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Tolkien Question (seeking an Elvish Expert)

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by soczab, Jun 15, 2020.

  1. soczab

    soczab Seventh Year

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    Hope this is the right place to post this. If not feel free to move it.

    Ive a question for any LOTR experts out there. Im pretty knowledgeable, but theres definitely a few of the companion books (outside silmarillion and lost tales) ive not read. Same with Tolkien's letters.

    So im trying to figure out for a little side project ive been working on. Roughly, does anyone have any guesses how many elves in the third age (by the time of lotr) there still are from valinor in middle-earth?

    We obviously have a sense of some of the 'great' leaders (ie like galadriel, glorfindel if he counts, cidran). But what about the 'rank and file' so to speak? Does anyone have a guess how many from the original Nolder hosts managed to survive everything and are still kicking? Do you think its like 'you could count them on your fingers' or is it a few hundred? Or more? Obviously there were hundreds of thousands originally from Valinor who returned to Middle Earth. But how many are still kicking by the end of the third age?

    The only hint I could find was from the Fellowship of the ring, the line about how Elrond sent out those who still had power to oppose the nine to help find frodo on the road. And later comments make it seem that that would be those from valinor (a later point that chapter tolkien goes on about how those who had been to the blessed realm existed in both worlds etc. implying thats who had the strength to ride openly against the nine.)

    That implies theres at least a few in Elrond's house, right? And if so probably a few more at the Havens and the Nolder who escaped in the second age to Lothlorien?

    Any thoughts from the experts would be appreciated
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2020
  2. Steelbadger

    Steelbadger Auror

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    So, the thing here to remember if we're specifically concerned with Noldor who were born in Valinor, is that even Elrond doesn't fit the bill, but obviously he'd be counted among those with the power to defy the Nine (even if we took Vilya from him). It is likely that his sons would fall into that category too. Gildor Inglorion may possibly have been born in Aman, though it's far from certain as Tolkien doesn't really discuss him at all (additionally, he was not, I think, present in Rivendell at the time).

    Really, all we can say is that the answer is 'more than one or two, no more than maybe some hundred'. In one of his letters, Tolkien says that there are probably more Men who knew Quenya or spoke Sindarin than there are Elves left in Middle-earth who did so. This means we have to be talking about a pretty small number for the remaining Elves. No more than a few thousand across all of Lindon, Lorien and Rivendell (probably even Mirkwood too). Though, my sense was always that there my only be a few hundred Noldor and Sindar left, while Silvan Elves may have been relatively numerous. They were apparently numerous enough that it was worth Celeborn's while to expand the borders of Lorien to include the southern parts of Mirkwood after Sauron's defeat.

    I have never found anything that would allow me to make a more concrete determination of remaining Elf populations than that. As a pure guess, I'd place Rivendell at a population of maybe 100-300, mostly Moriquendi Noldor (Noldor who were born in Middle-earth). I'd then take a stab at maybe 10-15 Elves from 'noble' lines (Elrond & Kids, Glorfindel, maybe Erestor, some others unnamed), and perhaps 10-20 Calaquendi, who might overlap with the 'nobles', but there's probably Calaquendi who were not from noble lineages who would be respected for their age and wisdom.

    It's possible that I'm completely off-base. After-all, any surviving Elves who were present at the kinslaying at Alqualondë might be more likely to 'stay behind' than their relatively guiltless children. Look at Galadriel, who supposedly stayed as long as she did more because of pride than a true want to remain (the Ban placed upon her by the Valar seemed to chafe at her pride somewhat, she was told not to return, so her response was, basically, 'well I don't want to, so nyeh!').

    Still, though, I'd reckon that any more than 50 or so Calaquendi in Rivendell would probably have resulted in more than just Glorfindel encountering Frodo's group.
     
