The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Constructed in the last years of the Second Age; began to fall into decay from the seventeenth century of the Third Age
Location
Running north to south between the ancient kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor
Origins
Built by Elendil and his sons
Race
Division
Settlements
Uncertain; the road may have originally started at Annúminas, but this is not recorded; it was known to have run between Fornost and Osgiliath;1 settlements on the road included Tharbad and Bree
Other names
The North Road, The North-South Road, The Royal Road; along its southern course it was known as the Great West Road or simply the West Road; in its later ruined state it was known (especially along its northern stretches) as the Greenway
Note
This is one of two long roads in Middle-earth known as the 'Great Road'; the other ran west to east through Eriador and crossed the north-south Great Road at Bree; for that road, see the alternative Great Road

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About this entry:

  • Updated 18 December 2021
  • Updates planned: 1

Great Road

The North-South Road that joined the Two Kingdoms

The long road, constructed by the Dúnedain during the closing years of the Second Age, that joined the North-kingdom of Arnor to the South-kingdom of Gondor. It ran for some 1,100 miles, from Fornost2 in the far north, south through Bree, and on across Minhiriath. To carry it through the marshlands around the Greyflood, great causeways were built, and the famed Bridge of Tharbad carried the road across the river itself. From there, it passed on through Enedwaith, across the Fords of Isen, and along the northern feet of the White Mountains before entering Anórien and finally reaching the gates of Osgiliath.

The road was maintained long into the Third Age, but with the loss of the North-kingdom and war and pestilence afflicting Gondor, it began to fall into disrepair. By the end of that Age, only the southern section of the road that ran between Gondor and Rohan was still in regular use. Elsewhere the road had decayed: in Enedwaith the fens had left it almost impassable, the Bridge of Tharbad had fallen, and in the north it had become so overgrown that it came to be known as the Greenway.

This Great Road is often called the North-South Road, and is not to be confused with the other Great Road of Middle-earth. Also built by the Dúnedain, that Great Road ran east to west through the lands of the North-kingdom.


Notes

1

When the road was built, Osgiliath was the chief city of Gondor, though in later years the Kings removed to Minas Anor (later still renamed to Minas Tirith). At the end of the Third Age, the Great Road reached an apparent southern terminus at Minas Tirith, with another - apparently separate - road completing the eastward journey to Osgiliath. It is not clear whether this was always the case, or whether the arrangement of roads in eastern Gondor changed over time.

2

As with the South-kingdom, the capital of the North-kingdom also changed over history. At the time the road was built, the capital of Arnor was not Fornost, but Annúminas, about a hundred miles to the west. We might expect, therefore, that the Great Road would lead to Annúminas rather than Fornost. However, the geography of the region, and especially the course of the River Baranduin, made a direct route from Bree to Annúminas impractical. It seems inevitable that a further road must have joined the two great cities of Arnor, but its route is not shown on any extant map.

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 18 December 2021
  • Updates planned: 1

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