Saturday, 28 November 2015

What kind of elf would you wish to have been? What kind would you actually have been?

There are many types of elf:

And many specific elves mentioned by Tolkien:

Just for fun: 

1. Which type of elf would you most wish to have been - and/ or which specific elf do you most admire?

2. Which type of elf do you think you actually would have been - if this is different - and/ or which specific elf do you most resemble?

Note added, my answer:

It is, of course, tempting to want to be one of the highest elves - the Noldor - like Galdriel, of Glorfindel, because of the super powers. But somehow I never have.

Most of the time I wanted most to be a Silvan elf - probably one of the anonymous elves of Lothlorien; for whom life was simply a cycle of days filled with simple pleasures such as living in tress surrounded by beauties of nature, poems, singing, food and drink.

But in reality I think I would have been one of the Sindar - a Grey Elf - neither as wise and mighty as the High Elves, nor as simple and care-free as a Wood Elf - but in-between; knowing only middle earth, but with a latent irresistible desire to migrate to the undying lands that could be triggered by a mere sign of the sea.

I might therefore actually been one of the minor Sindar courtiers of the Elven King in Mirkwood - living undergound (which I would not have liked) enlivened by hunting and fighting in a forest under constant threat from dark things; and waiting... 


Anonymous said...

With Advent starting, and having an old family custom of reading a Father Christmas letter a day (like a sort of parallel to the Advent calendar), I will go on a tangent and say:

1. A kind, efficient one, like Ilbereth.

2. One of the ones who (though we are not explicitly told of them, presumably) didn't notice the Goblins were sneaking into the cellars and stealing presents.

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

@DLD - Ha! Well, I would assume that Ilbereth was some kind of Silvan elf from the Northern forests - and so were Santa's other elves, so I will put you into that category.

radiobeloved said...

I'll bite.

Although the fruit of his work was ultimately the sowing of evil in Middle-earth, I always quite liked Fëanor and passion.

Although by temperament, I'd probably be a dark elf/moriquendi who keeps getting lost on his way to see the two trees...

Bruce Charlton said...

@rb - good answer.

J. B. said...

Type of elf I would wish to have been, and the ones I most admire: same answer, the Vanyar. They might seem 'boring' because they are out of the action of the books, for the most part, and might be satirised the way Satan satirised the loyal angels in Paradise Lost: "the minstrelsy of heaven," etc.

But I admire their obedience, and the fullness of life which they live — they being the only elves who completely followed through on the invitation of the gods. And their obedience is rewarded with glory when they join in the assault on Morgoth during the War of Wrath. I imagine them as the happiest and holiest of all the elves.

As for which I actually would have been, well, I hope I would have been a Vanya, but I know so little about their character it is hard to say. Of the elves whose character we see, I think I most resemble the Noldor. Which specific elf — Rumil, the linguist and loremaster. But rather than claim I would be Rumil, let us say I would be one of the students or disciples of Rumil. I would decidedly have refused the call of Fëanor to Middle Earth, so would still be living in Valinor among the followers of Finarfin.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JB - My 'take' on the elves is that it is not clear whether the Valar did right in asking them to migrate to Valinor - but that having made that decision the only valid responses to the invitation were Yes - the Vanyar, or No - the Avari including Silvan Elves.

And on the whole these two groups of elves had - I think - overall the best fate, the least angst; and the in-between/ ambivalent elves had a shadow of tragedy over them.

PrisonerNumber6 said...

Here's a question. Does Father Christmas himself count as an elf?

On the one hand, you could say no, seeing as he's based around a Roman Age Christian saint.

On the other hand, there's the question of the various influences that went to make up the modern Santa Claus legend as it already existed even in Tolkien's day. For instance, there's the influence from mythology in terms of Norse figures, and even the Roman God Saturn, or Saturnalia fame.

I suppose you could argue that it's a chicken and egg question, however for my purposes its more a matter of figuring out whether Tolkien history (i.e. St. Nicholas) or mythology, or a blend of both? Is the most likely answer a blend of both worlds? If so, does that make Father Christmas an elf?


Bruce Charlton said...

@Chris C - It's a valid question - but for myself, I cannot imagine a chubby elf...

Anonymous said...

There are fascinating - and mysterious - details in the Father Christmas Letters. He is both coterminous with the Incarnation, and says he was (proleptically?) named "Nicholas" after the saint whose feast day is 6 December (in different letters). And he speaks of his "green brother" - who is that? The 'Weihnschtsmann' or some other 'Germanic' figure? (I'm confident I've seen colour illustrations of - was it Father Christmas or Santa Claus or who, exactly? - clad in green...)

But what is he? An elf? A Maia? One of the Valar? Something else again? I have not seen the matter discussed as vigorously as that of Tom Bombadil is...

Speaking of St. Nicholas as "right jolly old elf", I can't help thinking the Tinfang Warble poem is indebted to that one (claimed by the Rev. Professor Moore, and by others posthumously on behalf of Major Livingston).

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Good stuff - I like this game!

I hope you are still intending to send me a brief 'resume'?

Anonymous said...

Do you mean my 21 October post intention? I'll try to carry it out, yet, soon!

David Llewellyn Dodds