Dunedain vs Ranger

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Sorrel
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Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Sorrel » Wed Dec 23, 2020 6:56 pm

Back in my teens, I tended to use terms like Dunedain and ranger [of the north] interchangeably, and this is obviously incorrect. However, I still wonder what the actual relationship between these two concepts is

Like, obviously there are non-ranger dunedain, and the general consensus here seems to be some kind of hidden villages in the angle. They are a remnant of a people and not just a military detachment like the rangers of the south (though ofc that military detachment itself was made up of the remnants of the people of ithilien). But what are the rangers? Are they an elite class, raised from a young age as nothing but rangers? Are they a hereditary class or selected? Are there people who are sometimes rangers and other times not, according to need and season? The latter seems more true to medieval society in our world, but the Professor is ofc often anachronistic in these matters and dedicated/standing military formations seem much more commonin middle-earth than here generally. I guess the question sort of boils down to - 'are the dunedain who are rangers *always* rangers.

I imagine hunting and trapping are significant parts of the dunedain economy, and you would certainly want to pursue these things in a dedicated and purposeful fashion and not just based on opportunity, and if the rangers are the best among the dunedain at these things then it would make sense to have them doing that as well as the hunting the servants of the enemy bit. But do they fish? Herd? I suppose if the shepherds and wood-men either were dunedain (or fled to live amongst them after being pushed out of the trollfells) there are shepherds and wood-men among them who roam the wild as well, would these people also engage in ranging? Rangers do have a sense of being something of a cut above, so I'm on the fence about this one, maybe the dunedain have a more militia-ey institution besides the rangers and not part of them.

I suspect this question, like the one about whether the dunedain or other people occupy or roam the lands to the north or west of the angle, or the other thread in this subforum about dunedain marriage, doesn't have any real answers in the canon, but I think its worth getting the impressions of this forum on it when it comes to what it means to be a ranger versus being dunedain in terms of my personal and so on
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Greg » Thu Dec 24, 2020 5:09 pm

You ask excellent questions, which to pursue a Dunedain impression must be answered in some small way, but we have very little to go on to really know the truth. Our best information on the subject to date, I believe, comes from two sources: The Council of Elrond, and The Passing of the Grey Company

J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; The Council of Elrond, wrote:'But my home, such as I have, is in the North. For here the heirs of
Valandil have ever dwelt in long line unbroken from father unto son for many
generations. Our days have darkened, and we have dwindled; but ever the
Sword has passed to a new keeper. And this I will say to you, Boromir, ere I
end. Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters--but hunters ever of
the servants of the Enemy; for they are found in many places, not in Mordor
only.
`If Gondor, Boromir, has been a stalwart tower, we have played another
part. Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do
not stay. You know little of the lands beyond your bounds. Peace and
freedom, do you say? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear
would have destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless
hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What roads would any
dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands, or in the homes of
simple men at night, if the Dúnedain were asleep, or were all gone into the
grave?
`And yet less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us, and
countrymen give us scornful names. "Strider" I am to one fat man who lives
within a day's march of foes that would freeze his heart or lay his little
town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it
otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be,
and we must be secret to keep them so. That has been the task of my kindred,
while the years have lengthened and the grass has grown.


That's a lot to take in, but we get the bulk of our clues from this passage. These key things stick out, to me:

"...and we have dwindled..."
"...Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters--but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy..."
"Travellers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names."
"...if he were not guarded ceaselessly."
"...and we must be secret to keep them so."

A quick list of important and known facts can be drawn from these lines. The Rangers are:

1) Few in number
2) Lonely as a rule
3) Hunters both by trade AND by charge
4) Unappreciated/misunderstood
5) Full-time
6) #4 is intentional

Most of this list can also be applied to the non-Ranger Dunedain (which we KNOW must exist, or there wouldn't be a "...long line unbroken from father unto son for many
generations."

