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Elves. Probably the most popular of Tolkiens races. Tall, beautiful, immor-
tal and hugely misunderstood. Because, while many fans believe at first
that the elves are ever-wise, peaceful, and mature, those who read fur-
ther will discover that they are not nearly that perfect. Most importantly
(at least, as far as this guide is concerned), the elvish race is split into
many cultural factions, and the relations between these groups often
have significant impacts on behavior and important decisions.

If you read this guide, youll not only get a very thorough idea of what
these cultural groups are, and how they were formed, but youll also gain
an understanding of how all of these groups interacted with each other.
Trust me, after reading this, youll never be able to look at your favorite
elvish characters the same way again.

This guide is organized into three chapters, each correlating to a major

cultural group. At the end of each chapter is a suggestion for further read-
ing, if interested. Finally, the artwork in this guide does not belong to me.
Most of the paintings are by Ted Nasmith, with a few by John Howe or
Alan Lee mixed in there. Anything that looks like it was made in Power-
Point, though, thats all me.

If, after reading this guide, you have any more questions you should defi-
nitely find me at askmiddlearth.tumblr.com.


The Avari are so rarely talked about that often readers forget that years of Avarin relations with the elves that did follow the Valar,
theyre even part of the overarching elvish culture. And this is no ac- called the Eldar.
cident. For the most part, the information we have on the elves
The Eldar looked down on the Avari for refusing the Valars invitation.
comes to us from a Noldorin or Sindarin point of view, and both
You can even see such beliefs in the names they gave the Avari.
these groups had strong, largely negative, views on the Avari.
Avari itself is a Sindarin name, meaning the refusers. Another
When the Valar invited the elves to come live with them in Valinor, a common name in Quenya was Moriquendi, which means elves of
great debate was held. Of the three primitive tribes (the Minyar, the darkness. Moriquendi technically referred to any elf that never saw
Tatyar, and the Nelyar), most wanted to go to Valinor. But some (half Valinor (including the Nandor and Sindar), but as the Sindar found it
of the Tatyar and some of the Nelyar) refused to leave their home in offensive, it was largely replaced with Umanyar, and Moriquendi was
Cuivienen. Its this moment that defines the next several thousand used only to refer to the Avari.

The Avari, on the other hand, saw the split tive, and untrustworthy. They were said to
at Cuivienen in a very different light. From live deep in the woods or in caves, and very
their point of view, it was the Eldar that had few Avari ever joined a Sindarin community
made a poor decision. The Avari saw them- - though whether this was due to a lack of
selves as the only true elvish culture, and desire on the Avaris part, or hostility on the
saw those who went to Valinor as deserters. Sindars part is unknown.
They continued to call themselves by varia-
The only positive thing we hear about the
tions of the original name for the elves - the
relationship between the Avari and the Sin-
Kwendi (primitive Quendian for the peo-
dar is specific to those Avari who de-
ple.) In fact, Tolkien lists six tribal names
scended from the Nelyar - the same primi-
for the Avari, and all of them are basically
tive clan that the Sindar descended from.
Kwendi in another dialect: Kindi, Cuind,
Its said that these Avari were friendly to
Hwenti, Windan, Kinn-lai, and Penni.
their cousins, and were willing to learn
After the Eldar leave Cuivienen, information from them. In time, this openness would
on the Avari is rare and incomplete. But we lead to a much more positive relationship
do know that some Avari eventually made for all involved.
their way to Beleriand, where we start to see
On the other hand, the situation only wors-
the consequences of the prejudices formed
ened for those Avari descended from the
by the Sundering of the Elves.
Tatyar when their cousins, the Noldor, ar-
Its certainly worth noting that, before the rived in Beleriand. While the Sindar were su-
Avari even arrive in Beleriand, the Sindar perior to the Avari due to their brief expo-
have come into contact with the first orcs. sure to the Valar, as well as the influence of
And their first thought on encountering orcs Thingol and Melian, the Noldor were so far
is that they might be Avari, having gone superior to even the Sindar as to make the
evil and savage in the wild. Which tells Avari seem no better than men. An unhappy
you right away what the Sindar thought of relationship between the lordly Noldor and
the Avari. their bitter Avarin cousins formed immedi-
The situation doesnt improve much when
the Avari do actually arrive. The Avari were It was the Noldor that really pushed the use
described as hostile, treacherous, secre- of the term Eldar to refer to elves in gen-

eral. But this term specifically excluded the the closest the Avari will ever get to anyone
Avari, since Eldar had traditionally be telling them that they were right all along.
used to refer to the elves that accepted the
This is also practically the last we hear of
Valars invitation. This implied that the
the Avari. Its said that, by the Third Age,
Noldor did not even consider the Avari to
there are no Avari to be found west of the
truly be elves at all. Meanwhile, the Avari
Misty Mountains. And other than those who
were bitter and jealous of their exalted
joined the Silvan elves, we dont know
kin, and accused the Noldor of being arro-
where else the Avari lived. Theres been
gant (frankly, a view shared by most of the
some fan-speculation, though that the re-
elves anyway.)
gion of Dorwinion, near the Sea of Rhun
Ill address this more later, but among other and where the wine that the elves of Mirk-
elvish groups it wasnt uncommon to insult wood drink is made, is in fact an Avarin
another person by referring to them as an realm. But theres no evidence in Tolkiens
Avari elf. Which just illustrates a further lack writings to prove or disprove this.
of respect for the Avari as a whole.
Further Reading:
After the First Age things improved a bit for
the Avari, as far as cross-cultural relations Quendi and Eldar by JRR Tolkien, in
go. The openness that the Nelyar- The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 11
descended Avari had shown their Sindarin
Name Calling: Group Identiy and the
and Nandorin cousins paid off: many Avari Other Among First Age Elves by Angel-
joined the Silvan communities rising to ica, found at silmarillionwritersguild.org/
power in Mirkwood and Lorien. And some reference/references/pf/namecalling.php
Sindar (most notably Oropher, Thranduils
father) experiences something of a change Artwork by Ted Nasmith
of heart after the War of Wrath. This small (tednasmith.mymiddlearth.com)
Sindarin faction strongly disliked the Noldor
and wished to be free of their influence. Be-
yond that, they saw the Silvan (a combina-
tion, mainly, of Nandorin and Avarin elves)
as leading the simple life natural to the
elves before the Valars invitation. This is

When the elves first awoke at Cuivienen, they were divided into three refer to themselves as the Minyar. However, the other elves started
tribes. The tribe led by the oldest of the elves was called the Minyar calling them the Valar, which means Fair, as in fair hair. This name
(the First). From the beginning they were the smallest of the elvish was given to them by the Noldor, who greatly admired the golden
tribes. But when the Valar invited the elves to come live in Valinor, hair so common among the Valar.
every single member of the Minyar accepted. So there are no Avarin
This flattering name from the Noldor is just the first indication of the
elves that descended from the Minyar.
close relationship between the Vanyar and the Noldor. The two
After this first Sundering of the Elves, the second tribes (the Tatyar groups travelled to Valinor together, and when they arrived in the
and the Nelyar) changed their names to reflect their new identities new land, they built a single city, Tirion, for the two tribes to live in.
without their Avarin cousins. But since none of the Minyar joined the The Vanyar, more than any other elvish tribe, loved the Valar and the
Avari, they saw no reason to adopt a new name, and continued to Two Trees of Valinor. Eventually, all the Vanyar left Tirion to live closer

to the Valar. And while the Vanyar and ter, when Feanor leads the majority of the
Noldor remain friendly, this separation Noldor into exile. Only one Vanya accompa-
marks a new phase in their relationship. nied the Noldor, and that was Turgons wife
Elenw, who died during the journey. Its im-
The Noldor and the Vanyar had originally
plied that the woman Finrod was in love
spoken a single language, Quenya. While
with, Amari, would have accompanied
living apart, though, the two tribes develop
them, but its said that she was prohibited
separate dialects. The Vanyarin dialect
was joining the exiles (how widespread this
tended to stay truer to the earlier Quenya,
command was is unknown.)
and didnt change as much as the Noldorin
dialect. The Vanyar also adopted some We hear very little about the Vanyar after
words from the language of the Valar (Va- this point. Its likely that they stayed friendly
larin.) Though it was only a few words for with those Noldor who stayed in Valinor, and
colors, the Vanyar still adopted more Valarin it seems that the Vanyar didnt hold any sort
words than any of the other elvish tribes. of grudge against the Noldorin exiles for de-
fying the Valar, because the Vanyar made
The Vanyar were also the only tribe to main-
up the majority of the Host of the West that
tain regular contact with the Valar. As time
fought against Morgoth in the War of Wrath.
went on, the Vanyar seemed to grow closer
to the Valar while simultaneously growing Even when the Vanyar and the Noldor were
apart from the Noldor. After leaving Tirion, growing apart, though, they maintained a
the Vanyar have less contact with the positive relationship. There were several in-
Noldor. When Morgoth is released on proba- termarriages between the two tribes. And
tion in Valinor, the Vanyar refuse to have any- Ingw and Finw were close friends. After
thing to do with him, while the Noldor wel- Finws first wife died, Ingw invited him to
come him as a teacher. And when Morgoth come live with the Vanyar for a while. While
kills Finw (king of the Noldor) and the Two Finw was there, he fell in love with and mar-
Trees of Valinor, the Vanyar stay to mourn ried a relative of Ingws, Indis, with whom
with the Valar, rather than mourning Finws he had a few more children.
death with the Noldor.
Compared to their relationship with the
The low point of the relationship between Noldor, the Vanyar were practically strang-
the Vanyar and the Noldor comes soon af- ers to the Teleri. They travelled to Valinor

