|J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location|
|First appearance||The Lord of the Rings|
|Type||southern Númenórean realm in exile|
|Ruler||Kings of Gondor; Stewards of Gondor|
|Other name(s)||Stoningland, the South-kingdom|
|Capital||Osgiliath until T.A. 1640, then Minas Tirith|
|Lifespan||Founded S.A. 3320|
|Founder||Isildur and Anárion|
Gondor is a fictional kingdom in J. R. R. Tolkien's writings, described as the greatest realm of Men in the west of Middle-earth by the end of the Third Age. The third volume of The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, is largely concerned with the events in Gondor during the War of the Ring and with the restoration of the realm afterward. The history of the kingdom is outlined in the appendices of the book.
According to the narrative, Gondor was founded by the brothers Isildur and Anárion, exiles from the downfallen island kingdom of Númenor. Along with Arnor in the north, Gondor, the South-kingdom, served as a last stronghold of the Men of the West. After an early period of growth, Gondor gradually declined as the Third Age progressed, being continually weakened by internal strife and conflict with the allies of the Dark Lord Sauron. The kingdom's ascendancy was restored only with Sauron's final defeat and the crowning of Aragorn.
Based upon early conceptions, the history and geography of Gondor were developed in stages as a part of the major extension of Tolkien's legendarium that he undertook during the writing of The Lord of the Rings. The role of the kingdom emerged gradually, when a side adventure in the plot became the focus of later writings. The textual history was traced by Christopher Tolkien in The History of Middle-earth, and the subject has gained attention from later researchers and fans.
The history of Gondor ("Land of Stone", from Sindarin gond "stone" and dor "land") is described in several of Tolkien's works, with different levels of detail. Within the narrative of The Lord of the Rings, the kingdom is first introduced at the Council of Elrond, with a brief summary of the Second and Third Ages. The events of the latter are elaborated in the appendices to the book, and those of the former in the last parts of The Silmarillion. Retellings at an ample scale of some particular episodes are included in Unfinished Tales.
The first people in the region that would become Gondor were the Drúedain. They were a hunter-gatherer people of Men who arrived in the First Age. They were marginalized by later settlers, surviving in isolated pockets such as Drúwaith Iaur and the Drúadan Forest.
The next people to settle in the region were more advanced. They established a realm in the White Mountains, and became known as the Men of the Mountains. The centre of their culture was at Dunharrow, where they built a megalithic subterranean complex which led all the way to the other side of the mountains. The Men of the Mountains became subject to the Dark Lord Sauron in the Dark Years of the Second Age.
Erech and Dunharrow were sacred sites in the pre-Númenórean cultures.
Fragments of pre-Númenórean languages survived in later ages in place-names such as Erech, Arnach, and Umbar, and the beacon hills Eilenach and Rimmon. Forlong, the lord of Arnach in the War of the Ring, was "a name of the same sort."
The shorelands of Gondor had been widely colonized by the Númenóreans from around the middle of the Second Age, especially by the Elf-friends loyal to the house of Elendil. When his sons Isildur and Anárion landed in Middle-earth after the drowning of Númenor, they co-founded the Kingdom of Gondor in S.A. 3320. They were welcomed by the colonists already living there, and their claim of lordship was accepted. Elendil, who had founded the Kingdom of Arnor to the north, was held to be the High King of all lands of the Dúnedain. Within the South-kingdom, the hometowns of Isildur and Anárion were Minas Ithil and Minas Anor respectively, and the capital city Osgiliath was situated between them.
Sauron, however, had survived the destruction of Númenor and secretly returned to his realm of Mordor just to the east of Gondor. Soon he launched a war against the Númenórean kingdoms, hoping to destroy them before their power was established. He captured Minas Ithil, but Isildur escaped and fled by ship to Arnor; meanwhile, Anárion was able to defend Osgiliath. Elendil and the Elven-king Gil-galad formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, and together with Isildur and Anárion, they besieged and eventually defeated Mordor. In S.A. 3441 (the last year of the Second Age), Sauron was overthrown; but the One Ring that Isildur took from him was not destroyed, and thus Sauron was able to regain power in the next age.
Both Elendil and Anárion had been slain in the war, so Isildur conferred rule of Gondor upon Anárion's son Meneldil and went north to ascend to the kingship of Arnor, retaining suzerainty over Gondor as High King of the Dúnedain. However, Isildur and his three elder sons were ambushed and killed by Orcs in the Gladden Fields.
Isildur's remaining son Valandil did not attempt to claim his father's place as Gondor's monarch, and therefore the kingdom was ruled solely by Meneldil and his descendants until their line died out with Eärnur.
