Happy National Tolkien Reading Day! It is the day where we celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien and the wonderful world of Middle Earth that he created in his works The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and more.
The day was created in 2003 by The Tolkien Society. March 25th was chosen to honor of the fall of Sauron.
In celebration of this day, I’m going to be talking about one of my favorite aspects of the series: the race of Men.
You may be wondering why Men, as opposed to the more mythical races such as Elves or Dwarves or Orcs. Boromir, one of the more prominent humans we meet in the series, sums it up best in his line to Aragorn in The Fellowship of the Ring film:
“Yes, there is weakness. There is frailty. But there is courage also, and honor, to be found in Men.”
The race of Men was the second race created by the One God, Ilúvatar. This God gave Men two gifts – free will and mortality. These gifts highlight why the race of Men is my favorite.
To me, there is beauty in the rashness and mortality of Men, in their passion and their recklessness. Throughout the series, both in the novels and the films, we meet Men of all types, with varied flaws and strengths. They are the ones I follow into battle and who I find the most fascinating and heartbreaking. Tolkien depicts these characters in so many ways, writing them so you’ll be frustrated with them and root for them and ultimately empathize with them.
There are selfish Men, such as Boromir. Out of the nine members of the Fellowship, he is the one who gets closest to being corrupted by the ring, nearly betraying his comrades, but he ends up saving the Hobbits Merry and Pippin. He faces his inner demons and ends up doing the brave thing. He is a tragic character in the end, but one where you find sympathy and admiration.
We meet noble Men who become king, like Aragorn. Aragorn shows bravery, strength, and loyalty throughout the series. He is a traditional hero without the pomp of being among the mythical races. There are also human kings, like Bard from The Hobbit, who reveal more faults and a tired, abrasive selfishness that is so unique and wonderful about Men.
Rohan consists of proud Men, who can ride horses better than anyone. The Rohirrim answer the call of those in need when Gondor is falling. Theoden is a Man who is weak and corruptible when we first meet him, but overcomes those who would put him down to reveal his strength. His nephew and niece, Éomer and Éowyn, present themselves as truly courageous and daring Men.
Éowyn, especially, as one of the few female characters in the series, stands out to represent the race of Men and show their immense capability. Her famous line, “I am no man!”, represents a larger theme for the race to which she belongs. Men are capable of so much, as Éowyn proves time and time again despite what the land of Middle Earth dictates for her gender, and push themselves to be larger than they are.
Farmir, the younger brother of Boromir, says:
“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor, and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.”
He talks about the necessity of war to defend that which Men belong to and love. Men band together to fight until their last breaths. Faramir and Éowyn are examples of the compassion that resides in the race of Men. Their very human emotions allow them to bleed and feel as no other race in Middle Earth does.
Often looked down upon, whether as weak or reckless or selfish, Men prove themselves time and time again. They have faults in spades, but they also have a bravery and sheer tenacity and ability for compassion which I am enamored by. When they are discouraged, they stand taller and fight harder. They inspire and that is why they will forever be my favorite race in Middle Earth.
Which race of Middle Earth is your favorite? Tell us why in the comments.