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Gondor

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Gondor.jpg
Gondor
EtymologyLand of Stone
GovernmentMonarchy/Stewardship
Head of StateKing of Gondor/Ruling Steward
ExecutiveCouncil of Gondor
Societal information
CapitalOsgiliath/Minas Tirith
LanguageWestron
LocationSouth of the White Mountains, west of Mordor
PopulaceMostly Men
CurrencyThe castar
Historical information
Formed fromThe escape of the Faithful from the Downfall of Númenor in S.A. 3319
EstablishmentS.A. 3320
ReorganisationT.A. 3019
"Gondor! Gondor, between the Mountains and the Sea!
West Wind blew there; light upon the Silver Tree
"
Aragorn[1]

Gondor was the South Kingdom of the Númenóreans in Middle-earth, established soon after the downfall of Númenor by Isildur and his brother Anárion. Their father Elendil, who ruled the North Kingdom Arnor, held the overlordship of the realm, however. Though it waned in power over time and the line of its Kings failed, Gondor survived to the end of the Third Age, and had an instrumental role in the War of the Ring. After the defeat of Sauron, Gondor was ruled by Elessar, Heir of Isildur. Gondor was the seat of the Dominion of Men in the beginning of the Fourth Age, and many of the tales and legends of the earlier Ages of Middle-earth come from the lore and history it preserved.

Contents

History

Early History

Before the Downfall of Númenor, the region that would become Gondor was home to many Númenórean colonists, who either mingled with the indigenous Middle Men if they were friendly, or dispersed them into Ras Morthil, Dunland, and Drúadan Forest. The land on which Gondor was founded was more fertile than the more northerly areas of Middle-earth, and therefore it already had a fairly large population before the ships of Elendil's sons arrived, including a well-established haven, Pelargir.[2] Pelargir was founded by the Faithful Númenóreans in the year 2350 of the Second Age.

The refugees from Númenor led by Isildur and Anárion were given a warm reception upon their arrival by those that had already colonized this area of Middle-earth. The colonists north of the river Anduin accepted Elendil's claim to kingship over them. South of the Great River, however, the also-newly-exiled Black Númenóreans did not recognize Elendil's claim. Since the Black Númenóreans were the descendants of the King's Men of Númenor, who were opposed to the Faithful, they did not unite with Elendil and his sons, who represented the Faithful in Middle-earth. Much of Gondor's early history was marked by conflict with the Black Númenóreans.

The White Tree by Ted Nasmith
After their arrival and acceptance by the people, Isildur and Anárion put themselves to the task of ordering their realm. Isildur built the tower of Minas Ithil near Mordor as a threat to the Black Land, and within its walls he planted a seedling of the White Tree of Númenor that he had taken before its destruction. Anárion raised the tower of Minas Anor on the other side of Anduin's floodplain as a bulwark against the Wild Men. In between their cities, the brothers founded Osgiliath, their capital. From this city Isildur and Anárion ruled side-by-side, and used the palantíri, the Seeing Stones that the Faithful had taken with them from Númenor, to maintain contact with Elendil and the other areas under their control.

First Conflict with Sauron

The Dúnedain were at first unaware that Sauron, who had been taken as a prisoner to Númenor before its destruction, had survived the disastrous Downfall. However, not long after the kingdom's cities were built, the awakening of the fires of Orodruin signaled his return. At that time, the Men of Gondor first called the mountain Amon Amarth, or Mount Doom. Soon after, Sauron launched an attack on Minas Ithil, which forced Isildur into a retreat. Sauron took the fortress and burned the White Tree that had grown there, but Isildur saved one of its seedlings and took it and his family on a ship down the Anduin. He sailed to the north to confer with Elendil about these events. Anárion remained in Gondor and continued to hold Osgiliath. He also managed to push back Sauron's forces to the mountain range of Ephel Dúath, but Sauron began to gather reinforcements, among whom were a large number of Black Númenóreans, and the Men of Gondor knew that their realm was in great danger of being destroyed unless aid came.

