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Dates
Founded in II 3320 or shortly thereafter
Invaded and occupied by the Witch-king in III 19741
Location
The southern end of the North Downs, roughly one hundred miles north from Bree
Origins
Founded by Elendil after his escape from the Downfall of Númenor
Race
Division
Pronunciation
fo'rnost e'rine (The last syllable of erain rhymes with English 'fine' or 'shine')
Meaning
fornost means 'north-fortress'; erain translates as 'kings'2.
Other names
Note
'Fornost Erain' was this city's full title, but it is more often referred to simply as 'Fornost'

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  • Updated 2 January 2016
  • This entry is complete

Fornost Erain

The city of the Kings of Arthedain

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Map of Fornost

A fortress city of the Northern Dúnedain, situated at the southern end of the range of hills known as the North Downs, at the northern end of the great North-South Road that led to distant Gondor and the South-kingdom. The city's name translates literally as 'northern fortress', but is also translated by the equivalent 'Norbury' (or, in full, Fornost Erain, 'Norbury of the Kings').

During the early history of Arnor, Fornost was an important city, but not the capital of the High Kings. They ruled from Annúminas on Nenuial, about a hundred miles to the west. It was only after the breakup of the North-kingdom into three lesser realms that Fornost became a seat of Kings. Amlaith son of Eärendur, first of the Kings of Arthedain, established himself here, and indeed is known to history as 'Amlaith of Fornost'.

The history of Arthedain was one of almost constant warfare against Angmar and its allies. In the year III 1409, an immense attack from Angmar saw the destruction of the Tower of Amon Sûl that guarded Arthedain's borders, but the palantír held there was rescued and taken back to Fornost. From this time both the active Stones of Seeing held by the North-kingdom were at Fornost.

The Kings at Fornost held against Angmar for nearly six more centuries, but in III 1974 the Witch-king of Angmar finally succeeded in breaching the city's defences, driving out its people and filling Fornost with his own followers. The last King of Arthedain was Arvedui, who fled from Fornost with the palantíri, but was lost in the cold northern seas.

The Witch-king would not hold Fornost for long. In the following year, Eärnur of Gondor led a force northwards that not only avenged the North-kingdom by driving the Witch-king out of Fornost but, in a climactic battle, overthrew Angmar itself. Though their enemies were now destroyed, the Northern Dúnedain were too diminished to re-establish the city.

After this time the former inhabitants of Fornost became a wandering people, and Aranarth son of Arvedui became the first Chieftain of the North, rather than King of Arthedain. Fornost itself fell into ruin and decay, and in the thousand years that followed, it became a forgotten and ruinous place, little visited except by the Rangers, and known to the peoples who lived nearby as 'Deadmen's Dike'.

The fate of Fornost after the War of the Ring is uncertain, but after Aragorn established himself as a new High King of a Reunited Kingdom, the Wizard Gandalf predicted that it would once again be visited by the King, suggesting that at some point it would be refounded by the Dúnedain.3


Notes

1

The Witch-king's occupation of Fornost only lasted for a year, after which he was expelled by the forces of Gondor. Nonetheless, the Northern Dúnedain seem to have made no attempt to reoccupy their old capital. Perhaps their numbers were too few after the desperate fighting of the preceding years, or perhaps the Witch-king left too great a residue of evil behind him in the city.

Whatever the reason, Fornost fell into desolation and decay over the next thousand years, and was a mere crumbling ruin at the end of the Third Age. After the War of the Ring, Gandalf predicted that Aragorn would come north and rebuild the city, but it's unclear exactly when this refounding of Fornost took place, or indeed whether it eventually took place.

2

This usage is reflected in the Hobbits' names for the city. Their 'Norbury' was a direct translation of the Elvish Fornost, but they also occasionally referred to it as 'Kings' Norbury' or 'Norbury of the Kings', each of which is a translation of the full Elvish form, Fornost Erain.

3

Gandalf's prediction comes from an exposition on Fornost's history at Bree, after which he tells Barliman Butterbur, 'And the King will come there again one day.' (The Return of the King VI 7, Homeward Bound). This almost seems to give the impression that Fornost will be Aragorn's royal seat, though we know from other sources that he in fact established himself at the more ancient capital of Annúminas. Gandalf must therefore have intended simply that the King would visit Fornost at some point (presumably refounding the city) though we have no confirmation of whether this actually happened.

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