: "Fortress of the Eldar")
This was the chief city of the Elves in Eregion, on the north bank of the Glanduin, near the confluence of the Sirannon and Nîn-in-Eilph. Founded by Galadriel and Celeborn in 750 S.A. the city was said to be as fair as Tirion of old. Following them came Celebrimbor, a "Noldorin survivor of Gondolin ... with an almost dwarvish obsession of crafts"(1), and many smiths and artificers of the Noldor.
These Gwaith-i-Mírdain soon became the greatest and most renowned artists of Middle-Earth, and Ost-en-Edhel, perfectly situated near to the dwarves of Moria, and later the Greenway (the great North-South Road) and the Numenoreans at Lond Daer and Tharbad, soon became a city of great power and might.
Of course, such heights do not come without a price. Attracting the attention of Sauron in 1200 S.A., in fair guise Ost-en-Edhel welcomed him as a great teacher. Whilst Galadriel, Celeborn and Gil-galad saw through his intentions through his veiled guise, Celembrimbor and the smiths of Eregion fell into his trap. Eventually, Sauron, the "Lord of Gifts"(2), convinced the Elves in Ost-en-Edhel to revolt against Galadriel and Celeborn. Galadriel and her kind fled through Khazad-dûm to Lórien somewhere between 1350 and 1400, but Celeborn tarried in the city, refusing to enter Moria, now completely ignored and shunned by Celebrimbor.
By 1500 S.A., the smiths of Eregion had reached the zenith of their skills and the forging on the great Rings of Power was begun, initially by the Gwaith-i-Mírdain alone (the three Elven Rings), but later with Sauron's hand (the Seven, Nine, &c.). They were all deceived in the end by Sauron, who by forging the great One Ring in the chambers of Sammath Naur (Mount Doom), precipitated the War between the Elves and Sauron. Celebrimbor realised this truth too late: the rings were sullied by Sauron to control and dominate all life. Sauron took the rings for dwarfs and men and gave them to the lords of these peoples. Celebrimbor fled, but it was too late. Having denied Sauron the Three, he had made an enemy of Sauron, and perished cruelly at his hands in the defence of Eregion.
Sauron invaded Eregion in 1697 S.A. with a single goal, to exact his revenge by destroying Ost-en-Edhel, and the Noldor along with it. Even defended by skilled Noldor armies under the command of Celeborn, Elrond, and Finduilas the Noldor were doomed. In the discarded history of Galadriel and Celeborn, we are told that Celeborn led a sortie out of the city. Martinez hypothesises that this implies Celebrimbor recognising the hopelessness of the situation. "Celeborn could have been given command of the most innocent Elves, whereas the Gwaith-i-Mírdain and their followers would have stayed behind and held the city. Celebrimbor's last stand might have been an attempt to atone for what he had done. But instead of dying in battle and taking the secrets of the Rings with him he was driven back to the steps of the House of the Mírdain. Sauron must have given orders that he be taken alive at all costs."(3) According to some sources, he was then cruelly slain at Sauron's hand, and then Sauron bearing "Celebrimbor's battered and tormented body as a banner, turning his forces upon Elrond"(1) With Ost-en-Edhel, sacked and razed, thus died the line of Fëanor. With the help of Durin of Moria, and Amroth of Lothlórien, Elrond peredhel then gathered the last of the remaining Noldor in Eregion and fled to the North, where he founded Imladris, Rivendell.
The Gwaith-i-Mírdain are never mentioned again, in any writing. It can only then be surmised that they perished in entirety, "and their secret shame was preserved only by the few Eldarin lords who knew the full score. … It is interesting to note that another society, or 'school', the Lambengolmor (Masters of Languages), survived the war. Their last member was Pengoloð, who lived in Eregion. He escaped, and after the war he took ship and left Middle-earth. The destruction of Eregion seems to imply that many other ancient and scholarly groups also perished, or suffered so terribly that their survivors left when they could. In a note found in the appendix to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien says that the Eldar attempted nothing new in the Third Age. It may simply be there was no one left who was accomplished enough in the ancient sub-creative arts to create new artifacts."(4)
Such a bitter end to the creativity of the Noldor sets the scene for the fading of the Eldar from this earth. Elrond's melancholy and despair at seemingly only the faults of the Edain (Men) can now be seen in the new light of despair at this own people too. With the destruction of the Eregion, and eventually the return of the Eldar to the West, Middle-Earth was set to become the dominion of men, and her arts and culture less refined and more susceptible to the demands of a shorter life span. However, it cannot be said that Tolkien portrayed the Elves as being racially superior to Men. It can be seen from not only this history, but also the entire history of the Silmarils, that the Elves were not exactly the best role-models for Men.
In Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, the trek takes place in the dead of winter through Eregion. One can only presume that the ruined elven city is meant to be Ost-en-Edhel.
N.B. The city was traditionally referred to as Ost-en-Edhel, although the form Ost-in-Edhel is sometimes seen. However, the former is more proper as it uses the genitive definite article en (i declining to en, unlike most other Sindarin words). The other alternative would be to not decline the article (i.e. "Ost-i-Edhel"), but in both cases the latter form is incorrect.
- from The Annals of Arda
- Sindarin: Annatar.
- The Annals of Arda, at http://www.annalsofarda.dk/
- Martinez, Michael, Shhh! It's a secret ring!, at http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/4786/58090
- Tyler, J.E.A., The Complete Tolkien Companion (Pan 2002 pbk. ed.)
- own Sindarin grammar notes (re: genitive definite article)