Just re-reading the LotR for the umpteenth time (stopped counting at 30, some 15-20 years ago... :-P), just finished Elrond's council chapter.

In light of various other discussions on the topic of Elf immortality, reincarnation and their attitude towards death, I've wondered.

In The Council of Elrond, Galdor says

Only the waning might of Gondor stands now between him and a march in power along the costs into the North; and if he comes, assailing the White Towers and the Havens, hereafter the Elves may have no escape from the lengthening shadows of Middle-Earth.

Apart from Galdor's quite touching empathy for the other races who have no escape at all, it's not really correct.

The Elves always have another way: death and rebirth.

Yeah, it may smart a bit, those arrows and swords and fires. But hey, you can take some of the bastards with you - that guy you're sitting next to? Glorfindel? He did it - and he came back for more!

In all the threads and stacks and discussions, I've never gained the impression that there is any difference, once reborn, between an Elf who takes the boat versus one who had to take the detour via Mandos.

Is Galdor just another cowardly weasel, like Eol or Maeglin? (Just kidding, though Galdor does come across as being more Elf-absorbed than some we encounter, as we saw when he met the hobbits in the Shire)

I'm not saying it's pleasant, but Elves are supposed to be the great, amazing people, with those staying in Middle-Earth doing so for love of the lands, knowing full-well it's pain and suffering. "Out of universe", they are supposed to be Man Before The Fall, in Tolkien's Catholic worldview.

In History of Middle-Earth (which I currently have no access to), is/was there anything on supporting the Elves worry about being cut off?

  • Maeglin! Thanks @Jason Baker! – Marakai May 6 '16 at 1:39
  • Galdor doesn't meat the elves in the shire. That's Gildor – user46509 May 6 '16 at 9:53
  • @ATB <speechless> Worse than the names of the 12 dwarves... >.< – Marakai May 6 '16 at 9:56
  • 1
    and don't even get into who Gildor is. A high eleven prince who is missing from the records 🤔 – user46509 May 6 '16 at 9:57
  • 1
    @ATB If I post that question will you promise a nice juicy answer? ;) – Marakai May 6 '16 at 10:18

No, this is never explained. The line dates back to the first draft of the chapter, and Christopher Tolkien never comments on the inconsistency so far as I can tell.

As an in-universe rationalization, I suspect Galdor is trying to say something like:

There is no legitimate action the Elves can take to escape from the Darkness.

With the Havens lost, the Elves have lost their self-determination.

I think it's worth pointing out ehre that the Elves don't view death as an "escape." Although it is, in a strict sense, an escape from Sauron, following that line of thinking leads us to wondering if, Sauron having taken over, the Elves wouldn't be better off committing mass suicide; and that doesn't seem like a "right" outcome.

This idea is briefly touched on in "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth":

Then "death" would (as I said) have sounded otherwise to you: as a release, or return, nay! as going home! But this you do not believe, it seems?'

'Nay, I do not believe this,' said Andreth. 'For that would be contempt of the body, and is a thought of the Darkness unnatural in any of the Incarnate whose life uncorrupted is a union of mutual love.

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 4: "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth"

Although that assertion is made by Andreth, a human, in several places in the text Finrod expresses the idea that "death" is an unnatural, undesirable state for the Eldar; for instance:

[H]armony of hroa and fea is, we believe, essential to the true nature unmarred of all the Incarnate: the Mirroanwi as we call the Children of Eru.'

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 4: "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth"

  • Extremely interesting quote. This is a conversation between Finrod (the elf lord, son of Feanor, IIRC) and a human named Andreth? It begs the question whether reincarnated Elves do, in some way that we can only speculate about, remain marred: the hroa and fea was separated and like a large scar, it's never quite healed to the exact same level as before (I speak from experience). – Marakai May 6 '16 at 2:09
  • Also agree on the "slippery slope" argument of "hence lies justification of mass suicide". Fairly confident that would have been anathema to Tolkien. – Marakai May 6 '16 at 2:11
  • @Marakai Finrod was a son of Finarfin and brother of Galadriel, not one of the sons of Feanor, And technically in this quote it is Finarfin speaking, he was named Finrod in earlier writings before getting renamed. – suchiuomizu May 6 '16 at 3:42
  • Ack. My excuse: I don't have a book handy! (surely you didn't have the whole family tree memorised?!) – Marakai May 6 '16 at 3:54
  • @suchiuomizu What leads you to say it's Finarfin speaking? The introductory text of "Athrabeth" identifies Finrod as the son of Finarfin, son of Finwe – Jason Baker May 6 '16 at 5:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.