Elven ’Magic’

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Turin Turambar, 09/Nov/2005 at 11:31 AM
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’By the arts of Felagund their own forms and faces were changed into the likeness of orcs; and thus disguised they came far upon their northward road,’          (Of Beren and Luthien, The Silmarillion)

Ok i guess the obvious question here is, are Elves able to perform acts of the supernatural. For example the casting of spells, as seems to be suggested in this quote. Or was Finrod just really good at face painting? I guess another example would be the mirror of Galadrial. Although i always saw that as the power coming from the ’mirror’ rather than Galadrial herself. What are your views?

Nerdánel 09/Nov/2005 at 12:50 PM
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I have always held that, being the firstborn children of arda the elves had natural extra ability that others of later entry into ME such as boromir in his fear see as "magic" when to them it is natural to have that power. The wisdom , the grace, and the mystic are part of the elves nature i think. I think there is some power in different elvish phrases, some that gandalf utters on occasion for example.  I also think that powerful elf Lords, like Galadriel for example and others who have dwelt in valinor or who were awoken in the beginning have more power. I suppose i had always attributed the mirror and powers of lorien with galadriel alone though on closer thought this is not really the case. I do however still attribute the power of the mirror to her however.

I think that this differs from the "magic" of gandalf, saruman and radagast which seems based upon incantations and requires things, such as a staff for example. (as evidenced by gandalf needing to retain his staff during the first meeting of theodin at rohan to fight back saruman, in the lack of power he experiences when his staff is lost to him and he is trapped at orthanc, and when sarumns staff is broken).

There are occasions of actual elvish "magic" i suppose, but to me this passage lends more to disguising themselves physically, than it would from magical changes due to the wording ;  ’By the arts of Felagund ’  to me somehow this implies a masterful artistic disguising, though probably much better than sam and frodo clomping along in mordor dressed as orcs!

halfir 09/Nov/2005 at 02:35 PM
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Galadriels’ mirror cannot exist without the presence of Galadriel ergo it is her ’magic’ that creates it.It is her breath that activates it. Unlike the One it has no objective existence of its own- it is recreated each time she pours water and breathes on it.

’With water from the stream Galadriel filled the basin to the brim, and breathed on it, and when the water was still again she spoke."Here is the Mirror of Galadriel", she said. ’I have brought you here so that you may look into it if you will."{FOTR- The Mirror of Galadriel- my bold emphasis and underline}.

Her ’breathing on it’ is that which enables the Mirror to filfil its function of scrying, and its existence only comes into being when Galdriel pours water and breathes on it. And it can only be used when the surface is still- it needs a  tranquil ’plane’ to carry out its functions, if the water is disturbed the plane is disturbed and the viewing destroyed. (The concept of ’breath’ as a life-giver or ’creator’ is well embedded in the wider mythological  context that LOTR is set against,(se below)  as is the concept of the necessity of a still plane for scrying)

The One, on the other hand, has an existence external to Sauron. It can exist without Sauron, although Sauron cannot exist on any physical plane if the One is destroyed. Galadriel’s mirror can only be activated by Galadriel, it can only be brought into existence by certain repeated actions on her part- pouring water and breathing on it.When she goes into the West there canm be no Mirror left in Lothlorien, although there can be Three elven rings (cf. ROTK The Grey Havens) -powerless of course- but with a separate physical identity of there own.

Moreover, the Mirror is not "coercive’ it does not make people look at it and seek to dominate them.:

’I have brought you here so that you may look in it, if you will’. (ibid- my bold emphasis), anymore than Gladriel does - "do as you will" {Galadriel to Frodo regarding her advice as to whether or not he should look in the Mirrror}.

Nor indeed does Galadriel control what appears in the Mirror if the viewer let’s the Mirror work on it’s own  i.e.. not being commanded by Galadriel or by a preset wish of the viewer: ’What you will see if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell’ (ibid).

One thing I am still unclear about is whether the Mirror is limited to Lorien and to water from that particular stream:’a murmuring stream that issued from the fountain on the hill’ {ibid}

I somehow think it is because of her later comment to Frodo when she hands him the Phial of Galadriel :"In this phial..is caught the light of Earendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain{FOTR-Farewell to Lorien}.I cannot, however, be certain of this.

There is also another clever lingusitic twist which Tolkien has incorporated into the concept of The Mirror of Galadriel.

The Mirror consists of a combination of water, breath, and thus mirror.

The word mirror itself (Latin -speculum) gives the verb ’to speculate’  and originally:

’speculation was scanning the sky and the realated movement of the stars by means of a mirror’{cf. OED;Penguin Dictionary of Symbols). Mirrors are thus reflecting surfaces which reveal certain ’truths’.

’Breath’ is a universal principle of life - of creation and also of destruction.The breath ’ruah’ from Jehovah’s nostrils is the sign of his exercise of his powers of creation. ’Flavit Deus et Dissipati Sunt’ said the words on the memorial medallion celebrating the destruction of the spanish Armmarda in 1588- ’God blew with his winds {breath} and they were scattered.’

Galadriel’s breath is that which brings the Mirror to life.



Beleg D. Rille 10/Nov/2005 at 11:43 AM
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i think there is magic in them but that cant quite use it like gandalf or some such. as youll recall the staffs were how they uses their magic. they were symbols of power basically giving permission to use magic. but because of the magic IN them they are extremely talented. all their crafts are magnificent so that it seems as though by magic. to put it best they weave magic, where as wizards use magic. which would explain why gandalf would be something to be noticed even to an elf.
Nerdánel 10/Nov/2005 at 03:57 PM
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I also was reminded yesterday when reading that the elves of lothlorien specifically say to sam when asked if some of their items are magic that they arent sure what he means by "magic" but that the cloaks have all of the thing near them and that are dear to them woven into them. (sorry i would quote directly however my book is not handy at the moment.)
Laifana 11/Nov/2005 at 01:21 AM
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It is funny though to think that Tolkien did not actually put much into the description of magic use in the elven realms. We can say that he was the inventor of the elven genre and there has been many a copy, good or bad, since the first appearence of LOTR and the rest.

But all as one, these "copies" do have much more magic in them than Tolkien gave to his elves. wonder why? His suttle approach to magic is much more to my liking since we really have to read and search for those places.

Mahrwini 11/Nov/2005 at 05:04 AM
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  There’s not much magic in ME apart from the Beren and Luthien examples, or Gandalf and the Balrog, but there’s certanly some sort of a "Runic" magic : many objects are powerful, such as Grond, the battering ram, who had "spell" of destruction on it, the Rings of Power, even the Silmarils.

  In fact, with "magic" as we define it (I mean, Harry Potter type magic) LotR would not be LotR, it wouldnt have the trials the characters have to take, the pain, and a final desperate victory. If there xas magic, Frodo would just Gandalf to make him Apparate (like in HP) to Mount Doom. Even Beren and Luthien suffer a great deal, even if there are hints of magic in the tale. 

Beleg D. Rille 11/Nov/2005 at 01:03 PM
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yes and there in lies my point. its kinda like sting or glamdring. they themselves are magical but they cant use the magic. they can only do what is within themselves to do. that way magic is both a great talent on one hand in the case of the elves. their magic is pontential i suppose you might say. gandalf and the istari could wield magic because they were allowed to. so magic was a inner essence of a things being. the wizards were given permission to tap into this essence for their uses. as previously stated i read somewheres (in lotr) that a wizards staff is more than a walking stick, its a symbol of their power. its kinda like a badge that says " i can tap into the worlds pontential". thats why breaking saurumans staff stripped him of his power. it took away his authority and his right to wield magic, as these were tools lent to them so they could accomplish there tasks.
Phil_d_one 11/Nov/2005 at 01:33 PM
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I must say that I am none to happy with such a liberal application of the term ’magic’ when referring to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. In fact, Galadriel herself comments on the term, or rather, corrects Sam on his use of it:

`And you? ’ she said, turning to Sam. ’For this is what your folk would call magic. I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem also to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy. But this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel. Did you not say that you wished to see Elf-magic? ’
(TFotR (II) The Mirror of Galadriel, Emphasis is mine)

However, as to the quote in question, I myself am thinking more along the lines of Nerdanel’s answer, that it is referring to simple disguises, at most helped along slightly..

