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Elven Races

Elves are all pretty people with pretty hair and pretty eyes and pretty bodies and pretty fortune telling telepathic powers and pretty neat magic and pretty cool action scenes, right? Wrong! Contrary to popular belief in the fan fiction/RPG world, Tolkien's Elves aren't just prettier, more magical, cooler versions of humans. Tolkien made Elven races with specific physical and mental traits allotted to each. Thus, an Elf's appearance, power, and personality are determined by which race(s) of Elves he or she descends from.

Of course, Elves have several given powers.

There are several given physical traits of Elves as well.

The Mystery of Fading

Despite common belief, Elven fading is not dying from grief. It's a stage of an Elf's life that is reached when they are really really, really, really old. Their spirits begin to devour their bodies, slowly making them transparent. When an Elf is completely faded, it is invisible to mortal eyes. There is no way to reverse the process. Dying of grief is a completely different thing, and normally entails falling asleep in a peaceful spot and not waking up. Their bodies don't rot when they die of grief - they just lie there in case their spirits may want to return.

The three primary races of Elves are the Vanyar, the Noldor, and the Teleri. I will cover the Elves of mixed descent, Avari, Calaquendi, and the Moriquendi and mistakes often made about them as well.

The Vanyar

Vanya means 'fair' in Quenya. The plural is 'Vanyar', and the adjective is 'Vanyarin'.

Vanyarin Elves are tallest of the Elves at about 7'. They have golden blond(e) hair and grey eyes.

Special powers/traits: They are noted for being wise and not impetuous. Their "magic" is only a little better than the other Elves, but it is still so non-existent that it doesn't really count as being magic to us. The Vanyar have a knack for getting in the favor of the Valar; they have caused the least number of problems and happily do what ever the Valar ask them to do.

The Valar that favored them: Varda and Manwë

Where they are found in the Third Age: In Valinor.

Which language they speak: Vanyarin, a dialect of Quenya

Famous Vanyarin Elves: Ingwë, Indis

Other divisions/names of the Vanyar: Faeries, The Fair

The Noldor

Noldo means "wise/knowledgeable" in Quenya. The plural is "Noldor", and the adjective is "Noldorin".

The Noldor are shorter than Vanyarin Elves, but still pretty tall at 6'5". They have black hair or (very rarely) red-brown hair and grey eyes. Red hair is so rare among them that giving an Elven character red hair isn't a good idea.

Special powers/traits: They have a great love of knowledge and craft. This love tends to get them in trouble from time to time. Silmarilli, anyone?

The Vala that favored them: Aulë

Where they are found in the Third Age: Most are in Valinor and a few are in Middle-earth.

Which language they speak: Quenya, until the First Age of Middle-earth. King Thingol banned Quenya, so they started using Doriathrin, changing it a little to make the dialect of Sindarin spoken in the Second and Third Ages.

Famous Noldorin Elves: Fëanáro, Finwë, Nerdanel

Other divisions/names of the Noldor:Deep Elves, Gnomes, Golodhrim

The Teleri

Teler means 'Hindmost' in Quenya. The plural is 'Teleri', and the adjective is 'Telerin'.

Telerin Elves are roughly the height of the Noldor, if not a little shorter. Their hair is silver blond(e), and their eyes are grey.

Special powers/traits: They love water, simplicity, and the color green. They are the least likely to seek or desire power. They are named as the greatest of the three hosts of the Elves. They were the last to leave Cuiviénen.

The Vala that favored them: Ulmo

Where they are found in the Third Age: Most are in Middle-earth, making up the majority of the Elven population in Middle-earth.

Which language they speak: Telerin, which broke into Nandorin, Doriathrin, and Ilkorin. Doriathrin was the most dominant, and its descendant, Sindarin, became the only Elven language spoken in Middle-earth by the third age.

Famous Telerin Elves: Thranduil, Legolas, Celeborn, Círdan, Thingol

Other divisions/names of the Teleri: Danas, Falamari, Foamriders, Green Elves, Grey Elves, Hindmost, Laiquendi, Last-comers, Lindar, Nandor, Nymphs, Sea-elves, Silvan Elves, Sindar, Singers, Third Clan, Wood Elves

Elves of Mixed Descent

Elves of mixed descent are not born with hair or eye colors not already found in their parents. So, if a Vanya and a black haired Noldo marry, their children could have golden blond(e) or black hair, not a shade of color between. If an Elf has Vanyarin, black-haired Noldorin, and Telerin blood in him or her, this Elf could have golden blond(e), silver blond(e), or black hair and grey eyes. There is no such thing as an Elf with brown or dirty blond(e) hair or green eyes.

Famous Elves of mixed descent: Galadriel, Elrond, Finarfin, Fingolfin, Celebrían

The Avari

Avar means 'refuser' in Quenya. The plural is 'Avari' and the adjective is 'Avarin'.

The Avari are the Elves that never left Cuiviénen. For all we know, they are still there. They would be made up of mostly Telerin Elves. Writing about Avarin Elves in Middle-earth is wrong because there never was any Avari in Middle-earth. They never left Cuiviénen; remember?

The Vala that favored them: Melkor got his dirty fingers on a few of them; it is rumored that some of their descendents became Orcs.

Other divisions/names of the Avari: The Refusers, The Unwilling

The Moriquendi and the Calaquendi

Moriquendi means 'Dark Elves' in Quenya. Calaquendi means 'Light Elves' in Quenya.

The Dark Elves do not have dark skin and white hair. They are not enemies of the Calaquendi. Dark Elves are simply Elves who haven't seen the light of Yavanna's trees. The Calaquendi saw the trees before Melkor destroyed them. That's it. They are found in all of the races of Elves and appear no different from other Elves. The Moriquendi are not 'Drow', and there is no such thing as a 'Drow' in Middle-earth. After reading this, if you write about 'Dark Elves that are the enemies of all of the light peoples in Arda' without the RPG or fan fiction being a crossover between Tolkien's work and the Forgotten Realms, my imaginary self will appear and beat you with a copy of The Silmarillion until it starts to sink in.

Famous Moriquendi: Legolas, Arwen, Elrond, Celebrían

Famous Calaquendi: Galadriel, Fëanáro, Ingwë

Sources

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Last edited: January 2nd, 2009

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