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So, I know that there is a race in Lord of the Rings of Peredhil (half elf). Also, in the Hobbit (film trilogy, not book), there is a romance between a dwarf and an elf.

My question is, how do man/elf or dwarf/elf offspring work? Can they not be born? Are they born infertile because they are from parents of two different species? Are elves, dwarves, and men only different "races" of one single primordial species, and can thus reproduce any number of ways? To my knowledge, this isn't addressed in the books or films.

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    "in the Hobbit (film trilogy, not book), there is a romance between a dwarf and an elf" - may Hollywood and Peter Jackson roast in seven hells and their films nevermore see the light of day. – Rand al'Thor Dec 17 '15 at 0:55
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    You put the young couple together and you let nature take its course. – Xantec Dec 17 '15 at 0:59
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    The worst romances in film history always happen in prequel trilogies. – thegreatjedi Dec 17 '15 at 1:00
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    "When a mommy elf and daddy dwarf love each other very much..." – Möoz Dec 17 '15 at 1:34
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    Considering the plot of the film: not very well. Kili died before he managed to reproduce. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 17 '15 at 3:58
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Between men and elves, it all seems pretty natural.

Peredhil are not infertile, and there's nothing to suggest they're conceived and born in anything other than the normal way. From Tolkien Gateway (emphasis mine):

Half-elven (Sindarin singular Peredhel, plural Peredhil), are the children of the union of Elves and Men. Half-elven are not a distinct race per se; rather, they were fertile offspring as the result of a union between Elves and Men.

Dwarves are a race apart.

There are no dwarf-elf romances or reproduction in canon (real canon, not those damn films).

See also this question and its answers, in which it's shown that Dwarves are separate enough from Men and Elves (even created by Aule as opposed to Iluvatar) that they're unlikely to be able to reproduce - although again, this is never canonically stated one way or the other.

Maiar...?

In the Silmarillion, you can read about the tale of the romance between Thingol the Elf and Melian the Maia. They had a child, Luthien, who is described as an Elf in the tale of Beren and Luthien. Perhaps Melian (as a powerful Maia) took Elvish form in order to reproduce?

And if you're asking how babies are made, then I think you're on the wrong site ;-)

  • Thank you, I was more concerned about the half-elf example than the dwarf-elf one. Does this mean you could have, further down the tree, quarter elf? 3/8 elf? Etc? – PlasmaStarfish Dec 17 '15 at 1:09
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    @PlasmaStarfish Indeed: for instance, Elros is biologically an Elf (although he took the Gift of Man) and his descendants had less and less Elvish blood in them, until you get all the way down to Aragorn, who's basically human. – Rand al'Thor Dec 17 '15 at 1:14
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    Basically human except Aragorn lived for several hundred years. – Tim B Dec 17 '15 at 11:40
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    @TimB The long life that the men of Numenor enjoy is a legacy of their half-elven ancestry, but is sustained not mainly by blood but by Illuvatar's will. Elros' descendants' don't live as long as him, but their life expectancies eventually stabilised, until they abandoned the Valar and turned fully to Sauron-worship when it began to decline again. Entering the Third Age, the Numenoreans of Gondor and Arnor who worship the Valar RECOVERED their longevity to ~200 years. Black Numenoreans who worship Sauron, while of the same blood, now live only as long as the common Man. – thegreatjedi Dec 17 '15 at 14:31
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    @thegreatjedi The vast majority of Numenoreans had no elven blood. Their extended lives, like Numenor itself, were rewards for helping the Elves in the war against Morgoth. The royal line did live longer than other Numenoreans, but I'm not aware of any evidence that that was due to their mixed ancestry, rather than being the royal family. – suchiuomizu Dec 17 '15 at 23:26
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I think much of the confusion stems from the non-obvious fact that Elves and Men are the same species; as Tolkien notes in Letter 153:

Elves and Men are evidently in biological terms one race, or they could not breed and produce fertile offspring – even as a rare event

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien Letter 153: To Peter Hastings (draft). September 1954

Thus there's no inherent contradiction in an Elf and a Man being able to produce fertile offspring.