Yes, good at facepainting, if you will...
Kathuphazgan 11/Nov/2005 at 02:04 PM
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elvish magic in LOTR is different than many other magics of other books.  its not so much ACTIVE as it is PASSIVE.  in other books u say s few words and a fireball flies out and kills somebody.  in LOTR the elves have magic but its....always there.  there is much "destruction" spells i guess.  the magic is always there, but not really seen. there are some times when the effects are really seen, such as the mirror or when gandalf fights the balrog.  but there are other things.  liek the rings.  spells were cast on them, and as long as they are worn their effects are there.  galdreil has the ring of healing,correct me if i am wrong, and thats what she uses to preserve lorien.  gandalf has the ring of fire, which gives courage to the people he meets.  and u might say, what good is courage, a fire ball would be much better.  minas tirith would have most certanly fallen if gandalf didnt go there.  he kept the soldiers fighting.  the magic may not been seen, but it certainly has an effect  
Nerdánel 13/Nov/2005 at 04:49 AM
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Kathuphazgan puts this well i think, its passive. Its a power they hold, that they were created with-born with, its a part of them. Its not something they actively create. an excellent way to explain it i think. Also on the fact that just because we dont see someone waving a wand around over a cauldron doesnt mean there isnt something at work here.
Turin Turambar, 13/Nov/2005 at 12:39 PM
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Phil_d_one I think the referal to the term ’magic’ is only due to a lack of any other word that can better describe what this topic is discussing. I agree it’s not the best word to use, but i think in this context it’s difficult to avoid. Please suggest a better word if you can think of one
Elenmîr 14/Nov/2005 at 01:19 PM
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I suppose you could argue either way. In some cases, for instance when Galadriel breathes on the water, you could argue that this is magic. I think, personally that the magic of the Elves is subtler than simple outright magic (like the type that Boromir was expecting, plain outright magic), in the sense that their power is limited more to good deeds and the fortelling of the future. On the other hand, the Elves were responsible for the rings of power which most people would consider magic. Instead of calling it "magic" I believe a more fitting term would be "power". They hold the power the do good, and the power to change, to some extent, the course of the future.
Windowcel Alarion 16/Nov/2005 at 06:22 AM
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I thought this quote might help clarify some of the points made above:

"I have not used ’magic’ consistently, and indeed the Elven-queen Galadriel is obliged to remonstrate with the Hobbits on their confused use of the word both for the devices and operations of the Enemy, and for those of the Elves.  I have not, because there is not a word for the latter (since all human stories have suffered the same confusion).  But the Elves are there (in my tales) to demonstrate the difference.  Their ’magic is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortles, more quickm mor complete (product, and vision is unflawed correspondance).  And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous reforming of creation." (from a letter to Milton Waldman, 1951)

Enegue 16/Nov/2005 at 06:29 PM
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To use Galadriel’s quote one again:

`And you? ’ she said, turning to Sam. ’For this is what your folk would call magic. I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem also to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy. But this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel. Did you not say that you wished to see Elf-magic? ’ 

I see Galadriel as confused over the term as we are.  To her, what she does is normal and consistant to the lives of Elves.  It is we that that have come up with the term ’magic’ as a word to encompass that realm of things that are mysterious and unexplained but that also causes an action.  Tolkien too tries to explain what he says is "Their ’magic is Art’ ..." to try to objectify that which to the Elves is just what they do.

elvenpath 18/Nov/2005 at 06:54 AM
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Turin, you state that


are Elves able to perform acts of the supernatural


but these acts are supernatural for whom? Men and Hobbits perceive them as supernatural, because they are not gifted with them. For the Elves these ‘magical’ acts are totally natural, because the ‘magic’ power of the Elves is native, is part of who they are. They didn’t obtain it through any external ways.


Anyway, a difference in the use of ’magic’ in this story is that it is not to be come by by ’lore’ or spells; but is in an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men as such. (Letter#155)

Halion 20/Nov/2005 at 08:57 AM
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Alongside the paragraph containing the passage elvenpath quoted, Tolkien questions his own statement’s veracity: ‘But the Númenóreans used “spells” in making swords?’ Also of note is that this ‘letter’ is actually a portion of a draft for letter #154 where this portion of the letter was excised from the sent version.

I think that if it were completely absent from Man’s ‘nature’, then several of Tolkien’s plot devices would fail; this could be the reason why it was excised.
Aure 22/Nov/2005 at 06:48 PM
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Tolkien’s works tend more towards realism than hat I would call fantasy writing but that doesn’t mean there is any lack of the fantastical, the rings, the works of the Maiar and Valar, the Istari... and the magical workings of the elves. Magic is nothing more than a name for that for which we have no more natural explanation. Look at the power the elves imbue their crafts with, the rings, some of their blades, even the doors of Moria. Magic may be a natural thing to the elves for they could be harnessing some power of nature that they are closer to because of what they are but that makes it no less magical, really.
elendil elessar 24/Nov/2005 at 04:22 AM
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I think the capacities of the Elves have to do with enhancing what is already there, as said in the letters, and not to create. At the moment I can only recollect Ainur and Maiar as creating anything out of nothingness (it is not the best wording).
Regarding the Mirror, isn’t Galadriel using the power of waters, to wich she is closely bound, for water is everywhere, since the beginning and till the end. For Finrod it is his Art that changed them to the likeness of Orcs, they were not changed in orcs but merely "disguised", albeit with all the skills of an Elven lord. I will use the same reasonning to explain the Palantir : they were devices that would help one to see afar from one to an other, there is on need for magic there but only of understanding of what is around you and what is afar; if we were in closer contact with the mana of Ea we would be able to bring the stone and morning dew and forests bark into our garnments as the Elves of Lorien.
We have here a society that doesn’t put its belief in the development of science to rule matter, but rather in comprehension of Matters and of a "partnership" with it.
Ezharus Fury 26/Nov/2005 at 01:36 PM
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Elendil - I like the phrase you use when you speak of partnership. The elves were indeed very in tune with all the happenings of nature. I believe that being the firstborn - some would say primary - children of Illuvatar the Elves were "entitled" to a birthright per se. The idea of their magic and special abilities seems to be endowed to them and developed rather than learned.

As far as the whole orc issue goes - I think it was more disguise than actual transformation. The phrase "in likeness to" seems to me to represent more of a great resemblance to. In other words, their disguises bore many of the same qualities, and were therefore counted as being in likeness of orcs.
Eleril 29/Nov/2005 at 11:08 AM
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The Elves themselves are magic.This what we would say it’s magic for the Elves is their nature.They’re the first Children of Eru and they’re created from the earth itself.As for the words they don’t have a power-the words are simply words,nothing more or less.But some places respond to some frases so it’s not the words but the places were you say them.Liike the river which responded to Elrond’s call and helped the Ringbearer.

Vardandil 30/Nov/2005 at 07:37 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by elvenpath on Friday, November 18, 2005

Men and Hobbits perceive them as supernatural, because they are not gifted with them. For the Elves these ‘magical’ acts are totally natural, because the ‘magic’ power of the Elves is native, is part of who they are. They didn’t obtain it through any external ways.


Anyway, a difference in the use of ’magic’ in this story is that it is not to be come by by ’lore’ or spells; but is in an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men as such. (Letter#155)

I absolutely agree. Tolkien’s "magic" was simply a beautiful presentation of natural, spiritual gifts and skills (mostly artistic) and though they can be either used or neglected they are always present. Of course as every gift they can be used right or wrong, but as such they are meant to have a positive effect on reality, rather to heal and preserve what’s positive than cause violence, simple convinience, pleasure or personal interest (as "magic" in our and other fantasy world is), rather to help than to rule. It’s also different from this what is called "natural magic", because "natural magic" is based on a conception that everyone obtains magical powers, but only few will gain knowledge (enlightement) to use them, while in Tolkien’s idea the person that is gifted does require any specific ilumination to learn using it, though he/she may practise to master the gift, but that is a matter of developing a skill not using it at all.

Ther’s also a philosophical difference between Tolkien’s elvish magic and the one in our world and most of fantasy books. While eleven magic presents the beauty of spirituality and metaphysical side of life in comparisement to materia, the "magic" as we know subdues spirituality to materia using it to satisfy material desires: power, pleasure, convinience, violence, etc., being also usually based on material way of usage such as consumption (exact payment for particular magical preformance) or technology (accurate description of spell casting, e.g. by precise words, gesture and/or exact components usage). 

Of course it does not concern "evil magic" in M-e which is full of sorcery used to subdue others to one’s will and gain power for one’s egoistic, material interests like Sauron’s and Morgoth desire to rule the material world.

