Before the Numenoreans Came
In the first and second parts of the essay JRRT explains how Melkor diminished himself gradually by incarnating
himself (as Morgoth) permanently. He did this so as to control the hroa,
flesh or physical matter, of Arda. He attempted to identify himself
with it. A vaster, and more perilous, procedure, though of similar sort to
the operations of Sauron with the Rings. Thus, outside the Blessed Realm, all
matter was likely to have a
Melkor ingredient, and those who had bodies,
nourished by the hroa of Arda, had as it were a tendency, small or great,
towards Melkor: they were none of them wholly free of him in their incarnate
form, and their bodies had an effect upon their spirits.
This remarkable conclusion (itself but a proposition for further conclusions reached later in the essay) was decided or perhaps weighed by Tolkien in the late 1950s and/or early 1960s, less than ten years after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, and approximately contemporarily with the texts which formed the basis for much of the published Silmarillion. It is therefore reasonable to accept the explanation which follows the above citation as the motive behind the Valar's reluctance to act against Melkor in the published Silmarillion:
But in this way Morgoth lost (or exchanged, or transmuted) the greater
part of his original
angelic powers, of mind and spirit, while gaining a
terrible grip upon the physical world. For this reason he had to be fought,
mainly by physical force, and enormous material ruin was a probable
consequence of any direct combat with him, victorious or otherwise. This is
the chief explanation of the constant reluctance of the Valar to come into
open battle against Morgoth. Manw맳 task and problem was much more difficult
than Gandalf's. Sauron's, relatively smaller, power was concentrated;
Morgoth's vast power was disseminated. The whole of
Morgoth's Ring, though temporarily his attention was mainly upon the
North-west. Unless swiftly successful, War against him might well end in
reducing all Middle-earth to chaos, possibly even all Arda. It is easy to
It was the task and function of the Elder King to govern Arda and make
it possible for the Children of Eru to live in it unmolested. But the
dilemma of the Valar was this: Arda could only be liberated by a physical
battle; but a probable result of such a battle was the irretrievable ruin of
The assault upon Morgoth thus had to begin with an assault upon Middle-earth itself, really. Morgoth would have been able to use the very land to fight the Host of Valinor. And the Valar would have had to destroy the land in order to diminish Morgoth's strength. So it makes sense that the Host of Valinor landed as far to the north as possible, as close to Angband as possible. They would be bypassing the greater part of Morgoth's disseminated strength. More importantly, they would be closer to Morgoth's physical incarnation, which was essentially the goal of their war.
The War of the Jewels for all intents and purposes ended with the assault upon Gondolin. The Elves never again mounted a campaign against Morgoth and he never again took direct action against them. With the fall of Gondolin the Elves were reduced to three relatively small and ineffectual enclaves: Ossiriand, where a few Feanorians had taken refuge with the Green-elves, Arvernien, where refuges from Doriath and Gondolin established a new colony with some of the Edain; and Balar, where refugees from Hithlum (Sindar such as Annael), Nargothrond, and the Falas had established a colony after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.
Many other Elves wandered through Beleriand, outcasts or Avari, or were enslaved in Angband. Some of these Elves, it may be supposed, eventually reached Arvernien, and from there made their way to Balar. But when the Feanorians destroyed Arvernien in the year 538, a significant number of Elves died. The free Elvish population of Beleriand was reduced to its smallest size. From the Feanorians, the Balarians, and the Ossiriandic Elves were eventually drawn the Eldar who established the realm of Lindon in the Second Age.
The Valar and Maiar, with their Amanic allies of Vanyar and Noldor, were aided by the Beorians and Marachians of Hithlum. By 545 these Edain had lived in slavery for more than 70 years, nearly three of their generations. Virtually no one should have been left alive who could remember the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Absolutely no Men should have been left alive who would have had contact with the Edain of Estolad, those Beorians and Marachians who fled east over the mountains in or soon after the year 455, the year of the Dagor Bragollach, when Morgoth broke the Siege of Angband.
At least 90 years after Edainic refugees entered Eriador from the west carrying tales of the victories of Morgoth over the Eldar and Men of Beleriand, Edainic men rose up against their Easterling masters and joined the Host of Valinor. It was this service in the final war against Morgoth which ensured that the Edain of Hithlum (and whatever Edain from Brethil may have joined them) would be rewarded by the Valar with the gift of the island in the Sea that became Numenor. But it was also this service which would ensure that the western Edain would lose contact with their eastern cousins.
