For those who're new to the works of Tolkien, a description of the Elves in general may be appropriate. They are as tall as Men, and often taller. Of all living creatures in Middle-earth, they are the ones described as the most beautiful and gifted. The Elves are immortal, but can be slain in battle, and can also loose the will to live. When they die, they go to the Halls of Mandos. There they wait, for one day to return. Mandos is one of fourteen "sub-gods" called the Valar. These are important when looking at the history of the Elves, as you'll hear more of later.
In the beginning of days the Elves dwelt in Middle-earth. But the Valar, who lived on the Isle of Valinor, beyond the Great Sea, asked the Firstborn, as the Elves are known as, to settle with them on the Isle. Many did so, but quite a few also stayed in Middle-earth. These were allowed to come to Valinor, where there were no evil, in their own time. You'll find many references to this later, as it's one of the most important aspects of the history of the Elves in Middle-earth. During the Second Age, Men envied the Elves their immortality, and tried to find Valinor. The Valar therefor hid the Isle and made it invisible, so that none other than the Elves could find it. The path across the sea they had to sail, was called the Straight Road. The song quoted above tells how Legolas, one of the most important Elves of The Lord of the Rings, long for the west.
Soon after the coming of the Elves, Melkor, the first Enemy, imprisoned some of them in his fortress Utumno. From these prisoners he bred the Orcs, who became the bitterest enemies of the Elves.
The Orcs are the direct opposites of the Firstborn, being ugly, evil, traitorous and cowards. None of the Orcs (at least I think so) are ever described in a positive way in Tolkien's books, actually very few are named, and even fewer described as great warriors. An exception is Azog, a mighty and cruel Orc, who spread fear among the dwarves.
Another thing of importance, is that even if some Elves have done wicked deeds, very few are downright evil. They may be overwhelmed by lust for great treasures, as you'll see later, and this often led to sorrow.
Tolkien, being a Catholic, was a deeply religious man. It would be natural to think that this would be traceable in his writing as well, but this is not the case. Tolkien was definitely not a fan of allegories, his aim was first and foremost to tell an exciting story, but there are a few exceptions in his works. In the biography J.R.R. Tolkien Architect of Middle-earth by Daniel Grotta-Kurska, we learn that he considered the Elves' waybread, lembas, as the Eucharist. Furthermore when a fellow Catholic suggested that the most important female Elf, the Lady Galadriel, was the Virgin Mary, he neither confirmed nor denied this. And clearly, Middle-earth's God, Ilüvatar, bears a strong resemblance to the one Tolkien belived in.
When, as the first of the Valar, Oromë learned of the Elves, he befriended some of them. But others ran away in fear, and were lost. This, the Valar later learned, was because Melkor had spread lies among the Firstborn.
When realizing this, the Valar went to war against Melkor, and at last won Middle-earth back. They also imprisoned him.
Now, the Valar wanted the Quendi - "Those that speak with voices", the name the Elves gave themselves - to live with them in Valinor. Many of the Elves were against it, but the first Elven kings - Finwë, Elwë and Ingwë - wanted to move to the West. Those who went, and this was the biggest part, was afterwards called the Eldar - "the People of the Stars", but some wouldn't change their minds, and they were called the Avari - "the Unwilling".
Many things happened on the great journey to the West. Three hosts set out, and from these, three of the most important races stem. Ingwë, who was later named the Highest Lord of all the Elves, and his followers - the Vanyar - went first. They all went to Valinor, and never returned to Middle-earth.
Next came the people of Finwë - the Noldor. These were very gifted, and most gifted among them was Finwë's son, Fëanor, as you'll hear more of later.
Last came the Teleri and their King Elwë (who is best known as Thingol, which means Greymantle, and will from here on be mentioned by that name only). Once, while walking alone in the woods, he saw Melian, one of the Maia, and he fell in love with her. He took her as his Queen, and they refused to go on, and settled in Menegroth - "The Thousand Caves" - as did many of the Teleri. The King and Queen later had the most beautiful child that ever was born in Middle-earth: Lúthien, daughter of Elf and God.
