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In the published writings of author J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional world of Arda, the Black Númenóreans are an ethnic subdivision of humanity that he refers to as one of many peoples and races inhabiting his Middle-earth setting.
For the most part they are described as descendants of those people of Númenor who had founded and dwelt in the province of Umbar, as well as several other, unnamed coastal locations further south and east in Middle-earth. Although for a millennium following the sinking of Númenór he posited them as the principal antagonists of another of his more well-known fictional realms Gondor, the capacity of these Black Númenóreans continually diminished, while that of their Gondorian antagonists grew. Despite this, descendants of the Black Númenóreans – who retained this animosity – lingered on in Tolkien's chronology as late as the end of his tales concerning the Third Age.
Even prior to their schism into two opposing parties, as their power and knowledge grew throughout the course of the Second Age, the Númenóreans became increasingly preoccupied with their mortality, the purpose of which they all began to question. This growing wish to escape death, "the doom of Men" (formerly called "the Gift of Men"), made most of the Númenóreans envious of the immortal Elves, or Eldar. The Eldar sought ever to remind the men of Númenor that death was a gift from Ilúvatar to all Men, and that to lose faith in Ilúvatar would be heretical.
Some of the Númenóreans accepted this, albeit with regret, but nevertheless after S.A. 2221, when Tar-Ancalimon became King of Númenor, the people became divided. The "King's Men", the larger party, "grew proud and were estranged from the Valar and the Eldar." They became increasingly predisposed to the corruption of Sauron, who, once arrived in Númenor, was able to dominate the will of most of the Númenóreans with the One Ring. In Númenor's last years, the powerful but elderly King Ar-Pharazôn, who had become "frightened of old age", was persuaded by Sauron that Ilúvatar was a lie invented by the Valar, and seduced him to the worship of Melkor, first in secret and then openly. Within Númenor, the majority followed suit, and this worship was carried across the ocean to Númenor's colonies in Middle-earth.
The remnant of the King's Men who survived in Middle-earth after the destruction of Númenor were called the Black Númenóreans since they worshipped Sauron and were "enamoured of evil knowledge". They worshipped Darkness, and believed that Melkor and Sauron were its most powerful servants. At the end of the Second Age two of their number, Herumor and Fuinur, became lords among the Haradrim, though what became of them is unknown.
A small fleet of Númenóreans who had refused to disavow Ilúvatar also escaped the destruction of their homeland, and Elendil, their leader, subsequently established the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor in Middle-earth, areas largely populated by Númenóreans or people partly akin to them. Against these the Black Númenóreans remained antagonistic.
Initially and for many centuries after the Downfall of Númenor, Black Númenóreans retained control of all of Númenor's colonies and outposts south of the River Anduin. The nearest to Gondor was Umbar, where a Black Númenórean aristocracy survived for a thousand years, exerting strong influence over Haradwaith. Tolkien writes that their race became mixed with lesser men however, and as a consequence they "quickly dwindled" thereafter.
Gondor fought frequently against Umbar and their allies. King Tarannon Falastur of Gondor (9th century of the Third Age) evidently attempted a diplomatic alliance by marrying the Black Númenórean Berúthiel. She, however, dabbled in the black arts, and theirs was a loveless match; so Tarannon sent her on a ship back to the south.
Gondor finally captured Umbar in T.A. 933, and although Gondor held it for about 500 years, the Black Númenóreans continued for a while to stir up the Southrons against Umbar and Gondor. After Gondor's eventual overwhelming victory against the Haradrim in T.A. 1050 however, the Black Númenóreans faded from knowledge in The West. As time went on, Gondoreans assumed of their antagonists of old that "some were given over wholly to idleness and ease, and some fought among themselves, until they became conquered in their weakness by the wild men."
Gondor lost control of Umbar at the end of the Kin-strife in T.A. 1448, when rebels from Gondor, led by descendants of the usurper Castamir, seized the port. The rebels became known as the Corsairs of Umbar, and while not themselves Black Númenóreans, it is not known if any of the remaining Black Númenóreans returned to join them there.
The influence of the Black Númenóreans certainly persisted for centuries. The proud monument at Umbar commemorating Ar-Pharazôn's defeat of Sauron stood until some unspecified date late in the Third Age, when it was finally torn down; and the Mouth of Sauron, as late as the War of the Ring, was of their race.
- Tolkien, The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth", p. 266.
- Tolkien, Letters, ed. Humphrey Carpenter, No. 211.
- Tolkien, Letters, ed. Humphrey Carpenter, No. 156.
- Tolkien, The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth", p. 272.
- Tolkien, The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power", p. 293.
- Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings, "The Black Gate Opens".
- Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, I (iv).
- Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, "The Istari", p. 401, note7.
- Hammond and Scull, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 283–284.
- Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B.
- Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "The Window on the West".
- Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "The Black Gate Opens".
- "Black Númenóreans". Tolkien Gateway.