Let's imagine that years from now, we are sitting in the darkness of a movie theatre. We are about to see New Line's latest production, a three-hour blockbuster movie called Westernesse (tagline: "When Sauron Was Still the Lord of the Rings"). Reviews have been mixed. "Shameless attempt to exploit Tolkien's name," some critics say. "Quite unlike the Lord of the Rings in mood and style, with hardly a hint of humor or self-irony... The pacing is strange, and near the end it gets positively weird." Other critics are more positive: "A dark meditation on the corrupting power of evil...shows that a fantasy movie can be no less deep or 'serious' than, say, a Schindler's List. Jude Law's performance as Sauron is Oscar material... Parents are however advised not to bring their children; this is most definitely not a family movie."
All right. Let's see for ourselves. The last trailer ends. New Line's logo flows over the screen (am I the only one who is reminded of the Black Monolith from 2001?) Somber music. Darkness. And then...
Extreme close-up of an eye. Not the burning Eye of Sauron or anything -- just the intense and anguished stare of a mortal man. Some in the audience are reminded of the opening sequence of Blade Runner. Deep in the man's dark pupils something is briefly reflected -- a golden object swiftly receding. Gone. And the eye fades back in to the darkness.
Then, out of the dark, a tired and somber voice (Isildur) speaks the leitmotif of the movie...straight from the Akallabêth:
"There is not now upon Earth any place abiding where the memory of a time without evil is preserved."
Silence...allow the words to sink. Get the audience into the mood. Tragedy alert. And the darkness...persists.
"A straight road lay westward. Now all roads are bent. For the world has been broken and diminished, and yet some still remember its true being and whole shape as it was first created..."
In some indefinable way, perhaps helped by very subtle musical hints or sound effects, the darkness filling the screen changes. It is no longer just cold, empty darkness, but a pregnant, mythical mode of existence, full of infinite possibilities. We have been carried so far back in time that Time itself remains to be created...
And as the voice continues, it is no longer quite as tired and anguished, but it is still in a way sad.
"Before the Beginning, there was only He whom the Elves call Eru Ilúvatar, the One Father of All. And out of His thought, He made spirits innumerable, and they sang before Him before aught else was made. Then He put before them a vision of the world that was to be, and they loved it, and Eru gave being to the world and let its history begin. Many of these spirits entered into it in the silence and darkness at the beginning of time, and their love compels them to stay within till its history is complete. They are the Valar, the Powers of the World. And though the Valar only guard the world on behalf of He who made it, yet so powerful are they that Men have often called them gods."
Out of the darkness a PRIMEVAL LANDSCAPE appears, clouded in mists and smoke. A world of lava and fire, the earth in its fiery youth. Time and History have only recently been born...and Isildur continues his story.
"Mighty indeed are the Valar, and the mightiest among them was a being majestic in his splendor and glorious in the rising of his power. But his name is no longer spoken on earth, and the Elves will only call him Morgoth, the Dark Enemy of the World. [Ominous music!] For Morgoth claimed all the world for himself and rebelled against the will of its Creator, and he descended through flames and wrath down into a great fire, down into Darkness."
The FLAMES of the primeval world explode into a GREAT FIRE, as if powered by a fierce WRATH. (But we have probably already had all the DARKNESS the audience can stomach for the moment, so let's keep an actual image onscreen, shall we?) Vast demiurgic powers are locked in an endless conflict. Isildur drones on...his lines largely based on the material prefixed to the Silmarillion:
"And so, in ages uncounted and forgotten, the Valar warred against Morgoth the Dark Enemy who would destroy all their works. They strove to build the world according to the vision Eru had put before them, but as surely as the Valar began a labor, so would Morgoth corrupt or undo it. And yet slowly the world was fashioned and made firm, as a habitation amidst the innumerable stars. For the Valar built not for themselves, but to make a home for the Children of Eru who were destined to awake in this world."
After the primeval chaos, a strange peace fills the screen. The above-mentioned innumerable stars are shining. Our view slides down the starry field, somewhat like the beginning of any Star Wars movie, but no roaring spacecraft will emerge this time. A rock-filled landscape near a lake, seen only dimly in the starlight. Water runs over stone, making an almost musical sound. And suddenly we become aware that there are many bodies lying on the ground. In the dim light they are so indistinct that we cannot tell their gender or even whether they are dressed or naked. Maybe naked, for it is as if they just grew out of the ground itself. There is movement, stirring. Eyes open, eyes mirroring the stars above...and the Eldar, People of the Stars, have been born into the world.
"In the East of Middle-earth, the Firstborn Children of Eru awoke. They are the Elves, to whom Eru has given the gift of immortality. And the Valar found them, and they loved them, and they invited them to cross the ocean and come to the Blessed Realm of Valinor in the Uttermost West."
Time to turn every stone and bring out the most gifted CGI artists New Line Cinema can find, for now we must have at least a brief glimpse of the Blessed Realm itself: probably nothing less than the Two Trees of Valinor in all their glory, shining with gold and silver light so rich that it doesn't behave like light as we know it, but rains to the ground in huge drops falling from the branches of the marvelous Trees. Readers of Tolkien's books will know what they are watching and others may still think it looks cool. We sense awe in Isildur's voice as he continues: "And of all the children of this world, none are fairer or wiser than the High Elves who were taught by the Powers in their own blessed land."
But now the ominous music comes back, and the vision of the wonderful Blessed Realm with its Trees of Gold and Silver fades to black. For as Isildur tells us, "in the end the evil of Morgoth reached even into the Blessed Realm, and he poisoned the Elves with his lies and stole their greatest treasures. Then many of the Elves forsook the Valar, and against the will of the Appointed Powers they went back to Middle-earth, swearing to pursue Morgoth to the end of the world and take back what he had stolen..."
Swords are drawn, gleaming red in the light of torches; then the screen EXPLODES into a battle so enormous that anything seen in the Jackson trilogy suddenly looks like a kids' quarrel in their sandbox in comparison. The field is enormous; there could be hundreds of thousands of people fighting. Far away in the horizon we see what readers of Tolkien's books may or may not recognize as the grey, shapeless towers of Thangorodrim, stronghold of Morgoth. Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Tears Unnumbered, is underway. SCORES of balrogs, not just the poor lonesome fellow we saw on the bridge in Moria, are using their fiery whips against the attacking Elf-armies.
Isildur in voice-over tells us that "for centuries the war continued against Morgoth and the hordes who served him. There were his dragons and his balrogs, there were the foul Orcs that he bread in mockery of the Children of Eru." In the midst of the battle, the camera finds a commanding, armored figure of superhuman stature. We recognize the hideous helmet covering his face from the opening scenes of the Jackson trilogy, and Isildur confirms our assumption: "But greatest of all the servants of Morgoth was the foul necromancer whom the Elves called Sauron, for in all the vast works and cunning deceits of Morgoth in this world, Sauron had a part!"
But another race must also be introduced. "Even facing Sauron and all the hordes of Morgoth, the Elves for the longest time kept their hope of victory. They had allies who came to their help, for with the coming of the Sun, a new race awoke in the world and wandered into the West of Middle-earth..."
We cut away from the battle to a more peaceful, yet in a way monumental and moving scene. The sun, seen for the first time, shines upon a wandering people, coming for the first time to the shores of the Great Sea and marveling at the sight. Dressed in simple clothing, the wanderers are plain-looking; in their faces we look in vain for either the ethereal beauty of the Elves or the hideous features of the Orcs. They actually look rather...familiar!
"They were the Secondborn Children of Eru, our own kind, the race of Men, to whom Eru has given the gift of -- death."
A line of immense importance to the plot has just been spoken, though for the moment, the audience must find it puzzling (unless they have read the books, of course). Don't worry, folks, we'll return to this eventually... But yes, you did hear correctly: "the gift of death".
"In the dawn of years Immortal Elves and Mortal Men were allies and held themselves akin, and they marched together against the Great Enemy. [Ominous music once again.] And yet all their bravery was in vain, for Morgoth was too strong. And one by one, the ancient realms and cities of the Elves were destroyed..."
A sinister scene manifests on the screen. Among tall mountains, a white and beautiful Elf-city is being overrun by Morgoth's dragons and Orcs, smoke rising against the sky. We ZOOM AWAY from the city so that one of the mountains come into view, quite close to the camera. A small group of refugees from the burning city are trying to make their way over the mountains, inching their way forward along an obscenely narrow ledge high up in the mountainside, the abyss yawning below them. Readers of the Silmarillion may realize that we are watching the sack of Gondolin and the escape of Tuor, Idril and young Eärendil. They are lead by an Elf with golden hair.
Suddenly, a BALROG turns up before them, sent by Morgoth to make sure that nobody can escape the sack of the city! Its fiery whip threatens to sweep the poor refugees of the ledge. A brief, but fierce fight between the golden-haired Elf and the Balrog ensues. The Elf (whose name will later turn out to be Glorfindel) must somehow succeed in fatally wounding the Balrog, probably by some virtually suicidal feat of bravery (getting so close to the huge monster that he can bury his sword deep in its fiery chest). Actually it is a suicidal feat of bravery, for even as the dying Balrog loses balance and falls into the abyss, Glorfindel is also swept off the narrow ledge and falls in after it: Fights with Balrogs have a distinct tendency to end in such a way...blame Tolkien himself for any repetitive plot elements! (At least Glorfindel shouldn't be pulled down by the Balrog's whip; that is TOO obvious recycling of ideas...)
The remaining refugees are horrified to see Glorfindel fall into the nothingness below, and the camera finds the young boy of seven that is among them. Abruptly we move decades into the future, when the boy has become a man: Eärendil the Blessed, whose name shall live forever in elven-song. And Isildur's voiceover tells us that "at last, when the victory of Morgoth was almost complete, Eärendil the Great Mariner sailed his ship into the Uttermost West seeking the Blessed Realm of the Valar. He went into Valinor and came before the Powers of the World, begging them to forgive the Elves who once forsook them and have mercy on the Two Kindreds of Elves and Men." The Voyage of Eärendil needs only be illustrated by a few fleeting images of his ship at sea and then approaching the shining coast of the Immortal Realm, followed by a brilliant vision of a figure kneeling in a bright light (we don't see the Ones he is kneeling before -- onscreen Valar just wouldn't work!) "And his prayer was heard!"
When trying to synopsize the entire Silmarillion to function as the inevitable introduction to the Westernesse story proper, maybe the end will be the most challenging: how can we "show" our audience the War of Wrath, even as a few glimpses? Some kind of utter cataclysm must be suggested onscreen, as Isildur speaks of how "the Host of Valinor came out of the West and attacked the hordes of Morgoth, and so fierce was the battle of the gods that all the ancient realms in the West of Middle-earth were destroyed and sank below the sea. But Morgoth, the Power of Terror and of Hate, was overthrown and thrust into the Outer Void beyond the world. And the Elves deemed that evil was ended forever, and it was not so." (The ominous last words are a GTL which in the book is spoken by Elrond during the council. Incidentally, whenever I refer to the Council of Elrond I always mean the literary version, not the cute little quarrel Jackson showed us.)
Regarding the War of Wrath, one person left this suggestion in my guestbook: "At least show a host of Dragons flying at a very quick pace towards a host of Eagles, led by a beautiful ship on which a captain stands that wears a shining jewel on his forehead. This all, above the already fighting armies of the Valar and Morgoth. The screen should fade out, just before the two flying forces would clash." Works for me. Or maybe the screen explodes in a flash of light when the two forces clash.
As the dust clears after the battle of the gods, we must be informed that "after the overthrow of Morgoth, the Valar counseled the Elves to leave Middle-earth and return to the Blessed Realm. But also to Mortal Men, who had fought and suffered alongside the Elves in the war against Morgoth, rich reward was given. For though no mortal could ever come to the Undying Lands in the Uttermost West, the Valar raised a new land out of the sea and made it rich and green, and this vast island they gave to our fathers."
Possibly we should have some glimpses of the actual creation of the "new land", in particular an enormous suddenly mountain RISING out of the ocean. Anyway we must soon have fleeting images of people in boats approaching an inviting coast, the land glowing in a golden haze. "And tired after the endless war, our fathers left Middle-earth and came over the sea and found the fair land that was prepared for them, and they were glad. And since this was now the westernmost of all mortal lands, they called it Westernesse, or in the High Elvish tongue...Númenor."
And though the image we see onscreen is very beautiful, or maybe exactly because it is so beautiful, Isildur suddenly sounds even more sad...
"Such is the story, handed down to us through thousands of years, of the origin of our people and of the land that we loved. So it began. This is the story, even as Elendil my father wrote it down, of how it ended."
Right. End of Prologue. Opening credits. The movie proper can begin...
If those who have read this far are beginning to hope for something like a complete movie script after all, disappointment is coming up fast. The initial sequence of the movie proper, after the introduction, I will only deal with in generalities.
One thing is clear: Though an introduction like the one outlined above would get the most basic concepts into place, the first twenty minutes of the movie proper would still have to be a veritable exposition feast. There are characters to introduce and historical and geographical facts to be presented.
We find ourselves in Westernesse/Númenor, a beautiful island kingdom hundreds of miles across. (New Zealand once again? Or maybe parts of Ireland fit Tolkien's descriptions better? The landscapes would in any case require CGI enhancement, particularly since the vast central mountain, the Meneltarma or "Pillar of Heaven", is visible from the entire realm: it haunts each and every shot that includes the horizon.) Númenor is the home of the Dúnedain, the Men of the West, in many ways the noblest and most Elf-like of all mortal races.
The story should probably begin in the childhood of Isildur and his brother Anárion, sons of the illustrious and noble Elendil -- in effect the "Aragorn" of our movie, and actually Aragorn's remote ancestor. Tolkien noted that Aragorn was "more like to Elendil than any before him" in that bloodline, so Elendil could be played by a Viggo Mortensen lookalike (or conceivably by Viggo himself!) Beginning the story when Isildur and Anárion are just boys allows us to "camouflage" much of the necessary exposition as things Elendil teaches his young sons. Some voice-overs by Isildur's adult self (looking back on his lost happy childhood) can be inserted wherever necessary. The movie is, in a way, a long flashback that will take us through Isildur's entire life (the interesting point, saved for the very end, is where Isildur has actually ended up when he is indulging in all this reminiscing...)
