The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Adopted by the Númenóreans after the foundation of their realm in II 321
Race
Men (possibly also used by Elves)
Division
Culture
Númenóreans, and their descendants in Middle-earth
Pronunciation
tha'ngile (that is, the last syllable rhymes with English 'tile')
Meaning
'Shield-fence'
Other names

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About this entry:

  • Updated 20 March 2022
  • This entry is complete

Thangail

The shield-wall of the Dúnedain

A defensive tactic used by the soldiers of the Númenórean Realms. It was formed from two closely-pressed ranks of Men forming a barrier of shields, solidly enough to withstand the onslaught of their enemies. The thangail was designed to be flexible, and could bend at one or both of its ends to adapt to enemy tactics, even curling round to meet itself and so form an unbroken circle of shields.

Our only record of the thangail in actual use is by Isildur, who ordered one drawn up when attacked by Orcs in the incident known to history as the Disaster of the Gladden Fields. However, there is reason to think that it originated with the Elves, especially as the two main Elvish languages had quite separate names for the formation. Thangail is a Sindarin word, whereas in Quenya the same tactic was referred to as a sandastan.


Notes

1

Assigning dates to the thangail formation is difficult, except to say that it was definitely used in III 2 as Isildur prepared to face an attacking band of Orcs. At that time it was well established as a military tactic, so it had evidently been developed in Númenor some time beforehand (and might even have been used by the Elves during the First Age). Lacking any other account of a thangail, it is hard to be sure how long it continued to be used, but it might plausibly have survived as a military tactic of the Dúnedain across the three millennia of the Third Age.

See also...

Sandastan, Shield-barrier

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 20 March 2022
  • This entry is complete

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