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Rethinking Umbar

Copyright Chris Seeman ©2003

Edited by Joe Mandala for The Guild Companion

Editor's Note: Chris Seeman is the creator of Other Hands, a magazine dedicated to gaming in Middle-earth, which is referenced in this essay, and which can be found at

In his index to Unfinished Tales, Christopher Tolkien glosses Umbar as "Great natural haven and fortress of the Númenóreans south of the Bay of Belfalas; held for most of the Third Age by men of diverse origin hostile to Gondor, known as the Corsairs of Umbar (UT.469)." His characterization of the origin of the Corsairs as "diverse" stems not merely from the need for brevity, but reflects an ambiguity that pervades his father's references to Umbar in The Lord of the Rings.
The problem can be summarized as follows: at the time of the War of the Ring, the Corsairs of Umbar were Haradrim (TT.267-268; RotK.152). Yet in the Appendices, we learn that Umbar was originally a Númenórean haven (RotK.325). Then that its association with piracy began because of its seizure by Gondorian rebels (RotK.327) who led the Corsairs until their extermination at the hands of a later Gondorian king in 1810, after which time Umbar was again a fortress of Gondor for an unspecified period (RotK.328). This raises the question: at what point did the Corsairs of Umbar become Haradrim as distinct from Dúnedain?
The problem is an important one for GMs, because the solution arrived at must naturally determine how Umbar is portrayed, culturally and demographically, at the period in which a campaign is set. It also has a bearing on the overall interpretation and creative elaboration of Umbar's history by game designers. The path chosen by the authors of the MERP modules, beginning with Brenda Gates Spielman's now much sought-after 1982 Umbar: Haven of the Corsairs, has been to emphasize the Dúnadan, rather than the Southron, side of the equation.
Two factors have influenced this decision. The first is the chosen time setting for the MERP series: the 1600s, the period during which the Dúnadan aspects of the conflict between Gondor and Umbar are most prominent in Tolkien's dramatic scheme. The second factor is more subjective, but equally determinative: Tolkien's own lack of clarity concerning ethnographic issues resulting from the highly compressed, annalistic style of the Appendices.
Dutifully sifting the bare text for clues, the MERP authors (myself included) have labored over the past two decades to tease out of those dry pages an exciting saga that is both realistic and congruent with Tolkien's vision. However, with the publication late in 1996 of The Peoples of Middle-earth, the final volume in the History of Middle-earth series, new evidence was made available which demanded the abandonment of much of the sub-creative edifice we had built up. Unfortunately, by that point the Southern Gondor modules (with their sustained application of that edifice) had already been published.
An opportunity had been missed. Now that the MERP series has been discontinued, though, and pressure to conform to the "ICE canon" for the sake of continuity is less imperative, the time is ripe to re-open the question of Umbar's ethnic makeup, giving full weight to the new information in PoMe. I hasten to add that the aim of this essay is not to "accommodate" the MERP version of Umbar to PoMe, salvaging what can be salvaged and jettisoning the rest. Rather, my goal is to lay out as clearly as possible what factors and considerations motivated Tolkien to depict Umbar as he did (similar to the approach I adopted in my expositions on Tolkien's conception of the Dunlendings in OH 24 or undead in OH 26).

The identity of Umbar is first introduced to readers of LotR by Damrod, a ranger of Faramir's Ithilien company. Speaking to Frodo of their impending ambush of the Men of Harad, he remarks:

''Tis said that there were dealings of old between Gondor and the kingdoms of the Harad in the Far South; though there was never friendship. In those days our bounds were away south beyond the mouths of Anduin, and Umbar, the nearest of their realms, acknowledged our sway. But that is long since. 'Tis many lives of Men since any passed to or fro between us. Now of late we have learned that the Enemy has been among them, and they are gone over to Him, or back to Him - they were ever ready to His will - as have so many also in the East.' (TT.267-268)

There are chronological problems in relating Damrod's account to the Tale of Years in Appendix B (stemming, perhaps, from a common soldier's imperfect knowledge of events that lay millennia in the past, or from a failure on Tolkien's part to integrate the text of LotR with the Appendices, which were written later). However, one point is clear, and is consistent with the portrayal of the Corsairs in RotK: Umbar is a realm of the Haradrim; no Númenórean or even Kin-strife pre-history is imagined for it.
The Dúnadan connection emerged in the course of writing LotR, a process now revealed in detail by the later History of Middle-earth volumes. As the sequel to The Hobbit evolved, it became "attracted" to Tolkien's larger legendarium, in particular to the story of Númenor's downfall. Eventually, Umbar became the setting for Ar-Pharazôn's subjugation of Sauron, and so it became drawn into the history of the Second Age and the colonial legacy of Númenor. It is this development that lies behind Tolkien's first mention of Umbar in "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion:"

The great cape and land-locked firth of Umbar had been Númenorean land since days of old; but it was a stronghold of the King's Men, who were afterwards called the Black Númenoreans, corrupted by Sauron, and who hated above all the followers of Elendil. After the fall of Sauron their race swiftly dwindled or became merged with the Men of Middle-earth, but they inherited without lessening their hatred of Gondor. Umbar, therefore, was only taken at great cost. (RotK.325)

The context of this explanatory note is King Eärnil I's capture and occupation of Umbar as "a great harbour and fortress of the power of Gondor (RotK.325; cf. 366)," and during the reign of his successor, Ciryandil, we are told that "the Men of the Harad, led by the lords that had been driven from Umbar, came up with great power against that stronghold (RotK.325; cf. 366)." Not pre-supposing any ulterior axe-grinding for the depiction of Umbar in these passages, it would seem that this was Tolkien's straightforward answer to the question of when the Númenórean haven had "gone native;" that is to say, by the 900s of the Third Age.
But what might "going native" mean in this particular historical setting? Genetically at least, the Black Númenóreans seem to have become indistinguishable from the Haradrim. Then what of culturally and linguistically? Did they still think of themselves as "King's Men?" Did they preserve Adûnaic as their native tongue? Did they maintain their distinctive mode of worship, fueled by the Númenórean longing for immortality, or did they adopt religious traditions practiced by the Southrons? Was the process of "merging" with the Men of Harad a peaceful one, or was it an expression of the latter's ascendancy over the former?
Unfortunately, Tolkien makes no attempt to answer any of these questions. They simply did not interest him (or he had not yet given pause to consider them - it is not as though he did not have a zillion other issues to deal with in respect of his mythology). Some informed speculation is possible, however, based on other information Tolkien gives us. It is to this that I now turn.
A critical passage for any discussion of the fate of the King's Men after the Downfall of Númenor appears in "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age." In his account of Sauron's preparations for the destruction of the fledgling realms of the Elendili, Tolkien writes:

And Sauron gathered to him great strength of his servants out of the east and the south; and among them were not a few of the high race of Númenor. For in the days of the sojourn of Sauron in that land the hearts of well nigh all its people had been turned towards darkness. Therefore many of those who sailed east in that time and made fortresses and dwellings upon the coasts were already bent to his will, and they served him still gladly in Middle-earth. But because of the power of Gil-galad these renegades, lords both mighty and evil, for the most part took up their abodes in the Southlands far away; yet two there were, Herumor and Fuinur, who rose to power among the Haradrim, a great and cruel people that dwelt in the wide lands south of Mordor beyond the mouths of Anduin. (Sil.293)

This tells us a number of things. First, that the Melkorian "project" persisted among Númenóreans even after the cataclysm that destroyed their homeland. How this reversal was rationalized is not known to us, but presumably Sauron's survival of the ordeal played some role in preserving the credibility of his lies. In any case, the overall tone of the passage suggests continuity in the pre and post-Downfall worldview of the King's Men.
More interesting is the rise to power of Fuinur and Herumor among the Haradrim, because the emergence of the cult of Melkor in Númenor had ushered in a degeneration in Númenórean relations with the Men of Middle-earth:

And they sailed now with power and armoury to Middle-earth, and they came no longer as bringers of gifts, nor even as rulers, but as fierce men of war. And they hunted the men of Middle-earth and took their goods and enslaved them, and many they slew cruelly upon their altars. For they built in their fortresses temples and great tombs in those days; and men feared them, and the memory of the kindly kings of the ancient days faded from the world and was darkened by many a tale of dread. (Sil.274)

In light of this, how plausible is it that the Haradrim would accept Black Númenórean leaders? Perhaps Fuinur and Herumor simply held superior military strength and succeeded in suppressing resistance. However, there is no hint of this in the passage; indeed, the context implies that both parties shared something in common: allegiance to Sauron. This brings us back to the "Akallabêth," which makes a distinction between the coastal peoples who "shook off the yoke of the offspring of Morgoth (Sil.263)" and those who remained beholden to the Dark. These latter formed the bulk of Sauron's armies which he used to attack the Númenóreans, and by their proximity to Mordor and Tolkien's description of them as a "cruel" people, it may be assumed that the Haradrim had been "ever ready to His will." Since they too served Sauron, and so long as their master held the favor of the Númenórean king, they were probably exempt from the depredations of the King's Men. They were allies and co-religionists, not foes. (See my Excursus on the religion of the Haradrim on p. x.)
Read in this way, the "merging" of Southron and Black Númenórean in the millennium after Sauron's fall is perhaps not so surprising. To be sure, the inherent pride of the King's Men may have disposed them to view intermarriage with "Lesser Men" - even allies - as undesirable (and perhaps those who strove to keep their blood "pure" fell victim to the "dwindling" Tolkien speaks of); but nine centuries is a long time, and with the passage of generations attitudes may have changed, whether freely or out of necessity.
If this interpretation is correct, that the absorption of Númenórean Umbar by the Haradrim was by and large a peaceful process based upon common religious (and, when Sauron was around, political) loyalties, the cultural and linguistic dimensions of the exchange were probably also mutual rather than one-sided, though the numerical superiority of the Haradrim would doubtless privilege that side of the equation in certain respects. In any event, by the end of the first millennium, relations between haven and hinterland were obviously good, since the Haradrim allowed themselves to be led by "the lords that had been driven from Umbar." Whether this cooperation implies that the lords of Umbar ruled the Haradrim as a matter of course, or whether it was an alliance between equals, is less clear.
The fact that these lords were driven from Umbar implies that they survived its capture by Gondor for at least a century,1 and probably as late as 1050, when Ciryaher "utterly defeated the Men of the Harad, and their kings were compelled to acknowledge the overlordship of Gondor (RotK.325)." In any case, regardless of whether they lived or died, they were not restored to their former position in Umbar, "which became a great harbour and fortress of the power of Gondor." A more pertinent question to ask is whether by "lords" Tolkien means "all the inhabitants of Umbar" (understanding Umbar to be the seat of lordship over the Haradrim beyond its walls) or merely its leaders. In the latter case, Umbar might well continue to hold a Southron populace under Gondorian rule. The relative plausibility of these alternative scenarios turns on how extensive a site we think the haven was at this time - was it a full-fledged city, or just a strong point from which to rule a largely rural population?
Tolkien offers no clues. He does, however, provide some important details about what was at stake territorially. In "The Heirs of Elendil," the precursor to the published annals in Appendix A, Tolkien writes that the Men of Harad "contested the designs of Gondor to occupy the coast-lands beyond R. Harnen; they therefore tried to take Umbar, where Gondor maintained a great fort and haven (HoMe XII.197)." It was this region which Ciryaher won in 1050: "Gondor occupied all the land south of the Mouths of Anduin up to the River Harnen and the borders of Near Harad; and also all the coast-lands as far as Umbar (HoMe XII.198)."2 Whether the Haradrim contested this region because they lived there or because they wanted to keep Gondor away from "Near Harad" is unclear.
A potentially significant event that may relate to the Gondorian capture of Umbar - its precise date is unknown; I favor 10503 - is the erection by "the followers of Elendil" of a monument commemorating Ar-Pharazôn's defeat of Sauron. This is not alluded to until much later in the history of the Third Age, following Umbar's capture by the sons of Castamir:

