A minor tributary of the River Anduin, called Sîr Ninglor by the Elves, that rose in the eastern Misty Mountains and flowed eastward to meet the Great River at the Gladden Fields.
Though it was hardly more than a hundred miles long, the Gladden played a great part in the histories of the Third Age of the World. In the middle years of that Age war raged in Eriador to the west of the Misty Mountains. In about the year III 1409 a clan of refugee Hobbits, of the strong and resilient Stoor variety, fled eastward across the Mountains and settled by the banks of the Gladden.
We know little of these people, but their society was apparently matriarchal, and they shared many of the same ancient habits and superstitions as their more familiar cousins who remained west of the Mountains. We know that they made a living by fishing among the golden flowers of the Gladden River, and so founded a successful settlement that would last for at least another thousand years.
Some centuries later, another great war occurred, but this time far to the south and east, beyond the forest of Mirkwood. The Stoors knew nothing of this, until refugees from the battles of the south came to settle on the plains to the north of the Gladden. These were noble, fair-haired Men, descendants of the Kings of Rhovanion and ancestors of the Kings of Rohan. They called themselves simply 'horse-people', or Éothéod in their own tongue. These people did not remain by the Gladden for long. Within two centuries, they rode further north to seek new, more open, lands.
Though the Éothéod rode into the distant north, many Men remained and so did the Stoors. More than a millennium after their arrival, in about the twenty-fifth century of the Third Age, two young friends of that people journeyed east on the river together to the mouths of the Gladden, where it emptied into the marshlands of the Fields. Through a strange accident, one of them, Déagol by name, fell into the water, and discovered a golden Ring sparkling in the mud on the bottom2. His friend, Sméagol, wanted the Ring for himself: he throttled Déagol, and stole back to his people with the golden and magical Ring. Eventually, his grandmother, who ruled his family, cast him out and he left the banks of the Gladden River to wander into the Misty Mountains and into history, and his name became Gollum.
While Gollum skulked away the centuries under the Mountains of Mist, he outlived all his family and his people. Soon after Gollum's exile, Orcs began to mass in the Mountains nearby, and War of the Dwarves and Orcs brought the armies of the Dwarves to these regions too. Perhaps the Stoors were destroyed by the Orcs, or overrun in the War. Perhaps they were lost in the Fell Winter of III 2911. Whatever happened, we know that no Stoors were left there at the time of the War of the Ring: the Nazgûl went there in search of the Ring, and found only ruins.
But Gollum's wretched life was stretched out by his magic Ring beyond that of all his kind, until at last that Ring was taken from him. He hunted for it all down the Vales of Anduin, and was himself hunted by Aragorn, at Gandalf's request. Aragorn captured him near the borders of Mordor at the beginning of the year III 3018, and toiled northward with his prisoner. We have an account of his travels in the Unfinished Tales.
The Hunt for the Ring (ii)
in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth
So the last survivor of the Gladden Stoors saw the long-deserted lands of his home once more before the end.
Glædene is in fact Old English, but is represented by Tolkien as belonging to the language of the Rohirrim, whose ancient ancestors lived in this region. He associates it especially with a species of iris known as 'yellow flag' (properly known, he explains in his Letters, as Iris pseudacorum). These yellow flowers grew along the river and among the marshes of the Gladden Fields, hence the name. The Elvish word ninglor is indirectly related: it means 'goldwater', which presumably refers to the flowers' golden reflections in the riverwater.
This Ring had lain in the mud of the Gladden Fields for more than two thousand years. For the full story of how it came to be there, see the entry for Disaster of the Gladden Fields.
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