First Age

Elrond and his brother Elros were the children of Eärendil and Elwing. It is probable that both were born in FA 532 (assuming that they were twins; a birthdate is only given for Elros). They were born at the mouths of Sirion, after Eärendil and the rest of the refugees from Gondolin had joined forces with Elwing and her people who had set up camp there after the Fall of Doriath.

When Elrond and Elros were still young, the sons of Fëanor attacked the camp, and took the young elves captive. But Maglor took pity on them, and he looked after them, and love slowly grew between them.

At the end of the War of Wrath, and thus at the ending of the First Age, Elrond and Elros made their choice as to which race they wanted to belong.

“In Middle-earth dwelt also Gil-galad the High King, and with him was Elrond Half-elven, who chose, as was granted to him, to be numbered among the Eldar; but Elros his brother chose to abide with Men.” (Silmarillion, Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath)

“Elrond chose to be of Elvenkind, and became a master of wisdom. To him therefore was granted the same grace as to those of the High Elves that still lingered in Middle-earth: that when weary at last of the mortal lands they could take ship from the Grey Havens and pass into the Uttermost West, notwithstanding the change of the world. But to the children of Elrond a choice was also appointed: to pass with him from the circles of the world; or if they wedded with one of Mankind, to become mortal and die in Middle-earth.” (PoME, The Making of Appendix A, p257)

Second Age

At the start of the Second Age, Elrond dwelt with Gil-galad in Lindon. When Sauron came forth into Middle-earth, Lindon was the only Elf Haven where he would not go, for Gil-galad and Elrond did not trust his fair-seeming form and his smooth-sounding words, though even Elrond knew not exactly who he was.

Later, when Gil-galad heard of Celebrimbor’s revolt against Sauron (SA 1695**), he sent Elrond and a force of elves out to Eriador. His force managed to join up with that of Celeborn’s, but they were prevented from coming to the aid of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain by Sauron’s far superior numbers. After Celebrimbor had been captured, and the House of the Mírdain sacked, Sauron realised that the three Elvish Rings must have already been given to Elvish guardians. He then turned on Elrond’s army, which had been swelled by refugees from Eregion. Even then Elrond would have been overwhelmed had not Sauron’s forces been attacked from the rear by Durin’s Dwarves.

Elrond was able to withdraw from the battle, but he was forced away northwards, and in SA 1697** he established Imladris. When Sauron went to attack Gil-galad at Lindon, he left a sizeable portion of his army behind to besiege Imladris (SA 1699*/ 1700).

At some point soon after that (though before c. SA 1800*), a Council was held where it was determined that the major Elvish stronghold in the east of Eriador should be maintained at Imladris. At the same time, according to Peoples of Middle-earth, Gil-galad gave Vilya, the Ring of Air, to Elrond.

Just before that Council started, Galadriel had come to Imladris seeking Celeborn, and she had brought Celebrían with her. Elrond fell in love with Celebrían, though he said nothing of it at the time, and when Galadriel and Celeborn left, their daughter went with them.

Elrond was then at the Last Alliance alongside Gil-galad:

“I was the herald of Gil-galad and marched with his host. I was at the Battle of Dagorlad before the Black Gate of Mordor, where we had the mastery; for the Spear of Gil-galad and the Sword of Elendil, Aiglos and Narsil, none could withstand. I beheld the last combat on the slopes of Orodruin, where Gil-galad died, and Elendil fell, and Narsil broke beneath him; but Sauron himself was overthrown, and Isildur cut the Ring from his hand with the hilt-shard of his father’s sword, and took it for his own.” (FotR, The Council of Elrond)

After the battle, he was there with Círdan when Isildur refused to throw the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

The Third Age

Imladris in the Third Age

By the Third Age, Imladris had gained a reputation as a house of lore and wisdom:

