Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor

Although Men had come into the world under the shadow of Morgoth and often embraced the darkness, some of them did not turn to evil, and their deeds in the First Age are renowned. They are called the Edain, and of them came Eärendil, whose efforts brought the assistance of the Valar in Middle-earth and led to the apprehension of Morgoth.

After the War of Wrath, there were Men who refused the summons of Valar and Morgoth alike, and they took as leaders those who had served Morgoth and so were forsaken by the Valar and troubled by the servants of darkness. Knowing that the works of Morgoth would continue even in his absence, the Valar summoned the Elves to return to Valinor and built an island for Men between Middle-earth and Valinor that they called Andor (land of the gift) but came to be known as Númenor.

Following the star of Eärendil, the Men came to their island across calm seas. These Men were afterwards called the Dúnedain, and their first king was Elros, the son of Eärendil and brother to Elrond. The Half-elven sons of Eärendil had been given a choice as to whether they would share the fate of Elves or Men. Elrond chose to be counted among the Elves; Elros chose to be counted among the Men, though the Númenóreans were granted longer life than most mortals, and Elros lived for five hundred years.

While the light and wisdom of Middle-earth faded, Númenor flourished. The Men of the island were friends with the Elves and often spoke their language; the Númenórean lords and the cities that they established were given Elven names. Although they were skilled in craft, they were a peaceful people and turned their talents to shipbuilding and seafaring. Fearful that the Númenóreans would covet the immortality of the Elves and Valar in Valinor, they were forbidden from sailing into the west out of sight of Númenor, though they did not understand this ban. Elsewhere around the world, they traveled freely.

On clear days, the Númenóreans could see Avallónë on the shores of Tol Eressëa. Many times, the Eldar sailed from the west and brought gifts to the Númenóreans, including the white tree Nimloth that was descended from the white tree that Yavanna had given the Eldar in Tirion. Likewise, the Númenóreans sailed to Middle-earth and aided those of their kin who’d stayed behind, teaching them, and the Men of Middle-earth knew them as gods and ceased fearing the darkness.

Though they were long-lived, the Dúnedain still died, and they became discontent with their fate and began to complain against the doom of Men and the ban placed upon sailing into the west. Many wished to sail to Tol Eressëa or even to Aman beyond, counting themselves among the mighty of the world. These words reached the Valar, and a messenger was sent to explain to the king of the Dúnedain Tar-Atanamir that the land of Aman does not create deathlessness; it is the deathlessness of those who dwell in Aman that have made it hallowed. This fate was able to be reversed only by Ilúvatar, and death was not a punishment but a state of existence. Nor was deathlessness—the fate of the Elves—a reward. The belief that death was a punishment came only from the influence of Morgoth.

But Tar-Atanamir was not content with this answer, and he clung to life and his kingship until his wits were lost and his son had passed his prime. His son Tar-Ancalimon was of like mind, and the people of Númenor became divided: those called the King’s men who were haughty and opposed the Eldar and Valar and those called the Elendili (the Elf-friends) who were loyal to the King but also trusted in the wisdom of the Elves and Valar. Fear of death shadowed all, and their wisdom turned to unnaturally prolonging life, hording wealth, and building extensive tombs to the dead. They stopped giving fruits and honor to Ilúvatar.

Many of the King’s men turned their thoughts to Middle-earth, where they sought wealth and power. No longer did they guide and teach the Men of Middle-earth but founded dominion over them. The Elf-friends visited on occasion Gil-galad and aided the Elves in the struggle against Sauron.

Sauron had come into power in Middle-earth, wanting to be a king ruling the entire realm, and he had turned back to his evil ways. He hated and feared the Númenóreans and took refuge from them. Some of the Men that he ensnared with his Rings of Power, however, were lords of Númenor, and when the Ringwraiths arose, he assaulted first the Númenórean cities on the coast.

In Númenor, hatred toward the Elves and Valar grew, and the Elvish language was forbidden, as were the visits that the Elves still made in Númenor. The White Tree Nimloth was left untended, and the Elf-friends found their loyalties torn between the Kings of the House of Elros and the Valar. The Elf-friends were moved from the west of the island to the east, where they could be watched, and many departed to Middle-earth, where they could speak still with the people of Gil-galad, and were forbidden to return. All aid and correspondence with the Elves and Valar to the west stopped.

Most noble after the house of the King were the lords of the Andúnië, among them the lady Inzilbêth, known for her beauty, who was taken as wife by the lord Ar-Gimilzôr, though there was not love between them, nor between their sons. Inzilbêth was one of the Elf-friends, and her eldest son Inziladûn took after her where her younger son was more like his father: willful and proud, and his father wished him to have the kingship, but the laws would not allow it. When Inziladûn took the kingship, he tended again the White Tree and desired to renew the friendship with the people in the west, but they were shut to him, turned away by the insolent behavior of his forefathers. He took also an Elven name—Tar-Palantir—named for his far sight, and portended that when the White Tree ended, so would the line of Númenórean kings.

His younger brother took leadership of the King’s men and opposed his brother as openly as he dared. Though he died young, he left a son Pharazôn greedier than he, who had won wealth and renown in Middle-earth and won the support of the people by giving this wealth freely for a time. When Tar-Palantir at last died of his grief, he left only a daughter Míriel to take the crown. Breaking the laws of the land that forbade marriage of such close kin, Pharazôn took her to wife by force and took her crown, changing his name to Ar-Pharazôn and her name to Ar-Zimraphel, and he was the mightiest of the Kings of Númenor.

