War of the Last Alliance

From Tolkien Gateway
Previous war: War of the Elves and Sauron
Next war: Angmar War
War of the Last Alliance
Beginning: S.A. 3429End: S.A. 3441
Place: Mordor and the lower Vales of Anduin
Outcome: Victory for the Last Alliance
Major battles: First Fall of Minas Ithil, Anárion's defence of Osgiliath, Battle of Dagorlad, Siege of Barad-dûr

Last Alliance of Elves and Men

Forces of Sauron




The War of the Last Alliance, also simply known as the War of the Alliance, was the war at the close of the Second Age in which the Last Alliance of Elves and Men marched against the forces of Sauron. Against all hope, they were victorious, but when the One Ring was not destroyed, Sauron rose again during the long years of the Third Age.



Ever since his defeat in the Battle of the Gwathló Sauron nursed a special hatred against the Númenóreans and longed to take revenge on them.[1] In 3261, Sauron dared to wage war against Númenor and the last King of Númenor Ar-Pharazôn had gathered a massive army to counter this threat. Perceiving the might and splendour of the Númenóreans Sauron's servants deserted him, and Sauron was filled with fear and humbled himself. He was brought as a hostage to Númenor and finally succeeded in taking his revenge by playing a vital role in the events that led to the Downfall. Yet of all Númenóreans he hated Elendil most, and his wrath was great that he and his sons had escaped.

After the Downfall of Númenor in S.A. 3319, the remaining Faithful led by Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anarion established the Realms in Exile in Middle-earth. Elendil ruled Arnor in the north, Isildur and Anarion jointly ruled the southern realm of Gondor. Sauron however perished physically, by drowning; being caught in the Fall of Númenor which he had cleverly schemed to bring about. Yet nevertheless, even though he truly was drowned, Sauron's spirit endured; he returned to his fortress Barad-dûr in Mordor and was able in time to take shape again. However, it should be noted that hereafter Sauron could no longer take on a deceptively fair and greatly pleasing form, as Sauron had done so long before, in order to deceive the Elves and then again much later, the Númenóreans too, whilst he was held a willing captive.[2]

Opening Stages

Perceiving that his enemies of old had escaped the downfall, Sauron's wrath was great and in 3429 he launched an attack upon Isildur's fortress, Minas Ithil. Believing that Sauron had perished in the Downfall of Númenor, they were completely taken by surprise, Minas Ithil was taken, and the White Tree of Gondor that Isildur had planted there was burned. Nevertheless Isildur, his wife and children escaped, saving a seedling of the tree, too, and sailing down Anduin journeyed to Elendil's realm in Arnor. There Elendil and Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor forged the Last Alliance of Elves and Men in 3430, to defeat Sauron ultimately. Meanwhile, Anárion held out in Gondor, defending Osgiliath and Minas Anor.[2]

In S.A. 3431, the Elves of Lindon led by Gil-galad and Círdan marched eastward and were awaited by Elendil at Amon Sûl. The combined host marched towards Imladris, where they joined with Lord Elrond, who was Gil-galad's herald, and acted as his second-in-command in the coming campaign.[2]

The united host rested for about three years in Imladris, forging weapons and making plans. They crossed the Misty Mountains over many passes and marched down Anduin where they were joined by Elves from Greenwood the Great led by king Oropher and his son Thranduil and Elves of Lórien under King Amdír,[3] as well as by the kindred of Durin from Khazad-dûm.[2] At the southern eaves of Eryn Galen, the host turned south-east and marched through desolate areas that had once been the Entwives' gardens. They, and probably the Entwives themselves, had been destroyed by Sauron to deprive the Alliance's forces of supplies.[4]

The Alliance entered the vast plain outside Mordor where Sauron's host awaited them from the north-west.

Of the Dwarves, few fought upon either side; but the folk of Durin from Khazad-dûm fought against Sauron.[2]

Battle of Dagorlad

Main article: Battle of Dagorlad

The Silvan Elves of Greenwood the Great led by their King Oropher and of Lórien led by King Amdír were not well equippied with armour and weapons in comparison with the Eldar of the West and did not want to place themselves under the supreme command of Gil-galad. Oropher and his bravest warriors the Silvan Elves, charged forward before Gil-galad had given the command and suffered heavy casualties, including Oropher himself. Amdír and his forces were cut off from the main battle and driven to the north-west into the marshes, where he also fell along with more than half of his troops.[3] This area became known afterwards as the Dead Marshes, because of the thousands of bodies buried there.

