Tarma Tar-Calion Revisited

Jason Beresford, 3469 Legato Court, Pomona, CA 91766 – 0977, USA

This article is not meant to be a comprehensive description of what my vision of Ar-Pharazôn’s monument is. It is instead a synopsis of my analysis of what Tolkien has written and how my researches have determined how I am incorporating the monument into my revision of the 1982 Umbar module. Contained in the following article is a lot of arguing of position, a little history, and a brief physical (and very general) description of the monument itself.


A passage in Appendix A of The Return of the King identifies a monument in Umbar dedicated to Ar-Pharazôn and his victory over Sauron in the late Second Age. This is the only reference in any of Tolkien’s works that mentions the monument and it is particularly notable because it provides a rare description of a physical structure in Umbar. In OH 5: 17 – 19, Chris Seeman wrote an excellent article about the monument, providing an interesting hypothesis about the history and nature of the monument based on a literal interpretation of the Appendix A passage. My view is that the passage is mythic in nature because the facts” of the passage appear confused and at odds with other writings of Tolkien. As with all myths, kernels of true lie within them.

The legends, histories, and lore to be found in the sources are very extensive. Only selections from them, in most places much abridged, are here presented. Their principal purpose is to illustrate the War of the Ring and its origins, and to fill up some of the gaps in the main story … Actual extracts from longer annals and tales are placed within quotation marks (RotK: 313).

The loss of Umbar was grievous to Gondor, not only because the realm was diminished in the south and its hold upon the Men of Harad was loosened, but because it was there that Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, last King of Númenor, had landed and humbled the might of Sauron. Though great evil had come after, even the followers of Elendil remembered with pride the coming of the great host of Ar-Pharazôn out of the deeps of the Sea; and on the highest hill of the headland above the Haven they had set a great white pillar as a monument. It was crowned with a globe of crystal that took the rays of the Sun and of the Moon and shone like a bright star that could be seen in clear weather even on the coasts of Gondor or far out upon the western sea. So it stood, until after the second arising of Sauron, which now approached, Umbar fell under the domination of his servants, and the memorial of his humiliation was thrown down RotK: 327328).”

In a literal reading the monument passage, one major question arises. Why do the followers of Elendil” set a great white pillar as a monument,” on the highest hill of the head land above the Haven?” In the first sentence of the passage clearly states that Ar-Pharazôn humbled the might of Sauron.” Thus the monument must be dedicated to Ar-Pharazôn’s personal victory over Sauron. Yet it makes little sense that the followers of Elendil would build the monument, despite the caveat Though great evil had come after the victory.”

Tolkien’s description of Ar-Pharazôn and his actions prior to the capture of Sauron indicate his opposition to the Faithful. Upon the death of his father, Gimilkhâd, Ar-Pharazôn assumes the leadership of the King’s Men faction in Númenor (Sil: 268). Though not explicitly stated anywhere, it can be inferred that the King’s Men grow more distrustful and antagonistic towards the Faithful as Ar-Gimilzôr, grandfather of Ar-Pharazôn, is described as being the greatest enemy of the Faithful” (Sil: 266) and Gimilkhâd, leader of the King’s Men during the reign of Tar-Palantir, is described as being like his father in body and mind (Sil: 267). 

Ar-Pharazôn leads a rebellion against Tar-Palantir, the last ruler of Númenor accounted among the Faithful, and upon Tar-Palantir’s death seizes the throne (RotK: 316). He usurps the throne from Miriel, Tar-Palantir’s heir, and forces her to marry him against her will, a marriage not allowed under Númenórean law (Sil: 268). Amandil, leader of the Faithful in Númenor, is described as being dear” to Ar-Pharazôn and in his council” — despite being of the Elf-friends” (Sil: 270).

Thus one gets a picture of Ar-Pharazôn that is not likely to endear him to the Faithful. Additionally, it is highly unlikely that Ar-Pharazôn’s later actions after being corrupted by Sauron would make the followers of Elendil any more likely to build a monument to him. The sacrifice of the Faithful to Morgoth and burning their bodies on the alters in the Temple to him would blacken the surviving Faithful memory of Ar-Pharazôn. Lastly, the monument described in Appendix A is very impressive and obviously quite noticeable. Tolkien makes no mention of any monument, much less one as grand as the one in Umbar, to Elendil and Gil-galad, both of whom, as the fallen leaders of the Last Alliance, would have been viewed as being more worthy than Ar-Pharazôn of being memorialized by the Faithful for defeating Sauron. But if the Faithful did not build the monument in Umbar, who did? Ar-Pharazôn did!

Tolkien states that The mightiest and proudest was Ar-Pharazôn the Golden of those that had wielded the Scepter of the Sea-Kings since the foundation of Númenor” (Sil: 268). The pride that Tolkien ascribes to Ar-Pharazôn is the same pride that would require he have built some monument to commemorate his victory over Sauron. In issuing his challenge to Ar-Pharazôn and Númenor, Sauron took the title King of Men,” to which Ar-Pharazôn’s response was the tide King of Men he himself would claim, and would compel Sauron to become his vassal and servant; for in his pride he deemed that no king should ever arise so mighty as to vie with the Heir of Eärendil (Sil: 269).”

Thus, upon defeating Sauron and taking him hostage, it would be expected that Ar-Pharazôn, as the now undisputed King of Men,” would then wish to commemorate his victory. While a monument in Númenor could be seen only Númenóreans, one located in Middle-earth could be seen by all men and thus all would know of the greatness of Ar-Pharazôn as the King of Men. Umbar, being both the landing point for Ar-Pharazôn’s forces and the nearest Númenórean colony to the site of Sauron’s humbling” would be the logical place for such a monument. Sauron’s former allies would be reminded of their leader’s defeat while at the same time witnessing the might Númenor as embodied in her colony and Númenóreans dwelling there.

Why then does the Appendix A passage give honor to Ar-Pharazôn, yet claim that the monument was built by the followers of Elendil? As Chris Seeman noted in his article, the Appendix A passage was most probably composed during the rule of Steward Ecthelion (TA. 29S9-2980). In T.A. 2951, Sauron finally revealed himself openly and in opposition to Gondor and, in T.A. 2954, Ithilien was completely abandoned. Gondor in the late Third Age is a weaker power man it was during the Last Alliance. Furthermore, aside from the Rohirrim, Gondor has no other allies to call upon to oppose Sauron.

It is not unlikely that the author of the passage, three millennia after the fact, might think favorably of Ar-Pharazôn prior to his corruption, for Sauron surrendered to him without a fight for the power of the Númenóreans was so great that Sauron could not trust even his greatest servants to withstand them (Sil: 269).” If only Gondor were as powerful as Númenor under Ar-Pharazôn, Sauron would be defeated without a drop of Gondorian blood being shed. Instead, Gondor is faced with a long and bloody war that will not end until Sauron is destroyed (unlikely) or Gondor is (very likely).

In remembering Ar-Pharazôn’s victory, the author was obviously reminded of the monument built in Umbar, but long since destroyed. In claiming that the followers of Elendil built the monument instead of Ar-Pharazôn, is the author revising history or has the author confused Ar-Pharazô’ns monument with one built to commemorate Gondor’s seizure of Umbar in T.A. 933?

Umbar: Haven of the Corsairs (1982)

Chris Seeman points out the discrepancy between the Appendix A passage and the cover and interior art of the 1982 Umbar module: a tower, crowned with a globe of crystal, is located on the island that divides the two harbors of the City of Umbar. Brenda Gates Spielman presents in her text the following version of the Appendix A passage.

In T.A. 933 Eärnil I, nephew of Falastur, defeated Umbar and made it a fortress of Gondar. The Faithful built on the highest hill above the haven, a monument to commemorate Sauron’s defeat, a great white tower topped with a globe of crystal which shown like a star under the light of the sun or of the moon so that it could be seen on the coasts of Gondor and far out in the western sea (Spielman, 1982: 10).

