Southern Ithilien

Harnithilien[1] (S. "South Ithilien") was the only political domain within the South Kingdom that straddled both sides of the traditional geographic divide between northern and southern Gondor. As such "Harnithilien" was simply the southern half of Ithilien proper, and did not constitute a distinct political entity; Ithilien itself was a feudal domain, which by definition recognized no other authority apart from that of the feudal lord (whether this be the king himself or one of his vassals). With a few exceptions, Harnithilien was in effect nothing more than a patchwork of noble estates.


Among the ancient Nandor that once wandered the primeval woodlands of Harithilien there were some who had great magical power and who were close friends with the spirits of the forests. By the efforts of these Elves, the western slopes of the Ephel Duath were girded against the blight of the cursed volcanic realm beyond, and Harnithilien lay protected by strands of Power that lived on through the passage of long years. But when the Dúnedain settled the land and felled the Trees of Harnithilien for their orchards and farmlands, these few remaining Nandor withdrew northwards into the inviolated forest beyond the Emyn Arnen.

The Númenorean presence in Harnithilien began with Tar-Ancalimon's grant of colonial status to Pelargir in S. A. 2350, which gave the Faithful the right to settle the lands north of Harnendor. Because of its proximity to Mordor, settlement upon the eastern bank of the Anduin grew slowly, and at first amounted to little more than defensive fortifications; but after the Downfall of Númenor, Isildur and Anárion agreed to settle the Vale of Anduin above Pelargir and its allied territories, so as not to disrupt the existing political arrangements. Many of the Faithful chose to accompany Elendil the Tall's sons, receiving land in exchange for pledges of allegiance to their father.

The indigenious Daen-folk who were then wandering the Vale of Anduin were quickly incorporatcd into the new realm or withdrew into the Ephel Dúath. Unlike their Danan Lin brethren west of the river, these folk did not retain any kind of autonomous clan organization, but were absorbed (sometimes forcibly} into Isildur's feudal domain as peasants. With the notable exception of Hyarpende (then already in existence), no large towns were ever founded in Ithilin south of the Emyn Arnen; instead, the region remained a collection of manorial estates, interrupted by a few small villages, of which only one (Bar-en-Dinnen) ever acquired township status. Little of import occurred in Ithilien for the remainder of the Second Age. Like Harnendor to the south, it served both Númenor and the Dark Lord as a portal for contact, trade and intrigue. After the fall of Númenor, however, Sauron's wrath fell directly on the Sons of Elendil and their new, threatening realm of Gondor. Harnithilien fell swiftly to the invaders from Harad and Mordor, and its inhabitants fled westward. However. Gondor's defenders held the line of the Andin and the Dark Lord found, to his great fury, that Ithilien's woods were protected by magic older than his. Orcs and Trolls sickened and trembled in fear amid the lush greenery, and only the force of Sauron's will and the terror of his undead generals held his armies to their duties. When Elendil and Gil-galad chose to march on Mordor from the north, Sauron gladly accepted their challenge on the open, untainted plains of Dagorlad, but his armies in Ithilien broke quickly when Anárion crossed the Anduin and assaulted his southern flank, driving him back into Mordor. After the fall of Barad-dûr, Ithilien was quickly cleared of evil and blessed by the return of most of its refugee population. Between the Last Alliance and the Kin-strife, few wars touched Harithilien. The major source of unrest had been the subjugation of Harondor and Umbar, which involved troops from Harnithilien. The fighting never reached far into the region itself. The absence of major conflicts allowed Harnithilen to develop into a wealthy and prosperous area. It became an important part of the kingdom, contributing its agricultural surplus to the grain supply of Osgiliath and Pelargir. For the most part, Harnithilien was spared the effects of the Kin-strife. Castamir the Ursurper clamped down on those nobles he thought were against him, resulting in several parodic trials and illegal executions. The estates and wealth of the "traitors" were distributed among the nobles supporting the Usurper. In the course of his reign, Casramir replaced the Steward of Ithilien three times. This was done because of the Usurper's fear of shifting loyalties. After the Kinstrife, the situation stabilized. During the years leading up to T.A.2050, a steward (with a few exceptions) usually served until death.

