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Appendix A of Lord of the Rings says of Arwen's fate:

There at last when the mallorn-leaves were falling, but spring had not yet come, she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.

Because elves are immortal, when I read this I pictured her literally laying down and going into some kind of long sleep (I thought "green grave" might mean "green as in alive"), and the forest growing around her--and waking up thousands of years later, when "the world is changed."

However, when I poked around the internet, it seems like no one else shared this interpretation, and most people agreed that Arwen was actually dead.

Is her death corroborated anywhere else?

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    You don't use 'grave' if you are JRR Tolkien and you want to give the impression she's Sleeping Beauty.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 18 '14 at 18:46
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Manwe's ordinance at the end of the First Age was that all those who have even a drop of Mortal blood will be Mortal by nature, but to Earendil and Elwing, and their descendents, he gave a choice: to be counted among Elves or be counted among Men.

This is covered in HoME 5 (The Lost Road) in the section dealing with the end of the 1937 Quenta Silmarillion, and the text was never subsequently rejected or revised by JRR Tolkien, although Christopher Tolkien editorially removed it from the published Silmarillion for unknown reasons.

The full reading is:

Now all those who have the blood of mortal Men, in whatever part, great or small, are mortal, unless other doom be granted to them...

Furthermore, in many places Tolkien explicitly states that - aside from issues of Mortality and Immortality - Elves and Men are actually the same species. Here's an extract from the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (published in HoME 10: Morgoth's Ring):

The existence of Elves: that is of a race of beings closely akin to Men, so closely indeed that they must be regarded as physically (or biologically) simply branches of the same race.

The conclusion is that Half-elves in Tolkien aren't actually a separate species at all. Instead, the offspring of Men and Elves are Men (hence the Princes of Dol Amroth), with the exception of the descendents of Earendil and Elwing, who - once they make their choice - become the type they choose to be.

A slight complication is that choosing to be a Man is irrevocable for both you and your descendents (this is nowhere stated, but otherwise the Heirs of Elros would have had a similar choice, whereas they didn't) but choosing to be an Elf confers the ability to choose on your descendents (otherwise Arwen, Elladan and Elrohir would have already had their choice made for them).

So when Elrond choose immortality at the end of the First Age/start of the Second Age, he actually became an Elf, and likewise Arwen became a Man.

So yes, she died.

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  • I don't know about Elves and Men being the same. Elves go to the halls when they die, even the Valar don't know the fate of Men when they die.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 18 '14 at 21:12
  • 3
    The point is that physically and biologically they're the same. This is Word-of-God so it's not really up for argument.
    – user8719
    Apr 18 '14 at 21:33
  • 6
    Interesting point about Arwen becoming a Man. I always thought she was an attractive woman...sigh.
    – The Fallen
    Apr 18 '14 at 21:42
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    By choosing a mortal life Arwen didn't simply choose to die - she died of grief (apparently) and elves can die of both grief or violence - what she choose is that her spirit would not go unto the Halls of Mandos to await the End of Days. Instead at death her spirit went to whatever fate befalls the spirits (or souls) of humans. Also, she gave up the right to pass into the West prior to death and await the End of Days there with the Valar in Amon.
    – user23715
    Apr 19 '14 at 1:33
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    @Flamma - there's just the small matter that that's what Tolkien wrote though. This isn't my opinion, it's Tolkien's, so it's really not up for argument.
    – user8719
    Aug 14 '14 at 14:03
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But she wasn't an Elf. She was Half-Elven, and therefore when Elrond departed she had to choose which kindred she belonged to: and for love of Aragorn she chose mortality. So she did die.

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  • 5
    She chose before Elrond left, but otherwise, a good answer.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 18 '14 at 18:58
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    Which begs the question: how and when exactly did they choose? Was it enough to say "I choose to be mortal" at some, undetermined point in their life?
    – The Fallen
    Apr 18 '14 at 23:02
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    I don't think it is directly specified, but there is some moment when you make the decision and that's that. In the movie it was, I suppose, when she turned back after seeing her son in the vision. In the book, I guess the marriage would probably have been the time, since I don't recall the decision having been made before the Fellowship sets out.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 18 '14 at 23:37
  • In one sense, she made the decision (according to Appendix A, part v) in T.A. 2980. It's possible the decision didn't "take" until they were formally wed (who knows how the Valar determine such things).
    – chepner
    Nov 17 '21 at 23:42
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Upon marriage with Aragorn, Arwen became mortal, and began to age and die the way that Númenöreans do. She then chose "resign her life" 30 years early.

The scene that you are quoting is showing Arwen resigning her life. At this point Arwen is a Númenórean, and "good Númenóreans" generally will willingingly do this rather than "clinging to life" and waiting for themselves to die of old age.

The first approach of "world-weariness" was indeed for them a sign that their period of vigour was nearing its end. When it came to an end, if they persisted in living, then decay would proceed, as growth had done, no more slowly than among other Men. Thus a Númenórean would pass quickly, in ten years maybe, from health and vigour of mind to decrepitude and senility. In the earlier generations they did not "cling to life," but resigned it voluntarily. "Clinging to life," and so in the end dying perforce and involuntarily, was one of the changes brought about by the Shadow and the rebellion of the Númenóreans; it was also accompanied by a shrinking of their natural life-span.
Unfinished Tales - Christopher's commentary to "The Line of Elros"

Aragorn resigned his life 24 years early, and Arwen resigned her life the year afterwards, which was 30 years early for her.

