Musing on Celebrimbor Images
It never rains but it pours. A day after we get the mysterious landscape of TirHarad, we finally get Empire Magazine’s image of the Amazon Celebrimbor, as played by Charles Edwards:
Now, I would be lying if I said that this Celebrimbor looks in any way like the Celebrimbor of my imagination. We shall get to that. But it is clear that Amazon is going for a character with gravitas (perhaps too much gravitas), who carries more than a whiff of a Shakespearean nobleman. A nobleman who is either quasi-villain or doomed tragic protagonist – which I suppose fits Celebrimbor well-enough either way, but arguably goes places the standard narrative does not. This Celebrimbor looks like someone used to getting his own way, to a degree where you can actually imagine an awkward political relationship – or even rivalry – with High-King Gil-galad. By the same token, it eliminates any possibility of romantic aspirations relating to Galadriel.
It is a… brave… adaptational choice. But we do know that an earlier casting of Celebrimbor had a much younger actor, and for whatever reason, that did not fit the story Amazon was trying to tell. Fair enough. I suppose we must wait to see that story play out on screen.
For myself, if you had presented this image to me at the start, and asked me which character this was, I would have guessed older Ar-Pharazôn, prior to noticing the ears and getting thoroughly confused. But the Amazon story is, I think, managing to run up against the (actually pretty limited) information we have on Celebrimbor. He is, after all, from a younger generation than Galadriel herself, she being his second cousin once removed, and while one can play around with his unknown birthdate (he might conceivably be older than Galadriel if you push Curufin back in time and Finarfin forward), it is a stretch to make him substantially older. If you want anyone to play senior Elven statesman in the Second Age, Cirdan is a much safer pick. No-one’s going to complain about older Cirdan, so long as you give him a beard.
Moreover, while one can throw out the one-sided romantic feelings for Galadriel, Celebrimbor really has some non-negotiables, so far as his character goes. He must be sufficiently naïve to be tricked by Sauron, and he must be a superb blacksmith, jeweller, and craftsman, curious about developing new and dangerous ideas. I look at the Amazon image, and I do not see naivety and dangerous curiosity. I see caution and conservatism and stern realpolitik. Maybe, after the manner of Macbeth, I could see tragic ambition (with Annatar as Lady Macbeth) – so perhaps that is what they are going for, with a dash of the Mad Scientist? It’s just I cannot see this fellow as a blacksmith by any stretch of the imagination. A bookworm and laboratory technician, yes, but not someone who swings hammers all day.
Beyond that, we are in murkier territory. Celebrimbor is subject to so much fanon, that even if you ignore what the Yaoi fangirls have done with him and Annatar,* you always have to be careful in terms of disentangling imagination from the source-material. For instance, we do not know Celebrimbor’s canonical hair-colour – it is commonly considered dark on account of his father and grandfather, or the fact he’s a sodding Noldo, but the red of his uncles would not be a foolish guess. Short medium-brown? Canon notwithstanding, I actually have an easier time accepting that with Elrond (on account of his fair-haired father’s line) than Celebrimbor, whom I personally visualise as approaching the Platonic Ideal of a Feanorian. But that’s what I mean – this is one of those characters for whom fanon can creep up on you when you least expect it.
*Why, yes. Silverfisting/silvergifting is a thing. You’re welcome.
For comparison, consider the Celebrimbor from the Shadow of Mordor game:
Whatever one thinks of the liberties the game takes with the source material, I think this depiction of Celebrimbor corresponds much more closely to how most readers imagine him. Long dark hair, passably youthful appearance, copious silver in evidence (as befits his name). Still quite different from Jackson’s ethereal blonds, which is always a plus… I think this sort of depiction might have earned a warmer fandom reception. While Amazon already has a male Elf with that sort of look (in the form of Gil-galad), I would suggest that clothing can work as an easy identifier for the casual viewer – give Celebrimbor the paraphernalia of a smith, and Gil-galad the paraphernalia of a military general and a King. I don’t think one needs to go overboard in differentiating the two.
(Mind you, as noted earlier, Amazon did try a younger actor in the role, and it seemingly did not work out as well. We need to see the Edwards version on screen to properly judge).
In rounding out this little discussion of Celebrimbor representation, I thought I would reference the various pieces of art-work on the character. The gruesome manner of Celebrimbor’s death naturally attracts a fair amount of attention, resulting in him turning into a sort of St Sebastian figure – and since that lends itself to a certain subtext, you wind up with a naked (or near-naked) arrow-ridden corpse on a pole. One imagines that will be a subtext Amazon will be playing down when the time comes.
But sometimes artists prefer the forging, and for a Celebrimbor that is quite distinctive, there is Angus McBride’s piece, which is currently doing the rounds as a contrast with Amazon’s:
Leaving aside matters of questionable forge safety (no shirt? loose hair?), and the sense that the character moonlights as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan, this is one of those rare Celebrimbors whom one really could imagine swinging hammers in a blacksmith’s forge. For all the implicit humour associated with Swole Celebrimbor, it might be one of the more realistic depictions out there.