  3. soczab

    soczab Seventh Year

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    Hmm. Thanks steel. Interesting post and very helpful (especially the thoughts on Elrond). I suspect you are 100% correct too about the Calaquendi numbers too. Fully with you there (and agreed on the noble heritage. I always found it interesting how the elves often seem to follow that heritage over age. Like Gil-Galad is the king, but there had to be a TON of elves much older then him. Who had actually seen the trees etc. But not from the right line).

    I'll admit I kind of peg the Nolder numbers a bit higher, but its all guess work I suppose. I always assumed there were a ton of elves born in middle earth really outnumbering the Calaquendi. Im probably being a bit too realistic in my thinking, but just. If you consider say the elves with Elrond. You got folks like Gildor... and I assume he isnt the only one.... just wandering around the place (and you definitely got the sense he had a dozen or two companions with him). If rivendell only had say 200 folks, thats a huge percentage of your population just wandering around. Youve also got enough elves despite that in Rivendell that they could resist a siege of Angmar earlier in the third age. And granted the elves power related to Angmar probably wasnt full force of arms. But could 200 folks really hold out against an army of orcs and men in a siege? And theres mentions of 'armies' of elves fighting Angmar in the third age too at various points iirc.

    So I consider that. And then im like... every elf cant be a warrior or just wander around. There needs to be elves who are gathering food, tending to gardens, cleaning things up, etc.

    And then I go 'and rivendell probably has less people then the Havens. Where they are building entire ships and such.'

    Which granted might be completely over thinking this. But I always pegged them as more in the thousands then the hundreds total for the Nolder (this is counting descendants. Obviously the original elves from Valinor who knows).

    But again I freely admit I could be completely over thinking this.

    On a side note, do we have a sense of how many Nolder elves there are in the Lothlorien population? If i'm recalling my lore correctly, at the end of the second age a ton of the nolder who were living with whats his name. Feanor's grandson in that elven 'city'. They escaped through Moria because they were friends with the dwarves and ended up in Lothlorien (mixing with the elves there). But of course that number could be dozens, hundreds or (maybe doubtful?) thousands who managed to escape. But there was a whole *city* of elves there in the second age.
     
  4. Steelbadger

    Steelbadger Auror

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    The Elves followed a pretty strict monarchy, and I'm not sure I can think of any instances where the ruling line was usurped by another not of the royal line.

    The other thing, though, is that the 'Light' is sorta communicable. Elrond is Moriquendi by a couple of generations (his grand-mother Idril was Calaquendi) but he was raised in large part by Maglor, who as a son of Feanor would have held great power and wisdom (despite the fate of his brothers). It's not a straight line of genetics that defines an Elf's power and nobility, but instead more like a lineage in contact, teaching and memory.

    Don't forget that the rate at which Elves west into the west slowly increased throughout the Third Age, and there's a gap of >1000 years between the fall of Angmar and the war of the ring. If just one boat of twenty or so Elves went west every year, that's still 20,000 elves gone in that time. Perhaps the fall of Angmar marked a time of great waning in the Noldor. I could imagine the more martially minded Elves in the Havens and in Rivendell opting to stick around to protect their people, then calling it quits and heading West once the war was won.

    The groups of wandering Elves aren't really permanent wanderers, is my feeling. Gildor is specifically leading a group back from the White Towers, a pilgrimage of sorts, to look into the Palantir there, which unlike the others could only look West. They don't just wander about aimlessly, but instead move between the Havens, Rivendell and Lothlorien as their fancies take them. In general, though, you'd expect their populations to remain roughly even (though gradually decreasing), even if the population is not necessarily permanent.

    It is possible the the Elves trades their arts and such with locals for food, in addition to farming their own. Also, Elves typically need less food (and their food is more sustaining than ordinary food), so the relative number of people needed to tend the land is probably far lower than is the case for humans at a similar level of technical sophistication.

    Regarding the number of Noldor in Lothlorien, it all has to be guesswork, but my guess would be very few by the time of the War of the Ring. Perhaps thousands fled there are the fall of Eregion, but that was a few thousand years before the War of the Ring, and I'd imagine many would have left for the west by that time.
     
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