Welcome to Chapter 4: The Tale of Numenor, Arnor, Gondor and the Dunedain, and sorry for those of you expecting orcs and goblins. That particular topic will have to hold off for a week or so, as I am still researching it! The more I look the more complex the situation becomes. As I am about to explain I have managed to get a part of Tolkien’s notes (via the histories) and this is helping shed a lot of light on the matter. Anyways, onto this week’s topic.
Last weekend (it being 3 minutes into Monday when posting this) I managed to finally grab hold of some books id been wanting to get for a while, and I managed to get Unfinished Tales, Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Tree and Leaf, Farmer Giles of Ham, (those last 3 were old 70’s copies) Morgoth’s Ring (history series 10- which by the way is HUGELY detailed- a must have - as is the rest of the series) Children of Hurin and a 1st edition copy of Silmarillion and only spent £2.80!! The 1st edition of Silmarillion has a beautiful red ink fold out map which they don’t put in anymore and was worth getting a hardback copy for.
….anyways re-going through it all has inspired me to focus my efforts on the wealth of material that Tolkien wrote on Numenor, and consequently the north and south kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor, and the Dunedain. The Unfinished Tales particularly has some fine information that is otherwise unavailable. As usual the parts of the chapter are split up for easier reading, however in this case id recommend reading in order, especially if you’re new to this topic, as it will make more sense.
Arnor and Gondor
The Rangers of the North
To those who have only read the trilogy you will recognise many names in this chapter, however hopefully it will give you a better view of what the legend on Numenor is about, and where the Dunedain (a key aspect in the trilogy) come from and how they are all related. To those familiar with this topic, I hope as usual, the reading will be entertaining. The legend of Numenor is particularly fascinating as it (by Tolkien’s design) mirrors our legend of Atlantis, which if we are to take the information from my last chapter, Atlantis was actually Numenor. Like Atlantis, Numenor was ahead of its ‘time,’ the inhabitants were wise and powerful beyond measure for men, and many of the items we see in the 3rd age came from there, notably the Palatiri seeing stones, and the White Tree of Gondor, which was descended from the tree of Numenor that Isildur saved a fruit of before Sauron
had it burned.
NOTE: from now on I’ll be ending each section with a list of my sources incase you want to read up on it yourself, or are wondering where I find all of this material.
To get a clear view of all this, we must travel far back into the first age. When the first men awoke, many of them, being under Morgoth’s shadow, fell into darkness and evil. However some were not corrupted and these were known as the Edain. After Morgoth was over thrown the Valar, in reward for their services, gave the Edain an island to dwell in, neither in middle earth nor in Valinor, but in between. It was called Numenore (among other names), and those who lived there became wise, and lived a longer life span than other mortal men, so that the men of Numenore were more alike to the elves than any other race. These were the Numenoreans, otherwise known as The Dunedain- The Men of the West. However for all their reward they were not given the one thing that in time they would most lust for, they still bore the gift of men – immortality. They were specifically banned by the Valar not to travel west and set foot upon the undying lands. This was the first act in the downfall of Numenor.
The first king of Numenor was Elros, who along with his brother Elrond, were half elven, and allowed to choose their fates. Elrond as we know chose a life of the Eldar, however his bother chose to remain among the Numenoreans. He still was given a long lifespan – 500 years he lived, however he was not immortal, and nor was any king after him.
So, while to the east middle earth entered the 2nd age in something pretty much like our dark ages, the Numenoreans, being so close to Valinor, grew in power and wisdom. But they began to look more and more to the west seas, and could glimpse the white towers of Eressea, the easternmost point of the Undying Lands. They become resentful of the Valar not giving them access to the west and immortality. So, after all while the Numenoreans became split, with the Kings Men on one side, becoming parted from the elves, and the Elendili or the Faithful on the other side, who remained friends with them.
As the power of Numenor grew, they became tired of their island and began to settle along the coasts of middle earth, thinking that if they could not sail west to Valinor, then they could dominate the east instead. They built harbors and fleets, and took whatever they pleased. The Elendili however took no part in this, and remained true. As time went on, the split become more apparent, and the Kings Men forsook their elven heritage, and forbade anyone to use their language. The Elendili were forced to the east of Numenor and were watched.