“and he gathered there many Elves, and other folk of wisdom and power from among all the kindreds of Middle-earth, and he preserved through many lives of Men the memory of all that had been fair; and the house of Elrond was a refuge for the weary and the oppressed, and a treasury of good counsel and wise lore. In that house were harboured the Heirs of Isildur, in childhood and old age, because of the kinship of their blood with Elrond himself, and because he knew in his wisdom that one should come of their line to whom a great part was appointed in the last deeds of that Age. And until that time came the shards of Elendil’s sword were given into the keeping of Elrond, when the days of the Dúnedain darkened and they became a wandering people.” (Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age)

“Elrond symbolises throughout the ancient wisdom, and his House represents Lore – the preservation in reverent memory of all tradition concerning the good, wise, and beautiful. It is not a scene of action but of reflection. Thus it is a place visited on the way to all deeds, or ‘adventures’. It may prove to be on the direct road (as in The Hobbit); but it may be necessary to go from there in a totally unexpected course. So necessarily in The Lord of the Rings, having escaped to Elrond from the imminent pursuit of present evil, the hero departs in a wholly new direction: to go and face it at its source.” (Letters #131, footnote by Carpenter)

Elrond in the early Third Age

The first thing we know of Elrond in the Third Age is his wedding to Celebrían in TA 109**. Soon after that, Elladan and Elrohir were born (TA 130**) and then Arwen (TA 241**).

There is then mention of Elrond in Peoples of Middle-earth, with him and Círdan sending forces to Angmar during the reign of Arvedui. The Witch-king was then overthrown by Elrond, and his reign in Angmar brought to an end.

After the death of Arvedui, Elrond’s deep connection with the Northern Dúnedain became more formalised, with the surviving treasures of the Northern Númenórean kings – including the Shards of Narsil – being placed in Imladris. The connection was formed from the kinship of their blood, and the fact that Elrond knew “that one should come of their line to whom a great part was appointed in the last deeds of that Age.” (Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age) From then on, the sons of the Dúnedain chieftains were usually fostered in Rivendell, with the first being Aranarth son of Arvedui.

In 2463**, the White Council was created, and Elrond was one of its members. When Gandalf discovered they were dealing with Sauron, he came to Rivendell to advise Elrond of his findings.

“And Elrond answered: “In the hour that Isildur took the Ring and would not surrender it, this doom was wrought, that Sauron should return.

Nonetheless I forebode that the One will yet be found, and then war will rise again, and in that war this Age will be ended. Indeed in a second darkness it will end, unless some strange chance deliver us that my eyes cannot see.” (Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age)

Elrond and Celebrían

In TA 2509, Celebrían was journeying to Lórien when she was waylaid in the Redhorn Pass and received a poisonous wound. Elladan and Elrohir rescued her, and though Elrond cured her physical body, the next year, in TA 2510, she departed over the Sea to the West.

Elrond and Aragorn

After Arathorn was killed, Aragorn was taken to live in Rivendell with Elrond in TA 2933. At Elrond’s bidding, his true name and lineage were hidden from him, as it was known that Sauron was searching for the Heir of Isildur. In Rivendell, he was named Estel, meaning Hope.

When Aragorn was twenty years old, Elrond told him of his true heritage and gave to him the heirlooms of his house, the Ring of Barahir and the Shards of Narsil, but he withheld the Sceptre of Annúminas, keeping it in Rivendell until Elrond felt Aragorn had earned it.

After Aragorn met Arwen, he told no one of his love for the elf, but Elrond saw many things and confronted Aragorn about his feelings for Arwen. He then told Aragorn that he could not be wed to Arwen or anyone else until he was deemed worthy of her:

“Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, Lord of the Dúnedain, listen to me! A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin. Many years of trial lie before you. You shall neither have a wife, nor bind any woman to you in troth, until your time comes and you are found worthy of it.” (The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A)

Then he told Aragorn what Arwen turning her love to the Man would mean for Elrond:

“But there will be no choice before Arwen, my beloved, unless you, Aragorn Arathorn’s son, come between us and bring one of us, you or me, to a bitter parting beyond the end of the world. You do not know yet what you desire of me.” (“The Lord of the Rings”, Appendix A)

When Elrond discovered that Arwen did indeed love Aragorn, his heart was grieved, “and found the doom long feared none the easier to endure” (“The Lord of the Rings”, Appendix A)

The days of the Lord of the Rings

At the start of the Lord of the Rings, Rivendell is portrayed almost whimsically, a place of peace and tranquillity among the troubles of the world.

