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Tolkien 101

Tolkien 101: Elrond Half-elven

07.08.09 | Kunochan | 6 Comments

Originally published on JRRTolkienExaminer on 7/8/09.

Tolkien 101 is a series of short articles designed to introduce new Tolkien fans to important characters, concepts, and vocabulary from the published works of JRR Tolkien.

If you were introduced to Tolkien’s works through Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, or if you are just curious about the background of Tolkien’s invented world (his “Legendarium”), then these articles are meant for you.

Dungeons & Dragons, the famous role-playing game that turned millions of socially inept middle school students into incurable geeks, borrowed quite a few concepts from Tolkien: dungeon crawls, parties of adventurers, Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, Orcs, magic items, healing magic, and chain mail bikinis. Okay, not that last one – that was Frank Frazetta.

D&D also allowed the player to create a half-Elf character. This may seem odd, since there were no half-Dwarves, or half-Halflings, or half-Dwarf-half-Halflings. (There were half-Orcs, based on Tolkien’s Uruk-hai.)

The game’s half-Elves were inspired by Elrond Half-elven, an important supporting character in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and whose background is detailed in The Silmarillion. If you think Elrond was just the innkeeper at a particularly cool inn, then you are woefully misinformed.

For reasons of space and readability, I will drastically cut down Elrond’s personal history to the bare bones. Those who want to know more can, as always, consult The Silmarillion.

In Tolkien’s Legendarium, there were three great romances between and an Elf and a Man. (In Tolkien’s writing, “Man” is gender neutral, and is equivalent to “human.”) The first was Beren the Man and Lúthien Tinúviel; the second Tuor the Man and Idril Celebrindal; the third Elessar Telcontar (better known as Aragorn) and Arwen Undómiel, who marry at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

Which brings us to Elrond and his brother Elros. Their father was Eärendil the Mariner, the son of Tuor and Idril, which makes him a half-Elf. Their mother was Elwing, the grandchild of Beren and Lúthien, which makes her roughly a half-Elf, although her true lineage is too complicated to go into here, and includes divine blood.

As the sons of two half-Elves, Elrond and Elros were both considered half-Elf, half-Man.

As children, Elrond and Elros were caught up in a kind of Elven civil war, battling over the Silmarils (some magic jewels). Although captured by the enemy, the boys were well treated.

After the War of Wrath, the Valar (gods) presented Elrond and Elros with a choice. Elves were immortal, and when “killed” their souls remained in Arda (the world). Men were mortal, and when they died their souls left the world. So what was to become of the half-Elves?

The answer was: choose. Be an Elf, or be a Man, but you can’t be both.

Elros chose to live as a Man, and became the first king of Númenor. He died 410 years later of old age.

Elrond chose to be an Elf. He stayed behind in Middle-earth, serving Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor.

During the Second Age, Sauron attacked the realm of Hollin, trying to capture the Elven Rings. After the Elves and Dwarves drove Sauron back to Mordor, Elrond established a defensive outpost at Imladris, which Men called Rivendell.

To a reader of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Rivendell may have seemed like a happy little house where the Elves sing and play. It was in fact a major fortification against Sauron’s attempts to conquer Eriador, protected by the natural cliffs of the “riven dell” in which it is situated. It was also defended by the powerful magic of the Elven Ring Vilya, given to Elrond by Gil-galad.

Elrond fought beside Gil-galad as part of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, when the One Ring was cut from Sauron’s finger. As shown in the movie trilogy, Elrond tried to convince Isildur to destroy the One Ring at once, but to no avail.

In the Third Age, Elrond married Celebrían, daughter of Celeborn and Galadriel. They had three children, the twin brothers Elladan and Elrohir, and their sister Arwen Undómiel. About 2,500 years into the Third Age, Celebrían was captured and tortured by Orcs. Elrond could not fully heal her, so she left Middle-earth forever and crossed the sea to Valinor.

After the downfall of the northern kingdom of Arnor, the heirs to the kingship of that realm were harbored and raised in Rivendell, until the last heir, Aragorn, became king. Elrond was also host to various travelers, including Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins.

He was a member of the White Council, which drove Sauron out of Mirkwood.

Of course, Elrond was responsible for the Council of Elrond, where it was decided to send Frodo Baggins and eight others to destroy the One Ring. And three years after the War of the Ring, Elrond left Middle-earth to go into the Uttermost West with Gandalf, Frodo and Bilbo.

For more info: Elrond on Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia of Arda, and The Thain’s Book.
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