Summary of this Essay:
What I am trying to do is to compare several versions of J.R.R.
Tolkien's version of the Atlantis legend. J.R.R. Tolkien called
his Atlantis island, Númenor, although it had several other names
as well in the various versions he did.
The versions I have are mostly unfinished and published in the
History of Middle-Earth with one exception, The Alkallabêth in The
Silmarillion. The others are The Lost Road, which is in Volume five
of the History of Middle-Earth, called The Lost Road, The Drowning
of Anadûnê, The Notion Club Papers (especially part two), in Volume
nine of the History of Middle-Earth, called Sauron Defeated and
the Fall of Númenor, also in The Lost Road.
The different books I am using are, The Silmarillion,
The Return of the King, Sauron Defeated and The
Lost Road. There was at least one other unfinished Númenor
tale, called Númenor, though I have no access to it. It was apparently
written in the 1920's or the 1930's.
With the number of unfinished Númenor tales in existence, I would
say it is safe to say that Tolkien was quite interested in the Atlantis
The Notion Club Papers Version of The Downfall
One of Tolkien's unfinished tales was a new twist on both the Atlantis
legend and his tale in the Silmarillion, called The Alkallabêth,
which is his version of the legend of Atlantis. He called this tale
The Notion Club Papers.
What is happening in the tale, is that at the beginning, two of
the members (later a third joins them in the phenomenon, though
not as strongly) of the Notion Club are finding memories of a past
intruding on their lives, especially in dreams. In Alwin Lowdham,
the dreams are characterized by words in a strange language, while
in Jeremy, the dreams were more in the type of silent images. Sometimes
the words and images would intrude upon the two in waking hours,
especially when eagle-like clouds would float up over the horizon,
western horizon especially, or during storms.
One of the two men had been called Aelfwine Éarendel by his father
while his mother modernized the name to Alwin. When Alwin was nine
his father's ship completely disappeared in a calm sea in the Atlantic.
Absolutely nothing was left of her. On that last voyage, Alwin's
father had only three crew members. The significance of this comes
in several forms:
First the parallels between that voyage and another especially famous
one, that of Eärendil with the last Silmaril. On his voyage, Eärendil
had only three crew and he too never came back.
Second, Alwin's father's ship was called the Éarendel.
From hints and parallels like this, I get the feeling that Alwin's
father, found the "Straight Road", that some voyagers were lucky
enough to find, though mostly only elves were allowed to find the
"Straight Road" and depart Middle-Earth forever. After his father
disappeared, Alwin began to get the first fragments of the first
of the three languages he was receiving. This language, he later
found to be Anglo-Saxon. The other two languages were earlier languages
from which Anglo-Saxon was descended.
I feel that as in the The Lord of the Rings it was said by Gandalf
that when the blood of Númenor runs almost pure, or pure in somebody,
that by strong use of will he or she could bend his/her sight wherever
he or she chooses, often including the future or the past. The last
two were easier done with some aid such as the palantir of Gondor.
Gandalf himself admits to the temptation to use the palantir of
Orthanc while it was in his possession (The Two Towers). As such
was said, It seems to me that by some chance, Jeremy and Lowdham
(possibly Ramer too) had almost straight decent from the Dúnedain
(meaning Men of the West) that had survived the downfall of Númenor.
Over a period of time as they were discussing things such as dream
training, these minor irruptions of Númenor were starting to make
an appearance. One example would be where Alwin, standing at a window
cries, "Behold the Eagles of the Lords of the
West! They are coming over Númenor!" (HOME IX.231). When
others went to the window, there was a row of eagle-like clouds
coming in from the west.
The significance of this is shown in both the Alkallabêth and in
the tale of Aldarion and Erendis, in the Unfinished Tales, where
at first the Valar show their displeasure with the Númenoreans with
such portents as eagle-like clouds, sickness (before the Númenoreans
were essentially immune to disease, and died at their own will,
laying themselves down for the endless sleep at the time of their
own choice. This changed gradually as the Númenoreans became jealous
of the Eldar (elves) and their immortality.) and many other things.
