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6 Reasons to be Wary of the Elves



I am so happy, because I have been waiting my entire blogging life for someone to ask this question. ‘Cause here’s the thing: elves in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit? Largely portrayed, like you said, as pretty and (nearly) perfect. But look a little further back in history - like, say, in the Silmarillion - and you discover that this is actually not a very common trait (well, I think the pretty thing is still common, but perfect… not so much.)

And so, I proudly present: Six Reasons to be Wary of Elves (in no particular order.)

  1. The Oath of Feanor and the Three Kinslayings. Here’s the short version: Way back when, Morgoth stole the three silmarils from their creator, Feanor. Feanor was a member of the Noldorin royal family, and so had a great deal of influence over the elves. He and his seven sons swore an oath to retrieve the silmarils no matter what, and this oath included a pretty terrifying “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” component. And, for the entirety of the First Age, the Feanorians stuck to this oath, even when it meant attacking fellow elves. Which they famously did three times. You can read more about the Three Kinslayings in this post, but just know that it was ugly. And, in the end, useless.
  2. Sometimes They’re Pretty Creepy About Women. In his later writings, Tolkien decided that elves were incapable of rape (either committing it, or surviving it, as the spirit would just up and flee the body.) Even so, there are still a few elves that I would not want to be anywhere near. Namely Eol and Maeglin (who are, coincidentally, father and son.) Eol basically bewitched the woman that caught his eye into getting lost in his forest, and when she was finally lost and tired enough to approach him, he “took her to wife.” He then forbade her from leaving the forest or having any contact with the outside world, until she and her son (Maeglin) finally escaped. Maeglin, though, went on to fall in love with his cousin (which is a no-no among the elves.) When he was caught and tortured by Morgoth, Maeglin gave up secrets about their city, Gondolin. Which isn’t really his fault. But, the deal was that, after Morgoth took the city, Maeglin would get his cousin Idril (even though she was already married and had a kid of her own.) During the ensuing battle, Maeglin basically tried to kidnap her, but her husband killed Maeglin instead. Beyond that family, Celegorm and Curufin once kidnapped a lady and essentially planned to force her father to let one of them marry her. So… yeah.
  3. They Don’t Always Treat Their Prisoners Well (At All.) In Lord of the Rings we learn that the elves of Mirkwood felt so much pity for Gollum that they’d let him climb trees during his captivity. But in their earlier history the elves were not so sympathetic to captured enemies. Though the cultural rule was that orcs that surrendered and asked for mercy must be treated well, Tolkien admits that this “was not always heeded.” In fact, Morgoth says that few orcs ever surrendered because Morgoth convinced them that “the Elves were crueler than themselves, taking captives only for ‘amusement’, or to eat them (as the Orcs would do at need).” It’s possible that there was some truth to Morgoth’s warning (though probably not the eating them part.) Beyond hints and rumors, we know full well that, during the Second Kinslaying, the two young sons of Dior were captured by the Feanorians and left to starve in the forest. 
  4. A Lot of Elves Kind of Look Down on the Race of Men. While Tolkien’s main narratives usually focus on amazing friendships between the elves and men, there is reason to believe that the average elf would not have the highest opinion of the average (wo)man. In the famous philosophical debate between Finrod (an elf) and Andreth (a mortal woman), Andreth says “All ye Elves deem that we die swiftly by our true kind. That we are brittle and brief, and ye are strong and lasting. We may be ‘Children of Eru’, as ye say in your lore; but we are children to you also: to be loved a little maybe, and yet creatures of less worth, upon whom ye may look down from the height of your power and your knowledge, with a smile, or with pity, or with a shaking of heads.”, and Finrod replies “Alas, you speak near the truth. At least of many of my people.” This, plus a post-colonial perspective, have led many fans to criticize the way that the elves treated the early men (even the ones they claimed as allies and friends.)
  5. Even More Elves Kind of Look Down on the Dwarves (And Maybe Used to Hunt Them For Sport, A Little.) The relationship between elves and dwarves is complicated, and complex (though, if interested, I’ve written many posts on the subject that can be found here.) But I think the worst moments of elf/dwarf relations was in the very beginning, when elves didn’t know what dwarves were, assumed they were animals, and hunted them for sport. Yeah, that’s right. Read more about it in this post.
  6. And, Honestly, Most Elves Even Look Down on Other Types of Elves. Aside from the violently horrible kinslayings mentioned above, nearly every elvish group Tolkien wrote about held prejudices and generally not-nice thoughts about the other groups. It’s a complex topic, so I couldn’t really summarize it here very well, but if you’re interested there’s a whole downloadable .pdf on the subject here (or you can read the draft version on Tumblr here.)
  7. (+1 Bonus) And, Of Course, Some Elves Just Weren’t Very Nice People. Feanor, in an attempt to hold on to political power, stranded his brother and his brother’s people on the wrong side of the ocean (more on that here.) Thingol essentially sent his daughter’s mortal lover to his death in a crazy quest to win her hand in marriage. Celegorm and Curufin similarly let Finrod join this death-quest in the hopes that they could take political control of his kingdom in his absence. Eol tried to kill his son at one point (sort of a “if I can’t have him, no one can” scenario.) There are more, but these are the highlights.

Of course, I’m not saying that the elves were evil, or anything. And there are certainly plenty of elves that seem to be genuinely great people. But, if you read beyond The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, you’ll find more and more that the elves, as a whole, are anything but perfect. Especially in The Silmarillion. You know what, you should just read The Silmarillion…. Yeah, definitely read The Silmarillion.

SOURCES: The Silmarillion, The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 10 (“Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth”, “Myths Transformed”, “Laws and Customs Among the Eldar”)

Kira Yoshikage appearances 



Ei unohdeta, että vaikka sukupuolineutraali avioliittolaki ja homojen adoptio-oikeus ovatkin tärkeitä asioita, on Suomessa muutakin parannettavaa sukupuoli- ja seksuaalivähemmistöjen kannalta.

1. Pakollinen sterilisointi sukupuolenkorjauksen yhteydessä on poistettava laista.

2. Laillinen kolmas sukupuolivaihtoehto muunsukupuolisille ja nuorille intersukupuolisille.

3. Seksuaali- ja sukupuolikasvatuksen parantaminen. Koulukirjoihin lisää tietoa transsukupuolisuudesta ja homoseksuaalisuuden lisäksi myös bi(/pan/poly)seksuaalisuudesta sekä aseksuaalisuudesta.

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