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J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
Rivendell illustration.jpg
J. R. R. Tolkien's painting of Rivendell
TypeRefuge of the Elves
Hidden Refuge
Other name(s)Imladris
Last Homely House East of the Sea
Locationeastern Eriador: a western valley of the Misty Mountains, north of Eregion and south-east of Rhudaur
LifespanS.A. 1697 -
Abandoned by Fo.A. 120

Rivendell is a valley in the fictional world of Middle-earth created by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was established in the Second Age by Elrond Half-elven, who protected it with the powers of his elven ring Vilya and ruled it until the events of The Lord of the Rings four or five thousand years later. It is an important location in Tolkien's legendarium, featured in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales.

Elrond lived in Rivendell with his wife Celebrían (until she departed for Valinor), their sons Elladan and Elrohir, and their daughter Arwen, and many other Elves, both Noldor and Sindar. Notable Elves who lived in Rivendell included Glorfindel, Gildor, and Erestor. In some writings, featured in Unfinished Tales, Galadriel and Celeborn also lived in Rivendell for a time before they became rulers of Lothlórien. Unique among non-elves, Bilbo Baggins effectively "retired" to Rivendell as an old hobbit, before going over the sea.


Rivendell is a direct translation or calque into English of the Sindarin name Imladris, both meaning "deep valley of the cleft". The name Rivendell is formed by two English elements: "riven" (split, cloven) and "dell" (valley), making the whole word purport "deeply cloven valley". Imladris was also rendered "Karningul" in Westron, the "Common Tongue" of Middle-earth represented as English in the text of The Lord of the Rings. The house of Elrond in Rivendell is also referred to as The Last Homely House, alluding to the elves' old cities, in Beleriand and Aman, and the wilderness (Rhovanion) that lies east of the Misty Mountains.

Fictional context[edit]


Rivendell was located in eastern Eriador at the edge of a narrow gorge of the river Bruinen (one of the main approaches to Rivendell comes from the nearby Ford of Bruinen), but well hidden in the moorlands and foothills of the Hithaeglir or Misty Mountains. Contrary to the map of western Middle-earth published in The Lord of the Rings, the Great East Road did not in Tolkien's view lead through Rivendell: Rivendell was maintained as a hidden valley [T 1] away from the road to the High Pass.[T 2]

The climate was cool-temperate and semi-continental with moderately warm summers, fairly snowy—but not frigid—winters and moderate precipitation. Seasons were more pronounced than in areas further west, such as the Shire, but less extreme than the places east of the Misty Mountains. Like Hobbiton, it is located at about the same latitude as Tolkien's hometown Oxford.[T 3]


Rivendell is founded in the second Age, following the destruction of the Elvish realm of Eregion by the forces of Sauron. Sauron invades Eregion to wrest the rings of power from the Elven smiths. In response to this attack, Gil-galad sends a force from Lindon, commanded by Elrond, to bolster Eregion's defence. After two years of fighting Eregion is destroyed. The remnants of Elrond's army and Eregion's refugees are driven north into the hills by Sauron's forces, and are subsequently besieged for three years in the valley that becomes the site of Rivendell. They are relieved when an army of Elves from Lindon and their allies the Men of Númenor, in conjunction with the defenders, attack the besieging force and annihilate it.

After the siege is lifted it is decided to abandon Eregion, leaving Rivendell the only Elven settlement in eastern Eriador. At the end of the Second Age it serves as a mustering station for the forces of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men on their way to war in Mordor. After this war Rivendell enjoys centuries of peace, but is attacked in the fourteenth century of the Third Age by the armies of the Witch-king of Angmar. It again withstands a siege for some years, but its enemies are finally driven off when reinforcements arrived from Lothlórien. Several centuries later, a force sent from Rivendell, commanded by Glorfindel, takes part in the final battle against the armies of Angmar.

Following the destruction of Arnor, the northern kingdom of the Númenórean exiles Rivendell becomes an important location for the remnants of its people, the Rangers of the North. Elrond holds several important relics of the kingdom in his keeping, and all of the heirs of the chieftains of the Rangers are fostered in Rivendell as children. The most notable, and last, of these is Aragorn, whom Elrond regards as a foster son. During his time in Rivendell Aragorn meets and falls in love with Arwen. They are later married after he is crowned king of Gondor and Arnor.

Rivendell is an important location in the events of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Fearing the growing power of Sauron, his enemies form the White Council to allow them to debate and strategize how to confront his menace. Elrond was a prominent member of the Council, and it frequently met in Rivendell. One of these meetings occurred in T.A. 2941 when the Council decided to attack Sauron in his fortress in Dol Guldur. That same year, another Council member, the wizard Gandalf, helped the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins and a company of dwarves on their quest to reclaim Erebor. On their way they stopped at Rivendell, and while there learned important information as to how they could achieve their goal. Bilbo and Gandalf also stopped in Rivendell on their return journey.

After his 111th birthday Bilbo retired to Rivendell, spending his time writing his memoirs and scholarly works, but his finding of the One Ring on his previous adventure soon set great events in motion. Later Frodo Baggins and his companions journey to Rivendell to deliver the Ring to safety from Sauron's agents, and stay there for more than two months. During that time, several other Elves, Dwarves and Men arrive at Rivendell on separate errands, and at the Council of Elrond they learned that all of their errands are related to the fate of the Ring. After a lengthy debate, the council decides upon destroying the Ring. Subsequently, the Fellowship of the Ring is formed and departs from Rivendell on the quest for Mount Doom.

