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The Rangers were the last remnant of the Dúnedain. They spent most of their lives in the wild, visiting towns and villages only on rare occasions. They secretly guarded and protected Eriador, which included the Shire unbeknownst to its people from spies and invaders.

At the time of the War of the Ring, the Rangers of the North were led by Aragorn. But despite Aragorn's leadership, most of the Rangers remained scattered and diminished. Therefore, when the ranger Halbarad tried to aid Aragorn in the War, he could muster no more than thirty Rangers to join him.

That gives us 32 Rangers, 33 if you count Faramir who was also a Ranger (of Ithilien).

There were obviously more Rangers than that in Middle Earth. Is there somewhere that has a reliable count or strong guesstimate of how many there actually were?

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    Faramir calling himself and his men "rangers" has no connection to the Dunedain of the North. They're two completely separate groups of people. In the real world, there are army units called "rangers" in numerous countries, plus the law enforcement organisations in Texas, Arizona, etc., park rangers, Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers, various sports teams, and so on and so forth: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranger – Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 19 '14 at 10:17
  • He shared the strength that belonged to his Númenórean ancestors and rejected the One Ring when it was revealed that Frodo carried it. "Here was one with an air of high nobility such as Aragorn at times revealed, less high perhaps, yet also less incalculable and remote: one of the Kings of Men born into a later time, but touched with the wisdom and sadness of the Eldar Race. He knew now why Beregond spoke his name with love. He was a captain that men would follow, that he would follow, even under the shadow of the black wings." —Peregrin Took's thoughts after seeing Faramir for the first time – Morgan Apr 20 '14 at 8:59
  • "And she looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark could outmatch in battle." —Éowyn's description of Faramir when they first met – Morgan Apr 20 '14 at 9:05
  • Um, yes, I've read the books too. My point was that Faramir is not one of the Dunedain of the North. He's one of the Dunedain of Gondor. As such, Faramir's men are not part of the same organisation at all. I just wanted to clarify that for any readers not quite so familiar with the books as you are. :-) – Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 20 '14 at 9:12
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    It was meant as a joke. More specifically, a humorous comparison between the warriors in Tolkien's epic and some animated chipmunks. No offence was intended. – Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 20 '14 at 9:25
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Noted Tolkienist Michael Martinez has published a long-ish essay which deals with this exact question, and may be read online here: Of Thegns and Kings and Rangers and Things.

I'll quote the main conclusions, first of all relating to the population of the Dunedain of the North:

It thus seems most likely that Rangers constituted only a small part of the male population of the Dunedain of Arnor. Elrond was not wrong to say there were now few Dunedain left, but they probably numbered in the thousands, rather than the hundreds.

The numbering of Halbarad's company:

...it would have fallen to the Dunedain to defend Eriador against invasion. In such a time of need, the Rangers would have been called back to defend the homeland and patrol the frontier. Halbarad’s ability to muster a company of Rangers would therefore have been hampered not by fewness of men, but by the necessity to leave his people (and Rivendell) defended.

The organization of Ranger patrols:

It seems there must have been roving patrols which watched over the lands east of Bree, between Bree and the Angle, in fact. These patrols probably went as far north as the ruins of Fornost Erain (where Gandalf told Barliman the Rangers visited on occasion) and as far south as Tharbad. There may have been no more than three hundred Rangers in all, not necessarily organized into companies of thirty, but patrolling assigned regions.

And the function of the Rangers:

The Rangers were as close to a police force as Eriador had, and were undoubtedly an elite force of soldiers who were highly motivated, well-trained, and well-equipped. The thirty who accompanied Halbarad were all dressed in uniform attire, and they possessed similar weapons: swords, bows, and spears. Their somber discipline (observed by Legolas, Gimli, and Meriadoc at Helm’s Deep) similarly implies they were professional warriors.

For the long chain of reasoning that leads to these conclusions, and for the supporting facts from Tolkien's writings, I'll refer you to the essay itself (via the link I provide above) which is unfortunately really too long to give here in full.

  • Great answer. That exactly answers the question and provides the fruit of some solid research. – Morgan Apr 19 '14 at 15:17

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