In the Stead of the King
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In JRR Tolkien's fictional world of Arda, the Stewards of Gondor were a long line of Dúnedain men. "Steward" is a translation of the Sindarin word arandur, meaning "king's servant."
Though the first four Stewards were basically title-only posts, Mardil Voronwë was named the first Steward, who was to rule should the king go missing or become unavailable, by King Rómendacil I in III 492. The title was given to the King's chief advisor from Rómendacil's rule until the demise of the final King, Eärnur II in III 2050 (though it eventually became hereditary) with two interregnums, the first from III 1945 (when the throne was disputed upon the death of Ondoher) to III 2043 (when the dispute was resolved), the second from III 2050 (with the death of Eärnur) to III 3019, a total of 931 years. During the interregnums, the Stewards ruled Gondor in place of the kings. Given the length of time the monarchy was absent, the Stewards basically took the place of the king, and by the time of the next-to-last Steward, Denethor II, they lived like kings and resisted the reformation of the monarchy due to their privilege. The only real difference other than title was that the Stewards remained seated in their smaller chairs next to the actual Throne of Gondor, which remained vacant in the absence of the king.
The Stewards concerned themselves with the laws of the kingdom, military strategy, and trade regulations with neighbouring kingdoms such as Rohan. The title was hereditary, and was given to the Steward's eldest son upon his (that is, the current Steward) death, or to others in special cases, such as when the Steward Eärnil, who had, as a general, saved Gondor from the armies of the South kingdoms in III 1945, came to power when the king and his heirs were lost in the battle.
The thirty Stewards are divided into two classes — Honourary, and Ruling Steward. The Honourary Stewards were the first few such people who were members of the nobility that lived beneath the monarchy and advised the king. The Ruling Stewards were those that acted in place of the king, be he absent for whatever reason.
What follows is a listing of all the Stewards, and whether they were Honourary or Ruling Stewards. Also included are some various notable events that occurred during their time in office/reign, if applicable.
- Numerous unnamed stewards — all Honourary Stewards, stretching from III 492 to III 1621 (1229 years), when the first named Steward, Húrin, is mentioned.
- Húrin of Emyn Arnen — Honourary Steward — Served under King Minardil for 13 years (III 1621-1634).
- Numerous unnamed stewards — all Honourary Stewards, stretching from III 1634 and III 1936 (302 years), until the next named Steward.
- Pelendur — Honourary Steward — Served under King Ondoher and King Eärnil II. After Ondoher and his heirs were lost in the Battle of the Wainriders, it fell upon Pelendur to select a new king. He chose Eärnil, who became Eärnil II, and retained Pelendur's services as Steward, though he was eventually replaced by Vorondil. During the process to elect a new King (a process which took about a year), Pelendur served as the ruler of Gondor. His two stints as Steward lasted a combined 61 years (III 1936-1944 and III 1945-1998).
- Vorondil — Honourary Steward — The son of Pelendur. Served under Eärnil II as Steward for 21 years, though he is probably better known for his exploits in the far east of Middle-earth, which bore him the title "The Hunter." He returned from his adventures with the Horn of Gondor, an heirloom passed from the Steward to the Steward's eldest son until the end of the line of Stewards. It was, perhaps, most famously carried by Boromir during the War of the Ring. Held the Stewardship for 31 years (III 1998-2029). Succeeded by his son, Mardil Voronwë.
- Mardil Voronwë — Honourary Steward/Ruling Steward — The first of the Ruling Stewards. He came to power after King Eärnur accepted an open challenge from the Nazgûl in Minas Morgul. His stewardship lasted 21 years (III 2029-2060), after which he was the de-facto ruler of Gondor for 30 years, until a new King was chosen. Anyway, Eärnur rode out to meet the challenge and was never seen again, and since he had no heirs, Mardil Voronwë assumed the leadership of Gondor. His descendants bore the remaining Stewards until the title was dissolved. Succeeded by his son, Eradan.
- Eradan — Ruling Steward — The son of Mardil Voronwë. Ruled for 36 years (III 2060-2116). Succeeded by his son, Herion.
- Herion — Ruling Steward — The son of Eradan, and grandson of Mardil Voronwë. His rule and the 400 years following it was known as the Watchful Peace due to relative quiet in Mordor, when Sauron lay hidden in the far east. Ruled for 32 years (III 2116-2148). Succeeded by his son, Belegorn.
- Belegorn — Ruling Steward — The son of Herion. His 56-year (III 2148-2204) reign continued the Watchful Peace. Succeeded by his son, Húrin I.
- Húrin I — Ruling Steward — The son of Belegorn who was named for Húrin Thalion, one of the early heroes of the Edain (not for his predecessor, Húrin of Emyn Arnen). Ruled for 40 years (III 2204-2244). Succeeded by his son, Túrin I.
- Túrin I — Ruling Steward — Named for Túrin Turambar, another early Edain hero. Ruled for 34 years (III 2244-2278). Succeeded by his son, Hador.
- Hador — Ruling Steward — Named for Hador Lórindol, yet another Edain hero. His reign endured a lengthy 117 years (III 2278-2395), quite long by the standards set by his predecessors. Continued the Watchful Peace with Sauron gone. Succeeded by his son, Barahir.
- Barahir — Ruling Steward — Took his office at age 105, a by-product of his father's long rule. He died at age 122 after a 17-year rule (III 2395-2412). Succeeded by his son, Dior.
- Dior — Ruling Steward — His reign marked the return of Sauron into Dol Guldur from the far east. Ruled for 23 years (III 2412-2435). He had no direct heirs, and was succeeded by his nephew, Denethor I.
- Denethor I — Ruling Steward -– During his reign, the Nazgûl attacked Gondor from Minas Morgul. Uruk-hai orcs, the first of their kind, set Ithilien ablaze and captured Osgiliath. Denethor was able to retake Osgiliath, but was mortally wounded in the process. Ruled for 42 years (III 2435-2477). Succeeded by his son, Boromir.
- Boromir — Ruling Steward — He succeeded his father in the Stewardship for only twelve years, before sustaining mortally poisonous wounds while fighting off the Morgul-army. Ruled for only 12 years (2477-2489). He was succeeded by his son, Cirion. (Not the same Boromir that took part in the War of the Ring, though that Boromir was likely named for this one.)
- Cirion — Ruling Steward — The battles with the forces of Minas Morgul continued during Cirion's reign, never really stopping until after the War of the Ring. It was around this time that Gondor made allies of the Northmen, who went on to become the Rohirrim and settle in the land of Calenardhon, which became Rohan in latter days. Ruled for 78 years (III 2489-2567). Succeeded by his son, Hallas.
- Hallas — Ruling Steward — The first Steward to rule while his father still lived — he acted as regent while his father was away fighting the Balchoth. He bore witness to the oath of allegiance between Cirion and Eorl, the founder of Rohan. Ruled for 38 years (III 2567-2595). Succeeded by his son, Húrin II.
- Húrin II — Ruling Steward — Ruled for 23 years (III 2595-2618). Succeeded by his son, Belecthor I.
- Belecthor I — Ruling Steward — Ruled for 27 years (III 2618-2645). Succeeded by his son, Orodreth.
- Orodreth — Ruling Steward — Named for Orodreth, the ruler of Nargothrond in the First Age. Ruled for 30 years (III 2655-2685). Succeeded by his son, Ecthelion I.
- Ecthelion I — Ruling Steward — Noted for his building of the White Tower, the Tower of Ecthelion. Ruled for 13 years (III 2685-2698). Succeeded by his son, Egalmoth.
- Egalmoth — Ruling Steward — Orcish raids began again from Mordor and Minas Morgul during Egalmoth's reign. Ruled for 45 years (III 2698-2743). Succeeded by his son, Beren.
