Gil-galad was an Elven-king...
Who was Gil-galad's father, Fingon or Orodreth? J.R.R. Tolkien says Orodreth,
but millions of fans seem to disagree with him. After all, The Silmarillion
says it was Fingon. "That Gil-galad was the son of Fingon (The Silmarillion
p. 154) derives from the late note pencilled on the manuscript of [Grey
Annals] ($157)," Christopher Tolkien tells us in The War of the Jewels (p.
243 of my Houghton Mifflin edition), "stating that when Fingon became King of
the Noldor on the death of Fingolfin
his young son (?Findor) [sic] Gilgalad
he sent to the Havens. But this, adopted after much hesitation, was not in
fact by any means the last of my father's speculations."
This tantalizing hint fired the first of the Gil-galad debates. If Fingon wasn't his father, and Finrod Felagund couldn't be (earlier discussion showed that idea had been abandoned), then who was the father of Gil-galad? Some people stood squarely by The Silmarillion, stating it must be canon, as it was faithfully produced by Christopher Tolkien according to his father's wishes. But this is not true.
Elsewhere in The War of the Jewels, and in several other volumes of The History of Middle-earth, Christopher points out where he departed from his father's vision (mostly through inadequate research, given that he was working under pressure and didn't have access to all of his father's papers). In particular, he says of "The Ruin of Doriath" that:
To have included ["The Wanderings of Hurin" in The Silmarillion], as it
seemed to me, would have entailed a huge reduction, indeed an entire
re-telling of a kind that I did not wish to undertake; and since the story is
intricate I was afraid that this would produce a dense tangle of narrative
statement with all the subtlety gone, and abobe all that it would diminish
the fearful figure of the old man, the great hero, Thalion the Steadfast,
furthering still the purposes of Morgoth, as he was doomed to do. But it
seems to me now, many years later, to have been an excessive tampering with
my father's actual thought and intention: thus raising the question, whether
the attempt to make a
unified Silmarillion should have been embarked on.
In a further explanation of how "The Ruin of Doriath" was written later in the book, Christopher says:
This story was not lightly or easily conceived, but was the outcome of
long experimentation among alternative conceptions. In this work Guy Kay took
a major part, and the chapter that I finally wrote owes much to my
discussions with him. It is, and was, obvious that a step was being taken of
a different order from any other
manipulation of my father's own writing in
the course of the book: even in the case of the story of the Fall of
Gondolin, to which my father had never returned, something could be contrived
without introducing radical changes in the narrative. It seemed at that time
that there were elements in the story of the Ruin of Doriath as it stood that
were radically incompatible with
The Silmarillion as projected, and that
there was here an inescapable choice: either to abandon that conception, or
else to alter the story. I think now that this was a mistaken view, and that
the undoubted difficulties could have been, and should have been, surmounted
without so far overstepping the bounds of the editorial function.
This repudiation of his most significant contribution to The Silmarillion shows that Christopher Tolkien does not present it as a canonical work. That is, he never intended the published Silmarillion to represent his father's vision. He was cautionary in the foreword to the Silmarillion itself, noting that
...to attempt to present, within the covers of a single book, the diversity of the materials -- to show The Silmarillion as in truth a continuing and evolving creation extending over more than half a century -- would in fact lead only to confusion and the submerging of what is essential. I set myself therefore to work out a single text, selecting and arranging in such a way as seemed to me to produce the most coherent and internally self-consistent narrative....A complete consistency...is not to be looked for, and could only be achieved, if at all, at heavy and needless cost....
We therefore have solid reason, provided by Christopher Tolkien himself, to question the validity of any statement in The Silmarillion. But that is not to say that everything in the book should be thrown out as non-canonical. Rather, since we now have the source materials available for our own study, we can determine (especially with the aid of Christopher's explicit commentary) where the original stories were altered or not used, and why.
