Frodo Just Now Realizes that Elves are Old

Apparently Frodo had no idea how long Elves lived. That seems pretty unbelievable, and yet he seemed absolutely shocked to hear during the Council of Elrond that Elrond remembered the death of Gil-galad.

‘You remember?’ said Frodo, speaking his thought aloud in his astonishment. ‘But I thought,’ he stammered as Elrond turned toward him, ‘I thought that the fall of Gil-galad was a long age ago.’

Come on, Frodo, you’re better than that. He had to know that Elves were old – like really old. He had just met Glorfindel, for Eru’s sake! Glorfindel was much older than Elrond (having been born in the Years of the Trees) and he was also there when Gil-galad fell! Frodo didn’t question that at all. What the hell, Tollers?

So through Frodo’s surprising astonishment, Elrond told of his time right after the fall of Numenor at the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, which closed out the Second Age (so only about 3,000 years ago).

This is where Tolkien did a bit of retcon. Elrond didn’t really exist prior to his writing of The Hobbit. The name was included in the early-ish writings, but the character was hardly developed.

In fact, Gil-galad wasn’t even present in the early Silmarillion writings (though Glorfindel was). Both he and Elrond were added to the tale as the tale was being written. Obviously, the tale of how Sauron lost the Ring was created during the writing of Lord of the Rings, but Elrond also gives a bit of his back story, which was a wholly new version of things Tolkien had been writing about for decades.

Brushing off Frodo’s utter amazement that Elrond was at least 3,000 years old, the entire council was now made to hear (probably for the millionth time) all about Elrond’s connections to the Elder Days (meaning the end of the First Age).

“But my memory reaches back even to the Elder Days,” said Elrond while every one who wasn’t a hobbit or Boromir rolled their eyes.

Elrond reminded everyone that “Earendil was my sire, who was born in Gondolin before its fall; and my mother was Elwing, daughter of Dior, son of Luthien of Doriath.”

Earendil was with Tolkien from the very beginning, playing a huge roll in the Book of Lost Tales, which was written in 1917ish. Elrond didn’t show up until the early 1930s. And when he did, he had no brother and became the ruler of Numenor (so basically, Elrond was Elros until Elros was invented, which happened a few years later and it was after The Hobbit was written!

The first time Elros appeared in a draft (and not as a revision) was in 1937ish, after The Hobbit was published, but before Tolkien started work on Lord of the Rings. In that span, he submitted a draft of the Quenta Silmarillion to his publisher.

In the draft, Elrond now had a brother, Elros, who was now the king of Numenor. So basically, Tolkien swapped names and invented a new character for Elrond that combined his time in The Hobbit with a bunch of new stuff. This means that when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he believed that Elrond was also the first king of Numenor (mind = blown).

But moving on, Elrond cheerily confirms that “I have seen three ages in the West of the world, and many defeats, and many fruitless victories.”

We’ll continue on to one of those fruitless victories (perhaps the most fruitlessness of them all) tomorrow.

A Few Notes

  • Holy hell I got off on a tangent with the “when the hell did Elros come into the picture” string. I’m not sorry about that.
  • The books that came in most handy today were The Shaping of Middle-earth and The Lost Road, both of which cover Tolkien’s non-Hobbit writings (except the epic poems) of the 1930s.
  • Short post today. That happens sometimes.
Camera: Kodak Tourist Film: Fuji Velvia 50 (RVP - expired in mid90s)

Camera: Kodak Tourist
Film: Fuji Velvia 50 (RVP – expired in mid90s)

About the Photo
This is clearly a picture of Elrond from way back when. Man, is he old! Okay, actually it’s a photo of a concrete dinosaur from outside a gem shop near Ginkgo Petrified Forest in central Washington. But mostly, Elrond’s a dinosaur.

  • Day 120
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 601 (147 from Rivendell)
  • 320 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,178 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Seventh night out from Rivendell. January 3 – 4, 3019 TA. (map)


49 thoughts on “Frodo Just Now Realizes that Elves are Old

    • Hmm.. true true. But we learn from (sorta early) Tolkien that Elves get tinier and more faerie-like, tiny and annoying as they fade. You know… like Pterodactyls… right?

