At the end of the Second Age, the Númenórean king Ar-Pharazôn built a huge fleet with the intention of invading Valinor and taking immortality by force. They sailed West until they successfully landed in the Undying Lands, at which point the Valar (according to the LotR Wiki) immediately "laid down their guardianship of the world and called upon Eru" for aid.

Now, putting aside the question of whether immortality could in fact even be taken by force (if anyone has any information on that please share, but I'm assuming a certain mythological suspension of disbelief there, akin to Pandora keeping "hope" in a box), are we supposed to believe that the Númenóreans seriously built a fleet strong enough to essentially conquer heaven?

I know the Valar may or may not be gods, but they are undoubtedly beings of incredible power. Plus, you know, there are a bunch of them. Was the host of Men truly powerful enough that the Valar gave up their custody of the entire world and appealed to the greatest source of power in the cosmos, before even meeting them in battle?

Or was there another reason that Eru was called upon, aside from the overwhelming might of Ar-Pharazôn's force?

  • 5
    Same reason you call an exterminator - dealing with mice/roaches is eeeeeeky! Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 1:26
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    It is possible that just the simple act of going to war/killing in that holy land itself would of been considered in incredibly bad form. So it would not matter how powerful the godlike being were.
    – Jonathon
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 3:27
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    @JonathonWisnoski I thought the Valar were not willing to harm Children of Iluvatar, so they called on Eru because they weren't sure what to do.
    – Demarini
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 13:22
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    Wait, they sailed east? Shouldn't they have sailed west if they wanted to get to Valinor? Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 4:54
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    "And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron."
    – Misha R
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 21:10

6 Answers 6


The answer is yes, the host of Men was truly powerful enough that the Valar gave up their custody of the entire world and appealed to Eru.

Faced by this rebellion, of appalling folly and blasphemy, and also real peril (since the Númenóreans directed by Sauron could have wrought ruin in Valinor itself), the Valar lay down their delegated power and appeal to God [...]

(From Tolkien's letter in 1951 to Milton Waldman.)

Especially interesting to note is that Sauron did not actually go with the Númenóreans to Valinor — he was sitting in Númenor when Eru sank it. At any rate, "real peril" does not necessarily mean that the Númenóreans could have actually conquered Aman — "wrought ruin" is not terribly specific.

At the same time, as discussed throughout The Silmarillion and HoME, the Númenóreans would not have actually gained immortality by landing in Valinor without Eru's intervention. Ironically, those who did set foot in Aman did gain a kind of immortality: they sleep in the Caves of the Forgotten until the Day of Doom and the Last Battle.


It is explicitly stated that the Valar 'laid down their lordship' and basically asked Eru to deal with the problem of the Númenórean invasion for them. Generally I think it was because they did not want to directly kill humans or indeed any child of Ilúvatar by their own hands. It was basically a problem with too many ramifications.

To an extent they also saw it as a problem they themselves had caused; they had evacuated the Edain from Beleriand to The Isle of The Gift before Beleriand totally crumbled into the sea. They had brought Man to within literal sight of Valinor, but also denied it to him. They could not entirely blame Ar-Pharazôn, despite his corruption by Sauron for the results. Therefore they basically asked Eru for help — which he gave on a scale it would have been hard with the Valar to do themselves and with repercussions they would have found hard to 'live with'. Also, they just didn't want to make matter worse as they could not see the totality of all time, whereas Eru of course could.

Also, think about what Eru actually did. The previously flat Earth was made round in a moment and the huge — probably multi-million strong — amphibious force of Númenóreans were buried beneath a gigantic landslide from the Pelori. Moreover Númenor itself was of course cast in to an abyss and drowned beneath that water during the geologic upheaval. All in all an awful lot of dead humans and the entire planet changed totally. Perhaps not actually beyond the Valar's combined power, but something they did not want responsibility for — something they did not want to get 'wrong'.

  • Note also that this enormous upheaval in the middle of the ocean where the Earth was made round and a small continent sunk passed without much effect on Middle-Earth. There should have been the Mother of all Tidal Waves, at least. The Valar probably could not have done that -- their interventions tended towards widespread destruction. Divine intervention was needed!
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 20:53
  • @MarkOlson Large waves on the shore of Middle-Earth did occur after the Downfall. Perhaps not as large as they could have been, though.
    – Nolimon
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:08
  • "And all the coasts and seaward regions of the western world suffered great change and ruin in that time; for the seas invaded the lands, and shores foundered, and ancient isles were drowned, and new isles were uplifted; and hills crumbled and rivers were turned into strange courses." - Akallabeth "They were mighty men and their ships were strong and tall, but the tempests overtook them, and they were borne aloft on hills of water even to the clouds, and they descended on Middle-earth like birds of the storm." - Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.
    – Nolimon
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 23:54
  • @Nolimon Fair enough -- I'd forgotten that.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 0:14
  • @MarkOlson the ships containing Elendil, Isildur, Anárion, and the rest of the Faithful were carried far inland. It doesn't explain how places like Lindon and the Grey Havens survived, however....
    – Spencer
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 14:51

Adding onto Shamshiel's answer, Tolkien discusses this in more detail in a letter to family friend Robert Murray, who proofread several drafts of The Lord of the Rings (emphasis mine):

[Sauron] finally induces Arpharazôn, frightened by the approach of old age, to make the greatest of all armadas, and go up with war against the Blessed Realm itself, and wrest it and its 'immortality' into his own hands.

