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The Moriquendi, or "Dark Elves", are described as being the elves who never saw the light of the Two Trees. Is the term purely categorical, so that those who were born after the destruction of the Two Trees (say, Arwen) can also be called Moriquendi (since they, too, never saw the light of the trees)? Or is it genealogical, so that only the descendants of the "original" Moriquendi can accurately be called Moriquendi?

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While it's not exactly clear, it's most likely that your presumptions are correct.

While looking around I couldn't find much that discussed whether the titles were hereditary or whether it was based on each individual Elf's birth. Some internet users are of the opinion that by the time of the destruction of the trees, the title had become a title of nobility and was hereditary, however with the long lives of Elves it can be confusing.

One good example to support your point is Luthien. Although her father was a Calaquendi, and her mother a Maia, she was considered amongst the Moriquendi (indirectly supported in the following quote)

he [Thingol] alone of all of the Sindar had seen with his own eyes the Trees in the day of their flowering, and king though he was of the Úmanyar, he was not counted among the Moriquendi, but with the Elves of the Light, mighty upon Middle-earth.
The Silmarillion - Of Thingol and Melian

Given that he was the only Sindar that had seen the light of the trees, it can be assumed that Luthien (a Sindarin elf) was considered amongst the Moriquendi.


The Calaquendi were - in it's simplest sense - those who had initially seen the light of the Two Trees

These were the three kindreds of the Eldalië, who passing at length into the uttermost West in the days of the Trees are called the Calaquendi, Elves of the Light. But others of the Eldar there were who set out indeed upon the westward march, but became lost upon the long road, or turned aside, or lingered on the shores of Middle-earth; and these were for the most part of the kindred of the Teleri, as is told hereafter. They dwelt by the sea or wandered in the woods and mountains of the world, yet their hearts were turned towards the West. Those Elves the Calaquendi call the Úmanyar, since they came never to the land of Aman and the Blessed Realm; but the Úmanyar and the Avari alike they call the Moriquendi, Elves of the Darkness, for they never beheld the Light that was before the Sun and Moon
The Silmarillion - Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

However, the term was also used to describe all the elves that had lived amongst the Valar in Aman:

In those days Elves and Men were of like stature and strength of body, but the Elves had greater wisdom, and skill, and beauty; and those who had dwelt in Valinor and looked upon the Powers as much surpassed the Dark Elves in these things as they in turn surpassed the people of mortal race. Only to the realm of Doriath, whose queen Melian was of the kindred of Valar, did the Sindar come near to match the Calaquendi of the Blessed Realm.
The Silmarillion - Of Men

Which is further supported in the index:

Calaquendi : 'Elves of the Light', those Elves who lived or had lived in Aman (the High Elves).
The Silmarillion - Index

Thus the children of the Noldor born in Middle-earth would all be of the Moriquendi (Maeglin, Gil-galad and so on), but by being taught by Elves of the Light, would exceed in knowledge and power the Sindar and other 'Dark Elves'.


The War of the Jewels also sheds a little light into the topic, although from far earlier drafts, it would appear that the usage of Moriquendi became to reference all those that were not subjects of Elwe.

The Quenya forms were Kalaquendi and Moriquendi. The Kalaquendi in Quenya applied only to the Elves who actually lived or had lived in Aman; and the Moriquendi was applied to all others, whether they had come on the March or not. The latter were regarded as greatly inferior to the Kalaquendi, who had experienced the Light of Valinor, and had also acquired far greater knowledge and powers by their association with the Valar and Maiar.

In the period of Exile the Ñoldor modified their use of these terms, which was offensive to the Sindar. Kalaquendi went out of use, except in written Ñoldorin lore. Moriquendi was now applied to all other Elves, except the Ñoldor and Sindar, that is to Avari or to any kind of Elves that at the time of the coming of the Noldor had not long dwelt in Beleriand and were not subjects of Elwë. It was never applied, however, to any but Elvish peoples. The old distinction, when made, was represented by the new terms Amanyar 'those of Aman', and Úamanyar or Úmanyar 'those not of Aman', beside the longer forms Amaneldi and Úmaneldi. History of Middle-earth IX, The War of The Jewels - Quendi and Eldar

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  • Very thorough answer! One somewhat related, yet not particularly illuminating, quote from The Silmarillion (Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie): "Greatly though he [Thingol] had desired to see again the light of the Trees, in the face of Melian he beheld the light of Aman as in an unclouded mirror, and in that light he was content. His people ... were amazed ... now he appeared as it were a lord of the Maiar, his hair as grey silver, tallest of all the Children of Illuvatar". So it seems that there's a similar but diminished effect from Melian's light (and perhaps from the silmarils?).
    – falsedot
    Dec 5, 2017 at 23:41
  • The ambiguity involved is very realistic, I think. Many terms in our world are similarly unclear.
    – TRiG
    Dec 19, 2017 at 18:47

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