The Rings of Power: Celebrimbor - Possible Time-line and Characteristics

The Rings of Power: Celebrimbor - Possible Time-line and Characteristics

This post is a complete info-dump. You have been warned! In anticipation of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series already going strong, I wanted to examine Celebrimbor more closely. He's one of my favorite characters, but his back story leaves room for interpretation, so we don't know exactly what we will be getting as the show progresses and we get more information on his character.

As such, here is some background on the character of Celebrimbor as he is presented in Tolkien's various writings. Following that, I've detailed a potential time-line for Celebrimbor's past in the First Age, which may be hinted at but not outright shown in the series. This is an effort to marry his various backstories into cohesive character development. This should serve to deepen your knowledge of the character, but this is by no means a barometer for the success or failure of the show. My time-line is a guess, not something to hang your expectations on if you are looking forward to the show or subsequent seasons.

Lastly, I'll go into what I deem important character traits, both inherited by Celebrimbor and unique to his character as the sole Fëanorian present and active in the Second Age.

Let's begin with a simple truth: It's exceedingly important to note that Celebrimbor is a character about whom Tolkien had several ideas throughout the 1960s. These notes present several contradicting origin stories for Celebrimbor.

  • Background Character to Start -- Celebrimbor was first introduced without a backstory in The Lord of the Rings, mentioned in the Council of Elrond as the creator of the Three Elven Rings of Power and leader of the craftsmen in Eregion who were tutored--and later deceived--by Sauron in a fair disguise.

  • Survivor of Gondolin -- The manuscript and notes of The History of Galadriel and Celeborn within The Unfinished Tales are contested. Tolkien was constantly tinkering and refashioning the origin of Celeborn, the motivations of Galadriel, etc, and the ripples of that also effect Celebrimbor's character. When Tolkien decided to flesh out the character from LotR, he toyed with the idea of Celebrimbor being a survivor of Gondolin.

  • Son of Curufin Son of Fëanor -- In the same section of The Unfinished Tales, a note indicates Tolkien's intention to link Celebrimbor with Fëanor. This was later expanded upon by Christopher Tolkien in his editing of The Silmarillion, where he formally lists Celebrimbor as the son of Curufin, who was in turn the favorite son of Fëanor and most like his father in talent and mood. Celebrimbor's origin is presumed to be in Valinor before the destruction of the Two Trees. He's not listed among those who spoke The Oath, but he obviously followed his father and grandfather into exile. In The Silmarillion, however, he is estranged from his father Curufin and uncle Celegorm after their plots in the tale of Beren and Lúthien. This rift apparently never heals, as father and uncle are killed in the Kinslaying at Doriath while Celebrimbor survives into the middle of the Second Age.

  • Telerin Silver-Smith?! -- Against all prior conceptions of the character, in the "Vinyar Tengwar" (issue 47), Celebrimbor is of Telerin origin and a follower of Celeborn in the version of Celeborn's backstory that places him in Alqualondë in Valinor. He follows Celeborn (and therefore Galadriel) into exile and is drawn to Eregion by fascination of mithril. So it's clear Tolkien was always open to exploring alternate stories to many of his characters, even if it would mean extensive reworkings of his previous published texts.

Now, how do all these versions of Celebrimbor coalesce into one character, and how may we see him manifest in Prime Video's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series? The most established history for Celebrimbor is definitely his Noldorin origin as the grandson of Fëanor. This immediately lends his character a great deal of depth, since the strife of the Fëanorians is well documented in the texts of The Silmarillion. While I suspect the Telerin version will be dismissed outright, they could always include the lineage through his mother, who is vaguely stated as Noldorin in one text but never even named. It's possible he can also retain the bit about having been a craftsman of Gondolin in the First Age; his personal timeline in Beleriand would just have to be arranged thus:

  • YT 1497 (?) -- Arrives in Beleriand with Curufin and Fëanor. Witnesses the abandonment of their kin, who are forced to cross the Helcaraxë when Fëanor burns the ships. Dagor nuin Giliath occurs and Fëanor is slain.

    Early First Age -- Celebrimbor could follow his father about, which would put him generally in the area of Himlad and the Pass of Aglon... or Celebrimbor potentially disregards the workings of the Oath and follows his own path elsewhere. His location is ultimately unknown.

