Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (iv) Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion

To me this section could come with the following alternate titles:

  • Power, Hubris, and the Inevitable Decline
  • The Good Old Days Weren't Necessarily All That Great
TL;DR: Bloodlines falter, they go crazy for ships (which is great, except we also know they're not supposed to sail in a certain direction, and we know where this is going to go), and the Great Kings of Old aren't really all that great.

Gondor most clearly falters with Atanar Alcarin, who liked his wealth and power, but really couldn't be bothered to maintain it (and neither could his sons).  Among his various failings we can list laxity towards Mordor.  Then we go forward to Narmacil who decides actually being King is just too much hard work and names Minalcar Regent of Gondor.

Then we get a little bit of racism mixed in, since the son of a Regent married a bride from the Northmen, and the Dunedain fear the degradation of their long-lived and majestic race.  Unsurprisingly, when their child Eldacar, who proves as long-lived and majestic as his father, becomes the next Regent, people get a bit upset.  Queue up war, revolt, wanton destruction, and an unsuitable replacement regent.  Eldacar in time regains his throne, but Osgiliath fell with it's palantir lost, and lost to Gondor is the land of Umbar where the usurpers ultimately retreated to.

The ironic thing about all of that is the conflict so impacted the population of Dunedain that "mingling" with the other races of man became significantly more commonplace.  The gradual diminished of the Dunedain continued as before, more due to the slow withdrawl of Numenorean gifts than "dilution."

The conflict did not end there, however.  Two generations later it continues with the grandchildren of these warring regents clashing and then plague falling upon them all, and a lessened Gondor lets its watch on Mordor falter.  Concurrent to this a shadow rises in the Greenwood, known in The Hobbit as the Mirkwood.  Then, on the death of Telemnar, the twenty-sixth king of Gondor, the White Tree of Gondor withers and dies.  His nephew, Tarondor, succeeds him, replants a seedling in the citadel and withdrawls the King's House from Osgiliath to Minas Anor.

Lastly, Gondor was then invaded by the Wainriders, a well-armed confederacy of peoples from the East, stirred to action by Sauron.  This is also believed to align with the return of Ringwraiths to Mordor.  A great rout against the Wainriders resulted in meany of the Eastern men perishing in the Dead Marshes, though I wonder if that name predates the conflict or became because of the conflict.

Gondor, with the aid of the elves, stands against the Witch-king of Angmar.  This section makes me a bit more grumpy at Jackson's decision to essentially excise Glorfindel from The Fellowship of the Ring.

And so ends the Kingship of Gondor.  Warring against outside threats and internal conflicts took its toll on the Dunedain and the royal family.  Heirs remain, but none of pure blood or on whose claim all would agree.

So the rule of Gondor fell to the Stewards, ruling as kings but not sitting on the throne, and with an oath to "rule in the name of the king, until he shall return," that they never believed they would have to fulfill.  Meanwhile, the people of Gondor had faith in the eventual return of a King.  At first Gondor enjoyed peace, but Denethor I witnessed the rise of the uruks appearing out of Mordor and harrying Gondor.  Aggression against Gondor from enemies continues as Gondor's power wains.  Gondor still stands by its allies, including Rohan, and under Beren Saruman is invited into Isengard.  When on the passing of the 21st Steward the White Tree also dies, they have no sapling to replace it, and so the withered tree stands, waiting for the King's return.

Finally we come to Denethor, a man in many ways a wise and far thinking leader, but with his flaws none the less.  A deep level of paranoia and suspicion exists from an early point, with a mistrust of Gandalf that only grows as he learns more, leading to assumptions that Gandalf and his allies wish to place their own leader in replacement of Denethor himself.

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