After Elessar's death, Legolas and Gimli also took a ship and went into the West.

Strictly speaking, Legolas shouldn't have been allowed either, as Tolkien says

But the promise made to the Eldar (the High Elves – not to other varieties, they had long before made their irrevocable choice, preferring Middle-earth to paradise) for their sufferings in the struggle with the prime Dark Lord had still to be fulfilled: that they should always be able to leave Middle-earth, if they wished, and pass over Sea to the True West, by the Straight Road, and so come to Eressëa – but so pass out of time and history, never to return. ... [Letters, #154] (emphasis mine)

Legolas (and his father Thranduil and presumably some others who led a population of Teleri and possibly even Avari) were Sindar, and while considered Eldar, they were not Calaquendi, i.e. High Elves, as per the Sundering of the Elves chart in the Silmarillion.

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Was Legolas given special dispense, just like Gimli and the Ringbearers?

Wouldn't that mean he said farewell to his entire people and his father (we never hear about his mother in Tolkien's male-dominated universe) forever? Beyond the end of the world, as I believe it's described in the parting of Elrond and Arwen? With those left behind to become

rustic folk of dell and cave [Galadriel in LOTR]

  • 1
    I added the diagram just for those who aren't familiar with what I was referring to.
    – Marakai
    May 19, 2016 at 10:16
  • Apart from the Noldor exiles weren't the elves always granted access to the west,im pretty sure after Melkors war they were anyway.
    – turinsbane
    May 20, 2016 at 10:24
  • Not forever. All elves will eventually grow weary and their spirits go to the Halls of Mandos.
    – OrangeDog
    Dec 11, 2019 at 12:04

3 Answers 3


I don't think you're right that High Elves means exclusively "Calaquendi" in that letter(*). On the contrary, most things I've read indicate that all Eldar were able to go into the West; only the Avari, those who had originally refused, were not allowed. Sindar are considered only to be lingering in Middle-Earth, not refusing the call altogether.

Indeed, both Wikipedia and the LOTR wikia indicate that a large portion of the Sindar did indeed sail to the West after the destruction of Beleriand at the end of the First Age.

(*) and note that Calaquendi just means Elves of the Light, ie those who had actually lived in the Light of the Two Trees; if that were the defining principle, not even Elrond would be able to go into the West.

  • 2
    It's a good point. I wonder if this part was one that Tolkien never got to fully work out. However, it does mean that Celeborn and Thranduil were allowed and pretty much told their people "seeya wouldn't wanna be ya, enjoy the rest of your existence being painted by Victorian artists fluttering about flowers" ;)
    – Marakai
    May 19, 2016 at 10:13
  • 3
    It's a reasonable view that the Sindar are actually still on the great journey; they're just taking a very long time about it. More puzzling to me is why the Avari's decision not to go to Aman should be irrevocable. I imagine that was related to Tolkien's original conception of Middle Earth as a past Earth, with the Avari being responsible for any remaining "faerie" phenomena in the fifth and sixth ages.
    – Buzz
    May 19, 2016 at 13:31
  • I think you're right, but neither Wikipedia nor the LotR Wiki are good sources -- can you cite from the Silmarillion?
    – Mark Olson
    Dec 11, 2019 at 18:08

I think Thranduil did sail to the West. We do know that Celeborn went and Tolkien does state that with his passing, the last of the Eldar departed with him. Since Thranduil is Sindarin and considered part of the Eldar, Tolkien seems to suggest that Thranduil also departed. I also find it hard to believe that Thranduil would stay in Middle-earth, knowing that Legolas and his father were in the West. Also, the time of the rule of Man had come to Middle-earth and they were ever expanding their territory. Remember that after the War of the Ring, Thranduil and Celeborn divided the Woodland Realm, Thranduil in the North, Celeborn in the South and the land in between was given to the Beornings and Woodmen. Given all this, it is logical that he would leave and as a Sindar, he was allowed by the Valar to go.

  • It's been a long time since I thought about this question. Some time ago, I stumbled over some "obscure" comment or footnote somewhere in the HoME, which somewhat astonished me and made me want to finally revisit this with the surprising conclusion that, yes, Legolas ended up leaving his people behind - because those left it for too late. Some note by JRRT that made it sound like there was almost something like a cut-off date. It would take some serious re-reading to find it again. Time I don't have right now, alas.
    – Marakai
    Jun 19, 2018 at 2:13

I think that Thranduil and his people went to the West because when Aragon dies, and, Arwen is left alone, she wanders to Lothien, which has been abandoned. If the Woodland Realm was still in existence and Thranduil was still king, no doubt she would have gone there for comfort and help, and Thranduil, being a good and kingly king would have helped her in her last days.

I also think that Thranduil would have wanted to go West once Legolas had gone, as his family, his wife, son, and father were there.

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