The Elves of Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings"
The World of Middle Earth: There Is More to It Than Most Know
It is rather humorous the way a casual fan of Tolkien might think that hobbits are the chief characters within Tolkien's vast legendarium. The truth of the matter is quite different, as the entire story sits on the shoulders of the elves.
The entire tale of Middle Earth is not something known to one who has only read The Hobbit, and the trilogy known as The Lord Of The Rings. It is absolutely vital to have also read The Silmarillion for the reader to truly understand this thing called "Middle Earth." Just what these elves are is another thing altogether and equally vital in regards to an understanding of exactly what is going on in the Tolkien legendarium. As is usual, not all things are exact, as one of the elves I will be elaborating a bit on here is only a half-elf, and he is also much more than that too.
I never really can stress this enough, but with Tolkien, everything starts with The Silmarillion, and nothing can be fully understood about the rest of his legendarium without having read the complete tale of Middle Earth. One can hardly know the significance of the major elvish characters within The Lord Of The Rings, and The Hobbit without having also read The Silmarillion.
Viewed in its entirety, the whole tale of Middle Earth can be said to have little to do with magick rings; really, it is a tale of the creation of a world, and of how the elves turned that world over to mankind.
Tolkien's Elves: What the Heck Are They?
J.R.R. Tolkien was writing about elves long before he'd ever decided to create the literary race of creatures known as hobbits. Elves are present in the mythologies of Scandinavia, Germany, and England, but Tolkien's elves were not meant to really resemble the European mythological elves, Tolkien was, rather obviously, very much creative along with scholarly.
Tolkien's elves are the firstborn sons of the creator God of Tolkien's allegorical world, Middle Earth. Being the firstborn of the creator, however, doesn't mean the elves were the first race of bipeds on Middle Earth, a lesser god had already created the dwarves.
As it goes, the elves had immortal spirits bound to Arda, or the Earth of Tolkien's world, and the world or planet was NOT called "Middle Earth," but rather, Middle Earth was a continent on the Earth; there were also other continents, and one of them inhabited by the lesser gods.
Tolkien's elves were immortal, they did not age, and they did not die unless by sword, etc, or sorrow, their spirits were created to last so long as the world endured, but they could become so old their very spirits overtook their bodies, rendering them invisible save for when they deemed it necessary to reveal themselves to men.
Characteristics of the Elves
The elves of Tolkien's Middle Earth are similar in appearance to men, but very very different creatures in a large number of ways. Most notable of all is the fact they do not die unless in battle, or from grief.
Unlike men, elves are not so concerned with power; they'd rather practice the arts such as smith-work poetry, music, sculpture, or healing. Their spirits are tied to the Earth, and their spirits were created to last so long as the Earth lasts, and so, they are very closely tied to nature, but less so than say, Radagast the Brown, the Wizard who preferred the kinship of animals to that of elves, dwarves, men, or other creatures.
So far as the wizards go, the elves of Middle Earth were forevermore fond of Gandalf, the wizard who loved both crafts and nature, and was even by some thought to be an elf, and had been called "the elf of the wand."
Elves were, by and large, more beautiful than the children of mankind, and not so susceptible to the moral failings of men. They weren't so afflicted by greed or lust for power as humanity, as they were more aware of themselves as spirits in a material world.
Tolkien's elves of Middle Earth were generally taller than men, and had eyes of grey colour that could see not just further into the distance, but to some extent, into the hearts and minds of others, and even into the future.
Persons who've not actually read the books by Tolkien, and have only indulged themselves with the Peter Jackson films may be somewhat behind the curve on the actual goings-on of the story/films, and exactly what the significance is of the elvish characters, and for that reason I thought it would be good to take a look at the three most known elves from The Lord Of The Rings:
- Elrond The Eleven Half
1. Legolas: Prince of the Wood Elves
Never once is it mentioned in Peter Jackson's film adaptations of The Lord Of The Rings exactly who Legolas the elf actually is, what is seen is the elf warrior, the splendid archer, and the friend of the returning king, Aragorn. While Legolas is never mentioned in "The Hobbit," his father is, the King of the wood elves living in Mirkwood Forrest. In Peter Jackson's first installment of what is amazingly going to be a trilogy of films concerning Tolkien's book, The Hobbit, the father of Legolas is hinted at, and shown, but does not speak.
