Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Part 2 on the background of Middle Earth
Published on December 17, 2003 By Draginol In Movies & TV & Books

In part 1 I discussed the relationship between Gandalf, Saruman, Sauron, and the Balrog.

Part II: Of Aragorn, Númenor, and third age Elves...

Thank goodness Tolkien wrote his books back when he did and not today. Because in today's climate of political correctness the coolest parts of the Middle Earth mythology have to do with the fact that not everyone is equal.  You see, there are men and then there are MEN. Aragorn, the human hero of Lord of The Rings, is not just "some guy". He's Númenorean. A very special type of man. A super man.  One Númenor could take out many normal men. The movie can't really convey just how powerful Aragorn is.

Númenor was founded by a man named Elros. Elros was Elrond's brother. That's right, Elrond is not a full elf himself and neither is his daughter Arwen.  Elros and his people did great deeds in the battle against Morgoth and as a reward, the Valar raised a huge, beautiful island in the ocean west of Middle Earth for Elros and his followers to live on.  To his followers were given unusually long life. Hundreds of years of life.  And Elros, being half elvish, chose to be human.  And Elrond chose to be elvish. It was a choice they were given long ago and they made their choices.

For awhile, Númenor prospered. But eventually it became corrupt. They began to fear death more and more. When you live hundreds of years in relative bliss and perfect health, it must be tough to deal with getting old and dying.  To make a long story short, Sauron, who could appear at that time in the guise of a good and noble person, took advantage of this and convinced the Númenoreans that they could live forever if they simply sailed off into the furthermost west where the Valar lived and conquered that. Sauron lied and claimed that it was the lands of the Valar that made the Valar live forever instead of anything inherent.

And so Númenor prepared for war. But not all.  Some of them had enough wisdom to recognize Sauron for what he was.  And so a small group of Númenoreans secretly fled to Middle Earth. These were Aragorn's ancestors. The Valar made short work of the foolish Númenorean attackers.  Sauron, who remained on the island thought himself pretty clever until the Valar decided to destroy the actual island itself in punishment for the attack. This destroyed Sauron's first body.  In time he obviously returned but he no longer had the potency of spirit to construct a body that was fair and pleasing to the eye.

Meanwhile, the Númenoreans who fled set up two kingdoms. One was called Arnor. The other, in the south, was Gondor. Elendil and his son Isildur eventually found themselves battling Sauron once he took shape again. Elendil died (we see that in the opening part of Fellowship of the Ring). Isildur took the ring but was slain by orcs (also seen).  But Isildur had children at this point. And through a line of succession we get to Aragorn.

So while the typical man might live 70 years. Aragorn can expect to live a couple hundred years.  In fact, at the time of our story, he's already in his 80s. He's been, ahem, dating Arwen (who's 3000 years old herself) for 40 years. They are the ultimate case of  waiting until you get married as both of them are chasted.

Which brings us to Elrond.  Elves get progressively wimpier as each generation passes. In fact, one of the themes of Tolkien's mythology is that things lose their potency and strength over time.  The elves created directly by Eru (Illuvitar, i.e. "God") are by far the most powerful. Think of it as the potency of their spirits being disispated through their children.  If the first elves had a potency of 10 and two of them have 5 children, then those 5 children would share a power level of 20 (so 4 each).  And so as time has gone on, that potenecy has been divided over and over again.  Of course, there is the case of Feanor who was the ONLY child of two first generation elves and as a result was actually the most powerful elf of all.

No elves of that power exist in middle earth anymore.  One of those elves could taken on Sauron one on one.  The most powerful elf left in Middle Earth is 3rd generation and that is Galadriel (Elrond is 6th generation).  Which is why you see magical things in her realm but you don't see it (as much) in Rivendell where Elrond is (except for the enchanted river but know one knows if Elrond was the one who actually did that or whether Gil-Galad or some other high elf set it up for him). But even Galadriel is a shadow of what the most powerful elves once did.

And we don't even get into the wood elves who aren't much better then normal men other than living forever and thus having a lot longer time to get good at a bow or fighting or whatever.  The thing to remember is that Aragorn, being of the race of Númenor is inherently more hardy, stronger, faster, more skilled, wiser, more intelligent, etc. than the normal man or the normal elf. The elves you see generally in the movie are butt kickers but only because they've lived so long as to be well practiced. Aragorn is a butt kicker because it's part of what he is. He is inhernetly better at pretty much everything than anyone else. Only a handful of descendents of Númenor exist such as Faramir, Boromir, and Denethor but in their cases, they are not "pure" Númenorean. Their blood is mingled with "common men" and hence their wisdom, strength, and life are shortened. But they're still far above the typical man but not as powerful as Aragorn who is the only pure blooded Númenorean left that we know of.

