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Brief Introduction   
The Story   

Brief Introduction    

Men of Middle-earth, who once swore an oath to Isildur to fight with him against Sauron but later broke this oath.

Isildur cursed them and they turned into ghosts and hid in the mountains.


Over the land there lies a long shadow,
westward reaching wings of darkness.
The Tower trembles to the tombs of kings
doom approaches. The Dead awaken
for the hour is come for the oathbreakers
at the Stone of Erech they shall stand again
and hear there a horn in the hills ringing.
Whose shall the horn be? Who shall call them
from the prey twilight, the forgotten people?
The heir of him to whom the oath they swore.
From the North shall he come, need shall drive him:
he shall pass the Door to the Paths of the Dead.
LotR; "The Passing of the Grey Company

Thus spoke Malbeth the Seer, in the days of Arvedui, last king at Fornost.

The Story    

At Erech there stands yet a black stone that was brought, it was said, from Númenor by Isildur; and it was set upon a hill, and upon it the King of the Mountains swore allegiance to him in the beginning of the realm of Gondor.

But when Sauron returned and grew in might again, Isildur summoned the Men of the Mountains to fulfil their oath, and they would not: for they had worshipped Sauron in the Dark Years.

Then Isildur said to their king: "Thou shalt be the last king. And if the West prove mightier than thy Black Master, this curse I lay upon thee and thy folk: to rest never until your oath is fulfilled. For this war will last through years uncounted, and you shall be summoned once again ere the end."

And they fled before the wrath of Isildur, and did not dare to go forth to war on Sauron's part and they hid themselves in secret places in the mountains and had no dealings with other men, but slowly dwindled in the barren hills. And the terror of the Sleepless Dead lies about the Hill of Erech and all places where that people lingered. But that way I must go, since there are none living to help me.

LotR; "The Passing of the Grey Company

Oathbreakers, why have ye come?&#8217

And a voice was heard out of the night that answered him, as if from far away:

To fulfil our oath and have peace.

Then Aragorn said: "The hour is come at last. Now I go to Pelargir upon Anduin, and ye shall come after me. And when all this land is clean of the servants of Sauron, I will hold the oath fulfilled, and ye shall have peace and depart for ever. For I am Elessar, Isildur's heir of Gondor."

And with that he bade Halbarad unfurl the great standard which he had brought and behold! it was black, and if there was any device upon it, it was hidden in the darkness. Then there was silence, and not a whisper nor a sigh was heard again all the long night.

So, this is the fearful Ghost Army that Aragorn used to fight the Corsairs at Pelargir in the War of the Ring and thus come right on time at the crucial moment of the battle for MinasTirith.

For this he was called the {King of the Dead}?.

The Oathbreakers dwelled in the HauntedMountain, situated south - west from Edoras. A road lead to an entrance to that ominous place - the Dark Door, Dimholt:

The light was still grey as they rode, for the sun had not yet climbed over the black ridges of the Haunted Mountain before them. A dread fell on them, even as they passed between the lines of ancient stones and so came to the Dimholt. There under the gloom of black trees that not even Legolas could long endure they found a hollow place opening at the mountain’s root, and right in their path stood a single mighty stone like a finger of doom.

And so they came at last deep into the glen and there stood a sheer wall of rock, and in the wall the Dark Door gaped before them like the mouth of night. Signs and figures were carved above its wide arch too dim to read, and fear flowed from it like a grey vapour.

LotR; "The Passing of the Grey Company"



If we accept Middle-earth as a really existing world, then we could deal with its history. From this point of view we could then try to trace the possible origin of the oathbreakers and the story of the events in reference to this mysterious folk.

Who were they? Were they a part of the Easterlings that had come to dwell in Beleriand years after the War of Wrath , when Middle-earth was totally abandoned by the powers of the world?

From the tales comes the story that these men (the oathbreakers) swore allegiance to Isildur to fight against Sauron. When could this have happened?

We could assume that this must have been only after the escape of the Faithful from the drowning of Numenor – year 3319 SA. Most probably the taking of the Oath by the people of the Mountains was in the time of establishing the Realms in Exile – year 3320 of the SecondAge.

One of the important directing points here is the existence of the Great Stone of Erech, in front of which the oath has been taken.