“his heart was moved suddenly with a desire to see the house of Elrond Halfelven, and breathe the air of that deep valley where many of the Fair Folk still dwelt in peace.” (FotR, Three is Company)

To Frodo, Rivendell seems to have a fairy-tale quality – a tranquil haven where Elves lived at peace and in harmony with the world. And of course, that was Rivendell’s goal. But it is clear that the hobbits didn’t understand or comprehend the hardships and the pain that Elrond and his household had endured through the ages.

Elrond – what did he look like?

We have only two physical descriptions of Elrond. One is from The Lord of the Rings and the other from The Hobbit.

“The face of Elrond was ageless, neither old nor young, though in it was written the memory of many things both glad and sorrowful. His hair was dark as the shadows of twilight, and upon it was set a circlet of silver; his eyes were grey as a clear evening, and in them was a light like the light of stars. Venerable he seemed as a king crowned with many winters, and yet hale as a tried warrior in the fulness of his strength. He was the Lord of Rivendell and mighty among both Elves and Men.” (FotR, Many Meetings)

The Elrond of the Hobbit was initially a different character to the Elrond of the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings, but I still think this description works rather well:

“He was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.” (The Hobbit, p49)

Of the blending of the two Elronds, Tolkien said:

“From The Hobbit are also derived … Elrond. The passage in Ch. iii relating him to the Half-elven of the mythology was a fortunate accident, due to the difficulty of constantly inventing good names for new characters. I gave him the name Elrond casually, but as this came from the mythology … I made him half-elven. Only in The Lord was he identified with the son of Eärendel” (Letters #257)

Elrond the Healer

When Frodo reached Imladris, Elrond tended him for many days, removing a splinter of the Morgul-blade from Frodo’s shoulder, and healing his wounds.

His skill as a healer was shown in RotK, where Aragorn said:

“Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of all our race, and has the greater power” (RotK, The Houses of Healing)

The Council of Elrond

Elrond immediately told the participants of the Council that they had been called to Rivendell, though not by him, to discuss the fate of the Ring:

“What shall we do with the Ring, the least of rings, the trifle that Sauron fancies? That is the doom that we must deem.” (FotR, The Council of Elrond)

Then he gave them the history of the Ring, from its forging onwards, and after that, he yielded the floor to others – Boromir, Aragorn, Bilbo, Frodo and Gandalf, and spoke little again until the Tale of the Ring had been finished.

After the Tale of the Ring, Elrond showed an uncharacteristic lack of knowledge, showing how even the Last Homely House had been somewhat removed from the rest of the world. Certainly not as much as Lothlórien – but Elrond had definitely become detached from the minutiae of the world of the Third Age.

“I have known few hobbits, save Bilbo here

The world has changed much since I last was on the westward roads

In those lands I journeyed once, and many things wild and strange I knew. But I had forgotten Bombadil, if indeed this is still the same that walked the woods and hills long ago, and even then was older than the old.” (FotR, The Council of Elrond)

This feeling of age, of a history long past, is reinforced by Elrond’s archaic use of language, a few examples of which are given below:

“Only to the North did these tidings come”

“From the ruin of the Gladden Fields … three men only came ever back”

“Fruitless did I call the victory of the Last Alliance?”

