A History and Complete Chronology of Númenor

Part 1: Introduction to Númenor

compiled by Stephen Geard, sdgeard@ozemail.com.au.

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The Origin of Númenor

Númenor is an island-kingdom found in the fictional writings of the late Prof. J.R.R. Tolkien.

It came into being at the begining of the Second Age of Middle-earth as a reward given to the Edain who had fought against Morgoth in the First Age.

The history of the First Age is the story of the long defeat of the Eldar (the Elves) and the Edain (Men, or, in these politically correct times, humans) by Morgoth and his armies. A defeat eventually reversed when Eärendil the Mariner (accompanied by his wife Elwing) won through to the Ancient West, to Valinor, to plead for assistance from the Valar (the Powers, or the gods). In the ensuing War of Wrath Morgoth was defeated, captured, and cast from the world. However Sauron the Maia, Morgoth's chief lieutenant, avoided capture and remained active in Middle-earth.

As recompense for their suffering in the long defeat the Valar allowed the Eldar to sail to Valinor (although many chose to remain in Middle-earth). For the Edain, the Valar raised the island of Númenor, half-way between Valinor and Middle-earth.

The first King of Númenor was Elros, the son of Eärendil and Elwing, both of whom were of the half-elven.[1] At the end of the First Age the half-elven were given the choice as to which race they wished to be counted amongst. Eärendil deferred the choice to his wife and she chose to be of the Eldar, thus he chose likewise. In Middle-earth, their son Elros chose to be a Man and led the Edain to Númenor. Elrond, his brother, chose to be an elf and remained in Middle-earth, where he became the chief counsellor to Gil-galad, the High King of the Elves in Middle-earth.

To the Dúnedain, as the Númenóreans were called, the Valar granted a lifespan three times that of lesser men; and to Elros alone was granted a lifespan of 500 years.

The Geography of Númenor

The island of Númenor was shaped roughly like a five-pointed star. The central region was about 400 km (250 miles) across, and each of the five peninsulars (the arms of the star) extended out about the same distance. At the centre of the island was the mountain Meneltarma (the Pillar of Heaven). The City of the Kings was Armenelos on the south-eastern foothills of the mountain. The largest city, and chief port, was Rómenna, at the head of a long firth seperating the eastern and south-eastern peninsulars. Andúnië, another large and important port-city, was located in the far north-west of the island.

The History of Númenor

The history of Númenor is too long and complex to adequately descibe here. Readers are referred to Tolkien's writings, especially the Akallabêth (Silm 259). However it can be summarized as a long period of early peace followed by growing power, growing pride, and an increasing fear of death, culminating in Ar-Pharazôn's blasphemous attempt to seize immortality by force - by invading Valinor.

To understand the Fall of Númenor it is necssary to understand the view of death in Tolkien's writings. The Valar were spiritual beings and thus immortal. The Eldar were physical beings, yet were also immortal (they could be slain, but they did not die naturally, nor did they succumb to disease). The Edain, being Men, were - of course - mortal. As the Dúnedain grew in pride, they began to envy the life of the Eldar. This envy grew in time to become a hatred of all things elvish, and resulted in the persecution of those Númenóreans who maintain contact with the Eldar ("the Faithful"). This pride and fear combined to bring about the end of Númenor: Early in the reign of Ar-Pharazôn, Sauron (or Zigûr, as he was called in Adûnaic) claimed the title of King of Men in Middle-earth, and resolved to drive the Númenóreans out of Middle-earth, and even if possible, to destroy Númenor itself. Proud Ar-Pharazôn responded to this challenge by taking an enormous fleet to Middle-earth, and demanding that Sauron come and swear fealty to him. Sauron came - seeing that the power of Númenor was far greater than he believed. Ar-Pharazôn took Sauron back to Númenor as a prisoner. However once there, Sauron quickly rose from being a prisoner to become the King's chief counsellor and High Priest - leading the Númenóreans into the worship of Morgoth.

When Ar-Pharazôn had grown old, and could see his death approaching, Sauron played his master-stroke. He convinced the King that he could seize immmortality by force by invading Valinor. But when Ar-Pharazôn landed in Valinor the Valar laid down their guardianship of the world and appealled to Ilúvatar (i.e. God the Creator, God Almighty). Ilúvatar responded by changing the shape of the world, and destroying Númenor and its ships. Ar-Pharazôn and his men who had actually landed in Valinor were buried by an earthquake. Ilúvatar also moved Valinor off the circle of the world and onto "another dimension", so that afterwards it could only be approached by the ships of the Eldar, but not of Men.

The Languages of Númenor

Inevitably, anyone saying anything about the writings of Tolkien has to say something about langauge. This is particularly true of Númenor, as three languages were used on the island: Quenya, Sindarin, and Adûnaic.

