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The Faithful In Middle-Earth Explained

The first season of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" introduces audiences to the powerful island kingdom of Númenor. We see Númenórean life playing out from the seas to the streets to the throne room, and everywhere the story goes, one theme stands out more than the rest: Elf lovers aren't welcome. From the moment Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) arrives, the anti-Elvish sentiment is palpable. People look at her in shock. Rabble rousers stir up crowds in anger. Chancellor Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle) is clearly displeased at the presence of one of the Eldar in their midst.

And yet, not everyone in Númenor is against the immortal folk. Many quietly maintain an affinity for the Elves. Elendil's homeland is filled with pro-Elven folk. The King, Tar-Palantir, is also friendly toward the Elves, and Galadriel even manages to win the Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai Robinson) over to the point where the latter puts a massive expedition in motion to join forces with Galadriel and sail to mainland Middle-earth.

When that expedition fails, Elendil (Lloyd Owen) and Míriel have a conversation in which the Queen Regent says, "My father once told me that the way of The Faithful is committing to pay the price even if the cost cannot be known. And trusting that, in the end, it will be worth it." This mention of "The Faithful" isn't just made up for the show. It's a term that comes straight from J.R.R. Tolkien's source material, and it will likely continue to play a major role in events as the rest of Númenor's story unfolds. That said, we did a deep dive into the term to break down just what it means to be one of "The Faithful." Here are our findings for your reading pleasure.

A brief history of the political state of Númenor

Understanding what it means to be one of The Faithful requires a quick walk through the history of Númenor from its inception. Fortunately, the oceanic kingdom's timeline is fairly short compared to the rest of Middle-earth history.  

Númenor's early history is steeped in mythological glory. The island is literally raised up out of the ocean at the beginning of the Second Age by the god-like Guardians of the World called the Valar. The island is blessed (one of its names is literally Andor, the Land of Gift) and then given to a group of Men called the Edain who fought against the Dark Lord Morgoth. Once they inherit this new homeland, the Edain become known by the familiar Middle-earth moniker of the Dúnedain or Men of the West — a title Aragorn is still sporting several thousand years later. 

At first, Númenor is visited by the Elves, who bring gifts and are friendly with its mortal inhabitants. The Men of Númenor are also physically blessed with unusual traits, like exceptional vision and long life. And yet, their mortality restrains their relationship with both the Valar and the Elves who continue to live away in Valinor in the Blessed Realm in the West. "The Silmarillion" explains, "But the Lords of Valinor forbade them to sail so far westward that the coasts of Númenor could no longer be seen; and for long the Dúnedain were content, though they did not fully understand the purpose of this ban." The boundary is officially titled the Ban of the Lords of the West or the Ban of the Valar, and while necessary, it sets the stage for political strife to follow.

The Faithful hold onto the old ways

As the centuries pass after Númenor's creation, its people continue to thrive. As they grow stronger and more numerous, though, they also start to look sideways at the immortal glory that the Elves and the Lords of the West (another name for the Valar) enjoy off in their distant kingdom. Eventually, this leads many of the Númenóreans, including most of their kings, to reject the pro-Elvish ways of old. This group calls themselves the "King's Men" (more on these guys in a minute).

Set against the majority King's Men are another group called the Elendili, which is Elvish for Elf-friend. Another name for these diehard traditionalists is — you guessed it — the Faithful. "The Silmarillion" describes the Faithful thusly: "And on the other hand was the lesser party, and they were called the Elendili, the Elf-friends; for though they remained loyal indeed to the King and the House of Elros, they wished to keep the friendship of the Eldar, and they hearkened to the counsel of the Lords of the West."

The Faithful aren't just a group of conservative folk that preserves the ways of the past, either. They are a vibrant political part that is quietly yet actively involved in Númenor's history for centuries leading up to the time that "The Rings of Power" is set. In fact, Tolkien says that Míriel's father, Tar-Palantir, is very pro-Elvish. His mother is officially one of the Faithful and "The Silmarillion" says that he "was like his mother in mind as in body." Palantir relieves the political pressure on the Faithful during his time as king, and the book "Unfinished Tales" adds that "Tar-Palantir repented of the ways of the Kings before him, and would fain have returned to the friendship of the Eldar and the Lords of the West."

And then there are the King's Men

Set against the Faithful, we have the King's Men. This is the group that rejects the West with its Valar and Elves and their coveted immortality. "The Silmarillion" introduces them by saying, "On the one hand was the greater party, and they were called the King's Men, and they grew proud and were estranged from the Eldar and the Valar." The King's Men stick to their own island's customs and languages. They even call the Faithful the Nimruzîrim — the name for Elf-friend in the less-Eldar-friendly Adûnaic language of their own homeland.

The King's Men gain momentum over time until they're the primary voice of the government. They guide the ship of state for the bulk of Númenor's later history (including during the time of "The Rings of Power's" shrunken timeline). The Faithful remain a minority group opposed to the King's Men at all times, but as the anti-immortal rhetoric increases, they eventually find themselves openly persecuted by their political opponents, something that's worth an entire breakdown all on its own.

The Faithful and the King's Men dynamic in The Rings of Power

We've already seen some of the tension between the Faithful and the King's Men in the first season of "The Rings of Power." And yet, anyone who knows their Tolkien is aware that this is just the opening act. There's a lot more to come from the powder keg that is the fragile Númenórean political situation. From power struggles to colonization to quests for immortality, Númenor's Faithful/King's Men dynamic is going to take us to some really dark places.

The question in the wake of the first season is what will happen now that King Tar-Palantir has died (as indicated by the harbor full of black sails in our last shot of the island kingdom). Will Míriel, who has embraced the Faithful way of life, ascend to the throne and continue to guide Númenor toward her pro-Elvish government platform? Or is it time for Pharazôn to make a bid for power openly as one of the King's Men? After all, in order to have an anti-Faithful political party named after a male monarch, the show needs, well ... a king. Could Pharazôn's time in "The Rings of Power" story have come? Are we about to see his political ambitions let off the leash? It's an answer that only time will tell.