The Dunedain are:

1) Few in number
2) Secluded as a Rule
4) Hunter-gatherers by trade because of the necessity of #6, and likely wilderness homesteaders
5) Full-time #4's because of the necessity of #6
6) Secretive as a rule, which led to their lifestyle

So, if we look at all that and try to apply it to your questions, my best approach is as follows:

The Rangers are, by-and-large, full-time wanderers. I firmly believe in their having a home base that they return to, perhaps weekly, perhaps monthly, because if there isn't family there isn't a future, there can't be a continuation of any lines. If the only pro-creating Dunedain are those "unfit" to be Rangers, frankly, they'd selectively breed a more timid, less capable populous.
I believe that hunting and trapping would (and are) an ongoing pursuit...despite what our modern 'seasons' dictate, it is most effective to simply 'hunt' and be opportunistic with game options, rather than pursuing a singular species. Wilderness homesteading seems an idea and natural progression for these sporadic communities. As much as the 'professional travellers and huntsmen' would be expected to bring meat home amongst their wanderings, I believe those on the home front would participate as well, due to the unpredictable nature of wandering. I would expect things like milking goats and laying chickens to be commonplace, as well as gardens and an impressive knowledge of the edibles in the surrounding wilds.

As to Heredity vs. selection, I think it's more possible that heredity may be the case and could be inferred from the "long line unbroken from father unto son for many
generations" though that is clearly a reference to the ruling line, rather than the Dunedain in general. Can't really say that's a hard-and-fast rule, but given the little information we have, it's not a bad inference to assume, given the historical parallels and importance of family lines, that this would be similar. Everyone in Middle-earth seems to put great importance on who their father was when naming, so it stands to reason that family lines would follow trade as much as name.

Lots to think about. Thanks for jump-starting my brain this morning...glad to have you here! (And glad to know someone's reading those MERS newsletters!)
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Sorrel » Thu Dec 24, 2020 7:24 pm

I think I agree with a lot of your points laying out essentially a criteria for Dunedain culture to meet

When it comes to opportunism and hunting, I think it depends on what is meant by opportunism. As Aragorn correctly notes, "But gathering and catching food is long and weary work, and we need haste." The opportunity comes in knowing when and where various game will be and being there - during fish runs, animal migrations, and so on. While modern legal game systems often serve absolutely to limit common practices now seen as 'unfair' but ultimately necessary for sustainable life on the land, e.g., fish runs, fish netting, set lines, late winter and summer deer, and so on (not always for bad reasons, but they still wouldn't apply to the dunedain). Some of them do conform to practical and traditional considerations though - in the autumn there is the rut, and the cooler weather helps preserve the meat, many animals being harvested for their furs are at their thickest in winter, and so on. Hunting in this context is opportunistic in that if you happen to come across, have some spare time, etc., some game, you must always be prepared to take advantage of this. But it is difficult to hunt on the move and trap and hunt enough to feed quite a few people, traplines are a daily task to run that keeps you in a fixed range, etc. When we look at longhunters they would form small hunting camps for weeks or months at a time. I think rangers are absolutely the best hunters among the Dunedain, and essentially hunt both game and the enemy full time, but that they are not the only hunters among the Dunedain.

I wonder if, when Aragorn is talking about the long unbroken line - he is talking about among the rangers specifically as a sub-group or the entirety of the Dunedain?
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Sorrel » Thu Dec 24, 2020 8:00 pm

I had an idea while I was spinning [on the basis that my drop spindle was portable, unlike a spinning wheel, and I can carry it and spin anywhere at need] - what if all the Dunedain move around, rather than living in permanent hidden villages? It is easy to hide caches, gardens, camps, and the like than a village or homestead. And villages and homesteads are long-term, large investents in time and resources, especially when you're kind of always in enemy territory, under threat from trolls and goblins and so on. Henneth Annûn can be hidden, but that is a military outpost with resupply from Gondor. When we look to our own world, forts, homesteads and stockades can be maintained by colonial nations with resupply from places with significant industry and military force, etc. But I don't think this fits the characterization of the diminished, harried, wandering Dunedain of the Third Age. I think this alternative fits better with, for example, historic communities of resistance in similar contexts (the wlesh retreating to the mountains from the Romans, the men of the fens in East Anglia, etc) I couldn't think of any primary evidence to support this off the top of my head, but I remembered that in "The Battle of Middle Earth: Tolkein's Divine Design" a (tertiary?) source about the will of Eru in the events of the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings through the lens of Tolkein's own God, Fleming Rutledge writes:

