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A long river running north to south, east of the Misty Mountains
Framsburg stood at beginning of the river in the far North; farther south in Gondor, it flowed through Osgiliath and then past the ports of Harlond and Pelargir before reaching its Mouths
The confluence of the Langwell and Greylin in the north of Middle-earth
a'nduin (where ui is pronounced as in English 'ruin')
'Long river'
Other names


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  • Updated 8 August 2022
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River Anduin

The Great River

Map of the Great River Anduin
"Anduin the Great flows past many shores, ere it comes to Argonath and the Gates of Gondor."
Words of Elrond
from The Fellowship of the Ring II 2
The Council of Elrond

Rivers of Gondor

The longest and most important river of Middle-earth, Anduin's course ran for some 1,200 miles1 (about 1,900 km) from its cold northern springs to its wide Mouths on the Bay of Belfalas in the distant South. Often called the Great River (or simply 'the River'), much of its northern course carried it parallel to the Misty Mountains, and it was fed by many tributaries running down out of those mountains. On its lower stretches, as it wound past Gondor, the river became wide and slow-moving, and at its outflow it branched into a delta that stretched across many miles along the coast.


The sources of Anduin lay in the north of Middle-earth, in the region northwestward of Mirkwood where two mountain ranges came close together. These were the Misty Mountains and the Grey Mountains, and from each of these ranges a stream emerged. One of these streams, the Greylin, ran southward from the Grey Mountains, while the other, the Langwell, flowed eastward out of the Misty Mountains. The name Langwell means 'long spring' a reference to its importance as a source of Anduin (or Langflood as it was known to the Men of this northern region). The beginnings of Anduin proper lay at the confluence of these two short streams.

From there, Anduin ran southward through a wide green vale between the Misty Mountains and Greenwood the Great, extending along the entire western edge of the immense Forest. In this part of its course, the river could be crossed relatively easily, and several fords and bridges existed along this stretch. At a point some hundred miles south of the confluence of Langwell and Greylin, Anduin's course was split by a huge stony island, the Carrock, that rose out of the middle of the stream.

In this northern part of the river, Anduin had two main tributaries, both flowing down from the Misty Mountains to the west. The more northerly of these was the stream known as Rhimdath, and southward of this the Gladden River or Sîr Ninglor flowed into Anduin. At one time a small lake had formed where the Gladden merged with Anduin, though in later times this became the wide marshland known as the Gladden Fields.

After the river emerged from the marshes, the waters of Anduin quickened. Some hundred and fifty miles southward of the Gladden Fields, it ran past a woodland on its western banks that came down to the river. This was the forest land of Lothlórien, and out of it emerged the river Celebrant, the Silverlode out of the Mountains of Moria, to join Anduin's stream. The Angle formed by the two rivers was known by the people of that land as the Naith, and formed the heart of the hidden land of Lórien.

For some distance southward of Lórien, Anduin flowed past forested banks, but eventually the trees gave way to open spaces. Already measuring a bowshot from bank to bank, the river now widened and shallowed, meandering into two long southward loops known as the Undeeps. These Undeeps were shallow enough that the river could be forded, and this was the most southerly point where it could be easily crossed above the bridges of Osgiliath, far to the south.2 It was in this part of its course that the stream known as the Limlight ran out of Fangorn Forest to meet Anduin. During the later Third Age, this stream would mark the northern border of Rohan.

From this point, Anduin's banks began to rise until it was running along a stony valley that cut through high moors. Here the river widened and shallowed, and at points shoals of gravel emerged on the eastern side of its course. The stony banks rose higher as it ran southward into the hills of the Emyn Muil, until eventually the wide course of Anduin was passing between cliffs on either side. Within this channel lay a stretch of rocky rapids known as Sarn Gebir, 'stone spikes', for the sharp rocks extending from the water and churning its water into foam. At this point in its course, a way had been made down its western bank to allow boating traffic to travel overland past the dangerous Rapids.

