Dark Men ~ Warriors of Far Harad
“He came to rest in the fern a few feet away, face downward,
green arrow-feathers sticking from his neck below a golden collar. His scarlet robes were tattered,
his corslet of overlapping brazen plates was rent and hewn, his black plaits of hair braided
with gold were drenched with blood.”
LOTR: TTT B4 C4
The Men of Harad, also known as the Haradarim or Southrons lived in the southern reaches of Middle-earth. Harad was a vast desert region, that lay south of the lands of Mordor and Gondor. The peoples of this land would eventually become allies of Mordor and make war upon Gondor.
These lands were first explored in the Second Age by the Númenóreans, who were at this time beginning to explore all the coasts of Middle-earth. In the 9th century of the Second Age, the great mariner Aldarion explored the coast of Harad far to the south and was nearly shipwrecked there. At first the men of Harad welcomed these newcomers, who taught them many strange and wonderful things. However, the Númenóreans began to colonize the Harad coastline and when the Kings of Númenór saw the riches of these lands, they began to demand tribute. They made permanent settlements on the southern coasts, including the Havens of Umbar where they built a great fortress.
After the fall of Númenór the Faithful estblished kingdoms in Gondor in the south and Arnor in the north of Middle-earth. The Kings Men of Númenór, who had fallen under the shadow of Sauron, became know as the Black Númenóreans and many that survived held sway in the lands of Harad. As Gondor grew in strength, they extended their rule to the lands of Near Harad, just as Númenór had done in ages past. Sauron after his return to Mordor began in earnest to bring the men of Harad under his will, feeding their anger towards the men of the West, who tried to subjugate them.
Harad was a land of tribes and smaller kingdoms, many of which were ruled by the remnants of Númenór. However, these dark Kings distanced themselves from the rule of Ar-Pharazon, the Númenórean King who made war on the men of Middle-earth, enslaving them and using them for human sacrifices. The people of Harad did not know that it was the ever treacherous Sauron himself, who held the kings of Númenór under the Shadow and counseled them to order Middle-earth as their own.
During the Third Age, Near Harad formed an alliance with the Corsairs of Umbar, and over the course of millennium did battle with the folk of Gondor. By the end of the Third Age during the War of the Ring, Harad and Umbar ruled most of the southern coast of Middle-earth, claiming all the lands south of the river Poros as their own.
The entirety of these lands were known as Haradwaith and in the North this region was sometimes called the Sutherlands. This domain lay south of Mordor, whose southern fences formed their norther border. To the west Harad was bordered by the Bay of Belfalas and then the sea. The land known as Near Harad lay just south of Mordor and it was these people, who fought with and contested the borders of Southern Gondor. This was a dry, yet habitable region, but as one traveled south, there lay a vast desert that was bordered by deep jungles. It was from the lands of Far Harad, where the Mûmakil and Siege Beasts were tamed and brought north to war. To the east lay the kingdom of Khand.