|The Great Battle of the Last Alliance|
|Part of the War of the Last Alliance|
The Elves and Men meeting with the Armies of Mordor.
|Gondor, Arnor, Lindon, Lothlórien, Rivendell and Mirkwood||Mordor|
Mouth of Sauron
Witch King of Angmar
|Hundreds of thousands of Elves and Men. Vast majority of Elves were of Lindon. Dwarves of Durin's Folk also fought, along with many birds and beasts and other creatures of good.|| Nazgul|
Millions of Orcs, Trolls, and evil men (Haradrim, Easterlings, Black Numenoreans and Variags); thousands of other evil creatures (including evil birds and beasts).
|Heavy; Gil-Galad, Elendil and Anarion are slain. Many Elves, Men and Dwarves killed.||Very Heavy, almost complete annihilation. Sauron's physical body is destroyed, Barad-dûr destroyed (except the foundations), and The One Ring is taken by Isildur|
The Last Alliance of Elves and Men was formed in 3430 of the Second Age in response to the threat of conquest by the Dark Lord Sauron. This army was the largest force ever assembled in Middle-earth since the Host of Valinor during the War of Wrath. The Last Alliance was the greatest military alliance involving all the Free Peoples of the world and the only large-scale war fought until the War of the Ring. After this war, the elves only rarely managed to make a show of force in war again; a notable example being during the protracted conflict with the Witch King of Angmar across Eriador, Arnor, Eregion and Angmar itself. A notable example was when Lord Elrond and Glorfindel of Imladris, joined their large elven forces (an arrayed force from Lindon, Eregion, and even Lorien Elves) with an as large or larger still army of Gondorian force under heroic Prince Eärnur of Gondor . These forces drove the Witch King back from Fornost Erain and all the way back to the walls of Carn Dum. Some many thousands of elves were involved, yet, this was the last time Elves and Men would rally in such combative force of arms alongside each other, and their numbers were never as great as those during the Second Age. Therefore, the Last Alliance of Elves and Men was not the very last alliance of Elves and Men, yet it was the very last in direct conflict with Sauron during the Second Age, and the very last in which the Elves in particular could rally a field army exceeding one hundred thousand warriors.
Because Elendil and Gil-galad had taken the initiative, they had the luxury of time to prepare for the Battle of Dagorlad. Both kings spent two years gathering their forces; Elendil and Isildur met Gil-galad at the watchtower of Amon Sûl on Weathertop and together they led their hosts to Rivendell, where they were joined by Elrond and his company of elves. In Rivendell they spent a further three years making plans, forging weapons, and training for the great battle ahead of them.
Climbing over the Misty Mountains they had started recruiting the dwarves of Moria under the command of Durin IV. They journeyed south down the River Anduin, gathering Elves from Greenwood and Lórien, and eventually were joined by the army of Númenóreans from Gondor led by Isildur's brother Anarion. On their way to Mordor they fought many battles (one took place in the garden of the Ent-wives, when Sauron destroyed it to slow down the Alliance). The host that comprised this Last Alliance of Elves and Men is said to have been the greatest seen in Middle-earth since the end of the First Age. It consisted of hundreds of thousands of Elves and Men.
Together, the two forces marched across the stony Dagorlad, intending to carry on to the Barad-dûr itself, but a massive army of Sauron's orcs (some accounts say as many as a million) poured through the Black Gates to meet them. Although the Alliance had been marching for several weeks across many leagues, the Elves and Men were ready to face their oldest and greatest enemy --- this time for the last time. No prisoners could or would be taken; both sides knew this, and so it lent each army a desperate energy.
The two sides formed a stark contrast: where the Elves and Númenóreans men stood in perfect, ordered ranks, Sauron's orcs seethed in an unruly mass, and a rabble driven by savage hatred. Neither side possessed any machinery of war, which would play a significant role in the War of the Ring, so this great battle was conducted at close quarters.
Before this could happen, however, arrows were employed as the first line of attack. As the two sides approached, the Alliance spread its ranks ever wider to increase the width of its volleys, and to ensure that the orcs did not outflank them. Through this maneuver both the Men and Elves still kept their rigid formations of evenly spaced ranks. However, as the battle progressed, regiments moved to where they were needed, so if the Gondorian archers were all spent in one place, a regiment of Elven archers would move into the Gondorian ranks to maintain effective cover. The allies worked together cohesively to provide the soldiers weapons and firepower where they needed it.
The Dwarves kept in a neat strong line, and would fire their short bows and stronger crossbows toward the advancing orcs. Then they would form a phalanx shield wall and spear any orc that tried to break it. The Dwarves were led by Durin IV but no dwarf army is shown in the Fellowship of the Ring.
Of the three bows to be used on the battlefield, the longbow of the elves was the best: standing six feet high, it had a range of more than 350 yards and was used with deadly precision by the Elven archers. Every arrow that was released found its target in orc flesh. The Númenórean longbow was of a similar size but was not quite the match of those of the Eldar; its range was still mighty, however, up to 300 yards, depending on the warrior. Some accounts found in the archives at Minas Tirith record that this bow was made of hollow steel. If this is true, it would demonstrate a truly phenomenal skill in weapon craft.
The Orc archers, who were scattered throughout the leading wave, had to rely on smaller bows, crudely made from horn and the blasted wood of Mordor; at best, they could shoot their black arrows only about 100 to 150 yards. This range superiority allowed the Alliance to kill many thousands of their foes before the two sides came together. Yet the poisoned, filth-encrusted arrows of the orcs still took their toll, and many Elves and Men fell on the Dagorlad Plain.
The strategy of the Last Alliance was very simple: fight their way into Mordor, mount an assault upon Barad-dûr and kill Sauron. For the army of orcs, it was even simpler: kill them all or be killed.
With both sides firing uncounted numbers of arrows, the lower sky became black with whispering death. The vast numbers of arrows falling on the orcs took a heavy toll on them, both physically and in terms of their morale; they could not take a single step without casting their eyes heavenward, expecting all the while a heavy Elven or Gondorian arrow to come crashing through their armor. The strategy was extremely effective at keeping them at bay, but eventually the greater numbers of the Orc horde meant that some were able to crawl over the growing piles of corpses and get inside the killing zone; even so, many of these were taken down by a direct shot from the first rank of archers. The relentless tempest of arrows felled many an orcs and inflicted thousands of casualties upon the forces of Mordor long before steel clashed upon steel in the most decisive battle since Thangorodrim in the First Age.
Inevitably, though, some of them evaded dispatch, and the two armies clashed to the sound of ringing steel. The orcs threw themselves against their foe with mindless ferocity, but the front ranks of Men and Elves stood firm. The elves followed their tried and tested strategy of forming two or three ranks of archers behind several comprising a shield wall and spearmen. This gave them enough of a barrier from attack so that if any enemy did manage to break through the front ranks, they were able to take up their swords in time to face them.
Elsewhere on the Elven front line, ranks of swordsmen stood with blades at the ready as the orcs charged at the warriors who had kept them at bay for days and weeks with skillful archery.
As the orcs rushed headlong toward their foes, the Númenóreans drew their long swords and turned their shield-arm side to meet the attack; the elves raised their swords and their spears, fully ten feet long, ready to scythe down the orcs like wheat in the field. The orcs carried few shields, which made them more agile yet more vulnerable, and the blades that were forged in Annuminas, Forlond, and Rivendell spilled black blood with every stroke.
The savagery and brute force of the orcs' attack eventually paid dividends, and in a few places they succeeded in breaking through the Alliance's ranks, where they fought with an energy born of fear and hatred of their ancient enemy, and would often swarm around and over a single elf or man, hacking at him with their primitive weapons and ripping at him with claws or teeth. Over the course of several weeks' hard fighting the vast numbers of orcs was reduced, but the Alliance also suffered grievously, losing a large number of warriors and some Elf-lords, including Oropher, grandsire of Legolas. But eventually, the Alliance gained the mastery of the battlefield, and drove the orcs back through the Black Gates and into Mordor, all the way to the Gorgoroth between Barad-dûr and Mount Doom. Anárion, second son of Elendil, was slain here when a stone crushed his helm.
Here the land was desolate, the ground lay covered in gray ash and the sky was choked and leaden; the air was full of the sulfurous exhalation of Mount Doom, which belched fire and fumes in its unrest, creating a blistering heat. But the hearts of Elves and Men did not falter, for the Elves were in the springtime of their glory, and the Númenóreans were at the noontide of their power, and they knew that they had the upper hand. For at their head stood Gil-galad and Elendil, who wielded Aiglos and Narsil and none could stand before them.
The banners of the High King of Elves in Middle Earth were like stars in the night sky of this wasteland, and the armor of the elves was the green of spring, their cloaks the blue of the sea; the armor of the Men of Númenór gleamed gold and silver, and Narsil and Aeglos shone like the Sun and the Moon.
Sauron came forth with the Ring of Power on his finger, poised and confident. Gil-galad battled him long and hard and eventually was joined by Elendil, and they defeated him, but were slain in the process. When Elendil fell, Isildur picked up Narsil, which was crushed beneath Elendil, and its light was vanquished (until its reforging as Andúril). Isildur used the hilt-based piece of Narsil to cut-off Sauron's Ring finger. Sauron's spirit, now separated from the Ring, fled like a black cloud into the East.
It should be noted that while it is called the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, some dwarves, under the command of Durin IV, also fought alongside Elendil and Gil-galad during the battle(s).
After this defeat of Sauron, several notable things occurred. The battle brought a close to the Second Age and began the Third Age. The High Kingship of the Dunedain passed to Isildur, son of Elendil; however the death of Gil-galad ended the line of High Kings of the exiled Ñoldor and the titles of King of Lindon and High King of the Elves in Middle Earth ceased to be because no one had the authority to claim them. Also, Thranduil, Oropher's son, became ruler of Mirkwood when Oropher was killed.
Portrayal in AdaptationsEdit
Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring differs in some ways from the above account, supplying more details and changing some aspects. The elves used falxes (two-handed, curved swords) and Sauron wielded a giant mace (considering that the elven forces consisted of Ñoldor, the Elves should have used straight swords like the Dunedain. In any case, it was the Ñoldor who taught men in the First Age how to craft various weapons, so the Dunedain's weapons should be very similar to the Elven weapons). The original concept for the battle included Sauron and Gil-galad's duel, and Sauron seizing Gil-galad by the throat when the High King fell; the heat of Sauron's hand would cause the elf lord to burst into flames. However, this scene was cut.
The remainder of the scene is in the film. Elendil goes to avenge Gil-galad but a blow from Sauron's mace throws him against some rocks and he is killed. His son Isildur rushes to his side. Sauron approaches and Isildur grabs his father's sword, Narsil. However, Sauron steps on the blade and it breaks into several pieces. Isildur uses the hilt to slice off Sauron's fingers, including his right index finger, which bore the One Ring. As Sauron's life force is bound to the ring, his armor explodes and his body and spirit vanish. The force of the explosion knocks over everyone in the surrounding area.