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Silmarillion Chapter Discussion: Akallabeth (Downfall of Numenor)

Tol Eressea

Aug 18 2013, 2:47am

Views: 392
Silmarillion Chapter Discussion: Akallabeth (Downfall of Numenor) Can't Post

Hello, this is my first chapter lead, and this may be your first RR discussion, so let's work through this together, post away! Don't mind anyone else, if you have a thought/comment, share it! A copy of the book might help, but is by no means required. By reason of length, this discussion with be split into two parts- The rise, and fall of Numenor.

First, a refresher:
Earendil has succeeded in reaching Valinor, and the Valar have intervened on the behalf of the Free Peoples. There is a huge battle(The War of Wrath), the Elves of Valinor, Edain, and the host of Valar on one side, and Orcs, Balrogs, Dragons, and Dark Men on the other, In the end Morgoth got his due (Finally!). He's, chained, and put out of the world's sphere, not to return. In the chaos of the encounter, Beleriand is destroyed, and sinks beneath the waves. Many Exiled Elves, now pardoned, return to Eressea, but some stay in ME, among them Cirdan, Celeborn, Elrond, and Galadriel. The Edain are rewarded with an island home, Numenor, just within sight of Eressea.They were also granted a longer lifespan than the other houses of men, a reward for their faithfulness. Forbidden to sail to the West, they are content for some time, imperialising the western coast of ME, exploring the vast seas, and growing in skill and knowledge. All is well, until they begin to long for immortality.

We will focus on the rise of the Numenorians to the height of their power. Here is how I am going to do this: I am going to maintain a running commentary on the chapter, picking out the “shiny” bits that catch my eye, and posing discussion questions throughout.

The Akallabeth

First thing I notice, the title. We have come to the end of the Quenta Silmarillion. Presumably written in Quenya, it reflects a very Elf/Vala-centric portion of the Silmarillion. Now we have 'Akallabeth', an Aduniac title, foreboding the shift in focus, to Men, the Edain.

It is said that Quenya was used in Numenor, to record Lore and History.

Would the title suggest that this scroll came out of Numenor, and was recorded in Aduniac?

Was this a possible Editorial decision of the supposed compiler?

Men and Elves came into the world of ME under Morgoth's shadow. Some worshiped him, others- the Edain- turned West, seeking the Valar. They allied themselves to the Elves, and fought nobly. From both Kindreds, came Earendil who reached Valinor, and bestirred the Valar to intervene.
In the conflict that followed, Morgoth's stronghold was overthrown, and most Balrogs, dragons, and orcs are destroyed. Some men who fought for him- evil Men- dispersed through ME. Using the power they had gained from Morgoth, and manipulating others' fear, they became Kings of Men.

So my first thought here is, the Witch-King of Angmar!! This is where he comes from, the evil Men!!! These Men used their superior knowledge and power, to overawe their simpler kin, and become rulers. The Witch-King must be a descendant of one of these.

I wonder why he is the only one said to possess this kind of power?

Where did it come from, Sauron, or Morgoth?

If Morgoth, why did no other King seem to have the power?

We know that more than one Balrog survived, so where are the rest, discounting Durin's Bane in Moria?

Some dragons must have done so, escaping to breed on the Withered Heath, al a Smaug. What did they do in the interim?

The Valar leave the men of ME alone for a while, amid the terrors of Morgoth, the misshapen beasts and orcs. It was the report of these by Yavanna and Orome, that caused them to interfere on behalf of the Elves, at the first.

Why do they let it alone?

Do they think that Evil has been destroyed? They seem to have made this mistake before!

Have Yavanna, Orome, and Ulmo, forsaken ME? They were the most proactive Valar.

Morgoth is put beyond the Wall of Night, into the Void, beyond Arda itself. He cannot reenter the Circles of the World as long as the Valar keep watch. His influence remains, and his seeds of evil, hate, and destruction remain to trouble the world.

I assume that Sauron is the greatest evil left in the Outer Lands.

Why does he seem to escape punishment and destruction so easily here, and from Utumno as well?

Was he playing his own game all along, readying himself to seize power?

Why don't the Valar take a roll call here to find out who is still out there?

I mean, he IS a Maiar, with powers beyond the Men and Elves of ME. What is to stop him from setting up shop in ME, which he later does?

The Elves go to Eressea and renew its beauty, while Osse raises Numenor from the depths, Aule makes it fast, and Yavanna enriches it, for the Edain. The new island is ready, and to which they are guided by Earendil.

Why does Osse raise the Island, and not Ulmo?

Was Ulmo a rebel Valar, opposed to the plan of the others?

Did he not want the Elves and Edain to leave ME?