The name Númenor is an Anglicization (and probably a Westronization) of the Quenya Númenórë, meaning "western land". The Adûnaic equivalent was Anadûnê, Westernesse in translated Westron. The Sindarin equivalent (possibly Dunador) is never used, indicating that Sindarin speakers used the Quenya name. The island, as opposed to the Kingdom, was often called Andor, a Quenya (or Sindarin) word meaning "land of gift". The Adûnaic equivalent was Yôzâyan. After its destruction, it was often called Atalantë (Quenya: "the Downfallen"), which is Akallabêth in Adûnaic.

The names of the Kings prefixed with "Tar" are all Quenya ("Tar" means High King). It was not until the reign of the eighteenth King, Tar-Calmacil, that it became common for name of the King to be spoken in Adûnaic. Although lesser citizens acquired Adûnaic names far earlier. Indeed, it is probable that right from the begining there were common folk who spoke no language beside Adûnaic. The twentieth King, Ar-Adûnakhôr, was the first to take the Sceptre with a title in Adûnaic, although for superstitious reasons they continued to enter a Quenya name into the Scrolls.

The earlier Kings would have acquired Adûnaic names - even if they were never used during their reigns, they would have been used in later histories.

The Kings of Númenor

In all there were twenty-five Rulers of Númenor, including three ruling Queens. The first King, as mentioned above, was Elros the son of Eärendil and Elwing. He lived so long that, by the time of his death, his son Vardamir was already very old. Thus Vardamir allowed the Sceptre to pass immediately to his own son Amandil. Neverthless Vardamir is considered the second King, and is deemed to have reigned for one year. Following Vardamir, until the days of Tar-Atanamir, all the Kings surrendered the Sceptre to their heirs before death.

Initially the law was such that the Sceptre passed only to the male descendants of Elros (i.e. male primogeniture). Thus Tar-Meneldur succeded Tar-Elendil, despite having two older sisters. Eventually the law was changed so that the Sceptre passed to the eldest child of the King, regardless of gender (i.e. simple primogeniture). This change may have occured in a few stages. Certainly Tar-Aldarion, who had no son, changed the law so that his daughter Ancalimë could succeed him, but after that the details of the changes in the law are confused. It must be remembered that very few Númenórean records survived the Downfall, and that Tolkien's histories of Middle-earth are written from the perspective of those living in the late Third and early Fourth Ages - some 3,500 years after the Downfall.

The symbol of office of the Kings was a Sceptre (of which we have no description). Ar-Pharazôn took it with him when he landed in Valinor, so it was buried with him. The sword of the Kings was Aranrúth, originally the sword of Thingol of Doriath - presumably this too was buried with Ar-Pharazôn. Other significant heirlooms of the Kings were the Axe of Tuor and the Ring of Barahir. Only the Ring survived the Downfall, for Tar-Elendil gave it to his daughter Silmariën, thus it passed into the hands of the Lords of Andúnië. Elendil brought it back to Middle-earth, where it became an heirloom of the Kings of Arnor.

The symbol of office of the Lords of Andúnië was also a sceptre, the Sceptre of Andúnië. It is described as being a "silver rod", perhaps it was made of mithril.[2] Elendil brought it to Middle-earth, where it became the symbol of office of the Kings of Arnor. As such it was usually known as the Sceptre of Annuminas, after the capital city of Arnor. When Elrond presented it to King Elessar at the end of the Third Age it was thought to be the oldest artefact made by Men preserved in Middle-earth.[3]


  1. Eärendil was the son of Tuor and Idril. Tuor was a Man, nominally Lord of the Third House of the Edain; and Idril Celebrindal was an Elf, daughter of Turgon, King of Gondolin.
    Elwing was the daughter of Dior the son of Beren and Lúthien. Beren was a Man, nominally Lord of the First House of the Edain; and Lúthien was an Elf, the daughter of Thingol, King of Doriath.
  2. Mithril was found on Númenor (see UT 284, note 31). Gandalf's statement that it was found in Moria "alone in the world" (LotR 2:4) no doubt refers to the world accessible to the Dwarves, the world of Middle-earth - i.e. Arda excluding Valinor and Númenor.
  3. There were, of course, much older Elvish and Dwarvish artefacts still extant in Middle-earth. King Elessar's sword, Andúril, was older - forged by the Dwarf-smith Telchar of Nogrod sometime during the First Age. Likewise the swords Glamdring and Orcrist (and Sting), forged in Gondolin during the First Age. Older yet was the Ring of Barahir, which Elessar wore - forged in Valinor and brought to Middle-earth by Finrod Felagund.

Last modified: 9 November 2009