34

At the council of Elrond, when talking to Boromir, Aragorn says the following

What roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the Dunedain were asleep or were all gone into the grave. And yet less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names. "Strider" I am to one fat man who lives within a days march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise.

Are there any specific reasons that the Dunedain are not treated with more respect? Other than the fact that they seem to drift around and have no fixed abode, there is no reason I have come across for them to be distrusted or scorned. Can anyone shed light on reasons for this treatment?

32

It's a combination of a number of reasons:

  • The Dunedain don't go out of their way to be well-known in the towns they protect.
  • They don't look like a trustworthy person - Bree especially seems to get a lot of less-than-reputable people passing through, who appear similar to the Dunedain, as Aragorn himself acknowledges:

'I see,' laughed Strider. 'I look foul and feel fair. Is that it? All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.'

  • Their acts aren't known to the populace. Their protections occur outside the boundaries of the town.

And yet, as you quoted, they "would not have it otherwise". This lack of knowledge also protects the Dunedain - it's often easier to protect something if those who seek to harm it are unaware that it's protected, and part of that is not letting more than necessary know of it.

  • This also has close parallel to real world. Soldiers - especially professional ones, which in Middle Ages meant mercenaries - rarely got much respect from ordinary folk. Mostly, deservedly so if you carefully study history of, say, 30 Year War. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 4 '12 at 13:06
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    Had the Dunedain been better known, wouldn't their reputation alone act as a deterrent? If an enemy suspects a city or town is well protected, he may decide to strike elsewhere... On the contrary, if the enemy thinks a town is unprotected, he is more likely to attack (even if the attack is repelled by hidden forces, surely it's still a bad thing for the population). – Andres F. Jan 8 '14 at 19:21
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    If the Dunedain had been better known, would evil forces have hunted them down in order to remove any protection the towns had? Especially if it was known that an heir to the throne of Gondor was leading them. – dlanod Jan 8 '14 at 19:48
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    @AndresF. That kind of deterrent-by-reputation only works against an enemy whose desire for war comes from a belief in the possibility of victory. A reasonable enemy might decide not to invade, because they wouldn't win. But the evil forces of LOTR are motivated simply by a desire to do evil, to kill and destroy as its own end. In that case, a powerful protector isn't a deterrent, it's a red flag to a bull. Unless you can stand as a bastion like Minas Tirith, better to hide and ambush and not draw attention. – Nerrolken Jan 8 '14 at 20:38
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    @AndresF. Bad guys hearing of other bad guys mysteriously disappearing in certain areas is a good deterrent. They can't calculate what they can't see so fear what they don't know. – Morgan May 23 '14 at 6:19
11

Simply put, it's because they're rangers: travelers, people with no home, unknown family, and no community ties. To a farmer or small-town dweller, that rootless anonymity is dangerous, because it means the ranger is not controllable by the usual community-pressure methods. What's to prevent him from doing something bad, if he can just quietly slip away afterwards, and you have absolutely no way to track him down?

To our modern romanticized notions*, this attitude seems foreign, but think about how you'd react to a homeless person setting up camp on the sidewalk in front of your home. If you grew up in a big enough city, maybe you'd be OK with it, but even then, I'm willing to bet you'd be secretly uncomfortable having to pass him just to get inside your front door.

Naturally, it doesn't help that the Rangers go out of their way to stay foreign, unknown, and mysterious. And dirty, don't forget dirty.

* In the medieval recreation group I belong to, newcomers often invent traveling personas, and are surprised to find out that names that mean "traveler" were generally uncomplimentary. Even names that mean "pilgrim", i.e. travelers with a religious bent, were not the sort of things your friends would have called you.

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    +1 to this; you see a similar attitude to travelling communities in many countries that still have them. – user8719 Jan 8 '14 at 23:32
10

Imagine that you and some friends are sitting in a bar, located in some small town. In walks a tall man with long scraggly hair and a beard. His worn boots and slightly torn M65 jacket are covered in dirt. A ball cap is pulled down over his eyes, casting a dark shadow upon his face. Across his chest is a sling attached to an AR-15 hanging at his side. He stealthily walks over to a dark secluded corner and sits down. Talking to no one, the man silently observes everyone in the room as he slowly smokes a cigarette, each puff lighting up his keen gray eyes.

Now how would you feel about that man? You aren't aware that he's been killing wild beasts and gangsters (or zombies) trying to invade your merry town. You only see this strange loner sitting by himself. There can't be any reason for a normal person to carry a rifle with him at all times. I mean, your town is entirely peaceful. There is only one possibility for a man that looks like that: that man is dangerous.