In the case of Gil-galad's parentage we have a more certain declaration from Christopher than the one above. In The Peoples of Middle-earth he devoted a brief commentary to the parentage of Gil-galad on pages 349-51. It appears that the true genealogy of Gil-galad places him as the son of Orodreth, who himself was the son of Angrod, and not one of the children of Finarfin. "There can be no doubt that this was my father's last word on the subject," Christopher tells us. His final statement reads: "Much closer analysis of the admittedly extremely complex material than I had made twenty years ago makes it clear that Gil-galad as the son of Fingon (see XI.56,243) was an ephemeral idea."
What a revelation! Saying that Gil-galad as the son of Fingon was "an ephemeral idea" lit the fires of controversy almost overnight. People have argued back and forth through the years on what the right parentage for Gil-galad should be. And yet we have it from Christopher Tolkien that there can be no doubt concerning his parentage: he was the son of Orodreth.
Furthermore, Christopher admits to changing Gil-galad's name in the text of the letter published as part of "Aldarion and Erendis" in Unfinished Tales. Where the book shows "Ereinion Gil-galad son of Fingon" JRRT had actually written "Finellach Gil-galad of the House of Finarfin". In another passage of the story Christopher also changed "King Finellach Gil-galad of Lindon" to "King Gil-galad of Lindon".
So why do people continue to doubt the word of Christopher Tolkien, the man who published The Silmarillion, admittedly with the intention of providing "a single text", who selected and arranged the material to produce a consistent and coherent narrative (a goal he did not fully achieve, by his own admission)? I think answering that question would require an analysis on the order of a dissertation. The refusal to accept Christopher Tolkien's authoritative statements on any number of issues is a sociological phenomenon.
But we can examine Gil-galad in the context of the correct story and determine a few things about his character which were never revealed in The Silmarillion. That is, we can deduce something of his personal history.
Orodreth was probably born in Valinor. His mother was Eldal? a Noldorin lady whose name was easily converted to Sindarin Edhellos. When Finrod built the hidden city of Nargothrond, he commended rule over Tol Sirion and the adjoining lands to Angrod, while Aegnor retained command over the heights of Dorthonion which overlooked Ard-galen. All this contradicts what we are told in The Silmarillion, of course.
When the Dagor Bragollach erupted and the Noldor were thrown back Finrod rushed north to reinforce his brothers, but he was too late. Aegnor's people were overwhlemed, and though Angrod's people held out on Tol Sirion for a while Angrod himself was eventually slain and Orodreth retreated from the island, fleeing to Nargothrond. He took with him his wife, a Sindarin lady from the northern lands, and his son (Rodnor Gil-galad) and daughter (Finduilas).
Gil-galad didn't stay in Nargothrond for very long. He would have settled there at the very earliest around the year 455 (the year of the Dagor Bragollach), and Christopher cites a note from his father which states that "Gil-galad escaped and eventually came to Sirion's Mouth and was King of the Noldor there". His escape would have to be from the destruction of Nargothrond, which occurred in the year 495.
During those 40 years we hear nothing of Gil-galad, but we can infer that he may have been present at the great debate when Beren asked for Finrod's help in the quest of the Silmaril. He, of course, was not one of the twelve faithful lords who accompanied Finrod on the quest, but presumably Gil-galad would have been deemed too young or too important to join the quest (in fact, he had not even been conceived of in Tolkien's thought when the fullest version of Beren's story was written in the 1930s). Gil-galad did not march with Gwindor's company to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and he doesn't seem to have been one of the soldiers in Orodreth's army which was defeated by Glaurung's army at the Battle of Tumhalad.
It would make sense for Orodreth to leave Gil-galad behind to defend Nargothrond. Gil-galad might only then have just been reaching full maturity. And Orodreth was usually a cautious ruler, having only given in to pressure from Turin and the impatient Noldorin lords who favored Turin's counsel to abandon Nargothrond's policy of hidden defense.
Thus when Glaurung came up against the city and its defenders proved to be too few and weak to withstand the dragon, the young prince must have become separated from his family. We don't know the fate of his mother, though she was probably killed or taken prisoner, but Finduilas was captured and taken with other Elf-women to Brethil by the Orcs. There she was mortally wounded despite the best efforts of the wood-men to free the captives.
Making his way south Gil-galad reached the Mouths of Sirion. The community of Elves and Men which would later found the realm of Arvernien under Earendil did not yet exist, but many Noldor (and Sindar) had been fleeing south for years, hoping to join up with Cirdan, whose people had abandoned the Falas after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad in 473 and fled to the Isle of Balar. Annael, leader of the group of Sindar who fostered Tuor, eventually reached the Mouths of Sirion.
So Gil-galad established a community of Elves there, or found one and was acknowledged its leader. This community, however, must have eventually moved to Balar, probably at Cirdan's invitation, thus ensuring that the House of Finw렷ould survive.
Gil-galad was at this time merely a king of the Noldor, not their High King. The High Kingship had passed on Fingon's death to his brother Turgon, and now we know why. Fingon had no children, and the kingship therefore went to his closest male relative of the male line of descent from Finw뮠When Gondolin was destroyed in the year 510, and Turgon killed, the High Kingship passed to the House of Finarfin, of whom the last male line descendant was Gil-galad.
Throughout the rest of the First Age Gil-galad remained on Balar. He and Maedhros were the last Noldorin kings to live in Beleriand, but it appears that Gil-galad never met Maedhros. He would have known Celebrimbor, the son of Curufin, who stayed in Nargothrond after Celegorm and Curufin were banished by Orodreth. Celebrimbor was not a king, and had no realm to inherit, although he technically should have become leader of the F롮orians upon Maedhros' death and Maglor's departure.
When the War of Wrath ended and the Host of Valinor departed back into the West, many of the Noldor and Sindar of Beleriand went with them. The handful of Finw롮s left (Gil-galad, Celebrimbor, and Galadriel) along with the chief lords of the Sindar (Celeborn and Cirdan) elected to stay in Middle-earth. Galadriel's history is very confused, but it appears she left Nargothrond sometime before 495 (probably before the Nirnaeth in 473). So she and Celeborn must have come west when Eonw렳ummoned all the Elves of Middle-earth to sail over Sea.
In The Road Goes Ever On J.R.R. Tolkien writes that Galadriel "was the last survivor of the the princes and queens who had led the revolting Noldor to exile in Middle-earth. After the overthrow of Morgoth at the end of the First Age, a ban was set upon her return, and she had replied proudly that she had no wish to do so. She passed over the Mountains of Eredluin with her husband Celeborn (one of the Sindar) and went to Eregion...."
Galadriel's position among the Eldarin lords of Middle-earth was thus unique, and she doesn't seem ever to have fit in well with Gil-galad's kingdom. In another history, published in Unfinished Tales, Galadriel and Celeborn first settled in Eriador near Lake Evendim early in the Second Age, and there they were acknowledged Lord and Lady of the Elves in Eriador. Nonetheless, The Lord of the Rings tells us that Celeborn was Gil-galad's vassal in Harlindon for a while after the Kingdom of Lindon was established.
Elrond, in choosing to remain with the Elves, became a counsellor and apparently close friend to Gil-galad. His pedigree all but ensured Elrond a high place in the new Elven realm. Born amid the survivors of Gondolin and Doriath, a descendant of Turgon and Thingol, Elrond was captured while still a child by the F롮orians, and he and his brother Elros were fostered by Maglor. Elrond thus developed a special relationship with the F롮orians.
Gil-galad's realm at first must have included Elves from every part of the former Beleriand: survivors from the Falas and Hithlum, survivors from Nargothrond, survivors from Gondolin and Doriath, F롮orians, and probably even a few Laegrim from Ossiriand and whatever remained of the Avari who had reached Beleriand. Although all was supposed to be forgiven among the Elves, it doesn't seem they could really set aside ancient griefs. The Doriathrim seem to have accepted Gil-galad's rule at first but it was they (apparently) who led the great migration of Sindar away from Lindon.
Sindar began migrating eastward early in the Second Age, but we don't know how early. And their first movements may have been only to settle in western Eriador. Population pressure may have been part of the reason for why they left Lindon. The Elves continued to have families throughout the Second and Third Ages. But it may also be that Gil-galad was influenced by Noldorin policies enough that the Sindar may have felt his realm wasn't for them. Cirdan and the Falathrim had always been friendly with the Noldor, and were in some ways Noldorinized in Beleriand (Finrod had helped to rebuild their cities, for example). The Sindar of Hithlum and Nargorthrond would also have been Noldorinized.
It was the Sindar of Doriath who would be most reluctant to adopt Noldorin customs and culture. And they would also have the hardest time overlooking past griefs, having fought the F롮orians directly not once but twice. Virtually all the grievances of the Sindar over what they had lost could have been laid at the feet of the Noldor, if it were in them to place blame. So their eastward migration was probably also the result of some antipathy toward the F롮orians.
The first phase of Sindarin migration had probably been completed by the time Numenoreans reached Middle-earth and began visiting Lindon. By this time the haven of Edhellond had been established far to the south and many Sindar had settled among the Nandor and Avari of Eriador. Gil-galad's people retained contact with the Elves of Eriador, and had come into contact with the Edainic peoples still living there as well. These Men sent twelve of their leaders to meet with V롮tur and his Numenoreans after asking Gil-galad to arrange the meeting.
So, just as his realm seemed to be coming apart, Gil-galad was thrust upon the stage of world history by Numenor. And Sauron began stirring in Middle-earth once again. Word came to Gil-galad of some distant power which was not friendly to Men and Elves. He knew nothing for certain, but his doubts and concerns gradually increased. When the young prince Anardil (later Tar-Aldarion) began adventuring in Middle-earth Gil-galad befriended him, and the Numenorean prince made many journeys on Gil-galad's behalf, visiting Men throughout the north-western lands of Middle-earth.
Gil-galad seems to have formed a policy of establishing closer ties with Men. Perhaps he was only interested in Men of Edainic descent, since the Elves distrusted Men of other kindreds. But the Edainic peoples had spread far and wide. They could be found as far south as the Mouths of Sirion and as far east as the Carnen river and the Iron Hills.
The establishment of the Noldorin realm of Eregion may also reflect, in part, Gil-galad's policies. Although Eregion acted on its own initiatives, Gil-galad did not abandon the people of Eregion during the War of the Elves and Sauron. And he may have been instrumental in deciding that the Noldor should establish a colony near Khazad-dum so as to have access to mithril. In this way the Elven civilization would be assured of control over the Eriadorian trade routes.
When Sauron began approaching Elven realms in the guise of Annatar, Lord of Gifts, feeling them out concerning their doom to eventually fade, Gil-galad and Elrond suspected the motives of Annatar and refused to treat with him. Annatar/Sauron was not admitted to Lindon, and he turned his attention to Eregion. There Celebrimbor, lord of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain, listened to Annatar, and he dreamed of making Middle-earth into an Elven paradise much like Valinor. The Elves were facing a real problem in that they had their own form of death to contend with: fading. They would lose their bodies. Their spirits would remain, conscious, aware, but incapable of interacting with the world.
Gil-galad undoubtedly understood this problem as well as anyone. But he made the innate choice not to meddle with nature. The Elves lived with the life of Arda. That is, their spirits would not leave the circles of the world as Men's spirits would. So for them "life" was not simply a biological function but was also a spiritual one. They wondered if their spirits would continue to exist beyond the existence of Time. They felt Men were assured of continued life, and weren't as concerned about the death of the body as Men were. So Gil-galad did not want to hold back the effects of Time.