"The dwellings of the Wood-elves in Mirkwood are pockets of resistance in enemy territory. They make frequent forays deeper into the ominous forest, carrying with them there fire, their songs, and their merriment, scattering the shadows. This, I will be suggesting, is the first hint of many communities of resistance in Tolkein's work... We will speak of this again when we begin to consider Lothlorien, a much more significant Elven outpost, in The Lord of the Rings." Henneth Annûn, it seems, could be seen as a similar community in Ithilien (though under different circumstances). I think the Dunedain are another (as is the Shire or Bree, in their own way - in fact, variations on this theme, with different kinds of society, characterize all of the peoples in one way or another. Oh, and the men of the Adnuin too). I think they hunt and trap and live in the Angle, but venture be it north or west (south? Can't remember what's there) out as need demands to follow game and fish as they move, to trade in Breeland and along the East Road, or perhaps even on occasion over the mountains, and to strike out at the enemy to the north and west too. They have a hidden centre from which they can get some support, but it is Imladris, and they do not live there, and are clearly not constantly resupplied by them in terms of food and equipment either. I think it is more likely that camps made up of families, or small groups of hunters or trappers or herdsmen could move around, perhaps in tents or a series of established camps (pre-built 'bender' frames in different locations along seasonal hunting and fishing camps and pastures, covered with tarps? A much lower investment than a village, and much easier to hide). The rangers are a specific group and are full-time, still, and they act to hunt the enemy as well as animals still, and protect the borders of the Shire and Bree, but also as scouts, rearguards, and reinforcements to the semi-nomadic Dunedain camps. This ties up another loose end neatly; there is no need for any kind of organized other force or militia, these camps are made up of people who can defend themselves at least reasonably well. The rangers serve to break up larger forces that would potentially threaten them with ambush before they can strike, etc., or to give warning so they can move along a little earlier, and so on. This lifeway is made possible (tarps or tents, trapping equipment, everything needed to make for the rangers the things they don't buy, etc) by their Dunedain ponies - which they not only maintain a breeding population of, but which Rangers (or at least Strider) do not use, instead moving on foot save in excpetional circumstances, implying the horses are primarily kept by the non-Ranger Dunedain. The shepherds and wood-men of the Hobbit can then too be simply tied off as examples of these non-ranger roving Dunedain who presumably fled or moved and made camp somewhere else if they survived.

Then I went looking for some textual evidence, and I think I found it:
"Rangers – The Dúnedain of the North after the fall of the North Kingdom, secret guardians of Eriador” (Unfinished Tales, index) - well, this implies the rangers and Dunedain *are* synonymous, which doesn't help us...

But ” …the Dúnedain of the North, ……..a strange people wandering secretly in the wild, and other men knew not their homes nor the purpose of their journeys, and save in Imladris, in the House of Elrond, their ancestry was forgotten.” (Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age)" - and it's stronger canon!

“When the kingdom ended the Dúnedain passed into the shadows and became a secret and wandering people, and their deeds and labours were seldom sung or recorded. Little is now remembered of them since Elrond departed….” (Lord of the Rings, Appendix A)" also reinforces this idea

“in the wild lands beyond Bree there were mysterious wanderers. The Bree folk called them Rangers and knew nothing of their origin. They were taller and darker than the Men of Bree and were believed to have strange powers of sight and hearing, and to understand the language of beasts and birds. They roamed at will southwards and eastwards even as far as the Misty Mountains; but they were now few and rarely seen.” (Lord of the Rings, At the Sign of the Prancing Pony). This almost implies that the Rangers do not really exist and is a name used by Bree-folk to describe what Dunedain the Bree-folk see, which is an interesting idea, though I'm not convinced by it in isolation tbh

Anyway, i'm sure theres holes in this, but honestly the more I think about it the more I like it. I think it fits all of the criteria you lay out as well
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Greg » Thu Dec 24, 2020 8:35 pm

I can definitely get behind the idea of a semi-nomadic people. The only thing that doesn't line up from my description that comes to mind is gardens...if virtually all plant-based food was gathered rather than cultivated, consistent sources like dairy goats and chickens are still viable means for creating steady foodstuffs. You can't arm individuals without some form of income, and semi-nomadic peoples can't just procure weapons out of thin air, so there would need to be some form of tradeable goods being generated to provide for non-food items. Textiles (your spinning brought it to mind) could conceivably be created in-house, to a degree as well.

