In J.R.R. Tolkien’s unfathomably complex high fantasy world, Middle-earth, Aragorn is the Heir of Isildur and one of the Dunedain, known as the Numenoreans. The Eldar gave them prolonged life for their help during the War of Wrath. However, the majority of the noble race got corrupted, leading to the Downfall of Numenor. So, who were the Black Numenoreans?
The Black Numenoreans were the majority of the Dunedain who, under fear of death, abandoned the Numenorean principles and beliefs and allowed themselves to be corrupted by Sauron. He turned them to the Dark while only a handful remained loyal to Numenorean tradition.
The minority, led by Elendil the Tall, eventually formed the Kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. On the other hand, the Black Numenoreans despised the Faithfuls and fought for Sauron before their eventual downfall. Without further ado, here are all the answers to your questions about the Black Numenoreans and their heritage.
Who Were the Black Numenoreans?
The Numenoreans, also known as the Dunedain, were the noblest race of Men who helped the Eldar and Valar immensely during the First Age. In the War of Wrath, they helped defeat Morgoth, the initial Dark Lord, who was banished into the Void. Later, Sauron took the reins and continued Morgoth’s evil work, but we’ll get to him later.
As a gift for their services and help, Illuvatar (through the Eldar) gifted the Dunedain with a prolonged lifespan, wisdom, and physical abilities unlike any other race of Men. They also gave them the island of Numenor, which served as their home throughout the Second Age.
The Numenoreans worshiped Illuvatar, the creator of the world, the Valar, and everything else. However, fear of death started creeping into Numenor, and many Numenoreans envied the Eldar for their immortality.
Slowly but surely, the majority of the Numenoreans broke from the traditions of their ancestors, already being predisposed for the corruption and change to the Dark side.
Fast-forwarding to the age of Ar-Pharazon, the last Numenorean king; who had sent such a huge army towards Mordor and Sauron that the Dark Lord’s armies abandoned him before the battle even began. Instead of marching into his death, the cunning Sauron let Ar-Pharazon capture him as a prisoner.
He noticed that the king’s fear of death rose as he became older. Sauron used that fear of death and old age to corrupt Ar-Pharazon, making him believe that Illuvatar never existed; he was just a fictional entity invented by the Valar and the Eldar.
Instead, he persuaded the king that he ought to worship Morgoth, abandon the Numenorean tradition, and transfer to the Dark Side – where the Dark Lord can grant him immortality. After the king’s corruption, those who had already started breaking from the tradition of their ancestors followed, creating the first line of the Black Numenoreans.
The vast majority joined the Dark Side, especially after the Downfall of Numenor, while the minority remained loyal to Illuvatar and their long tradition. Those who remained loyal to Illuvatar are known as Faithful Numenoreans.
The Faithfuls resent the Black Numenoreans (also known as the King’s Men), believing they are responsible for the Downfall. The resentment went both ways, so naturally, the two separated and made different parts of Middle-earth their new homes.
Where Did the Black Numenoreans Live?
After the downfall of Numenor, the Black Numenoreans moved to the southern islands of Middle-earth. Most notably, the race thrived in Umbar, the northernmost region of the Black Numenorean’s territory, which included Harad and other islands of the far south of Middle-earth.
Umbar was the region where Al-Pharazon first landed to challenge Sauron before succumbing to his influence which led to the Downfall of Numenor, 58 years later. The King’s Men remained in Umbar and the southern regions, while the Faithful Numenoreans moved north and developed their settlements.
From the Faithful Numenoreans, namely Elendil the Tall, the Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor were developed. However, they were rarely ruled under a unified crown, and each had its kings who descended from Elendil.
How Long Do the Black Numenoreans Live?
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Numenoreans were gifted a prolonged lifespan from Illuvatar, thanks to their service during the War of Wrath. An average Numenorean lived more than three times longer than the average Man, between 300-350 years.
The Kings of Numenor – the descendants of the House of Elros – could live even longer. Their lifespan was between 400-500 years. However, if they felt their best days were behind them and they wished to die in peace, they had the ability to lie down and surrender their lives. So, how long is the lifespan of an average Black Numenorean?