  • FA 455 -- If Celebrimbor fought in the Dagor Bragollach (Battle of Sudden Flame), he retreats with Curufin and Celegorm to Nargothrond. If he did not fight, he is at least reunited with Curufin and Celegorm in Nargothrond following the devastating defeat the Elves suffered.

  • FA  457 -- Orodreth defeated at Tol Sirion, Sauron moves in and renames it Tol-in-Gaurhoth. Orodreth retreats to Nargothrond.

  • FA 465 -- In Autumn, Beren leaves Nargothrond with Finrod. Orodreth is left in charge and Celegorm/Curufin plot to usurp and imprison Lúthien. They are kicked out. Celebrimbor repudiates Curufin and remains in Nargothrond under Orodreth's kingship after Finrod's death.

  • FA 468 -- Union of Maedhros is formed. Celebrimbor's participation unknown. Orodreth refuses to participate. Gwindor is one of very few from Nargothrond to join anyway.

  • FA 472 -- Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Fingon slain, kingship passes to Turgon in Gondolin. Gil-Galad retreats with Círdan to the Isle of Balar. Gwindor of Nargothrond is captured.

  • FA 490 -- Gwindor returns to Nargothrond with Túrin.

  • FA 495 -- Message from Ulmo via Círdan tells Orodreth to shut the gates of Nargothrond during Spring. Orodreth instead follows Túrin's open-war policy. Celebrimbor's opinion unknown, but there's an opportunity here for him to dissent. By Autumn, Nargothrond falls to Glaurung, Orodreth and Finduilas are slain. It's possible Celebrimbor escapes and stumbles upon Voronwë leading Tuor to Gondolin with another message from Ulmo. He may have followed them to Gondolin throughout the Fell Winter.

  • FA 506 -- Second Kinslaying occurs in Doriath on Yule. Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir are slain pursuing Dior's Silmaril. Fall of Doriath.

  • FA 509 -- Maeglin is captured from Gondolin.

  • FA 510 -- Fall of Gondolin, death of Turgon. If Celebrimbor was there, he escapes with Idril and baby Eärendil.

  • FA 511 -- Refugees of Gondolin settle at the Mouths of Sirion where Gil-Galad is now High King of the Noldor.

  • FA 532 -- Birth of Elrond & Elros.

  • FA 538 -- Third Kinslaying occurs in the Havens at Sirion. Elrond & Elros are captured and fostered by Maglor. Celebrimbor's involvement unknown.

  • FA 542 -- Eärendil & Elwing reach Valinor. First rise of Eärendil and the Silmaril in Vingilótë as a star in the sky.

  • FA 545-587 -- War of Wrath, destruction of Thangorodrim, sinking of Beleriand, death of Maedhros, Maglor wanders beside the sea (fate unknown)

  • FA 590 -- Host of the West finally leaves the sunken remains of Beleriand. Celebrimbor elects to stay along with Galadriel, Celeborn, Gil-Galad, and Elrond. End of the First Age.

So, with this guess of a timeline, Celebrimbor would have spent the majority of his time either in the Pass of Aglon with his father, or in Nargothrond, decidedly away from his father and the drama of the Oath with the rest of his family.

Aspects of Celebrimbor's personality can be deduced from this past. These are completely mine, not Tolkien's, and I would hope they manifest in subtle, nuanced ways in Charles Edwards' performance of the character.

Fëanorian Traits:
  • Fiery disposition - Curufin's fire seems to have burned cold; there were rifts between him and both his wife (who didn't follow him into exile) and his son Celebrimbor, who refused to take part in his more backhanded plots. For Celebrimbor, the Fëanorian fire seems to manifest more positively as stubbornness, dedication to fairness and just rule, and an overwhelming passion for his artistic pursuits. When he believes he's right, however, he doesn't tend to budge. We see this in his acceptance of Annatar despite warnings from Galadriel and Gil-Galad to keep his guard up.
  • Ultimate craftsmanship - Celebrimbor is listed as second only to Fëanor himself when it comes to skill in crafting, which means he surpassed his father. This likely means he sought out knowledge elsewhere and was influenced by other craftsmen or races.
  • Pride, Self-Assurance, Self-Righteousness - There's no question Celebrimbor has every reason to be proud of himself, but take in to account his family history. Living up to the standards left by Fëanor's legacy of the Silmarils has to be quite a mental burden. I think Celebrimbor would try to exude these traits outwardly but struggle internally against the expectations not only of others but the ones he places on himself.
  • Redemption Arc - Raised in the shadow of the greatest craftsman in all Elvendom, Celebrimbor likely feels strain in his endeavor to not just live up to an impossibly high standard, but to simultaneously redeem the bloodstained image of his family name. If he can create through skill something that can bring Elves together to the same extent his grandfather's Silmarilli tore the Elven kindreds apart... that would be the ultimate sign of redemption for his family.
  • Hyperfocus - Fëanor was known to pursue his craft single-mindedly to the detriment of other aspects of his life. In the Unfinished Tales, Celebrimbor is described as having 'an almost "dwarvish" obsession with crafts'. He definitely has Fëanor's hallmark hunger for knowledge.

