Endangered species?

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Meriwen 14/Dec/2006 at 12:04 PM
Poet of Mirkwood Points: 3571 Posts: 4457 Joined: 27/Aug/2008
A few thousand years ago the elves were many, but in the today there are only 2000 left in the wild (please send donations to help protect & preserve this special race) ...

Sorry, me trying to be funny. Anyway, something I was pondering - roughly how many elves would there have been in Middle Earth around the time of the War of the Ring, and then after, after so many had vacated Mirkwood, Lorien and Rivendell? The ideas people seem to have, of the number of elves left by then, seems to vary, and I wondered if anyone had a quote or some info that I have forgotten/overlooked about this? Or failing that, well-educated estimations. 
In my home town for instance, the population is about 180,000, and you’d think that Lorien could equal that at least, yet that doesn’t seem to fit... The density of people living in this kind of environment compared to trees/underground halls is obviously considerably higher, but even so.
geordie 14/Dec/2006 at 12:09 PM
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Tolkien said [in one of his letters I think] that at the time of the War of the Ring there were more Sindarin speakers in Gondor than in Lothlorien, Rivendell and the Lindon put together. Let’s see - Hammond & Scull - yep; ref. to Letter no.347.

There you go!
Ankala Teaweed 14/Dec/2006 at 02:22 PM
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Yet in the Appendices to Lord of the Rings, in the passage concerning the events following the fall of Sauron, it is stated that after Galadriel threw down the walls of Dol Guldur, Thranduil and Celeborn met and renamed Mirkwood (Erys Lasgalen? hope I spelled that right?). And right after that was written that later few elves remained in Lorien and no more were there lights on Caras Galadhon. (my copy of ROTK is at home, where I am not, so I can’t give the exact quote)

However, there is no such reference to Thranduil’s elves leaving Mirkwood/Greenwood in the Appendices. It might be that there is more in The Peoples of Middle-earth, but I have not read HOME vol. 12.

KingODuckingham 14/Dec/2006 at 08:41 PM
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One thing is pretty certain, and that is that there are not 180,000 elves in Lothlorien. Why would they fear Sauron if somewhere as small as Lothlorien had that kind of population, even if only half of them could fight? How much more would bigger kingdoms like Rohan and Gondor have? The biggest populations we see are Sauron’s armies, and those get up to hundreds of thousands (at least a couple) but even then they are not all together in one place. Theoden thought 10,000 men was approximately all his strength. I remember the elves in the Hobbit numbered about 2000, (or was it only 1000?) at the Battle of Five Armies; I presume that was the majority at least of his strength, and his kingdom is perhaps the largest one remaining. I doubt there were more than 10,000 elves left in Middle Earth at the time of LOTR.
Endril 14/Dec/2006 at 09:43 PM
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From where did you get the nice numbers?
KingODuckingham 14/Dec/2006 at 10:17 PM
Grey Counsellor of Isengard Points: 15053 Posts: 15390 Joined: 27/Aug/2006
From the books. The 180,000 is not my estimate, it’s the one I’m attempting to disprove. The 10,000 I get from Theoden’s mouth in ROTK (forgive me for not providing the quotes, but I left LOTR in my dorm at college so I wouldn’t forget to bring them back). The 2000/1000 (I still cannot remember which) is from the relevant chapter in the Hobbit when it is speaking of the Battle of the Five Armies. I then inferenced that if Mirkwood was the biggest elvish kingdom, and it had, being generous, 3000 elves, then add up the elves from the other kingdoms, Lorien, Rivendell, the Havens, and if none of them have that many elves (3000) than there is no way there can be more than 10,000 total in ME.
Morgil 15/Dec/2006 at 01:44 AM
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KingofDuckingham...The Hobbit doesn’t give a total number for the elves at the Battle of Five Armies. The number 1,000 is given in the following quote, ch. The Clouds Burst:

"As soon as the host of their enemies was dense in the valley, they sent against it a shower of arrows, and each flickered as it fled as if with stinging fire. Behind the arrows a thousand of their spearmen leapt down and charged." 

Now if this is read literally, it indicates that Thranduil had more than a thousand spearmen and an indeterminate number of archers. Now granted, I have not delved deeply into HoME, but I’m not aware of Tolkien ever giving specific numbers regarding racial populations. 

