Reader: The Silmarillion. Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

Reader deep thought: The wrap-up! The end of the First Age saw the beginning of the Elven exodus, the Second marked the Downfall of Númenór. And here unveiled are the aftermath the Downfall, interwoven with the tale of how and why Sauron kept it up in Middle-earth after Morgoth’s done for, geology shakeup, and cliff-notes for the Third Age galore. Yes, including the entirety for Gollum’s being, Precious. Though, what is it with crafty Noldor and objects of great allure that must involve W.A.R. at some point?

“‘Alas, for the weakness of the great! For a mighty king is Gil-galad, and wise in all lore is Master Elrond, and yet they will not aid me in my labours. Can it be that they do not desire to see other lands become as blissful as their own? But wherefore should Middle-earth remain for ever desolate and dark, whereas the Elves could make it as fair as Eressëa, nay even as Valinor? And since you have not returned thither, as you might, I perceive that you love this Middle-earth, as do I. Is it not then our task to labour together for its enrichment, and for the raising of all the Elven-kindreds that wander here untaught to the height of that power and knowledge which those have who are beyond the Sea?’”


How did Morgoth get banished, but his ablest lieutenant survived the purge and lingered in Middle-earth?

Pride and (self)Prejudice. Apparently, after Morgoth’s defeat, Sauron put on his best front and “did obeisance to Eönwë, the herald of Manwë”, abjuring Morgoth’s misdeeds. Seemed like he might not have been insincere about it either, at least initially. He was likely overwhelmed by “the fall of Morgoth and the great wrath of the Lords of the West.” Unfortunately for Middle-earth, Eönwë did not have the power to grant pardon to one of his own rank, and so he ordered Sauron to get to Valinor and be judged by Manwë. That gave Sauron time to settle his nerves, and found himself “unwilling to return in humiliation and to receive from the Valar a sentence, it might be, of long servitude in proof of his good faith; for under Morgoth his power had been great.” So after Eönwë left, Sauron went to seed, basically, and “fell back into evil, for the bonds that Morgoth had laid upon him were very strong.”

In the aftermath of the War of Wrath, aside from breaking Thangorodrim, Middle-earth was also remodelled.

  • Beleriand was broken and laid waste
    • “many lands sank beneath the waters of the Great Sea”
    • On the eastside, the walls of Ered Luin in Ossiriand were broken
      • There was a huge gap in those walls southwards where the sea flooded in, creating a gulf, which altered the course of the River Lhûn to become the Gulf of Lhûn.
      • Lindon, land of the Noldor, survived, and was ruled by Gil-galad. Elrond Half-elven, son of Eärendil the Mariner and brother of Elros first king of Númenor served him.
      • Upon the shores of the Gulf of Lhûn the Elves built Mithlond, the Grey Havens, and it served also as a harbour, where the Eldar sailed for Valinor.
    • Other Elves went the other direction instead, going further inland. These were mostly Teleri, survivors from Doriath and Ossiriand, who became rulers among “Silvan Elves in woods and mountains far from the sea, for which nonetheless they ever yearned in their hearts.”
      • 'That country had of old been named Lindon by the Noldor, and this name it bore thereafter; and many of the Eldar still dwelt there, lingering, unwilling yet to forsake Beleriand where they had fought so long and laboured.' - Of the Rings of Power, The Silmarillion.The only exception was Eregion, Hollin to Men, a Noldorin realm, which incidentally was located near the Dwarven halls of Khazad-dûm. In fact, from Ost-in-Edhil, the city of Eregion, was linked to the west gate of Khazad-dûm via a road. And both races shared a friendship “such as has never elsewhere been, to the enrichment of both those peoples.”
        • In Eregion were the craftsmen of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the People of the Jewel-smiths, crafty and second only to Fëanor, chiefest of whom was Celebrimbor, son of Curufin.
  • Beyond Beleriand, Middle-earth was peaceful for many years. But the lands were still mostly “savage and desolate, save only where the people of Beleriand came.” Though there were native Elves already inhabiting the wilderness, they were “Avari, to whom the deeds of Beleriand were but a rumour and Valinor only a distant name.”
  • Men populated the south and in the “further east”. They thrived and “and most of them turned to evil, for Sauron was at work.”

Gone to seed without suffering retribution, Sauron was elated at the Valar’s amnesia, and thought Middle-earth his playground again in the Second Age.

He looked with hatred on the Eldar, and he feared the Men of Númenor who came back at whiles in their ships to the shores of Middle-earth; but for long he dissembled his mind and concealed the dark designs that he shaped in his heart.

Wherever he was in the Void, Morgoth would be beaming at how mini-me this was. (In the black light spectrum of course.)

As usual, Men were the easiest to turn. But they were beneath Sauron’s ambition, because “the Firstborn had the greater power”. He was tireless, taking his travelling side-show everywhere still in a good-looking guise. He was only denied entry to Lindon where “Gil-galad and Elrond doubted him and his fair-seeming, and though they knew not who in truth he was they would not admit him to that land” and even sent alerts out. But Elves elsewhere welcomed him, “Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, and they had at first much profit from his friendship”. Sauron was clearly a chip of the ol’ block, snake-oil peddler extraordinaire.  And he had a willing audience in his new friends for his lamentations about the hostility of Gil-galad and Elrond, casting aspersions on their reluctance to join with his new friends and aid his effort to aid the Elves to make things fair again.

As the handymen among Elves, and in their desire to “ever to increase the skill and subtlety of their works”, the Noldor of Eregion were naturally the most partial to Sauron’s friendship.

Moreover they were not at peace in their hearts, since they had refused to return into the West, and they desired both to stay in Middle-earth, which indeed they loved, and yet to enjoy the bliss of those that had departed. Therefore they hearkened to Sauron, and they learned of him many things, for his knowledge was great. In those days the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil surpassed all that they had contrived before; and they took thought, and they made Rings of Power.

And Sauron was there all the way, helpfully guiding them in what they did, another step closer to the fulfillment of nothing less than his desire “to set a bond upon the Elves and to bring them under his vigilance”.

latestNow the Elves made many rings; but secretly Sauron made One Ring to rule all the others, and their power was bound up with it, to be subject wholly to it and to last only so long as it too should last. And much of the strength and will of Sauron passed into that One Ring; for the power of the Elven-rings was very great, and that which should govern them must be a thing of surpassing potency; and Sauron forged it in the Mountain of Fire in the Land of Shadow. And while he wore the One Ring he could perceive all the things that were done by means of the lesser rings, and he could see and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them.

But the Elves had not lost all their senses. They knew what his plans were as soon as Sauron put on the One Ring, and they removed theirs. And like a school bully, he got mad and extorted the surrender of all the Elves’ rings, with the threat of war. Of course the Elves refused and ran. All their Rings, except three, the last three to be forged, in secret that Sauron had no hand or awareness of, were lost to him.

elven-rings-of-power-300x257Now these were the Three that had last been made, and they possessed the greatest powers. Narya, Nenya, and Vilya, they were named, the Rings of Fire, and of Water, and of Air, set with ruby and adamant and sapphire; and of all the Elven-rings Sauron most desired to possess them, for those who had them in their keeping could ward off the decays of time and postpone the weariness of the world. But Sauron could not discover them, for they were given into the hands of the Wise, who concealed them and never again used them openly while Sauron kept the Ruling Ring. Therefore the Three remained unsullied, for they were forged by Celebrimbor alone, and the hand of Sauron had never touched them; yet they also were subject to the One.

Once again there was war.

  • Eregion was destroyed
  • Celebrimbor was killed
  • Moria battened down
  • Elrond founded Imladris

Then Sauron put his hocus pocus on the Rings of Power he did get and dispensed them accordingly

  • Seven rings to the Dwarves.

    … tough and hard to tame; they ill endure the domination of others, and the thoughts of their hearts are hard to fathom, nor can they be turned to shadows. They used their rings only for the getting of wealth; but wrath and an overmastering greed of gold were kindled in their hearts, of which evil enough after came to the profit of Sauron. It is said that the foundation of each of the Seven Hoards of the Dwarf-kings of old was a golden ring; but all those hoards long ago were plundered and the Dragons devoured them, and of the Seven Rings some were consumed in fire and some Sauron recovered.

  • Nine for Men because they “proved in this matter as in others the readiest to his will”

    Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. They had, as it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron. And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thraldom of the ring that they bore and under the domination of the One, which was Sauron’s. And they became for ever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy’s most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.

    In the process, Sauron’s lust and hunger for power grew, and he, walking in the steps of Morgoth, wanted nothing less than utter dominion. He brooked no freedom nor any rivalry, and he named himself Lord of the Earth. A mask he still could wear so that if he wished he might deceive the eyes of Men, seeming to them wise and fair. But he ruled rather by force and fear, if they might avail; and those who perceived his shadow spreading over the world called him the Dark Lord and named him the Enemy; and he gathered again under his government all the evil things of the days of Morgoth that remained on earth or beneath it, and the Orcs were at his command and multiplied like flies. Thus the Black Years began, which the Elves call the Days of Flight. In that time many of the Elves of Middle-earth fled to Lindon and thence over the seas never to return; and many were destroyed by Sauron and his servants. But in Lindon Gil-galad still maintained his power, and Sauron dared not as yet to pass the Mountains of Ered Luin nor to assail the Havens; and Gil-galad was aided by the Númenóreans. Elsewhere Sauron reigned, and those who would be free took refuge in the fastnesses of wood and mountain, and ever fear pursued them. In the east and south well nigh all Men were under his dominion, and they grew strong in those days and built many towns and walls of stone, and they were numerous and fierce in war and armed with iron. To them Sauron was both king and god; and they feared him exceedingly, for he surrounded his abode with fire.

Surely a classic recipe now: Noldor+BlingCraft to die for+Dark Lord = Wrath, Ruin and Elven Exodus.

Sauron seemed unstoppable, until the Númenoreans happened and he basically directed the Akallabêth.

In the aftermath of the Downfall of Númenor, the exiled Faithful were blown by the storm that augured the Downfall to Middle-earth.

Elendil landed in Lindon, and he was befriended by Gil-galad. From there, he went up the River Lhûn, crossed the Ered Luin and established his realm of Arnor in Eriador, with Annúminas beside the water of Lake Nenuial as his capital. Settlements of his folk sprouted along the banks of the Lhûn and the Baranduin, in Fornost on the North Downs, Cardolan, and in the hills of Rhudaur, and towers raised on Amon Sûl. There was also the towers of Emyn Beraid where the only intact buildings still stand. Rumoured to be raised by Gil-galad for Elendil, the tallest was Elostirion.

ted nasmith_the silmarillion_4_of the rings of power and the third age2_the white tree in minas anor_medIsildur and Anárion landed in the southwards, and going up Anduin that flowed out of Rhovanion into the Bay of Belfalas, they founded Gondor, wthin a stone’s throw of Mordor. The existing Númenorean settlements around the Anduin were partisan to the Elf-friends and Elendil, and his sons they welcomed. The Anduin flowed through the capital city of Osgiliath. East of that was Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Rising Moon, perched upon a peak of the Mountains of Shadow. West was Minas Anor, the Tower of the Setting Sun, at the base of Mount Mindolluin. Co-rulers, Isildur lived in Minas Ithil (where the White Tree, seed of Nimloth that he saved, was planted), Anárion in Minas Anor, though their thrones were set in the Great Hall of Osgiliath. And in their time monuments like the Argonath, and something at Aglarond, the Stone oft Erech, the Pinnacle of Orthanc in Angrenost (which Men called Isengard) abounded.

The Seven Stones, Palantíri, that they brought, were arrayed thus:

  • Elendil
    • Elostirion at Emyn Beraid, where it was said Elendil might see “even the Tower of Avallónë upon Eressëa, where the Master-stone abode”
    • Amon Sûl
    • Annúminas
  • Isildur and Anárion
    • Minas Ithil
    • Minas Anor
    • Orthanc
    • Osgiliath

While Sauron had lost his fair form when Númenór was drowned, his recruitment drive was still a resounding success. Among his vassels was Harad and its people, the Haradrim. But two among their leaders, Herumor and Fuinur, were not natives.

And Sauron gathered to him great strength of his servants out of the east and the south; and among them were not a few of the high race of Númenor. For in the days of the sojourn of Sauron in that land the hearts of well nigh all its people had been turned towards darkness. Therefore many of those who sailed east in that time and made fortresses and dwellings upon the coasts were already bent to his will, and they served him still gladly in Middle-earth. But because of the power of Gil-galad these renegades, lords both mighty and evil, for the most part took up their abodes in the southlands far away; yet two there were, Herumor and Fuinur, who rose to power among the Haradrim, a great and cruel people that dwelt in the wide lands south of Mordor beyond the mouths of Anduin.

With his strength grownd and gathered, Sauron struck Gondor, captured Minas Ithil, and destroyed the White Tree of Isildur. Isildur escaped with his wife and sons, taking a seedling to seek Elendil. Meanwhile Anárion held Osgiliath briefly drove the Enemy back, but Sauron regrouped his forces, and Anárion knew that the next attack would break his defense

Elendil and Gil-galad pow-wowed and decided a united front was needed to stand against Sauron and defeat him completely.

Therefore they made that League which is called the Last Alliance, and they marched east into Middle-earth gathering a great host of Elves and Men; and they halted for a while at Imladris. It is said that the host that was there assembled was fairer and more splendid in arms than any that has since been seen in Middle-earth, and none greater has been mustered since the host of the Valar went against Thangorodrim.

Via Imladris and over the Misty Mountains “by many passes” the Alliance marched down the Anduin, and arrived at the war theatre, Dagorlad, the Battle Plain, right at the gate of the Black Land.

All living things were divided in that day, and some of every kind, even of beasts and birds, were found in either host, save the Elves only. They alone were undivided and followed Gil-galad. Of the Dwarves few fought upon either side; but the kindred of Durin of Moria fought against Sauron.

The Alliance was victorious in that battle. Gil-galad wielded Aeglos the spear and Elendil weapon was the sword Narsil. Then Sauron was surrounded in his stronghold within Mordor for seven years. Great losses was wrought by the Enemy’s fire and by the darts and many sorties.

sauron__war_of_the_last_alliance_by_mattdemino-d5i799eThere in the valley of Gorgoroth Anárion son of Elendil was slain, and many others. But at the last the siege was so strait that Sauron himself came forth; 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 hiltshard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own. Then Sauron was for that time vanquished, and he forsook his body, and his spirit fled far away and hid in waste places; and he took no visible shape again for many long years.

middleearthMap-iSo ended the Second Age. But the Third Age began and continued with unfinished business from it.

  • In the beginning was “still hope in that time and the memory of mirth” while the White Tree (grown of the seedling Isildur saved) flowered in the courts of the Kings of Men
  • Sauron’s shadow remained
    • minions remained. Though most forshook evil, some men “remembered
      Sauron in their hearts and hated the kingdoms of the West.
    • The Dark Tower’s foundations remained.
    • The Númenóreans set a guard on Mordor, but it was desolate
    • Mount Doom filled the valley of Gorgoroth was filled with ash.
    • bloody_elven_king_by_brilcrist-d6799hsMany Elves, Númenóreans and of Men died in the War, among which number Elendil and Gil-galad.

      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.

    • The Ruling Ring was forgotten but not destroyed. Isildur took it as weregild for his father and brother’s deaths, refusing Elrond and Círdan’s counsel

      But Isildur was overwhelmed by a host of Orcs that lay in wait in the Misty Mountains; and they descended upon him at unawares in his camp between the Greenwood and the Great River nigh to Loeg Ningloron, the Gladden Fields…

      • His sons Elendur, Aratan, and Ciryon perished in the attack. His wife and youngest son, Valandil were safe in Imladris however. Among the three survivors from Gladden Fields was Ohtar, Isildur’s esquire, who brought the shards of Narsil back to Valandil

        And Master Elrond foretold that this would not be done until the Ruling Ring should be found again and Sauron should return;but the hope of Elves and Men was that these things might never come to pass.

        • Valandil ruled from Annúminas,, but Men of Westernesse, the Dúnedain of the North continued to diminish and dwindle until critical mass was achieved after Eärendur, the seventh king that followed Valandil. They devolved truly, becoming “divided into petty realms and lordships, and their foes devoured them one by one.”

          At length naught was left of them but a strange people wandering secretly in the wild, and other men knew not their homes nor the purpose of their journeys, and save in Imladris, in the house of Elrond, their ancestry was forgotten. Yet the shards of the sword were cherished during many lives of Men by the heirs of Isildur; and their line, from father to son, remained unbroken.

    • Gondor was left to Meneldil, Anárion’s son, and it thrived for a time.

      Yet at the last, in the wearing of the swift years of Middle-earth, Gondor waned, and the line of Meneldil son of Anárion failed. For 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. And in the days of Telemnar, the third and twentieth of the line of Meneldil, a plague came upon dark winds out of the east, and it smote the King and his children, and many of the people of Gondor perished. Then the forts on the borders of Mordor were deserted, and Minas Ithil was emptied of its people; and evil entered again into the Black Land secretly, and the ashes of Gorgoroth were stirred as by a cold wind, for dark shapes gathered there. It is said that these were indeed the Úlairi, 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.

    • And in the days of Eärnil the Ringwraiths launched their first attack by night, from Mordor “over the passes of the Mountains of Shadow, and took Minas Ithil for their abode” So horrible it became “none dared to look upon it”. And it was known as Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery, ever in conflict with Minas Anor. Though the invasion ruined Osgiliath, which was long deserted already, Minas Anor was not. It became 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 its eye was upon many lands.” There the White Tree continued to flower for a while. There too the remnant of the Númenóreans continued to defend passage through Anduin against Minas Morgul and “the enemies of the West, Orcs and monsters and evil Men; and thus the lands behind them, west of Anduin, were protected from war and destruction.”
      • Eärnur, son of Eärnil, was the last King of Gondor. He was taken alive when he went it alone to “the gates of Minas Morgul to meet the challenge of the Morgul-lord”, and was never seen again. Eärnur had no heir, so :the Stewards of the house of Mardil the Faithful ruled the city and its evershrinking realm”.
        • The Rohirrim, the Horsemen of the North, settled in Calenardhon, formerly a part of Gondor, and it was named anew Rohan. They were allies in the wars of the Lords of the City.

