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Old 10-31-2022, 02:55 PM   #1
Mithadan
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The Unions of Elves and Men

Tolkien's writings make clear why unions between Men and Elves are rare. Gilraen tells Aragorn simply that "it is not fit that mortal should wed with the Elf-kin." But this is not a matter only of Elves having a higher station than Men, though this is, no doubt, a component of the reasons that the two races rarely marry. More important is the fact that such a marriage could only last several decades and would inevitably end with the Elf not only enduring the aging of the Mannish spouse, but also the parting at death which leaves the Elf alone and bereaved for so long as Arda may last. Keep in mind that Elves marry only once (with the notable and ultimately tragic exception of Finwe and Miriel who receive a special exemption from the Valar). The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen reflects the great sadness of the separation of Elrond and Arwen even though the couple shares a common fate.

As a result, there are only three "documented" unions of Elves and Men and only one further "legendary" one. The unions of Beren and Luthien, Tuor and Idril, and Aragorn and Arwen are integral parts of the mythology of Middle Earth. The union of Imrazor and Mithrellas, that gave renewed Elvish blood into the line of the princes of Dol Amroth is less clearly established as "fact." The first three are events of high fate and are exceptional, the last less so.

Regardless, there is a common thread in these tales. In each case, the husband is the Man and the wife is Elvish. Elsewhere is the story of Aegnor and Andreth, who were apparently in love but never were wed, told in the Athrabeth with a discussion in some detail of why Elves and Men rarely should marry. There is nowhere told the tale of a male Elf marrying a female of the Mannish race. Is there any explanation regarding why this is the case?
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Old 11-01-2022, 02:52 AM   #2
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I would add Dior and Nimloth to the list. NoME makes it clear (1.XVIII, "Elvish Ages & Numenorean", dated ca. 1965) that the Half-Elven were natively mortal, though living five times as long as regular mortals. Elros lived and died Half-Elven; Elrond was made Elven by the Valar; therefore Dior must have lived and died (untimely) Half-Elven and mortal too.

I think Turin and Finduilas are also worth considering, as a second 'failed relationship'. The Athrabeth makes it clear that Aegnor never married Andreth because he was afraid of her aging when he did not, but I don't remember that coming up in the Finduilas case.

I vaguely recall one in-universe explanation holding that a mortal woman wouldn't be strong enough to bear a half-elven child (think the death of Miriel), but that might have been a fan-theory. Another possibility, which spans the border between internal and external, is that a woman can endure the loss of her husband because of her children, whereas fathers do not have the same attachment. (Not true, but Tolkien might have considered it to be.)

I think the strongest explanation is purely external: most of these stories are of a mortal man wandering or being led into a realm of Faerie, where he wins great renown and the love of a fairy princess. It's basically the same tale as Smith of Wootton Major, though there's no relationship in that one. I think it's just a story Tolkien really liked writing!

The Mithrellas story is then a deliberate inversion of this: an elvish maiden wandering into a Mannish realm. And... obviously not a marriage, but the strong friendship of Legolas and Gimli, which ultimately leads to them sailing West together, is founded when they pass into each other's worlds (Moria and then Lorien), and confirmed when they agree to deliberately return to the same (the Glittering Caves and Fangorn). The 'part of your world' theme shows up again and again when Tolkien is creating relationships - and, in Tolkien's writings, lone wanderers are almost exclusively male.

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Old 11-01-2022, 07:19 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
I would add Dior and Nimloth to the list. NoME makes it clear (1.XVIII, "Elvish Ages & Numenorean", dated ca. 1965) that the Half-Elven were natively mortal, though living five times as long as regular mortals.
Interestingly, one could argue that Dior is not even Half-Elven, but pure mortal... with Elven and Maian traits. He was born after Luthien had already chosen mortality. She was no longer an Elf in... Fate? Death?... when she gave birth to him. She was only a half-Elf-half-Maia in physical form and power, and that she does pass on, but not in how her spirit is tied to the world. So the first and only Half-Elves to die before the decision to choose kindreds is offered to their kind were Elured and Elurin, of whom we know precious little. I always wondered which way the coin flipped in Mandos, but supposed that the old man was pretty cautious about not taking away a mortal's gift, so probably in favour of mortal death.