That should give you an idea of how the Men of Bree viewed the Rangers.

  • Great answer, and welcome to the site! +1 – Wad Cheber Jun 25 '15 at 0:34
  • Rambo, John J. - all he wanted was a bite to eat... but they kept pushing him. – Omegacron Dec 22 '17 at 20:21
8

To the previous answers, I would add only this: In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, in the chapter "Homeward Bound", Gandalf and the hobbits return to The Prancing Pony, where the hobbits had first met Strider over a year earlier. Everything in Bree is different. The inn is empty, supplies of pipe-weed have been cut off, everyone seems suspicious of the group, and so on.

Butterbur the innkeeper tells our heroes that things have been very bad in Bree, and in the Shire, of late. A recent battle in Bree left 5 people dead. Robbers and highwaymen are all around. It isn't safe to travel the roads, or to be out after dark. Every door is barred at night. Law and order have broken down completely.

Recall that Butterbur had warned the hobbits, when they first came to Bree, to be wary of Strider the Ranger. He clearly didn't like the Rangers at all. But now, after all the Rangers of the North left their homeland to fight in the Battles of the Pelennor Fields and the Morannon, where at least a few of them died, Butterbur sings a different tune.

You see, we're not used to such troubles; and the Rangers have all gone away, folk tell me. I don't think we've rightly understood till now what they did for us. For there's been worse than robbers about. Wolves were howling round the fences last winter. And there's dark shapes in the woods, dreadful things that it makes the blood run cold to think of. It's been very disturbing, if you understand me.
-The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 7: "Homeward Bound"

Gandalf comforts Butterbur by telling him that the Rangers have now returned, and a king has taken the throne, and will soon restore the rule of law. Significantly, Butterbur is indeed happy to hear this. When Sam finally tells Butterbur that the new king is none other than Strider himself, the innkeeper is more shocked than happy, as you might expect.

So by Butterbur's own account, the people who had always been protected by the Rangers, but had never appreciated the Rangers, quickly came to realize how vital the Rangers had been to their well being, almost as soon as the Rangers left for a few months. It is highly unlikely that the people will ever fail to appreciate what the Rangers do for them in the future, now that they've seen what life would be like without them.

The people thought of the Rangers as dirty weirdos who carried swords around and lurked in the shadows. The people also thought of their own homelands as inherently safe and tranquil. It seemed to them, therefore, that the Rangers were the biggest possible threat to this tranquility. Why else would the Rangers walk around heavily armed at all times, if not to prey on the defenseless civilians in their peaceful homeland?

They were swiftly disavowed of this notion as soon as the Rangers left for the war in the east. Everything fell apart almost immediately. Thieves and cutthroats overran the quiet west, and wolves prowled the fences where no wolves had been seen for many years. Only then did the people realize that their peaceful, safe, and tranquil way of life was never threatened by the Rangers- in fact, quite the opposite. The peace and safety were a direct result of the Rangers' tireless efforts to protect these humble folks. They kept away thieves, murderers, wolves, wraiths, and who knows what else.

In a way, the people's suspicions about the Rangers were due to the very things that made the Rangers so noble - the Rangers never sought thanks, let alone glory or renown. They didn't protect the people because they wanted to be famous. They protected people because they were good. They kept quiet about it because all they were interested in was keeping everyone safe. When people began whispering nasty things about the Rangers, the Rangers ignored it and kept doing their jobs. They were so selfless that they were willing to protect people who feared and hated them.

-3

The Rangers of the North were of a higher calling than normal men. They were more noble of spirit and were the wardens of all of Eru Iluvatars' creation. The Northern Dunedain (friend of elves) emptied themselves in the protecting and cultivating all that was good and right.

I suspect that they were more then what "Strider" portrays. I suspect that they had many dealings with the peoples of Eriador which were more in the category of the counseling and guidance department. Leading and encouraging the inhabitants of Eriador toward the path of what was right and true.

So I would assume that because of their noble heritage; their constant exemplary presence; their love for all life including nature; their obvious physical superiority; which included longer life spans and more youthful features; did indeed in fact make them most unpopular to more common folk.

Not very many people enjoy the company of someone who shines light on their shortcomings, wrong doings, negligences and selfishness.

  • 3
    It's a nice theory but it's all "I suspect", "I would assume"; if you can find any references to back it up it would be great, otherwise it's a low-quality answer. – user8719 Jan 8 '14 at 19:41

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