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Are Tolkien Elves taller or shorter than Men?

In general fantasy, elves are frequently smaller than humans. But I seem to recall that in Tolkien they aren't.

Based on this SFF.SE comment

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    Didn't Tolkien set up most of the current tropes regarding the tall, regal elves? I know in D&D and The Death Gate Cycle, they're generally equal height or taller.. – Izkata Feb 10 '12 at 13:05
  • This is an awesome question, just a little bit broad/generalised. There are different races of Men, as well as different races of Elves. E.g. Elendil the Tall - almost 8 feet tall - and some of his descendants (Aragorn) were said to have been quite tall. – Möoz Jan 13 '15 at 1:26
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    @Izkata that depends a bit on which version of D&D you're referring to. In the first Red Box D&D for example, and I believe also in the first AD&D, elves were in the low 5' range, somewhere between dwarfs and humans. If memory serves, Valley Elves in one of AD&D supplements were among the first elf sub races to be as tall or taller than humans. Like, fer sure. – Paul Sep 18 '16 at 16:38
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Tolkien's Elves are of a similar size to Men. However, they tend to be slimmer, and probably slightly taller on average, although there are no direct comparisons recorded. A couple of examples:

  • Thingol, King of Doriath in the First Age and many-times forefather of Elrond and Aragorn, was described as "tallest of all the Children of Illúvatar" (which includes both Elves and Men).

  • Both when we meet Galadriel and Celeborn for the first time, and again when we meet Círdan the Shipwright in the White Havens at the end of Lord of the Rings, the phrase "Very tall they were/he was" is used. Again, no direct comparison, but given that the company includes Aragorn and Boromir the first time, and Gandalf the second time, it's certain that they were tall in comparison to Men.

They are certainly not small pixie-like elves like you find in a lot of fairy-tale settings - we know that Hobbits and Dwarves were of similar heights (although again Dwarves were much stockier than Hobbits) and the Elves were certainly not in that category.

  • Galadriel's height was said to be ranga - over over 1.9m – Mithoron Apr 18 '15 at 18:28
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I found some good info on this question here:

http://forums.theonering.com/viewtopic.php?t=52525

This addresses questions of height among many Tolkien characters including Thingol, the Númenoreans, the declination of height with decreasing noble lineage, and the upper/lower limits on some of Middle-Earth's tallest mortals and elves (with citations in "The Unfinished Tales of Númenor", "The Silmarillion", "The Peoples of Middle-Earth", and a few JRRT letters).

In summary these are some estimates given:

  • Thingol ~ lower limit probably about 7'6 - 8' tall
  • Turgon ~ lower limit just under Thingol
  • Argon (son of Fingolfin) ~ lower limit at or under that of Turgon
  • Elendil ~ said to be 7'10 in one reference but "about 7 foot" in another.
  • Galadriel ~ considered to be "man height", which by Tolkien, was 6'4
  • Aragorn ~ 6'6
  • Boromir ~ 6'4

  • Most men of Noble Numenorean blood during the 2nd Age ~ 7' was common

  • Ñoldorean Elves were of the tallest brood (Thingol was an anomaly - as he was Teleri)
  • The Men of Gondor's stature had declined along with purity of blood through the 3rd age
  • Men of the South and Easterlings should be of slighter stature as they are descended from the Dark Men who have always been allied with Morgoth & Sauron, and never had any part in the "Gift of the Vala" to the Númenoreans.
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Elves (even more than Hobbits) could walk when they wished without sound or footfall. Pippen soon began to feel sleepy, and staggered once or twice; but each time a tall Elf at his side put out his arm and saved him from a fall.

LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring -- chapter 3 -- Three Is Company

I know you've already picked the (very nice) answer above, but I thought I'd add the blurb where Frodo et al first meets Elves after they leave the Shire. It's not a perfect quote, unfortunately, as likely any beings, aside from the Dwarfs would appear quite tall to a Hobbit, but if you take the quote at face value, Elves are tall.

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    Of course it could also mean that the particular Elf who kept preventing Pippin from falling was tall compared to the others. Taking that sentence literally, it's in fact what I would take from it, but we probably shouldn't take it literally. At least, that information wouldn't make much sense there! – leftaroundabout Feb 12 '12 at 0:48
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    Also, I take much of what is said about heights from the point of view of a Hobbit to be skewed; everyone is probably tall! – Möoz Jan 13 '15 at 1:29
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Actually, it is a more complex question that it first appears. In the writings of JRRT, elves are indicated as beign taller than men at the time. I always visualised them as a foot taller, but not as stocky.

However, it is also clear that at the end of LotR, the elves are waning, and men are waxing. There is some implication I believe - I cannot remember the precise passages, as they are probably from the History of Middle Earth - that this may mean that the stature of men is increasing. The elves are the same elves, so will not shrink, but they may become less taller than men ( if that makes sense ).

So it could easily have been that elves were around 6ft tall, while men were more like 5ft. As men have increased in size, the difference is less significant.

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    I think the "waning" and "waxing" is more metaphorical than physical. – Andres F. Feb 10 '12 at 23:11
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Tolkien consistently described Elves as "tall". He described unusually noble men/races-of-men as "tall". Tolkien was very clear that even the noblest of men, the Numenoreans, aren't as tall as they used to be. Elves are immortal, ergo, any 1000+ year old elf (a young elf!) is pretty certainly going to be taller than a man born 30-40+ generations later.

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    Quotes to back this up please? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 27 '12 at 10:35
0

Men became taller and stronger, equals in the First Age

In my opinion it seems like elves and men were of similar stature in the ancient days, but as Elves faded they generally became somewhat shorter and phisycally weaker. This opinion comes from this passage of the Silmarillion (roughly translated from my spanish version):

In those days Elves and Men had similar strength and stature, but the elves wisdom, skill and beauty was greater; and those who had dwelt in Valinor, and contemplated the Powers surpassed the Dark Elves in these things, much as they surpassed in turn the people of the mortal race.

It seems to me, considering Tolkien works, that some attributes (like strength and height) diminished in elves as their spirit (or light) burned their bodies away. This process doesn't happen at the same rate, thus you have Míriel (Fëanor's mother) diminishing rather quickly and, on the other hand, you have Galadriel and Celeborn, remaining indeed very tall.

It may be argued that the fading is just metaphorical, but in Tolkien metaphorical and physical usually go hand in hand:

As ages passed the dominance of their fëar ever increased, 'consuming' their bodies (as has been noted). The end of this process is their 'fading', as Men have called it; for the body becomes at last, as it were, a mere memory held by the fëa.

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 2 "The Second Phase" Chapter 3: "Laws and Customs Among the Eldar" Of Death and the Severance of Fëa and Hröndo [> Hröa]

Yet, it seems that some Elves, and all the examples seem to point only to the Higher Elves (which had spent long time in the Blessed Kingdom, maybe blunting or actually overriding their waning), were very tall and remained that way through many ages.

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Elves are slighty taller than Men but when they both first appeared I believe they where both around 7" with the humans being slightly smaller but centuries later men are around between 5"-7" compared to elves who are around 5"6-7"

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    What is this based on? – Valorum Jan 13 '15 at 1:01
  • its just a rough estimate what I made – ADRobotix21 Jan 13 '15 at 1:02
  • on a website online – ADRobotix21 Jan 13 '15 at 1:15
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    ok wich web site put a link or something to prove your point – Rocket Jan 13 '15 at 1:39

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