In this time, Sauron had rose to power again, and was fortifying Mordor with the building of Barad Dur, however he feared the power of Numenor. The current, 25th, and last, king of Numenor Ar-Pharazon, seeing Sauron’s power, wanted it for himself, claiming that he was to be ‘king of men’ not Sauron. So with a great army he sailed to middle earth and landed in the port of Umbar. After travelling inland he told Sauron to come before him, and seeing the king’s power, Sauron did this, however he came to them as a fair, wise, person, rather than the dark lord, knowing that what he couldn’t achieve in power, he could in subtly.
The king took Sauron back to Numenor as prisoner, however it took him only three years to become close to the king as a counselor, and eventually corrupt Ar-Pharazon into worshipping darkness. Ar-Pharazon became a tyrant over his people, though in truth Sauron ruled. Through all of this the lifespan of the Numenoreans grew shorter, and the more corrupt they become the shorter they lived, and the shorter they lived, the more they hated the Valar for denying them immortality.
An important note here on the lifespan of Numenoreans: In the early days of Numenor the lines of kings did not fight their coming deaths. In fact their way was to embrace death before their bodies and minds degraded beyond their status. They could have in fact lived longer, however it would not have been ‘life.’ In the days of the ‘fallen’ Numenoreans, the kings fought off death till the very end, and so they lingered alive, but as withered and senile old men.
Eventually Sauron convinced Ar-Pharazon that if he were to sail west and force his way to the Undying Lands, then he would be granted ever lasting life, which was wrong anyways- it wasn’t the actual being in Valinor that granted immortality (Frodo and Bilbo would have died there eventually). So the king, with his army amassed, sailed towards Valinor. They went unchallenged, and even managed to set foot upon Valinor, and the king, thinking he was victorious claimed the land for his own.
He was wrong however. Manwe- king of the Valar, called Eru Illuvitar, the creator, for assistance. Eru opened up a chasm in the sea, and the fleet of Numenor sank into it, and those on land were buried underneath falling mountains. Then Eru parted the Undying Lands from the material earth, so that it was no longer reachable by ordinary sea travel, and sank the island of Numenor into the sea.
Thankfully, some of the Faithful were saved from this, and in their 9 ships they eventually were washed on the shores of middle earth. They were led by Elendil and his sons- Isildur and Anarion, who had all refused the call to arms by their king. Sauron, who had created all of this, was destroyed by his own treachery in his temple in Numenor, as he looked out laughing at the demise of his great enemy, however, as we well know killing that old bugger isn’t as easy as it may seem, and he was not just a mortal body- he was Maiar, and his spirit lingered.
Sources: Silmarillion (Akallabeth), Unfinished Tales (A Description of the Island of Numenor, The Line of Elros)
ARNOR and GONDOR
After arriving in middle earth Isildur and his brother Anarion, both founded the kingdom of Gondor in the south. Their father Elendil founded the kingdom of Arnor in the north. Both Gondor and Arnor were known as the Realms of the Dunedain in Exile.
Arnor covered a vast area of middle earth. In the west it reached the Blue Mountains, the east the Misty Mountains, and it covered all the lands in between, including what was later to become The Shire. Like Gondor, it was populated by Numenoreans who had previously migrated from their island and who had most likely mixed with the locals, so the Numenoreans already had a population in their lands, and were welcomed as kinsmen.
The men of those lands, though not having the level of wisdom and craftsmanship of Numenor, still built many great things. In Gondor, the capital of Osgiliath was built, where Isildur and Anarion ruled together, and near it the tower of Minas Anor (aka Tower of Anorien) which was later to be re-named Minas Tirth (aka Tower of the Guard) and facing it, Minas Ithil (aka Tower of The Moon) later to become Minas Morgul (aka Tower of Black Sorcery). Orthanc was raised in the ring of Isengard. In Arnor the capital of Annuminas was built - located on the shore of Lake Nenuial, and there Elendil ruled the west of middle earth. Also built was the tower of Amon Sul (weathertop), Fornost, and also Bree. In many of these places, were brought the Palantiri- the seeing stones, so that the leaders of Numenor could communicate over their vast twin kingdoms.
