Is there ever acknowledgement of a bad elf, or even an elf doing a very bad thing (because he is bad)? I've heard that bad elves are orcs and good orcs are elves, or something like that.

Similar to this: Were there ever any "good" Orcs?

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    I think Kili will call Tauriel a 'bad' elf in the third Hobbit movie Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 17:48
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    their are alot less "bad" elves because of the fact that the elves know for a fact their are "gods" and they know where their gods live, and they all get to go live with them should they so choose. So to be a bad elf you have to knowingly turn away from that (and they live forever). humans on the other hand arnt immortal, dont have living relatives that live in the land of the gods, and probably have a less clear understanding of what their afterlife will consist of, so they choose to live as they want.
    – Himarm
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:06
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    @Shevliaskovic haha I read this as "Ooh, baby, who's a bad elf?"
    – Omegacron
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 20:30
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    Short answer: Yes. Pretty much every Noldor Elf in The Silmarillion is awful.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 5:09
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    "You're not a bad elf... You just did a very bad thing. There, there... Now go to the halls of Mandos and think about what you've done."
    – Ber
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 3:18

8 Answers 8


1. Orcs are not "Bad Elves"

Tolkien never clarified the origin of Orcs, but many theories were proposed. The most accepted one is that Orcs were Elves captured and tortured into a "mockery of life" by Morgoth. Getting twisted to Orcs had little to do with an Elf's moral fiber.

2. All of Eru's creations seem to have the ability to be evil if they choose to

Tolkien's world has Eru, the One God. Eru created the Valar (a pantheon of lesser gods/greater angels), their attendant Maiar (lesser angels), Elves, Men and Dwarves (by adoption). We even have examples of evil Valar (Morgoth), evil Maiar (Sauron and the various Balrogs among others), so even if the texts lacked evil Elves (which they don't), there is no reason intrinsic to the world-building why Elves could not be evil. There is nothing inherently "non-evil" in any of Eru's Children.

3. Evil Elves in canon

By the time of the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, very few Elves are left in Middle-earth — most of them dead or sailed. But the account of earlier times, the Silmarillion gives us accounts of many Elves who did evil.

  1. Fëanor: Once the greatest of the Noldor, he forged the first weapons for the Elves, led the first Kinslaying, where he and his followers massacred a whole bunch of defenseless Elves in the land without death just because they wouldn't give him their boats; stole those boats and then abandoned half of his followers to a dangerous and fatal foot journey over ice because he was jealous and suspicious of his half-brother.

  2. Fëanor's Seven Sons: They may be said to have started out as 'just following orders' and tried to make things right for some time after Fëanor's death, but they ultimately led two more massacres for their father's crusade.

  3. Eöl: An Elf who kidnapped and forced his wife to marry him, then when his wife Aredhel successfully managed to take her son and flee, he followed her to try to kill the son (Aredhel fatally intervened)

  4. Maeglin: Eöl's son, who fell in love with his cousin Idril (taboo among the Elves), jealously sold out their Kingdom to Morgoth for the promise of the Kingdom and girl. Note that he had been brought up by Idril's father as a prince and had great esteem in the Kingdom already. He was the only Elf in Tolkien's works to willingly and knowingly work for Morgoth.

And these are just the bad eggs of ONE single Elven family — the House of Finwë.

Tolkien's conceit when it comes to Elvish information is that most of what we know is information as known to/written by people affiliated with the House of Finwë. We don't have as extensive information about individuals when it comes to the Sindar or (any information when it comes to) the Nandor, Elves who never sailed off to see the Valar. We also don't get much information when it came to common/non-Royal Elves.

While the political situation of Elves in Middle-earth (not only did all the Elves we hear about know of the existence of gods, even amongst the Elves who did Evil, the majorly politically significant ones were all opposed to Morgoth) meant that we don't know of any Elves who worshiped Morgoth the way the Black Numenoreans did, we have no canonical reason to believe that individual elves could not be as capable of being evil as individual humans. The Fëanorians and Maeglin, all had their followers who followed their leaders in their misdeeds.

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    Eöl wasn't actually in the house of Finwë -- He was either an Avari or a Silvan elf expelled from Doriath by Thingol, depending on which HoME fragment you go off of.
    – Spencer
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 23:48
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    Though for the purposes of the answer, we know about him due to his connection (as Turgon's brother-in-law) to the House of Finwë.
    – chepner
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 14:58
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    Nice list, perhaps add Saeros
    – Wade
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 18:56

One of the characters in the Silmarillion is an elf called Eöl. He (sort of) raped his future wife, then murdered her during an attempt to murder his son. He then cursed his son to die a horrible death.

It has to be said that he didn't really cover himself in glory.

He ensnared Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, the wilful sister of Turgon, when, losing her way, she ventured into his forest. He wedded her, not wholly against her will according to The Silmarillion, but by force according to Quendi and Eldar and without informing her family or going through the customs of the Noldor.They had a son Maeglin. Eöl resented the pride and presumptive authority of the Noldor and, given to secrecy much like Turgon, refused permission for Aredhel and Maeglin to leave Nan Elmoth to seek out their Noldorin kin, the sons of Fëanor. Aredhel and Maeglin later left secretly for Gondolin, stealing Eöl's sword, Anguirel.

