Having confined himself to largely known locations in Middle-earth in the first two episodes, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has finally shown us a place never before pictured on screen: Númenor. Indeed, much of the runtime of the third installment of the Prime Video series, “Adar”, is devoted to the island’s kingdom, which – despite its legendary status – never actually appears in JRR Tolkien’s original trilogy or the Peter Jackson movies it inspired.
That’s right: Númenor’s history, culture and geography are all covered in Under the spell of the Ring‘ appendices, as well as not-so-accessible tomes published after Tolkien’s death, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Stories. That is why the introduction of Númenor in The rings of power almost certainly left more casual fans scratching their heads at how the island kingdom fits into the wider lore of Middle-earth.
If that’s you, this handy roundup will get you up to speed on all things Númenórean in no time – including the kingdom’s location, origin, current ruler, and connection to Under the spell of the Ring.
[Ed. note: The following covers events not yet depicted in The Rings of Power.]
Where is Numenor?
The star-shaped island of Númenor (also known by other names, including Westernesse) is, as Galadriel points out in “Adar”, the westernmost point of Middle-earth. Tolkien describes his position in the Sundering Seas as closer to Valinor, the continent on which the divine Valar lives, than to Middle-earth.
It’s the logical place for Galadriel to end up after being so close to Valinor. And it also ties into Númenor’s seafaring culture, as their civilization was known for the skills of both the shipbuilders and sailors. The nautical prowess of the Númenóreans also enabled them to make numerous voyages to Middle-earth prior to The rings of powerenvironment, despite their relative distance from the continent (more on That later).
Who founded Númenor?
As with so many aspects of Tolkien’s legendarium, it quickly becomes complicated to talk about Númenor’s early days. For starters, there is the origin of the island itself, which was tailor-made by the Valar for the ancient race of men who joined forces with the elves in war against Morgoth. Then there was the mass migration of men from Middle-earth to the newly minted Númenor, which lasted half a century and relied heavily on help from the elves. So if Galadriel gives credit to the elves for the kingdom that even in The rings of power Episode 3, there’s a grain of truth in what she says.
That’s also not where the role of the elves in the original story of Númenor ends. As quoted in “Adar”, the founder of Númenor used to be an elf – albeit with a few mortals in his family tree. Like his brother Elrond (of Rivendell fame), the inaugural ruler of Númenor, Elros, came from a mixed bloodline. But while Elrond ultimately chose to live among the elves, Elros chose to embrace his masculine roots. This meant giving up his immortality, though he still had a ridiculously long lifespan and was as formidable intellectually and physically as a non-elf can get.
Elros’ offspring also benefited from their supercharged half-elven DNA, which explains why his offspring, Aragorn, is such an impressive specimen. But even better from an egalitarian standpoint, Númenóreans not directly related to Elros also got an overall XP boost and scored quite a few more birthdays than their mainland counterparts. So all in all, Elros’ decision to stay with Team Men has worked out pretty well for everyone.
Who now rules Númenor?
The reign of Elros lasted a little over 400 years, which is why he is no longer on site in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Twenty-four monarchs sat on the throne of Númenor between the death of Elros and the events of the show, although this is one area where the adaptation is beginning to take great liberties with the canon set by Tolkien.
In “Adar”, the rightful king of Númenor – not mentioned by name in the episode, but presumably Tar-Palantir based on the books – is currently living in exile atop a tower, after being deposed by his own people. Meanwhile, his daughter Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) rules in his stead as Queen Regent, assisted by her influential advisor Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle). All this is material invented by The rings of power showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay and their team of writers.
According to Tolkien, Tar-Palantir died of old age and was not overthrown by anyone, much less by his own subjects. There is also very little in Tolkien’s writings to suggest that Tar-Míriel (to use her reign name) was in cahoots with the treacherous Pharazôn (her cousin in the books), especially considering that he forced her to hang out with him. marry to usurp the throne. Sure, there’s a chance that Míriel is just pretending to be cozy with Pharazôn on the show, but for now, that whole subplot is very different from the book.
That does not mean The rings of power has completely abandoned its source material as far as Númenórean royalties are concerned. If nothing else, the characterization of Tar-Palantir in Episode 3 as someone who is still loyal to the Valar and sympathetic to the elves hits the mark. It’s also pretty clear that Payne and McKay are laying the groundwork for Pharazôn to make a play for the throne, much like he does in the books at some point in the show’s planned five-season run.
And in a broader sense, the way “Adar” portrays Númenórean society (including that among the higher echelons) as becoming increasingly cruel towards the elves and the Valar is broadly consistent with Tolkien’s own history. Likewise, Elendil’s depiction of a highborn gentleman who goes against this trend is also faithful to Tolkien.
Where is Númenor in the Lord of the Rings series?
So, how come we don’t visit Númenor in Under the spell of the Ring? To put it bluntly: because it sank. Tolkien saw the island kingdom as the Middle-earth analogue of Atlantis, and therefore—as told in The Silmarillion section titled Akallabeth – it ends up on the ocean floor. What’s more, as in the original Atlantis legend, the cause of Númenor’s downfall ultimately boils down to two words: divine retribution.
After Pharazôn (now “Ar-Pharazôn”) defeats Sauron’s army and takes him hostage, the dark lord wastes no time turning him and most of the kingdom into evil Morgoth worshipers. Finally, Sauron convinces Ar-Pharazôn and his followers that they too can become immortal if they go to war with the Valar and conquer Valinor. Unsurprisingly, this turns out to be bad advice, and after the Valar invoked Eru Ilúvatar (the supreme being of Tolkien’s cosmology) For real escalate. Eru Ilúvatar destroys Númenórean’s fleet along with the entire kingdom, in a catastrophic event of literally world-changing proportions (we’re talking about moving from flat Earth to round Earth).
The few Númenóreans who survived Eru Ilúvatar’s judgment were largely those who remained true to the ancient customs. Led by Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion (as opposed to in The rings of powerhe has no daughter either) they made their way to the shores of Middle-earth and founded the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor – the latter of which plays an important part in Under the spell of the Ring.