Forum: Research Questions

Discussing: Why does Cirdan look old?

Why does Cirdan look old?

He is always described as looking very old.  Even though he is (presumably) an "original" Elf who awoke at Cuivenien, how do we understand this, since Elves are immortal?  For example, Celeborn might not be too much younger , yet he is not described as looking old.  Has the stress of his life worn him out?  The only other Elf who is decribed as appearing elderly appeared that way because of long torture in Morgoth's dungeons (forgot his name but he has a high-ranking Nargothrond Elf who aided Turin).  Cirdan didn't undergo anything that bad, and unlike the Morgoth captive, is described as looking old but strong/healthy/ "hale" as JRRT would put it.  So what gives?  Does he look old by choice?  The "canonical" description is that after incredibly long periods of time Elves' bodies become somehow less "material" or "weighty", but not gray and wrinkled as happends to the other races.  

 

 

Re: Why does Cirdan look old?

I don't have any answers, but I always wondered about that too. 

Not only did he appear 'grey and old', but we're also told 'his beard was long'.  As far as I'm aware, he is the only bearded elf in the whole of Tolkien's writing!

Jay

 

 

Re: Why does Cirdan look old?

Two thoughts occur to me, neither of which I will hold to dogmatically. I don't usually think about elves that much, especially first-age elves, and so only offer them for consideration.

 First, I wonder whether living by the Sea and watching people sail west but never doing it himself might have had an impact on him. I know that in other elves, hearing the sea invokes an intense need to go to Valinor. Cirdan lived in earshot of the sea all the time and made it his task to help others leave, but did not go himself. It also means that he was probably more in tune with the music of Iluvatar than most other elves. So maybe that strength to withstand the call of the Sea, coupled with the wisdom he gained from it, manifested itself as an elderly but hale appearance.

 The other thought that occurred to me is the Ring. This may be an iffy parallel, but think of the way Bilbo was diminished after the Ring went to Frodo. Yes, he aged, but he seems more weary in other ways, too. Cirdan had another ring of power - less powerful and less evil, sure, but it still would have had an affect on him, and giving it to Gandalf may have been like losing a bit of himself. That may have made him age more rapidly than other elves, even as he still was strong in other ways and so remained hale.

Like I said, I'm not married to either of these options, and present them only as food for thought.

 

 

Re: Why does Cirdan look old?

Thanks!  Both those ideas, especially the Sea idea, make a lot of sense.  I've been interested in Cirdan (and the other Elves who never went to Aman) for a long time.  

 

 

Re: Why does Cirdan look old?

Ah, Círdan.  My favorite Elf.  Smile

Even though he is (presumably) an "original" Elf who awoke at Cuivenien

As part of my research before writing the character, I considered this.  I don't think he's one of the Unbegotten--the "mythic" name of the Unbegotten leader of the Third Clan (ancestral to the Teleri, Sindar, and Silvans) was Enel.  We are told that Círdan was close kin to Elu Thingol, who went to Aman as an ambassador about 720 years (of the Sun) after the Awakening at Cuiviénen.  There ought to have been eight or nine generations of "Begotten" Elves by that time, and I suspect Elu and Círdan were born before or about the time Oromë found the Eldar, some 350 sun-years after the Awakening.

Even so, by my calculations, Círdan was at least 11,000 sun-years old at the end of the Third Age.  To put that in perspective, farming was first invented about 11,000 years ago, and human history starts some 5000 years ago.

I can't remember the exact reference off the top of my head, but there is something in one of the HoME volumes about Elves aging physically . . . just very, very slowly by Men's standards.  There's also that discussion about why the statue of the king in Ithilien had a beard when the line of Elros (and Dol Amroth) are supposed to be beardless because of their Elvish blood.  Basically, the implication is that Elves do eventually grow beards, if they live long enough.  Presumably 11,000 years is long enough.  Wink

As for Narya's effects, Tolkien is ambiguous about how long Círdan had possession of the ring, giving two different accounts.  In one, he gets it when the others are distributed; in the other, Gil-galad kept Narya until they went to the War of the Last Alliance.  In the latter case, Círdan would only have had the ring for about a thousand years before passing it off to Gandalf--and I have always wondered how much he used it, if at all, Fire being so antithetical to the Sea.

There is no doubt, however, that Círdan is the tough old survivor, the last great elf-lord of the Elder Days still East of the Sea.

Nêrea d' apseudea kai alêthea geinato Pontos
presbutaton paidôn: autar kaleousi geronta
houneka nêmertês te kai êpios, oude themisteôn
lêthetai, alla dikaia kai êpia dênea oiden

And Sea begat Nereus, the eldest of his children, who is true and lies not: and men call him the Old Man because he is trusty and gentle and does not forget the laws of righteousness, but thinks just and kindly thoughts.

--Hesiod, Theogony

 

 

Re: Why does Cirdan look old?

Wow, thanks. That's a definitive answer, although from the famous Silmarillion quote

"For the Elves die not till tile world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief (and to both these seeming deaths they are subject); neither does age subdue their strength, unless one grow weary of ten thousand centuries; and dying they are gathered to the halls of Mandos in Valinor, whence they may in time return."

that mentions ten thousand CENTURIES, I thought that Elves wouldn't age much over a "mere" ten thousand years. But, it seems your further research implies that perhaps that was hyperbole. Thanks.

Rob

 

 

Re: Why does Cirdan look old?

Adaneth, that quote is soooo 100% how I've always imagined Círdan to be. Thanks so much for providing it - it's very nice to have exact words it.

Imhiriel 

 

 

Re: Why does Cirdan look old?

You're welcome, Imhiriel.  Now, if you want to follow the analogy, then Círdan should have daughters--Nereus had fifty.  Plot bunny, anyone?  Wink  Elvish sea-nymphs?

Cheers--

Adaneth

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

This forum is open to all HASA members. It is read-only for the general public.

Membership on HASA is free and it takes only a few minutes to join. If you would like to participate, please click here.

If you are already a member, please log in to participate.

« Back to Research Questions

Stories linked to the forum