Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age
“It is said that the towers of Emyn Beraid were not built indeed by the Exiles of Númenor, but were raised by Gil-galad for Elendil, his friend; and the Seeing Stone of Emyn Beraid was set in Elostirion, the tallest of the towers. Thither Elendil would repair, and thence he would gaze out over the sundering seas, when the yearning of exile was upon him; and it is believed that thus he would at whiles see far away even the Tower of Avallónë upon Eressëa, where the Master-stone abode, and yet abides. These stones were gifts of the Eldar to Amandil, father of Elendil, for the comfort of the Faithful of Númenor in their dark days, when the Elves might come no longer to that land under the shadow of Sauron. They were called the Palantíri, those that watch from afar; but all those that were brought to Middle-earth long ago were lost. (pg 290)”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! Whew, that was a long introductory quote! This week we progress into the places, deeds, and constructs of the Third Age as we get closer to the events of The Lord of the Rings.
We pick up right where we left off last week, with the creation of the Nazgûl, because “Sauron’s lust and pride increased, until he knew no bounds, and he determined to make himself master of all things in Middle-earth. (pg 287)”
Sauron’s shadow began to spread across Middle-earth, and he ruled with an iron fist, crushing any small insurrections before they could start. He oversaw the Orcs, and they “multiplied like flies. (pg 288)”
However, this era was still prosperous for the people of Middle-earth, and Sauron would not cross Ered Luin. “Gil-Galad was aided by the Númenóreans. (pg 288)” and so Sauron knew, even with his mighty garrison of Orcs, that he could not withstand the two races who had aligned against him.
It was at this time in History that the Númenóreans challenged Sauron, and as we learned in Akallabêth, he “left Middle-earth for a while and went to Númenor as a hostage of Tar-Calion the King. (pg 288)”
After the Drowning of Númenor, Sauron fell into the Abyss, but his spirit flew back to Middle-earth where he found Gil-Galad had taken over and made a wonderful kingdom of much of Middle-earth. So Sauron “withdrew to his fortress in the Black Land and meditated war. (pg 288)” as the Third Age began.
During this time of the great Flood that destroyed Númenor, the Faithful, Númenóreans who still believed in the Valar and the Eldar, sailed to Middle-earth. “The chief among these were Elendil the Tall and his sons, Isildur and Anárion. (pg 288)”
It was in Middle-earth that Elendil befriended the Elven King Gil-Galad, and had the freedom to settle in Eriador and create new kingdoms and structures. They built great towers in Emyn Beraid, “and there remain many barrows and ruined works in those places. (pg 289)” Probably the most memorable for casual readers/viewers would be the tower on Amon Sûl, otherwise known as Weathertop.
Elendil’s sons went south, “and they established a realm in those lands that were after called Gondor. (pg 289)” Aragorn, considered the king of men because his bloodline comes directly from Elros (Elrond’s brother) half-blood, is the direct descendant of Isildur. So Elrond is Aragorn’s uncle; if you put about 89 greats in front of Uncle, that is.
The Númenóreans were still a sea-faring people, so they created the most significant city along a great river, a city they named Osgiliath, with a great bridge to allow their spectacular ships to sail beneath. This structure is the Bridge destroyed in “The Return of the King,” and Osgiliath is the city Faramir is trying to defend from the Orc scourge.
They also built two prominent towers: “Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Rising Moon, eastward upon a shoulder of the Mountains of Shadow as a threat to Mordor; and to the westward Minas Anor, the Tower of the Setting Sun. (pg 289)” Remember these names. These become very important in everything that comes afterward.
Isildur settled into Minas Ithil, where Anárion settled into Minas Arnor, “but they shared the realm between them, and their thrones were set side by side in the Great Hall of Osgiliath. (pg 289)” Their towers were also set to either side of the great city, setting up the major areas of early Gondor, but they were not the only dwellings.
The Númenóreans also built many other cities, including the circle of Angrenost, otherwise known as Isengard, and the tower they built there was known as Orthanc. This is the tower where the Istari (wizard Maiar) Saruman took up abode.
Beyond the buildings, “Many treasures and great heirlooms of virtue and wonder the Exiles had brought from Númenor; and the most renowned were the Seven Stones and the White Tree. (pg 290)” Otherwise known as the Palantíri (the seeing stones) and the seed of Nimloth, which Isildur nearly died obtaining.
The seeing stones “Three Elendil took, and his sons each two. (pg 290).” Elendil set his in the towers of Emyn Beraid, on Weathertop, and the city of Annúminas. Isildur placed his in Minas Ithil and at Orthanc, and Anárion put his at Minas Arnor and Osgiliath.
These seeing stones were intended to be a balm against the darkness Sauron held in the land, but at this time in History, he was still trying to build power, so the significant structures of the Númenóreans in Middle-earth didn’t feel his presence often. Only Elendil realized the turn of the tide and understood the power of the Palantíri. He knew that if Sauron got his hands on those, his presence could reach far more deeply than ever. He saw Pharazôn be corrupted by only words, creating the downfall of Númenor. What if Sauron could control the visions the Great Kings of the Third Age were seeing and make them think they were all real? This would be far more pervasive than just playing to one’s Hubris.
The sons, however, one more step removed from the purity of their bloodline, believed in using these seeing stones for their power and protection of their people. So the seeing stones stayed where they were set. Orthanc fell into Saruman’s hands, and the power corrupted him (amongst other things), and Osgiliath, we know, stood until the end of the Third Age. But what of the other two towers? We have not seen the names Minas Ithil and Minas Arnor yet. Where do those come in?
Join me next time to find out!
Next week we’ll cover the penultimate episode of The Rings of Power before diving back into “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”