Duiel 05/Dec/2005 at 02:35 PM
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I think that magic is only what we cannot explain. To mortals the Elves are magical, but to themselves, it is probably just a normal art (not sure if "normal" is the right word, but in any case acceptable).
elendil elessar 05/Dec/2005 at 03:28 PM
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Would anyone agree with the idea that actual magie in ME is only present in artefact ( the rings, Morgul blades, Elven swords, the Mirror, Phial, Silmaril...); as I recollect all other aspect we have are deeply attached to the personn that practise it and I would then classify it more as hand and mind abbilities?
Ista Sharrasi 05/Dec/2005 at 05:29 PM
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          I do believe the elven abilities are more inborn abilities given to them when their race was created, then actual magic, though the men and other races would call it such, for lack of a better name. I do not remember which book (and I do not have them before me to find which one it is), but there is a statement in it that says the trees of Fangorm were long ago taught to talk by the elves, and they learned to walk as well. Hense, the Ents being born. It mentions some of this in the second movie, though it’s just a passing bit of phrase from Legolas.

          This and other tid bits from the various books (including the glowing swords), suggests that the elven ’magic’, per se, was more attuned towards nature. This would allow them to move silently by asking the grass to not speak of their passing, or wish their swords to warn them of impending danger, or by showing them - as in Galadriel’s Mirror - possible futures if things are or are not done correctly. Is it magic? In the sense of the word as we understand it perhaps it is, though to the elves it would have been nothing more then a natural talent.

Paikain 06/Dec/2005 at 06:35 AM
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Elf magic as Sam called it is the natural powers of the earth controlled by the Elves. The power of Galadriel came from her own soul and the ring thus the Mirror of Galadriel was powered by her to seach the past present or future. She could not control it to a point and she was a conduit for those the looked in the Mirror like Frodo an Sam,
Tranduril 07/Dec/2005 at 11:28 AM
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I aggree with Paikain. The elves have the powers of the "earth", that will say the powers to controll air, fire, water and earth. I think Tolkien has mentioned it like this.     But we can only gess ofcourse. As i think the elves can order these "powers" to make or help them with things.   

Acabar 08/Dec/2005 at 03:59 PM
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A very interesting topic. First, I think much depends on your view of what magic actually is. Consider this: in today’s world one might well describe clapping your hands and filling a room with light as magic. 

But even in Tolkien’s world, even by Tolkien’s admission, the question of the existence of magic is a tricksy one: "it is a v. large question, and difficult" (Letter # 155) I don’t think it is as clear cut as saying that the Elves did not use magic.

Tolkien does go on in Letter # 155 to say:

"But I suppose that, for the purposes of the tale, some would say that there is a latent distinction between magia and goetia. Galadriel speaks of the ’deceits of the Enemy’. Well enough, but magia could be, was, held good (per se), and goetia bad. Neither is, in this tale, good or bad (per se), but only by motive or purpose or use. Both sides use both, but with different motives." (my emphasis)

Goetia is explained in the endnotes as a greek word meaning "sorcery". The endnote further states the OED definition of the English word, goety, as: "witchcraft or magic performed by the invocation and employment of evil spirits; necromancy."

So, the Enemy at least used magic. Right? At the Great Gate the Witchking "cried aloud in a dreadful voice, speaking in some forgotten tongue words of power and terror to rend both heart and stone...As if stricken by some blasting spell it burst asunder." (RotK, The Siege of Gondor)

But now, Tolkien further goes on in Letter #155 to write: "Anyway, a difference in the use of ’magic’ in this story is that it is not come by by ’lore’ or spells."

Yet, besides the case of the Withchking, there are several contradictory passages from the stories:

At the gates of Moria, contemplating the magic word that would open the gates, says Gandalf: "I once knew every spell in all the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs, that was ever used for such a purpose." (FotR, A Journey in the Dark)

Spells in the tongues of Elves?

A little later he confronts the Balrog through the closed door and tells us: "I felt it through the door, and the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent. It laid hold of the iron ring, and then it perceived me and my spell."
   "What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge. The counter-spell was terrible." (FotR, A Journey in the Dark)

And Merry’s sword, which is described as a work of Westernesse wrought in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, is said to "[break] the spell that knit his [the Witchking’s] unseen sinews to his will." (RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields)

Does this imply a form of counter magic to that of the Witchking? And was that sword wrought by a Man? It seems to be suggested.

festopestochest 09/Dec/2005 at 07:51 AM
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After reading what everyone here posted, I decided to look up exactly the word magic. It is defined as this:

magic: Possessing distinctive qualities that produce unaccountable or baffling effects

The elves have something that enables them to "produce baffling effects", if you will. The elves aren’t from Midd Earth, so there’s no reason for how they work to appear normal to us. One of Aesop’s Fables was similar with this confusion of magis, where an animal invites a man to his house to avoid a storm. The man blew on his hands to keep them warm, and his soup to cool it down. The animal was baffled by the ability to do both, and so are men baffled by the elves and their "magics." How many people in ME that can do magic are actually from ME?
DarkArcher@ 13/Dec/2005 at 03:45 PM
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So they have magic but it is more in the mind and soul than in front of your eyes? I know they didn’t come from Middle-Earth, but is there magic more like traits? I mean Legolas has traits which appear to be unhumin, but all elves have some from of them, so would that be declared magic? It is more passive than anything else so it exists around them, and protects them in some visual but more from the heart, can anyone tell me the bottom line of this so called Elvish magic?
Boromir88 13/Dec/2005 at 04:03 PM
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To me the term "magic" is a more humanized term that say the Kingdom of Men would use to explain the unexplainable.  Explain what they don’t understand.

In the Mirror of Galadriel, when Sam asks to see "Elf-magic" Galadriel has no clue what he’s talking about:
"And you?" she said, turning to Sam.  "For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy.  But this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel.  Did you not say that you wished to see Elf-Magic?"
Depending upon who’s perspective it’s from determines whether it’s "magic" or not.  To someone like Sam, or mortal like you or me, we would term it as "magic."  We aren’t able to perform magic, we don’t have anything "magical" about us, but the Elves are able to perform "magic."  However, to an elf, they are unfamiliar with "magic" they don’t understand it.  To an elf, it’s their own inherent power, there’s nothing "magical" about it, technically it’s their every-day thing. 

When we talk about the Istari, again the term "wizard" seems to be a more "mortalized" word.  When I think of wizard, I of course think of someone able to perform magic.  When the Istari first came to Middle-earth, and when men saw them capable of doing these unbelievable things (like light from their staffs, darkening rooms...etc), these are inexplainable, and they termed the Istari, as "wizards."

It just all depends upon the perspective you look at it from.  To Sam, when he sees these things like in Galadriel’s Mirror, it’s magic.  But, to Galadriel it’s her own inherent power, and there’s nothing magical about it. 


Boromir88 27/Dec/2005 at 05:25 AM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

well, they do ahve obivously the "magic" of living forever.~mini
Immortality isn’t magic it’s a gift.  Or atleast the Men of Numenor perceived it as a gift, the Elves didn’t see it necessarily in the same way.
i guess most elven lords have magic, like glorifindel with the stream.
Sorry to be nitpicky, but Elrond summoned the flood and Gandalf added the white horses.  Glorfindel drove them into the River and caused them to flee because the Light of Aman shown in his face.

Again I think it depends upon the perspective.  We mortals term the supernatural, and powers that we don’t have as being "magical."  But to the Elves themselves, "magic" isn’t a term they are familiar with, nor one they understand.

Istanira 27/Dec/2005 at 08:45 PM
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Well, darn, I cannot find my copy of ’Book of Lost Tales 2’ which includes the Lay of Lethian, and if I could, I would provide a passage or two to illustrate my point; but I do remember reading the tale of Beren and Luthien, and being struck by the number of times the words ’magic’ and ’magics’ are used; Luthien’s ’magic’ in making her hair grow long; putting a sleeping spell on the cloak she wove from her hair (including the ingredients and the fact that she learned her power of song from her mother, Melian), her song that put Morgoth to sleep, etc.; but my point is that Tolkien used that word many, many times in that tale.

Did Tolkien himself actually have a change of heart about the word ’magic’ and does it get expressed in Galadriel’s misgivings of the word in LoTR? He seems to have abandoned the word when referring to the Elves in LoTR. He also abandoned it when the ’Of Beren and Luthien’ was publised in ’The Silmarillion’. Any thoughts?
Boromir88 28/Dec/2005 at 06:43 AM
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moony, magic in middle-earth is much different from magic in Harry Potter.  There’s no wands and fireballs or zap bolts...etc.

istanira, interesting find there .  My guess would be "magic" was a term Tolkien felt like wouldn’t fit in with the "powers" of the Elves.  It would fit in with a mortal (like Sam) who can’t explain this kind of stuff, and to Sam it is "magic."  But, Galadriel, I guess it’s just her every day thing, she’s not. 

This is the definition of magic from websters dictionary:
Mag-ic \’maj-ik\ n. 1) The art of persons who claim to be able to do things by the help of supernatural creatures or by their own knowledge of nature’s secrets.
2) Something that charms; any seemingly hidden or secret power as the magic of a voice; the magic of a great name.

According to Websters, magic is first an "art," also it a "claim to be able to do things with help from the supernatural." I don’t think this would fit with Tolkien’s "magic," the "magic of the elves."  This implies that their’s something deceitful, or tricky, about magic.  Where "Elf-magic" there’s nothing tricky or deceitful about it.  Also, I’ve always seen Elf-magic as the innate power within the elf.  For instance, Galadriel has the power within herself to do what she does, Elrond has the power to command the river Bruinen.  Websters says that "magic" is either help from the supernatural or a person’s knowledge of nature.  My own thoughts on "Elf-magic" is it’s powers that they have themself.

So, why does Tolkien use the word "magic" with someone like Sam?  I think it just goes back to the more mortal term.  Sam sees something "supernatural" something that he can’t explain so it has to be "magic."  But to Galadriel, it’s nothing strange, it’s her own power.  Also, I think the same can be said for the Istari.  The power is within the istari, there is nothing "magical" or "tricky" about it.  But, when people see light coming from an old man’s staff, or someone able to put a shutting spell on the door, they give the term "wizard" to an "istari."  Though wizard would be a more mortalized term, but to Gandalf it’s just his own innate power.

If anything I would say definition 2 would fit closest to some "magic" in Tolkien: something that charms; any seemingly hidden or secret power as in magic of a voice (voice of Saruman); the magic of a great name (Elbereth-able to drive off the Nazgul).

So, would the voice of Saruman or the words "Elbereth" shouted to drive off the nazgul be "magic" (in middle-earth thinking)?  I’m not really sure, Galadriel distinguishes between her powers and those of the Enemy.  She says: and they seem to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy.  So, Galadriel says that the "Enemy" is very deceitful (which I think is pretty accurate, the voice of Saruman- tricks and coaxes people.  The Ring- fills people with false hopes and false power...etc).  And according to the modern term of magic, this would fit more closely with the webster definition.  It’s an art, it’s tricking and deceitful.  Where, with Elves or Istari (or atleast Gandalf) there’s nothing deceitful about them, they use their own power within themselves.

Istanira 28/Dec/2005 at 08:49 AM
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I do find the second part of the first definition of Magic as equally fitting as the second definition, especially as it would apply to the Elves, at least: ...supernatural creatures or by their own knowledge of nature’s secrets.

I guess it’s a bit of a cliche to think about the Elves as being ’closer’ to nature and all that; but if you consider them as they were in the Eldar Days, they certainly seemed to be more connected with the substances of Arda--for example, I’ll bet Men in their youth never would have thought to ’teach tress to talk’...

anyway, when I read BoLT, I had the feeling Tolkien was writing as one who was inside the past, living it in the present tense, and that these Tales were told in the happening. In the Silmarillion, you get the feeling he’s writing as one who is recording history as it was passed down from long long ages, put into a more ’modern’ language and syntax; finally in LoTR, you definitely feel like you’re in the ’now’ reading about events in the not-to-distant past.

So perhaps Tolkien simply dropped the word as being too ’anachronistic’ and, by the time of LoTR, the Third Age, only Galadriel really understands what the ’magic’ of the Elves really is--not magic at all, but a better understanding of the matter of Arda? Sorry--I am rambling   
SATAN 29/Dec/2005 at 11:32 AM
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My opinnion in this discussion is that elves couldn’t do magic by them selves but with the help of something.Elrond for example could heal very very bad wounds like Frodo’s(when the Witch King of Angmar put his dagger inside of Frodo’s shoulder on Weather Top). And Galadriels mirror is a magic done by Nenya or the magic of the mirror itself not a magic done by Galadriel right? It is true that it is thought that elves repesent magic itself( check the oppinion of Samwise Gamgee) but the only magic that surrounds them are the next: the can live enourmous life, they have great hearring, the eyes see great in the dark, they are the most beautifuul beings on Middle Earth, they’r voices sound like pure magic but only men, dwarves amd hobbits say that elven represent magic.My oppinion is that they don’t.the ones who can do MAGIC are Valar’s Mayar’s etc.  
Axl Rose 30/Dec/2005 at 03:33 AM
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I do and have always believed there is some magic with the elves but I think it is a more subtle magic than that of wizards. With their immortality and the other examples of magice that have been mentioned in this thread I think they posses a very subtle and more deeply rooted magic, something that flows more naturally instead of how the wizards use magic to do their bidding. Does that make sense?
Isiloloriel 17/Jan/2006 at 03:34 PM
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festopestochest: The elves aren’t from Midd Earth  ----  actually, the elves "woke up" (i.e. began, or whatever you want to call it) in ME.  Most of them left with the Valar and some came back after the men appeared in ME, so they may appear to be "from another world", but they actually aren’t (cf. Silmarillion).

Is it possible that the elves’ magic could have been partly spiritual and partly just that they were more advanced? 

Spiritual because of certain things like the references to "inner lights", the elves being "those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm [and] live at once in both worlds" (FotR). 

More advanced: There have been several posts talking about the elves’ "inherent power", "power within themselves"-- maybe the "power" is not some sort of freaky "they’ve got it and we don’t cuz we’re not in tune with nature" stuff, but it could just be stuff they’d learned.  I don’t think the Silm talks of the elves having any sort of power until they go to Valinor (see quote above), and we know that the Valar definitely took the elves under their wings and taught them basically everything the elves knew.  I can see the possiblity of each elf having improved their innate talents with what the Valar taught them - just like people today taking classes on what comes naturally to them (nobody’s born with the ability to shoot a three-pointer or paint a masterpiece, they have to learn first, and that’s what the Valar helped with).  Some develeped their talents more than others did and therefore got more power (healing etc.).  

Boromir88: the name of "Elbereth" shouted to drive off the nazgul be "magic" ---  I think the words Frodo/Sam shouts are less magical than sort of like a little kid telling her brother that she’s going to call "Mom" and the brother stopping whatever he’s doing because of the fear the name evokes.  Any name can do that, I mean you may never like the name Jenny because of a girl you knew in kindergarten, or the name Bob may evoke happy feelings because you had a crush on someone of that name.  It’s just what the orcs/Shelob/etc. associated with those words, not that the words themselves had any real power.    

I guess my main basis for all of this de-magic-ing of ME is from Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories (or Tales , don’t have it handy right now or I’d quote it) which basically says something like authors of fantasy have to be careful not to break the illusion of the world they’re creating so that it will be believable.  (I said that terribly, if someone can find what I’m talking about and post it I think people wouldn’t write me off as much.)

I’m wondering though, does anyone think that the elves would be able to turn their power to bad?  Somebody had mentioned that all of their power is made for good, but couldn’t they use it for evil if they themselves were evil?  I can’t think of any elf who really turned evil (except maybe Maeglin), but just to ask, could they?


Sighel 18/Jan/2006 at 11:44 PM
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"we were moving moutntains before we knew we could"....I think that elves were capable of magic and of imortality because they were of the purest races.I think that Tolkien saw in them what all humans ought to be pure ,calm, lovers of nature.Come to think of it us humans forget how to live a pure life ,we forget how to love our brothers ,we forget the true meaning of legends and the true miracles that surround us.Our magic is mechanisms.We create them to help us do things that are harder to do on your own,we don’t believe in magic we believe in science and progress that usualy turn from a bless into a curse.The elven magic is pure ,we are spoiled ,we don’t believe in magic we always try to explain it through science.

We don’t have to blame science this is the age of man after all,the end of elves...

Cu’megnog 19/Jan/2006 at 12:22 PM
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Ok, so the Noldor, and elves who have dwelled in Valinor have magic, and so do the Maiar, and Istari, but then what is the whole point of the Singing? i think it was Luthien, who went singing when she was to free Beren From Sauron, and then Again Luthien sings to was it put the orcs to sleep?, while Beren Cut a Silmaril from the Iron Crown of Morgoth? And there are other cases of singing, wasnt it Maedhros who was said to be the Most powerful singer among the Noldor?
KitsuneInuYasha 25/Jan/2006 at 03:44 AM
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Well... personally, I don’t think using "magic" is all that supernatural. Think about it... we are, as living beings, based upon what?