King Gothmog 15/Dec/2006 at 10:00 PM
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Lotr is based society wise around the Dark Ages.  The average town had roughly 2000 members or less.  The larger Roman cities earlier on had about 3500 per city.  Thinking that Lothlorien was a rather large city I’d guess it would be at 2000-3000 population.  In regards to King I believe that though only 1000-2000 (I also don’t know which) where at the Battle of Five armies, there is no way that this is the entire army, some would be left to remain home, a good commander leaves at least half.  Now going with Morgil I’d say 1000 spearmen and in elven fashion of having a high number of archers I’l make it an even 500 to avoid complaints.  This would leave 1500 at one battle, roughly 1500 at home.  That’s 3000 all men, at least 3000 women.  So we already have 6000.  I also don’t beleive that every single male elf in Mirkwood was apart of the army, that would mean that whenever a war showed up all productivity stopped, no ruler’s that stupid.  This would make the population of Mirkwood alone around 10000.  Spewing out random numbers I would say that there was less than 30000 elves in all of Middle Earth
Calencoriel 16/Dec/2006 at 04:48 PM
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 I think that this is one of the areas that Tolkien left deliberately vague; for sure at this time in ME’s history the Elves were dwindling; they were leaving ME as their time in ME was ending. As to what the actual numbers left were; I really don’t know. It is an interesting question to ponder over, though!.... My people are leaving these shores; who will you look to when they’re gone?
Meriwen 17/Dec/2006 at 09:01 AM
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Yes, well I wouldn’t think there’d be that many anywhere by the TA, it wasn’t my estimate, I was just saying that as a relatively small town compared to a whole kingdom, initially you’d expect them to at least match, though they don’t because of all the things you said, and because obviously you can put more people in a modern human metropolitan setting than a ’Dark Ages’ type elven woodland one.  
Thank you for what you’ve given me, KingODuckingham and King Gothmog, great analysis.
Lord of the Rings 17/Dec/2006 at 11:03 AM
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King Gothmog, while you make an excellent point about modern populations being utterly useless as a guide to TLotR (the last 150 years or so have seen a massive population boom), I would warn against your analysis of Mirkwood’s population.

You are taking a quote literally when it was quite possibly (I would say probably) poetic, and then running a mostly arbitrary analysis based off that, which includes assumptions about Thranduil’s military policies, the numbers of archers that Elves would have (please let me know where the ’elven fashion of having a high number of archers’ comes from; on top of that, 500 is completely arbitrary), and then the jump from 10 000 in Mirkwood to 30 000 in ME is (as you do admit) completely baseless.

There are possibly ways to compute such things, but they should be grounded in accurate numbers and more reasonable estimates.
NegruVoda 17/Dec/2006 at 11:03 AM
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Well I guess the point has already been prooven, your home town could invade Lorien any time they wanted . Sorry for that....Asck yourself this: if there were 180.000 ghaladrim in Lothlorien, maybe 90.000 of them warriors...woulden’t they at leas try to help Rohan (like that highly emotional, yet compleatly non-canonical thin in TTT movie)? Or would Elrond not wish Gondor to stand before the onslought of Sauron, and to that end help them with 10.000 warriors, if he could muster such strength from Rivendell, Lorine and Mirkwood?
I guess Tolkien was mearly sugesting that there were not many elves in M-E before the dominion of Men was to come, if there were at least 10.000 fighting elves they would have been there at Pelennor, before the walls of Minas Tirith, making sure Men would still be around to have dominion, and also making sure Sauron would not have his way with what theyhad worked to build.
If you wish to see Quendi Noldorin and Quendi Sylvanus on the list of the WWF they would fit the profile
Meriwen 17/Dec/2006 at 11:25 AM
Poet of Mirkwood Points: 3571 Posts: 4457 Joined: 27/Aug/2008
Apart from Nenya’s presence, Pre-WR  And the fact that my hometown is largely filled with druggies who don’t seem to know which way is ’up’, yeah we could, haha.Yes I know, I think the entire population of my country in the Dark ages, which seems to be the accepted comparison for LoTR, was only something like 6,000,000, so obviously that was out.
I thought elves had given up on Middle Earth by the War of the Ring anyway, and just didn’t want to bother with Sauron, leaving it to men to fight? (some serious paraphrasing there, lmao) Though yes, I suppose as a result of their own waning power.
NegruVoda -  I was looking for someone to say that
Lord of the Rings- I think it simply says that there were only spearmen and bowmen in the elven ranks at the Battle of Five Armies, and including looking at Galadriel’s comment about Lorien being defended by the ’slender elven arrows’ which I think leads to the (fair, no?) assumption that archers would make up a large part of any elven fighting force. 
King Gothmog 17/Dec/2006 at 12:08 PM
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Well I got my idea of having many archers by them saying "showing arrows"  In a volley every archer can shoot one arrow, In my personal opinion (for that’s all of my idea’s merely opinions).  Against an outnumbering army of orcs against 3 other armies 500 arrows is at most a trickle not a shower but I was thinking low to avoid argument.  To give my total opinion I’d increase the number of archers at least another 300, but that didn’t seem entirely important at the time.  This entire argument is arbitrary, however using the little scrap of clues we have I give my number as around 30000, most normal untrained in military affairs elves.  my 10000 in mirkwood is explained, and at rough guess that all three nations had similar populations (mere guess as we have no number) 10000*3=30000 or it did last time I checked.

Negru I think you’r forgetting that the elves were also being assaulted during the war except Imladris which was shipping it’s citizens out as fast as possible during the time.

NegruVoda 18/Dec/2006 at 04:12 AM
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Gothmog you are right, I have overlooked that aspect. I stand corrected