Elves and their aging process

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Amras Alcarin 15/Dec/2006 at 12:47 AM
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Elves don’t die unless slain. They don’t get sick. They probably don’t even have to go to the bathroom. But, heres my thought: if elves are immune to the bite of the natural world, then it could be said that their cells never begin to break down and cause the natural decay of aging. Physically, our bodies grow until puberty, including the growth and birth of new cells. Once puberty ends, our body begins the breakdown. Couldn’t it be then that all elves (once fully grown) look like they are between the ages of 16 and 20, depending on thier own cycle of puberty?

It’s kinda hard to imagine Elrond with his wisdom of the ages mediating the Council looking like a college freshman, but logically, shouldn’t that be the case?

Mithrantil 15/Dec/2006 at 01:17 AM
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Yes, what makes you think otherwise?


It would only be the movies that would bring your doubt in on that subject. All Elves do, in fact, look extremely young.

Morgil 15/Dec/2006 at 01:24 AM
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I don’t have that strong a knowledge of biology (or any other science, for that matter), but your analysis seems logical to me. To be honest, I’ve never given much thought to a specific age bracket that elves physical appearance would fit into. I’ve just always pictured them as generally youthful, say around the 20 year old mark. But keep in mind that an aura of wisdom, like any aura, is often subject to a number of intangible qualities of the individual. And I don’t believe all elves would fit into the same "appearance bracket". Think of Cirdan, who alone among the elves sported a long beard and appeared (if I remember correctly) at least somewhat aged.  

Amras Alcarin 15/Dec/2006 at 01:57 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by Mithrantil on Friday, December 15, 2006

It would only be the movies that would bring your doubt in on that subject. All Elves do, in fact, look extremely young.

Ugh, don’t even get me started on the movies...I loved Hugo Weaving as Elrond, he had that look of wisdom that I was referring to, but it just bothered the heck outta me that some elves end up looking like they’re in thier late 40s-early 50s like him, some (galadriel) look to be in thier 30s, and some (legolas, arwen) look to be in thier early 20s. I wasn’t even thinking about that though, but it definitely lends a hand to this topic.

But heres another thought...girls finish thier maturing cycle much earlier than boys, around age 16 (no, im not a weirdo: I had health class plus when you live with 4 sisters who speak thier mind too freely for thier own good, you learn a thing or 2 even when you dont want to) so it is likely that female elves look even younger than the males..........so it could be that Aragorn, a fully grown man when they met, was attracted to Arwen who could potentially have looked like a high school sophmore.

hellknight 15/Dec/2006 at 02:21 AM
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I don’t think elves looks really young - I’d say it’s more ageles. And there are physical changes when aging - as morgil mentioned, Cirdan, the oldest elf left in Middle Earth, is described to have a beard, something that, according to Tolkien, elves only get after reaching a very old age

Mahtalie 15/Dec/2006 at 06:46 AM
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Amras Alcarin: your theory seems quite logical, but have you considered that elves light be of another nature than us mortals? There might be a possibility that because they are immortal their cells would grow, develop and age alot slower than other beeings? after all they are supposed to live forever.                                                
Is it possible that they would grow and age like us until puberty and that their cells might even start the aging process and perhaps stop at different stages (individualy) in their lives? It is said that elves look very young, but then again very old all depending on what wisdom they have achieved and what sorrows,burdens,joys.. they have had to endure throug the ages. This might affect their appearences, make some look older /younger than others? after all they are higher beeings, "designed" to live through all the ages of this world, they might not be like us at all when it comes to biology :)

Beriel_1229 15/Dec/2006 at 07:26 AM
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Maybe their cells don’t begin to break down AT ALL! hmmmmmm? Maybe they mature then only change in appearance in, lets say, their eyes get wiser, their "aura" becomes one of ancientness (is that even a word?) When I meet one I’ll ask ( ) I’m serious
Celebind Eryniel 15/Dec/2006 at 11:17 AM
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I agree with Mahtalie -- I think it’s doubtful that elves and humans are biologically similar when it comes to aging.  And I don’t think that elves look like they just finished puberty; my belief is that their immortality makes them appear sort of ageless. 
And as for the films... well, how can you expect a human actor to completely capture that elven aura?  Personally, I think they did a pretty darn good job of it.  I admit they weren’t absolutely perfect, but then again, I don’t demand perfection from anyone but myself.
Vugar 15/Dec/2006 at 11:24 AM
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Tolkien wrote at one point that Elves mature in fifty to one hundred years.  However, I believe he had intentions to amend this, but did not live long enough to do so.  But given what writings we have (and their chronologies), it seems the most acceptable conclusion.