separately, lived far apart, and had no re- ronment, and found a group of twelve more
corder intermarriages. And while the Teleri elves. Imin, being the oldest, claimed these
still had not forgiven the Noldor for the Kins- new elves as his companions. They contin-
laying at Alqualond by the War of Wrath, ued moving, and found a group of 18 elves,
the Vanyar obviously had. But theres also which Tata claimed. Then they found 24
no indication that the Vanyar and the Teleri elves, which Enel claimed. Imin noticed that
were unfriendly. They just didnt seem to each group was larger than the last. He
have much of a relationship at all. didnt think that it was fair for him to have
the smallest group, since he was the old-
On a more general note, the theme for Van-
est. So when they next found a group of 36
yarin relations with other elves is definitely
elves, Imin skipped his turn, and again
one of assumed superiority. Being the old-
when they found a group of 48. Imin as-
est tribe (if only by a few minutes), the Van-
sumed that the sixth group of elves would
yar saw themselves as the leaders of the
be the largest yet. But the joke was on him,
elves, and, ultimately, the principle elvish
as they never found a sixth group. So, in
culture. This idea that the Vanyar essentially
the end, Imin ended up with the smallest
outranked the other elves manifests in a
tribe, made up of only the first group of 12
couple ways. The Vanyarin kings full name
elves that hed claimed.
was Ingw Ingweron, which translates to
Chief of Chieftains, implying that he was Chances are, this story is being told from
the High King of all the elves. And when the the Noldorin (or Sindarin) point of view. And
Vanyar and Noldor built the city of Tirion, while theres no real moral to the story,
the tallest tower in the city was Ingws. Imin (representing the Vanyar) certainly
comes off as a bit arrogant.
The only real source we have to show how
the other elves viewed the Vanyar is the Further Reading:
Cuivienyarna, a legend of how the first
three tribes were formed (though Tolkien Cuivienyarna by JRR Tolkien, in The
wasnt specific about the origin of the story, Histories of Middle Earth vol. 11
it likely isnt being told from the Vanyarin
Artwork by Ted Nasmith
point of view.) In the story, the first elf to (tednasmith.mymiddlearth.com)
awake was Imin, followed by Tata and Enel.
These first elves started exploring their envi-

The Noldor were the second tribe to awake at Cuivienen. Originally The Vanyar called themselves the Minyar (the Firsts), which im-
called the Tatyar (the Seconds), after they lost half their numbers plied their superiority over the other clans. The Noldor instead called
to the Avari during the Sundering of the Elves, the Noldor decided it them the Vanyar (the Fair), a kind reference to their blonde hair
was time for some new names. Its interesting, actually, that none of that completely lacked any suggestion of authority. Meanwhile, the
the commonly used elvish tribal names were actually created by the Teleri called themselves the Lindar (the Singers). The Noldor, how-
tribe that they describe. The Noldor named the Vanyar and the Te- ever, called them the Teleri (the Lasts), which implied the Noldors
leri, and its said that the name Noldor was itself given to the Noldor own superiority over them.
by the others.
Given the clever way the early Noldor used names, its no wonder
Its because these names were given from one tribe to another that that their given name means the Wise. The root of the name Noldor
theyre so important when studying elvish cross-cultural relations. (ngol) originally signified wise, lore, and lore master. And this

is how the word continued to be used in Morgoth killed Finw (king of the Noldor)
Quenya. But, interestingly, the root ngol and stole Fanors silmarils. Fanor swore
developed slightly a different meaning in to follow Morgoth to Middle Earth and re-
the Sindarin language, where it came to trieve the silmarils. But to get to Middle
mean secret knowledge, and was often Earth, he needed ships - which the Teleri
associated with black arts - this because had, and refused to give up (not agreeing
some Sindar believed that the Noldor with Fanors actions, and also taking great
gained their wisdom and skills by learning pride in their ships.) In what can only be de-
from Morgoth. But were getting ahead of scribed as a combination of rage, pride,
ourselves. and desperation, Fanor and those of the
Noldor that followed him attacked the city of
As mentioned in the Vanyar chapter of this
Alqualond, and killed many of the Teleri in
series, the Noldor and the Vanyar travelled
order to steal their ships. This was called
together to Valinor, and arrived together.
the First Kinslaying, since it was the first
They maintained a close relationship during
time one elf had killed another.
this time, as evidenced by several intermar-
riages, and the fact that they built the city of It was only a faction of the Noldor that com-
Tirion together. But, when the Vanyar mitted this act, and its unknown how the Te-
started drifting closer to the Valar, the leri dealt with those innocent Noldor who re-
Noldor instead turned towards the Teleri, mained in Valinor. But the Teleri did not for-
who had settled east of Tirion along the get their grudge against the Fanorians
coast, in their city of Alqualond. (those elves who followed Fanor.) Even
centuries later, when the Vanyar and the
The Noldor were friendly with the Teleri (also
Maiar went to Middle Earth to fight Morgoth
evidenced by a few intermarriages), but
in the War of Wrath, the Teleri refused to join
many of the Noldor considered themselves
the fight, agreeing only to ferry the Vanyar
superior to the Teleri. In fact, the Noldor con-
across the ocean.
sidered the Teleri to be Avarin at heart,
since they had been so uneager to leave
Middle Earth.

The friendly Noldorin/Telerin relations came

to an abrupt and violent end, though, after
Understanding Noldorin relations with other elves requires an under- Fanor had been very close to his mother, and hated Indis and his
standing of how the Noldorin elves got along with each other first. half-brothers (especially Fingolfin.) When Morgoth was released in
Valinor on probation, he took advantage of this strained relationship.
From an unfortunately early stage of their history, the Noldor were di-
He manipulated both sides, and the relationship worsened.
vided into two basic factions. This is because the first king of the
Noldor, Finw, had two wives. His first wife, Miriel, died soon after Eventually, Fanor and Fingolfin get in an argument so bad that
giving birth to their son, Fanor. Finw got the Valars permission to Fanor attacks his brother. The Valar banish Fanor from Tirion, and
marry again, and his second wife was Indis, of the Vanyar. With In- Fingolfin swears to obey his brother form then on. But its during
dis, Finw had several more children (most importantly, two more Fanors banishment that Finw is killed, and Morgoth steals
sons, Fingolfin and Finarfin.) Even by elvish standards, Fanor was Fanors most prized possessions - the silmarils. Fanor swears an
a prodigy, and was considered the greatest elf to ever live. But oath to follow Morgoth and the silmarils.

