||This article's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (December 2007)|
Círdan (pronounced [ˈkiːrdan]) ('ship-maker' in Sindarin) the Shipwright is a fictional character created by J. R. R. Tolkien. He was a Telerin Elf, a great mariner and shipwright, and lord of the Falas during much of the First Age. He was the bearer of the Great Ring Narya, which he in turn gave to Gandalf.
He had a beard, which was rare for Elves, and was of great age at the time of the War of the Ring. He was first mentioned around the time of Melkor's imprisonment at the beginning of the First Age. Círdan had grey or silver hair in the Third Age of Middle-earth, like his overlord and kinsman Thingol.
His 'true' name, according to the tradition among the Sindar of Doriath, was Nōwē ([ˈnɔːwɛː]) in the form it had in the original tongue of the Elves. It was never used after his settlement in Beleriand and thus has no Sindarin or Quenya form.
Before the First Age 
Círdan first appears in the Middle-earth legendarium as a Telerin elf. During their journey west, Elwë, entranced by the beauty of his Queen-to-be Melian, went missing from the other Teleri. After an extended search, his brother Olwë took sole kingship and continued to Valinor. He left Círdan with a group of elves to continue the unsuccessful search.
Though Círdan was originally intent on following Olwë, on the night before his people's departure, he had a dream in which he received a message from the Valar.
"And the voice warned him not to attempt this peril; for his strength and skill would not be able to build any ship able to dare the winds and waves of the Great Sea for many long years yet. "Abide now that time, for when it comes then will your work be of utmost worth, and it will be remembered in song for many ages after." "I obey," Círdan answered, and then it seemed to him that he saw (in a vision maybe) a shape like a white boat, shining above him, that sailed west through the air, and as it dwindled in the distance it looked like a star of so great a brilliance that it cast a shadow of Círdan upon the strand where he stood." The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "Last Writings - Círdan," p. 386
Círdan obeyed and assumed lordship over the region. The Telerin elves who stayed in the Falas called themselves Eglath, the Forsaken People, and became known as the Falathrim. They established the cities of Eglarest and Brithombar in this region. It was at this time that he took the name Círdan, meaning 'Shipwright'. The Falas remained a peaceful maritime culture until the coming of Morgoth.
Later First Age 
Círdan's role during the First Age centred on his lordship of the Falas. Although he sent troops to fight in most of the major battles of the wars with Morgoth, Tolkien mostly referred to Círdan's armies in passing. As Morgoth destroyed the other Elven kingdoms, each in turn, the Falas repeatedly absorbed refugees. Morgoth finally turned his attention to Círdan's havens and...
"...ravaged all the Falas, and besieged the walls of Brithombar and Eglarest. Smiths and miners and masters of fire they brought with them, and they set up great machines; and valiantly though they were resisted, they broke the walls at last. Then the Havens were laid in ruin, and the tower of Barad Nimras cast down;" The Silmarillion. Second Edition. 'Of the Fifth Battle'. p. 196
The remnant of Círdan's folk were forced to flee by ship to the Isle of Balar, where they created a refuge and maintained a small fleet. As time passed, Círdan regained control over the lands around the Mouth of Sirion, and moved his fleet there.
Círdan played a minor part in the story of Túrin Turambar, sending the emissaries Gelmir and Arminas to relay a message of warning from Ulmo about closing gates of Nargothrond. Círdan also continued to shelter refugees, including Elwing, Tuor, and Eärendil, to whom Círdan taught the craft of shipbuilding.
However, in the year 532, the remaining four Sons of Fëanor, still bound to their terrible Oath, assaulted the Havens at the Mouth of Sirion, seeking the Silmaril that was in Elwing's possession. Though some elves escaped by ship, the Haven (the last surviving bastion against Morgoth) was destroyed.
During the War of Wrath, the land of Beleriand sank beneath the ocean. However, because of Círdan's mariners, many survived and sailed to the new shores of Middle-earth, where they would come to form the havens of Lindon and Mithlond (the Grey Havens). Círdan now settled in this place.
The Second Age 
Círdan again plays a mostly supporting role in the Second Age. He assisted the Edain, the men who had helped fight against Morgoth, by giving them ships and training them to reach the island of Númenor. Among these was a mariner by the name of Vëantur whose grandson Aldarion would one day become the King of Númenor.
Círdan was early to distrust the being named Annatar, and refused him entry to the Havens. He similarly advised the Elves at Eregion not to forge the Rings of Power under Annatar's tutelage, though they ignored his warning. The rings proved indeed to be a trap; Annatar was none other than Sauron the Dark Lord, who forged the One Ring to control the others.
Círdan was entrusted with Narya, one of the Three Rings not subject to Sauron's control. There is some inconsistency in Tolkien's texts concerning when Círdan received Narya from Gil-galad. In the essay "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn" of Unfinished Tales it is stated that Gil-galad relinquished the Ring of Fire only at the outset of the War of the Last Alliance. However this is in variance with both "The Tale of Years" and a statement made earlier in "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn" claiming that Círdan received the Ring as soon as Gil-galad was given it by Celebrimbor.
The Third Age 
After Gil-galad's death, the Elves of Lindon came under the sole lordship of Círdan. Many elves departed from the Havens to Valinor, leaving Círdan's domain smaller and less populated.
As Sauron began his gradual return to power, the Valar sent the five Istari (wizards) as emissaries to aid Middle-earth. At their request, Círdan kept his knowledge of their origin and purpose a secret even from the other leaders of the elves. Although Curunír (known to Men as Saruman) was declared to be their leader, Círdan perceived that Gandalf was the wisest. He secretly gave Gandalf Narya, the Ring of Fire, telling him:
"Take this ring, Master, for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill. But as for me, my heart is with the Sea, and I will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails. I will await you." Appendix B: "The Tale of Years," p. 366
Three hundred years later, Círdan's armies played a small role in the wars with the Witch-king of Angmar, but played a key role in the victory at Amon Sûl. His ships tried but failed to rescue the last king of Arthedain, Arvedui. The Havens at Mithlond provided anchorage for a fleet of ships sent by King Eärnur of Gondor. Elves of Círdan's folk also participated in the Battle of Fornost, helping to defeat the Witch-king.
After the fall of the Dúnedain, Círdan was entrusted with the palantír of Elostirion. Círdan returned to his role orchestrating the continued migration of elves from Middle-earth to Valinor and kept an especially large white ship for the eventual departure of Gandalf and the other wizards.
Círdan took part in the White Council after Sauron's return and years later sent his counsellor, Galdor, to speak on his behalf at the Council of Elrond. After the War of the Ring, Círdan reappears when Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins all arrived at the Havens to set sail for Valinor. Although Círdan remains in Middle-earth, he is not mentioned in the (brief and cursory) descriptions by Tolkien of the Fourth Age. He is characterized as being destined to set sail on the Last Ship to Valinor.
In the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, Círdan appears only briefly in the prologue of the first film, and at the end of the third film. He appears mostly as he is described in the book, but lacks a beard. His first appearance is during Galadriel's monologue at the start of the first movie, in a brief shot of the three Elven ringbearers. He appears for a second time in the scene at the end of the third movie when Frodo, Galadriel, Elrond, Celeborn, Gandalf and Bilbo board the ship at the Grey Havens. He has no speaking role.
The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game 
Círdan the Shipwright appears in the LOTR Trading Card Game as part of the Mount Doom expansion pack.
See also 
House of CírdanBorn: ? Years of the Trees|YT Died: Immortal in Aman
None; Realm established
|Lord of Falas||Succeeded by
None; Beleriand Destroyed
Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor
|Lord of Lindon||Succeeded by
None; Realm Abandoned