is a fictional kingdom in J. R. R. Tolkien
's writings, described as the greatest realm of Men
in the west of Middle-earth
by the end of the Third Age
. The third volume of The Lord of the Rings
, The Return of the King
, is concerned with the events in Gondor during the War of the Ring
and with the following restoration of the realm. Further history of the kingdom can be glimpsed from the appendices to the book, which also cast light on its origins.
According to the narrative, Gondor was founded by brothers Isildur and Anárion, exiles from the downfallen island kingdom of Númenor, and together with Arnor in the north served as last strongholds of the Men of the West. Gondor gradually declined in course of the Third Age, being continually weakened by the allies of the Dark Lord Sauron, and was only restored in dominance after his final defeat and the crowning of Aragorn.
Based upon long-foreseen conceptions, the history and geography of Gondor was developed in stages, as a part of the major extension of his legendarium that Tolkien undertook during the writing of The Lord of the Rings. The role of the kingdom emerged gradually, from a side "adventure" in the plot becoming the focal figure of later writings. Textual history was traced by Christopher Tolkien in the volumes of The History of Middle-earth, and the overall subject has gained attention among later researchers and fans.
The history of Gondor is described in several of Tolkien's works, with different levels of detail. Within the narrative of The Lord of the Rings
, the kingdom is first introduced at the Council of Elrond
, with a brief summary of the Second
and Third Ages. The events of the latter are elaborated in the appendices to the book, and those of the former – in the last parts of The Silmarillion
. Retellings at an ample scale of some particular episodes are included into Unfinished Tales
Foundation and the Last Alliance
The territory of future Gondor had been widely colonised by the Númenóreans from around mid-Second Age, especially by the Elf-friends
loyal to the house of Elendil
. When his sons Isildur and Anárion landed in Middle-earth after the drowning of Númenor, they were welcomed by the colonists and their claim of lordship was accepted, while Elendil was held to be the High King
of all lands of the Dúnedain
. Within the South-kingdom, the hometowns of Isildur and Anárion were Minas Ithil
and Minas Anor
respectively, and the capital city Osgiliath
was situated between them.
Sauron, however, had survived the destruction of Númenor and secretly returned to his realm of Mordor just to the east of Gondor. Soon he launched a war against the Númenórean kingdoms, hoping to destroy them before their power was established. He captured Minas Ithil, but Isildur escaped and fled by ship to Arnor; meanwhile, Anárion was able to defend Osgiliath. Elendil and the Elven-king Gil-galad formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, and together with Isildur and Anárion they besieged and defeated Mordor. Sauron was overthrown, but the One Ring that Isildur took from him was not destroyed, and thus Sauron was able to regain power in the next age.
Both Elendil and Anárion had been slain in the war, so Isildur conferred rule of Gondor upon Anárion's son Meneldil and went north to accent to the kingship of Arnor, retaining suzerainty over Gondor as High King of the Dúnedain. However, Isildur and his three elder sons were ambushed and killed by Orcs, and his remaining son Valandil never attempted to reclaim his father's place in Gondor monarchy.
The first millennium of the Third Age was characterized for Gondor by the gradual increase of the wealth of the kingdom and a sequence of victorious wars. In the wake of Sauron's defeat, Gondor assumed responsibility for maintaining a watch over Mordor and enjoyed peace for several centuries, until the first of many Easterling
invasions occurred in T.A. 490. The resulting war, which lasted well into the following century, saw Gondor conquer a great deal of territory in Rhûn
north of Mordor.
Under the rule of the four "Ship-Kings", Gondor established a powerful navy and increased the territory along the coasts in both directions from the Mouths of Anduin. Especially important was the conquest in 933 of the southern port city Umbar, which had been continuously in hands of the hostile Black Númenóreans. Gondor later suffered a defeat on land from the Haradrim, who proceeded to invest the haven; but after the Gondor army had been strengthened, the submission of the kings of Harad was secured in the victory of T.A. 1050.
Gondor was now at the peak of its power: its territory was at its greater extent and it enjoyed suzerainty over several other nations, including the Haradrim and the Men of the Vales of Anduin in the north; Mordor was desolate and guarded by fortresses; the kingdom enjoyed such wealth and splendour that, according to The Lord of the Rings, "men said precious stones are pebbles in Gondor for children to play with".
Gondor began to decline during the reign of several next kings who lived in ease and luxury, doing little to maintain Gondor's strength. The first casualty of this period was the watch on Mordor, which was largely neglected. King Rómendacil II
, who in his youth had been appointed as his uncle's regent, defeated a new invasion of the Easterlings in 1248 and strengthened friendly relations with the Northmen
. His son Valacar
was sent to their lands as an ambassador; while there, he married the daughter of one of their lords and returned to Gondor only after some years.
This marriage proved disastrous to Gondor: when it was affirmed that the heir to the throne would be Valacar's son Eldacar, who was of mixed blood, southern provinces of the realm began to rebel. After Valacar died, several members of the House of Anárion claimed the crown and a full-scale civil war, called the Kin-strife, broke out in 1432. The rebel with the largest following was Castamir, who besieged and captured Osgiliath. Eldacar managed to escape to his homeland in Rhovanion, but his elder son was captured and executed. Castamir proved a very poor ruler and earned hatred of the inner provinces; consequently, Eldacar acquired a great following when he returned after several years with the Northmen allies, slew Castamir and defeated his army. Castamir's sons, however, retreated to Umbar and declared independence.
A century later the kings of Harad raised a rebellion and defeated the Gondor army, but were soon routed and subdued; and after another hundred of years descendants of Castamir organised a devastating raid on the haven of Pelargir. The losses from the Kin-strife and southern wars were somewhat replenished by the intermingling with the Northmen, but the population of Gondor seriously decreased again with the coming of the Great Plague in T.A. 1636. The capital was moved from Osgiliath to the less affected Minas Anor, and the fortifications against the re-entry of evil into Mordor were finally abandoned, enabling the return of the Nazgûl there several centuries later. The Plague left Gondor's enemies in no better condition than the realm itself, and neither side was capable of mounting new offensives.
