There are many versions of Galadriel and Celeborn's histories, since Tolkien rewrote their backstories frequently over the years. Below is a summary of each version. My intent is to clearly map out Tolkien's writing process and make clear which works should logically be considered canon.
What I've labeled "primary canon" is derived from the works Tolkien published during his lifetime, The Lord of the Rings
and The Road Goes Ever On
. Because Tolkien allowed them to be published, they are considered canon by most fans. However, there is plenty of information in the published Silmarillion
, Unfinished Tales
, and The History of Middle-earth
series that can also be considered canon. In the case of these three works, which were published after Tolkien's death, facts are usually considered canon as long as they represent Tolkien's final intent and don't directly contradict LotR
. Of course, there are arguably exceptions to this rule.
-1st edition The Lord of the Rings, 1954-5
In the first edition of LotR
, Celeborn is an Elf of Lórien, probably of Nandorin origin. Galadriel, a Noldorin exile, leaves Beleriand before the end of the First Age and meets him there. It is ambiguous whether Tolkien conceived Galadriel as having been banned from returning to the West at the end of the First Age because of her part in the Rebellion of the Noldor. On one hand the poem "Namárië" seems to suggest a ban, but her words "I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel" could be construed to imply a lack of a ban.
-primary canon: 2nd edition The Lord of the Rings, 1965; The Road Goes Ever On, 1967
As in the published Silmarillion
, Celeborn is a Sinda of Doriath and a kinsman of Thingol. Galadriel meets him in Doriath and marries him before the end of the First Age.
According to The Road Goes Ever On
, Galadriel is banned from returning to Aman at the end of the First Age and is, at any rate, too proud to seek pardon. At the beginning of the Second Age, she and Celeborn live in Lindon, south of the Lune, before passing over Ered Luin and going to Eregion. Of their whereabouts after this, these two books are silent. They quite possibly live in Imladris for a time, giving their daughter Celebrían a chance to meet and marry Elrond at the beginning of the Third Age. They also probably have contact with Lórien before becoming its rulers in T.A. 1981.
One enigma is Galadriel's remark in The Lord of the Rings
about "passing over the mountains" before the fall of Nargothrond or Doriath. In the first edition, this referred to her leaving Beleriand and meeting Celeborn in Lórien, but when Celeborn becomes a Sindarin Elf, there's no reason for them to randomly leave Doriath in the middle of the First Age. Moreover, the RGEO
passage referred to above seems to imply that they go over the Ered Luin for the first time in the Second Age. Possibly it was left in the second edition by accident, or maybe Tolkien hadn't settled the question yet. One isolated source cited in Unfinished Tales
indicates that they indeed stay in Middle-earth until the sack of Doriath, which they escape.
Another canon debate regarding The Lord of the Rings
revolves around the question of whether Celeborn left Middle-earth during the Fourth Age. The Prologue states that "there is no record of the day when at last he sought the Grey Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth." Sticklers will argue that this leaves the matter ambiguous. In the unpublished epilogue to The The Lord of the Rings
, however, Sam says that "Celeborn is still happy among his trees, in an Elvish way. His time hasn't come, and he isn't tired of his land yet. When he is tired he can go." This seems to pin down Tolkien's intent pretty firmly. While the epilogue wasn't included in the published version of LotR
, it was left out mostly for reasons of style, and in this case I think we can take it as canonical fact. (Though it should be noted that the text was written c. 1st edition LotR, and seems to present Celeborn as a Silvan Elf among "his trees.")
-"Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn," written c. 2nd-edition LotR (not consistent with RGEO)
In this essay published in Unfinished Tales
, Celeborn and Galadriel meet as described in 2nd-edition LotR
. At the end of the First Age, Galadriel remains in Middle-earth of her own free will. No mention is made of their stay in Lindon, but they are said to have dwelt by Lake Nenuial for some time at the beginning of the Second Age. In this version, Amroth is their son, an apparently ephemeral idea that is not present in The Lord of the Rings
and disappears later.
In this essay, Galadriel and Celeborn are the founders and rulers of Eregion. The Appendices of the 2nd edition The Lord of the Rings
tell us that Celebrimbor was Lord of Eregion, but the two statements can be potentially reconciled as the narrative continues; after the arrival of Sauron, whom Galadriel does not trust, Celebrimbor and the Gwaith-i-Mírdain are convinced to rebel against Galadriel and Celeborn's rule. After this, Celebrimbor becomes lord of Eregion.
After the rebellion, Galadriel and her children retreat to Lórien, a land with which she has already had contact, and to which Noldor and Sindar from Eregion have begun to emigrate, mingling with the native Silvan Elves. She takes up rule there, since the Silvan Elves have no native rulers. Celeborn remains in Eregion; he will not pass through Khazad-dûm because of his resentment toward the Dwarves.
When Celebrimbor discovers that he has been betrayed by Sauron, he goes to Lórien and takes counsel with Galadriel, giving her Nenya. In the war that follows, Celeborn leads a sortie against Sauron's forces, driving them back from Eregion temporarily. Unable to hold off the attackers permanently, he joins his own force to Elrond's. He presumably fights alongside Elrond in subsequent battles. Once the fighting ends and Sauron is temporarily defeated, Galadriel and Celebrían go to Imladris in search of Celeborn, with Amroth taking up Galadriel's rule in Lórien in the meantime. They find him there and settle in Imladris for a long time. At this time, Elrond first meets Celebrían and falls in love with her, but he says nothing to her. Later, Galadriel, Celeborn, and Celebrían go to live in Belfalas for a time, at the place later called Dol Amroth, and Elves from Lórien join them there. Presumably Celebrían returns to Imladris before T.A. 109 and marries Elrond, but this is not explicitly stated. Galadriel and Celeborn do not return permanently to Lórien until Amroth is lost in T.A. 1981.
This essay contains some pieces of information that are not definitely contradicted by the books or by later essays, and thus can potentially be considered canon, notably their rule of Eregion.
-"Amroth and Nimrodel," written 1969 or later
This essay reworks many ideas contained in the essay above. It seems to presuppose that Galadriel and Celeborn live in Eregion during the Second Age, but it says nothing about it explicitly. Amroth is once again unrelated to them, a Sindarin prince ruling Silvan people. The Noldor of Eregion settle Lórien not under peaceful conditions, but in S.A. 1697, after the fall of Eregion. Celeborn goes with the refugees to Lórien and fortifies it against Sauron, but when the fighting is over and Sauron retreats to Mordor, he rejoins Galadriel in Lindon, where she apparently went after the fall of Eregion. (An alternate contemporary source describes them as both going to Lórien after Eregion's fall and remaining there a long time.) Galadriel and Celeborn's whereabouts between Sauron's defeat and his reappearance in Mirkwood are not accounted for. When the Shadow begins to fall on Mirkwood, however, Celeborn and Galadriel go to Lórien and travel throughout Rhovanion, investigating the rumors of trouble. Finally, they finish their journeying and go to live in Imladris with Elrond and Celebrían until Amroth is lost. At that time, they take up rule in Lórien.
In a brief essay similar to this one, Galadriel and Celeborn return to Lórien twice before the end of the Second Age (presumably after their initial contact with it after the fall of Eregion.) They dwell in Lórien for "a long time" during the Third Age in response to the Shadow in Mirkwood. But, again, they do not take up permanent residence until 1981.
-The Shibboleth of Fëanor, written in 1970s
Much of this essay is published in The Peoples of Middle-earth
, but the Galadriel-centric section was also included in Unfinished Tales
In this late essay, Celeborn is a Teler of Aman who gives Galadriel her name as an epessë and later marries her in Beleriand. It is not said how he comes to Middle-earth. Many details are introduced concerning Galadriel's life in Aman: her mother- and father-names, a more detailed description of her temperament and motivations for leaving Aman, a description of her antagonistic relationship with Fëanor, and the assertion that she fought in defense of the Teleri in the Kinslaying. She is not described of having been banned at the end of the First Age, but instead refuses the pardon that the Valar grant her. Obviously not all of this agrees with The Lord of the Rings
, but the story of her departure and her involvement of the Rebellion are consistent with RGEO
and the published Silmarillion
. As a whole, this essay is not quite canon, but much of the information it introduces meshes with canon and has been generally adopted as such by fans. They should still be taken with a grain of salt, though, considering the enormous change this essay anticipates (see below.)
-late writing, written in 1970s
At the end of his life, Tolkien continued to explore a new conception of Celeborn as a Teler. In these notes, Celeborn becomes the grandson of Olwë. Galadriel and Celeborn oppose Fëanor and defend the Teleri in the Kinslaying. They leave separately from the Noldorin rebels, and only come under the Ban against the Noldor because they departed without Manwë's permission at a time when he would not have given it. They arrive in Middle-earth before the Noldor, are welcomed by Thingol, and do not take part in the battle against Angband, writing it off as hopeless. Instead, they go over Ered Lindon before the end of the First Age, believing that to build up a power here would be strategically useful. However, they receive no assistance from the Elves of Beleriand, which undermines their plan. At the end of the First Age, they receive permission to return to Aman, but they decide to stay in Middle-earth and continue their work.
The biggest problem with this late alternate history is that it makes Galadriel and Celeborn first cousins, probably a taboo marriage among Elves. Technically, "Law and Customs Among the Eldar," an essay published in Morgoth's Ring
, states that only first cousins who are both maternal and paternal cousins are barred from marriage, but as far as I know Tolkien never developed this idea in such a way that it meshes with the story of Maeglin and Idril, so it can't really be considered canon.
The second biggest problem with this alternate history is that it totally contradicts nearly everything that Tolkien ever wrote about Galadriel and Celeborn. :) Though it does have Galadriel "passing over the mountains" before the end of the First Age, showing that Tolkien was aware of this minor inconsistency; you have to give the man points for style. So while it's a really interesting idea - especially if you consider that a semi-permanently exiled Galadriel might not have been Tolkien's original intent - it really can't be considered canon, and I think we all not-so-secretly like rebel Galadriel better.