The Númenórean life-span

Discussion in '"The History of Middle-earth"' started by Ardamir the Blessed, Jun 15, 2003.

  1. Ardamir the Blessed

    Ardamir the Blessed Registered User

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    The Númenórean life-span (+ Men were immortal?)

    According to the Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor in Unfinished Tales, the 'ordinary' Númenóreans lived three times as long as other Men, and those of the Line of Elros lived to about 400 years (before the coming of the Shadow), except Elros who lived to be 500 years old:
    This is probably the most common conception among readers.

    But note 1 to Line of Elros states that according to Tolkien's latest writing on the life-span of the Númenóreans, they as a whole lived to be around 400 years old and that only Elros lived especially long:
    What is interesting is if, or how, this latest conception works with the story Aldarion and Erendis (which can also be found in Unfinished Tales). I haven't checked carefully how it works with other texts yet, but Aldarion and Erendis is a special case.

    Erendis is more shortlived than Aldarion; this is an important fact in the story, which contributes to their separation. But according to the conception I described above, the life-span of the Númenóreans as a whole (thus including Erendis) is 400 years, which is the same as Aldarion's life expectancy. So there is a contradiction here. But it seems that Tolkien did care about both texts, because both derive from about the same time:
    And indeed CT says in note 1 to Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor:
    It may be that when Tolkien did his first work on Aldarion and Erendis he had the 'old' conception of the Númenórean life-span, but then he changed it (why?), and in order to get Aldarion and Erendis to work he had to decide that the people of the Westlands had a shorter life-span than other Númenóreans, which is strange given the fact that those people were of all Númenóreans the closest friends of the Eldar:
    and according to Tolkien's latest writing on the life-span of the Númenóreans (I give part of the second and third passage of the text),
    What does 'the increase in the Númenórean span" mean? Why does it say 'Númenóreans'? Does the fact that it says 'the' and not 'an' matter? Due to the 'the', one would think that it refers to the 5x life-span described in the second passage, thus an increase from 3x to 5x. But then, it could also mean the increase of the span of the Edain when they were granted their gift. But could it actually mean that the 'ordinary' Númenóreans first perhaps had a lifespan thrice that of other Men, but then it increased to five times? What should this text be taken to mean?

    Either it means that

    1) because of the assimilation they became even more longlived than they were with just their gift

    or

    2) it was just because of this assimilation that they became longlived. Then the isle of Númenor doesn't have much to do with it. Did Tolkien change the whole conception of Andor, the Land of Gift?

    Maybe the Númenóreans of the Third Age didn't live much like the Elves, so they didn't get any 'bonus' from that. :p

    One would believe that the people of the Westlands, who were closest in friendship with them, had a lifestyle very similar to that of the Eldar. Why were they, of all Númenóreans, more shortlived?

    Akallabêth:
    So it seems that many Faithful lived in the Westlands, and indeed the leader of their party was Lord of Andúnië. Did their shorter life-span contribute to the fact that they didn't become corrupted (like the other Númenóreans became) by the longing for longer life?

    Like CT says in the note, it actually says in Appendix A that the life-span of the Númenóreans was in the beginning thrice that of lesser Men:
    But I think this refers to the fact that the life-span of the Númenóreans began to wane at the coming of the Shadow. The LR appendices follow the 'old' conception, as does the main text of The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor:
    In the published Akallabêth CT removed the reference to the 3x life-span "on account of divergent statements on the subject", (The History of the Akallabêth), thus taking this latest conception into account.

    If we would choose to go for a 3x to 5x increase in life-span, could it work like this:

    First, the ordinary Númenóreans were granted a "3x life-span", the descendants of Elros 5x and Elros himself 6x. Then, the ordinary Númenóreans began to live more and more like the Eldar, and so their life-span increased to 5x. Maybe the descendants of Elros were not able to live more like the Eldar than what they already did so their life-span didn't increase. :) Then, somehow the people of the Westlands didn't adjust their lifestyle to that of the Eldar, though they were their closest friends ( :confused: ), and thus they stayed at 3x (it seems that Erendis had a 3x span because she lived 214 years. She probably took her life near the end of her potential life-span). Erendis' shorter life-span is at least three times mentioned in Aldarion and Erendis:
    Now that I examine these quotes, I see that it isn't actually explicitly said that the fact that Erendis wasn't of the line of Elros was the reason that she had a shorter life-span, but I do think that at least when JRRT wrote the first two sentences, he was still using the 'old' conception of the Númenórean life-span.