In 1810 the strengthened Gondor navy defeated the Corsairs of Umbar and retook the haven, but eventually it was lost to the Harad. A new threat appeared four decades later, when one of the Easterling peoples, called the Wainriders, defeated the Northmen and began to raid eastern Gondor. Although the first battles were lost to the invaders, the enemy was stemmed after half a century. The war broke out anew when the Wainriders joined together with the Haradrim in 1944, attacking respectively from the east and from the south. The Northern Army of Gondor, led by King Ondoher and joined by cavalry of the Éothéod, descendants of the Northmen, was defeated. Its survivors linked up with the victorious Southern Army commanded by a talented general Eärnil, and they destroyed the Wainriders in the Battle of the Camp once and for all.
Because of the deaths of Ondoher and both his sons in war, Gondor faced a constitutional crisis. Arvedui, heir of the King of Arthedain in the north, claimed the throne of Gondor as a descendant of Isildur and as the husband of Ondoher's daughter, but was denied by the Council of Gondor. For a year the realm was ruled by Pelendur, Steward to King Ondoher, and then the crown was given to the victorious general Eärnil, who came from the House of Anárion and had gained popularity during the war. His son Eärnur, however, became the last King: still during his father's reign, he led the forces of Gondor to the aid of Arthedain in the north and was offended there by the Witch-king of Angmar. Shortly afterwards, the Ringwraiths captured Minas Ithil and took it as their abode; the city was renamed to Minas Morgul, and Minas Anor was changed to Minas Tirith. After Eärnur became King, the Witch-king twice sent messengers tempting him to single combat. At the second challenge in 2050, Eärnur was overcome by wrath and rode with a small company of knights to Minas Morgul, where they never returned from.
At the loss of childless Eärnur, the rule of Gondor was left to the Stewards
, due to fears of a new civil war and the absence of a more or less legitimate Heir of Anárion with enough authority and support. By this time Arnor had been destroyed and the Line of Isildur had gone into hiding, so no more claims were expected. The early Stewards enjoyed four centuries of uneasy quiet, known as the Watchful Peace
, during which Gondor slowly declined and Sauron's strength grew. In 2475 the Peace was broken with a large attack of Uruk-hai
on eastern borders, which, though beaten off, led to the inhabitants' migration from Ithilien
and final desolation of Osgiliath. According to The Lord of the Rings
, from this time onwards "there was never full peace again" in Gondor, and "its borders were under constant threat".
In T.A. 2510 the nation faced a new serious peril: an Easterling tribe, named the Balchoth, invaded northern parts of the realm with mass force. Gondor army marched to fight them, but was cut off from Minas Tirith and pushed back in the direction of the Limlight river. Messengers had already been sent to get help from the allied Éothéod in the north, and in the nick of time their cavalry arrived, turning the tide of the Battle of the Field of Celebrant. In gratitude for their aid, Steward Cirion ceded to them the province of Calenardhon, where the Éothéod established the realm of Rohan with Eorl the Young as their first king. A permanent alliance between Gondor and Rohan was established by the oaths of Eorl and Cirion.
The later Stewards had to contend with Orcs in Ithilien and with Corsairs of Umbar raiding the coasts. In 2758 Gondor faced another great invasion when five great fleets from Umbar and Harad ravaged the southern shores, and no help was expected from Rohan as the latter was assailed by the Dunlendings and Easterlings, further weakened by the Long Winter. The invasions were beaten off only in the following year, and help was then sent to Rohan.
Gondor recovered quickly from this war, although its fortunes continued to decline. In 2885 Ithilien was invaded from the south by a large force of Haradrim, which was only repelled with the Rohirric help. Several decades later the region was further depopulated due to increased Orc attacks, and several hidden refuges were built for the Rangers of Ithilien to continue to strike at the enemy, persisting even when in 2954 Sauron officially declared himself in Mordor and Mount Doom burst into flame again. Before the end of the millennium the forces of Gondor, led by Aragorn under alias, attacked Umbar and destroyed the Corsair fleet, allowing Denethor II to devote all of his attention to the threat posed by Mordor.
War of the Ring and restoration
Several decades later, Sauron had prepared for the final conquest, and in T.A. 3018 he began the War of the Ring
with a capture of Osgiliath. The city was later retaken by Gondorians and several minor conflicts were won, but next year the kingdom faced an all-out attack on its capital Minas Tirith in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields
, further worsened by the invasion of the Corsairs of Umbar into Lebennin
. The combat was won at the cost of great losses, only with the help of the Rohirrim and after the southern lands were cleansed from the enemies by the Dead Men of Dunharrow
, summoned by Aragorn. The army of Gondor later engaged in the hopeless Battle of the Morannon
, providing an opportunity for the One Ring to be destroyed in the Mount Doom by a hobbit Frodo Baggins
After the second and final defeat of Sauron, the Kingship was restored, with Aragorn crowned as King Elessar of the Reunited Kingdom of Arnor and Gondor, and Faramir, last heir of the Ruling Stewards, retaining his office as the Steward to the King. The oaths between Gondor and Rohan were renewed, and several joint campaigns were fought in the east and south; all former territories of the South-kingdom were won back during the following centuries, and its power and wealth were restored. Several Tolkien's writings state that "of Eldarion son of Elessar it was foretold that he should rule a great realm, and that it should endure for a hundred generations of men after him, that is until a new age brought in again new things; and from him should come the kings of many realms in long days after".
Tolkien's perception of further history of the kingdom is illustrated by The New Shadow, an experimental story that he decided to abandon, set during the reign of Eldarion. The author imagined that because of the "quick satiety with good" of Men, "the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless ... even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going round doing damage".
Names and etymology
Tolkien intended the name Gondor
to represent a sample of Sindarin
, an Elven language devised by him, and within the books used by the Dúnedain for nomenclature. The word means "land of stone", and is echoed in the text of The Lord of the Rings
by the name for Gondor among the Rohirrim, Stoningland
. The implications of these names were not explained by the author, although his early writings suggest that this was a reference to the highly developed masonry of Gondorians in contrast to their rustic neighbours'. This view is supported by the Drúedain
terms for Gondorians and Minas Tirith – Stonehouse-folk and Stone-city.
