‘Not by the hand of man will he fall’ – Prophecy and End of Kings
One of the most enduring moments of the Lord of the Rings is Eowyn’s slaying of the Witch King and fulfilling the Prophecy of Glorfindel, but where did this prophecy come from? During the Witch King’s conquest of Arnor, King Eärnil II sent his son Prince Eärnur with a small army to help defend their ally. Eärnur’s army merged with an Elven host under Glorfindel, and the Host of the West met the Witch King’s army at Fornost. During the battle the Witch King rode issuing a challenge of single combat to Eärnur, who accepted the challenge, but the Witch King’s malice and intimidating aura frightened the Gondorian horses, and Eärnur’s horse fled in fear – taking the Prince with him. The Witch King mocked him for this, and as Glorfindel’s army came the Witch King escaped the battle. Eärnur regained control of his horse and wanted to chase them, but Glorfindel warned against it prophesying “Do not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall”. Eärnur did not pursue, and though the battle was won his pride was hurt, and ultimately Arnor was destroyed. Mordor soon took Minas Ithil, Gondor’s chief position in Mordor, and made it into Minas Morgul, a fortress of dark sorcery. Eärnur came to the throne after the death of his father, and upon his ascension to the throne the Witch King, now based in Minas Morgul, issued his challenge again. Eärnur wished to fight him but was held back by his steward Mardil. Years later the Witch King issued another challenge, but this time Eärnur accepted. He left the Crown of Gondor on his father’s tomb, gathered an escort of knights and rode to Minas Morgul. He and his escort were never seen or heard from again. There was no heir and nobody claimed the throne. The line was broken and nobody wanted to risk another Kin-Strife. So began the Ruling Stewards as the caretakers of the throne, and the Crown of Gondor remained in the tombs until the Fourth Age and the coronation of King Elessar. Glorfindel’s prophecy remained part of legend and gave the Witch King more infamy. Hundred years later, During the Battle of Pelennor Fields in the War of the Ring, Merry the Hobbit broke the Witch King’s armor with a barrow-blade, and Dernhelm revealed himself to be Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan, who then slew the Witch King. His doom was met by the hand of Woman and Hobbit, and thus the prophecy came to pass.
“Now the descendants of the kings had become few. Their numbers had been greatly diminished in the Kin-strife; whereas since that time the kings had become jealous and watchful of those near akin. Often those on whom suspicion fell had fled to Umbar and there joined the rebels; while others had renounced their lineage and taken wives not of Númenorean blood. So it was that no claimant to the crown could be found who was of pure blood, or whose claim all would allow; and all feared the memory of the Kin-strife, knowing that if any such dissension arose again, then Gondor would perish. Therefore, though the years lengthened, the Steward continued to rule Gondor, and the crown of Elendil lay in the lap of King Eärnil in the Houses of the Dead, where Eärnur had left it. “
– The end of the line of kings from the Third Age into the Fourth. Appendices, Annals of the Kings and Rulers, The Numenorean Kings, Of Numenor