– You asked for it, you got it …
At the mere mention of the word “Celebrian”, the majority of Tolkien readers would stir in their seats; they would frown; and their minds switch to SEARCHING MODE.
All this in a vain attempt to try and piece together a background for this character and place the name within the stories of Middle-earth.
And I wouldn’t blame them …
Celebrian is an extremely obscure figure, whose references in any of Tolkien’s works (by which I mean not just The Lord of the Rings), amounts to only a handful of words.
So who is Celebrian?
“Celeb” meaning “silver” and “(-rian)” signifying “crown-gift” was an elf of Lórien; and more importantly, she was the daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn.
Furthermore, she was the wife of Elrond and the mother of Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen.
Other than that, we have no date of birth, nor any indication of her presence before the beginning of the Third Age.
In Unfinished Tales, in the chapter concerning ‘The History of Galadriel and Celeborn’, we get a few references to Celebrian.
A note by Christopher Tolkien confirms the remark about her unknown origins: “The time and place of Celebrian’s birth, whether here [referring to a place near Nenuial between 350-400 of the Second Age] or later in Eregion, or even later in Lórien, is not made definite.”
Furthermore, sometime around (or after) the year 1700 of the Second Age:
She [Galadriel], committed Lórinand to Amroth, and passing again through Moria with Celebrian she came to Imladris, seeking Celeborn. There (it seems) she found him and there they dwelt together for a long time; and it was then that Elrond first saw Celebrian, and loved her though he said no thing of it.
This is indeed a tantalizing glimpse that slightly fills a very wide gap between this time in the Second Age and Celebrian’s marriage to Elrond in the Year 109 (Third Age).
However, one must be quick to note that this chapter – as Christopher Tolkien explains in its introduction – underwent constant changes and was never completed.
Indeed, the nature of the chapter is sketchy: containing a number of inconsistencies at odds with the established canon in The Lord of the Rings.
So, is Celebrian in The Lord of the Rings?
Yes, because she’s mentioned in the Appendices.
No, because of what is said in the Appendices.
There is one passage – the only coherent and substantial piece of text dealing with this character – in which we learn much about this individual; and yet, forces us to ask even more questions than before.
Some 500 years before the War of the Ring, during the ever-dwindling race of the Dúnedain, the Orcs – increasing in numbers around Eriador and the Misty Mountains – put at risk many of the Free Peoples; exposing them to constant attacks.
The full passage reads as follows:
In 2509 Celebrian wife of Elrond was journeying to Lórien when she was waylaid in the Redhorn Pass, and her escort being scattered by the sudden assault of the Orcs, she was seized and carried off. She was pursued and rescued by Elladan and Elrohir, but not before she had suffered torment and had received a poisoned wound. She was brought back to Imladris, and though healed in body by Elrond, lost all delight in Middle-earth, and the next year went to the Havens and passed over the Sea.
The Lord of the Rings; Appendix A – ‘Annals of the Kings and Rulers’
A short paragraph – and already I get the sense of a powerful love story behind it.
I feel awful for Elrond now!
It’s interesting to ponder for a moment what would have happened to Celebrian if Elladan and Elrohir had failed to rescue their mother.
Would she have been taken to the Sea of Núrnen where the great slave lands in Mordor were situated?
However, at this point in time, Sauron had made his way to Dol Guldur; and it would be another 400 years (during the time of The Hobbit) before he would return back to the Land of Shadow.
Of a more speculative nature: was the torment she received meant to eventually corrupt and transform her into a being similar to an orc?
Meanwhile, in the actual book, Celebrian is mentioned once or twice. The most significant scene takes place in Lórien, as Galadriel bids farewell to the Fellowship. As she is handing out gifts, Aragorn receives “a great stone of clear green”, of which the Lady of Lórien states that:
‘This stone I gave to Celebrian my daughter, and she to heirs; and now it comes to you as a token of hope.’
The Fellowship of the Ring; Book Two, Chapter 8; ‘Farewell to Lórien’
This stone, therefore, appears to have been an heirloom of sorts, handed down from daughter-to-daughter. And yet, as can be seen from the text, does not reveal any more about the character of Celebrian.
A tougher secret to unveil than Tom Bombadil or Ungoliant, and with almost no text to even attempt some speculation, it seems that Celebrian will remain a mystery; and unless some undiscovered text, letter or draft by Tolkien is found, that sheds some light on her character, we are bound to ponder only those fragments and handful of words that have been made available to us.
Surprisingly, this lack of detail and knowledge on a character, is even more alluring and fascinating. 🙂
[Copyright of screenshots/ images, belong to Warner Bros Studios and New Line Cinema]
19 thoughts on “Celebrian: The Silver Crown-Gift”
Awesome James, keep up the great work. I love posts like these, you should consider doing more on other characters that are too unfortunately understated!