In addition, Gondor is often referred to in the books as the South-kingdom or Southern Realm, and together with Arnor as the Númenórean Realms in Exile. Researchers Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull has also proposed a Quenya translation of Gondor, Ondonórë.
The physical nature of Gondor is most prominently illustrated by the maps for The Lord of the Rings
and Unfinished Tales
made by Christopher Tolkien
on the basis of his father's sketches, and can be supplemented by several geographical accounts such as The Rivers and Beacon-Hills of Gondor
and Cirion and Eorl
. In addition, the narrative and appendices of The Lord of the Rings
describe the history and nature of particular regions and settlements in the kingdom.
Gondor was located in the west of the continent of Middle-earth, and the main part of its territory lay on the northern shores of the Bay of Belfalas and around the White Mountains. Tolkien noted that the capital Minas Tirith was situated on a latitude comparable to that of Venice, and the total area of Gondor as represented on Tolkien's maps was estimated by Karen Wynn Fonstad at 716,426 square miles (1,854,742 km2). To the north-west of the kingdom originally lay the realm of Arnor; to the north, Gondor was neighboured by the Wilderland and, after its settlement, by Rohan; to the north-east, by the land of Rhûn; to the east, by Sauron's realm of Mordor; to the south, by the deserts of Harad.
The original borders of Gondor were: rivers Gwathló and Glanduin up to the Misty Mountains; eaves of the Fangorn forest and river Entwash; marshes of Nindalf and the Mountains of Shadow; and river Poros. At the time of its noontide, the realm extended to river Limlight and south-eaves of Mirkwood; to the western shores of the inland Sea of Rhûn, north of Ered Lithui; and to river Harnen, also including the coastland around Umbar. By the beginning of the War of the Ring, the confines of land fully controlled by Gondor had retreated in the north to rivers Isen and Adorn, line of the White Mountains and the Mering Stream; in the east and south to river Anduin.
Ithilien: The easternmost province of Gondor, lying between the river Anduin and the Mountains of Shadow, subdivided by the stream of Morgulduin
into North and South Ithilien. It was a fair and prosperous land during the first part of the Third Age, filled with many woods and gardens, but after the fall of Minas Ithil the population gradually migrated across the Anduin to escape the looming threat of the Ringwraith's city. Ithilien was reoccupied by hardy folk during the Watchful Peace, but most of them fled with the beginning of attacks by Orcs and Haradrim several centuries later, and after the return of Sauron to Mordor the land was finally abandoned. From that time, Ithilien was kept free from Sauron's servants only by the Rangers
, who maintained secret refuges such as Henneth Annûn
- In the narrative of The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam passed through North Ithilien on their way to Cirith Ungol. The land is described in the text as "a fair country of climbing woods and swift-falling streams", with gentle slopes, "shielded from the east by the Ephel Dúath and yet not under the mountain-shadow, protected from the north by the Emyn Muil, open to the southern airs and the moist winds from the Sea". It is also stated that "a wealth of sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs" and a vast array of tree species grew in Ithilien, some of them having been planted by men in days of peace, and that despite desolation the land "kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness".
- During the Fourth Age, the region was ruled by the Princes of Ithilien, a line that started with Faramir and Éowyn. A colony was settled in Ithilien by the Elves of Mirkwood, welcomed there by Legolas, and "it became once again the fairest country in all the westlands", until after some time all Elves had departed over the Sea.
Anórien: A narrow strip of land consisting of the northern valleys of the White Mountains, bordered by the Mering Stream
in the west, the Mouths of the Entwash
in the north and Anduin in the east. Anórien is stated to have been well-populated, although no settlements appear in Tolkien's writings, escept for the garrisons of the warning beacons
, built along the line of the Great West Road
. The name for the region among the Rohirrim is recorded as Sunlending
, which echoes the derivation of the Sindarin original from Anor
"Sun", in parallel to Ithil
"Moon" in Ithilien.
Calenardhon: A vast region of plains and rolling hills north of the White Mountains and west of Anórien; the name translates from Sindarin as "green province". It never had a large population during the early Third Age due to its remote location, and the Great Plague left the province virtually deserted, with many people migrating eastward during the following centuries. Forts that were built along the line of Anduin from Emyn Muil
to the inflow of Limlight to guard the passage of the river were originally manned by the people of Calenardhon, but were mostly abandoned during the Watchful Peace. In 2510 the Balchoth
destroyed the forts and overran Calenardhon up to the White Mountains, and the army of Gondor was only saved by the coming of the Éothéod
cavalry out of the north. In gratitude, Steward Cirion granted all Calenardhon to the Éothéod, and the region became the kingdom of Rohan.
: The wide land between rivers Isen and Greyflood, stated in different Tolkien's writings either to have been held by Gondor and Arnor jointly, to have been a part of the South-kingdom, or to have belonged to neither of them. No Númenórean population was present in Enedhwaith except for the town of Tharbad
at the crossings of river Gwathló
Anfalas: A promontory of Gondor between the rivers Lefnui
, south of the hills of Pinnath Gelin
. The name means "long beach" in Sindarin, and is also translated in the texts as Langstrand
. It was not densely populated, being distant from the capital and occasionally harassed by the Corsairs of Umbar; the regiments sent to Minas Tirith during the War of the Ring consisted of "men of many sorts, hunters and herdsmen and men of little villages, scantly equipped save for the household of Golasgil their lord".
Belfalas: A fairly settled shoreland between rivers Anduin and Lefnui, after which the great southern Bay
was named. Belfalas was formed by an out-thrust peninsula, with highlands in the middle and a large town of Dol Amroth
on the western shores. The element falas
in the name of the region is a Sindarin word for "shore" or "beach", while bel
was stated by Tolkien to derive from a pre-Númenórean name of Elvish origin.
Dor-en-Ernil: Literally, the "Land of the Prince", located in the south of Gondor; its boundaries are not stated, but Christopher Tolkien assumed that it spanned both sides of the highlands in Belfalas. The land was ruled by the Prince of Dol Amroth, subject to the King of Gondor, and was stated by Tolkien to have been populated by Númenóreans since the Second Age.