But if Half-Elves are mortal by default, what does that make Arwen? Or does her lifespan fit into the 5-times-mortal-length range before she chooses to be mortal? It seems like before death they are immortal by default unless they choose to become mortal, but on death I still can't see Mandos taking away the Gift from them, he would err on the side of offering it unless chosen otherwise.
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Old 11-01-2022, 07:36 AM   #4
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So the first and only Half-Elves to die before the decision to choose kindreds is offered to their kind were Elured and Elurin, of whom we know precious little. I always wondered which way the coin flipped in Mandos, but supposed that the old man was pretty cautious about not taking away a mortal's gift, so probably in favour of mortal death.
At least one version of the fall of Doriath implies that the boys *did* survive, in Ossiriand. They could have lived 250-500 years. Presumably they didn't go to Numenor, so if they married it would have been to elves in the Lindon backwoods. That sounds story-disruptive, so I guess they just hung out with Maglor and Daeron instead?

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But if Half-Elves are mortal by default, what does that make Arwen? Or does her lifespan fit into the 5-times-mortal-length range before she chooses to be mortal? It seems like before death they are immortal by default unless they choose to become mortal, but on death I still can't see Mandos taking away the Gift from them, he would err on the side of offering it unless chosen otherwise.
I think it's explicit in the Silm that Elrond and either his children or his descendents would be given a Choice: they would be immortal until they chose either mortality or otherwise. Thus Arwen was immortal, but could have chosen mortality at any time. Presumably a choice of mortality breeds true (ie Eldarion is just mortal), but I'm not sure if a hypothetical child of Elladan and an elvish wife would be given the same choice.

(I guess it's actually Earendil, Elwing, and their descendants in immortal lineages? Or something. I Don't Have My Books (TM).)

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Old 11-01-2022, 08:48 AM   #5
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I agree with Galadriel55 regarding Dior, though this is only an opinion. I do not recall anything written specifically regarding whether Dior would be considered an Elf, a Man, or Half-Elven. In light of this, I might amend my view in my initial post regarding the number of unions between Men and Elves, since Dior wedded Nimloth, an Elf. However, given the uncertainty of the status of Dior specifically, and since the decision of the Valar regarding the Half-Elven did not occur until later, this is merely an inclination.

The "status" of Arwen and her brothers has previously been debated at length here. The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen has Elrond saying that so long as he remains in Middle Earth, Arwen may depart to the West "if she so chooses." This is referred to by Elrond as "the doom that is laid on us." This, while a bit ambiguous, implies that Arwen and her brothers had the choice of Elrond and Elros to choose their fate. Others believe that Elrond's choice was passed on to his children and that Arwen's decision was a form of special dispensation.
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Old 11-01-2022, 04:32 PM   #6
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NoME comes to the rescue on Dior: 1.IV "Time Scales" says: "Twins were very rare, and [Amrod and Amras are] the only case recorded of the Eldar in the ancient histories, except for the twin sons, Eldún and Elrún, of Dior Eluchil, but he was half-elven. In later times (Third Age) Elrond had twin sons." That's a ca. 1959 text. He's also directly called "Dior Halfelven" at the beginning of HoME XI's "Wandering of Hurin" (entry for 497), though that doesn't necessarily mean anything for his lifespan. (Since I brought up the boys living longer: Home XII explicitly says they died, in "Problem of Ros".)

NoME is also explicit on Arwen, but throws in a brand new surprise!

Quote:
Originally Posted by "Nature of Middle-earth 1.XI Aging of Elves"
[Earendil] obtained the grace (from Eru via Manwë) that his children, being half-elven on both sides - descendents of Idril and of Luthien - should (a) have a choice of which kindred they would belong to, and (b) should in each kind have "a long and fair youth" - sc., should only slowly reach maturity - and that this should extend to the second generation: thus Elrond : Arwen and Elros : Vardamir.

... Eldarion was mortal and was not by promise included in the "grace of Earendil"...

... [Elros] lived at the Numenorean rate and died at the age of 500 (voluntarily and therefore not at very great age)... Vardamir lived to be 391 and so was little more than normal Numenorean age (300).
A draft of this passage actually extended the grace to the third generation, giving Eldarion and Tar-Amandil the same choice, but this was rejected. Vardamir wasn't! It makes his rejection of the sceptre even more significant if he was also rejecting immortality.