The War of the Last Alliance

Elendil reacted to the threat of Sauron by combining forces with Gil-galad the Elven-king to make the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Their armies marched southeast from Arnor and Gil-galad's realm of Lindon. Supported by the forces of Gondor, Lórinand, Mirkwood and the dwarves of Moria, the Alliance fought a great battle on the plain of Dagorlad north of Mordor. The armies of Elendil and Gil-galad were victorious, and entered Mordor itself, where they laid a siege on Sauron's Tower of Barad-dûr for seven years. During this time, Anárion was killed by a rock thrown from the Tower that broke his helm. The siege ended when Sauron himself emerged from Barad-dûr to fight the Alliance. Gil-galad and Elendil attacked and destroyed Sauron, though they themselves were slain the process.[3]

Gondor in the Beginning of the Third Age

Rebuilding

After the battle, during which the long Second Age came to an end, Isildur built a secret tomb for Elendil on the mountain Amon Anwar.[4] He also aided Anárion's son Meneldil, who was now King, in reorganizing Gondor. Isildur planted the seedling of the White Tree that he had saved in Minas Anor, and it endured for several centuries. After these acts, Isildur left Gondor in the third year of the Third Age with the intent of ruling his father's kingdom of Arnor. He never arrived.[5]

Gondor Prospers

After the war, Gondor's power and wealth grew steadily (only interrupted by an Easterling invasion in Third Age 492). Its power would continue to grow into the 9th century of the Third Age. While the power of Gondor's sister kingdom Arnor peaked during the 9th century, when it broke into various successor states, Gondor's greatest glory was yet to come.

Gondor's Golden Age

Gondor's power reached its Golden Age under the four "Ship-kings":

The reign of Tarannon was an unhappy one: he married Berúthiel, nefarious and loveless. Unlike her husband, she hated the Sea, its smells and its sounds. Mystery began to surround her as she used her cats to spy on every one, and paranoia and fear rose. After much ado, Tarannon banished her from Gondor, setting her on an adrift ship with her cats. It was last seen passing Umbar in the South.[7]

In the reign of the powerful king Hyarmendacil I Gondor reached the height of its power. During Hyarmendacil's reign Gondor's borders reached their furthest extent. The Kingdom extended east to the Sea of Rhûn, south to the nearest lands of the Haradrim, as far north as Mirkwood and west towards the borders of Arnor. Gondor would also enjoy several centuries of peace due to its military might.[6]

Rómendacil II built on the northern approach to Nen Hithoel the giant pillars Argonath to mark the northern border of Gondor around Third Age 1340.

The Decline of Gondor

But after his reign decadence spread under the kings of Gondor and a long period of decline began (although Gondor experienced several revivals). Three great calamities struck Gondor during the second millennium of the Third Age, which are held to be the chief reasons for its decline: the Kin-strife, the Great Plague, and the invasion of the Wainriders (a tribe of Easterlings), one of series of conflicts in the Wainrider/Balchoth War.

The Kin-strife

In the 15th century a great civil war named the Kin-strife tore the nation apart. The current King Eldacar was of mixed blood: his mother was of the Northmen. Popular displeasure at this led to the overthrow of King Eldacar by Castamir, the admiral of all of Gondor's naval forces who possessed some royal blood. Eldacar's son was slain, and he fled north. Castamir was afterward known as Castamir the Usurper. During his ten year rule he proved to be very cruel, and because of his love of his old fleet, he lavished attention on the coastal regions while the interior provinces were ignored and left to rot. Eldacar then returned with an army of his Northmen kinsmen, and they were joined by armies of Gondorians from interior provinces such as Anórien. Osgiliath was devastated during this conflict, its great bridge destroyed and its palantír lost. Eldacar slew Castamir and reclaimed his throne, but Castamir's sons and their forces were besieged in Pelargir, the great port of Gondor. They eventually retreated to Umbar, where they joined with the Corsairs, and troubled Gondor for many years, until their descendants died out.

The Great Plague

In Third Age 1636 the Great Plague struck and the White Tree died. This Plague was no localized event: the Plague swept through all of Middle-earth, reaching the successor states of Arnor and the Hobbits of the Shire in the North. King Tarondor found a sapling of the White Tree, and moved the capital from Osgiliath to Minas Anor, the City of Anárion. During this time, Gondor was so depopulated that the fortifications guarding against the re-entry of evil into Mordor were abandoned. It is believed that had the Haradrim or Easterlings been capable of attacking Gondor at this time, it would have fallen. However, the Plague left Gondor's enemies in no better condition than Gondor itself, and neither side was capable of mounting new offensives.

