An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Michael Elsworth as Cirdan
in the New Line film
Cirdan was a great shipwright and mariner of the Elves. He had the strongest foresight of all the Elves in Middle-earth, and he gave Narya - his Ring of Power - to Gandalf, for he perceived that the Wizard would need it. As Lord of the Grey Havens, Cirdan oversaw the departure of the Elves across the Sea to the Undying Lands, and it is said that he remained in Middle-earth until the Last Ship set sail.
Cirdan's original name was Nowe. He became known as Cirdan - meaning "shipwright" - because of his great skill at making ships. He was very tall and had silver hair. At the time of the War of the Ring he had a long grey beard. This was unusual among Elves, and it is said that beards were only grown by Elves of great age in their third cycle of life. By the end of the Third Age, Cirdan may have been over 10,000 years old and was perhaps the oldest Elf remaining in Middle-earth.
Cirdan may have come from Cuivienen, where the Elves first awoke in Middle-earth. It is unlikely that Cirdan was one of the original Unbegotten Elves. He was akin to Elwe and Olwe - who were brothers and thus apparently shared parents and were not Unbegotten themselves. If Cirdan were related to the brothers by blood, then it seems likely that he too had parents. Cirdan may have been born at Cuivienen sometime before the Great Journey to the Undying Lands began.
Cirdan was of the kindred of Elves called the Teleri, who were led by Elwe and Olwe. On the Great Journey, Elwe became separated from the Teleri and fell in love with Melian and remained in Middle-earth. After searching unsuccessfully for Elwe, Olwe led many of the Teleri to the Undying Lands, but others including Cirdan remained behind.
According to one story, Cirdan intended to follow Olwe in a ship he had built, but he received a message from the Valar:
And the voice warned him not to attempt this peril; for his strength and skill would not be able to build any ship able to dare the winds and waves of the Great Sea for many long years yet. "Abide now that time, for when it comes then will your work be of utmost worth, and it will be remembered in song for many ages after." "I obey," Cirdan answered, and then it seemed to him that he saw (in a vision maybe) a shape like a white boat, shining above him, that sailed west through the air, and as it dwindled in the distance it looked like a star of so great a brilliance that it cast a shadow of Cirdan upon the strand where he stood.Cirdan became the leader of a group of Teleri who lived on the shores of Middle-earth. They were mariners and built many ships. Ulmo - the Vala whose domain was the Sea - befriended Cirdan and exchanged news with him. Ulmo's vassal Osse instructed Cirdan's people in the music and lore of the Sea.
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "Last Writings - Cirdan," p. 386
Cirdan's people were known as the Elves of the Falas, after the coastal area in Beleriand where they dwelled. At Brithombar and Eglarest they had walled towns and havens with stone quays and piers. Around the Isle of Balar they found many pearls. Cirdan gave some to Elwe (who was now known as Thingol) including a large pearl called Nimphelos. Cirdan and his people gave allegiance to Thingol, but they remained apart from the rest of the Sindarin Elves and they continued to call themselves Teleri and retained their own language and customs.
During the First Battle against the forces of Morgoth, Cirdan and his people were cut off from Thingol and were driven back to the coast. Thingol's forces were victorious, but Cirdan and the Elves of the Falas were beleaguered behind the walls of their havens. Then Feanor and the Noldor arrived in Middle-earth and Morgoth's forces withdrew from the Falas and were defeated by the Noldor in the Battle-under-Stars.
In 462 of the First Age, Cirdan brought a fleet to the aid of Fingon, who was outnumbered by the forces of Morgoth on the plains of Hithlum. Fingon later sent his young son Gil-galad to live with Cirdan in the safety of the Havens.
Many more Elves took refuge with Cirdan in the great walled towns of Brithombar and Eglarest after the disastrous Battle of Unnumbered Tears in 472. Cirdan's mariners sailed along the coasts and conducted raids against the enemy forces. But the next year, Morgoth's forces invaded the Falas and besieged Brithombar and Eglarest. The walls were broken and the Havens were ruined and many of Cirdan's people were killed or enslaved.
