The Third Age of the Sun

The Peoples of Middle-earth   
The Dwarves   
The Elves   
The Ents   
The Hobbits   
Orcs and Trolls   
Sauron and the Balrogs   
The Istari   
Comments and Discussion   


Tragedy, Triumph and Transition - or -a Continuation of "The Long Defeat"?

When I first considered doing an overview of the ThirdAge, certainly the first set of premises above appeared the most obvious. After all, in the year 3441, the SecondAge ends with a great victory for the free folk of Middle-earth under the LastAlliance of Men and Elves in their war against Sauron the Ring Lord...or does it?

Certainly, in the Battle of Dagorlad, Sauron is overthrown, the DarkTower is destroyed and the Ringwraiths, Sauron's most powerful tools, are banished. But at what cost is this great victory won? Elendil the High King of Arnor and Gondor is dead as is his younger son Anárion. Even more devastating, Gil-galad, the last High King of the Eldar in Middle-earth has also fallen by the fiery touch of the DarkLord himself. Worse, still, Isildur, Elendil's elder son, cuts the Ring of Power from the hand of his defeated foe, but then fails to cast it into the fires of its forging and destroy it - an act which would have reduced Sauron forever to a mere shadow of malice, never able to take shape and grow again. But Isildur is seduced by, among other things, the Ring's beauty:

'But for my part I will risk no hurt to this thing: of all the works of Sauron the only fair. It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain.'
LotR - The Council of Elrond

Sauron is defeated, but not vanquished and the DarkTower is pulled down but its foundations remain. Thus ends the SecondAge of the Sun in a victory tainted by loss and an action whose lack of wisdom is to have monumental consequences in the dawning ThirdAge. For Isildur returns to Gondor, which kingdom he and his late brother had co-jointly ruled while his father ruled as High King in the North. Now, the new High King spends two years or so, instructing his nephew in his duties as King of Gondor before he begins his journey north where he will rule as High King in his father's stead. When he finally departs for the North, Isildur travels with an entourage which includes his three eldest sons. However, as the Company passes through the Vales of Anduin, it is attacked by a large contingent of Orcs in what becomes known as the Battle of the Gladden Fields. When it is apparent that the battle is lost, Isildur is advised to put on the Ring and escape (using its power to render its wearer invisible) lest the great talisman fall into the hands of Sauron's allies. However, while attempting to escape in the River Anduin, the Ring betrays its bearer, slips from Isildur's finger and as he becomes visible he is slain by Orc bowmen. Thus begins the great curse of the OneRing which dominates the whole of the ThirdAge. For with Isildur's death, the two kingdoms of the Dúnedain are sundered and no healing becomes possible while the Ring exists. Only when a single legitimate heir with the strength to resist the Ring (that Isildur had not) is recognized and the Ring itself destroyed, can the two be made whole and become the Reunited Kingdom of the Dúnedain. This is the "tragedy" which begins the ThirdAge of the Sun.

The rest of the Age is consumed in the slow growth and return to power of The DarkLord and his minions as well as the various victories and more frequent defeats of the different free peoples of Middle-earth, Elves, Men and Dwarves. Although we also learn in the ThirdAge about others who have either previously escaped our notice - such as the small folk known as "Hobbits" or who have lived in Middle-earth from the beginning but whose secretive ways have kept them from becoming well known - the Ents. Nevertheless, like the SecondAge, the ThirdAge ends in victory. Once again the OneRing is discovered and its whereabouts (and bearer) become known to its Maker. Then is fought - in a way very different from previous wars on Sauron - the War of the Ring. However, unlike the war waged upon the DarkLord by the LastAlliance of Elves and Men, the Ring is in fact destroyed and Sauron is forever diminished and banished to the Void never to trouble Middle-earth again. Furthermore, the "single legitimate heir" necessary for the reunion of Gondor and the remnants of Arnor comes forth, is recognized and crowned High King. Thus, this triumph is apparently without the bitterness of that which crowned the previous Age...or is it?

And now the last defining point of the ThirdAge must be addressed: transition. The elves are leaving Middle-earth. Not just those who had returned thereto from the UndyingLands during the wars with Morgoth, but now all those who would not dwindle to mere spirits of the wood must depart into the West. This has been happening all through the ThirdAge and although Gil-galad's kingdom still exists into the FourthAge, only a few places remain in Middle-earth wherein dwell Elves who continue in the spirit of the "LastAlliance", albeit not with warriors and weapons but with counsel and courage. However, upon the defeat or Sauron and the destruction of the OneRing, the powers of the Elven Rings which had been forged to maintain for their Elf Masters places of refuge able to resist the changes natural to mortal lands, also pass away. Thus does time return to Rivendell, Lothlorien and the GreyHavens and all that the remaining Elves have husbanded and spared the marks of mortality must now wither and age in the normal course of the passage of time. And so the transition is almost complete as the ThirdAge ends with the passage into the West of not only the Great among the Elves - Elrond and Galadriel (to be followed by the rest of their folk during the FourthAge) - but also the remaining true Istari, Gandalf the White who returns to his home in Valinor, his mission in Middle-earth (the destruction of Sauron) having been successfully completed.

Therein are the three signal symbols of the ThirdAge addressed: the tragedy of Isildur's folly and death which results in Sauron's continued existence and the disunion of the Kingdom of the Dúnedain, the triumph of the War of the Ring which encompassed the downfall of Sauron and the reestablishment of the United Kingdom of the Dúnedain under its rightful and legitimate High King and, finally, the transition of power in Middle-earth from the older Children of Ilúvatar - the Elves - to the younger - Men. So it would seem that these three symbols are fitting indeed as a summation of the Age...or are they?

In a letter to Amy Ronald of December 15th, 1956, Tolkien says the following:

'Actually, I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect "history" to be anything but a "long defeat" - though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.'
Letters # 195

In his book, Tolkien Man and Myth, Joseph Pearce determines that one of the fundamental and overarching themes in The Lord of the Rings is the understanding that perfection cannot be achieved in Creation because suffering and sorrow have been "interwoven" into the fabric of life in The Silmarillion", embodied in its perennial nature in the myth surrounding Nienna, one of the Queens of the angelic Valar:

Mightier than Estë is Nienna, sister of the Fëanturi; she dwells alone. She is acquainted with grief, and mourns for every wound that Arda has suffered in the marring of Melkor. So great was her sorrow, as the Music unfolded, that her song turned to lamentation long before its end, and the sound of mourning was woven into the themes of the World before it began. But she does not weep for herself; and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope. Her halls are west of West, upon the borders of the world; and she comes seldom to the city of Valimar where all is glad. She goes rather to the halls of Mandos, which are near to her own; and all those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom. The windows of her house look outward from the walls of the world.
The Silmarillion - Of the Valar

It is not for nothing that Olórin (Gandalf) learned patience and pity from this Angel of Mercy, qualities which stood him and all of Middle-earth in good stead in the ThirdAge.

Pearce then goes on to say that Tolkien emerges as a "mystic" who sees "suffering as the result of an evil beyond the power of man, the work of Satan, 'the marring of Melkor'. Yet because God can always bring good out of the evil designs of the Enemy, this suffering, properly understood and accepted, teaches both 'pity and endurance in hope' as well as bringing 'strength of the spirit' and the turning of 'sorrow to wisdom'." Pearce notes that in Tolkien's work, most profound and most poetic is "the image of sorrow and suffering as the teachers of selflessness, prompting those who bear the pains of life to seek for the joys beyond the world as noted by the phrase: 'The windows of her (Nienna's) house look outward from the walls of the world.'"

In fact, the ThirdAge ends not at the moment of great victory as the OneRing goes into the Fire, nor yet even at the crowning of KingElessar or his marriage to Arwen Undomiel, but rather on a poignant note, the sense of "the Long Defeat" which is seen particularly in Sam's sense of exile following Frodo's departure from the GreyHavens. For to Tolkien, a devout Roman Catholic, there could be no "heaven on earth", not even in the UndyingLands which had been tainted as well with the evil of Morgoth. Thus, truly in his creation is death become the "gift" of Men rather than the punishment resulting from the Fall. For man alone is destined to leave the confines of creation and find that heaven which does not - indeed, cannot, exist within the confines of the World.

Tolkien himself admits that the theme of The Lord of the Rings is something far different from what most believe. In the draft of a letter to Joanna de Bortandano written sometime in April of 1956, he says:

"The real theme for me is about something much more permanent and difficult: Death and Immortality: the mystery of the love of the world in the hearts of a race 'doomed' to leave and seemingly lose it; the anguish in the hearts of a race 'doomed' not to leave it, until its whole evil-aroused story is complete."
Letters # 186

In a letter to Herbert Schiro of November 17, 1957, Tolkien again makes the point:

But I should say, if asked, the tale is not really about Power and Dominion: that only sets the wheels going; it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness. Which is hardly more than to say it is a tale written by a Man!
Letters # 203

He makes the same point in a letter to C. Ouboter on April 10th, 1958:

As for 'message': I have none really, if by that is meant the conscious purpose in writing The Lord of the Rings, of preaching, or of delivering myself of a vision of truth specially revealed to me! I was primarily writing an exciting story in an atmosphere and background such as I find personally attractive. But in such a process inevitably one's own taste, ideas, and beliefs get taken up. Though it is only in reading the work myself (with criticisms in mind) that I become aware of the dominance of the theme of Death. But certainly Death is not an Enemy! I said, or meant to say, that the 'message' was the hideous peril of confusing true 'immortality' with limitless serial longevity. Freedom from time, and clinging to Time. The confusion is the work of the Enemy, and one of the chief causes of human disaster. Compare the death of Aragorn with a Ringwraith. The Elves call 'death' the Gift of God (to Men). Their temptation is different: towards a fainéant melancholy, burdened with Memory, leading to an attempt to halt Time.
Letters # 208

In a long letter to Rhona Beare of October 14th, 1958, Tolkien ends with the following:

But I might say that if the tale is 'about' anything (other than itself), it is not as seems widely supposed about 'power'. Power-seeking is only the motive-power that sets events going and is relatively unimportant, I think. It is mainly concerned with Death, and Immortality; and the 'escapes': serial longevity and hoarding memory.
Letters # 211

Tolkien sees death as Man's Gift from God because it frees him from the confines of a World already marked with evil and grief. In a letter written in 1951 to Milton Waldman, he notes:

The doom of the Elves is to be immortal, to love the beauty of the world, to bring it to full flower with their gifts of delicacy and perfection, to last while it lasts, never leaving it even when 'slain', but returning - and yet, when the Followers [Men] come, to teach them, and make way for them, to 'fade' as the Followers grow and absorb the life from which both proceed. The Doom (or the Gift) of Men is mortality, freedom from the circles of the world. Since the point of view of the whole cycle is the Elvish, mortality is not explained mythically: it is a mystery of God of which no more is known that that 'what God has purposed for Men is hidden': a grief and an envy to the immortal Elves.
Letters # 131

However, even in this does Tolkien hold out hope. For he has said about the Elves: "the anguish in the hearts of a race 'doomed' not to leave it, until its whole evil-aroused story is complete." The word "until" is very telling for it speaks of a time when all that has been begun in the Creation will come to fulfillment and at that time, it may be that the Perfection intended by Eru will come to pass and all that was sundered will once again be reunited. However, Tolkien makes only one passing reference to such a possibility in The Lord of the Rings:

Then Treebeard said farewell to each of them in turn, and he bowed three times slowly and with great reverence to Celeborn and Galadriel. 'It is long, long since we met by stock or by stone, A vanimar, vanimalion nostari!' he said. 'It is sad that we should meet only thus at the ending. For the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air. I do not think we shall meet again.' And Celeborn said: 'I do not know, Eldest.' But Galadriel said: 'Not in Middle-earth, nor until the lands that lie under the wave are lifted up again. Then in the willow-meads of Tarsarinan we may meet in the Spring. Farewell!'
LotR - Many Partings

So it is that Galadriel speaks of a time which will come when all that was will be again, but, understanding Tolkien's faith, it will be in the perfection to which it was called in the beginning. So it is that in fact all that passes in Middle-earth in the ThirdAge as in all the ages past and yet to come, constitute the "Long Defeat" of a fallen world winding inexorably down to the time when all will be Renewed and Nienna's lamentations will change to songs of Joy.