Shippey explains this use of language very well:

“Elrond’s archaism is consistent, achieved not just by vocabulary … but also by grammar. Though marked, it is never so obtrusive as to obscure meaning or make the speaker appear quaint. It serves to distinguish his speech from that of the others; to act as a continual reminder of his age” (Shippey, 2001)

Elrond then tells the Council that he has not the strength to guard the Ring at Imladris – and that none of the elvish havens have the strength to keep the Ring from Sauron by force. He also says that he cannot use the Ring.

“I fear to take the Ring to hide it. I will not take the Ring to wield it.” (FotR, The Council of Elrond)

And then he decides its Fate:

“Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril – to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.” (FotR, The Council of Elrond)

This sounds slightly strange to me. Only a few pages before, Elrond admitted that he knew the Last Alliance had failed in not destroying the Ring, especially that Isildur had failed for not throwing it into Mount Doom. He knew that until the Ring was destroyed, nor would Sauron be. So why would the path to Mount Doom be a path unforeseen? Surely with his knowledge of the history of the Ring, coupled with his gift of foresight, Elrond would have at least considered the possibility of needing to take the Ring to Orodruin.

When Frodo volunteered to take the Ring, Elrond did not seem surprised. He had come to realise during the time of the Council that the task was pre-ordained for Frodo, and that if the hobbit could not find a way, no-one would. But Elrond also knew what a heavy burden he was placing on Frodo, and would not lay the task on him unless he took it up freely. And when he did accept it, Elrond named him as being as important as the great elf-friends of old – Hador, Húrin, Túrin and Beren.

Initially, he wanted to send Merry and Pippin back to the Shire as messengers to warn their land of danger, and instead send two of his household in the Fellowship. But after the protests of Pippin, he reluctantly changed his mind. One has to wonder why Elrond’s heart was set against Pippin going on the journey. It couldn’t be associated much with his foresight, which he had already admitted wasn’t much use beyond the Shadow. Could he have foreseen Pippin and the Palantír? Or Pippin rousing the Orcs of Moria? But both of these actions, though bad at the time, were necessary for the unrolling of the Quest.

Before Frodo left Imladris, Elrond told him that his road was clouded to the Elf, even with his gift of foresight:

“I can foresee very little of your road; and how your task is to be achieved I do not know. The Shadow has crept now to the feet of the Mountains, and draws nigh even to the borders of Greyflood; and under the Shadow all is dark to me. … I will send out messages, such as I can contrive, to those whom I know in the wide world … And I will choose you companions to go with you, as far as they will or fortune allows. The number must be few, since your hope is in speed and secrecy. Had I a host of Elves in armour of the Elder Days, it would avail little, save to arouse the power of Mordor.” (FotR, The Ring Goes South)

After the War of the Ring

Elrond and telepathy

Elrond’s powers of mindspeech were demonstrated in RotK, when he was talking to Celeborn, Galadriel, and Gandalf:

“they would sit together under the stars, recalling the ages that were gone and all their joys and labours in the world, or holding council, concerning the days to come. If any wanderer had chanced to pass, little would he have seen or heard, and it would have seemed to him only that he saw grey figures, carved in stone, memorials of forgotten things now lost in unpeopled lands. For they did not move or speak with mouth, looking from mind to mind; and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts went to and fro.” (RotK, Many Partings)

Mindspeech is mainly discussed by Tolkien in the “Osanwe-kenta: Enquiry into the Communication of Thought”. In that essay, he discusses the fact that the ability to exercise mindspeech powers was dimmed as the presence of the hroa was increased. Then, a number of factors, “affinity”, “urgency”, and “authority”, can make it easier to overcome the dimming of power due to the physicality of the hroa. In the silent conversation between the elves and Gandalf, it would seem that both “affinity” and “authority” would have been present, and so it is easy to believe that that group would be able to converse from mind to mind with ease.

