Cirdan the Old
I have some more questions or quibbles concerning comments surrounding the aged look of Cirdan (mostly from part 1).
I'll also question my own comments at the end! so you won't feel lonely Malickfan
I have yet to be easily swayed by attempts to explain Cirdan's appearance. Age difference doesn't really explain things for me. Unless of course Tolkien himself actually went over this -- but so far I know of no evidence to explain, for example, why a 6,000 year old Elf should look notably older than a Elf who is 'only' 1,000 years old.
By the close of The Lord Of The Rings he was noticeably greatly aged (even the older Elves aged very slowly, except during times of great stress or torment- both of which Cirdan had seen in abundance…although several millennia of exhausting boat building …and the corrosive effects of salty sea air may have been contributing factors as well)...
Salty sea air and exhausting boat building? these are actually new to me, but I can't buy either one.
And with respect to great stress and torment, I have seen this explanation before, but as far as I recall Tolkien never seems to single out Cirdan as being especially stressed or tormented compared to other Elves. He lived through a lot, including wars and 'general' stress, but so did other Elves.
It is worth noting that Elves counted their ‘fading’ from the first rising of the Sun, Cirdan was probably already several (or possibly much, much more- again see below) millennia old when the sun and moon first arose- and unlike Galadriel, Elrond or Celeborn was in Middle Earth when it happened, time flowed ‘faster’ there than in Valinor, so Cirdan was probably more exposed to its effects.
I don't agree that time actually flowed faster in Middle-earth. I would agree that with the rising of the Sun growth and change became swifter in Middle-earth (if we accept the notion of the Sun as arising after the Elves awoke, which is not the case according to the Elvish counting legend or fairy tale). But what would this necessarily mean with respect to any outward signs of ageing in Elves?
And why wasn't Celeborn in Middle-earth when the Sun arose?
In several essays and letters Tolkien stated that the 3 Elven rings of power were created to delay the effects of Decay and Time on the Elven bearers, in a ratio of about 1: 100 (For every 100 years that passed in Middle Earth the Elves would only feel the effects of 1 year), Cirdan of course was already pretty old for an Elve when the rings were created (He was probably older when he inherited his, than Elrond was when he departed Middle Earth and lost the power of his) and had endured the whole strife of the first age in the wild lands of Middle Earth, and he had his ring for a shorter period of time.
The Three were potent in resisting the effects of time, yes, and not simply with respect to their bearers, but I don't remember any ratio stated. Is this from (possibly) draft texts for The Lord of the Rings?
It is my theory (I have never come across definite conformation) that the surrender of such a ring contributed to his aged appearance- the sudden loss of such a power quickly exposed him to the effects of his great lifespan and all that he had seen... ...
If memory serves this general idea was present in draft text for The Lord of the Rings (concerning Galadriel I think), which to my mind raises the question of rejection, and right now I don't recall any description elsewhere.
Granted you said this was your theory in any event, but I've read the theory that Cirdan didn't ever use Narya, for instance. I rather think he did, but for all we know the Three helped the Elves stave off weariness and 'inner' ageing.
Elves sometimes appeared to age under great stress or torment (as told Cirdan had seen both in abundance) linking with the above extracts-Cirdan himself is characterised as ‘grey and old’ whilst Gwindor was unrecognisable to the people of Nargothrond after his escape from the dungeons of Morgoth: “At first his people did not know Gwindor, who went out young and strong, and returned now seeming as one of the aged among mortal Men…”
I've seen the Gwindor argument a lot, but I do not find thraldom in the dungeons of Morgoth to be necessarily equivalent to anything Cirdan experienced.
Here's where I question my own argument (well, a bit)
Did Cirdan really look old in the first place? Now I have to admit that in this case I would rather take an admittedly strained reading over an arguably easier reading -- and I wouldn't mind so much but I am tinkering with author-published text here as well!
It wounds me to do so
So here is where you say to me: sorry Galin, I don't buy it! but here goes anyway! Even I can't look!
Technically the text of The Grey Havens says Ciryatan was grey and old, which I (purposely) take to mean he had grey hair and 'was' old -- just like other Elves were old, even if he was older than others. Again I realize I am ignoring the implication of the context for an arguably more strained reading... but... well... [cough]. Anyway elsewhere Tolkien noted that Cirdan had silver hair...
Elwe himself had indeed long and beautiful hair of silver hue, but this does not seem to have been a common feature of the Sindar, though it was found among them occasionally, especially in the nearer or remoter kin of Elwe (as in the case of Círdan).
JRRT Quendi And Eldar, The War of the Jewels
... which could explain the 'grey' part in The Lord of the Rings. He was old, he maybe had silvery 'grey' hair. Shave the beard, maybe dye the hair, he would still be old, but would he look old?
Why 'fight' Tolkien-published text (which in my opinion belongs on the top shelf with respect to canon)?
It's not that I have a problem with old or older looking Elves (and there was at least one in The Book of Lost Tales if I recall correctly, for an early example), but I do get the feeling that Tolkien ultimately intended his Elves to visibly 'fade' (in Middle-earth) after a given time, which seems a different kind of ageing to me -- the fea consuming the hroa over time.
Cirdan might be 'faded' in my opinion, although the text implies aged looking; but if we were to accept Tolkien's idea of physically fading Elves (see below), I can't think of a good reason why an Elf would go through a phase (of an undetermined length of time) of physically looking old -- before fading in any case!
Of course simply because I can't think of a good reason hardly means that Tolkien wouldn't think this holds true for his world! but so far I think he needed a way to suggest very great age for an Elf, and considering that other Elves in the tale were old, how was he going to suggest Cirdan was even older than Galadriel for instance? A beard helps, even grey hair (Celeborn had silver hair)...
... enter the 'ancient mariner' image?
That said, the author-published description 'says what it says' about Cirdan. In the end I must bow to canon and the implication behind Cirdan being described as 'grey and old', despite:
'For the Eldar do indeed grow older, even if slowly: (...) As the weight of the years, with all their changes of desire and thought, gathers upon the spirit of the Eldar, so do the impulses and moods of their bodies change. This the Eldar mean when they speak of their spirits consuming them; and they say that ere Arda ends all the Eldalie on earth will have become as spirits invisible to mortal eyes, unless they will to be seen by some among Men into whose minds they may enter directly.'
JRRT, Morgoth's Ring
By the way I didn't mean to cause a stir or get anyone in trouble about copyright, it's just somewhat rare to quote an entire essay from JRRT (if it is! I didn't read the whole thing so I only asked). I think one is allowed a certain percentage of a given text; but again what do I know about it? Not much if anything. The above from Morgoth's Ring is only three sentences out of a fairly substantial essay, so I think it's safe enough.