Eriador had become very crowded in the fifth century. Easterlings of various types had wandered into the region, settling (it appears) in a buffer zone between the older Edainic peoples (mostly Beorians) who lived in the hills of Tyrn Gorthad, the Weather Hills, and the North Downs and the Dwarven and Elven lands around the Ered Luin. The northernmost Easterlings were akin to the Folk of Bor. They were farmers and appear to have been friendly or at least not hostile with the Edainic peoples. But other Easterlings eventually moved on to settle in Beleriand and strengthen Morgoth's forces.
The Elves of Balar and Ossiriand had to know the war was being fought. They would have seen the tremendous upheavals which gradually ruined Beleriand and caused much of the land to sink beneath the sea. The sundering of the Ered Luin so that a great gulf was created there would have announced the fact of the war to the peoples of Eriador. Elves and Men alike must have fled further east, probably beyond the Baranduin, to find a region of land which was relatively stable. The Easterlings in the north may have suffered great losses as those lands began sinking into the Sea.
Tolkien doesn't explain why or how the sea of Helcar was destroyed, but it may be that the lands were raised up so that the waters flowed north and hence around the northern edge of Middle-earth to help inundate the sinking lands in Beleriand. It may be that Morgoth attempted to use the waters to stall the advance of the Host of Valinor. The effect would have been catastrophic for the Elves, Dwarves, and Men living in the eastern portions of Middle-earth. But perhaps there were no longer that many Men living in those lands. After all, Morgoth had concentrated his power in the North-west. He needed all the help he could get when the War of Wrath came.
With the defeat of Morgoth's forces a few evil creatures were able to flee eastward. One Balrog made it to the Misty Mountains, and there hid itself for more than 5,000 years. At least two dragons (apparently a male and female) fled to the Withered Heath and presumably there established a breeding ground which eventually allowed dragons to trouble the world again. Orcs and Easterlings also fled east, and they settled in the northern mountains. The Orcs took Gundabad from the Dwarves, who eventually formed an alliance with the Edainic Men of Wilderland.
In short, the War of Wrath must have produced two waves of migration: one coming from the east to the west as new lands rose up and destroyed the Sea of Helcar, one coming from the west to the east as people and evil creatures fled the destruction of Beleriand. Caught in the middle would have been the Nandorin Elves, Dwarves, and Edainic Men of Eriador and Wilderland.
In the three years following the War of Wrath Eonw렴ravelled throughout Middle-earth, summoning Elves once again to pass over Sea to the West. Many of the Elves seem to have heeded his call. Of those who remained, the majority appear to have become (or to have been) the Silvan or Wood Elves of the Vales of Anduin. These Elves were descended from Avari and Nandor who had mingled together.
But Gil-galad and Cirdan must have somehow become reconciled to the remaining Feanorians during the final three years of the First Age. It must have been at that time that the Elves abandoned Balar. Did the island sink or did Gil-galad and Cirdan simply feel it was time to return to the mainland, now that Morgoth was gone? We'll never know.
The Edain of Beleriand also migrated east, but they settled in Lindon along the new coastlands. They apparently never attempted to communicate with the Edain of Eriador. In Unfinished Tales the third note to "Aldarion and Erendis" says that the Numenoreans believed "that the Men left behind were descended from the evil Men who in the last days of the war against Morgoth had been summoned by him out of the East." The Edain of Beleriand must therefore have lost all memory of their more distant kinsfolk in the east, and that loss implies that all their lore-masters must have perished in the wars. The generations which grew up in slavery must have learned very little of their origins, and the Elves could probably tell them very little.
This sundering of Edain had a profound effect upon their cultures. When the Numenoreans returned to Middle-earth in the year 600 of the Second Age, "they looked upon...Men who could have walked in Numenor and not been thought aliens save in their clothes and their arms." To the Edain of Eriador the Numenoreans "resembled rather Elvish lords than mortal Men in bearing and apparel". The early Edain had been welcomed to Numenor by the Eldar of Tol Eressea, survivors of Beleriand, who brought the Edain many gifts and taught them new lore. But the Edain had also been taught by Eonw렩n Middle-earth.
