Aug 25 2013, 4:18am
Hey, Welcome back to the Chapter Discussion of the Akkalabeth! We are now on part II of the discussion of the chapter, and if you are joining us late, we have part I posted earlier in the Reading Room. So you can catch up, or just jump right in!
Silmarillion Chapter Discussion: Akallabeth (Downfall of Numenor) Part II
What has happened so far:
Earendil has crossed the Sundering Sea, and has gotten the Valar involved in Beleriand. The Host of the Valar and their allies, have marched to confront the hordes of Morgoth. Morgoth is defeated, and he is put out of Arda. Beleriand, in this encounter, is destroyed. Most of the Elves leave to Tol Eressea, and the Men who were loyal, the Edain, are given a new, island home, Numenor. They are the main focus of this chapter. They have been given an extended lifespan, and are taught many things by the Elves and Valar. They developed into a technically skilled society, gifted shipbuilders and craftsmen. They explored much of the world, but were warned, never to try to sail to Aman. They began to visit Middle-Earth and to teach the remaining men how to best live, and bringing them partly out of the shadow of Evil. All was well, until they began to wish for immortality. They began to murmur, and were unable to be convinced by the Valar, that the Gift of Men was a good thing. The climax of this came, when the King, Ar-Gimilzor, began to persecute those who still were loyal to the Valar and consorted with Elves. The Valar and Elves, now, never more came to Numenor. The Numenorians who wished to take counsel with the Elves, went to ME, and Gil-galad's realms.
Part II: The Fall of Numenor
Well, before the Fall, we have a bit of a revival. The Lords of Andunie, second highest office in Numenor, has remained faithful to the Valar and in friendship of the Eldar. They have been clandestinely aiding the Elendili, the Faithful. They did not choose to openly challenge the King and his policies, but aimed for a political solution. The King, it would seem, was unaware of their affiliation, and married one of their house, presumably for her beauty. This resulted in a loveless marriage, but gave a little respite for the Faithful. Inziladun, their eldest son, took after his mother in beliefs, while the youngest, Gimilkhad, followed Gimilzor. Rising to power, in the midst of objections by his father, Inziladun took his kingly name in the Elvish tongue, Tar-Palantir.
Now, rather than have a straight decline into evil, we have a 'good' king interspersed here. Why do you think so? Was it an opportunity for the people of Numenor to come back to the trust of the Valar? Does the relapse into evil, after Tar-Palantir, indicate that most of the Numenorians agreed with Ar-Gimilzor? What about this marriage here. Was it all Ar-Gimilzor's idea? Was it a surreptitious plan on the part of the Lords of Adunie? It is said that Inziladun 'acceeded' to the scepter, and that Gimilzor 'yeilded' it. Does this mean that Gimilzor still followed the custom of old, that the king would give up his rule before his death, and did not cling to life into madness, as some others did?
Tar-Palantir set some reform in motion, he reinstated the worship of Eru at his hallow. He also tended the White Tree, that Gimilzor had forsaken, making the prophesy that with the end of the Tree's line, would come the end of the Kings. All this was good, but came too late to mend the ties between themselves and the Valar, and even then most of the Numenorians sympathized with Gimilzor.
This 'good' king, after a string of 'bad' kings, reminds me of the strings of rulers in the Biblical books, titled appropriately, 1 and 2 Kings. There were kings that 'did evil' and other that 'did right'. Could Tolkien be attempting to mirror this complex political state? Then Tar-Palantir's prophecy, what was its source? Was it a truer blood strain of the Firstborn who had a measure of foresight? Or did it come from somewhere else? Why choose the White Tree as the symbolic life of the line of Kings, because it came out of Valinor? Why not pick something stronger, with a bit more longevity, like a mountain? Why a relatively weak tree? Was the parallel for growth intended? It is also said that it was too late to appease the Valar. Was it because the majority of Numenorians agreed with Gimilzor and Gimilkhad?
Meanwhile, Gimilkhad, led the opposition to his brother. They were open. Somewhat about it, but more in secret. He died early, in the measure of the Dunuedain, but it did not end the strife.
