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I've noticed that almost every fan drawing of elves (as well as their portrayals in the movies) show them with long hair, both the men and the women. But did Tolkien ever write anything that proved that male elves had indeed long hair? I had always imagined them with short hair (the men, not the women).

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There are a few passages where JRR provides explicit statements. Don't know that you can extrapolate to conclude that all male elves generally had long hair but JRR certainly indicated some of them did.

Elwe himself had long and beautiful hair of silver hue, but this does not seem to have been a common feature of the Sindar, though it was found among them occasionally especially in the nearer or remoter kin of Elwe (as in the case of Cirdan). – J.R.R. Tolkien, The War of the Jewels, “Quendi and Eldar” Elwe - one of the Nelyar, ancient Elves of Cuiviénen.

Then Celegorm arose amid the throng (p. 169). In Quenta Silmarillion this is followed by 'golden was his long hair'. In the Lay at this point (line 1844) Celegorm has 'gleaming hair'; his Old English name was Cynegrim Faegerfeax ('Fair-hair'), IV. 213. The phrase was removed in The Silmarillion text on account of the dark hair of the Noldorin princes other than in 'the golden house of Finarfin' (see I. 44); but he remains 'Celegorm the fair' in The Silmarillion p. 60. – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lost Road and Other Writings: the Commentary to “On Beren and Tinúviel”

Fingon - He wore his long dark hair in great plaits braided with gold. – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Peoples of the Middle-earth: „The Shibboleth of Fëanor” . Fingon was a High King of the Noldor.

The hair of Olwë was long and white, and his eyes were blue– J.R.R. Tolkien, The War of the Jewels: “The Grey Annals” . Olwe was the younger brother of Elwe.

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    Thank you! Those excerpts show indeed that some male elves had long hair, but I hadn't read them. I suppose I imagined them short-haired because that's the way they're depicted in the Tolkien Bestiary of David Day. Apr 1, 2013 at 10:01
  • @Taylor17387 Thanks for the feedback and welcome to the site. Would be helpful if you 'accept' the answer if you feel it sufficiently answers your question.
    – Stan
    Apr 1, 2013 at 11:28
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    Long hair wasn't reserved for elves, either: when Faramir and Eowyn stood in the Halls of Healing, "a great wind rose and blew, and their hair, raven and golden, streamed out mingling in the air."
    – Lihtox
    Apr 27, 2013 at 3:14
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    @Lihtox I love that line :)
    – MadTux
    May 3, 2013 at 14:58
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    It's also the case that many of the Noldor have "hair names" - Finwe, Fingolfin, Finarfin, Findis, Fingon, Finrod, Finduilas, all contain "fin" which is "hair". This is no doubt significant.
    – user8719
    Nov 23, 2013 at 11:45
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Tolkien drew an elf. That elf has long hair.

enter image description here

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    That's on the cover of my copy of The Two Towers. I always thought that was a hobbit, either Merry or Pippin. I see now, though, magnifying the JPG, that the figure does appear to be wearing shoes.
    – LAK
    Jun 12, 2015 at 19:26
  • From memory it might be Beleg? Sep 12, 2021 at 22:11
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The only definitive statement I'm aware of regarding Elvish long hair is made in the latter Quenta Silmarillion phase 1 texts given in History of Middle-earth 10, regarding the Teleri:

But most it was their wont to sail in their swift ships upon the waters of the Bay of Elvenhome, or to walk in the waves upon the shore with their long hair gleaming like foam in the light beyond the hill.

Here "long hair" was an amendment from just "hair" in the 1937 Silmarillion. In the published Silmarillion Christopher Tolkien removed the "long", thus reverting it to the 1937 reading, for reasons I am not aware of (he doesn't note any such authorial change in the phase 2 revisions).

By this we can understand that the Teleri of Aman collectively had long hair. Most of the Elves we meet in Lord of the Rings (with some exceptions: Gildor, Glorfindel, Galadriel) are of the Teleri, but there's nothing I'm aware of to suggest whether or not the Teleri of Middle-earth also collectively had long hair, so you can just run with your own preferred image of them.

4

They had long hair

Finwë had long hair.

Ingwë had curling golden hair. Finwë (and Míriel) had long dark hair, so had Fëanor and all the Noldor, save by intermarriage which did not often take place between clans, except among the chieftains, and then only after settlement in Aman. Only Finwë’s second son by Indis had fair hair, and this remained generally characteristic of his descendants, notably Finrod. Elwë and Olwë had very pale hair, almost white. Melian was dark, and so was Lúthien.
The Nature of Middle-earth - "Hair"

Finwë's hair was no longer than other elves.

All the Eldar had beautiful hair (and were especially attracted by hair of exceptional loveliness), but the Noldor were not specially remarkable in this respect, and there is no reference to Finwe as having had hair of exceptional length, abundance, or beauty beyond the measure of his people.
The Peoples of Middle-earth - "The Shibboleth of Feanor"

Thus, all elves must have had long hair.

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  • Plus, y'know, we've got a drawing of one.
    – Valorum
    Sep 12, 2021 at 13:41
  • I don't know why this answer isn't the accepted answer. It does seem to imply that elves had long hair (Whether all of them had long hair we don't know) but it seems to imply they did
    – Mae
    Oct 30, 2021 at 20:54
  • @Mae - This answer was posted over eight years after OP last logged into this site. I'm not holding my breath for an acceptance.
    – ibid
    Oct 30, 2021 at 23:32
  • @ibid Oh, I see. That explains it then.
    – Mae
    Oct 31, 2021 at 20:59
  • @Valorum - Yes, but the elf in that drawing may be a special case. My answer shows something about all elves.
    – ibid
    Jan 16, 2023 at 12:49
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According to The Fall of Gondolin Glorfindel stabbed it in the belly, but as the balrog fell it reached out and grabbed his long golden hair, pulling him back down over the edge of the cliff.

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  • On searching I find several quotes of this online, but I Google does not bring it up in a book search. Does anyone have a copy of the work to validate? Nov 23, 2013 at 11:50
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    Is this analogous to "The Incredibles" quote "No Capes!"?
    – WOPR
    Jan 8, 2014 at 1:27
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    @JamesJenkins - The quote says: "it shrieked, and fell backwards from the rock, and falling clutched Glorfindel's yellow locks beneath his cap" - nothing about those "yellow locks" being long there, if you read it without any preconceptions.
    – user8719
    Jan 19, 2014 at 23:27
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    @user8719 Glorfindel 's hair had to be be long enough to be grabbed securely by a balrog, which might have had much bigger hands than a human. So the hair should have been long enough to hold securely. Maybe you could try grabbing people's hair to see how long it has to be to get a good grip on, a grip strong enough to pull someone off a cliff with instead of having the hair slide thorugh your fingers or rip out of their scalp. Sep 12, 2021 at 16:45
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I remember an article about the royal family of the Noldar in which Tolkien describes the hairstyles of several, and gave the impression that some of them had highly individual hairstyles.

Thus there might not have been an elfen male hairstyle worn by all male elves every where and every time.

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