The loss of Umbar was grievous to Gondor, not only because the realm was diminished in the south and its hold upon the Men of the Harad was loosened, but because it was there that Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, last King of Númenor, had landed and humbled the might of Sauron. Though great evil had come after, even the followers of Elendil remembered with pride the coming of the great host of Ar-Pharazôn out of the deeps of the Sea; and on the highest hill of the headland above the Haven they had set a great white pillar as a monument. It was crowned with a globe of crystal that took the rays of the Sun and of the Moon and shone like a bright star that could be seen in clear weather even on the coasts of Gondor or far out upon the western sea. So it stood, until after the second arising of Sauron, which now approached, Umbar fell under the domination of his servants, and the memorial of his humiliation was thrown down. (RotK.327-328)

We do not know when this monument was raised, but it is tempting to see it as indicative of Gondorian perceptions of Umbar's defenders. In other words, the defeat of the lords of Umbar and their Haradrim allies stood, in Gondorian minds, in continuity with Ar-Pharazôn's humiliation of Sauron, perhaps an oblique confirmation that even a thousand years after the Downfall of Númenor the Haradrified descendants of the King's Men still aligned themselves with the worship of the Dark. (See Excursus.) The latter-day Haradrim who recaptured Umbar certainly read the pillar's symbolic significance in this way, and acted accordingly.
The next we hear of Umbar comes from the era of the Kin-strife, where we are told that Castamir, the usurper-to-be, "had the greatest following of all the rebels; for he was the Captain of Ships, and was supported by the people of the coasts and of the great havens of Pelargir and Umbar (RotK.327)." Here, as elsewhere, the ethnic composition of Castamir's Umbarean and coastal supporters remains opaque.4 Because Castamir dethroned the Gondorian heir-apparent on the basis of the latter's impure blood, it is often assumed that he and/or his supporters were proto-fascists who held a King's Man-like disdain for "Lesser Men" per se, and indeed we are told that "the high men of Gondor already looked askance at the Northmen among them; and it was a thing unheard of before that the heir of the crown, or any son of the King, should wed one of lesser or alien race (RotK.326)."
However, there are two distinct issues involved here: the appropriateness of diluting the blood of the ruling house, and the emerging prominence of Northmen in Gondorian society, particularly within the military (RotK.326). To be sure, these are fertile circumstances for the growth of racial prejudice. But Northmen were relative newcomers to Gondorian society, whereas the Haradrim had been an integral (and, apparently, non-disruptive) part of Gondor's imperium for the past four centuries.5
We are also told that Castamir "proved himself haughty and ungenerous" and that he was a "cruel man" (RotK.327), but the examples Tolkien cites all have to do with Castamir's treatment of his enemies, not his supporters:

He caused Ornendil son of Eldacar, who was captured, to be put to death; and the slaughter and destruction done in the city as his bidding far exceeded the needs of war. This was remembered in Minas Anor and in Ithilien; and there love for Castamir was further lessened when it became seen that he cared little for the land, and thought only of the fleets, and purposed to remove the king's seat to Pelargir. (RotK.327)

Positively stated, Castamir used his power to benefit "the people of the coasts and of the great havens of Pelargir and Umbar." But were these people (excluding those of Pelargir) only Dúnedain, or did they include the Haradrim? There is no way to prove either option, since we do not know what kind of demography Tolkien imagined for Umbar or its coastal hinterland (particularly whether the coasts were distinct from, or part of, Near Harad).
However, the outcome of the Kin-strife is telling: on two separate occasions (1540 and 1551), Umbar was found in alliance with the Haradrim against Gondor (RotK.367; cf. HoMe XII.199). Such cooperation is unlikely if Castamir or his followers had set a precedent of indiscriminately denigrating Southrons during his reign.
This observation is borne out by the key text pertaining to the Haradrification of Umbar. In the entry for the reign of Minardil (1621-1634) in the "Heirs of Elendil," Tolkien states:

The rebels of Umbar had never ceased to make war on Gondor since the death of Kastamir, attacking its ships and raiding its coast at every opportunity. They had, however, become much mixed in blood through admission of Men of Harad, and only their chieftains, descendants of Kastamir, were of Númenórean race. (HoMe XII.199-200)

An earlier draft of the same passage reads:

