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Brief Information    

Two large rock pillars placed in the deep water of the Anduin in EmynMuil, forming gates at the northern entrance of NenHithoel, shaped and fashioned as images of two gigantic kings: Isildur and Anárion. They were the most representative part of the northern boundary of Gondor. Constructed using the ancient powers of the Númenoreans (similar to Orthanc).


Argonath literally means the pillars of (two) noble stones. Contrary to popular belief the Argonath itself weren’t built at the time of Building of Osgilliath and the Twin Cities. The Argonath were built at the gate of EmynMuil, the Northernmost ranges of the Original Gondor governed by Anórian. Actually there was no need to build the Argonath at the start of the realm of Gondor for at that time Gondor’s northernmost territories extended mostly to Ithilien in the East and vast plains of Caledhorn (Rohan) in the West. The first invasion of Easterlings began around 490 ThA and it was not until 1248 (The war of Minalcar, the Regent of Gondor) that Minalcar felt the need for fortifying the north-eastern boundaries of Gondor. So Minalcar built the Pillar’s of The King, the symbols of the rule of Gondor, its majesty and its territory. Nevertheless, what made Minalcar feel the need to build them?

Minalcar (regent 1240 - 1304) soon after his war against the Easterlings in 1248. Tolkien writes that Minalcar "fortified the west shore of Anduin as far as the inflow of the Limlight, and forbade any stranger to pass down the River beyond the EmynMuil." This seems a bit harsh, but the "strangers" seem not to have been men of Edainic blood. Rather, we learn in "The Peoples of Middle-earth" that other men had long settled in the vales of Anduin:

The vague tradition preserved by the Hobbits of the Shire was that they had dwelt once in lands by a Great River, but long ago had left them, and found their way through or round high mountains, when they no longer felt at ease in their homes because of the multiplication of the Big Folk and of a shadow of fear that had fallen on the Forest. This evidently reflects the troubles of Gondor in the earlier part of the ThirdAge. The increase in Men was not the normal increase of those with whom they had lived in friendship, but the steady increase of invaders from the East, further south held in check by Gondor, but in the North beyond the bounds of the Kingdom harassing the older 'Atanic' inhabitants, and even in places occupying the Forest and coming through it into the Anduin valley....

The structure of the Argonath clearly indicates that they were meant to be a warning and a halting point for strangers. They could not physically hold back travellers but they imprinted on their mind the glory, majesty and might of Gondor and the thought of its Grim revenge possibly refrained the travellers from doing any damage to the area of Gondor. Just like one of the checkposts of the Modern Day border, not quiet real but symbolically indicating to the Strangers that they were now entering a new and foreign territory and the laws and customs of the territory were now applicable to them. The enemies of Gondor would also be amazed, not a little scared of such big monuments, the thought of great might of Gondor would creep into their mind, and they would not dare to attack its territory. Here is the reaction of Frodo when he saw them. The following citation also gives the clearest description we have about these Pillars.

As Frodo was borne towards them the great pillars rose like towers to meet him. Giants they seemed to him, vast grey figures silent but threatening. Then he saw that they were indeed shaped and fashioned: the craft and power of old had wrought upon them, and still they preserved through the suns and rains of forgotten years the mighty likenesses in which they had been hewn Upon great pedestals founded in the deep waters stood two great kings of stone: still with blurred eyes and crannied brows they frowned upon the North. The left hand of each was raised palm Outwards in a gesture of warning; in each right hand there was an axe; upon each head there was a Crumbling helm and crown. Great power and majesty they still wore, the silent wardens of a longvanished Kingdom. Awe and fear fell upon Frodo, and he cowered down, shutting his eyes and not daring to look up as the boat drew near. Even Boromir bowed his head as the boats whirled by, frail and fleeing as little leaves, under the enduring shadow of the sentinels of Numenore. So they passed into the dark chasm of the Gates.

The fortifications of the west bank of Anduin thus make sense, although Tolkien had originally envisioned some troubles with the Northmen themselves still living in the Vales of Anduin. But positioned south of the Anduin forts as they were, the Argonath could not have been intended to hold back travellers. Rather, they symbolized the great power any strangers from the North would be rousing to anger should they pass so far southward without an invitation or Permission. While the west bank forts were manned the opportunity to procure such permission was easily available.


1 The details of the Argonath's origins given in this entry are taken from Appendix A (iv) to The Lord of the Rings, which states of Rómendacil II: 'He it was that built the pillars of the Argonath at the entrance to Nen Hithoel.' Rómendacil was King of Gondor between the years III 1304 and III 1366, but before taking the throne he had served as Regent since III 1240, and the context of this quote strongly suggests that Pillars were raised during his Regency period, in about the year III 1250.

Basically the source I got this info from says that the Argonath was built by Rómendacil II who is not Númenorean so the Argonath is not a part of the Númenorean Buildings.

On the other hand, however, Romendacil 2 had Númenorea blood in him and was a direct Descendant of Anárion. And the Númeneorean craft in Middle-earth basically means the craft of the Dunedain. The Númeneorean way of architecture was surely very strong if it could ward off the attacks of the Ents and after all these years could still be prominent in the city of MinasTirith.

The StudyTeam
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Revisionary Literary Geek Note -- CheshireMatt

Tolkien's sense of imagery through language being adept as it was, it is commonly misread and incorrectly visualized. It is a common misconception to view the Argonath as two statues shuffled off to either side of the mighty Anduin. Tolkien clearly states the Argonath are founded in the deep waters(towards the center of the river) which not only would inhibit northern invaders more practically in a gate like fashion, but thier affect on the water way itself would cause some concern to unskilled boatsman. Hence Aragorn's then necesarry warning to steer for the central course, between the two pedestals which would support the pillar-like statuaries of the kings of old.

Currently Working on an illustrative set...would be happy to scan and share when complete.

We would be glad to present it here. Welcome, CheshireMatt -- ChW

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