J. R. R. Tolkien's painting of Rivendell
|J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location|
Last Homely House East of the Sea
|Type||Refuge of the Elves
|Location||eastern Eriador: a western valley of the Misty Mountains, north of Eregion and south-east of Rhudaur|
|Lifespan||S.A. 1697 - Fourth Age|
Rivendell is an Elven realm in Middle-earth, a fictional world created by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is an important location in Tolkien's legendarium, and is featured in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. It was established and ruled by Elrond Half-elven in the Second Age of Middle-earth (four or five thousand years before the events of The Lord of the Rings), and was protected by the powers of its lord and his elven ring Vilya.
Elrond lived in Rivendell with his family — his wife Celebrían (until she departed for Valinor), their sons Elladan and Elrohir, and their daughter Arwen — as well as a sizeable number of other Elves, both Noldor and Sindar. In addition to the family of Elrond, 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.
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. It 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.
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 a 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 lead to (or through) Rivendell: Rivendell was maintained as a hidden valley away from the road to the High Pass.
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.
Rivendell was founded in the year 1697 of the Second Age, following the destruction of the Elvish realm of Eregion by the forces of Sauron. Sauron had invaded Eregion in S.A. 1695 to wrest the rings of power from the Elven smiths. In response to this attack, Gil-galad sent a force from Lindon, commanded by Elrond, to bolster Eregion's defence. After two years of fighting Eregion was utterly destroyed. The remnants of Elrond's army and Eregion's refugees were driven north into the hills of Rhudaur by Sauron's forces, and were subsequently besieged for three years in the valley that would become the site of Rivendell. They were relieved in S.A. 1700 when an army of Elves from Lindon and their allies the Men of Númenor, in conjunction with the defenders, attacked the besieging force and annihilated it.
After the siege was lifted it was decided to abandon Eregion, leaving Rivendell the only Elven settlement in eastern Eriador. At the end of the Second Age it served 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 enjoyed centuries of peace, but was attacked in the fourteenth century of the Third Age by the armies of the Witch-king of Angmar. It again withstood a siege for some years, but its enemies were finally driven off when reinforcements arrived from Lothlórien. Several centuries later, a force sent from Rivendell, commanded by Glorfindel, took part in the final battle against the armies of Angmar.
Following the destruction of Arnor, the northern kingdom of the Númenórean exiles, in T.A. 1974, Rivendell became an important location for the remnants of its people, the Rangers of the North. Elrond held several important relics of the kingdom in his keeping, including the shards of Narsil, the Sceptre of Annúminas, the Star of Elendil, and the ring of Barahir, and all of the heirs of the chieftains of the Rangers were fostered in Rivendell as children. The most notable, and last, of these was Aragorn, whom Elrond regarded as a foster son. During his time in Rivendell Aragorn met and fell in love with Arwen. They were later married after he was crowned king of Gondor and Arnor.
Rivendell proved to be an important location in the events leading up to and during the War of the Ring. Fearing the growing power of Sauron, his enemies formed 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 (T.A. 3001) 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. In T.A. 3018 Frodo Baggins and his companions journeyed to Rivendell to deliver the Ring to safety from Sauron's agents, and stayed there for more than two months. In that time, several other Elves, Dwarves and Men also arrived at Rivendell on separate errands, and at the Council of Elrond they learned that all of their errands were related to the fate of the Ring. After a lengthy debate, the council decided upon destroying the Ring. Subsequently the Fellowship of the Ring was formed and departed 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 lost its power and he tired of Middle-earth. Thus at the beginning of the Fourth Age Elrond, and many of his household, left 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 Lórien within a few years of Galadriel's departure with Elrond's party. 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.
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," 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.
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.  The homes, including the waterfalls flowing beneath them, bear a striking similarity to Beatenberg which is located 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.
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.
The Canadian progressive rock band Rush memorializes Rivendell in the song "Rivendell" on their second studio album Fly By Night. The song focuses on the tranquillity and seemingly endless time a weary traveller could find there.
The Austrian folk band Rivendell takes the material for their lyrics almost entirely from Tolkien's books.
A Californian manufacturer of bicycles, Rivendell Bicycle Works, also uses the name, inspired by the book and a United States backpacking supply company founded in the 1970s called Rivendell Mountain Works. They take many of the names of their bicycle models from Tolkien.
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Hobbit, George Allen & Unwin, 4th edition (1978), ch.3 p.47; ISBN 0-04-823147-9.
- 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.
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #294 p. 376, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- The Silmarillion, 357.
- Rivendell in Switzerland. scv.bu.edu. Retrieved on July 10, 2007.
- Dickerson, Matthew (2006). "Rivendell". In Drout, Michael D. C. J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. pp. 573–574. ISBN 0-415-96942-5.
- "Rivendell". Tolkien Gateway.