The sons of Kastamir and others of his kin, having fled from Gondor in 1447, set up a small kingdom in Umbar, and there made a fortified haven. They never ceased to make war upon Gondor, attacking its ships and coasts when they had opportunity. But they married women of the Harad and had in three generations lost most of their Númenórean blood; but they did not forget their feud with the house of Eldakar. (HoMe XII.214)6

To play devil's advocate, it must be conceded that this statement refers to the situation in Umbar two hundred years after its occupation by Castamir's followers (attitudes may have changed over time). Yet even so, the "admission" of the Haradrim into the fellowship of the rebels may be read in continuity with the positive support given Castamir by the people of these regions prior to his seizure of Gondor.
For their part, the Haradrim were surely under no compulsion to intermarry with Gondorian rebels; the fact that they did so indicates that they regarded the presence of the confederates as beneficial to themselves. More importantly, this situation shows that by 1448 (and probably much earlier), some Haradrim had sufficiently accommodated themselves to Gondorian hegemony and had given up (at least for the moment) their ancestors' commitment to the Dark, treating the Gondorians as friends rather than taking advantage of their vulnerability as exiles.
Apparently, the Haradrim preferred alliance with Umbar to submission to Gondor. Undoubtedly, the Haradrim also were attracted to the prospect of plunder, and the piratical activity of the rebels provided an excellent opportunity for economic and social mobility. Nevertheless, there is no indication that they ever attempted to usurp the leadership of Castamir's family. None of this would be plausible if the confederates or the royal family had been guided by a policy of indiscriminant denigration towards other races.
It seems, then, that the birth and expansion of Corsairy was the social dynamic that propelled the reversion of Umbar into a largely Southron realm. Its Dúnadan ruling house continued to direct the business of war until 1810, when King Telumehtar of Gondor "retakes Umbar and drives out the Corsairs (RotK.367):"

In that war the last descendants of Castamir perished, and Umbar was again held for a while by the kings7...But in the new evils that soon befell Gondor Umbar was again lost, and fell into the hands of the Men of the Harad. (RotK.328)

The latter half of this statement appears to coordinate with Tolkien's account of the demolition of Ar-Pharazôn's pillar: "So it stood, until after the second arising of Sauron, which now approached, Umbar fell under the domination of his servants, and the memorial of his humiliation was thrown down (RotK.328)." At some point, therefore, the Haradrim reverted to their ancient identification with the cause of Sauron. When this took place is not specified. By the time of the Second Wainrider War (1944), Sauron was actively promoting unity among the enemies of Gondor:

What is here said was deduced from the events long afterwards by historians, to whom it was also clear that the hatred of Gondor, and the alliance of its enemies in concerted action (for which they themselves had neither the will nor the wisdom) was due to the machinations of Sauron. (UT.291)

In Appendix A, Tolkien writes that "Many of the Wainriders now passed south of Mordor and made alliance with men of Khand and of Near Harad (RotK.329)," so it is quite possible that this was the intended setting for Umbar's re-capture by the Haradrim. In this version of events, however, the Faithful are made aware of the coordination of their enemies prior to the Wainrider invasion:

It was in the reign of Araphant in the North and Ondoher son of Calimehtar in the South that the two kingdoms again took counsel together after long silence and estrangement. For at last they perceived that some single power and will was directing the assault from many quarters upon the survivors of Númenor. It was at that time that Arvedui heir of Araphant wedded Fóriel daughter of Ondoher (1940). (RotK.329; cf. 367)

