Part of the Second Age of Middle-earth Exploratory Series
The War of Wrath, which ended First Age and ushered in the Second, was fought between the forces of Morgoth on the one side, and Elves and the Edain on the other. The entry for ‘Edain’ in the Index of TS redirects us to ‘Atani’, which it describes as [and I’m paraphrasing] ‘those Men who were Elf-friends’. This is well and good, but what does it really mean?
To be somewhat more specific, the Akallabêth tells us [pp. 309]:
It is said by the Eldar that Men came into the world in the time of the Shadow of Morgoth, and they fell swiftly under his dominion; for he sent his emissaries among them, and they listened to his evil and cunning words, and they worshipped the Darkness and yet feared it. But there were some that turned from evil and left the lands of their kindred, and wandered ever westward; for they had heard a rumour that in the West there was a light which the Shadow could not dim. The servants of Morgoth pursued them with hatred, and their ways were long and hard; yet they came at last to the lands that look upon the Sea, and they entered Beleriand in the days of the War of the Jewels. The Edain these were named in the Sindarin tongue; and they became friends and allies of the Eldar, and did deeds of great valour in the war against Morgoth.
In the Great Battle when at last Morgoth was overthrown and Thangorodrim was broken, the Edain alone of the kindreds of Men fought for the Valar, whereas many others fought for Morgoth. [emphasis mine]
It is important to make this distinction with regards to the Edain. If we don’t understand who the Edain were, nothing that comes after concerning the race of Men … up to and including Aragorn himself, who took back the crown of Men following the War of the Ring … will be properly understood. The Edain were not merely men. They were the Men who rejected Morgoth, who looked to the West, and who fought alongside the Elves to vanquish Morgoth.
Now, despite the victory of ‘the good guys’ following the War of Wrath, and even despite Morgoth himself being overthrown and shut ‘beyond the World in the Void that is without’ [Ibid], evil itself was not completely vanquished. Morgoth had thousands of years to sow his seeds of evil, and their roots were deep and widespread in Middle-earth. There were, for example the evil Men who did not fight alongside the Edain, but under Morgoth’s banner. Not all of these were destroyed in the War and many fled back eastward in Middle-earth. There were still evil creatures: demons, and dragons, and misshapen beasts, and the unclean Orcs [Ibid].
The Elves had a way out from all of this nightmare, if they so wished. They could set sail into the West and so come to Tol Eressëa, Elvenhome, in the West. But the Men, even the Edain, were mortal. They were not permitted to enter the uttermost West. Yet the Valar could not in good conscience leave them to suffer needlessly after their willingness to sacrifice themselves to oust Morgoth.
Therefore, Manwë, King of the Valar, sent his herald, Eönwë, among the Edain to teach them wisdom. They were also given great power and life more enduring [ Ibid. pp.310]. They also gave them a new home; one which would take them away from the turmoils caused by what Morgoth left behind.
A land was made for the Edain to dwell in, neither part of Middle-earth or of Valinor, for it was sundered from either by a wide sea; yet it was nearer to Valinor. It was raised by Ossë [a Maia of Ulmo] out of the depths of the Great water and it was Established by Aulë and enriched by Yavanna [Aulë’s “wife”, whose domain is things that grow]; and the Eldar brought thither flowers and fountains out of Tol Eressëa. That land the Valar called Andor, the Land of Gift.
[T]he Edain came at last over leagues of sea and saw afar the land that was prepared for them, Andor, the Land of Gift, shimmering in a golden haze. Then they went up out of the sea and found a country fair and fruitful, and they were glad. And they called that land Elenna, which is Starwards; but also Anadûnê, which is Westernesse, Númenórë in the High Eldarin tongue.
This was the beginning of that people that in the Grey-elven speech are called the Dúnedain: Númenóreans, Kings among Men. [Ibid.]
There’s quite a bit to unpack here! We have the origins of some rather famous Tolkien terminology (Dúnedain, Númenóreans/Númenor) and some pretty important concepts concerning the people of Númenor: they are long-lived, and they are more powerful and wiser than ‘lesser-men’. If you have ever wondered why Aragorn was so powerful in LotR, or why he was so long-lived, now you know. It dates back more than six thousand years to when his ancestors aided the forces of the Valar in their fight against Morgoth.
Appendix B of LotR tells us that Men first reached Númenor in SA32. In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at Númenor itself.
Find the entirety of our Second Age Exploratory Series here.
- The Silmarillion 
- The Return of the King  Appendix B: The Tale of Years