We know from LotR that:

  1. The Children of Elrond all had the choice to be counted among either Men or Elves.
  2. That this Choice needed to be made at the time when Elrond would leave for Valinor - they could either sail with Elrond and remain immortal or stay behind as mortals.
  3. That because of this stipulation, Arwen needed to make a choice between immortality and marrying Aragorn, since she could not stay behind and retain immortality. And given that both her brothers remained behind, they both seem to have chosen mortality as well.

So it strikes me that the entire heartache, at least when it came to Arwen (since we do not know why Elladan and Elrohir chose as they did) could have been easily avoided by Elrond staying on Middle-Earth until the end of Aragorn's life, which would be a mere 100-150 years at most, thus postponing his Children's Choice and allowing Arwen, at least, to have her cake and eat it too.

So, is there any reason given by Tolkien in any of writings on why Elrond needed to leave at that exact point, and couldn't have stayed on for just a century more? We know that Celeborn, Galadriel's husband and Elrond's father-in-law stayed on in Rivendell for many years into the Fourth Age, so it doesn't seem to be purely about being a Elf.

Is there anything from Tolkien that answers this question?

  • possible duplicate of Why did all the Ringbearers leave Middle Earth in the end?
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 8:58
  • @Richard: The answer to that question only says he was "Elvenkind and destined to grow weary of Middle-Earth"; it does not answer why the choice could not be delayed, as Celeborn canonically did.
    – Shisa
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 9:02
  • If you don't like the answer to the duplicate question (if you don't feel that it answers your own question as fully as you'd want), you can encourage more responses by commention on the answers, adding a bonus or doing your own research.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 9:04
  • @dvk - It does answer it, just not as fully as he'd want.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 16:46
  • 2
    Your point 2 is false: the decision didn't need to have been made at that time. See Letter 153: "The end of his sons, Elladan and Elrohir, is not told: they delay their choice, and remain for a while".
    – user8719
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 19:08

4 Answers 4


There are a number of false assumptions in this question.

Firstly, there was no requirement for the children of Elrond to make their choice at the time Elrond leaves. Letter 153 explicitly states that the sons of Elrond did not do so:

The end of his sons, Elladan and Elrohir, is not told: they delay their choice, and remain for a while.

Secondly, Arwen's choice was actually made long before Elrond's departure. Appendix A, the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, places this event during Aragorn's visit to Lórien after his long journeys East and South (Third Age 2980):

And she stood then as still as a white tree, looking into the West, and at last she said: "I will cleave to you, Dunadan, and turn from the Twilight. Yet there lies the land of my people and the long home of all my kin." She loved her father dearly.

When Elrond learned the choice of his daughter, he was silent, though his heart was grieved and found the doom long feared none the easier to endure.

Having thus already made her choice, Elrond could have waited a few years (which he actually did: there were 3 years between Aragorn's marriage to Arwen and Elrond's departure) or he could have waited a few hundred; it wouldn't have mattered because the parting between Elrond and Arwen was a parting beyond the end of the world:

The Third Age ended thus in victory and hope; and yet grievous among the sorrows of that Age was the parting of Elrond and Arwen, for they were sundered by the Sea and by a doom beyond the end of the world. When the Great Ring was unmade and the Three were shorn of their power, then Elrond grew weary at last and forsook Middle-earth, never to return. But Arwen became as a mortal woman, and yet it was not her lot to die until all that she had gained was lost.

So Arwen had no option at all to "have her cake and eat it", as you put it. She had already made her decision in TA 2980, she married Aragorn in TA 3019, whereas Elrond didn't leave Middle-earth until TA 3021. That dates Arwen's choice to 41 years before Elrond's departure.

  • Thank you for pointing of of those out! I definitely didn't originally read that para as Arwen making her choice right then - though I really should have.
    – Shisa
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 23:23
  • Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings (the section called "The Númenorean Kings") rather strongly implies that Elrond's children had to make the choice when Elrond left.
    – Spencer
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 12:33

Consider these marriage vows:

I promise to be with you forever, or until you die, then I'll hop off to Wonderland to frolic alone for eternity.

Not very convincing, right?

