The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 1 May 2017
  • This entry is complete

Elendil

Founder of Arnor and Gondor

"Out of the Great Sea to Middle-earth I am come. In this place I will abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the World."
Traditional words of Elendil on landing in Middle-earth
The Return of the King VI 5
The Steward and the King

High Kings of the Dúnedain in Middle-earth

Kings of Arnor

Kings of Gondor

The son and heir of the last Lord of Andúnië, who escaped the wreck of Númenor with his sons Isildur and Anárion. Escaping the Downfall, they fled to Middle-earth and there founded the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor, with Elendil as High King over the new Kingdoms of the Dúnedain. With Gil-galad, Elendil formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, marching south to make war on Sauron and besiege Barad-dûr.

Early Life in Númenor

Elendil was born in Númenor during the reign of King Ar-Gimilzôr. He was the son of Amandil, heir to the Lordship of Andúnië on Númenor's western coasts. The house of the Lords of Andúnië held to the traditions of the Faithful, those Númenóreans who kept the friendship of the Eldar and maintained a reverence of the Valar. The Lords were descended through the centuries from Silmariën daughter of King Tar-Elendil, and thus Elendil had royal blood in his veins, though removed from the direct line of the Kings of Númenor.

Elendil grew to an exceptional height, even for one of the Númenóreans, and indeed he is known in histories as Elendil the Tall.4 In the year II 3177, when Elendil was fifty-eight years old (and thus still young by the measure of his people) King Ar-Gimilzôr died. His son took the royal Sceptre as Tar-Palantir, and he reversed the oppression of the Faithful that his forebears had practised. During this time Elendil's grandfather Númendil was a friend and councillor to the new King (we know that Tar-Palantir travelled to Andúnië at times, and may therefore have met the young Elendil). It was during the reign of Tar-Palantir that Elendil's sons were born: Isildur and Anárion, who would each found a line of descendants in Middle-earth.

This period of peace lasted for less than eighty years. In II 3255 Tar-Palantir died, and by law his daughter Míriel, also a supporter of the Faithful, should have succeeded him. Instead, a grandson of the preceding King Ar-Gilimzôr forced Míriel into marriage and usurped her throne. This usurper was Ar-Pharazôn, a forceful opponent of the Faithful, who began to strengthen the old oppressions against that party. Events turned worse still when Ar-Pharazôn sailed to Middle-earth and returned with Sauron, who in principle was a hostage of the King, but in practice began to subtly turn him to the worship of the old Dark Lord Melkor.

As Sauron's influence grew, Elendil's father Amandil (who had succeeded his own father Númendil as a councillor) was dismissed, and along with others of the Faithful the family was relocated to the haven of Rómenna. Amandil learned that Sauron had persuaded Ar-Pharazôn to make war against the Valar themselves (Elendil was indeed called to join the invasion force, but he refused). In those days, many of the Faithful were escaping Númenor for Middle-earth, and Amandil himself set out eastward, but turned his vessel to make a desperate attempt to sail into the West and warn the Valar. Meanwhile Elendil and his sons boarded nine ships, along with their most valuable possessions, and put out to into the Great Sea. There they waited off the coasts of Númenor to await the outcome of Amandil's embassy or Ar-Pharazôn's folly.

Exile in Middle-earth

The outcome of Ar-Pharazôn's expedition was utter disaster. As Elendil and his people waited out to to Sea, a vast chasm formed and swallowed up the land of Númenor, and Elendil's ships were driven before a gigantic wave into the east. The nine ships were separated, but Elendil and his followers came ashore in the land of Lindon in the northwest of Middle-earth. There he met Gil-galad, the King of the Elves in that region, and the two formed a great friendship.

From Lindon Elendil sailed on up the Gulf of Lhûn and then up the river Lhûn until he reached Emyn Uial, the Hills of Evendim. On the shores of the great lake of Nenuial among these hills he founded a city, Annúminas, that would for a time become the capital of all the Dúnedain in Middle-earth. At some point during the year that followed, Elendil made contact with his sons,5 discovering that they had reached land far to the south at the Mouths of Anduin, and together Elendil and his sons founded the Kingdoms of the Dúnedain, Arnor the North-kingdom and Gondor the South-kingdom. This was in the year II 3320, the year after the Downfall of Númenor. Elendil, who was now 201 years old, established himself as the High King of the Dúnedain at Annúminas, reigning directly over Arnor while leaving the rule of the South-kingdom jointly in the hands of his sons Isildur and Anárion.

