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Gildor's Halls

Investigating a Middle-earth Mystery

Copyright © Matt "Gildor" Light, 2000

Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion

Editor's note: The key points of this essay were originally posted to the Tolkien List, tolkien@listproc.hcf.jhu.edu. To subscribe, send an email to listproc@listproc.hcf.jhu.edu with the command "subscribe Tolkien <your address>" in the subject line.


One day in the Shire, Elanor asked Gildor, "Where are your halls?"

Good question. Though the evidence is not conclusive and some sources seem contradictory, I think those halls were either at Lindon or, most likely, in the Tower Hills where the seventh palantir, the Stone of the Emyn Beraid, looked straight to Eressëa. I picture those halls as a remnant of an ancient Elvish settlement, more rustic than Lothlórien, but like it. I also think that the Elves whom Frodo encountered at Woody End included both Gildor's own folk and some from Rivendell who had come west on pilgrimage.

Here are some sources for my view. First, the following quote from the Prologue says that when the Shire was settled, Elves lived all the way to the Mountains of Lune:

"In the westlands of Eriador, between the Misty Mountains and the Mountains of Lune, the Hobbits found both Men and Elves."

This would include everyone from Elrond's folk at Rivendell to Círdan's at the Havens. Gildor's "halls" could be at either place or someplace else between them. More specifically in this passage, in which Frodo and Gildor have not yet introduced themselves, Frodo tells Sam:

"They [Elves] don't live in the Shire, but they wander into it in Spring and Autumn, out of their own lands away beyond the Tower Hills."

Therefore, the Tower Hills are generally regarded as the edge of the Elvish lands. Though these lands would include the Grey Havens, it is interesting that neither quote mentions the Havens; instead, they mention the Mountains of Lune and the Tower Hills. (Note also that they are not exclusively Elvish lands for, much as at Lórien and Eregion, the Elvish settlements are adjacent to Dwarvish halls in the Ered Luin, the Third Age remnants of Gabilgathol and Tumunzahar.)

From the non-canonical The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle, Tolkien's notes on "A Elbereth Gilthóniel" include the following suggesting that Gildor's band, in addition to staying at Rivendell, is often at the Tower Hills:

"The Elves in Rivendell could only be said to 'gaze afar' in yearning. But actually the form used in the hymn is palandíriel (past part.), 'having gazed afar.' This is a reference to the palantir upon the Tower Hills (the 'Stone of Elendil'); see note 2 in Appendix A, Vol. III, p. 322. This alone of the palantírië was so made as to look out only west over the Sea. After the fall of Elendil the High-Elves took back this stone into their own care [boldface added], and it was not destroyed, nor again used by Men." The High-Elves (such as did not dwell in or near the Havens) journeyed to the Tower Hills at intervals to look afar at Eressëa, the Elvish isle, and the shores of Valinor, close to which it lay. The hymn in Vol. I, p. 250, is one appropriate to Elves who have just returned from such a pilgrimage. "No doubt Gildor and his companions (Vol. I, Chap. 3), since they appear to have been going eastward, were Elves living in or near Rivendell returning from the palantir of the Tower Hills. On such visits they were sometimes rewarded by a vision, clear but remote, of Elbereth, as a majestic figure, shining white, standing upon the mountain Oiolossë (S. Uilos). It was then that she was also addressed by the title Fanúilos ["Snow-white]." In Tolkien's idiom here, the phrase "No doubt…" is an indicator that this is supposition, not certain fact, and it seems to me likely that some members of the group Frodo meets are from Rivendell, but to me the quote does not suggest Rivendell: "…we are lodging in the greenwood far from our halls. If ever you are our guests at home, we will treat you better." Since Rivendell is well known, I would think Gildor would specify it if Rivendell were his band's halls (i.e., "If ever you are our guests at Rivendell…"), especially were he going there. Frodo even tells Gildor his destination—"My plan was to leave the Shire secretly, and make my way to Rivendell"—and even then Gildor does not identify Rivendell with his halls. His advice simply is, "I think you should still follow that plan"; again later, "I think you should go now at once." If Rivendell were Gildor's halls and his destination, he would likely have invited Frodo to accompany him. Most important, though, Gildor says he has only seen Bilbo once at Rivendell, when Frodo asks: "'Tell me, Gildor, have you ever seen Bilbo since he left us?' Gildor smiled. 'Yes,' he answered. 'Twice. He said farewell to us on this very spot. But I saw him once again, far from here.'"