At the southern end of this rocky passage, the waters of Anduin spread out to form a wide oval lake, Nen Hithoel, separating the western and eastern hills of the Emyn Muil. At the southern end of this lake, the river ran around the tall island of Tol Brandir and over a rocky lip to form the great waterfall of Rauros.

Below Rauros, Anduin began to bend eastward as it was fed from the west by many small streams. These streams were formed by the Mouths of the river known as Entwash or Onodló, which broke into a wide delta as it joined Anduin. The Entwash was a significant river in its own right, and its confluence with Anduin created a wide marshland to the east, the Nindalf or Wetwang that stretched on eastward for some fifty miles from Anduin's banks towards the Dead Marshes beyond.

Combined with the waters of Entwash, Anduin began to widen and slow yet further as it curved towards the barrier of the White Mountains. Along this stretch the river parted for some miles into two arms, surrounding the island of Cair Andros, before rejoining at the island's southern end. The Great River flowed on around the eastern edge of the White Mountains, before looping back westward to begin the final stretch of its journey to the Sea.

Along this final part of its course, Anduin was fed by three further major tributaries, Erui, Sirith and Poros, as well as many smaller streams. As it widened and slowed further, eventually the single flow of the Great River began to divide into smaller streams. The result was a wide delta some twenty miles long, Ethir Anduin or the Mouths of Anduin, that spread out over a wide region of coastline. Here the waters of Anduin finally reached the Great Sea, emptying into the wide Bay of Belfalas.

Anduin in the First Age

Anduin first entered history in the distant past, during the time that the Eldar were making their Great Journey westward across Middle-earth towards Valinor. The first clans of the Elves crossed the river and travelled into the Misty Mountains beyond, but the hindmost group, the Teleri, paused on the banks of Anduin. Fearing the heights that lay ahead, one of their number, named Lenwë, gave up on the Journey. Instead of continuing westward, Lenwë took a great number of the Teleri and journeyed southward along Anduin, eventually settling in the woods on either side of the river. His followers became known as the Nandor, and gave rise to the people known in later times as the Silvan Elves. While most of these Nandor settled in the forests fringing Anduin, some intrepid Elves continued on southward along the river towards its distant Mouths, and it was these people who would eventually found the haven of Edhellond.

The first Men to cross Anduin did not arrive until much later. After the Sun first rose into the sky, Men awoke in the distant East of Middle-earth and many of them began a long journey westward. The first of these to come to Anduin were the Drúedain, who were thought to have crossed the river near Cair Andros and moved on into the foothills of the White Mountains. The Men who would become known as the Edain came some time later, and though we have no precise account of their movements, at least some crossed the river and passed the White Mountains before they travelled on far westward of Anduin to cross the Blue Mountains.

Anduin in the Second Age

Through the early years of Middle-earth's history, the lands through which Anduin flowed were, for the most part, wild and unpeopled. The greatest exception during the early Second Age was a land of the Silvan Elves then known as Lórinand (and later as Lórien). The heartland of this realm lay in the Angle where the river Celebrant flowed down into Anduin. According to some sources, at this time the lands of the Elves spread across the Great River, so that they also occupied the southern parts of Greenwood the Great (in the region where Sauron would, much later, raise his tower of Dol Guldur).

Southward of the Forest and of Lórien, extending from Anduin's eastern bank, was a wide fertile region where the Entwives had their gardens during this period. These gardens would not survive the wars of the later Second Age, and by the end of that Age the region where they had lain was blasted and empty. After the loss of the Entwives and their gardens, Anduin's eastern bank ran dark and barren for more than a hundred miles as the river flowed past the Brown Lands that had once been rich and green.

The Númenóreans returned to Middle-earth early in the Second Age, but for the most part their activities were far from Anduin, in the western lands beyond the Misty Mountains. In II 2350, however, the Númenóreans established themselves on the Great River. They built the port of Pelargir about a hundred miles upriver from the Mouths of Anduin at the inflow of the southern tributary of Sirith.