What was the dynamic here, politically? Did Palantir not want to put down the rebellious, because he remembered the repressions of his father? Did he fear becoming the same, and err on the side of pity? This early death is interesting, did the degree of rebellion against the Valar, determine the length, or shortening, of lifespan? Could the Valar rescind their gift of lifespan?
Now this death did not put an end to the strife. Gimilkhad had a son, Pharazon, who was even more outspoken. He was at first, separate from the political scene, leading armies and men in ME, gaining fame, renown, and a following. Coming back to Numenor, he took his father's place as leader of the resistance to Palantir. The king who had tried to do so much, then died. Worried by grief into an earlier grave.
Palantir had tried to reform the country, but had not the support of the people. He may have commanded their loyalty, but not their love. Evil would always seem to be alluring, al a the Ring, and to have the most charming characteristics? Is this a staple of Tolkien?
Palantir had no son, only a daughter, by the laws of the land, she would have become the Ruling Queen. Pharazon, in a grasp for power, forcibly married her, though against he customs of the Numenorians for cousins to marry. He thus took power as king, sealing the fate of Numenor.
Palantir's daughter would seem to have been his hope. Surely such a careful and foresighted man would not just give up. He must have envisioned her to take his place, continuing the reform he had begun. In a bloodless coup, Pharazon undid any planning that Palantir had in place, seizing power for himself. His acts must have been supported by the general populace, to get away with such acts. He must have suppressed Miriel, the rightful ruler, being less strong than her father, a double infamy.
His interests did not turn to evil at first, but rather to good. He had connection to the wars in ME, and hearing of the need for support, turned all his strength to fighting Sauron. Though he was impelled perhaps, by selfish motives, he rose to combat the greater evil.
Evil does not always express itself as we might think. Pharazon did not focus on the persecution of the Elendili, but instead on the grave threat to his imperial holdings in the coasts of ME. It might be selfish, as he wanted to conquer Sauron, and become his rival more than his conquerer, but this would be a case of evil serving Eru's plan to oppose Sauron.
Sauron, in the face of this great armament, decides that discretion is the better part to take, capitulating to Pharazon, flattering his enormous ego more. He took fair shape, and deceived many, who perhaps looked for a dark, obvious sort of evil, but it does not always appear so. Pharazon was not so easily deceived, and took Sauron hostage back to Numenor.
Sauron, powerful as he was, was still able to be daunted by the host of Pharazon. How great a host they mush have been to cast fear into his heart!! Though he was doubtless proud, wisdom was not yet forsaken, and Pharazon preserved a healthy distrust of his Enemy. Not for long!
Sauron was amazed, finally to see Numenor, and the city of Armenelos, but with a jealous and envious hate, similar to Melkor's. He could never build something like this, and that was part of his hatred. He used his crafty lies and deceits, finally becoming a close counselor, from a prisoner in a mere three years. The other councilors, in a politically advancing manner, followed suit in hearkening to him. The few Faithful left, were now eviscerated by Melkor. He began to oppose everything that the Eldar and Valar had ever taught, likely with the King's approval.
Sauron worked his way into the Kings coucil in a short time. How? Did it have anything to do with his hatred of the Elves and Valar? Did an axiomatic principle factor here, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'? Did he gain support, acting as the propaganda minister for Pharazon? He also began to disparage the Valar in the eyes of Men. Very similar is this case to the rebellion of Feanor. Did Melkor teach his craft of subversion and disinformation to his lieutenant?
Sauron then began to attack Eru's authority, having destroyed confidence in his representatives. He held up a false religion to the people. Eventually he caught the King's ear.
His plans seemed well calculated to take advantage of the weaknesses already present in the society of Numenor. Exploiting their hatred and prejudices, he alienated them from any source of good information or support. Now he had their full attention, without opposition. Was this perhaps his plan all along, to support an effortless revolution of ideals, and at he same time remove his chief foes from his path? Did he wish to bring them around to his own twisted philosophy? Did the king's ready ear imply an inner desire to distance himself from the Valar, and everything related? Was he searching for a substitute religion, one that Sauron so easily provided?
