The Song of Eärendil, written by Bilbo Baggins, as performed by The Tolkien Ensemble.
Tolkien reads a song about Elbereth in Sindarin:
The same song performed by The Tolkien Ensemble as Elven Hymn to Elbereth Gilthoniel:
Númenor was the island kingdom given to men by the Valar for the part they played in helping the elves in the war against Morgoth. Elros, brother of Elrond and son of Eärendil, was chosen as its first king. The Númenorians became known as the Dúnedain to the elves.
The Númenorians were at first a great race, enlightened by the wisdom of the elves. However, they eventually began to grow resentful of their mortality, and of the ban placed upon them against ever visiting the Undying Lands. They grew aggressive and once more entered Middle-earth, beginning to form a large empire. The last king of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, defeated Morgoth’s old servant Sauron, captured him and brought him back to Númenor. Here Sauron became the king’s counsellor and began to persuade him to take immortality by force. Ar-Pharazôn listened, and built a huge force to assault the Undying Lands.
As soon as the Númenorians reached the shores of the Undying Lands, the Valar called upon the power of Ilúvatar. The kingdom of Númenor was destroyed and swallowed by the sea. Some loyal Númenorians survived, and sailed to Middle-earth to found the realms-in-exile of Arnor and Gondor.
Though Sauron was defeated and the Ring of Power taken from him, Sauron’s evil was not ended forever. Now the elves and men find themselves facing the same enemy once more.
It is hard not to draw comparisons with how people may have felt about the Second World War. The First World War of 1914-18 was dubbed the ‘War to End All Wars,’ only to have a Second World War break out in 1939 with much the same enemies.
Tolkien fought in the First World War and lost many good friends to it. He has stated that all attempts to draw parallels to the Second World War in The Lord of the Rings are wrong, explaining that the First World War was no less terrible to live through than the Second:
One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.
The Second World War may not have directly influenced any events or descriptions in The Lord of the Rings, but perhaps a sense of despair over the outbreak of another devastating conflict so soon after the first can be found in its pages. Much of The Lord of the Rings was written during the Second World War, which for Tolkien must have been a painful reminder of his own war-torn youth.
Link to a map of the realm of Gondor, including Osgiliath, Minas Ithil (now renamed Minas Morgul) and Minas Anor (now renamed Minas Tirith). Both Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith are at this point in the hands of the enemy, and Osgiliath lies in ruins.
The Tolkien Ensemble's interpretation of Boromir's Riddle: