Dark Men ~ Wildmen of Dunland
“The men of Dunland were amazed,
for Saruman had told them that the men of Rohan burned their captives alive.”
LOTR: TTT B$ C3
The Wild Men of Dunland come from the hills north of Isengard and were used by Saruman during the War of the Ring by inflaming old hatreds toward the Kings of Rohan, whom they felt had stolen their lands centuries before.
The origin of these Dark Men of Dunland is uncertain, but it’s likely they are descended from the ancient line of Haladin, one of the three houses of Edain, who came out of Beleriand in the First Age of Middle-earth. After the lands were broken in the War of Wrath, those that survived settled in Eriador, where they kept to themselves not mingling with the other men of Middle-earth. It’s believed they are closely related to the Oathbreakers who were cursed by Isildur and hid in the White Mountains. There is also a direct link to the Men of Bree, who were once Dundlings that moved north and became subjects of Arnor.
As the power and influence of the Númenóreans grew in Middle-earth, the Dunlendings were driven northward into the foothills of the Misty Mountains. Their numbers were reduced even further during the Great Plague, but they fared better then many, because of their chosen isolation. The men of Dunland then settled in the region of Calenardhon as Gondor relaxed it dominion over these lands during the Watchful Peace.
The the Ruling Stewards eventually granted these futile plains to the Rohirrim and the Dunlendings were once more driven out of these lands and back into the hills. There was ceaseless war between Dunland and Rohan for many centuries during the Third Age. However, by the time of War of the Ring, the Men of Dunland had descended into a wild and barbarous folk and it was not difficult for Saruman to inflame their old grievances and recruit then into his war against Rohan.
The Wild men of Dunland played a significant role in the fall of the Westfold and the eventual Battle at Helms Deep.
In the afternoon the dark clouds began to overtake them: a sombre canopy with great billowing edges flecked with dazzling light. The sun went down, blood red in a smoking hase. The spears of the Riders were tipped with fire as the last shafts of light kindled the steep faces of the peaks of Thrihyrne: now very near they stood on the northernmost arm of the White Mountains, three jagged horns staring at the sunset. In the last red glow men in the vanguard saw a black speck, a horseman riding back towards them. They halted awaiting him.
He came, a weary man with dinted helm and cloven shield. Slowly he climbed from his horse and stood there a while gasping. At length he spoke. ‘Is Éomer here?’ he asked. ‘You come at last, but too late, and with too little strength. Things have gone evilly since Théodred fell. We were driven back yesterday over the Isen with great loss; many perished at the crossing. Then at night fresh forces came over the river against our camp. All Isengard must be emptied; and Saruman has armed the wild hillmen and herd-folk of Dunland beyond the rivers, and these also he loosed upon us. We were overmastered. The shield-wall was broken. Erkenbrand of Westfold has drawn off those men he could gather towards his fastness in Helm’s Deep. The rest are scattered.
From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘Helms Deep’