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I recently re-watched the Lord of the Rings movies with my kids and noticed something, I don't think any of the Elves or the Hobbits had any type of facial hair or beards.
I also couldn't think of any having been described in the books.

So can Elves and Hobbits grow beards or did I just miss something?

  • 5
    Do hobbits have beards? – Remy Lebeau Jan 2 '17 at 18:44
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    Cirdan had a beard, but apparently it was rare for elves to have one. – Gallifreyan Jan 2 '17 at 18:48
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    You can't reliably determine ANYTHING about Middle Earth or its peoples from the movies. – jamesqf Jan 2 '17 at 21:37
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The prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring describes the Hobbits. Before The Shire was settled there were three races or types or ethnic groups or subdivisions of Hobbits: Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides, that later became quite mixed in The Shire.

The Harfoots were by far the most numerous and typical Hobbits:

the Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble,...

The descriptions of the Stoors and Fallohides do not mention if they had beards or how common facial hair might have been among them. At the moment I do not remember reading any mention of Hobbit facial hair.

I do not remember reading any mention of Elves having facial hair except in the chapter "The Grey Havens" in The Return of the King Cirdan the Shipwright is described:

Very tall he was, and his beard was long, and he was gray and old, save that his eyes were keen as stars;...

Tolkien also made an illustration in which one Elf is depicted either with a beard or with a dark shadow on his chin.

But Tolkien may have forgotten about that when he answered the question of how Legolas recognized that Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth had part Elf ancestry.

At last they came to the Prince Imrahil and Legolas looked at him and bowed low; for he saw indeed that here was one who had elven-blood in his veins. 'Hail, lord!' he said. 'It is long since the people of Nimrodel left the woodlands of Lorien, and yet still one may see that not all sailed from Amroth's haven west over water.'

Tolkien once wrote that Legolas recognized Imrahil as part Elven because no Elves or part Elves have beards.

So why did he write that Cirdan had a beard?

Most of the ordinary Elves mentioned in LOTR might be only 457, or 1,519, or 2,821, years old when mentioned.

Cirdan was described in year 3021 of the Third Age. The Second Age lasted for 3441 years. The First Age ended 6,472 years before Cirdan was described as having a beard in TA 3021. Elrond was born 58 years before the end of the First Age, and so was 6,530 years old in TA 3021.

Tolkien wrote annals giving Galadriel's birth date in Years of the Trees, but unfortunately couldn't make up his mind if the Years of the Trees in Valinor were nine point something times as long as Years of the Sun, or ten times as long, or 144 times as long as Years of the Sun.

So Galadriel is millennia older than Elrond, but depending on the length of Years of the Trees, she could be 14.4 times as many millennia older. Nobody knows the relative ages of Cirdan and Celeborn. Cirdan was an important leader of the Elves far back in the Elder Days, ere ever Galadriel's father was born.

Celeborn is probably a youngster compared to Cirdan, no older than Galadriel, but might possibly be as old or older than Cirdan. Tolkien kept changing the backstory of Galadriel and Celeborn (including Celeborn's genealogy) trying to get it right, so nobody knows.

So Cirdan is probably the oldest Elf described in Tolkien's works, probably by thousands of years and possibly by tens of thousands. Some Tolkien scholars believe that Cirdan as the only described Elf old enough to grow a beard.

  • 2
    Mahtan, Fëanor's father in law, is noted as having a beard (In the Peoples of Middle Earth, Shibboleth of Feanor) – Edlothiad Jan 2 '17 at 20:27
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    @Mithrandir - They've been around awhile. – Adamant Jan 2 '17 at 20:29
  • You should register and create an account, as there are a lot more things you can do when you are registered. After, you should use the 'contact us' link to merge these and connect your answers. – Mithrandir Jan 2 '17 at 20:30
  • @Adamant It came up in the First Posts queue, so... – Mithrandir Jan 2 '17 at 20:30
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    "Not having a beard" seems like an odd way to be sure someone has a particular ancestry. If a human cursed with a thin beard shaved well enough, they could be mistaken for an elf! (I, for one, probably could not shave well enough to rid myself of the tell-tale stubble. Beards 4 life.) – Michael Apr 14 '17 at 2:55
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Yes

Elves

One example of an elf growing facial hair is Círdan the Shiprwight, who is said to have a "long beard"

As they came to the gates Círdan the Shipwright came forth to greet them. Very tall he was, and his beard was long...
Return of the King: The Grey Havens

In the Unfinished Tales Christopher Tolkien states that:

In a note written in December 1972 or later, and among the last writings of my father’s on the subject of Middle-earth, there is a discussion of the Elvish strain in Men, as to its being observable in the beardlessness of those who were so descended (it was a characteristic of all Elves to be beardless)
Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth: The History of Galadriel and Celeborn

Fëanor's father-in-law is also known to have been able to grow a beard:

A note elsewhere in the papers associated with this essay reads: "Elves did not have beards until they entered their third cycle of life. Nerdanel's father [cf. XII:365-66 n.61] was exceptional, being only early in his second."
Vinyar Tengwar 41

Although Vinyar Tengwar is not an official Tolkien publication, this direct quote is taken from The Peoples of Middle-earth: Volume XII of The History of Middle-earth from a series of notes by Tolkien (post-1968) compiled and called The Shibboleth of Fëanor

Note: I couldn't find any other mentions of beards on Elves in The Silmarillion or LOTR

Some users on reddit claim here that certain elves could grow beards, but none of the claims are sourced.

Hobbits

Hobbits were also known to grow beards, as the Harfoots were described as "Beardless" implying other groups of Hobbits were able to grow beards.

The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless...
The Fellowship of the Ring: Prologue

Later in the prologue it is confirmed that only the Stoors could grow beards.

But they were well known to be Stoors in a large part of their blood, as indeed was shown by the down that many grew on their chins. No Harfoot or Fallohide had any trace of a beard.
The Fellowship of the Ring: Prologue

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