Isildur

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This article is about the fictional character. For the poker player known as "Isildur1", see Viktor Blom.
Isildur
Tolkien's legendarium character
Aliases High King of Arnor and Gondor
Race Men
Book(s) The Lord of the Rings
The Silmarillion
Unfinished Tales

Isildur is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. He appears in the author's books The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales.

In The Lord of the Rings, he was first mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring as a Dúnadan of Númenor, elder son of Elendil. A more complete history appears in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. He was the second king of Gondor (jointly with his brother Anárion until the latter's death) and the second king of Arnor. His name means "devoted to the moon". In a note written well after the initial publication of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien gave Isildur's height as seven feet tall.

Development[edit]

The character of Elendil, Isildur's father, has a long history in the development of Tolkien's legendarium. In earlier revisions, he was called Aelfwine.

The son of Elendil was called Herendil in earlier conceptions of the story. A recurring father-son constellation called "elf-friend" and "bliss-friend" who preserve a memory of the fall of Atlantis is exposed in the unfinished story of The Lost Road. By conception, The Lost Road explored "time travel" by genetic memory, connecting a contemporary English father and son, called Audoin and Alboin, to a father and son called Elendil and Herendil in remote antiquity who lived through the destruction of Númenor.

The son of Elendil "elf-friend" became in The Lord of the Rings a pair of brothers, Isildur and Anárion, named after the Moon and the Sun, respectively. Each founded his own city, Minas Ithil and Minas Anor, and they reigned in dual kingship over Gondor from their common capital, Osgiliath.

Narrative[edit]

As detailed in the appendices of The Return of the King, Isildur was born in the year 3209 of the Second Age in Númenor, the first son of Elendil son of Amandil, the last Lord of Andúnië. Isildur had four sons: Elendur, Aratan, Ciryon, and Valandil.

In Isildur's youth, Númenor's King Ar-Pharazôn was corrupted by Sauron, who urged that the Nimloth the White Tree be cut down. Isildur went to the court of the king in disguise and stole a fruit of the tree. He was severely wounded in his escape, but his sacrifice was not in vain: Nimloth was cut down and burned shortly afterward, but the line of the White Tree continued. When Númenor was destroyed by Ilúvatar, Elendil's family escaped in seven ships.

Isildur in Middle-earth[edit]

The refugees from Númenor fled east to the continent of Middle-earth. Isildur's father Elendil landed in the north, founding the realm of Arnor, while Isildur and his brother Anárion landed in the south and established the realm of Gondor, which they ruled jointly until Anárion was killed in Mordor.

Isildur settled on the east bank of the Anduin and established the city of Minas Ithil (which would later be named Minas Morgul), as well as the province of Ithilien. His throne and his brother Anárion's stood side by side in the city of Osgiliath. However, in S.A. 3429 Sauron captured Minas Ithil and destroyed the White Tree. Isildur and his family escaped down the Anduin by boat, bearing with them a seedling of the tree. They sailed to Lindon, seeking the Elven High King Gil-galad and Elendil in Arnor. Anárion bought time for Gondor by defending Osgiliath and driving the Dark Lord back to the mountains, while Elendil and Gil-galad marshalled their forces.

As told in The Fellowship of the Ring, Isildur returned with Elendil and Gil-galad in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men in 3434. After the Alliance was victorious over Sauron's host at the Battle of Dagorlad, they advanced into Mordor and laid siege to Barad-dûr. When Minas Ithil was recaptured, Isildur sent his younger sons Aratan and Ciryon to man that fortress, which would prevent Sauron and his forces from escaping that way. Isildur was accompanied throughout the war by his eldest son Elendur. The campaign in Mordor was long and bitter, and Anárion was slain by a stone from the Dark Tower.

After seven years of besieging the Dark Tower, the enemy was all but defeated and Sauron appeared to challenge the king. During the final battle on the slopes of Mount Doom, Elendil and Gil-galad were both slain in combat with the Dark Lord, but Sauron's mortal form was slain as well.[1] The Second Age ended, and Isildur became High King of Arnor and Gondor.

High King[edit]

Isildur immediately took the hilt-shard of his father's sword Narsil, which had broken beneath Elendil when he fell, and cut the One Ring from the hand of Sauron's mortal form. Despite the urging of Elrond and Círdan, Gil-galad's lieutenants, Isildur did not throw the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom, but instead claimed it as an heirloom for his House and as weregild for the deaths of his father and brother. Isildur made a scroll with a description of the Ring and a copy of its fading inscription. This scroll was archived in Minas Anor and discovered by Gandalf nearly an Age later.

After the fall of Sauron, the greater part of the army of Arnor returned home while Isildur stayed in Gondor for a year, restoring order and defining its boundaries. He planted the seedling of the White Tree in Minas Anor in memory of Anárion. As his brother's helm had been crushed during his death at Barad-dûr, Isildur left his own helm as Gondor's crown. He installed Anárion's son Meneldil as King of Gondor, and returned north en route to Arnor with his three sons. He made first for Rivendell, where his wife and fourth son Valandil had stayed behind throughout the War of the Last Alliance.