The Peoples of Middle-earth    

The Dwarves    

During the SecondAge, like Men, Dwarves too had been given seven Rings of Power that had been forged by the wisdom of the Elves coupled with Sauron's deceit. However, unlike Men, the Dwarves were not drawn into the terrible wars that followed until the end of that Age, but rather closed the doors of the mansions of Khazad-dûm to the troubles of the World. And since none could force their way into this great realm of the Dwarves, it was renamed "Moria" (the 'black pit') However, thus did the folk of Durin's line survive into the ThirdAge, though by then they had seen their greatest days and begun to dwindle. Yet Moria stood until the 20th Century of the ThirdAge and was still wealthy and proud when the delving Dwarves quarried too deep beneath the mountain and released a great demon from the time of Morgoth, a Balrog, which came in wrath and slew King Durin and his son Nain and drove the Dwarves from Moria.

Thus were Durin's people made homeless, a wandering folk. But in ThA. 1999, Nain's son, Thráin, founded the Kingdom of Erebor in the LonelyMounain?, east of the MistyMountains. It was a kingdom rich in ore and stones. In ThA 2210, Thráin's son, Thorin, left his father's kingdom and journeyed to the Grey Mountains where it was said that the greatest number of the scattered Dwarves of Moria had taken up their abode. Using his Ring of Power, Thorin made that Kingdom powerful and wealthy. However, during the reign of Dain, fourth in line from Thorin, there came many dragons out of the deserts lusting for the wealth of the Dwarves. They slew many Dwarves and drove the rest out of the Grey Mountains.

By the year ThA 2590, Thrór, heir of Dáin I, took part of the survivors and returned to Erebor while in the same year, his brother Grór, took those who remained and went to the IronHills. Again, for a time, all these Dwarf Kingdoms - and especially Erebor prospered for there was great trade among the Dwarves, the Men of Dale and Esgaroth and the Elves of Mirkwood. Yet, this peace was not to last. For in ThA 2770, during the long reign of Thrór, the greatest Dragon of the Age, Smaug the Golden, came to Erebor. None could withstand him and he slew wantonly, destroying not only the Dwarf kingdom but also the Kingdom of Dale and driving what few Dwarves remaining once again into exile. There for long centuries, Smaug remained, Lord of the LonelyMountain. Some of those driven out retreated to the Kingdom of their brethren in the IronHills while Thrór and his son, Throin II, his grandson, Thorin II and those few with them, became a wandering company.

However, in ThA 2790, Thrór was slain by an Orc in Moria and the Dwarves gathered for a war of vengeance, which had its "official" beginning some three years later. In ThA 2799, the Battle of Nanduhirion (also known as Azanulbizar) was fought before the East-gate of Moria (DimrillGate) in which the Orcs of the North were all but exterminated by the Dwarves. Yet the battle was costly for the victors, for half of all their warriors perished and so the Dwarves returned to their kingdoms filled with sadness. Dáin Ironfoot, grandson of Grór, returned to rule his kingdom in the IronHills, while {Thráin II}? with his son, Thorin II (now called Oakenshield) went west to the Blue Mountains to create a humble kingdom there.

Yet, Thráin did not rule long for in ThA 2841, while attempting a visit to the area of Erebor, he was captured and imprisoned by Sauron who was retrieving all the Rings of Power he had once given out. Thráin's was taken from him by torment in the dungeons of DolGuldur after which he died of his mistreatment. However, before he died, he encountered the Istari/Wizard? Gandalf who had ventured into DolGuldur attempting to ascertain what power was in residence there. Thráin gave to the Wizard a map and key concerning Erebor and begged that he give it to his son, Thorin. In ThA 2941, Thorin was approached by Gandalf who gave him is father's gifts. The Dwarf immediately began to make plans concerning a return secret visit to Erebor so that he might retrieve some of the treasure that the dragon had stolen. However, he and his companions made up a party of thirteen, an unacceptably unlucky number and the Dwarf approached Gandalf and asked him to secure for him a fourteenth member of the Company as well as someone who would be willing to function as a 'burglar'; that is, go into the mountain and secure treasure from the dragon's hoard. It was at this point in history that the paths of the Dwarves and Hobbits intersect since Gandalf chose Bilbo Baggins of the Shire as that fourteenth 'member'.

The tale of "The Hobbit" as it called, is too well known to be recounted here. Suffice it to say, that when all is over, Thorin Oakenshield was dead, but the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor had been re-founded, led by Dáin Ironfoot, Thorin's kinsman. Dain ruled Erebor wisely and worked with Men and elves in that part of Middle-earth to form a bulwark against the depredations of Sauron as the Age went on. Dain fell, together with King Brand of Dale before the gates of his Kingdom during the last battles of The War of the Ring. Yet, Erebor withstood Sauron's assault and Dain's heir, Thorin III, was also called Thorin Stonehelm, ruled that kingdom long and well into the FourthAge of the Sun.

Another Dwarf kingdom was founded in the FourthAge in the caverns of Helm's Deep by Gimli, descendant of Borin, brother of Dáin I and one of the great Fellowship of the Ring. Gimli was called the Lord of Aglarond, the "glittering caves" for such was the wonder and beauty of these great natural caverns on the borders of Rohan. For more than a century, Gimli ruled there until after the death of KingElessar, he relinquished the reins of government and departed into the West with his friend Legolas the Elf of the Fellowship.

The Elves    

In his letter to Milton Waldman in 1951, Tolkien says the following about the Elves inhabiting Middle-earth:

The next cycle deals (or would deal) with the SecondAge. But is on Earth a dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told. In the great battles against the First Enemy the lands were broken and ruined, and the West of Middle-earth became desolate. We learn that the Exiled Elves were, if not commanded, at least sternly counseled to return into the West, and there be at peace. They were not to dwell permanently in Valinor again, but in the Lonely Isle of Eressëa within sight of the Blessed Realm...

Most of the HighElves depart also back into the West. Not all...

Some of the Exiles will not return, or delay their return (for the way west is ever open to the immortals and in the GreyHavens ships are ever ready to sail away for ever)...

The three main themes are thus The Delaying Elves that lingered in Middle-earth...

In the first we see a sort of second fall or at least 'error' of the Elves. There is nothing wrong essentially in their lingering against counsel, still sadly with the mortal lands of their old heroic deeds. But they wanted to have their cake without eating it. They wanted the peace and bless and perfect memory of 'The West', and yet to remain on the ordinary earth where their prestige was as the highest people, above wild Elves, Dwarves and Man, was greater than at the bottom of the hierarchy of Valinor*). They thus became obsessed with 'fading', the mode in which the changes of time (the law of the world under the sun) was perceived by them. They became sad, and their art (shall we say) antiquarian, and their efforts all really a kind of embalming - even though they also retained the old motive of their kind, the adornment of earth, and the healing of its hurts. We hear of a lingering kingdom, in the extreme North-west more or less in what was left in the old lands of The Silmarillion, under Gil-galad; and of other settlement, such as Imladris (Rivendell) near Elrond; and a great one at Eregion at the Western feet of the MistyMountains, adjacent to the Mines of Moria, the major realm of the Dwarves in the SecondAge. There arose a friendship between the usually hostile folk (of Elves and Dwarves) for the first and only time, and smithcraft reached its highest development. But many of the Elves listened to Sauron. He was still fair in that early time, and his motives and those of the Elves seemed to go partly together: the healing of the desolate lands. Sauron found their weak point in suggesting that, helping one another, they could make Western Middle-earth as beautiful as Valinor. It was really a veiled attack on the gods, an incitement to try and make a separate independent paradise. Gil-galad repulsed all such overtures, as also did Elrond. But at Eregion great work began - and the Elves came their nearest to falling to 'magic' and machinery. With the aid of Sauron's lore they made Rings of Power ('power' is an ominous and sinister word in all these takes, except as applied to the gods).

The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. 'change' viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance - this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor - thus approaching 'magic', a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. And finally they had other powers, more directly derived from Sauron ('the Necromancer': so he is called as he casts a fleeting shadow and presage on the pages of The Hobbit): such as rendering invisible the material body, and making things of the invisible world visible.

The Elves of Eregion made Three supremely beautiful and powerful rings, almost solely of their own imagination, and directed to the preservation of beauty: they did not confer invisibility. But secretly in the subterranean Fire, in his own Black Land, Sauron made the OneRing, the Ruling Ring that contained the powers of all the others, and controlled them, so that its wearer could see the thoughts of all those that used the lesser rings, could govern all that they did, and in the end could utterly enslave them. He reckoned, however, without the wisdom and subtle perceptions of the Elves. The moment he assumed the One, they were aware of it, and of his secret purpose, and were afraid. They hid the Three Rings, so that not even Sauron ever discovered where they were and they remained unsullied. The others they tried to destroy.

In the resulting war between Sauron and the Elves Middle-earth especially in the west, was further ruined. Eregion was captured and destroyed, and Sauron seized many Rings of Power. These he gave, for their ultimate corruption and enslavement, to those who would accept them (out of ambition or greed). Sauron became thus almost supreme in Middle-earth. The Elves held out in secret places (not yet revealed). The last Elf-Kingdom? of Gil-galad is maintained precariously on the extreme west-shores, where are the havens of the Ships. Elrond the Half-elven, son of Earendil, maintains a kind of enchanted sanctuary at Imladris (Rivendell) on the extreme eastern margin of the western lands. [*] But Sauron dominates all the multiplying hordes of Men that have had no contact with the Elves and so indirectly with the true and unfallen Valar and gods. He rules a growing empire from the great DarkTower of Barad-dur in Mordor, near to the Mountain of Fire, wielding the OneRing

[*Elrond symbolizes throughout the ancient wisdom, and his House represents Lore - the preservation in reverent memory of all tradition concerning the good, wise and beautiful. It is not a scene of action but of reflection, Thus, it is a place visited on the way to all deeds, or 'adventures'. It may prove to be on the direct road (as in The Hobbit); but is may be necessary to go from there in a totally unexpected course. So necessarily in the The Lord of the Rings, having escaped to Elrond from the imminent pursuit of present evil, the hero departs in a wholly new direction: to go and face it at its source.]