During the first millennium of the Third Age, Gondor was victorious in war and its wealth and power grew. After Sauron's defeat, Gondor watched over Mordor. In T.A. 490, Gondor's centuries-old peace was ended by the first of many Easterling invasions. That war lasted into the following century, and from it Gondor conquered much territory in Rhûn north of Mordor.
Under the rule of the four "Ship-kings", Gondor established a powerful navy and extended along the coast from the Mouths of Anduin. In 933, Gondor captured the southern port city Umbar, formerly held by the hostile Black Númenóreans. Later, the Haradrim defeated Gondor on land and besieged Umbar; but King Hyarmendacil I strengthened his army and navy, and forced the kings of Harad to submit after a great victory in T.A. 1050.
Gondor reached its peak during the reign of Hyarmendacil, controlling a vast territory and holding suzerainty over neighbouring nations such as the Haradrim and the northern Men of the Vales of Anduin. Mordor was desolate and guarded by fortresses. Under Hyarmendacil I's successor, Atanatar the Glorious, the kingdom enjoyed such wealth and splendour that, according to The Lord of the Rings, "men said precious stones are pebbles in Gondor for children to play with".
Gondor began to decline during the reigns of Atanatar and his two sons, who lived in ease and luxury, doing little to maintain Gondor's strength. The first casualty of this period was the watch on Mordor, which was largely neglected. King Rómendacil II, who in his youth had been appointed as his uncle's regent, defeated a new invasion of the Easterlings in T.A. 1248 and strengthened friendly relations with the Northmen. His son Valacar was sent to their lands as an ambassador; while there, he married the daughter of their chief lord and returned to Gondor only after some years.
This marriage proved disastrous to Gondor: when it was affirmed that the heir to the throne would be Valacar's son Eldacar, who was of mixed blood, southern provinces of the realm began to rebel. After Valacar died, several members of the House of Anárion claimed the crown and a full-scale civil war, called the Kin-strife, broke out in 1432. The rebel with the largest following was Castamir, who besieged and captured Osgiliath. Eldacar managed to escape to his homeland in Rhovanion, but his elder son was captured and executed. Castamir proved a very poor ruler and earned the hatred of the inner provinces; consequently, Eldacar acquired a great following when he returned after several years with the Northmen allies, slew Castamir and defeated his army. Castamir's sons, however, retreated to Umbar and declared independence.
The kings of Harad, freed by Gondor's Kin-strife and its loss of Umbar, grew in strength. In T.A. 1540 they invaded southern Gondor, but were defeated by Hyarmendacil II after a decade of warfare. In 1634 descendants of Castamir organized a devastating raid on Gondor's harbour-city of Pelargir, even killing King Minardil. The losses from the Kin-strife and southern wars had been somewhat replenished by the intermingling with the Northmen, but the population of Gondor seriously decreased again with the coming of the Great Plague in T.A. 1636. Many noble lines of Númenórean descent had already been destroyed in the Kin-strife, and the plague decimated the populations of Osgiliath and Minas Ithil. The capital was moved from Osgiliath to the less affected Minas Anor, and the watch on Mordor was abandoned, enabling evil creatures to begin to return. Fortunately the plague left Gondor's enemies in no better condition than the realm itself, and Gondor was therefore allowed over a century of respite from attack.
In T.A. 1810 King Telumehtar strengthened Gondor's navy which defeated the Corsairs of Umbar and retook the haven, ending the line of Castamir. However this gain was to prove temporary, as the city was lost in the next disaster to befall Gondor. This new threat appeared four decades later, when one of the Easterling peoples, called the Wainriders, defeated the Northmen of Rhovanion and began to raid eastern Gondor. The first battles were lost to the invaders, Narmacil II falling in battle resulting in the loss of the eastern provinces, but eventually the enemy was stemmed by King Calimehtar after half a century. War broke out anew when the Wainriders joined together with the Haradrim in 1944, attacking respectively from the east and from the south. The Northern Army of Gondor, led by King Ondoher and joined by cavalry of the Éothéod, descendants of the Northmen, was defeated. Its survivors linked up with the victorious Southern Army commanded by a talented general Eärnil, and they destroyed the Wainriders in the Battle of the Camp once and for all.
Because of the deaths of Ondoher and both his sons in war, Gondor faced a constitutional crisis. Arvedui, heir of the King of Arthedain in the north, claimed the throne of Gondor as a descendant of Isildur and as the husband of Ondoher's daughter, but was denied by the Council of Gondor. For a year the realm was ruled by Pelendur, Steward to King Ondoher, and then the crown was given to the victorious general Eärnil, who came from the House of Anárion and had gained popularity during the war. His son Eärnur, however, became the last King. During his father's reign, he had led the forces of Gondor to the aid of Arthedain in the north and was offended there by the Witch-king of Angmar. Shortly afterwards, after a two-year siege the Ringwraiths captured Minas Ithil and took it as their abode; the city was renamed to Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery and Minas Anor became Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard against the evil in the east. After Eärnur became King, the Witch-king twice sent messengers tempting him to single combat. At the second challenge in T.A. 2050, Eärnur was overcome by wrath and rode with a small company of knights to Minas Morgul, from where he never returned.
At the loss of childless Eärnur, the rule of Gondor was left to the Stewards, due to fears of a new civil war and the absence of a more or less legitimate Heir of Anárion with enough authority and support. By this time Arnor had been destroyed and the Line of Isildur had gone into hiding, so no more claims were expected. The early Stewards enjoyed four centuries of uneasy quiet, known as the Watchful Peace, during which Gondor slowly declined and Sauron's strength grew. In T.A. 2475 the Peace was broken with a large attack of Uruk-hai on the eastern borders, which, though beaten off, led to the inhabitants' migration from Ithilien and final desolation of Osgiliath. According to The Lord of the Rings, from this time onwards "there was never full peace again" in Gondor, and "its borders were under constant threat".
In T.A. 2510 the Kingdom faced a new serious peril: an Easterling tribe, named the Balchoth, invaded northern parts of the realm in force. Gondor's army marched to fight them, but was cut off from Minas Tirith and pushed back in the direction of the Limlight river. Messengers had already been sent to get help from the allied Éothéod in the north, and in the nick of time their cavalry arrived, turning the tide of the Battle of the Field of Celebrant. In gratitude for their aid, Steward Cirion ceded to them the depopulated province of Calenardhon, where the Éothéod established the realm of Rohan with Eorl the Young as their first king. A permanent alliance between Gondor and Rohan was established by the oaths of Eorl and Cirion.
The later Stewards had to contend with Orcs in Ithilien and with Corsairs of Umbar raiding the coasts. In 2758 Gondor faced another great invasion when five great fleets from Umbar and Harad ravaged the southern shores, and no help was expected from Rohan as the latter was assailed by the Dunlendings and Easterlings, further weakened by the Long Winter. The invasions were beaten off only in the following year, and help was then sent to Rohan.
Gondor recovered quickly from this war, although its fortunes continued to decline. In 2885 Ithilien was invaded from the south by a large force of Haradrim, which was only repelled with help from Rohan. Several decades later the region was evacuated due to increased Orc attacks and hidden refuges were built for the Rangers of Ithilien to continue to strike at the enemy. In 2954 Sauron officially declared himself in Mordor and Mount Doom burst into flame again. Before the end of the millennium the forces of Gondor, led by Aragorn under alias, attacked Umbar and destroyed the Corsair fleet, allowing Denethor II to devote all of his attention to the threat posed by Mordor.
By the arrival of the fourth millennium, Sauron had prepared for the final conquest, and in T.A. 3018 his forces attacked Osgiliath. The attack was stopped with the destruction of the last remaining bridge across the Anduin. The following year Minas Tirith faced the main assault from Mordor, combined with an invasion from the Corsairs of Umbar. Aragorn summoned the Dead Men of Dunharrow to destroy the forces from Umbar, freeing men from the south of Gondor to come to the aid of Minas Tirith. Gondor then defeated the army of Mordor with the aid of the Rohirrim in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, though with heavy losses. The combined army of the West then carried the battle to Sauron at the Battle of the Morannon, a feint to distract Sauron's attention from Frodo Baggins's quest to destroy the One Ring in Mount Doom, thus causing Sauron's fall and the allies' ultimate victory.
After the second and final defeat of Sauron, the Kingship was restored, with Aragorn crowned as King Elessar of the Reunited Kingdom of Arnor and Gondor. Faramir, heir of the Ruling Stewards, retained his office as Steward to the King and was named Prince of Ithilien. The oaths between Gondor and Rohan were renewed, and several joint campaigns were fought in the east and south; all former territories of the South-kingdom were won back during the following centuries, and its power and wealth were restored. It was foretold that Eldarion son of Elessar would rule a great realm, and that his line would endure for a hundred generations and rule many realms long after.
Tolkien's perception of further history of the kingdom is illustrated by The New Shadow, an experimental story that he abandoned, set during the reign of Eldarion. The author imagined that because of the "quick satiety with good" of Men, "the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless ... even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going round doing damage".
Tolkien intended the name Gondor to represent a sample of Sindarin, an Elven language devised by him, and within the books used by the Dúnedain for nomenclature. The word means "land of stone", and is echoed in the text of The Lord of the Rings by the name for Gondor among the Rohirrim, Stoningland. The implications of these names were not explained by the author, although his early writings suggest that this was a reference to the highly developed masonry of Gondorians in contrast to their rustic neighbours. This view is supported by the Drúedain terms for Gondorians and Minas Tirith--Stonehouse-folk and Stone-city.
A reader once asked Tolkien whether the name Gondor had been inspired by the ancient Ethiopian citadel of Gondar. Tolkien replied that he was unaware of having heard the word before, and that the root Ond went back to an account he had read as a child mentioning ond ("stone") as one of only two words known of the pre-Celtic languages of Britain.
Gondor is often referred to in the books as the South-kingdom or Southern Realm, and together with Arnor as the Númenórean Realms in Exile. Researchers Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have also proposed a Quenya translation of Gondor: Ondonórë.
The physical nature of Gondor is most prominently illustrated by the maps for The Lord of the Rings and Unfinished Tales made by Christopher Tolkien on the basis of his father's sketches, and can be supplemented by several geographical accounts such as The Rivers and Beacon-Hills of Gondor and Cirion and Eorl. In addition, the narrative and appendices of The Lord of the Rings describe the history and nature of particular regions and settlements in the kingdom.
Gondor was located in the west of the continent of Middle-earth, and the main part of its territory lay on the northern shores of the Bay of Belfalas and around the White Mountains. Tolkien noted that the capital Minas Tirith was situated on a latitude comparable to that of Florence; this indicates that Gondor generally had a Mediterranean climate (affected of course by local topography).
To the north-west of the kingdom originally lay the realm of Arnor; to the north, Gondor was neighboured by Wilderland and, after its settlement, by Rohan; to the north-east, by the land of Rhûn; to the east, by Sauron's realm of Mordor; to the south, by the deserts of northern Harad. On the west of Gondor lay Belegaer, the Great Sea.
The original borders of Gondor were: rivers Gwathló and Glanduin up to the Misty Mountains; eaves of the Fangorn forest and river Entwash; marshes of Nindalf and the Mountains of Shadow; and river Poros. At the time of its noontide, the realm extended to river Limlight and south-eaves of Mirkwood; to the western shores of the inland Sea of Rhûn, north of Ered Lithui; and to river Harnen, also including the coastland around Umbar. By the beginning of the War of the Ring, the confines of land fully controlled by Gondor had retreated to the line of the White Mountains and the Mering Stream in the west; and the line of the river Anduin in the east.
The earliest inhabitants of the future Gondor territory were the Drúedain, who lived in the vales of the White Mountains and lands adjacent. Later they were harried and mostly ousted by new people coming from the east; these were allied to Sauron and unrelated to the Edain. The coastlands remained unsettled until the beginning of colonization by the Númenóreans, who either mixed blood with the natives or dispersed them if hostile. The original language of these settlers, Adûnaic, was heavily influenced by local speech and ultimately resulted in Westron, becoming used, at least for intercourse, by the majority of peoples in the west of Middle-earth.
The exiles of Númenor that arrived in Middle-earth were far fewer in number than the local folk of mixed descent, and this remained the case throughout the history of Gondor. The greatest cities were populated by men of more or less "high blood", by the end of the Third Age remaining in the townlands of Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth, while the inhabitants of southern provinces are stated to have been shorter and swarthier. The nobles at first spoke solely the Grey-elven Sindarin, following a custom of the Faithful of Númenor, but with the passing of years they gradually switched to the rustic Westron, so that "at the time of the War of the Ring the Elven-tongue was known to only a small part of the peoples of Gondor, and spoken daily by fewer".
Except in the matter of language, Tolkien described few characteristic features of Gondorian culture. His writings only present highly developed masonry, sea- and smith-craft, and mention the customs of looking "west in a moment of silence" before meals and of saluting "with bowed head and hands upon the breast". An essay that was prepared as one of the appendices to The Lord of the Rings but became compressed contains a reference to currency of the South-kingdom: "In Gondor [Westron word] tharni was used for a silver coin, the fourth part of the castar (in [Sindarin] the canath or fourth part of the mirian)."
The Appendices to The Lord of the Rings describe that the head of the state of Gondor was the King. It was an absolute monarchy, and symbolized by the Crown of Gondor. The post passed solely by the male line from the time of Meneldil, to the eldest surviving son of the late king if there was any, and the heir usually "took part in the councils of the realm and the command of the armies". A King was accustomed to command the forces of Gondor in major battles, in which case one of his legitimate heirs would remain behind for preservation of the line and act as a regent.
The office of the Stewards, in Quenya Arandur "king's servant", was established by Rómendacil I as a precaution against loss of royal traditions and knowledge. A Steward was chosen by the King "as a man of high trust and wisdom, usually advanced in years since he was not permitted to go to war or to leave the realm". Over time the post rose in importance, "providing as it were a permanent 'under-study' to the King, and an immediate viceroy at need", and since the days of Tarondor the choice was always made from the family of his Steward Húrin. Another highly authoritative position appeared when King Narmacil I granted to his nephew Minalcar "the new office and title of Carma-cundo "Helm-guardian", that is in terms of Gondor Crown-lieutenant or Regent. Thereafter he was virtually king, though he acted in the names of Narmacil and Calmacil, save in the matters of war and defence over which he had complete authority".
After the loss of King Eärnur, his steward Mardil continued to rule Gondor in his name, since Eärnur's death was not affirmed, and Mardil's descendants held to this practice. The Ruling Stewards wielded the authority of the Kings, but never presumed to take the title for themselves: each succeeding Steward swore an oath to yield the rule of the realm back to the King, if he should ever return, although with the passing of centuries the oath became more a formality. The office had become hereditary already with Mardil's grandfather, and thereafter passed to the eldest son if there was any; otherwise, the heir was selected among the near kin by the Council of Gondor.
The latter body consisted, at least at the time of the War of the Ring, of the captains of armed forces, was headed by the Steward, and is recorded to have debated whether to risk retaking Osgiliath or not. The Council's duties and powers are not elaborated further, but it is also credited with rejecting Arvedui's claim after the death of King Ondoher and should possibly be equated with "the elders" that sent Boromir to Rivendell.
Local government in Gondor is depicted as being similar to feudalism. Minas Tirith and its immediate hinterland were governed directly by the Steward, who was also styled Lord of the City. Many of Gondor's regions had their own lords, who owed allegiance to the Steward, including Lossarnach, Lamedon, the Anfalas, Pinnath Gelin, and the Ringló and Morthond valleys. A special position within the South-kingdom belonged to the Prince of Dol Amroth, who ruled over a land in Belfalas but was subject to the king; according to one of Tolkien's statements, the title was granted to the first Prince by Elendil because of their kinship. Later, the Prince would become an acting Steward, if the Steward was absent or incapacitated. An equal authority was later given by Aragorn to Faramir, who became the Prince of Ithilien.
Of Gondor's other posts, in Tolkien's writings appear: "ministers of the Crown concerned with 'intelligence'" who surveyed the palantíri (see below);Captain of the Hosts, borne by future King Falastur during the reign of his father; and Captain of Gondor and Captain-General of Gondor applied to Faramir and Boromir respectively, with the former title also given to Eärnur when he commanded the Gondor army in Arthedain prior to his crowning.
The royal standard of Gondor was an image of a white tree in blossom upon sable field, surrounded by seven five-rayed stars and surmounted by a winged crown. This combined references to several symbols of the realm: the White Tree was a unique plant brought by Isildur from Númenor, first planted in Minas Ithil and later three times replanted from seed at Minas Anor; the Crown of Gondor was in the beginning Isildur's war-helmet and later the main symbol of monarchy in the South-kingdom, with wings of a sea-bird being an emblem of the exiled Númenóreans; and the stars "originally represented the single stars on the banners of each of seven ships [out of the nine in which Elendil and his sons sailed to Middle-earth] that bore a palantír". The palantíri were "seeing-stones" of Elendil, four of which were placed in strongholds of Gondor: Osgiliath, Minas Anor, Minas Ithil and Isengard--and were used by Kings or their servants for surveillance of the lands and communication both within the realm and with Arnor.
The Ruling Stewards respected the royal symbols and refrained from using most of them, leaving the Kings' throne empty and using "a white rod with a golden knob" as the only token of their lordship. An heirloom of their line was the Horn of Gondor, made by Vorondil the Hunter and borne by the elder son of an acting Steward. During the epoch of the Ruling Stewards, the banner at the top of Minas Tirith was replaced by a plain white flag, although the armour of the Tower Guard of Gondor still bore the royal devices of tree, crown and stars. The Stewards however did maintain the tradition of taking their heirs to the hallowed tomb of Elendil at Halifirien, and just like Kings they were embalmed after death and laid in the Houses of the Dead on the Silent Street behind Minas Tirith.
The seal of the stewards consisted of the three letters: R.ND.R (standing for arandur, king's servant), surmounted by three stars.
The warning beacons of Gondor were an alarm system for the realm of Gondor. Situated on two series of hill-tops, one along the north of the White Mountains and one on the south, the beacons were great fireplaces permanently manned by men of Gondor. Built by the Stewards of Gondor, the beacons linked their capital Minas Tirith with the westernmost provinces of Gondor (and Rohan), thus enabling either to quickly alert the other. The beacon posts were manned by messengers, who would ride to either Belfalas or Rohan with word of their lighting.
