In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Dúnedain (singular: Dúnadan, "man of the west") were a race of Men descended from the Númenóreans who survived the sinking of their island kingdom and came to Eriador in Middle-earth, led by Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anárion. They are also called the Men of the West and the Men of Westernesse (direct translations of the Sindarin term). They settled mainly in Arnor and Gondor.
The Westron name for Dúnadan was simply Adûn, "westerner", but this name was seldom used. This name was reserved to those Númenóreans who were friendly to the Elves: the other, hostile survivors of the Downfall were known as the Black Númenóreans.
The Dúnedain were descended from the Elf-friends, the few Men of the First Age who sided with the Noldorin Elves in Beleriand. Their original leader was Elros, a half-Elf. They were given Númenor as a homeland by the Valar at the start of the Second Age and later created fortress-cities along the western coasts of Middle-earth which dominated the lesser men of these areas. In time, Númenor was drowned and a small number of the Faithful (led by Elendil) escaped the destruction.
Sauron's spirit fled from Númenor to Middle-earth, and he again raised mighty armies to challenge the new Dúnedain kingdoms, Gondor and Arnor. With the aid of Gil-galad and the Elves, Sauron was defeated, and he vanished into the wild East for many centuries. Gondor and Arnor prospered during this time.
As Sauron began to re-form and gather strength, a series of deadly plagues came from the East. These tended to strike harder in the North than the South, and caused a population decline in Arnor. Also the chief of the Nine Ringwraiths, known commonly as the Witch-king of Angmar, began assaulting the divided Northern Dúnedain kingdoms from a mountain stronghold (Carn Dûm). Eventually, he succeeded in destroying Arthedain, the last of the Northern kingdoms.
After the fall of Arthedain, a remnant of the northern Dúnedain became the Rangers of the North, doing what they could to keep the peace in the near-empty lands of their Fathers. The surviving Dúnedain population of Arnor retreated to the Angle south of Rivendell, while smaller populations made isolated settlements in far western Eriador.
Over the centuries, the southern Dúnedain of Gondor intermarried more and more with so-called Middle Men. Only in regions such as Dol Amroth did their bloodline remain pure. Their lifespan became shorter with each generation. Eventually, even the Kings of Gondor married non-Dúnedain women occasionally.
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