain.
[ / mahtion ]

it is a presumption that, if any rehoused mainland elf fought in the war of wrath, that tolkien would have surely mentioned it. tolkien says nothing, either way. one seems as likely as the other.

and (to repeat) i was not stating that the valar commanded or even used their powers of persuasion to get the rehoused to join the host. if any rehoused elf wished to join the host, it would seem cruel and dictatorial to deny him / her this wish. after all, those elves -- more than any who had stayed in valinor -- had personally experienced the effects of morgoth, and many still would have had close family and friends there.

imagine gondolin elves that were slain during the sacking. perhaps a spouse or a child still remained on the mainland. would it not be exceedingly understandable for that person to want to go back and fight against forces that endangered her / his family? and perhaps even to be reunited with them?



.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Felagund
Lorien


Oct 13 2013, 8:06pm

Post #16 of 17 (103 views)
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some additional references [In reply to] Can't Post

Really enjoyed this post Mahtion. A couple of mini-references regarding population that can be added to your thesis.

- When the Noldorin host set out from Tirion in pursuit of Morgoth, Tolkien writes that only a tithe (tenth) remain behind. Subtract from this another slice, when Finarfin gets rattled by the Prophecy of the North and heads back to Tirion. A tenth of what, we don't know, but suffice to say that the 'Flight of the Noldor' encompasses the vast majority of the Second Kindred. Also to factor in are the losses experienced by Fingolfin's tragic sojourn across the Helcaraxë.

- Tolkien's essay on the Sindarin / Silvan realms of Greenwood and Lorien also deals a little in demography (published in Unfinished Tales, alluded to in your post). Again, no sizes are given but there are some words on proportions. Oropher of Greenwood's host, fielded during the War of the Last Alliance, is greater than Malgalad / Amdir of Lorien's. More than half of Malgalad / Amdir's Lorien Elves die on the Dagorlad, and Thranduil leads only a third of his army back to Greenwood. However, in the Third Age, Greenwood's Silvan population regains its strength.

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Oct 14 2013, 10:53pm

Post #17 of 17 (100 views)
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Thanks for posting this [In reply to] Can't Post

Because I was musing something along the same lines and you posting saves me the trouble! Now, Gondolin was capable of an army of 10000, which seemed enough to at least make a difference in the battle of unnumbered tears so it would be fair to assume that many of the other armies were of a similar number.
Now, to be honest, I think that most realms at the time must have had a large army of reserves. People who would not have been expected to fight all the time as a standing army as there would have been other tasks to do, even as an Elven citizen, but there must have been ways to have a muster in times of crisis or major war so they would have had to have been able to at least wield a weapon!

 
 

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