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Calaquendi are the group of elves in Tolkien’s Legendarium that beheld the light of the two trees in Valinor. It consists of the Vanyar, Noldor, Falmari, and Thingol out of all Umanyar.

Can the status of Calaquendi be passed down through blood? Are all elves born after the year of the trees Moriquendi?

The Falmari reside in Tol Eressëa, where the stars can still be seen. This suggests that the amount of light needed to turn an elf into a Calaquendë is low. Is the light of a Silmaril sufficient for this transformation as a corollary?

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    I would guess not. It's not a racial or an inherited thing. It's literally did you see the trees.
    – OrangeDog
    Nov 9, 2021 at 11:12
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    Good question! I suspect 'no' for the light from the Silmarils, otherwise eg the one that Luthien and Beren retrieved would have turned all in Thingol's court who saw it, the Laiquendi who lived near Luthien when she wore the Nauglamir, and the people of Dior's court would all technically be Calaquendi. But they do not seem to have been "leveled-up" like the Noldor on their return from Aman. Nov 9, 2021 at 11:50
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    I would suppose that bothering to call someone Calaquendi is to indicate that they were born early enough to have seen the actual Trees. That is, the most ancient among the Elves. In which case, seeing the Silmaril later wouldn't mean the same thing.
    – nebogipfel
    Nov 9, 2021 at 12:09
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    It's not obvious that there were any Elves born in Valinor after the Trees died. (Though the Teleri at least may have wanted to bolster their numbers after the Kinslaying.)
    – chepner
    Nov 9, 2021 at 14:21
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    @chepner - That could be a question on its own right. (And it is answerable.)
    – ibid
    Nov 10, 2021 at 2:15

1 Answer 1

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All elves who had ever lived in Valinor would be considered Calaquendi.

Tolkien's most in depth description of the term can be found in his work "Quendi and Eldar", published in The War of the Jewels.

Here Tolkien explains that the original primitive elvish word kala-kwendī referred to the elves who had made the decision to leave Middle-earth and seek the Light of Valinor, but that once in Valinor this word evolved into the Quenya word Kalaquendi, which was now used to refer to all elves who were currently living in Valinor or who had lived there in the past.

(J.R.R. Tolkien in his writings always uses "Kalaquendi", but Christopher Tolkien in The Silmarillion switched it to "Calaquendi" to better match the spelling conventions used in The Lord of the Rings.)

There also existed two old compounds containing *kwendī: *kala-kwendī and *mori-kwendī, the Light-folk and the Dark-folk. These terms appear to go back to the period before the Separation, or rather to the time of the debate among the Quendi concerning the invitation of the Valar. They were evidently made by the party favourable to Oromë, and referred originally to those who desired the Light of Valinor (where the ambassadors of the Elves reported that there was no darkness), and those who did not wish for a place in which there was no night. But already before the final separation *mori-kwendī may have referred to the glooms and the clouds dimming the sun and the stars during the War of the Valar and Melkor, so that the term from the beginning had a tinge of scorn, implying that such folk were not averse to the shadows of Melkor upon Middle-earth.

The lineal descendants of these terms survived only in the languages of Aman. 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 Elwe. 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.
The War of the Jewels - "Quendi and Eldar"

Note also that Tolkien's usage of Calaquendi often implies that it's a regional descriptor, just meaning the elves who were living in Valinor.

But that evil lay as yet in the days to come, and the first meeting of the Sindar and the Noldor was eager and glad, though parley was at first not easy between them, for in their long severance the tongue of the Kalaquendi in Valinor and the Moriquendi in Beleriand had drawn far apart.
The War of the Jewels - The Grey Annals - 1497 - §48

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    Them Sindar forcing their political correctness on the mighty Ñoldor! /s Nov 10, 2021 at 0:45

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