…and the house of Elrond was a refuge for the
weary and the oppressed, and a treasury of
good counsel and wise lore.
(Silmarillion, p. 357)
There are many places in Middle-earth, and all of them have their own special atmosphere. Rivendell is one of the quietest and cosiest spots: its ability to provide repose and much-needed rest alongside good advice and safety is as amazing as it is vital.
Rivendell, which in Sindarin is also known as Imladris, was established by Elrond in the year 1697 of the Second Age. With its name translated as the Deep Dale of the Cleft, Imladris was well-hidden and safe. After Eregion fell under the wrath of Sauron, that was precisely Elrond’s aim: to establish the refuge where warmth, safety and seclusion could be found amongst the ever-growing darkness. And secluded indeed Imladris was. Located around the feet of the Misty Mountains in the eastern part of Eriador, with the way to it going among treacherous bogs and deep ravines, this hidden valley was not easy to find even by those who knew the way thither.
Inhabited in most part by the Elves alongside other wise and powerful individuals, Rivendell remained the only other place, alongside Lindon, where the High Elves could still be seen in the Middle-earth of the Third Age. In Tolkien’s world of Arda the High Elves (those Elves who sojourned in Valinor) equal great wisdom and expertise, nobility and power. By the Third Age most of the High Elves had either died, or departed back to the West, so they were a rare sight in those days. Elrond’s own vast experience and knowledge played a huge role in the whole atmosphere of Rivendell:
Elrond symbolises throughout the ancient wisdom, and his House represents Lore – the preservation in reverent memory of all tradition concerning the good, wise, and beautiful. It is not a scene of action but of reflection. Thus it is a place visited on the way to all deeds, or ‘adventures’. It may prove to be on the direct road (as in The Hobbit); but it may be necessary to go from there in a totally unexpected course. So necessarily in The Lord of the Rings, having escaped to Elrond from the imminent pursuit of present evil, the hero departs in a wholly new direction: to go and face it at its source.
(Letters, footnote to letter № 131)
With such intense concentration of wise and knowledgeable individuals, Rivendell played a very important role in both Bilbo’s and Frodo’s journeys. It was the place which travellers visited on their way to their appointed destination, and those stays provided advice, help and all the necessary information that could be useful to them. Thus, both Hobbits were able to tackle their respective further roads better informed and equipped for dangerous adventures ahead.
Another vital aspect that Rivendell provided was rest and repose. It was also known as the Last (or the First) Homely House, depending on which direction travellers were approaching it from, and that name was very much justified, as Elrond’s refuge did provide comfort, friendship and warmth. Just being in Rivendell for a while restored strength of body and soul, energy, power, mental and physical well-being, healing. It prepared travellers physically and mentally for the next stages of their journeys. The effect of Rivendell on Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin was amazing. Even though weighed down by the prospects of the gruesome road to Mordor, they still found courage in Rivendell:
For a while the hobbits continued to talk and think of the past journey and of the perils that lay ahead; but such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.
(Fellowship of the Ring, p. 359)
It is the kind of repose that is needed to have a proper rest for body and mind. It is well known that one’s physical and mental state is important when a difficult task has to be done, so the travellers become refreshed and full of new strength to go on with their quests. Even Bill the pony changed from a poor starved animal into a healthy, strong beast following his short stay in Rivendell.
Bilbo Baggins fell in love with Rivendell the moment he stepped into the valley with Gandalf and the Dwarves. No wonder that when much later he decided to leave the Shire, he chose Rivendell as the place to spend his retirement at. Bilbo also provided a spot-on description of the place which was ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all’. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 295). And these words of Bilbo’s describe Rivendell accurately and beautifully.
1. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion (edited by Christopher Tolkien); HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 1999.
2. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Hobbit; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2012.
3. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2001.
4. H. Carpenter – The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2012 (Kindle edition).
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