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Thread: Do elves reproduce?

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I mean I know that they reproduce, and they do it in the same way humans do. But it just doesn't make much sense, since they're immortal. If they reproduced just like humans, with a normal birth rate and a death rate of zero (since they're immortal) their population would be growing exponentially. There should be millions of elves by now. But there aren't. And plus, there should be a LOT of elven children (especially more since they age slowly) but you don't see that many. Is the answer that elves don't breed very often? This would make sense, because Arwen seems to be Elrond's only child; and although Celeborn and Galadriel have been together for thousands of years, they don't seem to have any kids (although I may be wrong about that). Maybe most of the elves that are alive at the time were the original elves brought to life by Iluvatar thousands of years ago. Any ideas?
You are right, the elves did not have children often. ()Celebrian, wife of Elrond, was daughter of Galadriel. The elves died often enough in war. When they frequently left for Valinor, their population went down. So they did not gain anything even when they had lots of kids in the First Age. But by the Third Age, they had fewer children seemingly, as we have mention of very few.
Elven population would not grow exponentially since Elven couples usually had children only after hundreds of years of marriage.

Also, since they were immortal, I think the majority of Elves never found a life partner or at least it would take a very long time. Marriage lasting an eternity would make them extremely picky.
Laws And Customs Among The Eldar explains that there were seldom more than four children in any house, and the number grew less as ages passed. And the reasons it came to pass that the Eldar brought forth few children (Feanor was renowned as the father of seven sons)...

A) in the begetting, and still more in the bearing of children, greater share and strength of being in mind and body goes forth than in the making of mortal children.

B) the Eldar would beget children only in days of happiness and peace if they could.

C) with the exercise of the power of generation the desire soon ceases and the mind turns to other things.
Thanks for everyone's responses! So do you think they have less of a desire to love than men?
But theirs was more connected to the spirit (fea) than to the body (hroa). So elevated again above the Mortal Kindreds.

So do you think they have less of a desire to love than men? 

 

If you're asking because of C (in my post above) I would add that I think this refers to the desire to have more children -- a different thing than the desire between Elves of course. While it's noted that the Eldar are seldom swayed by the desires of the body only, their spirits being great masters of their bodies, the fuller citation reads...

 

'Doubtless they would retain for many ages the power of generation, if the will and desire were not satisfied; but with the exercise of the power the desire soon ceases, and the mind turns to other things. The union of love is indeed to them great delight and joy, and the days of the children, as they call them, remain in their memory as the most merry in life; but they have many other powers of body and mind which their nature urges them to fulfill.'

JRRT, Laws And Customs Among The Eldar, Morgoth's Ring

 

I see nothing here, at least, that necessarily states the Elves stopped having sex after a given time, or did not find it enjoyable or meaningful.

To my mind Elves were simply more cerebral than physical, so much of their time was in beauty of thought and poetry and craftsmanship, perhaps learning to wield the sword in a beautiful magnificent way, talking amongst themselves and longing for the beginning again as it were. Careful to keep memory alive of their exploits and deeds and loves right from the Beginning.

I am sure they enjoyed marital love and affection the same as anyone, but it was not on the top of their list as it were. And as for the bringing forth children, i doubt it was more than how Illuvatar created them, it was just how it was with their kind, the same as the Hobbits seemed to be much more prolific and such. It seems the less time one had to live in Middle-Earth the more children they might be blessed with. I think it is obvious how much all the children, but in my mind Elven children were so carefully kept and loved and considered such a wondrous blessing. Strange come to think of it with Elrond having three. But then again he was half elven . Really i have no clue, just impressions.

 

I think your impressions on this are spot on Lee Lee. Also perhaps Illuvatar created the Elves with a slower fertility cycle than that of the Mortals of Middle Earth. This would make sense in an evolutionary and biological manner as it would prevent over population or at least the risk of one. Tolkien also mentioned that when the Men of the West were gifted long life following their relocation to Numenor, that their birth rate slowed down as their years lengthened. I guess Tolkien realised that with extended years of life over population would become a problem.


