Lots to cover and the group read STARTS TOMORROW (YAY!) so no time for preliminaries or niceties, sorry. Oh, except to add that if you’re not caught up, you can read the first four posts by clicking here.
Right, so - Númenor. I mentioned yesterday that the Men who fought with the Valar against Morgoth were given the island-continent of Númenor as a sort of reward for fighting on the proper side. An additional reward was that their royalty tended to live longer than the average Man. Númenor was in the middle of the Sundering Seas, with Middle-Earth to the east and Aman (where the Valar dwelt) to the west. They were lucky enough to have Nimloth, which was a tree that had been created in the image of one of the destroyed Poo Trees. Don’t hate me for this, but the White Tree of Númenor is highly symbolic for a lot of things that happen in later readings, and I can’t talk about it without getting a bit choked up.
The Men were warned as they entered Númenor that they were never ever ever to attempt to sail to Aman. (Don’t eat that fruit, ‘kay?) For over 2000 years, they sailed the oceans, establishing outposts throughout Middle-Earth and even assisted the remaining Noldor (led by Gil-galad) in their battles against Sauron.
BUT Men became wicked and desirous of the immortality enjoyed by the Elves and the Valar (dur, of course they did). SO, for a little over a thousand years, the Kings of Númenor defied the Elves and the Valar, they stopped tending to their White Tree, and were just generally disagreeable.
Enter Tar-Palantir – King #24. His father had been just as bad as the rest of the kings, he had even banned the Elvish languages and had those branded elf-friends killed. Tar-Palantir’s mother taught her son to be an elf-friend, so when he became king, he wanted things to change. He began to once again take care of their White Tree, and even prophesied that the tree was directly tied to the royal family – should the tree die, the line of kings would die as well (hint: in Quenya [one of the Elvish languages] Palantir means “far sighted” so we should believe his prophecies).
Ar-Pharazôn was Tar-Palatir’s nephew, and should not have succeeded his uncle to the throne. However, against Númenorean law (and her will) he married Palantir’s daughter, Míriel, to become the final king of Númenor.
Ar-Pharazôn heard rumours that Sauron was plotting the destruction of Men (including Númenor), so he set out to capture him. Sauron was brought back to Númenor, but had a slippery tongue and soon rose in status to become Ar-Pharazôn’s advisor.
Show of hands. How many of you think Sauron gave sound advice? What, none of you? Yeah, good. You’re very smart, my friends. Before too long, Sauron had them all worshiping Morgoth – offering sacrifices (of the human variety) to him as a god. They even cut down their White Tree as an offering. Sauron convinced them it would be THE BEST IDEA EVAR to sail to Aman and attempt to wrest control from the Valar. Yeah, that was obviously another horrible idea. Sauron was kind of hoping that the Valar would take care of the pesky Númenoreans for him.
The Valar understood his dastardly plans, though, and laid down their weapons, calling upon Ilúvatar to save them. Ilúvatar WAS PISSED. Ar-Pharazôn and his army were buried under falling hills until the End of the World, and Númenor was sunk to the bottom of the sea.
Nine ships escaped Númenor. They were led by Elendil the Tall and his sons, Isildur and Anárion. They took with them a seedling of their White Tree, along with seven palantíri (seeing-stones), which had been gifts at one point.
Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
Okay, so – while all of this stuff is going down in Númenor, some of the Elves that haven’t been corrupted go about creating the 19 Rings of Power. Sauron soopersekritly created THE ONE RING to control them, which he planned to use to enslave ALL the people of Middle-Earth. The Elves discover this plan and are all “Wait, dude, no way. We don’t want to be enslaved so we’re just going to HIDE ALL THE RINGS so you can’t find them!” Maybe there was a neener neener thrown in for good measure, but I’m not entirely sure. Regardless, the Elves are only partially successful. Only three of the rings remained successfully hidden. Sauron gave 7 of the Rings to the Dwarves and 9 to Men. The Dwarves (being the stubborn, hardheaded race they were created to be) were able to resist Sauron’s influence. The 9 Men on the other hand? Not so much. They became so corrupted by the Rings that they eventually became the Nazgûl.
Hey, back to the escaped Númenoreans for a second. Elendil creates and rules over the kingdom of Arnor in the north, and Isildur and Anárion co-rule over Gondor in the south. They didn’t know it, but Sauron escaped the sinking of Númenor (with the help of his One Ring) and had returned to the scary land of Mordor.
Around this time, the Istari arrive in Middle-Earth. They are of the Maiar, sent by the Valar to help the people of Middle-Earth in their battle against Sauron. The two whose names you really need to know are Curumo and Olórin, both of whom had many other names, but were popularly known as Saruman and Gandalf. Did I just hear you all gasp? If not, it’s because you haven’t grasped the significance that these two Men who will feature so prominently in the stories we read this summer were not really Men at all, but minor gods.
Back to Sauron’s shenanigans. Just like his mentor, Morgoth, Sauron thinks he’ll attack the new-ish realms of Men while he believes them to be weak. Also just like Morgoth, he COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE WRONG. Men and Elves form an alliance and attack Sauron’s fortress, Barad-dûr. Anárion is killed in the siege. Gil-galad, still King of the Elves, challenges Sauron to a duel, but is killed.
Elendil fights Sauron, but is mortally wounded (not before overcoming Sauron, though. TAKE THAT!). Isildur approaches Sauron’s body lying prostrate on the ground and cuts off the finger wearing the One Ring. Sauron’s power is broken, and Isildur claims the ring for his own.
Elrond (son of Eärendil and Elwing, heh – see? I TOLD YOU to pay attention!) begs Isildur to throw the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom, where it was created, but Isildur gets all greedyguts about it and refuses. He thinks it should be counted among the spoils of war, and is a consolation prize for all of the lives lost.
Of course, Isildur is killed by Orcs, he tries to use the One Ring to escape, but it is lost in the river Anduin.
Arnor was destroyed by numerous attacks led by the Witch-King (leader of the Nazgûl), and the Men of Númenórean descent become the Rangers of the North (this will be important, so remember that). Gondor thrives under stewardship, until a certain time in the future, which we shall be reading about shortly.
…and that’s it! Well, there is more, but it will spoil some of the stuff we’re going to read about this summer for those of you who haven’t read the books before.
[phew] Seriously, it’s been fun summarizing the history of Middle-Earth, but I’m glad this part of it is done.
I can’t wait to start The Hobbit with you all tomorrow!