The Númenoreans become ever more enthusiastic students of all the cool stuff Sauron teaches, and their craft greatly improves under his tutelage. As far as Pharazôn and his subjects can tell, they are well on their way to matching even the marvelous skills of the Elves. (Who also, as we shall learn, received Sauron's teachings in the past...and spent ages regretting that they ever listened to him!)
Gradually, the focus of Sauron's teaching changes. It is no longer just applied physics. It is as if he wants to re-educate the Númenoreans completely. Forget all the trite stuff and stifling habits of thought that the Dúnedain once received from the Elves, and thus ultimately from the Valar -- the sinister western Powers that hold themselves aloof from Men! Sauron completely reinterprets history. Númenor was not created as a reward to the noblest families of Men, as the "Faithful" simpletons still like to believe. It may be a beautiful isle, but what the Valar really intended, was to trap the best strain of Men far away in the western ocean! Why, the Dúnedain should clearly have been the Master Race of the world!
Unfortunately, the Valar removed them from Middle-earth so that the Elves (pet-like favorites of the Valar) could continue dominating the lesser races of Men. Yet the cunning of the Valar has backfired; they underestimated the skills of the noble Edain: As the centuries passed, the Númenoreans emerged as the greatest mariners ever, and their ships now allow them quick access to all coasts. How long, really, will it take before Westernesse rises to fulfil her destiny as the ruling power of the entire world?
And the world is vast, Sauron assures all who will listen to him. Even the great seafaring Númenoreans have only just begun exploring it. The lands stretch on and on, with endless riches for the taking of brave conquistadors. Many savage tribes of Men wander untaught under the sun, awaiting the leadership and the knowledge that only Westernesse can provide. Should the Númenoreans be ashamed of what they are and what they can do? Should not this noble and enlightened race bring the light of civilization to all lands? Let the lesser races receive that light, if they are able; if not, let them shrivel and die in the glory of its rays! Who should govern the world of Men, if not the Númenoreans?
Can anyone think it is better that the Elves linger on as the aristocracy of the world? They are at once arrogant and apathetic, smug in their immortality, yet achieving less and less in their endless lives. They are on their way out. They even admit it themselves. Elven-lore has always predicted that the world of the Elves will be superseded by the world of Men. Well, if the Númenoreans would only realize their own potential, the time has finally come -- none too soon!
I tend to see the story through Isildur's eyes, and in a movie, I would show Isildur actually attending Sauron's public lectures. And he is in no way immune to the enthusiasm that Sauron is able to kindle in those who will listen to him. In Tolkien's works, Isildur is a somewhat ambiguous figure who is capable of great acts of bravery (as we will see), but equally capable of failing (as we will also see).
In the early version of the Númenor story that is published in The Lost Road, Elendil's son was called Herendil rather than Isildur -- but ultimately we are dealing with the same character, and if I were writing a movie script, I wouldn't hesitate to transfer some of "Herendil's" characteristics (and lines) to Isildur.
Interestingly, "Herendil" conversing with Elendil is represented by Tolkien as infected with Sauronian views. Even when he is only describing to his father the ideas that are gaining acceptance among the people, we sense that he is not unsympathetic himself. He speaks of the newfound desire "to conquer new realms for our race, and ease the pressure of this peopled island, where every road is trodden hard, and every tree and grass-blade counted. To be free, and masters of the world. To escape the shadow of sameness, and of ending. We would make our king Lord of the West... This land is only a cage gilded to look like Paradise." (The Lost Road, p. 61)
Elendil would be deeply worried, since his son is clearly beginning to accept the teachings of Sauron, demon with a human face. Tolkien had Elendil pointing out to his son that "all hearts in Númenor are not drawn to Sauron", but the reply he gets is anything but reassuring: "Yes. There are fools even in Númenor."
"Herendil"/Isildur goes on to claim that "Sauron has thrown a new light on history. Sauron knows history, all history." Elendil angrily responds that "Sauron knows, verily; but he twists knowledge. Sauron is a liar!" His son is actually worried that someone might hear what Elendil says; expressing such views can already be dangerous to one's health: "Whatever he is, Sauron is mighty, and has ears."
Yet "Herendil"/Isildur expresses his love for his father, and does not want either of them to end up in the dungeons. As the sun is setting in the western ocean, Elendil sees dark clouds rearing above the fire-lit rim, and it is as if they stretch out great wings south and north. He murmurs, "Behold, the eagles of the Lord of the West are coming with threat to Númenor."
When his son points out that it is decreed that only Ar-Pharazôn should be called "Lord of the West", he replies darkly: "It is decreed by the king, but that does not make it so." It is a scene pregnant with foreboding.
Readers who bother to look up the lines I quoted from The Lost Road p. 61-62 will discover that I have taken the liberty of modernizing the language. Tolkien went into Shakespeare Mode when writing this fragment of narrative, so we have forms like "hath" and "knoweth" rather than "has" and "knows", and "whatever he be" rather than "whatever he is". Some of the few lines provided in the Akallabêth proper would probably also require a little de-Shakespearizing before we ask our actors to put their lips around them. In the case of the Akallabêth, Tolkien is probably aiming for a literary effect: this is supposed to be an ancient account that has come down to the reader from a distant past. Hence the archaic language. A movie version, on the other hand, would take us back in time to the moment when these lines were "originally spoken": Then the archaic forms have no justification anymore. I would be committed to preserving as many GTLs (Genuinely Tolkienian Lines) as could reasonably be salvaged into a movie script, but not necessarily exactly verbatim, complete with every obsolete inflection that Tolkien had a weakness for.
While Elendil continues to worry about the future in general and his son's fate in particular, a strange esoteric element creeps into Sauron's teachings. Maybe it does not happen during his "public" lectures, but rather before a smaller, select audience, like Pharazôn's court. Sauron starts ascribing a curious, "occult" significance to darkness.
I tend to see a nightly scene in Armenelos. Maybe there has been some kind of party in the royal palace or the garden outside. The stars burn bright above. Maybe Míriel tries to derive some kind of comfort from the shining patterns in the sky -- the work of Varda Elbereth, Queen of the Stars and spouse of Manwë the Elder King. The Big Dipper hovers in the northern sky, except that in this culture, it is rather interpreted as a Sickle: Speaking to a child perhaps, Míriel may recall the making of this constellation in remote ages, when Morgoth the Fallen Vala dwelt in Utumno in the north and Varda set the seven stars swinging in the sky above his fortress: "Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar and sign of doom."
But he who once walked with Morgoth in Utumno still walks in Míriel's garden, and he would be little impressed. Rather Sauron might be expected to ask the obvious (?) question: When people watch the starry sky, why do they never stop to reflect that there is much more darkness than stars?
Not that Sauron is trying to sound gloomy. Far from it. The stars in the sky are set in this field of darkness. The earth itself rests safely within the darkness embracing it on all sides. It always has and always will. This is natural. This is good.
Sauron has taught the Númenoreans that the world is larger than they have dared to imagine. Yet if one could travel beyond all lands and seas, Darkness is what one would find in the end. Beyond the confines of the world it still lies, the same Ancient Darkness in which the stars are set. And it is not just emptiness. Rather it is the beginning of everything, for "out of it the world was made".
Think about it. Darkness is everywhere. Just close your eyes, and there it is. Darkness precedes the dawn and the new day. Children spend nine months in darkness before they are born. So does not nature itself teach (as St. Paul would have put it) that Darkness is the beginning and foundation of everything? If people are afraid of the dark, may it not be that they are really experiencing misunderstood awe? Indeed, "only Darkness is truly holy" (Morgoth's Ring p. 347 -- I think I prefer this version to "Darkness alone is worshipful" in the published Akallabêth).
So Darkness is the foundation of all creation, and the infinite darkness that lies around the world is like raw material for new worlds. Suddenly a new and never-before-mentioned entity enters Sauron's teachings: "The Lord of Darkness may yet make other worlds as gifts to those that serve him, so that the increase of their power shall find no end."
If the audience -- half amused, half enthralled -- wonder if Sauron is talking about himself as the "Dark Lord", he would instantly dismiss his notion. That title was bestowed upon him by the Elves, and he probably calls it fanciful and ridiculous. It is meant to be an insult, of course, based on the notion that darkness is evil. But as Sauron has just demonstrated, it is not. Everything arose from the Ancient Darkness.
So what about this Lord of Darkness, then? Some GTLs which the Professor ascribed to this Lord need only to be rewritten from the first person to the third ("He" for "I") before we can put them in the mouth of Sauron: "Greatest of all is the Dark, for It has no bounds. He came out of the Dark, but He is Its master. For He has made Light. He made the Sun and the Moon and the countless stars. He will protect you from the Dark, which else would devour you." (Compare Morgoth's Ring [hereinafter MR], p. 346.)
And that, I would imagine, is pretty much all Sauron wants to say for the moment. He keeps the mystery intact. Maybe he hints that this is knowledge so deep and profound that the Númenoreans are not quite ready for it yet. Míriel would just turn away in disgust. Other nobles present seem intrigued and fascinated. They hope to eventually learn more. It is as if they have been allowed to glimpse a deep cosmic mystery, esoteric knowledge that is not for the common herd. And, to be sure, there was also a promise of every-increasing power in there somewhere.
That point was not lost on Pharazôn, either. And the King does not have to wait if he wants to know more. We may imagine him taking Sauron aside -- the tall form of the Lord of Mordor humbly obeying his every command, as always.
Somehow we know what Pharazôn is going to ask. Yet there is a moment of hesitation. A new and fatal step is about to be taken. It is not really Pharazôn that hesitates, but all the world may seem to fall silent for a few seconds. And so, in a low voice, the Usurper asks his GTL question.
"Who is the Lord of Darkness?"
We move indoors. Pharazôn locks the door behind him. I would let the room be almost completely dark. We sense, rather than we see, that the King is not the only person present. Maybe for the first time ever, Pharazôn is completely alone with Sauron. No onlookers. No guards. No one else who is truly human.
The inscription on the Ring would be glowing bright, a band of flowing letters hovering in the nothingness and spelling out what is happening, if Pharazôn could only read it: One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them. Out of the dark above the Ring, Sauron speaks. It is in all senses a voice out of the darkness, and anyone who will listen to it, listens to the Dark.
And so Sauron, this clever teacher who knows "all history", presents his ultimate teaching. Who is the god that Men should worship? Who is the true Lord of the world?
It is as if as the very air in the room thickens when Sauron finally does provide his answer to this question. "It is he whose name is not now spoken, for the Valar have deceived you concerning him." They have put forward an empty name, Eru, that is nothing more than "a phantom devised in the folly of their hearts, seeking to enchain Men in servitude to themselves. For they are the oracle of this 'Eru', which speaks only what they will. But he that is their master shall yet prevail, and he will deliver you from this phantom; and his name is Melkor, Lord of All, Giver of Freedom, and he shall make you stronger than they."
So Eru is just a fantasy, a notion that probably does not greatly trouble Pharazôn. Yet when he repeats the name Melkor for the first time, does it not leave a strange aftertaste on his tongue? He never did study Elvish lore; yet his face could be made to suggest that a strange ancestral memory is stirring deep within his mind. He knows, somehow, that long ago his ancestors met the power of which Sauron now speaks. For Melkor did come to Men when they first awoke in the world, and they encountered him again in Beleriand before it sank beneath the sea forever.
But if strange and conflicting feelings are stirring in Pharazôn, Sauron would be quick to assure him that Melkor is a deity that will "sanction what he desires and not forbid it" (see full quote from MR p. 398 below). Eru and the Valar always say no: No, you cannot come to the Blessed Realm. No, you cannot live forever like the Elves. No, you cannot seek greater power.
Melkor, on the other hand, is the deity that will respond with a resounding YES to the wishes of his deserving worshippers. He is nothing like the Valar, who straddle around in their park-like western realm with Elves as their pets. Rather, Melkor dwells in the Ancient Darkness that is beyond the world altogether: "The chief of the gods is he that dwells in the Void, who will conquer in the end" (Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 155). According to Sauron, the God of the Void is "the one good God" (Sauron Defeated [hereinafter SD], p. 401).
Yet what does the word "good" mean to Sauron, or indeed to Pharazôn? Tolkien noted how Sauron "destroyed the conception of Eru" (Letters, p. 205). If Eru represents absolute Good, what happens to the concept of Good when Sauron dismisses Eru as a malicious fantasy concocted by the Valar? No concept of absolute morality can survive when the Deity is conceived as simply sanctioning the desires of his worthy worshippers. Indeed, their reward for zealous worship is to be precisely the freedom to rise above all moral restrictions.
In our own age, some of the darkest neo-Pagan movements have tried to wholly and utterly reject the concept of God found in traditional religion. It may be wrong to call these people Satanists, since to them Satan is simply another figure from the Christian religious scenario which they emphatically reject in its entirety. Here in Scandinavia small groups of neo-pagans (not Wiccans but people associated with Black Metal and Neo-Nazism) have tried to revive old Norse gods like Odin, at least as symbols. And occasionally these people will tell us that Odin absolutely does not resemble the Christian deity!
Odin does not reward weakness. Odin does not care for the Weak. (In Norse mythology, only the brave warriors who are killed in battle go to "heaven" or Valhalla -- the cowards who die in their beds have a rather bleak afterlife!) In paganism as interpreted by these virtual Neo-Nazis, Odin is the god of the Strong -- the god of the master-race, the proud Aryans who will inherit the earth and subdue the Untermenschen, the subhuman races born to the slaves.
And so, I imagine, Sauron would represent Melkor to Pharazôn. Melkor is nothing like Eru, this vague "benevolent" phantom that the previous King was so infatuated with. Melkor is not some kind of cosmic daddy who supposedly cares for his earthly children. The "Faithful" up in Andúnië really need to grow up! There is no "Ilúvatar", no Father of All to save anyone. Melkor does not represent fatherly love and care, but Strength. Melkor is He that Arises in Might; this is the very meaning of his name. And in his next Arising, the world will change forever. The Númenoreans had better be on his side when he returns.
Melkor is the one god that is truly good, but not in any sentimental Elvish sense. Ultimately, only Power is good. Power is the ability to make one's wishes come true. Therefore, Power should be pursued relentlessly and ruthlessly. Power makes no excuses, least of all to the Weak. In their cunning, the Weak may try to confuse the Strong with abstract notions of justice, compassion, love -- but their real purpose is only to restrain the Strong so that they will not exercise their full power against the Weak.
The Strong must not let themselves be trapped in such a web of pretty words and empty concepts of "morality". Melkor is not the god of the Weak, but the god of the Strong. He will help his worshippers cut through all the restraints that the Weak try to impose on them. Melkor is the Giver of Freedom. He gives help to those who can help themselves, power to those who are powerful, strength to those who are not ashamed of strength. Who can ever hope to deserve the attention of the God of Strength but the ones who fully realize that the Weak should be trodden down, crushed, enslaved? What is to hold Pharazôn back, other than vain notions of morality and compassion invented by the Weak for their own wicked purposes? Let the King clear his mind of all such hazy ideas, and he will have his first taste of the glorious gift of the Giver of Freedom!
Now Sauron would not present this fascist religion in uncouth terms, of course. Sauron's great talent is that he can make just about anything sound right and reasonable. A script-writer would have to struggle long and hard to find the right words; the above is only a crude synopsis of the actual content of Sauron's teaching, without the eloquence that Sauron himself would clothe that teaching in. Probably he greatly emphasizes how "natural" it is that Strength should be worshipped, that the Strong should be free to fulfil their "destiny" with no restraints: This is what the worship of Melkor is all about. Sauron would speak more warmly about "freedom" than even Bush jr. But in Sauron's teachings we really meet the fascist brand of freedom: the freedom of the ruthless to do whatever they want.
Sauron would surely say it is God's (i.e. Melkor's) will that Westernesse should rule the world, and that Pharazôn should rule Westernesse. By setting aside the law and seizing power after Míriel's coronation, Pharazôn proved himself as the kind of ruler Melkor likes: the absolute master who does what he thinks is best, heeding no rules or restraints. And who can doubt that Pharazôn did the right thing, considering the prosperous and enlightened state which the Númenoreans have now achieved under his firm leadership?
Yet this is only a foretaste of Melkor's full blessing. Nothing that has happened, has been a coincidence. Sauron now realizes that he was meant to come to Westernesse at this point in time (or so he says). Just as the Númenoreans finally threw aside the hoary superstitions about "Eru", the almighty Melkor saw to it that Sauron was brought here to teach the Númenoreans about the true Lord of All. So it must be, for "the shadow of His purpose lies upon the world, and all that is in it bends slowly and surely to His will" (cf. Unfinished Tales p. 67).
King Ar-Pharazôn is Melkor's Chosen One! Sauron humbly recognizes (he says) that his role will only be to put Pharazôn in touch with the True Lord. He will teach the Númenoreans how they can properly approach Him. For after all, Sauron himself did serve and worship Melkor in the former Age, when the Lord of Darkness was still visibly present in this world.
And by all means, Melkor isn't just a lying invention of Sauron's, though anyone versed in Elvish lore would be able to tell Pharazôn more about this Lord of Darkness than Sauron sees fit to do.
Wrote Tolkien, "in the case of Ar-Pharazôn...was seen the effect of Melkor upon Sauron: he spoke of Melkor in Melkor's own terms: as a god, or even as God. This may have been the residue of a state which was in a sense a shadow of good: the ability once in Sauron at least to admire or admit the superiority of a being other than himself... But it may be doubted whether even such a shadow of good was still sincerely operative in Sauron by that time. His cunning motive is probably best expressed thus...propound to [Pharazôn] a Lord who will sanction what he desires and not forbid it. Sauron, apparently a defeated rival for world-power, can hardly propound himself; but as the former servant and disciple of Melkor, the worship of Melkor will raise him from hostage to high priest." (MR, pp. 397-398)
But Pharazôn is not able to discern Sauron's deeper motives. The former Lord of Mordor has shown him a god after his own heart. Sauron has even "confirmed" to Pharazôn that the Elvish teachings about Eru are just fantasies and malicious lies. Pharazôn and most of the Númenoreans had dismissed this pernicious lore even before Sauron came. Now the King is ready to take the next step. Simply rejecting Eru is no longer enough: Pharazôn will try to approach the true Lord of the World instead, assured by Sauron that Melkor will accept the King as a worthy worshipper.
And so, in the simple yet somber words of the Akallabêth, "Ar-Pharazôn the King turned back to the worship of the Dark, and of Melkor the Lord thereof."
At first, the Akallabêth tells us, things happen in secret. This part of the story should be told from Míriel's perspective -- not because she knows what is going on, but precisely because she doesn't. She is the innocent Rosemary in a movie that is starting to become as creepy as Rosemary's Baby, but the eventual resolution will be enormously much more spectacular than Míriel giving birth to Melkor's baby (or whatever).
Yet, just like Rosemary who finds herself surrounded by Satanists in said movie, Míriel would begin to suspect that something is going on in the royal palace. Pharazôn and a few select people are spending ever more time with Sauron. We would just glimpse them now and then as they absorb some kind of lore that Sauron teaches, eager students at the feet of their superhuman guru. But whenever Míriel (whose point of view we share) try to get closer to find out what is being said, there is always a door that closes or a guard that intervenes. Yet Sauron's audience seems to be swelling, new people being invited into this select group, that recruits from nobility.
It doesn't stop there. In the dead of night, Míriel lies awake listening to remote chanting. Somewhere in the palace, some kind of ritual is taking place. But I wouldn't leave Míriel's perspective and bring the camera into the room where, for the first time in thousands of years, Melkor is being invoked. Some things are best left to the imagination.
Nevertheless, we do get to see what effect the ongoing nightly rituals have on the people participating in them. When first drawn into the group now forming around Sauron, people may just be curious, maybe even somewhat fearsome. But the men and women who emerge from their unseen initiations into Melkorism are no longer quite the same people as they were. Whatever Sauron shows them or teaches them behind locked doors, they become immensely confident, maybe even arrogant, but not in a vulgar way: They just emit a kind of sinister serenity, as if knowing that there is nothing to worry about. For whatever happens, they are destined to rule the world one day...
One idea that would highlight Sauron's uncanny ability to change people would be to let some person we have already met as a good and moral individual be drawn into this process (even if this means we must introduce another non-Tolkien character...just a minor character, though!) Already in the early parts of the movie we could establish some long-standing friend of Míriel's, preferably another woman I should say, who faithfully stands by Míriel's side in her sufferings as her father dies and Pharazôn usurps the powers she was meant to have.
It would be especially poignant if Míriel herself asks her friend to feign some interest in Sauron's esoteric teachings, so that she can find out what is really going on here. Unfortunately the "spy" emerges from the secret rituals as a genuine convert, now beaming forth the same dark confidence and sinister air of power and superiority as the others. If Míriel gets any kind of report from her (former) friend, it would simply be that this is all about Strength and that one day soon, Míriel herself must decide whether she wants to be one of the Strong or one of the Weak. Sauron can help her see what an easy choice it is.
About this point there would be the first hint of bloody sacrifices to whatever or whomever these people are worshipping. The attendees of the unseen rituals may emerge with strange symbols drawn in blood on their faces. The sacrifice would probably just be an animal at this early stage. (Or do we already go for something far more sinister by suggesting that a child has gone missing? Let the audience work out the implications...)
Frankly, Tolkien didn't give us much to go on here. He did briefly mention "evil rites" that were conducted in Númenor (The Lost Road p. 68), but it did not suit his purposes to spell out just what was going on. Therefore I think a moviemaker should show considerable reticence as well, focusing on the effect these "rites" have on the people participating in them, and leave the rites as such to the imagination. There is simply that muted chanting from somewhere far away in the palace, as Míriel is turning in her bed, unable to sleep and unable to do anything. Tomorrow the strange, dark power will be glowing in the eyes of even more people...
