The Dominion of Men

Gregory Souza '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

The last installment of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, chronicles the End of the Third Age of Middle-Earth. Frodo and Sam make an arduous journey into Mordor and destroy the One Ring while forces from Gondor, Rohan, and other lands fight off the Enemy's armies. With Sauron and his forces defeated, the members of the Fellowship work to rebuild and reform Middle-Earth in hopes of a more peaceful and prosperous age. However, with the coming of the Fourth Age, many magical things and people passed out of Middle-Earth, bringing about the "Dominion of Men." After the great battle against Mordor, Gandalf says to Aragorn:

"The Third Age of the world is ended, and the new age is begun; and it is your task to order its beginning and to preserve what may be preserved. For though much has been saved, much must now pass away; and the power of the Three Rings is ended. And all the lands that you see, and those that like round about them, shall be dwellings of Men. For the time comes of the Dominion of Men, and the Elder Kindred shall fade or depart. . . . The burden must lie now upon you and your kindred."[949-950]

Leglos the Elf and Gimli the dwarf also talk about the role of Men after the battle, saying:

"It is ever so with the things that men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise."

"Yet seldom do they fail of their seed," said Legolas. "And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked-for. The deeds of Men will outlast us, Gimli."

"And yet come to naught in the end but might-have-beens, I guess," said the Dwarf.

"To that the Elves know now the answer," said Legolas. [855]


1. What attitude do Gimli and Legols have towards the race of Men? Do other races seeem to share this opinion?

2. Why must many of the beautiful and magical things pass out of Middle-Earth? Why has the "time of the Dominion of Men" come? What is Man's role in the new age?

3. Does it seem likely that Men will be up to the challenge of their new role? Or is Gimli's and Legolas' pessimistic view more likely?


Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1966.

Victorian Web Overview J. R. R. Tolkien Victorian courses

Last modified 25 February 2004