Royal Road

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Great Road redirects here. This name sometimes refers to the East Road.

The Royal Road,[1] also called the Great Road,[2] was a major road in the Westlands that connected Fornost Erain in the northern kingdom of Arnor with Minas Tirith and Osgiliath in the southern kingdom of Gondor.[1]

Course

Course of the Great Road (highlighted with red) with its major stops.

The Royal Road originally ran from Fornost in Arnor in the far north, southward for hundreds of leagues through Eriador passing by Bree (where it crossed the East-West Road), on through Andrath between the Barrow-downs and the South Downs and then southeastwards through Cardolan on long causeways across the fens of Minhiriath to the bridge[3] over the river Greyflood at the city of Tharbad.[4]

The road continued southeastwards on a long causeway across the fens on the plains of Enedwaith[3] and then on the higher land in the north-east and centre of Enedwaith[1] until it approached the southern end of the Misty Mountains where it ran eastwards to the Fords of Isen.[4] The part of the Royal Road from Fornost to the Fords of Isen was called the North-South Road or the North Road.[5][6][7] It is possible that this part was also referred to as the Old South Road.[8][note 1]

After the Fords of Isen, the road ran through Calenardhon/Rohan eastwards for a few miles, then turned southeastwards approaching the White Mountains and then ran roughly parallel to the White Mountains on their northern side through the Westfold, the Eastfold and Anorien to the eastern end of the White Mountains where it entered the Rammas Echor through its north gate.[4] It is possible that the part of the Royal Road road from the Fords of Isen to Minas Tirith was called the Great West Road[9][10] or the West Road.[11][note 2]

History

The Royal Road had been constructed by the Númenóreans by the year T.A. 2.[12][13]

After the spreading of the Great Plague to Enedwaith and Mihiriath in T.A. 1636, Enedwaith began to return to a state of wild fen-lands and the causeways on which the road ran to the Greyflood started to crumble.[3]

At the end of the Kings in Arnor and Gondor (T.A. 1975-2050) and the beginning of the decline of Gondor, the border of Gondor was retreated from the river Greyflood to the river Isen. The Royal Road in this land ceased to be maintained, and the Bridge of Tharbad became so ruinous that the Greyflood had to be crossed by a dangerous ford[1] formed by the ruins of the bridge.[1]

After the Fell Winter of T.A. 2911,[14] in T.A. 2912 Enedwaith and Minhiriath were devastated by great floods and Tharbad was ruined and deserted.[15] It is probable that this event caused traffic on the road to decline further.

After it became less used and overgrown by grass the part of the Royal Road from Fornost to the Fords of Isen was called the Greenway by the Bree-folk.[7]

Other versions of the legendarium

Only parts of the North-South Road are taken in consideration in the narrative of The Lord of the Rings. The route is partially seen on the General Map of Middle-earth, which was published with earlier editions of The Lord of the Rings (and later in Pauline Baynes's A Map of Middle-earth). In those earlier maps, the portion of the road from Enedwaith to Rohan is not seen, suggesting that the road was abandoned or ruined after contact and traffic was diminished.

The name Great Road in the Unfinished Tales refers to the road that links Arnor and Gondor, which is drawn without gaps in the map accompanying the book.[16] Christopher Tolkien interpolated the course between Enedwaith and Rohan to restore it on the new map.[17] Confusingly, the name Great Road in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings refers to the East Road.[18]

Notes

  1. From the point of view of Fornost the road primarily runs from the north to the south until the Fords of Isen and then primarily runs to the east, so the name North-South Road or North Road may not have applied to the part of the road east of the Fords of Isen.
  2. From the point of view of Osgiliath or Minas Tirith the road primarily runs to the west until the Fords of Isen and then primarily runs to the north, so the name Great West Road may not have applied to the part of the road west of the Fords of Isen.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Battles of the Fords of Isen", "Appendix (ii)", first paragraph of the long note
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan", "(iii) Cirion and Eorl"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Appendix D: The Port of Lond Daer", discussion of the name Glanduin, first paragraph
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age" [map]
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony", p. 150
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South", p. 274
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Unfinished index for The Lord of the Rings", in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, entry Greenway, p. 31
  8. Christopher Tolkien, General Map of Middle-earth
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Map of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor"
  10. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, entry West Road, p. 892
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Last Debate", p. 882
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 2, p. 1085
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields", "Notes", note 6, p. 360
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 2911, p. 1089
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 2912, p. 1089
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age" [map]
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Introduction", "The Map of Middle-earth"
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur", pp. 1039-40