  1. I hope Elrond didn’t see your comment about him being a dinosaur! He’d be so grumpy. 😛
    I’m not sure Frodo was aware of the story of Gondolin and Glorfindel’s fight with the Balrog. Also, I find it extremely ironic that no one seems to realize that 1. Galadriel is Arwen’s grandmother: Celebrian (Galadriel’s daughter) was Elrond’s wife, but ended up leaving Middle-Earth before her husband did; 2. Elrond is Aragorn’s uncle (distanced by several Ages’ worth of human generations), thus making Aragorn and Arwen effectively cousins; 3. Elves were originally all dark-haired, except for one group (but now it seems people think that blond=Wood Elf while dark=lore master, which is kind of stupid since Galadriel is a High Elf, not a Dark Elf, and the Wood Elves are mostly Dark Elves, not having visited Valinor.) And there certainly should not be any ginger Elves. In my opinion, the only race who can be legitimately ginger are the Rohirrim.

    • It is literally impossible to make Elrond grumpier than he is.

      I doubt Frodo was aware of it? Did I say he was? Hm.. (re-reading) Bah, I can’t find it. Anyway, I don’t think he was, but he was pretty aware of some of the history. Look at how Sam later notes that they’re all part of the same story as the Silmarils. But then, I guess they could have learned that along the way.

      One of the reasons why nobody seems to notice Galadriel is anybody’s anything is because when Tolkien wrote this chapter, he hadn’t invented Galadriel, and never really went back to add her. So any history that’s given here doesn’t involve her.

      Cousins, yes, but up to the early 1900s (our time) that was totally fine.

      The Rohirrim are blonde, though, right?

      It’s all one non-decreasing gene pool of mutations!

      • Well… Silmarillion readers, right? 😛 But only they really realize it, other people don’t.
        Since there are so many generations between them, they’re really outside the fifth degree and all, so they wouldn’t have to worry about it anyway. 😛
        Blonde, though they have some gingers. ;-P I think it’s that way, anyway. My Star Wars and Tolkien fan friends have a joke about Obi-Wan (who in his younger iteration is ginger): If he ever went to Middle-Earth, he’d get mistaken for a man of Rohan. 😛
        Yet another reason why immortality belongs to the realm of fantasy and sci-fi! X-P

        • Obi-Wan would have been one of the Istari because of course he would have been! A Blue Wizard because of his blue light saber, maybe.

          • Hmmm… you could be right. X-D Though, unfortunately, the Blue Wizards are no longer around in LotR, which I think is sad, and a little disturbing. I’ve heard rumors that Wizards were Maiar who agreed to have closer dealings with the people of Middle-Earth itself, but it’s officially a mystery, since the Istari refuse to say where they come from. They are the servants of the Valar, and that’s all we know.
            But it does fit, rather… even in his younger days (well, especially in his younger days) Obi-Wan is practically a force of nature, almost more of a force of nature than an individual!

            • Oh we know a little more than that. When Manwe put out the call for Wizards, only Alatar came forward. He was one of the Blue Wizards. Saruman was there and was chosen by Manwe (though it seems like he didn’t come forward, per se). Manwe specifically asked for Gandalf, but Gandalf thought he was too weak. Varda, however, insisted and made it clear that he was not to go “as the third.” And Saruman wasn’t thrilled about that.

              (this is all from Unfinished Tales)

              Yavanna begged Saruman to take Radagast and also Alatar (Blue Wizard #1) brought along his friend Pallando (Blue Wizard #2).

              We also know which Valar chose which of the Ishtari

              Gandalf = Manwe and Varda
              Saruman = Aule
              Radagast = Yavanna
              Alatar = Orome
              Pallando = Orome (but maybe Mandos and Mienna)

              Later in his life, Tolkien said something about the Blue Wizards starting cults in the East.

            • Ah… humble Gandalf. No wonder they wanted him to be the White Wizard!
              Hmmm… though Qui-Gon really is a bit more wizardly than Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan is very… well, elemental for lack of a better word, and desperately needs guidance. Even if he was ready to be Knighted at the time of “The Phantom Menace,” I think he wasn’t ready to lose his mentor yet.

            • Qui-Gon? Hmm.. Ohhh that one guy from the movie that was never actually made, right? The one where The Force is no longer a Buddhist-like concept and jedi have bugs in their blood.

              Sorry. Bit bitter.

              That said, have you read the sort of newish book Kenobi about his first few years on Tatooine? Lots didn’t like it because it was basically a space western. But that’s kind of why I adored it. Great writing. It’s what the EU should have been like. (also, RIP to the EU).

              Yeah, I really am bitter about Star Wars.

