Such Loveliness in Living Thing – Arwen Undomiel, etc. etc.

After Frodo got up from his coma bed, he was led to the dining room in Elrond’s House. We’re given a very drawn out description of his first take. Seated around the table were Elrond, Glorfindel and Gandalf. But what really caught his eye, and what takes up the bulk of this passage, was Arwen Undomiel.

From the looks of her, Frodo could tell she was related to Elrond, and we find out that she was his daughter. She seemed young, yet ancient at the same time. Her hair was dark without a hint of gray.

“…and the light of stars was in her bright eyes, grey as a cloudless night.”

Tolkien couldn’t have written this as anything but a hint of Elrond’s father – Arwen’s grandfather – Earendil. I’ll get to that a bit later, but there’s something to this, I promise.

We’re told that she had been in “Lorien beyond the mountains,” for a long time, but had “lately returned”. It was “the land of her mother’s kin.” This was the first mention of Lorien and an allusion to Galadriel, who was actually Arwen’s grandmother (her great-grandmother was Luthien).

Just to give a bit of perspective here, Arwen is 2,777 years old. Elrond is 6,500. Galadriel is basically ageless in Lord of the Rings, though Tolkien later placed her as being born in 1362 in the Years of the Trees, which would (maybe?) make her around 11,500 years old. Who knows though.

We’re told that Erwen’s mother (Galadriel’s daughter), named Celebrian, was tormented “in the dens of the orcs,” though that’s all we’re told. A more fleshed out story wouldn’t be given until Appendix A. There, it’s written that in 2509 of the Third Age, she was making her way through Redhorn Pass through the Misty Mountains. The pass was nearly 300 miles south of Rivendell, on the southern slope of the mountain Caradhras. It’s the same path that Gandalf hopes to take through the mountains.

Anyway, she was accompanied on the journey to Lorien by her twin sons (Arwen’s brothers) Elladan and Elrohir, when they were attacked by Orcs. Celebrian was carried off and the attackers were pursued by her two sons. They found her, “but not before she had suffered torment and had received a poisoned wound.”

Elladan and Elrohir brought her back to Rivendell. There, Elrond was able to heal her, but a year later, she had “lost all delight in Middle-earth” and passed over the Sea to the Grey Havens.

Celebrian and Elrond were married in the year 109 of the Third Age. However this date jumped around a bit. In the first printing of Lord of the Rings, it was year 100. However, in an earlier manuscript for the Tale of Years, Tolkien had they wed in the year 2300 of the Third Age, which means that Elrond would have been a bachelor for nearly 5,800 years.

Speaking of drafts of the Tale of Years, originally, the Orcs killed Celebrian. Maybe that wasn’t tragic enough. This changed when Tolkien was writing the drafts for Appendix A. In that telling, she was captured and then rescued by Elrond and their sons. She was healed but “she lay under a great cloud of fear and she loved Middle-earth no longer; so that at the last Elrond granted her prayer, and she passed to the Grey Havens and went into the West, never to return.”

So anyway, that’s a bit of back story for Arwen, who’s hardly mentioned in the story at all. Tolkien saw her as important to the tale of Aragorn, but “could not be worked into the main narrative without destroying its structure: which is planned to be ‘hobbito-centric’ – that is, primarily a study of the ennoblement (or sanctification) of the humble.”

A Few Notes

  • Arwen had returned from Lorien nine years before. I guess that’s “lately” in Elf-time.
  • Historically, as far as the writing went, Bilbo’s poem about Earendil didn’t show up until the third draft of this chapter. Arwen appeared quite a bit later when he was writing Book Five. He then went back and reinserted her into the story.
  • I promise that I really tried my best to stick to Arwen. There’s just so much other stuff out there!
Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

About the Photo
This is the Madonna of the Trail – one of a series of monuments appearing along the National Road from Maryland to California. This is Pennsylvania’s.

  • Day 108
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 540 (87 from Rivendell)
  • 380 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,238 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Book II, Chapter 3. Walking south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Sixth night out from Rivendell. December 30 – Yule 1, 3018TA. (map)


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