Eöl pursued them and entered the Hidden Way of Gondolin, and was captured by the guards and brought before Turgon, the king. He wished to go away with his son back to Nan Elmoth leaving Aredhel behind. He claimed Maeglin saying that as Turgon was Aredhel's brother, she could stay behind. Turgon would not allow Eöl to leave Gondolin, offering only the choice of staying or dying. Eöl would not acknowledge any authority[4] of Turgon over him and refused to remain, choosing instead death for himself and his son, Maeglin. He tried to kill his son, but his javelin hit Aredhel who stepped in front of Maeglin. She called for her brother to spare Eöl, but the javelin was poisonous and she died before she could speak her last words. Turgon decreed Eöl was to be put to death by being thrown from a cliff. Before he died, Eöl called out a curse on his son for betraying him, that Maeglin should suffer the same fate of his father. The fulfilment of the curse is told in the Fall of Gondolin. - Wikipedia

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    I guess that's pretty bad.
    – LCIII
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:08
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    @LCIII - Kinda, I guess.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:12
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    I figure otherwise. He's just a member of an oppressed minority.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 12:37
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    @Richard - Sorry, No. In every culture, "homicide, filicide and matricide" are bad; whether they think so or not. My answer is doubly certain as Tolkien and I come from the same culture and LotR Universe cultures were Tolkien's personal creation.
    – user23715
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 23:32
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    @user23715: Umm, I'd say otherwise. It's the Noldor returning east who are 'Bad'. Terrible, I should say. They are essentially a gang of vicious kin-slaying infidels.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 22:28

Yes, lots of them. Two extreme examples:

  • Killing the Teleri at Alqualonde and stealing their ships was bad (The Silmarillion, The Flight of the Noldor).

  • Killing the refugees at the Mouths of Sirion (The Silmarillion, Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath) was also bad.

  • @einpoklum Would you say Galadriel the Noldo is a bad elf?
    – Lexible
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 1:56
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    @Lexible: 1. I'm not saying anything, but the author seems to imply a collective badness. 2. ... but I over-generalized.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:21
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    You should clarify whether you're assigning collective blame for these acts to all Noldor who followed Feanor and Fingolfin, and perhaps their offspring, rather than those who actively participated in the kinslaying.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:29
  • @einpoklum Thank you for both these comments.
    – Lexible
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 3:53

Yes, I'd say the best example is Maeglin, who betrayed the location of Gondolin to Morgoth.


  • Yep, that one... but from the Silmarillon, not from LOTR.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 17:50
  • @SJuan - Good point. I don't recall any nasty Elves from LOTR. Thranduil in The Hobbit was greedy for gold - but I wouldn't classify him as a "bad".
    – RobertF
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:00
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    @SJuan76 We also barely even meet any elves in LOTR. The few we do meet are almost entirely paragons of their kind, the best left in the world's sphere. There were doubtless still bad elves left in Arda, but none that affected the story.
    – Wlerin
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 7:10
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    But the OP asked about bad elves in "the Lord of the Rings Universe" and the Silmarillion is indeed part of that universe.
    – user23715
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 20:43

In the distant past, Elves were as prone to folly and evil as Men. By the time of the events in "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings", however, Elves have got that kind of weakness out of their systems. It's why they're so reluctant to act or advise - after thousands of years they've seen so many well-intentioned acts go horribly wrong (or worse, horribly right) they prefer to meddle as little as they can.

The Silmarillion and other works go into more detail on this than The Hobbit or LOTR. Way more than I can cite here.

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    The Greenwood Sindari seem kind of prone to folly, wouldn't you say?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 8:53

Men are more susceptible to evil deeds...partly because they have a more self-serving nature, and partially because they have a shorter lifespan in which to learn from their mistakes (although most fail to learn from the lessons of history within their own short spans). Their have been examples of Elves who have been subject to greed, jealousy, and arrogance (Feanor and his line...perhaps misled by the wiles of Melkor, but they killed their kin for their boats and stained Valinor), as well as some downright nasty ones (Eol, the Dark Elf blacksmith, who possessively wedded Turgon's sister), and their son, who betrayed Onolinde out of jealousy of status.... Even King Thurandil was not kind to the companions of Bilbo Baggins, Ring-Bearer


I feel like when it comes to whether Men or Elves are more susceptible to evil deeds, I see it as a tossup. Men don't have the instinctive connection to natural law that Elves do, so Men will always be more prone to evil through ignorance of moral truth. Elves are a part of nature. They can go evil, but it's not because they don't know they're doing wrong. That's why when an Elf goes bad, they go really bad. Feanor defied the gods and precipitated the Kinslaying. Eol might have committed the first rape. Maeglin sold his city out to the devil directly. 99.9% of Elves choose good, but the 0.1% or less that choose to do evil do epic evil.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Please note that Fëanor, Eöl and Maeglin are all noted in the accepted answer; the rest of your answer seems very speculative. Please don't post new answers unless you have something substantial to add that's not covered by the existing answers.
    – DavidW
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 19:00

Saeros, of whom we are told in The Children of Húrin, was rather bad too. He taunted Túrin for no reason, and then jumped on him in the woods with the clear intention of killing him, simply because he did not like him.

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