Morthond Vale: The uplands of the river Morthond or Blackroot, rendered to Sindarin as Imlad Morthond
in some of Tolkien's texts and described in The Lord of the Rings
as a prosperous and densely populated region, except in the vicinity of the Hill of Erech
. The regiments sent from the Vale to Minas Tirith consisted of bowmen.
Lamedon: A region formed by a series of valleys on the southern slopes of the White Mountains, separated from Belfalas by highlands; river Ciril
sprang from this land. The only reinforcements from this region to Minas Tirith before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields were "a few grim hillmen without a captain", while the greater part of population under their lord Angbor defended the city of Linhir
against the Corsairs. After they had been relieved by Aragorn, Angbor led some troops of horsemen to Pelargir
and Minas Tirith. The name Lamedon
was listed by Tolkien as Sindarin, but no etymology was provided.
Ringló Vale: The land around the northern course of the river Ringló
, separated by outliers of the White Mountains from Lamedon in the west and Lebennin in the east. During the War of the Ring, three hundred men were led from this region to Minas Tirith by Dervorin, son of their lord. The name also appears in Sindarin form as Imlad Ringló
Lebennin: The central and one of the most populated regions of Gondor, bordered by river Anduin in the east and south and by the White Mountains in the north. Lebennin
translates from Sindarin as "five waters", which is a reference to the Five Streams that flowed through it: Erui
. The rivers are stated to have fallen swiftly from the mountains, but in Legolas
's song Lebennin appears as a region of "green fields" and grasslands with an abundance of flowers. In parts of Lebennin around the Mouths of Anduin
lived a fairly numerous fisher-folk.
Lossarnach: A densely populated region of "flowering vales" just to the south of Minas Tirith, locked between the White Mountains and Anduin. The fief was expected to have sent around two thousand warriors to Minas Tirith before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, but because of the threat of the Corsairs of Umbar a far smaller number arrived; these are described in the text as "well-armed and bearing great battle-axes". The element arnach is stated to have been pre-Númenórean and thus of an unknown meaning, while loss was apparently intended to derive from an Elvish stem for "snow", since in early Tolkien's drafts the name appears as Glossarnach.
South Gondor: The territory between rivers Harnen
, which belonged to Gondor from the time of King Falastur
, but became "a debatable and desert land" by the end of the Third Age. An early Tolkien's working map gives a Sindarin rendering of its name as Harondor
Andrast: A peninsula in the south-west of Gondor; the name translates from Sindarin as "long cape" and is also given an alternative in some of Tolkien's works, Ras Morthil
with the meaning either "cape of dark sheen" or "cape of dark horn". Nominally part of Gondor, Andrast was not populated by the Númenóreans, but colonies of the Drúedain
were believed to have survived in the mountains of the cape since the First Age, and the northern parts of the peninsula were known as Drúwaith Iaur
Pinnath Gelin: Hills in the west of the kingdom, between the White Mountains and Anfalas; the name means "green ridges". Before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, "three hundreds of gallant green-clad men" came from this land to Minas Tirith.
Erech: A hill near the sources of river Morthond
, upon which Isildur set the Black Stone
brought by him to Middle-earth from Númenor. Local tribes, descendants of the Drúedain, swore allegiance to Isildur on the Stone, but proved treacherous and were cursed by him, remaining as wraiths after their deaths and becoming known as the Dead Men of Dunharrow
. The Hill of Erech was their trysting-place, and consequently the land around it remained unsettled, until after the Dead had been summoned to the Stone by Aragorn, fulfilled their oath and had been permitted by him to pass in peace. Erech
is stated to be untranslatable as deriving from a language of pre-Númenórean inhabitants.
Mornan: A deep cleft on the southern side of the White Mountains, from which sprang the Morthond. Christopher Tolkien stated that the name, which means "black valley", was given to it "not only because of the two high mountains between which it lay, but because through it passed the road from the Gate of the Dead Men, and living men did not go there".
Tarlang's Neck: A narrow pass in the branch of the White Mountains that separated the Morthond Vale in the west from Lamedon in the east. The word tarlang means "stiff neck" in Sindarin, and was stated by Tolkien to have originally been the name of the mountain ridge, later interpreted by folk as a personal name.
Tumladen: The "vales of Tumladen and Lossarnach" appear in The Lord of the Rings
as the target of the southward road from Minas Tirith, before it reaches Lebennin. Nothing more is revealed of the former place, the name of which means "level vale and is also used of the Vale of Gondolin
from The Silmarillion
Imloth Melui: A place noted by the character Ioreth
in The Lord of the Rings
for exceptionally fragrant roses growing there, possibly located in her homeland of Lossarnach
. A Tolkien researcher H. K. Fauskanger has interpreted the name as "lovely flower-vale".
Drúadan Forest: Pine-woods that covered outskirts of the White Mountains in east Anórien, south of the Great West Road. Its name, which is a partial translation of Sindarin Tawar-in-Drúedain
, derives from the fact that the forest was populated by the Drúedain
or the Wild Men, who survived here since the First Age and shunned the Númenóreans. The Forest was made by Aragorn after his crowning into an independent state under Gondor's protection.
Stonewain Valley: A long narrow cleft in the northern outskirts of the White Mountains, running east-west behind a ridge that connected the hills of Amon Dîn
and was covered by the Drúadan Forest. The floor of the valley was levelled by the Gondorians in their early days, and a wain-road was made to transport stone from quarries to Minas Tirith, but by the end of the Third Age it became neglected and overgrown. In the narrative of The Lord of the Rings
, the westward target of the road appears as Min-Rimmon
, but elsewhere it is stated that the valley ended at Nardol, where the quarries were located, and Christopher Tolkien showed that the former statement may be erroneous. The name of the valley is also given in Sindarin as Imrath Gondraich
Grey Wood: "Wide grey thickets" that grew at the eastern end of the Stonewain Valley, between Amon Dîn and the White Mountains. During the War of the Ring they provided a cover for the Rohirrim army on their passage from behind Amin Dîn to the Pelennor Fields.