It's worth noting that Elros had three other children, so the possibility of immortal half-elven from his side is there. Nothing is recorded of them or their descendents apart from the trio's names.

Back in "Elvish Ages & Numenorean", we can read that "At marriage Arwen became 'mortal'", and about "had she remained Elvish". Elrond is described as having been "made Elven" after the fall of Thangorodrim, while Elros is said to have lived out his life half-elven, and to be the only one who did. So it seems like Elrond and Elros had a weird lifespan due to their parents both being half-elven, but were natively mortal; they were given the choice to change that. Their choice would pass to their children, but those children could choose to reverse it for themselves and their descendents.

None of which has much bearing on the question of elf-mortal marriages, but I'm pleased that the answers actually exist.

hS
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Old 11-02-2022, 09:14 AM   #7
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Tolkien wrote (can't find the cite) that, since the Valar had no authority to take away the Gift of Men (death), that any person with any Mannish blood was a Man, regardless of parentage. Earendil and Elwing and and their children were an Exception granted under extraordinary circumstances, and the choice only applied to them and their children, and Elrond's children. (Note also that Mithrellas' descendants were Men).

Dior lived and died before that ruling, and in any event as observed above it wouldn't have applied, since Luthien was mortal by the time he was born. Now, what sort of lifespan he might have had since genetically he was half-Elven (or 1/4E 1/4M) and conceivably may have had a more durable hroa we don't know, but it would have been finite. The specific extended lifespans granted to the House of Elros were, again, part of the Numenorean gift package.
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Old 11-02-2022, 10:59 AM   #8
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Hunting out more references... the Tale of Years in HoME XII tells of Elrond's children:

Quote:
Originally Posted by TY 2300
These children were three parts of Elven-race, but the doom spoken at their birth was that they should live even as the Elves so long as their father remained in Middle-earth; but if he departed they should have then the choice either to pass over the Sea with him, or to become mortal, if they remained behind.
This contradicts the various NoME texts which claim Arwen's choice was made at her wedding, and also implies the El-twins both became mortal.

The beginning of HoME XII's "The Making of Appendix A" holds that Elros' choice immediately bound his descendents, while to Elrond's children...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Making of Appendix A
... a choice was also appointed: to pass with him from the circles of the world; or if they wedded with one of Mankind, to become mortal and die in Middle-earth.
It's unclear what would happen if they stayed in Middle-earth unmarried in this version.

I vaguely recognise the reference William Cloud Hicklin mentions, but also can't find the cite.

EDIT: Thought it might be in Letters, but no. Letters 153 & 154 both assert that "the half-elven" were given a choice, and name both Elrond and Arwen. If linked with WCH's cite, that would imply that all children of an elf and a half-elf would have the same choice, while all children of a mortal and a half-elf would be mortal. But it might also just be a summary for simplicity.

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Old 11-02-2022, 11:13 AM   #9
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I don't think the two cites are really contradictory, given Tolkien's old-school views: marrying a Man necessarily meant remaining with him/her in Middle-earth, and therefore staying behind when Elrond departed. I don't think it's necessary to pinpoint a moment when a "mortality switch" was flipped; Arwen does not appear to have died of anything except grief, and that essentially voluntarily.
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Old 11-09-2022, 01:20 PM   #10
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Hmm. I found components to WCH's statement above: for example (stated by Manwe) in the conclusion to Quenta Silmarillion [HME 5]: "Now all those who have the blood of Mortal Men, in whatever part, great or small, are mortal, unless other doom be granted to them; . . ."

Then there's letter 131 [to Waldman]: "The doom or gift of God, of mortality, the gods of course cannot abrogate, but the Numenoreans have a great span of life."

Although I too, at least feel like it was stated as William writes it above, even if I can't find it.