"Not until the fiftieth year did the Eldar attain the stature and shape in which their lives would afterwards endure, and for some a hundred years would pass before they were full-grown." (Of the Laws and Customs Among the Eldar, Morgoth’s Ring)

We know from how Círdan is described that Elves do age in outward appearance due to time.

"As they came to the gates Círdan the Shipwright came forth to greet them. Very tall he was, and his beard was long, and he was grey and old, save that his eyes were keen as stars" (The Grey Havens, RotK)

And we also know that they can age due to hardship.

"At first his own people did not know Gwindor, who went out young and strong, and returned now seeming as one of the aged among mortal Men, because of his torments and his labours" (Of Túrin Turambar, The Silmarillion)

broadbeam 16/Dec/2006 at 03:28 AM
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Maybe elves age super slower and when they get to a look they like, they stay that way forever.

It’s silly and i dont believe it myself but it is a reasonable (though extremely unlikely) explanation.

It’d be cool if humans could do that.Maybe you can choose your age in heaven.

Laitaine Adarlas 16/Dec/2006 at 04:44 PM
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It is said that as elves age, they grow ever more beautiful.  (A friend has stolen all my books so I can’t find the quote)  So it could be said that they continue to age to a point until they are the most beautiful and then just stay there.  And with the exception of grannies that give cookies, very old people are not generally more beautiful than those younger.

This is only a theory, mind you.

Calencoriel 16/Dec/2006 at 05:03 PM
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 I am not sure how Elves are able to stay looking so good for their age; they are the Firstborn, so that may have something to do with it. I think of it as them just aging much slower that anyone else in ME. They could be slain or die of grief; but their lifespan was very long compared to anyone else’s; but I do believe they still aged. Thus; Elrond would look older than Legolas, who would look far younger than Cirdan, as not all Elves were born at the same time. I think of the Elves as beautiful; sort of like angels; although angels don’t age as they don’t have a body. Elves were more attuned to ME; and I think they aged slower as a result of that, also. One Ring to Rule Them All!
Yarrow Loamsdown 17/Dec/2006 at 12:16 AM
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Obviously they age very, veeeeeerrrrrryy slowly. I don’t have a copy of Tolkiens letters... or some of the miscellany books of Lore published after his death, but I’m pretty sure that it was at least implied that they do age after they reach elven adulthood. Though not age as we mortals know it. Their apparent age seems to be dictated more by the trials they have experienced than by years.

"And those that endure in Middle-earth and come not to Mandos Shall grow weary of the world as with a great burden, and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret..." Of the Flight of the Noldor(emphasis mine)

Also in the case of Gwindor after he escaped his captivity he seemed older.
At first his own people did not know Gwindor, who went out young and strong, and returned now seeming as one of the aged among mortal men, because of his torments and labours;... Silmarillion, Of Turin Turambar(emphasis mine)

I can think of one other, in the Book of Lost Tales (i) The wanderer met a grey haired elf, who’s obvious appearance was very old and who could speak to and understand birds. Alas I still can’t give more information than that as I traded my copy of Lost tales for money to buy more books.
In short I think it can be gathered that while they don’t arbitrarily age as humans do, they do age in some sense.   

So Elrond may very well have looked somewhat old, he lived through two great wars, and further more he was only half-elven so that also may have caused his age to show slightly more.

Calenaldawen 17/Dec/2006 at 05:27 AM
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Like already said abore, I think elves look ageless. Their body looks young. But didn’t Tolkien describe Galadriels eyes as old and full of wisdom? I don’t have a copy of FOTR so I can’t look up what he said exactly. But I think that the eyes show that elves are young and yet old.
Wilibald Bumble 19/Dec/2006 at 06:15 PM
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Elves are just ageless. I guess their bodies stop growing when they are fully grown. Furthermore, I don’t really think that Tolkien intended for Elves to go through humans’ regular cycles. Remember, Elves have immortal lives so yeah  I think that Elves go until puberty and then stop growing.

Also, in various instances, it is hinted that Elves are ageless. They look both gay and young as ever but yet at the same time they are filled with a deep wisdom.


