PDA

View Full Version : Aging of Elves


jsc1953
01-20-2014, 03:04 PM
While watching LOTR again recently, my daughter raised a question that I hadn't considered before:

Elves, being immortal, stop aging at some point after reaching maturity. So does this mean that it's impossible to discern elves' relative age? Do all elves look the same age?

My daughter noted that Elrond (Hugo Weaving, age 40 during filming) and Arwen (Liv Tyler, age 23) look like they could be father & daughter to us; but in "real life" would they have looked the same age?

Alessan
01-20-2014, 03:12 PM
Arwen was some 3,000 years old, and Elrond about 6,000. I supposed those extra 3 millennia might have aged them a bit, but where does that put Galadriel, who was older than both of them put together?

Exapno Mapcase
01-20-2014, 03:16 PM
Obviously, Elvis looks the same now as when he disappeared in 1977.

He always will, too

dogbutler
01-20-2014, 03:23 PM
Arwen was some 3,000 years old, and Elrond about 6,000. I supposed those extra 3 millennia might have aged them a bit, but where does that put Galadriel, who was older than both of them put together?

I saw a guesstimate once that Galadriel was around 15,000. Give or take an Age.

jsc1953
01-20-2014, 03:30 PM
I saw a guesstimate once that Galadriel was around 15,000. Give or take an Age.

Since Galadriel was older than the sun, literally, it's hard to give her age in "years".

Balance
01-20-2014, 04:16 PM
"The Elves were sufficiently longeval to be called by Man 'immortal'. But they were not unageing or unwearying." (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien No 245, dated 1963).

So, elves age, but not as men do. Perhaps we may read some significance in the juxtaposition of "unageing" and "unwearying" here? It is not the simple progress of years that ages an elf, but the changes those years bring. Elrond's apparent age is not the product of his years, but of the weight of his experiences and the (relatively) somber character to which they have given rise. Galadriel, though older in years (and times before years), has not been as changed by her experiences and retains a quite youthful appearance.

An elf is only as old as he feels.

Barking Dog
01-20-2014, 05:31 PM
Elrond is also half-human. Might his mixed heritage contribute to his appearance? Make him look a bit rougher than other elves?

Ethilrist
01-20-2014, 05:33 PM
I remember something about the more ancient elves glowing with the accumulated wealth of unspent experience points or something like that, so perhaps a light meter might be useful for determining their age.

Chronos
01-20-2014, 05:36 PM
Not only is Galadriel older by far than either of them, she's Arwen's grandmother, and Elrond's mother-in-law.

Sleel
01-20-2014, 06:09 PM
To complicate things, Elrond's "human" half isn't fully human, but descended from Maiar. His twin chose mortality. IOW, he's as immortal as he wants to be.

Baron Greenback
01-20-2014, 06:37 PM
"The Elves were sufficiently longeval to be called by Man 'immortal'. But they were not unageing or unwearying." (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien No 245, dated 1963).

So, elves age, but not as men do. Perhaps we may read some significance in the juxtaposition of "unageing" and "unwearying" here?

I think the "wearying" is to do with those remaining, or returning to, Middle Earth - the slow decay, from an Elven point of view, grinding them down, Middle Earth being ultimately the dominion of Men and other mortal creatures, by design.

the_diego
01-20-2014, 07:59 PM
They should look alike upon maturity save with stature and degree of nobility. Aslo, they take time to mature. "___'s beauty was at its noon while ___'s beauty was at its morn."

As to the "other-worldly" appearance of some elves, that's due in part to the curse of Mandos for all elves that went into voluntary exile to middle earth (Galadriel included):

"...and those that go on living will live with a great weariness... and will wane and fade, and appear as mere shadows of regret to the younger children that come thereafter. The Valar have spoken."

BrotherCadfael
01-20-2014, 08:19 PM
I think the "wearying" is to do with those remaining, or returning to, Middle Earth - the slow decay, from an Elven point of view, grinding them down, Middle Earth being ultimately the dominion of Men and other mortal creatures, by design.If I recall correctly, it is said that, eventually, "Even the Valar will envy the Gift of Men". In other words, even the residents of Valinor, even the gods, will ultimately weary of life. It isn't Middle-Earth at all, but eternity that is the problem.

