User:Mord/Of the Departure of Celeborn

From Tolkien Gateway

Evidence & Analysis[edit]

Passengers of the "Last" Ship[edit]

I [Círdan] will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"

I [Círdan] will dwell by the grey shores, guarding the Havens until the last ship sails.
J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"

There is no record of the day when at last he [Celeborn] sought the Grey Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Note on the Shire Records"

Then [after the Passing of King Elessar] Legolas built a grey ship in Ithilien, and sailed down Anduin and so over Sea.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring"

If Celeborn took "the last living memory of the Elder Days" with him and Círdan departed on the "last ship," the two would necessarily have left on the same ship, the last to leave Mithlond. This much is beyond any reasonable doubt.

We have reason to doubt the literal truth of the statement that Celeborn took "the last living memory of the Elder Days" with him: as far as we have any reason to believe, Treebeard and Bombadil would have lived into the Fourth Age. It is likely that the phrase is meant to be intepreted figuratively, perhaps as "the last living memory of the Elder Days among the Children of Ilúvatar." Even if Treebeard and Bombadil are not considered to possess "living memories" for this purpose, there is no reasonable interpretation that allows Celeborn to leave Middle-earth while Círdan remains behind.

As with "the last living memory," it's possible that Círdan's "last ship" is also the subject of figurative language and not literally the last ship to leave Middle-earth. Círdan's "last ship" may have been meant as the "last ship from Mithlond." His description of his mission given in the The Silmarillion explicitly refers to "guarding the Havens," which gives some credence to this interpetation.[note 1] If Círdan's was only the last ship from Mithlond, he may have left just after the Passing of King Elessar, leaving Legolas with no choice but to build his own ship.

Moreover, Legolas could build his own ship, so we have no reason to think Círdan alone held the secrets of building a ship to withstand the voyage West. We know of no reason that other Elves could not do the same later in the Fourth Age (though no remaining Elves seem likely to have done so; e.g. Thranduil and his people, who desired to return to the days before the Elves became involved with the Valar).

The last Ringbearer[edit]

[S.R.] 1482 [Fo.A. 61] [...] Among them [the Fairbairns] the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over Sea, last of the Ring-bearers.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring"

If indeed Samwise was permitted to pass into the West per the tradition, there must have been a ship in the Havens to take him there.

Where none now walk[edit]

But after the passing of Galadriel in a few years Celeborn grew weary of his realm [East Lórien] and went to Imladris to dwell with the sons of Elrond.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years"

It is probable that Meriadoc obtained assistance and information from Rivendell, which he visited more than once. There, though Elrond had departed, his sons long remained, together with some of the High-elven folk. It is said that Celeborn went to dwell there after the departure of Galadriel.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Note on the Shire Records"

We [Aragorn and Arwen] met under the white birches in the garden of Elrond where none now walk.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"

Rivendell was still populated with Elves during the lifetime of Meriadoc Brandybuck, who left the Shire in Fo.A. 63. On 1 March Fo.A. 120, Aragorn believed that "the garden of Elrond" was abandoned.

Rivendell is often described as "the house of Elrond;" the "the garden of Elrond" is likely also a metonymy for Rivendell. Even taken literally, there is no apparent reason for the sons (and father-in-law) of Elrond, and the Elves in general, to decline to walk in Elrond's garden if they still dwelled in Rivendell.

As for where the folk of Rivendell went, some may have dispersed into the remaining Elven settlements in Lindon, Eryn Lasgalen and Ithilien. As for Celeborn himself, his motivation to stay in Rivendell in the first place was to spend time with his grandsons – if the family were to stay together, why leave their home in Rivendell only to change venues within Middle-earth? If the family were to part ways, where would Celeborn have any reason to go but the Havens?

Never more than memory[edit]

The uttermost choice is before you [Arwen]: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"

At marriage Arwen became “mortal”: she would then join her husband’s scale of “expectation of life”.
J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part One. Time and Ageing: XVIII. Elvish Ages & Númenórean"

On 1 March Fo.A. 120, Aragorn believed that there was at least one ship left in the Grey Havens. If true, Círdan must not yet have left Middle-earth. Unfortunately, Arwen's choice had been made long ago, and the physical availability of ships was irrelevant.

The example of the White Ship and its passengers suggests that Elves did not tarry long at the Havens before setting sail. Indeed, each Elf who makes the free choice to go West has necessarily resolved to end their time in Middle-earth. By the time they arrive at the Havens, their affairs should already be settled and their farewells made – further delay seems needless and uncharacteristic of the serious-minded and decisive Eldar. As such, it seems unlikely that Celeborn (and perhaps one or both of Elladan and Elrohir) would desire to linger in Mithlond for any longer than necessary to gather the other passengers of the Last Ship.

Even so, we know of no reason that an Elf would be prevented from remaining in Mithlond or the environs for any length of time prior to their departure.

