With Sauron defeated by Elendil and Gil-Galad, and the One Ring cut from his hand by Isildur, one could imagine the Haradrim falling back into anarchy and chaos. Yet the Haradrim’s hatred for Gondor was ingrained into their psyche, and even in Sauron’s absense over the majority of the Third Age, the Kings of Harad warred with Gondor. In the year 933, Gondor gained a significant advantage in Earnil’s capture of Umbar, the northernmost and strongest of Haradrian fortresses. The siege was brutal and long, a full 35 years, and was only broken by a massive army led by Earnil’s grandson Ciryaher. It was a disaster for the Haradrim; not only had they lost a major position, they were forced into delivering the kings’ sons into Gondor, to live as hostages.
Gondor had the upper hand for three centuries, until the Kin-Strife: a bloody civil war between Gondorian usurpers and the legitimate bloodline. The rebels fled to Umbar, and formed a city-state independent of Gondor proper; eventually they allied and intermingled with the Haradrim, forming a new ethnic group known as the Corsairs. This new ally turned the tables, and soon Gondor lost more land to the Haradrim, until the borders were pushed back north of Harnon, and Harondor became a lawless and savage wilderness torn by skirmishes and battles between Gondor and Harad.
Following the reconquest of Umbar and northernmost Near Harad, the Haradrim began to regain their strength. An alliance of Corsairs and Haradrim started to take the fight to Gondor’s coastal regions, including an attack on Pelargir. Two kings of Gondor were slain in the resulting conflicts. Although Umbar was once again conquered by Telumehtar Umbardacil, it was regained by the Haradrim within a few years.
An unexpected ally came from the east; the Wainriders of Rhûn initially warred with Gondor and the Haradrim alike, but eventually joined forces with the latter and the Variags of Khand. A concerted attack on Gondor by the allies – the Wainriders from the northeast, the Haradrim from the south – was undertaken, though the forces were defeated individually before they could unite. The Corsairs allied with the Dunlendings, assisting them in their wars against Rohan, but that too ended in defeat.
After centuries of silence, the machinations of Sauron began again. Sauron sent emissaries to Harad, inciting them to invade further territory. Soon, Harondor was under Haradrim control, and there were frequent raids into Ithilien. The Haradrian threat was so great, Gondor requested aid from Rohan; the Battle of Poros may have gone very differently had Folcwine not sent a mighty host of Rohirrim, a battle which also claimed the lives of his sons. Slowly but surely, the Haradrim were gaining strength, with each defeat at the hands of Gondor being more and more desperately fought. A victory seemed only a matter of time.
Sauron made his return to Mordor in 2942, and immediately started to amass vast armies of orcs, trolls, goblins and wargs for his great war. The Haradrim redoubled their efforts; with Sauron at their side, and Gondor greatly diminished by centuries of war and crippling inner conflict, the vengeance of Harad was assured. The Corsairs began to construct a mighty fleet with which to devastate the coasts. But this time Gondor had a hero – Thorongil, “Eagle of the Star”, better known as Aragorn. He saw the danger the Corsair fleet presented, and set out on a daring sabotage. In a suprise attack, he burned the fleet in its own harbour, slaying the Captain of the Haven, and scuttling Sauron’s designs.
Aragorn did not just spend time in Umbar as he himself stated: “I have had a hard life and a long; and the leagues that lie between here and Gondor are a small part in the count of my journeys. I have crossed many mountains and many rivers, and trodden many plains, even into the far countries of Rhûn and Harad where the stars are strange.”
Which brings us to the present day. Sauron has Harad under his spell but not all Haradrim support him. I, for one, will fight him with all my strength. But no doubt a mighty blow is being prepared against Gondor. And Gondor knows it. I overhead this recently:
“Aye, curse the Southrons! Tis said that there were dealings of old between Gondor and the kingdoms of Harad in the Far South; though there was never friendship. In those days our bounds were away south beyond the mouths of Anduin, and Umbar, the nearest of their realms, acknowledged our sway. But that is long since. ‘Tis many lives of Men since any passed to or fro between us. Now of late we have learned that the Enemy has been among them, and they are gone over to Him, or back to Him – they were ever ready to His will – as have so many also in the east. I doubt not that the days of Gondor are numbered, and the walls of Minas Tirith are doomed, so great is His strength and malice.”
I write this so that the inhabitants of this sleepy part of the world are aware of great events unfolding and that the fight may well come to them eventually. And for some of us, we shall go and save Minas Tirith, my adopted home.