But the realm of Gondor was not the only defence against evil.

And northward, beyond the Falls of Rauros and the Gates of Argonath, there were as yet other defences, powers more ancient of which Men knew little, against whom the things of evil did not dare to move, until in the ripening of time their dark lord, Sauron, should come forth again. And until that time was come, never again after the days of Eärnil did the Nazgûl dare to cross the River or to come forth from their city in shape visible to Men.

  • Master Elrond ran the ultimate bed and breakfast east of the Havens. In Imladris, Eriador, was gathered “many Elves, and other folk of wisdom and power from among all the kindreds of Middle-earth. The bibliophile of bibliophiles, ” he preserved through many lives of Men the memory of all that had been fair; and the house of Elrond was a refuge for the weary and the oppressed, and a treasury of good counsel and wise lore.” Imladris was also the refuge of the Heirs of Isildur because of their blood ties and “because of the kinship of their blood with Elrond himself, and because he knew in his wisdom that one should come of their line to whom a great part was appointed in the last deeds of that Age. And until that time came the shards of Elendil’s sword were given into the keeping of Elrond, when the days of the Dúnedain darkened and they became a wandering people.”
  • Círdan the Shipwright continued his life by the sea, having taken on the rule of the Grey Havens of Lindon, where “a remnant of the people of Gil-galad the Elvenking” lived abided. The residents of the Havens’ chief concern was “building and tending the elven-ships wherein those of the Firstborn who grew weary of the world set sail into the uttermost West.”

From here on, the chapter described events, characters and ideas that are developed and fleshed out in both The Hobbit, and The Lord of The Rings.

DolGuldur3-iAnd so indeed it has since befallen: the One and the Seven and the Nine are destroyed; and the Three have passed away, and with them the Third Age is ended, and the Tales of the Eldar in Middle-earth draw to their close. Those were the Fading Years, and in them the last flowering of the Elves east of the Sea came to its winter. In that time the Noldor walked still in the Hither Lands, mightiest and fairest of the children of the world, and their tongues were still heard by mortal ears. Many things of beauty and wonder remained on earth in that time, and many things also of evil and dread: Orcs there were and trolls and dragons and fell beasts, and strange creatures old and wise in the woods whose names are forgotten; Dwarves still laboured in the hills and wrought with patient craft works of metal and stone that none now can rival. But the Dominion of Men was preparing and all things were changing, until at last the Dark Lord arose in Mirkwood again.

Mirkwood-from-vk-com-komitet-obrony-thranduila-36886597-1280-699-iNow of old the name of that forest was Greenwood the Great, and its wide halls and aisles were the haunt of many beasts and of birds of bright song; and there was the realm of King Thranduil under the oak and the beech. But after many years, when well nigh a third of that age of the world had passed, a darkness crept slowly through the wood from the southward, and fear walked there in shadowy glades; fell beasts came hunting, and cruel and evil creatures laid there their snares.

mirkwood-iThen the name of the forest was changed and Mirkwood it was called, for the nightshade lay deep there, and few dared to pass through, save only in the north where Thranduil’s people still held the evil at bay. Whence it came few could tell, and it was long ere even the Wise could discover it. It was the shadow of Sauron and the sign of his return. For coming out of the wastes of the East he took up his abode in the south of the forest, and slowly he grew and took shape there again; in a dark hill he made his dwelling and wrought there his sorcery, and all folk feared the Sorcerer of Dol Guldur, and yet they knew not at first how great was their peril.

I would prefer to discuss those details within the context of these two books, so here ends my chapter notes of the Silmarillion.

(Relevance: read-along schedule)

2 thoughts on “Reader: The Silmarillion. Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

    1. lurkerinthemirk Post author

      Awww. Thanks for staying through this with me. It’s been really fun to do, well, when I can get my head around the enormity of trying to make notes on what’s essentially notes. Talk about meta.

      What’s next? Good question! At one point I did think I had it all worked out but now, I’m not so sure. I’ll put the full ramble of my gaze into the palantir on the blog for tomorrow Sunday.

      Thank you.



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