Where as Gondor lay near the lands of the enemy (both Mordor and those of men), Arnor was located near Lindon, the kingdom of Gil-Galad. It was therefore favoured at first over its counterpart, as the lands of men and elves could benefit from one another, and the friendship between the men of Numenor and the elves grew again. It was however ironically to become the first kingdom to fall.
Eventually Sauron, who had lain hidden, began to grow in power once more, so that eventually it came to the War of the Last Alliance. In this last war, the people of Arnor and Gondor lost many, including Elendil, and Gil-Galad, both felled by Sauron himself. Anarion also was slain in battle, and so the kingdom of Gondor was passed to his son. Isildur, the only leader from Numenor to survive the war, came back to Arnor as its king, however he himself, along with three of his sons, were killed in the disaster of the Gladden Fields (in which the ring was lost, only to be found by Gollum centuries later). The only heir to remain was Isildur’s last son- Valandil, who had remained in Rivendell with his mother.
Even though the king of Arnor technically topped the king of Gondor, the two become separate, each being governed in their own ways. After this time, the kingdom of Arnor began to decline, and after civil war, and the thinning of the Numenorean bloodline, it became separated into minor kingdoms and steadily fell into ruin. This was sped up even more by the threat of a new kingdom founded in the north- Angmar- land of the Witch King, of which more will be said in the next section.
Gondor however continued to grow into the 3rd age, ruled by Anarion’s lineage. However once more evil returned to Mordor, and the Nazgul came through the pass and took Minas Ithil, and re-named it Minas Morgul, and they made it their lair. The twin towers of Morgul and Anor warred against each other, and in between the capital of Osgiliath became ruined, and Minas Anor was re-named Minas Tirith, and became Gondor’s capital. It took until the 33rd king for the lineage to finally fail. Earnur, the last king, was challenged by the Witch King to come before Minas Morgul and duel him in single combat. Earnur accepted and rode alone (or possible with guard- seen it stated as both) to the gates, where he was betrayed and taken alive into the tower never to be seen again. After this the realm of Gondor was ruled by Stewards until a time could come that the throne be taken again by one with the blood of Numenor, which was not to be until the end of the 3rd age, when Aragorn came from the north.
Sources: Return of The King (Appendices), Silmarillion (Akallabeth, Of The Rings of Power and The Third Age)
THE RANGERS OF THE NORTH
After the decline of both kingdoms, the true line of the Dunedain was thin, and broken. After the fall of the last king of Arnor- Arvedui, the Dunedain became a scattered wandering people. They were known as the Rangers of the North, and they were led by chieftains, who were Isildur’s heirs, though in truth the lineage meant little until Aragorn.
The rangers play a large part in the trilogy, and we also know of a little of their past. In 1974 of the 3rd age the kingdom of Arnor truly ended. The Witch King, after many wars took Fornost and filled it with orcs and other evil things. The last king of Arnor – Arvedui, held off in the North Downs, however fled northwards to the Ice Bay of Forochel and took up residence with the Lossoth (basically Inuits). When the elf lord of The Grey Havens, Cirdan, heard of this, he sent a ship to bring back Arvedui. However when the snow men seen the ship arrive, they said ‘Do not mount on this sea-monster!’ and they feared danger for those on board. Arvedui did not take their advice, and he, along with the elven mariners, died being washed upon the ice. The palantirs of Annuminas and Amon Sul, which Arvedui had rescued, also drowned in the sea along with him.
