‘Lord of the Rings’: What Is Númenor? The History of Tolkien’s Atlantis

·4-min read

Note: The following contains spoilers for “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” Episode 3.

At long last, Númenor has been brought to the screen. A storied location in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth saga, this bustling island paradise has never been portrayed in any Tolkien adaptation until Amazon Prime Video’s “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”

The show’s third episode finds Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) having been rescued by a mysterious ship that takes them to Númenor – a matter of controversy since an elf has not set foot in the city for many years.

But what is Númenor and why is it so special? We run down its history in the books – including what’s going on there during the time of “The Lord of the Rings” – below.

Númenor is an island kingdom located to the west of Middle-earth that was, to put it succinctly, the greatest civilization of Men. “It’s Tolkien’s Atlantis,” actor Maxim Baldry – who plays Isildur – told TheWrap, adding that the production spared no expense in bringing the location to life.

“It was one of the most incredible sets, they built a whole city and you could walk through it. They even had frankincense, you could smell it. They just transported us to this world, it was very special.”

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In the legend of Númenor, the island was quite literally raised out of the sea by the Valar as a gift to Men who stood with the elves against the evil Morgoth during the wars in the First Age. The first king of Númenor was Eärendil, the brother of Elrond (played in the series by Robert Aramayo).

As the Númenorians increased in power, a number of them became resentful of the elves for their immortality. Split into two factions, the “Faithful” (those who were friends to Elves) dwindled to become a minority, and were persecuted by the “King’s Men” (those who resented Elves).

Here is where potential spoilers follow for subsequent seasons of “The Rings of Power” as we’re gonna get into what happens next. You’ve been warned!

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-rings-of-power-isildur
Maxim Baldry as Isildur in “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Amazon Prime Video)

Eventually, when Sauron rose to power in Middle-earth, Númenor sailed to meet and challenge him. Fearing their armada of ships, Sauron surrendered, but once at Númenor, Sauron persuaded the king and many others to join his ranks. The monarch at the time, Ar-Pharazôn, built up an army to sail West into the Undying Lands – which was forbidden by the Elves.

The chief of the Valar, seeing the invasion, called up Eru Illúvatar, the One God, who in turn transformed the Earth from a flat surface to a globe, after which Númenor sank beneath the ocean and the Undying Lands were removed from the Earth forever.

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This is called the second fall of Men, although some escaped. Elendil and other Faithful had escaped to Middle-earth before the invasion, and Elendil’s sons Isildur and Anärion founded the two human kingdoms Arnor and Gondor.

We’ve got a long way to go before we get there in “The Rings of Power,” but with five seasons planned, we’re no doubt heading towards the fall of Númenor at some point. Keep in mind that Isildur, introduced in this first season as a young sailor, eventually goes on to cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand (and then neglects to destroy it) as portrayed in the prologue to Peter Jackson’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” film.

And characters we meet in Episode 3 of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” will surely be around for some time to come. Not only Isildur, but his father Elendial who is the 38th great great great (etc.) grandfather of Aragorn.

We’ve only just arrived.

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