Elendil and his sons may also sense that there is a new development, whether or not Míriel is able to send them some sort of message (surely she is to a large extent a prisoner in her own palace, and it may be difficult for her to get even a letter out). Maybe Elendil fears that his sons will be attracted to the occult movement Sauron appears to be founding? Isildur has already displayed an unhealthy fascination with Sauron's teachings; he is strangely drawn to this handsome and charismatic figure that "knows all history". (Elendil could be discussing his worries with his father Amandil.)
Most people are still quite ignorant about the new doctrine, though. They only know that they are enjoying an ever more affluent lifestyle, now that the Industrial Revolution is a fact thanks to Sauron's teachings. Soon they will owe their benefactor even greater gratitude, for unimaginable wealth is coming their way!
From his perfect memory, Sauron draws up elaborate maps of the lands in the east, indicating where all sorts of resources can be found. He is probably also able to provide detailed plans for how these resources are best obtained. The fleet leaves for Middle-earth, and after a while the ships return, bringing all sorts of goods back to the Motherland: beautiful fabrics, exotic types of food, wonderful jewelry, gold and silver.
Is this a new lucrative trade route, or what? Most people don't seem to care, as long as the ships keep coming. Suddenly Númenorean society jumps to a yet higher level of wealth and prosperity. Ever since Sauron came to the land, things just keep getting better! What a time to be alive! Once again, even Isildur should be represented as being genuinely enthusiastic about the changes brought about by Sauron's presence. Daddy Elendil and grandpa Amandil find the attitude of the young man really worrying.
Amandil is still nominally a member of the King's Council, but in the words of the Akallabêth, he is now is the only person there who does not "fawn upon" Sauron. Moreover, by now he is the probably also the only member of the Council who is not attending strange nightly rituals behind locked doors in the Royal Palace. So he probably finds himself left out of the loop. How can he find out what is really going on back in Middle-earth?
This is an example of a slight narrative problem that is not really addressed in Tolkien's text, yet the solution presents itself so naturally that again one has the feeling that the more detailed story we are trying to flesh out is somehow already there. The obvious solution lies in the statement from Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age that the Elves had given Amandil the Palantíri, the Seeing Stones. Above we took the liberty of suggesting that it was Gil-galad who sent the Stones to Amandil.
We may imagine him now, retreating into some private chamber, retrieving the chest he has kept absolutely secret, and carefully positioning one of the blue-gleaming spheres on a table before him. At some point in the past, obviously when he spent time in Middle-earth in his youth, the Elves must have taken him into their confidence and taught him how to use the Seeing Stones. To Amandil, this would almost be a solemn ritual, a dramatic contrast to Pippin's frivolous handling of a Palantír some 3000 years from now (in the words of Gandalf, the hobbit luckily proved "an honest fool", though definitely a fool!)
No Eye of Fire will turn up in the stone Amandil is using, for the disaster that places one of the Palantíri in Sauron's possession still has not befallen; yet it was never easy to use the Seeing Stones. Using them could be "very tiring and might become exhausting" (Unfinished Tales p. 411), even more so when the person watching is not trying to see something close to another Stone, but actually uses the Palantír as a "telescope" to see across wide distances. But eventually, Amandil does find the willpower to look across the ocean and determine just where the wealth flowing into Westernesse is coming from.
At first the Palantír would be showing short glimpses (somewhat like Galadriel's Mirror). There are people fleeing in terror, flashing swords, flying arrows. Then slowly the images become more stable, and something like a coherent vision presents itself, revealing to Amandil a truth that is terrible, but hardly unexpected.
Black smoke is rising from burning villages, bodies lie strewn on the ground, desperate people are cut down before our palantír-enhanced eyes. The locals are dark-complexioned, suggesting that we are far away to the south, in the land of the Haradrim. But the attackers don't come from the same area, for they are unmistakably soldiers of Westernesse! Unfortunately for the natives, the Númenorean Master-race has arrived: Like glorified Vikings with far better ships and weapons, the sailing marauders are working their way down the southern coasts of Middle-earth, killing, burning, and plundering (surely raping as well, but it would be somewhat un-Tolkienian to focus on such things). The camera briefly rests on a poor-looking farmer who is trying to lead away a single cow, probably his entire livelihood, but the brutal soldiers overtake him. Vainly pleading for mercy he cries out in his strange Haradian tongue: "Maino woc, maino woc!" But they just cut him down and take his cow.
In a final vision before Amandil tears his eyes away from the Palantír, we see the huge ships of Númenor off the coast, heavy with spoil. On a hill overlooking the ocean a bleeding figure appears, crying out to heaven with the despair of a man who has lost everything: "Has then Sauron become King of Númenor?" (This is a GTL; see The Peoples of Middle-earth p. 183.)
Badly shaken, Amandil would perhaps try to share his new insights with the rest of the King's Council, without revealing his source. But probably the others are perfectly well aware that the new wealth of Westernesse is the result of wholesale plunder. The official term is collection of taxes, of course. Granted, there have been some episodes of violence, for after all, we are dealing with savages here. They're barely human, actually. They must be made to respect their superiors, if any semblance of true culture and civilization is ever to take root in their lands. For to be sure, Pharazôn does have plans for their lands!
Amandil would probably appear like a broken old man when he feebly points out that there was a time when the Númenoreans came to Middle-earth as bringers of culture. Early in the Akallabêth, we are told how they came among the natives and "taught them many things. Corn and wine they brought, and they instructed Men in the sowing of seed and the grinding of grain, in the hewing of wood and the shaping of stone, and in the ordering of their life, such as it might be in lands of swift death and little bliss."
But what good is it to recall this now? We may even imagine how Sauron, sitting in his customized seat at the King's table, would turn this argument around: Exactly! Clearly the natives in Middle-earth owe much to the Númenoreans! They owe Westernesse pretty much everything, actually! Is it not only fair that they finally provide some compensation for centuries of aid?
It is said in the Akallabêth that Amandil was dismissed from the King's Council, "for Sauron hated him above all others in Númenor". But we cannot imagine that the cunning Dark Lord would express his hatred in any overt or vulgar way. Rather he would whisper some words in the ear of the King, to the effect that though Amandil is surely a well-meaning old fellow, he has probably earned his retirement now. On the Council it would be best to replace him with some younger person who has more insight into the demands of these critical times. Amandil's sad inability to appreciate the new arrangements being made in Middle-earth would perhaps be a good pretext for divesting him of his position.
Undoubtedly Pharazôn himself wants Amandil out of the way as he is making the final preparations for a momentous declaration, still kept absolutely secret: Soon Westernesse will have a brand new state religion, and in a way, the state-sponsored marauders Pharazôn has sent to Middle-earth are also preparing the missionary field!
So Amandil has to leave the Council, and from now on, the Elf-friends have no one on the "inside" in the corridors of power. Yet we read that Amandil "was so noble, and had been so mighty a captain of the sea, that he was still held in honour by many of the people, and neither the King nor Sauron dared to lay hands on him as yet".
But however well respected Amandil may be in certain circles, there is nothing he or his son Elendil can do to stop what is now happening. As an ineluctable process, the Númenoreans "grew more strong, and their rich men ever richer". The text of the Akallabêth states that "with the aid and counsel of Sauron they multiplied their possessions, and they devised engines, and they built ever greater ships. And they sailed now with power and armoury to Middle-earth, and they came no longer as bringers of gifts, nor even as rulers, but as fierce men of war. And they hunted the men of Middle-earth and took their goods and enslaved them."
Though this happened "with the aid and counsel of Sauron", I don't think we are to infer that Sauron himself at any point left Númenor to lead the ongoing campaigns in Middle-earth. Rather, as suggested above, it may be imagined that Sauron provided them with maps and tactical advice based on his detailed knowledge of Middle-earth -- leading the conquistadors straight to defenseless villages where the Dark Lord knew they could obtain plenty of spoil.
Those who are still faithful to the ancient beliefs of the Númenoreans are now reduced to an ever-shrinking minority, and some of them (like Isildur) are even of doubtful loyalty. We read that the Faithful looked to Amandil as their leader, and he must surely be shown as trying to keep the worship of Eru alive.
I think we should glimpse one more Erulaitalë ceremony at the summit of the holy mountain of Meneltarma, but it is much scaled down compared to the joyous celebrations that took place during Tar-Palantir's reign. Yet a few hundred people may still make it to the Hallow, kneeling down between heaven and earth and pouring out their hearts in prayer...but now in utter silence. For only the ruling King or Queen of Númenor is allowed to ever speak a single word in that holy place, and it is inconceivable that Pharazôn would allow Míriel to participate in the ceremony.
The voice-over of Isildur's older self could comment on the ceremony as the camera circles the enormous mountain with the tiny cluster of pious worshippers clad in white on the top -- noticing how they had to pray in silence, but also pointing out what they could not know at the time: This was the last time ever that they would gather on the Holy Mountain, the end of a tradition that had lasted three thousand years, ever since the kingdom of Westernesse was founded by Elros himself.
For a new faith is now rising, and soon comes the day, or rather the night, when an enormous rally is arranged in Armenelos. The King and his chief advisor intend to make an announcement of immense import. We must probably presuppose some kind of stadium where tens of thousands of people can gather at the King's order. In pre-WWII times, the Nazis showed a remarkable talent for arranging atmospheric nightly rallies with torches as the only source of illumination; in hindsight one might think they were symbolically preparing to set all the world on fire. Surely Sauron knows even better than Adolf H. how to excite the masses.
So WETA must once again bring out the Massive program to give us incredible crowds of computer-generated Númenoreans gathering in the stadium in Armenelos as darkness is falling (CGI looks more convincing in a nightly setting anyway!) Amandil, Elendil, Isildur and Anárion would also be present, if only in the periphery of the crowds, to see what is really going on. Míriel would also be there, though probably not by her own choice.
And so the mighty King Ar-Pharazôn addresses the nation, his golden armor gleaming in the light of a thousand torches. We learn that he has summoned the people to talk about their spiritual needs. As he acknowledges, there are certain traditions of doubtful origin that would make the Meneltarma a "holy mountain", and indeed some fringe groups among the people have been known to celebrate their superstitions on the summit. This is altogether unfit for the modern, enlightened age that Westernesse has now entered. Indeed the King can no longer take responsibility for people climbing such a tall and dangerous mountain only to conduct some kind of silly and pointless ceremony up there. So from now on, the Meneltarma is off limits. For their own safety (or something), people can't be allowed to ascend the mountain anymore.
But this, of course, should not be taken to mean that the people of Westernesse will have no official place to worship anymore. Far from it! The King has actually ordered the construction of a new sanctuary, infinitely more befitting this modern age than a naked, windswept mountain-top! On a hill in the middle of Armenelos, a temple is to be constructed! A great temple! A wondrous temple! Virtually the eighth wonder of the world (well, Pharazôn wouldn't put it like that, since the other seven won't be constructed for ages, but one gets the idea).
While the Númenoreans have always loved monumental architecture, this will be a building greater far than anything even they have yet attempted. And one day (oh, glorious day!) when all the world has accepted the Númenorean form of worship, this will be the universal temple. The Temple with a capital T! From every country ships will carry pilgrims to Westernesse!
Work on this wonderful edifice will commence immediately. But there is of course one more detail that remains to be clarified: Just what deity are the Númenoreans supposed to be worshipping in this temple?
At this point we must imagine that Pharazôn introduces his Chief Advisor, who has prepared a speech on this subject. And so the tall form of Sauron, handsome as a Greek god and beaming with Luciferian charisma, ascends the podium.
In his notes, Tolkien remarked how Sauron delivered a "great sermon", teaching that "Ilúvatar does not exist, but that the world is ruled by the Gods [i.e. the Valar], who have shut themselves in the West, hating Men and denying them life" (SD, p. 401). The Professor did not spell out the circumstances surrounding this "great sermon", but the present writer has to imagine something like I have tried to sketch: an enormous nightly rally on some kind of stadium, tens of thousands of people spellbound by Sauron's speech. That deep, pleasant, almost hypnotic voice would explain How It Really Is with such eloquence and oratorical force that none can be unmoved, and very few can find the strength of mind to even doubt a single world of what he is saying.
Displaying demagogical talents most TV evangelists can only envy him, Sauron sells the new faith to the people. Amandil and Elendil would be shocked by the (to their ears) blasphemous claim that Eru Ilúvatar is only a phantom invented by the Valar for their own malicious purposes, but the vast majority of the people present are ripe and ready for Sauron's message. The demonic orator has no problems convincing the masses that they are the victims of horrible injustice: The Valar have wantonly denied Men the gift of eternal life, favoring the Elves instead. To make Men accept the horrible curse of death, they appeal to "the will of Eru", but as has now been established, Eru is simply their own invention. For after all, has this supposed supreme deity ever revealed himself to anybody else than the Valar themselves? Nope!
Yet even when we dispose with the notion of the fictional "Eru", the Valar themselves are undeniably foes of vast and fearsome power; one may well call them gods. Again Sauron would explain how in the past, these scheming and sinister deities even took the Dúnedain away from Middle-earth and trapped the noblest of all races on an island in the middle of nowhere, far away in the western ocean! Left to themselves, the Dúnedain would have been the masters of the world long ago, ruling or displacing the lesser races of Men. Luckily, the skillful Númenoreans soon became great mariners and learned how to escape from their prison island, and now they are finally beginning to grasp at their true destiny! Yet how can they overcome the evil schemes of the Valar once and for all? How can Men ever fight such godlike enemies?
There is one last god who is not counted among the Valar, nor does He share their unjust hatred of Men: the God of the Void, the Giver of Freedom from the lies of those who would deny the Númenoreans their true destiny. Sauron knows Him. Sauron used to serve Him when he was still visibly present in the world. Still He awaits the time when His worshippers will throw aside the fantasies about "Eru" once and for all, whereupon He will bestow upon them endless blessings. And the masses don't have to take Sauron's word for this, for Westernesse already experiences a foretaste of these blessings!
Why is the realm suddenly flowing over with gold and jewels? Why this undreamed-of wealth? As can now be revealed, this is because the elite of Westernesse has already embraced the True Faith! Many nobles, including the King himself, are dedicated followers of the Lord of All -- and hence the favor of the bountiful Giver of Freedom already rests upon Westernesse! There is no more need for any discretion: Now the man in the street will have his chance to receive a full share in the blessings that the worship of this Lord can bring!
What is more, the time is drawing near when He will return out of the Void and once again make his Divine Presence felt in the world. Exactly when this will be, even His prophet Sauron cannot tell for sure, but these are hugely significant times! The time is at hand when the race of Men will supplant the Elves! Even the Elves themselves do not deny that it is their destiny to eventually fade away before the younger race that comes after. (If, as I have suggested, we have Gil-galad refer to this fact earlier, a cinematic audience would know that Sauron is actually telling the truth here -- raising the question of whether everything he says could be true, at least in some sense.)
Yeah, the time is coming when the Lord of the World will sweep away the Valar and bestow upon the worthiest among Men the same gifts long enjoyed by the Elves, unjustly withheld from Men through long ages. And here we reach the central, all-important point that Sauron maybe has not mentioned even to Pharazôn before this moment: To those who will serve the Giver of Freedom with burning zeal and absolute devotion, He will grant eternal life in this world, so that they can rule the world on His behalf and ascend to ever greater power throughout eternity!
Finally the ecstatic people listening to Sauron's sermon need only to be told the Holy and Blessed Name of this benevolent Lord: he is MELKOR who Arises in Might! And as the two syllables of the Divine Name electrify the masses, Amandil goes deadly pale and leads his son and grandsons away, even though Isildur would perhaps have preferred to stay and listen. I think I see the old man almost collapsing once they have made their way out of the crowd, deeply disturbed both by the contents of Sauron's speech and the enthusiasm with which the people received it. And maybe his son Elendil has the feeling that he knows the name Melkor from somewhere, asking his father if it is not mentioned in Elvish lore.
We are here presupposing something Tolkien does not really say: that in this period of history, the name Melkor is almost completely taboo and known only to a few "loremasters" like Amandil himself. But I don't think this is unreasonable. It is said in the Valaquenta (prefixed to the Silmarillion) that "Melkor is counted no longer among the Valar, and his name is not spoken upon Earth... that name he has forfeited, and the Noldor, who among the Elves suffered most from his malice, will not utter it." The ancient Edain suffered no less than the Noldor, their allies, so we may well imagine that in Númenor, the name Melkor had rarely if ever been spoken before Sauron uttered it.
And so Amandil can only confirm to his son and grandsons that Melkor is none other than a character they and the cinematic audience have already heard about, but by another name. Who is Melkor? Melkor is the First Rebel, the fallen Vala, the Liar and the Calumniator, the Marrer of Middle-earth: "Melkor is the Morgoth!"
Yes, folks: Sauron is making the Númenoreans worship the same primeval evil power that their ancestors once fought in Middle-earth, in centuries of bitter war. The Dúnedain are embracing the equivalent of Satanism.
We see the shock in the faces of Elendil and his sons. But back in the stadium, the dazzling orator has pretty much converted the masses to Melkorism already, painting a wonderful, everlasting future for them if they will only pledge themselves to the Lord of the Ancient Darkness. Let the camera find the one face in the crowd that is not glowing with enthusiasm: Pale and drawn, the young Queen looks as if she is trying to wake up from an escalating nightmare; for we see in her eyes that she, too, understands who and what Melkor truly is.
One thing can be deduced about Míriel, even if Tolkien never commented on it: she would likely be somewhat more "psychic" than most people. This is because her late father had such gifts, and in Tolkien's world, they are heritable. For instance, regarding Aragorn's mother it is said that "she had in a measure the foresight of her people" (LotR Appendix A). I would not make too much of this, preferring to develop the plot-elements actually occurring in Tolkien's own texts -- but it can surely be hinted that Míriel is developing a deep "intuition" allowing her to directly perceive the demonic spirit hiding inside Sauron's handsome form.
She might also perceive something else. Let's cut back and forth between her face and the eagerly gesticulating orator, as we see some kind of vague insight emerging in the Queen's appalled eyes. Sauron's voice is fading out as we slip into Míriel's perspective; she is focusing on something quite other than his blasphemous speech. Close on Sauron...but then Míriel's gaze tears itself away from that handsome face with the hypnotic eyes, as if irresistibly gravitating towards another point: Sauron's arm, Sauron's hand, Sauron's fingers...and finally we see only the golden band encircling one of the fingers, the flowing inscription glowing more intensely than ever, maybe even pulsating.
And so, though Sauron's speech goes on and the masses are evidently cheering, we find ourselves in an almost soundless vacuum. Almost. Slowly a mind-numbing throbbing creeps into the soundtrack, much like the hypnotic sound Peter Jackson lets us hear when the hobbits are hiding during their very first encounter with a Ringwraith, and Frodo suddenly feels an overpowering urge to put on the Ring.
Míriel does perceive the same power now: a vast corrupting influence somehow radiating from Sauron's ring and seeping into the minds of all who will listen to him, or indeed all who do not actively resist his message. But the masses, perceiving only the rapture this strange influence installs in them, are clearly not going to resist anything. Westernesse has got its state religion.
Melkorism has gone public. The dark worship that the King took up in secret will henceforth be conducted "openly and in the face of his people". We read that "they for the most part followed him", the dark wave rolling across the realm. Only the shrinking group of Faithful, looking to Amandil and Elendil as their leaders, still try to maintain the ancient faith of Númenor. We have entered a strange interlude: The new religion is taking root, but the exact nature of its form of worship will not be seen before its sanctuary has been completed.
But Isildur, at least, must finally be having grave doubts about Sauron. Presumably he must accept what his grandfather tells him: "Melkor" is none other than Morgoth, the Dark Enemy of the World, the corrupted Power that was finally overcome when the unfallen Valar heard Eärendil's prayer and thrust Sauron's former master into the Outer Void beyond the world.
Morgoth may indeed be "the god of the Void", but from there he can neither hear nor answer any prayers. Doesn't Sauron realize this, or is the new religion he proposes a deliberate sham? Presumably even Amandil and Elendil cannot tell. But anyhow, Sauron is going to become even more powerful. Within three years of his arrival, he was head of the King's Council. Now he is going to be High Priest as well.
This, at least, is certain from Elendil's point of view: the Dúnedain "owe [Morgoth] no allegiance except by fear. For his share in the governance of the World was forfeit long ago. Nor need we hope in him; the fathers of our race were his enemies; wherefore we can look for no love from him or any of his servants. Morgoth doth not forgive." (The Lost Road p. 73 -- this is a GTL spoken by Elendil to his son, though the stilted language could need a little de-Shakespearizing in this case as well).
How does Isildur react to this? Even if he accepts the fact that Melkor and Morgoth are one and the same, does he still harbor doubts as to whether the traditional stories of the First Age are true? Was Melkor-Morgoth really the devil himself, as the Elves say? Or was he just the enemy of the Elves, who recruited the early Edain as their allies by portraying Morgoth as the first and ultimate Evil One? Is Sauron right? Will Melkor-Morgoth be revealed as a benevolent Power if approached in a proper manner -- the one Vala that will not deny Men anything?
Can Sauron, this princely figure who is able to deliver such heartening speeches about freedom and life, really be perverting the truth to such an extent that he encourages the Númenoreans to worship the devil in the name of God? After all, everybody agrees that Sauron really did serve Melkor back in the First Age, so he must know the truth about him.
I think Isildur should be portrayed as really struggling with these questions (discussing them with his brother Anárion rather than his father Elendil, whose mind is of course made up). We still don't really know who Isildur will eventually side with. It still seems possible that he may put aside his doubts, reject the beliefs of his family and accept Sauron's new doctrine -- which must involve a total reinterpretation of the history of the First Age.