The King secretly served the Dark, and Melkor now, but soon moved into open worship. The majority of his people followed him. The Faithful now looked to the Lords of Adunie, Amandil chief, to guide them. He was a childhood friend of the King, and opposed all Sauron had done, but for the sake of their friendship, the king nor Sauron, had the heart or power to punish him yet. Perhaps sensing the failure of his cause, Amandil removed himself from the court, and gathered his adherents around him, to weather this storm.
The Lords of Adunie have been the voices of reason all throughout the last few Kings' madness in defying the Valar. Does his retreat now, show an element of utter despair? Was he the last chance that Pharazon had to turn back? Now it was gone. His inability to harm his friend would seem to suggest that he was not evil at heart, but that he was looking for something to replace that which he hated. Does this suggest that he did not TRULY believe in the Lord of Darkness, but wanted to get rid of the Valar and Eru, only?
Sauron then seeing his chance, urged a great sacrilege upon the King, to cut down the White Tree. Now hesitant, he still feared the prophecy of Palantir, perhaps recognizing the power and wisdom he had. He blockaded the hallow of Illuvatar, but superstitious fear held both him and Sauron in check from defiling it. The rumor of Sauron's proposal went out, and must have created quite the sensation. Amandil heard of it, and feared that it might yet come, as Sauron had main sway with the King. At this point Isildur, son of Elendil, son of Amandil, Lord of Adunie, preformed his most noble act. He stole into the garden, where the Tree was kept, and took a fruit and fought his way back to Romenna. Greivously wounded, he still preserved his incognito, and delivered the seed to his grandfather. They planted it and in half a year it sprouted, and at its sprouting, came the turning point in Isildur's recovery.
Now Sauron had much more freedom. His opposition removed, he began to push the King into a committal to evil. Up to this point he has not directly defied the Valar or Eru, and has only forsaken them. Sauron is pushing him to some overt act to seal his fate with his own, open opposition to the good. Then we have news of Isildur's brave act. He usually gets a bad rap among those who only know him as “the man who would not destroy the Ring”, but it is shown here that he is a fair and noble lord. He risked his life to preserve the Tree, and I wonder how many of us would do the same? I think that we can back off of some Isildur bashing, if only to honor this great deed. It is interesting to note that his complete recovery comes with the sprouting of the sapling. While we are on the topic, what 'fruit' do you think it was, actually edible, or more like an acorn nut? The length of time passed over also interests me. The guards of the Tree would have known that they had wounded the infiltrator of the garden, so why was no inquiry made? Were there that many people? Surely Isildur was almost prostrated by his wounds, or so it would seem. How many in Numenor would have these wounds, considering tht the war with Sauron was at a halt? Who else would be hurt by blades? How did his family hide such a prominent lord from the public eye? It must have been a nerve wracking winter!! On the topic of his healing, what was its source, Eru, the Valar, or did it coincide with the sprouting accidentally? Does this instance serve to reinforce the Prophecy of Palantir, that the life of the King is the life of the Tree?
Sauron, no doubt, capitalized on the acts of the 'fanatics' and pushed for the destruction of the Tree, possibly to prevent any similar occurrences. Then he caused a massive temple to be built. In form and color it was bright, and belied its dark purpose. It was physically darkened later, by the wood of the Tree, Nimloth the Fair, and its destruction sent up a reek and smoke that was a signal to both heaven and earth, of their rebellion. It was added to by more smoke, sent up from the heinous murders, called sacrifice, to Melkor of those who did not support the King, mainly of the Faithful. They did this to pray Melkor to release them from death, only succeeding in bringing more dissatisfaction and death to themselves.
This would seem to be the point of no return, reached now by the King and his followers. They fully turned from the right, to the evils of human sacrifices. The smoke of the Temple carried into the West, yet they did nothing. Why? Perhaps they were too astounded to act?
Civil wars and discontent broke out, men desperate to accumulate things, during their brief lives. Sauron still played his part as friend. Giving them knowledge and power to accomplish their selfish goals. They began to spread their evils to ME, alienating the goodwill of the men there, and darkening their memories of the benevolent Sea Kings. Pharazon became a tyrant, and ruled by fear now. He became more ready to accept the words of Sauron, and followed his schemes. It was Sauron who truly ruled Numenor. Now the King waxed old, even in his diminished span of years, he outlasted many, but now he came to his final days. It was then that Sauron counseled him to prepare an armament to take Aman by force. He began to plan it, and noise of this rumor came to Amandil.
