This is coming from someone who has only briefly read the books a while ago and mostly remembers the film.

Elves are immortal. But they are depicted at different stages of aging. Do they just age up to a certain point and then stop? Or is the aging process just ridiculously slow?

Do they have a childhood? If so, do Elves reproduce similar to mortal men?

  • This question is answered in nauseating detail in the first 150 pages or so of drafts published in The Nature of Middle-earth.
    – ibid
    Aug 8, 2021 at 11:40

3 Answers 3


The following comes from "What Tolkien Officially Said About Elf Sex" article, which in turn very heavily quotes from "Laws and Customs of the Eldar," published in the book Morgoth's Ring, History of Middle-Earth. (aka LACE)

"Marriage is chiefly of the body, for it is achieved by bodily union, and its first operation is the begetting of the bodies of children, even though it endures beyond this and has other operations. And the union of bodies in marriage is unique, and no other union resembles it."

So yes, Elves reproduce similar to Men (also, Aragorn had a child with Arwen, so the reproduction is biologically compatible)

Furthermore, as far as aging/childhood (again sourced from the same)

The Facts of Elf Life

...Some more elvish facts of life, all sourced from LACE. Regarding elvish pregnancy, "A year passed between the begetting and the birth of an elf-child, so that the days of both are the same, or nearly so."

Elvish childhood and adolescence lasted until the age of approximately 50 years. Elves tended to marry soon after coming of age, with a one-year engagement being standard. Elves did not say they "had a baby," they said "a baby is given to us." The most kids an elf couple ever had were seven, the sons of Fëanor and Nerdanel. Tolkien said absolutely nothing about elf puberty.

As far as aging physically, Elven Life cycle - Tolkien Gateway - Later Life has this (not quite sure of original sources for those statements, but the article as a whole references "From The Shibboleth of Fëanor" abd "Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Amroth and Nimrodel", p. 320")

Apparently, beards were the only sign of further natural physical aging beyond maturity.

Elves did not age over their 100th year but they aged in a different sense than Men: they became ever more weary of the world and burdened by its sorrows, sometimes appeared to age under great stress.

Círdan seemed to be aged himself, since he is described as looking old, save for the stars in his eyes; this may be due to all the sorrows he had seen and lived through since the First Age. Also, the people of Nargothrond had trouble recognizing Gwindor after his time as a prisoner of Morgoth.

And, for a somewhat less canonical source:

Mordekai, loveable rogue, and Alvissa, elf ranger, are standing in a field with hills and trees in the background.  Mordekai: "So, Alvissa, if elves live for thousands of years, why haven't you outpopulated all the other races and taken over the world?" Alvissa: "Elven children breast feed for 30 years, teethe for 20 years, throw tantrums for about 100 years, and..." Alvissa: "...don't take to toilet training until they're about 200." Mordekai: "Ah, I see." Alvissa: "Yeah. Elves invented effective contraception before we could use fire." (src: Irregular Webcomic No. 123 2003-05-28)

  • 2
    A minor nit: the fact that Aragorn and Arwen exist, let alone had a child, is evidence that Elves and Men are biologically compatible. (I think Dior, son of Beren and Luthien, would be the first confirming example.)
    – chepner
    Aug 11, 2015 at 17:10

There are some good answers elsewhere, but the weariness is the most important factor of elves aging, IMO. @DVK covers the majority of the material, and touches on this weariness. The elves grow old slowly, but after a time - 100 years - they just age mentally and emotionally. I think that is a very clever concept by JRRT, because they can then be immortal, but still have a desire to leave the land of the living.

Compare this with Aragorn, who "gave up" his life, when he was ready to, something that was a feature of the race earlier, but tended to get lost. There is a sense that men too got weary of the world, and gave up their lives. Personally, I think he had a very mature and sensible attitude to death.

  • A 100 years seem to be a bit short for elves, considering them not being adults until 50.
    – sbi
    Feb 27, 2012 at 16:13
  • I was only refering to @DVKs answer. Yes it does seem short, but they may simply stop aging at that point, and have a century or so of maturity before the weariness starts to affect them. But sometime after that point, they do age. Feb 27, 2012 at 16:58
  • There was a statement somewhere that after million years they grow weary of the world and they spirits go to Mandos.
    – Mithoron
    Apr 1, 2015 at 14:49

This is largely a supplement to DVK's fine answer, with the canon backing for his cited essay:

They most assuredly age:

[T]he 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.

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 3: "The Later Quenta Silmarillion" Chapter 2: "The Second Phase" Laws and Customs Among the Eldar

In their early years, Elves age similarly to Men (though they develop cognitively somewhat faster):

The Eldar grew in bodily form slower than Men, but in mind more swiftly. They learned to speak before they were one year old; and in the same time they learned to walk and to dance, for their wills came soon to the mastery of their bodies. Nonetheless there was less difference between the two Kindreds, Elves and Men, in early youth; and a man who watched elf-children at play might well have believed that they were the children of Men, of some fair and happy people.

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 3: "The Later Quenta Silmarillion" Chapter 2: "The Second Phase" Laws and Customs Among the Eldar

But it doesn't take long before the Elves are left behind by similarly-aged Human children. While humans are typically full-grown by about 18, Elves may take anywhere from fifty to a hundred years:

This same watcher might indeed have wondered at the small limbs and stature of these children, judging their age by their skill in words and grace in motion. For at the end of the third year mortal children began to outstrip the Elves, hastening on to a full stature while the Elves lingered in the first spring of childhood. Children of Men might reach their full height while Eldar of the same age were still in body like to mortals of no more than seven years. 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.

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 3: "The Later Quenta Silmarillion" Chapter 2: "The Second Phase" Laws and Customs Among the Eldar

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