The reason Arwen made her choice is that she wanted her fate to be entwined with Aragorn's. That is the only way such an unbalanced relationship could work. That means accepting Aragorn's mortality, not just spending time with him. This is a recurring theme in Tolkien's work, including such Elf-Human couples like Beren and Luthien or Tuor and Idril in The Silmarillion. Tolkien viewed such affairs as doomed unless one part relinquished half of his heritage - Luthien and Arwen forsaking their immortality, or Tuor forsaking his father's people to be counted among the Elves. This is how Things Work in Tolkien's cosmology, and any loopholes are irrelevant, since they contradict the thematic choices that Tolkien made.

Elrond could have waited for her, but he would have waited in vain. Her choice was made long before the Ring was destroyed.

  • 9
    I do not see how 'You must not be happy or even dare to live after I'm dead or else you never loved me at all' is at all romantic either, but ultimately my question is about Elrond's ability to time his departure to Valinor, not Arwen's choice.
    – Shisa
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 11:07
  • Arwen's choice is the crux of the matter, since it makes Elrond's waiting irrelevant. Could he have waited? Maybe, maybe not. But if Arwen had forsaken he immortality, it would make no difference. Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 11:13
  • 1
    Can you back up your answer with information from Tolkien? As it is now, it is entirely a bundle of personal opinions on what is romantic and how a relationship could/could not work. Other than the House of Finwe, Tolkien also gives us Mithrellas/Imrazor where no forsaking of nature needed to happen and Tuor's immortality is only a supposition made by ME Noldo, not fact, according to Tolkien Letter 153.
    – Shisa
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 11:19
  • 6
    @Shisa In Tolkien's world whatever awaits mortals after death, it's probably not oblivion. But also it's not the same as the Elves destiny. It's not about whether Arwen does anything after Aragorn's death, it's about whether she ultimately chooses to be with Aragorn after death, or to be somewhere entirely separate from him. Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 16:47

I imagine it has to do with the destruction of the One Ring and hence the fading of the power of the Elven Rings. The realms of Galadriel and Elrond would have suffered the ravages of time and no doubt considering the trials of the Noldor in Middle Earth with the Oath of Feanor, the war against Morgoth and the breaking of Beleriand I guess they wanted to leave Middle Earth with only memories of their realms still in full splendour. As a side note on Aragorn - Elessar; being of direct lineage from Isildur son of Elendil.

  • This is the correct answer and confirmed in Letter 181: the doom of the Elves is to fade, and with the powers of the Three Rings gone, their attempts at preserving the past had failed.
    – user8719
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 19:08
  • Does this really answer "why not wait for another mere 100 years"? OK, they'd be fading a bit during that time, but why the rush? Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 4:05
  • 1
    Yes I feel it does. After the ring is destroyed and Sauron is ultimately defeated; the Noldor's work is done and their exile is over. They longed for Valinor since leaving and remember also Galadriel left the Undying Lands under duress following her brother as he searched for the Silmarils. Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 6:20
  • 1
    You may recall that Bilbo's advanced age came crashing down on him very suddenly with the destruction of the Ring. He was old but essentially fit when Frodo left Rivendell for Mordor, and was a wizened, feeble, sleepy old man upon his nephew's return. The long weariness of the years must have fallen onto Elrond--and Galadriel--like a ton of bricks when their rings lost their power.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 22:16

Avner Shahar-Kashtan is right. Arwen had to make the call between human and elf before her father sailed, at the point where she decided whether to marry Aragorn or not. Marrying him meant living a life as a human. And dying is not all that bad in Tolkiens Universe, which must also be kept in mind. While humans were always terrified of not knowing where they went, some discussion in the Silmarillion is dedicated to explaining that fear of death is wholly unjustifiable, since Illuvatar loved his children.

When she chose Aragorn she chose her fate, and there was never a need to regret it because of her mortality.

I think there is no clear answer to your question in any of Tolkiens books, or at least I don't remember one. But the general vibe, especially from the Silmarillion, is that only humans envied the elves for their immortality, the elves never pitied the humans for their mortality.

  • So that's a part I didn't understand from the story: she can decide to renounce to her immortality, just like this?
    – Sebas
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 23:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.