In The Lord of the Rings, only the northern beacons are mentioned as they are lit. There were seven Beacon-hills between Minas Tirith and the border of Rohan, spanning a distance of about 150 miles. The seven, from east to west, were Amon Din, Eilenach, Nardol, Erelas, Min-Rimmon, Calenhad, and Halifirien.
The northern beacons were established after Rohan was founded in T.A. 2510 as a means of communication between the allied realms of Rohan and Gondor. Signals could be sent either direction: Gondor could signal Rohan, and Rohan could signal Gondor. Wood and fuel were maintained upon each hill by the Beacon-wardens. On the night of 'March' 7-8, 3019, during the War of the Ring, the Steward Denethor decided to signal Rohan through the northern beacons, probably upon learning of the fleet of Corsairs preparing to attack Minas Tirith from the south. A historical parallel is found in the Byzantine beacon system and between the northern isles of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, to warn of Viking invasion.
Tolkien's original thoughts about the later ages of Middle-earth are outlined in his first sketches for the legend of Númenor made in mid-1930s, and already contain conceptions resembling that of Gondor. It is described that the fugitives from the island "became lords and kings of Men" in the west of Middle-earth and soon under the leadership of one Elendil "of Númenórean race" finally overthrew Sauron; a special attention is paid to the exiles' "great tombs" for the dead and to the diminishing of their lifespan.
The ideas were concretized at an early stage during the writing of The Lord of the Rings, beginning with a clearer image of the defeat of Sauron and of the acquisition of the One Ring by "Isildor" son of Elendil, and followed by the slow development of the Númenórean heritage. First to be introduced were their northern descendants--the "Rangers", and the southern people appeared when Tolkien pondered in 1939 over the course of the narrative following the Council of Elrond. As he later recalled, Tolkien thought about "adventures" that the Company would meet on their way to Mordor and considered employing "Stone-Men" as one of them; other preserved notes mention a "city of stone and civilized men", its siege and a "Land of Ond". The name was based upon an already existing stem of Elvish languages, (g)ond with the meaning 'stone'.
A new character was immediately introduced: Boromir, a messenger at the Council of Elrond and son of the "King of Ond", whose realm is "besieged by wild men out of the East". Contemporary outlines propose that the main characters would participate in the final battle for the kingdom, already seen as a major climax of story. Another connection between the narrative and the background was achieved with the final solution of the identity of "Trotter": he became Aragorn, "a real ranger" and a descendant of Elendil.
By the time Tolkien began rewriting "The Council of Elrond" a year later, he had developed a story that Aragorn's ancestors were in past Kings in Boromir's hometown. The citizens were already then conceived as inferior to the Númenóreans, and although at war with Sauron, they were stated to have driven out the heirs of Elendil in a rebellion raised by the Witch-king; these settled in the north and nearly dwindled. At the same time a conception emerged that Elendil had several sons--Ilmandur, Isildur and Anárion--and that the descendants of only one of them survived the war with Sauron.
Ilmandur was discarded at once, but the fate of others remained fluid for some time; Christopher Tolkien assumed that at first it was the son of Isildur that should have inherited the kingship, but was refused the entry into his city due to Sauron's machinations and went to the north. This was replaced by the story that the Land of Ond was ruled by the descendants of Anárion until their failing, while Isildur's son remained at Rivendell and after the death of his father established another realm in the north. Later Tolkien decided that the northern kingdom was founded at the same time with "Ondor", as the southern realm was now renamed, and proposed Elendil and his brother Valandil as respective founders, before settling on the final conception of the co-reigning of Isildur and Anárion.
The three greatest cities of the Land of Ond were introduced together with the sons of Elendil during the rewriting of "The Council of Elrond" chapter, and originally corresponded to each of them: Osgiliath to Ilmandur, Minas Anor to Anárion, Minas Ithil to Isildur; after the rejection of Ilmandur, Osgiliath temporarily became Elendil's hometown, until the emergence of the final story. The ultimate fate of the cities--loss of Minas Ithil and abandonment of Osgiliath--was present from the start, as well as the later names Minas Tirith and Minas Morgol [sic]. Around the same time Tolkien's ideas about the location of the Land of Ond first received written form. The role of anchors was played by the Great River of the Wilderland from The Hobbit, which now was stated to pass through Osgiliath, by Mordor just to the east of Minas Ithil, by the "land of the Horse-lords" conceived of some time before and now neighbouring Ond, and by the "Black Mountains", precursors of the White.
