Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age, Part 3
“Thus the Exiles of Númenor established their realms in Arnor and in Gondor; but ere many years had passed it became manifest that their enemy, Sauron, had also returned. He came in secret, as has been told, to his ancient kingdom of Mordor beyond Ephel Dúath, the Mountains of Shadow, and that country marched with Gondor upon the east. There above the valley of Gorgoroth was built his fortress vast and strong, Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower; and there was a fiery mountain in that land that the Elves named Orodruin. Indeed for that reason Sauron had not set there his dwelling long before, for he used the fire that welled there from the heart of the earth in his sorceries and in his forging; and in the midst of the Land of Mordor he had fashioned the Ruling Ring (pg 290-291).“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we learn about the rise of Sauron and the beginnings of the downfall of the Númenórean lineage.
We left off last time learning how Isildur and Anárion built some of the most significant structures of Middle-earth, and we pick up this time realizing that “the malice of the Eye of Sauron few even of the great among Elves and Men could endure. (pg 291)“
We learn from the opening quote that Sauron took up residence in Mordor. He gathered great strength, recruited and bred servants, and expanded his empire beyond the firey mountain Orodruin; “and perceiving that Sauron had returned, the Númenóreans named that mountain anew Amon Amarth, which is Mount Doom. (pg 291)“
Sauron then used that great force to attack and sack Minas Ithil, “and he destroyed the White Tree of Isiluder that grew there (pg291).”
Isildur fled with a seedling of that great tree for a second time in his life and sought his father. Meanwhile, his brother held Osgiliath and drove Sauron back into the mountains, but “Anárion knew that unless help should come his kingdom would not long stand (pg 291).”
Elendil and Gil-Galad met with each other to come up with a strategy against this new Dark Lord. They decided that the only chance the people of Middle-earth had against his tyranny was to unite and make a stand. “Therefore they made that League which is called the Last Alliance (pg 292).“
Tolkien gives us two short paragraphs describing the events of this battle that rent the world. Every race had members on both sides, except the Elves, making it a struggle of kith and kin.
Gil-galad and Elendil fought valiantly and pushed Sauron back into Mordor, laying siege to his stronghold for seven long years. During these seven years in the fields of Gorgoroth, Anárion, Elendil’s son and Isildur’s brother died in battle. But it wasn’t until the last siege that Sauron himself came out to fight against his enemy, and “he wrestled with Gil-Galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell. But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own (pg 292).“
Sauron, defeated, returned to shade form because he had put so much of his essence into the Ruling Ring. However, it was years before he took “visible shape (pg 292)” again. This victory marked the end of the Second Age of Middle Earth. The destruction of two great Kings and their powerful enemy ushered in a new age.
Isildur took the Ruling Ring for himself, and there was peace and prosperity for many years. Sauron’s minions were not wholly destroyed but reduced to a number Isildur was not worried about.
Isildur was not his father, though. “Never again was such a host assembled, nor was there any such league of Elves and Men; for after Elendil’s day the two kindreds became estranged (pg 293).“
Part of that estrangement came because Isildur refused to destroy the Ruling Ring, even upon the council of Elrond and Círdan. Instead, he took it as a token of success in dealing with the killing blow to Sauron and as recompense for the deaths of his father and brother.
Isildur went north to stake his claim to the throne in Eriador, his father’s seat, “and he forsook the South Kingdom (pg 293).” He set Meneldil, Anárion’s son, to rule Gondor in the south in his absence. To rule and to guard against the inevitable return of Sauron.
On Isildur’s trip north, he “was overwhelmed by a host of Orcs that lay in wait in the Misty Mountains (pg 293).” Unfortunately, Isildur was lazy because he deemed that he had won the war, so he didn’t set a guard when his caravan slept. As a result, the roving Orcs killed everyone except for three servants and Isildur, who escaped by slipping the ring on his finger and going invisible to his pursuers.
He jumped into the river, but “there the Ring betrayed him and avenged its maker, for it slipped from his finger as he swam, and it was lost in the water (pg 294).” With the ring off his finger, the Orcs could see him, and they filled him with arrows.
The surviving servants brought Narsil, Elendil’s broken sword, back to Imladris. But the sword was not reforged, “and Master Elrond foretold that this would not be done until the Ruling Ring should be found again and Sauron should return. pg 294)“
Over the beginning years of the Third Age, through war and isolationism, “the Men of Westernesse, the Dúnedain of the North, became divided into petty realms and lordships, and their foes devoured them one by one (pg 294).”
In the Southlands, the line of Númenor flourished for years under the leadership of Meneldil. They built immense structures and created the Gondor armor we are so used to seeing, but “the blood of the Númenóreans became much mingled with that of other men, and their power and wisdom was diminished, and their life-span was shortened, and the watch upon Mordor slumbered (pg 295).”
Eventually, a plague landed on them and killed the King’s lineage. They abandoned the border of Mordor and allowed evil to creep out of the boundaries. The evil took the shape of dark shadows. “It is said that these were indeed the Ulairi, whom Sauron called the Nazgûl, the Nine Ringwraiths that had long remained hidden, but returned now to prepare the ways of their Master, for he had begun to grow again (pg 295).”
They took Minas Ithil, Isildur’s former seat, and made it a place of dread and horror. “Thereafter it was called Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery (pg 295).“
“But Minas Arnor endured, and it was named anew Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard; for there the kings caused to be built in the citadel a white tower, very tall and fair, and it’s eye was upon many lands (pg 295).“
The stage is set, and the hallmarks of the Third Age are being revealed. Join us on the next Blind Read to see the resolution of “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”