The SecondAge ends with the LastAlliance (of Elves and Men [the 'Faithful' Númenoreans - Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion - who have survived the destruction of their Kingdom - mm]), and the great siege of Mordor. It ends with the overthrow of Sauron and destruction of the second visible incarnation of evil. But at a cost, and with one disastrous mistake. Gil-galad and Elendil are slain in the act of slaying Sauron. Isildur, Elendil's son, cuts the ring from Sauron's hand, and his power departs, and his spirit flees into the shadows. But the evil begins to work. Isildur claims the Ring as his own, as 'the Weregild of his father', and refuses to cast it into the Fire nearby. He marches away but is drowned in the GreatRiver, and the Ring is lost, passing out of all knowledge. But it is not unmade, and the DarkTower built with its aid still stands, empty but not destroyed. So ends the SecondAge with the coming of the Numenorean realms and the passing of the last kingship of the HighElves.

Letters # 131; *) my italics

And so, with the dawning of the ThirdAge, the remaining Elves in Middle-earth were far less numerous than had been the case in the previous age. Gil-galad was no more although his kingdom of Lindon survived into the FourthAge. Some of the Noldor and Sindar Lords had joined the Silvan Elves to create kingdoms, one such was Thranduil's kingdom in Mirkwood and, of course, Lothlórien, the home of Celeborn and Galadriel.

However, at the dawning of the ThirdAge of the Sun, few of the Eldar were present to watch over the lands that the race of Men were slowly coming to possess. And, frankly, the assistance of the Elves in this Age and especially in its culmination, the War of the Ring, was one of wisdom, not force of arms. Finally, after the destruction of the OneRing, the last of the Rings of Power - the three Elven Rings - failed and thus was all that had been kept at least partially outside of the flow of time by their power now fated to pass away. And so, the last of the Elves took ship into the West forever leaving Middle-earth for the younger Children of Ilúvatar, Men.

The Ents    

The origin of the Ents is problematic. In a letter to Milton Waldman, 1951, Tolkien makes only one reference to these creatures:

That is a long and yet bald resume. Many characters important to the tale are not even mentioned. Even some whole inventions like the remarkable Ents, oldest of living rational creatures. Shepherds of the Trees, are omitted.
Letters, pg. 160

In a letter to W. H. Auden of 7, June, 1955, the author says in a footnote:

Take the Ents, for instance. I did not consciously invent them at all. The chapter called 'Treebeard', from Treebeard's first remark on p. 66, was written off more or less as it stands with an effect on my self (except for labour pains) almost like reading some one else's work. And I like Ents now because they do not seem to have anything to do with me...But looking back analytically I should say that Ents are composed of philology, literature and life. They owe their name to the eald enta geweorc of Anglo-Saxon, and their connexion with stone. Their part in the story is due, I think, to my bitter disappointment and disgust from schooldays with the shabby use made in Shakespeare of the coming of "Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill': I longed to devise a setting in which the trees might really march to war. And into this has crept a mere piece of experience, the difference of the 'male' and 'female' attitude to wild things, the difference between unpossessive love and gardening.
Letters, pgs. 211-2

Thus, it is difficult to make a claim with any certainty about the Ents, who and what they were. Tolkien didn't even know as he was finishing his tale what their end would be as is obvious in his rather unceremonious leave taking as the Ring bearer and his companions return north. In David Day's book, "Tolkien, the Illustrated Encyclopedia", the Ents find themselves listed among the Olvar or the Flora of Arda along with flowers, plants and trees. It is probably a fitting enough placement. In the book, "Tolkien's World from A to Z" by Robert Foster, we are told that:

Ents are evidently trees inhabited by spirits summoned by the thought of Yavanna to be the guardians of the Olvar until the time of the Dominion of Men. The nature of the Ents was closely connected with that of the trees they protected and the tree-spirits (cf. Huorns) they guarded. The Ents awoke at the same time as the Elves; the Eldar gave them the desire to speak and taught them Quenya and Sindarin...

...The Ents in the ThirdAge remained in the Forest of Fangorn, growing old without hope of having children. Some of the Ents grew 'treeish' and ceased moving or speaking, but some, like Fangorn, remained active and alert. About ThA 2950 Saruman began harassing the Ents and cutting down their trees; in 3019, spurred by the appearance of Merry and Pippin, Fangorn realized that something had to be done. He aroused the remaining active Ents, and they attacked and destroyed Isengard. In the FourthAge, the Ents remained in FangornForest and dwindled.

CompleteGuide - Ents

And, of course, we do know that sometime in the upheavals of the SecondAge, the female Ents who had become estranged from their male counterparts, were driven by war away from their homeland and vanished. In a letter to Naomi Mitchison of April 25, 1954, Tolkien says the following on the matter:

I think that in fact the Entwives had disappeared for good, being destroyed with their gardens in the War of the LastAlliance (SecondAge 3429-3441) when Sauron pursued a scorched earth policy and burned their land against the advance of the Allies down the Anduin (vol. II p. 79 refers to it). They survived only in the 'agriculture' transmitted to Men (and Hobbits). Some, of course, may have fled east, or even have become enslaved: tyrants even in such tales must have an economic and agricultural background to their soldiers and metal-workers. If any survived so, they would indeed be far estranged from the Ents, and any rapprochement would be difficult - unless experience of industrialized and militarized agriculture had made them a little more anarchic. I hope so. I don't know.
Letters, pg. 179

The Hobbits    

Hobbits occupy the center of Tolkien's later history of Middle-earth although they are absent formally and while the author is quite informative about them as a race (so much so that there is no reason to go into the matter herein), their origins are far more sketchy. In a letter to Milton Waldman written probably late in 1951, Tolkien says of their beginnings:

In the middle of this Age (Third) the Hobbits appear. Their origin is unknown (even to themselves)[*] for they escaped the notice of the great, or civilized peoples with records, and kept none themselves, save vague oral traditions, until they had migrated from the borders of Mirkwood, fleeing from the Shadow, and wandered westward, coming into contact with the last remnant of the Kingdom of Arnor.

Their chief settlement, where all the inhabitants are Hobbits, and were an ordered, civilized, if simple and rural life is maintained is the Shire, originally the farmlands and forests of the royal demesne of Arnor, granted as a fief: but the 'King', author of laws, has long vanished save in memory before we hear much of the Shire. It is in the year 1341 of the ShireReckoning (or 2941 of the ThirdAge: that is in its last century) that Bilbo - the Hobbit and hero of that tale - starts on his 'adventure'.

[*The Hobbits are, of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically human race (not Elves or Dwarves) - hence the two kinds can dwell together (as at Bree), and are called just the Big Folk and Little Folk. They are entirely without non-human powers, but are represented as being more in touch with 'nature' (the soil and other living things, plants and animals), and abnormally, for humans, free from ambition or greed of wealth. They are made small (little more than half human stature, but dwindling as the years pass) partly to exhibit the pettiness of man, plain unimaginative parochial man - though not with either the smallness or the savageness of Swift, and mostly to show up, in creatures of very small physical power, the amazing and unexpected heroism of ordinary Men 'at a pinch'.]

Letters, pg. 158

Therefore, prior to the ThirdAge, no mention is made of Hobbits and it is to be assumed that if they did exist at all it was in such numbers as to enable them to pass unnoticed in the great events of the previous Age.

Again, Tolkien's lengthy and very complete description of the three "groups" within the Hobbit race requires no repetition here insofar as it has little or no bearing on the profound influence Hobbits (or at least a few Hobbits) came to have on the ThirdAge. I will mention only a small group of Stoors who lived along the banks of the Anduin, near to the site of the GladdenFields where Isildur was slain and the Ring of Power slipped from his finger into the river. For it was among those Hobbits that two have become known to us, the unfortunate Déagol and his cousin and friend, Sméagol, later Gollum. For about ThA 2463, Déagol finds Sauron's Ring and pays for his "luck" with his life. He is throttled by the larger and stronger Sméagol who wishes to possess the "pretty trinket". By ThA 2470, driven from his home by his hateful and divisive actions, Sméagol/Gollum? makes his abode in an underground lake in an Orc stronghold in the depths of the MistyMountains. And thus begins a sequence of events which eventually involves yet another Hobbit (this time from the Shire) named Bilbo Baggins.

However, much earlier in Hobbit history, in ThA 1050, a shadow falls on Greenwood which henceforth until Sauron's fall becomes known as Mirkwood. The Hobbits living in that area flee and the term "Periannath" is first mentioned in records of the time as the Harfoots come to Eriador. In ThA 1150, the Fallohides also enter Eriador while the Stoors (Sméagol's people) come over the Redhorn Pass and move to the Angle* and to Dunland. By ThA 1300, the evil is growing so strong that the Hobbits migrate westward, many settling in and around Bree. By ThA 1356, the Stoors leave the Angle and some return to the Wilderland. In ThA 1601, the Shire is founded but in ThA 1636, the Great Plague devastates Gondor which spreads north and west. Many parts of Eriador become desolate. Beyond the Baranduin, the Hobbits survive, but suffer great loss. In the year ThA 1979, Bucca of the Marish, probably the founder of the "Oldbuck" family, becomes the first Thain of the Shire and from this point, much of Hobbit history seems rather inconsequential, reflecting the Hobbits' love of the mundane and simple. For instance, around the year ThA 2670, it is noted that Tobold Hornblower plants "pipe-weed" for the first time in Southfarthing - hardly an earthshaking event given all that is taking place in Middle-earth during this time.

[*The Angle: the land bounded by the Rivers Hoarwell (Mitheithel) and Loudwater (Bruinen) on the west and east, and the Great East Road to the north.]

However, it cannot be said that Hobbits are entirely lacking in exciting doings for in ThA 2747, Bandobras Took leading a contingent of Hobbits defeats an Orc band in Northfarthing! And in ThA 2758/59, the Shire is afflicted by a deadly winter. The suffering and loss of life in Eriador is great but the Shire folk suddenly find themselves being helped for the first (but not the last) time by an unusual personage, an elderly Wizard who calls himself Gandalf the Grey. It is by virtue of his assistance that the Shire largely survives. Thereafter, aside from the Fell Winter of ThA 2911 - which saw the invasion of White Wolves over the frozen rivers - most of the Shire's history is fairly prosaic with the usual list of births and deaths: in ThA 2790, Gerontius Took (later known as the Old Took) is born and in ThA 2920, at 130, he dies, a great leader among the Hobbits. In ThA 2880, one Bilbo Baggins is born in the Shire and in ThA 2968, Bilbo's nephew and heir, Frodo Baggins is born. Both of these events are eventually of supreme importance although certainly not recognized as such at the time.

