“More Men going to Mordor,’ he said in a low voice. ‘Dark faces. We have not seen Men like these before, no. They are fierce. They have black eyes, and long black hair, and gold rings in their ears; yes, lots of beautiful gold. And some have red paint on their cheeks, and red cloaks; and their flags are red, and the tips of their spears; and they have round shields, yellow and black with big spikes. Not nice; very cruel wicked Men they look. Almost as bad as Orcs, and much bigger.”
The Southrons’ early history is strongly tied to that of their kin, the Easterlings. In the dawn of Arda, the cradle of Men was located in the east, in Hildórien. The first men to venture west were the three houses of the Edain: those that followed would give rise to the Middle-Men and Men of Darkness. The Haradrim were part of that latter group.
Unlike the Easterlings, the Haradrim were not involved much in the Wars of Beleriand: their position far to the south of those apocalyptic battles kept them relatively far from contact. The first mention of the Haradrim as a people occurs in the Second Age, during the period of great naval exploration of Númenor. While the Haradrim are not united, they do have “chieftains” and “kings.” The royal standard is a black serpent on a scarlet field: either scarlet is a favorite color among the Southrons, or it is a symbol of the particular tribe or kingdom allied to Sauron, or even the Haradrim’s own display of allegiance to Mordor, whose symbol is the red eye.
The Haradrim at this time were tribal, with no knowledge of iron. Contact with the Númenoreans led to cultural exchange, as the Haradrim learned agriculture, metallurgy and technology from the advanced Dúnedain, while the latter gained rich and exotic resources from the tribes.
Unfortunately, this amicability would not last. The Númenoreans became arrogant and complacent, and the generosity gave way to imperialism. The great port of Umbar was established, and used as a source not just for trade, but as a fortress from which the Númenorean lords could demand tributes of wealth, goods and property from the tribes. The tribes resented the Númenoreans’ domination, but the vast deficit in military strength meant there was little hope for a successful rebellion.
The Haradrim were vulnerable, and looked for a saviour from the hated Men of the West. They thought they had found one in Sauron, who had established a mighty fortress surrounded by flame in Rhûn. Sauron used his guile and persuasive talents to deceive the inland Haradrim, just as he did the Elven-smiths of Eregion: he set himself up as their god. The Haradrim loyal to Sauron grew strong under his influence, building stone architecture and carrying iron weaponry, and entered his service in the military. Worship of Sauron would undoubtedly have sickened the hearts and minds of the Haradrim, leading to a descent into cruelty and savagery.
When Sauron’s strength was consolidated, he started to attack the Númenorean settlements on the coast. No doubt the Haradrim were exhilarated: the tide would finally turn, and the Númenoreans would be cast back to the sea whence they came. However, the might of Ar-Pharazon’s forces were all but overwhelming. The Haradrim refused to fight, and Sauron appeared utterly defeated when he surrendered himself to the enemy, who returned triumphant to Númenor. However, this was all part of Sauron’s plan.
Sauron started to set in motion a chain of events that would push the Númenorean/Haradrim conflict to new heights of horror. Sauron subtly corrupted Númenor’s already decadent society: subverting worship of the Valar, influencing the decisions of the king, creating dissent among the people. Sauron encouraged the Númenoreans to war with the Haradrim and other peoples of Middle-earth. Most brutally and monstrously of all, the Númenoreans began to worship Melkor, which involved human sacrifice: they thus had to find victims. Rather than use their own, the Númenoreans enslaved countless Haradrim, and sacrificing them to Melkor. This brutality, above all others, likely contributed to the Haradrim’s hatred for Númenor and, by proxy, their heirs in Gondor.
Eventually, the corruption of Númenor reached its ultimate end. Ar-Pharazon sailed west for the ultimate conquest: Valinor itself. The Valar were outraged, and Númenor was cast under the sea. Though the Faithful had escaped to Middle-earth in time, the corrupted Númenoreans in Umbar and other settlements in Harad survived. The Haradrim’s time to strike had come, and in the resulting reconquest of Harad by its indigenous people, the Black Númenoreans’ power in the region was diminished: they were not wiped out utterly, likely because of their ties to Sauron. No doubt they claimed to have better interest in the Haradrim than the other Númenoreans.
Yet not all Black Númenoreans were absorbed into the Haradrim. Some Black Númenorean strongholds survived, most notably Umbar, and at least two Black Númenoreans, Herumor and Fuinur, rose to power among the Haradrim. The most likely reason for their being spared by the vengeful Haradrim is that they were servants of Sauron. The Haradrim feared the Dark Lord, and wouldn’t want to incur his wrath, allowing the two Black Númenoreans to exert their authority.
Though Númenor was destroyed, the Haradrim’s vengeance was not complete, for Elendil and his Faithful arrived in what would become Gondor. It’s not difficult to imagine Sauron spinning Elendil as the true “Black Númenoreans,” in comparison to the true “Faithful” of Umbar, to the Haradrim. This culminated in the War of the Last Alliance, where the Númenoreans and Noldor united to assault Sauron’s stronghold. Many Haradrim were counted among Sauron’s allies, and considering the siege of Barad-dur lasted seven years, they did a great job preventing the breach of the fortress.
Next time, I will speak of Gondor’s response to these events.