Funny how research can turn into projects...I've always wanted a hand-cart. *chuckle*

It's definitely true that Ranger is not a term they chose themselves, but rather inherited from outsiders, much like Aragorn being called Strider.

Interesting musings!
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Sorrel » Thu Dec 24, 2020 8:51 pm

Wool or goat, furs, maybe delicacy fish (roe?), leather, dried meats, etc. If we think about the kinds of trade seen in similar societies historically, they could even be trading for things like seal with the Lossoth and using or trading it on, maybe that's a stretch idk.

I think it doesn't take agriculture off the table (hidden gardens of prennials and fruit and nut trees - acorn literally means fruit of the forest - or things that can be planted and then returned to with little maintenance, and so on), things that can be winter down and found in spring, horticulture with some wild plants, etc. There probably others I'm not familiar with, but it absolutely limits the scope of potential agriculture quite a lot in this reading. They could also always trade for things like flour and oats (if they can't grow them themselves, idk maybe there's a way they could still) with the men of bree

Another potential source of food practiced commonly in Britain and Ireland during the post-roman and early medieval periods - gigging frogs.
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Sorrel » Thu Dec 24, 2020 9:17 pm

For weaoonsmithing, a few potential solutions.

- they buy them. Most medieval steelmaking was concentrated in a few specific places and not localked produced by a blacksmith, so this fits

However if they do make them in-house, or if they don't they still need to do ordinary blacksmithing and repairs, etc.

- they have some kind of horse-portable forge
- they have earthern forges and ovens they build as needed/at various camps

I wonder what they'd use for heating their tents when it's cold (also, if the shepherds are non ranger dunedain - ibrmember there's a quite about shepherds sleeping in tents even in winter, so also fitting) - I know braziers were used in similar contexts, but that relies on charcoal, shepherds/tent stoves seem to modern... open fires are a possibility for sure but obv has disadvantages, especially in very long-term living. Idk
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Sorrel » Thu Dec 24, 2020 9:22 pm

I wonder if non-ranger dunedain used rivercraft - it would be very useful for transporting furs, for navigating marsh any time there isn't sufficiently thick ice (if there ever is), fishing, etc. There are obv some rivers around there too, since that's what makes the angle lol
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Asbjorn » Fri Dec 25, 2020 8:06 am

I based my persona as a ranger that guards the inlet to the Baranduin river so the Corsairs of Umbar cant sail up it and attack the Shire. I did it mostly because i live in the south part of my country with only a mile to the sea and i love sailing.
"Few now remember them... yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless." Tom Bombadil on Rangers
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Greg » Fri Dec 25, 2020 1:39 pm

Asbjorn wrote:I based my persona as a ranger that guards the inlet to the Baranduin river so the Corsairs of Umbar cant sail up it and attack the Shire. I did it mostly because i live in the south part of my country with only a mile to the sea and i love sailing.

Though we don't have any direct references to this being the case, the seafaring heritage of the Dunedain and their Numenorean roots make this quite plausible. Interesting angle!
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Sorrel » Fri Dec 25, 2020 6:21 pm

So I suppose really it should be "non-grey company" Dunedain, since any Dunedain is going to be called a ranger by non-Dunedain
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Re: Dunedain vs Ranger

Postby Shadrack » Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:18 pm

Sorrel wrote:- they have earthern forges and ovens they build as needed/at various camps

Personally I could quite easily imagine a roaming Dunedain campsite forge resembling something along the lines of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5r2rOjI8rw
(This whole channel is a goldmine if you haven't encountered it before)

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