Both the Vanyar, the Noldor and some of the Teleri came to Aman, the Blessed Realm. For a while they lived in peace and glory, but it came to pass that Melkor was released from prison. He pretended to be a friend, and begged for mercy. The Valar believed him, and he was allowed to live in Aman.
Fëanor, "Spirit of Fire", made the three Silmarils, the most beautiful jewels ever created. Melkor lusted for them, and he spread lies among the Noldor, setting them up against each other. But fortunately his plans were revealed, but he escaped.
With the help of the giant spider Ungoliant, the foremother of Shelob from The Lord of the Rings, Melkor destroyed the two trees, Laurelin and Telperion, and stole the Silmarils. Fëanor and his seven sons - Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, Amrod and Amras - swore an unbreakable oath, saying that they should pursue all creatures that kept a Silmaril from them to the end of the world. He set out with most of the Noldor, although some wouldn't come.
When coming to the Haven of Alqualondë, the Noldor did one of their worst deeds. The Teleri, who where great shipmakers, dwelt there, and they refused both to lend or sell them their ships. The Noldor then killed many, and stole the boats. For this Mandos cursed them:
...Their Oath shall drive them (the House of Fëanor and their followers), and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.Many then turned back, but most continued their quest. There were not enough boats for everybody, and Fëanor and his most trusted friends left the others, making the words of Mandos come true.
In Middle-earth Orcs and other evil creatures grew strong and evil, and went to war against King Thingol, but the Elves won, although many died. About the same time, also the people of Fëanor was attacked by Melkor's servants, and even though they beat the enemy, Fëanor was killed.
The sons of Fëanor fought for a long time to get the Silmarils that Melkor had set in his crown, but it was someone else who managed to get the first Silmaril. Among Tolkien's books, I hold The Lord of the Rings as my favourite, but if I should chose a favourite part from any of his novels, it must be the tale of Lúthien and Beren from The Silmarillion. Beren was a mortal man, and once he came to the Girdle of Melian. This was built by Melian, the wife of King Thingol, so that none, unless they had greater powers than hers, could pass it and enter their kingdom. Beren managed this. In the woods he met Lùthien, whom he called Tinúviel - Nightingale, the daughter of Thingol and Melian, and he fell in love with her.
King Thingol didn't like this, but since Lúthien also loved Beren, he said that they could marry if Beren got him a Silmaril. They set out together, and with the help of the great hound Huan, they at last managed to enter Melkor's realm. The Enemy saw Lúthien's beauty, and she sang for him, and he fell asleep. Beren, who was disguised, cut one of the Silmarils from Melkor's crown. They ran away, but Carcharoth, the Enemy's mightiest hound, bit off Beren's hand with the Silmaril in it. But the jewel had special qualities, and burned the hound's stomach until it went mad with rage.
When they returned to Thingol, he allowed Beren to marry Lúthien, as he saw him with new eyes. First they set out to recapture the Silmaril, which they managed. Both Beren and Huan the hound were killed. Lùthien lost her will to live, but when she came to the Halls of Mandos, she begged him for help, and he allowed them both to return to Middle-earth as mortals.
Thus Melkor lost the first Silmaril. Thingol was later killed by dwarves who wanted it for themselves, but Beren recovered it, and gave it to his grandchild, Elwing. She married Eärendil, a sailor. They had two children, Elrond and Elros. At this time Melkor had nearly defeated the Elves of Middle-earth, and most of Fëanor's sons were dead. Eärendil and Elwing set out in their boat, and at last came to Valinor. Eärendil was mortal, and not allowed to come here, but he wanted to ask for mercy for the Elves and Men of Middle-earth. The Valar listened to his prayers, and when Melkor thought he'd won, they attacked him, and he was thrown in the Timeless Void by Manwë. Eärendil and his family was allowed to chose what race they wanted to belong to. Elros wanted to be a Man, but the others chose to be reckoned among the Elves. Therefor Elrond is called the Half-elven.
Only two of Fëanor's sons were alive, Maedhros and Maglor, and they took one of the remaining Silmarils each. But it burned their hands, and Maedhros cast himself in a gasping chasm filled with fire, while Maglor cast his Silmaril in the sea. Thus Mandos' curse came true, and the Silmarils were lost. In this way the First Age ended.
This page is dedicated to those that left long time ago, to the Elvish people.
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