So when you watch Return of the King or The Two Towers and you see Aragorn perform feats that make you go "Oh yea, how would he survive that?" the issue is that the movies can't translate the vast differences in skill between normal men and one of Númenorean heritage. Aragorn is the closest thing to a super hero you're going to see out of the men of Middle Earth.

Comments (Page 1)
2 Pages1 2 
on Dec 17, 2003
Another great article mate... i always wondered why Aragorn hadn't gotten it on with Arwyn yet, cause she would be mint.

Can we expect any others? i have got to say that i dont mind wording it up before the release of the movie... handy facts to tell at the party afterwards no doubt.. every hot chick wants to know about Aragorn... and Legolas... lay it on us
on Dec 17, 2003

Legolas is just a garden variety Sindarian elf. Aragorn could beat him easily in a fight.  Only Eldrond, Galadriel, the wizards, or a balrog could take down Aragorn in one on one fighting.

I'll try to think of some other stuff. I'm going to see the movie in a bit so then I'll be able to do more.  I lost my book (Return of the King) so I'm having to remember things from quite awhile ago.

on Dec 17, 2003
Nice article Draginol but I believe you're slightly incorrect in respect to the power of elves or men.

Their power does not diminish because of potentcy being reduced, but because it's not increasing through learning from the Valor and living under the trees. Faenor (2nd generation) who was considered the greatest elf actually had 2 brothers by a different mother. He himself had 7 sons, many of whom were very powerful. Other very powerful elves include Finglofin (2nd generation half brother of Faenor) who actually greviously wounded Morgoth (the most powerful valar) 7 times, while his father Finwe (1st generation) was easily slain. Early generations of men, such as Huren and Beren were also considered very powerful.

I agree that Aragorn was a great man, though it was primarily because of his years and years of experience and living with the elves, and not just because his ancestors were elves. Remember that he was a warrior in the armies of Gondor and Rohan for 18 years in his younger life. There are other men of Numenor blood, such as some of the lords of Gondor, and many of the Dunedain.

Many times Tolkien comments about men or elves becoming stronger through hardship and skill.

on Dec 17, 2003
I do agree that those who worked with the Valar gained a great deal, the waning of the elves seems also to be the result of each generation not being as good.

Remember, Feanor's mother allegedly put her full energy into the birth of Feanor. The first elf to "die". I'm just theorizing. But I also believe that Aragorn's strength is inherent in himself more so than merely being tutored by elves. The elves are the stronger race to be sure but they definitely diminished. Whehtehr that dminishing is a result of a loss of wisdom from being cut off from the Valar or just the waning of time in each generation I don't know. But I've put forth my theory.
on Dec 17, 2003
To put things in perspective -- Balrogs used to be a common foot soldier of Morgoth. By the third age (Lord of the Rings time frame) there's one balrog left hanging around and he was enough to destroy the Dwarven city in Moria on its own. By contrast, Feanor's generation could take out balrog's in on one one fighting.

The high elf king did serious harm to Morgoth himself. It seems likely that that elf could have taken out Sauron 1 on 1.
on Dec 18, 2003
You do have some good points. I always find elven power to be very strange. I think it's important to remember that there are many types of power and skill. Galandrial for example used her power in maintaining Lorien. Is it any less power than an elf who uses their power for warfare (Finglofin) or an elf who becomes a craftman (Celebrimor). Which leads to one of my problems.

Celebrimor crafted the elven rings (after studying from Sauron). Yet Cirdan (who eventually gave his ring to Gandalf) and Galandrial (both higher generation elves) wore them and used their power as the basis of their power. The destruction of the power of these rings (when the one was destroyed) led to the fading of Lorien.

Why? Why did Galandrial not have the power to maintain Lorien herself without the ring. She was from a higher generation.

Second question.
Faenor could craft the silmarillions which not even the Valor could make. Why? Why could the Valor not restore the trees or create them anew. Why could Morgoth not make his own silmarillion? Why could Sauron not make them?