Well, due to their abandonment of Illuvatar and the gifts bestowed upon them by the Eldar, the Black Numenoreans lived shorter than the Faithfuls. The further away the generations of the King’s Men went from their ancestors who believed in Illuvatar, the shorter their lifespan got – although it was still longer than the average Man.
The Black Numenoreans live far shorter than 300 years – around 200-250 years. It’s still a prolonged lifespan, but not as long as the lifespan of the Faithful Dunedain.
What Makes Black Numenoreans Different from the “regular” Numenoreans?
“Regular” Numenoreans, known as the Dunedain and later as the Faitfhtul Numenoreans, believed in Illuvatar, the Valar, and were friends with the Eldar. They lived in harmony with the Elves and had prolonged lifespans, fighting evil and the Dark side led by Sauron and Melkor (Morgoth) before him.
The Black Numenoreans were a part of the Numenoreans who got corrupted due to their fear of death and envy of the Eldar’s immortality. Sauron transferred them to the dark side – they abandoned Illuvatar and started worshiping Melkor.
As the Faithful Numenoreans moved to the northern regions of Middle-earth, where they created the Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor, the Black Numenoreans remained in Umbar and the southern regions, where they sought power and superiority over “inferior” races that surrounded Umbar.
In short, the “regular,” Faithful Numenoreans worship the Light and Illuvatar, whereas the Black Numenoreans worship the Dark and Morgoth.
What Happened to the Black Numenoreans?
During the Third Age, the Kingdoms of Men rose, especially the power of Gondor, which led to the slow decline of the superiority of the Black Numenoreans’ race. While their superiority in Meddle-earth dwindled, they still survived within Umbar for over a thousand years, where they continued worshiping the Dark.
Some of them – those who sought the most power – got what they wanted. Three of the nine Ringwraiths (better known as the Nazgul) were considered to be among the first and most powerful Black Numenoreans. The Mouth of Sauron and the Witch-king of Angmar were known to be Black Numenoreans before becoming Nazgul.
The Black Numenorean race was completely absent in recorded history after Hyarmendacil I of Gondor defeated them in battle, breaking their power and influence once and for all. Some of them remained alive, but most of the race either passed away or disappeared.
Did Any Black Numenoreans Fight Against Arnor?
After the Faithful Numenoreans developed Arnor and Gondor, only one of the Kingdoms prevailed and survived. While Gondor had its problems, it stood strong, whereas Arnor got divided into seven smaller kingdoms. That ultimately led to them falling one by one, until eventually, the Witch-king of Angmar destroyed the last; kingdom of Arthedain.
The Witch-king’s armies were immense, and due to the Black Numenoreans’ loyalty towards Sauron, many fans wonder, did any Black Numenoreans fight against Arnor?
No written clues would point to the Black Numenoreans fighting against Arnor. However, Sauron and the Witch-king of Angmar sought soldiers and those loyal to the Dark Lord across Middle-earth, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if some Black Numenoreans fought by his side and helped destroy Arnor.
I believe the Black Numenoreans – most notably those residing in Umbar – fought and helped destroy Arnor. But, take it with a grain of salt, as I couldn’t find any written clues that would confirm the claim, only speculations and connections between them, the Dark Lord – and the Witch-king himself.
You see, nobody really knows who the Witch-king of Angmar was before. We know he has origins as a Man and that he became the leader of the Ringwraiths and Sauron’s second-in-command.
However, it is believed that the Witch-king was a Black Numenorean before becoming the fearsome Ringwraith. The fact was hinted at in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion (page 20).
The Witch-king had been gifted the Ring of Power as a human, and over the years, its influence prolonged his lifespan and gave him unfathomable powers, but corrupted him and stripped him of humanity.
So, if the Witch-king of Angmar was indeed a Black Numenorean while he was human, we can certainly say that at least one of the Black Numenoreans fought against Arnor – the Witch-king himself.