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In The Silmarillion, we read about Maedhros, whose hand was amputated in order to free him from the manacle which had kept him suspended from the mountain called Thangorodrim. The hand never grew back, but he learned to live without it.

We are also told that Elves don't suffer the same illnesses and infirmities to which humans are prone - they can obviously be killed, wounded, poisoned, or mutilated, but they don't get sick.

In theory, at least, an elf who somehow lost his eyes would presumably be blind for the rest of his/her life.

Are there any known cases of something like this happening? Did Tolkien ever write about blind or deaf elves, or even paralyzed elves? Is Maedhros the only elf with a permanent disfigurement?

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    It's worth noting that Tolkien's Elves are protected by a sort of plot armor: they're beautiful and majestic, and good things just happen to them and around them. While an Elf can certainly be injured theoretically, their natural magic/grace probably protects them from mutilation or disfigurement in most cases. – Nerrolken Jun 19 '15 at 18:53
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    @Nerrolken - I think it is either "beauty" or "death". They die in droves. I was offended that Haldir died in Helms deep after centuries of defending Lorien from the creatures of Moria. Perhaps Elves have such advanced medicine after thousands of years of life and such crazy involvement in warfare that such physical handicaps can, for the large part, be repaired. – EngrStudent Jun 19 '15 at 21:18
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    @EngrStudent I honestly don't think they'd need such medicine. Like you said, it's either beauty or death: either they are killed (beautifully and heroically), or they are not significantly harmed. It isn't about skill or knowledge, it's just in their nature: the rough and rude parts of life just don't affect them as easily. Elves don't heal from horrific scars and debilitating injuries, they simply don't get them. – Nerrolken Jun 19 '15 at 21:25
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    Elrond's wife was captured by Orcs and mistreated in some unspecified way such that she decided to head to Valinor early. While there was no mention of mutilation, her plot armor failed to work for her, and leaving Middle Earth was an option for most Elves in distress. – Oldcat Jun 19 '15 at 21:57
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    @Nerrolken is close to the mark here, I think. It always seemed to me that the elves have medicine but it isn't mainly for themselves, because they don't really need it very often. Their medicine is for Frodo or whoever, not for Elrond. Using a bit of hyperbole, if an elf is wounded so badly that he needs medical attention, he'll be dead before you can give said medical attention. If he isn't dead by the time medical attention is available, he isn't wounded badly enough to need it anyway. – Wad Cheber Jun 19 '15 at 23:55
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Yes, there are many handicapped Elves, though most of them are not narratively important.

You mention Maedhros, who lost his hand and had to do without it. There is no indication that the Elves could have done anything to heal his wound, and there was nothing 'magical' about it; Fingon is the one who cut his hand off. Elves do seem to heal more quickly than Men, and to generally be more resilient, but only to a limit. Indeed Maedhros's recovery abilities from his torment (aside from his amputation) appears to be exceptional, something that only the Elves who were 'nurtured in Valinor' might have.

There Maedhros in time was healed; for the fire of life was hot within him, and his strength was of the ancient world, such as those possessed who were nurtured in Valinor. His body recovered from his torment and became hale, but the shadow of his pain was in his heart; and he lived to wield his sword with left hand more deadly than his right had been.

(Silmarillion, Of the Return of the Noldor)

Gwindor is another example:

At first his own people did not know Gwindor, who went out young and strong, and returned now seeming as one of the aged among mortal Men, because of his torments and his labours; and now also he was maimed.

(Children of Hurin; Turin in Nargothrond)

We are not told of the exact nature of Gwindor's handicap, so far as I know. But it's hard to believe Gwindor was the only Elf that Morgoth tormented in that manner.

In fact, Gwindor's brother, Gelmir, had been blinded by Morgoth (and was the reason for Gwindor's capture):

With them they brought Gelmir son of Guilin, a lord of Nargothrond, whom they had captured in the Bragollach, and had blinded; and their heralds showed him forth crying: ‘We have many more such at home, but you must make haste if you would find them. For we shall deal with them all when we return, even so.’ And they hewed off Gelmir’s arms and legs, and left him.

(Children of Hurin, Battle of Unnumbered Tears)

I think it's safe to say that whatever torture and maiming you can conceive of was done to the Elves by their enemies. It's not just something that can hypothetically happen to them.

  • Also Feanor was mortally wounded, he couldn't walk if I remember it right, but died soon after. – Mithoron Jun 20 '15 at 0:01
  • @Mithoron - you remember correctly. – Wad Cheber Jun 20 '15 at 0:02

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