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After the defeat of Sauron, elves continued to leave Middle Earth for Valinor. I know the process was gradual and some chose not to leave, but what became of their realms? These answers explain the fate of specific elves, but not much about the land and structures left behind. Were places like Rivendell and Lothlórien ever completely abandoned, or were they slowly replaced by humans?

In a comment responding to a similar question, user Nolimon says

There's also a line in the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen that implies Rivendell is abandoned by 1541: "the hour is indeed hard, yet it was made even in that day when we met under the white birches in the garden of Elrond where none now walk"

What additional evidence describes what happened to Elvish domains?

  • Have you seen the price of an apartment in Rivendell? Only billionaires can afford to live there these days. – Valorum Feb 12 at 0:09
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    @Valorum Not if there's nobody there to charge rent. – creative-username Feb 12 at 0:12
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    We simply don't know what happened in the long term after LotR ended. Tolkien only wrote a bit of epilogue regarding the rule of Gondor. Supposedly Arwen was one of the very last elves and we know nothing of what happened to the elven lands after her death. – Amarth Feb 12 at 18:01
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Presumably they slowly get abandoned with fewer and fewer Elves and some or all of them becoming populated by men. The problem with a more certain and detailed answer is Tolkien writes little if anything about what happens after what is covered in Lord of the Rings, and even there, the appendix goes up to death of Aragorn and Arwen (and only very brief summaries of what happens over the rest of their life times). Other than Rivendell, which was always small and with a low population, these places would only reach that level of depopulation at some later point. Which leaves us guessing to some degree on exactly what happens and how. Technically Elven realms actually grow in this brief period covered (southern Mirkwood becoming 'East Lorien').

To address the point of Lorien mentioned in the comment there is a little bit in the Appendix, which may or may not agree with claim of it being empty by Arwen's death.

First from the end of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen:

...Then she said farewell to Eldarion*, and to her daughters, and to all whom she had loved; and she went out from the city of Minas Tirith and passed away to the land of Lorien, and dwelt there alone under the fading trees until winter came. Galadriel had passed away and Celeborn also was gone, and the land was silent.

*Eldarion being the son of Aragorn and Arwen, and last king Arnor and Gondor to be named by Tolkien.

Then the note regarding the beginning of 'East Lorien' that I mentioned, from the Tale of Years.

In the North also there had been war and evil. The realm of Thanduil was invaded, and there was long battle under the trees and great ruin of fire; but in the end Thranduil had the victory. And on the day of the New Year of the Elves, Celeborn and Thanduil met in the midst of the forest; and the renamed Mirkwood Eryn Lasgalen, The Wood of Greenleaves. Thanduil took all the northern region as far as the mountains that rise in the forest for his real; and Celeborn took the southern wood below the Narrows, and named it East Lorien; but all the wide forest between was given to the Beornings and Woodmen. But after the passing of Galadriel in a few years Celeborn grew wary of his realm and went to Imladris to dwell with the sons of Elrond. In the Greenwood the Silvan Elves remained untroubled, but in Lorien there lingered sadly only a few of its former people, and there was no longer light or song in Caras Galadon.

Clearly the majority of the Elves of Lorien that had not sailed to the west had apparently moved to East Lorien. I am not so certain Lorien itself was completely empty when Arwen went there to die, but the population had shrunk drastically.

That is a little more about the fate of parts of the Elven realms but that is it, this is the last said of Thanduil's Woodland Realm and there is nothing to go on regarding Lindon, other than Cirdan intending to wait until the final ship left the Grey Havens to leave Middle-Earth.

  • That's more a comment then answer. IIRC When Arwen came back to Lorien, it was empty, no one in there. – Mithoron Feb 12 at 17:14
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    @Mithoron There is only so much that can be written for an answer that does not have much written regarding the subject, but I addressed the point about Lorien and why I am not so sure that it was completely empty. – suchiuomizu Feb 16 at 23:20
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    Based on what you've posted, I guess Tolkien means to imply a slow dwindling of their populations until they are either abandoned or given over to Men. "But all the wide forest between was given to the Beornings and Woodmen." It seems this is the most likely fate of the Elvish domains. Thank you for updating your answer. – creative-username Feb 17 at 4:26
  • I'm not sure that Lorien was completely empty when Arwen arrived. Unless she was able to hunt or farm, someone else had to be living there. – EvilSnack Mar 22 at 20:09
  • Even though the text uses the word “alone”, I would assume that really means she was without any close companions, but had a small retinue or a few servants with her. – creative-username Mar 24 at 3:26

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