But no matter what conclusions Isildur will reach, the Temple is soon taking shape on a central hill in the capital, presumably with the help of forced labor: Construction work surely goes on 24/7. (Incidentally, the Númenoreans really did observe a seven-day week, according to the calendars described in LotR Appendix D.) A somewhat bizarre, thick cylinder eventually towers above the cityscape, utterly dwarfing the older architecture surrounding it. Its walls are so thick that it could ride out a nuclear attack, if anyone in this world were thinking in such terms. Maybe Sauron, who we may suspect provided the architectural drawings, really did intend it as his personal shelter in case the Valar would attack Númenor?
According to the Akallabêth, the Temple "was in the form of a circle at the base, and there the walls were fifty feet in thickness, and the width of the base was five hundred feet across the centre, and the walls rose from the ground five hundred feet." So we are talking about a monstrous building with dimensions best compared to the Great Pyramid of Giza (current height 454 feet, much closer to 500 before the outer covering went missing). Indeed the Temple is "the mightiest of the works of the Númenóreans" ever (SD, p. 347).
The circular outer wall is "crowned with a mighty dome" which is "roofed all with silver, and rose glittering in the sun". Five hundred feet across, this dome would approach the size of the now-famous Superdome in New Orleans, which has a dome diameter of 680 feet (210 meters).
As for the building materials, we are told on p. 67 of The Lost Road that the Temple is made "of marble, and of gold, and of glass and steel" (plus silver for the Dome). Surely we must imagine that the builders use black marble, befitting the Lord of the Ancient Darkness. True, this quote from The Lost Road comes from an older version of Tolkien's story, where Sauron actually had the audacity to construct the Temple on top of the Meneltarma, claiming the ancient Hallow for Melkorism. The published Akallabêth however places the Temple in the city of Armenelos; the Hallow on the mountain was the one place in Númenor where Sauron never came. This would be the canonical version of the story, but we may still accept the information given about the building materials. Thus Tolkien does provide basic info about the measures and materials of the Temple; for our movie we'll let H.R. Giger flesh out the rest and provide the exact designs. (Those who doubt his qualifications may want to check out the alien, bio-mechanical spacecraft of the first Alien movie.)
As the Temple is rising, the Empire is growing. Rule, Westernesse! Westernesse, rule the waves! We may imagine how the Númenoreans (much like the Victorians after them) proudly draw up maps of their ever-growing dominions, already extending deep into Far Harad and even approaching the northern parts of Middle-earth. Presumably Gil-galad, still King of his Elven realm in the north-west of the continent, begins to feel distinctly uncomfortable about this development. And this is not merely because of "political" considerations! By now it is becoming obvious even to the outside world that a veritable Culture Revolution is taking place on the Isle of the Kings, and its consequences are already felt across the ocean.
If we want to give Glorfindel a little screen-time again, there could be a sequence where he ventures into one of the newly-established Númenorean colonies as Gil-galad's spy. He would find that the invaders are reducing entire populations to slaves. There can be no resistance, given their superior weapons: "The Men of the Sea send before them a great cloud, as a rain turned to serpents, or a black hail tipped with steel" -- for "in those days the great cohorts of the King's Archers used bows made of hollow steel, with blackfeathered arrows a full ell long from point to notch" (Unfinished Tales, p. 170). And if the conquistadors are already telling the natives that they must accept one Melkor as their god, Glorfindel would have all the evidence he needs. The Númenoreans have fallen, and they have fallen low.
So would be the report Glorfindel carries back to Gil-galad, and this time we can well imagine that Elrond is also present. Somber and grieved, he would learn what the kingdom once founded by his brother Elros is coming to. The Dúnedain are falling under the spell of the Great Ring, just like Gil-galad probably foresaw already on that fateful day when Pharazôn would not wait, but brought Sauron with him on his ships.
Yet what can Gil-galad or Elrond do now? In theory, the great Elven-king could surely send armies to the south and try to stop the Númenorean expansion, but not only would he be meddling in the affairs of Mortal Men with no invitation from either side: his troops would also have to pass close to Mordor on the way south. What is going on in the Black Land in Sauron's absence is anybody's guess, but surely the Nazgûl still maintain some kind of control over the Orc-hordes, and moving large Elvish contingents into the general area would quite likely provoke a very messy war.
No, there is little Gil-galad can really do, except fortify Lindon itself and pray that the Númenorean hordes won't come knocking on his own door one day. But the omens are obvious: the Second Age of the World is hastening towards its end, and that end will be no less dramatic than the end of the First Age when the Host of Valinor overthrew Morgoth in the War of Wrath.
Meanwhile the Númenorean homeland is turning into a dire dictatorship. Whenever the King's "displeasure falleth on men...they go out; they are in the evening, and in the morning they are not. The open is insecure; walls are dangerous. Even by he heart of the house spies may sit. And there are prisons, and chambers underground. There are torments, and there are evil rites" (The Lost Road p. 68). Indeed, as told in the Akallabêth, "Ar-Pharazôn, King of the Land of the Star, grew to be the mightiest tyrant that had yet been in the world since the reign of Morgoth, though in truth Sauron ruled all from behind the throne".
In this police state where the walls have ears and there are informers everywhere, Amandil would finally opt to let his family and friends into the secret of the Palantíri. There is no other way he can stay in touch with them. In Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, Tolkien simply says that "these stones were gifts of the Eldar to Amandil, father of Elendil, for the comfort of the Faithful of Númenor in their dark days". We don't learn what the "comfort" really consisted of, but it seems reasonable to assume that the Faithful used the Stones to exchange information without having to worry about the spies of the King.
So on one of the rare occasions when Míriel is able to get away from the palace to meet her friends, we may imagine Amandil revealing to her, to his own family and to a few other Faithful what the function of the Stones really is. They can be used to see things from afar, if the user possesses sufficient strength of mind to bend the Stone to his will, but they can also be used to transmit thoughts. (Notice that Míriel's father was also called Palantir or "Far-seer", because of his special gifts.)
Amandil now distributes the Seven Stones among those few people he can fully trust. He would not do so lightly, for as he surely points out, it would be a terrible disaster if one of these stones should ever find its way into Sauron's possession. The whole set of Palantíri would be rendered virtually useless, since the Dark Lord could listen in at any time. (Of course, the cinematic audience knows that Sauron will eventually obtain a Palantír, as Pippin found out a second too late. Now the only question is how and when this pre-destined disaster will occur!)
The Valar, the oft-mentioned but never-seen Powers that rule the Blessed Realm in the West, will have a role to play later (though they must remain off-screen). Should Amandil or Elendil point out to Míriel that she has the power to invoke them? After all, it is she and not her "husband" who is the rightful ruler of Númenor: the sovereign who alone has the right to break the silence of the Hallow upon the Mountain, calling on the Valar or even Eru Himself. If Míriel could somehow make it to the top of the Meneltarma, and she invoked the Appointed Powers, her prayer would surely be heard.
When Morgoth had been overthrown and the Second Age of the World began, did the Valar not summon Sauron to return to the Uttermost West to be judged? Manwë himself had "commanded Sauron to come before him for judgement, but had left room for repentance and ultimate rehabilitation". Sauron spurned his chance to rejoin the Good Guys; instead he "fled into hiding" (MR, p. 404). But now he is here, in Númenor that actually lies within sight of the Immortal Lands! Maybe a little formal invitation is all the encouragement the Valar will need to come and pick him up?
But Míriel would hesitate. It is not only that she could well be risking her life if she tried to ascend to the Hallow against the King's will. It's also this: what would she be praying for, even if she could make it there? Sure, if the Valar really did come to arrest Sauron, the fallen Maia could not possibly resist the godlike Powers. They are infinitely more powerful than him. Nevertheless, any "peaceful surrender" would be unthinkable.
It is quite obvious that Sauron has great powers that he takes care never to display, so that he can continue to play his part as Pharazôn's "servant" -- ever working towards some secret goal of his own. But what if his career in Númenor was about to be cut short by divine intervention? What burst of destruction could he unleash in his last desperate stance? And what would the Valar themselves do? When they came to capture Morgoth, an entire continent was destroyed before he was actually apprehended. Capturing Sauron, Morgoth's greatest servant, could very well devastate all of Númenor in the process. Should Míriel pray for death and destruction to rain down on her own people?
No: For now, the Queen will not try to invoke the Valar. Not so much because she is afraid they would not hear her prayer; rather because she fears the consequences if they did hear her.
Surely the Powers are not ignorant about what is going on in Númenor. They must know that Sauron is here, seemingly in a vulnerable position. So far, they have done nothing about it. Do they somehow await Míriel's decision? Do they know something the Faithful Númenoreans do not? Do they, too, fear that any attempt to "arrest" Sauron would result in great destruction and massive loss of life? Who can tell?
Valar valuvar: let the Powers rule! Whether they act or not, no human should try to second-guess their decisions.
Maybe on the same occasion, Míriel is able to tell her friends that Sauron is now encouraging the King to cut down Nimloth, the White Tree growing in the courts. Already armed guards are preventing anybody from even approaching it, since it is a powerful symbol to the Faithful. Well, Míriel can also inform her friends that for once, Pharazôn actually hesitates to do as Sauron says. He does remember what her father prophesied, that when the Tree perishes, the line of the Kings shall perish with it. Yet Sauron is politely pointing out that as long as the Tree stands, Melkor may feel that Pharazôn's heart is not wholly with Him. Of course, Sauron doesn't want the King to lose any of Melkor's blessings...and Míriel fears that Pharazôn is already wavering. The Tree is far from safe.
Amandil is "grieved to the heart" to hear this, "knowing that in the end, Sauron would surely have his will". According to the Akallabêth, he now speaks to Elendil and his grandsons, Isildur and Anárion, "recalling the tale of the Trees of Valinor". They were briefly glimpsed in the introduction to the movie as outlined above, and here we can afford another fleeting First Age flashback of the wondrous shining Trees. Now "the tale of the Trees" is potentially very long (if we trace the last remnant of their light forwards in time, the entire Silmarillion is included!) For cinematic purposes Amandil can simply observe that the White Tree of Númenor was a gift greater than most men now imagine, for "the seed of that tree came from Eressëa [in the Blessed Realm], and before that out of the Uttermost West in the Day before days when the world was young" (to borrow a line from The Council of Elrond in the LotR). And, as Amandil would surely reflect at this point, the original Trees that once grew in Valinor were destroyed by Morgoth. Now Sauron his servant wants to destroy the last memory of them, also erasing the symbol of the ancient friendship between Númenor and the Elves of the Blessed Realm.
"Isildur said no word, but went out" into the night. Alone in the darkness, the son of Elendil has to choose. On what side does he belong? He is genuinely fascinated by all the great things Sauron teaches. And now this stunningly handsome and charismatic figure even promises immortality to all who will embrace his latest doctrine! It is not such an outrageous promise given the setting: a world where an immortal human-like race already exists. But can Isildur swallow the idea that Melkor the Morgoth is not the devil, but rather the one good god, whom Men ought to worship?
And can he ignore the underlying destructive element that is slowly emerging in Sauron's teachings? Already Sauron has destroyed an idea: the very concept of Eru Ilúvatar. Now, for the first time in his sojourn in Númenor, he targets a tangible object: the White Tree that has stood in the King's courts since time immemorial. It must be dawning on Isildur that destroying it would be -- will be -- a terrible and fateful thing to do. Not only will the perishing of the Tree signal the impending end of the royal line, according to Tar-Palantir's prophecy: it will also sever a historical link between Númenor and the Blessed Realm, whence the seedling of the Tree once came. And above all, it will mean that something old and holy and beautiful will be gone forever. There can never, ever, be another White Tree.
Isildur must be shown as struggling with the decision, his body almost physically wavering, a tortured expression in his face. Let's throw in the Star of Eärendil, burning brightly in the West (and as some will know, this is the light of the last Silmaril, Fëanor's wondrous jewel still shining with the unsullied light of the Trees of Valinor long after they were destroyed). There and then, alone and silent in the darkness, Isildur makes his decision and discovers where his loyalties lie. (And I don't envy the actor who would have to express all of the above with facial expressions only!)
Once the decision has been made, he springs into action. New clothes. A disguise. A good disguise, so that nobody could possibly recognize him; presumably he covers his face (I confess that some kind of Ninja scarf tends to materialize in my imagination!) Then he only needs a fast horse. Off we go -- to the capital!
By now our movie would be primarily a psychological drama (which actually is not a bad thing in itself!), but we are about to reach one of the opportunities to throw in an "action sequence", and I guess a moviemaker would have to make the most of it.
Again, we don't have to elaborate needlessly here. The point is that Isildur tries to sneak past all of Pharazôn's guards and reach the Tree while it is still there. Leaving his horse outside the palace, he does somehow manage to enter the courts. The last thirty-or-so yards when he has to actually cross the lawn where the Tree stands must be extremely perilous: how can he avoid being seen? All right, it is night, and maybe he throws a stone to make a sound distracting the guards (a real classic!) So he does make his way to the huge trunk of the tree and hides behind it, though the heavily armed guards are already suspecting the presence of an intruder. Isildur is scanning the branches above his head; in the dark it is difficult to find what he is looking for. But finally he spots what he is now risking his life to obtain...a fruit of the White Tree!
For whatever reason I tend to imagine something very much like a peach, but whitish in color. It is surely hanging "just out of reach", so that we can have the appropriate drama when Isildur stretches out his arm, touches it with his fingertips but can't get hold of it, tries again from another position, etc. etc. -- and all the while Pharazôn's vicious guards are getting more and more suspicious; maybe one of them (rightly!) thought he glimpsed someone moving near the Tree.
Finally Isildur does manage to pick the fruit, but as all readers of the Akallabêth knows, there will be no clean getaway. (Maybe he has to climb a few feet into the Tree to reach the fruit, and falls with a loud noise the moment he finally gets hold of it?) The guards spot him, swords are drawn, and Isildur must fight his way out. (Presumably he must bring his own sword, or manage to grab a sword, if this is to be credible.) So an unfair and hence heroic fight ensues. Swords would clash, blood would flow, Isildur would lose the fruit and desperately grope for it on the ground while the merciless guards attack him, he is seriously wounded...but in the end, he does escape with the fruit. Maybe he dares a dangerous jump from a high wall or something, limps back to his horse, and disappears into the night. (No, Tolkien doesn't mention any horse, but he does say that Isildur received "many wounds" and is to spend several months in recovery; then it is scarcely credible that our young hero could leave the capital and make it all the way home on his own two feet.)
Maybe Pharazôn himself could be involved in this scene, alerted by the commotion outside. On the other hand, I don't think a script-writer should embellish the scene to the point of involving Sauron as well (it would cheapen Sauron's rarely-seen but clearly immense abilities if he is involved in a chase sequence where the intruder actually gets away). If Sauron has any place here at all, he would appear behind Pharazôn as the King stands fuming with anger. Just a dimly seen form in the dark, his face maybe out of frame, his pleasant voice little more than a whisper. The words themselves can barely be distinguished; they would slip into Pharazôn's mind almost as if they were the King's own thoughts. Only the message is clear: This tree is becoming a symbol for the enemies of the Throne. It is obvious what must be done. It has long been obvious.
But Isildur finally returns home, bleeding and barely conscious, probably falling off his horse even as the worried members of his family come running to meet him. Yet even as he lies on his back in great pain, maybe even dying as far as his family can tell, he does manage one last brave smile and slips the whitish fruit into the hands of Amandil. Any words would just disturb the scene.
So, while Elendil summons an Eru-fearing physician who can be trusted to be discreet about Isildur's very suspicious wounds, Amandil has received something of immeasurable value. If nothing can be done to save the ancient White Tree, then at least its line can now be preserved. Amandil must be represented as cutting open the fruit with great reverence, finding the precious seed inside. It is, in a very real sense, the seed of the future...and as will eventually become clear, movie audiences have already seen the new tree that will grow from it!
We read that the seed was "planted in secret, and it was blessed by Amandil". (We should probably have to come up with a High-Elven benediction here...na laitana, métima erdë Ninquelótëo..."be blessed, last seed of Nimloth"?!) Evidently the seed is not planted in the ground, but rather in some earth in a bucket, since the young tree is to be moved later.
Things don't look good for Isildur, though. Tended by his brother Anárion and his father and grandfather, he remains feverish and mostly unconscious, and Tolkien tells us that he is to come "near to death".
We return to the courts in Armenelos. Let's make it a cold, clear morning. It could be like a thousand other mornings, but today, the sound of axes is heard. A hard, pitiless sound. Then we move indoor. It's the same hall where Míriel was once proclaimed Queen of Númenor, with the White Tree visible outside a huge window. And Míriel has actually returned to the place of her coronation, but now she is utterly alone, a tiny figure crouching on the floor. Apparently she has escaped into this hall because she is unable to watch what is going on outside. We proceed to a close-up of her face, drawn and tired as if she has spent a long night of desperate and ultimately vain pleading (as she surely has). And now every blow of the axes is also a blow to her heart.
Outside the huge window, the White Tree is shaking. Then it leans over. Timber! The ancient symbol of the friendship between Númenor and the Blessed Realm crashes to the ground.
Silence. No axes anymore. We may move outside for a moment, where Pharazôn has surely been overseeing the felling of the Tree. Sauron may not necessarily be present, partly because we rarely see him except when it is dark (symbolically enough), but also to emphasize that he is the Instigator rather than the Executor of events. Watching the fallen Tree in the cold morning air, Pharazôn may appear somewhat relieved. He postponed this for the longest time, but now it is done. The Tree lies slain, yet there is no sign of the wrath of the Valar. It really wasn't so different from chopping down any other tree, was it?
Since in Tolkien's world, trees are occasionally rather more "alive" than in our own world, it could be hinted that the White Tree suffers when it is cut down -- it could be making eerie sounds suggestive of moaning, for instance. But since such effects could easily appear silly, they should (if used at all) be restrained and deliberately ambiguous: Was that just the wood creaking, or something else?
Well, now Melkor the Giver of Freedom must see what a faithful worshipper Pharazôn is. Perhaps we could have a flashback of Sauron reinterpreting Tar-Palantir's prophecy: Sure enough, the old King rightly foresaw that the White Tree would perish during the rule of the very last King of Westernesse: Obviously Pharazôn will never have any successor, since he will live and rule forever! By destroying the Tree, Pharazôn has actually passed a decisive test of his faith in Melkorism. And one of these days, even as Sauron has prophesied, Melkor will return into the world and grant immortality to all who serve him wholeheartedly. An endless, glorious future awaits Ar-Pharazôn, King of the World!
But to Míriel, this is where the future ceases to exist. All that remains is a terrible sense of fatality, all the stronger if she has actually inherited her father's gift in some measure. From this moment on, she knows with absolute certainty that she is the last Queen of Númenor, and that her so-called husband is the last King. Some dreadful doom is now firmly embedded in the future, as fixed and unchangeable as yesterday. All that remains for her is to meet the inevitable with some kind of dignity.
Well, again we would be asking our actors to express very much with facial expressions only, but if we do place Míriel in the hall where the Scroll of the Kings is kept, we could let her perform one simple act pregnant with fatalistic symbolism. After the Tree falls, she could get up and walk over to the table where the ancient Scroll lies, her steps echoing in the huge empty hall. She opens the Scroll with the long, long list of names, all the Kings and Queens of Westernesse over three millennia, beginning with the name of Elrond's brother: Elros Tar-Minyatur, he who willingly chose to be counted among Mortal Men rather than the Elves, foregoing the immortality he could have had. In the other end of the long list there are the names of Tar-Míriel and finally Tar-Calion, the Elvish name briefly assumed by Pharazôn for the sake of tradition and nothing else.
I would not have Míriel do anything even remotely brutal, like tearing the Scroll to pieces. She should simply dip a feather in ink and look once more at the two names at the end of the list, her face ashen. Then she draws a line under the long list of royal names. The Scroll of the Kings is...complete.
Pharazôn may be shown ordering the White Tree to be chopped up; we gather from a stray remark that Sauron has plans for the wood. It is, in a way, the end of an era. And yet, even as the sad remains of the ancient Tree are irreverently tossed aside to dry, a tiny whitish shoot emerges from the earth where Amandil planted the seed Isildur saved.
Months have passed. The Great Temple has been completed. We may reasonably assume that Elendil and his father and sons do not attend the Grand Inauguration when High Priest Sauron dedicates the monstrous structure to the worship of Melkor, Lord of All. Also, Isildur is still seriously ill, but we know he'll survive (to screw up things in Middle-earth later!), so we're not giving away anything if we let his older self comment on the proceedings in voice-over.
And so, for the first time, we get to see the interior of the temple: a room so vast that it almost has its own climate! I won't presume to suggest exactly what the towering walls should look like, but H.R. Giger could surely think of something suitably atmospheric (again, consider the inside of the biomechanical spaceship in Alien!) Maybe there are "stadium"-like seats all the way around the bottom of the wall, so that tens of thousands of people can be accommodated? Should they all be dressed in black cloaks, or is that over-the-top cliché-style "Satanism"? Anyway, there is the vast silver dome five hundred feet above the heads of the worshippers, with a central louver to let out smoke. Since it will later prove possible to ascend to the highest point on the dome, there should be a winding stair on the walls of the temple, leading all the way up.
In the midst of the temple stands the huge Altar, surely an imposing and sinister structure. From the Akallabêth we also learn that there is a Black Seat for the High Priest. But Sauron is not sitting today; he is leading the ceremony. For whatever reason I here tend to picture him in full armor, including his helmet, just like we saw him when he first came to Pharazôn's camp in Middle-earth, and also like he appears in the opening scenes of Jackson's Fellowship. (Arguably, only Darth Vader has a more impressive helmet/mask!) Dressed like a warrior, Sauron leads the Númenoreans in prayer to Melkor, god of war and hate and destruction. Spine-chilling hymns are sung, maybe even in the Black Speech of Mordor (the Holy Tongue, according to Sauron's teachings?) The first climax of the ceremony approaches: Sauron is about to light the Eternal Flame on the altar!