In fact, the Edain lived in Lindon for about 35 yeas before they began to set sail across the Sea, and the migration to Numenor is said in The Peoples of Middle-earth to have lasted at least 50 years. So the Edain of Lindon migrated over Sea from about SA 32 to SA 82. During that time they were enhanced by the Valar, and tutored by Eonw렡nd perhaps other Maiar. But they seem to have had no contact with their kinsmen in the east.
The first fleet to set sail to Numenor consisted of at least 150 ships, perhaps as many as 300. Each was piloted by one of Cirdan's mariners, who presumably returned to Lindon when their voyage was finished. One must wonder what became of the ships when the Elves were finished transporting the Edain over Sea. Some, no doubt, were used by Eldar to sail to Tol Eressea, but the rest must have become incorporated into the new economy of Lindon. The ships were small, holding between 30 and 40 passengers with goods and animals. How long did it take the Elves to build the ships, one must ask? Did Cirdan have to train new mariners?
As the Edain left Lindon the Dwarves of Belegost began leaving Ered Luin and migrating to Khazad-dum. These Dwarves most likely reinforced the Longbeard Dwarves (Durin's Folk) in their renewed wars with the Orcs, who coming from the ruin of Angband seemed numerous to Durin's Folk. If a reason for the Dwarvish migration must be sought, it may be supposed that the Longbeards invited the Belegostians to join them as a result of the Orcish invasions.
The Dwarf migration must have impoverished Eriador, however. The Edain there would have had Nandor to trade with, but few Dwarves. So it may be that their cultural development proceeded along different paths from that of the Edainic Men of Wilderland, many of whom became allied with the Dwarves and benefitted from Dwarven trade. It would seem that one difference between the (mostly) Beorian Edain of Eriador and the (mostly) Marachian Edain of Wilderland was the use of horses. The Marachians raised horses even in Beleriand, but the Beorians seem not to have used them.
The Edain of Eriador settled in the Hills of Evendim, the North Downs, the Weather Hills, and the lands between them as far west as the Baranduin river. According to both Unfinished Tales and The Peoples of Middle-earth the Edain sometimes wandered into the lands beyond Baranduin but that was Elvish country and they did not settle there.
The Elves between Baranduin and Lhun must have been mostly Nandor. The Noldor settled in Forlindon with Gil-galad and Elrond. These were probably mostly descended from the Noldor of Gondolin and the folk of Angrod (from northern Nargothrond), many of whom had fled to Balar. Virtually none of the Hithlum Noldor should have survived the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, or if they did they must have been enslaved. So the remaining Noldor must have been derived from the handful of Feanorians who survived the third Kinslaying and any refugees who escaped the fall of Nargothrond.
Although Cirdan's people settled in the twin havens of Mithlond, the Sindar of Doriath and the Green-elves of Ossiriand settled in Harlindon. But many of these Elves eventually migrated east to the Vales of Anduin. Tolkien only says they left "before the building of Barad-dur" (which Sauron began around the year 1000). Many people believe the Sindarin migration must have occurred before the Noldor established Eregion (circa 700-750). Because Sauron began taking action against Elves around the year 500 (apparently stirring up Men from the east to harrass the Elves), it may be that the Sindarin migrations inspired him to do something. (It should be noted that in an early draft of the Tale of Years for the Second Age, the Sindarin migration coincided with a Noldorin migration to Imladris and Eregion.)
The Elvish populations in Lindon increased, and they most likely grew as rapidly as the populations of Beleriand had grown. That is, from the time of the reconciliation of the Noldor in Beleriand early in the First Age until the Dagor Bragollach, the Noldor and Sindar increased their population considerably. A comparable period of time without any Orcish intrusions as occasionally happened during the Siege of Angband elapsed between the departure and the return of the Numenoreans.
Gil-galad's kingdom, therefore, should have become wealthier and more powerful. Cirdan's mariners may have continued sailing across the seas. Why not? They had the ships, they had the skill. Tolkien never says that they visited Aman, but northern Aman, at least, would have been easily within their reach. And it would not have been much of a journey to sail from Numenor to Tol Eressea while they were conducting the Edain over Sea.