Anyway . . .
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Old 01-01-2023, 11:59 AM   #11
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Tolkien's writings make clear why unions between Men and Elves are rare. Gilraen tells Aragorn simply that "it is not fit that mortal should wed with the Elf-kin." But this is not a matter only of Elves having a higher station than Men, though this is, no doubt, a component of the reasons that the two races rarely marry. More important is the fact that such a marriage could only last several decades and would inevitably end with the Elf not only enduring the aging of the Mannish spouse, but also the parting at death which leaves the Elf alone and bereaved for so long as Arda may last.
And not only would they bereft of their spouse but they would also potentially witness the ageing, decline and death of their own children and further descendents. I have known people who have lost children and their grief is perhaps impossible to grasp from the outside- to see generations pass would surely be unendurable. Perhaps that is why Mithrellas fled.
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Old 02-20-2023, 02:12 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Tolkien wrote (can't find the cite) that, since the Valar had no authority to take away the Gift of Men (death), that any person with any Mannish blood was a Man, regardless of parentage. Earendil and Elwing and and their children were an Exception granted under extraordinary circumstances, and the choice only applied to them and their children, and Elrond's children. (Note also that Mithrellas' descendants were Men).
The quote is in HoMe 5:
"Now all those who have the blood of mortal Men, in whatever part, great or small, are mortal, unless other doom be granted to them; but in this matter the power of doom is given to me. This is my decree: to Eärendel and to Elwing and to their sons shall be given leave each to choose freely under which kindred they shall be judged."
Chapter 17, Conclusion of the Quenta Silmarillion
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Old 02-21-2023, 05:00 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TY2300
These children were three parts of Elven-race, but the doom spoken at their birth was that they should live even as the Elves so long as their father remained in Middle-earth; but if he departed they should have then the choice either to pass over the Sea with him, or to become mortal, if they remained behind.
This contradicts the various NoME texts which claim Arwen's choice was made at her wedding, and also implies the El-twins both became mortal.
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I don't think the two cites are really contradictory, given Tolkien's old-school views: marrying a Man necessarily meant remaining with him/her in Middle-earth, and therefore staying behind when Elrond departed. I don't think it's necessary to pinpoint a moment when a "mortality switch" was flipped; Arwen does not appear to have died of anything except grief, and that essentially voluntarily.
Thinking on this a bit more, I suspect "doom" is used here to mean prophecy: it's not that Manwe made a whole new ruling at the birth of each of Elrond's children, but that they were already under the offer of a choice, and were prophesied to make that choice at the point Elrond departed overseas. Elrond's departure was a drawn-out process, so Arwen making the choice at her wedding fits into that.

I'm not sure what it means for the twins, though. "with him, or... remained behind" certainly implies that they had to get on the White Ship with their dad, but it's possible to read it as "depart to be Overseas with Elrond, or elect to remain behind permanently" - ie, the departure doesn't have to be on the same boat as him. But the simplest reading is that Elladan and Elrohir both chose mortality.

Oh! And one more legendary union for the list: the Took family spoke of having a "fairy bride" somewhere in their history. Her existence is even less certain than Mithrellas, but we can't in good faith ignore her.

hS
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Old 02-22-2023, 07:15 PM   #14
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Thinking on this a bit more, I suspect "doom" is used here to mean prophecy: it's not that Manwe made a whole new ruling at the birth of each of Elrond's children, but that they were already under the offer of a choice, and were prophesied to make that choice at the point Elrond departed overseas. Elrond's departure was a drawn-out process, so Arwen making the choice at her wedding fits into that.
Tolkien, Professor of Anglo-Saxon as he was, is using the word "doom" in the Old English sense, "judgement". Mandos makes an irrevocable pronouncement on the fates of those entwined. He does offer a choice to Elros and Elrond, and the children of Elrond, but again, once that choice is made it cannot be revoked unto the end of Arda.
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Old 02-23-2023, 03:07 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TY 2300
These children [Elladan, Elrohir, Arwen] were three parts of Elven-race, but the doom spoken at their birth was that they should live even as the Elves so long as their father remained in Middle-earth; but if he departed they should have then the choice either to pass over the Sea with him, or to become mortal, if they remained behind.
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Tolkien, Professor of Anglo-Saxon as he was, is using the word "doom" in the Old English sense, "judgement". Mandos makes an irrevocable pronouncement on the fates of those entwined. He does offer a choice to Elros and Elrond, and the children of Elrond, but again, once that choice is made it cannot be revoked unto the end of Arda.
Normally I would agree with you, but neither Mandos nor Manwe made any pronouncements at the birth of the El-twins and Arwen, down in the Third Age. (I mean, they may have done, but it would have been in Valinor - Elrond wouldn't have known about it!) This "doom" is also more specific than just "they shall have a choice" - it sets specific time limits on when those three would have to make it.

The Appendices actually use "doom" twice, back to back, to refer to the fates of Aragorn and Arwen:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tale of Aragorn and Arwen
But Elrond saw many things and read many hearts. One day, therefore, before the fall of the year he called Aragorn to his chamber, and he said: "Aragorn, Arathorn's son, Lord of the Dúnedain, listen to me! A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin. Many years of trial lie before you. You shall neither have wife, nor bind any woman to you in troth, until your time comes and you are found worthy of it."

Then Aragorn was troubled, and he said: "Can it be that my mother has spoken of this?"

"No indeed," said Elrond. "Your own eyes have betrayed you. But I do not speak of my daughter alone. You shall be betrothed to no man's child as yet. But as for Arwen the Fair, Lady of Imladris and of Lórien, Evenstar of her people, she is of lineage greater than yours, and she has lived in the world already so long that to her you are but as a yearling shoot beside a young birch of many summers. She is too far above you. And so, I think, it may well seem to her. But even if it were not so, and her heart turned towards you, I should still be grieved because of the doom that is laid on us."

"What is that doom?" said Aragorn.

"That so long as I abide here, she shall live with the youth of the Eldar," answered Elrond, "and when I depart, she shall go with them, if she so chooses."
Aragorn's Doom is based on Elrond's observation and reading of hearts; and presumably on the prophecies of Malbeth the Seer, Ivorwen mother of Gilraen, and probably Gilraen herself. If Arwen had a Doom laid on her at birth, as the Tale of Years says, and if that Doom was that she had to choose her fate at the departure of Elrond, then it seems likely that that was of the same kind - a mix of previous and current prophecies and foresights, including the Judgement, but also bringing in other information. Maybe Glorfindel saw something, like he did with the Witch-king; maybe it was Celebrian employing the maternal foresight Tolkien used so often; or maybe it was someone who made no other impact on history.

(Presumably the Doom was originally spoken at the birth of the twins, and then Elrond said "she shall be under the same Doom as her brothers" at Arwen's birth.)

hS
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Old 02-23-2023, 09:45 AM   #16
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Going back to the original question in this thread (and feel free to continue discussing Arwen, Elladan and Elrohir), Tolkien never writes about a male Elf marrying a female Man. Huinesoron mentions the following.

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I vaguely recall one in-universe explanation holding that a mortal woman wouldn't be strong enough to bear a half-elven child (think the death of Miriel), but that might have been a fan-theory. Another possibility, which spans the border between internal and external, is that a woman can endure the loss of her husband because of her children, whereas fathers do not have the same attachment. (Not true, but Tolkien might have considered it to be.)
I do not recall an explicit mention that a woman cannot bear a half-elven child. However, NoME may provide a potential answer. Writing in the late 1950s through the 1960s, Tolkien discusses two aspects of Elvish child-bearing. The first is gestation. He goes back and forth a bit on this issue, stating in one place that an Elvish pregnancy lasts 9 years of the sun, then changes to one full year, and later amends to 3 years. This suggests a significant physical impact of an Elvish pregnancy. Then Tolkien mentions the recovery period after an Elvish child is born. He suggests that the mother's "time of repose" can be twelve years or more. While JRRT does not actually say so, perhaps he reasoned that a human woman simply cannot survive the effort needed to bear an Elvish child. Of course, this skirts the issue of a half-elven child...
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Old 02-23-2023, 10:34 AM   #17
Galadriel55
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Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
Going back to the original question in this thread (and feel free to continue discussing Arwen, Elladan and Elrohir), Tolkien never writes about a male Elf marrying a female Man.
True, but we have one such union almost happen - Aegnor and Andreth. My knowledge of the Athrabeth is pretty superficial, but of all the reasons that Finrod provides against such a union, never (to my memory) does he say that childbearing is the dealbreaker.
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