Totally weakening any internal strength, Sauron rid himself of anything that was capable of defeating him. Keeping men distracted by material goods, he was free to pursue his own course. He now came to the climax of his plan, to have the King take, or at least to try, to oppose the Valar. Do you think that he expected them to get somewhere? Or did he just want to remove them from his way, letting the vast part of Numenorians die, allowing him to claim lordship? What was his angle here?
Amandil then resolved to sail into the west, as Earendil had, and to try to ask the aid of Manwe in their plight. He had ships made ready, and also counseled his sons to do the same, that they might be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Amandil took ship, and it is nowhere told where he ended his days, but it is remarked that the evil and treason in Numenor, was too deep to be so easily dealt with by the Valar. The weather itself began to turn against them. Where it had been fair and pleasant, there were now storm clouds and hail, and ships were lost, as never had happened before. Interpreting this as agression by the Valar, some few repented, but the majority began to be angry at the Valar, and pushed on their preparations for the Invasion of Aman. Lightning fell from the sky, and killed men in various places. It smote the Temple of the Dark, ad destroyed the dome, as the earth shook. Sauron defied the weather, and the people now looked to him as a deity, following his orders, now given directly and not through the puppet King.
It would seem that the accusations of interference and aggression of the Valar could be justified, but let us consider another view. The Valar did NOT attack the Numenorians, but had restrained the forces of the Sea and Airs to benefit them. This was an instance of their favor being withdrawn, and the spoiled 'little sailors', who had thought themselves to be good mariners, found out what the Sea was REALLY like. Or perhaps it was a deterrent? What do you think?
The next few scenes create a powerful picture. The Eagles of Manwe advance on Numenor, the sky turns red and paint the color of anger on everything. The King goes down to his ships, in the midst of a terrific gale, sits on his throne, and gives the order for the Armada to advance. Trumpets blow, thunder crashes, a terrific storm of light, rain, hail, darkness, clouds, noise, and wind occurs. They sail through this Malestrom, passing Tol Eressea, and finally coming to Aman. I can imagine the sea, raging about them. A few ships are sunk, but pushed on by pride the persevere, finally come to the Undying Lands. The King hesitates, but his pride does not let him do so for long, and the army marches to camp near Tuna, the hill on which Tirion is built.
Words alone cannot describe how I envision this scene. The pride, the arrogance are unmatched. Mortals defying the Valar's commands. I am struck by the epic scale of the confrontation. This IS one of Tolkien's final moments, and I cannot even begin to try to encapsulate the moment, better that he does in this instance. I could lose myself in this short passage, one of THE best in his works. I will leave this portion open to you, to raise what topics you wish, and to share your feelings on this. It is too much for me to attempt to reduce to a few questions.
It is at this point, that Eru is invoked by the Valar. They have failed to keep the peace and order in Arda, and he must interfere and set thing right. A chasm opened between Numenor and Aman. The sea flowed into the rift, drowning the ships of Pharazon, and the Men in Aman were covered by falling rocks and earth. The entire realm of Valinor and Eressea was taken from the world, and Numenor was destroyed. Fire burst from the summit of Eru's hallow and the Queen, still faithful to the Valar, was killed in an tempt to reach the Hallow. Elendil and his house, stand off from the shore in their ships, protected by the land, from the storm's blast, he is caught in the swell drawing the land of Numenor down. A mighty wind from the west, pushes him and his house, away from danger. The land near the coasts of ME are changed and the nine ships of Elendil come to land.
There is one of the few involvements of Eru in the fate of Arda. Why does he seem so removed? Did this interference need to occur, so that it the will of Eru is followed? Why are the Men of Numenor allowed to get so far? Why were they imprisoned rather than killed? What is their part in the Last Battle? What has the Queen been doing? Has she been entirely repressed, or did she secretly aid the Faithful? Why was she not spared as Elendil was? What about the others who repented? What does this divine judgment mean to you, and how do you feel about it? Was the salvation of Elendil the result of Amandil's intervention? What was his fate? Any guesses? He is not mentioned among the men who were counted to the Elder race. I am not into numerology, but 9, seems to have a connotation of a fellowship. Nine Ulari, Nine ships, and the Nine in the Fellowship of the Ring. Thoughts?