The Invasion of the Wainriders

Following the sapping of Gondor's strength by the plague, the Wainrider invasions devastated Gondor, and the conflict lasted for well over a century. The Wainriders destroyed the Northern Army of Gondor, but survivors linked up with the victorious Southern Army of Gondor, led by a general named Eärnil, and they destroyed the Wainriders as they celebrated their victory during the Battle of the Camp, in Third Age 1944.

The Line of the Kings Fails

Reunification Rejected

In 1944, Gondor also faced a constitutional crisis when King Ondoher was slain in a previous battle with both his sons. Arvedui, King of Arthedain, Ondoher's son-in-law, and the victorious general Eärnil, who was a distant blood-relative of Ondoher, claimed the throne. Arvedui's claim lay mainly in the reintroduction of the old Númenórean law of accession, which stated the eldest (remaining) child should succeed the king. If the law was reintroduced, then Arvedui's wife Fíriel, Ondoher's daughter and last remaining child would become Ruling Queen, making their descendants Kings of both Arnor and Gondor. Arvedui also tried to put weight behind his claim as he was Isildur's heir. The council of Gondor recognised that the name of Isildur was held in honour in Gondor, but they dictated that the South-Kingdom must be ruled by an Heir of Anárion. Due to his ancestry from Fíriel and Arvedui, more than a millennium later, Aragorn Elessar put forward his claim as the heir of both Isildur and Anárion.

Eärnil lay his claim as being a direct descendant of King Telumehtar Umbardacil. His claim was also greatly bolstered by the popularity he had gained as the victorious general who saved Gondor from the Wainriders after winning the southern theatre of the war. Steward Pelendur who was temporarily ruling Gondor as serving as arbiter of succession, intervened in favour of Gondor's victorious general who would rule as Eärnil II.

The Last Heir of Anárion

During the Battle of Fornost, Eärnil II's heir Eärnur led Gondor's forces to victory over the Witch-king of Angmar, who was actually the Lord of the Nazgûl. Although Eärnur wished to fight him, Eärnur's horse was terrified and fled the battle against his wishes. By the time he mastered his horse and return, the Witch-king had fled. Glorfindel the Elf then prophesied to him that it was better that he not fight the Lord of the Nazgûl because "never by the hand of man shall he fall".

Eärnur later ascended to the throne, ruling from Minas Anor (Tower of the Sun). During this time, the Ringwraiths captured Minas Anor's sister city, Minas Ithil (Tower of the Moon), renaming it Minas Morgul (Tower of Sorcery) and taking it as their lair. Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith (Tower of Guard) as a result. The Lord of the Nazgûl repeatedly sent messengers to Minas Tirith challenging Eärnur to single combat, taunting him that he had fled out of cowardice from facing him during the Battle of Fornost. Eventually, King Eärnur was overcome by wrath and rode with a small company of knights to Minas Morgul, to accept the challenge. They were never heard from again. So ended the Line of Anárion.

The Stewards of Gondor

The Ruling Stewards

The realm was governed by a long line of hereditary Stewards after the disappearance of Eärnur, son of Eärnil, since there was no proof that the last king was dead, and no claimant had enough support to be accepted as his successor. The line of Anárion was held to have failed, and Gondor was not willing to risk to another Kin-strife, which would surely have destroyed it. Whenever there was a new Steward, he would swear an oath to yield rule of Gondor back to the King, in essence only an heir of Isildur, if he should ever return. In Gondor there was no one who could claim descent from Isildur in direct line, and the northern line of Arnor had effectively disappeared, so this oath was not considered seriously. The line of Stewards ruled as Kings, without having the title.

Cirion and Eorl

The Oathtaking of Cirion and Eorl by Ted Nasmith

In Third Age 2510, when Steward Cirion ruled over Gondor, the nation faced one of its greatest perils: an Easterling tribe named the Balchoth invaded Gondor with massive force. Gondor's army marched to fight the Balchoth but were cut off from Minas Tirith and pushed back in the direction of the Limlight.

Messengers were sent to get help from the Éothéod, a tribe which lived in the northern vales of the Anduin, but nobody expected the messengers to reach their destination. When certain peril came upon Gondor, however, the Éothéod turned the tide of the Battle of the Field of Celebrant. After the victory the Éothéod were awarded the fields of Calenardhon north of the Ered Nimrais from the Gap of Rohan at the southern end of the Hithaeglir, Fangorn Forest, rivers Limlight to river Anduin, western Emyn Muil and the Mering Stream, where they established the kingdom of Rohan with Eorl the Young as their first king. A perpetual alliance between Gondor and Rohan was established by the oath Eorl swore to Cirion.[4]

War of the Ring

In 3019, during the War of the Ring, Gondor was the strongest of the free nations that opposed Sauron, and thus, its defeat was his primary strategic goal in the war.[8] Gondor faced an all out attack on its capital Minas Tirith in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Although nearly defeated, the Rohirrim once again turned the tide of battle, and helped win the war.[9]

After the second and final defeat of Sauron the Kingship was restored, Aragorn II became king of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor.

