The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Known to be extant at the close of the Third Age, but presumably rather older than this1
Location
Khand, a land to the southeast of Mordor
Race
Division
Culture
Pronunciation
va'riags
Meaning
Uncertain2

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About this entry:

  • Updated 20 December 2016
  • This entry is complete

Variags

A people of Khand

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A little-known people dwelling in the land of Khand, southeast of Mordor, at the time of the War of the Ring. They were allied to Sauron, and their warriors formed part of the reserve of Sauron's army at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. After the loss of the Lord of the Nazgûl they were thrust into the battle by his lieutenant Gothmog, but their forces were ultimately defeated.


Notes

1

Our only specific record of the Variags is at the Battle of the Pelennor in III 3019, so all we can say for sure about the Variags is that they existed at the end of the Third Age. We do, however, have references to the people of Khand going back at least a thousand years earlier. These people at one time fought against the Wainriders, before making common cause with them against Gondor. As a culture dwelling in Khand with old enmity towards Gondor, then, these may very well have been the Variags or their ancestors, but they are never specifically named as such.

2

The name Variag comes from this people's own unknown language, and is not directly interpretable. There is, however, a potential real historical source for this name, as it was used of an eastern branch of the Vikings who roamed the rivers northward of the Black Sea. Its unclear whether Tolkien was influenced by these historical Variags, but if he was then the name descended ultimately from Old Norse Væringjar, thought to mean something like 'those sworn to service'.

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