For those who don’t know me, I’m a demographer. I study population. And my first love in fantasy was, of course, Middle Earth. How many people live in Middle Earth? Being a demographer, I was mainly interested in the data side of things.

Tolkien is frustratingly vague about population. He almost never gives us estimates of settlement sizes, and many of the larger metropolises of Middle Earth (like Pelargir) never actually appear on the page. Sizable armies make frequent appearances, yet because his adventurers almost exclusively traverse the wilds of Middle Earth, we rarely see where those soldiers are coming from.

Almost every attempt to estimate population in Middle Earth extrapolates from army sizes. This is no surprise since those are some of the only numbers Tolkien does provide and, furthermore, historically, this is also how ancient populations in the real world are often estimated, so there are some credible rules-of-thumb out there.

I wanted to take a new approach.

As a long time Tolkien fan, I truly enjoyed How Many Hobbits? A Demographic Analysis of Middle Earth.