BioElectrical Chemical Impulses that fire off in our nervous system. If someone, thru BioFeedback (think David Blaine, aka the Ice Man, if you dont’ know what BioFeedback can do) could learn to control these impulses and project them outside the body... we all know how powerful a force Electricity is, so a weaker form could, without doubt, be able to do SOMETHING interesting.

Though, there is also our Aura. As a being based off of BioElectricity, we give off a magnetic field (albeit a very weak one). This field, possibly, could be utilized to perform acts of "levitation" and even the control of elemental "magic" (eg, keeping control of a fireball)

This is all from a MetaPhysical Science point of view.

From my personal view? I think we’re all capable of magic... we just don’t remember how. You look at a man like David Blaine... some of the stuff he does is not POSSIBLE using Slight of Hand. Some of it is. And some of it... is... just plain creepy (eg, the diamond coming back out of his eye after he swallowed it)
Finwë Elensar 03/Feb/2006 at 11:05 AM
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I believe that each elf is born with a special type of magic. Some elves are unnaturally stong, even for an elf. Others have the gift of heling, they heal faster and can heal others. Some elves, such as Elrond, have the gift of future sight. Some elves can telepathically communicate. So you see all elves have different gifts.
PhilthyWan 03/Feb/2006 at 02:35 PM
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Finwe: Good point. I believe this translates, in modern times, to genetic inheritance. Given the extreme depth and detail Tolkien put into this world and the pains he took in relating real world events, peoples, cultural belief systems and social systems directly to his creations, it makes sense that genetically inherited traits would be included.

I haven’t scoured all the Tolkien texts...are there family trees readily available for the races? I’m sure there are. It would be interesting to examine the trees of the elves and determine if any of their powers were handed down to their offspring in any XY chromosome random determination pattern. (ie. mother-blue eyes, father-brown eyes, offspring-either brown or green eyes)

KitsuneInuYasha 04/Feb/2006 at 08:22 AM
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Even if you are born with magic powers, wouldn’t you have to learn how to control it? That and there is a fine line between "magic" and "ability".

In my own opinion? The magic of Healing only applies to the ability to heal another. Increasing your own ability to heal is a RELATIVELY easy task (I myself have learned thru biofeedback (think David Blaine if you dont’ know what that is) to control to a limited extent my heartrate, respiration, and metabolism. I can focus my bodies efforts on a single area to heal it faster than the rest. It isn’t a big increase, but it is faster than if I just slap a bandage and some ointment on it)
Endril 04/Feb/2006 at 12:29 PM
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The magic is practiced only by a small number of elves including there leaders anh healers. As an example Elrond has the gift of foresight and Galadriel to, with the mirror. We must not mistake by thinking  normal elven atributes like good sight, swiftness and others as magic.
Finwë Elensar 06/Feb/2006 at 01:26 PM
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Yes, I see what you are saying Legolas. But, Philthy, it seems that you didn’t understand what I meant to say, or that I didn’t say it how I meant it. I think that you are right when you say that they must learn to control their talents. I’m not sure if it’s a genetics thing, though Arwen’s family is the only elf family to have black hair. Her ancestry is in the Silmirillion, in the back. Some elven leaders also have the gift of telpathic communication, as in the book, Elrond and Galadriel have a communication, between Rivendell and Lorie, that could be from the powers of the elven rings though.
SorceressArunda 08/Feb/2006 at 11:58 PM
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I always thought of the Elves as having magic; I automatically assumed that it was that magic light that caused Lorien and Rivendell to glow with such an ethereal quality. What else, besides magic, could cause that the river close to Rivendell washed away the enemies? What else besides magic caused that Galadriel glowed with such a glow...and when she suggested that if she had taken the ring, she could have ruled the world, I figured this meant that with her magic and the ring’s magic, she would be unstoppable. I also assumed that it was that magic that is in the elves that caused themt to be immortal. Well, however it’s interpreted, I’m still deciding to tell myself that they have magic, and that Galadriel is a sorceress. ...an enchantress and prophetess imbued with a special light by Varda, the most favorite Valar of the Elves.

I wish that Tolkien had invented some characters that can do really demonstrable magic, and that without the aid of a staff. I fill in the details with my imagination and say that Middle Earth is only a small part of the world.....far beyond there are powerful queens and kings and sorceresses and warloks and witches and enchanted forests, and an underwater kingdom of mermaids, and unicorns in a hidden garden.

SorceressArunda 09/Feb/2006 at 07:54 AM
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Ultimately, I don’t think that it matters whether it was the intention of Tolkien to have magic or not; and, perhaps he had intentionally left this area grey just so that our imaginations could fill in the blanks. It adds to the mystique of the Elves....and perhaps magic itself is an ethereal thing, not easily named....or, perhaps magic follows the elves without abiding in them. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these things.

<Nessa Edit:  Please try to confine your contributions to one post at a time. When you put part of your comments in one post, and the rest in another, it does rather look like you are spamming (something that can get your posts deleted with penalty if it happens too often)>

Bearamir 09/Feb/2006 at 12:05 PM
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Ladies & Gentlemen:  The purpose of Ad Lore is the in depth discussion of a topic...it is not intended to be simply the opportunity to garner 2 points by posting a few lines of barely germane commentary.  For the most part, contributors to this thread *have* shown great expertise in their posts....but I will say that there were a few overly "fluffly" posts, however...so I have edited this thread to remove those posts that were not consistent with the spirit of this forum. 

Moving forward, for those new contributors who wish to participate in this discussion, *please* consider well what you contribute....I truly do not want to have to delete any more posts in this thread.  

SorceressArunda 10/Feb/2006 at 09:18 AM
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<Nessa Edit:  Please try to confine your contributions to one post at a time. When you put part of your comments in one post, and the rest in another, it does rather look like you are spamming (something that can get your posts deleted with penalty if it happens too often)>

Actually, I did not notice that I had two posts on there at the same time; if you look at the dates of them, you will see that they were each from different days; such is not characteristic of a spammer.

<Nessa Edit:  Indeed, I can see that.  But please do try to let someone post a contribution  before you answer again...>

If Elves don’t have magic, then how does one explain the river that devoured the Ringwraiths?   Is that river enchanted by the Elves, or is it just an already magical river? I never understood that. If anyone can, please explain. Thanks.

Melkelvardil 19/Feb/2006 at 09:48 AM
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It is possible that the river was inhabited by the power of Ulmo, as we see alot in the 1st age, but also, Gandalf says how he added some force to the river, so that it was more fearsome than it usually was. Gandalf of course is supernatural, in that he can do things others cannot, simply because he is a maiar!

However, I beleive that elves were not magical as such, they just had an enormous amount of wisdom! Almost otherwordly wisdom in which they could perform things that to other people would seem supernatural, but in fact were just byproducts of an enormous wealth of knowledge. Reverting back to the original quote about Finrod using his power to take on the likeness of orcs, was just a fantastic knowledge of ’surviving’ as you might say. The cloaks of the Galadhrim could be described as magical, but once again, I beleive they were no more than wisdom in the art of making you ’invisible to unfreindly eyes.’ And this also appears in the Lothlorien rope, which although is light and small, is extremely strong, not unlike some of todays modern synthetic materials. Also, the raw materials that the elves had in those days, were far more ’magical’ as they were far more ’new’. The power of the valar were probably still in the land, if you knew how to find it (as I said in my earlier point about Ulmo.)  

