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Variag couple

The Variags were a culture of men from the Land of Khand, southeast of Mordor. They fought for Sauron in the War of the Ring, under the command of Gothmog, the lieutenant of Morgûl.


Variag History

The Variags were usually seen as descendants of the Ioriags, an Easterling culture of the Second Age, and local Kha-onian tribesmen. The Ioriags were a tribe or group of the Talataerim or "peoples of the plains" in Central Middle-earth and so descendants of the Asrabi, those men who had fought on the side of Fankil in the Battle of Palisor and who had bowed before Melkor, who appeared as a mighty and noble man to the Hildor, and rejected the voice.

The mighty Firasfrathig Lord Ûvatha was one of the nine mannish kings who had accepted a Ring of Power in the mid-Second Age and was turned into a Nazgûl. Ûvatha became the founder of the later Variag People by moving his northern Ioriags to the neighbourhood of Mordor, conquering the local Kha-on farmers (descendants of the House of Sulam from Hildorien), and making them a people that served the Shadow. These original "Variags" were but a collection of Clans or Tribes among the Ioriags, the Ororath, Omodath, and Vracarath. When Ûvatha returned to Khand in the next age he found a people of primitive horse-nomads descending from his ancient clan. He returned and ruled over Khand in disguise of a mighty King, the first Khûdriag-Ata, and created the realm of Khand and it's people, the later Variags - as the descendants of Ûvatha's older followers would be called - taking the name of a northern dynasty which had evolved in the Wainrider-wars.

These Variags were a fierce people of Warriors and swift Horsemen and evolved into a fearsome culture of Warriors and Mercenaries, often employed as Soldiers and Assassins by Haradic and Rhûnish Lords.


The Men of Khand were a mixed people of Easterling, Haradrim, and Daen blood, having enslaved Easterling Tribes from Rhûn, Chey Sart, Nûrad, and Relmether, as well as Harûze from Near Harad and men from Núrn for centuries. The Variags, in the close sense, were only the Warriors or Mercenaries of the Khandish People. They were the ruling caste of Khand and Núrn, while the lower classes of Khand were only considered Variag bastards or mere slaves.

Variag banner of the Khudriagate of Khand

These Men of Khand were ruled by a small caste of female Priestesses, the Vracarathí, and a male caste of elite Warriors, the Ôsvoda. They were often seen as a divided people by outsiders, being led by a number of rivalrous kings with no supreme head of the realm, although some kings (historical exceptions such as Vangaris or Keiseimu) could hold more power than others. These Kings of Khand were known as the Khûdriags (or "Khûrs"). The Khûdriags were assisted by several Begs ("Advisors") who might hold more power than the actual King. Ranks above the Ôsvoda were the Ôsvodeg ("Warlord" or "Leader") and the Ôrodriag (or "Orod", "Prince", "Khagan" or "ruling Lord"). Few exalted Variag Kings were considered Khûdriag-Ata ("God-Kings" chosen by the Nameless) and succeeded to bring the Chorad, the seven most powerful and more or less autonomous Orods, under their rule. The heads of the Variag Clans were called Kekhavrathí and in uneasy rivalry with the Vracarathí. Among the Clans the Porodihi were the more sedentary and loyal faction, while the more conservative and nomadic clans were often seen as unreliable. Despite their mostly dry and barren land, their loyalty to Sauron and their role as Mercenaries, Slave-traders, Assassins, and guardians of the Dark Lord’s caravan and pilgrimage routes had made the Variag society rich and prosperous.


The Variags revered Sauron, whom they called Tûmrakhi in Varadja, their own language, as a god-like being. However some secretly still venerated older and lesser deities or spirits such as Tuilerwen, Kondri Odchi, Rakodsaol, or Feogur, which was barely accepted by the devout Sauronites. However the Variags considered themselves as a "chosen people" and were not interested in the observations of lesser races.


Variag in LOTRO

They were Horsemen and Charioteers, Variag Lords being constantly at war with each other and their neighbours in near-Rhûn and Haradwaith, and slave-hunters and traders for Mordor and Sauron. Khandish Mercenaries were not subject to any tribal king but ruled by their own chieftains, who were not much more than independent bandit-lords.

Lamellar was the typical armour of these regions, usually of hardened leather or light studded leather, but rugged black steel armour and scale cuirasses were also known combined with round shields and pointed metal helmets (Variag Helms). Lamellar horse-armour was usually reserved for elite troops, but was very common among the ruling Itô clan.

