Concerning “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”, from Isildur’s downfall to the triumph of the Little People…
Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we finish discussing the last chapter in The Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!
notes from listeners & news (4:30)
The Beginning of the Third Age (14:30)
The Fall of Isildur (17:00)
The Decline of Arnor (24:00)
The Return of the Ring-Wraiths & the Decline of Gondor (28:00)
Hope rather that in the end even the least of your desires shall have fruit. The love of Arda was set in your hearts by Ilúvatar, and he does not plant to no purpose. Nonetheless, many ages of Men unborn may pass ere that purpose is made known; and to you it will be revealed and not to the Valar.’
These words, from Manwë’s messengers to the Dúnedain of Númenor, are both greatly comforting and extremely challenging.
First, they are comforting because they are a reassurance from a reliable source that something more than mere death is in store for Men. The logic is simple: Ilúvatar is no trickster. Your love of Arda, of creation, comes from Him, and He is not one given to sowing seed without the intent of harvest.
At the same time, the words are challenging because they require an abiding peace and trust even in the face of good things going bad. Because of Melkor’s malice, the peoples of Arda journey on a stormy sea, and what is right in front of them tends to command their attention more so than what is on the distant horizon.
Furthermore, not even the Valar, those closest to Ilúvatar, can say what it is He has in store for Men. “Yes, it’s nice to know there is something better in store and all, but as to what it is, that is quite vague. Meanwhile, I really hope I’ll see my loved ones again, or even glimpse the beautiful sea.” Death, for the Men of Arda, is the trustfall of all trustfalls, and even as the followers of Amandil and Elendil strive to embrace the ambiguously promised hope, there’s something in each of us that can sense the existential bind the Numenoreans must have felt.
Continuing with “Akallabêth”, the chronicle of Númenór’s downfall…
Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we conclude our look at “Akallabêth”, or “The Downfallen”, the story of Númenór’s rise and fall in the Second Age. By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!
Note from a Listener: more March 25th connections (2:30)
But the design of Manwë was that the Númenóreans should not be tempted to seek for the Blessed Realm, nor desire to overpass the limits set to their bliss, becoming enamoured of the immortality of the Valar and the Eldar and the lands where all things endure.
We know that it was a reward to the Edain, the Elf-friends, that minority of Men that aided the Eldar against Morgoth. Yet it was perhaps an error to see it as a “progression” toward Valinor, the Blessed Realm of earthly immortality. Instead, it would seem that the way the Númenóreans should have seen it was as a launching point for peaceful mission, a place from which they could bring the light of the Valar and the Eldar (and ultimately the knowledge of Ilúvatar) to their brethren who remained in the dark. The first generations of Númenór perhaps grasped this, but over time that vision faded.
Our blessings are rarely, if ever, meant merely for our enjoyment or well-being.
Concerning Akallabêth, from the reward of the Edain to the captivity of Sauron…
Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we begin our look at “Akallabêth”, or “The Downfallen”, the story of Númenór’s rise and fall in the Second Age. By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!
Josh Sosa on Jackson’s Fellowship… (3:00)
What “Akallabêth” means… (14:00)
The Waldman Letter on the Second Age (15:30)
Eärendil & the Edain (20:00)
The Downfall of Morgoth & the Raising of Númenór (23:00)
And the Númenóreans answered: ‘Why should we not envy the Valar, or even the least of the Deathless? For of us is required a blind trust, and a hope without assurance, knowing not what lies before us in a little while. And yet we also love the Earth and would not lose it.’
Though short in comparison with the entirety of The Silmarillion, “Akallabêth” is a marvel for many reasons. One thing I find particularly fascinating about it is the establishment of the Númenórean religion, which is probably the most straightforward example of religion in all of Tolkien’s works.
Things start off well for the Númenóreans, the “elf-friends”, but as age and well-being increase, so too does their dissatisfaction with their lot in life. After all, they must “trust” that death is not the end of their story, though it rightly seems that it is a “blind” sort of trust, because none really bear witness to what may await them. They are told to keep faith, but it seems that they would respond “What faith have we to keep?”
The parallels of Akallabêth with our own time are manifold and staggering, each instance demonstrating the sort of insight Tolkien had into the human spirit. We sense that we are made for the eternal, though we have lost touch with it, and have trouble glimpsing it. Tolkien, of course, knew the Christian message of eternal life and the renewal of the cosmos, and realized the great advantage that it gives to post-Resurrection mankind. Thus, even as his fictional sea-kings slowly slide into despair, we hear far more pity in his telling than contempt.
“The Men of the Three Houses were rewarded for their valour and faithful alliance, by being allowed to dwell ‘westernmost of all mortals’, in the great ‘Atlantis’ isle of Númenóre. The doom or gift of God, of mortality, the gods of course cannot abrogate, but the Númenóreans have a great span of life.” (xviii)
The Silmarillion proper comes to an end with the downfall of Morgoth which ends the First Age of Middle-earth. The Second Age immediately follows, the age of that great civilization of men, Númenor. It is also the age in which Sauron assumes the mantle of “chief bad guy” and in which the stage is set for much of the backstory of The Lord of the Rings.