The Silvan archers reached their peak after the fall of Morgoth, at the start of the Second Age of the Sun. This was a period after Beleriand had fallen into ruin and many Elven lords, both Ñoldor and Sindar, began to expand into the rest of Middle-earth, setting up fiefs and kingdoms in places such as Eregion, Lórien and Greenwood the Great. The latter two were at this time inhabited by those Avari, or "unwilling" Elves who would not take the journey to Valinor. These were the great days, when the Sindar lords came upon the Avari or Silvan Elves and were taken in as kings, great lords who knew and taught much knowledge and crafts to the Silvan Elves. At that time the dark forest of Mirkwood was not in existence, but was rather known as Greenwood the Great, a huge and lush forest inhabited by many fair creatures, whose beauty and richness was like that of Doriath in Beleriand. So similar it was to Doriath like the Sindar immediately settled there and were warmly welcomed by the Silvan Elves. Through knowledge of the Sindar craft, the Silvan Elves were able to hone their skills with the bow and become master archers, now outfitted with new, shining weaponry and gear that only the Eldar could make. But as for their own woodcraft, none could surpass the Silvan Elves, who were already masters of the forest, able to hide in the shadows and remain undetected. Indeed, the "Silvan Shadow" was a trait not even the Sindar could master. Thus the true Sentinel of the Forest was born.
The weapons of the sentinel are few, easy to carry but extremely deadly. A standard warden would have a longbow, usually made of mallorn wood, an Elven dagger, knife or handaxe and a quiver full of arrows, sometimes tipped with poison or barbed. A wealthier archer would probably have a shortsword as well, of Elven make of course. The armour of the Silvan sentinel is light as well, easily able to blend in with its surroundings, whatever they may be. Indeed, the famous Lorien cloaks perform just this task. Apart from a cloak or mantle, the archer has a leather shirt, leggings, greaves, gauntlets, etc. He is very lightly armoured, for he is not expected to be heard by his enemy by the jostling of mail or be forced into a prolonged fight. However a richer, more elite archer may wear partial chainmail (always Elven made).
A sentinel is quite deadly, provided he is well armed and he is covered by a woodland surrounding. His aim is not to hit and run, but rather to wipe out any foul and evil creature seen lurking in his zone of patrol, without being seen. During the War of the Ring, the sentinels were hard put to defending their borders, for the shadow of Dol Guldur had launched reparative raids on both woodland realms, ultimately culminating in the Battle Under the Trees, when the sentinel's finest hour had arrived. During the battle, the forces of Dol Guldur were beaten back from Lórien and Thranduil's Halls and eventually the Hill of Sorcery itself was laid bare by the White Lady of Lórien herself, Galadriel. This proves that the Silvan sentinel's effectiveness goes far and beyond that of any other woodsman in Middle-earth.
Decline of the Sentinel
After the War of the Ring, Mirkwood was made fair again but the time of the Sindar had ended in Middle-earth. Thus, the Silvan Elves, who were of the Avari, remained in their dwindling kingdoms, but eventually their people dwindled as well, so much so that they became only a memory, a legend of elder days. The World has changed, Arda has been reshaped, but in the few forests that still exist on this earth, an ancient spirit or two of the Avari wardens may continue to dwell that has yet to see the final chapter of its history.
- The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. VI (Book II), p. 347, Lothlórien
- The Hobbit, Ch. IX, p. 170, Barrels Out Of Bond
- The Return of the King, Appendices (Concerning the assault on Lórien)
- The Silmarillion (On the chapters concerning Doriath)