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I'm interested in the relationship between the Númenóreans and other Men. Specifically early in the history of Middle-earth.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F; 1. "Of Men":

After the overthrow of the Dark Power, in which Beleriand was for the most part drowned or broken, it was granted as a reward to the Elf-friends that they also, as the Eldar, might pass west over Sea. [...] Most of the Elf-friends, therefore, departed and dwelt in Númenor. [...] These were the Númenóreans, the Kings of Men, whom the elves called the Dúnedain.

[...] Most of the Men of the northern regions of the West-land were descended from the Edain of the First Age, or of their close kin. [...] Of this kind were the peoples of the upper vales of Anduin: the Beornings, and the Woodmen of Western Mirkwood, [...] Men of Long Lake and of Dale. [...] the folk known in Gondor as Rohirrim.

Did the Númenóreans stay separate from the western shore of Middle-earth for a while? Or were they inter-mingling almost immediately after coming to Númenor? Eventually the Númenóreans did build coastal cities along the western shores of Middle-earth. What happened to these after the Fall of Númenor? I thought Elendil (and the Black Númenóreans) were the only ones to escape and carry on the lineage.

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  • There is a story in one of the volumes of History of Middle-earth (I think) concerning the return of the Numenoreans from the point of view of the "wild men" in Middle-earth, but I have never read it. Jan 1, 2016 at 7:36

5 Answers 5

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This is explicitly stated in "The Tale of Years", Appendix B to LoTR:

600: The first ships of the Númenóreans appear off the coasts.

As with your other question, I encourage you to read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, where all this is described in much more detail.

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After reading The Silmarillion, I can answer some of my own questions:

1. When Númenóreans come back to Middle-earth.

From the Akallabêth:

and the Dúnedain came at times to the shores of the Great Lands, and the took pity on the forsaken world of Middle-earth;

for at that time the Númenóreans dwelt never long in Middle-earth, nor made there as yet any habitation of their own.

and:

nor did [Sauron] forget the aid that Tar-Minastir had rendered to Gil-galad of old [who was living in M.E.] in that time when the One Ring was forged and their was war between Sauron and the Elves in Eriador. (SA 1700 according to LotR wiki).

and:

These things took place in the days of Tar-Ciryatan the Shipbuilder [ascended SA 1869], and of Tar-Atanamir his son [died 2221]; and they were proud men, eager for wealth, and they laid the men of Middle-earth under tribute

and:

and after the days of Tar-Ancalimon [died SA 2386] [...] Thus it came to pass that the Númenóreans first made great settlements upon the west shores of the ancient lands; [...] Great harbors and strong towers they made, and there many of them took up their abode.

In all this the Elf-friends had small part. They alone came now ever to the north of the land of Gil-galad, [...] their haven was Pelargir above the mouths of Anduin the Great. But the King [of Númenor]'s Men sailed far away to the south; and the lordships and strongholds that they made have left many rumors in the legends of Men.

2. Regarding other Númenóreans besides the heirs of Elendil:

from "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age":

Therefore many who sailed east in in that time [the sojourn of Sauron SA 3261 - SA 3319] and made fortresses and dwellings upon the coasts were already bent to his will and they served him gladly in Middle-earth. [...] these renegades, lords both mighty and evil, for the most part took up their abodes in the southlands far away

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The Dúnedain sailed to Númenor at the beginning of the Second Age with the aid of the Eldar. They remained there for a long time before they achieved the technical development necessary to make the return voyage. Hence there was a long period of separation.

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    Do you know at what date they arrived back in M.E.?
    – tir38
    Apr 28, 2013 at 18:30
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Prior to the Downfall of Númenor, the Númenórean explorers were first bringers of knowledge, and then later evil colonizers and pillagers

In Tolkien's letter to Milton Waldman (published in Letters of JRR Tolkien and in The Silmarillion), he summarizes two distinct phases of the interactions between the Númenóreans and other Men. (It's actually part of a three-stage outline, but the third stage doesn't concern this.)