Lightray
01-20-2014, 08:53 PM
I think the "wearying" is to do with those remaining, or returning to, Middle Earth - the slow decay, from an Elven point of view, grinding them down, Middle Earth being ultimately the dominion of Men and other mortal creatures, by design.
There are other causes of premature elf aging. Fëanor's mother Míriel was spent by the labor of birthing him, and basically went speedily onto the Halls of Mandos thereafter because of this.

Stormcrow
01-21-2014, 09:57 AM
There are other causes of premature elf aging. Fëanor's mother Míriel was spent by the labor of birthing him, and basically went speedily onto the Halls of Mandos thereafter because of this.

To be fair, everyone who dealt with Feanor got tired of him, too...

Chronos
01-21-2014, 10:44 AM
Well, it might be more precise to say that they got burned out on him. But yeah, I like that.

Maastricht
01-21-2014, 11:05 AM
So, Elves age much like cats?

Cats are kittens for six months; then ageless for about 15 years; and in the last year of their life, they age visibly.

Skammer
01-21-2014, 11:59 AM
I think they age backwards: in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Legolas looked much older than he did in LOTR.

the_diego
01-21-2014, 07:23 PM
^
Same with Hannibal Lecter.

weemart
01-21-2014, 07:49 PM
So, Elves age much like cats?

Cats are kittens for six months; then ageless for about 15 years; and in the last year of their life, they age visibly.

My cat's 17 and can no longer jump as high as he could a few weeks ago. I hope u aren't saying he's in the last year of his life. :(

the_diego
01-21-2014, 07:53 PM
He may already be blind and you haven't noticed. He's a lot better off than blind people in that he can still jump.

weemart
01-21-2014, 10:05 PM
I'm pretty certain he's not blind. He tried to jump on the kitchen counter a few weeks ago and missed and has never tried again. He still jumps lower heights though.

Maastricht
01-22-2014, 02:27 AM
weemart, You've got Elves jumping on you kitchen counter ?

Cool.

dasmoocher
01-22-2014, 02:32 AM
So would Círdan be the elf with the oldest-looking physical appearance?

the_diego
01-22-2014, 02:40 AM
Has there even been a description of Cirdan? I don't remember. Those who came from Valinor and saw the light of the trees were: Galadriel, Glorfindel, Cirdan(?), Gildor and company. Glorfindel certainly looked young. These are among the oldest elves, though some who never went to Valinor (like Thranduil and Celeborn) may be even older.

Perhaps elves are as Sam described: "Some as merry as children, others as terrible as kings."

dasmoocher
01-22-2014, 02:49 AM
Has there even been a description of Cirdan? I don't remember.
I don't have my copies available, but I think he's described when they meet him at the Grey Havens at the end of the LOTR. IIRC, he has grey hair and a beard and something like "years of wisdom", but I'm not sure.

ETA: Found this"As they came to the gates Círdan the Shipwright came forth to greet them. Very tall he was, and his beard was long, and he was grey and old, save that his eyes were keen as stars; and he looked at them and bowed, and said 'All is now ready.'"

the_diego
01-22-2014, 02:57 AM
Ah, yes. I think it was that. There was a significance to his greeting to Gandalf, concerning the ring of fire.

dasmoocher
01-22-2014, 03:09 AM
Ah, yes. I think it was that. There was a significance to his greeting to Gandalf, concerning the ring of fire.

There's this quote:
"Take this ring, Master… for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill. But as for me, my heart is with the Sea, and I will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails. I will await you."

Found it on the Tolkien Gateway site, which had these two pages of interest:
Círdan (http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/C%C3%ADrdan)
Elven Life cycle (http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Elven_Life_cycle#.22Cycles_of_life.22_and_aging)

Grey
01-22-2014, 08:28 AM
Has there even been a description of Cirdan? I don't remember. Those who came from Valinor and saw the light of the trees were: Galadriel, Glorfindel, Cirdan(?), Gildor and company. Glorfindel certainly looked young. These are among the oldest elves, though some who never went to Valinor (like Thranduil and Celeborn) may be even older.

Perhaps elves are as Sam described: "Some as merry as children, others as terrible as kings."
Cirdan never crossed to Valinor. He remained in Beleriand with the Teleri that were searching for Elwe (later Thingol). It's also possible that as a leader of the Teleri on their journey across Middle Earth he awoke at Cuiviénen. That would make him older than Galadriel. He's described as having a beard and I think, though I have to check my books, to be grey haired.

I also remember reading the idea that elves' fëa (spirit) would eventually burn away their hröa (body). You can hear echos of this in the description of elves in later ages as diminished.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.