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I've not read any books of Middle-Earth bar The Hobbit, so my knowledge of the setting is severely lacking. From the films and what research I have done, I've found many references to kings, some (perhaps only one) of princes (thinking of Dol Amroth), and "lords" such as Lord Elrond. I am wondering, if there is any other nobility in the writings of Tolkien other than princes and "lords" (I put lords in scare quotes because I am aware that dukes and earls and so on are lords, and even kings can be called lords, but characters such as Elrond are described as nothing more than lords). Did Tolkien ever write a duke, or an earl, or count or baron or anything such as this?

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Contrary to what seems widely believed, Middle-earth is actually not a feudal/medieval society, so one shouldn't go looking for feudal/medieval titles in it.

Some parts of it may well resemble such a society, but on the whole it's well documented (e.g. in Letters) that Tolkien's primary source of inspiration was Dark Ages Germanic mythology.

Duke, Count and Baron are all derived from Latin words, via French (duc, comte, baron) and as such have no place in Tolkien's work. Earl on the other hand is Germanic, related to Scandinavian jarl, and was used in the name Eorl the Young.

Another familiar title is used in the name of Theoden's father: Thengel, related to thegn/thane.

Gondor has knights, but despite that we have no indication of "Sir" being used as a knightly title. Remembering the device of feigned-translation employed by Tolkien, we can speculate that the word "knight" was just used as a familiar reference point but perhaps not intended to evoke modern clichéd images of medieval knights.

In fact Tolkien (in note 17 to Disaster of the Gladden Fields) states that the word "knight" is used to represent Quenya roquen, which contains roch "horse" and quen "person", i.e "horseman". This is indicated (in the same note) to be a purely military rank (above that of ohtar "warrior, soldier") rather than a noble title.

In any event, neither Gondor nor Rohan were medieval societies, per Letter 211:

The Rohirrim were not 'mediaeval', in our sense ... the Númenóreans of Gondor were proud, peculiar, and archaic, and I think are best pictured in (say) Egyptian terms.

One title that Gondor did have was Steward, but that was a very particular rank with a specific purpose rather than a title that could be earned or granted.

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I knew earl origin and to be honest I assumed the other terms had similar roots (especially count). I thought Rohan was based on the Anglo-Saxons and had mistakenly thought Baron was the term in use there: according to wiki it's actually Earl and further north thegn. It's clear Tolkien draws from further back than most authors (who in turn seem to base their work on Tolkien's, ironically) The info on knights is fantastic so many thanks for including that. Many thanks also -- I was miles off and you obviously know what you're talking about, but gave me the answer without being condescending :) – Mac Cooper Feb 21 '14 at 13:54
Jimmy Shelter, a thought has occurred and maybe you'll be able to help (or anyone who has an idea, of course). Tolkien used the term King -- I'm happy that it's merely the closest approximation (such as the case with knights as you said in your answer) but he also uses Prince (as in the Princes of Dol Amroth). From my research the princes do not match the modern use of the term (for some time the sons of the King & Queen of England are made automatic princes), and this is to be expected. But why, then, is prince used instead of a similar term, such as Duke or Baron? – Mac Cooper Feb 21 '14 at 14:44
Historically, the title "Prince" has sometimes been used for a local ruler of lesser rank than a king, who is not necessarily a member of a royal family. Examples include the Prince of Orange in modern France and the Prince-Bishop of Durham in England. I think Tolkien is using the title in this sense for Imrahil (and also Faramir, who was made Prince of Ithilien by Aragorn). I don't think Tolkien was being entirely consistent there, since he could have easily used a less feudal-sounding title like "Governor". – Royal Canadian Bandit Feb 21 '14 at 14:51
It's also very important to note that Middle Earth is not one homogeneous society. Elves organized and governed themselves very differently from Shire-folk (who so far as we know had no form of government whatsoever), who organized and governed themselves quite differently from the men of Rohan... and the wild men of the North... and the Ents... and the Goblins... and etc. Calling Middle Earth "not feudal" is like calling Asia "not fuedal." fact, it's almost exactly the same as calling all of Europe "not feudal." ;-) – Matt Feb 21 '14 at 15:59
@Matt To say that the Shire has no form of government is inaccurate. See – Brian Lacy Feb 21 '14 at 17:57

The Shire had Thains, Pippin was made a Knight of Gondor (implying the existence of other such Knights) and Rohan had Marshals of the Mark (e.g. Eomer). All of those are noble titles of one kind or another.

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I missed knights despite referencing the leader of the Swan Knights. Thain is interesting: the wikia states it's a military title, a concept I would never guess from the films (I should read the books); it also states the hobbits made a thain to rule them, so seems a strong parallel to a king; is this accurate? I'm still interested as well in lesser nobles (as in, a baron under the king) unlike the rulers I've seen so far. I read of the Warden of Westmarch made by Aragorn as king as a hereditary title: this seems similar to a vassal; does the Warden have fidelity to the king, as barons would? – Mac Cooper Feb 21 '14 at 12:22
Most noble titles started out as military titles; for example "Duke" derives from Dux Bellorum, "war leader". The Thain of the Shire can't be a king, because the hobbits still acknowledge the King of Arnor as their rightful king, even if he's not been seen for centuries. The Thain is a leader of a region under the king, which is exactly what a noble is. – Mike Scott Feb 21 '14 at 15:55
I know about noble titles starting as military. I was noting that, according to the wikia, the hobbit's use of the word thain was military and this was interesting based on my knowledge of hobbits (The Hobbit and the films, which do not show the hobbits in general as militaristic). I read that hobbits gave themselves a ruler (thain) and based on that that's a parallel to a king; however thanks for telling me that they still recognise the King of Arnor as their king: that pretty much answers the question: their thain is noble title, at least put simply, albeit one that they gave themselves. – Mac Cooper Feb 21 '14 at 16:02

In the Silmarillion it is stated that after the days of Earendur that the Men of the Westernesse, the Dunedain of the North, became divided into petty realms and lordships. Therefore these terms could apply... The reference is only useful in that the term 'petty' implies a disorganized and varied structure of hierarchy which could be analogous to such titles.

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Do you know what the ruler of the these realms and lordships was called (their title, not their name)? And do you know if the rulers are "under" another ruler, that they have an overlord, like a duke is subservient to a king? – Mac Cooper Feb 21 '14 at 18:02
They are only referenced as descendants of Isuildur and fated to perish, probably as a result of their isolation from Gondor. – F. Wingenroth Feb 21 '14 at 18:45

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