Tolfalas: An island in the Great Sea
close to the Mouths of Anduin, locked between two capes in Belfalas and South Gondor. Its name is derived from Sindarin toll
"island" and falas
"shore". According to one of Tolkien's outlines, Tolfalas was originally a far greater island, but in the floods following the Downfall of Númenor it "was almost destroyed, and was left at last like a barren and lonely mountain in the water".
Emyn Arnen: A mass of hills at the centre of Ithilien, standing opposite to Minas Tirith across Anduin and around which the river made a bend. From this place originated the line of later Stewards of Gondor, and after the War of the Ring the Lordship of the hills was granted to Faramir, Prince of Ithilien and Steward to the King Elessar. The element arnen in the name was stated by Tolkien to have been of pre-Númenórean origin, while emyn is a Sindarin word for "hills".
Cair Andros: An island in the middle of the river Anduin, around 40 miles north of Osgiliath. Its name means "ship of long-foam", given because "the isle was shaped like a great ship, with a high prow pointing north, against which the white foam of Anduin broke on sharp rocks". Cair Andros was used as a stronghold already at the time of the Kin-strife, and it was "fortified again" to defend Anórien after Ithilien fell to orcs of Mordor.
- The garrison at Cair Andros was maintained until the War of the Ring, but it was defeated and the isle overrun shortly before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Later Aragorn, on his march to the Black Gate, sent a small group of soldiers who were afraid of assaulting Mordor to retake the island instead. After the fall of Sauron, Cair Andros served as a transit point during the preparations for the feast at the Field of Cormallen.
Henneth Annûn: A hidden outpost in Northern Ithilien, founded by the command of Steward Túrin II
shortly after T.A. 2901 and maintained the longest of such refuges. Hobbits Frodo and Sam were temporarily brought here by Faramir during the events of The Lord of the Rings
. The name of the refuge, which means "window of the sunset" in Sindarin, is derived from the fact that it was formed by a cave behind a west-facing waterfall, the "Window-curtain", stated to have been the "fairest of the falls of Ithilien". The cave had been excavated by the stream that fed the cascade, which had since been diverted by the men of Gondor to fall from doubled height; the tunnel had been sealed, except for a concealed entrance along the brink of a deep pool beneath the waterfall.
Cormallen: A wide green field in Ithilien close to the Henneth Annûn, where the celebrations after the final defeat of Sauron were held. According to Christopher Tolkien, its name means "golden circle" and refers to the culumalda
trees that surrounded it.
: Hills on the course of Anduin, equally distant from Mirkwood and the White Mountains. They were fortified by Gondorians to serve as their north-eastern defence, with the watchtowers built on the hills of Amon Hen
and Amon Lhaw
on opposite banks of the river, and the Gates of Argonath
constructed at the northern entrance into the straits of Anduin as a warning to trespassers.
: The first capital of the kingdom, situated on the river Anduin. The city was heavily depopulated with the coming of the Great Plague and was finally abandoned after an attack of Uruks in T.A. 2475, remaining as an eastern outpost of Minas Tirith.Minas Anor (Minas Tirith
): Originally a fortress built by Anárion at the eastern end of the White Mountains as a precaution from the hostile natives, later having become the summer residence of the Kings and finally the capital in 1640. Minas Ithil (Minas Morgul
): A fortress founded by Isildur in a valley of the Mountains of Shadow to watch the pass into Mordor. It was captured by the Nazgûl in 2002 and remained the chief threat to Minas Tirith, until it was destroyed shortly after the final defeat of Sauron.Isengard
: A fortress at the southern end of the Misty Mountains, built by the Gondorians in the Second Age and maintained throughout the Third by a separate garrison, until it was overrun by Dunlendings
in 2710 and after half a century officially granted to Saruman
): A stronghold built in the Second Age near the Glittering Caves in the west of the White Mountains, which was later ceded to the Rohirrim together with Calenardhon in 2510, its garrison merging with that of Isengard.Umbar
: Originally a haven on the southern shores of the Bay of Belfalas, ruled the Black Númenóreans
. Later it was continuously passing between Gondor and the allies of Haradrim, and was finally recaptured only after the fall of Sauron.Edhellond
: An ancient haven of the Woodland Elves, located at the confluence of Morthond and Ringló. It persisted into the Third Age and was considered a part of Gondor, but by T.A. 1981 all Elves had departed over the Sea.Dol Amroth
: A castle and city on the western shores of Belfalas, named after Amroth
of Lothlórien. The citizens of Dol Amroth were of high Númenórean blood and their Princes had an Elvish strain, although Tolkien's writings are contradictory on their descent and actual date of establishment of their line.
Pelargir: The greatest port of Gondor, situated just above the delta of Anduin in Lebennin; its name means \"garth of royal ships\" in Sindarin. The city was founded in S.A. 2350, before the Downfall of Númenor, and became the main stronghold in Middle-earth of the Elf-friends
. According to an outline, during the floods following the drowning of Númenor \"the Bay of Belfalas was much filled at the east and south, so that Pelargir which had been only a few miles from the sea was left far inland\".
- The ancient haven was \"repaired\" by King Eärnil I, and it became the main naval base during the Ship-kings' conquests. During the Kin-strife, Castamir the Usurper planned to make Pelargir the capital, and after his defeat his sons and followers retreated to this town and withstood a siege for a year, before fleeting to Umbar. Two centuries later their descendants made a raid up Anduin, ravaging Pelargir and killing King Minardil; from that time, the city was under constant threat of Umbar and Harad. It was refortified by Steward Ecthelion II, but during the War of the Ring Pelargir was overrun by the Corsairs of Umbar, who fled at the coming of the Dead Men of Dunharrow led by Aragorn.
Harlond: Quays on Anduin adjacent to Minas Tirith, built on the small space between the river and the southern parts of the Pelennor Wall; the name translates as \"south harbour\". At this place Aragorn and the men of Lebennin disembarked from the Corsair ships during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Calembel: A town in the province of Lamedon
, situated on a small hill near the fords over the river Ciril
. The name Calembel
apparently is Sindarin and means \"green enclosure\".
Ethring: A settlement in Lamedon near the fords over the river Ringló
Tarnost: A town marked on Tolkien's working maps of Gondor, where it is placed on the southern side of the pass in the hills between rivers Ringló and Gilrain. The highlands of Belfalas are accordingly designated as "hills of Tarnost" in an outline.
Linhir: A town and port in Lebennin
, situated at the ford near the confluence of the rivers Gilrain
, not far from their estuary into the Sea. During the War of the Ring, Linhir was defended by men of both Lebennin and Lamedon against the Haradrim and the Corsairs of Umbar, who retreated at the approaching of the Dead Men of Dunharrow.
The earliest inhabitants of the future Gondor territory were the Drúedain
, who lived in the vales of the White Mountains and lands adjacent. Later they were harried and mostly ousted by new people coming from the east; these were allied to Sauron and unrelated to the Edain
. The coastlands remained unsettled until the beginning of colonisation by the Númenóreans, who either mixed blood with the natives or dispersed them if hostile. The original language of the settlers, Adûnaic
, was heavily influenced by local speech and ultimately resulted in Westron
, becoming used, at least for intercourse, by the majority of peoples in the west of Middle-earth.
The exiles of Númenor that arrived in Middle-earth were far fewer in number than the local folk of mixed descent, and this remained the case throughout the history of Gondor. The greatest cities were populated by men of more or less "high blood", by the end of the Third Age remaining in the townlands of Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth, while the inhabitants of southern provinces are stated to have been shorter and swarthier. The nobles at first spoke solely the Grey-elven Sindarin, following a custom of the Faithful of Númenor, but with the passing of years they gradually switched to the rustic Westron, so that "at the time of the War of the Ring the Elven-tongue was known to only a small part of the peoples of Gondor, and spoken daily by fewer".
Except in the matter of language, Tolkien described few characteristic features of Gondor culture. His writings only present highly developed masonry, sea- and smith-craft, and mention the customs of looking "west in a moment of silence" before meal and of saluting "with bowed head and hands upon the breast". An essay that was prepared as one of the appendices to The Lord of the Rings but became compressed contains a reference to currency of the South-kingdom: "In Gondor [Westron word] tharni was used for a silver coin, the fourth part of the castar (in [Sindarin] the canath or fourth part of the mirian).
The Appendices to The Lord of the Rings
describe that the head of the state of Gondor was King
, who apparently exercised the powers of an absolute monarch
. The post passed solely by the male line from the time of Meneldil
, to the eldest son of the late king if there was any, and the heir usually "took part in the councils of the realm and the command of the armies". A King was accustomed to command the forces of Gondor in major battles, in which case one of his legitimate heirs would remain behind for preservation of the line and act as a regent.
The office of the Stewards, in Quenya Arandur "king's servant", was established by Rómendacil I as a precaution against loss of royal traditions and knowledge. A Steward was chosen by the King "as a man of high trust and wisdom, usually advanced in years since he was not permitted to go to war or to leave the realm". Over time the post rose in importance, "providing as it were a permanent 'under-study' to the King, and an immediate viceroy at need", and since the days of Tarondor the choice was always made from the family of his Steward Húrin. Another highly authoritative position appeared when King Narmacil I granted to his nephew Minalcar "the new office and title of Carma-cundo "Helm-guardian", that is in terms of Gondor Crown-lieutenant or Regent. Thereafter he was virtually king, though he acted in the names of Narmacil and Calmacil, save in the matters of war and defence over which he had complete authority".
After the loss of King Eärnur, his steward Mardil continued to rule Gondor in his name, since Eärnur's death was not affirmed, and Mardil's descendants held to this practice. The Ruling Stewards wielded the authority of the Kings, but never presumed to take the title for themselves: each succeeding Steward swore an oath to yield the rule of the realm back to the King, if he should ever return, although with the passing of centuries the oath became more a formality. The office had become hereditary already with Mardil's grandfather, and thereafter passed to the eldest son if there was any; otherwise, the heir was selected among the near kin by the Council of Gondor. The latter body consisted, at least at the time of the War of the Ring, of the captains of armed forces, was headed by the Steward, and is recorded to have debated whether to risk retaking Osgiliath or not. The Council's duties and powers are not elaborated further, but it is also credited with rejecting Arvedui's claim after the death of Ondoher and should possibly be equated with "the elders" that sent Boromir to Rivendell.
A special position within the South-kingdom belonged to the Prince of Dol Amroth, who ruled over a land in Belfalas but was subject to the king; according to one of Tolkien's statements, the title was granted to the first Prince by Elendil because of their kinship. An equal authority was later given by Aragorn to Faramir, who became the Prince of Ithilien. Of other Gondor posts, in Tolkien's writings appear "ministers of the Crown concerned with 'intelligence'" who surveyed the palantíri (see below); Captain of the Hosts, borne by future King Falastur during the reign of his father; and Captain of Gondor and Captain-General of Gondor applied to Faramir and Boromir respectively, with the former title also given to Eärnur when he commanded the Gondor army in Arthedain prior to his crowning.
Heraldry and heirlooms
The royal standard of Gondor was an image of a white tree in blossom upon sable field, surrounded by seven five-rayed stars and surmounted by a winged crown. This combined references to several symbols of the realm: the White Tree
was a unique plant brought by Isildur from Númenor, first planted in Minas Ithil and later three times replanted from seed at Minas Anor; the Crown of Gondor
was in the beginning Isildur's war-helmet and later the main symbol of monarchy in the South-kingdom, with wings of a sea-bird being an emblem of the exiled Númenóreans; and the stars "originally represented the single stars on the banners of each of seven ships [out of nine in which Elendil and his sons sailed to Middle-earth] that bore a palantír
". The palantíri
were "seeing-stones" of Elendil, four of which were placed in strongholds of Gondor: Osgiliath, Minas Anor, Minas Ithil and Isengard – and were used by Kings or their servants for surveillance of the lands and communication both within the realm and with Arnor.
The Ruling Stewards revered the royal ceremonials and withheld from using most of them, retaining the Kings' throne empty and using "a white rod with a golden knob" as the only token of their lordship. An heirloom of their line was the Horn of Gondor, made by Vorondil the Hunter and borne by the elder son of an acting Steward. During the epoch of the Ruling Stewards, the banner at the top of Minas Tirith was replaced by a plain white flag, although the armour of the Tower Guard of Gondor still bore devices of tree, crown and stars. The Stewards however did maintain the tradition of taking their heirs to the hallowed tomb of Elendil at Halifirien, and just like Kings they were embalmed after death and laid in the Houses of the Dead at the Silent Street behind Minas Tirith.
