One of the changes discussed in my second post on textual variants in The Silmarillion was the numbering of the Númenórean kings. I said there that it might be worth a whole post, so here we go.
The King List in LOTR Appendix A
In the first editions of The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A gives the list of Númenórean kings and queens as:
These are the names of the Kings and Queens of Númenor: Elros Tar-Minyatur, Vardamir, Tar-Amandil, Tar-Elendil, Tar-Meneldur, Tar-Aldarion, Tar-Ancalimë (the first Ruling Queen), Tar-Anárion, Tar-Súrion, Tar-Telperiën (the second Queen), Tar-Minastir, Tar-Ciryatan, Tar-Atanamir the Great, Tar-Ancalimon, Tar-Telemmaitë, Tar-Vanimeldë (the third Queen), Tar-Alcarin, Tar-Calmacil. After Calmacil the Kings took the sceptre in names of the Númenórean (or Adûnaic) tongue: Ar-Adûnakhôr, Ar-Zimrathôn, Ar-Sakalthôr, Ar-Gimilzôr, Ar-Inziladûn. Inziladûn repented of the ways of the Kings and changed his name to Tar-Palantir ‘The Farsighted’. His daughter should have been the fourth Queen, Tar-Míriel, but the King’s nephew usurped the sceptre and became Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, last King of the Númenóreans.
If you count them, Tar-Calmacil is the eighteenth ruler and Ar-Adûnakhôr the nineteenth.
But further down the page, we read (emphasis mine):
and at last the twentieth King took his royal name, in Númenorean form, calling himself Ar-Adûnakhôr, ‘Lord of the West’.
Ar-Adûnakhôr is nineteenth on the list but here is called the twentieth. There are three possibilities here:
- the list is deliberately incomplete (not uncommon for king lists in the primary world!)
- the list is accidentally incomplete
- calling Ar-Adûnakhôr the twentieth King is a mistake
The Timeline in LOTR Appendix B
Appendix B has a timeline that does not mention all the Kings and Queens but after Tar-Atanamir, only Tar-Ancalimon, Ar-Adûnakhôr, Tar-Palantir and Ar-Pharazôn are mentioned. It is stated that Ar-Adûnakhôr took up the sceptre in SA 2899.
Now in 1964, someone apparently wrote to Tolkien about the nineteenth vs twentieth discrepancy in Appendix A and Tolkien replied (not in the published Letters, but this is quoted by Christopher Tolkien in an Unfinished Tales note that we’ll be coming back to a lot here):
As the genealogy stands he should be called the sixteenth king and nineteenth ruler. Nineteen should possibly be read for twenty; but it is also possible that a name has been left out.
Tolkien apparently went on to explain that his papers on the matter were not available to him so he couldn’t confirm either way.
Tolkien does seem to rule out having done it deliberately (or at least didn’t remember doing so) but, at the very least, he left open whether it was the list or the later ordinal that was incorrect.
(I’d love to get a proper reference to this letter and read more of it!)
In the published Letters (Letter 211, written in 1958), Tolkien refers to the change in the language of the regnal names from Elvish to Númenorean but actually gets Ar-Adûnakhôr’s predecessor completey wrong:
After Tar-Atanamir (an Elvish name) the next name is Ar-Adûnakhôr a Númenorean name.
I take this mistake to be inconsequential to the question of The Silmarillion text, though.
Foster and Tyler
Robert Foster, in his A Guide to Middle-Earth (1971 and apparently not yet Complete) assumes the list is correct, not the ordinal, and calls Ar-Adûnakhôr the nineteenth king. Accordingly, he gives the death date of Tar-Calmacil as SA 2899 (the year Ar-Adûnakhôr took up the sceptre). Foster uses this in his family tree The Dúnedain of Númenor. J.E.A. Tyler in his (also not yet Complete) The Tolkien Companion (1976) follows Foster both in taking Ar-Adûnakhôr to be the nineteenth king and Tar-Calmacil’s death as being SA 2899.
Akallabêth in the Printed Silmarillion
Now we come to the text of The Silmarillion. In short, the earliest printed texts say that:
- Ar-Adûnakhor was the nineteenth king
- Ar-Gimilzôr was the twenty-second king
- three and twenty kings had ruled before Ar-Pharazôn
This is all consistent with the “complete list but mistaken ordinal” hypothesis, but here is where it gets interesting. Christopher Tolkien, in Unfinished Tales (p226 n11), basically admits that his father’s unpublished Akallabêth text originally said Ar-Adûnakhor was the twentieth king and that four and twenty kings had ruled before Ar-Pharazôn but that Christopher “corrected” it to nineteenth and three, assuming (like Foster, who may have influenced the decision) that the LOTR Appendix A list was complete and correct. He must have also “corrected” Ar-Gimilzôr but, as we’ll see, took longer to revert his mistake there.
And so The Silmarillion (1977) was published with Númenórean kings numbered assuming the LOTR Appendix A list and not ordinal was correct, even though J.R.R. Tolkien’s unpublished Akallabêth text suggested otherwise.
Unfinished Tales and The Line of Elros
Unfinished Tales (1980) includes The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor, a more detailed king list including a paragraph about each ruler with details of their birth and death, accomplishments, etc.
Lo and behold, it contains a king in between Tar-Calmacil and Ar-Adûnakhor.
XVIII Tar Calmacil
He was born in the year 2618, and he ruled for 74 years until his death in 2899. His name in Adûnaic was Ar-Abattârik.
XX Ar-Adûnakhor (Tar-Herunúmen)
It is here on the Tar-Ardamin entry where we find the endnote we’ve referred to a number of times, where Christopher gives the solution to the puzzle.
The Line of Elros makes clear Ar-Adûnakhor was indeed the twentieth ruler. It was Tar-Ardamin who died in SA 2899, not Tar Calmacil (contra Foster and Tyler).
Christopher suggests there may be some more complex textual history here. After all, even with this new information, it still means the LOTR Appendix A had an error (just not in the place first thought).
Corrections to The Silmarillion
By 1983, two of the three king numbers in The Silmarillion had been corrected. Christopher did not mention the third error in the Unfinished Tales endnote so he must not have picked it up at the time and it wasn’t corrected in The Silmarillion until much later (possibly the Second Edition in 1999).
In his Preface to the Second Edition of The Silmarillion, Christopher Tolkien gives the Númenórean king numbering as “chief” amongst the errors that had persisted in the hardback versions now fixed in the new edition (remember two of the three errors had been fixed in the paperbacks by 1983). In that same preface, Christopher cites the Unfinished Tales endnote as well as a section in The Peoples of Middle-earth.
The note in The Peoples of Middle-earth (p154) retells pretty much what was already revealed in the endnote in Unfinished Tales and what I’ve recounted in this post and doesn’t give any more details.
Corrections to Foster and Tyler
Both Foster and Tyler’s works added Complete to their titles (I guess after The Silmarillion was published). Foster’s last revision was before Unfinished Tales was published and so never corrected the genealogy or entries for Tar-Calmacil or Ar-Adûnakhor. Tyler, however, did release a Third Edition in 2004 which does make the updates.
Corrections to The Lord of the Rings
The Silmarillion was mostly corrected in paperback by 1983 and in both paperback and hardcover by the Second Edition (1999 UK; 2001 US). But what of The Lord of the Rings? Remember this whole thing started because of an inconsistency in Appendix A.
Well, that eventually got corrected, at least in the 50th Anniversary Edition prepared by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull. In that edition, Tar-Ardamin is added to the king list and it is “after Ardamin the Kings took the sceptre in names of the Númenórean (or Adûnaic) tongue”.
It’s possible this correction was made in the 1994 resetting (which would make sense given Christopher supervised corrections for that and had known about the problem for over a decade at that point) but I haven’t yet confirmed this. A recently purchased Mariner Books paperback (2012) does not have the correction and seems to still be the 1966 text and setting. But now we’re getting into LOTR textual variants and edition histories which is a whole other thing!