Ilúvatar created two races that are known as the Children of Ilúvatar the first being the Elves, known as the Eldar, or First Born and the second is the race of Men, known as the Second Born. Men are the last of the incarnate races to appear, or awake in Middle-Earth, with the first being the Elves, who awoke during the Years of the Trees. Despite being the last to awake, it is Men that are the race that is destined to inherit and rule Middle-Earth.
Men awoke in the far eastern land of Hildórien at the start of the First Age of the Sun and when they saw the Sun rise for the first time in the far west, they began to wander towards it, with some arriving in Beleriand centuries later.
When Morgoth (Melkor), learned of the awakening of Men, he attempted to corrupt them and make them turn away from Ilúvatar and make them worship him. He was initially successful at this, but some Men escaped and turned back to Ilúvatar. These Men became the Edain.
Ilúvatar gave Men the Gift of Men, mortality, causing them to age and become susceptible to disease, unlike Elves who are immortal. This means that when Men die, they are released from Arda and can rest from its troubles, while Elves are bound to it. Ilúvatar also gave Men the freedom to shape their own future. However, Morgoth corrupted the meaning of the Gift of Men, causing them to think of mortality as a doom, rather than as a gift.
Although all Men are related to each other, there are many groups and cultures with a complex and rich history, which can include rivalries and discord between different groups. The rivalries and discord can make them susceptible to manipulation by the Enemy of the Free Peoples. Greed, power and past grievances are weaknesses in Men which have been used by the Enemy to make them fight each other and mistrust Elves and Dwarves. In contrast, Men are also capable of possessing bravery, honour, loyalty and leadership qualities that can counter-act their weaknesses and can be used as a shield against the Enemy.
During the First Age, the Edain reached Beleriand and assisted the Elves in their struggle against Morgoth. Other Men did not reach that far, or stayed on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains or did not fight against Morgoth. Some were unable to break free of Morgoth’s corruption, such as the Easterlings, and fought openly on his side against the Elves. In the later Ages, the Haradrim and the Easterlings fought on Sauron’s side.
This thread deals with the groups of Men who are the Free-Peoples. Information on the Men who remained under the influence of Morgoth or who were manipulated to fight against the Free-Peoples can be found here.