Of all extant records of that ancient and remarkable race the hobbits, the best preserved and least fragmentary is of course the famous Red Book of Westmarch, by Bilbo Baggins and others, dating from the late Third Age and early Fourth. As well as being an invaluable source of information about a remote time, it contains many vivid accounts and stirring tales that can stand on their own as literature. Unlike most ancient documents, its fame has spread beyond the quiet world of scholarly research to achieve no little public acclaim, due largely to the excellent and entertaining novelized version published by Professor J. R. R. Tolkien of Oxford and called by him The Lord of the Rings. His popularization manages to bring fire and life to the old records without sacrificing historical accuracy. It has made history come alive for many thousands who otherwise would have been completely unaware of the people and events of those fascinating eras now known collectively and rather inaccurately as Middle-earth.
Many lay readers of Tolkien's work may however be unaware that the Red Book is far from the only record of Middle-earth. While nothing remains of the libraries of the Quendi (that mysterious people that Professor Tolkien translated as "Elves") or of the men of the era, some contemporary works have miraculously enough survived down to our time. In fact the hobbits kept excellent records, and the great library of the Tooks at the Great Smials in Tuckborough must have been truly magnificent in its heyday. Fortunately for us, hobbits were very diligent about protecting and preserving their ancient books, and a rather extensive remnant of the library has been preserved. Most of the original documents have of course long ago crumbled into dust, but careful copying over the millennia has preserved their contents.
Even the famous Red Book did not survive in the original. In fact, it has come down to us by a tortuous and fortuitous path. Peregrin Took, Thirty-Second Thain of the Shire, had ordered a copy made early in the Fourth Age. When he retired to Gondor in 64 Fourth Age, he took the copy with him and gave it to King Elessar I. It was long kept in the famed library of Minas Tirith, which burned, to our eternal loss, some four hundred years later. However, in 172 Fourth Age, Findegil, the Writer of King Eldarion II, made an exact copy of the Red Book at the request of Faramir II, Thirty-fifth Thain, and that copy went again north to be kept in the Took Library. This is the copy that has descended to us through countless generations of farsighted minds and careful hands. While the other surviving documents are less complete than the Red Book, they are no less interesting, for they tell us in detail of other fascinating matters not covered in the Red Book.
Of all the events of those far-off days, the most stirring are those that were recognized even by their participants as so momentous as to signal the end of an age and the beginning of a new. These are the times of great change and upheaval, of war and danger. But they are also the times when heroes stand forth, when brave men and women risk everything for their beliefs against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Their struggles, their defeats, and their triumphs, reach across the gulfs of time to move us still.
As these words are being written, work is going forward on the translation, editing, and publishing of The Silmarillion, the account of the end of the First Age, as The Lord of the Rings told of the end of the Third. But nothing so far has been published of the momentous events at the end of the Second Age. The Red Book is sadly incomplete on that earlier war against the Great Enemy, Sauron. Fortunately, other chronicles exist that deal with the Second Age.
Shortly after the end of the War of the Rings, both Thain Peregrin and Meriadoc, Master of Buckland, resolved to preserve what they could of the old lore. They travelled extensively in Rohan, Gondor, and Rivendell, collecting information and documents from many sources. Peregrin and his many descendants organized and edited this material into a fascinating book, now called The Thain's Book. This remarkable manuscript is rich in the lore of the Second Age. In addition, a very few of the source documents for this book have survived, notably The Tale of Years, an anonymous history of Middle-earth from the point of view of the hobbits.
Several accounts exist of the important Council of Osgiliath which took place on Loëndë, Midsummer's Day, in 3441 Second Age. The source used for the current work is a set of large foolscap sheets, entirely covered with a very minute but legible hand. They were kept rolled in sheepskin, and the remains of a binding ribbon of indeterminate color may still be seen. The original source of this account was written in the first year of the Third Age by Halgon, King's Writer of Gondor, at the order of Isildur himself. It was presumably included in the now-lost Chronicle of the Kings, a history of the Kingdom of Gondor from its founding in 3320 Second Age until the end of the Telcontar dynasty over a thousand years later. The copy at Tuckborough bears the following preface: "This tale and several others were copied by Peregrin the First, Thain of the Shire, on his visit to Minas Tirith in the year 1441 [20 Fourth Age]. A few archaic terms and forms have been altered to conform to modern Westron usage, but otherwise it is an exact copy of Halgon's manuscript. Copied by my hand, this year of 1486 [65 Fourth Age], by Isengar, son of Isembold, Thain's Scribe."
The account of the great naval battle at Pelargir is extracted from the journal of Amroth, a lord of the Sindarin Elves. He kept this daily record from 2960 Second Age until he took the Straight Road and departed from Middle-earth in 1294 Third Age. Before he sailed he gave the journal to his friend Elrond Peredhil. Portions of it were lost or crumbled away over the centuries, but several volumes survived in the library at Rivendell. They were there copied by Meriadoc, Master of Buckland, and brought back to the Shire in 1428 Shire Reckoning (7 Fourth Age). This extract is from a copy in the library at Tuckborough, bearing the inscription, "Master Meriadoc ordered this copy of Amroth's journal to be made as a gift for his friend Peregrin, Thain of the Shire. This I have done. By my hand, Anson Brandybuck, 6 Blotmath, 1436 [15 Fourth Age]."
The primary source of the material for this book comes from the invaluable Journal of Ohtar, a crumbling scroll in the great collection of the Tooks at Great Smials. All authorities agree that the handwriting is undoubtedly Bilbo's, but it bears corrections and marginal notes in another hand. These notes were apparently made soon after the manuscript was completed, as several take the form of notes to Bilbo. For this reason, most scholars believe this manuscript is a copy sent by Bilbo to another authority for correction and revision. Presumably it was then used to produce a final copy which has not survived.
The identity of this early editor is a subject of great debate among scholars. He was obviously very knowledgeable in the events of the tale and fluent in Sindarin, for some of Ohtar's errors and idiomatic expressions have been accurately translated. For this reason most authorities have identified the probable editor as Elrond Peredhil, Bilbo's longtime friend and host. The present editors, however, detect what we believe to be a Mannish outlook and attitudes in these marginal notes, and a strong case (see An Analysis of The Journal of Ohtar and Related MSS, by the editors) can be made that this may be the only extant sample of the hand of Elessar Telcontar, First King of the Reunited Kingdom.
Bilbo produced this manuscript during his residence at Rivendell, and there are numerous indications that it was completed before the War of the Rings, for there is no reference to the eventual fate of the One Ring nor his nephew Frodo's pivotal rôle in that war. This would place the manuscript between the years 3002 and 3018 Third Age. In translating Ohtar's work, Bilbo was in a position few historians enjoy. He enjoyed full access to the extensive library at Rivendell and also to its master, Elrond Peredhil, who of course was present at many of the events described. He could also consult his friends King Elessar (known as Aragorn or simply Strider in those days before his coronation) and the wizard Gandalf Greyhame, two of the greatest historians of his age.
Bilbo's scroll is a relatively short work, a condensation and translation into Westron of a very old book Bilbo had found in Elrond's library. In a foreward, Bilbo describes the original as "a small black hide-bound volume, much worn and stained and with the back cover missing. On the front cover is written in a different hand: The Journal of Ohtar Kingsquire." It was in the format of a journal, though whether Ohtar actually carried it about and made daily entries, or if it was copied down later from the original journal, Bilbo was unable to determine. It was either brought to Rivendell by Ohtar or written by him soon after his arrival there. From other sources we know that Ohtar and his two companions arrived at Rivendell in the late summer or early fall of 3 Third Age and left with Isildur's son Valandil for Annúminas some months later, probably early in the year 4. As far as can be determined, Bilbo's is the only copy of it ever made. The original journal is assumed to have been included in Elrond's belongings when he went Over Sea with all the other surviving Ringbearers in 3021, bringing the end of the Third Age.
The present editors have had the privilege of examining these records at first hand. As we pored over the dusty archives in the laborious task of translating a fragmentary work in a complex and long-forgotten language, a fascinating tale began to emerge. Here was truly the stuff of legend. The heroes of that time seem like giants to us. Their joys and sorrows thrill us again as they did when the stories were read to young hobbits in the fire-lit halls of the Great Smials so many thousand of years ago. It occurred to us that these tales would also merit novelization and publication in the manner (if not the skill) of Professor Tolkien. But what should be the theme of the book; where should it begin and end? It needed a central character as a focus for the narrative.
Of all the heroes of those days, none stands out so clearly, none catches our attention and curiosity more than Isildur Elendilson. Remembered now chiefly for his fatal flaw -- his ill choice on Orodruin that doomed the world to another long age of struggle against Sauron -- he was nonetheless a remarkable man, a shrewd general, and a mighty king. He was of the House of Elros, greatest of all lines of Men, but in his veins flowed also the blood of both Elda and Vala [Elros was the great-grandson of Lúthien Tinúviel, daughter of Thingol Greycloak of Doriath and Melian the Vala]. He was a Númenórean prince, Lord of Ithilien, King of Arnor, and for two brief years the High King of the Realms in Exile. He founded a dynasty of kings that ruled the Dúnedain for five thousand years.
By nature a strong and resolute man; by training a powerful and canny king; born in the fires of civil war; tempered by the loss of his native land and the hard early years of the founding of Gondor; and hardened to adamant by a long and bloody war, Isildur Elendilson was not a man to be disregarded, even by Sauron himself.
He was a man of contradictions and paradoxes: a valiant and merciless warrior but also a loving husband and father; esteeming virtue and honor above all things but intolerant of the weaknesses of others; of noble lineage and demeanor but also comfortable with his subjects and beloved by them. Even the great error that doomed him and marred the age that followed was not due to weakness on his part. It was his very nobility and virtue, his confidence in his ability to control Sauron's Ring, that brought about his downfall.
His contemporaries heaped all praise and honor on him as a paragon of royal virtue, but his heirs had reason enough to curse his name. What sort of man was Isildur, the only Man to wear Sauron's One Ring? We decided to concentrate our research on this remarkable figure.
[Acknowledgements]; [Preface]; [Introduction]; [Chronology];
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[Glossary]; Colophon (Still unavailable.)
This story was inspired by Tolkien's work.
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