Arandorion 20/Dec/2006 at 06:48 AM
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I still believe, because it was my first thought on my mind when i heard about it, that elves ages but at such a slow rate that you would only see it after Era’s. But if that was soo ... where do they keep putting al of those elves ... if they don’t die that easily ... and they still get childeren, the undying lands should get full after time. Or is that just a weird thought on my mind? Any thoughts on that?
Vugar 20/Dec/2006 at 12:44 PM
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Arandorion, The Elves only brought forth a few children in their lifetimes (Fëanor’s seven sons being quite an exception).  There are several important reasons for this, and the matter was treated in a long essay by Tolkien written in the late 1950s (I believe) titled ’Laws and Customs among the Eldar’ found in the tenth book of the History of Middle-earth (HoMe) series: Morgoth’s Ring.  The following quotes from it are self explanatory.

"It might be thought that, since the Eldar do not (as Men deem) grow old in body, they may bring forth children at any time in the ages of their lives. But this is not so. For the Eldar do indeed grow older, even if slowly: the limit of their lives is the life of Arda, which though long beyond the reckoning of Men is not endless, and ages also. Moreover their body and spirit are not separated but coherent. As the weight of the years, with all their changes of desire and thought, gathers upon the spirit of the Eldar, so do the impulses and moods of their bodies change."

This is related to the Elvish concept of fading - as Galadriel put it "We must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten." (The Mirror of Galadriel, FotR)

"Also the Eldar say that in the begetting, and still more in the bearing of children, greater share and strength of their being, in mind and in body, goes forth than in the making of mortal children. For these reasons it came to pass that the Eldar brought forth few children; and also that their time of generation was in their youth or earlier life, unless strange and hard fates befell them."

If you have read the Silmarillion, recall the tale of Fëanor’s mother Míriel who yearned for release from the labour of living after pouring forth much of her strength into his birth.

Arandorion 21/Dec/2006 at 01:01 AM
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Achaius Is that essay findable? Or buyable? Cause it would really help me understand elves. And thx for explaining me the process of fading .
And that tale of Fëanor did Miriel ... fade after she gave birth ... i don’t recall it
thx for the help
Vugar 21/Dec/2006 at 08:19 AM
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Arandorion, it is both findable and buyable.

That essay is found along with many other later writings of Tolkien in the tenth book of the History of Middle-earth series (HoMe) Morgoth’s Ring.  It should be available at most book retailers (usually the larger ones), or you could purchase it online.  There are a total of twelve books in the HoMe series ranging from some of Tolkien’s earliest writings to his latest and are a great read for any interested in seeing how his mythology evolved over the years.

As for Míriel, here is a short quote from the chapter ’Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor’ from the Silmarillion:

"She went then to the gardens of Lórien and lay down to sleep; but though she seemed to sleep, her spirit indeed departed from her body, and passed in silence to the halls of Mandos. The maidens of Estë tended the body of Míriel, and it remained unwithered; but she did not return."

Arandorion 21/Dec/2006 at 09:09 AM
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Ah thank you
Twelf chapters Tolkien was really busy wasn’t he! Well I think i know what i’m getting for christmas then. Allong with the Silmarillion thanks for al the info.

And also thank you for the info of Míriel, I think i understand now how they die
SigilMor 24/Dec/2006 at 02:33 PM
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Yea, the movies kind of got some older people to play the elves. Especially Cirdan. But i think they would all be young looking like you said. Elrond looks older-looking in the movies too. But i agree they would all look young.
Vugar 24/Dec/2006 at 04:16 PM
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It would be much harder to prove the notion that all Elves appear young rather than that they vary in appearance depending on such factors as age or hardship.  Evidence to prove the former false is easily found.  Círdan is a great example.  He is specifically described as "grey and old", not young in the slightest.  The former notion is thus proven false.
Arandorion 26/Dec/2006 at 02:27 PM
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I also don’t think they would all look young I just think that they had too live a very long time to appear old. So I agrea Achaius that that notion is false but i do think that the majority would apear young. I think that as some kind of lord of the Havens (forgive me if I am mistaken) that he would have bein there for a long time. That he would have being appointed in the beginning of the time of the elves for an safe haven. Though this is of topic it proves that it is possible to look old as an elf. Although I have said it with a slight but, as i feel, important detour