At some point Gil-galad's people came into contact with the Edain of Eriador. These Men, thinking that their western cousins had been destroyed, never asked about them when visiting the Elves. And the Elves, having lost contact with the Numenoreans, never thought to inform the Eriadorians that some of their kinsfolk had survived. If we assume that an average generation among the Edain lasted 25-30 years, then anywhere from 24 to 29 generations passed among the Eriadorians after Estolad was abandoned until the Numenoreans returned to Middle-earth.
There was apparently no interaction between these Edain and the Men of Minhiriath, whom the Numenoreans came to call the Gwathuirim. From these people had come the Folk of Haleth in Brethil, and so they were also "Edainic" peoples, but they spoke a different language from that of the Beorians and Marachians. The Men of Bree, many thousands of years later, were descended from the Gwathuirim, but it appears that Bree wasn't founded until sometime after the War of the Elves and Sauron.
The peoples of Eriador must have been relatively isolated during the first few centuries of the Second Age. The Elves kept mostly to themselves beyond the Baranduin but they were friendly with the Edainic Men. Gil-galad followed the policies of the Eldarin kings of Beleriand in maintaining a separation between Elves and Men. There was no war to speak of which should have driven them together. The Elves must have become inwardly focused, refining their civilization until population and the prospect of commerce with Khazad-dum became great enough to launch the eastward migrations.
The Gwathuirim lived quietly in their forests. In the east, the Dwarves and their Edainic allies built up a great civilization. But the occasional mention of interaction suggests that a vast network of some sort existed between all these peoples. Gil-galad eventually heard rumors of some dark power which was inimical to Elves and Men. When the Longbeards discovered Mithril the Noldor decided to establish a colony in Eregion to engage in trade with Khazad-dum, and the relationship between the two peoples was so strong that the Dwarevs tunneled all the way through the mountains to create a west-gate for the use of the Elves.
The question of when this network arose may never be settled. It's possible that the Dwarves always maintained their ancient contacts, and that for the first few centuries of the Second Age they conveyed news between east and west, Elves, Dwarves, and Men. It may also be that the Nandor who wandered through Eriador eventually made contact with Gil-galad's realm and carried news westward. And perhaps the Edain themselves traded freely with each other and the Dwarves, bringing news and wealth westward from Khazad-dum.
We know that twelve Edain were brave enough to meet with V롮tur and his Numenoreans in the year 600. And we know that the Edain of Beleriand had held at least one great council where their leaders convened to discuss the war with Angband. It may be that similar councils were occasionally held among the Eriadorians, and that perhaps the twelve men were leaders or chieftains from as many clans or tribes. A council of Eriadorian chieftains may imply that the Beorians and Marachians had developed a sophisticated culture, cooperating with one another in time of need. Such a confederation of peoples would have been strong enough to discourage or repulse invasion, and may explain why the Easterlings and Orcs did not settle in central Eriador, and why the Gwathuirim did not pass farther north than the edge of their forests.
The encounter with V롮tur implies that the Eriadorians spoke the same language, and yet that language had in more than 700 years begun to drift away from the Adunaic of the Numenoreans. So the inference that the Eriadorian Edain had maintained or developed a cultural unity is a strong one. They would have freely exchanged stories and songs, retained the same traditions and memories, practiced the same customs, and probably continued the ancient Edainic custom of marrying their sons and daughters (at least among their chieftains) to families from other communities in order to build or maintain strong bonds.
These Edain buried their dead in mounds, and most likely lived in fortified towns and villages, raising sheep, cattle, and (very possibly, the few Marachians in Eriador) horses. They would be mostly farmers and woodsmen, supporting a small cadre of craftsmen. They would have been ripe for learning new skills and trades from the Numenoreans. They should have seemed very much to the Numenoreans like their ancestors in Beleriand, and Eriador may have provided curious adventurers like Aldarion a glimpse into the past.
Michael Martinez is the author of Visualizing Middle-earth, which may be purchased directly from Xlibris Corp. or through any online bookstore. You may also special order it from your local bookstore. The ISBN is 0-7388-3408-4.
And be sure to download your free copy of Parma Endorion: Essays on Middle-earth, 3rd edition at Free-eBooks.Net!