But why "Hobbits"? Why are they even necessary to the tale as a whole? In his letter to Milton Waldman, Tolkien says the following:

The sequel, The Lord of the Rings, much the largest, and I hope also in proportion the best, of the entire cycle, concludes the whole business - an attempt is made to include in it, and wind up, all the elements and motives of what has preceded: elves, Dwarves, the Kings of Men, heroic 'Homeric' horsemen, Orcs and demons, the terrors of the Ring-servants and Necromancy, and the vast horror of the Dark Throne, even in style it is to include the colloquialism and vulgarity of Hobbits, poetry and the highest style of prose. We are to see the overthrow of the last incarnation of Evil, the unmaking of the Ring, the final departure of the Elves, and the return in majesty of the true King, to take over the Dominion of Men, inheriting all that can be transmitted of Elfdom in his high marriage with Arwen daughter of Elrond, as well as the lineal royalty of Númenor. But as the earliest Tales are seen through Elvish eyes, as it were, this last great Tale, coming down from myth and legend to the earth, is seen mainly through the eyes of Hobbits: it thus becomes anthropocentric.[my emphasis] But through Hobbits, not Men so-called, because the last Tale is to exemplify most clearly a recurrent theme: the place in 'world politics' of the unforeseen and unforeseeable acts of will, and deeds of virtue of the apparently small, ungreat, forgotten in the places of the Wise and Great (good as well as evil). A moral of the whole (after the primary symbolism of the Ring, as the will to mere power, also inevitably by lies) is the obvious one that without the high and noble, the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple and ordinary the noble and heroic is meaningless. [my emphasis]
Letters, pg. 160

And so, we have Hobbits and their history, peculiar as it is to the ThirdAge.


By the opening of the ThirdAge, Men are the strongest influence in Middle-earth. Elves and Dwarves are dwindling. Gil-galad is dead and his kingdom - though it will last into the FourthAge - will cease to be a center of power in the new age. However, at the opening of the Age, the greatest symbol of the power of Men - the great Island Kingdom of Númenor - is no more, drowned in the sundering of the seas which forever removed the UndyingLands from the moral shores of Middle-earth.

The Remnant of Númenor:

The Kingdom of Arnor was founded in the year 3320 of the SecondAge by Elendil of Númenor; Arnor was the first Kingdom of the Dúnedain in Middle-earth. Elendil ruled as High King in Arnor and in that same year, sent his sons, Anárion and Isildur south to found the second Kingdom, Gondor. Arnor's first capital was Annúminas on the shores of Lake Evendim but by ThA 861, Fornost had become the Kingdom's major city and capital. In that year, Earendur, 10th King of Arnor, split the kingdom into three separate kingdoms for his three sons: Arthedain for this son Aimlaith (through whom the line of Elendil through his son Isildur survived), Cardolan and Rhudaur for his other two sons.

Arthedain was situated in the North-west and included the land between the Brandywine River and Lune and also the land north of the GreatRoad as far as WeatherHills?. Rhudaur was in the North-east and lay between the Ettenmoors, the WeatherHills? and the MistyMountains, but also included the Angle between the Hoarwell and the Loudwater. Cardolan was in the South, its bounds being the Brandywine, the Greyflood and the GreatRoad. While Isildur's line endured in Arthedain, it soon perished in the latter two kingdoms. Furthermore, there was often strife between the kingdoms which hastened the waning of the Dúnedain. The chief matter of debate was the possession of the WeatherHills? and the land westward towards Bree. Both Rhudaur and Cardolan desired to possess AmonSûl (Weathertop) which stood on the borders of their realms for the Tower thereon held the chief Palantír of the North while the other two were in the keeping of Arthedain.

In the year ThA 1300, there arose to the north of Arnor the evil Witch-kingdom of Angmar. In the days of Argeleb, son of Malvegil, the Kingdom of Arthedain again claimed lordship of all of Arnor since no heir of Isildur remained in Cardolan or Rhudaur. However, Rhudaur resisted the claim for in that kingdom the Dúnedain were few and power had been seized by an evil lord of the Hillmen who was in secret league with Angmar. Argeleb then fortified the WeatherHills?, but in ThA 1356 he was slain in a battle with the combined forces of Rhudaur and Angmar. For nearly seven hundred years after, the Lord of the Nazgûl who was known only as the Witch-king (it was not known until later that he was indeed the chief of the Ringwraiths who had come north with the purpose of destroying the disunited remnants of Arnor because the southern kingdom of Gondor was too strong to assail) made war on the Dúnedain of Arnor. In ThA 1409, a great host came of out of Angmar and crossed the river into Cardolan, surrounding Weathertop. The Dúnedain were defeated and Arveleg, King of Arthedain who - with the assistance of the Elves of Lindon and the folk of Cardolan - had previously kept Angmar at bay, was slain.

In ThA 1636, during the days of Argeleb II, a great plague came out of the South-east and spread into Eriador. Most of the folk of Cardolan that remained perished and evil spirits out of Angmar and Rhudaur entered into the burial mounds of that deserted kingdom and dwelt there.

Finally, in the year ThA 1974, Arthedain was overrun by the Orc legions and barbarian hordes of the Witch-king. The Kingdom's last King (but not its last leader nor the last heir of Elendil) Arvedui was drowned when his ship was destroyed in a blinding snowstorm which came out of the North. With him, the Palantíri of Arnor were also lost in the waters of the Ice Bay of Forochel.

With the death of Arvedui, the North-kingdom ended, for the Dúnedain were now few and all the peoples of Eriador diminished. Yet the line of the kings was continued by the Chieftains of the Dúnedain of whom Aranarth, Son of Arvedui was the first. Arahael his son was fostered in Rivendell and so were all the sons of the chieftains after him; and there also were kept the heirlooms of their house: the ring of Barahir, the shards of Narsil, the star of Elendil and the scepter of Annúminas.

When the last of the North kingdom ended, the Dúnedain of the North passed into the shadows and became a secret and wandering people and their deeds and labors were seldom sung or recorded although even before the WatchfulPeace ended, evil things again began to attack Eriador or to invade it secretly. However, the Chieftains for the most part lived out their long lives in the wild lands which hitherto had been the realm of Arnor. {Aragorn I}?, was reportedly slain by wolves which ever after remained a peril in Eriador. In the days of Arahad I, the Orcs, who had long been secretly occupying strongholds in the MistyMountains revealed themselves. Later in the days of Arassuil, Orcs multiplying again in the MistyMountains began to ravage the lands so that the Dúnedain together with the sons of Elrond were at constant war with them. It was that this time that a large band came so far west as to enter the Shire where they were driven off by Bandobras Took.

There were fifteen Chieftains before the last was born, Aragorn II (ThA 2931) who eventually became King of the ReunitedKingdom of Arnor and Gondor.

Like Arnor, the Kingdom of Gondor was founded in the year SeA. 3320 by Elendil the Númenorean and was the South Kingdom of the Dúnedain of Middle-earth. Elendil ruled as High King from Arnor in the North while his sons Isildur and Anárion ruled jointly in Gondor. However, with the death of Elendil and Anárion in SeA. 3441, the elder son Isildur and his heirs became the kings of Arnor while younger son Anárion's heirs ruled in Gondor until the year ThA 2050 when the line failed. For over nine centuries Gondor was governed by the Ruling Stewards until the realms were reunited with the crowning of the last of Elendil's line, Aragorn II, KingElessar in the FourthAge.

Gondor's chief city was Osgiliath (Citadel of the Stars), together with MinasAnor (Tower of the Sun) and MinasIthil (Tower of the Moon) and the great ports of Pelargir and DolAmroth. By the first millennium of the ThirdAge Gondor's realm included the fiefs of Anorien, Ithilien, Lebennin, Anfalas, Belfalas, Calenardhon, Enedwaith, South Gondor and most of Rhovanion as far east as the Sea of Rhûn. From the beginning, the Two Kingdoms were the enemies and rivals of Sauron the Ring Lord of Mordor and his allies. Because of this, Gondor was invaded many times by Easterling armies out of Rhûn, the first such invasion took pace in the year ThA 490. However, in ThA 550, Gondor conquered and annexed the Eastlands and Rhûn, in 830, South Gondor was annexed and in ThA 933, the Ship-Kings of Gondor conquered Umbar which had been held by the so-called 'Black Númenoreans' in the service of Sauron. In the year ThA 1050, Ciryaher the King, came down from the north and conquered Harad, forcing the kings of that place to swear allegiance to Gondor. After his great victory, Ciryaher took the name Hyarmendacil (South victor) and his might was so great that no enemy dared to oppose him during the remainder of his long reign (134 years). In his days, Gondor reached the heights of its power. The realm extended north to Celebrant and the southern eaves of Mirkwood; west to the Greyflood; east to the inland sea of Rhûn; south to the River Harnen and thence along the cost to the peninsula and haven of Umbar. The Men of the Vales of Anduin acknowledged its authority; and the kings of Harad did homage to Gondor, and their sons lived as hostages in the court of its King. Mordor was desolate, but was watched over by great fortresses that guarded the passes.

But as happened with Arnor, Gondor's greatest problems were internal rather than the result of outside forces. Anatar Alcarin, son of Hyarmendacil lived in great splendor but loved ease and did nothing to maintain the power he had inherited and his two sons were of like mind. The waning of Gondor had already begun before he died and this internal decay was doubtless observed by its enemies. The watch upon Mordor was neglected but it was not until the days of Valacar, 20th King of Gondor that the first great evil came upon Gondor. For Valacar was sent by his father Romendacil II to the court of Vidugavia, the most powerful Northern prince and self-styled "king" of Rhovanion. Vidugavia was friendly with Romendacil of Gondor whom he aided in his great victory of the Easterlings in ThA 1248. But Valacar went far beyond his father's desire for improved relations with the Northmen and married Vidugavia's daughter, Vidumavi and thus the issue of the marriage, Eldacar, was only half Dúnadan; this favoritism toward the Northmen led to the bloody and destructive civil war in Gondor known as the "Kin-strife" (ThA 1432 - 1448).

When Eldacar succeeded his father, a revolt was initiated by various members of the royal family who believed (or at least said they believed) that as Eldacar was not of "pure" blood, he was unfit for the throne. Open rebellion began in southern Gondor and eventually the rebels under Castamir, the Captain of Ships, besieged Eldacar in Osgiliath. In 1437, the king was forced to flee to his mother's kin in Rhovanion, but Osgiliath was burned and its Palantír lost. Eldacar's son Ornendil was captured and murdered by Castamir who then usurped the throne. But the new King -who was cruel and concerned only of the navy - soon found himself out of favor in Gondor's inland regions so that when Eldacar returned with an army of Northmen to reclaim his throne, he was given much support from the folk of Calenardhon, Ithilien and Anorien. In the Battle__of__the {Crossings of Erui}?, he slew Castamir and besieged the remaining rebels in Pelagir. In 1448, the rebels took the entire fleet of Gondor and sailed to Umbar where they rapidly degenerated into the Corsairs who troubled their former country's coasts for many generations. Thus ended the Kin-strife, but the loss and ruin caused by this internecine battle was never fully repaired and thus Gondor never regained its former glory already much sapped by the weakening strength of the line of Kings.

