Akallabêth

According to Pages Unbound, today marks the anniversary of Sauron’s downfall! I will take their word for it. To celebrate the occasion, the Tolkien Society is holding a Tolkien Reading Day.

The ways of participating are:

  • Grab the event button from Pages Unbound and put it on your blog.
  • Read a book by J.R.R. Tolkien this week and post a review!  If you do, Pages UnboundTolkien Society, and I all want to know so that we can read it!  (Find reading suggestions on the Tolkien Society’s Bibliography.)
  • Spread the word on social media.
  • Link to any past posts you may have made about Tolkien, his writings, or even the movies in the comments on this post.

 

To fulfill the second option, I am going to yammer about the Akallabêth, that short history of the Númenoreans tacked onto the end of J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkiens’ Silmarillion like an afterthought.

There is a great deal to be found in this story; far more than I am capable of finding as I am poorly read in comparison with J.R.R. I suggest you go digging for yourself.  The tale offers a deeper understanding of Aragorn, from The Lord of the Rings, as well as of his people. Echoes from the third age are given context and a deeper poignancy.

“Tall ships and tall kings
Three times three.
What brought they from the foundered land
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones
And one white tree. “

This verse pulled at me before, but now it nigh brings me to tears. I know what Aragorn’s ancestors built, and what they lost, and why that white tree, just a seedling, was on board. The emblem of Aragorn’s family, a white tree crowned with seven stars, has a long history behind it.

Isildur, who used to be, to me, a mythic figure who cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand, but then fell victim to its snare, is now a man who made sacrifices, suffered immense loss, and persevered. I have learned that his was not the original line of the kings of Númenor, but only an offshoot. Knowing more of them, again, increased my appreciation of who Aragorn is, and what he must mean to his people.

There are other revelations, too, most of which I will leave alone. Part of the joy of reading the Akallabêth is the discovery of connections and new information. I will mention one more thing, however. Umbar, later to fight for Sauron in his final confrontation with the Free Peoples, was founded by the Númenóreans, and the Harad were among their conquests during a time of brutal expansionism. This story can be found elsewhere, but the Akallabêth tells us more of why they settled in Middle Earth at all, and adds yet more depth to all of Tolkien’s stories of Arda.

There is more to the Akallabêth than a deepening appreciation for the mythic tapestry of The Lord of the Rings, however. It is its own complex myth, woven together from threads of many other human stories.

Avalon hidden in the mists, echoes of Old Testament kings, the search for eternal youth and life encompassing an obsession with death, and most of all, a retelling of the legend of Atlantis.

After all, the name “Downfallen,” which is “Akallabêth” in Adûnaic, is said to be “Atalantë” in Quenya.

This story is relatively short, and, as one might expect, it is beautifully told. If you have already read it, it deserves revisiting, and if you haven’t, I suggest you wander off and find a copy. If you like audio books, Martin Shaw’s rendition of the Silmarillion contains the Akallabêth.

Hope rather that in the end even the least of your desires shall have fruit. The love of Arda was set in your hearts by Ilúvatar, and he does not plant to no purpose.
Akallabêth, by J. R. R. Tolkien

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About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

12 responses to “Akallabêth

  • Mary

    I still can’t get over how much Tolkien created. The depth, the breadth of Middle-earth and its history. I really need to pick up The Silmarillion again.

    • jubilare

      I know, I was thinking the same thing when I wrote this. It is nothing short of astonishing. And what’s more, even with all of the darkness and sorrow in it, Arda is so darn alluring!

  • stephencwinter

    It is the quotation at the end of your beautiful piece that caught at my heart. I first read the Silmarillion soon after its publication and I must have read that and yet it is only now that it connects to my heart. I hope that means that I have grown towards what Tolkien says. “Even the least of your desires shall have fruit…”

    • jubilare

      I was tempted to post the entire passage, but it was too involved and would have taken more explanation. That sentence is almost hidden in a debate about whether or not mortality is a “punishment” of humanity, and whether or not they should seek eternal life. It’s a beautiful section, and I really find the entire Akallabêth to be one of the most poetically beautiful stories in the Silmarillion (after the creation of Arda).

  • Stephanie Orges

    Atalante! Clever, shifty philologist! Shaming us all with his brilliance. I must reread this. I found a lovely illustrated copy at Half Price recently.

    Hey, did you get my email? I sent it from my @bekindrewrite.com address instead of the Yahoo. No rush to reply, but I was afraid your spam filter might’ve nabbed it?

    • jubilare

      Never trust a philologist! I actually wish I could be one, but languages puzzle me too much.

      Yes! I got it. I just have not had time, yet to respond. My life is getting back to normal, but that means playing catch-up. Plus, I have what will hopefully be my last surgery of this ordeal coming up on Thursday. Whew!

  • stephencwinter

    Reblogged this on Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings and commented:
    Jubilare writes beautifully about the Akallabêth, J.R.R Tolkien’s telling of the downfall of Númenor near the end of The Silmarillion. If you read this fine piece then you will get so much helpful background to the material I am writing at present.

    • jubilare

      Or better yet, pick up the Silmarillion and read the tale yourself! It’s near the end and it isn’t very long. ^_^

      • stephencwinter

        I hope that all our readers will do just that! I have re-read The Akallabeth in the last week to help me write my own reflections. I did not mention it in the last week which is why I am so glad that you did and why I wanted to reblog it. Your posting is such a beautiful piece of writing.

        • jubilare

          I’m glad you like it. :) It’s nowhere as beautiful as the thing it lauds, though. The myth of the Downfallen is a sad and beautiful thing, full of loss and hope.

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