Dark Men ~ Corsairs of Umbar
“‘The Corsairs of Umbar!’ men shouted. ‘The Corsairs of Umbar! Look! The Corsairs of Umbar are coming!”
LOTR: ROTK B5 C6
The Corsairs of Umbar were a people who thrived upon the open seas and who built great fleets of ships for trade and war. In the waning years of the Third Age of Middle-earth, they were known to be a race of men who pirated the seas south of Gondor and were held in sway by the dark power of Mordor.
The story of Umbar is long and it was for much of it’s history a rival in might and power to both Gondor and Arnor. It was in essence, the third Kingdom of Númenór in Middle-earth and its great wealth and power were often in opposition to the Kings of Gondor.
The southern coastlines of Middle-earth were first explored by the Númenóreans during the Second Age. Near the end of the first millennium of the Second Age, the great mariner Aldarion sailed to Middle-earth and explored the coasts of near Harad. Eventually they came upon the Havens of Umbar, a natural harbor that made it ideal as a center of trade between north and south. The Númenóreans built a great fortress there and the city of Corsair.
The Kings of Númenór saw the potential riches of these lands and began to colonize the coastline and soon after demanded tribute from Near Harad. These lands were mostly settled by the Kingsmen of Númenór, who would eventually become the Black Númenóreans.
After the fall of Númenór into the great Sea, when the remaining faithful settled Arnor to the north and Gondor to the south, Umbar drew the remaining Kingsmen and there they they built a great force of ships that traded and made war all along the coast. Gondor seeing the great riches it possessed, it’s strategic significance and it’s potential threat, attacked Umbar and made of it a fiefdom to Gondor. For nearly 500 years, Umbar was an important city and port in the kingdom of Gondor, during this time the Black Númenóreans retreated into Harad and waited for their chance to retake what they considered their stolen lands and city.
During the time of the Kin-strife, the usurper Castamir from Pelargir attacked Gondor and with the support of Umbar set himself upon the Throne. However, his reign was short and he eventually fled to Umbar, where the Black Númenóreans had once more wrestled control. Under the leadership of Castamir they formed the Corsairs of Umbar, a massive navel force that would forever after be an enemy of Gondor.
When Mordor once more rose to power, the Corsairs of Umbar with their great fleet of ships declared its allegiance to the Dark Lord Sauron, because of their long hatred of Gondor.
During the Battle of the Pelennor Fields when the tide of battle once more favored Gondor, a dark wind blew in from the south that appeared to spell their doom….
It was even as the day thus began to turn against Gondor and their hope wavered that a new cry went up in the City, it being then midmorning, and a great wind blowing, and the rain flying north, and the sun shining. In that clear air watchmen on the walls saw afar a new sight of fear, and their last hope left them.
For Anduin, from the bend at the Harlond, so flowed that from the City men could look down it lengthwise for some leagues, and the far-sighted could see any ships that approached. And looking thither they cried in dismay; for black against the glittering stream they beheld a fleet borne up on the wind: dromunds, and ships of great draught with many oars, and with black sails bellying in the breeze.
‘The Corsairs of Umbar!’ men shouted. ‘The Corsairs of Umbar! Look! The Corsairs of Umbar are coming! So Belfalas is taken, and the Ethir, and Lebennin is gone. The Corsairs are upon us! It is the last stroke of doom!’
And some without order, for none could he found to command them in the City, ran to the bells and tolled the alarm; and some blew the trumpets sounding the retreat. ‘Back to the walls!’ they cried. ‘Back to the walls! Come back to the City before all are overwhelmed!’ But the wind that sped the ships blew all their clamour away.
The Rohirrim indeed had no need of news or alarm. All too well they could see for themselves the black sails. For Éomer was now scarcely a mile from the Harlond, and a great press of his first foes was between him and the haven there, while new foes came swirling behind, cutting him off from the Prince. Now he looked to the River, and hope died in his heart, and the wind that he had blessed he now called accursed. But the hosts of Mordor were enheartened, and filled with a new lust and fury they came yelling to the onset.
From The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in the chapter ‘The Battle of the Pelennor Fields’