We already knew before the premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power that the great kingdom of Númenor was going to be heavily featured in the series. We saw that in the last two episodes when Galadriel found herself in Númenor. Meanwhile, in episode 4, she learned about the prophesized Fall of Númenor, which Queen Míriel saw in the Palantir that was kept in Númenor. So, what happened to Númenor, and how did Sauron survive its fall?
The Fall of Númenor was the result of the hubris of the Men of Númenor when they attempted to invade Valinor at the behest of Sauron. Due to this, the Valinor urged Eru Ilúvatar to act on their behalf as he flooded Númenor. Sauron, of course, survived as a spirit when he was in Númenor.
From the looks of things, it does seem like The Rings of Power is going to follow the storyline of the Fall of Númenor, which could happen anytime soon. That’s because the Fall of Númenor is one of the seminal moments in the history of Middle-Earth as it led to the establishment of the kingdoms of Men on Middle-Earth. That said, let’s look at what happened to Númenor.
What Happened To Númenor?
One of the greatest civilizations ever built in the history of Middle-Earth was the great kingdom of Númenor, which is situated on an island that was specifically given to the Men who fought against Morgoth during the First Age. These very same men that Elros, who is Elrond’s brother, led when he chose to become a Man and became king of Númenor. Of course, the island of Númenor arose from the sea so that it may become the new home of these Men after their efforts against Morgoth.
However, while Númenor became the greatest civilization of Men during the Second Age, it was clear that the kingdom was not headed in the right direction. This was hinted at by Queen Regent Míriel during the events of episode 4 of The Rings of Power. She dreamt of a great flood destroying her entire kingdom. Meanwhile, during the scene with the Palantir, she allowed Galadriel to also witness the coming destruction of Númenor due to the very same great flood that she had dreamt of. So, what exactly happened to Númenor?
The Rings of Power hinted that the Fall of Númenor was something related to Galadriel’s coming as the Valar were always watching and judging every move that the Men of Númenor made. In that regard, Míriel believed that whatever they did next in relation to Galadriel’s arrival was going to determine the fate of Númenor and whether or not the prophesized destruction was going to happen.
In Tolkien’s writings, the Men of Númenor marched against Sauron’s armies in an attempt to make sure that he would never rise to power once more. Númenor’s power was so great that it forced Sauron’s armies to flee. Meanwhile, Númenor was able to capture Sauron and take him as a prisoner. But Sauron was too cunning.
Ar-Pharazôn, in Tolkien’s writings, became the king of Númenor after he forced Queen Regent Míriel to marry him. But because of Sauron’s sharp tongue, he was convinced to worship Morgoth as the god of the Númenoreans. Sauron told him that the only way for Númenor to stay at the height of its power was to idolize the original dark lord.
Of course, Ar-Pharazôn was not totally contented with worshipping Morgoth. He wanted immortal life, and that was what Sauron “offered” him when he told him that the only way for him to become immortal was to invade Valinor, which is called the Undying Lands. Of course, one of the things that the Valar forbade the Númenoreans was to sail to Valinor.
Ar-Pharazôn mustered up an army so great that it was a threat to the Valar. He and his army were able to get to the shores of Valinor. But because he broke the Ban of the Valar, the Valar themselves pleaded with Eru Ilúvatar to intervene.
That was when the creator god flooded Númenor and returned it to the sea. Meanwhile, Eru also separated the entire continent of Aman, which is where Valinor is located, from the rest of the world so that no one could ever sail to it again. In doing so, the very earth beneath Ar-Pharazôn and the Númenorean army that he led to the shores of Aman crumbled and swallowed them whole.
Even though Númenor had been swept by the sea once more, there were still a few Númenoreans that survived because those who didn’t follow Ar-Pharazôn and were against worshipping Morgoth were able to make their way to Middle-Earth. They were led by Elendil, who became the new king of the Númenoreans on Middle-Earth as they established the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor.
In that regard, had Númenor not fallen, Arnor and Gondor would not have been established. That is why the Fall of Númenor is a seminal moment in the history of Middle-Earth not only because it showcased the hubris of Men but also because it allowed Men to thrive in Middle-Earth.
How Did Sauron Survive The Fall Of Númenor?
As mentioned, after Sauron was defeated by the Númenoreans, he was imprisoned in Númenor but was able to tempt Ar-Pharazôn and convince him that he could become immortal by invading Valinor. Of course, while the entire invasion was happening, Sauron was actually in the Temple of Melkor/Morgoth on Númenor. So, how did Sauron survive the Fall of Númenor?
It is worth remembering that Sauron was never a flesh-and-blood creature but was always a spirit because he is one of the Maiar, which are beings that are second only to the Valar in terms of their power and might. In that regard, the body that he has on Middle-Earth is but a representation of his spirit as a Maia.
So, when the seas took Númenor during the Fall of Númenor, Sauron was able to survive because it was only his mortal body that was taken. His spirit still survived because the Maiar never truly die as they are completely immortal. In that regard, Sauron’s spirit still remained on Middle-Earth after the Fall of Númenor, but he was severely weakened by that event, as he fled back to Mordor, where he steadily regained his strength.
But from then on, Sauron was no longer able to assume the fair shape that he assumed before the Fall of Númenor. Instead, he started assuming the fearsome and terrifying appearance that was similar to Morgoth’s appearance before his defeat at the end of the First Age. So, while Sauron did indeed survive, he only became more menacing after the Fall of Númenor.