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Why aren't there any recognizable Elf children in Middle-Earth?

I don't remember reading about younglings, only adults. Hobbit children, goblin imps and human children are all represented in the LOTR trilolgy. Family trees are established, yet there don't appear to be any elves mentioned who have not already reached adulthood.

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  • 3
    In addition to the answers: consider the vast time that the elves live. Most of the ones you meet in the books are well over 1000 years old. If they have children every few centuries, then there would never be a time when there are many around, unless they are specifically born in batches to have playmates. – DampeS8N May 24 '13 at 18:30
25

In Morgoth's Ring Tolkien said:

They grow slower than mortals though their minds are faster, learning speech before the first year. Their wills master their bodies quickly so they learn to walk, dance, etc by their first year. Elf Children at play would resemble fair happy children of men with little need for governing. Their words, and mastery of their bodies would make them seem older than they appeared in body. Might appear to be seven when actually in their 20’s, having adult size 50 and full maturity at 100.

So it could explain, why we couldn't spot any, or why they weren't specifically mentioned in the books.

Also, to us they may appear as adults, but in body they are children. As said, they also needed little governing, they could take care of themselves.

The source also mentiones:

They don’t always live together, and yet a sundering during the bearing of a child or its early years is so grievous to them that they prefer to have children in good times.


From a compilation of what Tolkien said about the reproduction of Elves and children, The Facts of Elf Life:

Elvish childhood and adolescence lasted until the age of approximately 50 years. Elves tended to marry soon after coming of age, with a one-year engagement being standard. Elves did not say they "had a baby," they said "a baby is given to us." The most kids an elf couple ever had were seven, the sons of Fëanor and Nerdanel. Tolkien said absolutely nothing about elf puberty.

  • Awesome, with refs; +1 – user8719 May 24 '13 at 22:10
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    Interesting, yet as is often the case, there are some incongruities, in the timeline of the first age, Dior weds at 27, Earendil and Elwing at 22. Earendil is only 31 when he starts for Valinor. – Joel Dec 27 '14 at 22:00
6

They just aren't mentioned. Neither are: dwarf children; orc children; dwarf women; orc women; elf janitors; elf rope makers; etc.

As to why: the only thing we can say for certain is that they did not serve the story.

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    Gollum was reputed to eat small goblin-imps. I consider small goblin-imps to be orc children. – Major Stackings May 24 '13 at 19:11
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    "It's true you don't see many dwarf women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they are often mistaken for dwarf men." – fire.eagle May 24 '13 at 19:38
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    Elf rope makers are specifically mentioned in Lorien in the Two Towers. – WOPR May 25 '13 at 6:57
  • @MajorStackings,@fire.eagle,@wopr: their existence is never in question, they just do not appear. – horatio May 28 '13 at 14:15
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Secko's answer is best, but the other thing to consider is the immortality of the Elves: if "the most kids an elf couple ever had were seven" (as Secko's quote suggests), you have to figure that Elves might go thousands of years between childbirths. An elf like Legolas, at most 2,000 years old, would have spent 97.5% of his life as an adult, and even if he'd had five children, would have spent 85% of his life (about 1,700 years) as a "childless" adult. Someone like Elrond, who is 6,500 years old with only 3 children, would have spent 97% of his life (6,300 years) with no little Elves pattering around Rivendell.

Given a population as small as that of Elvenkind in Middle Earth, and that kind of space between childbirths, it is entirely possible that there weren't any Elf children during the time of LOTR and the Hobbit. Everyone had either grown up already, or not been born yet.

4

There are plenty in the Silmarillion. By the Third Age the Elves were fading and presumably past the point of procreation.

  • 2
    Do you mean that after 1000 years, one tires of diaper changing? – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 24 '13 at 18:53
  • 1000 years can be a lot of diapers, even a ring of power ain't gonna make that one a pleasant job! – user8719 May 24 '13 at 19:47
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    And many (all?) of the elves know that aside from general fading, their time specifically in Middle Earth is coming to an end. Don't have a baby when you're about to move house. – Steve Jessop May 23 '14 at 16:46

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