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As we have seen, the various races portrayed in Middle-Earth each demonstrate very specific invariable characteristics. Where do humans fit in among the other races of Middle-Earth? Are humans a “good” race ?

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I'm sure others will come up with letters/quotes etc to give a much better answer than I could. However I always understood orcs were bound to evil - they had no choice in the matter. Elves were born enlightened and good... humans had the freedom to make their own choices. – Liath Jul 7 '14 at 8:26
Eh, they’re okay. – Paul D. Waite Jul 7 '14 at 9:07
up vote 25 down vote accepted

The main defining characteristic of humans is that they are free to shape their own destinies beyond what is set out in the Music of the Ainur, and humans are unique in that they are the only species in Middle-earth that has this freedom:

Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else... (The Silmarillion, Of the Beginning of Days)

Naturally this means that humans are also free to be good or evil, but, as Iluvatar says of those who fall into evil, "these too in their time shall find that all that they do redounds at the end only to the glory of my work".

This freedom is also the cause of human mortality, which is discussed later in the same chapter, although the reason why mortality needs to be a consequence of it is not given.

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I love this answer, however I'd like to add that just as in the real world, the humans in Tolkien's universe are subject to their surroundings and influenced by them (how are they raised etc). Whether the choices we make are truely free or not is a philosophical question, this is same for all humans in LOTR. – cfrei89 Jul 7 '14 at 9:20
This doesn't appear to mean that Elves (for example) are robots in any sense; only that their choices are strongly limited by the Music, whereas Men's aren't. – Matt Gutting Jul 7 '14 at 10:38
@MattGutting - to my mind it adds a greater degree of sadness to the Elves. They'll go to their doom and destruction in the full knowledge that it's their fate and there's nothing they can do about it: "But Felagund heard his tale in wonder and disquiet; and he knew that the oath he had sworn was come upon him for his death, as long before he had foretold to Galadriel". – user8719 Jul 7 '14 at 10:51
I imagine that the half-elven who choose to be mortal would get human free-will as well. – Joe L. Jul 8 '14 at 12:56

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