However, with the return of Eldacar, the blood of the Kings of Gondor and those of its other great houses became mingled with that of lesser Men. For many of the great had been slain in the Kin-strife and while Eldacar continued to show favoritism to the Northmen, the people of Gondor were replenished by the great numbers coming down from Rhovanion. This mingling did not at first hasten the waning of the Dúnedain as had been the fear of those who had instituted the Kin-strife, but nevertheless, little by little, the Dúnedain waned in the South.

The second greatest evil befell Gondor during the reign of Telemnar, the 26th king. (Telemnar's father, Minardil, son of Eldacar had been slain at Pelargir by the Corsairs under the leadership of Angamaite and Sangahyando, the great-grandsons of Castamir.) In ThA 1636, a great plague swept out of the east and killed the King and both his sons along with great numbers of the people of Gondor, especially those living in Osgiliath. As the numbers of Gondor dwindled, so too did the watch upon the borders of Mordor and the fortresses that formerly had prevented evil things from re-entering that land were left unmanned. However, although Gondor suffered greatly, so too did the forces arrayed against it or they might have overwhelmed that Kingdom in its time of trial. Then, too, it may be that what Sauron chiefly sought was the reopening of Mordor to his forces rather than open and costly war.

When King Telemnar died, the WhiteTree of MinasAnor also withered from some blight but Tarondor, the King's nephew who succeeded him, replanted a seedling in the citadel. It was Tarondor who moved the King's residence to that City for Osgiliath had now begun to fall into ruin as those who had fled it to escape the plague did not return. Tarondor also coming as he did to the throne as a young man, reigned the longest in Gondor but could achieve little save a slow nursing of the Kingdom's strength. However, Telumehtar, his son, remembering the death of Minardil - and being troubled by the growing power of the Corsairs - gathered his forces and in ThA 1810, retook Umbar. In that war, the last descendants of Castamir perished and Telumehtar added to his name the title Umbardacil. But in the new evils which soon befell Gondor, Umbar again was lost, this time to the Men or Harad.

The third great evil to assail Gondor in the ThirdAge was the invasion of the Wainriders, a struggle that lasted for almost a hundred years. The Wainriders were probably a confederation of many peoples from the East. They were stronger and better armed than any that had appeared before them and they traveled in great wagons or wains while their battle chieftains fought from chariots. At the behest of Sauron, they made a sudden assault upon Gondor in which King Narmacil II was slain while the people of eastern and southern Rhovanion were enslaved. The frontiers of Gondor were for that time withdrawn to the Anduin and the Emyn Muil. It is believed at this time that the Ringwraiths re-entered Mordor.

Calimehtar, son of the slain king, assisted by a revolt in Rhovanion, had a great victory over the Easterlings upon Dagorlad in ThA 1899 and for awhile it appeared that the danger was over. It was also in the reigns of Kings Araphant in the North and Ondoher (son of Calimehtar) in the South that the two kingdoms took counsel together for it was perceived that these incursions were being directed by a single will. To further ally the two, Arvedui, heir of Araphant wed Ondoher's daughter Firiel (ThA 1940). However, neither kingdom was able to lend assistance in their new alliance as in the North, Angmar renewed its attack upon Arthedain at the same time that in the South, the Wainriders reappeared in great force on the borders of Gondor. Many of these now passed south of Mordor and allied with the Men of Khand and Near Harad and in this great assault from north and south, Gondor was nearly destroyed. In ThA 1944, King Ondoher and both his sons, Artamir and Faramir fell in battle north of the Morannon and the enemy occupied Ithilien. However, Eärnil, Captain of the Southern Army won a great victory in South Ithilien and destroyed the army of Harad that had crossed the River Poros.

Eärnil then went north with his army and gathering what he could of the retreating Northern Army came against the main camp of the Wainriders while they were celebrating their "victory" and the overthrow of Gondor - or so they perceived it to be. Eärnil stormed their camp, set fire to the wains and drove the enemy in a great rout out of Ithilien. Most of those who fled his wrath, perished in the DeadMarshes.

With the death of Ondoher and his sons, his son-in-law Arvedui of the North Kingdom laid claim to the crown of Gondor as the only living direct descendant of Elendil through Isildur and the husband of Ondoher's only living child, Firiel. However, the claim was rejected and in this, Pelendur, Steward of the King played no small part. The Council of Gondor answered Arvedui thusly: "The crown and royalty of Gondor belong solely to the heirs of Meneldil, son of Anárion, to whom Isildur relinquished this realm. In Gondor this heritage is reckoned through the sons only; and we have not heard that the law is otherwise in Arnor."

But Arvedui made his claim that Elendil (the High King) had two sons of which Isildur was the elder and heir. While Elendil lived, the co-joint rule in the South was committed to his sons but upon Elendil's death, Isildur departed to take up the High Kingship of his father and committed the rule in the South in like manner to the son of his dead brother. But he did not relinquish his royalty in Gondor nor intend that the realm of Elendil should be divided forever. Furthermore, in Númenor of old, the scepter descended to the eldest child of the king, male or female and while that had not been observed in the lands of exile, such was the law to which he, Arvedui, now referred seeing that the sons of Ondoher had died without issue.

But the Council of Gondor did not answer Arvedui and the crown was claimed by the victorious Eärnil and granted to him gladly by the Council as he was of the royal house, the son of Siriondil, son of Calimmacil, son of Arciryas, brother of Narmacil II. Arvedui did not press his claim as he had not the power nor the will to go to war against the Dúnedain of Gondor. Yet the claim was never forgotten by his descendants even when their kingdom had passed away. For Arvedui was indeed the last king of Arnor; but in Gondor also, only one king followed Eärnil. It may have been that if the crown and scepter had been united, the line of kings would have been maintained and much evil averted. But Eärnil was wise and not arrogant even if to many in Gondor the realm of Arthedain seemed small for all of its lineage. For Eärnil sent messages to Arvedui announcing his ascension to the throne and declaring his will to continue the two kingdoms' mutual defense agreement.

Unfortunately, it was long before Eärnil felt himself sufficiently secure to send aid north so King Araphant and after him Arvedui continued with dwindling resources to hold off the assaults from Angmar. But in the autumn of ThA 1973, messages came to Gondor that Arthedain was in great straits and the Witch-king was preparing a last stroke to seal its doom. Then Eärnil sent his son Eärnur north with a fleet as swiftly as he could and with such strength as he could spare but before Eärnur reached the havens of Lindon, The Witch-king had conquered Arthedain and Arvedui had perished.

When Eärnur came to the GreyHavens, there was great rejoicing and astonishment of both Men and elves at the size and strength of his fleet from which descended an army of great power with munition and provision for a war of great kings. Yet, this was but a small portion of the whole might of Gondor. Then Círdan The Ship Wright summoned all who would come to him and a great host crossed the Lune and marched north to challenge the Witch-king and the hosts of Angmar who now were dwelling in Fornost which had been filled with evil folk. When the Witch-king heard of the approaching host, filled with malice and pride he did not await their coming but set out to do battle, thinking to sweep them as he had others before them, into the Lune. But the Host of the West came down on him out of the Hills of Evendim and there was a great battle on the plain between Nenuial and the North Downs. The forces of Angmar were already retreating towards Fornost when the main body of the horsemen that had passed round the hills came down from the north and routed them. Then the Witch-king, with all of his host that he could gather, fled northwards seeking the safety of his own land. But before he could find sanctuary in CarnDûm the cavalry of Gondor overtook him with Eärnur riding at their head. At the same time, a force under Glorfindel, the Elf-lord came up from Imladris (Rivendell) and so utterly defeated was the kingdom of Angmar that not a man or an Orc of that realm remained west of the Mountains.

But when all was lost, suddenly the Witch-king himself appeared, black-robed and black-masked upon a great black horse and fear fell upon all who beheld him. Singling out Eärnur, he rode down upon him and Eärnur would have withstood him had not his horse carried him away in its fear. Then the Witch-king laughed but Glorfindel on his elf horse of snowy white rode down upon him and forced him to flee into the gathering darkness. When Eärnur returned, he was enraged with what he perceived to be seen as his cowardice although he could have done nothing to prevent it. Glorfindel warned him not to follow after his adversary for, "Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall." [Appendix A, LotR] Yet Eärnur wanted only revenge for his disgrace and although Angmar was destroyed, his desire for vengeance upon the Witch-king would serve to bring only further sorrow to Gondor.

Thus, it was during the reign of King Eärnil, Eärnur's father, that the Witch-king came to Mordor and there gathered the other eight Nazgûl of whom he was the chief. But it was not until ThA 2000 that these evil beings laid siege to MinasIthil which they took in ThA 2002, capturing the Palantír of that tower which was then renamed MinasMorgul (Tower of Sorcery). There they dwelt until the downfall of their Master and their own destruction at the end of the ThirdAge. However, with the capture of MinasIthil, was the scene set for the second meeting between the Witch-king and Eärnur who had been crowed king in ThA 2043. At his ascension, the ruler of MinasMorgul challenged the new King to single combat, taunting him for his apparent flight when last they met. However, Mardil the Steward was able to restrain the King's wrath. At this time, MinasAnor - which had become chief city of the realm since the days of King Telemnar and residence of the King - was renamed MinasTirith, Tower of the Guard, since it was ever on guard against the evil which now dwelt in its sister city.

Eärnur had been king for only seven years when the Lord of Morgul reissued his challenge. This time, Mardil was unable to restrain Earner who went with a small retinue of knights to the gates of MinasMorgul. None who went on that fateful journey was even seen again. However, since none had seen the King die, Mardil ruled in his name for many years.

Now the descendents of the royal line had become few as the result of the many evils, internal and external which had afflicted Gondor since the days of its greatness. So it was that there was to be found no claimant to the crown of pure blood or whose claim would be allowed (since all feared the memory of the Kin-strife) to take the throne after Eärnur. Therefore, though the years lengthened, the Stewards continued to rule in Gondor and the crown of Elendil lay in the lap of King Eärnil in the {Houses of the Dead}? where the last King has left it.

The Stewards: The House of the Stewards was called the House of Húrin, for they were descendants of the Steward of King Minardil (T.A 1621-34), Húrin of Emyn Arnen, a man of high Númenorean race. After his day, the kings of Gondor had always chosen their stewards from among his descendants and after the days of Pelendur, the Stewardship became hereditary in nature, passing from father to son or nearest male kin.