Next element to be introduced was the "Land of Seven Streams"; Tolkien was hesitant for some time about its relation to other places, writing at different times that it was located north or south of Black Mountains, within the Land of Ond or separate from it. First to be conceived of were the rivers Greyflood or the "seventh river", Isen, and Silverlode, the last one soon changed to Blackroot--but without any reference to the sources of such a name. The three of them appear roughly at their final places on the original Tolkien's working map of the southern lands, as well as all locations mentioned above, the approximate line of coast, including Tolfalas, and the forerunner of Dol Amroth, apparently brought about with the development of the legend of Nimrodel while writing the "Lothlórien" chapter.
The need for a clearer image of the southern lands arose when Tolkien came to plan the narrative after the halt at Lothlórien. Further development of geography was compared by Christopher Tolkien to his father's notes on the creation process: "I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit". A new redrawing of the map of "Ondor" advances on the layout of the mountains and rivers and introduces new locations: Ithilien; Anarion [sic], which combines later Anórien and Lossarnach; "Belfalas (Langstrand)", in place of later Anfalas; rivers Ringló and Harnen; and controversial "Lebennin (Land of Seven Streams)", extending in the west to the later Morthond and covering either seven or five rivers, depending on its eastern border.Umbar and "Harondor (S. Gondor)" also first appeared on this map, while the land to the north of the Black Mountains was developed in the context of Rohan and of Emyn Muil.
A change in the perception of the eastern confines of Gondor was brought about with the development in 1944 of Frodo's journey to Mordor. At first Tolkien decided to move Minas Morgul northward, in order to combine its functions with the two towers that guarded the only passage into the Land of Shadow, but almost immediately he restored the older conception and introduced a secret pass above Minas Morgul. A new turn in the narrative--extension of Frodo's journey southwards--led to elaboration of Ithilien, which was "proving a lovely land" to Tolkien's surprise. At the same time he decided to rename the Black Mountains into White, possibly to contrast them from the Mountains of Shadow, and introduced the refuge of Henneth Annûn, at first trying out several experimental names such as Henneth, Henlo or Henuil for "window" combined with Nargalad "fiery light", Carandûn "red west" or Malthen "golden".
Later that year Tolkien began the chapters dealing with central Gondor, and in his sketches first appear the beacons of Anórien, "immense concentric walls" of Minas Tirith, the idea that Aragorn would come to Minas Tirith passing south of the White Mountains, and the towns of Erech and Pelargir. This led in 1946 to meticulous development of the geography of southern Gondor. While working upon the "Homeric catalogue", as he called it, of the reinforcements coming to Minas Tirith, Tolkien devised the names Lossarnach, Anfalas, Lamedon and Pinnath Gelin, all of which appear on a new version of the map in final locations with the exception of Lamedon, first placed in northern Lebennin and later moved westward. The rivers acquired final courses and names, except Gilrain, then called Lamedui; Celos, which flowed into Lamedui instead of Sirith; and Calenhir, a tributary of Morthond discarded later. The gulf into which flowed Ringló and Morthond was designated as "Cobas Haven", a name afterwards lost.
Final changes in the geography were caused by the intensification of the scene of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields: the distance between Osgiliath and Minas Tirith was reduced by four times; the northern regions became guarded by "Tol Varad (the Defended Isle)", later renamed Men Falros "place of foam-spray" and then Cair Andros; the inhabitants of the newly-introduced Drúadan Forest enabled the Rohirrim to pass freely to Minas Tirith; and the hills of Emyn Arnen (originally Haramon "southern hill") justified creating a bend in Anduin so that the revelation of Aragorn and his reinforcements occurred closer to the battlefield, at the quays of Harlond (at first Lonnath-ernin "Arnen-havens").
Geography of southern Gondor was developed concurrently, in outlines for the story of Aragorn's march to Pelargir, and the distances between the cities and their exact locations were calculated with high precision to accord with the narrative chronology. Erech became temporarily viewed as the landing-place of Isildur and was consequently moved from the sources of Morthond, first in between the mouths of Anduin and Lamedui, then to north-west of the Cobas Haven, and finally returned to its original site with the abandonment of this idea. Other places were introduced one by one: Linhir (first placed at the confluence of Ringló and Morthond), Tarnost, Tarlang's Neck, and Calembel (originally Caerost).
Christopher Tolkien gathered that originally his father imagined only two or three centuries between the first fall of Sauron and the War of the Ring, foreseeing no complicated events to have happened during this time. With the progress of the narrative during 1941-2 to the breaking of the Fellowship and the war in Rohan, particular aspects in the history and culture of the South-kingdom were introduced one by one: alliance with the Rohirrim and ceding a province to them, in gratitude for their help in the first war with Sauron; the White Tree and the winged crown, at first just as vague images in Aragorn's song; the spelling Gondor; and the Palantíri, with the Hornburg and Isengard made into former Gondorian fortresses and sites of two out of five Stones in the South-kingdom. At a later point, the fifth palantír was imagined to have been at Erech, before being discarded overall.
