Where is the Story of the One Ring ‘Elsewhere Recounted’?

“Then through all the years that followed he traced the Ring, but since that history is elsewhere recounted, even as Elrond himself set it down in his books of lore, it is not here recalled.”

This must have been incredibly frustrating for anyone reading Fellowship of the Ring when it was published. It wouldn’t be until twenty-three years later that this was fully(ish) recounted in the Silmarillion. Sure, we get some of the story in his chapter and a bit in the Appendices, but for the full story, the reader would have to wait until 1977 to read “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.” Three years later, with the publication of Unfinished Tales, even more of the story, complete with contradictions and anomalies, would see the light of day.

When studying the differing variations of Tolkien’s stories and how they changed from before, during and after the writing and publication of Lord of the Rings, usually it’s understood that he concluded much of what he started in the writing phase after the publication (or at least the final draft). As an example, while he explored a bit of the “Quest for Erebor” in the Lord of the Rings, he went much deeper a decade or so after finishing the book (the full version of which didn’t see the light of day until the Annotated Hobbit was published a few years ago).

In the case of Elrond’s tale about the Ring, which was “elsewhere recounted,” much of it was written over the varying drafts of this chapter. Once that got too weighty, he compiled the accounts and wrote “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age,” which he wished to have placed in the Appendices. When even that became overflowing, it was simply dropped and would have to wait for son to plop it down in the Silmarillion.

But the spinning of this tale took time. As far as the narrative is concerned, the Elves of Eregion were friends with the Dwarves in Moria. However, they had also become ensnared by Sauron. One, named Celebrimbor, had made three Elven rings, but was on to Sauron, who made the One Ring to rule over the three. Celebrimbor hid the three Elven rings, “and there was war, and the land was laid waste, and the gate of Moria was shut.”

The character of Celebrimbor existed prior to the writing of The Lord of the Rings, though he was merely mentioned in passing as the son of Curufin. He was first used by Tolkien in his initial draft of the “Mines of Moria” chapter, when Gandalf said that “Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs” (meaning the “Speak friends and enter” script above the door). He wasn’t brought up in the Council of Elrond or into the story of the One Ring until the very final draft. This was probably because Tolkien wanted to take the whole thing to the Appendices.

In late 1951 or early 1952, Tolkien started rewriting his “Tale of Years,” an expurgated version of which would appear as Appendix B. It was into this, from all I can tell, that Celebrimbor was folded.

And even that story evolved. In one of the early drafts, the year 1500 of the Second Age is given as when “The Three Great Rings are made by Celbrimbor of the Silver Grasp.” Also, the Ruling Ring was made by Sauron in Mordor. By the publication of Lord of the Rings, it was the “Elven-smiths instructed by Sauron” who made the Rings of Power, which weren’t finished for another ninety years. Ten years after that, Sauron forged the One Ring in Orodruin, and “Celebrimbor perceives the designs of Sauron.”

As strange as it might seem, Tolkien wouldn’t return to the Celebrimbor tale until the late 1960s when he wrote “Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn” (which appeared in Unfinished Tales). Tolkien had several different origin stories for him, all which he fiddled with around that time – fifteen years after the Lord of the Rings was published. Sometimes Celebrimbor was of Noldorin origin, other times he was of the Teleri. Hell, he was even once a Sinda descended from Daeron. Whatever, Tollers. Whatever.

Okay, I really got off track. Basically, at the point when Tolkien wrote that the history was “elsewhere recounted,” it actually existed, though probably only as an outline for his drafts of “The Tale of Years.”

So if you want to know the story as “elsewhere recounted,” you’ll have to pick up the Silmarillion and read the final chapter. Then, if you really want to delve, hit up “Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn” in Unfinished Tales. But as you do keep in mind that the Silmarillion chapter was never finished by Tolkien. From what I understand (and I can’t find a source for this) it was finished by his son, Christopher Tolkien. Also keep in mind that the bits from Unfinished Tales were written near the end of his life, and probably don’t reflect whatever he was thinking when he wrote Lord of the Rings.