Did he fear a repitiotin of the rebellion and Kinslaying?

What is Ulmo's motivation?

Is he more foresighted, just a bit tired to do it himself, or something else?

It is also stated that the Edain are healthy, but bear few children.

Why? This was passed on to Gondor apparently.

Did it have something to do with the hard life in Beleriand?

Perhaps they didn't want to bring children into such a dark world, or they simply lacked the food to support them?

This harsh environment did not exist in Numenor, so why? Custom? Habit? Culture?

It is then stated that in the center of the island, upon a high pinnacle, was an altar to Eru Illuvatar.

This is the first, and only, mention of organized religion in Arda, that I can see.

Why do you think so?

Tolkien had a deep seated faith, why do you think that it found so little active expression in his literary works?

Was he perhaps, influenced by his friend, C. S. Lewis' example, in this aspect?

Elrond, Elros, and all of the descendants of Earendil. Are given the choice of which Kindred they will join their fate to. Illuvaltar makes an exception, leaving it in the hands of the Valar, who turn it over to the descendant themselves. Elros chooses the Fate of Men, and is appointed First King of the Dunedain. Elrond chooses the Fate of the Elves.

Now, this sets up any cross-Kindred marriages nicely. They simply have to be a descendant of Earendil, and change their mind as to their fate. Arwen takes advantage of this, but another question niggles at my mind.

Why do we have no descendants of Elros choosing Immortality? Was it even possible?

Elros' kids seem to have gotten the short end of the stick. Elrond's could live their life, almost forever, then choose death when they want.

Was their some ban on those born men, to become immortal? An expression of entropy in ME?

Lastly, how close do you believe that Elrond and Elros were?

Was there an argument over their choices, or did they both have to answer independently?

Sundered beyond the Fate of the world, it seems a bit tragic for the brothers.

It is then remarked, how the lands of ME devolved in the shadows of evil, as the land of the Numenorians increased in light. They learned of the Elves of Eressea and ME, much, and became mighty in crafts and skills of peace. They also became mighty sailors, exploring the wide seas, and even sighted the Far regions and Walls of Night. It is also told, of the the Ban of the Valar, forbidding the Numenorians to sail west, toward the land of Aman. They were happy to oblige, having more than enough to do in the meanwhile. Elves from Eressea came, bearing gifts, and knowledge enriching the island. They even brought the sapling of Nimloth, the White Tree, to Numenor, the image of Teleperion. Finally they begin to take interest in the lands of ME. Those wild Men are taught much of agriculture and crafts, and begin to shake off the yoke of the Evil Kings.

This darkening of ME couldn't have gone unnoticed by the Valar, but the Numenorians seem to have taken the initiative here.

Is this indicative of the reassertion of neutrality of the Valar?

Or is the Age of the Valar coming to an end, like the “Time of the Elves” and the “Age of Men”?

Are they drawing back from the affairs of the world, leaving it to the Elves and Men?

The Numenorians seem to be off to a good start, teaching the men of ME, but they do not stay to protect the seeds of light they have sown.

What might have happened if they had?

Now the Dunedain begin to long for immortality, and the seeds of the will of Morgoth begin to sprout. They begin secretly, then openly to dispute the Ban of the Valar, wishing to go to the Undying Lands. They begin to boast of their craft and mastery of the sea, over which they really had no control. They still progress as a society, though the foundations are beginning to be undercut.

This is very reminiscent of the rebellion of Feanor.

They began to believe lies and deceptions of Morgoth, and wanted something that was against the will of the Valar.

They also began in secret, but then openly defied the Valar.

Those loyal carried the words to the Valar, and they responded.

A lot of similarities.

Then the Valar send word, (Not themselves), explaining that they could not come to the Undying Lands, and that it would be no good to themselves, as immortality was not an external asset, but an internal trait of the one who possesses it. Also, that the land of immortality would consume their life even more quickly.

Now the Valar have explained the facts to the Dunedain, much like they had made their case to the Eldar.

They don't seem to do anything different, but is this complacency, or is it part of the Fate of the World?

Are they limited in their actions? They did not interfere in Beleriand until the “fated messenger” appeared in Aman.

Perhaps they are backseat powers, bound to follow the plan set out by Eru? They don't have any power to change anything, and are bound much more than Elves or Men, having less free will?

Perhaps they represent Fate itself?

On the topic of mortals in the Undying lands, it would appear that an irreconcilable dichotomy exists between mortality and immortality, being mutually exclusive of each other.

The shortening of mortal life in an immortal environment, would seem to hearken back to the deaths of Beren and Luthien in Tol Galen.

Perhaps this is the reason that mortal men cannot become immortal?

