In Rohan, Aragorn was joined by some of his kinsmen, Rangers from the north. With them were the two sons of Elrond Half-Elven:

‘I have thirty with me,’ said Halbrad. ‘That is all of our kindred that could be gathered in haste; but the brethren Elladan and Elrohir have ridden with us, desiring to go to the war.’

Two nights later, Aragorn led this company, plus Legolas and Gimli, through the door to the Paths of the Dead, a dread place:

The company halted, and there was not a heart among them that did not quail, unless it were the heart of Legolas of the Elves, for whom the ghosts of Men have no terror.

The sons of Elrond haven’t gone missing. Elladan at least is still there:

Aragorn had brought torches from Dunharrow, and now he went ahead bearing one aloft; and Elladan with another went at the rear.

Either there is something deeply subtle about the nature of Elladan and Elrohir, or Tolkien made a mistake. Which is it?

All quotes from Book Five, Chapter II, “The Passing of the Grey Company”.

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    Likely of note, Legolas was the only "full" Elf present, Elladan and Elrohar are "half-elven".
    – NominSim
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 23:08
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    Quite possible that being part of the rear-guard is just as dangerous as being in the vanguard of the group.
    – JW8
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 23:59
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    @Lexible It's not quite that simple. Put briefly, choosing to be counted among Men was "permanent": your descendants were Men, period. Choosing to be counted among the Eldar was "temporary"; your children also could choose. The original choice was given to both Eärendil and Elwing, who both chose the Eldar, which is why Elros and Elrond both had a choice as well. Elros chose Men, "closing" that branch of the Half-Elven. As Elrond chose the Eldar, so the choice passed to his three children as well. Arwen chose; Elladan and Elrohir had not yet chosen by the end of the book.
    – chepner
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 14:45
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    (One way of looking at it is that the Half-Elven were Eldar by default, but could at any point "switch" to Men, but that choice was irrevocable. You can accept the Gift of Eru, but you cannot give it up once received... Tuor excluded. Like I said: not simple.)
    – chepner
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 14:46
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    @chepner can you write this up as an answer? The current accepted answer seems to think it's a genetics issue. If not I'll have a go using your comments.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


Tolkien did not necessarily make a mistake. It is unknowable whether Elladan and Elrohir would have been afraid of the dead at that point in time though. The ride from Rohan through the door to the Paths of the Dead, occurred at the very end of The Two Towers, book two of LOTR.

The company included Elladan. We know that of all the company the following is true for Legolas only:

...the ghosts of Men have no terror.

Elladan was also present, but we don't know if Elrohir was.

Now some background:

  • Elrond and Celebrían were the parents of the twins, Elladan and Elrohir, and of sister Arwen
  • Celebrían was Elven as the daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn
  • Elrond was was known as half-Elven but he had been offered the choice of being a mortal of Middle-Earth or fully High-Elven. He chose to be Eldar.
  • The status of Elladan and Elrohir was similar to each other, not because they were twins, but because they were the children of Elrond.

As of The Two Towers, none of the children of Elrond had been given the choice of going to the Far Lands (and immortality) or remaining in Middle-Earth as mortals. Elrond's daughter Arwen was given this choice in the third volume, *Return of the King, and decided to be like mortal man and marry Aragon. Elladan and Elrohir had not chosen by the end of LOTR.

We do know that Arwen, Elladan, and Elrohir were long-lived like Elves, even prior to deciding to accept the gift of Eru, i.e remaining in Middle-Earth. Recall Elrond talking to Aragorn, in Rivendell, about issues to consider in courting Arwen. Elrond made the analogy that Arwen was like a young tree while Aragorn was barely a sapling, in terms of each of their time lived.

It isn't clear whether or not those who were half-Elven and had not yet been offered the choice of being Eldar or Man had all the attributes of Elves or just some of them, e.g. long/near eternal life. So it is possible that the twins could have been afraid of the dead.

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    Now that is interesting. I hadn't noticed the other occasions on which the sons of Elrond were listed separately to both elves and men.
    – TRiG
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 17:21
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    @TRiG ;o) Tolkien did not include the twins when referring to any given group of elves, or of men. Whether that was deliberate or not, I'm not certain. Ansereg dot com is a rather excellent resource; he thinks it was probably deliberate, and I am inclined to think so too. Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 11:57
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    And if you're Half-Elven you get to choose whether to be counted as Elf or Man - so actual lineage ratios may not be relevant anyway.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 12:43
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    -1 Tolkien was explicit that Elves and Men were the same species, and did not differ biologically but spiritually. There is no "73.5% Elven" in Tolkien, and the Elrond's children are 100% Elven, as they were not given the choice between Elvish or Human fates.
    – Lexible
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 6:17
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    @Lexible "Elrond's children are 100% Elven, as they were not given the choice between Elvish or Human fates." Arwen surely was given exactly that choice. There is no reason to think that Elladan and Elrohir were not. But not all half-elven are automatically given this choice. Earendil wnd Elwing were as one of the results of the Great Voyage, and their descendants. But Dior (son of Beren and Luthian) was not. Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 22:07

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