How did Elrond know of the passage in which Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli traveled down in The Return of the King and why would he suggest to Aragorn to take that road to summon the dead to fight for him?

1 Answer 1


Elrond remembers a prophesy

Aragorn tells Gimli and Legolas about the Dead Men and why they would fight for him.

‘That we shall know if ever we come to Erech,’ said Aragorn. ‘But the oath that they broke was to fight against Sauron, and they must fight therefore, if they are to fulfil it. For at Erech there stands yet a black stone that was brought, it was said, from Númenor by Isildur; and it was set upon a hill, and upon it the King of the Mountains swore allegiance to him in the beginning of the realm of Gondor. But when Sauron returned and grew in might again, Isildur summoned the Men of the Mountains to fulfil their oath, and they would not: for they had worshipped Sauron in the Dark Years.

‘Then Isildur said to their king: “Thou shalt be the last king. And if the West prove mightier than thy Black Master, this curse I lay upon thee and thy folk: to rest never until your oath is fulfilled. For this war will last through years uncounted, and you shall be summoned once again ere the end.” And they fled before the wrath of Isildur, and did not dare to go forth to war on Sauron’s part; and they hid themselves in secret places in the mountains and had no dealings with other men, but slowly dwindled in the barren hills. And the terror of the Sleepless Dead lies about the Hill of Erech and all places where that people lingered. But that way I must go, since there are none living to help me.’

The Lord of the Rings Book Five, Chapter 2: The Passing of the Grey Company
Page 781 (Single volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

Gimli asks Aragorn why he would choose to travel "The Paths of the Dead". Aragorn tells him of a message from Elrond.

‘The living have never used that road since the coming of the Rohirrim,’ said Aragorn, ‘for it is closed to them. But in this dark hour the heir of Isildur may use it, if he dare. Listen! This is the word that the sons of Elrond bring to me from their father in Rivendell, wisest in lore: Bid Aragorn remember the words of the seer, and the Paths of the Dead.’

‘And what may be the words of the seer?’ said Legolas.

‘Thus spoke Malbeth the Seer, in the days of Arvedui, last king at Fornost,’ said Aragorn:

Over the land there lies a long shadow,
westward reaching wings of darkness.
The Tower trembles; to the tombs of kings
doom approaches. The Dead awaken;
for the hour is come for the oathbreakers:
at the Stone of Erech they shall stand again
and hear there a horn in the hills ringing.
Whose shall the horn be? Who shall call them
from the grey twilight, the forgotten people?
The heir of him to whom the oath they swore.
From the North shall he come, need shall drive him:
he shall pass the Door to the Paths of the Dead.

The Lord of the Rings Book Five, Chapter 2: The Passing of the Grey Company
Page 780-1 (Single volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

Elrond supported King Arvedui (who died just over a thousand years earlier), and his descendants, the Rangers of the North. He would have been aware of the prophesy, and his wisdom presumably leads him to decide that now was the time for the prophesy to be fulfilled, and that Aragorn was the person to do it.

How did Malbeth the Seer know?

The betrayal of the men of Erech may have been well known before Isildur died. Even if it wasn't, it is likely that news of Isildur's actions was brought to Valandil (Isildur's youngest son) by Ohtar (Isildur's esquire, who brought the shards of Narsil to Valandil at Rivendell).

At the Council of Elrond, Elrond tells of Isildur's death.

‘Only to the North did these tidings come, and only to a few. Small wonder is it that you have not heard them, Boromir. From the ruin of the Gladden Fields, where Isildur perished, three men only came ever back overthe mountains after long wandering. One of these was Ohtar, the esquire of Isildur, who bore the shards of the sword of Elendil; and he brought them to Valandil, the heir of Isildur, who being but a child had remained here in Rivendell. But Narsil was broken and its light extinguished, and it has not yet been forged again.

The Lord of the Rings Book Two, Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond
Page 243 (Single volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

  • How did Malbeth know? Well, he was a seer. He wouldn’t really need to know as such, just foresee. Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 21:42
  • @JanusBahsJacquet True, but he knew that the men of Erech had betrayed Isindur. What he foresaw (in the poem) was the Aragorn's arrival at the stone to call the men to fulfill their oath.
    – Blackwood
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 21:45
  • What I mean is that he didn’t actually need to know anything about it at all, necessarily. I don’t think (though I can’t say for sure) there’s any in-depth description available of how foreseeing worked in Middle-Earth, but if his prediction was made in some kind of shamanistic trance, which is common enough for such things, the entire thing could easily have come to him piecemeal, whether he knew about the betrayal or not. Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 21:52

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