            • Well, being a younger fan (I’m under twenty-one), and having grown up with the prequels, I guess I’m just pretty laconic with it all. I’m not actually that big on the prequels (though Ewan McGregor was amazing as young Obi-Wan), especially as Anakin destroyed Attack of the Clones. I totally side with the kid in “The Princess Bride”: Is this a kissing movie?! Ew. I have never seen “Revenge of the Sith” which to me sounds like a too-bloody end to a story that was supposed to be just PG. So, I guess, to me, midichlorians are just a mechanism. *shrugs* I was always more into real causes, not just mechanisms, anyway. And since it’s fantasy, I don’t have to seek too deep. It’s just a gift some people have, to me, I think. And according to Lucas, ANYONE could use the Force, given enough time and practice. Force-sensitives are just better at picking it up, I guess.
              Oh, and for the record: I am not an Anakin believer. I believe in Luke. Anakin screwed up royally and was given a second chance, while Luke (and earlier Obi-Wan) was the true hero of the story. I also am a strong supporter of the celibacy theory, because it’s less stress on the would-be “spouse”, and a firm believer that they made both too many and too few exceptions for Anakin. Either nothing, or go the whole way. Obi-Wan tried to compromise, which normally works but was a colossal flop this time. Also, it was a piece of ridiculous stupidity to tell Anakin a title before he was actually mature. Not that that ever happened… Sorry, Anakin entirely broke the happily-ever-after for the older characters, so I have a chip on my shoulder. 😛
              I haven’t read it yet. My mom was looking at getting it for me, so I have hopes. And I can’t believe that they sold Star Wars to Disney! My only hope is that they decide to make a new story line, rather than following the EU, because frankly from what I’ve heard, the EU was a little too dark.

            • The EU got really dark. It wasn’t perfect, but it was all we had for decades. The storylines were fun in a lot of ways and I thought they tied it all up pretty well at the end. They could easily have just started the new movies from that point. But no. It’s frustrating, not because the new movies won’t be good, etc, but because of the ridiculous amount of time we invested in the characters.

              If you can, seek out the fan edits of the prequels (especially II). They really help things along.

              Revenge of the Sith was easily the best of the three. The book was brilliantly written and I strongly suggest that one and the one that came after it (I think about Dark Vader). They’re dark, yeah, but that’s sort of how it goes with the Force.

              Having read the EU and seeing how being a Jedi messes with your family, I have to say that a celibate and monastic order is probably best. Unless you’re married to a Jedi, I suppose. Then things just sort of work themselves out.

            • Oh! Well, if they do follow those lines, then I at least hope to get some proper introductions, having only read prequel-era EU (notably Jedi Apprentice and Wild Space, which latter is the best of, with a tone a little reminiscent of Lord of the Rings.)
              I think that when it comes to the prequels, I may need to read the novels in order to get a better feel for them. I generally prefer books to movies, anyway.
              Yes, marrying within the Order might work better, but it would be rather awkward, still. I mean, what if someone was caught up in a crossfire or sent off on a mission by accident and it came up in the autopsy that the poor lady was expecting? That would be horrible! Also, I imagine that having a miscarriage would be especially rough on a Force-sensitive woman… though from some works, it seems that non-Force-sensitives who are expecting a child who is Force-sensitive gain some sort of temporary Force powers by extension.
              Of course, this is all just theory, but I think that it’s still valid…

            • They’re definitely not following any lines previously set out and approved (and guided) by Lucas in the EU.

              I’ve not heard anything at all about the prequel novelizations, except for Revenge. Totally need to read that.

              It would be a horrible thing for any spouse to be killed or die while expecting (or not expecting, for that matter). But that’s the risks we take in living life. In the EU, there are great examples of how marriages between two force uses and marriages between a force user and non-force user work. Luke and Mara Jade work really well as two powerful Jedis. They’re a team and kicks much ass. Likewise, Han and Leah eventually find the common ground needed and that works out too. It’s probably a case-by-case basis thing. Though, really, the monastic order is best, I think.

            • Which, I’m sure, is at least partly due to rumor mongering… There are generally more atrocities reported in a war than actually happened, especially since, as they say, “history is written by the victor.” Not when it comes to the Holocaust, though. People water that down because the truth is just too horrific.

            • I’m sure there were atrocities, but if you look at it from their point of view, I’m sure that they really thought they were doing a good thing. They probably thought they were protecting the pilgrims who went to Palestine from their “persecutors.” And it’s pretty interesting if you look at it–the Crusades actually began after a power shift in the Muslim hierarchy, between different sects. That might not mean anything in actuality, but it is suggestive, is it not? 🙂

            • Yeah… Bias is annoying. No one is without it and it makes it hard to know what actually happened, since it’s ever-present. Like how fairy tales change over time, and books are abridged. It even happens in LotR, with “Mad Baggins” and “The Man in the Moon”. 😛 The “Mad Baggins” one was the funniest, though. At least in my opinion.

            • Gandalf mentioned to Faramir(?) that in Valinor he was called Olórin; and Valaquenta says “Wisest of the Maiar was Olórin.” But “The Istari” in Unfinished Tales is noncommittal about whether he’s the same one.

      • Didn’t the Dunlendings call the Rohirrim “Straw-heads”? Or was that someones else?

        Tolkien used Old English to translate Rohirric, and he used Gothic to translate the name of a king of Rhovanion. This, by the way, helps me rationalize my handle. Tamfang is meant for ‘copper beard’, but tambe appears only (as far as I know) in a footnote to an early version of The Chaining of Melko, not in the Etymologies. So I choose to assume that some cognate of tambe survived east of the Misty Mountains, home of melanin-deficient Middle Men.

    • Of the primordial tribes of Eldar, the Vanyar were blond, the Ŋoldor dark and the Teleri silver-grey. Finwe’s second wife was a Vanya, whence Finarfin’s fair hair; Finarfin married a Teler, and their daughter Galadriel’s hair was blended of gold and silver.

      The Avari (those elves who never started on the migration to Valinor) were most closely related to the Teleri, so the Wood-elves might well be expected to have silver hair, but I don’t know if the author ever specified.

      • Thanks for clarifying that. 🙂 It helps.
        On the other hand… does anyone else think that seeing Orlando Bloom with dark hair in other movies feels just a little wrong, too? 😛
        Oh, and it seems like the video editors had a hard time deciding whether Legolas’ eyes should be brown or just very dark gray. In some clips they’re brown (which I think is natural for the actor) and in others they seem more gray. This is confusing, and irritating.

          • Indeed. I am hearing disturbing rumors of ginger Elves. Excuse me, but that is NOT Tolkien. Grr. And apparently he ‘improved” “The Hobbit”?! I’m sorry, NO. Maybe built on, worked at, tried to make more consistent (and often succeeded in only making us more confused AND destroying continuity lines!), but NOT improved. You can not improve on something that was originally a book. You can only do well or badly with it.
            Disney has this problem too. The only rule of the Tinker Bell fairytales seems to be completely destroy all resemblance to J.M. Barrie’s character, and wreck all continuity lines with Peter Pan. Unlike Tolkien’s cautious work. Hey, at least he TRIED. Grr.

            • Yeah, they tried. And a lot of it is pretty lovely. The first Hobbit movie was good. The second.. well, I didn’t like it as much. Maybe the third though. Who knows!

            • You never know. And I am looking forward to seeing Martin Freeman as Bilbo, being a MAJOR fan of his Doctor Watson. (Also Benedict Cumbersmaug as the world’s only consulting dragon. The joke is not mine, I’m just borrowing it because I like it. :-P)

            • Martin Freeman was wonderful as Bilbo. Best acted scene was in the second movie when he thought the weird white spiderish thing had taken the Ring. Mostly, his reaction to his reaction. The man can act. I just rewatched The UK Office and damn if he didn’t have it way back then, too.

            • Cool! I may have to check that out as well. 🙂 He has a truly unique style. After you’ve seen Martin Freeman in something, it’s hard to say, “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.”

          • So do I. It just feels odd when we see him switching back and forth if you watch two movies at once… which most people don’t… I’m sorry. I never make much sense, it’s a marvel anyone can follow my novels.

  2. Frodo darn well ought to know that Elves are immortal; and, given that he speaks at least a few words of Quenya, he might well know Elrond’s name from the histories (without being aware that Elves never seem to recycle personal names). But the only hint that the reader has previously had of Elvish immortality, I think, is the crack about “we can’t tell one mortal from another”.

    • Hmm.. that’s a good point. Sometimes we get so used to knowing “everything” that it’s hard to take the book as it comes.

      That said, it’s hinted at in The Hobbit: “Already behind him among the goblin dead lay many men and many dwarves, and
      many a fair elf that should have lived yet long ages merrily in the wood.” (Chapter 16).

      But still, whether he knew they were immortal or not wasn’t the question. He (and the reader) absolutely knew they were old. Really old. It’s just surprising that he seems to not know this.

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