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Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age is the fifth and last part of The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is relatively short, consisting of about around 20 pages. This is a work of fiction.

It is a historical essay which deals with the preamble to the events described in Tolkien's epic novel The Lord of the Rings. As the name implies, these events are focused around magical artifacts, the Rings of Power.

Twenty Rings of Power were forged: Nine rings were made for mortal Men; Seven were made for the Dwarves; the Elves made Three for themselves. But Sauron had tricked these people: for he had made the One Ring for himself which was the master of the rest.

However Sauron's plan had failed: the Elves discovered his plot and discarded their Rings until they could be shielded from his influence. Sauron then waged war upon the Elves. Many were killed and their kingdom in Eregion destroyed; but Men of Númenor helped the Elves and repelled Sauron. Hundreds of years later, Men of Númenor decided to capture Sauron to demonstrate their might. As it is described in Akallabêth, Sauron was brought to Númenor as a slave; however soon enough he corrupted the whole Númenórian state so that they undertook blasphemy, and the very land of Númenor sank beneath the waves.

Only few survivors left Númenor before it was too late, and led by Elendil the Tall and his two sons Isildur and Anárion, they had settled in Middle-earth. They created realms that were governed in Númenórian style: Elendil ruled over Arnor in the North, and Isildur and Anarion ruled together in the great country of Gondor in the South. However Sauron survived the disaster too; and although he had lost his fair appearance, both he and his One Ring returned safely to his stronghold of old in the land of Mordor.

A while passed, and Sauron, who had renewed his might decided to attack the new realms while they were still weak. His onslaught failed, however, and Elendil, his sons, and the Elven kings fought back. For many years the great coalition (The Last Alliance of Elves and Men, as it became known) besieged Mordor. At last the host broke through to Sauron's fortress Barad-dûr. The mighty king of the Elves, Gil-galad challenged Sauron for a duel, but he lost. Then Elendil fought him, and died too; however, he managed to defeat Sauron. Isildur, Elendil's son approached Sauron's body and cut off his finger with the One Ring. In vain tried the Elven kings to convince Isildur to destroy the ring in the fire of Mount Doom where it was made; he took it for his own and declared that it was his and his folk's, a consolation after the enormous losses of the war (one of those who perished was his brother Anárion, who was killed during the siege of Barad-dûr). Thus began the Third Age of Middle-earth.

Isildur himself died soon in a sudden ambush by a band of Orcs, and the Ring that had betrayed him was lost in the great river of Anduin. Heirs of royal blood were chosen to lead Arnor and Gondor. For a millennium, both realms enjoyed relative freedom and prosperity. However afterwards, Arnor became subject to attacks from the north-eastern kingdom of Angmar. More and more people fled from the North, and although Angmar was defeated by the beginning of the third millennium of Third Age, Arnor was no more. Its people were scattered, and its royalty decreased in number and fame; however they remained true to their Númenorian descent. They became Rangers[?], protecting the paths of the North from the menace from the East.

As for Gondor, it prospered for much of the Third Age. However in the beginning of its third millennium, this began to change. Gondor was assailed by Orcs and Men from the nearby Mordor. For a long time, no one suspected that the same force that had driven the attacks upon Arnor was now fighting Gondor.

A thousand years earlier, several Wizards had come to the land. Although it was unknown to the peoples of Middle-earth, they were emissaries from the West, sent on behalf of the Valar to help them to obtain their freedom. For many centuries they were silent, and little was done by them apart from observation and counsel. However as the times darkened, they decided to take action against a mysterious dark force which seemed to dwell in the middle of a giant forest called Mirkwood. During the attack, the force had fled to Mordor. It was Sauron, who was previously thought to have perished. And in the same year, the One Ring was found.

See The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

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