Some of the basic "facts" that must be communicated to the audience:
How to tell this in a movie? As suggested above, the "Elendil teaching his young sons" format would probably work tolerably well. Elendil lives in the province of Andúnië in the west of Númenor. His old, wise father Amandil is a member of the King's Council. Let's say that one day, Elendil takes his young sons to the capital Armenelos (where they have never been before?) Elendil wants to speak to his father and also to participate in the upcoming midsummer festival of Erulaitalë or "Praise to Eru" (concerning which see Unfinished Tales p. 166).
The journey (on horseback or in a cart) from Andúnië to Armenelos gives us the opportunity to let the audience see some truly beautiful landscapes, establishing Westernesse as a Really Nice Place. It is not, as Tolkien noted in one of his letters, an "earthly paradise" in the same sense as the legendary Blessed Realm in the Uttermost West -- but Númenor is still a great alternative for Mortal Men who can't get visas to the Undying Lands anyway. We move through great forests as well as endless green pastures where sheep are grazing. One slightly sinister feature: even in the countryside, there are very many mausoleums and tombs, often quite elaborate. Has this culture become somewhat obsessed with death, or what?
In Númenor, you can never really lose your way; the tall cone of the Meneltarma, the central mountain, is always there in the horizon to guide you. We could have young Isildur naively asking his father whether the Meneltarma is the highest mountain in the world. Elendil would answer that the highest mountain in the world is in the West, though few mortals have ever seen it: White Taniquetil, where Manwë, the Elder King and Lord of the Valar, dwells in glory. (Manwë the Elder King is probably the only Vala that we should have to fully introduce: We mustn't confuse the audience with too many names, though some quick references to Mandos, Aulë and Varda may also turn up later, in a self-explanatory context...)
Elendil and sons would arrive in Armenelos, the capital of Westernesse near the foot of the Meneltarma. Armenelos would be something like ancient Rome + golden Prague + a plethora of almost Egyptian-style monumental architecture. White marble, golden roofs, green parks. This isn't a rural backwater like Hobbiton! Called the "fairest of cities" in the Akallabêth, this should be a stunning vision in gold and marble, capital of the Golden Civilization of Men as it has developed through three thousand years. (Many of the special effects required for a Westernesse movie would simply have to do with huge fictional cities, landscapes and armies/armadas; only near the end of the movie would we need effects describing things that are normally considered physically impossible.)
To get the geography into place, there could be a huge "world map" on a plaza in Armenelos, a vast mosaic showing the known world. Elendil could take his sons there and let them see the representation of Númenor, the great star-shaped island with its five promontories, tracing their journey from Andúnië in the west to Armenelos near the Holy Mountain in the middle of the realm. Then the kids could walk over the plaza to see the great continents west and east of Westernesse itself. In the west, the Blessed Realm, probably a somewhat sketchy representation since no mortal has ever been able to map it out in detail. In the east, Middle-earth, of which we have already seen maps in the Jackson trilogy. But the borders and realms are somewhat different in this earlier epoch: Gondor and the Shire have yet to be founded, there are Númenorean "colonies" along the southern coasts, and in the north-west there is the great Elven realm of Lindon ruled by Gil-galad. But Mordor is very much present on the map already...
Such a "world map plaza" could also be used to get across another detail: This story is set in a "mythical" world that is actually flat, not on a round planet. Elendil could explicitly speak of the world as "a flat floor under the heavens" (cf. the entry kemen in the Silmarillion Appendix). For as will eventually become clear, this movie also tells how the ancient, flat mythological world turned into the round planet we know and love...
In Armenelos there is surely also a giant statue of Hugo Weaving...or at least of Elros, twin brother of Elrond and the First King of Númenor. (Cf. the giant statues that the Númenorean exiles will later carve out at Argonath in Middle-earth.) This would give Elendil the chance to teach his kids about Elros and his brother Elrond: how these sons of Eärendil had both Elvish and Mannish blood in their veins, and so the Valar let them choose which of the Two Kindreds they would belong to. Elrond chose to be an Elf and lives still in Middle-earth, a great lord and lore-master. But Elros chose to be a Mortal Man and was appointed by the Valar as the first king of Númenor. Elendil would have to somehow tackle the inevitable question from his sons: Why didn't Elros choose to be an immortal Elf instead, like Elrond did? (The first intimation of a central plot element...) For now there can be no better answer than this: not everyone is meant to be immortal...
In Armenelos, Elendil & Sons would meet the wise elderly King, Tar-Palantir the Farsighted (I'm thinking Robert De Niro). We would also meet Tar-Palantir's young daughter and only child, Míriel, who is destined to one day become Ruling Queen. (For Míriel, I'm thinking Helena Bonham Carter as she appeared in Lady Jane...unfortunately Helena is already too old for the part, and even more so when our Westernesse movie is finally made...especially considering the fact that it will hardly be made at all!)
In the courts of the King grows Nimloth, the beautiful White Tree, very much bigger than the otherwise similar tree that will later grow in Minas Tirith in Middle-earth (the relationship between the two trees will be made clear in the course of the movie). Elendil would explain to his children that this is a most unusual tree; its seed was brought out of the Blessed Realm, a gift from the Elves to the people of Númenor. The Elven-tree has stood there for thousands of years. This would also provide an opportunity for Elendil's sons to ask daddy why Elves never come to Númenor anymore, since they apparently once did. He could evade the question for now, but the audience will have a growing suspicion that something is rotten in the realm of Westernesse (as Shakespeare never put it).
In Armenelos Elendil would be meeting his father Amandil, for though the latter is Lord of Andúnië, he is also a member of the King's Council and must therefore spend much of his time in the capital (it may be assumed). If Elendil is the "Aragorn" of this movie, Amandil will in many ways emerge as the "Gandalf" character, not because he is in any sense a wizard, but because he is a wise (and wizened) loremaster who understands the long pre-history of this world. We will find out that in his youth, he spent time in Middle-earth and befriended the Elves, and they have told him some things they have told very few mortals.
Evening falls, and in the short midsummer night, the Star of Eärendil burns bright in the west. The faithful Númenoreans honor the Star, greeting it in High-elven. Aiya Eärendil, elenion ancalima, colindo calo epë Anar ar Isil! Aiya Eärendil, elen i morniessë, mírë i andúnessë, alcarinqua i arinessë! "Hail Eärendil, brightest of stars, bearer of light before the Sun and Moon! Hail Eärendil, star in the darkness, jewel in the sunset, radiant in the morning!" (Three thousand years later, in Shelob's Lair, Frodo will of course be "inspired" to utter the first words of this greeting as he pulls out the Vial of Galadriel into which light from the Star of Eärendil has been gathered as "a light where all other lights go out"...always handy when you are on a Quest!)
Elendil would talk to his sons about Eärendil, the Elf-Man who brought deliverance to both Elves and Men back in the First Age of the world: Later the Valar set him in the heavens as a star to be "a sign of hope to the dwellers in Middle-earth oppressed by the Great Enemy or his servants" (as Tolkien wrote in LotR Appendix A). This Great Enemy was Morgoth, who was thrown down as a result of Eärendil's voyage to the Uttermost West...but then there was the "or his servants" bit, which is pretty much what this entire movie is about. Remember Mordor on the world map?
(Incidentally: yes, it really is the Star of Eärendil that Sam sees from Mordor, when he realizes that there is high beauty that the Shadow cannot touch. Tolkien added a reference from the above-quoted words in Appendix A to that passage. I was glad to see this scene restored to the extended DVD version of The Return of the King: maybe not very significant for the story as a whole, but a nice little moment all the same.)
A glorious midsummer day arrives, and our CGI department must pull off something that is in no way physically impossible, but which would probably require too many extras to act out in real life: the Erulaitalë ceremony as described by Tolkien in Unfinished Tales p. 166. Thousands of people, "clad in white and garlanded", ascend the Holy Mountain of Meneltarma. They follow the long, winding path that leads them around and around the giant cone while the lush landscape of Númenor is sinking away (so to speak) below them.
Out of the West, three supernaturally huge eagles come to witness the ceremony: In the Jackson trilogy we have seen such eagles before, even carrying Gandalf around on a couple of occasions, and the audience should finally be told that these are not just some kind of weird eagle mutations with way too much growth hormone that happen to occur in the Middle-earth fauna. Elendil would tell his sons, or maybe King Tar-Palantir would tell his daughter, that these magnificent creatures are "the witnesses of Manwë, the Elder King and Lord of the Valar, who rules the word on behalf of Eru its Creator". (Incidentally this also implies that the Valar, virtually unmentioned in the LotR, are actually actively involved in the events: the Eagles turn up as a deus ex machina to rescue Gandalf from Isengard and to stop the Flying Nazgûl from destroying Aragorn's army during the final moments of the War of the Ring. Well, those events are still three thousand years into the future...)
The Faithful Númenoreans gather at the flattened top of the Holy Mountain, where only the ruling King (or Queen) can ever speak. So out of the monumental silence of the Hallow, Tar-Palantir alone raises his voice to give praise to Eru Ilúvatar, the One Father of All. I would imagine him lifting his arms against the heavens (where the Three Eagles are circling) while all the people are kneeling around him. The ceremony should be simple and beautiful. If we are to go for maximum "authenticity", the King's invocation should probably be in (subtitled!) High-elven: The ritual language of Quenya, the tongue of the Elves of the Blessed Realm, would almost certainly be used on such an occasion. The word Erulaitalë, Praise of Eru, is itself Quenya.
Tolkien never specified exactly what kind of "praise" Eru really received during the Erulaitalë festivals, so we are free to let Tar-Palantir say something that is relevant for the plot of our movie (the Exposition Feast continuing...) Some of it would sound a bit puzzling to an ignorant audience, but will later become relevant: The King is praising Eru not only for "the gift of life", but also for "the gift of death": I anna cuiléva ar i anna nuruva. We see Tar-Palantir from above as he throws his final prayer into the cosmos: Írë lúmelma sinomë vanwa ná, nai fealmar entuluvar lenna! "When our time here is over, may our souls return to Thee!" At the final lenna "to Thee", the camera follows this last word (with the speed of sound!) into the heavens, the Meneltarma and all the green land falling away under us, until we can discern the entire star-shaped Isle of Númenor from a great height: Yep, it really looks the way it did on the world map we saw...and like Tolkien's map in Unfinished Tales p. 164.
After the ceremony, as the people are descending, Elendil could point out to his sons that it is said that in ancient times, the people could sometimes glimpse the coast of the Undying Lands in the west from the Meneltarma. But when Isildur and Anárion gaze into the west beyond the coast of Númenor some 150 miles away, all they can see in the western horizon is a huge cloud-bank. (Our CGI department should come up with something that looks almost as compact as a solid white wall, stretching from the north and way into the south.) And Elendil must admit that this is all there is to see nowadays. It is, indeed, all anyone has seen for many centuries...
When the "pilgrims" return to Armenelos, more tensions within Númenorean society should become evident. The audience must gather that though thousands of people attended the ceremony on the mountain, the vast majority of the population did not attend. There may even be some instances of the returning "pilgrims" being ridiculed. So the simpletons have dressed up in white once again to climb the mountain and celebrate some Elvish fairytale! The masses in Armenelos may even be bold enough to speak against the King himself. For after all, is not his own brother Gimilkhâd on the side of the people? If only he had been the heir to the throne instead of his airhead brother!
Gimilkhâd is not destined to be a very important character in our movie (he dies too soon), but he should at least be glimpsed: a bitter and arrogant man, ridiculing his brother behind his back or even to his face. If only he were King, he would make Westernesse strong and not throw away his time celebrating hoary Elvish fables! He may even ridicule Tar-Palantir for tending the White Tree. This would give Tar-Palantir an occasion for uttering the sinister prophecy Tolkien ascribes to him: "When this Tree perishes, then the line of the Kings shall perish also!"
Young Isildur and Anárion would be somewhat confused, and when Elendil has brought them back to his home in Andúnië, it is time to tell them the hard facts of life (the movie audience eavesdropping). There was a time when all the people of Númenor shared the faith Tar-Palantir has tried to revive, but this is now long past. Most of the people have rejected the "religious" traditions that the ancestors of the Númenoreans once received from the Elves. It is an integral teaching of this faith that just like the Elves are meant to be immortal, so Men are somehow meant to be mortal, and they should view their mortality as a veritable gift of God. It is still too early in the movie to fully explore this theme; probably it should be hinted that the "good" Númenoreans accept this doctrine in faith, though even they may find it somewhat troubling or at least difficult to understand.
But the vast majority of the people won't buy this doctrine at all. Not anymore. They feel that Men should be made immortal just like the Elves, their sibling race. They also think it is unjust that the Númenoreans, the greatest mariners in the world, are not allowed to sail into the Uttermost West and come to the Blessed Realm, like Eärendil once did. Why should Men be kept out from paradise? Why can't they come before the Valar in their own land? In recent centuries, even most of the Kings have murmured against the "Ban of the Valar" that prohibits Men from sailing into the West. Gimilkhâd would have made a far more typical King than his elder brother Tar-Palantir. Indeed their father would have preferred Gimilkhâd as his successor on the throne, but Tar-Palantir happened to be the eldest son. And so, for the first time in centuries, Westernesse has a King that cares for the old faith. But except for a few thousand "Faithful", most of whom live in Andúnië, his subjects do in no way share his belief system.
Ever since the majority of the Númenoreans turned away from the teachings of the Elves, no Elven-ship has come out of the West to visit Westernesse, and the Undying Lands have been covered in clouds as if to hide them from the eyes of the Númenoreans. Not that anybody has yet dared to defy the Ban of the Valar and sail into the West...but clearly the Powers try to remove the temptation as far as possible!
There is one final detail of exposition that we must get into place: Elendil and his sons are related to the royal house. They do not belong to the royal line proper; nonetheless, they are descended from one of the early Kings. Maybe Isildur and Anárion are slightly worried by Tar-Palantir's strange prophecy that the royal line would perish whenever the White Tree perishes. Elendil would explain to them that though they are indeed related to the royal house, they are not really part of the line of Kings as such. And in any case nobody, not even the apostate Kings of old, ever dared to harm the White Tree. Nobody will do so in the future, either. Of course not.