The camera closes in on the wood lying on the altar, and we recognize it: it is actually what remains of the White Tree! In abnegation and scorn of the old beliefs, Sauron puts a torch to it, using the symbol of the friendship between Númenor and the Blessed Realm to light the flame on Melkor's unholy altar. The sinister music soars. Quickly spreading, fierce flames are greedily consuming the wood on the altar...
...and this is where Isildur's voiceover could point out that for once, everything did not go exactly as Sauron had planned. For the flames suddenly leap all too high, the fire becoming almost explosive, as if some vast power that was locked inside the Tree is now released in anger. Almost as if alive, the flames leap out against the huge figure of Sauron, as if the dead tree is seeking revenge on its murderer. The ceremony comes to a sudden stop when the High Priest is forced or even blasted away from the altar: If he wasn't wearing his armor, he wouldn't be quite as handsome from this day on!
All right, so far we have been elaborating just a little compared to the source material, but we are back on firm Tolkienian ground when we say that incredible amounts of smoke issue from the altar. Impossibly much smoke comes billowing up from the smoldering remains of the Tree. Within moments, the dark cloud fills even the grotesquely over-sized Temple Hall, briefly hovers above the onlookers like a shapeless black monster, and then it comes down on them. Visibility is down to almost zero, thousands of worshippers are already heading for the exits, people are trod underfoot in the confusion, and this really was not the way Sauron and Pharazôn had imagined their day of glory.
Even when people do manage to get out, they cannot quite escape the smoke. It comes out of the louver at the top of the dome and forms an endless column rising into the sky, and even when it reaches high airs and dissolves, the resulting clouds are still dark and compact. North, south, east and west they spread, filling the sky.
Isildur's voiceover informs us that for one full week the clouds remained over the land, blocking out the sunlight: a shadow on the body and soul of every Númenorean. A dead silence seems to have fallen over the land, as if people hardly dare to whisper, though in their heart of hearts some may be thinking what they cannot speak aloud: that something terrible and irrevocable was done when the White Tree was killed. But finally, on the seventh day, the cloud slowly begins to move, though maybe there is still no wind. Sliding off the western coast, the cloud remains compact and easy to follow with the eyes as it moves into the West, finally merging with the perpetual cloud-bank hiding the Blessed Realm from the unworthy gaze of the Númenoreans: The White Tree has returned to the West, whence the Elves once brought it as a gift to the fledgling island realm of the Dúnedain. With the Tree passes the last trace of the blessing of the Valar.
After this somewhat embarrassing event during the Inauguration, Sauron swiftly gets things back on track. Finally everything is in place for the central rite in the worship of Melkor. It is only a question of using less dangerous wood on the altar.
Of old, the Númenoreans did sacrifice to Eru, but this was "bloodless sacrifice" (SD, p. 400). But taught by Sauron, the King and the innermost circle of devoted Melkor-worshippers have already internalized a new concept of sacrifice! The time is nearing when the general public must be made to accept it as well.
I tend to imagine a sequence where soldiers come to Andúnië where those who still cling to the ancient faith still live: neighbors and friends of Amandil and Elendil. Suddenly, maybe in the middle of the night, Pharazôn's emissaries enter several homes and brutally drag people out of their beds. They are arrested for ill-defined crimes, and we gather that they are to be brought to the capital. Elendil should probably be shown as trying to stop this, but even this brave man can't take on the Royal Army all by himself. Also, Isildur is still very ill, and Elendil can't risk that the soldiers will enter his own home as well: There would be some very awkward questions about how and when the young man came to be wounded! (Even so, maybe Amandil himself must restrain his illustrious son from drawing his sword? "No! There is nothing we can do! You would only forfeit your life, and imperil that of Isildur!")
So the prisoners are lead away and taken all the way to Armenelos. These should be people already established as something slightly more than extras, so that the cinematic audience vaguely cares about them. They should have appeared together with our heroes during the Erulaitalë festivals, for instance.
Intercut this with scenes of Sauron teaching Ar-Pharazôn, Abârubêl and a few other nobles: the Inner Circle. It all sounds so noble and beautiful when Sauron's gentle voice sets it out: What sacrifice can be worthy of Melkor, the Lord of All? Is it not obvious that to the Giver of Life one must bring Life as one's gift?
In some cases, Sauron concedes, worshippers may of course offer up animals. Yet the highest deity must often receive the highest possible form of sacrifice. As for Pharazôn, he must realize what it truly means to be King. The Númenoreans have been given into his hand, and their lives belong to him. None would dispute that he has the authority to order his subjects to go to war, even against a formidable enemy so that many of them would obviously die. Pharazôn, and he alone, decides what is best for Westernesse and her people. If he deems that it serves the nation best to (well) sacrifice some of his subjects for a higher cause and the greater good, who can possibly criticize his decisions?
Obviously many people are just parasites anyway. Thieves, criminals, beggars...and good-for-nothing fellows like most of the population of Andúnië, steeped in the ancient Elf-derived superstitions even in this new, enlightened age! They should be grateful that finally they have a chance to do something good for society. Their otherwise useless lives can now be, ahem, spent in order to bring the blessing of the Highest Power upon Westernesse!
The blessing of Melkor will soon become evident: One purpose of these sacrifices will be "to add the lives of the slain to the chosen living" (SD, p. 401). Now that sounds perfectly logical, right? One may infer that young offerings are the very best, so that many years of remaining lifetime are transferred to the person performing the sacrifice. And so the Númenoreans will have taken their first steps towards that ultimate, glorious goal: to become immortal like the Elves!
Oh yes, it is all so very wonderful, unless one considers the irrelevant views of the people who are taken to the Temple to be guests of honor in the Great Rite: The unhappy captives from Andúnië are presumably kept in ignorance about their impending fate until the last possible moment. Frankly, here it becomes very problematic how much of the ritual a movie version should really show. Tolkien always resorts to general terms when describing it, and as I have pointed out before, a movie purporting to dramatize one of his stories should not be an excuse to wallow in grotesqueries.
Yet we must adhere to the basic principle of "show, don't tell", so there must probably be one scene that is explicit enough to let the audience clearly perceive what is happening, though the camera should definitely turn away immediately before the climax.
Placing the captives on top of a pile of wood on the Black Altar is maybe not the optimal solution; there would surely be some drama as members of the newly-trained priesthood are approaching with torches, but this scenario seems a little too obvious. Let's rather move to some antechamber where the unhappy captives are chained down so that they can barely move at all. There are men and women, old and young, perhaps even sobbing children clinging to their mothers: maybe 15-20 people in all.
Let's imagine that after being chained, they are placed on some kind of really weird-looking cart, all made of metal. The platform they are loaded onto is actually a big latticework on massive wheels, so constructed that the platform is suspended at least five feet above the floor. For a few moments they just lie there, an unhappy, wriggling pile of human flesh. And then...
Enormous bronze doors open. Spine-chilling music swells. The appropriate number of Melkor-priests take hold of copper chains and start pulling the metal "cart" and the people on it into the vast space of the Temple Hall. The High Priest in his polished armor raises his arms against the silver dome high above, Sauron invoking the Lord of the Ancient Darkness. On the altar, red flames already leap high, a fierce and hungry fire.
And then a wave of understanding ripples through all involved -- not only the wriggling mass of chained bodies, but also the audience in the temple and the audience in the cinema alike: The whole lattice-on-wheels contraption is so designed that it fits exactly over the altar, allowing the flames to leap up through the holes and consume whatever is lying on top. The priests are in the process of sliding it into position!
There would be the desperate attempts to break the chains, the screams, the hysterical begging -- all in vain. Yet in the last moment, when the roaring fire is only a few feet away, we must hand a small moral victory to the people about to be burnt: let the voice of one man raise above the thundering hymn to Melkor as he cries out to Sauron standing by, probably addressing him as "servant of Morgoth" and reminding him what "our fathers told your master" long ago: "Beyond this world you shall not pursue those who refuse you!"
It was Húrin Thalion who said something much like this to Morgoth himself; see Unfinished Tales p. 67.
Whatever reaction these words cause in Sauron remains hidden under his helmet, though maybe he stops chanting. He just stands there, still with arms raised, as the priests position his victims directly above the fire. But we don't see that. Rather let's keep the camera on Sauron and even zoom in, but not on the grotesque helmet hiding his face. The camera is closing in on his right hand, as if drawn to the shiny band of gold around one of his fingers.
Reflecting the fire on the altar, the Ring shines so brightly that the flowing letters in the glowing inscription seem to float upon a sea of dancing flames. Finally we are so close that the reflective surface of gold fills the entire frame, and maybe, for a split-second, we should glimpse a distorted mirror image of a mass of wriggling bodies. Then the screams rise to a crescendo of torment, and all we see reflected behind the glowing inscription are the fierce flames leaping up, as we hear their greedy roar echoing in the walls of the Temple.
The next time people watch Jackson's Fellowship, and we come to the moment in Rivendell when everybody is quarreling and (non-existing) flames seem to be reflected in the Ring, that scene will have taken on a deeply sinister quality that wasn't there before: The Ring is apparently reminiscing, still remembering the devouring flames that blazed in the Temple in Armenelos three thousand years earlier...
Then there is only smoke, black smoke issuing from the louver at the top of the silvery Superdome, dark against the sky, but unable to block out all light like the smoke from the remains of the White Tree did. And yet it is as if eternal night is falling on the hearts and minds of all who still cling to the ancient beliefs of Westernesse: They know, now, what the King and his favorite "advisor" have in mind for all who will not embrace Melkorism wholeheartedly. Maybe Elendil should be shown watching from afar as the smoke rises, looking shocked and grieved as he touches his brow and then his mouth with a loose fist: the gesture suggesting respect for the dead.
As for Míriel, we are now well past the stage where she might cry or beg or even despair, except in the near-catatonic sense. Her entire world is falling apart. Maybe we should get to see her as well about this point, of course not attending the ceremony in the Temple, but rather staring at the towering building from afar -- her face just as ashen as the ashy clouds emerging from the louver and billowing up against the dreary sky.
Where are the mass protests, the riots, the rebellion? Can't the people raise up and sweep away a king that lets such monstrosities happen? Where is everybody? Well, a great many are apparently in the Temple enjoying the thrill of watching people being burnt alive...
And today's event was just the beginning, of course! The fires in the Temple must be fed continuously, to keep Pharazôn and Sauron (and presumptively also Melkor) happy. And so, as told in the Akallabêth, "the fire and the smoke went up without ceasing; for the power of Sauron daily increased, and in that temple, with spilling of blood and torment and great wickedness, men made sacrifice to Melkor that he should release them from Death."
As the Númenoreans keep sacrificing "unspeakable offerings on an unholy altar" (SD, p. 258), soot begins to settle on the great silver dome on top of the Temple. The mighty dome actually becomes altogether black as the Númenorean Holocaust is picking up speed. Incidentally, Holocaust means "burnt offering"...
So before long, people observing the temple can see how "its dome rose like a black hill glowering over the land" (SD, p. 335), covered in a fine layer of ash as the soot continues to settle down from the smoke of countless cremated bodies. If, as suggested above, the temple is made of black marble, the entire 500-foot edifice is now black as death: truly a fitting monument to the Ancient Darkness and the Dark Lord thereof.
And in this Darkness the Dúnedain may seem to have gone blind. Few of the Númenoreans ever stop and reflect that something is happening that would be utterly unthinkable only a decade ago. Even Pharazôn would never have tried to institute human sacrifice before the coming of Sauron; nor would his people have accepted it. But now, many have fully internalized the new doctrine and see only the wondrous light in the end of the tunnel: Surely we can bear with some slightly unsavory ceremonies when immortality lies right around the corner? Indeed, once one gets used to them, the ceremonies are actually great: a taste of godlike power, the thrill of ruling over the life and death of others!
Wrote Tolkien, concerning the worship of Melkor: "Any creature that took him for Lord (and especially those who blasphemously called him Father or Creator) became soon corrupted in all parts of its being, the fëa [soul] dragging down the hröa [body] in its descent into Morgothism: hate and destruction" (MR, p. 410).
The point, of course, is that only the Faithful who cling to the ancient beliefs are able to perceive what is truly happening and maintain their moral compass. A vast corrupting influence is emanating from the golden band encircling Sauron's finger: Only those who never let down their guard, but strive in every conscious moment to keep his thoughts out of their own minds, can hope to resist this creeping evil -- at least in the sense that they won't suddenly find themselves as part of the enthusiastic audience in the Temple. But then, if they succeed in doing this, they may come to play center stage in the ceremonies instead.
For it is "most often among the Faithful" that the adherents of Melkorism find raw material for their sacrifices, though in theory there is still full religious freedom in the realm. But whenever Elendil's friends and neighbors come to the attention of the authorities, even the flimsiest investigation always seems to turn up fresh evidence for seditious plots and planned attempts on the King's life. Of course, there can only be one punishment for this. And so yet another sacrificial barbecue ensues.
In state propaganda, the Realm of Westernesse is merely dealing appropriately with would-be assassins, rebels and terrorists, the ones who "hate freedom" and its Giver. (Associations to the rhetoric of any modern-age administration are the responsibility of the reader, not the author, of this document.)
But the Faithful themselves, who know that they are innocent of the charges (at least far more often than not), can only despair. And this despair must be felt even in the one household that can feel relatively safe: Amandil and Elendil are still widely respected pillars of society, and even Sauron doesn't dare to attack them yet. But this is small comfort when life-long friends are lead away to burn.
Maybe the youngest member of the family, Anárion, is completely overcome with despair one night. This would happen for a purpose, of course: Ideally I should like to attempt some kind of brief retelling of the Ainulindalë, the story of the Song of Creation, since that is also the story of the origin of evil in this mythos. It is not a story that could easily be "illustrated" with actual pictures or flashbacks, so it would simply have to be told by some character, either Amandil or Elendil.
Thus we would be in danger of violating one fundamental principle of movie-making, already referred to: "Show, don't tell!" Yet the surrounding circumstances could be made dramatic enough, if the family of Elendil has a moment of almost existential angst when the full extent of the Corruption of Westernesse explodes into their faces: One day, they woke up and found themselves living in a nation where the central rite of the state religion involves burning people alive. And even now that the process is accelerating, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, they can do to stop what is going on.
As we have told the story here, Isildur still lies ill (feverish, as I tend to imagine it), so let's grab this rare chance to let his brother Anárion do something to advance the plot. Let him be overcome by desperation and run out into a stormy night, run all the way to the very edge of the land. When his father and/or grandfather find(s) him, he stands next to the foaming, roaring ocean, almost prepared to throw himself in. And when the others do make contact with him, all he can say comes down to a single, desperate why?! How can this be happening? If there is a benevolent deity out there somewhere, how can he allow this? Is Morgoth really the only "god" there is?
And then and there his (grand?)father may tell the story of how, before the Beginning, Eru Ilúvatar created innumerable spirits out of his thought. The tale that follows must be seen as some kind of parable, an attempt to make the unfathomable events in the spirit world comprehensible to fleshly creatures -- a retelling not only in human language but "according to our modes of thought...in symbols that were intelligible to us" (The War of the Jewels p. 407).
So it is told, that Eru instructed the original spirits to sing, a cosmic choir performing the Great Music, developing the beautiful and majestic Theme that Eru had taught them. But Melkor, the greatest of all the spirits created, could not resist the temptation to go beyond the Theme and weave into his song thoughts that he himself had conceived. And so the ultimate Music was flawed by a terrible, spreading discord, for all too many proved ready to abandon the Theme of Eru and adjust their song to that of Melkor instead.
"Ilúvatar sat and hearkened until it seemed that about his throne there was a raging storm, as of dark waters that made war upon one another in an endless wrath" (imagine this story told against the background of an actual ocean in storm!) Yet, even as the Great Music was descending into chaos and cacophony, Eru introduced a new Theme, a music "deep and wide and beautiful, slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow". But the discord of Melkor, loud and vain, arose in wrath and "tried to drown the other music by the violence of its voice". The war of sound continued until Eru Himself brought the session to an end: "In one chord, deeper than the Abyss, higher than the Firmament, piercing as the light of the eye of Ilúvatar, the Music ceased."
And so Eru let his creatures understand that the Song they had sung had a deeper meaning and purpose, maybe even more so after Melkor's attempt at changing it. For the Great Music was the plan and fate underlying the world that was to be, and Eru showed forth a vision of it. And even now that a terrible flaw had been introduced into it, the Creator still went ahead and granted it Being: "Those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite... Let these things be!"
It was as if Eru wanted to show his creatures the terrible gravity of distorting the themes of the Creator; yet there was also the promise that ultimately none can really succeed in doing so. And so was created what the Elves call Arda Hastaina, the World That Is Marred, inherently flawed from the very beginning (MR, p. 255). This was the world many of the created spirits entered, the mightiest of them becoming Valar -- Eru's appointed representatives, trying to govern the world according to His will. Yet Melkor also entered this world and tried to dominate it just as he had tried to dominate the pre-universal Music.
So the Music from which the world was created, came to be fulfilled in it. "The evils of the world were not at first in the great Theme, but entered with the discords of Melkor" (The Peoples of Middle-earth p. 413). Melkor himself ended up as the great anti-creator with no positive purposes whatsoever; he came to be motivated by "sheer nihilism...[with] negation its one ultimate object": Tolkien suggested that if victorious, the Marrer would in the end have destroyed even his own Orcs and monsters "when they had served his sole purpose in using them: the destruction of Elves and Men...left alone he could only have gone raging on till all was levelled again into a formless chaos" (MR, p. 396). Such is the god that the Númenoreans have chosen.
Though Melkor-Morgoth was in the end so reduced by his own evil that he could be overthrown by the faithful Valar, nothing could change the fact that part of Melkor's essence had passed into the very matter from which the world is made. Outside the Blessed Realm, there is a "Melkor ingredient" in everything, the cosmic Rebel having left his mark on the world. And so there is an inescapable element of evil in matter itself, influencing even the souls of Incarnates who must live in bodies drawn from this matter (MR, p. 399-400).
There is an ever-present dark potential ready to be realized by those who will tend the seeds sown by Morgoth, and none can do this better than Sauron. Compare the dark lines near the end of the Silmarillion proper: the lies of Melkor "are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed, and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days". It's bearing fruit big time in Númenor just now, lovingly tended by Melkor's greatest servant ever.
Only beyond the end of this world there is the promise that the Theme of Eru will finally be sung aright and a new world take being, not blighted by any Marrer who would change the Great Music in the Creator's despite.
But there is one question remaining, and we could let Anárion ask it: If the Great Music underlies the physical world as some kind of "source code" (as we might put it), what was the new Theme that Eru added to the music to contest the discord of Melkor? The theme that was so beautiful, but also so unspeakably sad?
Well, it was...us. The Second Theme of Eru represented the Children of Ilúvatar, Elves and Men -- or in the end Men alone, since in later ages the Elves are destined to fade from the world. Weak though they may seem, these Children are somehow destined to play a central role when Eru's creation is to be healed from the Marring; they (we!) were the force called into being to rise up against the discord of Melkor and defend the Themes of Eru against the Distorter.
And yet, as the Silmarillion says, it seems to the Elves that Men are themselves more like Melkor than any of the Valar: a paradox that can probably only be resolved in the last ages of the world, the ultimate future that we still have not reached. The hope must remain that the Creator will not ultimately desert his creatures, even if they go astray in the Marred World: "If we are indeed the Eruhin, Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, nor even by ourselves." (MR, p. 320)
Well. It would probably be difficult to turn all of this into lines that actors could speak, but I should like to see some of it represented in one way or another. Even though I suspect that in the end, the whole scene would have to go on the Westernesse Extended DVD!
Meditations on the origin and ultimate healing of Evil may of course set things into a larger perspective (indeed the greatest perspective imaginable), but our helpless heroes still have the reality of the ongoing Holocaust to deal with.
Let's imagine that the King is announcing a new mega-sacrifice: Everybody is invited, including the lucky ones who will have the undeserved honor of placating the Lord of All on the altar! As the announcement is made, Míriel has to stand at Pharazôn's side for representational purposes. Under such circumstances we could place Elendil and/or Amandil in the crowd and let her eyes meet theirs. And so, without a word being spoken, a decision is made. At most, the deadly pale Queen may nod -- one single, almost unnoticeable nod. Yes. Yes, she will do it, whatever the consequences may be. What is now going on, has to be stopped in any way possible.
And so, as darkness is falling and the King and thousands of worshippers are gathering in the Temple for the joyous event, Míriel somehow eludes the palace guards. (Maybe she could climb out of a window, emphasizing both the urgency of her mission and the fact that she can't get away "legally"?) She would head north, a tiny figure hastening through empty streets, out of the city, into the rising hills: the Tarmasundar, Roots of the Pillar, mighty foundations of the Holy Mountain itself. And so, after she has eluded another group of guards, there only remains the long, winding path, dangerous in the gathering dark.
One scene that has been playing in my head is plainly inspired by the impressive sequence in the first Jackson movie where the camera sweeps past Saruman on top of his tower, as he is trying to bring down an avalanche on the Fellowship by his magic. But it would begin quite differently, with the camera stationed immediately above the Black Altar; we look straight down at the consuming flames.
If there is actually a victim being burnt, we only see the poor guy for the briefest of moments before the camera rises swiftly upwards, into the cloud of smoke. Up, up, up we go, glimpsing the crowds of ecstatic worshippers on the stadium-like benches along the walls of the enormous room, and then, five hundred feet above the receding floor, our point of view slips out through the louver. The blackened silver dome falls away beneath us.
But even now that we have entered the fresh air outside, still the dark hymn of the crowd in the temple follows us, echoing into the heavens as more and more of Armenelos becomes visible to the ascending camera. Only slowly does the roar of ten thousand voices fade away with distance, so that little by little we are able to discern another voice above the din: We hear someone pouring out her heart in a strange, fair language, and we don't have to understand the words to feel the desperation. As if curious, the camera tilts upwards, away from the dull lights of the city and towards the immense pillar of the Meneltarma, glowing faintly white in the night.