Master of Doom 19/Feb/2006 at 08:07 PM
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About the flood that washed the Nazgul away: "’Who made the flood?’ asked Frodo.  ’Elrond commanded it,’ answered Gandalf.  ’The river of this valley is under his power, and it will rise in anger when he has great need to bar the ford.’" (FotR, Many Meetings)

First of all, I have always been under the impression that he was capable of that because of Vilya.  The quote does say the the river is under Elrond’s power, but it also says that the river will ’rise in anger’, which gives a humanistic type trait to the river itself.  That kind of reminds me of the huorns.  Sure Treebeard has power over them, but they could (and did) ’rise in anger’.  If the ’magic’ was not of Vilya, then perhaps it lies within the water itself, and not in any special powers of Elrond.  (other than his commanding it)


Belegorn IV 23/Feb/2006 at 05:40 PM
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Robert Heinlen wrote that "Any technology significally advanced is indistinguishable from magic". The Aztecs, who had not the technology of riding, or metalsmithing, saw the Conquistadors and saw centaurs with skins of a fabulous metal that could not be breached. If Samwise Gamgee saw a live interview via sattelite, he’d call that magic too. We can’t communicate meaningfully with most animal life (think Darwin in Seaquest DSV), let alone plant life, minerals, or the elements. The Elves seem to be able to. The ones who dwelt in Valinor were taught by the Maiar, and whose to say those Maiar who dwelt on middle earth as "elementals" didn’t teach the elves to do these things? They spoke to the Ents and made them speak, why not to the stone of a door, asking it nicely to not open unless the password is spoken? To the elves, this would be no different than asking Haldir to aerate any orcs that crossed into Lothlorien.
KitsuneInuYasha 27/Feb/2006 at 05:59 AM
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Indeed... magic is often defined as things merely beyond the comprehension of the majority, thus causing awe and wonder. What is magic? Is it, perhaps, just another way of looking at a situation or object? Or maybe it’s a away of manipulating the things around you. In that case, would, say, the formation of antimatter via electrons striking a copper sheet and becoming protons be considered magic by those that don’t understand the chemical and physical aspects of the transformation?

Would a Star Trek style Replicator be magic? All it does is use existing particles in the air and then break them to their component parts, re-forming them into whatever is needed.
Jedi Ranger 02/Mar/2006 at 06:37 AM
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NOOO elves cannot be able to cast spells.  They might be able to have a special bond with nature but they cant cast spells.  Galadriel is a special case cause she is the queen of the elves and it is not her that makes her mirror magical, it is the mirror itself.  If they can cast spells then they would be wizards which would be awesome but sadly they are not. All elves have a sspecial connection with nature but they are not magical as in wizard sense
Erchamion Naéwe 02/Mar/2006 at 07:50 AM
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I agree with Imperial because recently i’ve read one essay from Tolkien: Ósanwe-kenta. Tolkien here through character of Pengolodh clearing the meaning of Arda and we can see that «magic» in his creation is something different. Because he really tried to explain everything through psihicality and through other nature laws in his world. Nothing is not just like that, and everything had its purpose and meaning. Please read this essay. It explains a lot of things, and we can see what is the real nature of ME
Obsidian 03/Mar/2006 at 06:14 AM
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Elrond can use magic by controlling the Loudwater River that swept off the music for quoth Gandalf: The river of this valley is under his power, and it will rise in anger when he has great need to bar the Ford. Galadriel also has seemingly magical properties for when she test her temptation to take the Ring, "She lifted up her hand and from the ring she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark" . There’s the possibility that only the Elven Ringbearers can use magic as Elrond and Galadriel both wear rings. (Gandalf too but it was a secret and known only at the end of the booK)
Erchamion Naéwe 03/Mar/2006 at 07:07 AM
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Yes but Tolkien all of this explained through the natural processes of MiddleEarth. It is not something connecting with magic as we wish to think of, but with reasonable explanations that Tolkien really started to do through Pengolodh. I was thinking as you Apocalyon before but after finishing with readings of some essays I must admit that my opinion about magic in ME has been highly changed. I really really recommend that you and others read essay, I’m sure that it will change yours view of perception about magic and other things in ME
Goralda Deldae 05/Mar/2006 at 05:33 AM
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I am quite sure that elves did possess some sort of magic. There are countless pieces of evidence in this matter, an dthe quote in the first post does ver well. If not magic, what art could Finrod transforn faces into those of orcs? Also there are many other instances in the chapter of Beren and Luthien where elven magic is used.

"And the spell of silence fell from beren..."

"for she put forth her arts of enchantment, and caused her hair to grow to great length, and of it she wove a dark robe that wrapped her beauty like a shadow, and it was laden with a spell of sleep."

"the Luthien stood upon the bridge, and declared her power: and the spell was loosed that bound stone to stone"

"by the counsel of Huan and the arts of Luthien he was arrayed now in the hame of Draugluin. and she in the winged fell of Thuringwethil."

"but suddenly some power, decended from of old from divine race......lifting up her hand she commanded him to sleep.......And Carcharoth was felled"

"then suddenly she elduded his sight, and out of the shadows begun a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power.....and a blindness came upon him.....All his court were acst down in slumber."

And thats only in one chapter in the Silmarillion. There are many otjer refernces to magical qualties possed by elves. So my opinion is that the elves did posess some sort of magic.


Erchamion Naéwe 05/Mar/2006 at 07:54 AM
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Tolkien explains that as i remember as mithology, as events were twisted through history, something like that. Yes there was some sorts of magic, but Tolkien started to explains all of these through nature of Arda, like there was no magic as we see in other fantasy worlds and imagination, but something that can be fully explained. But he didn’t explained all of this because death came. i believe in some sort of magic now but not like this, after reding this essay my opinion changed. It was really really interesting like i was whole time in wrong and had distorted perception. Yes there is some "magic" but magic bound to the physicality of Arda
Goralda Deldae 06/Mar/2006 at 05:42 AM
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I also found another quote on elven magic. It says in the Silmarillion that Eol, the sark elf, used his enchantments to ensare Turgon’s sister,  Aredhel and draw her to his house. He also probably possessed some kind of ’magic’ so he was able to do that.
Ermordo 06/Mar/2006 at 08:47 AM
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I think that the "magic" of Arda was more of a natural magic. You couldn’t just say something and your will would be done...it took 100 years to craft the rings of power...why? If there was no magic how did Sauron pour his soul into the One Ring? How did Narya inspire men? How did Nenya control water and turn the Mirror of Galariel into a tool of prophesy? How did the Ford of Bruinen rise up and sweep away the Nazgul? How did Nazgul become immortal? How did the dwarven rings bring wealth? How did the Girdle of Melian hide an entire race? How did Gandalf distroy the Bridge of Khazad-dûm? How did the Palantirs work? How did the souls of the mountain men become doomed to fufill their oath? How did Gandalf call fire to burn trees and wargs? How did Sauron create the Olog-hai and Uruk-hai? How did Ring have it’s own mind? How was Pippen tempted to look into the Palantir?

You see? There is more magic in Arda than you you notice at first glance...but there is a strong natural magic none the less. Some of you might wonder if the deeds of the Maiar and Valar can really be called magic. So here is one of my favorite quotes..."Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?" -Aslan. It always interested me because Narnia is said to be a land of "deep magic." So even the deeds of aslan could be called magic.
King Amras 06/Mar/2006 at 05:44 PM
Defender of Imladris Points: 1171 Posts: 2032 Joined: 10/Jun/2005
one of the things i se is that most of the elves magic doesnt really seem to be "magic". And further more I think most elves would not like to be thought of as magicians for such terms are often asociated with scourcerors. Bear in mind that the "magic the Elves use is normally wind or water. And two of the most sympathetic Valar to the elves are Manwe, and Ulmo. Who just so happen to control Air and Water. So it is also said that Ulmo was within all waters save the most foul(aka mordor/angbad/utumno tampered). So wouldn’t it be more likely that the water in rivvy and Galadrials mirror were all filled request by the Valar. And did not also the rings give the bearers connecions to the Valar in someways? alowing them to exert Authority over the waters and the air and to help kindle the fires of the spirit. I think that the "magic" of the elves is more of the Valar helping out and granting requests or if you want to see it in a different perspective it is certain elves unsing the authority given to them by the Valar over the spirits of certain elements.
Goralda Deldae 07/Mar/2006 at 02:47 AM
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King Amras: How would you explain Finrod Felgund changing the likeness of the faces of him and his company into the likeness of orcs. This ’magic’ has nothing do to with air or water, and really nothing to do with the Valar. I am not confindent in basing the notion of magic possessed by elves having a connectionw with the Valar. It might be possible in some cases, but not necessarily true for those or any others.
josh1200 21/Mar/2006 at 10:43 AM
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The elves where supposed to be a race of perfection but sometimes there not perfectionist mainly because of greed,envy and jealousy.Telepathy and forsight are not common gifts.The natural gifts are stuff like extreme agility and speed and far sight and great hearing.There supposed to be holders of the small powers of the valar and maiar.
ArnorKing 21/Mar/2006 at 04:44 PM
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The elves are people. They are, of course higher than Men and closer to the Noldor, guardians of the world.