Each Steward took an oath 'to hold rod and rule in the name of the king, until he shall return'. But soon this became mere ritual as none saw the possibility that the line of kings would ever return to Gondor. After Mardil Voronwe - who was reckoned the first of the line - there followed twenty-five Ruling Stewards of Gondor until the time of Denethor II, the twenty-sixth and last. At the beginning of their reign, the Stewards ruled in relative quiet for this was the time that came to be called the "WatchfulPeace", during which the Ringwraiths remained hidden in the Morgul Vale and Sauron withdrew before the power of the newly established WhiteCouncil which included not only elves of great power in Middle-earth, but the Istari, beings sent from Valinor to help the free peoples of Middle-earth resist the DarkLord. But from the time of {Denethor I}?, there was never a period of real peace and even when Gondor was not in open war with the forces of Sauron, its borders were under constant threat.

In the last years of {Denethor I}? the race of uruks, black Orcs of great strength, first appeared out of Mordor and in ThA 2475 they swept across Ithilien and took Osgiliath. However, they were defeated by Boromir, son of Denethor (after whom Boromir of the Nine Walkers was named) and Ithilien was regained. But Osgiliath was finally in ruins, its bridges cast down and what few people had remained therein had fled. Boromir was a great man and even the Witch-king feared him, but he received a Morgul-wound in the war and died a mere twelve years after his father. After him came the long rule of Cirion. This Steward was watchful and wary but also aware that the reach of Gondor had been considerably shortened and he could do little more than defend his borders while his enemies prepared strokes that he could in no way hinder. The Corsairs harried his coasts, but the chief peril was in the north where a fierce people dwelt under the shadow of DolGuldur in Mirkwood. The Balchoth (as they were called) made raids through the forest until the vale of Anduin south of the Gladden was largely deserted. Furthermore, their numbers were constantly increased by others of like kind coming from the east whereas the people of Calenardhon had dwindled. So it was that Cirion was hard put to hold the line of the Anduin.

Anticipating disaster, the Steward sent north for aid, but in the year ThA 2510, the Balchoth swarmed over the River and swept away the defenders. An army marching from the south was cut off and driven north of the Limlight where it was suddenly attacked by a horde of Orcs from the Mountains and pressed toward the Anduin. The forces of Gondor were caught in a great vice between their enemies. However, from the North (and beyond hope) came Eorl the Young of the Rohirrim who swept away the enemy and pursued the Balchoth to their deaths on the fields of Calenardhon. In gratitude for such loyalty and fealty, Cirion granted to Eorl and his people that land within which to dwell and in return, Eorl and his folk swore oaths of friendship to Gondor to come at need to succor the Lords of Gondor.

In the days of Beren, the nineteenth Steward, an even greater peril came upon Gondor. Three great fleets came up from Umbar and Harad and assailed the coasts of Gondor. They made many landings even as far north as the mouth of the Isen while at the same time, the people of Rohan were assailed from the east and west, their land overrun and they were driven into the dales of the WhiteMountains. In that same year (ThA 2758), the Long Winter with great cold and snows and which lasted almost five months afflicted the Rohirrim. Helm of Rohan and both his sons perished in that war and there was great misery and death in both Eriador and Rohan. But in Gondor, south of the mountains, there was less evil of both weather and enemies and when the spring came, Beregond, son of Beren overcame the invaders and sent aid to the stricken Rohirrim. Beregond was the greatest captain to arise in Gondor since Boromir and when he succeeded his father in ThA 2763, Gondor began to recover its strength. It was also at this time that Beregond's father Beren welcomed the Istari Saruman, head of the WhiteCouncil and gave to him the keys of the great tower of Orthanc in which to dwell. It was also in Beregond's time that the great War of the Dwarves and Orcs was fought in the MistyMountains. The destruction of many Orcs in that war was of assistance to the folk of the south but there was fighting for many years in the dales of the WhiteMountains as the Orcs fleeing that battle attempted to establish themselves there.

With the death of Belecthor II, the twenty-first Steward, the WhiteTree of Gondor also died in MinasTirith but it's remains were left standing 'until the King returns' for no seedling of its race could be found to replace it.

During the reign of Turin II, the enemies of Gondor began to move for Sauron was grown again to power and the days of his revelation were drawing near. All but the hardiest of the kingdom fled from Ithilien and came west over the Anduin for the land was infested with Orcs. It was Turin that built secret refuges for his soldiery and fortified the isle of Cair Andros to defend Anorien. But the chief peril lay southward where the Haradrim had occupied South Gondor and there was much warfare along the Poros. When Ithilien was invaded, King Folcwine of Rohan fulfilled the Oath of Eorl and brought aid to Beregond, sending many warriors to Gondor. With their aid, Turin won a victory at the crossing of the Poros but both the sons of Folcwine fell in that battle.

Turgon followed Turin as Steward but of his time it is chiefly remembered that two years before his death, Sauron rose again and declared himself openly, entering Mordor which his minions had prepared for him. Then Barad-dur was raised again and Orodruin kindled into flame and the last of the folk of Ithilien fled. Also, in a move largely unnoticed at the time, upon Turgon's death Saruman took Orthanc as his own and fortified it.

Ecthelion II, son of Turgon was a great Steward. With what power he had, he began to strengthen the realm against the day in which war with Mordor was sure to come. He encouraged all Men of worth no matter what their origin to enter his service and to those who proved worthy, he gave rank and reward irrespective of those origins. In much that he did, the Steward had the aid of a great Captain whom he loved above all - save his son Denethor only -Thorongil as he was called in Gondor, "The Eagle of the Star" for he was swift and keen-eyed and wore a silver star upon his cloak. But no one knew his true name nor the land of his birth. He had come to the Steward from Rohan where he had served King Thengel, but he was not of Rohan. He was a great leader of Men by land or sea but he departed into the shadows from whence he had come before the days of Ecthelion ended.

Ecthelion was succeeded in ThA 2984 by Denethor II, the last ruling Steward of Gondor. Denethor was a great Steward, tall, valiant and more kingly than any man that had appeared in Gondor in many lives of Men. He was learned in lore and wise in counsel. However, his relationship with his father and his people had been somewhat blighted by the favor that they had bestowed upon Thorongil (whom he perceived as a rival) and although that counsellor never vied with Ecthelion's son for power, in one thing they most certainly were at odds. For Thorongil counseled Ecthelion to trust not in the Istari Saruman the White in Orthanc, but in his fellow Wizard and member of the WhiteCouncil, Gandalf the Grey. And so, there was little love lost between Denethor and Gandalf and after the days of Ecthelion, the Grey Pilgrim's welcome in MinasTirith was less warm than it had been under the former Steward.

Denethor married Finduilas, daughter of Adrahil of DolAmroth in ThA 2976 and she bore him two sons, Boromir and Faramir. But Finduilas died untimely before twelve years passed and Denethor was left alone becoming more grim and silent than before, waiting and watching for what he (correctly) believed to be the inevitable onslaught from Mordor. At some time during this period of dread, the Steward chose to make use of the Palantír of the White Tower. Although it was his to use by right, none other of the Stewards had dared to do so. Even Kings Eärnil and Eärnur had dared to use the stone after the fall of MinasIthil at which time the stone of that city came into the hands of Sauron. For the Palantír of MinasTirith was closest in accord with that of the fallen city, the one that Sauron possessed. Thus did the mind of Sauron enter the White City and although he could not overthrow Denethor and the Steward learned much of what passed in his realm and far beyond his borders, still this knowledge was bought at a dear price. For in his contest of wills with Sauron, Denethor aged before his time and his pride increased together with his despair of the eventual outcome of the fate of the Kingdom of which he was Ruler and Protector.

In the meanwhile, the sons of Denethor grew to manhood. Boromir, his father's favorite, though like him in face and pride, was more akin to King Eärnur of old, taking no wife and delighting chiefly in arms, caring little for lore except as therein were recounted the tales of old battles. Five years his junior, Faramir was his father's and brother's image, but much more like his father in mind save only that he had a natural humility which his father did not. He was gentle in bearing, a lover of learning, lore and music and therefore in those days of anxiety, some judged him less courageous than his bolder brother. But such was not the case save only that he did not seek glory in danger without purpose. Faramir heeded Thorongil's advice to Ecthelion and cultivated the friendship of Gandalf which also did not endear him to his father. But in the end, it was Faramir who became Prince of Ithilien in the FourthAge and kept for himself and his heirs the Office of Steward under KingElessar.

DolAmroth: The great city of DolAmroth was one of the five great cities of Gondor and the largest in the fief of Belfalas. It was ruled by the princes of DolAmroth, and built by the legendary Elf-king Amroth, the star-crossed lover of the Elven princess, Nimrodel. Until Amroth's death in ThA 1981, the Elves of Lothlórien sailed out of DolAmroth to the UndyingLands.

Gondor had other fiefs cast about their main citadel of MinasTirith, who would come in times of war to defend the White City:

"Beyond the Gate there was a crowd of Men along the verge of the road and of the great paved space into which all the ways to MinasTirith ran. All eyes were turned southwards, and soon a murmur rose: 'There is dust away there! They are coming!'

'Forlong! Forlong!' Pippin heard Men calling. 'What do they say?' he asked.

'Forlong has come,' Bergil answered; 'old Forlong the Fat, the Lord of Lossarnach. That is where my grandsire lives. Hurrah! Here he is. Good old Forlong!'

And so the companies came and were hailed and cheered and passed through the Gate, Men of the Outlands, marching to defend the City of Gondor in a dark hour...The Men of Ringlo Vale behind the son of their lord, Dervorin striding on foot...From the uplands of Morthond, the great Blackroot Vale, tall Duinhir with his sons...From the Anfalas, the Langstrand far away, a long line of Men of many sorts...from Lamedon, a few grim hillmen without a captain...Fisher-folk from Ethir...Hirliun the Fair of the Green Hills from Pinnath Gelin..."

LotR - Minas Tirith

Rohan: In ThA 2510, the Battle__of__the Field of Celebrant took place between the Northern Army of Gondor led by Cirion the Steward and the Easterling Balchoth who had overrun the province of Calenardon. During the battle, the Balchoth were reinforced by a horde of Orcs out of the MistyMountains and the forces of Gondor appeared doomed to defeat when a tribe of Northern horsemen led by Eorl the Young, swept down upon the Balchoth and Orcs. These in answer to a previous request for aid and routed the enemy. This victory ended the Balchoth threat to Gondor and in gratitude for their friendship and aid, the Eotheod were ceded the wide and well watered fields of Calenardhon which afterward became known as Rohan. Rohan consisted largely of the wide grasslands, horse plains and farmlands bordered by the River Anduin in the east, the WhiteMountains in the south, the MistyMountains and Fangorn Forest in the north. It was divided into five main regions: Eastfold, Westfold, East Emnet, West Emnet and the Wold. Rohan's capital city was Edoras but although the city was fortified, it was not easily defended. In time of war, the Rohirrim took refuge in the great fortresses of Helm's Deep and Dunharrow high up in the WhiteMountains. This happened during the Dunlending Invasion of ThA 2758 and again during the War of the Ring. Rohan, with the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor, prospered long into the FourthAge.