Our point of view moves towards it, drawn towards the very top, following the sound of the voice. And so, finally, the camera finds and sweeps past Míriel, a lonely figure kneeling down on the vast summit, spreading out her arms towards the West and praying while bitter tears are flowing. Ámë etelehta ulcullo! Deliver us from evil! (Straight from Tolkien's High-elven translation of the Lord's Prayer, by the way...)
And so we have reached the moment of truth. After all this talking, talking, talking about Eru and the Valar appointed by Him, we finally let one of our characters actually invoke them. At this point, a moviemaker had better deliver the goods.
It's the final test internally speaking as well: Here we have ten thousand worshippers gathered in the most elaborate temple ever built, praying to Melkor and even sacrificing living people to placate him. And then we have one lonely, desperate woman in a hallow that is simply a bare mountain-top, praying to the God and the Powers her people once believed in, with no other sacrifice to present than her tears and her broken heart.
So...whose prayer will be answered?
Maybe the last glimmer of the sunset still seems to linger in the West, allowing us to glimpse the cloudbank hiding the Blessed Realm and the Immortal Lands. But now the light increases, an unearthly glow kindling behind the clouds, as the clouds themselves begin to swell and wax and rise swiftly upwards. The wind suddenly blows straight from the west, and it is swiftly increasing. The glowing clouds in the far West are expanding, leaping upwards with frightening speed, filling the entire western sky in seconds. Flickering with lightening, a storm not of this world is underway, racing across the uncounted miles of sea, soon touching the westernmost promontories of Andustar and Hyarnustar and continuing inland. The wrath of the Valar is about to hit Númenor, and it isn't going to be pretty.
Maybe Sauron, with his subtle senses, perceives that something is wrong and leaves the ceremony in the Temple to see what is going on? Seeing the western sky lit up by lightening, he would take in the whole situation instantly. A storm is coming, and this is no ordinary case of bad weather.
"I see you" is one of Sauron's signature lines in the Jackson movies, and Tolkien as well elaborated on the horror of being fixed by the Sauron's gaze (Frodo on Amon Hen feels the Eye searching for him, about to "nail him down"). Honoring this tradition, I should like Sauron to become aware of Míriel upon the mountain. Despite all the miles between them, he somehow sees her, abruptly turning his eyes up towards the Mountain north of the capital. She, in turn, would feel his gaze, reacting as if stabbed, staring back down on the city in horror, transfixed as if she were standing right in front of him. And then, his face stern, he would whisper the classical line: "I see you..."
But the soul-numbing hypnosis only lasts for a few seconds before he has to release her, for now other urgent matters demand his full attention. In the rising storm, with terrible clouds eating up the stars above Armenelos, Sauron abruptly turns and goes back to the Temple.
Once again I must resist the temptation to elaborate endlessly. The point is that within moments, a thunderstorm of supernatural intensity explodes in the skies above the capital. The thunder becomes a continuous ROAR as the wrath of the Powers is released. Hundreds and hundreds of bolts of lightening come down on the defenseless city, buildings are hit and set on fire, desperate people run through the streets. And high above, strange forces are sculpting the wrathful clouds; they seem to form graceful bodies with long, outstretched wings, finally recognizable as eagle-like shapes with thunder under their wings. Maddeningly slowly the cloud-eagles move across the sky, their wings reaching almost from one horizon to the other. There are still many people who have not forgotten that just the eagle is the prime symbol of the Elder King, Manwë Lord of the Valar and vice-regent of Eru Ilúvatar in this world.
And so it is time for a GTL straight out of the Akallabêth, a desperate scream as hysterical people fall on their faces: "Behold the Eagles of the Lords of the West! The Eagles of Manwë are come upon Númenor!"
Sauron is back in the temple, his huge form little hindered by the panic-stricken crowd trying to get out (for this ten-feet figure can simply jump over people getting in his way). For a moment our audience may suspect that he simply intends to use the Temple as his shelter, trying to ride out the storm behind the massive walls, fifty feet thick. But actually he heads for the long, winding stair that goes around and around the inner walls until it reaches the dome high up there. He should look stern and resolute, maybe even brave, as he begins the long ascent.
Outside an immeasurable cloud-eagle fills all the sky now, and the fearsome apparition appears to center itself right above the Temple. Like some sort of super-sized ghost, immaterial and yet so frightening that the very sight of it drives people mad, the gargantuan menace may seem to be slowly descending. Maybe there are even "cloudy" eagle's talons coming down? One may begin to wonder if this is a cloud or actually a firm entity after all, about to grab the 500-feet Temple in its mighty talons and fly off with it! But instead, new bolts of lightening come flashing down, apparently aiming for the silver dome with increasing precision. The thunder roars, the sound alone crushing thousand of windows in the city; it is as if the whole capital is about to crumble into dust.
And then Sauron appears to save the day!
Suddenly turning up at the top of the dome, his raven hair flowing in the storm, the tall figure stands upright -- utterly undaunted by the spectacle in the sky. Indeed he boldly challenges the Eagle, and to make this scene work, his voice must suddenly gain such power that it can be heard even above the thunderstorm. Again it is a matter of taste just what kind of lines we give him, but surely he declares that Westernesse is now under the protection of a Power greater than the Valar, and that the evil Lords of the West will not be allowed to harm this free nation that has now cast aside their lies!
Ka-boom!!! The bolt of lightening that comes down on the Temple is of such power that for a moment the entire structure is engulfed in flame. The dome is rent; maybe we should for a moment see it from inside the building, as huge burning fragments come crashing down on the floor of the unholy sanctuary. There seems to be no way Sauron, or at least his current physical incarnation, could have survived this.
And so the desperate crowds of onlookers cry out in utter dismay, as the one person who dared to stand his ground against the Eagle is gone! Sauron is dead! The beloved teacher, the brilliant Councilor, the wise Guru, the charismatic High Priest, finally the unflinching Protector -- he was cruelly wiped out in a single, gruesome flash of lightening!
Except, of course, for the fact that he wasn't!
When the smoke clears, the unfathomable miracle becomes evident to all: Sauron is still standing upon the pinnacle of the Temple! The dome may be ruined, but Sauron's clothes aren't even smoking.
Tolkien simply says that "Sauron stood there upon the pinnacle and defied the lightening and was unharmed", and we are left to wonder what kind of titanic wizard's battle is hiding in the words "defied the lightening"! But since it is also said that people came to regard Sauron as a god, it must really be something. This would be the one time in his long sojourn in Westernesse that he publicly shows forth his own, personal power or "magic" in a spectacular way.
As the present writer visualizes it, it would be a tremendous exchange of power, innumerable giga-watts flying up and down. Maybe Sauron is able to absorb the power of the lightening into his Ring, then throwing its full force back into the sky, targeting the eagle-like apparition hovering above? If so, the "Force lightening" that George Lucas is so fond of letting his villains produce with their hands would look like the last feeble spark of a dead flashlight battery, if compared to the electric exchanges between Sauron and the Eagle. It is as if the full power of a thunderstorm has been captured and contained to be used as a weapon.
And yet Sauron could never really overcome the power of the Valar, so very much greater than his own. So how can it be that he will get out of this "unharmed", as demanded by Tolkien's narrative? Indeed, why don't the Valar go all the way and arrest him, taking him away into the West to be judged?
Maybe we must look for an answer in the bald statement included in the Akallabêth: "In that hour men called him a god."
As I would show it in a movie, the second some shivering onlooker in the hysterical crowds utters those fateful words -- "he is a god" -- everything goes silent! Abruptly, from one moment to the next, the thunder ceases. Timeout!
And then, somewhat more boldly as people cling to a sudden flicker of hope, it is repeated: "He is a god!"
For so it is: Even the shadowy figure of Melkor has momentarily receded into the background, and Sauron has become all the god the people need. And the enormous apparition in the sky suddenly appears frozen, as if even the Eagle is stunned by the blasphemy.
Whether the Cloud-Eagle then simply dissolves, or Sauron is seemingly able to make it go away, may be of less importance. Maybe the most interesting, in visual and dramatic terms, would be if Sauron seizes the moment, cries out some heart-rending Black Speech spell and throws one last bolt of power into the sky -- creating a virtual blast-wave crashing into the Eagle, tearing the apparition apart and shoveling the cloudy swirls towards all horizons with impossible speed. Míriel upon the mountain crouches down as the clouds sweep past the summit in a single, terrible blast. In a few seconds, the sky has been completely cleared, cold stars burning above. It is over.
And so, from a Faithful perspective, the whole thing horribly backfires: Sauron is able to emerge as the great, godlike hero who saved the people from the terrible wrath of the merciless Western Powers! One imagines that after descending from the dome, he sits down on the ground in the deafening silence of the aftermath -- gently comforting the terrified people flocking to his reassuring presence. They would almost be climbing over him (maybe there are even some children in his lap, clinging to him?) People kiss his big shapely hands, touching even that beautiful golden ring with their lips.
And so as not to make Pharazôn appear overly stupid: if he comes and sees this touching scene, maybe the tiniest doubt could flicker deep in his eyes, as if he senses that his "advisor" is becoming too popular? But Sauron would instantly talk his way out of it, pointing the people to their great King and urging them to stand by him, for a mighty destiny awaits him! And so Sauron and the people alike bow deep before Ar-Pharazôn, King of Men, pledging themselves to his wise and undisputed leadership in the war against the Valar.
As any reader of the Akallabêth will know, Tolkien never said that the supernatural storm came about as a consequence of any prayer by Míriel, but we must give our Faithful characters something to do; they should not be reduced to entirely passive victims of the situation. But if we do write poor Míriel into this mess, what happens to her later?
Maybe there could be a scene involving Sauron and Míriel? The tall, handsome figure would come to her, just the two of them alone (maybe he simply turns up in her chamber, from one moment to the next, though we never heard any door open). With his kind and gentle voice he could tell the startled Queen how in the goodness of his heart he has talked the King out of executing her for High Treason. (Or even more considerate -- he opts not to tell the King about her part in the events at all?) Sauron understands, of course, that she thought she was doing the right thing when she invoked the Valar. But now, after seeing the terrible destruction caused by the storm, does she not realize that the western Powers are far more evil than she imagines Sauron to be?
After all, who has spent years teaching the people of Westernesse everything from metallurgy to architecture, allowing them to build a better future for themselves and their children? Who has lead the people to a deity they can understand, and who understands them? Who has given the people the glorious hope of attaining eternal life?
And who grabs her first chance to run up into the mountain to call on a god who has given people death as some sort of sick "gift"? Who invokes the sinister Powers who deny Men even the sight of their own western realm, the ones who let loose a storm killing hundreds? Maybe Míriel really ought to sit down and think things through one more time?
But then, Sauron is still full of understanding, realizing that it is hard for the Queen to let go of the Elf-inspired ideas that her late father indoctrinated her with since early childhood. Undoubtedly she really does believe what she has been told, that death is a "gift" because the soul passes beyond this world and is received in the hereafter. But she cannot deny that Sauron is one of the spirits who did exist before this world; that point is confirmed even by the Elven teachings.
And Sauron, with his first-hand knowledge of conditions beyond this world, can assure her that no human soul is able to endure or survive the Outer Void. One non-Tolkien line that Jackson gave to Sauron (heard when the Ring slips onto Frodo's finger in Bree) actually fits in very well here: "There is no life in the Void. Only death."
It seems that the Dark Lords routinely deny the existence of an afterlife, and hence also the belief that "Iluvatar the Father will not let those perish for ever who love him and who love the world that He has made" (SD, p. 346). We have already paraphrased Húrin's defiant challenge to Morgoth in Unfinished Tales p. 67; in full it goes: "Beyond the Circles of the World you shall not pursue those who refuse you." Morgoth then responds: "Beyond the Circles of the World I will not pursue them. For beyond the Circles of the World there is Nothing. But within them they shall not escape me, until they enter into Nothing." To which Húrin simply responds, "You lie."
Should we allow Sauron to fix Míriel with his hypnotic gaze, up close this time? Maybe it does make sense that he would, sooner or later, bend all her power on her and try to "break" her? It would make such a pretty picture if the King and the Queen could appear together in the Temple, worshipping the Giver of Freedom as one happy family. Indeed, as Sauron could say to her, doesn't she want to become immortal like the Elves she admires so much?
If we were to try something like this, she must be shown as momentarily falling under the spell -- her willpower almost inevitably succumbing to the overwhelming presence of Sauron, the angel-like face beaming towards her, his words so kind and well-meaning. But, as suggested above, Míriel may in some degree have inherited her father's gift, making her highly "sensitive", though not (yet) really "psychic". And if Sauron tries to reach inside her mind and implant his own thoughts, his and her mind must briefly make contact. If she is then sensitive enough to perceive him as he truly is, we would have arrived at one of the rare, but interesting moments when something does not work out according to Sauron's plan.
How to represent this visually is of course a difficult question. Perhaps one could go for a sequence where we cut back and forth between her eyes and Sauron's eyes. We perceive that her resistance is crumbling before the mind-numbing hypnotic gaze, but in the last moment, when one of Sauron's eyes fills the entire frame, it is as if the deceptive veil goes down for a split-second: With shocking abruptness we morph from the eye to the Eye, a burning inferno around a Black Hole of a pupil, the true form of the corrupted spirit hiding inside the beautiful form that Sauron has materialized around his demon self.
The two figures would be thrown apart with such force that it is almost as if Míriel's fear and disgust are physically explosive. Sauron must be the one left standing, but she must not be growling before his feet, rather creeping into a corner and simply asking him to go away and stay away. (Possible remark: "I see you too!" -- ?!)
If we do let Míriel spend a split-second "inside" Sauron's mind, she could emerge with certain insights on him no one else could have obtained (later sharing them with Elendil's family). Does she, for instance, perceive that his current form is the very last beautiful shape he can ever make? All those centuries, all those devious forms -- he has almost exhausted that power. (Tolkien, in Letter #200, noted how "each building-up used up some of the inherent energy of the spirit".)
Sauron must be afraid of losing his current body. If it is destroyed, he can never make anything like it again. Any future shapes he may materialize would have to be monstrously ugly, showing forth the evil of the spirit within, as was eventually the case with even the visible form of Melkor-Morgoth himself.
As for Elendil and his family, maybe soldiers are once again searching though their neighborhood and taking away people to be sacrificed? (After all, Melkor's blessing must be secured so that the rebuilding after the storm can proceed smoothly.) Perhaps Elendil takes Anárion with him, leaving his father to look after Isildur, and tries to save some of his neighbors by furious diplomacy? All in vain, probably. And when father and son return home, the house is empty!
Oh God (Eru!), maybe the soldiers took Amandil and Isildur with them? Where else could they be?
There follows a frantic search, but finally, to Elendil's immense relief, his father and his eldest son are located -- in the secluded spot where the seed of Nimloth was planted. Isildur, who has been ill for months, looks very much better as he is sitting on the ground staring at the sapling with wonder and reverence.
The little Tree has opened its first leaf!
It is recorded it the Akallabêth that "when its first leaf opened then Isildur, who had lain long and come near to death, arose and was troubled no more by his wounds".
So even in the darkest hour of Númenor, this wretched realm now abandoned to its fate by the Powers because the people named Sauron a god, some kind of unspecified hope remains. Countless more shall burn in the Temple, Sauron will become ever more powerful, the royal line must perish as Tar-Palantir foresaw, and the nation is being steadily corrupted by Morgothism -- but the Tree will live and grow!
Years and years have passed when the story picks up again. One way of indicating the passage of time would be to show the young Tree once more; now it is almost as tall as a man. (It must still be possible to transport it, since our characters will later have to do just that.)
No exact number of years has to be cited in dialogue. If we are to follow Tolkien's chronology to the letter, several decades have now passed. But since the Númenoreans age far more slowly than "lesser Men" (like ourselves!), this only means that Isildur and Anárion are now fully adult rather than distinctly "young", and Elendil is middle-aged. But Amandil is now a very old man -- and the usurper King is getting old as well. And as we will see, Pharazôn has not aged very gracefully!
Maybe Isildur's voiceover informs us that in the end, the Faithful stopped counting the merciless years carrying them ever farther away from the days of Tar-Palantir. The reign of the last good King now seems like a long-lost, mythical age, acquiring a dreamlike quality even in the minds of those who can still remember it.
Westernesse, and above all the capital of Armenelos, have degenerated into something best described as a grotesque parody of the dirtiest, grittiest, bleakest, dreariest part of the Industrial Revolution. In the capital, virtually nothing is nothing left of the white and golden city we saw earlier. Through the thick smog we only glimpse brutalist architecture, dirty walls and endless forests of tall, belching chimneys. And high above everything else there still rises the Temple, sanctuary of Melkor the Lord of All, its rebuilt dome blacker with soot than ever before. The Golden Civilization of Men has been destroyed -- with the full cooperation of its citizens.
Let these things be -- that ye may see what ye have done!
But one mystery remains, endlessly pondered by Elendil's family through many long years: What, really, is Sauron planning? What are his ultimate intentions, carefully hidden in his dark heart of hearts for decade after decade? The day must come when he is no longer content to play the role of Pharazôn's humble servant.
Obviously there is no heir to the throne forthcoming. Míriel isn't going to engage in patriotic incest with her cousin, and Pharazôn was never attracted to her anyway -- he just forced her to marry him so that he could be King. And since he still clings to the hope of attaining Elvish-style immortality, he doesn't perceive any need to produce heirs. But ignoring the fond hopes of the aging King, what happens the day the Gift of Ilúvatar impacts on him whether he wants it or not? Is Sauron going to take over and declare himself the eternal King of Westernesse? Could that be what he has been planning all along?
Something like this must be the main theory of Elendil's family. Yet they can't be sure, and I think they should be shown wondering why Sauron is waiting. If he really wants to rule Westernesse, why doesn't he dispose of Pharazôn himself, instead of waiting for nature to take its course? If he had wanted to, Sauron could probably have arranged a nice little coup d'état long ago, and many Númenoreans would have applauded: "So great was his power over the hearts of the most of that people that maybe had he wished he could have taken the sceptre" (The Peoples of Middle-earth, p. 183).
If Míriel made direct contact with Sauron's mind for the briefest of moments, as suggested above, maybe she is able to tell her friends that she perceived in him no desire to rule Númenor? There was only a fierce, inhuman longing for revenge, because Pharazôn once humiliated him by parading him before the people as a defeated enemy. Also, at some point in the remote past, the Númenoreans somehow got in Sauron's way and stopped him from attaining an all-important goal. Whatever that could have been.
Ar-Pharazôn the Golden has his own problems. True, by now he has for all intents and purposes achieved his life's ambition: to rule the entire world. In the east, the Númenorean empire must have conquered virtually all land there is to take (with Lindon as an increasingly insignificant exception).
But...something is wrong. And after years of denial, the King is forced to admit to himself that something hasn't worked out like it was supposed to.
He has grown old!
Indeed he should now be represented as a sad, even disgusting, ruin of the man he once was. Toothless, wrinkled and obese, with grey hair (and not too much of that hair, either), the aging tyrant clings to a life that brings him ever less joy.
It is the same with all his people. After thousands of sacrifices to the dark god who was supposed to free them from death, people grow old and die just like they've always done. Or maybe not quite: whether or not any exact statistics are available to Pharazôn, it seems many people die younger than was usual before Sauron came. The Akallabêth records that despite all the bloody sacrifices presented by the people, "Death did not depart from the land, rather it came sooner and more often, and in many dreadful guises...madness and sickness assailed them, and yet they were afraid to die and go out into the dark, the realm of the lord that they had taken." (Turn some of this into a dialogue to be spoken by some Faithful character?)
How can this be? Didn't Sauron promise that the lives of the victims would be added to the life of the person who sacrificed them?
Well, maybe Sauron himself appears to be puzzled when Pharazôn finally brings up the issue. Surely something is wrong here -- Sauron would readily admit that. But unquestionably Melkor must be pleased with such eager and sincere worshippers as the Númenoreans have now become. Sauron will look into this.
Maybe Sauron appears to spend some time in prayer and deep meditation. Then he comes back to the King with the answer, having received a stunning revelation from Melkor (he says).
It's all the fault of the Valar! Sauron declares "that Morgoth's bounty is restrained by the Lords [of the West], and cannot be fulfilled while they bar the way" (The Lost Road, p. 69). Still eager to deny Men the great gifts they so deserve, those jealous Powers keep snatching away the great blessings that Melkor intended for the people of Westernesse! Oh, what unforgivable evil! What wicked, meaningless hate! They have taken all the life and vigor Melkor sent to his faithful worshippers!
But doesn't this imply that the Valar are actually more powerful than Melkor, if they can stop him from blessing those who worship him? A useless, potentially blasphemous question! Melkor who Arises in Strength is the god of the strong, helping only those who can help themselves. The question is not whether he could overthrow the Valar; of course he could. The question is rather this: Will the Númenoreans themselves do something with the perennial problem of the Valar, and so demonstrate that they truly deserve to be blessed by Melkor? Will they prove themselves Strong, as Melkor wants his worshippers to be, or are they actually Weak so that they only deserve to be crushed and trodden underfoot by those who really are Strong?
Yes, it turns out there is one last test remaining before Pharazôn will experience the full extent of Melkor's blessings, eternal life included. Indeed, maybe life everlasting is somehow nearer than the King thinks? Maybe it is there for the taking, so to speak? Maybe Melkor just wants to see if Pharazôn has the guts and the determination he looks for in his worshippers?