The possibility of an Elf and a Dwarf reproducing is not addressed in any of Tolkien's writings.

  • Okay, that's what I thought maybe. But I guess dwarves are different. – PlasmaStarfish Dec 17 '15 at 1:38
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    @PlasmaStarfish As hinted in thegreatjedi's answer, Dwarves have a different origin than Elves and Men. You could make a plausible argument that they were made genetically compatible, but there's no evidence for it – Jason Baker Dec 17 '15 at 1:39
  • I think you've got your causality backwards here. It sounds like Tolkien is concluding that they could be viewed as one race, given their ability to mate. – DCShannon May 26 '17 at 23:42
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In the books we have man-elf and elf-maiar offspring capable of reproducing.

Tolkien scholar Micheal Martinez sums up the documented interspecies marriages in Middle-earth thus:

  • Thingel (Elda/Sinda) and Melein (Maiar)

  • Luthien (Elda/Sinda) and Beren (Adan/Beorian)

  • Idril (Elda/Noldo-Vanya) and Tuor (Adan/Marachian-Beorian)

  • Nimloth (Elda/Sinda) and Dior (Perelda/Half-elf)

  • Earendil (Half-elf) and Elwing (Half-elf)

  • Celebrian (Elda/Sinda-Noldo-Vanya) and Elrond (Perelda)

  • Arwen (Perelda-Elda) and Aragorn (Dunadan)

  • Mithrellas (Silvan Elf) and Imrazor (Dunadan)

All of them are known to have had offspring and all besides for one have had offspring that were known to be capable of reproducing.

5

First of all, you need to know the origins of the three races - and Tolkien was to my awareness a devout Christian, so creationism themes are strong in this universe.

Elves and Man are known as the Children of Illuvatar, the ultimate singular creator of the universe. They are directly created by Illuvatar. Dwarves were created by the Valar Aule, not Illuvatar, from the earth and stone. They were then discovered by Illuvatar, who subsequently accepted them as the adopted children of Illuvatar.

The above origins should be kept in mind as the context of whether they can interbreed. We know that it is possible between Elf and Man (if they can find it within them to get it on with each other) - there are at least two such recorded romances in the Silmarillion, and the last resulted in two Half-Elf-Half-Man offspring: Elrond and Elros. The two were later offered a choice to live as Elf or Man - Elrond chose to be an immortal Elf while Elros accepted his inheritance of the Gift of Man. It is through Elros' descendants that we will see the royal line of Numenor, and later of Gondor and Arnor. Aragorn is born of this line (so you can actually say Elrond is his immortal great-to-the-power-of-almost-infinity granduncle). Most likely, being both direct Children of Illuvatar leads to similar biology that allows interbreeding.

But what of Dwarves with any of the other two? It's not as intuitive since the two Children of Illuvatar appeared to be created from outside this world, while Dwarves were made from materials found in this world - it is possible they are of different biologies. Unfortunately I have not read of any such instances of relationships to date - Elves and Dwarves hate each other too much, human men probably don't find dwarven women attractive and human women probably think human men are bigger and more to their liking. If only that Elf-Dwarf romance in the Hobbit turned out well, we could have seen for ourselves what their babies look like.

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If we go by biology*, creatures that are accepted as different (but closely related) species can mate and produce fertile offspring. Probably the best known examples are the coywolf, coydog, and wolf-dog hybrids. So if we assume that Elves and Men are about as closely-related as wolves and coyotes, there's no problem. Speciation is, after all, a gradual process.

Dwarves are apparently more distantly related to both Elves and Men, and so hybrids are less likely, both from biology and from a basic lack of mutual attraction.

*Of course we should regard the myths regarding Illuvatar as having about as much relation to Middle Earth biology as e.g. the accounts in Genesis do to our own evolution :-)

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