And yet, when the Rings of Power were made, and Sauron revealed himself to the Ring-makers when he put on the One Ring, the Elves were unable to bring themselves to destroy the Rings. Celebrimbor gave two of the greatest Rings to Gil-galad, and Gil-galad also couldn't destroy them. Why? Was it that he felt there would be no point in trying to undo what had been done? Would it have irreparably harmed Celebrimbor, sole maker of the Three, for the Rings to be destroyed? Or had Gil-galad found reason to change his mind in the centuries after rejecting Annatar's overtures?
The Three Rings worked their magic on the Elven realms even though no one wore them throughout the rest of the Second Age. Tolkien wrote that they would still hold back the effects of Time, so the Elves were assured of not fading while the Rings of Power existed. Gil-galad's policies then became more manipulative. When he was sure Sauron would invade Eriador Gil-galad asked Numenor to help defend the Elves and Men who lived there. But he didn't tell the Numenoreans what the war was about. One can only imagine what arguments must have raged in the highest Elven councils before the call to arms went out. Was it fair to withhold vital information from the Men who would be risking their lives on behalf of the Elves, who had dared to meddle with nature?
When the war finally came Numenor stood by the Elven-realm, no doubt for the sake of ancient friendship, and because anyone who knew the ancient legends and histories of the Wars of Beleriand knew Sauron was a bad guy. That he must have been using Orcs and Trolls in his armies, and that the Gwathuirim with whom the Numenoreans had been having trouble went over to Sauron, would only encourage the belief that it was right to support the Elven-folk. The issue had become one of survival for all Elves and Men. The Rings of Power were hidden from Numenor as well as Sauron, and their secret maintained for centuries.
Gil-galad may have come to feel vindicated in his decision not to share all with his allies in the centuries which followed the war. Sauron was defeated and driven back to Mordor, and his power to threaten Eriador was diminished. He turned his attention to the eastern lands of Middle-earth, where he decided he could build up a great empire capable of challenging Numenor and Gil-galad. But starting around the year 1800 the Numenoreans began to exhibit new behavior. The War of the Elves and Sauron had shown them they were strong, and this strength was now turned to dominating and enslaving other Men, rather than helping them.
It would be dangerous to reveal the existence of the Rings of Power to this new Numenor, for soon the Dunedain began to question their fate, and to long for the lifespan of the Elves. How much of this reached Gil-galad's ears we can only guess, but after the Numenoreans became divided into the camps of the Faithful and the Kings' Men, and only the Faithful continued to settle in or visit north-western Middle-earth, it must have been obvious that the Kings of Numenor had set themselves upon a path of self-destruction.
Gil-galad for his part had his own problems. Many Eldar left Middle-earth after the War of the Elves and Sauron. It probably seemed like only a matter of time before Sauron grew powerful enough again to challenge Gil-galad and the wayward Numenoreans. So Gil-galad's power was diminished and the Elves remained under constant attack even during the centuries when Sauron's attention was turned to the east. When the Numenoreans began conquering portions of Middle-earth they would eventually come into conflict with Sauron's realm. The wars of conquest might relieve some of the pressure on the Elves, but their Days of Flight seem to have continued until Ar-Pharazon's fateful decision to wrest control over Middle-earth from Sauron.
Technically, Numenor may still have been allied in some capacity with the Elves. Pelargir, the royal garth of ships (essentially a naval base), had been founded near the Mouths of Anduin in 2350. Although it became the chief haven south by the Faithful Numenoreans, the city's name implies that it was built with royal sanction, and may have served as a base of operations in conflicts with Sauron's realm. The power assembled by the Numenoreans at Pelargir through the centuries may have served to challenge and provoke Sauron, although Mordor would at that time have been more of an outpost of Sauron's empire than its heart.
Gil-galad took no action when Ar-Pharazon brought an armada to Middle-earth. Umbar, where Ar-Pharazon landed, was probably too far south for Gil-galad to march or sail to, and Ar-Pharazon most likely didn't want any Elvish help anyway. He was come to claim his place as the King of Men, and no Elf should be required to help him assert his authority. In any event, Ar-Pharazon's army was so great that Sauron's allies abandoned him. The One Ring failed Sauron once again. So Sauron left Mordor and surrendered to Ar-Pharazon, allowing the king to take him back to Numenor.
Sauron's departure seems to have brought an effective end to the wars with the Elves. Over the course of the next 57 years Gil-galad was able to extend his influence throughout the northern world, even into the upper Vales of Anduin. When Elendil and his sons brought nine ships of survivors from the disaster of Numenor to Middle-earth in 3319 Gil-galad befriended them and helped them establish the realms of Arnor and Gondor. The Elven-king built three towers overlooking the Gulf of Lune for Elendil, and these may have been the Dunadan king's first home in Middle-earth. But though he ceded vast authority to Elendil over Eriador, Gil-galad still said nothing (it seems) about the Rings of Power.
It would not be until the year 3429, when the reconstituted Sauron felt strong enough to attack Gondor, that Gil-galad would be faced with the moral dilemma of the Rings. He had kept Narya and Vilya hidden for more than 1,000 years. Neither he nor any other Elf had worn or actively used the Rings in that time. They dared not do so. But they had still benefitted from the Rings' ability to hold back the effects of Time. It must have become obvious to Gil-galad that the Elves had only deferred the inevitable decision to destroy the Rings. He may not have been convinced of the need to do so, or that they would fail if the One Ring were unmade, but as long as Sauron remained a threat to Men and Elves there was no hope of the Elves ever realizing the full benefit from the Rings they had retained control over.
So Gil-galad seems to have revealed all to Elendil and his sons. Now at last the Elves fessed up to their own sins, and they resolved with the Dunedain to undertake a final war against Sauron that should have resulted in his complete defeat. They had the military power to achieve this end. Gil-galad's people had grown numerous again, but he had also established relations with the peoples of the Vales of Anduin, including the much more numerous Silvan Elves ruled by Oropher and Amdir. Elf, Man, and Dwarf came together with a common purpose and they raised the greatest army Middle-earth had seen since the end of the First Age.
But Gil-galad's persuasive arguments don't seem to have endeared him with Oropher, who as a Doriathrin Elf was by one account unfriendly to the Noldor. It may only have been Gil-galad's relationship to Thingol and the pressing need to do something about Sauron, who had ravaged the lands east of the Misty Mountains as well as Eriador, that drove Oropher to ally himself with Gil-galad. Oropher nonetheless refused to march under Gil-galad's banner.
It took three years for Gil-galad and Elendil to prepare their armies. They had to recruit and train their soldiers, and apparently make arms and armor. But they must also have spent a considerable amount of time building up a preparatory strategy: scouting the lands, testing Sauron's defenses, perhaps sending reinforcements to Gondor to ensure Anarion wasn't overcome. There may also have been considerable debate over how to attack Sauron. Should a northern force attack Mordor while the main army thrust over the mountains, or should the main assault come from the north?
In 3431 Gil-galad and Elendil crossed the Misty Mountains and marched south. They were joined at some point by armies from Khazad-dum, Lorien, and Greenwood. The strategy they had selected was to drive straight toward Mordor. It may have been necessary to take this path for several reasons, not the least being their armies were too large to transport to Gondor easily. But Sauron seems to have built up his defenses in the upper vales of Anduin, so Lorien and Greenwood were directly threatened. Gil-galad's move would have freed those realms from any immediate perils.