Upon his return to the throne in T.A. 1447, Eldacar of Gondor decided that he could not let powerful families who had openly supported Castamir rerain their land and titles. Many noblemen were imprisoned and executed for treason, but some managed to flee to Umbar and joined forces with Castamir's sons. Eldacar restored land and titles to those who had proved themselves loyal to him during the Kin-strife, and ennobled some commoners as reward for courage on the battlefield, granting them estates formerly belonging to traditionalists. This was of course seen as a grave matter by the ancient families who looked down upon the "upstarts." In their opinion, there was not a drop of Númenorean blood in their new peers, and thus they should be disqualified – but there was nothing they could do to dissuade Eldacar. After Eldacar's death, Harnithilien's nobility was without a doubt loyal to his heirs. They had a few misgivings about what happened after the Kin-strife, but the matter was not grave enough to warrant treachery. But the seeds of anger which darker forces could take advantage of had been sown in the hearts of many. While Ithilien suffered some harm from the Kin-strife and the Wainrider invasions, its first great evil of the age came in T.A. 2000, when a Morgûl-army surged out of secret passages in the Ephel Dúath and laid siege to Minas Ithil. Gondorian arms were still superior to those marked with the Red Eye, but the terror of the undead and the power of their enchantments could not be overcome by martial valor alone. Counter-sieges and bloody assaults on the Morgûl entrenchments failed to frighten the Nazgûl and the city fell in T.A. 2002. Further attempts by the Gondorians came to nothing in the following decades. Finally, in T.A. 2050, King Eärnur accepted the challenge to single combat with the Lord of the Nazgûl and was betrayed and lost. Minas Morgûl, as Minas Ithil became known, became the stronghold of the Morgûl-lord, a haunted, cursed place, a constant reminder of the waning of Gondor's power.

The long struggles to reclaim Minas Ithil were not wholly in vain, for the sacrifices and failures had served to protect the rest of Ithilien. The Nazgûl never possessed the vast resources Sauron had commanded in the War of the Last Alliance or the War of the Ring. The larger share of the Orcs of Mordor had died defending Minas Morgûl during the fifty-year conflict; the fields and herds of Núrn were stripped to supply them, causing a famine in that land; further, the great effort made to contain the invasion allowed new fortifications (thereafter known as the "Leaguer of Mardil") to be built in Ithilien just beyond the Morgûl Vale. Added to these fortifications stretched a web of magical wards woven by the wizard Curunir — for the most part, with the aid of the few remaining Gondorian seers and the encouragement of Mardil the Steward. The armies of Minas Morgûl, along with the curses and banes generated by Nazgûl-sorcery, could not be made to cross the Leaguer of Mardil, save with great effort and pain. The blessings that had been laid upon the land in ancient times could still give its people some share of peace and contentment. Ithilien changed little over the next five centuries, being troubled mainly by Haruze raiders and occasional raids by rogue Orcs and wolves. In T.A. 2475. however, Sauron secretly returned to western Middle-earth and turned his attention to the weakening of Gondor. A massive assault over secret paths cut into the mountains around Minas Morgûl, accompanied by a cursed fog and a plague of spiders, breached the Leaguer of Mardil and allowed the Morgûl-army to drive on to Osgiliath before the full muster of Gondor could be gathered. Osgiliath was ruined and its bridges broken. Many in Gondor feared that the end of the world was at hand, but Cirion, son of the steward, had gathered an army in Harnithilien under the cover of the Nazgul's fog. He had played and hunted over every path in the Emyn Arnen as child, and was able to bring his army safely through the hills for a decisive blow against the Morgul-host's camp at Whisper Glen. The Battle of Whisper Glen was nearly as great a victory as those of Mardil's time: the nests of Mordor were nearly emptied of Orcs for a generation. But the Leaguer of Mardil, unfortunately, could not be rebuilt. New Gondorian defenses had to be established in the Ernyn Arnen and at Cair Andros farther north. This left the minions of Darkness free to raid Harnithilien whenever they could summon up the necessary courage and risk the ancient banes. Fornithilien and the Emyn Amen became an open frontier; few people dwelt there any more, save in walled villages near to the shores of Anduin. Harnithilien was better off, but its eastern and southern reaches were exposed to raids by Orcs and Haruze. With the passage of generations, Ithilien took on a look of aging, doomed beauty.