Pelargir grew to become one of the great Númenórean havens in Middle-earth. In the later years of the Second Age, much of this growth was driven by political strife in Númenor itself, where persecution of the Faithful party saw many of those Men choose to exile themselves in Middle-earth. In the closing years of Númenor's dominance, then, the lands around the Mouths of Anduin saw a burgeoning population of the Faithful. As an important centre for trade from across Middle-earth, a lingua franca developed here based largely on the Adúnaic tongue of Númenor, and this language - the Westron - was spread by traders up the Great River. In the following centuries the Westron would become the Common Language of Middle-earth.

Very nearly a thousand years after the foundation of Pelargir, an immense storm rose out of the Western Sea. Far to the west, King Ar-Pharazôn of Númenor had attempted to invade the home of the Valar in Aman, and his pride had brought about the Downfall of Númenor. Out of the destruction, five ships were carried into the Mouths of Anduin by a rushing wave, and aboard those ships were Isildur and Anárion, the sons of Elendil. In Númenor, Elendil's house had been Lords of Andúnië and leaders of the Faithful, and so the people of Pelargir and the riverlands welcomed Elendil's sons.

Under the leadership of Isildur and Anárion, a new nation rose up along the lower course of Anduin. Thus Gondor was founded, and its capital stood on the Great River itself. This was the city of Osgiliath, built on either bank, with great bridges spanning the river's broad course. The land eastward of the river, Ithilien, was taken by Isildur, while westward of the river lay Anórien, held by Anárion. The brothers ruled their realm jointly under their father the High King in the North, with their thrones beside one another in the heart of Osgiliath on Anduin, the chief city of their new realm.

After a little over a century of peace, the new land of Gondor was threatened by Mordor, which lay directly to its east. Isildur's tower of Minas Ithil was the nearest outpost of Gondor to the Dark Lord's land, and it was attacked and captured. Isildur himself, however, was able to escape. Leading his family down to Anduin, they sailed away to its Mouths, and thence northward along the coasts of Middle-earth to find Elendil in Arnor. Meanwhile Anárion went to war, holding the bridges of Osgiliath against the forces of Sauron, and preventing them from crossing the Great River.

Over the next three years, the forces of Elendil and Gil-galad formed a Last Alliance against Sauron and made ready to march southward against Mordor. In those days the Forest Road crossed a bridge over Anduin, and the engineers of the Alliance strengthened and widened this bridge so that their armies could cross the Great River.3 They followed the course of Anduin southward along much of its length, until they approached the Dark Land of Sauron.

Anduin in the Third Age

The Last Alliance won their War and banished Sauron into the shadows, but both Elendil and Gil-galad perished in that War. Elendil's heir Isildur took the One Ring from the defeated Sauron, and spent two years in the South-kingdom before setting out northwards to take up his throne as High King in Arnor.

Isildur's small army marched along the eastern banks of Anduin for many days, until they were suddenly set upon by a band of Orcs. Unprepared for the attack, Isildur's guard was decimated, and Isildur himself fled towards the river, using the power of the Ring to make himself invisible to the Orcs. The waters of the Great River were swollen with rains from the north at that time, but nonetheless he attempted to swim across. Anduin's raging waters carried him far to the south as he swam, but eventually he came ashore in the Gladden Fields on its western bank. It was then that he realised that the Ring had betrayed him and slipped from his finger, making him visible once again. As he came ashore, was ambushed by more Orcs and met his end amid the reeds of Anduin's banks. The One Ring, meanwhile, sank into the depths of Anduin.

The Ring lay at the bottom of Anduin for centuries and millennia, while in the world above nations rose and fell. After some thousand years, its master Sauron eventually returned, hiding his true nature by taking on the guise of the Necromancer. He occupied Dol Guldur in the southern parts of Mirkwood, overlooking the Vales of Anduin and the woods of Lórien beyond the river. In turn, the Elves of Lórien watched Dol Guldur across the valley from the heights of their trees.

Gondor and the Great River

Even before Sauron's return, invaders from the East had begun to menace Gondor, and the Kings responded by fortifying the course of the Great River. First, forts were built to guard the Undeeps, and later fortifications were raised further south at Nen Hithoel and Sarn Gebir. This later phase included the construction of two great statues, the Argonath or Pillars of the Kings. These statues marked Gondor's northern boundary for traffic on the river, and beyond them only those with permission to do so could sail farther into the South-kingdom. As the centuries passed, Gondor's borders withdrew southward, and the purpose of the great statues of Isildur and Anárion was forgotten, but they still looked out to the North with a forbidding gaze even at the end of the Third Age.

In III 1432, a civil war broke out in the South-kingdom, and as the fighting spread through Osgiliath, the palantír of that city was cast into the river. The Seeing-stone was never recovered and perhaps, like the One Ring far to the north, it lay lost in the depths of Anduin. Realistically, however, given the proximity of the Mouths of Anduin, the Stone was probably swept out into the depths of the Sea.

Though its old chief city of Osgiliath had been built on Anduin, the heartlands of Gondor were westward of the river, though at its height it also laid claim to many regions to the east. In the year III 1856, these eastern domains were invaded by a powerful force of Easterlings known as the Wainriders. Their initial assault could not be repulsed, and Gondor lost its King, Narmacil II, in those attacks, as well as almost all its possessions beyond Anduin. After this time, all that remained of Gondor eastward of the river was the province of Ithilien, a narrow green land running between Anduin and Ephel Dúath. The Northmen of Rhovanion also suffered terribly in these attacks, and many of them departed their old homelands and moved northward and westward into the Vales of Anduin; this was the beginning of the people of the Éothéod who would later migrate into the northern lands around the springs of the Great River.

The wars against the Wainriders continued for nearly a century. In III 1944 King Ondoher led out two armies against them, which crossed Anduin at Osgiliath and then marched both north and south to face divided enemies. Ondoher led the Northern Army and was defeated and slain, but Eärnil, Captain of the Southern Army, defeated his own foes and then marched northward to finally defeat the Wainriders at the Battle of the Camp. Thus Gondor's few remaining possessions beyond Anduin were preserved, though at great cost.

Northmen and Halflings

In the northern Vales of Anduin dwelt the earliest known Hobbits, living in sandy holes excavated from banks along the river. The Northmen of the region (from whom the Beornings and the Woodmen of Mirkwood were descended) also dwelt in the Vales of Anduin, and these ancestral peoples were clearly in friendly contact with the Halflings (to the extent that the early Hobbits adopted the languages of the Northmen). During this period, the Hobbits were still divided into three distinct groups, the Fallohides, the Harfoots and the Stoors (and the names of all three of these groups come from the language of the Northmen).

After about a thousand years of the Third Age had passed, the northern lands of the Vales of Anduin became increasingly dangerous, and the Hobbits began to move westward, with most of them choosing to depart the Great River. In about III 1300, the kingdom of Angmar was founded in the northern Misty Mountains, and the lands under the control of its Witch-king spread into the region around Anduin's springs.

In about this time, when the Gondorians were raising the Argonath, they had allies in Rhovanion, the eastern lands beyond the Great River. These were Northmen, who were not Dúnedain themselves, but were descended from peoples connected with the Edain of the First Age. These Northmen of Rhovanion had survived in the wide eastern lands for some centuries, but had been decimated by the Dark Plague of III 1635, and later by the invading Wainriders. Eventually one Marhwini had led a remnant of this people westward out of the plains of Rhovanion to settle in the lower Vales of Anduin.

Over the years that followed, these people gradually moved farther and farther northwards up the course of Anduin. They settled for a time in the middle Vales, between the Carrock and the inflow of the Gladden River, but eventually they moved on until they came to Anduin's northern sources. In the land where the Langwell and Greylin came together to give rise to Anduin's main stream, these people finally settled. At the confluence of the rivers, the Men of the Éothéod built their capital, a township named Framsburg that looked over the beginning of Anduin's long southward course.

