Thursday, 24 June 2021

How was Rivendell defended?

Rivendell was located in a hidden valley; and, while it is obvious that being hidden was a helpful defence - I find it very difficult to imagine how a valley was defended when the enemy had succeeded in locating and attacking Rivendell.

Rivendell was twice besieged by Sauron - once in the second and again (by the Witch King of Angmar) in the third age (there is a description in the History of Middle Earth of the near starvation during one of these sieges). 

But I cannot understand how - at least in a material military sense - a valley could be defended; since castles are always placed upon raised ground. To be located in a valley allows the enemy to approach unmolested, and gives height advantage in hand to hand fighting - while allowing the enemy to rain down projectiles from the valley sides. Furthermore, it seems that the house of Elrond itself was not fortified - at least, this is never mentioned nor depicted by Tolkien in his drawings. 

However, since Rivendell did indeed withstand two sieges, despite being in a very disadvantageous location; I think we must look elsewhere for an explanation.  

My best guess is that it was defended by High Elf magic, in some way analogous to the Girdle of Melian - which was an encircling, magical barrier cast by Melian, wife of Thingol Greycloak - around the Sindarin elf kingdom of Doriath. This (usually) caused the unauthorized to become bewildered and lost - to die of starvation.  

It may be that this was how Rivendell was 'hidden' from hostile eyes - because otherwise Saurons winged servants (such as crows) could surely spot any large valley - no matter how flat the surrounding landscape. 

Perhaps during the sieges of Rivendell, the forces of Sauron could not find the valley; or (at least, not without the physical presence of Sauron himself) could not get through it and into Rivendell. Perhaps their plan involved starving the elves towards a point where the barrier would weaken or break? 


Keri Ford said...

Agreed, Elrond held one of the 3 Elven rings it always seemed to me that the Hobbits entry there was due to grace. Whenever I see or read of base men/beings invading Elfland I shudder as they are not of it's nature and can't enter there, the magic has to recede before the base can enter. They are not defended simply physically.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Keri - And I suppose the same would apply to Lothlorien - Galadriel says that 'not by arrows alone' is it defended.

The Wood Elves realm in Mirkwood seems also to have some but presumably lesser magic - therefore it is an underground fortress.

The Gray Havens (which is the only other elf enclave) seems relatively more exposed to invasion, but is protected by its distance and the other realms in the path of enemies. Also its ruler, Cirdan (although he is, like Thranduil of Mirkwood, a Gray Elf (Sindar), and not a High Elf (Noldor)) has various magical powers and was once an elf-ring bearer. High Elves inhabit the Havens; therefore they would almost certainly have some magical defense.

At the time of LotR it seems that the elves are relatively well able to defend their enclaves, but seem to have lost the ability or will to project power to other realms.

Brick Hardslab said...

Thinking about this, as with all, 'proper' i.e. rightly used, magic the actor needed to have the proper authority to use it.

Elrond as a lord of the elves and Galadriel as the lady probably had both the power and proper authority to ward their realms. The rings couldn't hurt either.