Don’t Know Much About Isildur

Elrond was pretty chatty during the Council of Him, but Frodo had some questions, most of which were about how old Elves were. Turns out, they’re pretty ancient. Without getting too lost in reverie, Elrond told about the Elder Days and spoke a bit about his lineage before returning to the tale of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men (and Dwarves, okay?).

Near the end of the Second Age, this huge army gathered in Rivendell. Elrond then gives an incredibly brief overview of what happened on the slopes of Orodruin [Mount Doom], “where Gil-galad died, and Elendil fell, and Narsil broke beneath him; but Sauron himself was overthrown, and Isildur cut the Ring from his hand with the hilt-shard of his father’s sword, and took it for his own.”

But Boromir also had something to say – “So that is what became of the Ring!” Apparently in Gondor, they had a different take on things, which mostly went: “The Ring was lost, okay?” And that’s it.

Isildur took the Ring, and Elrond lamented that it should have been cast into the fires of Mount Doom where it was made. Gathered at the fires were Isildur, Cirdan (the shipwright) and Elrond. The latter two begged Isildur to throw the Ring into the cracks of doom. But he refused.

“‘This I will have as weregild for my father, and my brother,’ he said; and therefore whether we would or no, he took it to treasure it. But soon he was betrayed by it to his death; and so it is named in the North Isildur’s Bane. Yet death maybe was better than what else might have befallen him.'”

There was clearly more to the story, though only a few in the North had heard it. This explains why Gondor in the South was unfamiliar with the Isildur factor. Isildur, told Elrond, died in the Gladden Fields and only three men from his party survived. One was an esquire named Ohtar, and it was he who carried the broken bits of Elendil’s sword, named Narsil. He brought them back to Rivendell where the pieces remained and the sword had not been reforged.

Earlier in the book, in “The Shadow of the Past” chapter, Gandalf tells his own version of this. All he says is that Isildur took the Ring for his own. He makes no mention of Elrond or weregild or anything like that. The only part he adds (or that Elrond subtracts) is that Isildur “was waylaid by the Orcs of the Mountains, and almost all his folk were slain. He leaped into the waters, but the Ring slipped from his finger as he swam, and then the Orcs saw him and killed him with arrows.”

This was, for the longest time, all that any reader if Tolkien knew of this tale. Isildur took the Ring and refused to destroy it. In turn, it betrayed him and he died. Even The Tale of Years (Appendix B) doesn’t give us too much more to go on, saying only: “Disaster of the Gladden Fields; Isildur and his three elder sons are slain.”

Tolkien might have had a larger story to tell, but as far as can be seen in the drafts written during the Lord of the Rings construction, he never wrote it down (if he even had it at all).

In the Silmarillion, we’re given a much longer telling in “The Rings of Power and the Third Age,” which was started in 1948. It was to be, as Tolkien wrote that same year, “a link between the Silmarillion and the Hobbit world.” Much of that was to appear in Appendix A, but was cut for space.

And then, sometime in 1969, Tolkien wrote the short story “The Disaster of the Gladden Fields,” which took the tale even farther. This story was never finished, and appears in Unfinished Tales.

I’ll be covering both of those soon enough, but wanted to give you the basic story as Elrond, Gandalf, and Tolkien told it to the readers of Lord of the Rings. For all but a select few, this was everything known about the Disaster in the Gladden Fields until 1977 when the Silmarillion was published.

A Few Notes
Another short post. But it makes things flow a bit more.

I used a slew of books for this, but was most helped by The Peoples of Middle-Earth as well as The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide by Scull and Hammond. I was really hesitant to pick this up, but got a good deal on both volumes used. It’s wonderfully thorough.

Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 160 Tungsten (expired 12/1994)

Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 160 Tungsten (expired 12/1994)

About the Photo
Throw the Ring in the volcano, please! This is the Amboy Crater in the Mojave Desert, California. It’s about 79,000 years old, and was rumored to have last erupted 500 years ago, though more recent information makes that doubtful. At any rate, it’s a wonderful little volcano that you should visit sometime.


  • Day 123
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 616 (162 from Rivendell)
  • 305 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,163 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)

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