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Battle of the Gladden Fields

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Battle of the Gladden Fields
Conflict: Post-Alliance War
Date: T.A. 2
Place: Gladden Fields, north of Rohan
Outcome: Death of Isildur, loss of the One Ring
Combatants
  • Isildur's Guard
Commanders
  • Unknown
Strength
  • Isildur
  • Isildur's three sons, Elendur, Aratan & Ciryon
  • 200 Knights and Soldiers
  • Fewer than 20 Archers
  • Said to be up to ten times the number of Númenóreans
Casualties
  • Isildur
  • Entire escort save three
  • Unknown

The Battle of Gladden Fields was an ambush on Isildur and his personal guard at the beginning of the Third Age. The Dúnedain were outnumbered by as many as ten to one. The great Men of Númenor towered above the tallest Orcs, and their swords and spears far outreached the weapons of their enemies, but the Orcs of the Mountains were stiffened and commanded by grim servants of Barad-dûr, and slowly but steadily the Orcs achieved the upper hand. During the last stand, when it became clear that defeat was imminent, Elendur commanded Isildur to put on the One Ring and flee, and Isildur obeyed. Upon reaching the Anduin, Isildur tried to swim across it, but the Ring betrayed him and slipped off his finger as he swam. As he rose out of the water, prowling Orcs shot him. Arnor never fully recovered from this grave loss of its manpower.[1] [2]

Contents

Background

After the defeat of Sauron by the Last Alliance, Isildur, son and heir of Elendil, returned to Gondor. There he assumed the Elendilmir as King of Arnor. He remained in Gondor for a year, restoring its order and defining its bounds, but the greater part of the army of Arnor returned to Eriador by the Númenórean road from the fords of Isen to Fornost. When at last he decided to return to his own realm he was in haste, for he wished to go first to Rivendell, having left his wife and youngest son Valandil there. Therefore he took the shortest route, making his way north from Osgiliath up the Vales of Anduin to Cirith Forn en Andrath, the high-climbing pass that led down to Imladris.

With Isildur went his three sons, Elendur, Aratan and Ciryon, and his guard of two hundred knights and soldiers, stern men of Arnor and war-hardened. On the twentieth day they came within sight of the distant forest crowning the highlands. It was raining heavily and the Anduin had swollen with swift water. They wished to gain the ancient paths of the Silvan Elves that ran near the eaves of the Forest by the entrance of the Vales between Lothlórien and Amon Lanc.

So it came to pass that late in the afternoon of the thirtieth day of their journey, they were passing the north borders of the Gladden Fields, with the forest looming on their right. The fair day was waning and clouds were gathering above the distant mountains. As the sun plunged into a cloud, they were ambushed by Orcs.[2]

The Battle

The Dúnedain saw the Orcs issuing from the forest and moving down the slopes yelling their war-cries. In the dim light their number could not be guessed but the Dúnedain were plainly many times, even to ten times outnumbered. Isildur commanded a Thangail to be drawn up, if the land had been flatter or the slope in his favour he would have formed his company into a Dirnaith, hoping to cleave a way through them and scatter them in dismay. Isildur realized that they were on their own: Moria and Lothlórien were far behind and Thranduil was four days' march ahead.

Isildur ordered Ohtar his esquire to take the Shards of Narsil and flee, and to save the Shards from capture at all costs.

The Orcs let fly a hail of arrows, then hurled a great mass of their chief warriors down the slope against the Dúnedain, hoping to break the shield-wall, but it stood firm. The arrows had little effect on the Númenórean armour. After the initial attack the Orcs faltered, and it seemed that they were withdrawing. The Dúnedain had slain many of them. Isildur ordered the men to resume the march at once, believing his enemies had been shaken enough by their losses, but he was mistaken. The Orcs of the Mountains were stiffened and commanded by servants of Barad-dûr, and there was cunning and a relentless hatred in their attacks.

The Dúnedain had gone scarcely a mile when the Orcs attacked again. This time they attacked on a wide front, which bent into a crescent and soon closed into an unbroken ring about the Dúnedain. Isildur could do nothing, for he had too few archers to be of any effect. Moreover the Orcs were at a distance, out of range even of the dreaded steel-bows of Númenor.

The Orcs closed in on all the sides, flinging themselves on the Dúnedain with reckless ferocity. Some of the greater Orcs leaped two at a time, and with their weight, dead or alive, bore down a Dúnadan so that other strong claws might drag him out and slay him. The Orcs may have paid five to one in this exchange, but for them it was cheap. Ciryon was slain in this way and Aratan was mortally wounded while trying to save him.[2]

Isildur's Fall

"My King, Ciryon is dead and Aratan is dying. Your last counselor must advise you, nay command you, as you commanded Ohtar. Go! Take your burden, and at all costs bring it to the Keepers: even at the cost of abandoning your men and me!"
― Elendur

As the battle progressed it became clear that defeat was imminent, Elendur sought out Isildur, who was rallying men on the east side where the assault was heaviest. The Orcs avoided Isildur, still fearing the Elendilmir that he bore on his brow. Isildur had known for some time that he must put on the Ring and flee, but he delayed because of the pain it caused, and because he would not leave his son. Now Elendur commanded him to take the Ring and flee. Asking Elendur to forgive him, Isildur put on the Ring, and suddenly the Elendilmir of the West, which could not be quenched, blazed forth. Men and Orcs gave way in fear. Isildur, pulling his cloak over his head, vanished into the night and was never seen again.

Isildur was a man of such strength and endurance as few even of the Dúnedain of that age could equal. He fled a great distance, and upon reaching the Anduin he tried in despair to swim across it. Despite his strength, the current swept him down toward the Gladden Fields again, and the Ring betrayed him and slipped off his finger as he swam. In his dismay he nearly gave up and drowned, but the mood passed and he found himself free from his long burden. He reached an islet near the western bank, but as he rose out of the water in the moonlight, prowling Orcs spotted him. Fearing his great height and the piercing light of the Elendilmir, they shot him with arrows. No trace of his body was ever found by Elves or Men.[2]

Survivors

Of the two hundred Númenórean knights only three survived. Two of them were Ohtar and his companion who brought the Shards of Narsil to Rivendell. The third was Estelmo, Elendur's esquire, one of the last to fall. He was stunned by a club and not slain, and was later found alive beneath Elendur's body.[2]

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields"