The Ninniden were a small mannish people living in the Nindalf and the borderlands of the Loeg Firn and the Dagorlad. They were believed to be of Edainic descent and were counted as Northrons by some. They spoke a language related to the Sindarin tongue, called Ninnelen.
As far as any scholar could tell — from their language, which still bore a faint resemblance to Sindarin, and their lifespan of approximately 90 years (in spite of the many ailments of the marsh) – these hardy folk must have been descended from the Edain, but how and at what point they arrived in the Wetwang was anyone's guess. The Marshmen kept no written records, although with the influx of Gondorian settlers, some Marshmen had begun to use the runic Cirth to write both Westron and their own tongue, which they called Ninnelen (abbrev. Nn).
Marshmen led a rather simple life, mostly hunting and fishing. Recently - since the engagement they called "The Great Battle" (the Battle of Dagorlad, S.A. 3434) - they began keeping herds of goats and doing some vegetable gardening. At that time the Cult of Yavanna, centered on the Vala they called Jevinnë, became important. Before that, all of the Valar except for Orome (Nn. "Eremi") were worshipped as a group. Eremi was venerated with great devotion as the Master of Hunting, although in time Jevinnë, the Mistress of Agriculture, became just as important. Neither cult was as important to the Marshmen as that of the one High God Eru (Nn."Iroi"), but Iroi was thought of as a lofty abstraction, cold and aloof, while Eremi and Jevinne were like beloved grandparents to whom one could run with any problem. Thus these two Valar tended to receive most of the prayers, if not most of the reverence, of the Ninniden. The servants (priests) of Eremi were usually male, while those of Jevinne were usually female, but exceptions to both rules were not uncommon. Marshmen lived in small villages scattered on islands or groups of islets throughout the marshes. Due to an influx of refugees from the unsavory eastern areas (i.e., the Dead Marshes), the formerly rare expedient of building huts on rafts of reeds had become common. Marshmen considered the situation temporary, for although it had taken them a while to organize themselves (Marshmen were rather solitary, clinging to their own villages), groups of young Marshmen were becoming involved in a wholesale effort to clear new land on previously unused islets for settlement. In the meantime, many of these unfortunates had found a temporary home in the huts of existing villages. Although Marshmen were shy and solitary, once they knew that someone was in trouble they became warm-hearted and generous, as was the case with many isolated, primitive peoples. Marshmen generally made little of the differences between the sexes, except in the already-mentioned category of the priesthood (which was not celibate) and the obvious case of childbearing. The general rule was that each person did what he or she was best at, so that the woman with the nursing infant had to stay near the village and prepare food, or scrape hides, or garden — but so had the clumsy man or the elderly person. A light-footed, clear-sighted girl was sure to be out hunting with her brothers. The most important thing to the Marshmen was that everyone was bringing in as much food, tools, or clothing as possible. The admittedly superior strength of the men-folk only became an issue when carrying home whole deer, bear or boar, which were in any case momentous occasions. The usual fare was waterfowl, fish, or frogs.
Marshmen were a smallish people, the men 5'5" to 5'10", the women 4'11" to 5'6". They had pale, sallow skin with dark eyes and hair, although blue or grey eyes and red or blond hair were occasionally evident. They were usually shy but gentle and courteous to the stranger, despite their fondness for feuding among themselves. These feuds were usually settled by, at worst, a pole-fighting match, but more often by wrestling or by a contest of skill. They did not make swords or other tools for the killing of Men; hunting knives, bows, and spears were their only weapons, and all had practical purposes. Even the poles used in pole fighting had the everyday use of killing deer.
Marshmen were usually clad in skins, although they had begun trading for cloth from the Gondorian settlers. They wore tunics, leggings, waders of Ninevet gut for fishing in winter, fur-lined wrap-around coats, and soft boots or slippers. Their homes were one or two room structures of mud-plastered reeds woven over a wooden frame. They worked little metal but wove elaborate belts and headbands from leather and feathers, dyed with the plentiful dyestuffs of the marshes.
The Marshmen lived isolated in their island villages much of the time, but once a year they had a mass council meeting of chiefs and priestly personnel on the holy island of Tel Belarin. There the high priest of Eremi — Envir — and the high priestess of Jevinne — Kerit — made their home. The weeklong council ended with the Summer Solstice Festival. Anyone could come to council and submit questions and requests. During the year, complicated questions that could not be solved by local headman and that could not wait for the yearly council were sent to Envir and Kerit. If they felt that they could not resolve the matter themselves, they called a special council meeting. This happened most recently when news of the Plague first came to the Nindalf.
Although the Marshmen had traditionally stayed with their own kind, ways changed. The increasing desolation of the eastern marshes and the temptations of the more sophisticated life of the settlers from Gondor had caused some of the younger folk to leave the marshes. To the sorrow and shame of the Marshmen, one of a band of five bandits recently hanged by decree of the commander at Tir Nindor was a young Marshman.