Finally, Sauron is able to tell the King exactly what he must do to gain eternal life! Let's create some suspense by jumping ahead to the end of the conversation, so that the audience won't know what Sauron said. But we see that Pharazôn is now pale and full of doubt -- indeed anguish. Maybe he asks Sauron if this can really be done. And Sauron admits that it will not be easy. The entire people must be mobilized in this effort. For years to come, virtually all the resources of the Númenorean Empire must be poured into this one project. The King must spend everything to gain everything. And if Pharazôn objects that the entire nation will be impoverished, maybe Sauron just points out that "everything a man has, he will give for his life". (Who else said that? Try Google!)
There follows a surprising public declaration: The King has determined that the current fleet isn't sufficient. Not by far! There are too few ships! A new fleet will be constructed, an armada surpassing the ships Pharazôn once took to Middle-earth "even as a great galleon of Númenor surpassed a fisherman's boat" (The People's of Middle-earth, p. 183). The fleet to be constructed is to comprise so many ships that it can carry the entire population of Westernesse -- or at least every single able-bodied man in the realm! Also, there will be a Great Armament; the army will spend years piling up all conceivable weapons, and training the people to use them. Maybe the Land of the Star is already a superpower, but now it is to become a hyperpower.
Soon the Great Armament is well underway. At first, the Faithful and the people in general would be quite confused. What is going on here, really? If the savages in the east are the supposed enemy, what kind of bizarre overkill does the King have in mind? The initial theory of the Faithful would probably be that Pharazôn now intends to add Lindon to his empire. Gil-galad's Elven realm would put up more resistance than any of the areas so far conquered in Middle-earth. The war would be fierce, but not long: Even the agile Elf-warriors of Lindon could not withstand the fearsome war machine Pharazôn is now building.
But can this really be the full answer? Tolkien had Elendil wondering: "Our arms are multiplied as if for an agelong war... Where are our enemies?" (The Lost Road p. 67.)
Yet after a while news about the true objective of the King will leak. And no, Lindon isn't the enemy. But the Elf-friends will not have much reason to feel relieved.
Maybe the truth is revealed when Pharazôn is meeting his generals and other nobles, all decent God-fearing citizens (the god in question being the one with M as his initial, of course). The King would explain how Sauron helped him figure it all out. Remember the Blessed Realm, a.k.a. The Immortal Lands, in the West? The Immortal Lands, huh? Heck, even the name is a giveaway!
And so the King's special advisor would explain what he explained to Pharazôn earlier -- as recorded in the Akallabêth: "The Valar have possessed themselves of the realm where there is no death, and they lie to you concerning it, hiding it as best they may, because of their avarice, and their fear lest the Kings of Men should wrest from them the deathless realm and rule the world in their stead."
An element of elitism enters Sauron's teachings, but then it is the Elite he is addressing: "And though, doubtless, the gift of life unending is not for all, but only for such as are worthy, being men of might and pride and great lineage, yet against all justice is it done that this gift, which is his due, should be withheld from the King of Kings, Ar-Pharazôn, mightiest of the sons of Earth, to whom Manwë alone can be compared, if even he."
(Puh...maybe we should simplify this line a little, lest the actor suffocates trying to deliver it?) Anyway, Sauron's conclusion is clear: "Great kings do not brook denials, but take what is their due." Pharazôn, and his deserving subjects, will become immortal by going to the Immortal Lands. You know, the Elves used to live there, and they are immortal, right?
So there you have it, however mind-bogglingly absurd it would sound to the Faithful: Pharazôn is preparing to invade and conquer the Blessed Realm itself, overthrowing the Valar in the process! Even Valinor is to be part of the Númenorean empire!
Maybe there is some humble servant listening who secretly harbors Faithful sympathies, or who is at least unable to believe that it is possible to dispose of the godlike Lords of the West just like that! And via this person the news could reach Amandil and Elendil.
"And Amandil, becoming aware of the purposes of the King, was dismayed and filled with a great dread." Indeed the language of the Akallabêth is best taken as an understatement; the old man would be shocked almost into apathy before slowly regaining the power of speech. For he knows, and could remind his son and grandsons, that the Valar are the rightful Powers and Guardians of the World, appointed by the One who created it: they can never be overthrown by any lesser power, not if all the armies of Elves and Men and Dwarves united against them.
That is actually the good news. But what will the Valar do if anyone would even try such a thing? As Elendil's family maybe remembers, even the sons of Fëanor of old feared the consequences if anyone would "purpose ever to bring war again into their holy realm". (An example of an allusion that would not be fully explained, and yet creates a sense of depth; those who are interested can find the whole story in the last chapter of the Silmarillion proper.)
To those who have eyes to see with, Sauron's plan is finally revealed: he is trying to steer Westernesse into an all-out war with the Valar! And Amandil can hardly believe that even Sauron is so proud that he for a second thinks Pharazôn can win such a war. For years and decades, Sauron has been patiently working to produce a situation where he can simply lean back and watch while the God-appointed Powers take care of the Númenorean problem once and for all! Then he surely intends to slip back into Middle-earth, never having to fear that the mighty Sea-kings will again interfere with his own plans for the continent.
But what can the Faithful do? Pharazôn would not listen to their warnings, even if they could somehow get his personal attention -- which is probably very difficult now. Maybe they cling to the desperate hope that Míriel can get through to the King and actually talk some sense into him...or that the aging despot will simply die before the new fleet can be finished.
Our friends will have more immediate worries as well. The ongoing Great Armament and the preparations for war will touch them directly.
We may here have to deal with an apparent contradiction in Tolkien's manuscripts: In Appendix A to the LotR, it is said that the Faithful lived "mostly in the West of the land". In the early part of the Akallabêth they are associated with Andúnië in the north-west, and Amandil is called "Lord of Andúnië". On the other hand, it is later said that Amandil, being dismissed from the King's Council, "withdrew to Rómenna" on the eastern coast. Also, it is said that it was to Rómenna Isildur brought the fruit he had saved.
A partial reconciliation of the two concepts may be possible: There apparently exists one Tolkien manuscript referring to "the expulsion of those of doubtful loyalty from the western coasts of Númenor" (see The Peoples of Middle-earth p. 183). It makes little sense that that this expulsion should happen before Pharazôn begins to plan his assault on the Blessed Realm, and I have here presupposed that the Faithful live in Andúnië up to this point. We must place them on the West-coast also because Elendil can see the sun setting in the ocean from his home, as described in The Lost Road p. 62. But apparently Pharazôn suddenly declares the western part of the realm one big military zone. The army will be using it to prepare for the upcoming Big Operation. So unfortunately, the people living there shall have to move. Any protesters will go to the Temple and leave through the louver.
So the Faithful, including Elendil's family, must leave their homes. Maybe their houses are set on fire as people are thrown out by the army? The evictees end up on the other side of the island, in the eastern port of Rómenna -- very likely in the slum in the outskirts of the city, shunned by the locals. Yet this forced relocation will eventually prove to be a blessing in disguise. And somehow they manage to bring the young Tree with them, undetected.
And now, if not before, it is time for Amandil to have an Important Talk with his son and grandsons. Not about flowers and bees, but about life and death -- and about the perils of the Great Rings!
We are so lucky that we can integrate two important themes here. Firstly, what is so special with that Ring of Sauron's? There have been ample hints that he somehow uses it to corrupt others. Secondly, why shouldn't people want to be immortal? Especially when there is already an entire race that is immortal, seemingly demonstrating that Men could have been so as well? Why are the Powers that Be so fond of the Elves, whereas Mortal Men are not even allowed to see the Immortal Lands in the west?
Amandil may start by making a bold statement: To the extent it is at all possible to confer immortality on Mortal Men, this would not be a blessing; in time it would become the most terrible of curses. For this could only be what Tolkien called counterfeit immortality (Letters, p. 286).
Indeed Sauron knows perfectly well how mortals can be made "immortal", and it does not involve either human sacrifice or worshipping the God of the Void. The true secret he has never bothered to share with Pharazôn.
Amandil would have learnt the facts from the Elves, maybe even from Gil-galad himself, when he was in Middle-earth in his younger years. But since the Elves kept this matter "very secret, as long as they could" (Letters, p. 279), Amandil must be shown swearing his sons and grandsons to secrecy as well. Yet the story must now be told, for it is the key to everything.
It all began many centuries ago, in the middle years of this Second Age of the World...in Eregion, west of the Mines of Moria. (Flashbacks begin, narrated by Amandil's voice: We see the same mountain-wall that the Fellowship approached in the first Jackson movie, but now the mighty arch that we there saw as a ruin is still intact, and the land is not drowned in gloom, but bathed in sunlight. The camera slowly turns to show us Eregion, a.k.a. Hollin, a land so lovingly tended by the Elves that in LotR the Book, Legolas still perceived the very stones missing them long after they were gone.)
Amandil may briefly remind his son and grandsons how after the overthrow of Morgoth, the Valar sternly counseled the Elves to leave Middle-earth and return to the Uttermost West whence Fëanor had lead them in his rebellion. But not all Elves were immediately willing to leave, lingering on in the mortal lands. And yet they were saddened by the changeful nature of these lands, where not even a flower or a straw of grass long endures; they yearned in their hearts for the immortal realm where everything is forever fresh and unstained. (What do we see onscreen? Maybe a sad-looking Elf-maiden sitting on the ground, thoughtfully watching a withering flower? Really moody...)
Then, as if heaven-sent, one appeared among the Elves.
I guess we should see a council of Elves. They are enthralled by the pleasant voice of a figure stunningly handsome even by Elvish standards, his face beaming with virtually angelic beauty: Annatar the stranger named himself, meaning Lord of Gifts in the High-elven tongue of the Blessed Realm. Hypnotically persuasive, he asks the unhappy exiles from that very realm: Why should Middle-earth remain forever desolate and dark, when the Elves could make it as fair as Valinor itself? "And since you have not returned thither, as you might, I perceive that you love this Middle-earth, as do I. Is it not then our task to labour together for its enrichment?" (This is a GTL from Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, appended to the Silmarillion.)
Who could possibly disagree? As Amandil goes on to relate, the Elves of Eregion were happy to receive the advice and the teaching of the stranger. Indeed they believed he was a "servant of the Secret Fire", an emissary of the Valar sent to Middle-earth to assist the Elves. (Such a line would connect with Gandalf's words when he confronts the Balrog: "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor" -- inserting into the movie universe a clue to Gandalf's true identity!)
A wonderful time followed. Annatar the Lord of Gifts proved true to his name, generously sharing his incredible insights, raising the craft of the Elves to an almost unimaginable level of subtlety and power. How happy they were to have found such a wondrous teacher! (At this point Elendil and his sons really ought to be thinking: "Hmm, isn't there something familiar about this story?")
Now the Elves of Eregion were of Noldorin extraction (incidentally, Galadriel mentions "the daggers of the Noldorin" in the extended Fellowship DVD), and among all the Elven-tribes the Noldor always were the most knowledgeable in "lore" or science. Yet never before had Elven-craft reached such a level, nor would Elf or Man or Dwarf ever again match the achievements of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the People of the Jewel-smiths in Eregion. Instructed by Annatar, the Jewel-smiths achieved such subtle skills that they went beyond mere "craft" and rose into a wholly new sphere, a realm one might well call magic.
Many wonderful things emerged from the smithies and the guildhall of the Jewel-smiths. Yet it was as if all the teaching of Annatar pointed them in one direction and lead them towards a specific goal, though when the ultimate idea did emerge in their minds, they apparently had the feeling that it was their own. "And they took thought, and they made Rings of Power."
In the first Jackson movie, after the Fellowship leaves Rivendell, they pass by a huge ruin. I like to imagine that this is what remains of the guildhall of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the Fellowship passing by the very place where the story of the Rings of Power began thousands of years earlier. As Amandil goes on talking, we could have a flashback of the guildhall when it was still intact, a beautiful building rising above Ost-in-Edhil, the city of the Elves in Eregion.
Such were the skills and the insight they had acquired from Annatar that they finally knew how power could be contained in shapes of metal, and they forged rings conferring marvelous abilities on the ones who would bear them. (Here recycle the very first scene in Fellowship: metal is poured into a form as a Ring is being forged.)
When the art was perfected, the Elves made two sets of Nine and Seven Rings of special potency, but last of all they made Three uniquely powerful Rings capable of arresting the ravages of time and preserving all things forever unstained. In this way they hoped to prevent the otherwise unavoidable fading of the Elves, delaying the Dominion of Men in the process. (Here again recycle footage from the beginning of the first Jackson movie: the three Elves, including Galadriel, who have just put on their respective Rings. Incidentally, do we have to pay Cate Blanchett extra if she is briefly glimpsed in this movie as well?)
Sometimes readers of the LotR complain that there is never any flashy "magic" associated with the Elven-rings; these people really miss the point. The power of these rings doesn't lie in vulgar special effects; it is more subtle, and far more impressive once perceived. The Elven-rings in effect hold back time: In Lothórien, Galadriel and her people sit in the midst of an anachronistic bubble, a fragment of the otherwise lost Elven world that existed in earlier ages -- preserved into modern times by the aura of the ring Nenya. Hence the dreamlike, timeless atmosphere of Lothlórien (this is very much clearer in the book, of course, though Jackson is trying as well). Elrond, wielding the ring Vilya, maintains another bubble of Elvishness in Rivendell. The literary (i.e. non-Cate) version of Galadriel tells non-Elijah Frodo that if the power of the Elves is diminished, then "Lothlórien will fade, and the tides of Time will sweep it away". So it later happens, and the Elves can no longer postpone their departure into the West; they take ship and return to the real Immortal Lands now that their miniature ring-made versions have become uninhabitable.
As the Great Rings were completed, Annatar went away, having taught the Elves so many things. Yet he had also learnt their secrets. By making so much "lore" available to the Elves, he had enticed them into doing what he had hoped they would do: With their marvelous creative powers they had developed a new, superior kind of "magic" or para-technology, one that could be made to serve other purposes than their own (more or less) noble intentions. And now Annatar walked away from Eregion with all the know-how he would need to make his very own Ring of Power.
For of course, Amandil can now reveal the obvious: "It was he...in one of his devious shapes!" Sauron's incarnation as Annatar was probably his all-time masterpiece when it came to materializing handsome bodies; after all, he had to impress even the Elves! Presumably "Annatar" was an Elf-themed form, with pointed ears and all, whereas Sauron's current incarnation on Númenor is an idealized, larger-than-life shape of a Man.
Yup, Annatar was Sauron all right, for after the overthrow of his master, "Sauron rose like a shadow of Morgoth and a ghost of his malice" (if we are to base Amandil's lines on the language of the Silmarillion). Seeking to become the second Dark Lord, Sauron wanted to control the Elves. And now, by making Rings of Power to be worn by their lords, they had unwittingly handed Sauron a golden opportunity.
He went back to the land he had chosen as his own, dark Mordor beyond the Ephel Dúath, and to the oh-so-useful volcano which had indeed influenced that choice: Deep in the fiery mountain of Orodruin, he forged one last Ring of Power of surpassing potency, indeed so powerful that it could dominate and command even the Elven-rings and those who wore them. At the beginning of Fellowship, Cate-Galadriel goes into a lyrical rant about how Sauron poured into this Ring "his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life".
Good enough in a way, but Amandil should rather say what Tolkien himself wrote: that Sauron let "the best part of the strength that was native to him in his beginning" pass into this Ring -- creating a focusing point for his power, a tremendous magical weapon letting him dominate the minds of others. The wearers of the other Rings would in the end be utterly enslaved; he would be able to read and govern their very thoughts. Indeed the lesser rings were so bound up with the One Ring that they would actually cease to function in the inconceivable event that the Master-ring should be destroyed.
So Sauron's plan was all very nice (in the very, very evil sense of "nice")...but it didn't quite work out.
For as Tolkien writes somewhere in Letters, Sauron failed to take into account the subtle perceptions of the Elves. "As soon as Sauron set the One Ring upon his finger they were aware of him, and they knew him [for whom he was], and perceived that he would be master of them, and of all that they wrought." So they immediately took off all their rings.
In his wrath, Sauron was not prepared to let all the time and effort he had put into the Ring scheme go to waste. The hordes of Mordor "broke into Eregion with ruin and devastation" (Unfinished Tales p. 238), and before long Sauron had captured the Nine and the Seven Rings.
The Three Rings he never found -- because the Númenoreans under Tar-Minastir intervened in the war and came to the aid of Gil-galad, who together with Galadriel had the Three in their keeping. Minastir could know nothing about the Rings, but ever afterwards, Sauron hated the people of Westernesse who stopped his hordes from getting him the last three Rings with their unique powers. Sooner or later, the Númenoreans would have to pay for that...and the time seems to be near.
But all the rings he did find he sullied and perverted, so that they would betray all who used them, and then he handed them out to the various races of the world.
The fate of the Seven Rings is not very relevant for our present story, but I should like to treat it briefly, since otherwise the movies tell nothing of what became of them beyond the glimpse we have at the beginning of Fellowship: they ended up with the Dwarf-lords. We learn a little more about the Three (Galadriel has Nenya) and the Nine later, but the Seven just drop out of the story. Besides, this gives us a chance to have a dragon (not to mention a Dwarf!) onscreen for all of 15 seconds, in a movie where fantastic creatures are mostly absent.
The Tolkienian source is primarily Gandalf's statement in the chapter The Shadow of the Past, where he says that "Seven [rings] the Dwarf-lords possessed, but three he [Sauron] has recovered, and the others the dragons have consumed." Also, in Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age it is noted that "the foundation of each of the Seven Hoards of the Dwarf-kings of old was a golden ring". (Incidental oops: the Seven Rings seem to be made of silver in the Jackson version!)
So here is what we should see onscreen: Ring on finger, a happy Dwarf sits on top of an enormous hoard, gold and jewels filling a huge cave or something. (Amandil's voiceover: "The Seven Rings Sauron gave to the Dwarf-lords, but those who took them were filled by overmastering greed; it is said that each of the Seven Hoards of the Dwarf-kings was founded on a Ring of Power.") We abruptly CUT to a later occasion, when at least one dragon has entered the cave and the desperate dwarf is trying to escape, with little luck. (Voice-over: "But all the hoards were plundered long ago. Of the Seven Rings, three came back to Sauron. The others...") The terrified dwarf is now lying on his back with the Dragon leaning over him, and we slip into the Dwarf's perspective. We see his hand that he pathetically raises to protect himself, the ring still on his finger -- but the enormous head of the undaunted Dragon comes down, the jaws separate, we see the huge teeth, and then comes the BLAST OF FIRE that fills the entire screen and makes the hand and the ring wither before our eyes -- just as Amandil completes his sentence: "...the others the Dragons have consumed."
But then we are back in the part of the story that is urgently relevant for what is now going on in Númenor: the effect that these Rings have on Men!
Cannibalizing Gandalf's lines in The Shadow of the Past, Amandil would go on to relate how Sauron gave the Nine Rings to "Mortal Men, proud and great, and so ensnared them". Then we slip over in the language of Of the Rings of Power, where we learn that "those who used the Nine Rings became mighty...kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old." Using the Rings they could even walk "unseen by all eyes". (Obvious footage: a proud-looking, well-clad figure puts on a Ring and disappears. Then, just as seen in the Jackson movies, we move into the Shadow-world that Frodo found himself in on the few occasions when he put on the Ring: a surreal, flowing environment surrounding our proud Ring-user.)
And here comes the important point: Those who received these Rings "had, as it seemed, unending life". And yet..."life became unendurable to them". (Further footage of Ring-user -- now looking not exactly aged but yet curiously pale and colorless, hiding his face in his hands as if despairing, while the Shadow-world seems to be closing in on him.)
In the end "they became forever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows". (Footage of all Nine ring-users, still in the Shadow-world and now looking just like Frodo saw them when he put on the Ruling Ring on Amon Sûl: soulless mummy-like figures, seemingly void of emotion and personality. Maybe the huge form of Sauron, in full armor, should come striding out of the surreal environment -- and they all fall down and kneel before him.) Yes, we've just been handed the recipe for Nazgûl-making...and so it was that Sauron acquired a new title: He became the Lord of the Rings!
In part the above would be an attempt to insert into the movie universe a fuller and less misleading account of the Ring-making than the extremely condensed story told at the beginning of Jackson's Fellowship. We hear of the "forging of the Great Rings", but there is no hint of who really did forge them, or why. "Three were given to the Elves" -- well, technically the Elves made them themselves, right? (All right, the Elven-smiths really "gave" the Three Rings to the Elf-lords.) "Seven [were given] to the Dwarf-lords...and nine, nine Rings were gifted to the race of Men..." The ignorant may well ask: by whom were they given to the Dwarves and to Men? Cate-Galadriel's blunt statement that "within these rings were bound the strength and will to govern each race" does not agree very well with Tolkien's original story. During the Council of Elrond, when one of the Dwarves present wants to use the Elven-rings against Sauron, Elrond actually points out that their virtue is of a quite different nature: "Those who made them did not desire strength or domination or hoarded wealth, but understanding, making, and healing, to preserve all things unstained." If forced to reconcile Tolkien and Jackson, I would assume that the Seven and the Nine were turned into weapons of domination as part of their being "sullied" or reprogrammed by Sauron -- and/or that the power of the Rings was so great that it potentially could be (mis)used to govern whole races, though that was not the original intention of the Elven-smiths who made them.
If Elendil actually had some contact with the Nazgûl during Pharazôn's campaign in Middle-earth, as suggested above, he would be shocked and disgusted to learn what kind of beings they really were. And it doesn't help if Amandil adds the extra piece of information that three of the Ring-wraiths were once Númenoreans, great lords of Númenor that had come to Middle-earth. Then, apparently, they were met by a most handsome stranger who gave each of the tourists this incredibly cool ring...almost as nice as his own! In short, they missed the boat home.