When the narrative passed into Ithilien, Tolkien introduced the Rangers of that land, with Faramir, brother of Boromir, as their captain. In speeches of this new character many of the author's conceptions about the history of Gondor either emerged for the first time or were only now set to paper: Boromir's horn was perceived to have been unique, "reasons of decline of Gondor" and its ethnic diversity textually elaborated, the Stewards first referred to, and the surrender of the "fields of Elenarda" to the Rohirrim was postponed to the epoch of the Stewardship and temporarily became regarded not as a gift from Gondor but as an enforcement by the Horse-lords. Most elements of the South-kingdom culture were introduced during the writing of Book V, such as ceremonials of retaining Kings' throne empty by the Stewards and burying the rulers behind Minas Tirith, as well as the royal banner of the Kings, originally described as "crown and stars of Sun and Moon".
The notion that the Third Age lasted "about 3000 years" was first written down when Tolkien began to sketch out the history of Númenor and the Westlands. Further on, he departed from the date of the foundation of the Realms in Exile, calculated at 3320 of the Second Age on the basis of average reigns of the Kings in Númenor; from the duration of the time of peace before the War of the Last Alliance, approximated at 100 years; and from the date of the failing of the Kings in Gondor, proposed as T.A. "c.2000". Original drafts for the account of the rulers of South-kingdom are not preserved, and in the earliest extant manuscript, ascribed by Christopher Tolkien to 1949-50, many events of the final history are already present. The rest entered in early revisions, namely the constant conflicts with Umbar; the attacks of the Wainriders, which replaced original wars with the Ringwraiths; the Battle of the Field of Celebrant and the gift of Cirion; and the Long Winter. The depopulation of Osgiliath was first placed some 200 years later, the fall of Minas Ithil was moved back and forth in time, and the last king Eärnur was originally stated to have never returned from a war against Mordor, with the Witch-king challenging him "to fight for the palantír of Ithil" when this element first entered.
The appendices to The Lord of the Rings were brought to a finished state in 1953-54, but a decade later, during preparations for the release of the Second Edition, Tolkien elaborated the events that had led to the Kin-strife and introduced the regency of Rómendacil II. The final development of the history and geographical nature of Gondor took place around 1970, in the last years of Tolkien's life, when he invented justifications for the place-names and wrote full narratives for the stories of Isildur's death and of the battles with the Wainriders and the Balchoth (published in Unfinished Tales).
It has been noted that Tolkien drew heavily on the general history of the Goths, Langobards and the Byzantine Empire and their mutual struggle. Even historical names from these peoples have been used in drafts or the final concept of the internal history of Gondor, such as Vidumavi, wife of king Valacar (Gothic language).
The Byzantine Empire and Gondor were both only echoes of older states (the Roman Empire and the unified kingdom of Elendil), yet each proved to be stronger than their sister-kingdoms (the Western Roman Empire and Arnor, respectively). Both realms were threatened by powerful eastern and southern enemies: the Byzantines by the Persians and the Muslim armies of the Arabs and the Turks, as well as the Langobards and Goths; Gondor by the Easterlings, the Haradrim, and the hordes of Sauron. Both realms were in decline at the time of a final, all-out siege from the East; however, Minas Tirith survived the siege whereas Constantinople did not. In a 1951 letter, Tolkien himself wrote about "the Byzantine City of Minas Tirith."
Gondor as it appeared in Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings has also been compared to the Byzantine Empire, for numerous reasons. The production team noted this in DVD commentary, explaining their decision to include some Byzantine domes into Minas Tirith architecture and to have civilians wear Byzantine-styled clothing.
One main difference from the books can be seen in the heraldry of Gondor. In the books, the flag of Gondor under the Stewards was a plain white banner without device. In the movies, the flag of Gondor is the royal standard in various variations, including on a white field. The banners carried by Gondorian cavalry and infantry are black pennants, with the White Tree and three white stars.
The geography of Jackson's Gondor differs significantly from the books. In the movie, Aragorn could see Pelargir from the exit to the Paths of the Dead, and Minas Tirith is much closer to Osgiliath. The land seems largely brown and uncultivated, while the books describe Gondor as fertile farming land with many houses and towns across the Pelennor and the area south of the White Mountains. There are no Rammas Echor on the Pelennor fields.
The warning beacons are not lit until Gandalf and Pippin arrive in Minas Tirith; they take matters into their own hands and light the first beacon themselves. The director's commentary questions the credibility of the remote beacons being continuously manned.
In the third installment, for example, Minas Tirith, a seven-tiered city of kings, looks European, Byzantine and fantastical at the same time.