Amazon Studios The Rings of Power is six months away. We want all Spoilerites to have the best viewing experience possible and have the widest knowledge base about the Second Age of Middle-Earth. This is a weekly Let’s Get Nerdy article series highlighting a different piece of Tolkien I think you need to know about!
In past articles I have answered the question:
- What Are the Rings of Power?
- What is Númenor?
- What is the Second Age?
- Who are the Harfoots?
- Who is Prince Durin IV?
- What is Khazad-dûm?
- Who is Celebrimbor?
Much like last week’s feature on Celebrimbor I want to take some time and explain a term I’ve thrown around since the very first installment of Let’s Get Nerdy! It’s the title of a battle I think many people who have seen or read The Lord of the Rings are very familiar with and is the event at the end of the road The Rings of Power is inevitably driving toward: The Last Alliance of Men and Elves.
One of the simplest distillations of the army is the combined forces across Middle-Earth which stood against Sauron at the end of the Second Age and oversaw his first destruction. Here’s a refresher from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:
The power of the one ring could not be undone. In order to counter the dark lord Sauron,an alliance of Men and Elves fought on the slopes of Mount Doom. :D
While film fans will think of The Last Alliance of Men and Elves as being led by Elrond, per Tolkien’s writing it
was actually spearheaded by Elendil and Gil-galad. Both characters are appearing in The Rings of Power played by LLoyd Owen and Benjamin Walker respectively. Elrond was present and the leader of an army of elves from Rivendell, but you must understand from the perspective of The Lord of the Rings filmmakers – Elrond was going to be played by Hugo Weaving coming off the popularity and notoriety of The Matrix was going to be playing Elrond who was going to be a recurring character across the trilogy versus going through the effort of introducing Gil-galad and having him meet his demise shortly thereafter the same way Elendil does in the clip you can watch above.
I’m a Gil-galad stan and even I can see the forest for the trees on this one.
That being stated … I couldn’t be more hyped to see Gil-galad get his due in The Rings of Power!
Returning to The Last Alliance of Men and Elves – this event took place in the years 3430 – 3441 of the Second Age. Dates can be particularly difficult to parse in the mythology of THe Lord of the Rings. I wanted to include this date because the Last Alliance of Men and Elves was a result of years of attacks, frustration, and desperation at the hands of the Dark Lord Sauron. The event most often pointed to as the catalyst for The Last Alliance of Men and Elves was Sauron’s attack on Minas Ithil in the year 3429 – the year before the battle.
If you aren’t familiar with Minas Ithil that it totally fine. We may yet get to it another day in this Let’s Get Nerdy! series. What you really need to know is that Minas Ithil was renamed Minas Morgul after Sauron captured it. Minas Morgul, as you may know from The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films, is a prominent city in Mordor.
- Minas Morgul (The Lord of the RIngs: The Return of the King)
The Last Alliance of Men and Elves was made up of armies assembled by Elendil and Gil-galad. The two leaders made a pact to join forces in order to defeat the Dark Lord. It was for the two leaders the alliance was named, despite later being joined by forces sent by Durin IV from his dwarven stronghold. Together the forces marched to Rivendell and trained to perfect their combat technique for three years before making their journey back to Mordor to face Sauron head-on.
The battle itself took place on Dagorlad – a large stretch of uninhabited land to the southwest of Mordor. Dagorlad is described as “bereft of life and beauty” in a nice move by Tolkien to not have readers feel bad about displaced civilians or the death of innocents. Given what the author must have witnessed as a veteran of the First World War this detail has always stood out to me.
The battle was not a one-and-done affair. The Last Alliance of Men and Elves cleared gates, overtook cities, and claimed territories which Sauron had stolen away from them. It was a long, difficult, dirty, deadly undertaking. If you were wondering what happened in the intervening years listed above – The Last Alliance of Men and Elves laid siege to Mordor for seven long years before the Dark Lord Sauron saw fit to come out and face them himself.
As mentioned above, both Elendil and Gil-galad, the founding lords of the alliance, were brutally slain by Sauron before the battles ended. Sauron was ultimately defeated, albeit temporarily. With Elendil’s son, Isildur, refusing to destroy the Ring of Power it was always a matter of time before The Dark Lord would rise again to threaten Middle-Earth.
And this is exactly what happened.