The Tolkien Road

A podcast about Middle-earth and all things Tolkien.

0214 – Unfinished Tales – The Disaster of the Gladden Fields – Pt 1

In the annals of Middle-earth, it is well-known that Isildur, High King of Arnor and Gondor, failed to destroy the One Ring when he had the chance, instead preserving it as a keepsake and an heirloom. Yet how did he come to lose the Ring? What evil circumstances conspired against him? Join us, as we explore The Disaster of the Gladden Fields.

This episode is executive produced by Kaitlyn of Tea With Tolkien!


This account of the Disaster of the Gladden Fields is found in Unfinished Tales, Part Three. It is the story of how the One Ring came to rest in a marshy vale between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains, and remained out of sight and out of mind for some almost 2,500 years, until it was discovered by the Stoor Deagol, and stolen from him by his cousin Smeagol. 

  • From Unfinished Tales, we learn that Tolkien composed 2 versions of this, with very little editorializing by Christopher. (read note from Intro)
  • P1: Isildur becomes King of Arnor / man of great pride and vigour
  • P2: Wishes to return to Imladris first, before returning to Arnor
  • P3: It was a long journey, but shorter than the alternative.
  • P4: Expected Osgiliath to Imladris to take 40 days.
  • P5: Isildur sets out with his 3 eldest sons. 20 days in, a storm blows up from the East. The rain becomes so bad that they have to turn from the Anduin and closer to Greenwood (so they are on the eastern bank). 
  • NB: Amon Lanc was one of the reference points here, and will be the future site of Dol Guldur.
  • P6: 30 days in, things are looking better.
  • P7: Orcs! They think they are 10x outnumbered. They form defensive ranks. A shadow of foreboding falls on his heart.
  • P8: The vengeance of Sauron! Hope is lost(?). 
  • P9: Ohtar » take my stuff and flee
  • P10: First wave of Orcs does little damage
  • P11: Isildur resumes the march north, hoping the Orcs will leave them be.
  • P12: Isildur is mistaken. There is fierce hatred in their attack, and they are driven by servants of Barad-dûr. The Ring also calls to his servants for their aid. The Orcs do not charge, but form a distant ring around the Dunedain force, just out of reach of their archers. (read excerpt)
  • P13: The Orcs slowly close in, as if hoping to strangle the Dunedain. Elendur asks his father about using the One Ring.
  • P14: Isildur will not use it.
  • P15: When night comes, the Orcs fling themselves upon the Dunedain with reckless abandon. They paid up to 5 to 1 in the exchange. Ciryan is slain, Aratan mortally wounded attempting to rescue him.
  • P16-18: Elendur pleads with Isildur.  (read)
  • P19: Isildur places the Ring upon his finger and flees. Elendilmir (read)
  • P20: Only 1 Dunedain survives, and Elendur does not. Nice things said of Elendur. (read)
  • P21-22: Isildur’s fate. (read)

So that is the story of the Disaster of the Gladden Fields, how that tragic moment in the history of Middle-earth came to pass. But there’s more! On the next episode we will be going deeper into the details of the account, as well examining what happened when Aragorn discovered some of Isildur’s lost artifacts in Orthanc at the end of the Third Age.


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