The Silmarillion Recap: Death, Fear, and the Dark Lord (Or, Welcome Back, Sauron)

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, the Dúnedain fell into discontent with the Valar and their Ban on sailing West. Enough so that they broke into two groups: the King’s Men and the Elendili. This week, the consequences of the discontent and the return of a familiar character.

Akallabêth part 5

Ever since Tar-Atanamir (the 13th King of Númenor), things haven’t been the same on Númenor. In the years that follow his reign, the people become more mighty, but their contentment is gone. Instead, most live in fear of the Valar (which means they still don’t dare to sail west) and their lives are filled with a strange combination of death and excess.

Death isn’t regarded as a gift anymore. Now, it’s something to fret about and obsess over. Tombs go from a place to keep the dead to the centerpieces of the towns, and most of the people are in search of a secret concoction to prolong their lives. Interestingly, the concoctions only better preserve the dead, which seems like quite an ironic twist. When the Dúnedain aren’t thinking abut death, they live it up, perhaps in an effort to forget their impending doom. It’s certainly not the lives that the Valar had hoped they would have when the Valar first brought them to the blessed island.

Sadly, the general populace also don’t consider their island so blessed anymore. It’s more like a stifling prison. So, since they can’t go west, many start setting up cities on the shores of Middle-earth. This isn’t so unusual since the Dúnedain used to visit the Men who had stayed behind and help them. Now, though, they don’t come as teachers and protectors but as tyrants wanting their own pieces of land.

Fortunately, not all of the Dúnedain are like that, though. The Elendili — the ones who stayed faithful to the Valar and the Elves — instead stay on the western side of Númenor, where the Elves from Valinor still visit them, or they sail to Middle-earth, where the Elven King Gil-galad lives.

However, Elves, Men, and the Dúnedain aren’t the only important inhabitants and visitors of Middle-earth. For a long time, a Shadow has been lurking. Now, it again has a name: Sauron. If he ever feigned being good, those days are over. He is wholeheartedly and unabashedly as evil as his former master, Morgoth/Melkor.

Sauron sets up his camp in Mordor and builds the infamous tower of Barad-dûr. From here, he plans to take complete control of all of Middle-earth so he can rule it like a god. However, the Dúnedain stand in his way. They’re strong, and their settlements along the coast are throwing off his world domination plans. While many of them have strayed far from the Valar like he has, he hasn’t forgotten who all of them used to be (and who some of them still are). They have been friends to the Valar and Elves, and they even helped the Elves fight against him when he made his One Ring and tried to take over the world. (More on that in the next part of The Silmarillion!) And he hates them for all of it.

Speaking of the incident with the One Ring, three of the Dúnedain are among the Nine Men he ensnares with the Nine Rings. Once those nine kings officially become his Ring-wraiths, he uses all of them against the Dúnedain. They attack settlements along the coast (which means their reign of terror starts long before Frodo is even born). Middle-earth looks like it’s on the brink of war yet again.

Next week, the kings of Númenor sink to a new low.

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