Tolkien famously hated direct allegorical interpretations of his work, though that never seems to stop people from drawing parallels.
The story of Numenor is actually one of the only stories in all of Tolkien that draws very directly and in a parallel way on an existing, recognizable myth. Tolkien himself said that basically Numenor = Atlantis.
Of course it’s not that simple.
I was just thinking yesterday, while listening to Cory Olson talk about the Silmarillion, that the Numenorians reminded me of my own people, the Americans.
- They came from the old world of the east to a new land far out west in the sea.
- They were granted great powers over the land and the sea.
- With no near enemies, they could live in peace and utter security.
- Nevertheless, when they felt it was appropriate, they carried their mighty war machine back east to the old world, to confront the ancient enemies of the West. And the enemies of Numenor proved utterly incapable of withstanding her navies and armies.
- The gods granted them great material happiness, but placed limits on how far they should go in pursuit of more happiness (i.e. they were forbidden to sail further West in the direction of Valinor, aka earthly paradise).
- They began to believe that their greatness was not a result of the blessings of the gods, but due to something inherent in their own character. Authors of their own happy fate, where nothing of the sort was true.
- As a result of this unearned pride, they stopped listening to the warnings of the gods, and of the elves.
- Filled with pride, they were the perfect prey for the evil lord Sauron to infiltrate and direct through flattery and deception.
- Outwardly still mighty, beautiful, and shining, they became inwardly hateful, prideful, and resentful.
- Convinced of their wonderfulness, they made war on the gods themselves.