The eagle-like clouds were an especial constant along with drought,
storms at sea and that sort of thing after the last of the kings
of Númenor brought Sauron to live in Númenor.
Another quote from Alwin would be, "Curse him!
May the darkness take him! May the earth open-" I would say
that from the description surrounding that quote, that Alwin was
cursing Sauron after Sauron had built a domed temple to Morgoth
on the holy mountain, the Meneltarma. The description is of a cloud
resembling smoke atop a dome Oxford.
Other times a sentence might slip out, often referring to Zigur.
The word Zigur was later found to be the Adunaic name for Sauron.
What I think is that Ramer, Jeremy and Alwin were reliving in a
very compressed timeframe (a few months) the years preceding the
downfall of Númenor and the actual downfall of Númenor.
Tolkien also had links to the usual name of Atlantis for the island
in both this story and in the story the Lost Road. As I should have
mentioned before, the other languages that Alwin was receiving,
were later (I am not sure of the actual sequence of writing, did
the Notion Club Papers precede the Alkallabêth or was it the other
way around?) used in the Silmarillion. Alwin called them Avallonian,
which in the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings was Quenya,
the language of the High Elves. In Avallonian the name for Númenor
was Atalantë, which according to Alwin meant "She that has fallen
Tolkien's setting for the Downfall of Númenor was a massive storm,
with regiment after regiment of eagle-like clouds blowing over the
city of London, reminiscent of the storm in which the Downfall actually
The actual downfall (as portrayed in the Alkallabêth) had a single
long line of the cloud eagles floating in from the West, while Eru
( also known as Iluvitar, the One) removes Valinor (the dwelling
place of the Valar) from Middle-Earth, creating a giant chasm into
which Númenor slid. At the same time, the Meneltarma, never a volcano
before, erupted with smoke and fire. There are several differences
between the Alkallabêth, The Lost Road, The Fall of Númenor and
The Notion Club Papers, as all but the Alkallabêth are still in
The downfall as portrayed in The Notion Club Papers, part two,
was set in London, at one of the Notion Club member's rooms, mostly
at a window facing west. It also seems to be from the point of view
of somebody on a ship off the eastern coast of Númenor. At the time
of the Downfall, there were (in the Notion Club papers) only nine
ships off the eastern coast of Númenor. All the others were in use
by the king's army. These ships were the ones belonging to the remaining
Faithful. These ships contained the people who founded Arnor and
Gondor, as well as a seedling of the white tree and the seven palantir,
gifts of the Eldar to their ancestors.
The two main characters in this part were Jeremy and Alwin, standing
at the window. In an earlier version, Jeremy calls Alwin Elendil.
The significance of this is that in both the Lord of the Rings and
the Alkallabêth, Elendil is the leader of the Faithful, and the
king of both Arnor and Gondor. Elendil was also the father of both
Isildur and Anárion. While in the Notion Club Papers, no sons are
mentioned, as nothing is mentioned directly, The Lost Road, has
only one son mentioned and he was not named Anárion or Isildur.
Though the idea of having Jeremy call Alwin, Elendil was discarded,
I think that the idea was none the less still in Tolkien's head
as he wrote the next version, just from the style of the dialogue.
The storm Tolkien used to portray the downfall of Númenor started
in the middle of the Atlantic, and continued eastward diminishing
in strength like a tidal wave. This is reminiscent of how the storm
cause by the Valar as part of the Downfall would probably have acted
along with the changes caused by bending the world from a flat plain
into a sphere, while simultaneously removing a portion of it.
One theme that recurs in both the Notion Club Papers and in the
Return of the King, is that of a dream of a great green wave overtaking
the land. (Tolkien himself is said to have had this dream several
times) In the Lord of the Rings this dream is given to Faramir,
and shows up at the moment the Ring goes into the flames in the
Cracks of Doom. He is telling it to Éowyn. In the Notion Club Papers
the theme occurred several times in the first part as they were
talking of dreams.
Another common theme in The Notion Club Papers and The Silmarillion
is that of a green land with a tall mountain with a name meaning
"Pillar of Heaven". In the Notion Club Papers, it is Minul-Tarik
while in the Alkallabêth it is the Meneltarma.
With some other clues during the storm, I think that somehow Ramer,
Alwin and Jeremy were descended from the Númenoreans that escaped
the downfall. From the tone of what was said, it is possible that
Alwin and Jeremy were descended from Elendil and that the view of
what was happening was from Elendil (Alwin's point of view) and
either Isildur, Anárion or whoever was Elendil's son at the time
of writing The Notion Club Papers (Jeremy). I don't think that Ramer
had the pure blood of Númenor, though he probably had a good share,
because he wasn't reliving the downfall, though he did have some
understanding of what was happening and he was affected by what
was happening. I do not think that any of the other members of the
club were of Númenorean descent at all as they had no understanding
of the events or any feeling for what was happening.
Alwin and Jeremy left the rooms during the storm and later sent
a letter from somewhere unknown (the postmark was obliterated) on
the west of England I think from the names used. This seems to me
to be like the escape of the ships from Númenor.
When they arrive back in Oxford, for the next meeting, Alwin and
Jeremy start to tell of the events since the storm. At this point
there is an amazing similarity to The Lost Road.
Earlier I told of my theory that Alwin's father took the "Straight
Road", well the first of their dream "hosts" (see part one of the
Notion Club Papers for an explanation of this) was a man who's father
had been a sailor and with a ship called the Éarendel that had also
disappeared without a trace. The dream "host" had lived in the time
of the Danish invasion of England Taken from Christopher Tolkien's
notes, this Éadwine was about 45 years old at the time. Christopher
Tolkien got this information from historical references in the manuscript.
Alwin was about 48 during the eventful meetings of the Notion Club
in the story, so there were several similarities between the two
men. Possibly Éadwine was an ancestor of Alwin. Another similarity
that goes with the voyages is that, Eärendil took ship with the
last of the Silmarils with three crew and never returned to Middle-Earth,
Alwin's father possibly found the "Straight Road" again with three
crew, in a ship called the Éarendel, Alwin's dream "host's" father
disappeared in a ship called the Éarendel though there is no mention
of the number of crew, and Elendil's father Amandil took ship into
the west with three crew. Now if there is somehow a connection with
Elendil in Alwin's mind, perhaps his father had the same connection
with Amandil, and Éadwine had the same connection with Elendil.
Aelfwine and his friend Treowine (Jeremy) set sail in a lone ship
with no other crew. As they leave the coast they see the trademark
cloud eagles, at which point Aelfwine says something about the downfall
of Númenor and the ship sails to the west with a good east wind.
Treowine sees the earth sink below them and they come to see the
Undying Lands. This is the point that the manuscript breaks off.
Later in Sauron Defeated there are earlier versions of the manuscript
in which the two languages are not Quenya and Adunaic, but Quenya
The Lost Road Version of the Downfall of Númenor:
This has the same general theme as the Notion Club Papers and is
also unfinished. This time instead of Númenor intruding in dreams,
the main character travels back in time with his son, in steps,
much like where The Notion Club Papers manuscript breaks off.
The beginning of the Lost Road is very similar to that of the Notion
Club Papers, with fragmentary "echoes" of the Elvish and Adunaic
tongues entering through dreams. The main character's name has links
with the name Aelfwine, much the same as in the Notion Club Papers.
According to Tolkien the name Aelfwine means Elf-Friend.
In the Lost Road, there are two languages coming through. One of
which the main character calls Berilandic (which later in the Lord
of the Rings and The Silmarillion becomes Sindarin) and one which
though no names are given, I think to be Quenya. The name it is
given in the Lost Road is Eressean, which should say something as
in the Silmarillion, Tol Eressëa is the island on which many of
the elves (with the people of the Vanyar being a notable exception)
dwell, including a majority of the Teleri that heeded the Valars'
request (with the others becoming the Dark Elves) and the High Elves
or the Noldor. The name for the Elves that returned from the Undying
Lands with Fëanor, against the will of the Valar, was also High
Elves or the Light Elves, having seen the light of the Two Trees.