Concept and creation
Tolkien's original thoughts about the later ages of Middle-earth are outlined in his first sketches for the legend of Númenor made in mid-1930s, and already contain conceptions resembling that of Gondor. It is described that the fugitives from the island "became lords and kings of Men" in the west of Middle-earth and soon under the leadership of one Elendil "of Númenórean race" finally overthrew Sauron; a special attention is paid to the exiles' "great tombs" for the dead and to the diminishing of their lifespan.
Development of early history
The ideas were concretized at an early stage during the writing of The Lord of the Rings
, beginning with a clearer image of the defeat of Sauron and of the acquisition of the One Ring by "Isildor" son of Elendil, and followed by the slow development of the Númenórean heritage. First to be introduced were their northern descendants – the "Rangers
", and the southern people appeared when Tolkien pondered in 1939 over the course of the narrative following the Council of Elrond. As he later recalled, Tolkien thought about "adventures" that the Company would meet on their way to Mordor and considered employing "Stone-Men" as one of them; other preserved notes mention a "city of stone and civilized men", its siege and a "Land of Ond". The name was based upon an already existing stem of Elvish languages, (g)ond
with the meaning 'stone'.
A new character was immediately introduced: Boromir, a messenger at the Council of Elrond and son of the "King of Ond", whose realm is "besieged by wild men out of the East". Contemporary outlines propose that the main characters would participate in the final battle for the kingdom, already seen as a major climax of story. Another connection between the narrative and the background was achieved with the final solution of the identity of \"Trotter\": he became Aragorn, "a real ranger" and a descendant of Elendil.
By the time Tolkien began rewriting "The Council of Elrond" a year later, he had developed a story that Aragorn's ancestors were in past Kings in Boromir's hometown. The citizens were already then conceived as inferior to the Númenóreans, and although at war with Sauron, they were stated to have driven out the heirs of Elendil in a rebellion raised by the Witch-king; these settled in the north and nearly dwindled. At the same time a conception emerged that Elendil had several sons – Ilmandur, Isildur and Anárion – and that the descendants of only one of them survived the war with Sauron.
Ilmandur was discarded at once, but the fate of others remained fluid for some time; Christopher Tolkien assumed that at first it was the son of Isildur that should have inherited the kingship, but was refused the entry into his city due to Sauron's machinations and went to the north. This was replaced by the story that the Land of Ond was ruled by the descendants of Anárion until their failing, while Isildur's son remained at Rivendell and after the death of his father established another realm in the north. Later Tolkien decided that the northern kingdom was founded at the same time with "Ondor", as the southern realm was now renamed, and proposed Elendil and his brother Valandil as respective founders, before settling on the final conception of the co-reigning of Isildur and Anárion.
Development of geography
The three greatest cities of the Land of Ond were introduced together with the sons of Elendil during the rewriting of "The Council of Elrond" chapter, and originally corresponded to each of them: Osgiliath to Ilmandur, Minas Anor to Anárion, Minas Ithil to Isildur; after the rejection of Ilmandur, Osgiliath temporarily became Elendil's hometown, until the emergence of the final story. The ultimate fate of the cities – loss of Minas Ithil and abandonment of Osgiliath – was present from the start, as well as the later names Minas Tirith and Minas Morgol [sic
]. Around the same time Tolkien's ideas about the location of the Land of Ond first received written form. The role of anchors was played by the Great River of the Wilderland
from The Hobbit
, which now was stated to pass through Osgiliath, by Mordor just to the east of Minas Ithil, by the "land of the Horse-lords" conceived of some time before and now neighbouring Ond, and by the "Black Mountains", precursors of the White.
Next element to be introduced was the "Land of Seven Streams"; Tolkien was hesitant for some time about its relation to other places, writing at different times that it was located north or south of Black Mountains, within the Land of Ond or separate from it. First to be conceived of were the rivers Greyflood or the "seventh river", Isen, and Silverlode, the last one soon changed to Blackroot – but without any reference to the sources of such a name. The three of them appear roughly at their final places on the original Tolkien's working map of the southern lands, as well as all locations mentioned above, the approximate line of coast, including Tolfalas, and the forerunner of Dol Amroth, apparently brought about with the development of the legend of Nimrodel while writing the "Lothlórien" chapter.
The need for a clearer image of the southern lands arose when Tolkien came to plan the narrative after the halt at Lothlórien. Further development of geography was compared by Christopher Tolkien to his father's notes on the creation process: "I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit". A new redrawing of the map of "Ondor" advances on the layout of the mountains and rivers and introduces new locations: Ithilien; Anarion [sic], which combines later Anórien and Lossarnach; "Belfalas (Langstrand)", in place of later Anfalas; rivers Ringló and Harnen; and controversial "Lebennin (Land of Seven Streams)", extending in the west to the later Morthond and covering either seven or five rivers, depending on its eastern border. Umbar and "Harondor (S. Gondor)" also first appeared on this map, while the land to the north of the Black Mountains was developed in the context of Rohan and of Emyn Muil.
A change in the perception of the eastern confines of Gondor was brought about with the development in 1944 of Frodo's journey to Mordor. At first Tolkien decided to move Minas Morgul northward, in order to combine its functions with the two towers that guarded the only passage into the Land of Shadow, but almost immediately he restored the older conception and introduced a secret pass above Minas Morgul. A new turn in the narrative – extension of Frodo's journey southwards – led to elaboration of Ithilien, which was "proving a lovely land" to Tolkien's surprise. At the same time he decided to rename the Black Mountains into White, possibly to contrast them from the Mountains of Shadow, and introduced the refuge of Henneth Annûn, at first trying out several experimental names such as Henneth, Henlo or Henuil for "window" combined with Nargalad "fiery light", Carandûn "red west" or Malthen "golden".
