In this scattershot series, we’ll be delving “too greedily and too deep,” prying gems out of the glorious rough that is the extended legendarium of Tolkien’s world. This includes drawing on The Lord of the Rings itself, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin, and the History of Middle-earth (or HoME) books.
What is the deal with Elves in The Lord of the Rings? Are they supposed to be as severe as those we see in Peter Jackson’s film trilogies? Questions inevitably arise around these mysterious people, who’ve inspired pretty much all fair-faced, pointy-eared*, woodsy folk in the fantasy genre. J.R.R. Tolkien may not have invented the Elves as a concept—Germanic folklore did—but he sure did popularize them.
But even in his own legendarium, what does it mean, in practice, to be immortal? What’s with all the talk about fading, and the leaving? Why can’t they stick around? Are there any female Elf-warriors, and how many kids can an Elf-mom have, anyway? Are there any Elf-kids? Well, Professor Tolkien didn’t answer all of our world-building questions in his seminal work, but you’d be surprised to see how many of these points he did address. In this discussion, spread out over two parts, I’ll talk about the Elven condition as Tolkien sorted it out, and how those details might apply to the stories we do know.