The Noldor are torn about whether to follow ter at their abandonment, and at those lives
Fanor into exile or not. Some decide to lost crossing the ice, the House of Fingolfin
stay in Valinor, and are led by Finarfin, dont have any kind thoughts left for the
Finws youngest son. Fingolfin wants to Fanorians. By now, most of the Fanorians
stay in Valinor, but remembers his promise are feeling pretty badly about their actions,
to obey Fanor, and leads his own people and its said that only shame kept them from
into exile. So, when talking about the Noldor humbly welcoming the House of Fingolfin.
in exile, its important to keep these two The two factions stay camped on opposite
groups in mind: those following Fanor sides of a lake, and are frankly on the brink
(hereby referred to as the Fanorians) and of their own little war.
those following Fingolfin (hereby referred to
Meanwhile, Maedhros was captured by Mor-
as the House of Fingolfin.)
goth, and Fingon (Fingolfins son) goes to
The House of Fingolfin had little to do with rescue Maedhros by himself. When the two
the Kinslaying at Alqualond, but by then return to their people safe, their revived
they were already committed to getting to friendship is enough to heal the Noldor - for
Middle Earth. The Teleri didnt have enough a while. But when Fingolfin is made the next
ships to transport all of the exiles, though. High King, Fanors sons (except for
By now convinced that Fingolfin will only be- Maedhros) are angry. Then Caranthir (an-
tray him in the future, Fanor takes the other of Fanors sons) gets angry at An-
ships for his own people, abandoning the grod (one of Finarfins sons who followed
House of Fingolfin on the coast of Valinor. Fingolfin) for speaking to Thingol on the be-
half of the Noldor (well get to that in a mo-
The Fanorians arrive in Middle Earth and
ment.) Finally, Maedhros decided to take
burn their ships (even though Maedhros,
the Fanorians and establish realms in east-
Fanors oldest son, objected.) They then
ern Beleriand, far from the House of Fin-
almost immediately find themselves battling
golfin, hoping that the distance will avoid
Morgoths army, and Fanor dies so quickly
more conflict.
that its actually quite anticlimactic.
And this is the (already complicated) situa-
The House of Fingolfin, meanwhile, finds
tion that the Sindar are greeted with when
their own way to Middle Earth - by crossing
their Noldorin cousins return to Middle
the Helcarax, a dangerous ice bridge. Bit-
When the Noldor arrived in Middle Earth, the Sindar saw how great While the Sindar in general were happy to see the Noldor, Thingol
the Noldor had become while in Valinor, and saw them defeat the was immediately uneasy, since there was now a slew of Noldorin
orcs, and thought that the Noldor must have been sent by the Valar princes looking to establish their own realms in what Thingol consid-
to protect them. But by this point the Noldor and the Sindar had ered his land. Finarfin had married Thingols niece, so Thingol con-
been apart for about 3,500 years, so there was a definite language sidered his children to be kin. So, soon after arriving, one of Fi-
barrier keeping the two groups apart. narfins sons, Angrod, travelled to Doriath to greet Thingol. Being a
pretty smart man, Angrod didnt mention anything about Fanors
To overcome this barrier, the Noldor quickly learned Sindarin. While
oath, or the Kinslaying at Alqualond. Thingol gave them permission
it was just more practical this way (the Sindar far outnumbered the
to settle anywhere in the north, leaving the south free for the Sindar.
Noldor, and Sindarin was much easier to learn than Quenya), lan-
guage use officially entered the realm of cross-cultural relations When Angrod relayed this to the rest of the Noldor, they thought that
when Thingol, king of the Sindar, outlawed Quenya entirely. this was a pretty cold greeting from Thingol. And while Fingolfin re-

