Throughout Tolkien’s legendarium, we are led to believe the Númenóreans were remarkably tall. But in very few places have I found anything approaching solid data which would allow us to quantify that meaningfully.
In a previous post I outlined just how impressively massive was the wingspan of Thorondor, King of the Eagles. That post is worth a revisit, as it contains some valuable information that will serve us well here.
In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien provides us with our best (as far as I can tell) detail of just how tall people were. In simple terms:
1 lár (‘pause’) = 5000 rangar = “very nearly” three miles
1 ranga = 1 full stride taken “swiftly but at ease”
1 full stride = “approximately” 38 inches … “from rear heel to front toe”
2 rangar = “man-high”(*)
Elendil’s height was described as being in excess of man-high “by nearly half a ranga” [emphasis mine]. “Nearly” is subjective, of course. But half a ranga would be 19 inches, so it is reasonable to assume that “nearly” half a ranga is equal to at least 17 or 18 inches, but not equalling 19 inches.
Thus, Elendil’s height (h) may be expressed by:
h = m+x
19 > x ≥ 17
m = man-height = 76 inches
x = the indeterminate value represented by “nearly half a ranga”.
For our purposes, and for easier maths (since we know a half a ranga is equal to 19 inches, and that Elendil’s x height did not equal half a ranga) I will assume x = 18.
Thus, Elendil was somewhere between 94 inches and 95 inches in height but did not achieve 95 inches in height (or approximately 238cm/7’10”).
So far so good. But what does that actually look like?
Well, let’s begin with what does an average guy look like? According to the Office of National Statistics², the average man in Britain is 5ft9in (175.3cm … as it happens, I’m precisely average in that regard) and weighs 13.16 stone (83.6kg/184lbs … I’m very below average in that regard, which makes me feel much better about the love handles I’ve not been able to shift).
Let’s compare someone who’s fairly average in height (Zach Efron, at 5’8″/173cm) and clearly very physically fit, as you would hope a soldier to be, with someone who’s way above average in every way; someone we wouldn’t want to see charging towards us on the battlefield: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (6’5″/196cm).
Yes, if you are an average-height British male with above-average physical fitness, that’s how you might (subjectively) look when standing next to The Rock.
Okay then. The Rock’s a big guy. Everyone knows that. We could look at him next to larger-than-average people, but let’s go right to the point: who can we find that is an approximation of Elendil’s height of between 94-95 inches/238cm?
Dear readers, I give you Chinese pro basketball player Sun Mingming, who at 236cm is almost bang-on what we got for Elendil using our equation. And just for fun, here he is next to Dwayne:
¹[UT,iii,1,’The Disaster of the Gladden Fields’,pp.369-370]
(*) This term was a relatively modern measurement. Its use came into practice only after the size of men had already begun to decrease. It was not used as a means of defining the average height of men, but was merely a measure of length/distance associated with rangar. However, Elendil seems to have been described in this manner, as was Galadriel.