Saturday 1 October 2022

Like stars into the dark... The ending of the last King and Queen of Numenor

Tolkien's legend of the Fall of Numenor is a bit too close to reality to be palatable to the-powers-that-should-not-be in these days; which is presumably why the Amazon Rings of Power decided not to tell the story (although, at one point, that was the expressed intention). 

As is well known, this legend emerged from JRR Tolkien's recurring dream of a Great Wave; and like many of his stories, underwent many changes in detail while retaining the same fundamental shape. 

In the earliest version, which is given in The Lost Road (Volume Five of The History of Middle Earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien, 1987; pp 15-16). 

Although later versions are superior overall; the final image of the passage excerpted below is one that has stayed with me - and which I would not wish to be without.

The drowning of the armada assailing the undying lands, led by the corrupt but magnificent Numenorean King Angor and his wife (later described as perhaps the most powerful mortal man and most beautiful mortal woman, ever), is described thus: 


The fleets of the Numenoreans were like a great land of many islands, and their masts like a forest of mountain-trees, and their banners like the streamers of a thunderstorm, and their sails were black. And they moved silently into the West, for the winds were stilled and the world lay silent in the fear of that time. 

And they passed Tol-eressea, and it is said that the Elves mourned and grew sick, for the light of Valinor was cut off by the cloud of the Numenoreans. But Angor assailed the shores of the Gods, and he cast bolts of thunder and fire, and fire came upon the sides of Taniquetil.

But the Gods were silent. Sorrow and dismay were in the heart of Manwe, and he spoke to Illuvatar, and took power and counsel from the Lord of All; and the fate and fashion of the world was changed.

For the silence of the Gods was broken suddenly, and Valinor was sundered from the earth, and a rift appeared in the midst of Belegar east of Tol-eressea, and into this chasm the great seas plunged, and the noise of the falling waters filled all the earth and the smoke of the cataracts rose above the tops of the everlasting mountains. 

But all the ships of Numenor that were west of Tole-erresea were drawn into the great abyss and drowned, and Angor the mighty and Istar his queen fell like stars into the dark, and they perished out of all knowledge.


Luke said...

It's one of his most illuminating and powerful images, I have no trouble seeing this in my mind.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Luke - Glad you agree. Tolkien generated a real sense of tragedy about the Numenoreans - the most gifted, noble and privileged of Men; who fell further than any other - the King (especially) and Queen stand as representative of most of their peoples, because even more extreme.