An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Harry Sinclair as Isildur in the New Line film
Isildur was the son of Elendil, the High King of Gondor and Arnor. Isildur and his brother Anarion jointly ruled Gondor in the South, while their father dwelled in the North. During the War of the Last Alliance, Isildur cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand, but he refused to destroy it. Isildur was later killed by Orcs and the Ring was lost in the Gladden Fields for nearly 2,500 years.
Isildur was born in Numenor in the year 3209 of the Second Age. He had a younger brother Anarion, born in 3219. They lived at the haven of Romenna on the east coast of the island of Numenor. Their father was Elendil and their grandfather was Amandil, the Lord of Andunie. The Lords of Andunie were descended from the Kings of Numenor through Silmarien, the daughter of the fourth King, Tar-Elendil.
Elros, the Half-elven first King of Numenor, had chosen the mortal life of Men, while his brother Elrond chose the immortal life of Elves. Over time, the Kings of Numenor grew to resent their ancestor's choice and desired immortality for themselves. They became estranged from the Elves and from the powers called the Valar, and they neglected the worship of Eru, the One who had created them.
A small group of Numenoreans remained friendly with the Elves and faithful to Eru and the Valar. Among these Faithful were the Lords of Andunie.
In 3262, Ar-Pharazon, the King of Numenor, took Sauron captive and brought him to Numenor. Sauron allowed himself to be taken because he wanted to corrupt the Numenoreans in order to bring about their downfall. He used their desire for immortality and power to convince them to renounce Eru and worship Morgoth.
Isildur learned that Sauron wanted Ar-Pharazon to cut down Nimloth, the White Tree that had come from the Undying Lands. Isildur disguised himself and went secretly to the King's court and took a fruit from Nimloth. The guards discovered him and attacked him and Isildur was badly wounded, but he managed to escape with the fruit. Isildur was near death for many months, but when the fruit of the White Tree began to sprout he awoke was and recovered from his injuries.
As Sauron's influence increased, the Faithful began to prepare to leave Numenor. They filled their ships with their families and many of their prized possessions, including the palantiri. Isildur had three ships of his own, and he brought aboard the seedling of the White Tree as well as his wife and his son Elendur, who had been born in 3299.
Isildur's grandfather Amandil hoped to plead with the Valar to spare the Faithful. He sailed westward toward the Undying Lands, but what became of him is not known and he was never seen again.
Sauron's lies convinced Ar-Pharazon that he could achieve immortality in the Undying Lands. In 3319, Ar-Pharazon set out with a great fleet intending to take the Undying Lands by force. But when he set foot on the shore, Eru caused the Seas to open up. The fleet sank and Numenor was destroyed by a great wave.
The ships of the Faithful were spared, and a great wind from the west sent them to the shores of Middle-earth. Elendil landed in the north, while Isildur and Anarion came to the Mouths of the Anduin in the south. Elendil and his sons established the North-kingdom of Arnor and the South-kingdom of Gondor in 3320. Elendil was the High King of both realms, but he dwelled in Arnor and committed the rule of Gondor to his sons.
Isildur and Anarion had their thrones side by side in the Great Hall of Osgiliath, the city they founded on the Anduin. Anarion lived in Minas Anor on the western side of the Anduin, while Isildur made his home in Ithilien on the eastern side of the Anduin. Isildur built Minas Ithil in a valley of the Mountains of Shadow on the border of Mordor. Minas Ithil was a beautiful white city, but it was also a stronghold to defend against the evil that might still dwell in Mordor. It was not known at first that Sauron had already returned there in secret and had begun to rebuild his strength.
Isildur had one of the palantiri called the Ithil-stone, which he used to communicate with his brother and father. He planted the seedling of the White Tree in front of his house. Isildur and his wife had two more sons while living in Gondor - Aratan born in 3339 and Ciryon born in 3379.
In the early days of Gondor, Isildur went to the Hill of Erech at the entrance to the Blackroot Vale in the White Mountains. On the hilltop he placed the Stone of Erech, a great black sphere that he had brought from Numenor. Isildur met with the King of the Mountains, who swore allegiance to Isildur upon the Stone. But later, when Isildur called upon the Men of the Mountains to join the fight against Sauron, they refused. Isildur cursed them and said that they would never rest until they fulfilled their oath, and they haunted the Paths of the Dead.
