Numenoreans, the Last Alliance and Whatever the Hell Elrond Was Talking About

During the Council of Elrond, after Elrond was finishing up his retelling of the Tale of How the One Ring Was Made, he talked about Numenor. He must have went on and on about that as well, since it was summarized by the narrator.

Elrond had nothing really to do with Numenor. His brother, Elros, was the island’s first king, but he died in 442 of the Second Age just as he reached the five-century mark. The whole tale of Numenor was summarized in a sentence, including “and the return of the Kings of Men to Middle-earth out of the deeps of the Sea, borne upon the wings of storm.”

The Numenoreans were known as the Kings of Men. But then, the Valar called them the Atani (meaning “Second People”), while they were known as the Edain in the Sindarin tongue. Once they got to Numenor, they were called the Numenoreans, or, just to make things more Tolkien-esque, the Dunedain (which means Edain of the West). They apparently called themselves the Adun.

Anyway, at first, there were just Men. But some of these men aided the Valar and the Elves against Morgoth in the War of Wrath (at the end of the First Age). These men, made up of what remained of the Houses of Beor and Hador, were rewarded for their sacrifice by the Valar.

They were given what the Valar called Andor, an island in the middle of the sea (though closer to Valinor). The Men called it Elenna, meaning “Starwards,” because they, led by Elrond’s brother Elros, followed the Star of Earendil (Venus) to find it. They also called it Anadune, meaning “Westernesse.” The Elves, however, called it Numenor, and that’s apparently all that mattered because that’s the name that stuck.

Apart from the island, they were given long lives without sickness. “Therefore they grew wise and glorious, and in all things more like to the Firstborn (Elves) than any other of the kindreds of Men; and the light of their eyes was like the bright stars.” (from the Silmarillion‘s Akallabeth)

They were also pretty tall. By some accounts, Elendil, father of Isildur, was eight feet tall. We’re given the Numenorean unit of measurement, the ranga, which was based upon the typical stride of a Numenorean. Tolkien glossed it as “slightly longer than our yard, approximately thirty-eight inches,” because why not.

In Unfinished Tales we’re told that two rangas was called “man-high,’ which means that typical men were 6’4” tall. However, these measurements were actually used on Middle-earth, not Numenor. The Numenor-Atlantis men were said to have been “more than man-high.” Elendil’s height was supposed to be man-high plus half a ranga, so nearly eight feet tall, which is why Elrond referred to him as “Elendil the Tall.” He was the tallest Numenorean to escape the downfall. Later, however, Tolkien must have rethought it, placing the average tall person’s height at around seven feet. Seriously, Tollers….

Elrond moved on to talk about Isildur and Anarion, the sons of Elendil who became the leaders of Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south, respectively. Together, they were known as the Realms in Exile or simply The Two Kingdoms. This was in 3320 of the Second Age, or 3,139 years before the our story takes place.

Both places had been Numenorean colonies for some time, and both welcomed Elendil and his followers after the downfall of Numenor. But there were also Black Numenoreans who had become followers of Sauron. They didn’t recognize Elendil’s authority, especially in Gondor.

After a bit of shuffling, Isildur and Anarion divided up the kingdom. Isildur built Minas Ithil (which we’ll later know as Minas Morgul) right next to Mordor to keep a watch on it and probably as a bit of piss to throw at Sauron. Anarion built Minas Anor (which we’ll know as Minas Tirith).

Really not keen on this whole idea, Sauron attacked in 3429, about a hundred years after the Realms in Exile were established. A year later, the Last Alliance of Elves and Men was formed. This combined the troops of Gil-galad from Lindon and Elendil (both Isildur’s and Anarion’s from Gondor and Arnor). Here you can see a map of where everybody was coming from. Lindon was mostly near the coast and sort of west of Arnor.

While, as Elrond says, “the hosts of Gil-galad and Elendil were mustered in Arnor,” the army under Anarion was doing their best to hold off Sauron’s forces spilling out of Mordor, the East, as well as the South. It took the Last Alliance three years to prepare, which they did in Rivendell (then called Imladris). This is when Elrond was with them.

‘I remember well the splendour of their banners,’ he said. ‘It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled.’

Finally… FINALLY, the Last Alliance was ready, and they marched over the Misty Mountains and down the Andiun. This is where they picked up the Elves from Greenwood and Lorien and the Dwarves from Moria. You’ll notice that this wasn’t called the Last Alliance of Elves, Men and Dwarves – and they wonder why the Dwarves are so unhappy with Elves (who do all the naming).

When they got near Mordor, they also picked up Anarion’s army, which was probably exhausted after three years of struggling on their own. While it makes sense that the Last Alliance couldn’t join with Anarion’s army due to not being prepared, why couldn’t the Greenwood and Lorien Elves help out before then? Why not the Dwarves?

They attacked in what became known as the Battle of Dagorlad, which took place near what later was known as the Dead Marshes, just outside of the Black Gate of Mordor. Defeated, Sauron’s forces retreated to Barad-dur, which the Last Alliance then besieged for seven years.

At this point in the telling, Elrond is interrupted by Frodo and goes off on a bit of a tangent before returning to the siege. Over the next two (hell, probably morr) days, we’ll follow suit.

A Few Notes
Incidentally, Tolkien placed Aragon’s height at 6’6″ and Boromir’s at 6’4″. You’ll find in Tolkien’s writings that the tallest person is almost always the leader (even among hobbits and dwarves). Speaking as someone who is 5’4″, this is an incredibly dodgy way to pick leaders.

When reading about this stuff, a map really, really helps. My go-to maps are from Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-Earth. You seriously can’t go wrong with it.

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

About the Photo
I didn’t take nearly as many photos of the Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields as I wanted to when I traveled through them last year. I did, however, manage to accidentally destroy a whole roll of film with said photos on it. I was pretty bummed. A few survived from the trip, including this one of the “Triangular Field,” one of my favorite spots.

  • Day 119
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 596 (142 from Rivendell)
  • 325 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,183 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Seventh night out from Rivendell. January 2, 3019 TA. (map)


7 thoughts on “Numenoreans, the Last Alliance and Whatever the Hell Elrond Was Talking About

  1. Speaking as someone who is 5’4″, this is an incredibly dodgy way to pick leaders.

    As someone who’s 4’11”, I agree. Although, more often than not, that’s still how the U.S. picks presidents apparently.

  2. At 5’10”, and by far the tallest among our closest friends, I don’t see what the problem is. I mean, I obviously should just be in charge; see how tall I am?

  3. I’m 6′4″ and I hate to be in charge.

    Atani or Edain at first meant Men in general (iirc) and was only later restricted to the “Elf-friendly” tribes of Beleriand. Note that Bilbo translates Dúnadan for Frodo as ‘Man of the West’, not ‘extra-special Man of the West’.

    Both Thingol and Elendil, I think, were described as the tallest of the Children of Ilúvatar.

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