Cheers Steven! 😀
Thank you so much, James. This is more than I had found in the past. You can see now, too, why Elrond wanted to take Arwen with him as the 3rd Age closed. Not only did he NOT want to lose a daughter, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to disappoint his wife by not having the mother and daughter reunited. Poor guy.
You’re very welcome 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion (and the reminder)
You are doing interesting work on this blog and i appreciate your attention to detail in this post. In case you don’t know about it yet, you might want to check out the Mythopoeic Society, where I suspect you would find many like-minded folk– at our annual conference as well as on our MythSoc listserv through Yahoo groups and the society members page on the website. See website at: http://www.mythsoc.org/
Hi Leslie, thanks so much for posting 🙂
I’ve actually known about the Mythopoeic Society for a while and would really love to attend a conference one day.
Thanks for providing the link!
I think the subtext of Celebrian’s story is that she was kidnapped and raped by brigands. After being rescued, she committed an honor suicide. Honestly, I don’t like to think about it.
Hey Dean 🙂
Oh my! I guess you’re right – an awful thing to think about …
Good post as always. I also find the different interpetations in your text and the comments fascinating. Given we don’t have much, one can see a lot in the passages, allowing us to fashion our own story. I guess that is what makes it so intriguing. The same is true for many historical personalities. Not knowing everything about them or what they did every single minute of their life makes it possible to connect on a much mor epersonal level. Maybe Tolkien aimed on doing so with this character from the outset, while others leave less room for interpretation?
Agreed! As Tolkien himself once said in a letter, you have to leave some mysteries – otherwise people would lose interest …
One of the most intriguing things I find about Tolkien is what he choses to say and what he choses not to say; leaving things to the readers’ imagination. What was Sauron like and what did he look like? We know some things, but because so much is left to the imagination he becomes all the more terrible. I think this is also the case with Celebrian and what happened to her at the hands of the orcs/goblins (and maybe there were other darker powers behind the abduction). We know some things about the events (torture and poisoning and the character of orcs), perhaps other things are intimated through his choice of words, but in the end he says nothing more leaving this event stewing in our imaginations making it all the more horrible (depending on our imaginations of course – I might need to see a counsellor). And all this is done with just a few word – which I also find amazing.
On a more positive note, in my imagination, I still like to think that as she was leaving Middle Earth, like Gandalf, she dropped by to have a word with Tom Bombadil. 😉
Hey Bob, you’re correct.
Ironically, we praise Tolkien for his intricate sense of detail and information (which is true), but we don’t realize the amount of mysteries that also leave us questioning.
It’s one of the major reasons why we keep going back to Middle-earth 🙂
When you look at Arwen do we see something of what Celebrian was like in the sense of similar hearts? Arwen is noted for her choice (Aragorn), and although the cost to Celebrian was not the same, she still chose someone with the heritage of man within him (Elrond) even though he had chosen the life of the Eldar. Perhaps, when Elrond went into the West, Celebrian was very understanding concerning Arwen’s choice/fate.
You are correct Bob – the parallel is quite intriguing. At the same time, I see Elrond in a similar position as Arwen was, when she had to choose between the Undying Lands or Aragorn.
I’m sure Elrond was in a similar position when Celebrian sailed into the West. He had to decide whether to follow her or stay in Middle-earth: torn between wife and children.
The more I read about him, the more I sympathize with Elrond …
And of course, for Elrond, there was also the prior loss of his brother; Elros. So perhaps Elrond and Celebrian together fostered a freedom in their children that in once sense was their great loss due to the choice made (by Arwen and her brothers), but will always reflect their nobility and humility of heart. These same qualities are shared by Aragorn – hence the sense of being Arwen’s soul mate just as Celebrian’s was Elrond’s, perhaps.
In summary, it seems all the above display kingship/nobility with humility and perhaps vulnerability. And great loss/pain too, including Aragorn.
Spot on. Nothing more to add 😛
It’s interesting that you speculate on the goal of Celebrían’s torment. I was always under the impression that there weren’t any “new” orcs coming into being. By that I mean there were no longer creatures being corrupted into orcs or the like. Are you thinking that the poisoned wound was similar to the wound Frodo received on Weathertop?
The stone she gave to her daughter was given to her by Gandalf when he came from the undying lands, she knew it had been in the undying lands, so she knew that this wise man came from there and the valar were still supporting her efforts in middle earth. I believe this is Morgoth’s Ring.
The reference to a “poisoned wound” reminds me of Frodo’s stabbing. Was she stabbed with a Morgul blade, with a view to transforming her into a wraith, subservient to Sauron? Or was it just a case of an opportunistic Orc-band having fun, by torturing a captive?