Faramir, last heir of the Ruling Stewards, was to retain the office of steward (though not ruling), and was made Prince of Ithilien, which had been reconquered from the forces of Mordor.[10] Faramir would serve as the King's representative during absence or illness, and became the chief counsellor of the Council of Gondor.[11]

Geography

Initially, Gondor was comprised of the lands to the North and South of the White Mountains, but a large part of the northern territories was gifted to the Éothéod in Third Age 2510.[4] Gondor's close proximity to Sauron's land was the catalyst of many battles and skirmishes, but its location also gave the Gondorians more ability to protect the other regions of Middle-earth from the Dark Lord and his servants.[12]

Regions

Gondor was divided between several nearly autonomous regions. These were the following:

The long cape of Andrast was not populated.

Additionally, Gondor held or had held the following regions at certain points in its history:

  • Harondor or South Gondor, which was contested between Gondor and Harad
  • Calenardhon, which was given to the Éothéod and became Rohan
  • Enedwaith, never really populated by Gondor and soon abandoned
  • Rhovanion, which was never fully under the control of Gondor but under Gondorian influence at certain times during the Third Age

Cities

Cities in Gondor included:

  • Calembel
  • Dol Amroth, a city on the coast of Belfalas
  • Erech, fortress of Gondor, abandoned by the end of the Third Age
  • Linhir
  • Minas Tirith (originally named Minas Anor), City of the Kings
  • Osgiliath, city and former capital of Gondor on the river Anduin, largely destroyed and abandoned by the end of the Third Age
  • Pelargir
  • Tarnost (debatable)[13]

Fortresses and outposts

Additionally, Gondor used the following locations as military strongholds at certain points in its history, many of which Mordor later took:

Languages

As the Gondorians came from Númenor, so came their language: Westron, or the Common Speech, was the main language of the people of Gondor. Though the source of Westron lied in Pelargir,[14] the clearest form, without any accent, was spoken in Minas Tirith.[15] This style was nobler and more antique than other dialects, and this was the Westron the Elves adopted.[16] In reverence of the mighty lords of Númenor of old, Eldarin was spoken by nobility. Quenya was known to the learned, and Sindarin was used to be polite, especially by those of high Númenórean blood.[17] However, especially the Sindarin contained several dialectical differences.[18]

Etymology

Gondor translates from Sindarin as "Stone-land", from the Sindarin words gond, "stone", and (n)dor, "land".[19] The (generally not used) Quenya form of the name was Ondonórë.[20] Gondor received its name because of the abundance of stone in the Ered Nimrais, and the usage of it in great stone cities, statues, and monuments, such as Minas Tirith and the Argonath. In earlier times, it was called the South Kingdom, or Hyaralondië, Hyallondië and Turmen Hyallondiéva in Quenya, and Arthor na Challonnas in Sindarin. Though absent in the English translation, both these names are clearly from the Númenórean point of view: the elements londië and lonnas mean "harbour, landing".[21] Tolkien wrote that the newer name was likely adopted from lesser people's terminology;[19] in Rohan, it was known as Stoningland,[9] and Ghân-buri-Ghân of the Drúedain also recognized their use of stone.[22]

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Riders of Rohan"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Drúedain"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Cirion and Eorl"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields"
  6. 6.0 6.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari", note 7
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Minas Tirith"
  9. 9.0 9.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 244 (dated c. 1963)
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, The War of the Ring, "The Second Map"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "Of Men"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 193 (dated November 2, 1956)
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144 (dated April 25, 1954)
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 347 (dated December 17, 1972)
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Cirion and Eorl", note 49
  19. 19.0 19.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 324 (dated June 4-5, 1971)
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Christopher Tolkien), published in Vinyar Tengwar 42, July 2001
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in The Lord of the Rings" (edited by Christopher Gilson, published in Parma Eldalamberon 17 (July 2007), page 28
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Ride of the Rohirrim"