How, then, would the cases of Tuor, Elrond, and Earendil be explained?

Is this an ex Deus Machina?

How would you explain it?

The King of Numenor then replies. He cites Earendil as an example of mortal taking immortality, and asks whether he dwells not in Aman.

Now, as a matter of fact, no, Earendil is not in Aman. He has a fate separate from Men, Dwarves, Elves, and Vala.

(As a matter of fact, where are the Dwarves in all of this? Did they forsake Beleriand in their grudge?).

His wife is not even in Aman, she is in a tower, north of the Sundering Seas.

While we are on the topic, the King cites an example of a man who did truly great things.

How can he, realistically, liken himself to Earendil? What had he done to deserve immortality?

Lies, and deceptions, seem to be the only real power of evil in a loyal society, and the corruption of that loyalty.

How could all of theis been avoided, do you think? Could it have been?

The messenger doesn't address the above concerns directly, but does state the truth of the case. The Numenorians want the best of both worlds, to come to Aman, then to go to the mortal lands when they wish. It cannot be. It is also said that the rebellious Eldar are not punished, and it is explained that it cannot be otherwise. The Men think that death is a punishment, but the messenger explain that it is a gift of Eru, and that Evil had twisted the meaning of it. Vala are, for better or worse bound to the earth and its trials. It is then that they ask, which of them truly have the best part of the deal?
The Numenorians revolt from this explanation, possibly sensing the ignorance of the Valar in this matter, and the Valar admit their ignorance, and warnhem of the danger in defying Eru's plan, as Melkor tried to do. Most of them do not accept this explanation.

The Valar truly state the facts clearly, but they cannot change the minds of Men.

They cannot comprehend the gift of the Atani, death, or their special dispensation of free will.

Perhaps they are not the best to explain it to them?

Again it is shown that Morgoth has twisted the truth, in the matter of death.

What are your personal thoughts on the Fate of Men?

It is then that an obsession with life, and a fear of death, became rampant among the Numenorians. They shortened their lives in worry, or they clung on into madness. Except for the Elendili, the Faithful, who listened to the council of the Valar, while staying loyal to the House of Elros. They did not understand the Hope of Men, but also had the trust to believe that it would all work out. The civilization of Westernesse flourished still, in spite of this dissension. The Numenorians then begin to establish an Imperium in ME. They began to build great towers and harbors on the coasts, levying taxes of labor and material upon the native men. They began to become more complex a society, and aid Gil-galad against Sauron, eventually moving south.

Fear always drives us to something else. In the case of the Numenorians it drives them to feats of architecture and arms.

Are they trying to fill up the hole left in their longing for immortality?

Trying to replace it with something else, but not finding fulfillment?

No longer are they a simple society of adventurers, but become a complex society, with many schisms and much more opulent. A parallel to the shift of the Roman Republic to an increasingly nebulous political Empire, could be drawn here.

The Men don't seem to find what they are looking for, however.

Then we shift back to Sauron. What has he been up to? He appears once more in power in Mordor, far from the Elven havens, and raises Barad-dur. He seems to be operating for the same goal as Morgoth, Kingdom of the World and a position as a deity among men. He has a fear and hatred of the Numenorians, for their deeds of old, and the aid they gave to Gil-galad in Eriador. He drew in his strength to Mordor, fearing a direct conflict. He was forced to use subtlety and guile to gain his ends. He gave out the Nine Rings to men, ensnaring three Lords of Numenor. Now having the Ringwraiths by his side, and presumably weakening the Numenorians of strategic leadership, he begins an active campaign against the Men and Elves.

Sauron seems to be walking in the steps of Morgoth, in his own petty way.

In what ways are they similar, and in what ways are they different?

Is this similarity related the Fate of the World?

Does Sauron have less choice in his modus operandi? (See the discussion on personality limiting fate in the RR discussion, of Tuor and the fall of Gondolin)

How did he give out the rings? Did it have something to do with half-truths about immortality?

Then you have the others that he ensnared. Who do you think they were?

We have the Witch-King, but who else?

Were they strategically chosen, in anticipation of his assault?

Now we shift back to Numenor. A king ascends the throne under an Aduniac name, proscribing the use of the Elvish tongue. This is just the beginning of the end. Ar-Gimilzor, later, forsakes the tending of the White Tree and the altar to Eru, also punishing the Faithful, who still welcomed the ships from Eressea. He also forced the Elendili to remove themselves to the eastern side of the island, now separated from their friends in Eressea. They would still travel to ME to speak with Gil-galad, though, and many left, never to return. The king kept a secret service to watch the Elendili, and he took action to prevent any influence, beyond his own, to come to Numenor. Now this angered the Valar and they gave no more favors or council to the Dunedain Numenor had reached its high water mark. No more ships came to them from Eressea.

