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Old 04-15-2002, 08:33 PM   #1
Fingolas
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1420! Just who's in charge here anyway?

A question on the structure of Elvin society. What form of government did they have? Was it a strict Monarchy? Were there any structures such as a “Council of Elders” or any other mechanism for the citizenry to have input in the decision-making?

I would argue that as soon as a society develops a stable middle class they start to expect some say so in the decision-making. Until that time you have an upper ruling class that ingratiates itself to the throne and the rest are uneducated serfs that are expected to do as they’re told.

It occurs to me that in the real world it has taken Man roughly 4000 years to get to a point where we no longer place much emphasis on the idea of a monarchy, except as a nostalgic symbol of the past. I can’t think of any Western Democracy where the Monarchy is more than a symbolic figurehead and goodwill ambassador for their nation.

I guess my rather long-winded point is that the Elves had been around for what…6000 years or so by the time of the third age? I assume that they were all highly educated; after all I can’t believe that any immortal being would want to spend its considerable lifetime uneducated. So didn’t these highly educated and wise citizens desire some input into the way their society functioned?

Of course we’re talking about a work of fiction here so Tolkien could structure Elvin society any way he darn well pleased thank you very much!

However, it seems to me that there should have been some structure like a “Council of the Wise”, to at least help govern. After all the Elves were much more advanced than Humans, were they not? Is there something in their nature that makes them content to submissively follow a Monarch?

BTW… which is grammatically correct, Elvin or Elvish?
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Old 04-15-2002, 08:42 PM   #2
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The elves were ruled by Kings and Queens, but there was not lack in counsel. After all, there was the Council of Elrond. Was there not?
In the Silmarillion, I believe that there is only mention of the kings and their families as ruling class.
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Old 04-15-2002, 09:00 PM   #3
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It's Elvish and Elven.

The Council of Elrond had nothing to do with government.

The only form of government i've ever read of was strict monarchy. It seemed to work well for them so why not keep it. The kings were noble and wise and their subjects were loyal and proud. Just because monarchy didn't work well for man doesn't mean it couldn't work well for Elves.
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Old 04-15-2002, 09:04 PM   #4
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I never said that the Council of Elrond was political, I just used it as an example of a council being formed to discuss an urgent matter that could not be decided by one person.
Sorry, I was vague.
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Old 04-15-2002, 09:12 PM   #5
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Perhaps monarchy works for the elves because it is not an inherited position, where you have a new king (probably inbred and slightly insane) every generation, who immediately wants to implement any changes that he sees fit. Particularly if those changes benefited him.

Also, though the details are rather vague, you get the sense that the rulers of Mirkwood, Lothlorien, Rivendell, etc, concerned themselves only with the "Big Picture", protecting their homeland and protecting it from the big Evil. While the individuals of these kingdoms seemed to have had a lot of autonomy. They didn't have to live by a lot of arbitray rules limiting their movements or behavior. Of course, elves appear to be pretty simpatico with each other, and to all be working towards the common good.

And there is no hint of taxes. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ April 15, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 04-15-2002, 09:24 PM   #6
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1420!

Yes but the Council of Elrond was an extraordinary event. To decide what to do with the One Ring. It affected every race in ME.

I’m talking about the day to day running of Elvin society. I had thought that it might be that there were never that many Elves to begin with. Small groups would have been more inclined to follow one ruler. Certainly by this point in the third age their numbers had decreased. How many lived in Rivendale? 50, 150, 500? How many in Lorien? And Mirkwood. The Elves were certainly able to field an army at one time, so there had to have been a considerable population at one point.

It just strikes me as odd that they would still follow a King or Queen. Humans of the period with their shorter life spans would have been less educated and been more susceptible to being controlled by a King. Your average Elf on the other hand would have been alive for 2, or 3 thousand years. That’s a lot of learning and life experience. Do you think he or she would not have an opinion on the vital decisions concerning the population? With 2, 3, or 4 thousand years of experience and learning, would you be content to let a King make all the decisions?

Of course all of this is ultimately pointless, but it sure is fun! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]


Wow! This was in response to Tigerlilies first post! You guys are fast!

[ April 15, 2002: Message edited by: Fingolas ]
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Old 04-15-2002, 09:32 PM   #7
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I just give it up to elves being that wise, esp. the lords. Elves are not Men, you can't expect them to act the same and have the same values. Monarchy worked great for the elves, so long as life is good you don't mess with the government right?
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Old 04-15-2002, 09:38 PM   #8
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QUOTE]It's Elvish and Elven.[/QUOTE]

Thancs Mhoram, I are a reelle gud spellr.