It is said that a very large black stone, was placed on the hill of Erech by Isildur’s men, which presupposes that the event of taking the Oath must have taken place after Isildur has started to settle in the lands of Middle-earth, building his new kingdom.

“For at Erech there stands yet a black stone that was brought, it was said, from Númenor by Isildur and it was set upon a hill, and upon it the King of the Mountains swore allegiance to him in the beginning of the realm of Gondor."
LotR; "The Passing of the Grey Company"

So, it appears that the event of taking the Oath must have happened somewhere in the year 3320 – the time when Arnor and Gondor were being established and the peoples of non-Numenorean Men, who inhabited Middle-earth had to “surrender” in front of the much greater power of the Kings from the West and become their allies against Sauron.

Erech is a hill in front of which lay the Vale of the river Morthond which “made a great bay that beat up against the sheer southern faces of the mountains (EredNimrais). Its steep slopes were grass-grown….. The vale was rich and many folk dwelt there.”

So, who were these folk ?

The War of Wrath ends in year 590 of the FiA. Most Elves and Edains (the elf-friends) depart from Middle-earth and go to the West. Middle-earth falls into oblivion, abandoned by the powers of the world. And a new Age starts – the SecondAge of the Sun – the Age of the Great Númenor.

It is known that around the year 600 of the SA, the first Numenorean ships appear back by the coasts of Middle-earth and since that year on there is a growing presence of the Kings of the West in these lands.

During this period it becomes obvious to the Westernese that Men from the far eastern lands have already widely spread and populated some of the best regions of Middle-earth. The process of settlement of Men in the Great lands had started early in the FirstAge of the Sun and it strongly continued during the whole SecondAge.

So, we could assume that the Men in the Vale of Morthond were precisely a part of these new settlers in the lands that have survived after the apocalyptic War of Wrath at the end of the FiA. But of course, their standard of living, their skills in crafts and warfare were much less than those of Númenor.

Therefore, by the end of the SecondAge, when the exiles from Númenor return to Middle-earth and start establishing their new realms, they must have found no great resistance on behalf of the local population, who has already learned to both - fear and respect the tall men from the Sea for their superior power and high knowledge.

At the same time, Sauron, who has just experienced a most unpleasant “death” in the drowning of Númenor, has returned to Middle-earth but he is still not that powerful as to oppose the Numenoreans who have also returned, this time however – to stay for good.

This fact must have been quite obvious to the local population, so for the time being (year 3320 and a hundred more to come), the Westernese become the supreme power over Middle-earth.

Most men knew not much of the High Elves who never abandoned Middle-earth and their presence there seems to be not taken much into consideration, especially in the southern regions, far from the elvish realms in the North and North West.

So, on one hand Men from the Vale of Morthond (Erech) see a King from the West (Isildur) powerful enough as to claim the lands they themselves inhabit as part of his mighty new kingdom. On the other hand, they don’t witness nor feel any other authority strong enough to oppose this new King. Therefore, the only “wise” thing for them to do, is to swear allegiance to Isildur and thus it comes to the event of them taking the Oath to be Isildur’s allies.

It takes more than a hundred years (after the taking of the Oath) for Sauron to appear again on the “stage” showing his power. In year 3429 Sauron attacks Gondor, takes MinasIthil and burns the White Tree. Isildur escapes down Anduin and goes to Elendil in the North.

A year later the LastAlliance of Elves and Men is formed, preparing a great war against the worst enemy of Middle-earthSauron.

It might be at that particular time, after having already witnessed the strength of the new Dark Lord and remembering his power in the past years, that Men from the Vale of Morthond break their oath. It could have been that Isildur has summoned them to join the Alliance and they must have refused. This act must have thrown Isildur in great wrath and ...

... So much for “pure” history! Here comes the legend.

Isildur curses the oathbreakers and they turn into ghosts.

“And they fled before the wrath of Isildur, and did not dare to go forth to war on Sauron’s part; and they hid themselves in secret places in the mountains and had no dealings with other men, but slowly dwindled in the barren hills. And the terror of the Sleepless Dead lies about the Hill of Erech and all places where that people lingered.”
LotR; "The Passing of the Grey Company"


It is possible that the Oathbreakers can be identified with the tall Men of the East who--at some point late in the First Age or early in the Second--drove the Haladin and the Drúedain out of the White Mountains (see Dunlendings).


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