Dale: One of the many settlements of Northmen west of Mirkwood in Rhovanion was the ancient city-kingdom of Dale, just south of the Dwarf kingdom Erebor, the LonelyMounain?. Like all Northmen, the inhabitants of Dale were related to the Edain of the FirstAge, and although it is not known when Dale was founded, it is believed to have been of very ancient origin. As a city, however, it ceased to exist between the years ThA 2770 when the Dragon Smaug burned it to the ground, until the year ThA 2941, when Dale was re-established by Bard, the Dragon Slayer who was a descendent of the kings of Dale. During the War of the Ring, Easterling barbarians under Sauron attacked Dale and the surrounding settlements and drove its inhabitants to take refuge with their allies, the Dwarves of the LonelyMounain?. After the Fall of Sauron, the united forces of Dale and Erebor broke the Easterling siege and drove their foes from the land. After the war and well into the FourthAge, Dale appears to have been a prosperous and independent kingdom allied with the Reunited Kingdom of the Dúnedain.

Esgaroth: A city of Men during the ThirdAge, just to the northeast of Mirkwood and south of Erebor, called "Laketown" as it was built upon pylons driven into the bottom of Long Lake and connected to the land by a wooden bridge. The Lake Men became wealthy through trading with the three surrounding kingdoms: the Elves of Mirkwood, Dale and Erebor. However, Esgaroth itself was not a "kingdom", but rather an oligarchy. A Master was elected from among Laketown's most important citizens and (most probably with the assistance of some sort of Council) ruled the city's inhabitants. In the year ThA 2770, the trade with Erebor and Dale ceased with the depredations of the Dragon. Laketown survived the long years of Smaug's reign, continuing to prosper through its trade with the elves. However, when the Dragon was re-awakened by the incursion of Thorin Oakenshield, Laketown suffered an assault by Smaug who had (good) reason to believe that the Dwarves had been assisted by the Lake Men. During a furious battle, the worm was slain by Bard the Bowman, but unfortunately, the creature fell full upon the city (which was already in flames) and Laketown was destroyed. Yet all was not lost for the city was rebuilt using some of the vast treasure that had been recovered from the Dragon's hoard. This newer, larger city again prospered with the when its two former trading partners, Dale and Erebor, were again revived upon the Dragon's death.

Bree (Coombe, Archet and Staddle): Reputedly founded during the SecondAge by Men from Dunland, Bree was the main village of a cluster of small habitations; the others being Coombe, Archet and Staddle. Bree was located at the crossing of the Great East Road and the NorthRoad (Greenway). It was east of the hobbit settlement of The Shire and in the heart of what had once been the Kingdom of Arnor. Bree was home to about one hundred Hobbits and Men as the ThirdAge was drawing to a close, having dwindled in size and importance from the great days of Arnor. The Breefolk, big and little, were protected from their enemies who lived in the Wild by the remnants of the Northern Kingdom who were known by them as "Rangers".

The Beornings: These were an independent tribe of Men inhabiting the Vales of Anduin, living on both sides of the river near what has been called the Carrock. The Beornings were descended from the Edain or their close kin. By the end of the ThirdAge, the Beornings were not very friendly to outsiders but in return for tolls, they kept the High Pass and the Ford of the Carrock safe for passage. They hated the Orcs as did their chief and founder, Beorn, the "skin-changer" who as they carried his name, must be considered a founder of the group. After the War of the Ring, the Beornings and other Woodmen of the area were given the central portion of Eryn Lasgalen for their home. It is believed that Beorn himself originated somewhere in the MistyMountains:

"'He is a skin-changer. He changes his skin: sometimes he is a huge black bear, sometimes he is a great strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great bard. I cannot tell you much more, though that ought to be enough. Some say that he is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came. Others say that he is a man descended from the first Men who lived before Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before the goblins came into the hills out of the North. I cannot say, though I fancy the last is the true tale. He is not the sort of person to ask questions of...I once saw him sitting all alone on the top of the Carrock at night watching the moon sinking towards the MistyMountains, and I heard him grown in the tongue of bears: 'The day will come when they will perish and I shall go back!' That is why I believe he once came from the mountains himself."

The Hobbit - Queer Lodgings

The BlackNúmenoreans: With the drowning of Númenor, it was not only the Faithful under Elendil who survived but also those who had served Sauron and dwelt in Middle-earth at the time of the catastrophe. These people made a great haven for themselves in Umbar and continued their alliance with Sauron their master who gave three of their number Rings of Power, which three then were eventually numbered among the Nazgûl or "Ringwraiths". To two others, Herumor and Fuinur, Sauron gave power to rule over the peoples of Harad.

These BlackNúmenoreans often came north into Gondor and Arnor to test their strength against the other remnants of Númenor, the Elendili (Elf-friends). They proved to be immensely strong and for more than a thousand years they harassed and pillaged in Middle-earth. However, in the 10th Century of the ThirdAge, King Eärnil I took Umbar and made it a fortress of Gondor, destroying the sea power of the BlackNúmenoreans. In the years that followed, although they rose again, they were finally broken by Hyarmendacil of Gondor in the year ThA 1050. When Umbar was lost again to Gondor, it was taken as a base by Men from Harad. Thereafter, what remained of the BlackNúmenoreans merged with the Haradrim and the Corsairs while still others lived in Morgul and Mordor itself serving their DarkLord. But the gifts of power bestowed upon these once great people by Sauron vanished with his fall as did they themselves and the annals of the FourthAge make no mention of them.

Orcs and Trolls    

In his letter to Naomi Mitchison dated April 25, 1954, Tolkien speaks of Orcs in this way:

"Orcs...are nowhere clearly stated to be of any particular origins. But since they are servants of the Dark Power, and later of Sauron, neither of whom could or would, produce living things, they must be 'corruptions'. They are not based on direct experience of mine; but owe, I suppose, a good deal to the goblin tradition...especially as it appears in George MacDonald?, except for the soft feet which I never believed in."
Letters, pg. 178

However, in the later published Silmarillion, Tolkien says: (*

"But of those unhappy ones (elves - mm) who were ensnared by Melkor little is known of a certainty. For who of the living has descended into the pits of Utumno, or has explored the darkness of the counsels of Melkor? Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressëa, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes. For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar; and naught that had life of its own, nor the semblance of life could ever Melkor make since his rebellion of the Ainulindale before the Beginning: so say the wise. And deep in their dark hearts the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear, the maker only of their miser. This it may be was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Iluvatar."
The Silmarillion - Of the Coming of the Elves

"And ere long the evil creatures came even to Beleriand, over passes in the mountains, or up from the south through the dark forests. Wolves there were, or creatures that walked in wolf-shapes, and other fell beings of shadow; and among them were the Orcs, who afterwards wrought ruin in Beleriand: but they were yet few and wary, and did but small out the ways of the land, awaiting the return of their lord. Whence they came, or what they were, the Elves knew not then, thinking them perhaps to be Avari who had become evil and savage in the wild; in which they guessed all too near, it is said."
The Silmarillion - Of the Sindar

(* See also: The Origin of Orcs

All during the ThirdAge, the fortunes of the Orcs rose and fell with their Master. They started the Age in decline after the defeat of Sauron and began to rise again as Sauron himself grew stronger. But in 2941, the Orcs are again decimated after the Battle of the Five Armies virtually wiped out their numbers in the MistyMountains. However, by the time of the War of the Ring at the end of the Age, the Orcs once more had become a strong weapon in the hands of their Master.

Orcs are not uniform in size or talents. Larger Orcs made fierce warriors while smaller, darker breeds were used as trackers or bowmen. Furthermore, the Wizard Saruman, one of the Istari, 'improved' the race of Orcs by interbreeding them with Men.

"'I think that I now understand what he (Saruman - mm) is up to. He is plotting to become a Power. He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment. And now it is clear that he is a black traitor. He has taken up with foul folk, with the Orcs. Brm, hoom! Worse than that: he has been doing something to them; something dangerous. For these Isengarders are more like wicked Men. It is a mark of evil things that came in the Great Darkness that they cannot abide the Sun; but Saruman's Orcs can endure it, even if they hate it. I wonder what he has done? Are they Men he has ruined, or has he blended the races of Orcs and Men? That would be a black evil!' Treebeard rumbled for a moment, as if he were pronouncing some deep, subterranean Entish malediction."
LotR - Treebeard

The Uruk-hai, a strain of Orcs bred by the renegade Wizard first appear about 2475; this race contains the characteristics of both Orcs and Men. Unlike ordinary Orcs who could not abide daylight, the Uruk-hai are untroubled by it. Furthermore, they were larger and stronger than ordinary Orcs, almost as tall as ordinary Men with straight legs which gave them considerable advantage in battle. The Uruks considered themselves superior to ordinary Orcs and unlike them, did actually form a sort of allegiance to their leaders, at least in the case of Saruman. Since Orcs were considered untrustworthy (Sauron did not include Orcs in his inner counsel; they were useful slaves, but no more), this particular 'virtue' served the Uruks and their leaders well.

The other great servant of Evil in Middle-earth are the trolls. We meet trolls in Tolkien's work before Orcs when William, Tom and Bert encounter thirteen Dwarves and a hobbit - and a Wizard. Their lack of intelligence leaves them forever monuments to that lack, even into The Lord of the Rings, itself. Trolls are much larger than Orcs and their origin is shrouded in mystery. Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin:

"'You do not know, perhaps, how strong we are. Maybe you have heard of Trolls? They are mighty strong. But Trolls are only counterfeits, made by the Enemy in the Great Darkness, in mockery of Ents, as Orcs were of Elves. We are stronger than Trolls.'"
LotR - Treebeard

In his letter to Peter Hastings, in 1954, Tolkien says the following about Trolls:

As for other points. I think I agree about the 'creation by evil'. But you are more free with the word 'creation' than I am.* Treebeard does not say that the DarkLord 'created' Trolls and Orcs. He says he 'made' them in counterfeit of certain creatures pre-existing. There is, to me, a wide gulf between the two statements, so wide that Treebeard's statement could (in my world) have possibly been true. It is not true actually of the Orcs - who are fundamentally a race of 'rational incarnate' creatures, though horribly corrupted, if no more so than many Men to be met today. Treebeard is a character in my story, not me; and though he has a great memory and some earthy wisdom, he is not one of the Wise and there is quite a lot he does not know or understand. He does not know what 'wizards' are, or whence they came (though I do, even if exercising my subcreator's right I have thought it best in this Tale to leave the question a 'mystery', not without pointers to the solution). Suffering and experience (and possibly the Ring itself) gave Frodo more insight; and you will read in Ch. I of Book VI the words to Sam. 'The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make real new things of its own. I don't' think it gave life to the Orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them.' In the legend of the Elder Days it is suggested that the Diabolus subjugated and corrupted some of the earliest Elves, before they had ever heard of the 'gods', let alone of God.

(*Inside this mythical history [as its metaphysic is, not necessarily as a metaphysic of the real World] Creation, the act of Will of Eru the One that gives Reality to conceptions, is distinguished from Making, which is permissive.)

