After the end of the First Age, most of the Noldor who remained in Middle-earth dwelt in Lindon under the rule of Gil-galad their High King. After some seven centuries, one group of craftsmen among these Noldor chose to depart from Lindon and passed eastward, drawn by the promise of mithril in the mines of the Dwarves, to found a land in distant Eriador beneath the peaks of the Misty Mountains. This land was named Eregion, and so its founders became known as the Elves of Eregion, a people who would play a pivotal part in the history of Middle-earth.
The Elves of Eregion followed Celebrimbor,1 a grandson of Fëanor, and in II 750 they established the city of Ost-in-Edhil (this is the date conventionally used as that of the foundation of Eregion). The land of Eregion lay close by the ancient Dwarf-kingdom of Khazad-dûm in the Mountains to the east, and a friendship developed between the Elves and the Dwarves (a remarkable friendship between two peoples who were historically suspicious of one another).
Eregion became a populous realm bordered by the river Bruinen to the north and west, the river Glanduin to the south, and the Misty Mountains to the east. We know little of its geography, except that the Elves made a roadway that ran eastwards from their city of Ost-in-Edhil to the West-gate of Moria (a gate that Celebrimbor himself had a hand in making), and to the Pass of Caradhras. The location of Ost-in-Edhil itself is not known, but the fact that it was relatively close to Khazad-dûm, and the fact that the road ran approximately westward from that Dwarf-city, together imply that it lay somewhere along the upper reaches of Glanduin.
One notable feature of the land of Eregion was the large number of holly trees that grew there. From this holly the land took its name (which translated as 'Hollin' in the language of Men). The Elves of Eregion also took holly as the emblem of their people.
Within the Elves of Eregion an important society or guild of craftsmen emerged with Celebrimbor as its leader. These were the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the People of the Jewel-smiths, and their work was said to be the greatest to be seen since the time of Fëanor. For some five centuries the people of Eregion prospered as their fame grew. In about the year II 1200 their history was changed to a new course when a stranger came to the land, a mysterious being who called himself Annatar.
Annatar's identity was unclear, but he presented himself as an emissary bringing knowlege that would lift the Jewel-smiths to extraordinary new levels of skill (his name meant 'Lord of Gifts'). The other leaders of the Elves in Middle-earth distrusted him even at this early stage, but Celebrimbor and his followers were drawn by Annatar's knowledge, and began to accept his teachings.
Over the next three centuries Annatar instructed the Elves of Eregion, and in this period they made many lesser magical rings. In about the year II 1500 they were ready to begin their most challenging task, the forging of true Rings of Power. At about this time Annatar left them to their work, and over the ninety years that followed, Celebrimbor and his followers produced no less than nineteen of these Great Rings.
Most of these Rings of Power were made under Annatar's influence, but in about II 1590 the Elves of Eregion created three Rings using their own arts alone. These were Nenya, Vilya and Narya, the Three Rings of the Elves. It was through the power of these Rings that Celebrimbor and his Jewel-smiths made a terrible discovery. After some ten years, Annatar was revealed as none other than Sauron, and in his Dark Land of Mordor he had created a Ruling Ring, made to give him total control over all the bearers of lesser Rings of Power.
Celebrimbor's discovery meant that Sauron's centuries-long plan to dominate the Elves had failed. Now he prepared to come against Eregion in open war, and there was little its people could do to ready themselves. The Three Rings were sent away for safekeeping, with two going to Gil-galad in Lindon while the third, Nenya, was given to Galadriel. In II 1693 the War of the Elves and Sauron began in earnest, as the forces of the Dark Lord marched out from Mordor against Eregion.
The Elves of Eregion did not stand alone against Sauron. From Lindon Gil-galad sent a force commanded by Elrond to lend them aid. Before Elrond could come to Eregion, the Dark Lord demanded that the Rings of Power be turned over to him, and when he was refused he brought his full force against Eregion. In II 1697 Ost-in-Edhil fell, with Celebrimbor himself leading a last desperate defence on the steps of the Jewel-smiths' guildhouse. He was taken captive by the Orcs, then shot through with Orc-arrows, and by some accounts Sauron used Celebrimbor's body as a banner as he turned to face Elrond's army approaching from the north.
Sauron gathered up the Rings of Power that remained, and laid waste the land of Eregion, bringing an end to its people. The surviving Elves of Eregion seem to have scattered, as we have various accounts of their fates. Some fled northward to join Elrond's host, and that host was itself forced into retreat; some of these Elves of Eregion settled at Rivendell when Elrond founded it shortly afterward. They were joined there by others of their kind who had escaped into the Wild, and only later found their way to safety. Many of these people seem to have later abandoned Middle-earth and sailed into the West.2
Still other survivors escaped into Khazad-dûm and were granted passage by their friends the Dwarves, coming eventually through the Mountains to the woodlands that would long afterward be called Lórien. The Dwarves of Khazad-dûm indeed did more than simply allow the Elves to pass through their mansions; they went out against Sauron's armies. It was through their aid that the beleaguered Elrond was able to escape into the north and thus save many of the Elves of Eregion. Once the Dwarves returned to Khazad-dûm, the Doors of Durin were shut, and remained so until the Fellowship of the Ring came there thousands of years later.
Most accounts have Celebrimbor has the leader of the Elves of Eregion, but not all. In some versions of the history, Eregion was founded by Galadriel and Celeborn. By this account Celebrimbor was a great craftsman and the leader of a faction within the realm, but did not rule until later in its history. The idea of Galadriel's involvement in Eregion comes from notes recorded in Unfinished Tales, and while it does not strictly contradict the text of The Lord of the Rings, it does not sit easily with the apparently straightforward statement that 'Celebrimbor was lord of Eregion' in the introduction to the Tale of Years for the Second Age.
The departure of the Elves of Eregion from Middle-earth is not mentioned in any of the historical accounts. Our only hint as to their final fate comes from Legolas, in a brief comment made as the Fellowship of the Ring passed through Eregion more than an Age later. Remembering the Elves of Eregion, Legolas says that 'They sought the Havens long ago.' (The Fellowship of the Ring II 3, The Ring Goes South).
It's not entirely clear what Legolas intends here, since all other accounts leave the survivors divided between Rivendell and Lórien. Elves from Rivendell would pass to the Havens at times, while many of the people of Lórien later sailed from Edhellond, and Legolas' comment suggests that the Elves of old Eregion were among these. This makes it hard to be sure whether any of the Elves of Eregion remained in Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age; Legolas' choice of words certainly seems to imply that all of them had sailed into the West by that time.
Annatar, Celebrimbor, Days of Flight, Durin III, Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, Elven Door, Eregion, Gate-stream, Ring of Thrór, Ring-maker, Sauron, Second Age, Sirannon, Tar-Súrion, The Ring, [See the full list...]
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