The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Location
Spreading west and north from the lands east of Rhovanion, eventually affecting most of northwestern Middle-earth
Origin
Speculated to have been the work of Sauron
Races
Noted to have affected Men and Hobbits
Other names

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  • Updated 4 January 2014
  • This entry is complete

Dark Plague

The plague that robbed Gondor of its King

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The dreadful plague that swept across Middle-earth in the middle years of the Third Age. It came out of the lands east of Rhovanion in late III 1635, and first affected the Northmen who lived there. It was said that half of that people perished, and after that time their chieftain Marhwini led a group of his people away from the ravaged lands into the far North, eventually giving rise to the Éothéod.

The plague soon found its way to Gondor, and in III 1636 many of its people died. Worst affected was the city of Osgiliath on the Great River, and King Telemnar was lost with all of his children (at the same time the White Tree of Minas Anor also died). With such loss of life in Gondor, its guard on Mordor was abandoned. Some said that the Dark Plague was the creation of Sauron, who had intended for Gondor to cease its watch on the borders of his Dark Land.

From Gondor the plague spread northwards. It was at this time that Calenardhon became largely deserted, and Minhiriath was ravaged, remaining almost uninhabited throughout the rest of the Age. Cardolan suffered greatly, and the sickness took all the remaining Dúnedain of that land. By III 1637 the plague had reached the borders of the Shire, founded just thirty-six years earlier. It finally reached as far as the northern parts of Arthedain, but by this time it had become less virulent, and eventually it came to an end.

The Dark Plague had profound effects on the history Middle-earth. Most critically, Mordor was left unguarded, allowing Sauron to re-establish himself there many centuries later. By driving Marhwini's Northmen away from Rhovanion, and leaving Calenardhon empty of people, it also laid the ground for the creation of Rohan. Long afterwards, Eorl led that people back into the South, to settle in the land that had been Calenardhon.


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