Word came to him of Sauron’s growing strength and his desire to destroy Númenor, if he could. Sauron had taken the title of the King of Men, and this bothered Ar-Pharazôn, who thought to take the title himself and make Sauron his slave. Without consulting anyone else, he armed his host for war and set sail for Middle-earth, and he commanded Sauron to come forth and swear fealty. Sauron obliged, seeing that he would not withstand battle with the Númenóreans and seeking instead to gain what he wanted through subtlety. Although his words seemed fair and wise, Ar-Pharazôn was not fooled, and took Sauron with him to Númenor, which was more splendid than Sauron expected, and he was filled with envy and hate.

Through cunning and flattery, Sauron won his way into the hearts of the Númenórean lords save one called Amandil, lord of Andúnië, by promising them wealth and lands beyond what they knew and the Valar were willing to share. He bade them to worship the darkness, from which he said all had derived, and told them that Eru was a false deity, created by the Valar, and that the true lord was Melkor. At first in secret—and then in the open—Ar-Pharazôn began to worship Melkor.

Amandil, whose son was Elendil and grandsons were Isildur and Anárion, remained in the King’s council for long, until Sauron saw him dismissed. Still, Amandil and his family earned great respect, and Sauron feared them. Amandil took who he could of the Faithful to Rómenna, for Ar-Pharazôn had forbidden the worship of Ilúvatar on pain of death. Sauron also wished for Nimloth, the White Tree, to be cut down, though Ar-Pharazôn was reluctant, believing—as Tar-Palantir had prophesied—that his fate was tied with that of the tree. Still, Amandil knew that Sauron would have his way and was grieved, and in a deed of great bravery, Isildur crept past the guard around the tree and stole a fruit, receiving great wounds in chancing to return it to his grandfather. Amandil blessed the fruit, and when the first leaf opened upon the seedling that grew, Isildur’s wounds were healed.

Sauron did have his way, and Nimloth was hewn, and he built a great temple and burned it at the center. For seven days, the thick smoke hung over Númenor before dissipating into the west. In that temple, sacrifices were made to Melkor, often from among the Faithful, though always on the charge of disloyalty to the King rather than their refusal to worship Melkor. Men in those days began to dread death, and sickness assailed them, and they often became violent against each other, greedy for anything another possessed that they did not, and whispered against the King and his lords, leading these persons in turn to take revenge against the people. Still, the Númenóreans thrived in riches and enslaved the Men of Middle-earth and killed them upon their altars, and the kindly Númenóreans who had once come out of the west, bearing aid and wisdom, were forgotten in the wake of fear.

Ar-Pharazôn also grew in power, but he drew near to death, and Sauron spoke to him concerning Valinor, claiming that immortality was withheld from him only because the Valar feared his greatness. Fearing his imminent death, Ar-Pharazôn hearkened to these words and considered war against the Valar. Word of this came to Amandil, who was grieved and thought to warn the Valar, sailing in secret into the west. To Elendil, he said to make ships ready and gather who he could of the Faithful, sensing that war was near, and prepare to sail away from Númenor and into exile. With three faithful servants, Amandil sailed east in the night and then turned to the west, but no word ever came of them, for Númenor would not be so easily forgiven, and whether he came before Manwë was never known.

Elendil and the Faithful did as instructed and prepared ships to sail from Rómenna. Storms tormented Númenor in those days, and some of their ships foundered, the first since the rising of Eärendil, and at times, great clouds in the shape of eagles would rise from the west and darken the land. From these eagles came lightning that struck down men in streets and fields alike, and some grew afraid and repented, but others took it as a first attack from the Valar and their resolve strengthened. Sauron’s temple was struck and caught fire but was not destroyed, and he stood and challenged the lightning and was not harmed, and came to be regarded as a god for it, and his power increased even further. A final warning came then, and the earth shook and smoke poured from the peak of Meneltarma, but it was not heeded.

Ar-Pharazôn called for his ships to be launched then, and more human sacrifices were made by Sauron, and the ships passed into the forbidden seas, out of sight of Númenor. He sailed past Tol Eressëa and came even to Aman, and for a moment, he felt misgivings and almost turned back, but his pride won, and he strode to the shore and claimed the land for his own if none would do battle. The Elves had fled Túna, and the Númenóreans camped before the slopes.

Manwë called on Ilúvatar then, and the world was changed. A great chasm opened between Valinor and Númenor, and the ships of the Númenóreans were swallowed, and the trembling of the earth buried Ar-Pharazôn and his men beneath the falling mountains. Aman and Eressëa were removed from the world, and Númenor toppled into the great chasm and was lost.

Elendil had moored off the coast of Rómenna, avoiding the soldiers of Sauron, and when the chasm opened, a strong wind bore him and his ships toward Middle-earth. Their ships were broken in the storms but reached the shore. The coasts of the world had been remade, islands sunken and new islands raised, and the courses of rivers changed. The Faithful built new kingdoms in Middle-earth, and though only a shadow of the splendor of Númenor, the Men of Middle-earth learned much of them.

Sauron had been delighted at the imminent death—and riddance—of the Edain, but he did not expect the degree of retribution the Valar sought. He fell with Númenor into the chasm, and although he was not able to die, his fair form was lost to him, and he fled back to Mordor and his Ring, where he wrought a new shape as the Eye of Sauron.

It is said that Meneltarma, the mountain upon which the temple to Ilúvatar had been built, exists still as an island above the water. But none of the mariners who sought it found it, discovering only new lands like the others, not the deathless realm that had once lain in the west. If they sailed far enough, they returned to their origin, and it was know that the world was round and “all roads bent.” The Eldar, however, could still reach Eressëa and Aman through the Straight Road. Legend was also spoken that some Men lost or forlorn upon the sea, by favor of the Valar, would enter the Straight Road, and before they died, their last sight would be Aman.

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