ROHAN: GONDOR BUT WITH HORSES?
The story of Rohan starts a long ways away from Rohan, in (oddly enough) Gollum’s homeland. You may or may not recall that Smeagol, who became Gollum, dwelled along the banks of the Anduin river, which runs from north to south, with Mirkwood on the east side of its floodplain and the Misty Mountains on the west side. Roundabout the northern half of this region, there once was a nation or culture-group there, called the Men of Eotheod. These folk had migrated from further south around the time of the Wainriders, and before that they’d lived in the region the Wainriders invaded, and before that they were Gondorian subjects, but that’s getting back many generations.
The reason the Men of Eotheod moved upriver was for space purposes, because even at this early stage in their history they were already horse-riding enthusiasts and horses need more space. By the time of the big multifront invasion of Gondor alluded to in the sixth paragraph of the entry before last, which I said we’d get to later, the Men of Eotheod were really feeling the crowding; there were other culture groups of Woodsmen all along the river. When Cirion the Steward of Gondor sent word to old allies along the Anduin, requesting aid, the Men of Eotheod were the only ones that rallied.
Eorl the Young, chieftain of the Men of Eotheod, gathered a big host of horsemen and they rode south, reaching a battlefield south of Lorien and north of Fangorn. As they arrived, the Army of Northern Gondor, cut off from support and surrounded by a mixed host of orcs and jerkass men, seemed on the verge of collapse, but then BOOM, the Riders of Eotheod come up behind the enemy horde and it turns out that the Rohirrim arrival at the Battle of the Pellenor Fields in the Return of the King was basically a reenactment of this charge.
Afterwards, Cirion was so grateful for the Riders’ assistance that he gave them what was left of Northern Gondor as a present (that orcish host had really worked a number on the area and there weren’t many Gondorians still living there anyway), so the Riders sent for their families and settled and Eorl the Young became the first King of the Mark, “the Mark” or “Eorlingas” being what the Rohirrim called their new country. We call it “Rohan” only because that’s the Gondorian name meaning horse country.