The Rings of Power‘s sixth episode gave us more information about Isildur’s mother than J.R.R. Tolkien ever did. But while knowing how she died doesn’t tell us who she was, the manner of her death is far more important than we ever could have imagined. She drowned in the same waters now calling out to her son, a son who will change Middle-earth forever. And that’s why for all the pain her family has endured, losing her might have been a gift. Because, as Númenóreans rightly believe, “the sea is always right.”
What Do We Know About Isildur’s Mother from The Lord of the Rings Books?
For all of the many words J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about the history of Middle-earth, none of them ever discuss Isildur’s mother. Her absence from The Lord of the Rings lore is especially notable, too. She was wife to one of Númenor’s greatest heroes, and mother to one of the most important men of the Second Age.
But the lack of canonical information is why she’s such an intriguing presence on The Rings of Power.
What Has The Rings of Power Told Us About Isildur’s Mother?
Thus far we know very little about Elendil’s wife. Isildur says people think he looks like her. His friend also accused him of only ever wanting to “brood and blabber” about his mother’s death. And Elendil told his son she was the person who taught him about the special bond Westerners have with their horses.
Of course, none of that tells us who she was. For all we know she might not even be human. Maybe she was an elf. That alone would explain why her family is reluctant to talk about her among Númenóreans who generally despise elves at this time.
But knowing how she drowned might help us unravel the mystery of the strange woman’s voice calling out to Isildur.
“The Sea Is Always Right”
Númenórean sailors live by one creed: “the sea is always right.” They put their faith in the waves, which surrounds their island. That was Elendil’s defense for why he brought an elf to the island. He said “the sea put” Galadriel in his path.
But that means on some level he must also believe the sea was right to take his wife from him. (Just as Isildur must believe it’s calling out to him for a reason.) How could that be true? How could it be right for the sea to take a mother from her children? The answer might lie in both Númenor’s past and Isildur’s future.
The Valar Raise Númenor From the Sea
The Valar rewarded the tribes of men who stood with elves against Morgoth during the War of Wrath with the paradise island of Númenor. The gods also granted Númenóreans longer lives than others of their race. There was only one rule they had to follow: do not sail west to the Undying Lands of the Valar. The supreme being Ilúvatar gave men the “gift” of death. Eternal life in Valinor is not for them.
We know men will violate the commands of the Valar and sail west to Valinor eventually. That will bring about the great wave of destruction Míriel and Galadriel saw in the palantir. Insolence and fear will result in Númenor returning below the waves.
But it’s not a future the Valar want. We’ve seen the gods warning Númenor of their displeasure. Míriel has said, “The faithful believe that when the petals of the White Tree fall it is no idle thing. The very tears of the Valar themselves are a living reminder that their eyes and their judgement are ever upon us.” And from Tolkien’s own lore, we know that at least one goddess of the sea especially looked after the island of men.
The Goddess of the Sea and Númenor’s Protector
Unlike the rest of the Valar, Ulmo never quit caring about the children of Ilúvatar on Middle-earth. Ulmo was also both the Vala who controlled the sea and the one Morgoth most feared, since not even the Dark Lord could control the world’s waters.
Two of Ulmo’s spirit servants, the married Maiar Ossë and Uinen, also had dominion over the waters of Middle-earth. When Ossë’s anger and unrest caused great turmoil in the seas, sailors of Númenor would call on Uinen to calm the waves. It’s why they revered her as much as the Valar themselves. She protected Númenor.
But while we know she won’t be able to save the island, she might be the one who saves the most faithful of Númenóreans. Elendil and his family, friends of the elves and servants of the Valar, will sail east to Middle-earth before the great wave comes for their home. They will not only help defeat Sauron, Isildur will cut the One Ring from the Dark Lord’s hand using his father’s sword. It’s a destiny we know awaits him. What The Rings of Power seems to be showing us is who helped put him on that path.
Who Is Calling Out to Isildur on The Rings of Power?
Isildur wants to do something great, but he can’t put into words what that desire is. He’s also been distracted by a voice calling out to him. It’s pulling him, a member of a faithful family, west, the very place the Valar forbid him to go.
But since we know his future, that voice might be exactly what he needs to hear. Who exactly is speaking his name? Is Isildur’s mother calling out to him? Is that why the sea, which is always right, took her? So she could guide him and keep him away from the future Númenor wants for him and on his own path? Or is it the voice of Númenor’s protector, Uinen? Is that why Isildur looks west, because the voice calling to him is coming from the Undying Lands as a warning? Is that why he sees the light of Valinor? Because it shines on him to remember the Valar in the west?
No matter who the voice belongs to, Elendil’s faith in the sea and the Valar will be rewarded. That voice is calling out to Isildur for a reason far bigger than himself. His family will escape the island’s doom and he will help defeat Sauron. Because while the sea caused Isildur pain, it might also be his family’s greatest ally.
“The watery part of this world has a way of healing even the deepest wounds,” Elendil said. That will be true even though the sea caused those very same wounds. Because while the water took his mother, it might have done so to save her entire family.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.