- Beren — Ruling Steward — Named for Beren Erchamion, one of the key figures in the Tale of Beren and Lúthien and one of the most legendary of all the Edain. Granted the tower of Orthanc to Saruman during his reign, and witnessed the disastrous Long Winter experienced by his allies in Rohan. Ruled for 20 years (III 2743-2763). Succeeded by his son, Beregond.
- Beregond — Ruling Steward — Ruled for 48 years (III 2763-2711). Succeeded by his son, Belecthor II.
- Belecthor II — Ruling Steward — The last Ruling Steward to live past age 100. Shared his death with the White Tree of Gondor (after which it became the Dead Tree), though it is not stated if the two events are related. Ruled for 61 years (III 2711-2872). Succeeded by his son, Thorondir.
- Thorondir — Ruling Steward — Hoping for the eventual return of the king, Thorondir left the dead White Tree standing. Ruled for only ten years (III 2872-2882, the shortest reign of any Steward) before dying and being succeeded by his son, Túrin II.
- Túrin II — Ruling Steward — Along with King Folcwine of Rohan, he managed to push back and finally defeat the Haradrim during an invasion on the Crossings of Poros. He also founded the refuge of Henneth Annûn. Ruled for 32 years (III 2882-2914). Succeeded by his son, Turgon.
- Turgon — Ruling Steward — Named for Turgon of Gondolin. Ruled for 29 years (III 2914-2943). During his reign, Sauron returned to Mordor and began the reconstruction of Barad-dûr. Succeeded by his son, Ecthelion II.
- Ecthelion II — Ruling Steward — Managed to fortify Gondor greatly during his reign, mostly with the aid of Mithrandir (Gandalf) and Thorongil (Aragon). Ruled for 41 years (III 2943-2984). Succeeded by his son, Denethor II.
III 3000 and into the Fourth Age
- Denethor II — Ruling Steward — The most visible of all the Ruling Stewards, Denethor II ruled during the War of the Ring, at the start of which he sent his eldset son Boromir to Rivendell to become a member of the Fellowship of the Ring. He suffered something of a nervous breakdown during the War, and eventually immolated himself to death after he received a particularly terrifying vision of Sauron in the palantír he held in secret. Ruled for 35 years (III 2984-3019). Succeeded by his son, Faramir. (Played wonderfully over-the-top by John Noble in Peter Jackson's movie version of The Lord of the Rings.)
- Faramir — Honourary Steward — He was Steward for only a few weeks before relinquishing the title to Aragorn II Elessar, the King of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor, who allowed him to remain an Honorary Steward. Upon surrendering his Stewardship, he was appointed Prince of Ithilien. He married Éowyn of Rohan, and settled down to live the rest of his days in Ithilien. Acted as Steward for a very respectable 84 years (III 3019-IV 84). Succeeded by his son, Elboron. (Played with poignant sensitivity by David Wenham in the movies.)
- Elboron — Honourary Steward — While Tolkien named Faramir's son and implied that he followed him in the Stewardship (and presumably, the Princedom of Ithilien), he gives no dates or noteworthy events that occurred during his rule, so his inclusion is this list may be non-canonical. It would appear that he ruled for 36 years (IV 84-120). He was the eldest son of Faramir and Éowyn. Succeeded by his son, Barahir II.
- Barahir II — Honourary Steward — He apparently assumed the Stewardship and Princedom upon the death of his father, Elboron, in IV 120, and as such, he is the last Steward mentioned by Tolkien. He held the Stewardship after the time of Aragorn II Elessar's reign (IV 1-120), and evidently wrote a book entitled The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.
Grateful assistance was provided by the inimitable Encyclopedia of Arda, which can be perused at the following URL:
The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings, The Book of Lost Tales I and II, and Unfinished Tales (and their appendices) by JRR Tolkien were also extensively leafed through for assistance.