Personally I think that Elrond, Galadriel and the rest are putting something in the Lembas, to keep everyone in their place. After all Galadriel was given the “secret recipe”. This is obviously some kind of plot.

[ April 15, 2002: Message edited by: Fingolas ]
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Old 04-15-2002, 09:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
Yes but the Council of Elrond was an extraordinary event. To decide what to do with the One Ring. It affected every race in ME.
Yes, but the elven rulers(?) have been dealing with the presence of Sauron for eons, even after his "defeat" during the War of the Last Alliance. That was the main job of Elrond, Galadriel, and later, Gandalf. To use the power of the Three Rings, in concert, to "preserve all things unstained".

I don't think they bothered themselves too much with petty border disputes, idle proclamations, and padding the treasury with taxes.
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Old 04-16-2002, 06:36 AM   #10
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The Elves did not experience time like humans. Being immortal, they were not so hurried and impatient, and were definitely not comfortable with change. Their minds were rooted in the past- look how interested they were in the old songs, and bemoaning how the old way had gone the way of the Druadan, not with achieving great things themselves. So any arguments about class or democracy are problematic, in that they are applying human, and especially Western, principles and theories to an alien culture. Western style prinicples of rulership and government didn't work in China- the culture was resistant to it.
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Old 04-16-2002, 08:13 AM   #11
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Another interesting question which I thought of while reading this page was, how is elven society organised, and I don't mean monarchy etc, I mean socially. I don't recall them ever using money, but there also don't appear to be any poor elves. Do they barter or do they share, like Communism? Any ideas anyone?

[ April 16, 2002: Message edited by: Nevtalathiel ]
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Old 04-17-2002, 09:11 PM   #12
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There were definitely lords, such as Glorfindel and Elrond (?) buy I think it was a share thing- although there are records of possessiveness (such as Feanor and Legolas's dad, and of course Thingol) no other examples of conflict of posession stand out. Using this supposition, you could argue that there was a very shared element to elven society.
I would NOT refer to this as Communism, as that suggests class, especially working class, and I don't believe this existed in Elven society. Smiths were held in great regard for example, because they could make things of beauty and delight. A more accurate word (but still not close enough) would be utopian, as that is the ultimate end of theories such as communism.
Would anyone agree with this?
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Old 04-17-2002, 10:31 PM   #13
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Perhaps Utopian, though we don't seem to know enough about the stratas of elf society to form an opinion.

The only examples that we have of "working stiff" elves are the Butler and the - for want of a better word - longshoremen in "The Hobbit". All other references are either the Lords, like Elrond and Galadriel, the intelligencia, skilled artist/craftsmen, and the warriors.

I suppose that you might think of Elf society as being communal, with everyone sharing the normal, everyday work that needs doing (Though I noticed in the film that no one seemed to want to volunteer to sweep up the leaves.)

You don't get that same kind of feeling from the few glimpses we have of Gondorian society. In the world of Men, people still seem to have "jobs".
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Old 04-18-2002, 08:29 PM   #14
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I think that the elves did seem to share. When ever anyone went to the house of Elrond, they were welcomed, feed, and given advice and gear for the rest of their journey. I think that it is likely that the elves just sort of helped each other out. Like, hey fingolas, could you serve at the dinner tonight. And for battle, I am sure that many eger elves would be all to willing to go out and fight. I think they just sort of all volunteered to do their jobs.

I don't know much history, but I think that most monarchs had to be over thrown. The elves seem to be rather peaceful, maybe they just didn't want to be involved in any needless violence. Especially if everything was going good.

Great Topic! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] Verrrrrry interrrrresting! [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
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Old 04-19-2002, 10:56 AM   #15
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I would agree that Elven society seems to utopian in its social structure. I would actually call it a utopian morachy, since the king/queen just seems to be there to keep an eye on everyone. I remember that FOTR referes to hobbits from "poor and unimportant families", so there is class among hobbits, though not class warfare apparently. Actually, Middle Earth might almost be considered anarchy (in the classical sense) since there just appear to be a bunch of autonomous communities, each with its head. Michel Delving has a mayor, so maybe there is some sort of democracy in Middle Earth, though not among elves.
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