Right. Enough exposition. We are probably at least twenty minutes into our movie already.
At this point, we jump about ten years into the future. Isildur and Anárion are no longer children, but young men. Elendil may not have aged visibly, since the Númenoreans are long-lived (Aragorn is 87 during the War of the Ring, remember?) At some point, we shall have to explicitly mention their longevity.
But the King's life is nearing its end. Tar-Palantir has grown old and sick, aged before his time. His daughter Míriel is worried about his health. She expresses her worries to Amandil, and he would in turn bring in his son Elendil and his grandsons, Isildur and Anárion.
We gather that Tar-Palantir's obnoxious brother Gimilkhâd is now dead, but since the Good Guys are so concerned with the health of the ailing king, they fail to pay much attention to Gimilkhâd's son Pharazôn (I'm thinking Gary Oldman -- notice that Pharazôn is evidently already middle-aged when we first meet him, since Amandil is said to have known Pharazôn from his time in Middle-earth when they were both younger). Returning to Westernesse as a "war hero" from the constant skirmishes occurring around the Númenorean settlements along the coasts of Middle-earth, Pharazôn quickly proves to be a rather charismatic figure. He is also rich, though we suspect that his wealth is at least in part the result of his looting Middle-earth "natives" who oppose the Númenorean settlers (maybe inspired by Mordor, maybe not).
Back in the homeland, Pharazôn is most generous with his wealth, and he quickly becomes hugely popular. Here, then, is a strong, charismatic, manly figure who has already proved his character, boldly defending the settlers in Middle-earth! How different he is from the sick, old king who only cares about some queer religious ideas inherited from the Elves! Even when Palantir finally has the good sense to die, the new ruler will be his shy, timid daughter. How much better it would have been for the realm if a strong character like Pharazôn, who is even second in line to the throne once Palantir has expired, could take over! Inevitably these thoughts gain widespread support among the people of Westernesse, though for now they only remain whispers.
For a Westernesse movie I wouldn't want to introduce very many characters not mentioned in Tolkien's material, but Pharazôn must have had some confidants and close allies, and for cinematic purposes we need concrete faces representing certain groups and powers to the audience. I want to use this character at certain key points in the story -- for instance, he will be Pharazôn's herald before the Black Gate. (Also expect this character to meet a visually impressive end during the Downfall, when Pharazôn remains in another place and is therefore not available for the most spectacular part of the comeuppance of the bad guys.)
The character we want is most definitely not an Elf-friend, so he must have an Adunaic name (like Pharazôn and Gimilkhâd). Luckily, Tolkien wrote out a kind of "report" on Adunaic, the native Númenorean language. In theory, this is the language our protagonists are "really" speaking when they don't use Elvish, though inevitably we hear Adunaic as English. Names, however, are given in their "real" Adunaic form, and we must coin one new name. Tolkien didn't give us a very large vocabulary to play with, but I have been thinking about Abârubêl, meaning Friend of Strength (nice little fascist!) This combines abâru- as the Objective form of abâr "strength" (Sauron Defeated p. 431) with the suffix -bêl "lover" (as in Azrubêl "Sea-lover" = Eärendil, SD p. 429). The Objective form is used because the "strength" is the logical object of the love of the "lover". At this early point in the movie, we would establish Abârubêl as one of Pharazôn's friends from the wars in Middle-earth. His early function in the film could be to extol the heroics and noble character of Pharazôn to the people of Númenor, as he has witnessed these traits in his friend during the wars in Middle-earth. (Indeed it is still far from clear to an ignorant audience whether Pharazôn will turn out to be a good or a bad guy. For now he is about as ambiguous as Strider when he first turns up in Bree. Pharazôn may actually seem to be a genuine hero, and even Amandil probably remembers him as a brave and generous man, and a good friend.)
Elendil's family would pay little attention to the commotion caused by Pharazôn's return to Númenor. They are still too concerned about the failing health of the King. One night they are summoned to the royal palace. Tar-Palantir is dying. Tolkien left us with a slight narrative problem here: As a "good" Númenorean, Tar-Palantir would be expected to die voluntarily, "accepting the Gift of Ilúvatar". The Professor made it clear that "a good Númenórean died of free will when he felt it to be time to do so" (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien p. 205, footnote). Yet Tar-Palantir also has the gift of foresight, so he should have at least an inkling that Really Bad Times are coming up fast. It is a troubling idea that he would die voluntarily and leave his daughter in the lurch (and what a lurch it will prove to be!)
I don't want to give up the idea of "dying voluntarily" entirely, for it is closely connected to the central themes of the story and should be introduced early, anticipating a fuller explanation later (probably by Amandil; I foresee him explaining the nature of human death to refute Sauron's seductive promise that Men can achieve immortality in this world). We should have to come up with some tear-jerking dialogue here, a weak and ailing Palantir telling his daughter that he is so terribly tired and must seek rest "elsewhere". "I tried so hard, for so many years, to return this realm to its ancient allegiance -- but I have failed." He hints that dark times are coming, and asks Amandil and Elendil ("as my friends and not my subjects"...sniff!) to help and support Míriel in all ways they can when he is gone. Turning last to his daughter, he tells a weeping Míriel that he loves her (etc. etc.) and reminds her what he prophesied about the White Tree. Finally he says that when her own last hour comes (as it will before the credits roll!), she must cling to the ancient promise that ultimately death is neither a punishment nor a horror, but a gift.
And so, using his last strength to whisper a final loving blessing to his daughter, Tar-Palantir in his deathbed looks up into the ceiling and far beyond it, spreading out his arms in a gesture of welcome and acceptance...as he expires.
After a moment of silence, only interrupted by Míriel softly sobbing, all the onlookers do the same gesture: closing their right hand to form a loose fist, they touch first their brows, then their mouths. What does this mean? Well, you'd have to ask Peter Jackson; this is what he has Aragorn doing when Boromir has just expired. Apparently it has something to do with showing respect for the recently deceased. We are after all peering into an ancient and basically alien culture here, so it is only realistic that we can't readily understand every gesture. But let's imagine that Aragorn uses a gesture preserved among the Númenorean exiles throughout the Third Age. It may be theorized that it is ultimately a sign borrowed by the early Edain from the iglishmêk, the gesture-language of the Dwarves (see The War of the Jewels p. 395). Maybe touching your brow with your fist symbolizes that the death of the deceased is as devastating to you as a blow to your head, whereas touching your lips indicates that the sorrow is unspeakable. That's how I opt to see it, though I'm far from certain that Jackson has even heard of the iglishmêk... Anyway, our characters will have all too many opportunities to use this gesture before the movie is over.
At dawn, the heralds proclaim the sad news to the people. Fern i Aran! The King is dead! (Yes, we can afford subtitled Grey-elven for high and solemn purposes.) Great sorrow among the Faithful in Andúnië: Our kind old King is dead, boo hoo! But in Armenelos, the masses seem very much able to contain their grief. So the old idiot checked out at last. Who cares?
Nonetheless, Palantir is buried as a king ought to be. Huge funeral procession to Noirinan, the Valley of Tombs (mentioned in Unfinished Tales p. 166). Elvish dirges (not necessarily subtitled). Finally Míriel and the members of the King's Council (including Amandil) enter the enormous vault carved into the base of the Meneltarma, where all the Kings and Queens since Elros himself are interred. They would pass a row of more than twenty snow-white sarcophaguses. The last one is still open; inside it is coated with gold. (Tolkien wrote that the past rulers of Númenor were "lying upon beds of gold" in "their deep tombs under the mount of Meneltarma".) Palantir's body is laid to rest. Míriel kisses her father for the last time. Namárië, atarinya! Farewell, my father! She cries as the huge, white marble lid is slid into place. We see the golden Tengwar spelling out the words TAR-PALANTIR ARAN NÚMENÓRËO: Tar-Palantir, King of Númenórë. (Golden Tengwar letters on a white marble background would look quite gorgeous, I believe. We have to think in pictures here.)
Emerging from the vast tomb into the daylight, Míriel is greeted by the masses. Fern i Aran, cuio i Rîs anann! The King is dead, long live the Queen! The cry echoes in the Holy Mountain and eventually becomes almost triumphant (most of the people who bothered to turn up come from Andúnië, obviously). But Míriel herself looks pretty stunned, as if she only now realizes what a heavy burden of responsibility fate has placed upon her young shoulders.
The mountain background fades out, the cry of the masses dies away into utter silence, but Míriel is still there. Yet this is another place, another time -- but neither very far away nor much later. We are indoors. She now carries an ornamented dress, but still looks rather lost. Elendil enters the room and says something to the effect that "it is time". On her part, there would be the inevitable "I can't do this, I am so young, I'm not worthy", but I think we should let Elendil assure her that her friends will stand by her and support her, as they promised to her father on his deathbed. (All right, maybe we shouldn't overdo Míriel's vulnerability and low self-esteem. After all, I foresee her trying to stand up to Sauron himself after Pharazôn sets out on his final expedition -- Míriel saving from the temple fires some of the people who soon after go with Elendil to Middle-earth. Character development, you know. Always a good thing in any movie.)
Leaving this small room, we should have Míriel entering a HUGE hall (something like a cathedral, except that it can't be really religious in nature since the Meneltarma is the only sanctuary on Númenor -- think of it as a kind of ceremonial hall, then). She walks up a long aisle, as representatives from all parts of the realm bow to her. Parts of this we see from above, so that the audience can appreciate the beautiful Númellótë ornaments on the floor (concerning which see Unfinished Tales p. 227...an example of small Tolkienian details that the moviemakers should include!)
Finally Míriel stands before a huge glass window; outside we see the White Tree, telling the audience that we are near the royal courts in Armenelos. Here she kneels to be crowned Queen of Númenor. The coronation scene in Galadriel -- erh, Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett -- could provide some inspiration here. Whether or not the audience likes to read subtitles, we should have to include lots of Quenya, the ancient ceremonial language (its use will serve the plot as well, as I shall demonstrate shortly). Nai turuvalyë andavë mára nirmenen i Númeheruion ar i Eruo i or te ëa! "May you rule long by the good will of the Lords of the West and the One who is above them!"
Míriel is handed the sword Aranrúth, descended to the Númenorean Kings from Thingol who once ruled the Elven kingdom of Doriath "which now lies under the sea" (!) Maybe we can sneak in a reference to his daughter Lúthien here, since I foresee that she will be mentioned later as well. Anyway, Míriel's name is inscribed in the Scroll of Kings (bring out the Tengwar calligraphers). Finally Amandil (as the senior member of the late King's Council) places the Winged Crown upon Míriel's head and hands her the Sceptre. I should prefer, not the puny crown Jackson finally landed on Viggo's head, but a crown actually looking like Tolkien's drawing in Letters p. 281: a tall helmet with wings.
Some have argued that the Númenóreans did not use any crown; this is apparently based on a foottnote in LotR Appendix A: "The sceptre was the chief mark of royalty in Númenor, the King [Aragorn] tells us; and this was also so in Arnor, whose kings wore no crown." It is not really said that the rulers of Númenor did not wear any crown; this statement rather applies to the kings of the later, exilic realm of Arnor. In Númenor the sceptre was held to be more important, that is all. The Akallabêth actually refers to "the ruling house to whom belonged the crown and the throne in the city of Armenelos" (emphasis added).
Ela i tári! Behold the Queen! Tar-Míriel, twenty-fifth ruler in the line of Elros Tar-Minyatur and the fourth Ruling Queen, is greeted by her cheering subjects...
...or at least some of them cheer. We abruptly CUT from the seemingly happy climax of the coronation ceremony to a secret meeting of the Conspirators. Pharazôn is overcoming whatever doubts he might have had. One of his friends -- I guess our newly-named character Abârubêl comes in handy here -- points out that Míriel revived the ancient coronation ritual, "full of Elvish gibberish" (that is how the Quenya lines at the coronation serve the story, provoking the anti-Elfists). Even worse, this ritual includes the intolerable crap about Númenorean rulers somehow being dependent on the good will of the Lords of the West. The kings since Adûnakhôr had dispensed with that nonsense, but it is now painfully clear that young Míriel will continue where her father left off: another weak ruler brainwashed with hokey Elvish theology, trying to re-institute these queer ideas as some kind of state religion. She knows little of the wars in Middle-earth or the threats against the realm, and is clearly unable to handle them.
Obviously there is only one sensible, indeed moral, thing to do: Pharazôn must be made King at whatever cost! The people will gladly accept him, especially considering the alternative. If Míriel stands between him and the throne, then there must be a little "accident" eliminating her. It would not be difficult to arrange. Even the palace guards are on Pharazôn's side (or at least their loyalty can be bought). But Pharazôn himself should perhaps be represented as being somewhat hesitant about that particular plan. Why risk an uprising in Andúnië? For that matter, he probably would not want to kill Míriel, his own cousin, unless he deems it absolutely necessary. "There may be another way..."
Night comes. North of Armenelos, the Meneltarma shines white in the moonlight. (Moonlight is good. Ever noticed how CGI Gollum looks far better and more realistic in moonlight than in sunlight?) Standing in an open courtyard in the palace, a lone figure lifts her hands against the Holy Mountain. Míriel addresses her maker in "the noblest tongue in the world" (as Tolkien called Quenya in Unfinished Tales p. 218): Ánin anta handë ar istya! Ánin anta saila órë turien alta lië sina! "Give me understanding and knowledge! Give me a wise heart to rule this great people!" (No, this doesn't really come from Tolkien: We are plagiarizing Solomon's prayer in 2 Chronicles, chapter 1! I foresee other Biblical allusions as well...)