(FOTR) (Many Meetings) "And here in Rivendell there still live some of his(Sauron’s)chief foes: the elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds( Middle-Earth and the wraith-world), and against both the Seen and Unseen they have great power." 

But I think some previous replies are correct; as like their wisdom(Elrond) the elves who had once lived in the Blessed Country have power. But, folks, hello? the power at Rivendell that destroyed the Nazguls’ horses was the power of Elrond’s ring, Vilya, mightiest of the three, that was given to him after the death of Gil-galad in the Last Alliance of Men and Elves


Jedi Ranger 22/Mar/2006 at 12:26 PM
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lMiddle earth cant be natural people, it was created by the Valar and so it cant be natural.  I rthink that naturlal is the state wheere it is unaltered by external intervention.  See scine everything in that world was created there cant be any way it is natural.  The reproduction of other speciaes is meant ot happewn by the creators wikll.  Makes you wonder if anything on htis earth is natural
Melkorfeanor 24/Mar/2006 at 04:23 PM
Master of Isengard Points: 186 Posts: 4 Joined: 17/Mar/2006

I have always held that, being the firstborn children of arda the elves had natural extra ability that others of later entry into ME such as boromir in his fear see as "magic" when to them it is natural to have that power. The wisdom , the grace, and the mystic are part of the elves nature i think. I think there is some power in different elvish phrases, some that gandalf utters on occasion for example.  I also think that powerful elf Lords, like Galadriel for example and others who have dwelt in valinor or who were awoken in the beginning have more power. I suppose i had always attributed the mirror and powers of lorien with galadriel alone though on closer thought this is not really the case. I do however still attribute the power of the mirror to her however.

I think that this differs from the "magic" of gandalf, saruman and radagast which seems based upon incantations and requires things, such as a staff for example. (as evidenced by gandalf needing to retain his staff during the first meeting of theodin at rohan to fight back saruman, in the lack of power he experiences when his staff is lost to him and he is trapped at orthanc, and when sarumns staff is broken).

There are occasions of actual elvish "magic" i suppose, but to me this passage lends more to disguising themselves physically, than it would from magical changes due to the wording ;  ’By the arts of Felagund ’  to me somehow this implies a masterful artistic disguising, though probably much better than sam and frodo clomping along in mordor dressed as orcs!



KitsuneInuYasha 25/Mar/2006 at 11:44 PM
Winemaker of Lothlorien Points: 655 Posts: 417 Joined: 22/Oct/2005
A large part of elven magic, then, would seem to be their innate ability to "connect" with nature, to use their environment to their advantage, and to move gracefully and swiftly thru said environment without becomming entangled or ensnared as their enemies do. Then they attack, their lack of apparent streangth being shown to be quite a fallacy as they can be just as strong as anyone else.
Cerbolin 26/Mar/2006 at 02:06 AM
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I think that the elves can do magic but only of the most subtle kind.
KitsuneInuYasha 26/Mar/2006 at 07:12 PM
Winemaker of Lothlorien Points: 655 Posts: 417 Joined: 22/Oct/2005
No magic is "subtle" when it comes down to it Cerbolin.

Today we have "magic"- technological magic, but still magic to other cultures.

What would an early 1900’s African have thought of something like the Automobile?

I’m certain they would think it was some form of black magic!

Why? It’s just something they dont’ understand and don’t have the principles to understand.

It’d be like me going up to you and doing the Vulcan Mind Meld!
Niek Jans 28/Mar/2006 at 05:32 AM
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It all depends on what you call magic. Elves are immortal (of age that is) so is that magic? They dont have to sleep to recover any strength. Is that magic? What about the rope from Lothlorien. It hurt evil vilins like Smeagol / Gollum. Is that magic? The three rings are magic, thats for sure! Some of the weapons they forged in Gondolin are magic. So yes, elves do posses a form of magic.
KitsuneInuYasha 28/Mar/2006 at 10:15 AM
Winemaker of Lothlorien Points: 655 Posts: 417 Joined: 22/Oct/2005
Being immortal isn’t magic- we humans today could become immortal. Thru proper care of our bodies, we could live today (anyone UNDER the age of 35 as of now) to the era at which bioenegeneering becomes prevelent- that would extend our lifespan untill the time in which nanotechnology begins to replace natural body systems. That will extend us into the era where we "reprogram" ourselves with mechanical parts. At that time, we become "immortal" untill we wish to die.

A human being doesn’t have to sleep to recover strength. After a tiring workout at the gym or a long hard soccer match, I can simply sit down with a cold drink and an apple and, within minutes, my strength has returned. It’s not to 100%, but it’s around 90% or so. It’d take a while for my body to fully "recover", but if I were to eat a better diet and get into better shape (I’m average/athletic/almost heavyset. Running is kinda hard on me) I would fully recover in a much shorter time span.

The rope from Lothlorien- we have TOOLS now (Taser anyone?) that can inflict pain upon those who are evil. The police force has guns that can ONLY be used by the owner because it reads their hands bio-electric signature (some use fingerprints) and is only "activated" by that signature, which is all but impossible to duplicate.

As far as the three rings- yeah, that could be a form of magic. We have no technology today that compares to their ability. Though in two or three decades, we’ll have handheld items able to alter the apparent gravity of an object and thus move it around. We will be able to have handheld energy weapons and flamethrowers.

Their "magic" is our "technology"
Daelin 29/Mar/2006 at 07:34 AM
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Yes if you compare it with ’’ us" but that was not the qeustion was it? I thought the question was, if Elfs used magic? I thought in comparasion of the kind of magic Gandalf uses, or Saruman or Sauron.

About sleeping to recorver your strength. You eventually have to sleep, otherwise you will die. A human being can survive without sleeping 10 days, then they die. I think Niek was refferring to that?

Niek Jans 29/Mar/2006 at 11:39 PM
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Daelin:  Yes i was reffering to that. I didnt know about the dying thing, but if you don’t sleep you eventually fall a sleep. But i ment, that the Elves didnt need sleep as the humans did. Legolas didnt sleep. He was just wandering around singing while the rest of the Fellowship was sleeping.
Master of Doom 29/Mar/2006 at 11:54 PM
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About sleeping to recorver your strength. You eventually have to sleep, otherwise you will die. A human being can survive without sleeping 10 days, then they die. I think Niek was refferring to that?

A human being can survive significantly longer than ten days even while being sleep deprived.  I’m not sure exactly what the number is, but it ranges in numbers of weeks, not numbers of days, I am pretty sure.  However, a human will go insane long before they die of sleep deprivation.  They will begin to see things.  This has happened even to me, after ~48 hours with no sleep. (driving, seeing deer or other things along the side of the road that aren’t really there (ya, ya I know it wasn’t safe.  Extenuating circumstances))

but if you don’t sleep you eventually fall a sleep.

This is not quite true either.  There are documented cases of psychiatric patients who simply could not (or would not) fall asleep because of their condition.  There have also been cases of sleep deprivation used as a form of torture, by not allowing the victim to sleep until they have ’had enough’.  If someone wants to keep you awake, it is definitely possible.

And I think what Niek was referencing in this case is that Elves do not sleep as Men do.  There is a quote in FotR I believe, though it is far to late to go dig my books out, that says something to the effect that Legolas withdrew into his own mind instead of sleeping, but he was still aware of what was going on, kind of like a type of meditation.  I wouldn’t call that a form of magic, since it was more likely just a part of their biological system, but to men it would probably seem like magic.  Also, I think they eventually had to sleep in the mortal sense, but it was far less often than mortals require.  Ah, who knows, I may be completely incorrect.  I’ll look for the reference tomorrow. 

Niek Jans 30/Mar/2006 at 01:29 AM
Archer of Imladris Points: 634 Posts: 348 Joined: 20/Mar/2006

MOD: You are right about the qoute in FotR, i dont have my copy with me, but I know there was a chapter where Legolas did not sleep, but as you say drew himself back in is own mind.

I dont know wha Daeling really means by eventually falling asleep. But referring to myself. I would fall a sleep if I did not sleep for 2 days. If i keep being busy (phyisacally i wouldnt fall a sleep, but as soon as i would sit down, i would fall a sleep.