And now Amandil hopes his family will realize how utterly bogus it really is, Sauron's grand promise that the Númenoreans can become immortal. Sure, Sauron does have the ability to extend the lives of mortals, whether by Rings of Power or other dark arts (Sauron's Mouth was apparently many centuries old, and no ring is mentioned in connection with his case). But this is emphatically not a blessing for the mortals involved. As Gandalf will later explain to Frodo: a mortal whose life is artificially extended by magic "does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness".
This is a consequence of the fundamental nature of mortals, as originally defined by Eru Himself: "Their nature could not in fact endure" immortality (SD, p. 408). Even if the body can somehow be kept "young", the very soul within comes with a sort of expiration date when it is supposed to leave this world. If its release from the world is prevented by unnatural means, existence little by little becomes a torment, as the soul is forced to "cover" a longer period of time than it was supposed to. After many years of Ring-exposure, Bilbo started to perceive the beginning of this painful process, describing it as a hobbit might: At the age of 111 he felt "thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread". Amandil obviously cannot mention the still unborn Bilbo and his plight, but the audience should be able to draw the lines.
If the natural release of the soul is prevented for centuries, the wretched mortal has little occasion to enjoy his supposed immortality. The men who turned into Nazgûl apparently became so "stretched" that in the end they had no will or personality whatsoever, allowing Sauron to fill them with his own will and use them as utterly obedient servants: They had become undead rather than immortal. Sauron's Mouth had apparently also lost himself; it is said he had forgotten his own name. As for Sméagol, the Ring prolonged his life for half a millennium, but this only left him as a twisted, insane creature. Tolkien wrote about the "counterfeit" immortality that would lead "the small to a Gollum, and the great to a Ringwraith" (Letters, p. 286).
Amandil obviously can only mention the Nazgûl, but they are all the example he needs. For mortals, immortality is not something to be desired, but a horror to be avoided. Death is something Men "cannot escape, unless to a worse fate" (The Lost Road p. 65). Mortals must not try to live forever in this world, and conversely the Elves must not try to die (as has also happened!)
Nor do mortals have any real reason to fear death, the fulfillment of their nature. It is not only that every mortal person born into this world comes with an inalienable return ticket ensuring their eventual escape from the world that was marred by Morgoth and his servants (whereas the Elves are doomed "not to leave it, until its whole evil-aroused story is complete": Letters p. 246). It is also the apparent (or strongly suspected) fact that "death" leads directly to the ultimate experience, the creature returning to the Creator, the soul passing into eternity and the presence of Eru. Tolkien did note (in Letters p. 286) that Men probably had a higher destiny than the Elves.
In the final analysis the Elves themselves may be set in the world only as part of the preparation for the inevitable Dominion of Men, as hinted in SD p. 401: "The Eledâi [Eldar, Elves] came first...to perfect the arts of using and ordering the material of the Earth to perfection and beauty in details, and to prepare the way for Men. Men (the Followers or Second Kindred) came second, but it is guessed that in the first design of God they were destined (after tutelage) to take on the governance of all the Earth, and ultimately to become Valar" (!!!)
Apparently it is necessary for the "education" of each human soul that it spends some time in this world, and then passes beyond it. But not before the final revelation of Eru (future to Amandil, future to Frodo and still future to us) can all questions be answered: In the meantime Mortal Men must live in faith. In the Akallabêth itself, the ancient Númenoreans are represented as pointing out to the emissaries of the Valar that Men, too, "love the earth and would not lose it" in death. The emissaries can only admit that the Valar themselves do not know Eru's final intentions as far as Mortal Men are concerned. But they do know that "the love of Arda [this world] was set in your hearts by Ilúvatar, and he does not plant to no purpose". So only faith remains, the hope that "in the end even the least of your desires shall have fruit".
Of the ultimate future there can only be hints. Morgoth will indeed return in the end, even as Sauron predicts, but not for long ages yet, and when he does come, it is only to be finally defeated. Men (or the Vala-like entities their souls will have evolved into?) will apparently join the chorus when the Second Song of Creation is sung, finally canceling out the fatal discord of Melkor so that a perfect world is created. Also, Men's "direct attachment to Eru" will somehow be instrumental in the deliverance of the Elves (MR, p. 343). The Elven-king Finrod supposedly had a vision of the World Remade, "and there the Eldar [Elves] completed but not ended could abide in the present for ever, and there walk, maybe, with the Children of Men, their deliverers, and sing to them such songs as, even in the Bliss beyond bliss, should make the green valleys ring and the everlasting mountain-tops to throb like harps" (MR, p. 319).
But as of yet, and for ages to come, the hills are not alive with the sound of music (so to speak). Nevertheless, the promise that Men will ultimately be instrumental in the undoing of Melkor's evil adds a whole new dimension of gravity to the terrible sin of worshipping Melkor instead, like Sauron has now seduced the Númenoreans into doing. Adoring the Marrer as if he were the Maker is, maybe, the ultimate blasphemy.
Not that it hasn't happened before. Melkor himself appeared to Men when they first awoke in the world, inducing them to bow down before him and abjure the Voice of Eru that had spoken to the first humans. This was apparently why the lives of Men came to be so short: The very last time they heard the Voice, it pronounced judgement and delivered an unbeatable punch-line: "Ye have abjured Me, but ye remain Mine. I gave you life. Now it shall be shortened, and each of you in a little while shall come to Me, to learn who is your Lord: the one ye worship, or I who made him." (MR, p. 347)
Possibly, then, the Númenorean life-span of ca. 200 years was the span originally intended for all Men, drastically shortened when Men started worshipping Morgoth. But the early Edain, ancestors of the Númenoreans, threw off Morgoth's yoke and joined the Elves in the war against him -- the two kindreds eventually coming together in the person of Eärendil, the Elf-Man who finally found the way to the Uttermost West and obtained the help of the Valar. So Morgoth was overthrown, and the Edain were given Númenor as a reward; apparently they were also restored to the life-span Men should originally have had. Perhaps a hint that in the early centuries, the Númenoreans came close to fulfilling Eru's original intentions for the race of Men.
And now maybe a few hundred Faithful are left. All the rest are once again busy worshipping Morgoth, in an absurd quest for a kind of "immortality" totally contrary to their nature. They reject the Gift of Ilúvatar, their calling to a higher destiny beyond this world. If they were somehow successful, Númenor would in a few centuries turn into a nation of gollums (at best) or undead wraiths (at worst).
But as is now apparent, Sauron won't use his powers to help the people achieve even such fake immortality. All his propaganda was just a ruse to alienate the Númenoreans from the Valar once and for all. It suits him very well that Pharazôn is now aged and ailing, desperate enough to actually attack the Blessed Realm -- another horrible blasphemy. For that realm is a sanctuary, the last memory of a time without evil, demonstrating what all the world would have been like if not for the efforts of Melkor the Marrer. The notion of a Melkor-worshipper conquering the Blessed Realm is virtually a contradiction in terms. It remains to be seen how the Valar, with all their godlike powers, will react to such an attack...but this must be something Amandil would prefer not to see.
Something like this Tolkien's ideas about the Gift of Death and the destiny of Men may perhaps be synopsized, if the present writer understands them correctly. I am not saying that all of this can be turned into "lines" of dialogue and put into Amandil's mouth, but some of this ground should be covered. The all-important point is that Men have not been wronged because they are mortal. If they desire Elf-style immortality, this is a misunderstanding at best and a perversion at worst. The implications are that Eru's plans for Men go far beyond this world, that they can in the end become Valar, and that they will ultimately be instrumental in delivering the universe from evil (somehow Men will even "save" the Elves, who will then praise them forever). The "Gift of Ilúvatar", the release from this world to ascend to a higher level of existence, is the key to all of this. Trying to refuse the Gift is not only foolish: It amounts to an attempt to deny one's own nature and thwart one's God-appointed destiny, and if one is actually successful, the result is not immortality but an undead state.
And so everything comes back to the desperate situation at hand: What can the Faithful do to stop Sauron and Pharazôn? How can they prevent the insane attempt to invade the Blessed Realm? Indeed, is there anything they can do?
It would provide some nice foreshadowing if Isildur suddenly has a Good Idea: Hey, some minutes ago Grandpa identified Sauron's chief weapon, the mind-twisting instrument he has been using to gain control over the King and eventually the whole nation -- the Ring!
They must take it from him! Sure, Sauron is big and strong and may have hidden powers, but nothing can be more risky than letting his plans come to fruition. What if fifty-or-so Faithful could waylay him, trip him, try to kill his body, but at least slip the Ring off his finger and run off with it -- so that suddenly Mr. Handsome will find himself bereft of "the best part of the strength that was native to him in his beginning"?
And Amandil would have to admit that yes, if Sauron should ever lose the Ring, he would be greatly weakened. Yet this is not a plan the old man can possibly support.
For this Ring is not a dead object. It has a will of its own, an extension of the mind of its maker. It is one with Sauron, and if separated from him, it would ever scheme for its return to his hand. What would then happen to the unhappy mortals trying to handle it? It would reach out with all its corrupting powers and consume them -- and though Amandil (who has after all never seen Gollum) can hardly predict exactly what would happen to them, he knows it wouldn't be pretty.
Well, maybe Isildur promptly comes up with the revised Good Idea II: The Faithful take the Ring as before, but then, before it can do any mischief, they will destroy it! Smash it to pieces with a sledgehammer! Better yet, take it to a smithy and melt it down!
And again Amandil would have to admit that if they could actually do this, it would for all intents and purposes be the end of Sauron. He let so very much of himself pass into that Ring when he made it. Amandil would surely be aware of (and could even be made to express) the Tolkienian principle that "if some power passes from you to a thing that you have made, then you must take share in its hurts" (Unfinished Tales p. 382).
It may be noted that in the climatic moment of the Jackson trilogy, this is actually given a very literal interpretation: When the Ring melts down into the lava in Mount Doom, Sauron's Eye is suddenly on fire (despite being an Eye of Fire to begin with!) It is as if Sauron himself had been cast into the lava.
So if the Ring could be destroyed, the Dark Lord would fall for the last time and never come back to haunt the world yet again -- "and so a great evil of this world will be removed" (as the literary version of Gandalf said during The Last Debate).
But if an enthusiastic Isildur now thinks they have found the solution, his grandfather must tell him that there is one not-so-tiny problem: The Ring is indestructible! Before investing so much of his personal power in it, Sauron obviously made sure that this power would be safe in its new container. Not even all the new knowledge of metallurgy that the Númenoreans have obtained from Sauron himself can tell them how to melt down the Master-ring. Indeed even the dragons of Middle-earth, that consumed four of the Dwarf-rings like so many snacks, would only experience indigestion if they tried to swallow this One Ring.
I don't know: would we make our would-be heroes too smart if they are actually able to deduce that the Ring can be destroyed in the flames of Orodruin? Or maybe it is not so difficult to figure out that the Ring cannot be immune to the fire it was originally forged in? So maybe Isildur does present Good Idea III: they will take the Ring from Sauron, send it back to Middle-earth, enter Mordor, make their way through hordes of Orcs all the way to the volcano, and finally throw the Ring into the fire there!
All right, so maybe the original Good Idea is getting a little complicated. (As Gandalf will one day admit, only a fool could hope for the success of such a desperate plan!) But perhaps Isildur still maintains that however slim their chances may be, this is still better than just waiting for the disaster that seems guaranteed if Pharazôn goes ahead with the plan Sauron has sold him.
Any further dialogue on this subject would almost inevitably be a precognitive commentary on Frodo's quest in a somewhat remote future, but maybe Amandil does point out what a long and difficult journey this would be -- and all the while, the terrible Burden would gnaw at the mind of the Ring-bearer. If he did make it to Mordor in the end, would he then come to destroy the Ring, or to claim both it and Sauron's throne for himself and become the next Dark Lord?
This would restore to the movie universe a theme that is not well expressed in the Jackson Trilogy: the temptation to use the power of the Ring, and the real possibility that the very great (like Gandalf, Galadriel or Elrond) could have mastered the Ring completely and turned its power against Sauron. But then its evil would have infected them, and as Tolkien let Elrond say during the Council: "If any of the wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron's throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear." Unfortunately Jackson instead has Aragorn telling Boromir: "You cannot wield it, none of us can. The One Ring answers to Sauron alone; it has no other master." Is this to mean that it is impossible for others to successfully use the Ring? Are the temptations felt by Boromir and Galadriel quite illusory, then? Tolkien rather suggested that yes, maybe there are a few people who really could have conquered Sauron with his own Ring, but in the process they would lose themselves and become just as evil as him. Galadriel, though initially overwhelmed by the vision of herself as Queen of the World, finally resists the temptation precisely because she wants to "remain Galadriel" (a line happily preserved by Jackson).
No. If the Faithful of Númenor want to stay Faithful, they must never try to handle the Master-ring. Even if they initially wanted to destroy it, their resolve would soon crumble if they were directly exposed to the corrupting powers of this evil thing. I should very much like to include a simple, yet singularly poignant line heard during the Council of Elrond, whether we here give it to Amandil or to Elendil: It's the reminder that "nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so."
And maybe Amandil somehow perceives that it is not for his own generation to achieve the ultimate downfall of the Dark Lord. (In Tolkienian parlance, "My heart tells me that...", blah-blah-blah.)
So what, what can the Faithful do? Well, it could turn out that if Amandil has finally told his family all he knows about the Rings, this is because he shall soon have to leave his son and grandsons. He has a plan of his own, maybe no less desperate than the other suggestions, but slightly more practicable.
Amandil is a very old man now. Indeed, under normal circumstances he would probably already have done what "good" Númenoreans were of old expected to do: surrender their life voluntarily and depart in peace, accepting the Gift of Ilúvatar and forever leave the Marred World behind. But these are not normal circumstances. Many of the Faithful still look to Amandil as a leader, and so he hangs on. Yet a decision has been growing in his mind, probably for years. He was once renowned as a mighty captain of the sea; he could go on one last, desperate voyage. And for many reasons, it must be now or never.
In this one case, the Akallabêth provides an actual conversation between two people, a string of GTLs that a script-writer could adopt (maybe with just a little de-Shakespearizing here and there). Amandil declares that "the days are dark, and there is no Hope for Men, for the Faithful are few. Therefore I am minded to try that counsel which our forefather Eärendil took of old, to sail into the West, be there ban or no, and to speak to the Valar, even to Manwë himself, if may be, and beseech his aid ere all is lost."
Elendil then asks his father if he plans to betray the King. The idea of thwarting the greatest human tyrant ever can't really be that repugnant to Elendil, but he points out to his father than the Faithful are routinely called "traitors and spies, and that until this day it has been false".
"If I thought that Manwë needed such a messenger," Amandil says, "I would betray the King. For there is but one loyalty from which no man can be absolved in heart for any cause." It is not made explicitly clear in the Akallabêth what "loyalty" this is, but apparently Amandil is talking about the loyalty to Eru. (Make him look towards the Holy Mountain as he is saying this?)
"But," he continues, "it is for mercy upon Men and their deliverance from Sauron the Deceiver that I would plead, since some at least have remained faithful. And as for the Ban, I will suffer in myself the penalty, lest all my people should become guilty." (Here Tolkien himself may seem to be throwing Biblical allusions around; compare John 11:50-51, and also Acts 5:29 for the notion that loyalty to God takes precedence above everything else. Heck, with Sauron walking around as the stunningly handsome Deceiver, we may even bring in 2 Corinthians 11:14 about Satan appearing as an angel of light!)
Interestingly, Peter Jackson included the designation "Sauron the Deceiver" in his Fellowship movie, Aragorn explaining that the Nazgûl were once human kings, but "then Sauron the Deceiver gave to them nine Rings of Power. Blinded by their greed, they took them without question." An allusion to Amandil's words in the Akallabêth?
Elendil reminds his father than if it is discovered that he is on his way to the Blessed Realm, there could be grave consequences for the family he left behind. Amandil assures his son that he will keep his true destination secret, embarking on a ship under the pretence that he is going into the east. That would not be conspicuous in any way; ships leave Rómenna every day. But then, in open sea, Amandil will "go about, through south or north, back into the west, and seek what I may find. But for you and your folk, my son, I counsel that you should prepare [for] yourselves other ships...and when the ships are ready, you should lie in the haven of Rómenna, and give out among men that you purpose, when you see your time, to follow me into the east."
After all, Amandil's family is "no longer so dear to our kinsman upon the throne that he will grieve over much, if we seek to depart, for a season or for good". They are still too well respected to be taken to the Temple and sacrificed, yet they are a confounded nuisance since they openly refuse to embrace the worship of Melkor. Pharazôn wouldn't stop them from leaving: If they want to leave the isle to go to Middle-earth, good riddance!
Amandil further advises his son to "seek out the Faithful that are known still to be true", preparing to take them with him on his ships if the worst comes to the worst. They must remain determined "to meddle not in the war, and to watch. Until I return I can say no more. But it is most like that you shall fly from the Land of the Star with no star to guide you; for that land is defiled. Then you shall lose all that you have loved, foretasting death in life, seeking a land of exile elsewhere. But east or west the Valar alone can say."
"Until I return..." So Amandil said, but as he makes his preparations, a shadow of foreboding would be resting heavily on his family. It is quite obvious that whatever happens, Amandil will not return, ever. The western seas are known to be perilous, and even if Amandil could achieve the almost mythological feat of actually reaching the Blessed Realm with his ship, he would hardly be allowed to leave again. Even Eärendil himself, who was even half-elven, never came back from the Uttermost West. (Make Isildur and Anárion discuss these somber facts among themselves?)
Where does Amandil get a ship? Presumably the family owns several ships, since he is said to have been a great captain when he was younger. (Elendil will later have as much as nine ships at his disposal, though again we don't hear much about where he got them from!)
The day of departure arrives. Actually Amandil intends to set out at night, in a small ship, taking with him only three servants "dear to his heart". Surely he doesn't order them to follow him; rather we must assume that their relationship is as close as that of Sam to Frodo, and they simply can't be kept back. Presumably we are talking about aged servants who have spent many decades in Amandil's service, coming to love their just and wise master; finally they are unable to part with him. So now all three go on board the small ship with him (cameo appearance by Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee and Bernard Hill) and prepare for a voyage into the unknown.
Finally and very properly, Amandil says farewell to his family "as one that is about to die". The last words of dear old Grandpa are virtually prophetic: "It may well prove that you will see me never again; and that I shall show you no such sign as Eärendil showed long ago. But hold you ever in readiness, for the end of the world that we have known is now at hand!"
So the ship sets out, Elendil and his sons sadly watching as it disappears into the dark. All the Akallabêth has to say about what happened to the people on that ship, is that "never again were they heard of by word or sign in this world, nor is there any tale or guess of their fate". More Tolkien couldn't say if he were to maintain the pretence that the Akallabêth was written by Elendil later, for Elendil himself could not know what happened to his father. For cinematic purposes I think I would elaborate just a little, following the ship the next day, as the voyagers turn it around and heads into the West instead: For these people, who have loved and respected the Valar all their long lives, it must feel very strange that they are about to break the one command that the God-appointed Powers laid upon the people of Númenor: Never sail into the West!
It is most reasonable to assume that Amandil's ship passes north of Númenor, since the northernmost promontory was a mountainous and sparsely populated region where few if any would observe the ship (see Unfinished Tales p. 167 and the map on p. 164). If they pass close by the mountains on the North Cape, they could be reflecting that maybe they will never get this close to Númenor again. Then they continue into the West, approaching the unapproachable.
Maybe night is again falling when they finally close in on the immovable cloudbank that stretches like an unbroken wall from horizon to horizon, north to south. Close up, it may also seem to stretch into infinity above them. They have arrived at the very threshold of the mystery, the seas and the lands that the Guardians of the World have reserved for themselves. Hidden behind the mists lies something pure and holy beyond human comprehension, the last and only place in the world that remains virtually untouched by the corrupting influence of Melkor the Morgoth.
Far behind, the western coast of Westernesse is fading away with distance. Our brave voyagers know that the moment they cannot see Númenor any longer, they will have broken the Ban of the Valar.
It seems an almost inescapable conclusion that at this point a pious man like Amandil would not simply push on, but rather order the sails down just before they reach the sharply defined cloudbank. Then, when the ship lies still, we may imagine him kneeling down on the deck and leading his three servants in prayer, certainly in the High-Elven speech of Elvenhome that now lies right before them: A Valar Ambaro, ámen lavë auta! Sacalmë Númen Anhaira! Ámen lavë quetë i Aran Anyáranna! O Powers of the World, let us pass! We seek the Uttermost West! Let us speak to the Elder King! (Ah, the wonderful world of subtitles...)
And so the question is whether Amandil, whose very name means Lover of the Blessed Realm, will finally be allowed into the Land of Aman and the realm of Valinor where the Powers dwell. Should there be a sign that they have indeed attracted the attention of something in there behind the clouds? If so, it should not be overly dramatic, but rather a subtle effect, like maybe a curious movement in the clouds or a strange glow kindling behind them -- as if some immense, glorious, unseen being has approached the ship and does listen to the prayer of the people on board.
Maybe we should not go as far as making Amandil promise that if he can only be allowed to speak his errand before Manwë, he will thereafter go straight to the Halls of Mandos, surrender his life and depart from the world. Yet the implication of the whole situation is that if a full-blooded mortal like Amandil does somehow enter the Immortal Lands, there can never be any question of him returning to the outside world.
Tolkien indicated that Frodo, who along with Bilbo was allowed to follow the last Elven-ship to the Immortal Lands, did so to spend some time in this earthly paradise and then inevitably fulfil their destiny as mortals: By a special grace, they had "an opportunity for dying according to the original plan for the unfallen: they went to a state in which they could acquire greater knowledge and peace of mind, and being healed of all hurts both of mind and body, could at least surrender themselves: die of free will, and even in desire, in estel" -- that is, hope or faith. (MR, p. 341)
A similar "opportunity" for an optimal death, rather than a return to Númenor, would be all Amandil could hope for. But unlike the above-mentioned hobbits, he has not already been granted access to the Uttermost West as a reward for deeds of valor in the war against Sauron. So all Amandil can do is to kneel down and pray that the Ban of the Valar is not after all absolute, that the Powers can make an exception and let in a very few mortals on an urgent errand, if their hearts are pure and they abandon all hope of ever returning from Elvenhome.