Presumably he saw him that once again at Rivendell; therefore, Gildor did not live at Rivendell. Also, since Bilbo was going to Rivendell, he certainly would not say "Farewell" to Gildor at Woody End if he were going to Gildor's home! Saying "Farewell" to Gildor also indicates that he knew Gildor and his folk fairly well. And we know that Bilbo over the years had encountered Elves, perhaps even visiting them in the Tower Hills or Lindon, a day's ride away (it is much less likely that Bilbo would have encountered Gildor often if Gildor instead lived 500 miles away in Rivendell). This canonical source, though contradicted by the later, non-canonical The Road Goes Ever On passage, proves that Gildor did not live at Rivendell. However, the existence of the Stone is canonical. The Tower Elendil built (of which Frodo dreams at the end of "A Conspiracy Unmasked") is where the Tower Hills get their name; furthermore, Gandalf describes it in "The Palantir": "Few now know where, for no rhyme says. But in the House of Elrond it is told that they were at Annúminas, and Amon Sûl, and on the Tower Hills that look towards Mithlond in the Gulf of Lune where the grey ships lie…." Also, there is the footnote in Appendix A: "…The only Stone left in the North was the one in the Tower on Emyn Beraid that looks towards the Gulf of Lune. That was guarded by the Elves, and though we never knew it, it remained there, until Círdan put it aboard Elrond's ship when he left." (Of course, Elrond's ship was also Gandalf's, Frodo's, Gildor's, and Galadriel's ship!) In fact, if the palantiri were indeed made by Fëanor, then Gildor may have been considered an heir of the Stone. Gildor identifies himself as "of the House of Finrod": "'I am Gildor,' answered their leader, the Elf who had first hailed him. 'Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod….'" This phrase resonates for me with a couple of connotations. First, it means there is a continuity of the House of Finrod in Middle-earth in the Third Age, continuity through a House and "halls" as well as through relatives residing in the same area. Also, Gildor is the "leader" of the group that Frodo encounters, suggesting Gildor is Finrod's heir (others in it were likely of the "house of Finrod," but not leading the group), whether cousin (perhaps once or twice removed), nephew, grandnephew, etc. Lowell and I agree that Finrod himself never married (his Vanyarin betrothed did not leave Aman), and as the good Professor evidently thought illegitimacy something beneath his noble Elves, that rules out direct descendants. However, we think that we can exploit the inconsistencies in the reported ancestry of Ereinion Gil-galad, last High-King of the Noldor, to create a blood relationship between Finrod and Gildor. In the version published in The Silmarillion, Gil-galad was made the son of Fingon, hence grandson of Fingolfin. In some History of Middle-earth Series versions, however, Gil-galad was made the son of Orodreth, who was in turn made Finrod's brother or nephew in varying versions. I prefer adhering to the canonical Silmarillion, keeping Gil-galad the son of Fingon, while elaborating on Tolkien's intimations from "HoMe" that Orodreth had an important son as well—Gildor's father Inglor ("Gildor Inglorion" means "Gildor, son of Inglor"). With Inglor (who presumably died or sailed West prior to the meeting of Frodo and Gildor) as the son of Orodreth, he would have been Galadriel's nephew, Gil-galad's second cousin, and Fëanor's great-half-nephew. Gildor would in turn be Galadriel's great-nephew, Gil-galad's second cousin once removed, and Fëanor's great-great-half-nephew. That would make Gildor Fëanor's closest living relative in Middle-earth at the time except for Galadriel (Fëanor's half-niece) and possibly the wandering, incognito Maglor (his second son). (Under some interpretations, including Lowell's, it is possible that Inglor was merely a high-ranking vassal of Finrod, not a blood relative, and thereby a member of Finrod's "House" in the larger sense of noble household or court, not in the narrower sense of family.) If, hypothetically, the House of Finrod had worked with Elendil in the construction of the Tower of Emyn Beraid (which I do not think is so far-fetched given the Elves' interest in the palantir and its uses for viewing Eressëa), and had later been involved in guarding it (especially after the death of Gil-galad), then Gildor could well have been viewed as the heir to the Stone. Finally, Lindon and the Ered Luin are likely places to find Elves of Beleriand (including Finrod's kingdom of Nargothrond) as well as those of the Falas (Círdan's former fief) remaining in Middle-earth. The Ered Luin range appears in maps of both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion index notes of Lindon: "A name of Ossiriand in the First Age. After the tumults at the end of the First Age the name Lindon was retained for the lands west of the Blue Mountains that still remained above the Sea."

In The Silmarillion, we find this entry at the beginning of Chapter 10: "Now as has been told the power of Elwë and Melian increased in Middle-earth, and all the Elves of Beleriand, from the mariners of Círdan to the wandering hunters of the Blue Mountains [boldface added]… owned Elwë as their lord…." So, even in the First Age, there were Elves in the Blue Mountains. From p. 298: "In Eriador Imladris was the chief dwelling of the High Elves; but at the Grey Havens of Lindon there abode also a remnant of the people of Gil-galad the Elven-king. At times they would wander into the lands of Eriador, but for the most part they dwelt near the shores of the sea, building and tending the Elven-ships wherein those of the Firstborn who grew weary of the world set sail into the uttermost West. Círdan the Shipwright was lord of the Havens and mighty among the Wise…." So we have a few strains here: One group of Elves lives at the Havens, but others wander—in a place where there have long been wandering Elvish hunters. Another group lives at the Tower Hills, guarding the Stone. Círdan, an original Telerin Elf, lives at the Havens, having relocated from the Falas (first to the Havens of Sirion, then to the Grey Havens). But remnants of the people of the High-King Gil-galad (variously Finrod's first cousin once removed or nephew) also live in Lindon. In fact, the map suggests other Elven settlements exist on the Gulf of Lune, since Harlond and Forlond are noted in the same type of letters that note Rivendell, Hollin, and the Wood-Elves (though they are smaller than all-caps LORIEN). In Beleriand, Círdan at the Falas and Finrod at Nargothrond were allies and friends. It makes sense that, as Círdan relocated to the Havens at the flood and collapse of Beleriand, other groups of Elves would have relocated to neighbouring areas such as the Ered Luin and the Tower Hills. So I think that one of these groups, guarding the Stone, was Finrod's. It may have included elements of the wandering hunters. It would have been part of Gil-galad's kingdom in Lindon. Its people would have lived as allies of Círdan at the Havens much as Finrod and Círdan had been allies. "…the realm of Nargothrond extended also west of Narog … and Finrod became the overlord of all the Elves of Beleriand between Sirion and the Sea, save only in Falas. There dwelt those of the Sindar who still loved ships, and Círdan the shipbuilder was their lord, but between Círdan and Finrod there was friendship and alliance…."

After Gil-galad, Gildor "of the house of Finrod" might well have been the "leader" of this "remnant of the people of Gil-galad the Elven-king." —Namárië, Gildor

Editor's Note

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