In 1940, however, threats to the Realms-in-Exile in recent memory had come from only two directions: Angmar and Rhûn. In order for the assault to come "from many quarters" there must have been at least one further threat. Since, in that year, "little or nothing" was as yet known in Gondor about the impending union of the Wainriders with the Variags and Haradrim (UT.291), the only alternative is to assume that it was the Southron capture of Umbar that provoked the realization that "some single power and will" was militating against the Elendili.
This hypothesis is strengthened by the circumstances attending Umbar's recapture: the destruction of the memorial of Sauron's humiliation. As I have already suggested, this advertised a striking reversion to pre-Kin-strife attitudes among the Haradrim, and its import could hardly have been lost on Ondoher and Araphant.
It is unlikely that the Haradrim simply woke up one morning and decided to become Sauron-worshippers again, because that element is unnecessary for accounting for their desire to retake Umbar. After 1810, Gondor would have taken stringent measures to eradicate piracy, which over the past centuries had become a lucrative source of Southron power. Therefore, an attempt to reoccupy Umbar for that purpose would have required no prompting by Sauron.
It is much more probable that Sauron was already "machinating" the groundwork for the Second Wainrider War, and sent emissaries among the Haradrim to resuscitate their ancient worship. How and when this "missionary activity" began cannot be determined, but it probably did not take place overnight. It may be that the entry of the Ringwraiths into Mordor in 1856 laid the groundwork for it (RotK.329). This would give Sauron's agents a good half-century to cultivate "the old ways."
Attempts to transform cultural attitudes, even if the Haradrim were "ever ready to His will," would most likely produce conflict within Southron society. In this connection it may be noted (though I personally doubt that Tolkien had pondered the matter sufficiently to consider a causal link between the two events) that the "Cirion and Eorl" version of Telumehtar's capture of Umbar mentions that "the peoples of Harad were at this period engaged in wars and feuds of their own (UT.312)."
To summarize: 1940 is the most probable date for the loss of Umbar to Sauron-worshipping Haradrim. The reversion to that worship was consciously promoted by Sauron's servants, either following the Ringwraiths' arrival in Mordor in 1856 or already by the time of Telumehtar's capture of Umbar in 1810.

In conclusion, the new evidence provided by the publication of PoMe gives us a clear and unambiguous answer to the question with which we began: when did Umbar become a Southron realm? The answer is three-fold: 1) the ancient Númenórean haven had "gone native" by the time of its capture by Eärnil I in 933; 2) between 1448 and the early 1600s, all of the Corsairs except for Castamir's immediate family had intermarried with the Haradrim; 3) in 1940 Umbar fell to Southrons whose worship of Sauron was based upon their own ancestral "pre-Númenórean" heritage, rather than on the Númenórean cult of Melkor (which would have valorized rather than outright destroyed Ar-Pharazôn's monument).
By now, the implications of these conclusions for the depiction of Umbar in the 1640s should be obvious. During the time period in which the MERP modules are set, Umbar is already largely a "Southron" city. Political and economic influence in this society would not be held by an exclusive Dúnadan caste, but would be won rather by strategic marriage alliance and power sharing with key families among the Haradrim.
Finally (and perhaps more controversially) it is unlikely that Sauron at this stage would be actively seeking to subvert the Corsairs to his worship, since it is precisely the compatibility of Southron attitudes with confederate sensibilities that makes Umbar a threat to Gondor. Likewise, the hope cherished by Castamir's descendants of reclaiming Gondor from the house of Eldacar will be kept alive only so long as they retain certain qualifications for ruling a realm of the Faithful: pure blood and a renunciation of the Dark. Since Sauron has still to wait more than a thousand years before openly revealing himself, there would be no point in risking detection of his machinations where the parties involved are quite capable to doing his work for him without any assistance from him.

Excursus: The Religion of the Haradrim

That the Haradrim, like all "Men of Darkness," worshipped Sauron is stated in "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age." During the mid-Second Age,

In the east and south well nigh all Men were under his dominion, and they grew strong in those days and built many towns and walls of stone, and they were numerous and fierce in war and armed with iron. To them Sauron was both king and god; and they feared him exceedingly, for he surrounded his abode with fire. (Sil.289-290; cf. HoMe XII.305)

In a marginal note to a letter composed in response to W.H. Auden's review of LotR, Tolkien clarifies the nature of Sauron's claim to divinity: "By the end of the Second Age he assumed the position of Morgoth's representative. By the end of the Third Age (though actually much weaker than before) he claimed to be Morgoth returned (Letters.243)." This theological shift was not a complete innovation, since Men had originally worshipped Morgoth (Sil.259; HoMe X.345-349).
There is a difference, however, between the orientation of the Númenórean cult of Melkor and the primordial worship of the Dark. The former was precipitated by a factor distinctive to the Dúnadan psyche: the desire for immortality. Admittedly, this is conceived by Tolkien to be a universal human desire, but within the mythology it is "dramatized" by the story of a specific people. All Men may long for deathlessness, but only the Númenóreans were so obsessed with it as to base a religion upon that express goal.
By contrast, the primordial worship of Morgoth was premised upon fear of what he would do against those who refused him:

