The location of the Elvenking's
Halls (somewhat speculative2
When the Shadow fell on Greenwood the Great in the Third Age, the Silvan Elves of that forest withdrew northward. Near the Forest's northeastern fringes, on the banks of the Forest River, Thranduil built an underground fortress for himself and his people. He was inspired in this enterprise by Thingol's halls of Menegroth in Doriath during the First Age, and like Thingol he used the skill of the Dwarves to aid in making his stronghold, though the Elvenking's Halls of Mirkwood were less grand than that magnificent ancient cavern.
Thranduil's Halls were not a home for his entire people, who spent most of their time in the open woodlands, but they served as a palace, a treasury and a stronghold. They were built within a cavern on the Forest River's banks, whose entrance was protected by magical stone door and reached by a bridge across the river. Within were a maze of passageways and chambers, including Thranduil's throne room. As in Thingol's Menegroth, the roof of the throne room was supported by pillars carved from the living rock.
Deep within the Halls were the Elvenking's dungeons, in which he held the Dwarves of Thorin's company for a time during the Quest of Erebor. These Dwarves were aided in their escape by Bilbo Baggins, using the power of the Ring to remain invisible while he devised a plan of escape. Beneath the Halls, a stream of the Forest River ran, which was used for trade with the nearby Men of the Long Lake. The Dwarves escaped from the Halls using a trapdoor that led down into this stream, the only other exit apart from the impassable stone doors. Seventy-six years later, these same dungeons were used to hold Gollum for a time, before he was also able to make his escape.
The Silvan Elves originally lived in the southern parts of the Forest, but later removed to the northeast. The reasons for this exodus, and hence the dating of the Halls' foundation, are a little unclear. The most detailed account suggests that they travelled there during the Third Age in response to the coming of the Necromancer, so the Halls would probably have been built in the latter half of the Third Age. However, a variant account suggests that Thranduil's father Oropher was responsible for their relocation much earlier, in the Second Age, in response to the growing power of Khazad-dûm.
The geography of the Elvenking's Halls is necessarily somewhat speculative, because the only map that shows them in any detail (the smaller scale map that accompanies The Hobbit) only hints at their location, apparently showing them on an island between two arms of the Forest River.
We have a clue in the position of the Elf-path through the Forest, which approached the river from the south. It seems reasonable to assume that the path led to the doors of the Halls, so they must have been located on the northern bank of the the river's southern branch, with the path leading across a bridge to reach the gates.
The other, northern, branch of the river is presumably the stream that ran beneath the Halls, which the Dwarves used to make their escape. On that basis, it must have run underground at some point in its course, passing beneath the Elvenking's Halls before it rejoined the main course of the Forest River and flowed on eastwards to the Long Lake.
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