Situated on a rocky spit of dry land at the otherwise swampy junction of the River Uialduin with the River Lhun, this ancient place had been continuously inhabited since the opening years of the Second Age.
Caras Celairnen in T.A. 1640-1650:
- Type: Market Town
- Inhabitants: 85% Dúnadan, 15% Riverman
- Population: 1.500, later 400
- Origin: First settled around TA 740
- Purpose: A regional market town in southwestern Arthedain.
The origins of this settlement were somewhat obscure. The Dwarves of Nogrod once had a river-crossing and trading post in this area early in the First Age, when the Lhun flowed eastward instead of southwestward, and Elves walked down into Eriador over a mountain pass that would later become the floor of the Gulf of Lhun. At the time of the War of Wrath, flooding and earthquakes destroyed the Nogrodic fort and dropped the hill it was built on almost a thousand feet. In the early Second Age, a river port was needed by both Elves and Dwarves somewhere on the middle Lhun, and Gil-galad, elven High King of Lindon, commissioned Linnar's folk to build a village and docks on the rubble of the old post. The rebuilt town prospered, in a sleepy way, for long centuries.
For the first 700 years of the Second Age, it fell under the dominion of Galadriel's province of Nenuial, and was one of her largest communities (along with another settlement on the site of Annuminas, her capital). The Elven settlers there called the town e-Côr Calarnení or Kor of the Lampwater, and it was dominated by a hilltop fortress having some similarities to Tirion in the West.
The disappearance of the Noldor element with the founding of Eregion led to the Nandor who remained referring to the town as ë Karas Kalarneníó replacing the alien "Côr" with a nomenclature with which they were familiar.
The Noldo rule over Lindon collapsed after the War of the Last Alliance. Cirdan, the new Lord of the western Elves, had no desire to be liege to a mixed population of Dwarves and Men; he granted Caras Celairnen to the young King Valandil of Arnor as a gift. Its lord, the Arnaroquen of Celairnen, was chosen by the elders of the community from the Line of House Silanir, a family that claimed descent from both Cirdan of Lindon and the Line of Isildur. Caras Celairnen (Os. "Karas Kalarnen"; W. "Karibas ëKar-wichí"), also known as the Lampwater Town or the Caras, had never been more than a small village in the Second Age, but it had a steady population of about 1,500 throughout most of the Third Age and was the principal mortal settlement on the Lhun. It was a cosmopolitan place, with a substantial Dwarven minority and a steady flow of Silvan and Sinda visitors, but the Men here did not wish to exploit their limited contact with the Elves. A bridge over the Uialduin connected it to the Arnorian royal roads, while trails, ferries, and boats connected it to Lindon and the rest of Numeriador, and from there to the Dwarvish holds of the Ered Luin. Caras Celairnen was the westernmost center of purely Dúnadan culture in the North and it served as a headquarters for those explorers and traders who ventured into the rugged lands of Númeriador or the Ered Luin.
Valandil, in time, made the vale around the river junction an appendage to the crown and enfeifed it to his youngest son Silanir, who had married a Silvan Elf. At the same time, he gave Caras Celairnen a charter which made the town less subject to the Arnorian, and later Arthadan, government. The charter was renewed in T.A. 740, and the town laws brought into alignment with Arnorian custom. In exchange, Caras Celairnen received royal aid for expanding its dike and causeway system; many Dúnedain settled in Caras Celairnen after the rechartering, and they formed the bulk of the town's population ever since. Its autonomy was respected, however — the community remained an attractive place for political misfits, runaways, and odd characters who did't fit into the mainstream of Arthadan life. Among the last major acts of Valandil of Arnor (r.1-249) was the grant of the lordship of Calarnen to his youngest son, Silivnir, who had married a Lindel named Nôllien. They founded a dynasty which ruled the town and its environs through the division of the kingdom and its fall to be reincorporated into the Reunited Kingdom by Elessar.
Although when the lordship was granted to the sons of Silivnir it was quite large, portions of the territory were shaved off to act as dowries for the daughters and younger sons of the lords, so that in the mid-Third Age the fief was mainly the fortress itself, command of the militia, and the right to some of the proceeds of the town market. Circa 740 the senior line of the Silivniri became extinct and the fief was regranted to a junior line, though the town was given administrative independence by the king. To the east of Calarnen and the Lhun are the Holts of Barluin, villages directly subject to the King of Arthedain. These were mostly abandoned in the last war in the North (T.A. 1975), although some sites continued as Ranger encampments.
Caras Celairnen gained the peculiar distinction of being the northernmost Gondorian provincial capital for a few short, sad years. In that war, Calarnen was the military headquarters of the Gondorian king, ensuring its survival. After the formation of a formal alliance between Arthedain and Gondor, there was a need to carry Men and supplies up from Pelargir by sea. Mithlond was the only port north of Tharbad large enough to handle the greatest of the Gondorian ships, and it had few facilities and poor land connections with Arthedain. So, Gondorian engineers and administrators arrived in both Mithlond and Caras Celairnen to collect boats, and set up staging areas, warehouses, and camps — enough to move both the Gondorian and Elvish expeditionary forces from the Mithlond on smaller vessels in preparation for a later move inland. The over-awed locals saw constructions on a vast scale: "munitions and provision for a war of great kings," as the local tale had it for all the centuries after. But the main Gondorian soldiery came late, delayed by storms and bad judgement, and found their advance guard using the stored provisions to feed refugees fleeing the scouts of the Witch-king's advancing armies. So it happened that from Caras Celairnen, Earnur went forth — and, together with Cirdan of Lindon, Prince Aranarth of Arthedain, and Glorfindel of Rivendell, he met the Witch-king at the battle above Lake Evendim and destroyed the Angmarean host. The rulers of Arthedain were dead or scattered, and a Gondorian knight held the rule of Caras Celairnen for twenty years; Prince Earnur, disgraced by his horse's fear of the Witch-king, and having little use for Elves or northerners, left for the southlands early. And, once an heir of the house of Silanir was brought forth, the Gondorian garrisons of Caras Celairnen followed Earnur, leaving the ghosts of their camps and fortifications on the hills south of the Uialduin and legends of their strength and arrogance that passed from generation to generation.
Caras Celairnen became, once again, a sleepy provincial town. It stayed that way through the rest of the Third Age, acting as a market for the Rivermen of the Lhun, the Dwarves of the Ered Luin (many more of them after the fall of Khazad-dum in T.A. 1980), and eventually the Hobbits of the flourishing Westfarthing of the Shire.
Ships from the south were few and far between; the Elves grew more and more reclusive through the years and withdrew from Caras Celairnen. Yet, if there could be said to be a town both exotic and peaceful in Eriador, this was it. Little changed until the first years of the Fourth Age when King Elessar, who once visited the town as a wandering Ranger, returned. He made Curudur o Silanir a Lord of the Reunited Kingdom. Men and goods began to pass through Caras Celairnen from Gondor to the new capital being rebuilt at Annuminas, and with a promise long-delayed, the town began to flourish.
Caras Celairnen about T.A 1643
The Line of Silanir has ruled Caras Celairnen and the surrounding vale as lords ever since Valandil's grant. The Arnaroquen's authority has not been without interruption. Through complex political intrigues, much power devolved into the town council, which approves the descendant of the Line of Silanir to hold the lord's sceptre. It has not feared to depose an Arnaroquen who was incompetent or untrustworthy. The great-great grandson of Silanir, Malestir the Quiet, has been living with the Elves in Lindon for almost a thousand years; whenever the council likes none of its choices for lord, the Half-elf comes forth to serve Caras Celairnen for a time.
The current lord, Bregol, was barely able to cover up his illegal doings in the past year, and his daughter Lindal is curious about the source of her father's wealth and his continuing string of exotic Haradic mistresses. Bregol believes that the lack of an heir would make the council hesitate before pressing any scandalous investigation. He is planning the "unfortunate" deaths of both Lindal and his "cousin" Malestir, to whom he refers as "the Boring." Since the Half-elf cannot be reached in Lindon and is already worried about Lindal, it will take a complicated plan to kill them both.
After TA 3019
Caras Celairnen maintained itself through all the troubles of the Third Age, acting as a transit point for the Dwarven-Shire trade in food and hardgoods and a marketplace for Rivermen selling furs. Curudur, Lord of Caras Celairnen at the time of the War of the Ring, saw political opportunity in the fall of Sauron. He readily swore his allegiance to King Elessar, but made a series of claims on lands in the Twilight Hills and the upper Brandywine, sending out colonists and soldiers into country hunted and logged by Hobbits for centuries. After some violent incidents, Elessar, upon issuing his edict barring Men from entering the Shire in F.A. 6, settled most of these claims in favor of the Shire-folk, using the Hobbits as a political counter to Curudur's ambitions.
In the Fourth Age, the lord of Calarnen was Cethwin, a distant descendant of Silivnir, one of the few Elven-mortal marriages hinted at in the annals of Lindon. The local legend of a descent from Círdan was a legend, but he certainly had a strong strain of Dúnadan lineage, and was an ally of king Elessar.
late Third Age: Curudur
- MERP: The Shire
- MERP: Arnor
- Jeff J. Erwin: A Traveler's Guide to Lindon