The establishment of the Two Kingdoms within just a year was not quite so difficult a feat as it might appear. Elendil and his sons were not working alone; there were already many of the Faithful present in Middle-earth who had fled from Númenor in the years before the Downfall. At this time they were already well established (their city of Pelargir on Anduin had existed for nearly a thousand years). Elendil was by right the Lord of Andúnië and a descendant of the royal line of Númenor, so it was natural for the Faithful to accept him and his sons as their leaders. Indeed Elendil was seen by the Faithful as effectively the rightful King of Númenor in exile. At this time Elendil created a new royal standard, bearing seven stars (to represent the seven ships among his fleet that had carried a palantír) and this remained the royal standard of his descendants down through the Third Age. On his brow Elendil bore a gem on a mithril fillet - known as the Elendilmir - to symbolise his Kingship.

The population of Elendil's kingdom of Arnor grew and spread. Eastward of Annúminas a new city was founded, known as Fornost. From the heartland of Arthedain, the people travelled eastward and southward to settle the lands of Rhudaur and Cardolan, and Arnor filled most of the northern parts of Eriador. Though there were many Dúnedain in the South, in Elendil's North-kingdom they remained a minority of the population. In place of their native Adûnaic language, therefore, they used the Common Tongue - a lingua franca that had originally emerged among the traders of Pelargir on Anduin - and this became widespread across Elendil's domains.

Elendil kept one of his three palantíri in Annúminas, and a second he placed in a new fortress he had built on the hill of Amon Sûl, near the centre of his realm. The third, known as the Elendil Stone, had special properties. The Elves of Lindon constructed three Towers for Elendil on the hills of Emyn Beraid, and the Elendil Stone was placed in Elostirion, the tallest of these. From the tower of Elostirion Elendil could use this third Stone to look back across the Great Sea into the lost West.

The War of the Last Alliance

Elendil had ruled as High King over the Dúnedain for more than a hundred years when, in the year II 3429, a cataclysmic event occurred. Elendil's elder son Isildur appeared in the North, having sailed from the Mouths of Anduin, to bring news of renewed hostility by Sauron. The Dark Lord had survived the Downfall of Númenor and re-established himself in Mordor, and he had now launched an assault against Gondor. Isildur's own fortress of Minas Ithil had been captured, and he had barely escaped into the North aboard a ship with his family and a seedling of the White Tree that grew in his courts.

Elendil consulted with his friend Gil-galad, and together the two formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. This immense force was brought together at the Tower of Amon Sûl and marched southward with the purpose of bringing Sauron's tyranny to a final and permanent end. Joining with the defenders of Gondor, the armies of the Last Alliance came to the Black Gate of the Morannon and confronted Sauron's forces. The result was the titanic Battle of Dagorlad, fought across the deserts and marshes northward of Mordor. Losses were terrible on both sides, but Sauron was defeated and driven back to his Dark Tower of Barad-dûr.

Elendil and his armies marched on into Mordor, and began the long and deadly Siege of Barad-dûr. That Siege would last for seven years, with Sauron contained within the Dark Tower but by no means unable to inflict harm. In the sixth year of the Siege a great stone flung from the battlements struck Elendil's younger son Anárion, slaying him.

In the Siege's seventh year Sauron offered to bring it to an end through personal combat, and he faced Elendil and Gil-galad on the slopes of Orodruin. Elendil, though now 322 years old, was still a formidable warrior, and his shining sword Narsil struck fear into his enemies. With aid from his ally Gil-galad, Elendil defeated the Dark Lord and drove his spirit from his body, but both Elendil and Gil-galad also lost their lives in the desperate combat that ended the War of the Last Alliance and brought the Second Age to an end.

Elendil's son and heir Isildur took up his father's sword - which had been broken in his fall - and cut the One Ring from Sauron's finger. His father's body he caused to be carried away and entombed in a secret hallow on the peak of the mountain of Amon Anwar (later called the Halifirien) which in those days stood near the midpoint of the realm of Gondor. So passed Elendil, first of the Kings of the Dúnedain in Middle-earth and founder of the Realms in Exile. He had ruled for 121 years from the foundation of the Two Kingdoms until his battle with Sauron, and was succeeded as High King by his sole surviving son, Isildur.

The Legacy of Elendil

Though Elendil had been slain, he left what appeared to be a strong bloodline to continue the rule of the Kingdoms of the Dúnedain. His heir Isildur was an experienced ruler in his own right, and Isildur had four sons to continue Elendil's line into the future (Isildur's eldest son Elendur was said to have greatly resembled his grandfather Elendil). That future was disrupted just two years later, when Isildur, while carrying the One Ring and the shards of his father's sword Narsil back to Annúminas in the North, was set upon in the wild by a band of Orcs. Isildur was slain in that attack, along with his three elder sons, leaving the thirteen-year-old Valandil as the sole direct heir of Elendil's line. That line survived in the North-kingdom, where Valandil had been kept safe during the War. In the South-kingdom, the Kingship was taken up by Meneldil, the grandson of Elendil through his younger son Anárion, and Meneldil's line became the Royal House of Gondor.

