Umbar was an old Númenórean haven settled by the King's Men — a proud faction loyal to the King and opposed to the divine authority of the Valar. After the Downfall of Númenor, the inhabitants of Umbar took to pillaging and piracy along the coasts of Gondor. Gondor conquered Umbar in 1050 T.A., and for several centuries Umbar was a stronghold of Gondor.
At the end of the Kin-strife, the defeated rebels of Gondor (led by the Castamiri, or descendants of Castamir) fled to Umbar and usurped power there. They were bitter enemies of the legitimate kings of Gondor and again pursued piracy against Gondor. They became known as the Corsairs of Umbar. They had taken with them a large part of Gondor's fleet, thus weakening Gondor and strengthening the naval traditions of Umbar.
In 1810, King Telumehtar of Gondor conquered Umbar, killing the last of Castamir's descendants; but Umbar was lost to the Haradrim sometime later. (Tolkien gives no date for the latter event; the MERP module Umbar places it in 1846.) Pirates from Umbar, still known as Corsairs, again began to harass Gondor.
By the time of the War of the Ring, the population of Umbar, mixed with the Haradrim, had lost most of its Númenórean blood, and had fallen under the domination of Sauron. They launched an armada as part of Sauron's forces attacking Gondor; the combined fleet, known as the black ships, consisted of "50 great ships and smaller vessels beyond count". Just before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, the fleet raided the port city of Pelargir in Lebennin, but it was captured by Aragorn with the aid of the Army of the Dead. Aragorn sailed the fleet to Minas Tirith to relieve the siege of the city.
In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the ships of the Corsairs are reminiscent of Eastern junks and dhows with lateen sails, whereas Tolkien specifically refers to Western dromonds in the book. The scene is not featured in the theatrical release; however, it is shown on the Extended Edition DVD. Many of the film's crew make cameo appearances in the scene, including Peter Jackson as a crewman shot by Legolas.
The Corsairs of Umbar appear in the computer game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II as navy and infantry units. As an infantry unit, they can use knives or fire grenades at their enemies.
- Umbar: Haven of the Corsairs. Iron Crown Enterprises, p.50.
- "Sword's Song". Battlelore official homepage. Archived from the original on 18 January 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
- Radcliffe, Doug. "The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth II Game Guide. Walkthrough: Evil Campaign". Gamespot. CBS Interactive.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- "Corsairs of Umbar". Encyclopedia of Arda. 16 September 2001.
- "Corsairs of Umbar". Tolkien Gateway.