    CT says this about Aldarion and Erendis in the Introduction in Unfinished Tales:
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2004
  2. Ardamir the Blessed

    Ardamir the Blessed Registered User

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    Continuing...

    CT says this in note 1 to The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor about JRRT's latest writing on the Númenórean life-span:
    It may be that JRRT was to continue to rewrite Aldarion and Erendis, and when doing so, change Erendis' life-span to a somewhat longer one.

    The note also explains why the life-span of the Númenóreans waned later on:
    Now, opinions on the Númenórean life-span?
     

  3. Ardamir the Blessed

    Ardamir the Blessed Registered User

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    Increase of the Númenórean span?

    Does
    refer to the long life-span of the Númenóreans, or did their long life-span increase further because of assimilation of their mode of life to that of the Eldar? This is still not clear to me.
     
  4. Confusticated

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    Not clear to me either. In fact, I think neither option fits well. I'll explain below, since what I have to say also answers this:
    While contact with the Eldar did cause an increase for the Edain during the First Age, it looks like the teachings of Eonwe (yet there is all that stuff about the span being a gift of the Valar... so maybe there was more to it?) caused this further increase that belonged to the Numenoreans.

    Yet, I don't recall any real indication that lifespan of the Numenoreans was increasing after they settled in Numenore. But except for this I don't think it could be ruled out:

    If the idea of Numenoreans living five times as long as lesser men goes hand in hand with Elros alone of his line having an especially long life, the idea of the Numenoreans gaining a span five times that of lesser men after initially having a span only three times as much doesn't seem to work given the ages at which Elros's descentants died.... which was more like five times and not three.

    Outside of CT's brief statement in the Note in UT I don't recall where we hear that the Numenoreans descending from Beor's house had shorter spans. If they did have this all along I'd say perhaps they were less instructed by Eonwe, for I believe it was his teachings and wisdom gained that caused the increase in the lifespan among the Edain at the end of the First Age, though the land of Numenore itself had to have been a factor since Middle-earth itself was later a cause of the waning of that span. I just don't see how else the house of Beor would have shorter lifespans. If anything, it sure would seem that they should live longer, being the most faithful and their failure to become intent on immortaly as is evident by that faithfulness, and considering that fear of death ended up shortening life.

    That these Beorian Numenoreans did have a shorter lifespan might have been a factor in them remaining faithful, as long life contributed to the shadow that most of Numenore fell under. But more likely I think it was not a signifigant factor. This is only because I dont see as how a shorter life would prevent individuals from falling under shadow. The reason for this is that it seems to me it was not so much the achievements of an individual man in his life which lead to him desiring immortality so much as the blissful life and achivements of the people as a whole. And even if these had half the span of the Hadorians, that is still a pretty long life, maybe not much less (if any?) than the Numenoreans ended up with when they were well under shadow, yet this shadow didn't disapear when the life shortened. Granted, there is a difference between falling, and failing to rise.

    I agree. Though this would do away with Aldarion blaming her short span for their estrangement, and therefore probably also him deciding that the marriages of Kings must be to someone of Elros's line. Though you said:
    I think this could easily be worked out. A wife wants to spend time with her husband, and I don't suppose that in the case of Erendis her having more years would have changed things much.

    Good question. I haven't thought on it or checked into it (so it may not work), but my first idea is that perhaps he had already worked out dates for the Kings of Numenore but decided that the offspring of an Half-elf who had chosen to be counted among Men should not be greater than normal, but didn't want to go back and change the dates?
     

  5. Ardamir the Blessed

    Ardamir the Blessed Registered User

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    Can you give quotes that show that contact with the Eldar caused an increase in life-span for the Edain? I haven’t actually noticed the statement in the Akallabêth about Eönwë teaching them:
    Does this mean that the Edain became more long-lived because of the teachings of Eönwë, or does the fact that Eönwë teaches them have nothing to do with the fact that they became long-lived (Eru, the Valar and/or Eönwë simply gave them longer life)?



