What Writers Get Wrong About Lord of the Rings Fanfiction: Elves Part One
(I was unable to get this post up last week, so it will be a double-header this week. I asked my friend to do a piece on the Elves of Middle-Earth because we both see so many writers get things wrong. I hope you enjoy her piece as much as I have! Part Two will be coming soon — Stephen H.)
Hello there! My name is Julianne, found on Wattpad.com, Fanfiction.net, and AchiveofourOwn.org, as Silmarilz1701, and it is such an honor to be able to help on this post. I’m going to be walking everyone through the history of the elves, what not to do with them in fanfiction, and how you can create unique connections by using the history of Middle Earth.
First and foremost, where did the elves come from?
The Beginning of the Elves:
Before the elves walked the earth, there are spirits created by Eru Iluvatar, the Middle Earth equivalent of the Christian “God” figure. These spirits created the vision of Eru, constructing the Earth and all its creatures. But they didn’t create elves or men. Elves were created first among the Children of Iluvatar (Elves, Men). They awoke on the shores of a massive inland sea at a place called Cuivienen.
Eventually, after much debate and a visit to the Blessed Realm by their leaders, the elven host split into two groups: Calaquendi and Moriquendi. The Calaquendi journeyed west to the Blessed Realm across the sea while the Moriquendi refused. Moriquendi means Dark Elves because they never saw the light of the Blessed Realm.
As the Calaquendi journeyed west, one of their leaders became lost. He became enchanted by a Maia named Melian, and they disappeared. The Teleri (his kindred of elves) stayed and looked for him. Half of Elwë’s people stayed behind for good to look for him, and they became the Sindar. We’ll come back to them.
The rest of the elven host went on their way. They finally reached the edge of Middle Earth and waited to be transported by an island to Valinor. Here, another split occurred as part of the Teleri stayed behind on the shores, led by Cirdan. He’s the guy at the Grey Havens in Lord of the Rings who makes the ships you see at the end of the third movie. He also gives Gandalf his ring of power. Fun fact: Cirdan is one of only two elves ever to grow a beard! His people became Falathrim.
Finally, all the kindreds who wanted to had reached Valinor.
Here I shall explain some differences between Valinor, Beleriand, and Third Age Middle Earth. Upon creation of the world and after a great war against the original dark lord Morgoth, two great continents were formed: Middle Earth and Aman. Aman lay in the Uttermost West and that was where the Ainur, the spirit beings, made their homes. It was absolute bliss. Light came from two massive trees, one golden (Laurelin) and one silver (Telperion).
Middle Earth was comprised of Beleriand in the western half, and the other lands found in Lord of the Rings more in the East. It was dark, with only stars to light it. There was no sun and no moon, and the light of the Trees could not reach it. Here, Morgoth, known then as Melkor, terrorized the elves. He even created the orcs from captured and tortured elves. Third Age Middle Earth is half the size of the original Middle Earth. As we’ll see, some events led to the destruction of Beleriand and the sinking of it into the sea.
Blue lands are from the First Age, and the yellow lands are what remains of Middle Earth in the Third Age.
But Aman, called Valinor, became a haven for the elves for a time, away from the terrors of Middle Earth. When the three kindreds finally reached Valinor, they became known as the Vanyar, Noldor, and Falmari. Each has specific characteristics.
The Vanyar are rarely spoken about. Their most famous members are Elenwë, Indis and Ingwë, but they don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. All Vanyar had golden or fair hair, pale skin, and grey eyes. They were the most faithful of the elves and delighted in music and wordplay. They lived with Manwë and Varda, the king and queen of the Valar.
The Falmari were a subsection of the Teleri. I mentioned some other ones previously, with the Sindar and the Falathrim. These are some of the elves you are likely to come across or create in Tolkien Fanfiction. Their prominent members include Celeborn, Oropher, Thranduil, Legolas, and Cirdan. The Sindar are less common in the Third Age, found primarily in Rivendell where Elrond, part Sinda, houses them.
The Falathrim section of the Teleri are found in the Grey Havens. The Falmari, found only in Valinor, never set foot in Middle Earth after leaving. All the subsections of the Teleri share the same characteristics: typically silver/grey haired, grey or blue-eyed, and fair skinned. They have a penchant for music and an adoration of the sea. It is important to note that though Legolas, Thranduil, and Oropher are Sindar, their people are not.
They rule over Silvan elves, a group of the original elves that were called Moriquendi. They have fair hair and blue or grey eyes, and reside in Mirkwood and Lothlorien, including Haldir, Orophin, and Rumil. If you’re creating an elven character from Lothlorien or Mirkwood, chances are he or she will be a Silvan elf. They will never be the next kindred, the Noldor.