The final blows to the region came in the last century before the War of the Ring. In T.A. 2885, a massive Haradron confederacy attempted to force an invasion of Harnithilien at Athrad Poros. The Gondorians under Steward Túrin and the Riders of Rohan under the sons of Folcwine caught the Haradrim at mid-crossing and broke their line with a charge of heavy cavalry. The slaughter was enormous, and the Poros flowed blood-red and stench-ridden for a week there after. This Gondorian victory was remembered fearfully in Harad for years; it was also recalled often by the stewards, most of whom saw it as their last great victory before the coming of the Shadow ended that reign forever. Certainly the victory at Athrad Poros only delayed the final destruction of Ithilien. The lands along the Poros were devastated by the invaders, and the survivors fled across the Anduin. Uruks, great Orcs of Mordor less sensitive to the Banes of Ithilien, began raiding by way of the passes from Núrn and out of the Morgûl vale. Eastern Harnithilien and the Emyn Arnen were abandoned slowly after the turn of the century. After the eruption of Orodruin in T.A. 2954, the entire region was abandoned save for a few fortresses along the Anduin. However, the land still defended itself. Shrubs began to cover the ruins of the villas in the Emyn Arnen and the orchards of Harnithilien grew wildly into forests. Servant of Darkness were loath to walk on ground they considered haunted, and the Rangers of Ithilien, led in the last years by Faramir, son of Steward Denethor II, made them pay a price in blood for every intrusion. Even during the War of the Ring, Ithilien still presented an aura of safety for those who loved the land, protecting the rangers in their raids against the gathering hordes of the Dark Lord. The destruction of the One Ring and the accompanying battles repaid the faith and hope the people of Ithilien had always had for their homeland. Faramir became Prince of Ithilien and Éowyn, Princess of Rohan, his wife both reigning with strength and wisdom. The Shadow had passed, and the land awaited the return of Gondorians whose sires had fled generations before. The land had remained faithful and would again bless those who would return that faith.

The Land

The terrifying Ephel Dúath formed the eastern boundary of Harnithilien's flowing fields, and their ragged peaks ever present in the minds of the local populace, even when the threat from evil powers had been idle for many years. The Poros in the south, the Ernyn Arnen in the north and the mighty Anduin in the west formed Harnithilien's borders. These watercourses had on more than one occasion proved a strategic and tactical advantage for southern Gondor's defenders. Before the Witch-king's capture of Minas Ithil in T.A. 2002, the only invasion of Harnithilien was by the Wainriders in T 1944.

At Harnithilien's northern border, one saw the peaks of Mordor split by the Cirith Dúath to the east at the gates to the evil land lay the city of Minas Ithil. In minds of the Gondorians, this mighty city provided protection from the hosts of Mordor, and it was one of the few outposts still keeping an eye on the Black Land. Following the Ithilduin westwards, a traveler reached the city of Osgiliath, ruined and abandoned after T.A, 2475, by the shores of Anduin. Harnithilien consisted mostly of rolling fields and plains dotted by the occasional copse of woodland foliage. To the south lay the Poros; originating in the Ephel Dúath, the river grew in size as it traveled through the countryside to where it finally joined the Anduin, far southwest of Pelargir. The Anduin was used by merchants traveling north to Osgiliath or further, and south to Pelargir and the sea. As in the other lands of southern Gondor, Harnithilien enjoyed a warm and humid climate. The summers were pleasant, and provided plenty of rain to keep the crops alive. The winters were mild and rainy, mostly without snow. Weather changed, however, where the mountains of Mordor dominated the landscape. Icy cold winds blew from the dark cliffs and clouds toweered above the ragged peaks higher up. Snow fell during winter, and some blizzards could drift into the eastern areas of Harnithilien.

Flora and Fauna

The wealth of Harnithilien came from its rich soil, mostly concentrated in the river basins and southern fields of the region.This resource had been thoroughly exploited, and Harnithilien was covered with fields of wheat, small copses of olive-trees, and orchards of fruit-trees. These diverse crops were tended by peasants, but were owned by noble families who oversaw production. At harvest the region bustled with activiry. The produce of Harnithilien was brought either to Minas Ithil, Osgiliath. or Hyarpende, where it was traded for other useful commodities not manufactured in Harithilien. The wares that were delivered to Hyarpende were often bought by Pelargirs merchants, and shipped ether overseas or to the city itself. Since so much of Harnithilien was cultivated, there was little refuge for larger animals and wild plants. Where there were no wheat fields or copses of trees, the plain was covered with grass and bushes. Among these bushes dwellt the anmals that had survived the domestication of the land: hare, fox and several species of inland birds.

