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  • Updated 14 October 2017
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Fallen King

The statue beside the Cross-roads of Ithilien

"Look, Sam! ... Look! The king has a got a crown again!"
Words of Frodo Baggins
The Two Towers IV 7
Journey to the Cross-roads

In Ithilien, the lands of Gondor beyond Anduin, a road ran westwards from Isildur's ancient city of Minas Ithil to Osgiliath on the river and Minas Anor beyond. Another road ran from north to south through the land, and they two roads met at a point below Minas Ithil. This Cross-roads was marked by a huge statue of a seated royal figure.

In the later Third Age the land of Ithilien came under the power of Sauron and his creatures, and the Orcs desecrated the great seated statue. They broke away its head and replaced it with a rounded stone representing their master, while leaving the old regal head lying on the ground. Thus when Frodo and Sam encountered the statue as they passed through Ithilien, they saw the carved figure as the Fallen King. By that time flowers had begun to grow on the King's detached head, giving the appearance of a new garlanded crown on the King's stone brows.

The old stone King would, soon afterward, be returned to a degree of dignity. Some nine days after Frodo and Sam passed the statue, Aragorn and the Captains of the West passed the Cross-roads on their way northward to the Morannon. The soldiers of this force restored the King's head, and wiped away the graffiti that the Orcs had scrawled on the statue and its plinth, but they left the King's crown of flowers in place on his head.


We are never told who the statue of the Fallen King was intended to represent. An obvious assumption would be Isildur, the founder of the land and holder of the nearby fortress of Minas Ithil, and indeed the statue is explicitly compared with those of the Pillars of the Kings at the Argonath, one of which represented Isildur. This does seem likely, with the possible objection that, on two separate occasions, the decapitated head is described as the 'old king's head',1 whereas Isildur never reached old age.

Another possibility is that the statue represented Eärnur, the last King of Gondor, who was indeed a Fallen King, lost in Minas Morgul (as Minas Ithil became known after its capture), nearby to the east. This is thematically appropriate, since the new King Aragorn caused the statue to be restored as he passed through Ithilien (thus paralleling the restoration of the Kingship itself). This idea suffers from the same objection as for Isildur, however, in that Eärnur was also lost long before he became old, at least for one of the Dúnedain.

Ultimately the identity of the statue is unclear. Isildur of Minas Ithil seems the most prominent possibility, but it might in principle have represented any of the thirty-three Kings who ruled in Gondor from Isildur to Eärnur.


Notes

1

The references to the 'old king's head' are in The Two Towers IV 7, Journey to the Cross-roads and V 10, The Black Gate Opens.

In both cases, the use of the adjective 'old' is ambiguous, and it is difficult to be sure how great an objection this raises to the various candidates for the Fallen King. In other words, are we to take it that the King himself was old, or merely the stone head? On balance, the wording seems to imply the 'head of the old king' rather than the 'old head of the king', but either interpretation seems viable. If the latter is correct, then any objections on these grounds to Isildur (or to Eärnur) simply evaporate.

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  • Updated 14 October 2017
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