spected Thingols leadership, the sons of mors (that happened to be true) about the
Fanor were less impressed, and for the Fanors oath, and about the Noldor attack-
most part ignored Thingols order. Caranthir, ing the Teleri at Alqualond. Eventually
especially, was angered by Thingols greet- these rumors reach Cirdan. Cirdan recog-
ing, and it was his reaction (calling Thingol nizes that these rumors (true or false) were
a dark elf - referring to the Avari - and in- started with malicious intent. But Cirdan ac-
sulting Angrod) that spurred Maedhros to tually thought that the rumors were started
move the Fanorians east. by the Noldor themselves, as part of their
inter-house conflict. Which says a lot about
Despite Thingols less than welcoming atti-
how the Sindar viewed the Noldor, I think.
tude towards the Noldor, most of the Noldor
actually get along pretty well with most of Cirdan relayed the rumors to Thingol, who
the Sindar. The Noldor helped build walls confirmed them with Finarfins children. An-
around Cirdans coastal cities. And outside grod, still angry about Caranthirs words, ex-
of those cities and Doriath itself, the Sindar plains the truth of the situation, making no
and the Noldor usually lived together in effort to sugar-coat the deeds of the Fanori-
mixed communities led by the Noldorin ans. Thingol is furious, and bans the use of
princes. The Noldor even altered their termi- Quenya in Beleriand.
nology for the Sindar to avoid offending
Things continue on like this, relatively peace-
them - when the Noldor arrived, they re-
fully, for the rest of the First Age. But, to-
ferred to the Sindar as Moriquendi (Dark
wards the end of the Age, things deteriorate
Elves), since they hadnt seen the light of
pretty rapidly. Not to get bogged down in
Valinor. But the Sindar didnt like being
details, but in their quest to reclaim the sil-
lumped together with the Avari. So, instead,
marils, Fanors sons attack both Doriath
the Noldor started calling them Umanyar
and the mixed Sindarin/Noldorin community
(not of Aman, or Valinor.)
in the Havens of Sirion. These are called the
Meanwhile, Melian (Thingols wife) grew sus- Second and Third Kinslayings. Soon after
picious of the Noldor. Galadriel (Finarfins the War of Wrath occurs, and Beleriand is
daughter) lived in Doriath, and Melian often destroyed in the battle. Most of the Noldor
questioned her about what happened to the return to Valinor when their exile is lifted, but
Noldor before they returned to Middle Earth. some remain in Middle Earth.
At this point, Morgoth starts spreading ru-
Though most of the Noldor had returned to Valinor, they still had a and Greenwood (now known as Mirkwood.) These elves were bi-
presence in Middle Earth. By this point, Gil-galad is High King of the ased against the Noldor because they saw them as the source of all
Noldor. After the War of Wrath, he establishes his kingdom in Lindon, the suffering the Sindar had gone through in the First Age. They
and led a mixed community of Noldor and Sindar. From what we can wanted to return to a more natural elvish lifestyle, free from
tell, everyone lived together in Lindon pretty peacefully. Gil-galad Noldorin influence. Theres no mention of Gil-galads reaction to this,
also didnt seem to hold any sort of anti-Sindarin bias, as his closest but it seems that he didnt object too strongly.
advisors were Cirdan (Sindar), and Elrond (of mixed heritage.)
Soon after the small Sindarin faction leaves Lindon, many of the
After about a millennia of this, though, the elves start shifting. First, a Noldor in that kingdom also leave. These elves, made up primarily of
small faction of strongly anti-Noldorin Sindar leave Lindon. Lead by craftsmen, establish a realm west of Moria after hearing that the
Oropher, an elf from Doriath, they head east of the Misty Mountains, dwarves there have started mining mithril. This Noldorin realm,
where they establish dynasties in the Silvan communities at Lorien called Eregion, never had a king, so it sounds like the elves of Ere-

gion still recognized Gil-galad as their ulti- Amdir and Oropher (the kings of Lorien and
mate leader. Greenwood) resented. Tired of taking or-
ders from one of the Noldor, Amdir and Oro-
However, the old prejudices werent entirely
pher led their armies in a charge before the
forgotten. When Sauron appeared, dis-
rest of the armies were ready. The Silvan ar-
guised as the fair Annatar, Gil-galad and his
mies were crushed, and both Amdir and
advisors mistrusted him from the beginning,
Oropher died in the battle.
and wouldnt let Annatar enter Lindon. In-
stead, Annatar turned to Eregion, where he Gil-galad also died in that battle, and the
was welcomed by those eager to learn from Noldor didnt take another High King. This
him. But its said that Annatar used his was mostly because nearly all the Noldor
knowledge of the strained relationships left Middle Earth at the end of the Second
among the Noldor in order to first gain the Age. Those few that were left in Middle
trust of Eregion. He claimed that Gil-galad Earth generally lived in Lindon under Cir-
was warning the elves not to trust Annatar dans rule, or in Rivendell under Elrond.
because he didnt want their realms to be-
While the Sindarin dynasty in Greenwood
come as wonderful as his own. Obviously,
remains strong, Loriens Sindarin king
this was something that the elves of Eregion
leaves shortly after Moria is abandoned. Ga-
believed on some level, since they ended
ladriel, a Noldorin elf, and her husband Ce-
up ignoring Gil-galads warnings.
leborn, a Sindarin elf, move to Lorien and
Despite this, Gil-galad does not abandon assume leadership of the elves there. Thran-
Eregion. When Annatar (now revealed to be duil (the new king of Greenwood) moved his
Sauron) attacks Eregion. Gil-galad sends people north and away from Lorien, partly
Elrond with Lindons own army to help, but in order to avoid Galadriels Noldorin influ-
the realm is destroyed anyway. ence.