Slings, spears, javelins, and small one-handed axes were very popular in the cavalry. Horse-archers and camel-riders were armed with Horsebows with large, box-like quivers which could carry as many as sixty arrows. Straight double-edged swords of western form were preferred, but the majority of blades were single-edged Haradan Haril. A weapon unique to the Variags was the Usriev; another traditional weapon was the Bola. The Arsiyah Cavalry were outstanding medium cavalry which formed the regular standing army of the Khûrs. Uhlans were the second, and larger, Khandish cavalry force, consisting of light and medium horsemen. Camel-riders were the Variag light cavalry. The Variag Guard was medium infantry wearing lamellar armour of rigid leather, lamellar helmets and grieves, battle axes, large oval shields, and straight single-edged swords. Variag Spearmen served as light infantry wearing soft leather or brigandine armour, helmets, pikes, spears, and hand axes.



The Variags were usually seen as a people of mixed descent with Easterling, Haradrim, as well as Daen ancestors. They were usually brawny and of middle height, with dark, sometimes even black, complexion. They often had ornamental brandings, tattoos, and scarifications adding to their barbarous appearance. Males sometimes wore stringy beards, often long, thin moustaches and braided hair or ponytails. Usual dresses were made of leather and loin and preferably black, red or brown. Men sometimes wore pelted caps, women elaborate headdresses. Animal totems often showed depictions of bats or horses. Golden and bronze jewelry was much favoured among the well-to-do.


The Varadja language was said to be non-related to any other mannish tongue but rather similar to the Black Speech or Orcish. In fact it originally had been of the Firasfrathig family, but millennia in the neighbourhood of Mordor had changed it in a way making it sound closer to the Black Speech or orcish dialects. Also close neighbourhood to the Haradrim had added strong Haruze influences, especially in southern Khand. For written Varadja Variags used a script derived from Mordorian Tengwar and Orcish Runes, the Script was also known as Variag-Tengwar or Khandian Letters.

Known clans

Traditionally there were seven Orods or tribes, each of them divided into a larger number of clans.

  • Akheth
  • Akhev (Achef)
  • Ankiv (Ankif)
  • Azumenúkhad
  • Drîond
  • Harmunekhad
  • Îgath
  • Îmaviôn
  • Ibô
  • Irbô
  • Itakh
  • Itâna
  • Îtho
  • Môga
  • Nîkhad
  • Nikhôd
  • Olêna
  • Ômodath
  • Ôran
  • Ôrath
  • Ororath
  • Ôrpov
  • Ôvan
  • Ôvon
  • Ûdo
  • Ûliath
  • Ûprava
  • Ûrpov (Urpof)
  • Vrakhara
  • Skakali
  • Tûmag

Variags of note or renown

Aivaisa Akhiz Arkish Asternak Azzad Baltab Beg Balûn Bountîg Brôdvaga Akhev Bulga Caljar Crazkham Dauthar Curuband Gorovod II Goûr Itô Gurthilm Hargrog Harvâl Itâna Ôron Itâna Ôvan Itâna Ôvan II Itâna Ôvon Dauthar Jotaen Jotaeseimu Kanhai Kedezh Keiseimu Khôdid Ûprava Khurubra of Sturlurza Khûrsh Kionid of Ylâ-Khand Khîonid II Khîonvad Akhev Leídan Lûthkan Lûthku Marcetha Mardrash Mîonid Akhev Mîonid II Itô Neida Nômid Akhev Ôdavith Akhev Ôldur Ôlriag Akhev Ômad Akhev Ôthour Itô Ôthour II Ôthour III Ôthour IV Ôvag Itô Ôvaisa Itô Ôvatha Itô Ôvatha II Ôvatha III Ôvatha IV Ôvatha V Ôvatha VI Ôvatha VII Ôvatha VIII Ôvatha IX Ôvatha X Ôvatha XI Ôvatha XXVI Râisha Sacal Surakaris Tarôk Tûkrai Ûlruth Ûonid Irbô Ûrdrath Ûrdrath II Ûrig Ûrpof Ûrig of Ammu Baj Ûvatha Ûvatha IX Ûsriev Vakheralthan Valathmir Vangariz Vrakya Vrônkhar Warlôg Wastaph Yuktîr Yumruk Yursal Skakali Zôr


  • There have also been speculations of the Variags being Northron exiles, mercenaries of the Rulers of Khand or Mordor, or the Variags being identical with the bearded axe-wielding Easterlings described to take part at the Battle of Pelennor. Both speculations are based on the historical Varangians which were known as Varyags to the Rus and described by contemporary commentators as axe-wielding barbarians. These Variags could have been descendants of the Northron Mercenaries who allied themselves with the Wainriders in the days of Narmacil I, or Mercenaries from the East. Other speculations are the Variags not being humans but mere creatures and possibly identical with the Troll-men or Half-Trolls. The Variags of the ICE Canon seem to be a synthesis of these speculations, them having a dark and exotic look, being a Slavo-Turk-Mongol influenced culture on one side, but being descendants of the Talatherim and thus relatives of the Northmen of Rhovanion.

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