Suddenly Pharazôn appears behind her, brusquely interrupting her prayer: "Don't you think even God understands our own tongue?" When a startled young Queen asks how he got into the palace and tries to call the guards, he just ignores her. Nobody comes to her help. At this point Pharazôn probably says something about how he must "take responsibility" for the future of Westernesse. Realizing that her cousin is trying to usurp the throne, Míriel should respond that she will never abdicate willingly (we must let her show some strength by now, so that the audience won't think this movie is about some feeble "damsel in distress" who will later be saved by Elendil and/or Isildur...that isn't going to happen anyway!) But Pharazôn doesn't want her to abdicate. Far from it. Instead he asks her: "Míriel...for the sake of our people...will you marry me?"
Of course, she can't believe her ears. "Are you mad? We are cousins! I couldn't marry you even if I wanted to! It's against the law!" (Yes, Tolkien does say such a marriage would be against Númenorean law.)
Angry, Pharazôn grabs hold of her. ZOOM IN on their faces, one red with anger, the other deadly white! "Wrong answer! I am trying to protect you, Míriel. Don't you understand what could happen here? The young Queen fell down a stair and broke her neck. Really tragic. Some will suspect, hardly anyone will care. Don't you realize that you have NO supporters, except your fellow True Believers up in Andúnië? The people will never let you complete what your father began and destroy what little is left of the dignity and strength of this realm. You are young and naive and I don't want to see something really nasty happen to you. I would like to save you, but if I must choose between your life and the future of Westernesse, then I must do what is best for the people. So, your royal highness, WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE?" Conclude the scene with a close-up on Míriel's desperate face. No need to wait for her answer...
At dawn the very next day it is proclaimed that a Royal Wedding has unexpectedly taken place: Tar-Míriel has been joined in holy matrimony with Pharazôn! Yeah, technically she shouldn't marry her cousin, but this is understood to be a nice political marriage, of course. (We don't have to show the actual wedding. After Palantir's interment and Míriel's coronation, plus the Erulaitalë on the mountain earlier, we can't throw yet another "ceremonial" scene upon our long-suffering audience. Moreover, since this is a forced wedding, it wouldn't be any fun watching it. And I have no idea what a Númenorean wedding ceremony would be like anyway!)
The news would be very well received by the masses in Armenelos and throughout the realm (except in Andúnië, of course). Everybody understands that some kind of Palace Coup has taken place, but all sensible people must agree that this is for the best. Already a new name has been inscribed in the Scroll of Kings, next to that of Tar-Míriel: TAR-CALION (Abârubêl: "An Elvish name?!" Pharazôn: "Tradition. Write and forget!") We must probably presuppose a huge central square in Armenelos, where the newly-weds are greeted by 300,000 computer-generated Númenoreans from the capital (let WETA bring out the Massive program again). There he is, clad in gilded armor flashing in the sun and already bearing the Winged Crown: King Ar-Pharazôn the Golden! Suddenly he snaps the scepter out of Míriel's hands and raises it high: The masses ROAR in ecstasy! If only the Queen could appreciate the joy of the people. She looks rather depressed and sullen, but surely she'll adapt and find her proper place in the new arrangement.
When Elendil and his sons arrive from Andúnië, there is nothing to be done. The capital is in a festive mood: A strong and popular King at last! Thrilled, the masses listen to Pharazôn speaking about the bright future of Westernesse: "We are the people of the Land of the Star, the heirs of Eärendil! We do not depend on the good will of any other power, East or West, though they may yet come to depend on us!" Míriel should find Elendil's face in the crowd; both would look equally pale. Isildur in turn watches his father, and his older self delivers his comments in voice-over...probably something about how they felt they had deserted Míriel and underestimated the cunning of Pharazôn's party. And old Isildur could even point out that this day, when the masses hailed the Usurper, was actually the beginning of the end.
Pharazôn has settled in as the King of Westernesse. (Small linguistic point: Only the Elf-friends in Andúnië always use the Elvish name Númenor; everybody else pretty consistently uses the Mannish translation Westernesse.) But Pharazôn is not happy, not only because his relationship to his Queen is just as cold as one would expect, but also because his ambitions reach far beyond Númenor. As Tolkien writes in Appendix A to the LotR, "no less than the kingship of the world was his desire".
Yet Pharazôn must deal with one very dangerous rival if he is ever to extend his dominion thus far. Ships coming to Númenor bring disturbing news from Middle-earth: The Númenorean settlements along the coasts are hard pressed by forces from Mordor, the mysterious Black Land beyond the Ephel Dúath mountain range. It is said that the ruler of that land, himself a rather mysterious figure, wants to destroy them -- or even destroy Númenor itself. He even claims the title of King of Men! Outrageous! As Pharazôn sees things, there is only one candidate for this title, and the Lord of Mordor clearly needs to be informed that this position is already occupied.
After spending years in Middle-earth, Pharazôn is able to attach a name to the shadowy figure who rules from Mordor: Sauron. Pharazôn's councilors would be astonished: "THE Sauron? The servant of Morgoth in the hoary tales from the First Age?" - "Why not? After all, everybody lives forever except us." But though recognizing Sauron as a dangerous superhuman enemy, Pharazôn doesn't really care who the Lord of Mordor really is or what his background may be. All that matters is that the darn upstart has claimed the title of King of Men. Intolerable! Lese-majesty!
Possibly, Amandil could dig out of the Royal Archives the letter that Gil-galad sent to one of the early kings of Westernesse, long ago (it is quoted in full in Unfinished Tales pp. 199-200). Here the Elven-king warned the Númenoreans that "a servant of Morgoth is stirring, and evil things wake again". Many long centuries have passed, and evil has taken hold in Middle-earth. But again, Pharazôn is not really interested. Sauron has insulted him, and if the Dark Lord has any future at all, it is as Pharazôn's vassal!
To Pharazôn, it is obvious that the problem can only be solved by massive gunboat diplomacy (or its equivalent in this pre-gunpowder era). He readies the fleet. The Royal Fleet of Númenor, the pride of this the greatest of all seafaring realms, must be made to look as impressive as possible. There should probably be as many as a hundred ships, since Pharazôn will be able to carry a sizeable army to Middle-earth.
Since Amandil is still a reluctant member of the King's Council, his son Elendil and grandsons Isildur and Anárion would be well informed about what the King is planning. Tolkien didn't explicitly say whether or not Elendil and his sons were with Pharazôn during the campaign in Middle-earth, but in a movie they would probably have to be, simply because we can hardly have our main characters totally disappearing for maybe as much as thirty minutes. Probably our heroes are faced with a dilemma: Should they really support Pharazôn, the usurper who has made Míriel a hostage in her own palace? Should they fight in his wars when it is obvious that it is his pride, rather than any concern for the Númenorean settlers in Middle-earth, that makes him want to challenge Sauron?
Wise with ancient lore, our heroes must conclude that the Dark Lord Sauron is THE ultimate threat against Men, and if Pharazôn wants to fight him, then the King must be supported no matter how unworthy his personal motives are. Some suitable dialogue would have to be developed here. Let's imagine Amandil, his son and grandsons sitting on a beach overlooking the huge bay of Eldanna; they are near the Tower of Minastir on the western coast. Far away they glimpse a small fleet of Elvish ships from Middle-earth approaching the unchanging cloud-bank in the West.
ISILDUR: There have been more Elven-ships coming from Middle-earth lately.
AMANDIL: Of course. The way west is ever open to the Elves, and they flee in large numbers to the Blessed Realm whenever the power of Mordor is stirring.
ANÁRION: And what do the Men of Middle-earth do? Where can they flee?
AMANDIL (looking grieved): Nowhere, even if they wanted to. In Middle-earth, Sauron can well call himself the King of Men. In the East and South of the world, he had perverted nearly all Men to his foul worship. They honor him as a god and fears him exceedingly, for he surrounds his abode with fire. Only Gil-galad's Elven realm is not under the sway of the Dark Lord. [The source for these lines, on which they are in part verbally dependent, is the text "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" appended to the Silmarillion.]
ISILDUR: But can our army threaten Sauron?
AMANDIL: Who can tell? The vast forces Pharazôn purposes to bring to Middle-earth could probably protect our settlements along the coasts well enough. But my heart tells me [as Tolkien would have put it!] that our proud King will not stop there.
ELENDIL: What do you mean?
AMANDIL: I think Pharazôn believes he can get to Sauron himself. He will surely try. He wants to make the Dark Lord his own vassal, or else destroy him. But Sauron is far too great a foe to be controlled by mortal Men, even if he were alone with no servants or worshippers to help him. And least of all would he ever serve any King of Númenor.
AMANDIL (gesturing towards the Tower of Minastir): King Minastir did more than build towers. Long ago, when the war between Sauron and the Elves first broke out, Minastir sent his armies to Middle-earth to assist Gil-galad the Elvenking. And so Sauron could not conquer the Westlands of Middle-earth. All those centuries ago, our people earned the undying hatred of the Dark Lord. It is said that he has vowed to destroy Númenor. [Tolkienian source for Minastir's story: Unfinished Tales p. 220.]
ANÁRION: But he cannot get to us here, can he?
AMANDIL: Well, Mordor certainly has no fleet. But Sauron is more cunning that even Morgoth whom he once served. [Cf. what Tolkien writes in Morgoth's Ring p. 420: compared to Morgoth, Sauron was "cooler and more capable of calculation... He thus was often able to achieve things...which his master did not or could not complete in the furious haste of his malice."]
ISILDUR: So maybe the King is right, then. We must destroy Sauron before he destroys us.
AMANDIL: No weapon forged by Elves or Men can ever destroy Sauron. For Sauron is not of mortal flesh.
ELENDIL (watching the Elven-ships disappear into the remote cloudbank hiding the Immortal Lands): Then what? The Elves can flee to the Uttermost West, but we are forbidden to follow them there. If the Shadow upon Middle-earth reaches out over the ocean to threaten us here...will the Lords of the West protect us as they protect the Elves who seek their immortal realm?
AMANDIL: Valar valuvar! Let the Powers rule...as they see fit.
Far off in the distance, the Elven-ships disappear into the cloudbank, never to be seen again. (See The War of the Jewels p. 404 concerning the Elvish saying Valar valuvar.)
And so Pharazôn's preparations for war go on, and Elendil and his sons do not protest when they are conscripted: They cling to the thought that the army may at least come to the help of the hapless Númenorean settlers along the coasts of Middle-earth, before the Orcs can raze all the settlements. Yet Elendil and his sons are ever worried where the proud King will go from there: Undoubtedly he will try to get to Sauron in person. But surely the Dark Lord will prove elusive, so that Pharazôn will have to give up his bizarre plan of making Sauron his vassal. Things may still work out reasonably well, then.
Míriel, too, should probably follow Pharazôn to Middle-earth (though again, Tolkien said nothing about whether she did). As in most Tolkien stories, the gender balance is anything but a balance, and we must try to keep our one female protagonist onscreen as much as possible. Probably the usurper King doesn't want her to stay behind because in his absence, she would be the sovereign (an interesting plot-point -- I foresee Míriel trying to claim some kind of flimsy authority when, much later in our hypothetical movie, Pharazôn leaves Númenor once again). We may plausibly assume that Pharazôn would want to keep his wife under his own supervision. Who knows what funny edicts Míriel might issue while the King is away in Middle-earth? Her friends could even try to arrange some kind of counter-coup, and Pharazôn can't have that! No, Westernesse will be ruled by the King's Council until Pharazôn's triumphant return.
Far better than Pharazôn, Amandil would realize what a deadly enemy Sauron is; there may be no return from Middle-earth at all. We should represent him as doing his best to prepare his son and grandsons for the campaign (Amandil himself is too old to go with them). This would be a good place to have Amandil hand Elendil the sword Narsil -- an ancient heirloom in their family, originally forged by the Dwarvish master-smith Telchar from meteoric iron. (Yes, it was "the shards of Narsil" that turned up in Rivendell in Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, still so sharp that Boromir cut his finger on them! We will later see how the sword got broken.)
The day of departure comes. With thousands and thousands of soldiers on board, the vast fleet sets sail for Middle-earth. Fairly recently we saw a large CGI fleet in Troy, but it could have looked better. Refine the effects for Westernesse, please. (Maybe it would be best to build a few actual ships, and then combine many shots of them into a composite picture so that they become a large fleet? Should be easy, in this digital age...)
Leaving the port of Rómenna on the east coast, the ships would follow the long promontory of Orrostar and then sail into open sea. The young Queen stares wistfully at the Meneltarma as the Holy Mountain fades away in the West. (Remember, the world is still flat, so nothing ever sinks below the horizon; it just dwindles into distance!)
Later, as the ships draw near to the western coast of Middle-earth, we may again remind our audience of the titanic battles of the past. Maybe Elendil talks to Isildur and Anárion about these seas, pointing out that they are actually sailing over the lost continent of Beleriand, where all the great events of the First Age took place. Drowned forever in deep waters lie the ruins of Gondolin, the city Eärendil had to flee when he was but a child. Or maybe in this moment the ships are passing over the sad remains of Doriath, the Hidden Kingdom where Beren once came to Lúthien and their fates were joined even beyond death. But none shall ever walk in the woods of Beleriand again, for all was destroyed and sank beneath the waves in the War of Wrath when the Valar finally overthrew Morgoth. And if the sons of Elendil ask why it had to be so, why everything had to be destroyed, maybe their father answers that sometimes evil can only be defeated at a terrible cost. (Our characters don't know it yet, but this little discussion will be highly relevant for future events as well...)
Well, finally we are to arrive in Middle-earth, somewhat more familiar ground for movie audiences. But now there is a slight narrative problem to be solved.
At this point in the story, Tolkien moved straight on to relating how Pharazôn's fleet came to Umbar. However, the Elven-king Gil-galad becomes very important in the last fifteen-or-so minutes of our movie, when the Last Alliance marches on Mordor. We can't have Gil-galad turning up out of the blue that late in the film. He must be introduced earlier, actually appearing onscreen (we have already heard his name, of course). Moreover, the audience is probably already wondering when we are going to see some Elves in this movie. Our characters have been talking about Elves (discussing their immortality); they even speak Elvish on occasion -- so it's about time the Real Thing turns up!