The anti-Noldorin Sindarin faction also suf- Further Reading:

fers for their lack of trust in Gil-galad. At the
end of the Second Age, Lorien and Green- The Grey Annals by JRR Tolkien, in The
wood send armies to fight in the Battle of Histories of Middle Earth vol. 11
the Last Alliance. All the elvish armies ulti-
Artwork by Ted Nasmith
mately fell under Gil-galads control, which (tednasmith.mymiddlearth.com)

Like the Vanyar and the Noldor, the Teleri originated in one of the travel to Valinor, many who had at first wanted to join the Avari and
three first tribes of elves to awake at Cuivienen. The Teleri were origi- stay instead decided to travel west. Even so, a little over a third of
nally called the Nelyar, meaning the Thirds, since their leader, the Nelyar joined the Avari.
Enel, was the third elf to awake. Since Enel was the youngest, he got
The Nelyar were especially fond of water and singing (and in fact
the last choice of companions, which actually worked in his favor,
learned to sing before they learned to speak.) Because of this, they
since each group of elves they found was larger than the one be-
called themselves the Lindar (the Singers.) However, the Noldor
fore. So, in the end, the Nelyar were the largest group.
called them the Teleri (the Last or the Lingerers) because they
The Nelyar were, as a group, the most reluctant to leave Cuivienen. were so reluctant to travel west, and made the journey more slowly
But they were also a very cohesive group, and always saw them- than the Noldor and Vanyar. And, because most of Tolkiens stories
selves as separate from the Vanyar and the Noldor (more on that are told from the Noldorin point of view, the Teleri is the name most
later.) So, when their leaders (Elwe and Olwe) were determined to commonly used.
Since they outnumbered the Noldor and From the Teleris point of view, their king van-
Vanyar combined, the Teleri saw them- ished, and no matter how much they
selves as separate, and were especially searched for him, they couldnt find Elwe.
conscious of their own cultural identity. This
While the Teleri were still in inland Beleri-
feeling of difference only increased during
and, looking for their king, Ulmo (one of the
the journey west. In fact, they so strongly
Valar) used a floating island to bring the Van-
felt their own uniqueness and developed
yar and Noldor over the ocean to Valinor.
such an Us vs. Them mentality that the Te-
When the Teleri realized that their friends
leri didnt even develop their own word for
were gone, they rushed to the coast, sad to
elves-in-general until they came into contact
be parted from them. At this point, they took
with non-elves (meaning dwarves.)
Olwe (Elwes brother) to be their new king.
The Teleri made most of the journey west And while waiting for Ulmo to return, they
alone, separated from the Noldor and Van- learned sea-lore and sea music from
yar. This is because the Teleri traveled more Ulmos servants, Osse and Uinen.
slowly, and tended to stop and settle in dif-
Eventually, Ulmo returned with the floating
ferent places temporarily, generally slowing
island to bring the Teleri to Valinor. However,
down the entire trip. In fact, after reaching
not all of the Teleri decided to complete
the eastern side of the Misty Mountains, sev-
their journey. Some stayed because they
eral of the Telerin elves decided that they
still hadnt found Thingol, and were unwill-
didnt want to travel any further. This group
ing to abandon him. Others decided to stay
became known as the Nandor (more about
because theyd learned so much from Osse
them later.)
and Uinen, and didnt want to leave them.
The leader of the Teleri (Elwe) was good These elves that remained behind were
friends with the Noldorin leader (Finwe), known as the Sindar (more on them later.)
though, and so when the Teleri finally ar-
While the Noldor and Vanyar built the city of
rived in Beleriand the two groups lived
Tirion together, the Teleri didnt even arrive
close to each other. During this time, Elwe
in Valinor until the city was finished. And
was traveling to visit Finwe when he came
even then, they actually stayed on the float-
upon Melian (one of the Maiar.) They fell in
ing island (which came to be known as Tol
love, and for lack of a better word froze
Eressea) for another century. When they fi-
in the woods together for over 20 years.
nally arrived on the shores of Valinor, though, the Noldor greeted them Feanor became angry, and said to Olwe Thou renouncest thy friend-
happily, and helped them to build their own city of Alqualonde. Its ship, even in the hour of our need. Yet fain were ye of our aid when ye
around this time that the Vanyar leave Tirion, and afterwards the came at last to these shores, fainthearted loiterers, and wellnigh emp-
Noldor were closer to the Teleri than they were to the Vanyar. There tyhanded. In huts on the beaches would ye dwell still, had not the
were also a few intermarriages between the Noldor and the Teleri (no- Noldor carved out your haven and toiled on your walls. Now, Feanor
tably, Finwes son Finarfin and Olwes daughter Earwen.) There are no is hardly the kindest of the Noldor, but theres a chance that his words
recorded marriages between the Vanyar and the Teleri, though. were based in some truth, as far as the Noldorin perception of the Te-
leri went. Olwe denied that he was renouncing his friendship.
The Teleri were sort of outsiders in Valinor when the Valar held their
great feasts, the Vanyar and Noldor would attend, but never the Teleri. After thinking over his options, Feanor tried stealing the ships from the
Its said that they just didnt care much about the Valar. Teleri, and when the Teleri resisted, the Noldor attacked. Not all of the
Noldor took part in the battle, and some that did didnt understand
When Feanor came to Alqualonde, he at first tried to persuade the Te-
how it started. But this the First Kinslaying is considered one of the
leri to join him in Middle Earth. Not only were their people friends, but
darkest events in elvish history. Even centuries later, when the Host of
he needed their ships to transport his own people across the sea. The
the West was preparing to fight in the War of Wrath, the Teleri refused
Teleri, however, werent interested. They wanted instead to convince
to take part, agreeing only to ferry the Vanyar across the ocean.
the Noldor to stay in Valinor, and wouldnt help them in their defiance
of the Valar (and trusted in the Valar to deal with Morgoth themselves.)

Once the rest of the Teleri travelled to Vali- Second, there were the Mithrim, who trav-
nor, the Sindar were the only elves in Bele- elled to the northwest of Beleriand. This
riand. Because of this, they never both- group, more than the other two, ended up
ered creating a unifying name for them- intermingling with the Noldorin exiles, and
selves. They did refer to their Telerin cous- for the most part lived alongside them as
ins in Valinor as the Gwenwin, meaning a single community
the Departed. Instead of a single name,
Thirdly, there were the Iathrim, the elves of
the Sindar referred to each other by the
Doriath, who lived in the inland forests un-
region they lived in because early on,
der the leadership of their king, Elwe (who
the Sindar themselves broke up into three
was, after his convenient return, known as
different groups:
Thingol.) The elves of Doriath were always
First, there were the Falathrim (Falmari in the most hostile towards the Noldorin ex-
Quenya), who lived along the southern iles, mainly because of their outrage over
coast of Beleriand, under the leadership news of the Kinslaying at Alqualonde.
of Cirdan. These were elves who had
Because of their relationship with Osse
stayed in Beleriand reluctantly (some, like
and Uinen, as well as their leadership
Cirdan, were still out searching for Thingol
from Thingol (and Melian, their queen),
when the other Teleri left, and so hadnt
the Sindar became the fairest, wisest, and
had a choice in the matter.) Because of
most skilled of the elves of Middle Earth.
their desire to go to Valinor, the Falathrim
They were always recognized even by
were later known to be the most friendly
the Noldor as more advanced than the
to the Noldorin exiles. They also saw
Avari, or even the Nandor (who were
themselves as quite separate from the in-
rude and rustic in comparison.) How-
land Sindar, and Tolkien mentions at one
ever, the Sindar maintained much better
point that they didnt consider themselves
relationships with their Avarin cousins
to be Sindarin at all, and instead contin-
than the Noldor did.
ued to see themselves as purely Teleri.
Things in Beleriand were quite peaceful haired, just like the Noldor.) Others think
for a while, but when Morgoth returned to it was simply because of Thingols name
Middle Earth, he sent his armies to at- (which means Greymantle.) And still
tack the Sindar. The elves won the First others believe that its a reference to the
Battle of Beleriand, but sustained heavy Sindars place between the Avari Dark
losses. It was right after this, though, that Elves and the Light Elves of Valinor.
the first of the Noldorin exiles arrive, and
At the beginning of the Second Age,
soundly defeat Morgoth in the second
most of the Sindar ended up in Lindon
battle, the Dagor-nuin-Giliath. The Sin-
along with the other refugees of Beleri-
dar were very impressed with their
and. Gil-galad ruled a mixed Noldorin/
mighty kindred, and were thrilled to
Sindarin population there, though its
have such powerful help in their fight
mentioned that the southern region, Har-
against Morgoth. In fact, they first be-
lindon, was predominantly Sindarin.
lieved that the Noldor had been sent by
the Valar in order to help the Sindar in However, there were several groups of
their time of need. It wasnt until much Sindarin elves that left Lindon in order to
later that they learned the story of the live away from the Noldor. One group left
Noldorin exile and Feanors oath. early on (after learning about ship-
building from Cirdan) and founded Edhel-
I talked in more detail about the
lond, an elvish haven in what later be-
Noldorin/Sindarin relationship in the
came southern Gondor. This community
Noldorin section of this series, but its
had mostly sailed to Valinor by the mid-
worth mentioning here that the Noldor
Third Age, though. A more famous group
were the ones to give the Sindar their
of Sindarin elves left around the first one
name. It means the Grey or the Grey-
thousand years of the Second Age and
Elves. The origin of this name is a little
travelled east to live among the Silvan
unclear. Some believe it was because of
elves of Lorien and Mirkwood (more on
the silvery hair that Thingol and some of
them later.
his relatives had (though it wasnt actu-
ally all that common a hair color among
the Sindar, who were typically dark-

The Nandor were those elves who decided to stop and settle east of meant Green-elves. This new name was a reference not only to the
the Misty Mountains, instead of completing their journey to Valinor. green country of Ossiriand, but also to the Laiquendis tendency to
They were entirely made up of Telerin elves. The Nandor settled wear green clothes, so as to help them camouflage themselves in
along the river Anduin, while some went south and west into Eriador. the forest.