The first major battle occurred in the lands south of Greenwood where the Ent-wives had built their gardens. The fate of the Ent-wives was never learned, although they may have been destroyed when Sauron burned the lands to prevent the Last Alliance from acquiring any help there. The Ent-wives at the very least could have supplied food to the Last Alliance. Sauron retreated south and the Last Alliance followed him. They overtook his army on the Dagorlad, and there inflicted a severe defeat upon Sauron. But Amdir and the army of Lorien were cut off in the Dead Marshes, and more than half the Silvan Elves of Lorien perished. Gil-galad may have been influenced by the devastating losses suffered by Amdir's people to hold up.
The Last Alliance arrayed its forces before the northern entrance to Mordor (where the Morannon would later stand), but Gil-galad could not restrain Oropher, who launched an assault against Sauron's defenses prematurely. Tolkien doesn't say how the battle went, but Gil-galad most likely followed in the footsteps of Fingon thousands of years before at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. He most likely put his helmet on and charged into battle on the heals of Oropher's attack, too late to save Oropher, who died early on. The Last Alliance won the day, however, and pushed its way into Mordor.
Whatever remained of Sauron's forces must at this time have retreated or been annihilated, and Sauron was confined to Barad-dur. Now Gil-galad settled down to the age-old Elven policy of besieging a dark lord in his fortress. Gil-galad took up a position on Orodruin, near the Sammath Naur where the One Ring had been forged. Gil-galad could have destroyed the Three Rings then, perhaps, but he either chose not to or else the Rings had not been carried into war. He must have fortified the mountain, though. Tolkien notes there were many sorties during the next seven years, and after six years of siege Sauron was still able to lob stones out from Barad-dur, for Anarion was slain in that year by one of the stones.
Gil-galad's strategy had thus changed radically. The Last Alliance no longer tried to take Sauron by force, and the war dragged on. They could only hope to so wear down Sauron's forces through attrition that in the end Sauron would capitulate. But Sauron became so desperate he formed a different plan. He sought out Gil-galad on Orodruin and attacked him. Elrond tells the people in Rivendell that only Elendil stood near Gil-galad, and that only he (Elrond), Cirdan, and Isildur saw what happened. Sauron's body was so hot it burned Gil-galad, and slew him, but Elendil rushed up and delivered a death-stroke against Sauron. The Dark Lord was nonetheless able to retaliate, and he threw Elendil down. And Elendil's sword broke beneath him.
The final strategy against Sauron worked, but probably not as Gil-galad hoped. Would he really have intended to do battle with Sauron alone? He seems to have been a cautious king throughout his career. To prepare for the War of the Elves and Sauron Gil-galad built up his defenses along the Baranduin river. He gave Elrond command of a small army that attempted to reinforce Eregion but it was driven back and forced to retreat north. Sauron forced his way across the Baranduin and Gil-galad was only barely able to hold the Lune against him. So the Elven-king's resources were limited and the limits of his resources may have dictated his policy.
But he quickly helped Elendil establish the kingdom of Arnor, which became the most powerful realm in the north. Why was it important to make a large kingdom of Men? Was it important to Gil-galad to recall the greatness of Numenor, or was his policy of dealing with Men through Men a conservative, perhaps xenophobic decision? Gil-galad had no problem in treating with Edainic peoples, but anyone else had to go through his Nuemenorean proxies.
The only time Gil-galad went on the offensive was when he and Elendil formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. By this time it must have been obvious that Sauron would be able to rebuild his power with the One Ring every time someone defeated him. Gil-galad's goal must have been to find and take Sauron prisoner, and then to somehow wrest the One Ring away from him. Gil-galad may not have known the secrets of the Ring-makers, but he must have been able to learn enough to understand the true peril that the One Ring presented. One must wonder if Gil-galad would ever have used the Three Rings, or permitted their use, had he lived and Isildur still taken the Ring from Sauron. Prudence would have counselled the Elves not to use their Rings after Isildur vanished in the north. But though he was wise, Elrond did not follow the path of prudence.
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!