One possible solution: Before Pharazôn's fleet goes south to defend the Númenorean settlers from further Mordorian harassment, they visit Lindon, Gil-galad's realm in the north-west. (Indeed it is west of the area where the Hobbits will later found the Shire; the Grey Havens where Frodo and Bilbo take ship at the end of LotR used to be a part of Gil-galad's kingdom.) Why would Pharazôn go to Lindon first? Well, he probably wouldn't, on his own initiative -- but we could have Elendil suggesting to him that it would be best if they get some fresh intelligence about what is going on in Middle-earth. Then they will know how to proceed.
We would have, then, a sequence set in the realm of the Elves, somewhat analogous to the Lórien sequence in the LotR, though Lindon probably shouldn't have quite the same dreamy atmosphere as Lórien (maybe the Rivendell sequence is a better analogy). As they approach the coast, Míriel could be pointing out to her "husband" that the realm of Lindon is about as old as Númenor itself, founded at the beginning of the Second Age. Lindon and Westernesse could be seen as sister realms, just like the Two Kindreds of Elves and Men are sibling races. However, about this point it should become increasingly clear that Pharazôn despises the Elves, a dislike resulting from envy: he desperately desires their immortality.
So when Míriel speaks with some enthusiasm about Lindon (she is going to see Elves for the first time in her life), we could have Pharazôn bitterly pointing out that after three thousand years, Lindon still has its original King: Gil-galad. Westernesse, a realm almost as old as Lindon, has had well over twenty rulers in the same time! And all because Elros, that idiot, didn't choose to be counted among the Elves like his brother Elrond had the wits to do! Pharazôn would express his frustration that the Númenoreans only live for a couple of hundred years or so and then "rot and die" (not necessarily in that order). Míriel could point out to him that the Númenoreans have actually been granted a great span; in Middle-earth, the various races of Men only live to be about seventy or eighty years old. But the King would be little impressed by that argument.
The dramatic moment when Pharazôn first sets foot upon Middle-earth should be saved for later, when he finally goes ashore ready to confront Mordor. We could emphasize his arrogance by letting him remain on the ship off the coast of Lindon (and thus not involve him in too many un-Tolkienian scenes, either); he demands that Gil-galad comes to him rather than vice versa. Initially he could send Míriel ashore as his ambassador (and surely Elendil and maybe Isildur could follow as her bodyguards?) Knowing how infatuated these people are with all things Elvish, Pharazôn might hope to pick Gil-galad's brain through them.
I am not going to elaborate needlessly. Míriel meets Gil-galad, an ageless Elvish ruler with an aura of wisdom and sagacity, destined to be remembered in Elven-song ("Gil-galad was an Elven-king / Of him the harpers sadly sing / the last whose realm was fair and free / between the Mountains and the Sea" -- maybe we could have the choir sing Tolkien's poem?) Gil-galad would receive Míriel with great honor, expressing his respect and admiration for the Dúnedain: What other mortal people ever had a home granted to them by the Valar themselves, and within sight of the Blessed Realm? (Throughout our movie, the audience should be frequently reminded of the existence of the inaccessible Blessed Realm in the West...eventually, we'll find out how inaccessible it really is!)
Would it strain credibility too much if Elrond just happens to be visiting Lindon when the Númenoreans drop by? Normally he would be dwelling in Rivendell, but surely he is in regular contact with Gil-galad's realm. Elrond, like Gil-galad himself, will turn up near the end of the movie and should perhaps be introduced earlier. Moreover, the audience might appreciate seeing a familiar face at last (hopefully Hugo Weaving hasn't aged too much when we are making our movie, since Elrond is actually younger here, and as an Elf he shouldn't age very much anyway!) To Míriel, meeting Elrond would be really strange: Here is the brother of the very first King of Númenor, alive and well though Elros himself has spent the better part of three thousand years in his tomb in Noirinan! Surreal...
What should Gil-galad (and Elrond?) be telling Míriel (and Elendil/Isildur?) The basic strategic facts would be set out: The power of Mordor reaches far and wide in the east and south, and most Men are enslaved, forced to worship Sauron as a god (a horrible blasphemy to Elvish minds, as well as to Eru-worshipping Númenoreans). The Númenorean settlers along the coasts are the only ones to enjoy some sort of freedom, but even they are constantly harassed. But the Dark Lord has never yet dared to cross the range of the Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains, and assail Lindon. The Elven realm of Gil-galad is all that now stands between Sauron and total supremacy in Middle-earth. And this, in the long run, means that disaster could be inevitable.
Gil-galad and Elrond would surely be aware that a divine master-plan is slowly unfolding as the millennia pass by. It is the will of Eru Himself that eventually, Mortal Men are to inherit the earth (the final transfer from the world of the Elves to the world of Men occurs at the end of LotR/the Jackson trilogy, when Aragorn is crowned and the last Elven-ship leaves the Havens). Gil-galad might point out that of old, it was prophesied that the Elves who left the Blessed Realm would become like shadows of regret before the younger race that comes after. Míriel and Elendil would surely recognize the allusion to the Prophecy of Mandos: They themselves belong to this younger race, destined to take over the world; they may understand now that Númenor itself is a grand experiment of the Valar, a realm founded in anticipation of the inevitable day when all the world is to be ruled by mortals.
Gil-galad may perceive that the Second Age of the World is nearing its end, and also that the Third Age will be the fading years of the Elves. Soon, as the Elves see it, they must either go into the West or simply fade out of time and history. There are some sad and beautiful lines of Galadriel's, ignored by Jackson, that could well be put into Gil-galad's mouth instead: "We must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten" (from the chapter The Mirror of Galadriel). "Our spring and our summer are gone by, and they will never be seen on earth again save in memory" (from Farewell to Lórien). The Third Age will be the autumn of Elvendom, never to be followed by another spring.
But who is then left to resist Mordor? With the Elves out of the way, Sauron will surely conquer all that remains to be taken in Middle-earth, and what was to be the beginning of the Dominion of Men will actually be the beginning of their eternal enslavement, the establishing of a tyranny that must last until the end of time. So in the long run, the future seems really dark...unless Men and Elves can now unite and overthrow Sauron. (We are of course anticipating the Last Alliance and the final fifteen minutes of the movie here.)
Maybe, then, when Gil-galad later visits Pharazôn's ship to meet the King of Westernesse himself, the Elf could be suggesting to Pharazôn that Men and Elves should join forces. As later (Tolkienian!) history shows, Gil-galad would be prepared to risk everything in an attack on Mordor if there was a chance of victory. But then the Númenoreans would of course have to postpone their own plans, maybe for years, while the Lindonians prepare for battle. Much worse, Pharazôn would have to share the glory of any victory with Gil-galad! This provides us with yet another cinematic opportunity to highlight Pharazôn's arrogance: the Usurper would reject Gil-galad's proposal out of hand.
Though Gil-galad must now regard the Númenorean enterprise with the gravest of doubts, fearing that even the vast Númenorean army cannot on its own conquer the hordes of Mordor, the wise Elven-king should still be represented as trying to help Pharazôn (even though the latter is barely able to stomach any Elvish "interference"). Here, then, is our chance of providing "this movie with a 'Legolas' character and keep him onscreen for a reasonable amount of time", as I wrote in the introduction. This could be achieved if we have Gil-galad summoning a golden-haired Elf, his right-hand man: We learn that his name is Glorfindel.
Gil-galad would then implore Pharazôn to take Glorfindel with him on the upcoming expedition to the south. He is a great warrior and also knows the lands around Mordor. His advice and help could prove very valuable. Pharazôn might grudgingly agree to take Glorfindel along, so that Gil-galad can later have a first-hand account of the strength and ability of the Númenorean army. (Glorfindel is a Tolkienian character who would live in Middle-earth at this time, even though the Professor never discussed just what he was doing at the time Pharazôn came to Middle-earth with his armada. There are good reasons for inserting Glorfindel here, as we will discuss later.)
If we want to throw in some foreshadowing here, it could easily be achieved. Let's say that Glorfindel, demonstrating his knowledge of history and trying to win the favor of the strangely arrogant King, points out that the Elves are still grateful for the help they received from the Númenoreans under Tar-Minastir "at the time when the Great Rings were made". An unfortunate slip of the tongue, startling Gil-galad and resulting in a sharp glance expressing an unspoken order: Glorfindel, whatever you do, don't talk about the Rings!
Wrote Tolkien, "The Elves kept the matter of the Rings very secret, as long as they could" (Letters, p. 279). So for the moment, this little hint is all we get, and any follow-up questions from Pharazôn about these "Rings" are deftly evaded. But for narrative purposes, it will later be convenient to assume that Amandil is one of the few non-Elves who know the secret of the Rings of Power that were forged all those centuries ago. At some point in our movie, we must have Amandil telling his son and grandsons about the Rings.
After learning all Gil-galad can tell about the force of Mordor, the Númenorean armada is ready to depart from Lindon and go south. But one more brief sequence should be added before they go. This has to do with another narrative problem that is elegantly solved if we assume that the Númenoreans went to Lindon before they sought out the forces of Mordor.
Gil-galad will surely have perceived that there is no love between Pharazôn and Míriel his queen, and also that she is far wiser than her husband. So let's assume that shortly before the departure, he takes her aside and places a large box before her. She opens it and looks at its contents, but at this point I would maintain suspense by not showing the audience what is really in the box. The young Queen's face would suggest that it is something strange and wonderful, and Gil-galad should say something to the effect that "these were made by he who perished ere the sun was made, and sits now in the Halls of Mandos and walks no more among his people".
She would recognize the allusion to Fëanor. Gil-galad could point out that Fëanor, by his marvelous skills, brought the Elves their greatest fame...and when he lead them out of the Blessed Realm, he also brought them their bitterest woe. Now Gil-galad wants Míriel to bring this box back to Númenor and give it to Amandil, whom Gil-galad knows from when he visited Middle-earth as a young man: "He will know how to use these things." He also asks her to keep this gift secret, not telling anybody of it...and though Pharazôn's name is not mentioned, she and the audience alike would gather that he is included.
Don't worry, folks -- this box is not some Pulp Fiction briefcase, its contents remaining ever mysterious. The audience won't know what it contains before later, when Amandil receives his gift, but for our present purpose the mystery may be revealed right away: Gil-galad sends Amandil the palantíri, the Seven Seeing Stones, that Elendil will later bring back to Middle-earth under, ahem, dramatic circumstances. (Even three thousand years later, when the LotR takes place, a few of the Stones still haven't been misplaced!) This is a Tolkienian idea as good as any; in Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, we read: "These stones were gifts of the Eldar to Amandil, father of Elendil, for the comfort of the Faithful of Númenor in their dark days."
The question immediately arises, Exactly how and when did these Stones come to Númenor in the first place? The Eldar (Elves) could hardly have delivered them personally. But surely we must assume that such unique and powerful heirlooms would be in the hands of none other than the Elven-king himself, and if we let the Númenoreans visit Gil-galad in Lindon, we can also let Míriel carry the palantíri back with her. (Alternatively this task could be entrusted to Elendil, who would then bring the gift back to his own father. But as noted above, Tolkien provided us with only one female protagonist among all these men, and so we must try to keep her onscreen as much as possible to compensate!)
So Míriel hides away the Stones in the hope that she will have the opportunity to ever hand Amandil his gift; first there remains a confrontation with the forces of Mordor. The armada leaves Lindon, the Númenoreans heading south. They pass the latitude of the still-to-be-founded realm of Gondor and finally come to Umbar, where there are Númenorean settlements along the coast. Somehow word must reach them that just now, bands of Orcs are razing one of their colonies. Very well: Time for war.
In the published Akallabêth, there is no reference to any violent confrontation when Pharazôn and his armies finally left their ships and went ashore. We actually read that "empty and silent were all the lands about when the King of the Sea marched upon Middle-earth". However, this is not what Tolkien wrote! For reasons I frankly don't fully understand, Christopher Tolkien in this case tampered with (er, "edited") his father's narrative when he prepared the Silmarillion and the associated works for publication. In The Peoples of Middle-earth p. 156 we finally got to read the Professor's original text: "Empty and silent under the sickle moon was the land when the King of the Sea set foot upon the shore." This does not necessarily imply that the entire area where the Númenoreans landed was completely deserted for hundreds of miles in all directions. They simply had the good sense to go ashore at night at some quiet spot where they did not risk being detected. For cinematic purposes I would unhesitatingly return to Tolkien's original text, complete with the sickle moon.
In Appendix A, Tolkien noted how in Umbar, "Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, last King of Númenor...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 depths of the sea." Also, in one of his letters the Professor spoke of how "Ar-Pharazôn...conquered...Sauron's subjects" (Letters, p. 279). These references to Sauron's might being humbled and the conquering of his subjects provide some basis for assuming that there was indeed an armed confrontation between the Númenoreans and some of Sauron's forces (though probably not a full-scale battle, of which there would have been a fuller account).
In any case, a modern movie audience would probably crave some kind of action at this point: We must be about an hour into the movie, and ignoring the Prologue, there has still been virtually no physical violence onscreen. Now Tolkien's story is primarily a psychological drama -- but after all the inevitable anticipation of a huge conflict with Mordor, the audience would probably feel let down if in the event, the Númenoreans go back to Westernesse not having fought any battles at all. Also, Elendil has been presented to us as a great hero, and he must be given a chance to demonstrate his heroics and martial skills. This is not like Jackson throwing in a completely gratuitous "Warg battle" in The Two Towers so that we can have ACTION, ACTION, ACTION!!! Or that is my opinion.
Again, I am not going to elaborate needlessly. Actually the present writer tends to find prolonged fight scenes, especially sword-fighting, rather boring. In short, bands of Orcs would be in the process of destroying one of the Númenorean settlements, but all of a sudden, they find themselves facing an entire invasion army. We should have to develop some scenes allowing Elendil/Isildur/Anárion, Glorfindel and maybe even Pharazôn to display their fighting abilities, but soon it becomes clear that the Orcs are going to be utterly defeated. They don't stand a chance.
If they have any monsters (cave-trolls?) with them, they are soon wiped out as well. Remember that scene where Indiana Jones encounters a threatening character with a sword, and we think a prolonged fight scene will follow, but then Indy simply shoots him? End of story. We could achieve a similar effect here, if a roaring cave-troll suddenly turns up and we think we are about to see a long fight, as when the Fellowship of the Ring must fight a similar troll in Moria (well, in the book it was just a huge Orc-captain, but I like Jackson's troll well enough...) But then hundreds of Númenorean crossbows twang, and the troll falls dead. Bump! The whole scene would only last five seconds.
