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User:Mord/Of the Departure of Celeborn

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Around TA 1000, Círdan stated his intent to remain in Mithlond until no remaining Elves wished to depart Middle-earth.
  • Appendix B, The Great Years: "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."
"A few years" after FoA 1, Celeborn left East Lórien for Rivendell to live with Elladan and Elrohir.
  • Appendix A, (iii) Eriador, Arnor, and the heirs of Isildur: "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."
We can tell this passage was written by a Hobbit scholar, owing to a reference to "years before we came to the Shire" earlier in the paragraph. It is likely that this passage would have been part of the Thain's Book composed in FoA 63, because there is no reason for later additions made in Gondor and first included in Findegil's copy of FoA 171 to have been written in the authorial voice of a Hobbit. "Now" must refer to FoA 63, meaning that at that time, the Hobbit scholar was unsure if any High Elves remained in Lindon at all, but he did believe Círdan remained in Middle-earth.
  • The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen: "We [Aragorn and Arwen] met under the white birches in the garden of Elrond where none now walk. [...] 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."
As of 1 March FoA 120, Aragorn believed that either Rivendell generally or the garden of Elrond specifically were abandoned. Rivendell is often described as the "house of Elrond," so it is likely that "the garden of Elrond" is a metonymy for Rivendell; there is no 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. Aragorn also believed that there was at least one ship in the Grey Havens, meaning Círdan must not yet have left Middle-earth.
  • Appendix B, Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring: "[After the Passing of King Elessar] Legolas built a grey ship in Ithilien, and sailed down Anduin and so over Sea."
Before the end of FoA 120, Legolas left Middle-earth. He departed from Ithilien, not Mithlond.
  • The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen: "[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."
Galadriel had "passed away" while Celeborn was "gone," suggesting the possibility that he had not yet left Middle-earth. This passage could refer to any time after 1 March FoA 120 and before the (nebulously defined) beginning of Spring FoA 121.
  • Note on the Shire Records: "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."
This section is about Findegil's copy of FoA 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 History of Galadriel and Celeborn, Amroth and Nimrodel: "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."
Tolkien's language in the previous passage is reminiscent of his description of the voyage of the last Elven ship from Edhellond in TA 1981.


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. However, there are ambiguities that allow for the possibility that this was not the last ship to leave Middle-earth.

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 still lived, as did Bombadil. It is likely that the phrase is meant to be intepreted figuratively, 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.

Similar figurative language may also apply regarding Círdan's "last ship." It is remarkable that Legolas would choose to build his own ship rather than depart from Mithlond. Perhaps Legolas' decision was influenced by his long life among the Elves east of the Misty Mountains, who maintained their own haven in Edhellond until TA 1981 and may have had their own traditions regarding departures.

Implicitly, if Legolas could build his own ship, other Elves could do the same. One possibility is that Legolas' grey ship on the Anduin was the only one of its kind in the Fourth Age, and all the Elves who dwelled near the Anduin (in Ithilien, the Woodland Realm, East Lórien, and Lórien) who were of a mind to depart rather than fade in Middle-earth were aboard.

Another possibility is that Legolas' grey ship was not the only one of its kind, and Círdan's "last ship" was 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. However, the account of the end of the Third Age in the The Silmarillion contradicts that of The Lord of the Rings, so too much weight cannot be given to it.[note 1] If it is taken as literally true that Círdan did indeed leave on the last ship, and also taken as true that other Elves chose to build their own ships in the manner of Legolas, it is necessary that the last of these other Elves departed prior to Celeborn.

The phrasing of the description of Lórien in FoA 120-121 ("Galadriel had passed away and Celeborn also was gone") may lend credence to Aragorn's belief that Mithlond was not abandoned as of FoA 120. Tolkien chose specifically to describe Galadriel and Celeborn's absences from the land differently, implying that they were qualitatively different in some way. Galadriel had gone into the West by this time, so the most obvious possible difference would be that Celeborn had not yet done so. If it is taken as true that Celeborn had not yet left Middle-earth as of the arrival of Arwen in Lórien, he must have been in Rivendell or Mithlond at least until March of FoA 120 (and, if he stayed until the death of Arwen, perhaps as late as the coming of Spring in FoA 121).

Perhaps Aragorn was incorrect and Mithlond was already abandoned at the time of his death. This is unlikely, because there are few who would have better reason to be informed of goings-on in Mithlond than the King of Arnor in the midst of an attempt to repopulate the nearby cities of Annúminas and Fornost. (Mithlond, once abandoned by the Elves, could become an incredibly valuable port for commerce between Gondor and a renascent Arnor.) If Mithlond were abandoned at that time, Círdan could not have departed on the literal "last ship," because Legolas had yet to depart.

Lower Bound

If it is not taken as literally true that Círdan left on the last ship (and undue emphasis is not placed on Tolkien's use of "gone" versus "passed away"), then depending on whose ignorance is assumed, the lower bound for Círdan's departure can be reckoned at several points. If neither the Hobbit scholar nor Aragorn are correct, Celeborn may well have left Middle-earth at any time following the departure of the White Ship, allowing at a minimum "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. If the Hobbit scholar is correct, Círdan could not have left before FoA 63. If Aragorn is correct, Círdan could not have left before FoA 120. If Cirdan's ship was literally the last one, he could not have left before FoA 121.

Upper Bound

Setting an upper bound for the date of departure requires that Findegil was correct in his use of the past tense in FoA 171. The Unfinished Tales description of the ship that nearly bore away Amroth - "No tidings of it were ever heard in Middle-earth" - gives credence to this, as it sets a precedent for Elven ships departing without those who remain in Middle-earth seeing them go. Amroth's ship left no witnesses because it bore away the last residents of Edhellond; perhaps Celeborn's ship left no witnesses because it bore away the last residents of Mithlond. If this interpretation is accepted as true, then the upper limit for Celeborn and Círdan's departure from Middle-earth is FoA 171. Otherwise, we cannot set an upper bound.


  1. 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.