    In the Akallabêth, JRRT had the conception that Elros had a 7x span (500 years), the ordinary Númenóreans 3x but additionally, Elros' descendants had a 5x span. This was also retained in 'The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor', but JRRT then changed his opinion about this as is seen in note 1, perhaps during his writing of 'Aldarion and Erendis'. So I do not think that there is any problem with the achieved ages of the descendants of Elros; they had a 5x life-span in both the 'Akallabêth conception' and the 'new conception'.

    Akallabêth:
    'The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor':
    In the final version of 'The Fall of Númenor', FN III, which can be dated at least before February 1942, a relatively early stage in the writing of LR, the conception of the Númenórean life-span is the same as in the Akallabêth. Thus, at least already then JRRT had reached that opinion (in FN I and II the Númenóreans had simply 'long life'). But in 'The Drowning of Anadûnê' all Númenóreans have a 3x span. Some revision was done on FN III during the writing of 'The Drowning of Anadûnê', but the latter was as a whole written afterwards, so it seems that JRRT deliberately made the Númenóreans have a 3x span according to ‘The Drowning of Anadûnê’ (Elros is barely mentioned), or he didn’t feel it necessary to point out that the kings had a longer life-span. But ‘The Drowning of Anadûnê' is a wholly new work, and a Mannish tradition, as he later pointed out in a note, so among all the other confusions in the text compared to the Akallabêth it isn’t farfetched to think that he made it deliberately. Then we have the statement about the Númenórean life-span in Appendix A:

    I wondered if that ‘in the beginning’ could mean that their life-span increased after having lived on Númenor for a while, thus being a reference to the statement in note 1 to ‘The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor’ that ‘the increase in the Númenórean span was brought about by assimilation of their mode of life to that of the Eldar’, but I am doubtful about how this work with the dating of these texts. Can anyone tell me when that sentence in Appendix A was written? Also, I just discovered a sentence in the passage following that sentence which must be taken into consideration:

    Does this mean that Elros’ descendants were long-lived compared to the rest of the Númenóreans? Could this conception be the same as the one in Akallabêth after all? The corresponding text in the drafts in PoMe is this:
    Here the statement that the Númenórean life-span is thrice that of lesser Men is absent. In the final version of Appendix A the statement that Elros was granted a great life-span is given a few passages earlier.



    As I see it, it works in one of these ways:
    • The Númenóreans are granted longer life by Eru, the Valar and/or Eönwë
    • The Númenóreans become long-lived because of assimilation of their mode of life to that of the Eldar
    • The Númenóreans are granted longer life by Eru, the Valar and/or Eönwë and then their span increases further by assimilation of their mode of life to that of the Eldar
    The island of Númenor is also a gift, but it doesn’t make them long-lived. If they received a gift of longer life, it is a separate gift (though they go hand in hand). And I don’t know if Middle-earth itself was a cause for the waning of the span. In the same way as Aman itself does not give immortal life, Middle-earth does not give mortal but short life, and Númenor doesn’t give mortal but long life. The waning of their life-span had to do with their falling under the Shadow, and I think that the Faithful also suffered from this.



    I agree.



    This is an interesting thought. It seems clear to me that because of the fact that the Númenóreans had so long lives, they were also more subject to a longing of immortal life. So it wouldn’t be that strange if the Bëorians longed for immortal life less than the other Númenóreans. The Númenóreans later became more and more short-lived, but that didn’t seem to decrease their longing, because they tried nevertheless by all means to cling to life; they were so deeply under the Shadow.



    A ‘normal’ offspring of a Half-elf who had chosen mortality would have the life-span of a ‘normal’, lesser Man. But the Númenóreans were special in that the gift of longer life and/or assimilation of their mode of life to that of the Eldar played in, that is why Vardamir son of Elros and his following descendants were so long-lived. The Elvish blood doesn’t give them any longer life. There are many people who think that the Númenóreans had longer life because they had Elvish blood, but I think that is a common misconception. It may be that JRRT chose to make all Númenóreans have a 5x span, not just the descendants of Elros, in order to make it clearer that the Elvish blood does not have any significance. Or, all Númenóreans lived to 400 years because of assimilation of their mode of life to that of the Eldar. It would fit well with the later waning under the Shadow, when the Númóreans had started to detest the Eldar, and probably didn’t live a very ‘Elvish’ life. I have also been wondering if Elros had a ‘normal’, about 400 year long Númenórean life-span after he made his choice. If he made his choice in the last possible year, SA 32, when he went to Númenor, he lived 410 years after his choice until his death, the age his son Vardamir reached. His grandson Amandil lived 411 years. I know that Elros's year of birth (and perhaps also death) was changed by JRRT at least once and if one would research this one would perhaps make interesting observations.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2004
  6. Inderjit S

