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Old 04-05-2002, 11:46 PM   #1
Mhoram
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Sting A problem with "Laws and Customs"

Quote:
In "Laws and Customs among the Eldar" Tolkien wrote that Elven children resembled mortal children for the first few years of their lives, but that by the time mortal children reached their full stature the Elven children still looked like they were about seven years old. This essay establishes that Elven children matured at a much slower rate than mortal children, and reached adulthood no earlier than their fiftieth year (though sometimes they continued growing until their one hundredth year).

Furthermore, "Laws and Customs" says that most of the Eldar married soon after their fiftieth year, and they would (in times of peace, at least) soon begin bearing children. But the Elves spaced their children some years apart. This practice allowed the parents to spend several years focusing on each child's needs.

And we can be sure (because of his comparison between Elven children and mortal children) that Tolkien was anachronistically speaking in terms of Years of the Sun, not Years of the Trees. This is important to understand because "Annals of Aman", which provides a calendar system for dating events, is given in Years of the Trees. Morgoth's Ring provides us with two conversion rates for equating Years of the Trees with Years of the Sun.

I prefer to use the older ratio of 9.58 Years of the Sun to 1 Year of the Trees because the later ratio of 144 Years of the Sun to 1 Year of the Trees is very inconsistent with many texts. The fact that it coincides with the Yen described in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings probably means only that Tolkien wasn't considering the other texts, then unpublished, because he was in the process of revising the entire (unpublished) mythology.

Finally, "Laws and Customs" also says:

The Eldar wedded for the most part in their youth and soon after their fiftieth year. They had few children, but these were very dear to them. Their families, or houses, were held together by love and a deep feeling for kinship in mind and body; and the children needed little governing or teaching. There were seldom more than four children in any house, and the number grew less as ages passed; but even in days of old, while the Eldar were still few and eager to increase their kind, Feanor was renowned as the father of seven sons, and the histories record none that surpassed him.

-from an article by Michael Martinez entitled "Elves by the numbers" http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/tolkien/54681
I agree with everything Michael says here and i'm quoting it to help me relate a problem I see with "Laws and Customs." The thing is, none of the recorded 'Customs' we have seem to match up with what Tolkien tells us about Elven marriage and childbirth. Let me show you what I mean.

Quote:
Furthermore, "Laws and Customs" says that most of the Eldar married soon after their fiftieth year, and they would (in times of peace, at least) soon begin bearing children.
To examine this we have to review accounts of marriages and the bearing of children that take place during times peace. There are only three records that fit this model; The sons of Finwe: Feanor, Fingolfin, Finarfin.

Feanor is born in 1169 YT. He weds Nerdanel in an unknown year but has seven children before 1492 YT. [323 Years of the Trees (3095 Years of the Sun) within which to have these children.]

Fingolfin is born in 1190 YT. He weds Anaire in an unknown year and has three children before 1492 YT. [302 Years of the Trees (2894 Years of the Sun) within which to have these children.] His first child, Fingon, was born when Fingolfin was 90 YT of age or about 900 YS.

Finarfin is born in 1230 YT. He weds Earwen in 1280 YT and has five children before 1492 YT. [262 Years of the Trees (2510 Years of the Sun) within which to have these children.] His first child, Finrod, was born when he was 70 YT of age or about 700 YS.

<PRE>
Feanor = Nerdanel
__________________________________|_______________ ___________________
| | | | | | |
Maedhros Maglor Celegorm Curufin Caranthir Amrod Amras


Fingolfin = Anaire
______________|_____________
| | |
Fingon Turgon Aredhel
1280 1300 1362

Finarfin = Earwen
_______________________|______________________
| | | | |
Finrod Orodreth Angrod Aegnor Galadriel
1300 1362

</PRE>

As you can see, the youngest age of marriage and bearing of children is Finarfin at 70 Years of the Trees. Fingolfin is 90 YT and Feanor is probally somewhere around that area. This is close enough to what "Laws and Customs" tells us, but the problem is, this is all in the reckoning of Years of Trees!

Quote:
And we can be sure (because of his comparison between Elven children and mortal children) that Tolkien was anachronistically speaking in terms of Years of the Sun, not Years of the Trees.
-Micheal Martinez

Micheal is refering to this exact quote from Tolkien:
Quote:
This same watcher might indeed have wondered at the small
limbs and stature of these children, judging their age by their
skill in words and grace in motion. For at the end of the third
year mortal children began to outstrip the Elves, hastening on to
a full stature while the Elves lingered in the first spring of
childhood. Children of Men might reach their full height while
Eldar of the same age were still in body like to mortals of no
more than seven years.(2) Not until the fiftieth year did the Eldar
attain the stature and shape in which their lives would after-
wards endure, and for some a hundred years would pass before
they were full-grown.]
-Tolkien

And it is in the very next sentence/paragraph Tolkien says:
Quote:
The Eldar wedded for the most part in their youth and soon after their fiftieth year. They had few children, but these were very dear to them.
-Tolkien
Surely, only a sentence later, Tolkien is still speaking in terms of Years of the Sun. And if so, as I said, "Laws and Customs" is nowhere close to the actual records we have to compare it with. What is the solution to this seeming conflict?