The parting of Elrond and Arwen

The parting of Elrond and Arwen is one of the most heart-rending passages in the whole of Tolkien’s writings:

“When the feast was over, those who were to go took leave of King Éomer. Aragorn and his knights, and the people of Lórien and of Rivendell, made ready to ride; but Faramir and Imrahil remained at Edoras; and Arwen Evenstar remained also, and she said farewell to her brethren. None saw her last meeting with Elrond her father, for they went up into the hills and there spoke long together, and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world.” (RotK, Many Partings)

Nothing is known of what was said there.

Into the West

Elrond was among the Ringbearers who set sail with Frodo and Bilbo at the end of the Third Age.

“Elrond wore a mantle of grey and had a star upon his forehead, and a silver harp was in his hand, and upon his finger was a ring of gold with a great blue stone, Vilya, the mightiest of the Three.” (RotK, The Grey Havens)

Why a harp? There’s only one thing I can think of, which relates to Haldir’s words concerning Lothlórien: “We live now upon an island amid many perils, and our hands are more often upon the bowstring than upon the harp.” To me this would suggest that a harp would, to at least some elves, represent times of peace and harmony. Maybe the harp even has some symbolism associated with wisdom.

Elrond, Vilya and magic

The incident at the Bruinen

One of the most obvious times where Elrond uses magic is when he causes a flood to rise up in the Bruinen to wash the Ringwraiths away. The description in LotR is as follows:

“The river of this valley is under his power, and it will rise in anger when he has great need to bar the Ford.” (FotR, Many Meetings)

How this could happen was not explained. A number of suggestions have been put forward, working alone or in combination:

– Vilya having a protective influence over the boundaries of Rivendell, and Elrond knowing through the ring that the Nazgûl were approaching.
– Elrond being able to mindspeak to Glorfindel.
– Elrond being able to hold back the river to actually cause a flood (maybe associated with Vilya and maybe also Gandalf)

Foretelling

In Note 6 to the Osanwe-kenta, Tolkien discusses “foresight”, knowledge of specific events in the future. Firstly, he says that people in Middle-earth can only know anything of the future through revelations or instructions from the Valar or Ilúvatar, and he then says that one of the main methods by which foresight is given to people is through visions in dreams. However, he later says that other methods of revelation are also possible.

Examples of Elrond’s ability are scattered throughout the books. They include the fact that he knew Aragorn would come from the line of the Northern Dúnedain, his knowledge that Frodo would meet Faramir, and the fact he thought the Quest was predestined for Frodo. Even Gandalf made it clear that Elrond was a master of foresight.

“He is not half through yet, and to what he will come in the end not even Elrond can foretell. Not to evil, I think. He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can.” (FotR, Many Meetings)

Elrond – the name

Two versions of the derivation of the name of Elrond are known. The earlier is from “Letters”:

El = elf

Rondō = primitive Elvish word for ‘cavern’. Associated with the fact that Elrond and Elros were left in a cavern with a fall of water over the entrance by the sons of Fëanor. Elrond was found within the cavern, and Elros was found dabbling in the water (and therefore his name contained rossē meaning dew or spray (of fall or fountain).

The later is from the Silmarillion, where Elrond is translated as ‘Star-dome’ (and Elros as ‘Star-foam’).

A similar version occurs in Peoples of Middle-earth:

“Now Elrond was a word for the firmament, the starry dome as it appeared like a roof to Arda; and it was given by Elwing in memory of the great Hall of the Throne of Elwë in the midst of his stronghold of Menegroth that was called the Menelrond, because by the arts and aid of Melian its high arched roof had been adorned with silver and gems set in the order and figures of the stars in the great Dome of Valinor.” (PoME, The Problem of Ros, p371)

Date key:

* date from Tale of Years (Peoples of Middle-earth)
** date from LotR, Appendix B

References

– The Hobbit
– The Lord of the Rings
– The Silmarillion
– Unfinished Tales
– Peoples of Middle-earth
– The Letters of JRR Tolkien
– Tolkien: author of the century (Shippey)