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How Long Did Lord Of The Ring's Gondor Go Without A King?

"The Lord of the Rings" might be the single most important story in existence with regard to modern fantasy. Written by J.R.R. Tolkien, the saga follows the journey of a group of nine warriors who join forces in hopes of transporting an evil ring to the only place in Middle Earth where it can be destroyed before its creator gets it back into his possession.

While both the books and the film adaptations of Tolkien's work are equally beloved, many fans don't realize just how deep and complex the lore of Middle Earth truly is. The author came up with an entire history of the fictional world over the course of his lifetime, one that spanned thousands of years and included countless details that Tolkien scholars still debate today.

For instance, it's clear that Denethor (John Noble) is currently ruling over Gondor when the characters first travel there in "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," but how long has he been in charge, and why doesn't the kingdom have a royal ruler of its own?

Denethor ruled Gondor for 35 years

As it turns out, the reason why Denethor is in charge in "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" is that he was given the title of Steward of Gondor by the previous king of the realm, Earnur. Earnur had been challenged to a duel by the Witch King of Angmar, a dangerous foe who served Sauron even as the evil sorcerer had lost his corporeal form after being defeated by Isildur, according to Henneth Annun

Sadly, Earnur was never heard from again, suggesting that the Witch King likely prevailed in the battle. Thus, Denethor remained in charge of Gondor for 35 years as there was no other heir to the throne save Aragorn. However, having joined the Rangers of the North and seeking the free life of a hunter and warrior, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) spurned the throne, happy to leave it in the hands of Denethor. 

However, Denethor succumbs to madness during the events of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" and dies while Minas Tirith is being invaded by the forces of Sauron. As the kingdom now has no ruler and Aragorn has risen to lead the armies of the peoples of Middle Earth against the enemy, he becomes the new king of Gondor. Of course, as the only living heir to Isildur, the throne is rightfully his in any case and so things have been set right at last.