Tharbad

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Tharbad
Ford/town
"The Ruins of Tharbad" by Rob Alexander
General Information
LocationEriador, on the Gwathló river
TypeFord/town
InhabitantsMen
GalleryImages of Tharbad

Tharbad was an important crossing of the river Gwathló, or Greyflood, between Enedwaith and Minhiriath on the southern border of Eriador. In the Third Age, the Royal Road between Gondor and Arnor crossed there, and the Bridge of Tharbad, fortifications and a great port were built. With the decline of the two kingdoms, the town was ruined and deserted.[1][2][3]

Geography

Tharbad was located a few miles downstream from the confluence of the rivers Hoarwell and Glanduin, which formed the river Gwathló. The river there was wide and shallow, although it was dangerous to cross. The surrounding area was flat, and the waters were slow and naturally spread into a fenland of swamps, pools and eyots, filled with swans and other water-birds, called the Swanfleet.[3][4][5][note 1]

Before the fall of Arnor, causeways had been built over the fens, with the large Bridge of Tharbad crossing the river. The fens had been drained to construct a port for seagoing ships, and forts on earthworks on both sides of the river. By the end of the Third Age, the region was ruined and had returned to its natural fens.[1]

The Royal Road crossed the Gwathló at Tharbad. Smaller ships could also sail up the river to the crossing.[1]

History

Second Age

In the early Second Age the river Glanduin was the southern border of the Noldorin realm Eregion.[1]

Before the year S.A. 800, then Prince Aldarion built a small sea-port, Vinyalondë, at the mouth of the river Gwathló to obtain timber.[1] In their search for timber, the Númenóreans travelled up the river and eventually discovered the fens around Tharbad, where the woods stopped. At some point after 883,[6] Aldarion met Galadriel around Tharbad, which was then already used as crossing.[7] By S.A. 1695, the deforestation had made the local population hostile, and the locals were pushed from Enedwaith to the Misty Mountains and from Minhiriath to to the remaining forests on the cap of Eryn Vorn. The Númenóreans built forts along the river, but whether they stretched to Tharbad is unknown.[1]

During the War of the Elves and Sauron, where Sauron conquered most of Eriador, Tharbad was "only lightly held"; whether by a Númenórean fort, garrison or by Elves is unknown. Regardless, one of Sauron's reinforcing armies had captured Tharbad when Sauron retreated there after his defeats at Lhûn and the Sarn Ford. At the Battle of the Gwathló near Tharbad, Sauron's army was utterly routed, and he himself only barely escaped.[8]

Third Age

Tharbad lay on the southern border of the newly formed Kingdom of Arnor. The Royal Road, which was the chief route of communication between Arnor and Gondor, crossed the Gwathló at Tharbad. Together, the two kingdoms built and maintained the great Bridge of Tharbad and causeways across the surrounding fens. Still, the fastest route was by sea to the ruined port of Lond Daer (formerly Vinyalondë) at the mouth of the Gwathló, and from there with smaller ships up the river. Therefore, the surrounding fens were drained and a great port capable of receiving large ships was built at Tharbad. In addition, they built forts on earthworks on both sides of the river, with a large garrison of soldiers, river-wardens and engineers.[1][5]

When Arnor was divided in T.A. 861, Minhiriath, and therefore probably Tharbad, became part of Cardolan.[9][10]

From about T.A. 1150,[9] the Stoors, a tribe of hobbits, settled in the area between Tharbad and the borders of Dunland.[11] They left around 1630.[9]

After T.A. 1636,[9] the Great Plague spread from Gondor into Eriador. Most of the people in Cardolan died, especially in Minhiriath.[10] Tharbad was mostly abandoned,[1] but Gondor continued to maintain the roads and bridge until some time during or after the fall of Arnor, between T.A. 1975 and T.A. 2050.[12] After this, the region fell into decay and turned back into wild fenlands, and the Bridge was ruined.[1] However, some settlements must have remained in the city until T.A. 2912 after the Fell Winter, when Enedwaith and Minhiriath were devastated by floods and Tharbad was finally ruined and deserted.[9]

By T.A. 3018, the Road was crumbling, the town ruined on dwindling mounds, and the ford made dangerous by the ruins of the bridge. It was still occasionally in use, for example by Gandalf,[13] the Ringwraiths, servants and spies of Saruman,[14] as well as the Rangers of the North who sought Aragorn in Rohan in 3019. Most notably, Boromir lost his horse on the ford on his way to Rivendell.[1][15]

Arnor was reestablished by Aragorn at the end of the Third Age. It is probable that Tharbad and the Bridge were rebuilt, because Gandalf announced that the Royal Road would be opened again, and that the wilderness in Eriador, including Enedwaith, would be settled again.[16]

Etymology

Tharbad is a Sindarin name meaning "road-crossing".[3] It is a compound of thar ("across", "over") and pad ("walk", "step"); its original meaning is said to have been "the Stepping Stones". Tharbad was originally a ford over which one could walk. The name Tharbad was already used for the ford before the town was established.[17]

Portrayal in adaptations

Tharbad in The Lord of the Rings Online

2022: The Lord of the Rings Online:

First built by the Númenóreans as a ford and settlement, Tharbad has been rebuilt over the many centuries of its existence. Its position upon the river Gwathló marks the boundary between the Cardolan and Swanfleet regions: thus making it a landmark in both regions. It is also the dividing point between the Greenway and the Old South Road. The ruins are currently occupied by Orcs. An expedition of hopeful settlers from Bree-land camp nearby on the Cardolan side.
  1. The Swanfleet is often drawn on maps as being to the east of Tharbad. But this is incongruent with the Royal Road requiring causeways over the fens. Unfinished Tales describes a single "central region of the Great Fens" in the northern part of the Gwathló, and that the Númenóreans "penetrated northward as far as the beginning of the great fenlands," along the Gwathló, where they eventually "undertook the great works of drainage and dyke-building" where Tharbad stood. Clearly, then, Tharbad lies in the middle of a large, contiguous region of fens. In The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor, Tolkien describes the region around Tharbad as "a slow wide river running through a network of swamps, pools and eyots: the haunt of hosts of swans and other water-birds." This matches the description of the Swanfleet from Return of the King.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Appendix D: The Port of Lond Daer"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South", p. 274
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Unfinished index for The Lord of the Rings", in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, entry Tharbad, p. 15
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Many Partings"
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 42, July 2001
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner's Wife", "Notes", Chronology, second paragraph
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner's Wife", The Further Course of the Narrative, fourth paragraph
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn"
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  10. 10.0 10.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur", The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Concerning Hobbits", p. 3
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Battles of the Fords of Isen", "Appendix (ii)"
  13. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 552 citing from The Hunt for the Ring, Marquette manuscript 4/2/33
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", "(i) Of the Journey of the Black Riders"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Farewell to Lórien", p. 374
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Homeward Bound", p. 993
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), entries S thar- and S pad-, p. 34