As Chris Seeman showed, Spielman remained true to the Appendix A passage with regard to who built the monument. However she describes the pillar as a great white tower. Also the tower is located on an island in the center of a harbor, not on a headland.

Taking this passage at face value, Eärnil had a monument built on the island in the City of Umbar’s harbor. If there was another monument in Umbar built by Ar-Pharazôn, the two monuments could get confused over two thousand years by historians and other writers. The confusion could be heightened if the reason behind Eärnil’s invasion was a resurgence of some evil associated with Sauron and upon destroying that evil, building a monument similar to Ar-Pharazô’ns to commemorate his own victory.

The Two Towers

As might be expected from the arguments presented above, it is my position that there are two monuments existing in Umbar: one built by Ar-Pharazôn and the other by Eärnil. In writing my revision to the 1982 Umbar module, I have spent a considerable amount of time working on what I hope is a thorough and detailed history of Umbar. Included in this history is both a reason why Eärnil attacks Umbar and why he has a monument built there. (the building of Ar-Pharazô’ns monument is also documented in the history).

At the time of Eärnil’s attack in T.A. 933, Umbar was entering it’s tenth year of a civil war between a resurgent cult of Melkor and the Captains of the Haven who had suppressed it since the sinking of Númenor. The cult holds the 1982 module’s City of Umbar and has rebuilt the Temple of Melkor on the island in the harbor (the island was also the site of the original Temple in Umbar).

Eärnil attacks the Temple, destroying both it and its leadership. To safeguard the Temple ruins and to prevent them from being reoccupied, he has a tower built on them. This tower also serves as a monument to Eärnil’s victory over the legacy of Sauron through the defeat of the cult of Melkor that Sauron had established among the Númenóreans. Ar-Pharazôn’s monument, commemorating his own victory over Sauron in S.A. 3262, is located per the Appendix A passage, atop the highest hill of the headland above the Haven, which is to the west of the City of Umbar in the 1982 module.

Both monuments are towers; however, Pamirs is smaller and much less prominent than that of Ar-Pharazô’ns. Sitting atop a thousand foot tall headland, Ar-Pharazô’ns Tower rises another seven hundred feet and is topped with a forty foot diameter spherical crystal that traps, stores, and magnifies the light from the Sun, Moon, and stars. From afar, such as aboard a ship sailing in the Nen Umbar, the tower appears to be a pillar crowned with a shining star. Among other purposes, the tower serves as an excellent lighthouse, guiding ships to the harbor of the City of Umbar. Eärnil’s Tower is much shorter, rising a mere three hundred feet. The crystal sphere atop Eärnil’s Tower is both smaller and significantly less magical than of Ar-Pharazôn’s Tower.

The destruction of the Towers

In T.A. 1810, Gondor recaptured Umbar; its victory, however, was limited to the lands immediately surrounding the Nen Umbar. Settlements along the Harnen and elsewhere in Harad remained under Umbarean control after being reinforced by military forces that retreated from Umbar. In T.A. 1940, these expatriate Umbareans attack and retake Umbar from Gondor. The momentous event that occurs in Umbar at this time is not the destruction of Ar-Pharazô’ns Tower, as Chris Seeman proposed; instead, it was the alliance that the Captains of the Haven made with the cult of Melkor.

In exchange for their assistance and the Haradrim allies they could provide the cult, for the first time since the destruction of Númenor, would no longer be persecuted and could rebuild their Temple in the City of Umbar. Rather than destroying Eärnil’s tower, they incorporate it into their rebuilt Temple, rededicating it to the cult’s victory over the Faithful. The shock to Gondor is that their rebel kin in Umbar, including relatives of the King of Gondor (RotK: 332) and descendants of Elendil, accept the accommodation with the cult of Melkor.

Ar-Pharazôn’s monument does not fare so well as Pamir s Tower. To Sauron, Ar-Pharazôn’s monument is an affront and a reminder of the humiliation he suffered by having to surrender himself to Ar-Pharazôn. Yet, despite his eagerness, it takes Sauron and his agents several centuries to finally topple the tower, for Ar-Pharazôn’s engineers used their finest skills in building the monument. Nothing less could or would be acceptable to Ar-Pharazôn, King of Men.