"Passed away" and "gone"[edit]

She [Arwen] went out from the city of Minas Tirith and passed away to the land of Lórien, and dwelt there alone under the fading trees until winter came. Galadriel had passed away and Celeborn also was gone, and the land was silent. There at last when the mallorn-leaves were falling, but spring had not yet come, she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"

There are no trees like the trees of that land [Lórien]. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold. Not till the spring comes and the new green opens do they fall.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Lothlórien"

Tolkien's differing descriptions of Galadriel and Celeborn's absences from Lórien during Arwen's sojourn there could have been meant to imply that their absences were qualitatively different in some way. Galadriel had gone West, so the most obvious possible difference would be that Celeborn had not yet done so. (This concurs with Aragorn's deathbed belief that at least one ship remained in Mithlond.)

The specific point in time to which these descriptions apply is unclear – they are most proximate in the text to the coming of winter Fo.A. 120, but it is equally plausible that they could apply to any time during her sojourn. Arwen entered the realm sometime after 1 March Fo.A. 120. Mallorn-trees shed their leaves only at the very end of winter, so she must have died there just before the beginning of Spring Fo.A. 121, perhaps as late as March.

What the Tooks knew[edit]

Since Meriadoc and Peregrin became the heads of their great families, and at the same time kept up their connexions with Rohan and Gondor, the libraries at Bucklebury and Tuckborough contained much that did not appear in the Red Book.

[...] At Great Smials the books were of less interest to Shire-folk, though more important for larger history. None of them was written by Peregrin, but he and his successors collected many manuscripts written by scribes of Gondor: mainly copies or summaries of histories or legends relating to Elendil and his heirs. Only here in the Shire were to be found extensive materials for the history of Nu´menor and the arising of Sauron. It was probably at Great Smials that The Tale of Years* was put together, with the assistance of material collected by Meriadoc.

(* Represented in much reduced form in Appendix B as far as the end of the Third Age.)
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Note on the Shire Records"

Concerning the sources for most of the matter contained in the following Appendices, especially A to D, see the note at the end of the Prologue.

[...] The legends, histories, and lore to be found in the sources are very extensive. Only selections from them, in most places much abridged, are here presented. [...] Actual extracts from longer annals and tales are placed within quotation marks. [...] Notes within quotation marks are found in the sources.


J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers

‘[...] They [Dwarves] were accustomed to pass east along the Great Road, as they had done for long years before we came to the Shire. At the Grey Havens dwelt Círdan the Shipwright, and some say he dwells there still, until the Last Ship sets sail into the West. In the days of the Kings most of the High Elves that still lingered in Middle-earth dwelt with Círdan or in the seaward lands of Lindon. If any now remain they are few.’
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur" (emphasis added)

This passage must have been written by a Hobbit, due to the use of "we." "The days of the Kings" here refers to the Kings of Arthedain, not the Kings of the Reunited Kingdom, demonstrated by the past tense "lingered" and "dwelt" versus the present tense "remain."

‘Here ends this tale, as it has come to us from the South; and with the passing of Evenstar no more is said in this book of the days of old.’
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"

The death of Arwen at the end of winter in Fo.A. 121 is the last historical event attested in the original

XXXXX WRONG XXXXX This passage would have been part of the Thain's Book composed in Fo.A. 63, because there is no reason for later additions made in Gondor and first included in Findegil's copy of Fo.A. 171 to have been written in the authorial voice of a Hobbit. As such, "now" must refer to Fo.A. 63, so at that time, the Hobbit scholar was unsure if any High Elves remained in Lindon at all, but he did consider the belief that Círdan remained in Middle-earth to have enough credibility to be worth recording. XXXXX WRONG XXXXX

Metatextuality[edit]

There [in Rivendell], though Elrond had departed, his sons long remained, together with some of the High-elven folk. It is said that Celeborn went to dwell there after the departure of Galadriel; but there is no record of the day when at last he sought the Grey Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Note on the Shire Records"

This section is about Findegil's copy of Fo.A. 171, so as of that year, either Celeborn had not yet left Middle-earth, he had done so but there were no witnesses, or he had done so and there were witnesses but their account never reached Findegil. The past tense of the last clauses - "he sought," "with him went" - suggests that the departure may have already taken place.

The light Elven-ship was torn from its moorings and driven into the wild waters towards the coasts of Umbar. No tidings of it were ever heard in Middle-earth; but the Elven-ships made for this journey did not founder, and doubtless it left the Circles of the World and came at last to Eressëa.
J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Amroth and Nimrodel"

Tolkien's language in the previous passage is reminiscent of his description of the voyage of the last Elven ship from Edhellond in T.A. 1981.

The potential connection here is necessarily metatextual in nature. The Note on the Shire Records is written in the voice of the fictional J.R.R. Tolkien, translator and transcriber of the Red Book. This pseudo-Tolkien may well be considered the narrator of other works in the Legendarium not otherwise attributed, including the tale of Amroth and Nimrodel in Unfinished Tales. This is relevant because the narrator of that tale speaks authoritatively of the drowning of Amroth and the voyage of his ship, despite these events explicitly having no witnesses in Middle-earth. This sets a precedent that Elven ships may depart without any who remain seeing them go, yet the narrator may still speak of them with authority as having done so at a particular time.