Isildur's death[edit]

At the Gladden Fields in the middle course of the Anduin, Isildur's party was ambushed by roaming Orcs of the Misty Mountains.

Tolkien wrote two differing accounts of the battle leading to Isildur's end:

The Silmarillion, which is told from the point of the view of the Eldar, states that Isildur had set no guard in his camp at night, deeming that all his foes had been overthrown, and orcs attacked him there.

In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien gives a fuller account, writing that Isildur was ambushed on the march by orcs. Isildur had left Minas Anor with a party of some 200 soldiers. His men had to march; their horses were mainly beasts of burden, not for riding. They had two dozen archers armed with the deadly Númenórean steel bows, but their numbers were too few to be effective.

Isildur chose the route along the Anduin rather than the safer but longer North-South road. Sauron, however, had deployed an army of orcs east of the Misty Mountains to attack stragglers of the Last Alliance. The orcs did not show themselves when the armies of the Elves and Men passed by, but they were easily more than a match for Isildur's small company.

Isildur was assailed at sunset. Though the first orc sortie were beaten off, they regrouped and surrounded Isildur's party to prevent his escape. When nightfall came, the orcs assaulted him from all sides.

The Dúnedain were surrounded and outnumbered. Ciryon was slain and Aratan mortally wounded in a failed attempt to rescue Elendur, who urged his father to flee. Isildur put on the Ring, hoping to escape under the cover of invisibility. Fleeing to the Anduin, he cast off his armour and tried to swim to the other side of the river, but the Ring slipped (of its own volition) from his finger. Isildur felt that the Ring was missing and was momentarily dismayed; but with the burden of the Ring removed he rallied and made for the opposite bank. Despite the darkness, the Elendilmir that he was wearing betrayed his position to orcs on the far bank, who were seeking survivors from the attack, and they killed him with their poisoned arrows. Isildur's squire, Ohtar, saved Narsil from the enemy, fleeing into the valley before the orcs encircled Isildur's company. Estelmo, Elendur's squire, was found alive under his master's body, stunned by a club.

The Elves from Thranduil's kingdom quickly got word of the attack, although they were too late to save any of the Dúnedain. They organized a counter-attack, destroying the orcs before they could mutilate the bodies of Isildur's company.

During the War of the Ring (as chronicled in the Lord of the Rings), Sauron's servants searched the Gladden Fields but failed to find any traces of Isildur's remains. Their efforts were hampered by Saruman, who had deceived Sauron's servants — indeed, the White Wizard had gotten there first before the Dark Lord. After the overthrow of Saruman and the opening of Orthanc (both portrayed in The Two Towers), Gimli found a hidden closet which contained the original Elendilmir, which was presumed lost forever when Isildur died.

Monumental statues of Isildur and Anárion were set to guard the northern border of Gondor at the Gates of Argonath (the "gates of the Kings") on the river Anduin.

Portrayals in adaptations[edit]

In Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated film, Isildur (called Prince Isildur of the mighty Kings from across the Sea) appears as the events of the Last Alliance are portrayed in silhouette. He is called "the heroic shadow who slipped in" to chop off the One Ring from Sauron's finger. Later, he is sitting at the base of a tree by the River Anduin examining the One Ring. Sensing a disturbance, he draws his sword, but is shot by Orc arrows a moment later.

In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy Isildur is portrayed by Harry Sinclair. He briefly appears in the first scenes of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and in an extended flashback scene later on. In the theatrical versions, Anárion and heirs do not appear nor are mentioned at all, and Arnor does not figure at all. In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Legolas refers to Isildur as "the last king of Gondor". However, in the extended edition, both Arnor and the House of Anárion are mentioned, and at times it is clear that Isildur was not the last King. In the first film, Isildur and Elrond go to the Crack of Doom where he refuses to destroy the Ring; however, Tolkien never wrote that he went to the Crack himself, only that he was advised to. In all versions, Isildur does not speak save for one word -"No"- when he refuses to throw the ring into the Crack of Doom. This line was not spoken by Sinclair, but by Hugo Weaving, who played Elrond. The Disaster of the Gladden Fields is also depicted in Jackson's first film, with Isildur's column of mounted troops being ambushed on a dark forest road.

Isildur
Cadet branch of the House of Andúnië
Born: 3209 Second Age Died: 2 Third Age
New title
2nd King of Gondor
S.A. 3434–T.A. 2
with Anárion (???–S.A. 3440)
Succeeded by
Meneldil
Preceded by
Elendil
2nd King of Arnor
S.A. 3440–T.A. 2
Succeeded by
Valandil
Preceded by
Elendil
2nd High-King of the
Númenórean Realms-in-Exile

S.A. 3440–T.A. 2
Vacant
Title next held by
Aragorn II

House of Elendil[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Letters, #131: Elendil and Gil-galad were "slain in the act of slaying Sauron."

External links[edit]