Sauron attacked and captured Minas Ithil in 3429. Isildur escaped with his wife and sons and another seedling of the White Tree. Isildur and his family boarded a ship at the Mouths of the Anduin and sailed around the coast of Middle-earth to Arnor, where Elendil dwelled. Elendil consulted with Gil-galad, the King of the Elves who lived in Lindon west of Arnor. Gil-galad and Elendil formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men to oppose Sauron in 3430. That same year, Isildur's youngest son Valandil was born at the home of Elrond in Rivendell.
The army of the Last Alliance gathered at Rivendell in 3431 and then marched to war. Isildur and his three oldest sons - Elendur, Aratan, and Ciryon - went with the army, while Isildur's wife and their infant son Valandil remained in Rivendell.
The War of the Last Alliance began in 3434. Sauron's forces were defeated in the Battle of Dagorlad on the plain outside Mordor, and the army of the Last Alliance entered Sauron's realm and laid siege to Barad-dur. The Siege of Barad-dur lasted seven years and many Men and Elves were killed, including Isildur's brother Anarion who died in 3440.
At last in 3441, Sauron himself came down from his tower. He fought with Gil-galad and Elendil on the slopes of Mount Doom. Sauron's body was cast down, but Gil-galad and Elendil died in the struggle. Elendil's sword Narsil broke beneath him as he fell.
Isildur took up the hilt of Narsil and used the broken blade to cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. Sauron's spirit fled from his body, but as long as the Ring that held much of his power survived so would his spirit. Elrond and Cirdan counselled Isildur to destroy the Ring immediately in the fires of Mount Doom. But Isildur refused, saying:
"This I will have as weregild for my father's death, and my brother's. Was it not I that dealt the Enemy his death-blow?"The power of the Ring was such that no one could willingly destroy it. The lure of the Ring began to act on Isildur as soon as he took it. The great heat of the Ring burned Isildur's hand, but he still thought it was beautiful and precious.
The Silmarillion: "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," p. 295
It was hot when I first took it, hot as a glede, and my hand was scorched, so that I doubt if ever again I shall be free of the pain of it. ... But for my part I will risk no hurt to this thing: of all the works of Sauron the only fair. It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain.Isildur noticed that there was writing on the Ring that showed when it was still hot, but disappeared when it had cooled. He wrote a description of the Ring on a scroll which he left in the archives of Minas Anor for future generations.
The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Council of Elrond," p. 266
Isildur assumed the Kingship of both Gondor and Arnor, but he intended to return to the North and leave Anarion's son Meneldil to rule in the South. He remained in Minas Anor for a few years to give counsel and instruction to Meneldil. Together they took a journey through all the lands belonging to Gondor. On the summit of Halifirien in the Firien Wood, Isildur entombed the body of his father Elendil. Before leaving Minas Anor, Isildur planted the seedling of the White Tree in memory of his brother Anarion.
On September 5 of the year 2 of the Third Age, Isildur set out from Minas Anor with his three elder sons and 200 knights. They marched up the Vales of the Anduin on the eastern side of the River, heading for the High Pass over the Misty Mountains.
Thirty days later, on October 4, Isildur's company was attacked by Orcs near the Gladden Fields. The Orcs did not know that Isildur had the One Ring, but they were unwittingly drawn by its power. Isildur's men were outnumbered ten to one, and though they initially managed to repel the attack, the Orcs renewed their assault after nightfall and the men were overwhelmed.
Before the battle had begun, Isildur had sent away his esquire Ohtar with the shards of Narsil. Isildur kept the One Ring, but it was useless in defending his men against the Orcs. He realized now that he did not have the strength to wield the Ring and could not even put it on without great pain to himself. Isildur regretted the foolish pride that had led him to keep the Ring.
Isildur's sons Aratan and Ciryon were killed, and his eldest son Elendur begged him to flee in order to prevent the Orcs from capturing the Ring. Isildur agreed and parted with great sorrow from Elendur, who was slain leading the remaining Dunedain.
Isildur put on the Ring though it pained him and headed for the Anduin. He removed his armor and waded into the River intending to try to cross it, but the current was strong and pulled him toward the marshes of the Gladden Fields. Then the Ring left Isildur's finger and was lost in the waters. Isildur felt an overwhelming sense of loss, but was then relieved as if a great burden had been lifted from him. He rose out of the water, but at that moment he was spotted by Orcs who shot him with arrows through the throat and heart.