    Inderjit S Bootylicious

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    The increase in their life-span was a revertion to their original life-span before their fall.
     
  7. Ardamir the Blessed

    Ardamir the Blessed Registered User

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    Yes, I know that the long life-span of the Númenóreans was partly a revertion to the practically immortal life-span of the Men before their First Fall, and if we follow those lines the long life-span of the Númenóreans was quite likely a gift, as I do not exactly see how an Elvish life-style fits into the context. The first Men did not have contact with the Eldar, so they couldn't have an Elvish life-style that gave them (partly) their longeval life-span, could they? So their life-span was completely based in their inherent nature Ilúvatar gave them. And thus I would think that the long life-span of the Númenóreans was also in their inherent nature. In this thread I am mainly talking about the increase in life-span for the Númenóreans which an Elvish life-style eventually would bring about, as is unclearly explained by CT in note 1 to 'The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor'. Did their Elvish life-style have anything to do with their long life-span?
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2004
  8. jimmyboy

    jimmyboy son of James

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    Where did you find this info? I've never heard of this, nor of how long Man's life was in his earliest days.
     
  9. Inderjit S

    Inderjit S Bootylicious

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    amandil-I cannot see how Men's life-span was a state of quasi-immortality. Andreth painted a distorted picture of men's beliefs and men's thoughts on the 'wrongness' of death and how, in their pride, or folly, believed they were by nature immortal but because of their self-induced Melkor worship they received this doom from god, that they should, sooner or later, depending on how fast the hunter was, leave their inns and go to whosesoever it is doomed.

    Though immortality was never a inherent part of Men's nature pride and falsities (well intentioned or not) are. Men exaggerated their stature, but by doing so they blinded themselves to the beauty of death as a ’release’. Did all Men believe this? Most probably not. Aragorn, for example was able to lay down his gift and die in peace as did some of the earlier Númenorean kings or people. (Though, interestingly, women were said to cling to life more then Men and thus were more long lived.) We only get hint's of Húrin’s beliefs in this matter (The Words of Húrin and Morgoth, Narn I Hin Húrin) though he was instructed by the Elven-wise.

    The original life-span of Men was some 200-300 years. This was still considered short by the Elves, for whom time passed very slowly. (Note Gildor and Legolas telling Frodo or the company how human-elven time passes by differently. i.e When Legolas tells Aragorn about the length of time that has passed since Eorl rode to the rescue of Cirion and Gondor at the Field of Celebrant (A battle that was never really dealt with in depth)) Finrod says something similar to Andreth. Also note the part of 'Myths Transformed' that deals with Men and Aman and the passing of time.

    Men are by nature immortal (this view is asserted in Letters 153 and 205) and thus any Mannish myths about them being immortal can be or are repudiated as being a fallacy that is derived from the intrinsic desire of men to be immortal.

    'Notes to Ósanwe-kenta; Vinyar Tengwar 39

    'Notes to Ósanwe-kenta; Vinyar Tengwar 39

    The Elves, amandil, fit in with the quasi-immortal description that your provide for the former life-span of Men, since Elves themselves were not immortal but indefinitely longeval as Finrod puts it.

    For the background story on Men's first fall, read 'Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth'. (HoME 10) This is a alteration of the earlier stories which are given in the 'Published Silmarillion'.

