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Dates
Probably1 constructed in the early days of Gondor, before the end of the Second Age
Location
On the summit of Amon Hen, in the Emyn Muil above the western shores of Nen Hithoel
Origins
Raised by the Gondorians
Race
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  • Updated 20 June 2021
  • This entry is complete

Seat of Seeing

The high seat on the hill of Amon Hen

Map of the Seat of Seeing on Amon Hen

Above the Falls of Rauros, where the hills of Emyn Muil were broken by the river Anduin, two heights rose above the river on either side. These heights were known as Amon Hen and Amon Lhaw, the Hills of Sight and Hearing, and on each of them the ancient Gondorians raised a seat. The hill on Anduin's western bank was the Hill of Sight, and on its summit stood the Seat of Seeing.

At the time it was built, the Seat of Seeing was used as watch-post by the Gondorians to guard their northern borders. It was surrounded by a battlement, which enclosed a circular paved area around the Seat. The Seat itself was raised high above the hill on four pillars, with a flight of steps leading to it.1 To reach the Seat of Seeing on Amon Hen, a road ran up the hill from the green lawn of Parth Galen at its base, though by the end of the Third Age the Seat and its road had been long abandoned to the elements.


Being on the summit of a high hill above a cliff, the Seat of Seeing was ideally placed to watch far and wide. It may also have possessed some kind of enchantment that extended the range of perception, though our limited sources are ambiguous on the point. We have accounts of two people using the Seat of Seeing, and their experiences were quite different from each other.

When Frodo Baggins sat in the Seat, at first he saw nothing at all (he was wearing the Ring at the time, which tended to dull the sight of the mundane world). Eventually, though, he gained a vision that showed him far across Middle-earth, as if the land were laid out on a table for him to inspect. The vision had extraordinary clarity, allowing him to detect individuals moving, but also great range, showing him the distant East and the far South of the World. This remarkable sight is implied to be a gift of the Seat. At least, immediately after it is described, we're told (in The Fellowship of the Ring II 10, The Breaking of the Fellowship) that 'He was sitting upon the Seat of Seeing, on Amon Hen, the Hill of the Eye of the Men of Númenor', and this is offered as if it explains the phenomenon.

Shortly afterward, though, Aragorn sat on the Seat of Seeing, and his vision was far more limited. The World indeed seemed darker and dimmer, and he could make out almost nothing but distant hills and a far-off Eagle.

It is not explained why Frodo and Aragorn should have such distinctly different experiences. If far sight was a power of the Seat of Seeing itself, then we would presumably expect it to work in a similar way for all its users. The implication seems to be that wearing the Ring gave Frodo an enhanced vision, but one that needed him to be using the Seat of Seeing (for nothing similar occurs elsewhere). An alternative explanation might be that the Seat was somehow damaged or drained during Frodo's experience (where it was briefly the focus of two opposing powers)2 so that Aragorn did not see as deeply as he otherwise would have.

Ultimately, the operation of the Seat of Seeing (and indeed its counterpart on Amon Lhaw) must remain mysterious. It seems to have had some kind of magical abilities (Frodo's experience is hard to explain otherwise) but the form and nature of those abilities remain largely mysterious.


Notes

1

We have no specific account of the establishment of the Seat of Seeing, but most of the major works of the Gondorians were constructed during this early period, including works as far up the Great River as the Argonath. This is somewhat supported by Aragorn's comment that the Seat was made '...in the days of the great kings' (The Fellowship of the Ring II 9, The Great River). This is ambiguous, but if we take the phrase 'great kings' to refer to Elendil and his sons, it would correspond to an early date for the Seat of Seeing.

An alternative view might associate the Seat with Minalcar, later known as Rómendacil II. While still Regent for his uncle Narmacil I, in about the year III 1250, he sought to counter the Easterling threat by greatly strengthening Gondor's defences along the western banks of Anduin. It's stated that he constructed the statues of the Argonath at this time, so it is quite plausible that the Seat of Seeing was raised as part of the same project. If this is so, however, the fact is nowhere mentioned, and seems somewhat doubtful given that the Seat's companion on Amon Lhaw stood on the less defensible eastern bank of the Great River.

2

The description of the Seat being raised on pillars, and needing many steps to reach it, gives the impression of the Seat standing high above the hill. At one point, however, a distressed Frodo Baggins threw himself from the Seat of Seeing, and landed on the flagstones below without apparent injury. So, while the Seat was certainly raised on its pillars, it cannot have been exceptionally far from the ground.

3

That is, Frodo found himself the focus of both the Eye of Mordor and an unidentified Voice (later found to belong to Gandalf). These were two of the most powerful beings in Middle-earth, so it is not inconceivable that their attention might have affected the working of the Seat in some way.

See also...

Hill of the Eye

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 20 June 2021
  • This entry is complete

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