I am not sure about Trolls. I think they are mere 'counterfeits', and hence (though here I am of course only using elements of old barbarous mythmaking that had no 'aware' metaphysic) they return to mere stone images when not in the dark. But there are other sorts of Trolls beside these rather ridiculous, if brutal, Stone-trolls, for which other origins are suggested.

Letters, pg. 190-1

Robert Foster's "The Complete Guide to Middle-earth" says, among other things, of Trolls

"There seem to have been at least four strains of trolls: the Stone-trolls of the Trollshaws and other parts of Eriador, the Cave-trolls of Moria, the Hill-trolls of Gorgoroth and Eriador, and the Olog-hai...The Olog-hai, bred by Sauron toward the end of the ThirdAge, dwelt in southern Mirkwood and the mountains of Mordor. More agile and cunning than other trolls, they could endure the sun as long as Sauron controlled them."

This is the newly created "strain" of Troll that appears in the battle before the Black Gate, a battle which takes place in daylight:

"Then even as he thought these things the first assault crashed into them. The Orcs hindered by the mires that lay before the hills halted and poured their arrows into the defending ranks. But through them there came striding up, roaring like beasts, a great company of hill-trolls out of Gogoroth. Taller and broader than Men they were, and they were clad only in close-fitting mesh of horny scales, or maybe that was their hideous hide; but they bore round bucklers huge and black and wielded heavy hammers in their knotted hands. Reckless they sprang into the pools and waded across, bellowing as they came. Like a storm they broke upon the line of the Men of Gondor, and beat upon helm and head, and arm and shield as smiths hewing the hot bending iron."
LotR - The Black Gate Opens

Clearly, Saruman's efforts at cross-breeding has not been lost upon Sauron, or perhaps, the other wizard had learned his craft at the hands of his nominal master. In any event, by the time the battle takes place, Trolls are no longer the simple stupid creatures ever fated to perish in daylight.

Sauron and the Balrogs    

Sauron: In his letter to Milton Waldman, Tolkien speaks thus of the great villain of the ThirdAge, Sauron:

"Also the Orcs (goblins) and other monsters bred by the First Enemy are not wholly destroyed. And there is Sauron. In The Silmarillion and Tales of the FirstAge Sauron was a being of Valinor perverted to the service of the Enemy and becoming his chief captain and servant. He repents in fear when the First Enemy is utterly defeated, but in the end does not do as was commanded, return to the judgment of the gods. He lingers in Middle-earth. Very slowly, beginning with fair motives: the reorganizing and rehabilitation of the ruin of Middle-earth 'neglected by the gods', he becomes a reincarnation of Evil, and a thing lusting for Complete Power - and so consumed ever more fiercely with hate (especially of gods and Elves). All through the twilight of the SecondAge the Shadow is growing in the East of Middle-earth, spreading its sway more and more over Men - who multiply as the Elves begin to fade."
Letters, pg. 151

Eventually, Sauron is confronted and ostensibly defeated (or forced to surrender) to Tar-Calion?, King of Númenor who carries his captive back to that Island.

"But there he swiftly rises by his cunning and knowledge from servant to chief counsellor of the king, and seduces and king and most of the lords and people with his lies."
Letters, pg. 155

A new religion, and worship of the Dark, with its temple under Sauron arises. The Faithful are persecuted and sacrificed. The Númenoreans carry their evil also to Middle-earth and there become cruel and wicked lords of necromancy, slaying and tormenting men; and the old legends are overlaid with dark tales of horror. This does not happen, however, in the North West; for thither, because of the Elves, only the Faithful who remain Elf-friends will come. The chief haven of the good Númenoreans is near the mouth of the GreatRiver Anduin. Thence the still beneficient influence of Númenor spreads up the River and along the coasts as far north as the realm of Gil-galad, as a Common Speech grows up.

But at last, Sauron's plot comes to fulfillment. Tar-Calion? feels old age and death approaching, and he listens to the last prompting of Sauron, and building the greatest of all armadas, he sets sail into the West, breaking the Ban, and going up with war to wrest from the gods 'everlasting life within the circles of the world'. Faced by this rebellion, of appalling folly and blasphemy, and also real peril (since the Númenoreans directed by Sauron could have wrought ruin in Valinor itself) the Valar lay down their delegated power and appeal to God, and receive the power and permission to deal with the situation; the old world is broken and changed. A chasm is opened in the sea and Tar-Calion? and his armada is engulfed. Númenor itself on the edge of the rift topples and vanishes forever with all its glory in the abyss.

Letters, pg. 156

Sauron flees back to Middle-earth where he takes up in his old abode in Mordor until he is finally defeated and cast down (but not destroyed) by the War of the LastAlliance led by Gil-galad and Elendil of Númenor. At the time of the opening of the ThirdAge, the DarkLord and his minions have disappeared. By 1300, evil things have begun to multiply again in Middle-earth. Orcs increase in the MistyMountains and wage war against the Dwarves. The Nazgûl (mighty Men who in the SecondAge had received and been overcome by Rings of Power) reappear; their chief (thereafter known as the Witch-king) comes north and makes his abode in Angmar. In 1409, he attacks Arnor and King Arvaleg I of that realm is slain. Although Fornost and Tyrn Gorhad are defended, the Tower of AmonSûl located on Weathertop, is destroyed. In 1974, the North-kingdom is destroyed when the Witch-king overruns Arthedain and takes Fornost. In 1980, he comes to Mordor and there gathers the rest of the Nazgûl. At the same time, a Balrog appears in Moria and slays Durin VI.

In 2460, the period called "the WatchfulPeace", and Sauron returns in strength to DolGuldur. In 2475 the attack on Gondor is resumed and Osgiliath is finally ruined, its stone bridge cast down. From that time until the end of the ThirdAge, Sauron wages relentless war upon the free peoples of Middle-earth.

Tolkien "sums up" Sauron in a letter to Peter Hastings in 1954. Mr. Hastings had made some very precise inquiries into Tolkien's metaphysics and theology in the book including figures of evil to which Tolkien replies:

"Sauron was of course, not 'evil' in origin. He was a 'spirit' corrupted by the Prime DarkLord (the Prime sub-creative Rebel) Morgoth. He was given an opportunity of repentance, when Morgoth was overcome, but could not face the humiliation of recantation, and suing for pardon; and so his temporary turn to good and 'benevolence' ended in a greater relapse, until he became the main representative of Evil of later ages. But at the beginning of the SecondAge he was still beautiful to look at, or could still assume a beautiful visible shape - and was not indeed wholly evil, not unless all 'reformers' who want to hurry up with 'reconstruction' and 'reorganization' are wholly evil, even before pride and the lust to exert their will eat them up.
Letters, pg. 190

Balrogs: The most terrible of the Maiar spirits who became servants of Melkor/Morgoth? were those who transformed into demons. In the High Elven tongue they were named Valaraukar, but in Middle-earth they were called Balrogs or demons of might. Of all Melkor's creatures, only Dragons were greater in power. Huge and man-shaped, these demons had streaming manes of fire and seemed to move within clouds of black shadow (whether or not they were "winged" or not continues to be a matter of speculation). Their chief weapon was a many thronged whip of fire although they carried the mace, axe and/or flaming sword as well. So terrible were these creatures that even the vast evil of Ungoliant which almost overcame Melkor himself was driven from Morgoth's realm by the fiery lashes of the Balrogs.

The most infamous of the Balrogs was Gothmog, High Captain of Angband. In the Wars of Beleriand, three High Elven-lords fells to his whip and black axe. In each of Melkor's risings and battles, the Balrogs were among his foremost champions. However, when the War of Wrath ended Melkor's reign forever, it largely ended the race of the Balrogs in Middle-earth. However, it was said that some fled and buried themselves deep in the roots of the mountains. This suspicion was unfortunately well founded and during the ThirdAge, the Dwarves of Moria accidentally released one entombed Balrog who slew their king and drove them from the mines. His dominion within the Mines remained unchallenged until the demon was finally slain by Gandalf the Grey after the Battle on the Bridge of Khazad-dum.

The Istari    

After a thousand years had passed in the ThirdAge, an Elven-ship came out of the Western Sea and entered the GreyHavens. Upon that ship were five apparently aged Men with long white beards and great cloaks of various colors. Each "Man" wore a tall pointed hat, boots and carried a great staff which were "badges" of their office in Middle-earth. These were the Istari, or Wizards as they became known by Men. They were an order and a brotherhood sent to Middle-earth from the UndyingLands, for it was perceived that a great evil was growing in the Mortal Lands.

Though the Istari came in secret and in apparently frail and humble form, they were in fact mighty spirits of Valinor, Maiar - spirits older than the world itself, a part of that first race that came from the Mind of Iluvatar in the Timeless Halls. Yet, in the diminished World of Middle-earth in the ThirdAge, they were forbidden to come forth in power as Maiar but were limited to the outward form of Men and to evince powers within the mortal World.

Of the five, two play no part in the history of Middle-earth for Alatar and Pallando - the so called IthrynLuin or "BlueWizards" - chosen by the Vala Oromë the Horseman went into the far east of Middle-earth and nothing else is known of them.

Of the remaining three, one named Radagast the Brown lived in Rhosgobel in the Vales of the Anduin. Radagast was faithful to the Vala Yavanna, the Queen of the Earth and although he played a part in the WhiteCouncil which was formed to stand against Sauron, his greatest concern was with the Kelvar and Olvar of Middle-earth. Because of the narrow focus of his interests, little is told of him in the chronicles of the ThirdAge.

The greatest of the five was Saruman the White. In the UndyingLands, he was Curumo, a Maia faithful to Aule the Smith. Later he was called by Men "Curunir" which means "man of skill". In recognition of his great skill and power, Saruman was appointed head of the WhiteCouncil in 2463. In the year 2759, he received permission from the Steward of Gondor, Beren, to settle in Isengard, where he continued to build his power and eventually fell into folly and wickedness.

The most famous and praised of the Istari - and certainly the only one of the five who fulfilled the commission for which he was sent to Middle-earth, was Gandalf the Grey. In the UndyingLands he was named Olórin and lived in the gardens of the Lorien, the Dream Master, often visiting with Nienna the Compassionate. Upon his arrival in the GreyHavens, Círdan of the Havens secretly bestowed upon him the great Elven Ring Narya, the Ring of Fire. For over two thousand years, Gandalf labored in Middle-earth. His actions inspired the destruction of Smaug the Dragon and the rebuilding of the kingdoms of Men and Dwarves in the northeast of Middle-earth. Gandalf also brought about the defeat of the renegade Wizard Saruman, thus saving the peoples of Rohan and Gondor and preventing the alliance of Barad Dur and Orthanc. And, of course, it was by virtue of the efforts of Gandalf that the OneRing was identified and denied to Sauron, said efforts resulting in the destruction of the Ring and Sauron's banishment into the Void. After the War of the Ring, Gandalf bestowed his blessing upon the establishment of the Kingship of the last heir of Elendil, Aragorn II and the beginning of the reunion of Gondor and Arnor. Then in 3021, he embarked on the Last Sailing of the Keepers of the Rings to the UndyingLands.



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