    As for my quote:

    'Notes to Ósanwe-kenta; Vinyar Tengwar 39'

    'Notes to Ósanwe-kenta; Vinyar Tengwar 39' 'Note 22'

    'Osanwe-kenta' was a essay written with 'Quendi and Eldar' but not published by C.T in HoME 11. (read C.T's notes at the start of 'Quendi and Eldar')

    :)
     
  10. Inderjit S

    Inderjit S Bootylicious

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    Well it gave the descendants of Imrazôr and Mithrellas ‘longer life’ all of their descendants apart from ones killed in Battle lived around about or over 100 years, even after the waning of the age of the men of Gondor. The info. on the waning of the age of the Gondorians is given in the 'Appendix' and there is a brief prose note that deals with it in that chapter 'The Houses of Healing'. The info. on the lifespan of Imrazôr’s descendants is given in 'The Heirs of Elendil' (HoME 12) for more information on Mithrellas and Imrazôr and note Legolas's words to Gimli in 'The Last Debate' and the parts that deal with it in the collection of essays entitled 'Of Galadriel and Celeborn' (U.T)

    'Éomer' another descendant of Imrazôr lives until he is 102, though that may or may not have been linked with his blood or his special place in the 'War of The Ring'. 'Finduilas' dies quite young, though she had personal reasons. (i.e. depression.)
     
  11. Ardamir the Blessed

    Ardamir the Blessed Registered User

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    Inderjit S:

    I admit that I have only read part of the Athrabeth myself. But the person that I think is the most knowledgeable of Tolkien’s works of all that I have met on the net was of the opinion that Men were immortal in the beginning, in the sense that they could live as long as they would like, because they could lay down their life at any time, so they were also mortal.



    But what does the fact that the Elves think it is still short have to do with this discussion?



    I guess you mean that Men are by nature mortal?

    Letter 153 states:
    Does this exclude the possibility that Men might have been practically immortal in the beginning, because they could lay down their life at any time?

    A footnote to this states:
    It says ‘represented’.. does that mean that it might not be true? Also, it still doesn’t exclude the possibility that Men might have been able to live as long as they wanted, since they were still mortal if they could lay down their life at any time.

    The letter continues:
    What about the bolded part?


    I didn’t find anything on mortality and immortality in Letter 205. Some more quotes from Letters:

    Letter 131:
    Does this indicate that Men were immortal before their First Fall?


    I think that Letter 212 also has much to say on this subject:
    A note to the text:
    The letter continues:
    This really makes me wonder if Men were ‘immortal’ in the beginning. It appears that the Elves thought that Men were given the Gift of Death from the beginning, but maybe it was given later, after their First Fall. The letter in question was written in October 1958.


    Your first Ósanwe-kenta quote says:
    So Men might not have been doomed to decay by age and to die in the beginning.


    Can you explain what you second Ósanwe-kenta quote means and/or what it implies?


    But can Elves lay down their life just like that?


    Concerning your first ‘Notes on the Ósanwe-kenta’ quote; ‘The life of the Númenóreans before their fall‘ probably refers to the life-span of the Númenóreans in the beginning, not immediately before their fall, so this implies that the life-span of the Númenóreans was 200-300 years in the beginning. This is definitely the same, common conception that is seen in the LR Appendices and the Akallabêth etc. But Ósanwe-kenta and its notes were written c. 1959-60. I believe that JRRT’s ‘latest writing’ on the Númenórean life-span that CT refers in UT, ‘The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor’ (is the actual text of this published anywhere, by the way?), in which the conception is 400 years, was written later. So maybe the life-span of Man was 400 years in the beginning. Or, the life-span of the Númenóreans increased from 200-300 to 400 years because of their Elvish life-style. In the Athrabeth Andreth states that the life-span of the Edain had slightly increased since they came to Beleriand, and I believe this is also stated in the Published Silmarillion. Perhaps it increased because the Edain adopted an Elvish life-style by contact with the Eldar?


    Your second ‘Notes on the Ósanwe-kenta’ quote could be very decisive, but it says ‘thought to have been’; it might not be the truth.



    How do you know that it was specifically the Elvish blood that gave them longer life and not the fact that Imrazõr was a Númenórean?



    Do you mean Éomer Éadig? Didn’t he live to 93?
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2004
  12. Inderjit S

    Inderjit S Bootylicious

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    Men's original gift was the ability to lay down their life. A capacity for immortality would negate the whole _point_ of Men and they would simply be less strong, less wise Elves.

