29

This passage in The Hobbit puzzled me:

The master of [Rivendell] was an elf-friend... He was as noble and as fair as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.
-The Hobbit, Chapter 3: "A Short Rest"

The person being described is none other than Elrond. All of this suggests that Elrond isn't an elf, let alone an elf lord.

  • "Elf-friend" is a title bestowed upon individuals from other races who are friendly with Elves; it makes no sense to call an elf "elf-friend".

  • Elrond is compared to an elf-lord, but clearly isn't one, in Tolkien's opinion (at the time he was writing The Hobbit): notice that he isn't any of the other things he is compared to - he isn't a dwarven King; he isn't a wizard; he isn't summer; and although he was once a warrior, according to LotR, he isn't one in The Hobbit.

Did Tolkien originally consider Elrond to be something other than an Elf, and an Elf-lord?

  • 8
    Could just be the half-elf thing. – Boelabaal Jun 2 '15 at 19:25
26

Short answer: this was an accident.

Tolkien was asked this question, and he answered it in Letter 257:

From The Hobbit are also derived the matter of the Dwarves, Durin their prime ancestor, and Moria; and Elrond. The passage in Ch. iii relating him to the Half-elven of the mythology was a fortunate accident, due to the difficulty of constantly inventing good names for new characters. I gave him the name Elrond casually, but as this came from the mythology (Elros and Elrond the two sons of Eärendel) I made him half-elven. Only in The Lord was he identified with the son of Eärendel, and so the great-grandson of Lúthien and Beren, a great power and a Ringholder.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 257: To Christopher Bretherton. July 1964

A character with the name "Elrond" dates back to the earliest versions of The Silmarillion, but he has more in common with later-introduced character of Elros. A draft dated by Christopher Tolkien to 1925-6 reads:

Elwing cast the Nauglaf-ring into the sea and leapt after it, but was changed into a white sea-bird by Ylmir1, and flew to seek Eärendel, seeking about all the shores of the world.

Their son (Elrond) who is half-mortal and half-elfin, a child, was saved however by Maidros. When later the Elves return to the West, bound by his mortal half he elects to stay on earth. Through him the blood of Hurin (his great-uncle) and of the Elves is yet among Men, and is seen in valour and in beauty and in poetry.

History of Middle-earth IV The Shaping of Middle-earth Chapter 2: "The Earliest 'Silmarillion'" Sketch of the mythology with especial reference to the 'Children of Hurin' Part 17

When we come to about 1936 or so, we encounter early versions of the Fall of Númenor; Elrond has a brief mention here, where he appears to still be an early version of Elros rather than the Elrond we know and love:

[Númenor] was built first by Elrond son of Eärendel, whom the Gods and Elves chose to be the lord of that land; for in him the blood of the houses of Hador and Beor was mingled, and with it some part of that of the Eldar and Valar, which he drew from Idril and from Lúthien. But Elrond and all his folk were mortal; for the Valar may not withdraw the gift of death, which cometh to Men from Ilúvatar.

History of Middle-earth V The Lost Road and Other Writings Part 1 "The Fall of Númenor and the Lost Road" Chapter 2: "The Lost Road" (iii) The second version of the Fall of Númenor §2

Elrond moves closer to our conception of him in a later text:

Yet not all the Eldalië were willing to forsake the Hither Lands where they had long suffered and long dwelt; and especially in the western isles of the Land of Leithien. And among these were Maglor, as hath been told; and with him for a while was Elrond Halfelven, who chose, as was granted to him, to be among the Elf-kindred.

History of Middle-earth V The Lost Road and Other Writings Part 2: "Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings" Chapter 6 "Quenta Silmarillion" The Conclusion of the Quenta Silmarillion §28

Christopher Tolkien doesn't conveniently date this manuscript, but I suspect it came long after The Hobbit was published in 1937. In fact I would suspect that the development of Elros was a direct result of Tolkien's error in The Hobbit; Elros was introduced to take the place that had previously been filled by Elrond, so that Elrond's appearance in The Hobbit could be reconciled with the rest of the mythology.


1 Early incarnation of the Vala Ulmo

  • 3
    Jason Baker == the new Darth Melkor? You're fast becoming my go-to guy for authoritative LotR answers :) – Andres F. Jun 2 '15 at 19:34
  • 5
    @AndresF. I would never presume so high; DM's shoes are far too big for me to fill – Jason Baker Jun 2 '15 at 20:26
4

Elrond has always been half-elven, even though he chose the fate of elves while his brother chose the fate of men.

I don't think we should place too much weight into what Tolkien wrote in the Hobbit; it was just another story for his kids that gradually got connected with the Middle-Earth legendarium. In the Hobbit, Gandalf was still just a an old wandering wizard, there were still stone giants, and elves were still silly and playful. Likewise, when first introduced in the Hobbit, Elrond (a new character, who simply "borrowed" his name from the unconected legends) was just the master of the house, and elf-friend, etc.

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