[ April 06, 2002: Message edited by: Mhoram ]
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Old 04-06-2002, 08:53 AM   #2
Thingol
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All I can propose is that all elves are different and that while most elves probably married earlier on in life and had children soon after, many may have married and had children when they were much older. We are really only privy to information about very few elven marriages, all of which are from royal families. Perhaps the elven royalty marries later in life and bear children later in marriage than the typical elf.

[ April 06, 2002: Message edited by: Thingol ]
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Old 04-06-2002, 12:34 PM   #3
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Mhoram, I think that while "Laws and Customs" is interesting, it is at considerable variance with the rest of Tolkien's work, particularly as regards to the age at which Elves marry and bear children. In addition to the cases you cited, consider Elrond - he's born aboout 50 years before the end of the First Age, yet he doesn't marry and have children until the beginning of the Third Age - nearly 3000 years later! And Galadriel was hundreds if not thousands of years old when she married Celeborn and had Celebrian. Indeed, I find the whole concept that a longeval people would quickly marry after reaching adulthood a very odd one - what's the rush? That they would lose the desire to produce children within a (by elven standards) relatively short time following their marriage is less troublesome, but exactly how is this accomplished? Do Elven couples simply lose interest in sex, spending the rest of eternity together but celibate? Do they experience a sort of menopause? And if so, can this happen to an Elf who delays marriage too long, resulting in infertility even after the union takes place? Or is the development of gradual infertility somehow triggered by the act of marriage or sexual intercourse itself, and if so, how? How could beings whose physical bodies otherwise remain youthful experience such a change?
Regrettably, I think that much of "Laws and Customs" simply can't be made to fit with what we know of Elvish marriage and reproduction as portrayed in the Sil and LoTR. This is one essay I think Tolkien would have had to either revise considerably or discard, had he lived to complete his works - remember, it also contains the idea (later abandoned) that Elves' spirits are reborn into their children, which we know Tolkien later rejected.
Perhaps I should apply for a grant to study these mysterious aspects of the physiology of Elvish reproduction! Although arranging transportation to my subjects' home country might be a problem these days - I don't think that the College of American Pathologists has any magic boats lying about. Too bad [img]smilies/frown.gif[/img]
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Old 04-06-2002, 01:13 PM   #4
Tim Prichard
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I've just looked up in the Silmarillion on page 50 about how orcs reproduced. It reads as follows:

But of those unhappy ones who were ensnared by Melkor little is known of a certainty. For who of the living has descended into the pits of Utumno or has explored the darkness of the councils of Melkor? Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressėa, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there into prison, and by slow arts pf cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mocery of the Elves of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes. For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilśvatar; and naught that had life of it's own, nor the semblance of life, could ever Melkor make since his rebellion in the Ainulindalė before the Beginning: so say the wise.
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Old 04-06-2002, 07:03 PM   #5
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It's possible that as an author, Tolkien was subsuming the term 'years' under the subjective experience of each race and generation. While he was scrupulous about creating a consistent world in all its details (fortunately, since our discussions would be pointless otherwise) his descriptions of the fellowship's experience of time in Lorien suggests that time is somewhat fluid in the presence of the Eldar and their magic, and I would think the closer the presence of the two trees got, the more slowly time might flow, so that a year by the light of the trees would indeed be comparable in experience and in matters of the heart and family to a year by the light of the sun and moon. The eldar might be physically and psychologically responding to the turning of gold and silver light, and then the turning of daylight and darkness, rather than to the absolute chronology of minutes and seconds, as measured by an observer outside of middle earth, Eru with a stopwatch, say. Correct me if I'm wrong (my Silmarillion has been packed up in my parents' attic for 15 years or so) but the examples of marriage and childbearing are all from the time before the trees were destroyed and the sun and moon created. The making of the sun and moon may have changed the elves' responses so that the rhythm of their lives speeded up to match the new shorter length of a year. This may have entailed a slowly gathering weakness in them, and so brought about their gradual decline as a people, as they were forced to live day by day and year by year too quickly for them to thrive and increase. Thus, there were no more elven families with 7 sons. This would be yet another tragic consequence of the destruction of the trees.
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Old 04-06-2002, 07:08 PM   #6
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Well, I guess the only way to learn is to ask a question.....Where are the Laws and Customs among the Elder? Is this part of one of the volumes of HoME? I am just beginning to read these. I have scrounged together 10 of the volumes in this series, but still don't have The Shaping of Middle Earth or Morgoth's Ring. Thank you. sharon,the 7th age hobbit.
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Old 04-06-2002, 07:40 PM   #7
Mhoram
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Aww man, you don't have Morgoth's Ring? That's one of the most important imo and yep, that's where you would find the passage we are talking about.

Nar, thanks for a good reply, i'm going to have to think on it for a while before replying.
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