    If things were allowed to continue as your friend states then (in effect) Men could lead _immortal_lives which would be a paradox to the creation of Men as the mortals in comparison to the longeval lives of the Elves. (though not immortal in it's proper sense.)

    Several arguments could of course be made for or against this, and without wishing to sound wholly self-contradictory I will give some, to make my post as unbiased as possible. Unbiased may not equate to better but it will equate to a fairer argument, and I hope to juxtapose the two ideas for the sake of fairness.

    You could argue that Men had the capacity to live for a long time, practically "forever" but it was in their nature to seek else wither (note #1 ‘Line of Elros’) and most of them would not wish to live forever but would want to be released and depart from the circles of the world. So many would not fulfil the capacity for immortality that was within them.

    I in turn could argue that many Men in the latter (and earlier) days desired immortality and if they were capable of obtaining it in their 'original' form then there would be a lot of immortal Men, almost pseudo-Elves. Of course you could argue that once Men tasted 'immortality' their inherent natures meant they would no longer desire to be ‘immortal’ and wished to die and depart from the world. But, then again the conduct of a lot of the Númenórean kings and peoples may gainsay this statement.

    There was also a fundamental difference between the hröa of the two. The Elves hröa was 'stronger'; resistant to diseases etc. and when they passed away they went to the halls of Mandos to be judged by Námo whereas Men were said to tarry there for a short time before departing elsewhere. Elves could not do this.

    But for me the capacity for immortality in Men is fundamentally flawed. As Finrod states in the Athrabeth:

    Also note:

    'Letter 156; Letters of Tolkien'

    'Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth'

    'Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth'

    'Letter 153; Letters of Tolkien'

    The Athrabeth note on the fulfilling of the original design of men refers to them willingly laying down their lives when the time came. The time would come eventually. They would submit to their desire to leave the world due to a intrinsic desire and old age. Therefore though Men may have had the capacity to be 'immortal' they could not fulfill it. Is then immortality? No. You cannot reach a target that is beyond your means. My quote from #153 gives Tolkien's view on the implausbility on the immortality of Men.

    We also hear in 'Myths Transformed' 'Part XI 'Aman':

    Of course you could counter this by saying that though the Valar were not allowed to alter their doom Eru could and did.

    And how is it detrimental? Usefulness is relative. I cannot see how my information acts as a negative force in the discussion. Some interesting points are made.

    Yes.

    Sometimes being fastidious and assessing each sentence on it’s own can mean you could take the sentence out of context.

    You are (of course) free to interpret is as you want, but it says the Númenóreans were men rehabilitated i.e. put in their original form, living longer lives, but able to choose when they pass away but MORTAL.

    Why should it? Tolkien states men by nature are mortal. I cannot see any self-contradictions in his part in which he fails to note the 'immortality' of the unfallen Men. He claims men cannot be immortal, so I do not see how you can conclude that just because Tolkien did not state something to be so means you have a basis for your argument. Tolkien did not say a lot of things. IMO, Gil-Galad enjoyed putting rat poison in peoples food. Can you find a quote that negates this? No. Sometimes being overly pernickety may lead to you being unfastidious.

    What of it?

    It says 'or may have become'. True, Men may have been stronger prior to their fall but it does not wholly contradict notions of immortality.

    No, the text CLEARLY states that the life of the Númenóreans was akin to the life-span of Men before their FALL. Read it again.

    Mannish myths themselves are full of contradictions and fallacies. That is not to say the Elves wee infallible. Men, IMO, were refused the ‘gift’ of the beauty of death and passing away of free will. Latter the Númenóreans were restored to the original nature of men. They were able to live longer but eventually they passed away, as Eru ordained.

    Yes, sorry. I got him confused with Merry. 93 is still a long time.

    There were a lot of 'Númenóreans' whose descendants had relatively short life-spans in comparison. The fact the Imrazôr was a Númenorean may or may not count. It is interesting that even in the days of it's waning the descendants of Imrazôr still lived to such long ages. Inter-breeding between the descendants of Imrazôr and people of ‘non-Númenórean’ blood may have existed. Of course in mainland Gondor a lot of the Númenóreans inter-bred with the short-lived Northmen. But the years of the Númenóreans was said to wain because they were away from their home country of Númenór. It is odd then that the descendants of Imrazôr lived so long.