I recently found out about the war between Arnor and Angmar, and was pretty shocked to learn that the Witch-king basically wiped the floor with the Dúnedain kingdom... I mean he's basically the sole reason Aragorn wanders around like a homeless person.

So with which army did the Witch-king defeat Arnor? Orcs? Men? Sorcery? Did he ever go to battle himself? Did he do this for laughs or by Sauron's orders?

How powerful was the Witch-king at this point, compared to in the Fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King? Were the other Nazgul with him in this war?

And it doesn't even matter to me if all of the eight Nazgul were with him, even if they all had their Rings of Power, and even if they had the largest of armies of Orcs, Men, Elves, Dwarves or even dragons (yes I'm exaggerating at this point), but just how do you defeat a kingdom full of Dúnedain?

We have all seen what Aragorn is capable of doing, so how do you defeat a kingdom worth of Aragorns?

And if it is not much to ask, does anyone know where I can read all about this war and more about the Witch-king? so far all I read about it was from the Internet, wikis, forums and alike, I'd like to read it from the source.

  • 7
    Just because the leaders of a Kingdom are of Numenor blood doesn't mean the whole kingdom is. Gondor's line of kings failed thought the kingdom did not. In Arnor, the line survived though the kingdom fell.
    – Oldcat
    Jun 6, 2014 at 23:13
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    It's also worth noting that "the North" is the traditional home of evil in Middle Earth. It doesn't help a practical understanding of what happened, but in a narrative sense, Arnor was in a substantially "worse neighborhood".
    – Nerrolken
    Apr 27, 2015 at 21:29
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    Other than being slightly long lived, he does not exhibit any skills or power outside of human norm...
    – Jonathon
    Aug 7, 2015 at 4:08
  • @JonathonWisnoski like Batman, in other words...
    – Ber
    May 23, 2016 at 7:58
  • @Ber: Actually, that comparison is more apt than you might have originally intended. Both come from "high class" backgrounds, both lose (contact with, at least, Aragorn being fostered by Elrond) their parents at a young age, both train for decades in order to fight evil (Aragorn is 80 at the beginning of the LOTR, in the books, yay, Numenorian longevity)...
    – sharur
    Apr 28, 2017 at 21:51

2 Answers 2


Keep in mind that in The Fellowship Of The Ring, Gandalf tells Frodo,

On foot even Glorfindel and Aragorn together could not withstand all the Nine at once.

(Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 1)

Αnd Glorfindel is considerably more powerful than Aragorn. Furthermore, Aragorn with the Rohirrim is very nearly defeated by the combined army of Orcs and Men at Helm's Deep; they are saved only by the timely return of Erkenbrand and the intervention of the Huorns.

You can read more about the war itself in Appendix A, in the section "The North-kingdom and the Dunedain".

As far as "The Witch-king and what army?" we're told in that section,

[Angmar] lay on both sides of the [Misty] Mountains, and there were gathered many evil men, and Orcs, and other fell creatures. The lord of that land was known as the Witch-king ... who came north with the purpose of destroying the Dunedain in Arnor, seeing hope in their disunion, while Gondor was strong.

So, I'd say, there was a mix of forces that were used to overwhelm Rhudaur, and Cardolan, and ultimately Arthedain; and the Witch-king did this (as he did everything) to further Sauron's interest, although whether it was at Sauron's direct orders is not specified.

  • Did you actually want to say "Rhudaur, and then Cardolan, and ultimately Arthedain"?
    – Spencer
    Feb 19, 2017 at 15:59
  • Good catch, thanks. Feb 19, 2017 at 16:30

Arnor split into the three separate kingdoms of Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur in TA 861. The Witch King founded Angmar around 1300, and picked off the three kingdoms one by one. By 1356 he had all but subjugated Rhudaur, which had few Dunedain and was nearest to Angmar. In 1409 'a great host' issued from Angmar and destroyed Cardolan. In 1974 the Witch King himself led another attack in which Arthedain was destroyed. It's also worth noting that the expeditionary force which smashed the Witch King's army was fairly 'small' by Gondor's standards.

So, there weren't that many Dunedain in the North, and they were disunited. The Witch King could call on subtantial numbers of orcs and hillmen. He may also have had support from the orcs of the Misty Mountains; the distance from Angmar to Mount Gundabad is not great.

(Sources are LOTR appendices A & B.)

EDIT (In response to M. A. Golding's comment)

Regarding the last sentence, there is evidence that the Orcs of the Misty Mountains existed long before the Witch King appeared in Angmar in The Disaster of the Gladden Fields (Unfinished Tales).

The Orcs of the Mountains were stiffened and commanded by grim servants of Barad-Dur.

This to me seems reminiscent of Ugluk leading a band that included mountain orcs in the Two Towers (The Uruk Hai). In addition, the Tale of Years contains the following entry for TA1300:

... Orcs increase in the Misty Mountains and attack the dwarves. The Nazgul reappear.

Here, 'increase' is crucial, because it shows that the orcs were present in the mountains before the Nazgul reappeared.

We can be sure that the Orcs of the Misty Mountains existed before Angmar was founded, and the suggestion that they may have supported the Witch King stands. He may have exerted more control over them than Sauron later did in the War of the Ring, given that Carn Dum was closer to their strongholds than Barad-Dur. However, I can find no mention of Mount Gundabad that predates the War of the Dwarves and Orcs (TA2793-99; see LotR III, appendix A). It does appear that Angmar extended further south than Gundabad on the east side of the mountains.

... when therefore they [the Eotheod] heard of the overthrow of the Witch-king, they sought more room in the North, and drove away the remnants of the people of Angmar on the east side of the Mountains.

LotR III, appendix A, The House of Eorl.

The location of the land to which the Eotheod moved is given in Cirion and Eorl part (ii), The Ride of Eorl (Unfinished Tales).

The new land of the Eotheod lay north of Mirkwood, between the Misty Mountains westward and the Forest River eastward.

However, the status of Mount Gundabad during the time of the North Kingdom, and its relation to Angmar, appear to be unknown.

  • 1
    +1 for the details, which I kind of slid past in my answer :-) Jun 7, 2014 at 13:41
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    Ian Thompson - according to the maps, mount Gundabad, the capital of the orcs of the Misty Mountains in Bilbo's day, may have been part of or at least surrounded by, Angmar, which "lay on both sides of the Mountains". The distance from Angmar to Mount Gundabad looks like zero. Apr 22, 2015 at 4:18
  • @M.A.Golding --- Interesting point. I finally had time to look at this properly tonight. See edited answer. Apr 27, 2015 at 21:13

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