The Noldor made up a large portion of the elves that left and the
language of the Noldor was Quenya, so the language of the high Elves
One of the themes in both the Notion Club Papers and The Lost Road
is that of the "Straight Road", that exists to the Undying lands
that are no longer a part of Middle-Earth. As all of Middle-Earth
is now bent in the form of a globe, the "Straight Road" is the only
way to reach the Undying Lands, and normally only the special ships
of the Elves can navigate it. There are exceptions, which Tolkien
admits to at the end of the Alkallabêth, in the Silmarillion.
It is most common for a mariner who finds the "Straight Road", to
move far enough along to see, the Undying Lands with the spectacular
sight of Taniquetil, the mountain of Manwë, before they die of lack
of air. Though extremely rare, it is possible that some of the mariners
actually make it to the Undying Lands.
While in the Notion Club Papers, there is a strong interest in dreams,
in the Lost Road, the main character expresses a strong desire to
go back in time.
Tolkien has used almost the same verse in both the Lost Road and
the Notion Club papers. The verse is (copied from The Lost Road):
ar sauron tule nahamna turkildi
unuhunine tarkalion ohtakare valannar
herunumen ilu terhante iluvitaren eari
ullier kilyanna numenore ataltane
Then there is a gap and the second part is a lament
malle tera lende numenna ilya si maller
raikar turkildi romenna huruhuine men-lumna
vahay sin atalante
The Lost Road translation
and ? came ? they-fell ?
under-Shadow ? war-made on-Powers
Lord-of-West world broke of Iluvitar
seas Poured in-Chasm Númenor down-fell
Road Straight went Westward all now roads
bent ? eastward Death-shadow us-is-heavy
far-away now ?
My translation will have italics for the names otherwise it is
in plain text:
came? they-fell lordly-men
under-Shadow Tar-Kalion war-made on-Powers
Lord-of-West world broke of Iluvitar
seas Poured in-Chasm Númenor down-fell
Road Straight went Westward
all now roads
bent lordly-men eastwards Death-shadow us-is-heavy
far-away now She-that-fell-down
The wording is different in the Quenya and Andunaic versions in
the Notion Club Papers but the translation is essentially the same.
What the verses are is the first part is an account of the downfall
of Númenor and the second part is a lament of the fact that there
is no longer an Uttermost West in which the Undying Lands were as
the Undying Lands were no longer a part of Middle-Earth.
In The Lost Road as in The Notion Club Papers, references to Númenor
and to the Eagles of the Lords of the West slip through, though
neither Alboin or Alwin really understand them or remember that
they were saying them. Again in the Lost Road as in The Notion Club
Papers there is one person who sees the silent scenes and one who
hears the words with no pictures associated. In this story the person
who sees the pictures is Alboin's son Audoin, while in The Notion
Club Papers, Jeremy and Alwin are totally unrelated.
In both the Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers, Tolkien has used
many historical references, though it is especially apparent in
the Lost Road as far as it gets.
Much of the early part of the tale was set in Númenor, with Elendil
talking to his son (as I mentioned earlier, at that time Elendil
only had one son, in this story named Herendil) about the history
of Númenor before the coming of Sauron. At the beginning of this
part of the story Herendil was found lying on a stone wall thinking,
which is how Alboin found his son at the beginning of the story.
The story ends here though there are several rough pages with ideas.
The idea of having Númenor at the beginning was so abandoned and
Númenor was placed at the end of the story.
The Alkallabêth, The Fall of Númenor and the
Drowning of Anadûnê:
The manuscripts leading up to the Alkallabêth which is the only
finished Númenor story and any comparisons between them and the
previous two (The Notion Club papers and the Lost Road) are in this
Apparently the final scene in the Lost Road is what survived in
the Alkallabêth as the Downfall of Númenor.
At the same time as Tolkien was writing the earlier versions of
the downfall of Númenor, he was working on the Quenya languages.
This was also at the time he was working on the Lost Road, so at
the time he had also expressed a desire to rewrite the Atlantis
legends. I guess it is a bit of a coincidence that the word "atalante"
was used to mean "she-that-has-downfallen". Perhaps the reason is
that he was doing them at the same time.
The Fall of Númenor is earlier than the Lost Road as can be told
by the names Tolkien used, In the earlier stories, Sauron was named
Sur and Tarkalion was Angor. Though the Fall of Númenor is earlier
it is probably only very slightly earlier than The Lost Road, as
Tolkien was still developing the name "Númenor".
These two manuscripts are later than the manuscripts for the Quenta
and the Ambarkanta though as both The Lost Road and The Fall of
Númenor use the term Middle-Earth and neither of the two before
mentioned do until the Annals of Valinor. It seems that the idea
of Númenor came from a conversation with C.S. Lewis. Another name
for Sauron is Thu. This name is used in The Fall of Númenor, and
some of the other early manuscripts.
In the Fall of Númenor and the Drowning of Anadûnê, the long life
of the Númenoreans is given to the fact that they were allowed to
sail to Tol Eressëa, though this is very clearly not so in the Alkallabêth.
In both the Fall of Númenor and the Drowning of Anadûnê the ban
is to go farther west than Tol Eressëa while in the Alkallabêth
it is to go more than a day's sailing west of Númenor.
In the second version of the Fall of Númenor, the mariners were
still permitted to sail to Tol Eressëa and no further, but the Númenorean
Kings were permitted to sail to Valinor once before they were crowned.
This is an extreme difference from the Alkallabêth. The long life
was still ascribed to their nearness to Valinor though.
Paragraph 6 of page 15 in the book The Lost Road is almost the same
as the same paragraph in the Alkallabêth, describing the ships with
which Tarkalion or Angor was attacking Valinor.
In the Fall of Númenor Tolkien had the rift created by Manwë destroy
both Tol Eressëa and Númenor. In the Alkallabêth the rift was east
of Tol Eressëa and destroyed only Númenor, while in the Fall of
Númenor the rift was west of Tol Eressëa and destroyed both. In
both the Alkallabêth and the Fall of Númenor, the survivors of the
downfall were desiring long life and the tombs were more splendid
then where the living were, and men looked for how to increase lifespan.
The concept of the "Straight road" was very firmly established in
the Fall of Númenor as in the Alkallabêth, the Notion Club Papers
and The Lost Road. It was in the Fall of Númenor that the names
Númenor and Andor (The Land of the Gift) first came about, that
are used in the Alkallabêth. A mistake in the Alkallabêth is the
mention of the Gates of the Morning, because they were eliminated
in the Silmarillion and not needed in either the Fall of Númenor
or the Alkallabêth but were not removed from either one.
At the time he was writing the Fall of Númenor, Tolkien had only
one son of Eärendil, not the twins as in the Silmarillion and the
In the Fall of Númenor, as in the Alkallabêth, Tolkien had the
Númenoreans become more like the elves, eg. taking on their language.
In the third version of the Fall of Númenor, the part about the
kings being able to land once each lifetime in Valinor was removed,
but the ban still extended to allow the Númenoreans to land on Tol
At first Tolkien was using the end of the Fall of Númenor for part
of the Council of Elrond as it was told in the Treason of Isengard
which is the 7th book of the history of Middle-Earth series.
The part about the last King of Númenor sending his servants to
fetch Sauron is almost the same as in the Alkallabêth.
For the most part, the Fall of Númenor remained in a very brief
outline form all the way through its versions, with parts being
moved to the Lord of the Rings, which shows that this was written
in the late 1930's to 1942 which was when certain changes were made
in the Lord of the Rings that made changes necessary in both works.
While the Fall of Númenor was written with the Lost Road in mind,
the manuscript of the Drowning of Anadûnê was written for the Notion
Club Papers. In fact Tolkien used the end of the Fall of Númenor
in the chapter The Council of Elrond in the Treason of Isengard.
The beginning of the Drowning of Anadûnê starts with a brief history
of Middle-Earth, whereas both the Fall of Númenor and the Alkallabêth
start at the end of the wars over the Silmarils, with the Men who
had helped the Valar overthrow Morgoth sailing to the island that
was their reward.
At the time of the writing of the first manuscript of the Drowning
of Anadûnê the idea of Númenor as a reward was either discarded
or had not been decided on, as when Eärendil sailed into the west
looking for aid, the Valar say that they have not the right to make
war on Morgoth, though they do raise an island that is called Númenor,
for those of the Edain that have not turned to Morgoth.
Something I have noticed is that while in the Alkallabêth, the
last king of the Númenoreans is called Tar-Calion, The Lost Road,
The Notion Club Papers, The Fall of Númenor and the Drowning of
Anadûnê all have his name as Tarkalion. Of course, early versions
of other Quenya or Sindar names spelled with a "C" were spelled
with a "K" example, Celeborn (as in the finished version of the
Lord of the Rings) was originally spelled Keleborn, and is supposed
to be pronounced as though it was spelled with a "K". I suppose
that Tarkalion, later Tar-Calion is just another example of that.\
The third version of the Drowning of Anadûnê is very similar to
the Alkallabêth in many ways, some of which include: that death
was no longer a peaceful drifting into the long sleep, but often
came along with sickness and madness. The description of the temple
that Sauron had built, except that it had a silver dome, not gold.
The description of the charges that Tarkalion used as excuses to
use the faithful for sacrifices.
The name "Elendil" has been used all the way through all of the
stories that I have mentioned and been using in this comparison
study and The Drowning of Anadûnê is no exception.
The idea of Amandil, father of Elendil, sailing into the west to
betray Tarkalion's plan to the Valar is told in almost the same
words as in the Alkallabêth, with the main exception being that
Elendil's father's name is Amardil in the Drowning of Anadûnê. The
Drowning of Anadûnê is very similar to the Alkallabêth with the
main exception being different names etc. up to the point of Tarkalion's
ships surrounding Tol Eressëa. In The Drowning of Anadûnê, Tolkien
has both Tol Eressëa and Númenor destroyed by the chasm Iluvitar
created between Tol Eressëa and Númenor, while in the Alkallabêth
only Númenor was destroyed and the whole of the Undying Lands was
removed from the circles of Arda.
The Drowning of Anadûnê is the most likely ancestor of the Alkallabêth
according to Christopher Tolkien (Sauron Defeated page 353) and
I agree, from reading the two works simultaneously.
The Alkallabêth: I skipped the last version of the Drowning of
Anadûnê as there is almost no difference from the Alkallabêth except
for the following:
1. Peoples names
2. The fact that in the Drowning of Anadûnê there is no real distinction
between the Valar and the Eldar.
3. Some place names are different from the Alkallabêth.
In the last version of the Drowning of Anadûnê, Éarendel gains
the name used in the Alkallabêth, Bright Éarendel.
In the Alkallabêth though not in any other of the stories used
here, Elrond, has a twin brother Elros, who is the first king of
the Númenoreans, not Elrond as is in the other versions. Also while
Elrond chooses to have the life of the Eldar, Elros chooses the
life of the Edain, though he was granted a life span many times
greater than any other of the Edain.
While in the Drowning of Anadûnê the Númenoreans only became tyrants
on Middle-Earth during the reign of the last king, Tarkalion, in
the Alkallabêth it first happened during the reign of the thirteenth
The names of the Númenorean kings are almost the same in all of
the versions that I have read, but with one difference, in the Alkallabêth,
the kings used the various tongues of men, so the last king's name
was Ar-Pharazôn, usually called "The Golden". All else is virtually
the same between the Drowning of Anadûnê and The Alkallabêth.