Aging of Elves

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?

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?

Obviously, Elvis looks the same now as when he disappeared in 1977.

He always will, too

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”.

“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.

Elrond is also half-human. Might his mixed heritage contribute to his appearance? Make him look a bit rougher than other elves?

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.

Not only is Galadriel older by far than either of them, she’s Arwen’s grandmother, and Elrond’s mother-in-law.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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…

Well, it might be more precise to say that they got burned out on him. But yeah, I like that.

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.

I think they age backwards: in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Legolas looked much older than he did in LOTR.

Same with Hannibal Lecter.

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. :frowning: