Imagine Haldir kissing you in the rain in the battle at Helm's Deep
You moved swiftly through the gathered men, sword at your side, prepared to defend Helm’s Deep with your life. The battle had started only a few minutes ago and already so many had fallen. The never ending volley of arrows from the elves provided a brief period of respite for those on the wall, although danger was ever present.
In the Hobbits’ meeting with Faramir in Two Towers we see echoes of the Three Hunters’ meeting with Eomer:
Travelers on a quest must negotiate to remove their status as trespassers
The heir of the throne has a private conversation with them and must make the difficult choice between what is lawful and what is ethical
Hot-headed subordinates express their displeasure at the other side’s disrespect before the leaders negotiate above their heads.
Faramir, just like Eomer, chooses to somewhat defy the law and allow Sam and Frodo safe passage through Ithilien, and even helps them by giving them food and a safe place to rest, and refraining from killing Gollum.
Although Faramir’s conversation with Frodo is all about comparing and contrasting himself with Boromir, I think that comparing him with Eomer is also an interesting exercise:
Faramir and Eomer are both second heirs who must take command after the first heirs are killed by Orcs/Uruk Hai.
When faced with a conflict between what is right and what is lawful, they manage to winnow a middle option into the picture by invoking their own authority to allow the questing people leave to pass through their lands.
They also cover their asses by saying that the visitors should come to the King at a later date in order to have their visitor’s pass officially stamped.
They show that they are able and committed military leaders with organized and competent troops.
Both of them exist in a state of hopeless defiance because of the encroaching forces of Mordor and the lack of leadership on the throne of their nation. (At least until Aragorn shows up.)
The most visible difference between Faramir and Eomer seems to be their personalities:
Eomer is perhaps prouder (his highest praise for Boromir is that he was more like a man of Rohan than a man of Gondor), and he seems to have more of a sense of humor (one of his first lines is a short joke aimed at Gimli).
Faramir, though not without humor, seems graver, and more impulsive in his desperation (e.g., at first he forgets to wait until he has the hobbits alone to question them about confidential matters, whereas Eomer makes that decision early on in his meeting with Aragorn). He also appears to be more learned (thanks to the stewards’ private library of historical documents) and maybe a little more intelligent. (This is not a knock against Eomer, who seems plenty smart—it’s just that while he was questioning Frodo, Faramir made a hell of a lot of clever inferences that ended up being mostly correct, which I thought was impressive.)
I love that although Faramir and Eomer play very similar roles in the narrative of The Two Towers, Tolkien manages to make them both so distinct and likable in their own ways.
Somewhere in the infinite possibilities of the multiverse, there is a small pocket dimension that has a single planet and four unlikely enemies.
The names of these enemies are: Sauron
The Borg Queen
Each of these villains was pulled from their respective realities to this world with no heroes and no civilians. Each one has been told that the only way to return to their world is to destroy all of their enemies on this one.
Each villain was brought here at the height of their power, and they are not alone. Each of them has been given a continent on this planet, modeled after the places they call home. They also have every ally, minion, and slave that was ever theirs to command.
Let’s take stock of these armies…
Sauron - Whole and corporeal, Sauron possesses his precious One Ring and all the forces of Mordor. Not only does he command his orcs, trolls, and the Nazgul, he also has the army of Balgrogs that followed him during the First Age. Also on this world he has his servant Saruman and their spy Grima Wormtongue, as well as all men who ever served him.
Emperor Palpatine - Though unable to leave the planet (or blow it up with the Death Star) the Emperor has no shortage of resources. His entire continent is modeled after the imperial city-planet of Coruscant and it is full of clone troopers, storm troopers, and battle droids (with all battle accessories and vehicles included.) In addition, the Sith Lord has every one of his Sith apprentices alive and present for the conflict, including Darth Maul, Count Duku, and Darth Vader. General Grievous is also at his command, along with Boba Fett and every other galactic bounty hunter ever employed by the Empire.
