In the third part of Elrond's story, we dive into his involvement in the Last Alliance. After playing a critical role in the mostly successful but not really successful destruction of Sauron at the end of the Second Age, Elrond sets aside his work and starts to invest in a family. This starts slow and then reaches nirvana... until an Orc ambush breaks the Elven lord's domestic bliss.
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Hi. Welcome to the Halfling. I’m your host, Jaron Pak, and this is Episode 12: Elrond, the Family Man.
Before we get started, I need to apologize yet again for the lack of an episode last week. After starting the year with the flu, my family decided that we’d double-up and spend the end of January sick once again. Fortunately, after another week-plus under the weather, we’re all on the mend as I record this, and I’m hoping to finally get back into a rhythm with this thing. That said, let’s do this.
We spent the last two episodes tracing Elrond’s life throughout the First and Second ages of Middle-earth history. We saw him become a political hostage at the age of six before setting himself up as the second-in-command under the High Elven king Gil-galad in the Elven kingdom of Lindon as the Second Age started. When Sauron came around in his secret disguise as Annatar, the “Lord of Gifts,” the pair of leaders saw through the trickery and avoided the fate of their Elvish neighbors who bought into the Dark Lord’s guile hook, line, and sinker. From there, we saw Sauron dupe the Elvish leader Celebrimbor into creating the Rings of Power, after which he, himself, forged the One Ring. The Dark Lord attacked Celebrimbor’s land of Eregion, killed its leader, and captured most of the Rings — except for the Three Elven Rings.
Elrond was sent with an army to help Celebrimbor, but he showed up too late and was only able to withdraw his little force when the Elves of Lothlorien and the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm provided a timely distraction. Elrond retreated north and set up a new stronghold …called Rivendell. There, he attracted many survivors from the fighting and was able to hold off Sauron until Gil-galad and the men of Númenor were able to join forces and destroy the Dark Lord’s armies. We wrapped up last time with Sauron retreating to Mordor with most of the Rings of Power, while Elrond was given one of the Three Elven Rings and told to keep watch in Rivendell as Gil-galad’s vice-regent of the region.
This week, we’re going to wrap up Elrond’s activity in the Second Age — particularly his part in the Last Alliance. However, at that point, we’re going to pause the linear narrative and spend a little time breaking down another area of Elrond’s life: his family. It turns out that Elrond is one of the most connected guys in all of Middle-earth. He’s related to, like, everybody. Before we get deep into the family tree stuff, though, let’s finish up the Second Age drama with Sauron, shall we? And guess what? It starts with another one of those long chunks of peace that only immortals can experience — like, a really long chunk.
After his defeat in the initial war over the Rings of Power, Sauron heads back to Mordor to regroup and plan out his next move. He still stays busy in other areas of the continent. In fact, this is a really dark period of time for many of the men in Middle-earth. But his Elvish enemies get a bit of a breather. In the appendix to The Return of the King, it simply says “Sauron is driven out of Eriador. The Westlands have peace for a long while.” How long is “a long while,” you ask? Try 1,700 years. This really long chunk of time literally doubles Elrond’s lifespan up to that point.
I think it’s safe to assume that Elrond spends most of his time in Rivendell during this long stretch of relative peace. We don’t hear about him much, since the drama shifts elsewhere, but I like to think of him ruling from his stronghold, visiting the local people, sharing his wisdom, and generally making sure everyone in his realm of authority is taken care of.
After several centuries, Sauron is captured by the now quite prideful Númenoréans, and he’s brought to their island. For those who remember from the Isildur series, this is when Sauron corrupts the king of the Númenóreans and convinces him to attack the Valar. This leads to the complete destruction of the island nation, which sinks beneath the waves. Isildur and his brother and father escape and found the nations of Gondor and Arnor, but eventually, Sauron shows up again. He attacks Isildur and his brother in Gondor, and Isildur comes north looking for aid from his father, Elendil, and the High King Gil-galad in Lindon. And it isn’t until this point, at the tail end of the Second Age, that Elrond jumps back into the action.