Sauron is definitely someone who grows in power throughout the timespan. So were the numenor, who reached the height of their skill and power just before their fall. Balrogs were not quite the foot soldiers of Morgoth. They are referred to as his most powerful leutenants and are Maia (similar to Sauron). Yes the most powerful elves could defeat them but only just. Faenor was slain by them (lots of them though).

on Dec 18, 2003
Actually Tolkien tends to be very cryptic when it comes to power. I think that its usually a mix of skill, wisdom, influence/followers, magic and artifacts. It has very little to do with the actualy physical strength of the character.
In the Silmarillion Tolkien writes that the physical strength of men and elfs is alike and only through their greater wisdom, skill did the elfs surpass the men. That wisdom and skill came from the Valar, because the elfs in Valinor were 'stronger' then the dark elfs in middle earth who in turn were stronger then the men.
I dont doubt that Aragorn was stronger then the average men, but he was no superman. Only his knowledge, skill and probably his weapons put him above the rest.
The same goes for almost every other character in the books. The strength and power usually comes from followers, wisdom and knowledge, not from physical strength. The Númenóreans didnt have a great physical advantage over other men, their strength came from their craftsmanship. They could build better ships, weapons and fortresses then everyone else.
Galadriel didnt protect Lorien on her own. She had lots of skillfull elfs at her command and probably magic (but its not clear wether magic is a thing you learn or something you gain through your genes)
That Galadriel and all the other elfs left middle earth after the rings lost their power is easy to explain. Elfs lose their will to live over time. They grow weary of the world and the longer they are in middle earth the more they want to go back to the valar. So in the end they take a ship and sail west. The three rings the elfs had in their possesion prevented them from burning out, but after they lost their power the elfs lost their will to stay in middle earth.

on Dec 19, 2003
Solitair - indeed, Balrogs were Maia but there were a LOT of them in the opening battles of Beleriand. THere were also a lot more dragons, ones that would make Smaug look like a chump.

Clearly the power, wisdom, and strength of the peoples of middle earth have faded. The LoTR series is really the final chapter of Middle Earth, it's the end of the line really when the time of men and of mundane things would begin.
on Dec 19, 2003
Strykar, have to disagree about Aragorn and other Númenoreans . My impression was that Númenoreans were substantially hardier. More resistant to injury. They weren't "super human", but they were basically the best combination men could be. I.e. the best human genes put together.
on Dec 20, 2003
Also, it should be noted that Sauron got his chance to corrupt the Númenorean when the Númenorean King raised a huge fleet with an amazing amount of troops. When Sauron's underling saw the fleet and the army, they fled, and Sauron 'surrender" to be taken back to Númenor. It's there that he worked to corrupt the court, and the faithful (in this particular case, Isildur) stole the fruits from Númenor's White Tree to be plant in Minas Tirith. This is the descendant of the original Tree.

The two kingdoms of the Exiles were ruled by Isildur (Arnor) and his brother Anárion (Gondor). Their father Elendil act as the High King. The line of the succession in Gondor died out during a plague, and a childless Gondorian King answered the challenge of the Witch King in Minas Morgol. After that, Gondor was ruled by Stewarts, which ended with the ascension of Aragorn. The Arnor line of the Exile isn't broken, though the Witch King managed to destroyed the kingdom. By the time the Gondorian line became extinct, the Arnor line has basically gone underground.
on Dec 29, 2003
A little bit of a spoiler for the last movie, so don't read if you haven't seen it....

I am so impressed with how much you all know, I know the movies fluff over some things and that it was hard for jackson to go into great detail, but I've wondered about a line i heard from elrond in the last movie (or was it the extended two tower?). anyway, he states that arwen is dying and that her fate is now tied to the fate of the ring? why is this and if it is so, why doesn't arwen die at the end of ROTK?

any info would be greatly appreciated.
on Dec 30, 2003
UMM actually there are more numenoreans in the extendeed movie the ranger armies from the north are pure blodded numenoreans
on Dec 30, 2003
Trent: Good point -- to an extent.  My reading has been that most of the Dundean at this point are NOT pure blooded.
on Jan 05, 2004

Arwen and Sauron had an inverse relationship. The stronger he got, the weaker she got. If the ring were returned to him and he regained his full glory, she would die. Conversely, therefore, when the ring (and therefore Sauron) was destroyed, Arwen recovered.
on Jan 07, 2004
the film deviates strongly from the book with respect to Arwen.

In the book there is no fading. She is an elf and will always live forever. That's part of the difficult decision for her. She will live for ever knowing the pain of Aragon's eventually death (from old age). In the books she eventually travels over the sea when Aragon dies (along with Gimli and Legolas).

In the film she 'becomes' mortal through her own choice. She is 'tied' inversely to Saurons power. Don't know why. Seemed like a fairly pointless change to me.

2 Pages1 2