The Noldor are dark-haired, grey-eyed, and eager for knowledge and creation. They initially lived in Valinor, but after Melkor slew their king, Finwë, Feanor their crown prince led a rebellion and they left for Middle Earth. There they settled in Beleriand. The Noldor are master craftsmen, and seem to also be masters are getting into trouble.
The most well known Noldor are members of the House of Finwë, the royal house. There are many, many members. Finwë’s original wife, Miriel, gave birth to a son named Fëanor but died in childbirth because he sapped her strength. Because of this, Finwë remarried, the only elf to ever do so (probably because it created so many problems). He married Indis (remember I mentioned her in the Vanyar section). She gave birth to four children, two boys, and two girls*. The girls are unimportant to the story, but the boys were named Fingolfin and Finarfin.
Fëanor hated his half-siblings and Indis, seeing them as a replacement for his mother Miriel. He eventually married a woman named Nerdanel, and they bore seven sons (which is a lot even for elves). Their names in order were Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, Amrod, and Amras. The last two were twins.
Fingolfin married Anairë and had four children. Their names in order were Fingon (m), Turgon (m), Aredhel (f), and Argon* (m). Fingon and Maedhros of Fëanor’s house became best friends despite the family animosity. Turgon would later become the great-grandfather of Elrond through his daughter Idril.
Finarfin married the Falmari princess, Earwen, and they had five children. Their names in order were Finrod (m), Angrod (m), Aegnor (m), Galadriel (f), and maybe Orodreth (he is recorded as both the second son of Finarfin, and Angrod’s son). You probably recognize Galadriel, as she is, of course, the Lady of Lothlorien. But before that, she lived in Valinor. An interesting note is that the House of Finarfin is golden-haired, because their mother/grandmother Indis was a Vanya.
During the Years of the Trees, before the Sun and Moon, Fëanor who was the greatest and mightiest elf to ever live, and the best craftsman, created three great jewels, the Silmarils. Eventually, Melkor stole the Silmarils, killed king Finwë, and destroyed the Two Trees. Fëanor, believing the lies that Melkor had spread among the Noldor, rebelled against the Valar and tried to return to Middle Earth. However, to do so they needed boats.
Those that followed Fëanor, along with Fingon’s people at the end, attacked the Falmari and killed many of them, stealing their great swan ships to sail across the sea to Middle Earth. This became known as the First Kinslaying. Once back in Middle Earth, the Noldor set up many kingdoms and lay siege to Melkor under the command of Fingolfin at the death of Fëanor.
There were five great battles, and by the end, the Noldor were nearly eradicated. If you decide to write a Noldorin character, keep in mind that he or she will probably have witnessed, or at least been taught, the history of the Noldor and their downfall. Noldor primarily lived in Rivendell, under their leader Elrond. But before that, they followed Celebrimbor (son of Curufin son of Fëanor and creator of the Rings of Power), and Gil-Galad, who is debated to be Orodreth’s son or Fingon’s son. I subscribe to the former. There aren’t many Noldor left, but if you write an elven character with dark hair, you are choosing Noldor.
Why does this matter:
When writing an elven character, it is vital to know what history they went through. Where were they during the Last Alliance? If they were a member of Mirkwood and survived, they would’ve lived through tremendous trauma because the majority of Mirkwood’s soldiers were slaughtered in an ambush type battle. Their bodies inhabit the Dead Marshes!
If they were a Noldo, did they witness the great fight between their lord Gil-Galad and Sauron himself? Did they survive the massacre of Eregion where Celebrimbor’s body was used as a battle standard for Sauron? Did they partake in the creation of the Rings of Power at the forges?
Elves live a very long time. They need to be grounded in history. Without some sort of connection to the larger world of Middle Earth, they don’t make sense. What people tend to get wrong about elves is that they have magic of some sort. While this is somewhat true, the elves of Middle Earth are greatly diminished. Only Galadriel is ever seen wielding magic.
Another thing to watch out for is hair color.
While there is some variance among Teleri (for example, Legolas and Thranduil with fair hair), ninety percent of the time they stick with their standard colors: Teleri/Silver, Noldor/Dark, Vanyar/Golden. Eye color is nearly always some form of grey, with some exceptions for blue. Also, elves cannot get sick from natural causes, but poison does affect them.
Focus on research when writing elves. Connecting them to the wider world is vital. Your character is far from alone in Middle Earth. Explore that!
- anything marked with an asterisk is a character not mentioned in the published Silmarillion, only the History of Middle Earth books.
S. D. Howard
Author | Editor | Coach