So who's the oldest figure in LOTR?

It’s been at least a few years since I’ve read the books so my textual memory has lapsed but a question always plagued me. The ages for various characters are hinted at but never given concretely. Then again perhaps I’m mistaken and they are given. If that’s the case, even better. However, just as a completist, I’d be interested in some feedback on who people think is the oldest or perhaps ranking the oldest to the not as old.

Relevant characters: Galadriel, Celeborn, Gandalf, Sauron, Treebeard, Tom Bombadil, Elrond, Saruman, others that I may be forgetting.

Sauron, Gandalf (Olorin) and Saruman, since all were Maiar (angels, essentially) and would’ve been around at the very creation of the universe, although Bombadil is very, very old, too, and his exact status in the Tolkien legendarium is ambiguous, to say the least.

Any Elves and Ents would’ve come along quite a bit later, relatively speaking.

Tom Bombadil or Treebeard I think.

So what was Gandalf doing if there weren’t any Elves or Man to worry about?

Singing the universe into existence, then worrying about Melkor.

Treebeard, and all the ents (Treebeard was not necessarily one of the fathers of ents, AFAIK) were created after the world, at the prompting of Yavanna after Aule made the dwarves. Bombadil? No one knows, although I believe only the elves call him “oldest.” I’m certain that he is no older than the world.

Yeah, it’s Sauron, Gandalf, and Saruman – they were there In The Beginning.

Of the elves, Cirdan the Shipwright is probably the oldest in Middle-Earth.

The Balrog as well, though he was more a special-effect then a character.

Oh, and the others – Galadriel, Celeborn, and Elrond – differ widely. Galadriel is the granddaughter of Finwe, one of those who awakened rather than being born. Celeborn’s ancestry and age are uncertain, but both were born during the Years of the Trees.

Elrond is much younger – descended from Finwe about three generations after Galadriel, and born after the destruction of the Trees (the years of the sun).

The unmentioned dwarves were created by Aule and given life by Iluvatar, but not permitted to waken before the elves; I believe the same is true of the ents, but I haven’t seen the source material.

Cirdan was a first-generation elf, was he not? I don’t think that there are any others of the first generation still in Middle-Earth as of the Third Age, so that would make him the oldest of the Children of Illuvatar. And I believe that the Elves awoke the first Ents, so he’d be older than Treebeard, too.

The various Maiar still have him beat, though, as well as probably Tom Bombadil (though who can really be sure about anything, when it comes to him?).

Oh, and even if you count the dwarves (created earlier but forced to sleep), they’re not immortal. Even Durin the Deathless is deathless only in the sense that the dwarves believe he gets reincarnated into his descendants: The most recent Durin was Durin VII.

I thought Treebeard was the oldest being bound to Middle Earth (not celestial like Gandalf, etc.) Isn’t that explicitly stated a few times in the Lord of the Rings?

Gandalf says that Treebeard is the oldest of all living things, and Celeborn addresses him as “Eldest”; but Bombadil claims to have seen the first raindrop and the first acorn, and to have been around before the rivers and trees.

I think Bombadil is supposed to be a Theophany, therefore… h/Him.

Uhh… I won’t mock you for disagreeing over the books, but… Hell, no. That sop utterly wrong I can’t even argue about it. You pretty much have to ignore not only all textual information but Tolkein’s own stated word to believe that.

Tom Bombadil:

If you are counting Maiar and such then may as well just go to the source and say Eru Illuvatar is the oldest. Hard to beat that.

The Encyclopedia of Arda has this take on who is the “eldest” in Middle Earth.


It’s not clear that Cirdan was first generation (awoken, not birthed) or not. Tolkein apparently never said.

He was in existence before the journey of the elves reached Belegaer, which I believe puts him before Galadriel, who IIRC was born in the West.

So, of elves extant in M-E, Cirdan is probably the eldest.

Tom Bombadil . . . IS Treebeard!

Well, he was the patriarch of one of the three great houses of the Elves. One presumes that his father would hold that position, had he one.

I don’t recall where, but I seem to recall that Cirdan was awakened with the first elves.

Where does Shelob fit into all this?