In the first stage, being men of peace, their courage is devoted to sea-voyages. As descendants of Eärendil, they became the supreme mariners, and being barred from the West, they sail to the uttermost north, and south, and east. Mostly they come to the west-shores of Middle-earth, where they aid the Elves and Men against Sauron, and incur his undying hatred. In those days they would come amongst Wild Men as almost divine benefactors, bringing gifts of arts and knowledge, and passing away again – leaving many legends behind of kings and gods out of the sunset.

In the second stage, the days of Pride and Glory and grudging of the Ban, they begin to seek wealth rather than bliss. The desire to escape death produced a cult of the dead, and they lavished wealth and art on tombs and memorials. They now made settlements on the west-shores, but these became rather strongholds and ‘factories’ of lords seeking wealth, and the Númenóreans became tax-gatherers carrying off over the sea ever more and more goods in their great ships. The Númenóreans began the forging of arms and engines.
Letter to Milton Waldman

Tolkien doesn't have any good written accounts of boring peaceful interactions during the first stage, but he has two during the second stage that are worth recounting.

The first is from Tolkien's c.1969 essay "The River and Beacon Hills of Gondor", (this part printed in Unfinished Tales), and mentions the native inhabitants of Middle-earth reacting badly to the Númenórean's extreme deforestation action.

The native people were fairly numerous and warlike, but they were forest-dwellers, scattered communities without central leadership. They were in awe of the Númenóreans, but they did not become hostile until the tree-felling became devastating. Then they attacked and ambushed the Númenóreans when they could, and the Númenóreans treated them as enemies, and became ruthless in their fellings, giving no thought to husbandry or replanting.
The River and Beacon Hills of Gondor - "Gwathló"

The second is from Tolkien's unfinished c.1955 story "Tal-Elmar" (published in The Peoples of Middle-earth), and features a native inhabitant of Middle-earth telling his son Tal-Elmar about the dangers of the dreaded Númenóreans.

Three folk we hold as enemies. The wild men of the mountains and the woods; but these only those who stray alone need fear. The Fell Folk of the East; but they are yet far away, and they are my mother's people, though, I doubt not, they would not honour the kinship, if they came here with their swords. And the High Men of the Sea. These indeed we may dread as Death. For Death they worship and slay men cruelly in honour of the Dark. Out of the Sea they came, and if they ever had any land of their own, ere they came to the west-shores, we know not where it may be. Black tales come to us out of the coast-lands, north and south, where they have now long time established their dark fortresses and their tombs. But hither they have not come since my father's days, and then only to raid and catch men and depart. Now this was the manner of their coming. They came in boats, but not such as some of our folk use that dwell nigh the great rivers or the lakes, for ferrying or fishing. Greater than great houses are the ships of the Go-hilleg, and they bear store of men and goods, and yet are wafted by the winds; for the Sea-men spread great cloths like wings to catch the airs, and bind them to tall poles like trees of the forest. Thus they will come to the shore, where there is shelter, or as nigh as they may; and then they will send forth smaller boats laden with goods, and strange things both beautiful and useful such as our folk covet. These they will sell to us for small price, or give as gifts, feigning friendship, and pity for our need; and they will dwell a while, and spy out the land and the numbers of the folk, and then go. And if they do not return, men should be thankful. For if they come again it is in other guise. In greater numbers they come then: two ships or more together, stuffed with men and not goods, and ever one of the accursed ships hath black wings. For that is the Ship of the Dark, and in it they bear away evil booty, captives packed like beasts, the fairest women and children, or young men unblemished, and that is their end. Some say that they are eaten for meat; and others that they are slain with torment on the black stones in the worship of the Dark. Both maybe are true. The foul wings of the Sea-men have not been seen in these waters for many a year; but remembering the shadow of fear in the past I cried out, and cry again: is not our life hard enough without the vision of a black wing upon the shining sea?'
Tal-Elmar

Eventually the Númenóreans do arrive and after some back and forth discussion with them they reveal to Tal-Elmar that their plan was to colonize the land and force everyone off.