When Isildur arrives, the Last Alliance of Elves and Men is formed. But this isn’t, like, a local gathering that groups up and heads off in search of battle. It’s a multi-nation, multi-ethnic coalition that takes time to come together. One year later, the text in the appendix of “The Return of the King” simply states that “Gil-galad and Elendil march east to Imladris.” Once there, they settle in and use the House of Elrond as a base for three years as they gather their armies. Then, once they’ve finally got the gang together, they officially start the long march south and east to Mordor proper. Oh yeah, and Elrond comes along, too. In fact, he’s resumed his role as the chief lieutenant of Gil-galad. At the Council of Elrond in “The Fellowship of the Ring,” Elrond explains his role in the proceedings by stating that “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.” He goes on to state that he was personally present when Sauron is defeated on the slopes of Mount Doom. In fact, he’s one of three eyewitnesses to the deed that actually survive the whole ordeal. Elrond is there, along with another Elven-lord named Círdan, who runs the Grey Havens, where Frodo and Bilbo sail away at the end of “The Return of the King.” In fact, Círdan is a really cool character that will probably be in Amazon’s show — I need to do a series on him, too. So many characters to cover! But anyway, I digress.
Unlike the giant crowd pictured at the beginning of “The Fellowship of the Ring” film, according to Tolkien’s own writings, Elrond, Círdan, and Isildur are the only witnesses of Sauron’s demise. Gil-galad and Elendil are there, too, but they’re both killed. Elrond and Círdan counsel Isildur to destroy the Ring, but he ignores them and heads off to his own doom.
I get the feeling that Elrond’s experience with the whole Last Alliance stuff leaves him with a pretty bad taste in his mouth. I mean, he sees a ton of people die in a Pyrrhic victory. Then, just as they’re about to finally win once and for all, Isildur goes and crumbles under the temptation of the Ring. In fact, at the Council of Elrond, the half-Elven lord even goes so far as to say, “Fruitless did I call the victory of the Last Alliance? Not wholly so, yet it did not achieve its end. Sauron was diminished, but not destroyed. His Ring was lost but not unmade. The Dark Tower was broken, but its foundations were not removed; for they were made with the power of the Ring, and while it remains, they will endure. Many Elves and many mighty Men, and many of their friends, had perished in the war.” So, yeah, Elrond seems pretty bummed out by the whole affair. And you know what? It makes sense. I mean, think about it, he is literally telling this story when they’re at a council trying to figure out what to do with the resurgent Dark Lord. It feels like the whole thing is a giant “See, guys? I knew this was going to happen. And now, look where we are…”
Alright, so, the Last Alliance ends without Sauron’s complete defeat. But the Dark Lord is still undone for a long while. The Second Age also ends at this point and the Third Age kicks off. Elrond returns to Rivendell and slips into historical anonymity for another long while. However, it’s during this time that Elrond finally stops talking shop and get’s his head off of his work responsibilities long enough to settle down to start a family.
One of the chapters in Unfinished Tales consists of Christopher Tolkien cobbling together all of the various versions of text that his father wrote about Galadriel and Celeborn. I’ve both referenced and quoted from this section many times before, including in this episode already. That’s because it’s chock-full of tidbits not just about the eventual Lord and Lady of Lothlorien, but also many of the people and events that surround them. I’ll give you an example. At the end of a section called “Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn,” we find a quick summary of what Galadriel is doing right after Sauron’s defeat and retreat to Mordor. During this time, Celeborn has been away fighting Sauron, and he’s actually buddied up with Elrond in Rivendell. So, missing her other half, she takes her daughter, Celebrían (who is already well over a millennium old at this point, so don’t get the idea of a little girl in your head), and the two heads up to the Elven stronghold to reconnect with papa Celeborn. Once Galadriel finds Celeborn, the two love birds and their daughter live in Rivendell for a long time. They’re even there when the council takes place where Elrond is made regent of the area and receives his Elven Ring. And then we get this line just kind of tucked in out of nowhere, “and it was then that Elrond first saw Celebrían, and loved her, though he said nothing of it.” See how researching something as important as Elrond’s marriage requires hunting down the information in a really obscure corner of his writings? Thanks a lot, Tolkien. …No, really, I love this stuff.
Galadriel and her family leave after a long while and go on to other places. Then centuries pass. And then some more centuries. Like, almost two thousand years go by. Talk about unrequited love. Sauron is defeated and the earth goes back to relative peace for a long while. Then, exactly one hundred years into the Third Age, Elrond and Celebrían reconnect …and get hitched. Sorry to sound abrupt, but that’s all we get. Just a quick line on a timeline in the Appendix to The Return of the King stating that they get married. After this item, we get two more important dates. 39 years after their wedding, Celebrían gives birth to twin boys, whom they name Elladan and Elrohir, and just like that, after just a couple of thousand years, Elrond manages to get the girl and become a family man. Talk about a whirlwind romance. The only thing he’s missing is a daughter. And then, 102 years later, hey presto!, Arwen pops out, and Elrond is officially the happiest Elf on earth. He’s a family man with a beautiful wife, twin boys, and a girl, Ray Barone style — and yes, that’s an Everybody Loves Raymond reference.
Now, the one thing that I have to add here is that I’ve given you the official dates as published in The Return of the King. However, there’s one more, different date that I want to quickly explain. I’ve been going off of the officially recorded dates based on the officially sanctioned text that Tolkien wrote down in The Return of the King. However, remember that Galadriel and Celeborn section of Unfinished Tales that I just read from? The one that Tolkien never finished and his son cobbled together after his death? Yeah, a little later in that text, it says that Elrond and Celebrían marry in the 109th year of the Third Age. So, for the 0.1% of my listeners that run into that Tolkien nerd that can’t even remember their own anniversary but still is able to say “hey, they didn’t get married in that year!” You can just tell them that the years you’ve got come from the officially finalized and published Appendix of The Return of the King, not a posthumously published smattering of unfinished writings.
Okay, back on track, Jaron. Can you tell that I have to defend how I present this stuff for a living? Anyway, 250 years into the Third Age, Elrond has officially transformed into a family man. He has a wife, Celebrían, twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir, and a daughter, Arwen. He also has Galadriel and Celeborn as his in-laws. This family unit lives a comparatively peaceful and happy life for the next two thousand years as the first two-thirds of the Third Age go by. There are some other important things that happen during this time, but while we’re on the subject of Elrond’s nuclear family, I want to fast forward to an event that takes place 2500 years into the Third Age — and I’ll warn you, it’s not pretty. Especially after the lovely stage we just set.
As Galadriel’s daughter, Celebrían likes to hang out in Lothlorien from time to time. So, she decides around this time to pay her parents a visit. As she’s traveling over the same mountain where the Fellowship is nearly buried in snow, she’s captured by orcs. Celebrían is carried off to the dens of the Orcs where she’s tortured and receives a poisoned wound. Don’t worry. She isn’t killed. In fact, Elladan and Elrohir hunt down her captors and save their mother. Nice job, guys. But Celebrían is really scarred by the whole ordeal. Elrond is able to heal her body, but she becomes disenchanted with her life in Middle-earth. A year later, she caves in to the sea calling that all Elves in this era feel, and temporarily leaves her family to head over the sea into the West. With mom gone, the furious Elladan and Elrohir take out their vengeance by teaming up with the Dunedain — that’s Aragorn’s people — and hunting down Orcs wherever they can find them. This leaves Elrond and Arwen holding down the fort in Rivendell. The father and daughter are very close, but the family’s happiness is broken — at least until everyone decides whether or not they’re going to head into the West, as well — more on that later.
Alright, there’s one more thing we need to cover before we get Elrond’s story moving forward again. We went over Elrond’s immediate family, but we also need to address his larger family tree beyond his relation to Galadriel and Celeborn — because there are a ton of other important people in those sacred branches. In fact, I’ve been avoiding this topic ever since the beginning, not because it’s boring or anything, but because I didn’t want a ton of obscure names to bog down the beginning of of the story. I think it makes much more sense to let Elrond’s personal story play out and then include his extremely impressive pedigree all at once. So, next time we’ll start by going through a quick breakdown of all of the important people that Elrond can call his relatives.
In the meantime, a big thank you to everyone who’s rated and commented on the pod thus far. And for those of you who haven’t, remember, those are some of the best ways to build the audience and keep this thing going.
Alright. That’s it for now. Until next time, friends.