The attackers may realize that there is a controlling power commanding the Orcs. But when they close in on it, a mutated pterodactyl suddenly rises towards the dark sky in a storm of flapping wings, the monster carrying away a dark figure riding on its back. No, I certainly can't point to any Tolkienian authority for involving a Nazgûl here; the battle itself would only be based on the vaguest of hints in the Professor's writings. But if we let a Nazgûl escape at this point, there would be an easy explanation for how Sauron gets to know what has happened, as demanded by narrative concerns.
Soon, the fight would be over. The Orcs have been exterminated, except perhaps for a few that were captured alive (they could come in handy plotwise; see below). The Númenorean settlers, who were themselves about to be wiped out, would now be overjoyed that the mighty King Ar-Pharazôn has come to their rescue. But the King himself would be uneasy because some kind of creature got away.
We could use the flying Nazgûl as an excuse for letting the audience see Mordor itself: We would not have to abruptly cut away from one place to another, but we could return to the Nazgûl and thus maintain some kind of contact with the preceding scenes. Following the Ringwraith on its monstrous steed, the camera would fly high over the Mountains of Shadow surrounding the Black Land. Play the thunderous theme Jackson used in Fellowship, when we are shown Mordor for the first time (Gollum being tortured). We pass over Orodruin, later known as Mount Doom, lava flowing and smoke rising. Then the Nazgûl disappears in the direction of the gargantuan Dark Tower rising impossibly high in the distance: Barad-dûr, fortress of Sauron.
However, no Eye of Fire (or anything else, for that matter) is hovering above the top of the tower. In this earlier period of history, the fiery spirit of the Dark Lord is hidden inside an actual body, a body we will soon get to see. Eventually we'll get to see the Eye as well...but the audience must be patient.
Let me insert a note about Sauron's manifestations. As many will know, Tolkien never wrote that Sauron appeared like a huge, disembodied Eye floating above the top of Barad-dûr -- the way he is depicted in the Jackson movies. Very true, also in the literary version Sauron's manifestation in the late Third Age was somehow totally dominated by a huge, fiery, lidless Eye. This is how he appears in Galadriel's Mirror, for instance (well represented in the movie). Both enemies and servants of Sauron may refer to him as the Great Eye; Frodo also perceives Sauron's presence as a searching Eye. But Tolkien apparently didn't mean this Eye to be quite disembodied. Gollum, who has actually been to Barad-dûr and seen Sauron up close, refers to his "Black Hand" (in the chapter The Black Gate Is Closed -- of course, this line is never spoken in the movies). So there was apparently some kind of monstrous body associated with the terrible Eye. Neither was the Eye hovering above Barad-dûr; Tolkien meant Sauron to be inside the Dark Tower. Cf. Frodo and Sam's observations: "as from some great window immeasurably high there stabbed northward a flame of red, the flicker of a piercing Eye" (from the chapter Mount Doom, emphasis added).
But here we are making a prequel to LotR the Movie rather than LotR the Book, so Jackson's ideas must be taken into account. In the movies it is said that Sauron cannot yet take physical form, but his spirit has lost none of its potency (Saruman in Fellowship). In the Jackson version, the Eye of Fire must therefore be taken as representing Sauron's "true" spirit form, the shape he has when he is not incarnated into a body (as he would be in most of a Westernesse movie). One could argue that a spirit would be quite invisible, but the idea is probably compatible with Tolkien's general scenario. Evidently referring to the spirits of Elves and Men, Tolkien noted how a "disembodied spirit" might be "seen as a pale shape" (The Monsters and the Critics p. 223). So maybe the far more powerful spirit of Sauron could indeed appear as a clearly visible shape. This is the probably the scenario we would have to adopt for any movie prequels, to make them compatible with the Jackson trilogy. It will actually allow for some extra drama during the Downfall, when Sauron loses his assumed body. But we have much ground to cover before we reach that point...
Well. With a Nazgûl escaping to tell Sauron about the Númenorean invasion, we understand that something nasty could be coming up, but let's return to the liberated coastal city. For a brief time, Pharazôn would appear as a great hero, praised by the Númenorean colonists. But very soon, his darker sides would resurface. Maybe we could have him torture captured Orcs hoping to find out how to get to Sauron himself? Elendil would be uncomfortable with this, pointing out that according to the teachings of the wise, even Orcs should never be tormented. (Compare Morgoth's Ring p. 419: though Orcs "must be fought with the utmost severity, they must not be dealt with in their own terms of cruelty and treachery. Captives must not be tormented, not even to discover information for the defence of the homes of Elves and Men... This was the teaching of the Wise.")
In any case, it is no secret where Sauron is: Tormented or not, the Orcs would sneer at Pharazôn and tell him that he is screwed (or whatever the Middle-earth wording would be). For Pharazôn has insulted Him who dwells in Lugbúrz, the Dark Tower in Mordor: "He sees! He knows! And He never forgets! Ever!"
Well, Pharazôn would be little impressed, and eager to come face to face with Sauron himself. The Númenorean army begins to move inland. The "natives" greet them with flowers and music (so to speak), happy to be liberated from the tyranny of Mordor. Wrote Tolkien in LotR Appendix A, "So great was the might and splendour of the Númenoreans that Sauron's own servants deserted him." Not Orcs, presumably, but humans who had been forced to serve and indeed worship Sauron. Now they would throw themselves down before the feet of the Númenoreans, their liberators. "All men flocked to their summons and did obeisance," we are told in The Peoples of Middle-earth p. 182.
According to the Akallabêth, the Númenoreans traveled inland for seven days. Then, on a hill, Pharazôn "went up, and he set there his pavilion and his throne, and he sat him down in the midst of the land, and the tents of his host were ranged all about him, blue, golden, and white, as a field of tall flowers." Nice visuals for our movie...
Then, we read, Pharazôn sent forth heralds. Tolkien didn't name them, but we may just as well keep our main characters onscreen. Let's say that Elendil and Glorfindel are selected, and that they are under the impression that they are sent forth as spies, to spy out the outer borders of Mordor. We could assume that Glorfindel has been on similar missions before (as Gil-galad's secret agent) and knows the terrain. But in preparation for a cinematically "interesting" moment we'll also let Pharazôn send his right-hand man, the character we have given the hopefully acceptable name of Abârubêl. In secret, Pharazôn gives him a scroll and some instructions we don't really get to hear, except for a slightly ominous "now you know what to do!"
Apart from the need for a "Legolas" character in our movie, there is a good reason why Glorfindel could be inserted into this story. (Let me reiterate that Tolkien never mentioned him in connection with Pharazôn or Elendil, and though I hope it isn't altogether implausible that he could have been involved during the Númenorean invasion, his presence here still requires some justification.) The reason for inserting Glorfindel is that he has a rather special history which is Tolkienian enough, a history that illustrates what will later become an important plot-point.
In LotR the Book, Glorfindel is the Elf that meets Aragorn and the hobbits as they are trying to make their way to Rivendell after Frodo has been stabbed by the Witch-king. (The movie substitutes Arwen, using a character that becomes important later: In the book Glorfindel just fades out of the picture after the Rivendell sequence, and unlike Tolkien, Jackson didn't feel that introducing a character only to soon drop him was worth the trouble. In the earlier Rankin/Bass animated version of LotR, another Elf was likewise substituted for Glorfindel, namely Legolas. In a Westernesse movie, Glorfindel should finally be allowed to enter the silver screen; the poor guy has been ignored by too many movie-makers already!)
Now there is also an Elf called Glorfindel in the Silmarillion, the one who leads the refugees over the mountains near Gondolin when Morgoth attacks the city. En route they encounter a balrog, and after a heroic struggle both Glorfindel and the balrog fall down into the abyss and are killed. Yep...this is the scene I would include in the introductory sequence to Westernesse, as sketched out above.
For years and decades, Tolkien fans debated whether the "two" Glorfindels were somehow meant to be the same person. Was the Glorfindel of LotR really the Glorfindel of Gondolin reincarnated? Or was he simply a different Elf with the same name? In 1996, when the very last volume of the History of Middle-earth series was published, we finally had Tolkien's answer (pp. 377-382)...and it could be worked into a Westernesse script.
Let's say that after leaving the camp, Elendil, Abârubêl and Glorfindel are moving north. They are in the area where Osgiliath and Minas Tirith will later be built. In the east there is the oppressive range of the Ephel Dúath, Mountains of Shadow: the outer fence of Mordor. At night, they see a hideous red flame flicker behind the mountains, and Glorfindel would explain that this is "Orodruin, the Mountain of Fire, a relic of the devastating works of Morgoth in the First Age of the world. It is the forges of Sauron's ancient might, the greatest in Middle-earth". But when asked just what Sauron really forged there, the answers of the Elf are curiously vague...
Notice that they should not yet refer to the mountain as "Mount Doom"; our movie will later reach the moment when that particular name was bestowed upon Orodruin. As for this volcano being a "relic" of the "devastating works" of Morgoth in the First Age, this piece of info is found in The Peoples of Middle-earth p. 390, note 14.
And so, in the middle of the night and with the ominous red flicker of Orodruin behind the mountains as the only source of illumination, Elendil could notice that there is also a strange light deep in Glorfindel's eyes. As Elendil the Elf-friend will surely be aware, the Elves even have a special word for this: Glorfindel is lachend, flame-eyed. Tolkien referred to this "piercing brightness" of the eyes as a characteristic of an Elf that has lived in Aman, the Blessed Realm (see The War of the Jewels p. 384). So Glorfindel is not born in Middle-earth; he is an Exile. (Jackson has a strange cluster of lights glowing in Galadriel's eyes; of course she is lachend as well, since she originally came from the Blessed Realm and goes back in the end.)
With this cue Glorfindel could start talking (probably somewhat hesitantly) about his past, how he did indeed come to Middle-earth when his kin turned their backs on the Valar, leaving the Blessed Realm behind. He should speak at least briefly about Gondolin, the Hidden City which his people built until it was "as beautiful as a memory of Elven Tirion in the Blessed Realm". They thought they would be safe there forever, but in the end "evil found a way". (We don't have time for the whole story of Maeglin's betrayal here, but the astute audience should be able to gather that just like the Númenoreans think they are safe in Westernesse, so the Elves once thought they were safe in Gondolin...and if the latter were wrong, then what about the former?)
Then Glorfindel would tell about the escape from Gondolin, how he tried to lead Princess Idril, her husband Tuor and young Eärendil over the mountains. Then they were surprised by a Balrog, and in somewhat vague terms Glorfindel would speak of how he tried to stop it from killing the others (but there would again be flashbacks to the First Age, perhaps more substantial than the glimpses we had during the Introduction, showing what a desperate situation this really was). And in the end (so Glorfindel would have to hint) both the Balrog and he himself fell off the narrow ledge and plunged into the yawning abyss below.
Well, the others would say in a somewhat forcedly cheerful tone, evidently Glorfindel somehow managed to survive. Good job!
But then Glorfindel, his voice only a whisper now, would have to tell them the truth: "No. I did not survive."
Yeah, a few of the Professor's plot elements may be palpably repetitive -- not only do fights with Balrogs always end with a long fall into an abyss, but the Balrog's opponent, after dying, also comes back to life. But Glorfindel is not really Gandalf, and his fate illustrates what happens to "immortal" Elves when they do die -- as when they are killed by blunt force. Glorfindel would look his mortal traveling-comrades in the eyes and explain to them that the Elves cannot escape, cannot ever leave this world, even if they want to. Their immortality is to them an inevitable doom, just like mortality is to Men. Even if their bodies are slain, all that happens is that their souls go to the Halls of Mandos, the Vala of Death. This is also the destiny of the souls of Men when they die, but mortals are eventually released from this world altogether, to go where the Elves can never go as long as this world lasts. The Elves are either rebodied, like Glorfindel was, or -- in incorrigible cases, like Fëanor -- kept in prison in the Halls of Mandos until the end of the world. (Tolkien discusses the nature of Elvish "death" in essays posthumously published in Morgoth's Ring.)
And so, Glorfindel could tell the two others, no Elf has ever truly died and left the world -- none except Lúthien of Doriath, "who cried before Mandos, begging to be released so that she could follow Beren whom she loved, and alone of all Elves found mercy". Glorfindel's story would teach us that that the Elves are not always quite as comfortable with their immortality as envious mortals tend to imagine. In extreme cases they may even despair of it, perceiving the world with all its evils as a prison they can never escape, since they are forever denied the release that is the birthright of every mortal.
Well, back to the immediate tasks. In twilight, Elendil, Glorfindel and Abârubêl arrive at the Black Gate of Mordor. The Morannon should look much like we remember it from the Jackson movies, though if we are to follow Tolkien to the letter, the two towers at either end of the gate should not be there at this earlier point in history (they were built later). The three "spies" would hide in the ash-hills before the Gate, much like Frodo, Sam and Gollum will do when they come here three thousand years later. We see Orcs patrolling at the top of the Gate, and Glorfindel would warn the two men he has lead hither that they must be absolutely silent: If the Orcs notice them, they are DEAD, and for Glorfindel that would be a "been there, done that" experience.
But suddenly, to the utter horror of the two others, Abârubêl rises: "You still don't understand, do you? We are not here as spies, we are here as heralds!" Walking into the full view of the Orcs on top of the gate, he produces the scroll Pharazôn gave him and reads aloud an incredibly arrogant tirade ordering Sauron to come before Pharazôn and swear fealty to "the true King of Men". Satisfied with himself, he returns to the two others, who are still numb with shock. Hey, why are they afraid? Surely the Mordorians will never dare to touch any ambassadors of the King of Westernesse, Númenor being the superpower of the world and all?
At this point, there are two alternatives. Either Abârubêl is seemingly right, and to the utter astonishment of the two others, nothing happens. Nobody comes after them, not a single arrow is shot from the top of the gate. They are allowed to depart unmolested.