'Alas!' they said. 'Your time of dwelling in these hills is come to an end. Here the men of the West have resolved to make their homes, and the folk of the dark must depart - or be slain.'
Tal-Elmar

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  • The "Fell Folk of the East" were most probably Númenóreans too.
    – Eugene
    Apr 26, 2022 at 2:01
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As noted in the comments above, The Unfinished Tales has a section devoted to a thinly-veiled parable of Númenóreans imperialism during the years when their pride began to increase. At first they sailed to the defense of the Elves in the first War of the Ring (the Sack of Eregion), saving Eriador and the coast-lands from Sauron's conquest.

At this time, most of the Men in Middle-earth (including the distant relatives of the Edain) were still wild; this relationship is gone into more detail in the section of Unfinished Tales describing the Drúedain or Wood-Woses, the only indigenous (and non-white) tribe of Men who Tolkien really described. (When asked about this Tolkien basically said he preferred to write what he knows, and not about mythology of other cultures; he had strong emotional ties to Northern European myth.)

Despite this, the UT stories which were written late in Tolkien's life indicate that he had a lot of sympathy for the "wild" or "lesser" Men in Middle-earth, (lesser only in lifespan and their lack of ties to Elves) and the history of the "fall" of Númenor (and Gondor) is basically tied to their obsession with purity and increasing subjugation of "lesser" Men. This only causes their lifespan to decline further of course, since they didn't recognize mortality as a Gift and fought it.

Sometime in the early 2000s S.A. their settlements on Middle-earth went from centers of trade and cultural exchange (teaching wild Edain farming, and such) to resource extraction and colonization. This culminated in the building of great cities for purposes of imperial tribute; Only Pelargir (the original historic capital of what became Gondor) was settled primarily by Elf-Friends. (Elendil's line, which split off from the main line of kings after they rejected use of the Elvish language and took Adûnaic as the sole form of speech.)

It's also worth noting that the greatest of the Edain in the First Age were basically descended from wild men themselves, who had been uplifted by the Elves after choosing to ally with them in a suicidal battle with Morgoth. Morgoth had been worshiped throughout much of Middle-earth in the aftermath of the original Fall of Men. (Not depicted as Tolkien considered it analogous to the Biblical story and he didn't like explicit religious elements.)

Per another answer on this site, Morgoth was so powerful at the time of the War of the Jewels that it took the combined might of the Noldor to weaken him to a point where the Valar might hope to recapture him without devastating much of the fallen World in the process.

So the creation of Númenor was a reward for really any Men who dared to stand up to Morgoth, and the chapter on the Woses indicates it was open to all who did so (including some of the Woses). Their long lifespan was merely a restoration of the Gift of Men as originally intended before the Fall of men when they first awoke in the East (as described in the Athrabeth).

So when the Black Númenóreans returned to Middle-earth, they basically survived because they were expat colonial dictators at the time of the fall of Númenor, ruling their own kingdoms, possibly with their own rings (among the Nine); and given their worship of Morgoth, that's why they had a lot to work with.

Tolkien drops hints here and there that there was resistance to Sauron and Morgoth by Men in other parts of Middle-earth, but that it just wasn't successful. The Enemy held more sway in those areas because they were farther from the Noldor and their allies, and his tales only concerned the northwest of Middle-earth as it was impacted by the Elves.

That's why he didn't feel like continuing the story after the Dominion of Men when "mundane" history began. "Magic" was tied to the presence of Elves from the West; and the long life of the Men of the West was destined to fade as they merged with "lesser" (non-elvish associated) Men. The story of the fall of Númenor indicates that Tolkien didn't necessarily see this as a bad thing, since the Númenóreans who attempted to reverse this and maintain "racial purity" were almost universally Bad Guys (tm).

The Dúnedain who are most loyal to the ideals of their ancestors and have the most ties to Elves tend to be described as "in whom the blood of Númenor was strong" so it's a purity-of-heart thing. Conversely, the Rohirrim are closely related to the house of Hador but are depicted as noble savages compared to the Men of Gondor, akin to the ancient Anglo-Saxons; and the ancient tombs of the Edain on the Barrow-downs are venerated by the Dúnedain but also occupied by (Morgoth worshipping!) evil spirits, which suggests that the relatives of Men who didn't make it to Beleriand were not universally free from the Dark Lord's domination.

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