While Aragorn II Elessar is widely considered to be one of the best-written characters from The Lord of the Rings books, the soft-spoken and brooding — but passionate and strong-willed — hero of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy is descended from Isildur, who is neither as chivalrous nor as much as a natural-born leader as his relative.
This dichotomy between heir and ancestor is intentional. As noted in both Tolkien’s texts and Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring on-screen adaptation, Isildur (Harry Sinclair), despite his best efforts, succumbs to the temptations of the One Ring to Rule Them All. The Númenórean noble had his lofty ambitions of fulfilling a greater purpose through a greater power. Unlike Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Isildur is a legendary “failure”— he cuts the One Ring from Sauron’s (Sala Baker) hand. But instead of immediately destroying it, he is seduced by it. His inability to part ways with the Ring ultimately causes his death.
Though Amazon’s prequel spinoff LOTR series The Rings of Power takes place many years before Isildur’s canon death at the age of 234, we’ve already met both a young Isildur (Maxim Baldry), his sister, father, and his future nemesis: Sauron (Charlie Vickers), who was disguised as Halbrand, the “King of the Southlands.” We’ve also already seen Isildur struggle internally with a head-over-heart debate, which leads him to be kicked out of the Sea Cadets with his two friends.
Will Isildur face Sauron again in Season 2 of The Rings of Power? If so, the showdown would likely happen before the climactic battle that leads Isildur to possess — and become possessed by — the One Ring.
Ultimately, Isildur is being built-up by The Rings of Power as a promising hero who Sauron will eventually tear down. He is doomed to become a tragic figure who cannot get past his easily corruptible heart.
What is Isildur’s Bane in The Lord of the Rings?
Before the One Ring also earned the moniker “Isildur’s Bane,” Isildur’s Bane was Sauron, pre-dating the ring’s existence.
We’ve already seen preludes to the havoc Sauron will ultimately wreak on Númenor in Season 1 of The Rings of Power. The Númenóreans have already become increasingly antagonistic toward the Elves. They have lost faith in Eru Ilúvatar and the Valar— the monotheistic God and deities of The Lord of the Rings universe’s cosmology. Isildur, along with his father Elendil (Lloyd Owen), is part of a small faction of Númenóreans who have remained loyal to the Elves, to Eru, and the Valar.
At a later point in the Second Age, Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle) takes Sauron captive and brings him to Númenor, where he fools the Númenóreans into renouncing Eru and worshipping Morgoth in exchange for immortality and more power and wealth than the Valar have ever gifted them. Isildur manages to escape with fruit from the White Tree in Númenor, originally from the Undying Lands, as he knew it would be important after Pharazôn cut the tree and burnt it down.
Númenóreans, swayed by Sauron, then attempt to conquer the Undying Lands with catastrophic consequences. Meanwhile, Isildur and the Faithful board nine ships and set their course toward Middle-earth, leaving Númenor, and presumably Sauron, behind.
Years later, Isildur builds Minas Ithil, a fortress of Gondor, in a valley on the border of Mordor. Unbeknownst to him, Sauron has survived the great wave that sunk Númenor and is building-up his strength to capture Minas Ithil. When Isildur finally became aware of Sauron’s schemes, it was too late for him to garner support or plan proper defenses. Isildur escapes and forms the Last Alliance of Elves and Men with his father, Elendil, Gil-galad (Mark Ferguson), and with Elrond (Robert Aramayo). They gather at Rivendell, the home of Elrond, and march to war in yet another attempt to defeat Sauron.
The War of the Last Alliance lasts for nearly seven years, wounding and killing many Men and Elves, including Gil-galad, Elendil, and Isildur’s brother Anárion. Isildur manages to cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand in the most legendary siege moment, but Isildur is too enamored by the ring to part ways with it. Sauron’s spirit is so inextricably intertwined with the Ruling Ring that if the ring isn’t destroyed, Sauron can’t be either. Sauron’s loss of his physical form marks the end of the Second Age and the beginning of the Third Age.
Shortly after, Isildur realizes he must deliver the Ruling Ring to Elrond. He set off to Rivendell with a company. Orcs attack near the Gladden Fields and the River Anduin. Overwhelmed by the Orcs, Isildur makes the difficult choice to abandon his sons and his company by putting on the ring to escape and evade capture. He tries to cross the river, but the current is too strong, and the ring slips from Isildur’s fingers. In his attempts to find the ring, Isildur’s distraction and obsession cause him to be caught off guard by the Orcs, who kill him with arrows.
The Inverse Analysis— We may have two more years to wait until we see an Isildur versus Sauron battle on the small screen, but it is coming. The Amazon showrunners have stated that it’ll be quite a while until we get TROP’s sophomore season. But until his canon downfall in the early Third Age, we can expect that Isildur and Sauron will have at least a couple of showdowns. Neither side will likely be a clear victor throughout the Second Age as portrayed in The Rings of Power— not just in Season 2.
The Rings of Power will most likely culminate with the creation and distribution of the remaining Rings of Power, the drowning of Númenor, the (temporary) loss of Sauron in his “pleasing to the eye” Halbrand form, and the founding of the Realms in Exile by Isildur and his brother Anárion.
As such, Isildur has well over a century of character development to get through in The Rings of Power before we see his character unravel in The Fellowship of the Ring. That’s quite the arc.
The Rings of Power Season 1 is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video.