Easterlings are a race of evil Men from the Far East of Middle-earth. They can be found wandering the Brown Lands and the Rushgore in The Great River region, throughout East Rohan and Gondor, and in the Erebor skirmishes.
The Easterling peoples dwell primarily near the inland Sea of Rhûn and in the land of Khand. In the Third Age, many clans of Easterlings swore fealty to (or were enslaved by) the Dark Lord Sauron, whose realm of Mordor borders their kingdoms. As such, they have long been enemies of the Free Peoples. The Dark Lord promised the Easterlings land and plunder in the West of Middle-earth and may have even been worshiped as a god by certain tribes of the East.
The Easterlings are not a united race, but rather a collection of hostile peoples. Known Easterling tribes include:
- Balchoth - A tribe allied with Dol Guldur that attempted to conquer the Gondorian province of Calenardhon. The Éothéod people helped Gondor repel this invasion and were granted Calenardhon as their reward, renaming it Rohan.
- Jangovar - An Easterling tribe assaulting the Lonely Mountain and the kingdom of Dale at the behest of Sauron.
- Khundolar - Descendants of the Balchoth, this tribe has begun an incursion into the West at the Dark Lord's bidding, beginning with the Brown Lands along the River Anduin.
- Sûhalar - A tribe of long-bearded warriors sent by the Dark Lord to attack the Gondorian province of Old Anórien.
- Variags - A group of mighty warriors from Khand, serving as mercenaries for Mordor.
- Wainriders - A tribe of Easterlings that rode into battle in great wains (chariots). A large force of Wainriders once invaded Gondor, secretly serving the whim of Sauron. Many Shades of fallen Wainriders can be found wandering the plain of Dagorlad.
J.R.R. Tolkien likely based the Easterlings on ancient warrior peoples of the East, such as the Mongols and Huns, or those of the Middle East such as the ancestors of the Iranians.
The Khundolar, Jangovar, and Sûhalar of The Lord of the Rings Online were invented for the game and do not appear in Tolkien's work.
However, the Variags were mentioned by Tolkien. They appeared in the year 1944 of the Third Age in the north-east of Middle-earth, fighting alongside the Easterling tribe known as the Wainriders. On March 14 - 15 (Third Age: 3019) the Variags fought in Sauron's army at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. However, he never provided any description of them or their land, Khand.
- (The Variags are assumed to be based upon Varangians or Vikings. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varangians)
- The Sûhalar were introduced in LOTRO with Update 17, in Talath Anor.
- The Variags were introduced in LOTRO with update 18 in Far Anórien, where they have blockaded the Great East Road and halted the advance of the Rohirrim coming to the aid of Minas Tirith.
- Jarl Gurthilm appears in Update 19.