Politics and Power

The political relationship between the King of Gondor and the landed nobility had always been colored by the region's origins. Prior to Meneldil's claim in T.A. 2 that Gondor had become a sovereign realm, Ithilien had been Isildur's personal domain, which he held on behalf of his father. Nevertheless, it was to Isildur alone that the landed nobility of Harnithilien owed their primary allegiance not to Meneldil his nephew. Therefore, when it was learned that Isildur was dead and the matter of the realm's independence was raised by the Council of Gondor, the support of Ithilien's nobility was absolutely essential to the success of Meneldil's claim. As a gesture of his good will towards these nobles, Meneldil, after confirming the continuing validity of his uncle's benefices, decreed that though they had now to regard him and his descendants as their sole legitimate rulers, the stewardship of Isildur's ward would always be chosen from among its own nobility. To this the nobles assented. The Steward of Ithilien traditionally resided in Minas Ithil (in Forithilien), but as the majority of the eligible candidates for the office resided in Harnithilien, this in itself did not entail an imbalance of power in the region. Inevitably, however, the non-hereditary nature of the position became an endless source of rivalry among the nobiliiy, and the internecine struggle to win the royal favor served to weaken their unity as a group. Doubtless, this effect was part of Meneldil's design and intended to prevent his uncle's former vassals from posing a counterclaim to his own authority. Whatever his intentions, Meneldil's strategy succeeded brilliantly, cementing a social and political order that would endure for nearly three thousand years. The stability of the system itself did not, however, erase the real changes that took place within it over the centuries. The first major change came about in T.A. 1621, when King Minardil began the practice of selecting the steward of the realm (not of Ithilien) from among the descendants of Húrin of Emyn Arnen. By always selecting the Royal Stewards from the House of Húrin, the kings enlarged the authority and prestige of that house over the rest of the Ithilien nobility. More importantly, because he represented the highest delegated authority in the realm, the Royal Steward had the power to override the Steward of Ithilien and because he was also one of the Ithilian nobility, he had a very influential voice among them. Moreover, because the Royal Steward's interests were at one with his king, the king could use the Lord of Emyn Arnen to counterbalance the power of whichever segment of the Ithilien nobility (up to and including the Steward of Ithilien himself) he saw fit. The second major change in the political dynamics of Harnithilien occurred in T.A. 1944 when Pelendur of Gondor, the Royal Steward, successfully opposed Arvedui of Arthedain's claim to the throne of Gondor. The rejection of Arvedui's claim was a telling sign of how far the Ithilien nobles had come from their origin as Isildur's vassals, since it was upon Isildur's very own lineage that Arvedui had founded the greater part of his claim. That lineage, combined with Arvedui's marriage to the daughter of the late King Ondoher might well have drawn the support of Ithilien. Yet in fact the nobles rallied unanimously behind the Royal Steward in the Council of Gondor against Arvedui's claim. The cause for this unexpected reaction lay once again in the nature of the relationship between royal power and the nobility of southern Gondor – a dynamic not present in the history of the North-kingdom; namely, the need for the king to come to terms with an already existing power.

In the case of southern Gondor, this power resided in the Pelargirean league and, soon after, by the Prince of Belfalas. These powerful forces could to a large degree set the terms of their own submission to royal authority, because they owed no prior loyalty to the royal claimant. By contrast, the North-kingdom was born out of Elendil's grants to his own followers, who already owed him their allegiance. In T.A. 1944, the nobility of Ithilien were confronted with a choice: to support Arvedui and renew their connection to Isildur's legacy, or to reject it and, through the Council of Gondor over which one of their own peers now presided, to choose for themselves a monarch who would be beholden to their own aristocratic claims. The rejection of Arvedui's claim was a watershed victory for the power of the nobles to influence the Council of Gondor, and the council's confirmation of Eärnil as king was made only after special considerations for the enlargement of their political privileges. Eärnil himself held the nobles in great esteem, since they had played a valiant role in the recent defense of Ithilien against the Wainriders. One of Eärnil's first decrees was to delegate the power of selecting Ithilien's steward to the Lord of Emyn Arnen, though he made the latter's choice subject to the approval of the nobility. By this act, the office of the Ithilien stewardship was effectively removed from direct royal control, and placed in the hands of the nobility. This, however, intensified their own internal rivalries.

