The Grey Havens lie on
the Western edge of Middle-earth, at the gulf of the river Lhun. They are one of the most
ancient settlements in Middle-earth, founded at the end of the First Age by Círdan the
Shipwright, who built with timber from Nimbrethil the great ship that took Eärendil
across the western seas.
Many songs and tales of the First Age speak of the great sorrows and triumphs of spirit in
those times when The Black Lord claimed mastery of Middle-earth from his throne in the
deep pits of the earth. When the Lords of the West came to save Elves and Men they broke
the very land and cast many fair and ancient places beneath the waves.
Of the Elves in that time many went over sea into the West never to return to
Middle-earth. And the Edain, who had remained true to the Elves in those long dark years
of struggle, were granted the isle of Númenor upon which to grow in knowledge and bliss,
at least for a time.
But some Elves chose to remain in Middle-earth, amongst them Círdan of old, and with him
was Gil-Galad, high king of the Elves of Middle-earth, and many of folk who were loth to
depart west, for they loved Middle-earth. Thus the Grey Havens were made fair and
beautiful, and the houses and streets thronged with many Elves, though with each passing
year a few more would turn away from Middle-earth, or move Eastwards to new lands in
Eregion and Lothlórien.
Then, with the rise of Sauron and the coming of Elendil from the West, the Last Alliance
of Men and Elves was gathered in Arnor, and Gil-Galad went to war with a great host of
Elves, Noldor and Sindar, from the Havens. Battle there was on the plain of Dagorlad, and
many songs lament the fall of bright-eyed lords and warriors. Then, after many years of
siege, The Lord of Barad-dûr came forth and fought with Gil-Galad and Elendil, and was at
the last defeated, though at the heavy price of the lives of the kings of Elves and Men.
Thus ended the Second Age, and with the Last Alliance many Elves again grew weary of
Middle-earth and departed over-sea from the Havens. Yet others remained, reluctant to
desert the land for which their fellows had struggled and died. Thus the Elven-light
lingered in Imladris, house of Elrond Half-Elven, Son of Eärendil and Elwing, in
Lothlórien where Galadriel was queen, and in the Havens.
None have ever sailed to the Havens from the West, save the Wizards who came in the Third
Age when the Shadow arose again in Mirkwood. It is now told amongst the Elves that they
were sent by The Lords of the West to aid the people of Middle-earth against the Shadow,
and great was the aid of one, whom the Elves called Mithrandir, though others fell into
dark ways or lost their way.
And when Mithrandir's task was complete and Sauron thrown down, as is told in many songs
and tales of the great years at the end of the Third Age, he came again to the Havens with
Frodo and Bilbo, the Ring-bearers, and with them came Galadriel, Elrond and other mighty
Elven-lords now to depart Middle-earth.
Círdan had prepared a white swan ship and as the host boarded to depart, it was seen that
they openly wore the Three Elven-rings made by Celebrimbor alone. Thus had they effected
the preservation of many things in the Third Age, yet the power of the Rings had waned
with the destruction of the One, and so the Elven-light would wane also from Imladris and
the Golden Wood.
The passing of the ring-bearers brought to an end the Third Age and the beginning of the
Fourth Age, in which we now live.
"Of Númenor he spoke, its glory and its fall, and
the return of the Kings of Men to Middle-earth out of the deeps of the Sea, borne upon the
wings of storm. Then Elendil the Tall and his mighty sons, Isildur and Anárion, became
great lords; and the North-realm they made in Arnor, and the South-realm in Gondor about
the mouths of Anduin. But Sauron of Mordor assailed them, and they made the Last Alliance
of Elves and Men, and the hosts of Gil-galad and Elendil were mustered in Arnor.
Thereupon Elrond paused a while and sighed 'I remember well the splendour of
their banners,' he said 'It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of
Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, not so
fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken, and the Elves deemed that evil was ended for ever,
and it was not so.'
'I was the herald of Gil-galad and marched with his host. I was at the Battle
of Dagorlad before the Black Gate of Mordor, where we had the mastery: for the Spear of
Gil-galad and the Sword of Elendil, Aiglos and Narsil, none could withstand. I beheld the
last combat on the slopes of Orodruin, where Gil-galad died, and Elendil fell, and Narsil
broke beneath him; but Sauron himself was overthrown, and Isildur cut the Ring from his
hand with the hilt-shard of his father's sword, and took it for his own.'"
Council of Elrond, Fellowship of the Ring