Later that year Tolkien began the chapters dealing with central Gondor, and in his sketches first appear the beacons of Anórien, "immense concentric walls" of Minas Tirith, the idea that Aragorn would come to Minas Tirith passing south of the White Mountains, and the towns of Erech and Pelargir. This led in 1946 to meticulous development of the geography of southern Gondor. While working upon the "Homeric catalogue", as he called it, of the reinforcements coming to Minas Tirith, Tolkien devised the names Lossarnach, Anfalas, Lamedon and Pinnath Gelin, all of which appear on a new version of the map in final locations with the exception of Lamedon, first placed in northern Lebennin and later moved westward. The rivers acquired final courses and names, except Gilrain, then called Lamedui; Celos, which flowed into Lamedui instead of Sirith; and Calenhir, a tributary of Morthond discarded later. The gulf into which flowed Ringló and Morthond was designated as "Cobas Haven", a name afterwards lost.
Final changes in the geography were caused by the intensification of the scene of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields: the distance between Osgiliath and Minas Tirith was reduced by four times; the northern regions became guarded by "Tol Varad (the Defended Isle)", later renamed Men Falros "place of foam-spray" and then Cair Andros; the inhabitants of the newly introduced Drúadan Forest enabled the Rohirrim to pass freely to Minas Tirith; and the hills of Emyn Arnen (originally Haramon "southern hill") justified creating a bend in Anduin so that the revelation of Aragorn and his reinforcements occurred closer to the battlefield, at the quays of Harlond (at first Lonnath-ernin "Arnen-havens").
Geography of southern Gondor was developed concurrently, in outlines for the story of Aragorn's march to Pelargir, and the distances between the cities and their exact locations were calculated with high precision to accord with the narrative chronology. Erech became temporarily viewed as the landing-place of Isildur and was consequently moved from the sources of Morthond, first in between the mouths of Anduin and Lamedui, then to north-west of the Cobas Haven, and finally retuned to its original site with the abandonment of this idea. Other places were introduced one by one: Linhir (first placed at the confluence of Ringló and Morthond), Tarnost, Tarlang's Neck, and Calembel (originally Caerost).
Extension of the Third Age
Christopher Tolkien gathered that originally his father imagined only two or three centuries between the first fall of Sauron and the War of the Ring, foreseeing no complicated events to have happened during this time. With the progress of the narrative during 1941–2 to the breaking of the Fellowship and the war in Rohan, particular aspects in the history and culture of the South-kingdom were introduced one by one: alliance with the Rohirrim and ceding a province to them, in gratitude for their help in the first war with Sauron; the White Tree and the winged crown, at first just as vague images in Aragorn's song; the spelling Gondor
; and the palantíri
, with Hornburg and Isengard made into former Gondor fortresses and sights of two out of five Stones in the South-kingdom. At a later point, the fifth palantír
was imagined to have been at Erech, before being discarded overall.
When the narrative passed into Ithilen, Tolkien introduced the Rangers of that land, with Faramir, brother of Boromir, as their captain. In speeches of this new character many of the author's conceptions about the history of Gondor either emerged for the first time or were only now set to paper: Boromir's horn was perceived to have been unique, "reasons of decline of Gondor" and its ethnic diversity textually elaborated, the Stewards first referred to, and the surrender of the "fields of Elenarda" to the Rohirrim was postponed to the epoch of the Stewardship and temporarily became regarded not as a gift from Gondor but as an enforcement by the Horse-lords. Most elements of the South-kingdom culture were introduced during the writing of Book V, such as ceremonials of retaining Kings' throne empty by the Stewards and burying the rulers behind Minas Tirith, as well as the royal banner of the Kings, originally described as "crown and stars of Sun and Moon".
The notion that the Third Age lasted "about 3000 years" was first written down when Tolkien began to sketch out the history of Númenor and Westlands. Further on, he departed from the date of the foundation of the Realms in Exile, calculated at 3320 of the Second Age on the basis of average reigns of the Kings in Númenor; from the duration of the time of peace before the war of the Last Alliance, approximated at 100 years; and from the date of the failing of the Kings in Gondor, proposed as T.A. "c.2000". Original drafts for the account of the rulers of South-kingdom are not preserved, and in the earliest extant manuscript, ascribed by Christopher Tolkien to 1949–50, many events of the final history are already present. The rest entered in early revisions, namely the constant conflicts with Umbar; the attacks of the Wainriders, which replaced original wars with the Ringwraiths; the Battle of the Field of Celebrant and the gift of Cirion; and the Long Winter. The depopulation of Osgiliath was first placed some 200 years later, the fall of Minas Ithil was moved back and forth in time, and the last king Eärnur was originally stated to have never returned from a war against Mordor, with the Witch-king challenging him "to fight for the palantir of Ithil" when this element first entered.
The appendices to The Lord of the Rings were brought to a finished state in 1953–54, but a decade later, during preparations for the release of the Second Edition, Tolkien elaborated the events that had led to the Kin-strife and introduced the regency of Rómendacil II. The final development of the history and geographical nature of Gondor took place around 1970, in the last years of Tolkien's life, when he invented justifications for the place-names and wrote full narratives for the stories of Isildur's death and of the battles with the Wainriders and the Balchoth (published in Unfinished Tales).
The remains of the Númenórean civilization were often likened by Tolkien to the culture of the Mediterranean. He made a trip to Italy
soon after completing The Lord of the Rings
, and later wrote that "Venice
seemed incredibly, elvishly lovely – to me like a dream of Old Gondor, or Pelargir of the Númenórean Ships, before the return of the Shadow". Similar comparisons were drawn by later researches, who observed the resemblance of the history of Gondor to an early medieval myth of the restoration of the Roman Empire
(see Further reading
Gondor as it appeared during in Peter Jackson
's film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings
has been compared to the Byzantine Empire
, for numerous reasons. The production team noted this in DVD commentary, explaining their decision to include some Byzantine domes into Minas Tirith architecture and to have civilians wear Byzantine-styled clothing. The soldiers garrisoned in Minas Tirith are based heavily on Byzantine infantry used up until the end of the First Crusade
. Both the Byzantine Empire and Gondor were only echoes of the old greatness of the earlier Roman Empire and the unified kingdom of Elendil. However, they were still strong in their own right.