Traits Unique to Celebrimbor:
  • Survivor's Guilt - Breaking from his family was one of the reasons Celebrimbor survived the First Age. He parted with his father on bad terms and likely never got the chance to make amends. Likely directly opposing them during the Third Kinslaying at the Havens of Sirion, he might even feel partly responsible for the deaths of his uncles. He may also feel guilt for not aiding his final two remaining uncles and trying to save them from their fates.
  • Make No Oaths - Celebrimbor had a front-row seat for at least part of his life watching as the Oath drove his entire family to a certain state of madness. He witnessed how the power put into items can be harnessed and turned to evil, even in the hearts of those who you believe are good and just. I think Celebrimbor would want to stand on his own two feet and be exceedingly careful about making any oaths or promises that may not be so easily kept.
  • Foster-Cousin? - His relationship with Elrond and Elros would be quite unique in that his uncles were their foster-fathers following the kinslaying. A kinslaying he most likely opposed. Did he allow Elrond and Elros to be fostered by Maglor? Did he himself refuse to take the twins after the battle? And when Maedhros commits suicide and Maglor wanders off, where does that leave Celebrimbor as the final surviving Fëanorian and Elrond and Elros as now twice-abandoned young Elves? This interaction will be incredibly interesting!
  • Collaboration - The ability to absorb knowledge from multiple sources and transform it into his own unique artistic expression is what makes Celebrimbor stand out in the 2nd Age. Where Fëanor was exceedingly closed off and private with his crafting, Celebrimbor welcomes collaboration, seemingly with the craftsmen of Gondolin (if he was indeed there), then with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, and later with Sauron himself (in disguise as Annatar, but still a Maia originally of Aulë the Craftsman Vala).
  • His Own Worst Critic - Finding himself peerless amongst the Elves, Celebrimbor obviously still pushes himself, likely to reach an impossible standard, yearning to surpass his grandfather and make something to bring a bit of Valinor into Middle-Earth. When he fails to reach that pinnacle of perceived success, he likely gets incredibly hard on himself and struggles with a sense of depression or even self-loathing. It leaves him vulnerable when a seemingly divine influence appears in Annatar. A word of praise from such an authority figure would mean everything to Celebrimbor.
  • Hopeless Romantic - This is a stretch, but hear me out. Celebrimbor fashioned the Elessar as a gift for Galadriel. He's the only Fëanorian to have such proximity to her, and there is canonically great admiration in him for her beauty, her strength, her wisdom, and her grief at the hurts of Middle-Earth. She's also been married to Celeborn for a long time, no matter which of Celeborn's origin stories are used. From their continued interaction and ongoing trust, Celebrimbor seems to accept the reality that Galadriel has made her choice of mate. He takes what he can get with her friendship and doesn't seem to hold their past against her, just as she doesn't seem to hold his lineage against him. (She despised Fëanor.) I think that seeing the love between Galadriel and Celeborn and the way Celeborn supports her completely would give him a hope for his own fate, that perhaps there's someone who could be that for him. Or perhaps he also unconsciously tries to emulate those traits of Celeborn that he believes Galadriel is attracted to, not necessarily in an effort to sway Galadriel, but to attract someone like her to his own side.
Did I miss anything? If there is an aspect of Celebrimbor's personality that you're hoping to see in The Rings of Power, feel free to share in a comment! Please keep in mind that the Shadow of Mordor games are not canonical and shouldn't be used to set expectations for The Rings of Power. Adaptations can be compared, of course, but they also stand on their own and tend to depart from canon in different ways.

Also, it should go without saying, but I will tolerate no cruelty in my comments. It doesn't matter if you aim it at me, at Charles Edwards, or at each other. If you have nothing constructive to add to the conversation, please don't bother engaging at all. I can't stop you from wasting your time, but it is indeed a waste of your time.

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