We have these calculations as performed by Tolkien, and confirming that Arwen did in fact die, but first a bit of context to understand his math.

Elves grew one year every three years for 72 years, or until they turned 24. They then grew one additional year every 144 years for the next 13,824 years, or until they turned 120. After that they began to fade. But elves also matured faster than Men, by a rate of 4:3, so an Elf who was 24 (i.e. 72 years) would be the equivalent of a mortal 18-year-old

Númenöreans grew one year every year for 24 years, followed by one additional year every three years for the next 186 years, when they would be 86, and then they would decline for another 24 years until death, living a total of 234 sun years.

When Arwen marries Aragorn she was thus 43 "Elvish years" old (24 * 3 + 19 * 144). This was then converted to the equivalent of a Númenörean who was 43 "Númenörean years" old (24 * 1 + 19 * 3), who would have lived off 81 of their allotted 234 years and thus have another 153 sun years left.

So when Arwen choose to resign her life 123 years later (having technically lived 2,800 sun years, but now the equivalent of a Númenórean who had lived 204 years, or a regular human who had lived 84 years), she would have had another 30 years left.

The case of Arwen. Taking her birth as TA 241, she will then be “full-grown” in TA 313 (241 + 72). In 2951, when she first meets Aragorn, she will be (in Elven Growth- and Life-years) 24 + 18⅓ (nearly); (2,951–313)/144 = 42⅓ = mortal equivalent 31¾. Aragorn was only 20.
In 3019, when they were married, she would have aged very little and would be nearly Elvish 43 (24 + 3,019–313) = mortal equivalent 32–3. But Aragorn would have lived 88 years and 4 months. His “age” would however be about “45”. (See the note below on the Númenórean life-scale.)
At marriage Arwen became “mortal”: she would then join her husband’s scale of “expectation of life”. ☞ This would not alter her “age” of 43 = approximate mortal equivalent 32–3. But for the purpose of reckoning her expectation of life (as a mortal), she would count as having lived 81 years (24 + (19 × 3)), and her further “permitted life” would be about 153 years (to total 234). She might have lived on to about Fourth Age 151. Aragorn as 88 at wedding would have a permitted life of 146 more years and could have lived to about 4A 144. When Aragorn “resigned life” in 4A 120 he thus resigned 24 years of life. He had lived 210 years and was already within his “decline”. Arwen was reckoned as 203 years at that time and also in the beginning of her decline. Aragorn resigned on the day of his birth, March 1, 4A 120. Arwen apparently “resigned” life and died on Cerin Amroth on March 1 in the following year, at Númenórean age 204 (mortal equivalent = 84). So she was now and felt. (Had she remained Elvish she would have been only 3,020 – 241 + 1 + 120 = 2,800 Sun-years old, giving an Elvish age of 24 + (2,800–72)/144 = almost exactly 43 (mortal equivalent about 33).
The Nature of Middle-earth - "Elvish Ages & Númenórean"

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Yes and no. She didn't die the way Men do. She was an Elf and died an Elf. What happened was she faded. When an Elf loves a Man it is a serious spiritual connection. They are over turning the will of God. Literally their souls become intertwined. So when Aragorn died she lived on but the world 'became grey and dull' as Elrond foretold. This means she was missing a part of herself and could not live without Aragorn. Not even her love for her children, who are still alive, can lift her spirit. She moves to Lothlorien and in time her spirit departs from her body. She was in perfect health, like all First-born are, but her soul couldn't take the change and woes of the world so it left. Her soul goes to the Halls of Mandos where she can be reborn in Aman. But she will likely stay in the halls till the world is remade to be with her Aragorn.

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  • I believe that Luthien, the first Elf/Human pairing, did not come to the halls of Mandros but presumably went where Human souls go in that universe. Presumably Arwen's will do the same.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 18 '14 at 23:33
  • It is never said what happens to Beren and Luthien. And ALL souls go to Mandros. Men just continue on into the Void. Apr 18 '14 at 23:46
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    Wiki says what I remember from the Silmarillion: "Grieving for Beren, Lúthien also died, and came to the halls of Mandos. There she sang of her ill fate, that she would never again see Beren, who as a mortal Man had passed out of the world. Thereby Mandos was moved to pity. He restored Beren and Lúthien to life and granted mortality to the Elf. Lúthien left her home and her parents and went to Ossiriand with Beren. There they dwelt for the rest of their lives, and both eventually died the death of mortal Men."
    – Oldcat
    Apr 18 '14 at 23:58
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    Actually it is said that Luthien "died indeed", which was following her first trip to Mandos after Carcharoth. Also be very careful about saying that "all souls go to Mandos" - the books make it clear that that's just speculation.
    – user8719
    Apr 19 '14 at 14:19
  • Elrond and Arwen say their literal goodbyes, knowing they will never see each other again: None saw her last meeting with Elrond her father, for they went up into the hills and there spoke long together, and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world. (emphasis added) This would not be the case if Arwen was following the usual pattern of going to Mandos and then being re-housed in Aman. Nov 17 '21 at 23:28

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