Following the destruction of the One Ring at the end of the Third Age, Elrond's ring loses its power and he tires of Middle-earth. Thus at the beginning of the Fourth Age Elrond, and many of his household, leave Rivendell to sail for Valinor from the Grey Havens. Though its people were diminished, Rivendell was maintained, for a while, by Elladan and Elrohir. They were later joined by Celeborn, who left East Lórien within a few years of Galadriel's departure with Elrond's party.[T 4] It is not known when Rivendell was finally abandoned, but shortly before he died in F.A. 120 Aragorn said to Arwen that "none now walk" in the garden of Elrond.[T 5]


Rivendell's culture was predominantly Elvish, with strong influences from both the Noldor and Sindar; both of whom were represented in its population and in the heritage of Elrond himself. Through its connection to the Dúnedain there was also a Númenórean influence in Rivendell. In Rivendell the culture, wisdom, and lore of the Elves of the Elder Days was preserved. Through the power of his ring, Vilya, Elrond could stave off the weariness of time that affected the outside world, allowing the immortal Elves to live in a somewhat timeless realm in their hidden valley. On high feast days the household of Elrond told the tales and sang the songs chronicling the deeds of their history and of the Blessed Realm of Valinor.

Despite its semi-isolation and seeming fixation on the past, Rivendell was worldly and never fully cut off from other peoples or their troubles. For outsiders it proved to be a "refuge for the weary and the oppressed, and a treasury of good counsel and wise lore",[T 6] and was visited by peoples of all races seeking sanctuary, healing, and the wisdom of Elrond. This somewhat cosmopolitan nature was remarked on by Sam Gamgee who said that there was something of everything in Rivendell, to which Frodo agreed, but added that there was nothing of the sea represented.


Tolkien may have based Rivendell on his 1911 visit to the Lauterbrunnental in Switzerland.[1]

The physical appearance of the valley of Rivendell may be based upon the Lauterbrunnental in Switzerland, where J. R. R. Tolkien had hiked in 1911.[1] The homes, including the waterfalls flowing beneath them, bear a striking similarity to Beatenberg which is in the same region. In Peter Jackson's movie The Fellowship of the Ring, the filming location for Rivendell was Kaitoke Regional Park in Upper Hutt, New Zealand, though the extensive array of waterfalls was added with CGI.[2]


Jane Ciabattari writes that a major reason for the popularity of Lord of the Rings was the desire for escape among the Vietnam War generation. She compares the military-industrial complex with Mordor, and suggests that they yearned for a place of peace, just as Frodo Baggins felt an "overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace… in Rivendell".[3]

The critic Tom Shippey contrasts the versions of the Old Walking Song sung by Bilbo and Frodo. Bilbo follows the "Road ... with eager feet", hoping to reach the peace of Rivendell, to retire and take his ease; whereas Frodo sings "with weary feet", hoping somehow to reach Mordor bearing the Ring, and to try to destroy it in the Cracks of Doom: diametrically opposed destinations and errands.[4]

Shippey notes that Rivendell was the home of elvish song, among other things citing Tolkien's statement that the song invoking Elbereth was a hymn.[5] Shippey writes, too, that Bilbo wrote and sang the Song of Earendil in Rivendell, making use of multiple poetic devices – rhyme, internal half-rhyme, alliteration, alliterative assonance, and "a frequent if irregular variation of syntax" – to create a mysterious elvish effect of "rich and continuous uncertainty, a pattern forever being glimpsed but never quite grasped."[6]


In the period of counterculture in the Western World of the 1960s and 1970s, a commune called Maos Lyst (Mao's Delight) was founded in Denmark in 1968, its inhabitants replacing their surnames with Kløvedal, Danish for Rivendell, inspired by Tolkien's Elven outpost. Several of them later became well-known cultural personalities in the country.[7][3]

The Canadian progressive rock band Rush memorializes Rivendell in the song "Rivendell" on their 1975 studio album Fly by Night. The song focuses on the tranquillity and seemingly endless time a weary traveller could find there.[3]

See also[edit]



This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Hobbit, George Allen & Unwin, 4th edition (1978), ch.3 p.47; ISBN 0-04-823147-9.
  2. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Hobbit, George Allen & Unwin, 4th edition (1978), ch.18 p.248 to ch.19 p.249 [Bilbo returns over the High Pass road and enters Rivendell from the south]; ISBN 0-04-823147-9.
  3. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #294 p. 376, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
  4. ^ The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years"
  5. ^ The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenórean Kings", "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"
  6. ^ The Silmarillion, 357.


  1. ^ a b Rivendell in Switzerland. scv.bu.edu. Retrieved on July 10, 2007.
  2. ^ "Kaitoke Regional Park | Wellington, New Zealand". www.newzealand.com. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Ciabattari, Jane (20 November 2014). "Hobbits and hippies: Tolkien and the counterculture". BBC Culture.
  4. ^ Shippey, Tom (1982). The Road to Middle-Earth. Grafton (HarperCollins). p. 168. ISBN 0261102753.
  5. ^ Shippey, Tom (1982). The Road to Middle-Earth. Grafton (HarperCollins). p. 183. ISBN 0261102753.
  6. ^ Shippey, Tom (1982). The Road to Middle-Earth. Grafton (HarperCollins). pp. 173–176. ISBN 0261102753.
  7. ^ 1960'erne: Ungdomsliv

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]