Then Ar-Pharazôn, being besotted, and walking under the shadow of death, for his span was drawing towards its end, hearkened to Sauron; and he began to ponder in his heart how he might make war upon the Valar.(The Silmarillion, 275)
This is my final post on “Akallabêth”, the chronicle of Númenor and the Second Age. The Silmarillion proper comes to an end with the downfall of Morgoth which ends the First Age of Middle-earth. The Second Age immediately follows, the age of that great civilization of men, Númenor. It is also the age in which Sauron assumes the mantle of “chief bad guy” and in which the stage is set for much of the backstory of The Lord of the Rings.
It’s a shame Tolkien was not able to develop more fully the great tragedy of Númenor into a full-scale novel of its own. One really gets a sense, from this final section especially, that there is so much more that could be said, so many stories of treachery, tragedy, and heroism that are left untold. The final third of the Akallabêth concerns the mighty fall of Númenor.
Amandil’s Voyage: Amandil, the leader of the Faithful of Númenor, undertakes an Eärendil-like journey, only in this case, rather than to ask for their aid, it is to bring warning to the Valar of Ar-Pharazôn’s impending attack.
The War On Valinor: Númenor has reached the fullness of its hubris, and seeks to assault the Blessed Realm and have it for its own. That probably won’t end well for them.
Elendil and the Faithful: Elendil, the son of Amandil, takes the rest of the Faithful back to the shores of Middle-earth, and establishes the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. He will play an important part in the eventual downfall of Sauron.
Creeping Death: Death becomes not just a fearful darkness but a horrible sickness and an incredible misery.
Sauronic Religion: Sauron’s cult of Morgoth reaches its abominable apex, to include the sacrifice of Men, though of course this sacrifice is under the pretense of punishing rebels against the King.
The World Is Changed: In order to protect the Blessed Realm, Ilúvatar changes the shape of the world, and essentially makes it impossible to reach without His aid.
The White Tree: And Sauron urged the King to cut down the White Tree, Nimloth the Fair, that grew in his courts, for it was a memorial of the Eldar and of the light of Valinor.272
The Fleet of Númenor: In that time the fleets of the Númenóreans darkened the sea upon the west of the land, and they were like an archipelago of a thousand isles; their masts were as a forest upon the mountains, and their sails like a brooding cloud; and their banners were golden and black. And all things waited upon the word of Ar-Pharazôn; and Sauron withdrew into the inmost circle of the Temple, and men brought him victims to be burned.277
Divine Intervention: Then Manwë upon the Mountain called upon Ilúvatar, and for that time the Valar laid down their government of Arda. But Ilúvatar showed forth his power, and he changed the fashion of the world; and a great chasm opened in the sea between Númenor and the Deathless Lands, and the waters flowed down into it, and the noise and smoke of the cataracts went up to heaven, and the world was shaken.278