When the Men of the Éothéod had travelled northward up the Vales of Anduin, the lands around the Gladden Fields were left nearly unpopulated, with only scattered peoples remaining there. Among these were a group of Stoor Hobbits who, while most of their fellows had moved westward of the Misty Mountains, had instead settled by the Great River. These people lived near the place where Isildur had lost the One Ring, a fact that would have an important part to play in history.

Towards the War of the Ring

As the Third Age moved towards its third millennium, events were afoot along Anduin that would play a vital role in the War of the Ring, though that war still lay a thousand years or more in the future. The loss of Moria to a Balrog was one of these, at least indirectly, in that it caused many of the people of Lórien to flee southwards, including Amroth, the Lord of that land. This meant there was no longer any direct defence to prevent the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, which lay across the Great River from Lórien, from passing the barrier of the river into the Westlands. To maintain a watch on the Necromancer's keep, Galadriel went to Lórien and became its Lady, standing in opposition to the Dark Power in the forest heights beyond Anduin.

With Galadriel now in direct opposition to Dol Guldur across the river, and the Wise extending their influence, the Dark Power that inhabited Mirkwood chose to withdraw for a time into the East. The four centuries that followed were known as the Watchful Peace, and during this period the rulers of Gondor paid little heed to the fortifications along the course of Anduin, leaving the passages across the river unguarded.

Towards the end of the long Watchful Peace, an event of cataclysmic proportions occurred that went almost unnoticed at the time. Far northward of Lórien and Dol Guldur, two small Hobbit-like people went fishing in Anduin near the Gladden Fields. One of these, named Déagol, discovered a golden ring lying in the river, but his companion Sméagol killed him and took the ring. This was Sauron's One Ring, lying where Isildur had lost it nearly two and a half millennia beforehand. Sméagol took the Ring into the darkness beneath the Misty Mountains, where he gradually became the creature known as Gollum. So, after centuries, the Ring was recovered from Anduin, though it was still hidden. Soon afterward, perhaps drawn in part by the Ring's renewed activity, Sauron returned from the East and the Watchful Peace reached its end.

On his return, Sauron wasted no time in making direct assaults against Gondor, and the great bridges of Osgiliath were broken and fell into Anduin. Over the years that followed, Orcs and Easterlings banded together, and in III 2510 a great force of them used rafts to cross the Great River and overrun Calenardhon. Gondor had no force to resist this invasion, and in desperation sent messages northward pleading for aid from their old allies, the Men of the Éothéod. The leader of that people, Eorl the Young, responded by leading a great Ride down the eastern banks of Anduin from the river's sources. As he passed Lórien, his way was aided by a mist sent by Galadriel, and he finally reached the Undeeps on the borders of Calenardhon. There he crossed Anduin and defeated the invading Balchoth at the Battle of the Field of Celebrant.

Eorl's victory over the Balchoth was rewarded by Steward Cirion, who granted the largely deserted province of Calenardhon to the Men of the Éothéod. This was partly out of gratitude, but also for strategic reasons, as the new land of the Northmen (which would come to be known as Rohan) granted Gondor greater defence to its north and east. Gondor at this time lacked the forces to fully defend Anduin against further incursions, but Rohan now held a part of the Great River as part of its own border, running southward from the Undeeps as far as the Mouths of Entwash. That long stretch of the river, nearly two hundred miles in length, was now guarded by the Rohirrim.

It was some years before the Rohirrim had peace from raiders across Anduin, especially into the Wold, which lay directly westward of the Undeeps. Indeed, King Eorl fell in battle while fighting these raiders, though his successor Brego was able to defeat the main threat from across the Great River.4

Until III 2954, Gondor held the crossings at Osgiliath securely, as well as the lands of Ithilien on the river's eastern bank. In that year, Mount Doom once again burst into fire, and the last Gondorians east of the river fled from their homes and crossed into the lands to the west. From this time, Orcs began to patrol the eastern banks of Anduin. Upstream from Osgiliath, their arrows could reach across the river's width, and so the Gondorians and Rohirrim were forced to avoid straying too close to the western bank.

The lower course of the Great River now formed an effective border between Gondor to its west, and the servants of Mordor to its east. The old ruined city of Osgiliath was the main weak point on this river-boundary, and the Gondorians guarded it constantly against raiders from the east. In the time of Steward Túrin II (about a century before the War of the Ring), Gondor rebuilt its old fortresses along Anduin's western banks, and refortified the island of Cair Andros.

During more peaceful times, the Gondorians had expanded along the banks of the Great River. On the river's western edge, running southwards from Osgiliath towards Minas Tirith, the banks were sloped or terraced to accommodate buildings looking out across Anduin. Southward of Minas Tirith, where the river's course bent westward, stood a river-port known as the Harlond, serving the City and the townlands beyond. The re-emergence of the Dark Lord in Mordor, and the encroachments of his forces into Ithilien, threatened these settled banks and greater Gondor beyond. In the late Third Age, therefore, Steward Denethor raised a wall to protect the lands surrounding his City. This wall, the Rammas Echor, ran along the banks of Anduin as it passed through Osgiliath and on for several miles of the wall's southern circuit.

While Gondor fortified the southern stretches of Anduin, farther to the north the hunt for the lost Ring intensified. Saruman had searched the reaches of the river near the Gladden Fields, where it had been lost, without success. When Sauron discovered the history of Isildur's end, he too sent his servants to explore the same part of the Great River's course. Determined to prevent the Dark Lord from recovering his Ring, Saruman joined with the White Council to drive Sauron from nearby Dol Guldur. It was only later discovered that all of these manoeuvrings were in vain, as Gollum had long since found the Ring and carried it far from the banks of Anduin.

Some years later, Sauron captured Gollum and learned the names of 'Baggins' and 'Shire'. He sent out the Nazgûl to recover the Ring, and they crossed Anduin at Osgiliath. Determined to maintain secrecy, they remained invisible at this time, though the terror of their presence could still be felt. They made a circuitous passage through Anórien and Rohan until they came back to Anduin above Sarn Gebir.5 There they received horses and black garb ferried across the river, and took on the forms of the Black Riders that would later pursue the Ring-bearer on his journey to Rivendell.

The Journey of the Fellowship and the War of the Ring

The Ring-bearer eluded his pursuers, and at the Council of Elrond it was decided to send the Ring to its destruction in Mount Doom. To this end, a Fellowship was formed that set off towards the south. Their journey took them far from Anduin for much of its early length, but after they passed through Moria, they came to Galadriel's land of Lórien on the banks of the Great River. Galadriel knew of their quest, and provided them with gifts to aid them, as well as three small grey boats to carry them far down Anduin.

Aboard these vessels, the Company made rapid progress down Anduin. From Lórien they travelled southwards for nine days, covering a distance of some 340 miles (about 550km). Their journey took them along the straight stretch of river on the banks of the Field of Celebrant, and then through the winding shallows of the Undeeps. The river then carried them between the northern plains of Rohan on the west, and the bare wastes of the Brown Lands to the east.

The later part of the river journey became dangerous and difficult. The Company passed the rocky rapids of Sarn Gebir, and were attacked by a creature of darkness (later discovered to be a Winged Nazgûl) before passing the Argonath and reaching the lake of Nen Hithoel. From there, Anduin thundered over the Falls of Rauros, so the boats were drawn up on the western bank ready for the journey overland to Rauros-foot.

This was not to be. Frodo Baggins eventually resolved to journey on alone into Mordor, but he was joined by Sam Gamgee before he crossed Anduin to start his long eastward journey. Meanwhile, a band of Orcs out of Mordor had secretly crossed the river in the other direction, and joined with another group that had set out from Isengard. Together they slew Boromir and captured Merry and Pippin before racing away westward. The surviving members of the Company placed Boromir's body in a funeral boat and set it adrift down the river, and then Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli set off in pursuit of the Orcs. The Company of the Ring was therefore broken on the banks of Anduin, with one party setting out eastward towards Mordor, and the other heading westward to save their captured friends.

The place where the Company had been broken was above the Falls of Rauros, and the boat bearing Boromir's mortal remains passed over the cascade, apparently somehow surviving to continue its journey down the Great River.6 As it was carried on the waters near the ruins of Osgiliath, it so happened that Boromir's brother Faramir was watching the stream of Anduin, and saw his brother's body glide past on the river, to be carried away towards the Mouths of Anduin and the Great Sea beyond. The shards of Boromir's broken horn were found along the course of the stream, and so news came to Minas Tirith of the death of Boromir, heir to Steward Denethor.

Two days after this strange encounter, Faramir led his Rangers across the river into Ithilien to harry the enemy. Until recently, there had been bridges at Osgiliath that offered the only direct crossing of Anduin southward of its northern shallows. Those bridges were now gone, destroyed by the Gondorians themselves as they made a last defence against Mordor's armies, and the Rangers were reduced to fighting from hidden refuges. The chief of these was Henneth Annûn, concealed behind the falls of a stream that flowed down into Anduin.

Meanwhile, Sauron's forces roamed Ithilien at will, and held those parts of Osgiliath eastward of the river, and they also maintained threats elsewhere along its course. While forces mustered in Minas Morgul ready to cross Anduin and attack Gondor, Corsairs out of Umbar sailed for the Mouths of Anduin to reinforce Sauron's assault. Meanwhile, in Dol Guldur far to the north, yet another force was preparing itself to cross Anduin and attack the Elves of Lórien.

As the War of the Ring began, each of Sauron's armies met reverses. Dol Guldur launched three attacks across Anduin against Lórien, and each time those attacks were turned back. Far to the south at Pelargir, Aragorn led the Dead to capture the Corsairs' vessels, and sailed them up the river to the Harlond, the port of Minas Tirith. There he found that the army from Minas Morgul had already crossed Anduin at Osgiliath and were investing the City of Gondor, and so he and his allies joined the Rohirrim and Gondorians to defeat the enemy on the Pelennor Fields. Sauron's forces fled in a rout, with the survivors escaping over the makeshift bridges they had laid to cross Anduin, and breaking those bridges behind them to prevent pursuit.

This left one part of Sauron's forces on Anduin itself, an army originally sent over the river to prevent the Rohirrim from coming to Gondor's aid. In this they had failed, but after the Battle of the Pelennor they retreated to the island of Cair Andros in the middle of the river's stream. These remained in place for some days after the main force had fled back across Anduin, until the time that Aragorn led his own small force out to challenge Mordor. Aragorn's followers repaired the crossing-point at Osgiliath before marching northward through Ithilien towards the Morannon. As they went, Aragorn sent a part of this force to Cair Andros to overcome the last remnant of the invaders who still held the island.

At the Gates of Mordor, the Captains of the West treated with the Mouth of Sauron, and thus they learned that Sauron planned to make Anduin his formal border. Imagining his victory to be inevitable, the Dark Lord intended to take all the vast lands eastward of the Great River as his own domain, while the peoples westward of the river would live as tributaries to the Lord of Mordor.

All Sauron's schemes came to naught when his One Ring was destroyed, and the peoples west of the river remained free. Just a few days after the Fall of Barad-dûr, Celeborn led the Elves of Lórien across Anduin to overthrow Dol Guldur, and other lands on the eastern bank were gradually recovered by the Free Peoples. Of particular note was Ithilien, the narrow land that ran between Anduin and Ephel Dúath, the Mountains of Shadow. The Gondorians razed the dreadful tower of Minas Morgul and began to repopulate the once-deserted land, with Faramir becoming the new Prince of Ithilien.

These events took place in the last years of the Third Age, and Anduin does not appear in histories again until long into the Fourth Age that followed. Aragorn Elessar gave up his life in IV 120, and after his passing the Elf Legolas set about building a grey ship from the wood of Ithilien. On that boat he set sail onto the Great River, and it was said that he took with him Gimli the Dwarf, his great friend from the Company of the Ring. Together they were carried by the waters of Anduin down to its Mouths, and then sailed on across the Bay of Belfalas and the Great Sea itself, passing out of Middle-earth and travelling into the distant West.



At some 1,200 miles (or 1,900km) in length, Anduin was certainly a long river, but not spectacularly so in comparison with the longest rivers in the real world. It was very roughly one quarter the length of rivers like the Nile, Amazon, Yangtze or Mississippi. Its closest match in terms of length would probably be the Tigris in modern Iraq.


There is some uncertainty about the last point where the river could be bridged or forded. As the Company of the Ring left Lórien, Celeborn told them that Anduin '...cannot be crossed by travellers with baggage between Lórien and Gondor, save by boat.' (The Fellowship of the Ring II 8, Farewell to Lórien). In apparent contradiction of this, we have several references to the Undeeps (which lay far southward of Lórien) being crossed, and indeed the Gondorians fortified them at one time to prevent enemies from fording the river there. We can only assume that the fords at the Undeeps had slipped Celeborn's mind, or possibly that conditions had changed over time, and that the Undeeps had become impassible by the end of the Third Age.


The fate of this bridge after the War of the Last Alliance is not recorded, but it was evidently destroyed (or simply collapsed) at some point during the Third Age. By the end of that Age, Anduin could still be crossed at that point, but instead of the stone bridge all that remained was the crossing known as the Old Ford.


There is some confusion about the defeat of the Easterlings from beyond Anduin. The Lord of the Rings is explicit that it was Brego who achieved this, and indeed brought peace to Rohan for many years. A corresponding passage in Unfinished Tales, however, seems to suggest that battles continued throughout the reigns of Brego and his son Aldor. The description of the eastern invaders is immediately followed by a reference to the defeat of the Dunlendings, which further complicates matters. Indeed the text here could almost be read to suggest that the Dunlendings originally came from the East, and were driven westward across Rohan and beyond the Gap by Brego and Aldor. Based on other sources, this reading cannot be correct (the Dunlendings originated in the White Mountains, not in the East), and the Easterling raiders and the Dunlendings must therefore have represented two separate threats, one from the East and one from beyond Rohan's western borders.


This account of the setting out of the Nazgûl raises an obvious question: if their mounts and cloaks could be ferried across Anduin above Sarn Gebir, why would the Nazgûl themselves not simply follow that same faster, more direct route? The answer seems to lie in a weakness of the Ringwraiths that is touched upon but not explained in detail: they could not cross running water, except by a bridge or ford. So, they were forced to use the remnants of the bridges at Osgiliath to cross Anduin, and then travel to the distant ford of the Entwade to pass over the Entwash before returning to the Great River. (This also explains, incidentally, how Frodo and his companions were later able to escape from a pursuing Black Rider by crossing the Brandywine at Bucklebury Ferry.)


It is something of a mystery how Boromir's funeral boat survived the plunge over Rauros. Faramir's later description of his encounter with the boat has something of a dreamlike quality (he describes it as being surrounded by pale light, and appearing to be filled with shining water). We might even take this as a vision or dream rather than a real event, but Faramir was adamant that it was a real experience, and there is good reason to think that he was right. Before they departed from Lórien, the Fellowship were told that the boats of the Elves would not sink, and it seems that this was true even when Boromir's boat carried his body over the cataract of Rauros.

See also...

Amon Hen, Amon Lhaw, Apples, Aragost, Argonath, Battle of the Field of Celebrant, Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Bay of Belfalas, Black Men, Brown Lands, Cair Andros, Carrock, Causeway Forts, Citadel of the Stars, City of the Corsairs, [See the full list...]


About this entry:

  • Updated 8 August 2022
  • This entry is complete

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