We may grant to our narrator the same authority in the Note as we do in Amroth and Nimrodel if only for the sake of consistency. Thus we may consider his description of the departure of Celeborn in the Note in light of his description of the departure of Amroth's ship in Amroth and Nimrodel, to which it bears a clear and striking resemblance. The passage in Amroth and Nimrodel is the narrator's way of drawing a close to that story, while the passage in the Note serves the same purpose to its own. Being that the Note is the story of Findegil's copy of the Red Book and its descent from the original, we may surmise that Tolkien's choice to conclude it with a reference to the departure of Celeborn indicates that the voyage was at the latest contemporaneous with Findegil's work. This would place the upper bound somewhere in the year Fo.A. 171 between 25 March and 1 Yule (since the year is stated to be S.R. 1592 but Fo.A. 172 by the New Reckoning).

Boundary dates[edit]

Lower bound[edit]

A "lower bound" is a date before which we know Celeborn must not have departed Middle-earth.

A lower bound for Círdan's departure can be reckoned at several points depending on whether we accept certain statements of fact by various characters at face value.

If the Last Ship is understood to be merely the last out of Mithlond:

  • "A few years" into the Fourth Age: If Samwise did not go West, the rumors reported by the Hobbit scholar were false, and Aragorn was incorrect in their statements, Celeborn could have left at effectively any time after the departure of the White Ship, allowing "a few years" for him to grow weary of his realm in East Lórien and make a brief stop in Rivendell to bid farewell to his grandsons.
  • After Fo.A. 61: If Samwise went West, Celeborn could not have left before him.
  • After Fo.A. 63: If the rumors recorded by the Hobbit scholar were true, Celeborn could not have left before the composition of the Thain's Book.
  • After 1 March Fo.A. 120: If Aragorn's deathbed statement was true, Celeborn could not have left before Aragorn's death.

If the Last Ship is understood to be the last out of Middle-earth:

  • After Legolas' departure (between 2 March and 1 Yule Fo.A. 120): If Legolas was the only Elf outside of Mithlond to build his own ship, Círdan could not have left before Legolas.
  • After Arwen's arrival in Lórien (after 1 March and before the beginning of winter Fo.A. 120): If Tolkien's use of "gone" versus "passed away" is meant to signify Celeborn's absence from the forest but not from Middle-earth, Círdan could not have left before Arwen arrived in Lórien.
  • Undefinable: If Elves other than Legolas also built their own ships outside of Mithlond, we cannot define any lower bound because we cannot say when the last of those anonymous Elves may have left.

Upper bound[edit]

An "upper bound" is a date after which we know Celeborn must have departed Middle-earth.

If one accepts the following statements:

  • Celeborn would not depart Rivendell except to pass into the West
  • Celeborn would not tarry in Mithlond overlong
  • Aragorn's deathbed statement means Rivendell was abandoned
  • Aragorn was correct in his assertion that there was still a ship in Mithlond

We can establish that 1 March Fo.A. 120 was within the brief window of time between the Elves' departure from Rivendell and the Last Ship's departure from Middle-earth. At that time, either they were still on the journey from Rivendell to Mithlond, or they had arrived in Mithlond and were not yet ready to depart. In either case, it seems unlikely they would still be there more than a year later. Thus, their departure can plausibly be dated to sometime in Fo.A. 120 after 1 March or Fo.A. 121.

If one accepts that Findegil's work is at the latest contemporaneous with Celeborn's departure, then he must have left Middle-earth no later than Fo.A. 171.

Conclusions[edit]

Tolkien typically does not ascribe false statements to his wise and virtuous characters, except deliberately and with specific reason. Furthermore, Tolkien's choice of language in the published Lord of the Rings is generally very deliberate, evidenced by his many unpublished drafts and post-publication revisions, and though contradictions are known to have slipped in between drafts, Tolkien can seldom be accused of choosing his words in a sloppy or imprecise manner. Whether Tolkien chose to remain ambiguous or provide specifics in any given passage, the words he used were more than likely the product of conscious decision-making. It seems most reasonable to take at face value all statements of fact from trustworthy characters and assume Tolkien had specific intent in his description of Lórien.

It's narratively appropriate for the last great lords of the Sindar to leave Middle-earth shortly after the death of King Elessar: after Elessar the kingship passed to Eldarion, "scion of the Eldar," whose very name reflects that "the Eldar of story and song" had become no more than a legacy to be inherited by Men.

I believe it's most likely that Celeborn departed Middle-earth sometime in the spring of Fo.A. 121. This would place his departure after Arwen's death in early Fo.A. 121, retaining the significance of Tolkien's differing descriptions of Galadriel and Celeborn's absences from Lórien at the time of Arwen's brief sojourn there. This also means Celeborn was long gone from the circles of the world by the time of Findegil's writing, respecting the metatextual implications of the comment in the Note.

Notes

  1. However, the account of the end of the Third Age in the The Silmarillion contradicts that of The Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion implies that Círdan's "last ship" was identical with the White Ship and states that when the bearers of the Three Rings departed on it, "an end was come for the Eldar of story and of song." In The Lord of the Rings, Círdan did not take the White Ship. For both accounts to be true, Círdan must not be counted among "the Eldar of story and of song," which is impossible given his role in the tale of Eärendil.

References