Cirdan led the survivors to the Isle of Balar. They established a refuge on the island, and they kept ships hidden at the mouths of the River Sirion on the mainland nearby. At the request of Turgon, Cirdan sent seven ships westward across the Sea in an attempt to reach the Undying Lands and seek the help of the Valar. But the mission failed and the ships were lost along with all hands except for one Elf named Voronwe who was washed ashore.
In 495, Ulmo came to Cirdan and issued a warning that the realm of Nargothrond was in danger and that the bridge leading to it over the Narog must be cast down. Cirdan sent messengers to Nargothrond, but Turin did not heed his warning. Morgoth's forces led by Glaurung the Dragon crossed the bridge and captured Nargothrond.
Doriath and Gondolin also fell, and many Elves from those realms came to live at the Havens of Sirion. Among them were Earendil and Elwing, the parents of Elrond and Elros. They became friendly with Cirdan's people on the nearby Isle of Balar. Fulfilling the vision that he had had long ago, Cirdan helped Earendil build the great white ship called Vingilot, which Earendil used to sail to the Undying Lands to ask the Valar for help in the war against Morgoth.
While Earendil was gone, the Havens of Sirion were attacked by the sons of Feanor, who coveted the Silmaril guarded by Elwing. Cirdan sent ships to stop them but he was too late to prevent the slaying of many Elves. The survivors fled to the Isle of Balar, but Elwing escaped with the Silmaril into the Sea and brought it to her husband Earendil aboard Vingilot. After Earendil made his plea to the Valar, he was set in the heavens as a star, sailing across the night sky in Vingilot with the Silmaril on his brow.
Morgoth was defeated by the Host of the Valar in the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age. Afterwards, many Elves went to the Undying Lands, but Cirdan decided to remain in Middle-earth. Beleriand had been destroyed and most of the land had sunk under the Sea, so Cirdan chose a new home in Lindon on the western shore of Middle-earth, where the High King Gil-galad also dwelled.
The Grey Havens were founded on the Gulf of Lune in the year 1 of the Second Age. There Cirdan and his people built many ships, and as Elves grew weary of Middle-earth they came to the Grey Havens and sailed to the Undying Lands.
Cirdan also provided the ships that brought the Men called the Edain to Numenor after the island was created for them by the Valar as a reward for their help fighting Morgoth. Around 600 of the Second Age, a mariner of Numenor named Veantur came to the Grey Havens for the first time. On another voyage in 725, Veantur brought his grandson Aldarion, the future King of Numenor. Cirdan befriended Aldarion and taught him much about building ships. In the years following, Cirdan continued to welcome mariners from Numenor.
In 1693, the Elves hid their Three Rings from Sauron, who had created the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power. Gil-galad received two of the Rings, and he gave Narya, the Ring of Fire, to Cirdan. Sauron invaded Eriador and in 1700 he tried to capture the Grey Havens, but a fleet from Numenor arrived and drove back his forces.
At the end of the Second Age, Cirdan marched to Mordor with the army of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Sauron was defeated, but Gil-galad was killed along with Elendil, the King of the Men of Gondor and Arnor. Elendil's son Isildur cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. Elrond and Cirdan counselled him to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom, but Isildur refused. A few years later, Isildur was slain and the One Ring was lost. Cirdan returned to the Grey Havens with the remainder of Gil-galad's forces.
Around the year 1000 of the Third Age, the Five Wizards arrived in Middle-earth at the Grey Havens. They had been sent from the Undying Lands by the Valar to help the peoples of Middle-earth in their struggle against Sauron. The last to arrive was Gandalf, and Cirdan saw that he was the greatest of the five and he gave Narya to him, saying:
"Take this ring, Master, for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill. But as for me, my heart is with the Sea, and I will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails. I will await you."Around 1300, Sauron's most dreadful servant, the Lord of the Nazgul, came to the north and established the realm of Angmar and threatened Isildur's descendants, the Dunedain of the North. In 1409, King Arveleg I was slain in battle, and Cirdan helped the King's young son Araphor drive back the forces of Angmar and prevent the Lord of the Nazgul from conquering the North-kingdom.
Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings: "The Tale of Years," p. 366
The Lord of the Nazgul launched another attack in 1974. King Arvedui retreated to the Icebay of Forochel, and his son Aranarth escaped to the Grey Havens to seek Cirdan's help. Cirdan sent a ship to rescue Arvedui, but it was lost at Sea in a terrible blizzard and the King and the crew perished. A great fleet from Gondor arrived at the Grey Havens, and Cirdan gathered the forces of Lindon and the remnants of the Dunedain. They defeated the Lord of the Nazgul at the Battle of Fornost in 1975.
Afterwards, the Dunedain became a wandering people. Cirdan took charge of guarding the palantir in the tower of Elostirion that had once belonged to Elendil. That palantir looked only westward, to the Tower of Avallone on Tol Eressea in the Undying Lands.
By 2060, it was feared that Sauron had returned and was inhabiting the stronghold of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood. The White Council was formed to counter this threat in 2463. Cirdan was a member, as were Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf and Saruman. In 2941, the White Council drove Sauron from Dol Guldur, but he fled in secret to Mordor.
In the autumn of 3018, Cirdan sent an Elf named Galdor to Rivendell. Also at Rivendell was Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit who had come into possession of the One Ring. Galdor attended the Council of Elrond, where it was decided that Frodo would go to Mordor to destroy the One Ring in Mount Doom. On March 25, 3019, the Ring was destroyed and the realm of Sauron fell.
At the end of the Third Age, the time of the Elves in Middle-earth was ended and the age of Men was beginning. Cirdan and his mariners prepared the ships that would take the Elves across the Sea. Cirdan labored especially long to build one white ship, and aboard it he placed the palantir from the tower of Elostirion. On September 29, 3021, Cirdan greeted Gandalf at the Grey Havens once again. Gandalf boarded the white ship along with Galadriel and Elrond and Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, and the Ringbearers sailed away from Middle-earth.
Cirdan remained behind at the Grey Havens to await the departure of the Elves who still lingered in Middle-earth at the beginning of the Fourth Age. It is believed that when the Last Ship finally embarked from the Grey Havens, Cirdan himself was able to sail to the Undying Lands.
Note: There is no definitive chronology of the Years of the Trees or the First Age. These dates are based on "The Annals of Aman" in The History of Middle-earth, vol. X, Morgoth's Ring and "The Grey Annals" and "The Tale of Years" in The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, The War of the Jewels. Other chronologies differ.
One year during the Years of the Trees is equivalent to 9.582 solar years.
The Years of the Trees
The first Elves awake at Cuivienen.
The Elves begin the Great Journey from Cuivienen to the Undying Lands.
Olwe leads many of the Teleri to the Undying Lands but Cirdan remains behind in Middle-earth.
During the First Battle against the forces of Morgoth, Cirdan is besieged in the haven of Eglarest. After the arrival of Feanor and the Noldor in Middle-earth, Morgoth's forces withdraw from the Falas and are defeated by the Noldor in the Battle-under-Stars.
Rise of the Sun, end of the Years of the Trees.
Cirdan attends the Feast of Reuniting called by Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor.
Cirdan sends word to Thingol concerning rumors of the Kinslaying.
Cirdan brings a fleet to aid Fingon against the forces of Morgoth on the plains of Hithlum.
The Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Afterwards, many Elves take refuge with Cirdan at the Havens of Brithombar and Eglarest.
Morgoth's forces invade the Falas and destroy the Havens of Brithombar and Eglarest. Cirdan leads the survivors to the Isle of Balar.
Cirdan sends a warning from Ulmo to Nargothrond, but the warning is not heeded and Nargothrond is captured.
Around this time, Earendil begins his voyages in the ship called Vingilot which Cirdan helped build.
The Havens of Sirion are attacked by the sons of Feanor. Elwing escapes with the Silmaril. Cirdan sends aid but is too late. The survivors come to dwell with him on the Isle of Balar.
Earendil arrives in the Undying Lands in Vingilot.
The War of Wrath (545-587). Morgoth is banished from the world (590). End of the First Age.
The Grey Havens are founded on the Gulf of Lune. Cirdan dwells there with many mariners and shipwrights.
Men sail to Numenor in ships built by Cirdan and his people.