Alternatively, if we want an extra action scene, they are indeed attacked (maybe even by the Nazgûl?) If so, after duly displaying their bravery, they are overpowered -- the attackers greatly outnumbering them. But just as they are about to be slaughtered, the attackers just melt away into the dark, and they are left alone. The implication would be that a new order suddenly arrived from the Dark Lord: Let them go! Abârubêl would then again conclude that Sauron chickened out, not daring to molest the noble ambassadors of the mighty King Ar-Pharazôn. But Glorfindel, and probably also Elendil, would suspect that something rather more sinister is going on here.
They make their way back to the vast camp of the Númenoreans. The message has been delivered. Now what? Pharazôn may decide to wait for a few days, giving Sauron the chance to do as he is told and surrender. If he doesn't, the Númenorean army will attack Mordor.
But they don't have to wait long. At night, when all but the guards are awake...somebody arrives.
Sauron has come! At this point he should appear just as he does in the introduction to Jackson's Fellowship (which, ignoring the Great Eye, is the only shape moviegoers know him by). Here he is, in full armor and with his hideous helmet covering his head, and mace in hand. This may be a movie with no hobbits in it, but next to Sauron's huge form, the Númenoreans themselves suddenly look like hobbits! The camp explodes into confusion, warriors grabbing their weapons before they are even fully awake. Has Sauron followed the heralds back to the camp? Has he come leading a vast host of Orcs, ready to attack? Has the Middle-earth equivalent of World War III just broken out? Or what?
Before the defenders even know what is really going on, Sauron enters the camp heading for the hill where Pharazôn's (and Míriel's) tent has been erected. He doesn't use his mace, but then he doesn't need to either, since the arrows that rain down on him are harmlessly deflected by his armor. He simply steps above the warriors who try to get to his feet. Before the Númenoreans can organize any real defense, Sauron has made it to Pharazôn's tent. The commotion outside would surely rouse the Usurper King. At the risk of introducing a slight touch of comedy in a rather serious moment of our movie, I think I would have him run out of his tent in his nightgown, trying to find out what is going on. SMACK! he runs into a huge armored leg, as tall as his own full height, and falls to the ground. Dazed, he looks up at the figure that towers above him, mace in hand...and his facial expression suggests that he is considering the possibility that his message to Sauron should not have been so arrogantly worded after all.
There is no more the defenders can do. Warriors would be flocking around the hill, their crossbows ready, but Elendil orders a cease-fire (if that is the proper term -- we have already pointed out that the story takes place in a pre-gunpowder era...) The Commander in Chief is down, at the mercy of the Dark Lord. Sauron's mace hovers ominously above the King: It really looks as if Pharazôn is going to be royal ketchup.
And then...and then...
...and then the huge form of Sauron goes down on his knees, lays his huge mace on the ground before Pharazôn, and bows his head. And for the first time in this movie, we hear Sauron's voice. This time it is not some diabolical voice hissing "I sseeee you" or "build me an army worthy or Morrrdorrr!" It should be a remarkable voice, most pleasant, and at once forceful and humble. The movie-makers may want to consult Tolkien's description of Saruman's voice, in the chapter titled after it: The wizard's voice was "low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment...it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in [those who listened] by swift agreement to seem wise themselves". Saruman was a spirit of the same order as Sauron, incarnated into a human body; yet the demagogic talents of Sauron should make Saruman appear like a rank amateur in comparison.
Still bowing deep before the usurper in his nightgown, Sauron should hail Pharazôn as "King of Westernesse, King of Men, King of the Sea, King of the World", and beg him to forgive "thy humble servant, who did not understand thy greatness and majesty, thus incurring thy just anger. I have come as I was commanded, to swear fealty unto thee!" And then, looking up at the confused Númenoreans, he delivers a GTL salvaged from The Lost Road p. 67: "Be glad, men of Númenor, for I shall take thy king to be my king, and the world shall be given into his hand!" (Well, in light of the plural form "men" I am sorely tempted to alter "thy king" to "your [pl.] king"...even if it wouldn't be a perfect GTL anymore.)
This is of course a rather...unexpected development. Even the arrogant Usurper King could hardly have foreseen that it would be that easy! Yet it appears that Sauron has come all alone to Pharazôn's camp, with no other weapons than his mace and no other defense than the armor he is wearing. And even if he does want to surrender, he must be pardoned for wearing armor so that he would not be killed because of some initial, ahem, misunderstanding. But when Pharazôn, still badly shaken, gets back on his feet he would surely order Sauron to remove his armor. "NOW!"
The looming figure looks at all the soldiers standing around, ready to release 500+ arrows into him on very little provocation -- if they can only get to his unprotected body. But then he bows and complies with the King's order.
Slowly, piece by piece, Sauron's armor comes off. Now this would be cinematic suspense! His right hand slips out of the gauntlet...and lo and behold, on one of his long, well-formed fingers he carries a golden ring! It even has a glowing Tengwar inscription! (I would assume that the inscription is always visible when Sauron carries the Ring, even though there is no reason to believe that his hand is particularly hot in his current incarnation. It will later turn out that fire can make the inscription visible, but the Ring's sheer proximity to the "fire" of its beloved master's spirit may also do the trick. Anyway, this is a movie and we have to tell the story using interesting pictures, and the Tengwar inscription looks COOL. That pretty much settles it.)
Glorfindel would give out a small gasp when he sees the Ring. He knows what he is looking at, even if no one else that is present does.
In the end, only Sauron's helmet is left of all his armor. Did I mention cinematic suspense? The huge figure slowly lifts it off, revealing...what?
"It seemed to men that Sauron was great, though they feared the light of his eyes. To many he appeared fair, to others terrible; but to some evil." (The Lost Road p. 67) Thank you, Professor. And what did you say the color of his hair was? Nowhere does Tolkien spell out in detail what Sauron looked like in his early incarnations. Yet in Letters p. 332 we learn that Sauron "could appear as a commanding figure of great strength of body and supremely royal demeanour and countenance", and there are various references to the "fair shape" he could assume.
So I would imagine a figure of great Luciferian beauty. When Sauron finally removes his grotesque helmet, we should find ourselves looking at a noble, princely face -- superficially young, actually ageless. Long, flowing raven hair. A strange, dark fire glowing deep in his piercing eyes. The "supremely royal demeanour" is subdued for the moment, Sauron being humble before Ar-Pharazôn, yet it can still be perceived: Normally the strange aura surrounding Sauron would instill in you an overpowering urge to kneel before him in numbing awe and hail him as King of the World. Even now, the Númenoreans are stunned. The figure before them looks like a prince, fair and noble, only his superhuman stature giving away that he does not really belong to the race of Men.
A vague idea of how I think Sauron might "look" can be obtained from the third Jackson movie, in the (extra-Tolkienian!) scene where Arwen sees a vision of her future son and marital bliss with Aragorn. Just before she leaves the march to the Havens and goes back to Rivendell, a dark-haired Elf says to her: "Lady Arwen, we cannot delay." I think Sauron could well be made to look something like this Elf, but at least ten feet tall and virtually beaming with mystery and hidden power. Looking at Sauron, it is in no way obvious that he is evil.
Some people argue that Sauron should be the size of a normal human. However, it is a Tolkien fact that "the form that he took was that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic" (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 332). This agrees well with the representation of Sauron in the initial scenes of Jackson's Fellowship. Sauron would become TOO human (for the audience to accept) if he basically looks just like any other person: His superhuman stature would serve as a perpetual reminder that he is not really a human being. This said, he is, as Tolkien wrote, "not gigantic" in the Jack/beanstalk sense. Tolkien didn't cite any specific height, but ten feet (three meters) may seem about right, allowing Sauron to tower above the heads of even the tall Númenorean race without making him so huge that every scene would scream "This Is A Silly Special Effect!"As is now known, Peter Jackson's effect team did work on a handsome incarnation of the Dark Lord, but this version of Sauron was never seen in the finished movie. Sauron can't be perpetually seen through a shining haze, but the image below does demonstrate that the movie-makers were definitely on to something. (I hope, with the authors of Wikipedia's entry on Sauron, that including this image here can count as fair use.)
Of all the parts in this movie, Sauron would have to be cast with the utmost care. Though I carelessly threw in Jude Law's name above, I cannot readily think of any actor that could pull this off. Indeed we should have to go for a more or less unknown actor, so that his own face would not come in the way of the character he portrays. This one actor would have to carry so much of this movie, and he would also have to handle the tremendous imaginative transformation of Sauron: The audience, whether they have read the books or just seen the Jackson movies, will have to deal with a quite "new" Sauron. We are so used to thinking of Sauron as a deadly, but ever remote and quite "non-human" threat: just a demonic Eye of Fire hovering far away in Mordor, a whirlpool of fierce evil with no real personality.
But in a Westernesse movie we would have to deal with Sauron as a real character, meeting him face to face, even if (as we will learn) the face that we see is just a pretty mask he has made for himself. Finding an actor whom the audience could accept as Sauron could easily be the most difficult thing about producing this movie, especially since he does not appear evil most of the time. Playing Sauron would involve meta-acting: the actor would have to play a hateful, scheming demon who in turn plays a noble, good character. Throughout much of this movie, all that Sauron says and does appears good and right, and yet the actor would have to leave us with an infinitesimal tinge of doubt: If you are really, really, really wary, there is something not quite right about this great new friend of the people of Númenor.
Day comes. Sauron would be sitting on a small hill, his face unreadable; he is surrounded by the entire Númenorean army. One unexpected movement on the part of the Dark Lord, and the overkill would be simply grotesque; nearly a thousand crossbows are constantly aimed at him. Pharazôn has a problem: Now what?
The people wise with the Elvish lore that Pharazôn has always scoffed at, Elendil and Míriel, would surely try to explain to the King that he may not have Sauron under his control after all. One could well imagine Míriel desperately trying to educate her so-called husband: "When this world began, and the great Valar entered into it at the beginning of time, many other spirits came with them -- some lesser, some almost as great as the Valar themselves. The Elves call them Maiar. Most of the Maiar remained faithful to the Powers appointed by Eru, but some were seduced by the great Rebel -- Morgoth, the fallen Vala. They were drawn to him in his glory...and fell with him into his darkness." (Pharazôn: "Is this leading anywhere?")
Míriel would try to explain that the Maiar, corrupted or not, can assume whatever shape they choose. Even the corrupted Maiar could take on visible forms (see Morgoth's Ring p. 418). And of all the spirits that were seduced by Morgoth, none was greater than Sauron. "He appeared in many forms to our fathers, sometimes monstrous, sometimes very beautiful." (Maybe she could even recall how Lúthien saw Sauron both as a wolf and a huge serpent, as told in the Silmarillion?) The point, of course, is that the fair form that Sauron has assumed is just a mask. They must not be deceived by his noble appearance. Moreover, they should not think that they can really kill him. They could easily kill the bodily form he has devised for himself, but his Maia spirit would just escape and eventually take shape again. True, it is horrible for an incarnated Maia to be violently deprived of his body, so Sauron would not want it to happen. But ultimately, no weapon of the Númenoreans can really threaten Sauron's "life" as a spirit person.
Glorfindel would also warn Pharazôn about Sauron: "He is crafty. He is well skilled to gain what he wants with subtlety when force might not avail." Of course, this line would be based on Tolkien's prose in the Akallabêth. It is not really a GTL or Genuinely Tolkienian Line, since Tolkien did not ascribe these words to any specific character, but maybe we can speak of a TDL or Tolkien-Derived Line? We would use Tolkien's text, only changing the tenses and pronouns where necessary, and put his words into the mouth of some suitable character. (One of Jackson's sins is that the dialogue of his movies often departs needlessly far from Tolkien's original words, though in the case of LotR, he had plenty of GTLs to choose from...) We have already assigned a number of TDLs to various characters, as people familiar with the books will have noticed.
Well, about this point Glorfindel should leave, asking and receiving the permission to make his way back to Gil-galad and inform his King what has happened here. Isildur's older self could break in with some comments in voice-over, noticing how he understood that Elendil would have preferred to have the advice of the Elf when deciding what to do with Sauron. Elendil could well suggest to Pharazôn that they should wait until Glorfindel returns with Gil-galad, to hear what the Elves think should be done in this unprecedented situation. But Pharazôn would still be high on his own adrenaline: What do they need the Elves for? The Elves have supposedly resisted Sauron oh-so-hard for all these centuries, but once the Númenoreans arrive on the scene, Sauron instantly surrenders! One must be forgiven for thinking that the strength and power of the Elves are not all that rumor makes them, eh? In one week, Pharazôn did what Gil-galad had never managed to do. No...Pharazôn feels perfectly capable of deciding on his own what to do with their illustrious prisoner.
Sauron readily swears all the pompous oaths of eternal fealty that Pharazôn can think of, but of course, the Usurper knows a thing or two about devious schemes. Elendil and Míriel would also tell him that he must never trust anything Sauron may say or promise, and they are somewhat relieved when he assures them that he certainly won't. Pharazôn probably suspects that Sauron, impressed by the strength of the invasion army, has resorted to desperate measures to avoid open war with the Númenoreans. He will say whatever they want to hear and swear any oath that is put into his mouth, hoping that Pharazôn will withdraw his forces in the mistaken belief that Sauron is now his faithful vassal. Well, if that is Sauron's plan, he has a nasty surprise coming up. Pharazôn feels confident that he has outsmarted even the Dark Lord...
Soon, Pharazôn pronounces his judgement. Sauron is to lose all his titles, but that is not all. Pharazôn will personally oversee how well Sauron keeps all his oaths of fealty. For he will not allow Sauron to go back to Mordor to do pretty much what he wants, once the Númenoreans have left. No (and about this point both Míriel and Elendil would give out a gasp of shock and disbelief), Sauron is to come with them, in chains! Pharazôn has decided to bring the "mighty" Dark Lord back to Westernesse, where he will be cut off from all his armies and servants and thus rendered harmless. Indeed his servants will know that unless they behave themselves and leave the Númenorean settlers alone, Pharazôn can let Sauron himself suffer. He is the ultimate hostage, not only the lord but actually the god of his servants: they would never do anything that could bring harm to their god, would they? This is obviously the Final Solution to the Mordorian problem.