'Now ye are Mine and must do My will,' he said. 'I do not trouble that some of you die and go to appease the hunger of the Dark; for otherwise there would soon be too many of you, crawling like lice on the Earth. But if ye do not do My will, ye will feel My anger, and ye will die sooner, for I will slay you.' (HoMe X.348)

This difference in orientation reflects the differing personalities of Morgoth and Sauron. The benefits to be gained from worshipping Morgoth are characterized as follows:

But to some he began to show favour: to the strongest and the cruellest, and to those who went most often to the House.8 He gave gifts to them, and knowledge that they kept secret; and they became powerful and proud, and they enslaved us, so that we had no rest from labour amidst our afflictions. (HoMe X.348)

Note the absence of any implication that Morgoth promised eternal life to his followers. However, the universal imperative claim of the worship, again unlike the voluntaristic cult in Númenor, added a new dimension to the observance of this religion:

Then there arose some among us who said openly in their despair: 'Now we know at last who lied, and who desired to devour us. Not the first Voice.9 It is the Master that we have taken who is the Darkness; and he did not come forth from it, as he said, but dwells in it. We will serve him no longer! He is our Enemy.' Then in fear lest he should hear them and punish us all, we slew them, if we could; and those that fled we hunted; and if any were caught, our masters, his friends, commanded that they should be taken to the House and there done to death by fire. That pleased him greatly, his friends said... (HoMe X.348)

This motif of hunting down and destroying the infidels who refuse to worship Morgoth is repeated elsewhere in Tolkien's descriptions of the Men of Darkness:

Men who had made [Morgoth] their God and believed that they could render him no more pleasing service than to destroy the 'renegades' with every kind of cruelty. (HoMe XII.306)
The Men of Darkness was a general term applied to all those who were hostile to the Kingdoms, and who were (or appeared in Gondor to be) moved by something more than human greed for conquest and plunder, a fanatical hatred of the High Men and their allies as enemies of their gods. (HoMe XII.312)

The use of the plural "gods" in the second quote implies a potential for diversity of expression within the worship of the Dark, so that one may imagine a proliferation of Morgothic cults throughout many different cultures in Rhûn and Harad, subject to historical change and evolution. The destruction of Ar-Pharazôn's pillar in Umbar (See quote on p. x), on the other hand, presumes a conscious allegiance to Sauron as he was at the end of the Second Age (an element, no doubt, intentionally foregrounded by Sauron's agents among the Haradrim at that time).


  1. They slew Ciryandil in 1015; they were driven from Umbar in 933.
  2. Here, as in other PoMe quotes, I have masked the prior stages of the development of this passage (which Christopher Tolkien shows by bracketing the earlier version).
  3. I discussed the problems of dating and significance in OH 5.15-16.
  4. The "Heirs of Elendil" version reads: "The most favoured especially by the fleet, and ship-folk of the southern shores, was the great Captain of Ships, Kastamir grandson of Kalmakil's second son Kalimehtar (HoMe XII.199)."
  5. Under Ciryaher, "the kings of the Harad did homage to Gondor, and their sons lived as hostages in the court of its King (RotK.325)." PoMe describes them as "tributary" to Gondor (HoMe XII.198).
  6. Note how closely this resembles the passage about the original merging of the Black Númenóreans with the Haradrim.
  7. According to "Heirs of Elendil," Telumehtar did more than just expel the Corsairs: "He took the title Umbardakil after the storming and destruction of the haven and stronghold of the Corsairs of Umbar (1810). But this was later reoccupied and rebuilt in the troublous times that later befell Gondor (HoMe XII.200)."
  8. By "House" is meant the Temple that Morgoth commanded Men to erect for him (HoMe X.347).
  9. I.e., Eru.

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