Disaster of the Gladden Fields
|Disaster of the Gladden Fields|
|Conflict: Post-Alliance War|
|Date: T.A. 2|
|Place: Gladden Fields|
|Outcome: Death of Isildur, loss of the One Ring|
- "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
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 stayed 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 and find his wife and youngest son Valandil. 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 him were 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 of their journey, under heavy rain, they came within sight of the distant forest crowning the highlands. Anduin had swollen with swift water and they sought 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.
Late in the afternoon of the thirtieth day (5 Narbeleth), they were passing the north borders of the Gladden Fields, with the forest looming on their right, and clouds gathering above the distant mountains. As the sun plunged into a cloud, they were ambushed by Orcs of the Misty Mountains, issuing from the forest and moving down the slopes yelling their war-cries.
The Dúnedain saw the Orcs but in the dim light their number could not be guessed, only that they were plainly many times, even to ten times outnumbered by them. Isildur realized that they were on their own: Moria and Lothlórien were far behind and Thranduil was four days' march ahead.
Since the land was not flat enough, and the slope was not in his favour, Isildur was unable to form his company into a Dirnaith. He commanded a Thangail to be drawn up, hoping to cleave a way through them and scatter them in dismay.
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 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, who had too few archers, and even their dreaded Númenorean steel-bows could not reach at the distance the Orcs stood.
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.
As the battle progressed it became clear that defeat was imminent. Isildur was rallying men on the east side where the assault was heaviest. He considered to escape with the help of the Ring, but he delayed because of the pain it caused, and because he would not leave his son. But Elendur sought out Isildur, and 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.
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. His corpse was never found, believed to have been lost to the river's current.
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.
The disaster marked the death of High King of Gondor and Arnor Isildur, and a change in the status quo of the two Realms in Exile. It also marked the loss of the Ring for almost two and a half thousand years.
Order of battle
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 they were stiffened and commanded by grim servants of Barad-dûr and there was cunning and a relentless hatred in their attacks. Slowly but steadily the Orcs achieved the upper hand.