Veantur, a mariner from Numenor, arrives at the Grey Havens and meets Cirdan.
Veantur brings his grandson Aldarion to the Grey Havens and Cirdan befriends and instructs him.
Sauron forges the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power.
The Three Rings of the Elves are hidden. Cirdan may have received Narya from Gil-galad at this time, or he may have received it before the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age.
Sauron invades Eriador.
Cirdan and Gil-galad defend the Grey Havens against Sauron's forces. A fleet from Numenor arrives and helps drive Sauron out of Eriador.
Cirdan sets out with the forces of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.
Beginning of the War of the Last Alliance.
Sauron is defeated. Isildur takes the One Ring. Elrond and Cirdan counsel him to destroy it but he refuses. End of the Second Age.
The Lord of the Nazgul establishes a realm at Angmar.
Cirdan helps Araphor drive back the forces of Angmar.
King Arvedui flees from the forces of Angmar to the Icebay of Forochel.
Cirdan sends a ship to rescue Arvedui but it is destroyed in a blizzard and all aboard are killed. Cirdan leads forces from the Grey Havens to the Battle of Fornost, where the Lord of the Nazgul is defeated.
It is feared that Sauron has arisen again and is inhabiting Dol Guldur in Mirkwood.
The White Council is formed. Cirdan is a member.
The White Council attacks Dol Guldur. Sauron flees in secret to Mordor.
October 25: Galdor - an Elf sent by Cirdan to Rivendell - attends the Council of Elrond where Frodo volunteers to take the One Ring to Mordor and destroy it.
March 25: The One Ring is destroyed and Sauron is defeated.
September 29: A ship prepared by Cirdan takes the Ringbearers across the Sea to the Undying Lands. End of the Third Age.
Cirdan remains in Middle-earth until the Last Ship sails from Middle-earth to the Undying Lands.
Cirdan's original Telerin name was Nowë. The meaning is uncertain. It may be derived from nowo meaning "think, form idea, imagine."
HoME XII, p. 392 note 30; HoME V, entry for NOWO
Círdan is pronounced with a hard C - like keer-dan.
The name Círdan means
"shipwright." The word cir or kir means "cut, cleave" and
is the root of the words kirya (Quenya) and cair (Sindarin)
meaning "ship" because of the way ships cut through the water. The element
means "make, fashion."
HoME V, entries for KIR and TAN
A shipwright is someone who
the Havens of the Falas:
In the First Age, Cirdan was the lord of the Elves who lived in the coastal region of Beleriand called the Falas.
the Grey Havens:
In the Second and Third Ages, Cirdan was the lord of the Elves who dwelled at the Grey Havens on the western shore of Middle-earth.
The Silmarillion: "Of Eldamar," p. 58; "Of the Sindar," p. 91-92, 96; "Of the Return of the Noldor," p. 107, 113; "Of Beleriand and Its Realms," p. 120; "Of the Noldor in Beleriand," p. 128; "Of the Ruin of Beleriand," p. 160; "Of the Fifth Battle," p. 196; "Of Turin Turambar," p. 212; "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin," p. 244; "Of the Voyage of Earendil," p. 246-47, 254; "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," p. 295, 298-300, 304
Unfinished Tales: "Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin," p. 20, 32, 34-35, 51-52, 53, 55; "Narn I Hin Hurin," p. 156, 159-60, 162; "A Description of Numenor," p. 171; "Aldarion and Erendis," p. 174-76, 200, 205; "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn," p. 237, 239, 247, 254 note 11; "The Istari," p. 388-89, 392; "The Palantiri," p. 414 note 16
The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Council of Elrond," p. 253, 256, 279
The Return of the King: "The Grey Havens," p. 310
Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings: "Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur," p. 319-20; "The North-kingdom and the Dunedain," p. 321, 322 and note 2; "Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion," p. 331
Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings: "The Tale of Years," p. 366
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, The War of the Jewels: "Quendi and Eldar," p. 384 (on Cirdan as silver-haired)
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "Last Writings - Cirdan," p. 385-87, 391-92 notes 29-37
"Etymological Notes on the Osanwe-kenta" in Vinyar Tengwar #41 (on bearded Elves)
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