Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators
Unit Five: "The Tides of Fate Are Flowing"
The Last Alliance
Excerpted from "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," the final tale in The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
The following selection relates some of the momentous events that occurred in Middle-earth about three thousand years before The Lord of the Rings begins. Early in the narrative, Tolkien refers to "the drowning of Númenor," the cataclysmic flood that sank the island continent of the Dúndedain ("the Men of Westernesse"), making exiles of Elendil and his two sons, Isildur and Anárion. This chronicle tells of Sauron's return to Mordor; of Sauron's attack on Gondor, culminating in the destruction of the White Tree; of the last alliance between Men and Elves; of the battle on the stony plain of Dagorlad; of Sauron's overthrow by Elendil and the Elven king Gil-galad; and of Isildur's fateful possession of the One Ring. When Tolkien says, "the siege was so strait that Sauron himself came forth," he means "strait" in the archaic sense of severe or difficult.
Thus the Exiles of Númenor established their realms in Arnor and in Gondor; but ere many years had passed it became manifest that their enemy, Sauron, had also returned. He came in secret, as has been told, to his ancient kingdom of Mordor, beyond the Ephel Dúath, the Mountains of Shadow, and that country marched with Gondor upon the east. There above the valley of Gorgoroth was built his fortress vast and strong, Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower; and there was a fiery mountain in that land that the Elves named Orodruin. Indeed for that reason Sauron had set there his dwelling long before, for he used the fire that welled there from the heart of the earth in his sorceries and his forging; and in the midst of the Land of Mordor he had fashioned the Ruling Ring. There now he brooded in the dark, until he had wrought for himself a new shape; and it was terrible, for his fair semblance had departed forever when he was cast into the abyss at the drowning of Númenor. He took up again the great ring and clothed himself in power; and the malice of the Eye of Sauron few even of the great among Elves and Men could endure.
Now Sauron prepared war against the Eldar and the Men of Westernesse, and the fires of the Mountain were wakened again. Wherefore seeing the smoke of Orodruin from afar, and perceiving that Sauron had returned, the Númenóreans named that mountain anew Amon Amarth, which is Mount Doom. And Sauron gathered to him great strength of his servants out of the east and the south; and among them were not a few of the high race of Númenor. For in the days of the sojourn of Sauron in that land the hearts of well nigh all its people had been turned towards darkness. Therefore many of those who sailed east in that time and made fortresses and dwellings upon the coast were already bent to his will, and they served him still gladly in Middle-earth . . . .
When therefore Sauron saw his time he came with great force against the new realm of Gondor, and he took Minas Ithil, and he destroyed the White Tree of Isildur that grew there. But Isildur escaped, and taking with him a seedling of the Tree he went with his wife and his sons by ship down the River, and they sailed from the mouths of Anduin seeking Elendil. Meanwhile Anárion held Osgiliath against the Enemy, and for that time drove him back to the mountains; but Sauron gathered his strength again, and Anárion knew that unless help should come his kingdom would not long stand.
Now Elendil and Gil-galad took counsel together, for they perceived that Sauron would grow too strong and would overcome all his enemies one by one, if they did not unite against him. Therefore they made that league which is called the Last Alliance, and they marched east into Middle-earth gathering a great host of Elves and Men; and they halted for awhile at Imladris. It is said that the host that was there assembled was fairer and more splendid in arms than any that has since been seen in Middle-earth . . . .
From Imladris they crossed the Misty Mountains by many passes and marched down the River Anduin, and so came at last upon the host of Sauron on Dagorlad, the Battle Plain, which lies before the gate of the Black Land. All living things were divided in that day, and some of every kind, even of beasts and birds, were found in either host, save the Elves only. They along were undivided and followed Gil-galad. Of the Dwarves few fought upon either side; but the kindred of Durin or Moria fought against Sauron.
The host of Gil-galad end Elendil had the victory, for the might of the Elves was still great in those days, and the Númenóreans were strong and tall, and terrible in their wrath. Against Aeglos the spear of Gil-galad none could stand; and the sword of Elendil filled Orcs and Men with fear, for it shone with the light of the sun and of the moon, and it was named Narsil.
Then Gil-galad and Elendil passed into Mordor and encompassed the stronghold of Sauron; and they laid siege to it for seven years, and suffered grievous loss by fire and by the darts and bolts of the Enemy, and Sauron sent many sorties against them. There in the valley of Gorgoroth Anárion son of Elendil was slain, and many others. But at the last the siege was so strait that Sauron himself came forth; and he wrestled with Gil-galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell. But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own. The Sauron was for that time vanquished, and he forsook his body, and his spirit fled far away and hid in waste places; and he took no visible shape again for many long years.
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Thus began the Third Age of the World, after the Eldest Days and the Black Years; and there was still hope in that time and the memory of mirth, and for long the White Tree of the Eldar flowered in the courts of the Kings of Men, for the seedling which he had saved Isildur planted in the citadel of Anor in memory of his brother, ere he departed from Gondor. The servants of Sauron were routed and dispersed, yet they were not wholly destroyed; and though many Men turned now from evil and became subject to the heirs of Elendil, yet many more remembered Sauron in their hearts and hated the kingdoms of the West. The Dark Tower was leveled to the ground, yet its foundations remained, and it was not forgotten. The Númenóreans indeed set a guard upon the land of Mordor, but none dared dwell there because of the terror of the memory of Sauron, and because of the Mountain of Fire that stood nigh to Barad-dûr; and the valley of Gorgoroth was filled with ash. Many of the Elves and many of the Númenóreans and of Men who were their allies had perished in the Battle and the Siege; and Elendil the tall and Gil-galad the High King were no more. Never again was such a host assembled, not was there any such league of Elves and Men; for after Elendil's day the two kindreds became estranged.
The Ruling Ring passed out of the knowledge even of the Wise in that age; yet it was not unmade. For Isildur would not surrender it to Elrond and Círdan who stood by. They counseled him to cast it into the fire of Orodruin nigh at hand, in which it had been forged, so that it should perish, and the power of Sauron be forever diminished, and he should remain only as a shadow of malice in the wilderness. But Isildur refused this counsel, saying, "This I will have as weregild for my father's death, and my brother's. Was it not I that dealt the Enemy his death-blow?" And the Ring that he held seemed exceedingly fair to look on; and he would not suffer it to be destroyed. Taking it therefore he returned at first to Minas Anor, and there planted the White Tree in memory of his brother Anárion. But soon he departed, and after he had given counsel to Meneldil, his brother's son, and had committed to him the realm of the south, he bore away the Ring, to be an heirloom of his house, and marched north from Gondor by the way that Elendil had come; and he forsook the South Kingdom, for he purposed to take up his father's realm in Eriador, far from the shadow of the Black Land . . . .
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(from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin, 2001, second edition, pages 292295)
Unit Five Content
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