The Fantasy Review’s Brief History of Isildur.
Isildur is one of the most important individuals of the Second and Third Ages of Middle-earth. His name comes from the Quenya word for ‘moon’, Isil, meaning ‘silver-sheen’. Interestingly, the third day of the enquië, which was dedicated to the Moon, was called Isilya, ‘moon-day’.
He was the conjoint King of Gondor from 3320 SA (Second Age) to the second year of the Third Age, along with his brother, Anárion. Later, he became the second King of Arnor for a brief two years. Here is a brief history of Isildur.
Isildur was born in Númenor and was the eldest son of Elendil the Tall and brother of Anárion.
As a young man, he stole a fruit of Nimloth from the guarded courts of Armenelos. Because of this, he was able to preserve the line of the White Tree in mortal lands.
The Founding of Arnor and Gondor
He escaped the Fall of Númenor with three ships to Pelargir with his father and brother in the year 3429 of the Second Age. They lead a remnant of the Dúnedain back to Middle-earth and founded Arnor and Gondor (known as the Númenorian realms-in-exile).
Elendil became the High King of both Arnor and Gondor, but chose to concentrate his rule in the North-kingdom of Arnor. Isildur and Anárion were given the South-kingdom of Gondor to rule conjointly. Isildur was also Lord of Ithilien.
Anárion lived mostly in his city of Minas Anor, while Isildur lived in Minas Ithil, the ‘Tower of the Moon’, with his four sons. Isildur built Minas Ithil on the western border of Mordor.
The War Against Sauron
When Sauron finally launched a war against the Dúnedain of Middle-earth (previously presumed perished in the Fall of Númenor), Minas Ithil was the first stronghold to fall to Sauron’s armies.
In 3429 SA (Second Age), the forces of Mordor captured Minas Ithil in a surprise attack, due to their discovery of the Spider’s Pass. They sacked the city and burned its White Tree.
Isildur and his family managed to escape. Anárion was left to defend the line of the Anduin, defending Osgiliath and Minas Anor, while Isildur fled to the Sea, raising enlisting armies as he went, before reaching Lindon and telling Elendil what was happening. All the while, Sauron struggled against Anárion on the crossings of the Anduin.
This led to the war of the Dúnedain and the Elves against Sauron (known as the Last Alliance). In the final battle, Sauron was defeated and forced to retreat to his Dark Tower where he was besieged. There, Anárion was slain, and in the following year (3341, the last of the Second Age), Elendil was also slain in combat against Sauron, who was also killed.
Isildur cut the Ruling Ring (the One Ring) from Sauron’s hand using the broken hilt-shard of Elendil’s sword (against the urgings of Elrond and Círdan). He took the Ring as a weregild for the death of his brother and father.
With the death of Elendil, Isildur became High King of both Arnor and Gondor.
For the first two years of the Third Age, Isildur remained in the South kingdom. There he instructed his brother’s son, Meneldil in kingship. Then, after planting a sapling of the White Tree in Minas Anor, in memory of his brother, he marched away with his three eldest sons and an escort of around 200 knights to take up the Northern Scaptre.
Isildur and his party were ambushed by Orcs of the Mountains beside the Gladden Fields. All but three of the 200+ host were killed. Isildur attempted to escape by putting on the One Ring and swimming in the Anduin, but the Ring slipped off and he was slain. This is why the One Ring is also known as Isildur’s Bane.
Isildur’s fourth son, Valandil became King of Arnor.
All of the information from this article came from the following books. Have a read of them if you want a more in-depth look into the history of Isildur.
- The Lord of the Rings
- Unfinished Tales
- The Fall of Númenor
- Tolkien’s World from A to Z: The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth
- A Dictionary of Tolkien