The Official Collection of Fantastical Creature Information--Updated Randomly

For all your fantastical creature needs! This is the beginning of my encyclopedia, and I'm collecting as much information as I can on various fantasy creatures. Most of my stuff can be found on wikipedia. However, no source is perfect, so the stuff that is my input is often italicized. Help me by sending me more information at

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Elf--Tolkien--Life Cycle

Early life
Elves are born about one year from their conception. The day of their conception is celebrated, not the actual birthday itself—since for them, life begins at conception. Their minds develop quicker than their bodies; by their first year, they can speak, walk and even dance, and their quicker onset of mental maturity makes young Elves seem older than they really are. Physical Puberty comes in around their fiftieth to one hundredth year (by age fifty they reach their adult height), and by their first hundred years of life outside the womb all Elves are fully grown.

Tolkien was unclear on how fast Elves actually grew. In Laws and Customs, he states that Elves' bodies develop slower than Men from the start. By the age of twenty, they might still appear physically seven years old, whereas Men at the same age are physically mature. However, he later wrote that Elves and Men develop physically at the same rate until maturity, but then Elven bodies slow down and stop aging physically, while human bodies don't.

Sexuality, marriage, and parenthood
Elves marry freely and for love early in life. Monogamy is practised and adultery is unthinkable; they only marry once (Finwë, first High King of the Noldor, was an exception, as he remarried after his first wife died).

Spouses can choose each other even long before they are married, thus becoming betrothed. The betrothal is subject to parental approval unless the parties are of age and intend to marry soon, at which point the betrothal is announced at a meeting of the two houses. They exchange rings and the betrothal lasts at least a year, and is revocable by the return of the rings; however, it is rarely broken. After their formal betrothal, the couple appoint a date, at least a year, for the wedding.

Marriage is celebrated at a feast of the two houses. They give back their betrothal rings and receive others worn on their index fingers. The bride’s mother gives the groom a jewel to be worn, but the marriage is achieved with its consummation. Technically, only the words exchanged by the bride and groom (including the speaking of the name of Eru Ilúvatar) and the consummation are required for marriage, as with the Catholic sacrament of matrimony.
The Elves view the sexual act as extremely special and intimate, for it leads to the conception and birth of children. Extra-marital and premarital sex are unthinkable — indeed, the Elves would regard them as contradictions in terms. Because adultery is also unheard of and fidelity between spouses is absolute, spouses can sometimes live separately for extended periods of time without fear of infidelity. Yet a sundering during pregnancy or during the early years of parenthood (caused by war, for example) is so grievous to the couple that they prefer to have children in peaceful times. Elves can not be raped or forced to have sex, before that they will lose the will of live and go to Mandos.

Elves have few children, as a rule; (Fëanor and Nerdanel were an exception, conceiving seven sons), and there are relatively sizable intervals between each child. (But, see below for notes on Elvish birth rates in Middle-earth versus in Aman.) They are soon preoccupied with other pleasures; their libido wanes and they focus their interests elsewhere, like the arts. Nonetheless, they take great delight in the union of love, and they cherish the days of bearing and raising children as the happiest days of their lives.

There seems to only be one known example of extreme marital strife in Tolkien's mythology, that of Eöl and Aredhel, in which the latter actually left the former without his knowledge, resulting in Eöl ultimately killing her. However, this marriage was far from typical of the Elves.

Daily life
The Elves, particularly the Noldor, preoccupy themselves with various things, such as smithwork, sculpture, music and other arts, and of course, what to eat. Males and females can do almost everything equally; however, the females often specialize in the arts of healing while the men go to war. This is because they believe that taking life interferes with the ability to preserve life. However, Elves are not stuck in rigid roles; females can defend themselves at need as well as males, and many males are skilled healers as well, such as Elrond.

Later life
Eventually, if they do not die in battle or from some other cause, the Elves of Middle-earth grow weary of it and desire to go to Valinor, where the Valar originally sheltered their kind. Those who wish to leave for the Undying Lands go by boats provided at the Grey Havens, where Círdan the Shipwright dwells with his folk.

"The third cycle of life," aging, and facial hair
Despite Tolkien's statements in The Hobbit that Elves (and Hobbits) have no beards, Círdan in fact has a beard, which appears to be an anomaly and a simple oversight. However, Tolkien later devised at least three "cycles of life" for Elves around 1960; Círdan had a beard because he was in his third cycle of life. (Mahtan, Nerdanel's father, had a beard in his second cycle of life, a rare phenomenon.) It is unclear what these cycles exactly are, since Tolkien left no notes further explaining this. Apparently, beards were the only sign of further natural physical aging beyond maturity.

Elves sometimes appear to age under great stress. Círdan appeared to be aged himself, since he is described as looking old, save for the stars in his eyes; this may be due to all the sorrows he had seen and lived through since the First Age. Also, the people of Gwindor of Nargothrond had trouble recognizing him after his time as a prisoner of Morgoth.

Elves are naturally immortal. In addition to their immortality, Elves are immune to all diseases, and they can recover from wounds which would normally kill a mortal Man. However, Elves can be slain, or die of grief and weariness.

Elves who die or are killed go to the Purgatory-like Halls of Mandos in Valinor. After a certain period of time and rest that serves as "cleansing", their spirits (fëar) are clothed in bodies (hröar) identical to their old ones. They almost never go back to Middle-earth, however. The only Elf known to have done so was Glorfindel. A rare and more unique example of an Elf coming back from the Halls of Mandos can be read in the tale of Beren and Lúthien, as Lúthien was the other Elf to be sent back to Middle-earth - as a mortal, however.

Eventually, their immortal spirits (fëar) will overwhelm and consume their bodies (hröar), rendering them "bodiless", whether they opt to go to Valinor or remain in Middle-earth. At the end of the world, all Elves will have become invisible to mortal eyes, except to those to whom they wish to manifest themselves. Tolkien called the Elves of Middle-earth who had undergone this process "Lingerers", and the process may be thought of as a fourth and final cycle of Elven life.

Theoretically, if the Elves did exist, at the end of the world the youngest of them would still be visible, since for them all to become invisible would logically require that all Elves stop reproducing at some point. Incidentally, this voluntary cessation of reproduction appeared in material related to the Jackson films. In the material (not explicitly stated in the films themselves), Arwen is supposed to be the lastborn of her people, thus her being called "the Evenstar".

However, this does not appear in the books, and it may refer to Arwen being the lastborn of the royal Elven houses of Middle-earth descended from Finwë High King of the Noldor and Elu Thingol (High King of the Sindar), which is in fact true. One might note that the Elves of the House of Finwë had had large families early in their history before the rebellion of Fëanor and the exile of the Noldor to Middle-earth, but once in Middle-earth failed to reproduce themselves. Many of the royal line, including four of Fëanor's seven sons, never had children, and most who did had only one (including Sindar King Thingol and his daughter Lúthien). Lastly, Lúthien, Idril Celebrindal, and Arwen married Human men.The lives of Elves technically only endure as the world endures; however, it is said that at the end of time the Elves will join the other Children of Ilúvatar in singing before His throne.

A special thanks to Wikipedia and J.R.R. Tolkien and to the Official Lord of the Rings Site

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