The Valar had no real answer to this monstrous rebellion — for the Children of God were not under their ultimate jurisdiction: they were not allowed to destroy them, or coerce them with any 'divine' display of the powers they held over the physical world. They appealed to God; and a catastrophic 'change of plan' occurred.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 156: To Robert Murray, SJ. (draft). November 1954

Tolkien's answer is that the Valar were limited in how they could respond, because they were limited in the ways they could influence Men or Elves.

They almost certainly could, by which I mean "they had the power to", have stopped the invading Númenóreans, either through martial might - it only took the assembled hosts of the Elves and Maiar to take down Morgoth, and Ar-Pharazôn isn't nearly that powerful - or simply use their mighty impressive magic to scare them off. However, they did not have the right to use that power; the Law of Eru prevented them from taking that sort of action. Their only possible response, then (since they're unwilling to surrender Aman) is to call on Eru for assistance.


Reasons I could see:

  1. A war with the Númenóreans in Aman would have laid waste to the land, and killed many of the peaceful Elves living there. And the Ainur using their physical power is something really destructive for lands, as we know from the fate of Beleriand. That said, I doubt the Valar and Maiar themselves would have suffered much from such a war, being immortals... there is no doubt that Sauron was really aware of that fact, like pointed out by Ulmo in his answer.

  2. Since the music of the Ainur, the Valar knew it was not their task to deal the children of Ilúvatar, and especially mankind, as we can see in their reluctance to intervene in Middle-earth after the coming of the Elves to Aman. And contrary to the Elves, Man wasn't created from the singing of the Ainur, but was the sole creation of Ilúvatar, and the Valar didn't know or understand much about them from the music. So it is logical that they would have great reluctance to destroy the Númenóreans themselves. Being in doubt, they turned to Ilúvatar.

  3. At the same time as he destroyed the Númenórean fleet and the island of Númenor, Ilúvatar changed the ways of the world in a fashion that the Valar could not ("But Ilúvatar showed forth his power and he changed the fashion of the world"), making Aman unreachable forever. Maybe that was also a doom Manwë knew from the music.


No they could not defeat the Valar. Sauron's plan was to convince the king that he could and should defeat the Valar. Sauron knew what the Númenórean forces looked like, and he would not have continued with his plan if he thought Men could beat the Valar. The entire point was for the Valar to destroy them. This is another example of why Sauron is called the deceiver.

As for why they called upon Ilúvatar, I don't know, maybe they were sick of dealing with all the problems started by Melkor, but either way, calling upon Ilúvatar to deal with the situation does not imply that they could not do so themselves. I know this doesn't exactly answer the question as to why they called, but I don't think there is an answer to that. I just really don't think that their reliance on Ilúvatar is evidence of their inability to deal with it. And I think we can trust that Sauron, who witnessed the wrath of the Valar at the end of the First Age, had a pretty good idea of what they could handle.

Edit: I've realized now why the Valar did not attack the invading Númenórean forces, but instead called upon Ilúvatar. Their reason for doing so is because they were not able see the complete vision of the creation and future of Arda in Ainulindalë. The Valar did not understand the purposes and intentions of Ilúvatar, specifically regarding his so-called children. They were terrified of what Ilúvatar's reaction would be if they were found to have his children's blood on their hands. That is exactly the same reason why they simply let Fëanor pass freely through their gates and leave to Middle-earth without charge.

  • Interesting notion, but why would Sauron want the Valar to destroy his most powerful allies?
    – Shisa
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 7:18
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    They were not his allies. Sauron hated them. Sauron claimed title to lord of men anr this angered the king of Numenor when king AL pharazon took his navy to middle earth he went to claim kingship over sauron. Sauron saw the majesty of the Numenoreans and came willingly to the king. Sauron's plan to destroy the king and his people was to convince the king that he would be immortal if he took the land of the Valar. Sauron is said to have laughed when he heard the war drums and horns of the Numenoreans when they reached the blessed realm
    – a_a
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 7:58
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    @Shisa - the following from the Akallabeth supports this answer: "It was greater far than aught he had looked for, hoping only for the death of the Númenóreans and the defeat of their proud king".
    – user8719
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 11:55

JRR Tolkien in his letter to Milton 1951, wrote that the Valar after appealing to God receive the power and permission to deal with the situation and to break and change the geography of the old world.

It appears that the Valar simply don't have enough power and certainly no permission to harm the men of Númenor even if they have enough power. I believe they are very willing to destroy men to protect themselves and their realm if only they have enough power and authority to do so. And so they appeal to Eru to receive them. Eru grants their appeal. It was not Eru who destroyed the Númenóreans and Númenor but the Valar.

The Valar are not all-powerful beings. Their powers are limited and few of them are warriors. Their host are the Maiar and the Elves (Vanyar of Inge, and the Noldor of the House of Finarfin who stayed in Valinor and the Teleri).

They are unprepared for this battle as the Númenóreans came with a great and mighty force with the intent to war. JRR calls it a "real peril". It means the Númenóreans have the power to defeat the host of the Valar or to inflict catastrophic damage in Valinor.

The might and power of the Númenóreans were probably so great and awesome and terrifying to the Valar that they need to effect a great geological upheaval to stop them instead of employing the conventional method of war. In the War of Wrath they did not find it necessary to sink Angband to the sea as they thought they can deal with Morgoth's forces by conventional means, but not when it comes to dealing with the giant Númenóreans. Even Sauron with his minions was so terrified and overwhelmed by their might and sight that he surrendered to them without a fight.

They find it necessary to remove Aman from the surface of Arda and make the world round. They see that in the future men still desiring immortality will greatly increase in number and become the dominant race in Middle-earth capable of raising great armies to invade Aman.

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