Now we have blatant disregard of the Valar and Eru himself. Ar-Gimilzor seems bent on a policy of isolation and breaking with the Elves.

He sets up a system of a secret police to watch and punish the faithful, a sure sign of tyranny anywhere. He then forces them to move from there homes, to a place that they can more easily be watch, away from aid of the Eldar.

Concentration camps any one?

On the other side you have the Faithful, still loyal to the King, they comply with his demands.

What was their object here? Political reform, or just an overtaxed sense of loyalty?

The real climax comes when the Valar break off communication with them. They had been favored and given many gifts.

Perhaps they were a bit 'spoiled', and the Valar began to act as a parent might in this case?

Does this mark a point in history, when the Valar become more withdrawn from the world, and it's fate?

They do not seem to directly involve themselves in ME after this.

Did they prohibit the visits of the Elves, or did they cease to come because of the lack of those to meet them?

Did the King threaten them, and would he have actually have harmed the Elves?


How was that? Comments on my method and presentation, are solicited and accepted most graciously.

Anything I miss? Do you have your own views or opinions? I cannot wait to read them!

Part II will be posted next week, and we will discuss the steep slide of the Numenorians into destruction.

Subject User Time
Silmarillion Chapter Discussion: Akallabeth (Downfall of Numenor) Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 18 2013, 2:47am
    A few points Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Aug 18 2013, 12:54pm
        I had the (possibly wrong) impression... Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 18 2013, 1:03pm
            Rather depends upon what type of power you mean! Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Aug 18 2013, 1:09pm
                I thought that I read somewhere.... Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 18 2013, 4:52pm
                    Dunedain CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 28 2013, 12:27pm
    I like your approach! Half-Elven, and Religion arithmancer Send a private message to arithmancer Aug 18 2013, 4:21pm
        Thanks, and thoughts... Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 18 2013, 5:29pm
            Old Testament arithmancer Send a private message to arithmancer Aug 18 2013, 6:20pm
                Definitely Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 18 2013, 6:37pm
                    Tinkering with religion CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 28 2013, 12:38pm
                Just to throw another idea into the mix Riven Delve Send a private message to Riven Delve Aug 21 2013, 6:39pm
                    Just a vague idea Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 21 2013, 6:45pm
                    Some possibilities CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 28 2013, 11:59am
    As this discussion has seemed to have 'died'... Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 19 2013, 9:35pm
    Loose ends Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 19 2013, 9:44pm
        At last! sador Send a private message to sador Aug 20 2013, 2:12pm
            Missed citations added, with a thought on dragons Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 20 2013, 2:44pm
            Number of Balrogs Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 20 2013, 3:26pm
    Sauron Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 19 2013, 9:57pm
        Did Sauron actually do the world a favour Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Aug 19 2013, 11:05pm
            Hmm... Counter-factuals can get messy.. Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 19 2013, 11:51pm
            Sauron did Sauron a favor squire Send a private message to squire Aug 20 2013, 12:11am
                I agree Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Aug 21 2013, 8:31am
                    Political partition Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 21 2013, 4:32pm
        Short answers sador Send a private message to sador Aug 20 2013, 2:26pm
            Not angling for power, with no desire for upward mobility? Brainwashed? Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 20 2013, 3:17pm
                Beaten by a girl... squire Send a private message to squire Aug 20 2013, 5:12pm
                I'm not sure what's worse CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 27 2013, 8:51pm
                    Heh! Meneldor Send a private message to Meneldor Aug 27 2013, 10:21pm
                        Sounds like you fought with Eowyn, lol. // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 28 2013, 12:00pm
                            Eowyn? Meneldor Send a private message to Meneldor Aug 28 2013, 4:14pm
                Brainwashing CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 28 2013, 12:19pm
    The rings Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 19 2013, 10:16pm
    What happened to the Ring? Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 20 2013, 8:10pm
        He had it... Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Aug 21 2013, 2:01am
    My replies to your great questions! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Aug 21 2013, 1:54am
        Elf envy CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 29 2013, 4:58pm
            Numenor and random Wraiths Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Aug 29 2013, 5:48pm
                Non-omniscient gods CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 29 2013, 6:26pm
                    Indeed Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Aug 29 2013, 6:41pm
                        A stark contrast to Eru CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 29 2013, 7:00pm
            Recipe for a wraith-- Step one: find the subject to be wraith-ified Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 29 2013, 8:23pm
                Job opening: gain awesome powers, live forever, wear cool black, ride big bird-things CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 29 2013, 9:46pm
                    So what would the first day on the job look like? Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Aug 30 2013, 8:16pm


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