Celeborn: (KE’leborn) Sindarin: “SilverTree” or “Silver Tall”. From the Quenya: “Teleporno”
Celeborn was an Elven prince of Doriath and the spouse of Galadriel, and together with her ruled over Lothlórien through much of the Third Age of Middle-earth. The name also belongs to the Tree of Tol Eressëa.
To write any accurate biography of Celeborn the Wise is difficult, as Tolkien changed his mind about Celeborn’s origins and life many times. In the following I have relied on “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Silmarillion” most heavily, taking some facts from “Unfinished Tales”. From the latter come most of the comments about Celeborn’s alternate origins.
In addition, it is hard to write about Celeborn without also saying much about his wife, Galadriel. Please forgive me if this writeup reads more like “Celeborn and Galadriel”.
Grandson of Elmo, son of Galadhon and an unknown mother. Only known sibling: Galathil. Only known offspring: Celebrian.
The life of Celeborn the Wise:
Celeborn was born in Middle-earth, apparently either towards the end of the Age of the Trees, or at the beginning of the First Age (probably the former). He seems to have been the grandson of Elmo, beloved but little known younger brother of Olwë and Elwë (Thingol). At times Tolkien toyed with the idea of making Celeborn a Teleri, a grandson of Olwë. However, this would have made Celeborn and Galadriel first cousins – a marriage forbidden by the Eldar. As a grandson of Elmo, Celeborn becomes Galadriel’s second cousin.
Whatever Celeborn’s origins, the eventual conclusion seems to be that he is of the Moriquendi (dark elves – who never set eyes on the light of the trees), and related to Thingol, King of the Sindarin Elves. Thus, Celeborn must be considered to be Sindarin also.
Little is known of Celeborn before his meeting with Galadriel in Doriath, the elven stronghold of Elwë (Elu Thingol). All that is said there is that Galadriel and her brother Finrod were guests in Doriath, and when Finrod left Galadriel stayed behind for love of Celeborn. In staying in Doriath, Galadriel learned much lore and wisdom from Melian the Maia, Thingol’s wife.
It would have been around this time that Celeborn gave Galadriel the name that she would use henceforth. Previously she had been known by her father-name “Artanis”.
Celeborn dwelt in the protected realm of Doriath with Galadriel for many years (around 450, as far as I can calculate it…), until the death of Elu Thingol at the hands of the Dwarves, and the destruction of Doriath by the Noldor. It is not explicitly stated, but presumably Celeborn fought in the defence of Doriath, and it has been suggested that he aided the flight of Elwing, bearer of the Silmaril.
With the downfall of Morgoth the Enemy at the end of the First Age, Celeborn chose to remain in Middle-earth.
Celeborn and Galadriel crossed Ered Lindon with some of the Noldor and Moriquendi, and dwelt about Lake Nenuial in Eriador, north of the lands of the Shire. They came to be regarded as the Lord and Lady of Eriador.
Here Tolkien seems to have intended to have Celeborn’s son born. Amroth of Lórien is in some texts referred to as the son of Celeborn and Galadriel, born around the 360th year of the Second Age. However, in The Lord of the Rings, which must be considered the most valid source where contradictory information is found, no such relationship is mentioned. We must therefore assume that Celebrian, Celeborn’s only known child, was born to Galadriel at some later date, before their parting at Eregion.
About the 700th year of the Second Age, Celeborn and Galadriel established the realm of Eregion, and building began on its chief city Ost-in-Edhil. Soon Sauron cast his eyes on Eregion, and beguiled the smiths of that country until they rebelled against their rulers. While Galadriel passed through Khazad-dûm to Lórien, Celeborn refused to enter Moria. His memory of the sack of Doriath was still green, though the dwarves of Khazad-dûm were of no relation to the host of Nogrod who slew Elu Thingol. Celeborn remained in Eregion, though it was ruled by those cozened by Sauron.
When the smiths of Eregion learned that Sauron had betrayed them in forging the One Ring, Sauron brought a mighty force against Ost-in-Edhil. Celeborn led a sortie against him and drove them back, but could not regain Eregion. Celeborn appears to have sought refuge in Imladris with Elrond Half-Elven, and when Galadriel sought him later moved to that realm which came to be known as Dol Amroth.
During the Third Age Celeborn visited Lórien at times, for it was still ruled by Amroth, and with Galadriel wandered through Middle-earth. When Amroth was drowned Celeborn returned with Galadriel to Lórien and became guardians of the land, though they would not be called king and queen.
In Lórien, Celeborn dwelt until the Third Age approached its end.
Celeborn played an instrumental part in the war against Sauron of Mordor toward the end of the Third Age. He sheltered the Fellowship of Nine Walkers, lifting his age-old ban on the presence of dwarves in Lórien. His gift of boats took the company swiftly down the river Anduin on their journey, and his counsel helped Aragorn’s decision as to their path.
Ever the borders of Lórien were assailed by orcs in those dark days, and Celeborn with Galadriel fought against them.
After the downfall of Sauron, Celeborn led the host of Lórien over the river Anduin in boats to take the stronghold of Dol Guldur, and its walls were thrown down and cleansed. He met with Thranduil and re-named Mirkwood “Eryn Lasgalen” – The Wood of Greenleaves. Mirkwood was divided between them and Celeborn took the southern wood and named it East Lórien.
With the passing of the ringbearers into the West along with Gandalf and Círdan the shipwright, Celeborn did not accompany Galadriel to the undying lands. Perhaps because he still had love for Middle-earth, perhaps because Galadriel (last of the leaders of the Noldor who came to Middle-earth) had some personal journey to make as she returned to Valinor.
Without Galadriel, Celeborn grew weary of Lórien and passed into Imladris, where for many years he dwelt with the sons of Elrond half-elven. Eventually Celeborn sailed for the undying lands… "but there is no record of the day when at last he sought the Grey Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth."
Slabbish oaf Celeborn:
Writer Michael Martinez notes that Celeborn “is, perhaps, the most maligned and misunderstood of Tolkien's characters”. Some see him as oafish and unintelligent, mainly due to his comments when the fellowship first reach Lórien.
They point to the fact that he is not on the White Council (so far as we know), that he plays second fiddle to his powerful wife, that she rebukes him in public, and that he does little in the fight against Sauron.
Martinez describes Celeborn in ways that justify the appellation “the wise”. Unlike Galadriel, Celeborn was prepared to alter his point of view with changing circumstances – note his eventual welcome of Gimli the Dwarf, and gave far more useful advice to the fellowship than did his spouse.
Celeborn is a mysterious character simply because of the lack of definite information about him. The contradictions add to his allure – the quest for truth will never be fully achieved.
Oh yeah – What he looked like:
Celeborn had long, straight silver hair, and no sign of age was upon him, except it be in his eyes.
That’s it. No more, folks.
“The Lord of the Rings”: J.R.R. Tolkien
“Unfinished Tales”: J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
“The Silmarillion”: J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien