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This came up because a friend told me he thought Glorfindel was an "original elf". As far as I know, the earliest mention of Glorfindel is at the Fall Of Gondolin, which is a far cry from Cuiviénen.

Elu Thingol is certainly old enough to have been at Cuiviénen, but he had brothers Olwe and Elmo, which would seem to disqualify him from awakening. If he considers all the original elves to be siblings, why single out those two, and why exclude Finwe from that distinction?

Finwe and Círdan are the best candidates I can think of, but I can't recall if their origin was ever specifically stated.

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    I see some random discussion sites that claim that Cirdan woke at Cuiviénen, but no canonical reference. The first elves mentioned in the Silmarillion are Ingwe, Finwe, and Elwe and those are all in reference to the first sundering. – Plutor May 23 '13 at 1:52
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The first named elves were Imin, Tata and Enel, and their spouses, Iminye, Tatie and Enelye. Each woke beside his spouse and each selected followers from other elves which awoke shortly after, and which formed the 3 clans.

There is evidence that Tata is not Finwe and Enel is not Elwe. For example, Miriel had a mother name, therefore Miriel is not Tatie, therefore Finwe is not Tata. Likewise Elwe had brothers and could not have married Melian if he had been Enel.

Cirdan is certainly old - he was on the Great Journey, and is otherwise the oldest Elf we meet in LotR, but there is no evidence as to whether or not he was one of the first.

  • Then when did Galadriel "appear"? She is mentioned as one of the blood of Feanor who invoked the Eldars' wrath by departing Valinor on the Quest for the Silmarilli. However had she - much earlier - also made the "arrival" trip from Ancient Middle Earth - then under the Stars - to Eldamar similarly to Cirdan? – javadba Jan 15 '14 at 5:12
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    Galadriel is daughter of Finarfin who is son of Finwe; she was born in Valinor during the years of the Trees. – user8719 Jan 15 '14 at 8:45
  • @javadba And out-of-universe, she didn't appear until early drafts of the Lord of the Rings, well after the Cuiviénen story originated. – Spencer Oct 31 at 12:17
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As with quite a lot of the Arda legendarium, the facts changed over time. Quoting Wikipedia:

Originally, in the 1910s and 1920s, Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë (their final names) were the eldest of the Elves. By 1959 or 1960, Tolkien wrote a detailed account of the awakening of the Elves, called Cuivienyarna, part of Quendi and Eldar. Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë now became the first ambassadors and the Kings of the Elves. This text only saw print in The War of the Jewels, part of the analytical The History of Middle-earth series, in 1994, but a similar version was included in The Silmarillion in 1977.

According to the earliest account, the first Elves are awakened by Eru Ilúvatar near the bay of Cuiviénen during the Years of the Trees in the First Age. They awake under the starlit sky, as the Sun and Moon have yet to be created. The first Elves to awake are three pairs: Imin ("First") and his wife Iminyë, Tata ("Second") and Tatië, and Enel ("Third") and Enelyë.

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As stated in a comment, the first elves mentioned (in Chapter 3 of Quenta Silmarillion) are Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë (later called Thingol) - with Olwë, Elwë's brother, mentioned just after.

It's not clearly spelled out one way or another if they were among the first to to awaken. It says the Quendi awoke, Oromë found them and took tidings back to the Valar. The Valar came, fought and defeated Melkor, then sent Oromë to bring the Quendi to Valinor. It seems likely to me that Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë would be among those who awoke at Cuiviénen, but it's not actually stated that they were.

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    And I'm pretty sure Elmo is a monster, not an elf. – Ward May 23 '13 at 2:03
  • Elmo is said to be the brother of Thingol and Olwe, as well as being an ancestor of Celeborn. Oh, wait... Sesame Street? – AJL May 12 '15 at 0:20

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