Voldemort - While “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” has the entire continent of Europe as his territory, the majority of his forces are concentrated in England. While there are no good wizards to oppose him or Muggles to oppress, everything else is there. Diagon Alley, Gringott’s, the Ministry of Magic, and even Hogwarts are all present, as well Malfoy Manner. Every witch and wizard that was ever loyal to the Dark Lord is there, along with a whole host of other magical resources such as his snake Naigini, the basilisk from the Chamber of Secrets, dementors, inferi, giants, trolls, and werewolves. He is armed with the Elder Wand and each of his horcruxes is accounted for.
The Borg Queen - Like the Emperor, the Borg Queen is unable to leave the planet until all of her enemies have been destroyed, but she and her borg drones still have all of their other technological resources. An entire continent covered with the Borg Collective, and cube ships flying overhead.
So… who will be the victorious villain? What would such a battle look like? Which match ups would you most want to see? How long would the war last, and what would be the major turning points?!
Captain Derethor stood watch over the Harad Plains. The battlefield before them had the corpses of many Gondor soldiers, Haradrim and orcs alike. As long as he could hold the bastion here and eventually push his forces into mordor's flank, everything would go well. His hand and a half sword lay beside him as he sat on the Numenorean stone wall. "Change is in the wind..." He murmured as he picked up and stone and idly threw it.
The stone hit Catarina in the head, and she sat up, lavender eyes glaring at him. “Watch it!”
So, for context, here’s the time period we’re working with: In 1,700SA Sauron is defeated in the War Between the Elves and Sauron (thanks in very large part to the intervention of the Numenoreans.) And in 3,262 Sauron is taken to Numenor as a hostage, after surrendering to the force of Numenor’s military power. So, as for what Sauron was doing during that 1,500 years:
A lot of what Sauron was doing was rebuilding his forces after his devastating defeat in the War Between the Elves and Sauron. After the Numenoreans joined the war, it’s said that Sauron escaped with only his bodyguards and a handful of orcs. So his first order of business would be to build up his numbers again. And he was very successful, since Tolkien tells us that his orcs “multiplied like flies” during this time. On top of that, Sauron gathered “all the evil things of the days of Morgoth that remained on earth or beneath it” into his forces as well.
Aside from building up his forces in Mordor, Sauron also did quite a bit of expanding and conquering during this time. He completely controlled the lands east and south of Middle Earth. In fact, his power in those regions was so great that Sauron was both king and god to the men living there. And while he definitely controlled these regions politically and militarily, he also put some effort into affecting the culture there, introducing (and, probably, enforcing) the worship of Morgoth.
And Morgoth did actually control quite a bit of Middle Earth as well. While he couldn’t do much about Lindon, it’s said that “elsewhere Sauron reigned, and those who would be free took refuge in the fastnesses of wood and mountain”, which seems to imply that there were a few pockets of safety (likely wherever elves were) but otherwise Sauron’s influence was pretty much everywhere. With, after 2,798, one major exception (and this will answer the “why didn’t he conquer the west” part of your question, by the way.)
After 2,798 it’s said that Sauron withdrew all his forces and influence away from the coasts of Middle Earth. This was because Numenor had grown so powerful (and had that he didn’t even want to risk coming into conflict with them. And, as the Numenoreans had established several colonies along the coasts, the best way to avoid them was to avoid the ocean entirely. And, given what happened in 1,700 and 3,262, this was a wise choice on Sauron’s part. Even at the height of his military power (which, by the way, was probably during the War Between the Elves and Sauron, not after it), Sauron could not defeat the Numenoreans. So there was nothing to gain from trying to conquer areas protected by Numenor (which, because of the friendship between Gil-galad and the kings of Numenor, included Lindon.)
SOURCES: The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales (“Aldarion and Erendis”, “The History of Galadriel and Celeborn”), LOTR Appendices