Sauron, it seems, is dismayed, as if Pharazôn has really outsmarted him. But he swallows the bitter pill, muttering: "This is a hard doom, but great kings must have their will." (See The Peoples of Middle-earth p. 182 for this GTL.) Utterly defeated, he does not protest or attempt to escape when they put chains on his arms and a collar around his neck. The long march back to the coast begins. In the end, they lead Sauron on board one of the ships, and he is locked up below deck -- maybe appearing almost apathetic. The wind fills the sails. The vast armada leaves Middle-earth behind, returning to Númenor.
Gil-galad and Glorfindel could arrive at the deserted shore just an hour or so too late, the horizon still full of sails glowing in the sunset. Nam ebdellin! Tyngir hon! "We are too late! They brought him along!" The Númenoreans are gone; there is nothing more to be done. But we could well let Gil-galad utter one final line in subtitled Grey-elven: Gúren bêd enni olch veleg telitha o sen. "My heart tells me great evil will come of this."
And below deck on one of the ships, for one brief moment, a hint of a mocking smile twitches in the lips of a huge chained figure...and the audience gathers that Sauron may not be quite as devastated as Pharazôn liked to imagine.
After days at sea, the Holy Mountain of Meneltarma appears in the horizon. The Númenorean armada is back in Rómenna, the great eastern port of Númenor. Sauron, still in chains, is taken ashore and sets foot upon Westernesse for the very first time. We briefly dwell upon that fateful moment: One small step for an incarnated Maia, one giant leap for the Dark Lord...
They would lead Sauron down the main street of Armenelos in some kind of victory parade, I imagine. Bent down and in chains, he should look really pitiable. It is very, very humiliating. Ideally, the audience should almost feel sorry for him: another victim of Pharazôn's arrogance. Indeed Tolkien seems to indicate that all that is to follow is motivated by Sauron's anger because he was humiliated: "Sauron's whole true motive was...a particular matter of revenge upon Ar-Pharazôn, for humiliation." (Morgoth's Ring, p. 398)
But even though Sauron for the moment looks quite harmless, surely Amandil would be very upset when he learns the identity of the hostage Pharazôn has brought back from Middle-earth: "You fool, what have you done!" No, he would most certainly not say that in Pharazôn's hearing, but at least he could mutter it under his breath, unheard by all except the audience...
Finally, near the royal palace (I guess), Sauron should find himself on a hill overlooking the entire golden metropolis that forms the heart of the Númenorean empire. Gloating, Pharazôn would speak of "Armenelos the golden, fairest of cities" (a Tolkienian phrase from the Akallabêth, so this would be a TDL...) And Sauron actually looks impressed at the sight of the golden, beautiful city. He really was astonished, according to Tolkien, "but his heart within was filled the more with envy and hate". This would be a challenge for the actor: when Sauron gets to see Armenelos in all its glory, he is to be both (very visibly) astonished and (almost unnoticeably) infuriated at the incredible achievements of the Númenoreans. (It would be especially challenging since I guess the actor is really gazing at a rather unimpressive bluescreen at this point!)
It is, I would suggest, time for some foreshadowing of what is to come. We could achieve this by letting Sauron express his (essentially sincere) astonishment at the size and beauty of Armenelos and ask Pharazôn to pardon him for thinking that the mortal race of Men could never achieve anything really great: Sauron now realizes how very wrong he has been. Of course, Sauron himself can point to certain achievements in monumental architecture: "My Great Tower in my own land, I built on it for many centuries...but I always built for myself." (See the chronological overview in LotR Appendix B: Sauron began the building of Barad-dûr around the year 1000 of the Second Age, and it wasn't completed before about the year 1600!) Sauron could express his "admiration" for the founders of Armenelos, the ones who planned a great city they knew they would never live to see completed. "And yet...what a pity that they could not be with us now, to see their dreams fulfilled!"
After the victory parade, wise old Amandil (still member of the King's Council) would surely try to convince Pharazôn that Sauron should be returned to Middle-earth and turned over to Gil-galad, but the arrogant usurper would refuse this. Then (in noticeable agony because he knows this can hardly be a workable solution) Amandil would earnestly implore Pharazôn to lock away Sauron in his darkest and deepest dungeon. The Dark Lord must be guarded day and night; yet nobody must ever talk to him, or (even worse) listen to him. To this Pharazôn would agree "if it can make you feel better" (gently mocking Amandil for being so nervous...anybody can see that separated from his armies, Sauron is harmless, right?) And so Sauron is taken away.
But of course, the situation is somewhat...unstable. Amandil is a changed man from this day, his long wisdom telling him what Pharazôn does not realize: that as a "divine" person, Sauron is "far too powerful to be controlled in this way" (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien p. 205). Speaking to Elendil his son, Amandil would express his fears for the future of Númenor; maybe he even suspects that everything that has happened was according to Sauron's plan. Sauron didn't really surrender; he just availed himself of the chance to get free transport to Númenor (cf. Tolkien in Letters, p. 279).
Over the next few days I think I see Pharazôn growing ever more restless. Bring out the echo machine and let the memory of Sauron's words ring in his ears: "I shall take thy king to be my king, and the world shall be given into his hand...into his hand...into his hand..." The echo machine is always a bad sign. Consider how Jackson uses it when Sam offers his master to "share the load, share the load, share the load..." -- and so Frodo sends Sam away halfway up the Stairs of Cirith Ungol! (In the book he didn't, but then Tolkien didn't have an echo machine at his disposal, either.)
And so Pharazôn decides he must "inspect the prisoner". At this point, sitting chained to the wall of a dark dungeon, Sauron should appear like a noble prince suffering horrible injustice, yet bearing it with infinite patience. The guardians could tell Pharazôn that the prisoner treats them with great respect, always thanking them when they bring him food (though somehow they are not quite certain whether he really needs to eat at all), and of course he has never done anything that could possibly be interpreted as an escape attempt. Maybe some of Sauron's guardians are so impressed by the noble air surrounding their prisoner that they even try to intercede on his behalf when Pharazôn comes to inspect him? "Is it really necessary to keep him locked up like this? It doesn't feel right!"
Sauron, spotting Pharazôn, should of course bow as deep as his chains will allow and treat the King of Westernesse with (what seems to be) the utmost respect: "Sire!" Precisely what dialogue should be developed for the usurper King and the dethroned Dark Lord is a matter of taste, but it is probably too early to bring in the "I-can-make-you-immortal" theme in full force. Rather Tolkien indicated that "at first he [Sauron] revealed only secrets of craft" (The Lost Road p. 67). Initially, what Sauron offers is simply knowledge -- seemingly harmless enough.
So Sauron, still chained, would ask Pharazôn (with seeming righteous indignation on the behalf of the Númenoreans): "Do you realize how much knowledge has been withheld from you and your people, by those who do not want you to threaten their own privileges?" After seeing the great works of the people of Westernesse, Sauron is all the more saddened to observe that their full (and vast!) potential remains unrealized. This is because the envious Elves (agents of the sinister Valar) will not share all their knowledge with them. They spurn the weaker, mortal race, ever fearing that Men will grow too powerful. Ah, all that Sauron could teach the noble people of Westernesse if they would only give him half a chance!
Tolkien never meant Pharazôn to be an idiot, and we should not represent the Usurper King as being won over just like that (even though the inscription on the Ring sometimes glows more intensely and the audience may suspect that Sauron's powers are already bent on the King's mind). Pharazôn would demand to have a demonstration of Sauron's knowledge. At first it would have to be something very simple and harmless, and yet something that could be of great practical value to the seafaring Númenoreans. (Random idea:) Maybe Sauron asks for a piece of magnetic iron, a piece of wood and a bowl of water. Attaching the iron to the piece of wood and letting it float in the bowl, he could demonstrate to the King that it always aligns itself in a north-south direction: a compass! And here the Númenoreans have been navigating by the sun and stars for 3000 years! "It is a very simple thing, but one has to know about it, of course. The Elves surely know about it, but they probably decided that your ships should not be more maneuverable than they are already."
Sauron is of course absolutely honest; he could well say something like: "Yes, I think about myself as well. I do not want to rot in this dungeon. Neither does it suit me that the Elves should dominate the world. I want to get out of this place, and I want Westernesse to grow in power and knowledge and balance the power of Gil-galad's petty empire. If this means that I must share my knowledge with your people, then that is just what I will do."
And so, against Amandil's desperate advice, Sauron is released from his prison (but by all means, he is still partially chained and guarded by a small host of warriors with their crossbows ready...though in the scenes that follow, the chains seem to be removed one by one, and the guardians become ever fewer!)
As Pharazôn is becoming infatuated with Sauron and all the exiting stuff he can teach, it would not be too difficult for Míriel to get a moment alone with Amandil and hand him the box she brought back from Middle-earth as Gil-galad asked her to. And so, in private, he opens it and is awed to find the full set of seven Seeing Stones which we can assume he has seen long before, when he was in Middle-earth in his youth. (Maybe, for exposition purposes, he should also find a letter from Gil-galad where the Elven-king explicitly refers to how Amandil was once allowed to learn the secret of the palantíri? "Now my heart tells me that great evil is to befall the Isle of the Kings. Take now these Stones, that they may be a help and a comfort for the Faithful of your people in the dark days ahead. May the Valar keep you under Eru.")
We have entered the phase where Númenorean society becomes ever more exposed to, and colored by, Sauronian influence -- great changes taking place. But to all but the reactionary Eru-fundamentalists up in Andúnië, the changes seem to be for the better, so who can possibly complain?
Sauron comes to Númenor not as an attacker, nor as a threat, nor even as the defeated enemy he supposedly is. He comes as a teacher, an illuminator, a Messiah, a Prometheus eager to share the divine fire with those who have too long been denied its warmth. He keeps praising the Númenoreans and all their works, his only regret being that they haven't been able to realize their full potential because the evil and envious Elves have kept them in ignorance!
Of course, we can hardly include long teaching sessions in our movie, so there would only be fleeting glimpses. If there is something like a university or at least a public hall in Armenelos, this is where Sauron soon spends most of his time, hundreds of enthusiastic people listening to his lectures. We might have a glimpse of Sauron demonstrating how white light can be broken in a prism (re-read Gandalf's conversation with Saruman, as reported by the former during the Council of Elrond). Sauron explaining how to make lenses, glasses and binoculars. Sauron giving lessons in metallurgy, teaching how to make steel. Sauron explaining Newton's laws of motion (which are thus really Sauron's laws of motion, for as we know, Newton won't be born for ages). Sauron drawing up architectural plans, to provide thousands of people with new and presumptively better homes.
Sauron "taught the making of many things powerful and wonderful, and they seemed good", we read in The Lost Road p. 67. The same source implies that thanks to Sauron, the Númenoreans learnt how to make ships made of metal that "sink not in calm or storm". Tolkien quoted Elendil as saying that "they are no longer fair to look upon", but this would probably seem like a very peripheral concern to most Númenoreans.
We move quickly ahead, further fleeting scenes covering the three years following Sauron's arrival. All of a sudden, the Industrial Revolution has come to Númenor! Molten metal flows, smoke and steam rise towards the sky, iron ships are launched. An air of progress, a somewhat febrile optimism, suddenly permeates Númenorean culture. The skyline of Armenelos begins to change, slender chimneys and almost skyscraper-like towers rising high above the older, more baroque buildings. The total effect is a strange juxtaposing of various, ehr, architectural styles. About this point, Elendil should be allowed to speak one of the other lines Tolkien attributed to him: "Our towers grow ever stronger and climb ever higher, but beauty they leave behind on earth." (The Lost Road p. 67.) But most Númenoreans would be happy about the new and more functional buildings.
Pharazôn is also happy. Sauron is the most faithful and dedicated servant any king could wish for! Wrote Tolkien, "Whatever the King desired [Sauron] said was his right, and devised plans whereby he might gain it" (The Peoples of Middle-earth p. 182). Even the arrogant usurper must be impressed by this tireless figure who works day and night to cater to Pharazôn's every whim. (Does Sauron ever need to sleep? I tend to think not; Frodo on Amon Hen perceived that "there was an Eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep".)
In the Akallabêth, Tolkien noted how Sauron rose so high in the King's favor that "all his councillors [also] began to fawn upon him, save one alone, Amandil". Indeed we must imagine that Sauron is now admitted to the King's Council, to Amandil's dismay. Thinking in pictures as we must do here, let's say that Amandil one day arrives to discover that a rather big chair has turned up at the table, and the King is happy to announce that a new councilor will soon be joining them. And if Amandil responds with a tired "now who may that be?", this would be Pharazôn's cue for delivering some verbal exposition about all the good Sauron has done for Westernesse since he arrived three years ago! Surely Amandil has no right to be sarcastic!
It may be noted that in a way, the events we have summarized are already part of the movie universe. In Jackson's Fellowship, there is a scene where Gandalf is looking through various documents in Minas Tirith (before he finds the Scroll of Isildur with the description of the Ring). For the briefest of moments, we glimpse a document on top of various other parchments that sets out part of the history of Númenor. It is actually a text Jackson has copied from Appendix A of the LotR. The pronoun "he" in the first sentence refers to Tar-Palantir, the late King:
When he died, his nephew, leader of the rebellion, seized the sceptre, and became King Ar-Pharazôn. Ar-Pharazôn the Golden was the proudest and most powerful of all the Kings, and no less than the kingship of the world was his desire. He resolved to challenge Sauron the Great for the supremacy in Middle-earth, and at length he himself set sail with a great navy, and he landed at Umbar. So great was the might and splendour of the Númenoreans that Sauron's own servants deserted him, and Sauron humbled himself, doing homage, and craving pardon. Then Ar-Pharazôn in the folly of his pride carried him back as a prisoner to Númenor. It was not long before he had bewitched the King and was master of his counsel; and soon he had turned the hearts of all the Númenoreans, except the remnant of the Faithful, back towards the darkness.
The last words actually refer to something we haven't covered yet. We have reached the point where things begin to go really dark (and the PG rating becomes incompatible with any film studio's fond dreams of exploiting the under-fifteens...)
Ideas for a Westernesse movie: Part 2
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