I don't think there should be any dramatic "sign" to indicate that they may proceed into the West. Maybe, as their prayer ends, some moments of utter silence follow. Then, almost unnoticeable at first, an invisible force starts working on the ship: There is no stream and the sails are down, yet the ship slowly picks up speed, heading straight for the cloudbank ahead. And here all elaboration should end: the camera only records the ship slipping silently into the mists, our point of view remaining on the outside of the mystery. The glow fades away: Amandil has passed behind the veil, and like Eärendil before him, he will never return to the lands that he had loved.
Back in Rómenna, Elendil and his sons would grieve for Grandpa, knowing in their hearts that he is gone forever.
In the meantime, Pharazôn presses on with the Great Armament. Enormous resources are poured into shipbuilding. We are witnessing something like the Spoiling of Isengard in the first Jackson movie, where the director made excellent use of an idea only briefly mentioned in Tolkien's original book: the notion that Isengard was once beautiful, but Saruman turned it into a monstrous industrial park to serve his warlike ambitions. We get to see the terrible transformation from a beautiful park to a barren area full of pits.
The Spoiling of Númenor is not dissimilar, except that it happens on an infinitely greater scale. Up till now, it was primarily the cities that showed obvious and omnipresent signs of corruption, but now we must imagine that virtually the entire land is raped. Above all, Pharazôn presumably has to raze the forests completely in order to get timber for the new super-fleet of huge warships that is being built. No Ents walk the woods of Westernesse to stop the fanatic King.
The fleet that Pharazôn will eventually have at his disposal is likened to an "archipelago of a thousand isles" (see full quote below). If this is to mean that there were actually about 1000 ships in the end, and (say) 900 of them were new, the Númenoreans would have to finish one new ship every third or fourth day during the nine years that the building of the Great Armament lasted. (See the chronology in LotR Appendix B.) Such are the resources Pharazôn pours into his last, most desperate project.
Perhaps there are also huge campaigns to collect metal for swords -- statues and even jewelry being melted down? And of course, the population has to be mentally prepared for what is going to happen. Virtually all able-bodied men have to be trained to use some weapon. There would be enormous military camps. The entire culture is militarized, the whole country being drawn into the war effort before the war has even started.
Or maybe it has, in a way, started already. There are ever new omens hinting at the displeasure of the Powers. Even the weather changes, the sky goes darker, and terrible storms hit the land. In a movie it would be possible to make all colors ever more dull and bleak as we approach the End: It is as if Númenor is withering before our eyes.
The chronology of the Akallabêth is somewhat vague regarding the omens observed. After relating how Amandil finally understands Sauron's intentions and goes into the West seeking the Valar, Tolkien's text goes on to mention that "aforetime in the isle of Númenor the weather was ever apt to the needs and liking of Men...but all this was now changed, for the sky itself was darkened, and there were storms of rain and hail in those days". How narrowly should we interpret the words "now" and "these days"? Does "aforetime" refer to the old days before Sauron came, or only to the period before Pharazôn started to prepare for an assault on the Blessed Realm? Tolkien then tells how eagle-like clouds started coming out of the west, and lightening struck the Temple, but Sauron stood on top of the dome and defied the lightening so that "men called him a god an did all that he would".
Of course, this event we have already dealt with, placing it in the early period shortly after the sacrifices in the Temple began (and letting the supernatural storm be a direct response to a prayer by Míriel, so as to involve our characters in the events and not reduce them to passive spectators). Conceivably Tolkien meant the whole "Sauron-upon-the-pinnacle" affair to happen later, as late as after Amandil went into the West, though his text may allow various interpretations. But for the purposes of dramatization, I still prefer the scheme here set out: the first signs of divine disapproval start occurring shortly after the sacrifices begin. The Valar then "tolerate" long years of Satanic worship only because the Númenoreans at an early stage called Sauron a god, making the Powers turn away in disgust and abandon the people to their fate: the hidden agenda of the god they had chosen. It creates a rather strange impression of the motivations of the Valar if all the sinister omens only start appearing once their own realm is threatened! Nevertheless, once Pharazôn starts preparing to make war on the Blessed Realm itself, the portents reasonably become more obvious than ever before: permanent changes in the weather, and finally also earthquakes.
During some of the endless storms there still appear enormous eagle-like forms in the heavens, the very clouds assuming the shape of the messengers of the Elder King, and lightening lashes down at the ever more barren land below. We are told how people interpreted this: "The Lords of the West have plotted against us! They strike first! The next blow shall be ours!"
Tolkien added that "these words the King himself spoke, but they were devised by Sauron". We may imagine Pharazôn crying out the words of his speechwriter during new nightly, Nazi-style rallies lit by torches, an infuriated nation listening. Every man, woman and child in the realm must be taught to hate, hate, hate those terrible Powers that rule the West, the ones that bring such horrors upon Westernesse! Soon, very soon, it will be payback time! Sauron and/or Pharazôn can probably assure the people that now, the Valar are not nearly as powerful as they may have been way back in the First Age. Now their inevitable, overdue downfall is at hand! These sinister, Man-hating Powers will finally be overthrown!
As the frenzy of hatred is taking hold, Elendil repeatedly sneaks back into the western part of the isle, though this is surely strictly forbidden and would perhaps cost him his life if he were detected: These days, the Elf-friends are about as popular as the Plague. "He would journey to the western shores and gaze out at the sea, and sorrow and yearning was upon him, for he had loved his father." (SD, pp. 349-50) Elendil hopes to see a sign in the West, an indication that his father's mission was in some way successful. But he risks his life for nothing: Returning to Rómenna, all he can report to his family and friends is that an enormous fleet of newly-built warships is gathering in the bay of Eldanna -- the logical starting-point for an armada that is to go into the West.
And what about Pharazôn himself, this desperate and rather pitiful figure? Hideously aged and knowing that his time has almost come, he still hesitates. In private he is hardly as certain as he must appear to be when addressing the masses. But the most powerful man on the (flat) planet finds himself almost powerless now. How can he possibly "repent", after all that has happened? Can he resurrect from the ashes even a single individual of the thousands that have been sacrificed in the Temple? How can he allow himself to even toy with the idea that all of the atrocities did not, after all, serve any higher purpose? It would make himself the greatest monster in mortal history!
Maybe Míriel actually tries to talk to the old man who is supposedly her husband, hoping that in his last desperation she can finally get through to him. Even now he could order Sauron to leave the realm, or put him back in the dungeon he was once released from -- or even have his bodily form killed.
But by now, Pharazôn would know all too well that this is not really an option. Perhaps he no longer trusts Sauron completely: The original promises of the self-appointed High Priest -- enduring life and vigor for all who worship Melkor with bloody sacrifices -- have spectacularly failed. Is it really a viable explanation that the wicked Lords of the West somehow keep Melkor's bountiful gifts from reaching his worshippers?
But even if Míriel points out all of this to Pharazôn, so what? He cannot turn against Sauron. Not now. He knows that if he did, Sauron would just dispose of him and take over. All that is left for the King to do, is to follow to the end the dark path that Sauron has pointed out to him -- clinging to the hope that the High Priest has indeed told the truth: The Immortal Lands really can be conquered, and they do confer immortality on those who live in them.
Some of Tolkien's writings hint at a possibility not expressed in the Akallabêth, something that could make for one last dramatic scene before we enter the endgame: the idea that Pharazôn himself received a direct "revelation" from the Valar. In some sources, e.g. SD p. 364 or Letters p. 205, Tolkien expresses himself in a way suggesting that on one occasion the emissaries of the Valar addressed Pharazôn himself. Nothing to this effect is said in the published Akallabêth, which only refers to emissaries arriving from the Blessed Realm in the remote past, when the Númenoreans first began to question the seeming injustice of their mortality and the fact that they were not allowed to sail west. But considering what is at stake here (as demonstrated by the eventual outcome), it is hardly unreasonable that in the final phase, the Valar would try to get a message through to Pharazôn in person.
There is one staggering possibility here: we could have a tiny glimpse of Gandalf! Not that he has yet acquired that name; he is still Olórin, a faithful Maia of the Blessed Realm, in the service of Manwë and Varda (Unfinished Tales p. 393). Even as they will later send him to Middle-earth in the shape of an aged wizard to organize the resistance against Sauron, maybe they could also send him to Númenor to deliver an urgent message to the King?
Frankly, we would be stretching Tolkien's intentions if Gandalf appeared (however briefly) in the same body as the one he wore in Middle-earth later: His incarnation as an istar or "wizard" came later, when he arrived in Middle-earth about a millennium into the Third Age -- still the remote future from Pharazôn's point of view. Well, the whole thing is a mere suggestion, but if some emissary of the Valar does appear to Pharazôn, what message would be delivered?
It would have to be pretty much the same as the first emissaries said centuries earlier, also recorded in the Akallabêth. The "Immortal Lands" are called so simply because the immortals live there, not because the lands somehow confer immortality: "It is not the land of Manwë that makes its people deathless, but the Deathless that dwell there have hallowed the land." In that land, Mortal Men would "but wither and grow weary the sooner, as moths in a light too strong and steadfast".
If such a vision is vouchsafed to Pharazôn himself, he must (at the very least) be badly shaken. But he is probably quite unable to keep anything hidden from Sauron, whom he let into his mind long ago. And the High Priest would dismiss it all as a last desperate lie by the Valar, as they still try to deny Pharazôn his immortal destiny. "Moths in a light too strong", indeed! There the King has it from the wicked Powers themselves: Men are just insects to them! And so the Great Armament continues.
The sinister omens become ever more obvious. Not only does the land seem to lie in a perpetual shadow under a darkened sky: now the ground itself begins to shake under people's feet, and "a groaning as of thunder underground was mingled with the roaring of the sea". The earthquakes keep increasing in number and strength. It is as if the very foundations of the land are slowly crumbling.
To Elendil's family, there is one tiny glimpse of happiness in these dark days: Anárion now has married, and his wife bears him a son. The baby is given a pious name: Meneldil, Friend of Heaven. As yet the family has no idea that this child will later come to bear one very special distinction, as noted in The Peoples of Middle-earth p. 191: "He was the last man to be born in Númenor."
Something may here be said about the larger family of our characters: specifically about their wives. As far as I am aware, the wives of Amandil, Elendil, Isildur and Anárion are never named by Tolkien (but since all of the above fathered children, a number of women must necessarily enter into the picture!) Actually I believe Isildur's wife is the only one who is at least mentioned at least once, and then simply as "his wife".
Amandil, and maybe also Elendil, can be assumed to be widowers throughout this story (simply so that we won't have to invent and handle too many non-Tolkien characters). In Isildur's case, I would be inclined to develop a minor subplot around his girlfriend, but no big romance to compete with Tolkien's own story. There would simply be this special someone that turns up in some scenes; the whole thing needn't be much more elaborated than Sam's relationship to Rosie.
Maybe we could first get a glimpse of his girlfriend when as a young man he is about to leave for Middle-earth with Pharazôn (the expedition that ended with Sauron's "surrender"): He kisses the girl and assures her that he has every intention of coming back to her, and so he later does. They would be seen together in a number of scenes later; this girl could also sit by his bed when he lies ill after saving the fruit of the White Tree. Maybe she could be assigned a slightly significant role in the events that are now coming up fast. She may be the only one of the "wives" that should probably be given a name, though I won't suggest any here. Probably something in Quenya (High-elven), just like the names of her prospective husband and in-laws, and even baby Meneldil's name.
The new fleet is finally ready: ships enough to carry virtually the entire male population of Númenor into the West. But I don't think it would be right to portray Pharazôn as giving the final order with any kind of enthusiasm. He postpones the decision, tormented by the fear of death, yet consumed by doubt. Who is lying, who tells the truth? Sauron must undoubtedly be shown as doing all he can to encourage the King to launch the attack on the West. And yet...
One wonders: does Pharazôn have so much wisdom left that he actually asks Sauron whether he intends to follow the fleet into the West? After all, Sauron was once "a being of Valinor" (Letters, p. 151), so he is the only person in Númenor who actually knows the territory of the enemy. Shouldn't he lead the invasion, then? Also, doesn't Sauron want to witness the triumph of Westernesse in person? Of course, the Dark Lord would instantly be able to explain why he (sadly!) has to stay behind: Being the High Priest, he must oversee the sacrifices in the Temple, vitally important to secure Melkor's blessing on the whole operation!
Yet Pharazôn may find it strange that Melkor must be placated with sacrifices before He will bless a military operation that should really be according to his own heart: an all-out attack on his age-old enemies, the Lords of the West. Pharazôn could be toying with the thought of ordering Sauron to follow the fleet into the West: Would the High Priest still be as enthusiastic about the upcoming invasion then?
I should actually like to see Pharazôn portrayed, not as a completely brainwashed and stereotypically "evil" person, but as a sad old man who actually retains some relics of wisdom. But more than anything he fears death, all the more now that he knows his own span is at its end. The "world-weariness" felt by aging Númenoreans must already rest heavily upon his soul, so that he is increasingly unable to derive any joy from anything in this world. To a Faithful person, this would be the sign that the time has come to depart: to lie down and let oneself fall asleep in peace and dignity. But that is the one thing Pharazôn cannot bring himself to do.
Maybe it is a medical emergency, like a stroke or some kind of heart problem, that finally pushes the ailing king over the edge. His physicians could tell him (when he orders them to tell the truth) that he has only a few months left -- if he is lucky.
Sauron would turn up by his bed, begging him not to deny his great destiny: to be the eternal, immortal Ruler of the World! No power, not even the Powers, can possibly resist the immense army and fleet that Pharazôn now commands. Victory is certain! Perhaps Sauron graphically describes how youth and vigor and beauty will be restored to Pharazôn, new strength pouring into his body once he comes to the Immortal Lands! He must not fail this last test of his faith! If he passes the final test, it will lead directly to the long-prophesied revelation of Melkor -- the Lord of All visibly returning into the world. Infinite reward awaits the brave King who dared to stand up against Melkor's enemies, sweeping away the wicked Lords of the West and opening the door for Him!
Or, if Sauron (now with tears in his eyes) must say so, Pharazôn could prove himself unworthy. He could hesitate until death catches up with him, forfeiting eternal glory and almighty power, and finally going out into the Darkness. There the Lord whom he will have betrayed shall surely await him.
So, this is the choice before the dying King.
Whatever the exact circumstances, finally Pharazôn swallows hard and gives the order: Operation Enduring Life (or whatever) is to commence!
Exquisitely detailed plans, carefully refined over many years, are finally executed with clockwork precision. Heralds leave for every corner of the realm, public proclamations are read aloud, martial law is declared. Soon endless columns of people are heading towards the western provinces where the fleet awaits: We must imagine that pretty much the entire male population has been conscripted, all who are not too old, young or ill to hold a sword. Of course, people of doubtful loyalty won't be going on the ships, so as to exclude a potential fifth column. These segments of society will support the war effort in another manner: Sauron has already withdrawn into the Temple, preparing the most massive sacrifices ever.
The news would soon reach Rómenna, and any warships that are still stationed there swiftly depart to join the main fleet in Eldanna on the other side of the isle. What are Elendil and his sons thinking, now that the final order is given? It has begun. It is time for Elendil to set his own plans in motion. Just like the King, he has spent years in preparation, but with a quite different object in mind.
As the troops march west through the once-fertile lands, now empty and barren, one of the very last omens appear, visible from the entire realm: Dark smoke issues from the top of the Meneltarma, the ancient Hallow disappearing behind black clouds, as if the marching nation finally became unworthy of even watching it from a distance. There is not, however, any major volcanic action up there...yet.
Míriel must presumably be present when the fleet is about to leave, or may even opt to be there by her own volition. The King's mind is surely a cauldron of conflicting feelings -- fear and longing, doubt and fanaticism, excitement and dark foreboding -- so that he must struggle to appear somewhat dignified in front of his troops. But the Queen's feelings would be quite different. It would be quite improper to represent her as desperately begging Pharazôn on her knees that he must not do this: She knows fully well that nothing she can say or do will stop him now. Rather she should appear almost uncannily calm: Finally Doom is unfolding before her eyes, and all that remains for her, is to take in the spectacle with dignity and fatalistic stoicism.
And a stunning spectacle it is. The fleets of Númenor "darkened the sea upon the west of the land, and they were like an archipelago of a thousand isles; their masts were like a forest upon the mountains, and their sails were like a brooding cloud, and their banners black and golden like the stars upon the field of night" (SD p. 371, similarly in the Akallabêth).
But the Queen is not really impressed by the sight. Undoubtedly she liked the forests of Númenor better when they were still alive.
Maybe the original plan was to set out from the western coast at some point during the day, but getting (say) one hundred thousand soldiers aboard the ships must be a logistical nightmare, and there are delays. Yet Pharazôn is not willing to postpone the operation, not by a single day. But finally, as the sun is setting in the coveted West, everything is ready. The western sky burns red in the sunset, indeed more intensely red than ever before; there is something sinister about the glowing horizon.
There is one scene that a movie should probably dwell on for a minute or so, even though it is quite unmentioned by Tolkien: the final parting of Pharazôn and Míriel.
Maybe she just stares into the blood-red sunset, smoldering with all the wrath of the Valar. She may not even look at him at first (but perhaps commenting on the sight before her: "Look at that wrath!" -- ?)
Is there a hint that Pharazôn deep down knows that he has wronged her? That he has been wronging her all her adult life? Not that he actually repents anything -- it was necessary that he should seize power (just like it later became necessary to perform human sacrifice...) It all served a higher purpose -- but admittedly it wasn't always pleasant. On some level maybe Pharazôn really does care for his younger cousin, even deeply so. Very likely he has spent long years telling himself that he forced her to marry him so as to save her from his unruly co-conspirators, who simply wanted to assassinate her.
But what can he say to her now, after all these years and all that has happened? Does he make an effort to finally appear reasonable also from her perspective -- maybe even kind and magnanimous? He could point out that they have differed on many things; it had to be so. Yet now the moment of truth is near. And if his own hopes come true, if he does discover the secret of life everlasting and returns as the immortal ruler of the world, then he will not withhold eternal life from her. Though their relationship was never even platonic, he does want her as his Queen, to stay with him forever. No strings attached.
What are her final words to him? What does she say, now at the end, to the man who basically stole her entire life from her? Any hateful outburst would be quite out of place (and character). Tolkien gave us so little to go on, but I like to imagine that Míriel no longer feels either hate or fear when she faces the Usurper -- only some sort of calm pity. For in the final analysis, Pharazôn is just another victim of Sauron's influence, far more so than any of the ones who were taken to the Temple and burned: They got to leave this life with their souls unstained.
So maybe she just tells him, very calmly and so low that only he can hear her, that he will discover no secrets, that he will never return, and that his folly is about to trigger some unimaginable disaster. Otherwise, she does believe him when he says that he would not have withheld eternal life from her. "Farewell!"
There is nothing more to say. One final portent is seen: an endless line of eagles coming out of the West, "and as they came their wings spread ever wider, grasping the sky". It is not quite clear from Tolkien's text whether these are real eagles or maybe just enormous eagle-like clouds like those seen earlier. (There is a reference to "thunder" on the same occasion.) For the purposes of dramatization, both may work equally well. Anyway, the last warning has been given.
But Pharazôn obviously cannot heed it. At last he goes aboard the command-ship, the floating monstrosity of the Alcarondas, upon which his throne is already set. He must have considered the possibility of just ordering the fleet and the army to go into the West, not following the ships himself. But after all, the whole point is to reach the Immortal Lands to acquire new vigor for himself, and he is running out of time.
So D-day has irrevocably arrived: The signal is given, the anchors are raised, "and in that hour the trumpets of Númenor outrang the thunder". Slowly the armada begins to move, one thousand ships sliding out of the bay of Eldanna and into open sea. As distance increases it becomes impossible to make out the individual ships; the countless sails merge into a continuous, if somewhat nebulous, mass moving west across the ocean.
Darkness is falling, literally and metaphorically. Maybe Míriel, left on the deserted beach, stands there almost as immovable as a statue facing west. But finally, still following the receding fleet with her eyes, she could touch her brow and mouth in respect for the dead.
Let's morph away to another place, shall we? The interior of the Temple is eerily silent. The camera moves through the huge, empty space until our point of view finally comes to rest before Black Seat. It is not empty.
At first, Sauron just looks thoughtful and introspective.
Then vaguely amused.
Then very much amused.
We have never yet seen him laugh, but finally it is happening. He is cracking before our eyes. First a low chuckle. Then he is laughing out loud. Then ever louder, impossibly much louder, and a dark, chilling, inhuman quality creeps into the laughter. The echo comes back from the massive stone walls and the dome high above. In the end the entire vast space echoes with the thundering, diabolical laughter of a demon who can finally drop his mask and stop pretending.
And far away on a black ocean King Ar-Pharazôn and his westbound armada merge into the cloudbank hiding the Uttermost West, sailing "into forbidden seas, going up with war against the Deathless, to wrest from them everlasting life within the Circles of the World".
Cruelly enough, this is where we must leave the story for now. If any ignorant readers are eager to know how this ends, the Akallabêth is right there in the same volume as the Silmarillion (and Tolkien presented his story without constant interruptions in order to speculate about how this stuff can be fleshed out and adapted as a movie: a distinct advantage of his).
Unless you are a New Line Cinema executive desperate to pay me a million dollars, the Guestbook is probably the best place to write any comments you may have. I may not have the time to answer personal e-mails. But don't worry, I do intend to sooner or later write out the third and last part of this treatment.
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