Their name was given to them by the Noldor, and it meant the Re- The Laiquendi came to the Sindars aid during the First Battle of Bele-
turners. Even though none of the Nandor actually returned to Cuivie- riand, with disastrous results. The Laiquendi had been lightly armed,
nen, the Noldor saw their refusal to go on as a sign that they were and many of them died in the battle (including their lord, Denethor.)
Avarin at heart. In fact, the Nandor were seen as virtually Avari, Afterwards, some returned to Ossiriand, and told their people of the
having not seen the sea or any of the Maiar. They also tended to in- horror of war. After that, the Laiquendi refused to take another king,
termingle with those Avari they encountered while wandering or go into open battle again, instead relying on stealth and secrecy
throughout Middle Earth. to defend their territory. Not all of the Laiquendi returned to Ossiri-
and, though. Some went to live in Doriath with Thingols Sindarin
Eventually, some of the Nandor arrived in Beleriand, under the lead-
elves. They didnt really get along with the Sindar, though, and in-
ership of Denethor. The Sindar called them the Danwaith (which is
stead stayed in mostly isolated communities away from Menegroth.
basically just Nandor in Sindarin), but the actual Nandor were still
It was said that some of them were darkhearted, and tended to
calling themselves the Lindar (suggesting that they saw themselves
give in under great strain. Tolkien suggests that Eol was actually one
as pure Teleri.) Denethors elves settled in Ossiriand (the southeast
of these Laiquendi elves that moved to Doriath.
region of Beleriand), and came to be called the Laiquendi, which
At some point, the Nandor become Noldorin domination. Beyond that, they
known as the Silvan elves (when this tran- had also come to a new ideological
sition took place, and why, is unknown.) standpoint: they wanted to join the Silvan
The Silvan elves lived mostly in Lorien and return to the simple life natural to
and Mirkwood (which was known as the Elves before theyd ever been ap-
Greenwood until midway through the proached by the Valar.
Third Age), and there they lived simple
Because of this, the Sindar in Mirkwood
peaceful lives without princes or rulers.
adopted the Silvan culture. In Lorien the
However, both the Silvan communities of
experience was very similar, except for
Lorien and Mirkwood came to be ruled
an influx of (Sindarin-speaking) Noldor,
by Sindarin elves. Sometime in the first
who arrived in Lorien as refugees from
thousand years of the Second Age, a
Eregion during the War Between the
relatively small group of Sindarin elves
Elves and Sauron midway through the
left Lindon and travelled east, where they
Second Age.
established Sindarin dynasties in the pre-
existing Silvan communities. Despite the original intention of assimilat-
ing in Silvan culture, the end result was
We dont know much about the elves that
that the Silvans were themselves Sindar-
moved to Lorien, but we do know that
ized by the Beleriandic influence of their
Oropher, the new king of the Silvan elves
new Sindarin and Noldorin members. Its
in Mirkwood, was a Sindarin elf originally
even said that, by the end of the Third
from Doriath. He and his companions left
Age, the Nandorin language was rarely
Lindon for various reasons. They didnt
used. From what we can tell, though, the
want to be merged with the other Sindar
relationship between the Silvan elves
of Beleriand, and they wanted to avoid
and their Sindarin rulers was a peaceful
one. While the Sindar were actually more closely related to their Te- evil that had to be dealt with. So Oropher and Amdir (the king of Lo-
lerin cousins in Valinor than they were to the Silvan elves, the Silvan rien) led their armies to Mordor. However, the Sindarin kings were in-
had always viewed themselves as fellow members of the Eldar, and dependent, and didnt like following the orders of Gil-galad, the High
so welcomed the Sindarin and Noldorin elves who joined their com- King of the elves. Because of this, and because the Silvan elves were
munities in the Second Age. less well-armed than the elves of Lindon, their casualties in the war
were much higher. Oropher himself died early on in the war, because
Under Sindarin rule, the Silvan elves became more ordered and wise.
he and part of his army charged before Gil-galad had given his or-
But they also became less isolated and protected from the wars and
ders, and so were out-numbered. All in all, barely a third of the Silvan
dangers of Middle Earth. Because of this, a few Silvan elves (most no-
armies returned home at the end of the war.
tably Nimrodel of Lorien) disliked the Sindar because they blamed
them for bringing war and danger to the Silvan lands. Meanwhile, Further Reading:
their Sindarin rulers disliked the Noldor for these very reasons.
The History of Galadriel and Celeborn by JRR Tolkien, in The
The strained relationship between the Noldor and the Sindarin rulers Unfinished Tales
of Lorien and Mirkwood came to a head at the end of the Second
Age, during the War of the Last Alliance. While the Silvan elves Artwork by Ted Nasmith, Alan Lee, and John Howe
wanted nothing to do with war, they recognized that Sauron was an
As you can see, the Teleri split into many smaller subcultures dur-
ing their history. Most of this happens before the Third Age,
though, so it seems appropriate to do a quick summary of where
all these groups end up in the later ages:

The Teleri of Valinor: Still in Valinor, as far as we know, having

a wonderful time.

The Sindar: Many have, at this point, traveled to Valinor them-

selves. Some remained in Lindon, especially at the Grey Ha-
vens, where Cirdan helps other elves sail west themselves. Oth-
ers live in Rivendell, a mixed Noldorin/Sindarin community. And
some others still live in the predominantly Silvan communities of
Lorien and Mirkwood.

The Nandor: At some point we stop referring to them as the

Nandor, and start calling them the Silvan. So...

The Silvan: Their population becomes increasingly mixed with

Avarin, Sindarin, and Noldorin elves. Their main communities in
Lorien and Mirkwood remain ruled by Sindarin or Noldorin lead-
ers, and much of the pure Silvan culture is lost to Sindarization.

The Laiquendi: After the First Age, they lived mainly in Lindon.

(Also, because of the complicated nature of the Telerin sub-

cultures, theres no timeline included in this section. I hope you