This battle raged for days and nights continuously. But the Elves were still mighty in these times and the Númenóreans were tall and strong and terrible. And none could withstand Aeglos and Narsil, Gil-galad's spear and Elendil's sword which filled the orcs and wicked men with fear. Slowly Elves and Númenóreans whittled down the vast numbers of Orcs and pushed them back towards the Black Gate.[2] No account is given how the Alliance managed to break through this mighty fortification though.

Siege of Barad-dûr

Main article: Siege of Barad-dûr

The forces of the Last Alliance had forced their way through the Black Gate into Mordor itself. Victory seemed close, but no power short of the Valar could breach the Dark Tower by force. Though a great part of Sauron's forces was destroyed at the Dagorlad his host was still numerous and Sauron ordered many a sortie. The siege went on year after year, from S.A. 3434 to 3441[2]. Isildur's sons, Aratan and Ciryon, were detached and sent to Minas Ithil to guard against a breakout to the southwest, but his oldest son, Elendur served by his side till the end[5]. Anárion was killed in 3440 by a projectile thrown from the tower.[6]

In the seventh year of the siege, it became so pressing that Sauron himself came forth. His onslaught was terrible and the siege was almost broken as Sauron and his host advanced to the slopes of Mount Doom. There he was encountered by the captains of the Alliance, Gil-galad and Elendil and to their side stood Elrond, Círdan and Isildur. Sauron fought with Gil-galad and Elendil, and both were slain. As Elendil fell, his sword was broken beneath him. Yet Sauron was thrown down, too, and Isildur seized the hilt of his father's sword and cut off the finger on which Sauron wore the One Ring. Being bereft of its power, Sauron was no longer able to hold a physical form and perished.[2]


The Alliance pursued the Orcs, who were then in disarray, and killed them all. The Barad-dûr was levelled but its foundations remained behind since they were built with the power of the One Ring which was not destroyed. The thousands of dead Men and Elves were taken out of Mordor and buried in the Dagorlad Plain.

Over the course of the war, which ended with the Siege of Barad-dûr in S.A. 3441, most of the Silvan army had been lost. Thranduil led the remaining third of his army back home to the Greenwood.[3]

While he had captured the One Ring, Isildur refused Elrond and Círdan's entreaties that he destroy it by casting it into the Crack of Doom, claiming it as a weregild for his father's and brother's death[2]. The result of this was that while Sauron was defeated and cast down, his spirit was not destroyed. He hid in the dark lands east of Mordor, and slowly rebuilt his power. The Nine (Nazgûl) also bided their time for the day when he would rise again.

While the Orc armies of Sauron had been well nigh destroyed in the War, scattered groups of them survived. In the Last Alliance, the casualties had been heavy. Elendil and Anárion were gone, and Gil-galad, last High King of the Noldor, was no more. Arnor took grievous losses, and suffered from a decline in population. It never really recovered as a major power and broke into three pieces some centuries later. Gondor suffered less heavily and became a powerful nation. Isildur, the new High King of Arnor, perished only two years later in the Disaster of the Gladden Fields, along with his three older sons. They were ambushed by an Orc task force operating near the River Anduin. In the course of Isildur's death, the Ring was lost in the depths of Anduin[5]. Much was lost, but Sauron was suppressed- for a while.

Portrayal in adaptations

1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

The entire venture of the Last Alliance was combined into a short silhouette play, in which Isildur cut the Ring off Sauron's hand in battle - not when Sauron was already conquered.
The War of the Last Alliance in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

This film also compresses the Battle of Dagorlad, the Siege, and the final duel into one, and places them all at Mount Doom, in a prologue similar to that of the 1978 film. The main perspective of the entire Prologue - One Ring to Rule Them All... - lies with Elrond. The death of Gil-galad is not mentioned, Anárion is cut completely, and the deaths of Elendil and Sauron are rewritten: after coming forth, Sauron wreaks havoc among the Elves and Men, and a blow from his mace throws Elendil against the mountainside, killing him. Isildur tries to take up Narsil, but it breaks as Sauron steps on it. In a desperate strike, Isildur slashes the Ring, and four fingers, from Sauron's hand. Sauron's body sends a shockwave over the land and dissolves into nothingness.
In a later scene, named The Fate of the Ring, Elrond tells Gandalf of the final debate with Isildur, inside Mount Doom. Círdan is not present, and Isildur refuses by simply saying "No".

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (video game):'

The war serves as the setting for the tutorial. The player controls Isildur making his way through Mordor.