Additionally, the magical protections of the crystal globe had to be circumvented, for Sauron could not act directly against it, for it was upon the globe that he swore his oath to Ar-Pharazôn. The monument is damaged after a series of natural” earthquakes induced by Sauron’s servants. Finally, the monument fails, the top two thirds shearing off and falling into the Nen Umbar. The crystal globe is lost and not recovered until the Fourth Age.

Commentary and response

Chris Seeman

Jason Beresford has given a well-thought out rejoinder to my article of last issue. As I have found to be the case in our past communications, whenever I dunk I have all of my bases covered on a particular point of Umbarean

history, Jason manages to reopen Pandora’s box of interpretation. There is nothing in the present article with which I would take issue; instead, I would like to offer a few reflections on some more general principles of interpreting Tolkien’s writings for the purpose of game design.

J.R.R. Tolkien believed that fantasy literature should always strive to create the inner consistency of reality,” necessary to induce in the reader what he called secondary belief;” that is, experiencing the invented world as though it were real. Being an accomplished story-teller (and many other tilings besides), Tolkien was able to create a world that admirably fulfilled his own criterion for good fantasy, particularly in the sphere of language.

One of the devices Tolkien used to narrate his feigned history” of Middle-earth was to cast himself in the role of a compiler and translator of already existing documents, rather than as their author. Tolkien’s disclaimer of authorship allowed him to distance himself, as a critical historian might, from the viewpoints expressed in the texts he had discovered.” Apart from acting as a frame” for his narrative artistry, this disclaimer served the important practical function of enabling Tolkien to revise and alter what he had already written, without thereby breaking the spell of realism.

The most famous instance of this was the reworking of the Riddles in the Dark” chapter in the second edition of The Hobbit, in which the significance of Gollum and the Ring are entirely changed in order to accommodate their new role in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien accounted for the changes by attributing the original version to Bilbo’s attempt to conceal what had actually happened. The integrity of Tolkien’s own persona as scribe and reporter of history had been preserved in the face of outright tampering with his published text.

Another example of this principle is Tolkien’s refusal to commit himself (even in his unpublished writings) to any one of the extant theories concerning the origin or Ores. At other times, his implied authorial voice will adjudicate between conflicting accounts in his narrative, but this simply highlights my point that Tolkien conceived of many of the details (and even some of the important matters) of his world as being flexible and open to interpretation.

What this means for game designers like Jason and myself is that conscious alteration of Tolkien’s world has a tradition within Tolkien’s own authorial practice. Hence, such alteration may aspire to some kind of legitimacy, so long as it is carried out under the assumption that Tolkien’s writings represent the finite (and at times fallible) viewpoints of those denizens of Middle-earth actually responsible for authoring them.

This does not mandate an automatic free-for-all” for the game designer to inject his or her own version of Middle-earth into a module. And it emphatically does not allow an author to neglect what Tolkien has written; rather, it forces that writer to engage Tolkien’s text with renewed attention and scrutiny (as Jason has with the Appendix A references to Umbar).

It is, in fact, much more commendable both from the perspective of game design principles and with respect to the quality of the finished game supplement to creatively alter Tolkien’s text in order to make something new of it (as I have attempted to do in claiming that Queen Berúthiel was not childless), than to simply reiterate the given text and make nothing out of it (as Spielman did in her non-treatment of Tarma Tar-Calion in the 1982 Umbar module).

To be sure, all details of Tolkien’s world are not equally amenable to change, certain elements being more essential than others. There is ultimately no objective means of adjudicating what is essential and what is not certainly not by any generic criteria since every designer’s view of Middle-earth will be different. I, for instance, do not find the details of Jason’s version of Tarma Tar-Calion objectionable, because both of our versions one literalist, the other revisionist agree upon (or allow for) what I believe to be the most essential aspect of the monument; namely, its significance as a symbol for securing or asserting political claims between the Dúnedain and the Haradrim (cf. OH 5: 18 – 19).


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