Despite the Disaster of the Gladden Fields in which Isildur met his end, the Shards of Narsil were eventually returned to Rivendell. The Elendilmir - symbol of the High King - was lost with Isildur, though a replacement was made to be borne by Elendil's descendants in the North-kingdom. As a whole realm, Arnor survived for less than a millennium (it was broken apart by conflicts between Elendil's descendants) and eventually even its successor kingdoms fell. Nonetheless the line of descent from Elendil through his elder son Isildur continued unbroken through the Third Age, though the Dúnedain of the North had been reduced to a scattered and wandering people. It was as Elendil's direct heir through Isildur that Aragorn Elessar was able to claim the Crown of Gondor after the War of the Ring.

While generations of his direct descendants lived through centuries in the North-kingdom, Elendil lay in his Tomb on Amon Anwar at the heart of the South-kingdom. That Tomb remained inviolate, a hallow of the Valar. Its location was a secret known only to the Kings and later the Stewards of Gondor, and from it a stillness and awe radiated through the surrounding forests. The Tomb's location was finally revealed by Steward Cirion, more than two and a half millennia after it was made, when he swore the Oath of Cirion that created the land of Rohan. After this time, the mountain that held the Tomb lay on the border between Gondor and the new land of Rohan, and so Elendil's mortal remains were reinterred within the Hallows of Minas Tirith.

As the founder of the Kingdoms of the Dúnedain, Elendil's memory persisted for thousands of years. Even his name was held in special reverence, and was not used again by any of the Dúnedain after his time (though it was used as a battle-cry, at least among the Northern Dúnedain). His image, too, was remembered: we know of at least one statue of Elendil, standing in the halls of Minas Tirith. He was also a scholar, and one work by his own hand survived: Akallabêth, Elendil's own account of the Downfall of Númenor (the tale known as Aldarion and Erendis was also preserved from earlier times by Elendil, though he did not write that account himself).

Elendil also lived on in the memory of Sauron, who had been defeated by his hand, and feared the return of his Heir and his great sword Narsil throughout the Third Age. This indeed came to pass: Elendil's direct descendant Aragorn took up the reforged Narsil and faced Sauron's forces in the War of the Ring. Elendil's old foe was ultimately defeated, and once again - after some three thousand years had passed - a High King of Elendil's line took up the rule of the Dúnedain in Middle-earth.


Notes

1

The date of Elendil's birth appears only in The History of Middle-earth volume XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth. It cannot therefore be considered completely reliable.

2

Deriving a pronunciation for a name like Elendil is difficult because of the presence of the -nd- sound. In Elvish names, the placing of stress depends on whether the penultimate vowel is followed by two or more consonants. In its English spelling, the second-to-last vowel of Elendil's name is indeed followed by two consonants, so the pronunciation would be Ele'ndil, with the stress on the second 'e'. However, we know from Elendil's tomb inscription that his name was spelt in Elvish characters with English 'nd' represented by a single tengwa, ando, so under an Elvish spelling only one consonant is used. Thus the pronunciation would be E'lendil, with the stress on the initial 'E'. The pronunciation guide given above follows the Elvish spelling (since this would have been used by Elendil himself), but it's not absolutely clear whether or not this was Tolkien's intention.

3

'Elf-friend' was the intended meaning of Elendil at the time it was devised by the Edain (the name was at one time a popular one among Men) but it was not strictly correct. Formally Elendil translates from Quenya as something like 'star-lover' ('Elf-friend' in this form would properly be Eldandil). This confusion arose because the Elves named themselves 'People of the Stars', and their words for 'Elf' and 'star' were therefore fundamentally similar, a fine distinction that Men did not always fully appreciate.

4

Elendil is one of the few characters for whom we have a specific height, or at least something close to it. He was described as 'more than man-high by nearly half a ranga' in The Disaster of the Gladden Fields in Unfinished Tales. 'Man-high' in this context is a measurement based on a typical Númenórean's height, defined as two rangar or seventy-six inches. Adding a further half a ranga gives ninety-five inches, so Elendil's height was no less than seven feet, eleven inches (or 2.41 metres). It seems fair to say that his epithet of 'the Tall' was extremely well earned.

5

After being separated in the tumults of the Downfall, Elendil and his sons came ashore in Middle-earth in places at least a thousand miles apart. Despite being hundreds of miles from one another, within a year they were able to jointly establish kingdoms. We're not told precisely how they managed to achieve this so quickly, but a natural assumption would be that the palantíri played a part in allowing them to communicate so easily across the wide lands of Middle-earth.

See also...

Alfirin, Amandil, Amlaith of Fornost, Amon Sûl, Anárion, Anárion, Andúril, Angmar, Annúminas, Argonath, Arnor, Atanatar I, Barad-dûr, Battle of Dagorlad, Beacons of Gondor, [See the full list...]

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 1 May 2017
  • This entry is complete

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Website services kindly sponsored by Axiom Software Ltd.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 1998, 2000, 2017. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Menu
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry