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"See! The beacons of Gondor are alight, calling for aid. War is kindled. See, there is the fire on Amon Dîn, and flame on Eilenach; and there they go speeding west: Nardol, Erelas, Min-Rimmon, Calenhad, and the Halifirien on the borders of Rohan."
Gandalf, in The Return of the King
Beacons of War

A Beacon of War as depicted in Peter Jackson's The Return of the King

The warning beacons of Gondor were an alarm system for the realm of Gondor in case of attack.

History

The beacons were great fireplaces permanently manned by men of Gondor, and were placed on top of more than twelve peaks in the range of the White Mountains. From east to west they were the Amon Dîn, Eilenach, Nardol, Erelas, Min-Rimmon, Calenhad, and Amon Anwar (or Halifirien). Amon Dîn, Eilenach, and Min-Rimmon were the oldest of the beacons.[1][2] They lit up the first beacon from Minas Tirith on the beginning of the day, and the other beacons lit up for a whole day and night, until the next day the last beacon lit up on the range near Edoras.

In the late Second Age and early Third Ages, they mainly served to warn southern Gondor of a danger for the northern province of Calenardhon, or vice versa, but after the Steward of Gondor Cirion granted Calenardhon to the Éothéod, they were used mainly to warn the people in Anórien of danger. Calls for aid between Gondor and Rohan were exchanged by a messenger carrying the Red Arrow instead.

During the War of the Ring the beacons were lit when Minas Tirith came under siege, and as the Rohirrim rode to Gondor's aid they passed all more than twelve beacons by on their way east.

The tomb of Elendil was hidden on the summit of Halifirien, westernmost of the beacon mountains.

Portrayal in the films

Beacon-hills of Gondor

The beacon of Eilenach as seen in The Return of the King film

One of the major changes made to the story by Peter Jackson's film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is that when Gandalf and Pippin ride to Minas Tirith the beacons are not lit, since the despairing Denethor has decided not to send for help. In the movie there is a beacon just above the city, and to summon the Rohirrim, Gandalf asks Pippin to evade the guards and light it. Once he has done so, the film depicts the other beacons being lit one by one until the last is sighted by Aragorn who is in Edoras, and it is this (and not the Red Arrow, which is not mentioned in the film) which finally helps him to persuade Theoden to muster the Rohirrim to Gondor's aid.

In the film depiction, some viewers believed the number of beacons to be far greater than the seven described in the book. In actual fact, the film makers showed each beacon being lit from several angles, such that each close up is of the beacon shown as having been lit in the distance of the previous shot. If viewed in this way, one can count seven beacons, however the film still differs from Tolkien's writings as it depicts the first as directly above Minas Tirith instead of atop Amon Dîn as in the novel.

Warning beacons of Gondor
Amon Dîn | Eilenach | Nardol | Erelas | Min-Rimmon | Calenhad | Amon Anwar (Halifirien)


References

  1. The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Five, Ch. I: "Minas Tirith"
  2. Unfinished Tales, Part Three: The Third Age, chapter II: "Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan"
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