Note: Interestingly there was still a palantir left in the north that was not known of. It was kept by Cirdan, and apparently it behaved differently to the others in that it would only look to the west sea, as Elendil had intended it to look for Valinor, however the globular earth would no longer allow for that sight. Therefore the palantiri at the time of the war of the ring are accordingly:
1.Annuminas- in the sea
2.Amon Sul- in the sea
3.Emyn Beriad/ Tower Hills- possession of Cirdan
4.Orthanc- still present under Saruman (later recovered and used by Aragorn to trick Sauron into war)
5.Minas Tirith- still present under Denethor (later to be useless showing only Denethor’s burnt withered hands as he grasped it in his death)
6.Minas Ithil- taken by the Nazgul at Ithil’s fall and given to Sauron in Barad Dur (most likely to be buried in Barad Dur’s fall)
7.Osgiliath-lost at the cities fall into the Anduin
So the last king of Arnor lay at the bottom of the sea and the Witch King dwelled in Fornost. It was not until Cirdan along with Glorfindel and Earnur (who was to become the last king of Gondor) that the Witch King was repelled. It was here that Earnur and the Witch king briefly met, which sparked their hatred and later duel before Minas Morgul where Earnur was to meet his death. It was also here that, as the Witch King fled, Glorfindel prophesised that ‘not by the hand of man will he fall.’ But the Witch didn’t care about his defeat- his task, presumably set by Sauron, was complete- there was no longer an enemy of Mordor in the north, and the only true power left as a barrier was Gondor.
Aranarth, son of Arvedui became chieftain of the northern Dunedain. Each son after him bore the prefix Ara (Arathorn, Aragorn etc.) to signify that they were heir to the throne of Arnor. The chieftain’s sons were always fostered and raised by Elrond in Rivendell, where was also kept the shards of Narsil and the other heirlooms of the house of Elendil. There were 15 chieftains of the Dunedain before the 16th and last- Aragorn II, who later became King Elessar of the Re-United Kingdom.
The rangers led a dangerous, wandering life, hunting evil in the northern lands, protecting lands such as the Shire and Bree, who were now ignorant of such matters, and had all but forgotten the North Kingdom, or which they still belonged (and would return under the protection of Elessar). They were grim in face, and wore dark green, brown, and grey to blend into the land. They were expert huntsmen and trackers, presumably due to their life in the wild, as they seldom took to houses, preferring a life of hardship.
The rangers, being so far from the days of Numenor, lived shorter lives than their ancestors, though still around twice the age of ordinary men. Aragorn lived to be 210, which was the longest of his line of chieftains. By the events of the war of the ring, very few remained, and when called for to aid Aragorn, only 30 came in the Grey Company (though they admittedly had little time to gather).
After Aragorn’s reclaiming of the crown, the Dunedain once more dwelled in the joint kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor, and Aragorn himself dwelt for a while in the city of Annuminas, which he rebuilt. With him marrying Arwen, he also re-introduced elf blood back into the line of kings.
Sources: Return of the King (appendices), Guide To Tolkien (David Day)
Not much is said on the Black Numenoreans. They were the remains of The Kings Men, those who in Numenor had been led astray by Sauron. Before the time of the downfall and sinking of Numenor, many had sailed to middle earth and settled along the coasts, most notably the port of Umbar. There they built great fleets and raided the coasts of middle earth, and were in the end just another servant of Sauron. Out of the 9 rings of power (of men) he gave three of these to Black Numenoreans (and so therefore became three of the Nazgul), and to another two lords he gave lands of the Haradrim.
In the end however, they were destroyed by the kings of Gondor, who took Umbar for their own. Some of the Black Numenoreans survived however, and were merged into the armies of Harad, and together they retook Umbar and became the Corsairs of Umbar, which were present at the war of the ring, and defeated when Aragorn came from the Paths of the Dead. The Mouth of Sauron was also a Black Numenorean, who came into personal service to the dark lord, and rose to Lieutenant of Barad Dur and learnt black sorcery and other dark arts.
Sources: A Guide To Tolkien (David Day), Return of the King (appendices), Silmarillion (Akallabeth)
While not being core reading for understanding the trilogy, it’s pretty easy to see how important Numenor is. In itself it is a fascinating part of Tolkien lore, however more than that, it sparked off events that rippled all throughout the 2nd and 3rd ages. It created the hatred between Gondor and Mordor, which would later lead to the war of the ring. It created Arnor which in turn led to the Shire, and the settling of the hobbits. It led to the building of Orthanc and its palantir, which in turn led to Saruman’s treachery, and all of the war of Rohan/Isengard. There is just so much that it isn’t possible to list all here.
Finally it led to one of the key aspects of the entire trilogy- the return of the king. Without Numenor and its downfall the entire history of middle earth would have been vastly different.
I hope you enjoyed. Please comment and tune in next week.