The One Ring remained in the Gladden Fields until it was found by Deagol in 2463. Isildur's body also lay in the waters, undiscovered by his kin. While searching for the One Ring, Saruman found the Elendilmir that Isildur had been wearing, and some speculated that the Wizard may have found and even desecrated Isildur's remains, but whether this is true is not known.
Isildur's youngest son Valandil became the King of Arnor when he came of age in the year 10. But he did not claim the Kingship of Gondor, and the two Kingdoms became separated. Gondor continued to be ruled by the heirs of Anarion, while Arnor was ruled by the heirs of Isildur. It was not until the end of the Third Age that the Kingdoms were reunited by Aragorn, King Elessar, Isildur's Heir.
Birth of Isildur in Numenor.
Birth of Isildur's brother Anarion.
Ar-Pharazon brings Sauron to Numenor.
Birth of Isildur's eldest son Elendur.
Ar-Pharazon tries to assail the Undying Lands. Numenor is destroyed by Eru. Isildur escapes with his family and others of the Faithful.
Foundation of Gondor and Arnor. Elendil, the High King, dwells in Arnor, while Isildur and Anarion jointly rule in Gondor. Sauron returns to Mordor.
Birth of Isildur's son Aratan.
Birth of Isildur's son Ciryon.
Sauron attacks Gondor and captures Minas Ithil. Isildur and his family escape and sail to Arnor.
The Last Alliance of Elves and Men is formed. Birth of Isildur's son Valandil in Rivendell.
The army of the Last Alliance gathers at Rivendell.
War of the Last Alliance begins. Sauron's forces are defeated in the Battle of Dagorlad. The army of the Last Alliance lays siege to Barad-dur.
Isildur's brother Anarion is killed in battle.
Sauron is thrown down by Elendil and Gil-galad, who both die. Isildur cuts the One Ring from Sauron's hand. Elrond and Cirdan advise him to destroy it, but Isildur refuses.
September 5: Isildur sets out for Arnor.
October 4: Isildur is slain by Orcs in the Gladden Fields and the One Ring is lost in the waters.
The name Isildur means "devoted to the Moon." Isil is the Quenya word for "moon"; the Sindarin form is Ithil. Both are derived from sil meaning "shine." The ending ndur or dur means "devotion."
The Silmarillion: "Appendix - Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names," entries for (n)dur and sil
Isildur ruled Gondor jointly with his brother Anarion, though their father was the High King of both Gondor and Arnor.
After his father's death, Isildur assumed the Kingship of Arnor, though he was killed before he was able to reach the North-kingdom.
Isildur claimed the Kingship of both Gondor and Arnor, as his father had done, but he left Anarion's son Meneldil to rule Gondor while he intended to live in Arnor.
Isildur was the first of the Ring-bearers after Sauron.
The Two Towers: "The Riders of Rohan," p. 36; "The Black Gate Is Closed," p. 249-50; "The Window on the West," p. 271-72, 277-79; "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol," p. 316
The Return of the King: "Minas Tirith," p. 31; "The Passing of the Grey Company," p. 53-55, 62-63; "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields," p. 123; "The Pyre of Denethor," p. 130; "The Last Debate," p. 151, 153; "The Steward and the King," p. 245
Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings: "Annals of the Kings and Rulers," p. 317-18 and note 2; "The North-kingdom and the Dunedain," p. 320; "Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion," p. 329-30; "The Stewards," p. 336-37; "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen," p. 338-39
Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings: "The Tale of Years," p. 365-70
The Silmarillion: "Akallabeth," p. 272-73, 276, 279-80 and passim; "The Rings of Power and the Third Age," p. 290-96, 301, 303-4; "Appendix - Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names," entries for (n)dur and sil
Unfinished Tales: "Aldarion and Erendis," genealogical table p. 210, 215 note 15; "The Line of Elros," p. 218-19; "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields," passim; "Cirion and Eorl," p. 300, 304, 308-10
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "The History of the Akallabeth," p. 159; "The Heirs of Elendil," p. 191-92, 197
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull: "The Ring Goes South," p. 272 (height of Isidlur)
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