What is most notable concerning Legolas in both Tolkien's books and Jackson's films are both his never-ending good cheer, and his friendship with Gimli the Dwarf, but Jackson only hinted in the films at how this had not always been so, and perhaps the viewer of Jackson's films for The Hobbit will better understand just why that is.
From the Peter Jackson films, and I do mean the first film for The Hobbit as well, Galadriel is very present, and clearly shown to be one of the most powerful persons in the Tolkien world. What is it that makes Galadriel so very powerful? Well, first off, she has one of the three rings of power given to the elves, and the only ring more powerful than the ones she, Gandalf, and Cirdan the Ship-write have is the one ring, which the entire tale seems to be focused on.
....but being a bearer of one of the rings of power was not what made Galadriel so wise and powerful. The entire tale concerning The Hobbit, and The Lord Of The Rings is merely the tale of the third age of Middle Earth, but Galadriel was born in the first age of Middle Earth, and of course, lived through the second age as well. Suffice it to say, she is beyond ancient and has the accumulated wisdom of all those years of life. Still, this isn't sufficient, Galadriel was one of the most powerful of all the elves to have lived in the entire Tolkien Legendarium, and is considered second in wisdom and power to only Feanor, who created the silmarills, but of course one would then need to read The Silmarillion to know about any of that.
Among Tolkien nuts such as myself, it is probably somewhat debatable as to who would have been more powerful had they taken possession of the one ring of power, would it have been Gandalf? How about Galadriel? Elrond maybe? Some might even think it would have been Aragorn who'd have become most powerful. While I'm forever encouraging any and all to read the actual books, in the Peter Jackson films, one of the very best scenes of all is the scene where Frodo offers the ring of power to Galadriel, and she contemplates it, and then turns it down.
Elrond The Half Elven
"He was as noble and fair as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer."
Like Galadriel, Elrond appears throughout the entire Tolkien legendarium and is a dominant character throughout. He is thousands and thousands of years old, having lived through the first and second ages of Middle Earth already, but Elrond isn't exactly an elf, he is only half-elf, as elves and men can, of course, mate. It is somewhat a failing of Peter Jackson's that he's not fleshed out who all these characters are, exactly, but I've already forgiven Peter, and surely you will too, as my entire life I've wanted Tolkien's world set to film, I just never imagined it having been done quite so well.
So Elrond, and as per the book, will be seen again and played well in Jackson's first rendition or film for The Hobbit film trilogy, as all the most powerful characters from The Lord Of The Rings, save Aragorn, are.
So who is Elrond?
Well for a complete answer to that question, I offer up the following page concerning nothing other than Elrond, and who he is in Tolkien's fabulous Middle Earth legendarium.
The shorter explanation would be to simply say Elrond is half elf, one-quarter man, and one quarter one of the lesser sort of gods that live in Middle Earth. Both Sauron and all the wizards are of the same level of lesser god as Elrond is related to. One could imagine the Middle Earth pedigree of Elrond contributing to his wisdom, but besides all of that, he is also related to all three tribes of elves.
Why No Mention of Arwen?
Simply put, the character of Arwen, played in the Peter Jackson films by Liv Tyler, was greatly expanded in the films. I suspect the reason for this was to add more female interest in the Tolkien world, and that is perfectly well and good with me, as one of the chief criticisms of Tolkien is the lack of female representation in parts of the vast and rambling totality of it all.
What I've actually found in my life on the Internet is that the only persons out there who seem to know and love J.R.R. Tolkien and his Middle Earth more than me....are women. I know several who could run me out any window in a Tolkien themed trivial pursuit. In any case, and as always, please if you're interested in this at all, read the books, and if you've read some, then read the others. Thanks for reading this page.
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© 2012 Wesman Todd Shaw