Now back to Sauron. He seems to have overdone himself. He has provoked a greater response than he had hoped for. He had wanted only, as I had before theorized, to cripple the Edain by robing them of most of their force and leadership. He never expected such a strong response. He went down with the island, but being a Maiar, he was still bound to Arda, and his spirit made its way back to Mordor. There he took up to ring again and fashioned a new physical form, having lost the fair form in the destruction of Numenor.
Evil seeems always to underestimate the good. Morgoth never saw the Valar coming to Beleriand, and Sauron never imagined that the whole land of Numenor would be destroyed. A pattern? Here we learn of Sauron's true plan, to destroy the Edain, or at least cripple them. We learn that he has left his ring in Mordor, and I assume that the Elves or his soldiers might have warned the King. What may have happened if the king got it? Might it have had a similar result as the scheme he did put in place? Did Sauron fear losing it, too much to try? He cannot die in the destruction, as such, but he loses his fair shape. Did he, in taking a shape and losing it, lose that power that went into the shape? Was a physical form, an externalization of power? Did he lose power that was used in making the shape? Why would it prevent him from taking fair form again?
Now we have a final section of tradition, these facts cannot be corroborated, but we will take them as true, and an author's artistic flavoring of the story. The summit of Eru's hallow is said to have risen above the waves once more. It is also said that if found, you could catch a glimpse of Aman, though it was removed from the world, being, in spirit, unchanged. The Elves, later were allowed to come to Aman, even if Men could not find it. There was a way, but it was no way for mortals to come, unaided, so there was no chance for the Edain to find it. It is said that though removed, the Valar still watch the unfolding of the world's history. It is also said that some came upon the Straight way, and glimpsing Aman, died, accomplishing the Journey.
The rising of Meneltarma, would seem to be a metaphorical representation of Eru's ultimate victory. Agree? The leaving of a place in the world, where Men could glimpse Aman, Was it a gift or cruel torture? Why leave it if they never found it? A false hope, or something else? This Straight road, what do you make of it? Does it wind through outer space? Or is it something else? It is said that some men came upon the path, and glimpsed Aman. Who? Is this vain legend or unrecorded history? Why did they die? Was this part of the shortening of mortal life in immortal lands? If so, why did Pharazon and his army survive long enough to get to Tuna and Tirion? Is there a multiplication of the power of Aman, now that it is separate from Arda?
Now some overall thoughts, Sauron would seem to have had a plan, even before he came to Numenor. A deep strategy indeed! What advantages might he have in his favor, that the Elves lack? They had just as much time to scheme against him, as he did against them. Immortality aside, there must have been another factor that gave him an advantage over the numbers of the Elves? Was it a chess strategy, taking advantage of position? He seemed to exploit the strife of the Edain and Elves to shield himself in Numenor from the Elves. Did their numbers hinder their effectiveness? Sauron was a one man show, he had all the power. Now the allies, were not so, did the disunity give Sauron his advantages? What pushed his plan too far? What got the Valar's/Eru's attention? Why did they interfere so drastically? The people of Numenor interest me. They seem to be easily influenced by the 'bad' kings, and seem unsympathetic to Palantir. Why do they follow evil so easily, but reject Palantir's reforms? They seem to allow the Unlawful actions of Pharazon- his forced marriage, his usurpation of power, and his defiance of Eru. He couldn't do all of this without their support. What happened that changed these noble people into selfish people, following a king into evil? They all were descended from the great houses of Men, why do the Lords and nobles. Seem to have the main share of honor?
Any other thoughts?
We could discuss this chapter for a long time, and I have missed something for sure. Bring it up!
I have really enjoyed these discussions, and I would like to thank all of you for taking part. I mean, this gives me a great excuse to read more Tolkien!! Joking aside, I really appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions, and to hear yours as well.
I look forward to reading your ideas and comments.