That’s how it works, folks. Good luck!

A Few Notes

  • There’s a hell of a lot of guessing going on here, and much of what I wrote isn’t very clear. There’s no history that I could find about the essay “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age,” so I had to piece together what I could.
  • Celebrimbor was also mentioned in the 1969ish essay “Of Men and Dwarves.” Tolkien collected and explained the references in Appendix F as well as Faramir’s talk in The Two Towers‘s chapter “The Window on the West”. This can be found in The Peoples of Middle-Earth.
  • I really hope you made it through this. Just re-reading it, the whole thing seems pretty dense. I’m sorry about that. Tomorrow, I’ll be better!
Camera: Zeiss-Ikon Ikoflex Film: Ilford XP2 Super 400

Camera: Zeiss-Ikon Ikoflex
Film: Ilford XP2 Super 400

About the Photo
I guess I’m not really sure. Maybe something about ideas splitting or coming together or running parallel. Maybe?

  • Day 118
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 591 (137 from Rivendell)
  • 330 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,188 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Seventh night out from Rivendell. January 1 – 2, 3019 TA. (map)


8 thoughts on “Where is the Story of the One Ring ‘Elsewhere Recounted’?

  1. Big thumbs up to you, you’re doing an excellent thoughtful synopsis of The Lord of the Rings. If I remember (possibly incorrectly ) the reference to Christopher Tolkien finishing the Silmarrilion was in the frontispiece of either the first edition paperback of the Silmarrilion or the Hardback first edition of Unfinished Tales, I think it was the latter. Wow I’m showing my age. Again thank you, you’ve just made me remember the glorious summer of ’78 sitting by the sea reading The Silmarillion while listening to Joy Division on a cassette player, ah! the eclectic joys of our teenage years.

    • Nice! Thanks so much! I’m saving Joy Division for the Mordor chapters.

      I know that Christopher Tolkien finished bits of the Silmarillion, but there’s a surprising lack of citations for things in the Silm (when it comes to drafts in the History of Middle-earth series). It’s frustrating, really.

      • The Inklings may be another source. In the late 1970’s quite a few books had gone out of print that discussed The Lord of the Ring’s etc. Try contacting the Tolkien Society, they used to produce a Gestetnered pamphlet every quarter discussing the ins and outs of Tolkien’s writing, plus at the Oxenmoots, people would present papers. Depending on who much you want to delve the Tolkien Society archive would be a rich vein for you

        • With a lot of it, there’s really no way to tell, apart from Christopher Tolkien. The HoME series is amazing for this, and he gives the dates when he does, but isn’t always as forthcoming in what he wrote vs. what his father wrote.

          One source that I’m just now tapping is the JRR Tolkien Reader’s Companion. They go through the dates (it’s a chronology of his life by date), but even much of what they have is vague. I think that there just aren’t answers to some of my questions. I just need to be okay with that. It’s tough.

  2. I think the only bit I’m confused about from your account is whether Celebrimbor is related to Celeborn (as the names would suggest). I’m really enjoying your annotated LOTR, by the way.

    • Thanks! The history of Celeborn changed a LOT. Sometimes Tolkien had him as Sindarin Elf, and other times Teleri.

      Not too much more was known about Celebrimbor’s history, though he was of the Noldar.

      Thanks so much! Their names are similar, but it’s more coincidence than anything. Celeborn means “silver tree,” while Celebrimbor means “silver fist.”

      There’s some weird speculation that Celebrimbor courted Galadriel, but it’s not from Tolkien’s books.

      • Oh, of course. I should have been thinking along the ‘same root word’ lines. You’re inspiring me to get to the Silmarillion, which I have yet to read. (I know.) But first up is “On Fairy Tales,” (or is it stories?) which I need for a paper.

        • That’s wonderful! Definitely read the Silmarillion, even if you have to do it in small doses.

          I’ve never actually read On Faery Stories. I really should.

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