As the subsection declares in its title, this section primarily delves into the history of Gondor. Tolkien tells us there were thirty-one kings after Anárion, and twenty-six ruling stewards. This is a lot of history — important history at that — to pack into a few pages of text. An appendix is by its very nature a summation, and there seems very little I can do to summarize it further still will out reducing it to incredibly broad strokes. It will seem, perhaps, a disservice to those following this blog. The point is not to recount Tolkien’s steps, but to note them for reference purposes. I’m going to hit some high points and focus on the parts that are of more relevance to me as a longtime reader of this work.
Tolkien notes that the 7th king rebuilt Minas Anor, becoming thereafter the summer home rather than Osgiliath. During this time, Gondor was first attacked by the wild men from the East. His son defeated them.
With the 12th king, the line of four Ship-kings begins, ending with Gondor in great wealth and a state of decline due to its luxury. The watch upon Mordor was neglected. The great evils that come upon Gondor are listed.
The first great evil was the civil war known as the Kin-strife. Valacar, son of the king Rómendacil II, married Vidumavi, from the Northmen of Rhovanion, bearing him a son, Eldacar. This mixing of the blood of Middle Men and Númenóreans resulted in rebellion when Valacar grew old. Eldacar retreated North, but returned a decade later with an army. The Kin-strife was never fully healed. Eldacar’s foes, the sons of the slain Castamir, fled South to the Haven of Umbar, a stronghold Gondor lost for four centuries which harbored a new foe as a result: the Corsairs of Umbar. Umbar fell to the domination of Sauron after his second arising.
The second and greatest evil rose in the reign of Telemnar, 26th king of Gondor, grandson of Eldacar. A plague came out of the East, killing the king, his children, and a good number of the population of Gondor. With the reduction in forces, the watch on the borders of Mordor diminished. During this time, signs of Sauron’s return appeared in the Greenwood. Along with Telemnar, so also died the White Tree of Minas Anor. His nephew, Tarondor, who succeeded him, replanted a seedling.
The third evil was the invasion of the Wainriders, which drained Gondor’s diminished strength in a hundred years war. The Wainriders are a confederacy of peoples from the East, presumed to be under emissaries of Sauron. When victory was achieved over the Easterlings, the Wainriders passed South of Mordor and made alliance with men of Khand and of Near Harad. This alliance brought Gondor to near-destruction. An army from Gondor, believing their city overthrown, stormed the camp of the Wainriders and set fire to the wains. Those who fled perished in the Dead Marshes.
The lines of Elendil was brought into question on the death of Ondoher and his sons, and the claim of Arvedui was rejected. The crown and the sceptre were not united, resulting in the end of the kingship during the assault of the Witch-king of Angmar, which I outlined in Book 4, Chapter 8.
The House of the Stewards, called the House of Húrin, being descendants of Húrin of Emyn Arnen, were chosen from his line. The power became as hereditary as kingship. The oath taken was “to hold rod and rule in the name of the king, until he shall return.” While many believed a king would return, the words became more ritual than intent. The power of the stewards were essentially that of the king, though none ever sat the throne, wore no crown, and held no sceptre. Their token of office was a white rod, their banner white without charge.
The days of the stewards were the days of the Watchful Peace. Sauron withdrew before the power of the White Council, though there was never truly peace again, the borders of Gondor now under constant threat.
The uruks, black orcs, first appeared out of Mordor during the last years of Denethor I, taking Osgiliath. His son Boromir (for whom our Boromir is named) defeated them, but none dwelt there afterwards as the whole area was ruined. It was said even the Witch-king feared Boromir, though he was struck down by a Morgul blade twelve years after his father.
Under the rule of his successor, Cirion, Gondor could do little but defend its borders against the likes of the Corsairs, the Balchoth, and Orcs. It is in this time the horns of the Rohirrim are first heard in Gondor when Eorl the Younger came to aid. The resulting victory led to the Oath of Eorl, of friendship at need or at call to the Lords of Gondor, in exchange for dwelling in the land.
Great fleets came up from Umbar and the Harad in the days of Beren, 19th Steward. At the same time, the Rohirrim were assailed from west and east, their land overrun. They found refuge in the dales of the White Mountains in 2758. Helm and his sons perished before Gondor was able to send aid. Rohan resented the slowness, and a silent rift between Gondor and Rohan began to build. For this reason, Beren welcomed Saruman to Orthanc in 2759.
The War of the Dwarves and Orcs was fought in the Misty Mountains in the days of Beregond, son of Beren. With the passing of the 21st Steward, Belecthor II, the White Tree died in Minas Tirith. No seedling could be found, but it was left standing “until the King returns.”
In the days of Túrin II, the enemies Gondor were once more on the move, and the Steward built secret refuges for his soldiers in Ithilien. When Ithilien was once more invaded, King Folcwine of Rohan fulfilled the Oath of Eorl and repaid his debt for the aid brought by Beregond. Túrin won victory, but the sons of Folcwine fell in battle. As twins, the Riders buried them in one mound upon the shore of the river, the enemies of Gondor fearing to pass it.
Two years before the death of Turgon, Sauron rose again, declaring himself openly and re-entering Mordor. When Turgon died, Saruman took Isengard for his own and fortified it. Turgon’s son, Ecthelion II, strengthened his realm against Mordor with what forces remained to him. Thorongil came from Rohan, being not of the Rohirrim, to council Ecthelion. With the leave of the Steward, Thorongil overthrew the Corsairs at Umbar, but sent message that he would not be returning in his victory.
Four years later, Ecthelion passed, giving rise to the final Ruling Steward, Denethor II. Where Thorongil had counseled Ecthelion not to trust Saruman the White and to instead welcome Gandalf the Grey, Denethor did not like Gandalf, and the Grey Pilgrim was not welcome in Minas Tirith. It was later believed that Denethor had learned the identity of Thorongil and suspected that he and Gandalf would try to supplant him.
Following the death of Denethor’s wife, Finduilas, Denethor dared to look into the palantir of the White Tower where no previous Steward had dared, for it was closest in accord with the one Sauron possessed. Denethor did battle with Sauron through the palantir, aging rapidly, but gaining great knowledge of things in his realm and far beyond his borders. His war of wills with Sauron gave Denethor increased pride to the point where he mistrusted all who did not serve him alone.
Denethor’s sons, Boromir and Faramir, grew to manhood. Boromir was much-loved by his father, and though there was no ill will between the brothers, Faramir was seen as weaker by his father due to Faramir’s love of music and lore and his welcoming of Gandalf in those times when the wizard came to the city.
The final tale of Denethor, Boromir, and Faramir, is told, of course, in the account of the War of the Ring, wherein the heir of Isildur and Anárion returned and the kingship was renewed.