J.R.R. Tolkien > The Lord of the Rings >
Isildur was the eldest son of Elendil, who was in turn son of Amandil, the last Lord of Andunië in the troubled days of Ar-Pharazôn, thus he was also a member of of the royal line of Númenor. His name is Quenya for "friend of the moon", and with such a name recaling the Eldar he was counted among the ranks of the Faithful, who adhered to the old ways and their ancient alliance with the Valar and the Eldar, and rightly feared the arrogance of Ar-Pharazôn and the malice of Sauron that was corrupting their once glorious and blessed land.
Sometime between the years 3262 and 3310, with Sauron having seduced Ar-Pharazôn back into the worship of Morgoth and deeper apostasy, a great temple to Morgoth was built in the heart of the Númenorean capital of Armenelos. Sauron urged Ar-Pharazôn to destroy the White Tree Nimloth, and burn it as a sacrifice in the Temple. The King at first refused, recalling the prophecy of his uncle Tar-Palantir that the fortunes of the Royal House of Númenor were bound in the fate of Nimloth. This was but vain hypocrisy from someone who had long ago turned away from the ancient alliance that the Tree represented, and Amandil knew that it was only a matter of time before Sauron convinced the King to do his bidding. So he gathered his son Elendil and his grandchildren Isildur and Anárion and told them the legend of the Two Trees of Valinor. Isildur said nothing, but that night he went disguised to the Royal Court in Armenelos to the place of the Tree, which was forbidden for anyone to approach under Sauron's orders. It was late autumn, so the Tree was dark and had no bloom, but Isildur managed to find a single fruit and took it. The guards were alerted as he attempted to escape, and he received many wounds, but the guards were unable to identify the intruder. He managed to return to the city of Rómenna and the home of his fathers before he finally collapsed from his serious injuries. The fruit was planted in secret, and Amandil blessed it, and when the first shoots began to grow Isildur was miraculously healed of his serious injuries.
This act of heroism, for which Isildur would be remembered, also gave Sauron the excuse he needed to make the King destroy the Tree. The Tree Nimloth was destroyed in the fires of the Temple, the first sacrifice of many to be made to Morgoth. This also began to inexorably lead to Ar-Pharazôn's contemplation of a war on Valinor, to claim the Undying Lands and the eternal life of those who dwelt there, which filled Amandil with great dread. Again he called his son and grandchildren, and urged them to avoid meddling in the war that was being planned, and to watch and wait. Amandil in the meantime would attempt to leave for Valinor in an attempt to intercede with the Valar on behalf of Númenor, just as their forefather Eärendil had three thousand years before.
By the year 3310 Elendil, Isildur, and Anárion stood on their nine ships, avoiding the King's Men who were out to arrest them for their treasonous defiance. Aboard their ships they brought their whole families and those of their closest friends and servants, and many precious objects, such as the seven palantiri given to them by the Eldar, and aboard Isildur's ship was the sapling of the White Tree.
Kings in Exile
It is unknown what happened to Amandil, but whether he successful or not in interceding on their behalf to the Valar, when Númenor was finally destroyed by the wrath of Ilúvatar, their ships were suddenly brought upon a great wind from out of the West, and they landed on Middle-Earth, weeping at the terrible spectacle of their homeland destroyed and drowned beneath the Great Sea. By the year 3320 they established on Middle-Earth the Númenorean realms in exile, Arnor and Gondor. Elendil, as High King, dwelt in Arnor, while the rule of Gondor was shared between Isildur and Anárion. Between Isildur's tower of Minas Ithil (later known in darker days as Minas Morgul), where the sapling of the White Tree was planted, and Anárion's citadel of Minas Anor (later known as Minas Tirith), they founded the great city of Osgiliath, not far from the confines of Mordor. At first they believed that the destruction of Númenor at least meant that Sauron had perished as well.
The Last Alliance and War with Sauron
Alas, that was not so. Sauron's spirit fled the Downfall of Númenor and returned to Mordor, where he took the One Ring again and slowly regained his former strength and power. By 3429 he suddenly attacked Minas Ithil and burned the White Tree. Isildur escaped Sauron's sudden attack and headed north to obtain aid from his father and from the High King of the Noldor Gil-Galad, while Anárion continued the defense of the besieged cities of Minas Anor and Osgiliath.
The Last Alliance of Men and Elves was formed in 3430, and they quickly mustered a strong host, which brought together forces under the command of Elendil, Gil-Galad, and Elrond among others to defeat Sauron. In the year 3434 the Alliance forces crossed the Misty Mountains and fought the battle of Dagorlad against Sauron's forces, which they defeated, and the Alliance besieged Sauron's fortress of Barad-dûr.
The Siege of the Barad-dûr lasted seven years, with Sauron managing to cause many dismaying things such as the death of Anárion in 3440, but eventually in 3441 the siege was broken and the Alliance managed to overthrow Sauron. However, Sauron managed to slay both Gil-Galad and Elendil himself, breaking Elendil's sword Narsil. Isildur took the shattered blade and cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. Thus ended the Second Age of Middle-earth.
Disaster from the Jaws of Victory
Elrond advised him to take the One Ring and cast it into the fires of Mount Doom ending Sauron's power forever there and then, but he refused, and kept the Ring for his own. In the second year of the Third Age he installed his brother's son Meneldil as king of Gondor, planting a seedling of the White Tree in Minas Anor as a sign of his kingship. He forsook his rulership of Gondor, intending to take up his father's kingdom of Arnor. However, on his way back to the royal city of Annúminas, at the Gladden Fields, he was ambushed by a large force of orcs, because he was heedless and took no precautions, secure in his recent victory. Nearly all of his people were slain that day, including his three elder sons. Isildur tried to escape using the One Ring, as it turned him invisible, but the Orcs hunted him down, by careful tracking. He swam in the great river Anduin in an attempt to elude his pursuers, and there the Ring betrayed him and avenged its maker, slipping off his finger and making him visible, and thus he died at the arrows of the orcs, in what would be known as the Disaster of the Gladden Fields. The One Ring was thus called Isildur's Bane. Only his squire Ohtar and two others managed to escape the orc-band, and he brought with him the shards of Narsil back to Rivendell, where Isildur's wife and youngest son Valandil were. Valandil became King of Arnor, succeeding his father and his grandfather.