The people of the South-kingdom of Gondor. The term is used especially for those Men of Gondor who were descended from the Dúnedain who settled there in the closing years of the Second Age. Not all of the Gondorians were Dúnedain, however: there were also older populations of Men in Gondor whose descendants had dwelt there long before the sons of Elendil forged the lands around the White Mountains into a nation.
The Gondorians, or at least those of Númenórean descent, are described as being tall, with grave, proud faces and shining eyes. Dark-haired and pale-skinned, they were a redoubtable and resilient folk, determined and valiant in the face of hardship.
Culture and Customs
Gondor was divided into regions described as 'fiefs', each under the control of a lord who in turn owed their allegiance to the Ruler of Gondor, whether King or (in later years) Ruling Steward. Certain of these fiefs were dominated by the Dúnedain, notably the royal lands of Anórien and Ithilien, as well as the shoreland fief of Belfalas. In other regions, descendants of the older population of Gondor could still be found, remnants of the people who had dwelt there before the Dúnedain arrived.
By the end of the Third Age these people shared a common culture reaching back more than three thousand years across a proud and ancient history. The people of Gondor spoke the Common Tongue used widely in Middle-earth, but they used it in a somewhat archaic mode. Many of the Men of Gondor could also speak Elvish, especially among the Dúnedain.
We have few records of specific customs used in Gondor, but two common practices - common, at least, in the later years of the Third Age - are recorded:
- As part of a formal farewell, the Gondorians would grasp both shoulders and kiss the forehead.
- Before eating a meal, it was the custom to observe the Standing Silence, a moment of reflection during which one would look to the West in memory of Númenor and the land of Aman beyond.
There had been Men living in the lands that would become Gondor long before its founding, notably the Men of the Mountains who occupied the White Mountains that ran through the region. In the later Second Age Númenórean settlements began to be established, particularly the port city of Pelargir on the lower Anduin. At the time of the Downfall of Númenor, vessels filled with survivors were driven ashore on the coasts. Their leaders were the brothers Isildur and Anárion, who set about establishing the realm that would become known as Gondor, and so at that time the first true Gondorians appeared.
At this early point in their history the Gondorians were the people of the lesser of the Kingdoms of the Dúnedain, with their leaders subject to the High King who ruled Arnor in the North. It was in this early period that their role as defenders of Middle-earth against Sauron first emerged. Sauron had returned to Mordor after the Downfall, and when little over a century had passed he launched an assault against Gondor. This led to the conflict known as the War of the Last Alliance, in which Sauron was defeated, but the High King Elendil also lost his life.
Isildur, elder son of Elendil and formerly joint King of Gondor, succeeded to the High Kingship and marched northward to take up his seat in Annúminas. On the way he was ambushed by Orcs and slain, an event with many far-reaching consequences. For the Gondorians, the most immediate of these was the division of the Two Kingdoms: Isildur's nephew Meneldil became the first King of Gondor to rule in his own right, and so the Gondorians became an independent people.
The People of Stone
The original Gondorians brought extraordinary knowledge of stonework with them from Númenor, and this skill was a vital part of the character of Gondor and its people. It was from this remarkable skill with stone that the Gondorians took their name: Gondor means 'land of stone'.
In the early years of the realm the Gondorians worked to erect mighty cities and monuments throughout their new land. Their capital at Osgiliath held a great Dome of Stars, and its stone bridges spanned the Great River Anduin. Westward of Osgiliath they built Minas Anor on a knee of Mount Mindolluin, and far further to the west still they raised the Tower of Orthanc to guard their western borders. They also built great roads that ran both north and south of the White Mountains that were the heart of the ancient realm of Gondor.
The main focus of defence for the Gondorian builders was the Dark Land of Mordor on their eastern borders. Before the War of the Last Alliance, Isildur held the fortress city of Minas Ithil on the flanks of the Ephel Dúath, the mountain fence of Sauron's realm. After Sauron's defeat in that War, the Gondorians went further, securing the borders of Mordor with castles and towers that would stand throughout the Third Age.
Their works in these early years of their realm made the Gondorians a legend throughout Middle-earth. Their power and the borders of their realm grew as the years passed, and for the first thousand years of the Third Age the wealth of Gondor was proverbial. This wealth and power reached its greatest extent in the reign of King Atanatar II Alcarin. Though he lived in glorious splendour, Atanatar was an ineffective ruler, and it was from his time (he died in III 1226) that the long slow waning of the Gondorians could be seen to have begun.
The Waning of the Gondorians
Long before the time of Atanatar II, the first wars on the borders of Gondor had erupted with the appearance of a horde of invading Easterlings, who were defeated by Rómendacil I in the year III 500. From that time onwards, the history of the Gondor was one of almost ceaseless warfare. Thus the Gondorians became a martial people, and for centuries their successes in war helped them to expand their borders and build their wealth.
As Gondor reached its time of greatest strength, Sauron returned, and settling in the dark fortress of Dol Guldur. From this time the fortunes of Gondor slowly began to wane, and doubtless the malevolence of the Dark Lord was at work in at least some of their misfortunes. The next centuries saw the civil war of the Kin-strife, the devastation of the Great Plague, and renewed attacks by enemies more powerful and co-ordinated than in the past. By the end of the second millennium of the Third Age, the Gondorians had lost their eastern and southern holdings, and their old royal capital of Osgiliath lay deserted and ruinous.
By the middle of the third millennium of the Third Age (about five centuries before the War of the Ring) Gondor came close to total defeat. Co-ordinated attacks by Corsairs from the south and Balchoth from the north and east came close to overwhelming the Gondorians' defences. The land was saved only by the intervention of the Éothéod, ancient allies of Gondor from the far North. These people were rewarded with the wide, deserted province of Calenardhon, creating the land of Rohan, but diminishing the borders of Gondor still further.
By the closing years of the Third Age, the realm of the Gondorians had been reduced to little more than the lands between the White Mountains and the Great Sea, ruled from the city of Minas Tirith (old Minas Anor) at the Mountains' eastern extent. The Gondorians still claimed Ithilien beyond Anduin, but the forces of the Enemy moved there with little resistance: only a small force of Gondorian Rangers striking from hidden strongholds hindered them in any way.
The War of the Ring at the end of the Third Age proved a turning point in Gondorian history. With the destruction of the One Ring, Gondor's great Enemy to the East was swept away. The Heir of Isildur came out of the North and once again established a High Kingship that reunified the ancient lands of Arnor and Gondor, so that the Gondorians became a part of a great Reunited Kingdom that spanned western Middle-earth.
Amon Amarth, Amon Dîn, Angmar, Aragost, Araphant, Arnach, Atanatar II Alcarin, Battle of Fornost, Battle of the Camp, Battle of the Field of Gondor, Battle of the Hornburg, Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Beacons of Gondor, Cair Andros, Calimmacil, [See the full list...]
For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.
Website services kindly sponsored by Axiom Software Ltd.
Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 1998, 2001, 2012, 2015. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.