MOD: Driving after 48 hours of no sleep? Now i understand why you chose Master of Doom as yout nickname

_Anarion_ 10/Apr/2006 at 04:40 AM
Stablehand of the Mark Points: 237 Posts: 8 Joined: 09/Apr/2006
The elves certainly had some form of magic, although in the case of galadriel and elrond, well, they had elven rings didnt they? i mean, their swords glow blue when orcs are nearby, something that not even the dwarves with their skill of metalwork could accomplish, and elven inscriptions are said to increase the power of the blade on which they are inscribed. I think i can find a quote about this somewhere...
Kylar Skyhawk 12/Apr/2006 at 05:53 AM
Scribe of Minas Tirith Points: 2412 Posts: 3612 Joined: 05/Aug/2005
The mirror of galadriel was not all of her doing, but the magic was not all from the mirror. I think a combination of the mirror’s power and that of Nenya, the ring worn by Galdriel is the reason why that is classed as  magic.
Harlindon 17/Apr/2006 at 05:35 PM
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I believe that the elves are gifted with abilities that may seem like magic but are quite natural to the elves. For example, the elves ability to forge and smith with great finesse may seem like magic to other races but to elves is simply forging. It depends on your view of what magic is. You can also find a very detailed account of Felagund’s ’magic’ transformation in the ’Lays of Beleriand’. I’m not sure of the page because I cannot find my copy at the moment but remember a detailed description of the changing. It was a combination of them taking the orcs clothing and Felagunds magic if I remember correctly. I’ll try to get back to you on the page #.

Wolfbeard 27/Apr/2006 at 07:29 PM
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Elves would deffinatley be able to do some supernatural things, maybe they are related to wizards of somehting like that, they do have some magic in them in some wondrous way. Maybe the power in ’Galadriels’ mirror came from Galadriel through the ring she wore, or maybe the mirror actually had some magic in it, but i thought it was like a gift from someone? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on the way you look at it. Maybe the elves were bewitched or something like that?
KitsuneInuYasha 28/Apr/2006 at 07:04 PM
Winemaker of Lothlorien Points: 655 Posts: 417 Joined: 22/Oct/2005
I said it once, I’ll say it again. Magic is merely something we cannot readily explain. If I walked up to a dead bird, picked it up, rubbed it with my hand, and it came to life, would the be considered magic? By most, very likely. However, I could have simply seen the bird "die" by hitting a hard object chest first, thus causing it’s heart to stop. All I did was recussitat it.
Arx_RavenHelm 29/Apr/2006 at 06:42 PM
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When discussing elven magic, you have to keep in mind that Elrond and Galadriel were also holders of elven rings of power and some of what they were able to do was probably attributable to the rings.

    However, one aspect that I feel is tied to "elven magic" begins with the fact that Tolkien’s world seems to be divided between a physical and spiritual aspect (spiritual for lack of a better word). The most obvious examples of this revolve around the ring wraiths. The Nazgul were people who ’faded’ under the power of the rings, becoming only wraiths.. spirits. They no longer had real physical form, but they could affect the physical world, and were in some way still tied to the physical. They wore their black robes to give form to their awful nothingness, but yet they still needed horses to travel, and they feared to cross moving water (never fully explained but perhaps a throw back to the power of Ulmo?)

    When Frodo and party were approaching the ford of bruinen (sp) coming to Rivendell. Frodo was fading under the power of the wound from the morgul knife. He could see beneath the robes (which were physical) and see the real forms of the wraiths (which were not physical). This was because he himself was on the verge of entering the realm in which the spirit wraiths truly existed.

    While in this state all the other normal people had begun to fade in shadow from Frodo’s view, but Glorfindel appeared like a glowing with light.

   Gandalf later said that Frodo saw Glorfindel as he is on the other side, revealed as a mighty lord of the Noldor.

     This certainly has something to do with the fact that Glorfindel had been in Valinor and seen the light of the trees.. but I think part of it is simply that he was an elf and elves apparently exist in both worlds at once. This is also perhaps revealed with Legolas in the paths fo the dead. He can see the spirits and is totaly unafraid of them while they are invisible to human eyes.

     I believe that some of the "elven magic" must be tied to the fact that they exist at once in this world and the ’next’ (again for lack of a better term).

RingReader 30/Apr/2006 at 05:59 PM
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Being an elf, what my point of veiw is it’s not really that we have magic but we’re more intune with how are bodies work and how the act of others and the way of cretures. We know how to use herbs and tricks to help us that most others ignore.
Faele 01/May/2006 at 06:30 AM
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I think that the elves are not so much able to "do magic" as to make use of arts that are not usually availbale to men. Galadriel and Felagund is tis true , seem to possess unusual pwer: perhaps because they both belong to an earlier age of myth and mighty acts: add to this , the power of the ring that Galadriel wields. i find it significcant that Galadriels mirror does not "direct" the future: she merely shows possible futures.  In this respect  I believe the mirror has more in common with the ancient ideas about Wisdom, rather than magic. Glorfindel is seen differently by Frodo when he wearts the ring, because he is an example of one who can wlak in both worlds - but not as a wraith under the thralls of Sauron.

Avornin Adamas 07/Jun/2006 at 07:20 AM
Master of Isengard Points: 319 Posts: 358 Joined: 07/Jun/2006
My opinion(for all it’s worth) is that the Elves are not possesed of magic, but they are at one with the spirits of the trees and water. they are friends with the essence of every living thing that was created. They knew how to communicate with the good in the world. This gift was perhaps given to men when first created, but if they had it, most lost it.
Sermela Calalen 07/Jun/2006 at 04:29 PM
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Do elves have magic? Yes and no. When we think of magic we often jump into the ideas of learning spells and making potions or other such things yet ME magic was unattainable by humans. As I’ve read these posts and thought over what I’ve read in Tolkien’s works my mind went back and forth on whether elves were magic or not, especially when there was so much reference to Numenorian magic. I couldn’t help thinking, wait! They are human how come they can use magic? Yet finally after considering it very carefully I came to a realization. Yes men used magic. Yet it was only the Numenorians who did. So here are my conclusions.


Elves: They had innate abilities that caused them to be able to do things beyond the abilities of men and hobbits. While I could not find a limit for those abilities as they did seem to include “spells” and other things falling directly into what we would label magic. Perhaps it was merely a matter of there being no better word for what they did then the term “magic” or “spell”. Their wisdom to must have paid a large amount to their abilities in creating things beyond our wildest dreams.


Hobbits: Indeed Tolkien tells us there are things about hobbits that men may believe to be magical as well. “They possessed from the first the art of disappearing, swiftly and silently, when large folk they did not wish to meet came blundering by; and this art they have developed until it might seem magical to men.” (Concerning Hobbits, FoTR) So we find it is not only confined to elves.


Numenorians: Here is where I struggled most until I remembered their origin. Elros, their father, was the son of Earendil and one of the Half-Elven. Surely some of the gifts and abilities of the elves would be found in his line; after all they did have extended life. So while their abilities were probably much less than that of the elves it  would make sense they could create powerful swords and even have healing abilities passed down through the ages.


Istari: They were maia, there is not too much to say here about that. Like the elves they had inherent abilities that they could use.


Regular Men: Here’s where we break from the pack. No where do we see a normal, everyday man use magic. Everyone who uses it has some sort of elvish blood in them. So we prove here that it is not magic as we would perceive it, but rather genetics that allow the other races their great power.


Acabar: You spoke of Gandalf’s use of the term “spells” well I think the word password would have worked interchangeably with spell at the gate of Moria and as for spells with the balrog, both were very powerful beings (I haven’t read about them in a long time, but weren’t they maia as well) so it could mean their abilities striving against eachother.


Anyway those are my thoughts on the races and magic at this point. If my lore was off at all let me know as I’ve had little time to study lately, but keep up the great discussion!


king_dain 16/Sep/2006 at 08:43 PM
Trader of Erebor Points: 165 Posts: 36 Joined: 13/Sep/2006
i think elves do have magical mystical powers that can heal and do other unatural things but this magic is differenyt then the magic of a wizar or a evil sorcoroy like saruman or suaron wick i think has some magical powers but i do think that elves have power but no magic power. example the river and the water horses there enchantments and power not neccessaraly magic as gandalf sauron and saruman have
noldor mccrissi 17/Sep/2006 at 11:37 AM
Master of Isengard Points: 234 Posts: 68 Joined: 14/Sep/2006
I don’t think that elven magic is the same as Gandalf which they need to learn encantations and have to use a staff. I think elven magic is more of a greater power that is past down in generations for example only the elves could reforge Narsil. I think that elven magic is more of a craft or a instinct, such as long sight the eagles have long sight also and thats not called magic. I believe the mirror of Galadriel is down to the water but I don’t think any elve could do it just a elve with great power such as Elrond, they both have rings of power so the skills are higher than other elves.