Círdan, also known as Nowë and Círdan the Shipwright, was one of the highest and most noble of the Sindar, Lord of the Falathrim during the First Age, and Master of the Grey Havens through the Second, Third, and Fourth Age. He was one of the wisest and most foresighted of the Elves, and by the Second Age the oldest known elf in Middle-earth, to remain so throughout that age and into the Fourth Age as well. He was also gifted Narya, one of the Three Rings, by Celebrimbor until he surrendered it to Gandalf. He was one of the last elves in Middle-earth, sailing West by FO 120.
Círdan, born Nowë, was kin of both Elwë and Olwë, lords in the host of the former. Cirdan was said to have been one of the most skilled Elves in building ships during the Great Journey, especially when the Elves dwelt by the Sea of Rhûn. During the push westward, seeking to go to Valinor, Nowë and his followers kept going where most of his kin fell away throughout the journey. Despite Nowë's great eagerness to see the light of Valinor (his "greatest desire"), he loyally searched for Elwë upon his disappearance. Because of this, the Teleri missed the first trip on Tol Eressëa to Valinor, on which went their kin, the Noldor and the Vanyar. They took for their king Olwë, and while waiting for Ulmo to return for them, Nowë headed the art of making and sailing ships, growing impatient. From this profession, he took the name "Círdan" which means "shipwright" in Sindarin. The Teleri also developed a great friendship with Ossë. At the same time, although most of the Teleri had given up, Círdan sought Elwë longer and harder than most of his kin, partly because of his love for him and his allegiance.
Because of this, Círdan came to the shores too late during the second embarking of Eressëa. He came to the sands to find them departed, and as he stood forlorn he saw far-off a glimmer of light upon Eressëa as it vanished into the West over Belegaer. Then he cried aloud:
But into his heart came a message from the Valar which warned him that his ship could not endure the voyage, nor would any ship for many years, until the time when his work be of utmost worth, remembered in song. Círdan answered in obeyance and saw a vision of a ship.
Foundation and Return of the Noldor
Círdan, therefore, remained with those Teleri who had chosen to stay east of the Sea for love of Ossë, and became their lord. The folk became known as the Falathrim, "people of the foaming shore", and dwelt in the Falas by the sea. There they built many ships, and the cities Eglarest and Brithombar, and found pearls which they sent to their overlord, King Thingol of Doriath, who was once Elwë.
When Morgoth broke forth in the First Battle of Beleriand in YT 1497, Círdan was cut off and unable to come to Thingol’s aid. Further, although Thingol conquered with the help of the Laiquendi, the Falathrim were driven to the very edge of the sea, where they were besieged for some months, until the return of the Noldor when Fëanor struck Morgoth from the north. The siege of the Falas was abandoned as the Orcs were ordered northward to help their master, where they were all destroyed by Celegorm. The Falas were saved.
Círdan attended the Mereth Aderthad with many of his people, where he swore oaths of friendship with the Noldor, and quite possibly met and befriended his later neighbours and friends Turgon and Finrod. Although Turgon eventually moved from Vinyamar to faraway Gondolin, Círdan’s friendship with Finrod was lasting, and Círdan became a close advisor to the Noldor. Círdan was, after all, a relative of his, being related (probably quite closely) to Olwë, Finrod’s grandfather.
Early First Age
When the tales began spreading (sown by Morgoth) of the Kinslaying of Alqualondë, Círdan, being very wise even at that time, was greatly troubled, feeling that these rumours sprouted from great malice. Knowing the jealousy and dissension among the Noldor, he guessed that the malice was that of the kinslayers. Therefore he dutifully sent messages to his overlord Thingol, telling him all that he had heard. This resulted in the banishment of Quenya and greater strife between the Sindar and the Noldor.
Círdan may have assisted in the Dagor Aglareb, but this is unknown. Nevertheless, he did not take part in the Dagor Bragollach, as he was far away and not directly attacked, if even he had time to come to the aid of his allies. Nevertheless, Círdan made up for his lack of participation in the second assault on Hithlum, coming to the timely aid of Fingon when he was most needed. They sailed up the Firth of Drengist, then struck the unsuspecting orcs from the west, giving victory to the elves.
After the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, many fugitives came for shelter in the Falas. The Falathrim mariners harassed the orcs in guerilla attacks from the sea. But it was only a matter of time before Morgoth attacked. Then came the disastrous Fall of the Falas. Though both Brithombar and Eglarest were strong, with mighty walls, both fell one at a time due to the impressive array of siege-masters Morgoth had in his train. The elves fought valiantly, but the walls were broken and most of the Falathrim killed or enslaved. Barad Nimras was cast down, and the Falas laid to waste. But Círdan and some of his followers escaped by sea, and he took with him Gil-galad, one of the last of the princes of the Noldor. They came to the Isle of Balar and founded a new kingdom, but kept a foothold at the Mouths of Sirion, keeping ships hidden in the reeds there, making a refuge for all who fled there.
Lord of Balar
Turgon, receiving the dreadful news, requested that Círdan send mariners to seek Valinor and the aid of the Valar. Círdan built seven swift ships and sent them westward. None returned, save for only one mariner of the Gondolindrim. The way to the West was closed.
Eventually, Círdan served as messenger, when Ulmo delivered him a message for Orodreth, warning of the doom of Nargothrond, and ordering him to shut his gates and cast down the bridge. The warning went unheeded, resulting in the Fall of Nargothrond.
After news came to Balar of the Fall of Gondolin, Gil-galad was proclaimed High King of the Noldor. Círdan soon after became a fast friend of the young half-elf Eärendil son of Tuor and Idril, who had grown up essentially under his shadow, and was apprenticed to him. Círdan aided Eärendil in building the ship Vingilot, giving him advice and help. Círdan doubtless remembered his vision, and this ship was indeed a fulfillment of it.
Círdan and Gil-galad came with their armies from the Isle of Balar too late to prevent the disastrous Third Kinslaying when the Havens of Sirion were ambushed and many fell. But Eärendil was not there, rather on a voyage, and the Silmaril of Beren and Lúthien had been spirited away by Elwing his wife. Thus, wielding the Silmaril, Eärendil came to Valinor and found the forgiveness of the Valar. From that time on, Círdan was given foresight surpassing that of any of the elves, perhaps some special grace of the Valar for his deeds in this world-changing episode (like the return of Glorfindel, who also contributed significantly). After the War of Wrath, Círdan, heeding the bidding of the Valar long ago, once more obediently abstained from finding his heart’s desire and going West, but with a small following remained in Middle-earth.
The continents were shifted, but Círdan still took up his abode by the sea, at the Grey Havens, which the Elves built in the newly-formed Gulf of Lune whence the Eldar could sail the Straight Road, but most of them were unwilling at first to forsake the lands they fought in and preferred to linger there. There he welcomed the friendly and then-unfallen Númenóreans, making friends with Vëantur, chief of the mariners of Tar-Elendil, and later teaching Aldarion his grandson of ships (both management and construction) and seaside architecture, doubtless being the foremost authority on both.
Círdan advised against the creation of the Rings of Power when Annatar came, but, like Galadriel, his counsel went unheeded in the midst of the joy and enthusiasm of the Eregion elves, and especially Celebrimbor. Nevertheless, when the Three Rings escaped the Sack of Eregion, Celebrimbor had appointed him to inherit one of them. He received Narya, the Ring of Fire. Sauron, having revealed himself in the destruction of Eregion and empowered by the One Ring he had forged, invaded Eriador in the same blow; however, he dared not attempt to take Mithlond or Lindon, fearing they were too strong and because they had the help of the Númenóreans.
Círdan joined the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, and fought as the lieutenant of Gil-galad. Many fell there, including Gil-galad and Elendil. After the battle, with Elrond, he urged Isildur, Elendil’s first-born, to throw the captured One Ring into Orodruin, where it would be unmade, but Isildur refused.
After the War of the Last Alliance and the death of Gil-galad, Cirdan ruled over Lindon from the Grey Havens. For more than a thousand years they went undisturbed, but at around TA 1050, a shadow began to lengthen. Though many deemed that Sauron was defeated forever, for the first time in many centuries some evil was stirring, and awake. It was at this time the Istari, sent by the Valar, came. He was the most foresighted of all of them, and alone knew the true purpose of the Istari. He also saw deep into the future of Gandalf, and gave him Narya, his greatest possession and one of the most secret and sought-after treasures in the world.
Throughout the Angmar War, the Elves of Lindon under Cirdan supported Arnor. They assisted Arveleg and the men of Cardolan drive off the Hill-men from the Weather Hills. Later, with Círdan’s help, Arveleg's young son, Araphor, drove Angmar's armies from Fornost and the North Downs. Combining forces with Rivendell, and the Galadhrim who joined them from beyond the Misty Mountains, they subdued Angmar for some time.
In TA 1975, Elven sailors from Lindon brought a ship to Forochel to rescue the lost king Arvedui. The crew endured a perilous journey, but Arvedui rashly attempted to return that winter, and all aboard perished. The next year, Círdan and the elves joined with the Dúnedain in the victorious Battle of Fornost. Later, Círdan took control of the abandoned Elendil Stone on Emyn Beraid, which could gaze into the lost west and was without a link to the other palantíri.
Nothing more is mentioned of his actions until the War of the Ring in TA 3018 and later TA 3021. Galdor was his messenger to Rivendell and attended the Council of Elrond, speaking with authority on his lord’s behalf.
The last mention of Círdan came with the end of the Third Age. When the Ringbearers came to Mithlond, Círdan greeted them before the gates. Although Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond passed west on the ship he had built for them, Círdan seems to have remained for a time.
Círdan maintained the haven at least into the Fourth Age, but it was recognized that eventually, its purpose would reach an end when no more Elves wished to cross the Sea. At that time, Círdan would abandon the Grey Havens and finally travel the Straight Road himself. Early in the Fourth Age, he sailed west aboard the last ship with Celeborn and the last High Elves, but when he did so, he took with him the last memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth.
In the last years of the Third Age, Círdan appeared very old save for his eyes which "were keen as stars", wearing a long beard. Likely, he had grown a beard since having reached his third cycle of life.
Círdan had a profound effect on the course of Middle-earth history. He was a loyal servant and friend of Elwë, sacrificing his heart’s desire in search of him. This loyalty and sense of duty shows up numerous times over the course of history, including his second sacrifice in his submission to the Valar, and his sending of troubling and potentially destructive rumours to his overlord Thingol. He was also the most foresighted of the elves, a gift from the Valar. He conceivably saved Elven civilization with the founding of the havens at the Mouths of Sirion, and with the fostering of both Gil-galad and Eärendil. His precious gift of Narya to Gandalf was also timely and valuable. He was clearly favoured by Ulmo, seen by the number of messages passed through him.
Círdan was a Sindarin word that meant 'Ship-maker', and the Quenya form was said to be Ciryatan. His original name was probably Nowë, which may be related to the term nowo meaning "think, form idea, imagine."
Portrayal in adaptions
Lord of the Rings film trilogy
In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, Círdan briefly appears in the first and third movies, played by Michael Elsworth. His role as lieutenant of Gil-galad is given to Elrond instead (Elrond was Gil-galad's herald in the books) in the first movie. He does, however, appear very briefly during Galadriel's Monologue at the start of the first movie, in a brief shot of the three Elven ring-bearers - and at the end of the third movie when Frodo, Galadriel, Elrond, Gandalf and Bilbo board the ship at the Grey Havens, Círdan is seen standing in the background.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||瑟丹|
|Kazakh||Кирдан (Cyrillic) Kïrdan (Latin)|
|Serbian||Цирдан (Cyrillic) Cirdan (Latin)|
|Uzbek||Чирдан (Cyrillic) Cirdan (Latin)|