The third and final change in the political arena of Harnithilien was precipitated by the loss of Minas Ithil to the hosts of Mordor in T.A. 2002. With the steward's seat captured and many of their number slain, the surviving nobility at last forgot their quarrels and made common cause in the defense of their lands. Since the land had now become a frontier of war in the face of an implacable foe, King Eärnil II suspended the stewardship of Ithilien, appointing his son Eärnur to lead the Gondorian defense. Yet, although Ithilien officially fell under royal military jurisdiction, the king nonetheless recognized the final authority of the nobility over their own lands, and instructed his son to subordinate the royal forces to their command, making the nobles his officers and councilors. The defense of Ithilien was ultimately in vain; but had Eärnil not wisely entrusted the command to its nobles, who fought not only for Gondor but for their own ancestral lands, the enemy might well have overwhelmed the Vale of Anduin much more swiftly than he in fact did. As it proved, the nobility of Ithilien tenaciously held their land against unimaginable odds for nearly a thousand years. The continuity of noble control over Harithilien was only further solidified when, in T.A. 2050, Mardil Voronwë the Royal Steward and Lord of Emyn Arnen, assumed the supreme command of the South-kingdom indefinitely, an act which ensured that the struggle for Ithilien would thereafter always remain one of the highest concerns in the defense of the realm.


Hyarpende, Harnithilien's largest settlement, had a significant garrison. There were several smaller garrisons maintained by influential Harnithilian noblemen. Together with the garrison of Minas Ithil, all these forces defendéd Harnithilien. The Hyarpende force was raised, trained, and kept under the authority of the steward. The soldiers were mostly infantry, with a small unit of younger nobles filling out the ranks as cavalry. From these units and the noble forces the Poros Patrol was recruited. It consisted of cavalrymen who watched the stretch of the Poros, mostly to prevent the entry of brigands from Harondor. The parrol numbered 1,000 men, but all its members were a cut above the rest and enjoyed a certain respect among the commoners. The rest of the soldiers that were called upon in times of crisis were maintained by local squires. These forces were statoned in forts and small towns and villages around the countryside, mostly in the south, The military was also used as a law-keeping force in times of peace. The soldiers were mostly infantry, with scattered units of cavalry and mounted officers and nobles. In T.A. 1643, the Kings Corps was established, one detachment of which was based in Hyarpende.This Corps absorbed or replaced the earlier companies, retaining the Poros Patrol under the new command. The regiments of the King's Corps became the elite force of Gondor, fighting valiantly in all its major wars.The Hyarpende garrison numbered about 1.000. In addition to the forces mentioned above, there were 5,000 soldiers of Harondor's territorial Corps stationed just north of the Poros. These were trained and kept under the authority of Harondor's governor, and only the order of the king allowed them to reside in Harnithilien. This was a source of dispute among those nobles that had to provide land and resources for the soldiers.


Alagdor Cirith Dúath Curedain Dinnen Erborn River Elemir Emyn Arnen Emyn Poros Faron Frontier Marches Gaelon Glorel Hithliniath Ithilduin Estuary Morvegil Nan Girith Nethos Othnir Poros Marches Rian Telengaur Tiridon Twiddle Forest Usuluni

Places of note:

Adab Elenmir Adanadar (Harithilien) Aludor Anwarbad Athrad Poros Barad Dae Bâr Húrin Bar-en-Dinnen  Bar-in-Adanadar Bar Húrin Bar Morvegil Bar Nethos Barad Feron Barad Nemorn Barad Othnir Barad Telagar Brangobel Caras Athrad Caves of Drach Dimrost (Gondor) Duindir Gobel Othnir Haudh-in-Gwanûr Hervethladen Hyarpendë Meadowcroft Moon-land Falls Ostithil Porosîr Rhólanthir Rianbar Shortmead Manor Thindamost Tirith Bannor Tirith Ethraid (Harondor) Tirith Obel Trenas Whisper Glen


ca. T.A. 1640

Men: Angon Bomar Mercawen Miatta Nissa Zelek

Orcs: Granbash Tangash

Ca.TA 3018-19:

Men: Derufin Duilin Yambahul

Trolls: Gundrágh Morgrish Shardrágh

Other: Kethat-sai Maeganc


  • MERP:Southern Gondor:The Land
  • Lindë
  1. Original form in MERP: Harithilien
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