 

Exactly dearest Brego,. Just a moment ago as I was reading your post I saw you as it were perfectly groomed and wearing all white, you know like the chaps did in the time of Hercule Poirot, 1930's modernest ; funny how strange things your mind imagines stick with one. 

The slow fertility cycle makes sense, else can you really imagine an Elf wife bringing forth a babe every two years like many mortals and Hobbits. Rather a nightmare after say fifty years!

I wonder if it wouldn't happen with Elves as is does in the natural environment with animals high on the food chain.  Thinking, for instance, of the divine jaguar, the top animal in the ancient jungles of my country: these magnificent cats have dwindled in number due to human and industrial encroachment on their vital space.  There is less and less food for them, because their prey has also dwindled, and the long and wide miles they must have for their territories have been lost, converted to farmlands and factory farms, forests destroyed, plant and animal life sacrificed to the comforts of modern technology... sad...

I believe a similar scenario led the Elves to abstain from reproducing, as they watched their lands being progressively overrun by human populations multiplying as if there were no tomorrow.  Even from the First Age there are signs of elvish resentment of human migration, as the Elves of Ossiriand, for instance.  

And not just the physical space,  The race of Men, with a few brilliant exceptions, relate to the earth in a manner quite distant from that of the Elves, who in their age-long lifetimes came to understand something more of what was expected of Iluvatar's children.  The Elves grew to care for the earth and cherish all its olvar and kelvar, and probably began to envision a future filled with countless hungry and greedy grasping beings, their younger brethren, and so drew back from a competition with them, preferring to eventually cross over water into the West... 

Your so funny my dearest Lee Lee! And Marghana wise words as usual. Love all of the big cats and understand your meaning regarding the nature of it all. I wonder if there were Jaguars in Valinor...,

The slow fertility cycle makes sense, else can you really imagine an Elf wife bringing forth a babe every two years like many mortals and Hobbits. Rather a nightmare after say fifty years!

 

While this idea might makes sense, here JRRT has given at least three reasons of his own as to why the Eldar had relatively few children -- I think that's somewhat notable and the matter appears explained to my mind, and so, for myself at least, I don't feel the need to further speculate about fertility cycles...

 

... which is a bit different from speculating as to why family numbers grew less as ages passed, however [although here perhaps part of the answer might be hinted at in the text: 'There were seldom more than four children to any house, and the number grew less as ages passed, but even in days of old, while the Eldar were still few and eager to increase their kind, Feanor was renowned as the father of seven sons, and the histories record none that surpassed him'].

 bit different from speculating as to wht th

mmmm not sure about the meaning behind that Galin. We don't know how many years lay between the children, in this case the doomed Sons of Feanor. Could be a couple, could be a couple of hundred years. We also don't know for sure if Elves grown to full stature at the same rate as Mortals. Tolkien only states, in this quote, that the Elves may have chosen to have only few Elflings. I don't think it's clear at all.

Brego wrote: mmmm not sure about the meaning behind that Galin. We don't know how many years lay between the children, in this case the doomed Sons of Feanor. Could be a couple, could be a couple of hundred years.

 

Well the sons of Feanor were all born before Sun Year reckoning, and I don't need to know more detail than that regarding the point I was making with this citation.

We also don't know for sure if Elves grown to full stature at the same rate as Mortals.

 

As an aside, we do know that Tolkien wrote about this a number of times, and in a late text at least, the implication is that the Eldar grew at much the same rate as Men. Anyway back to the citation...

Tolkien only states, in this quote, that the Elves may have chosen to have only few Elflings. I don't think it's clear at all.

 

Well, not only did I not say things were clear, but I italicized 'might' because I know they are not. But the 'might' (as far as I meant it) concerns a fairly broad comparison that might be drawn from the text I provided: a comparison between early days when the Eldar were 'still few and eager to increase their kind' -- versus numbers in the family decreasing 'as ages passed'.

 

And even then, this 'perhaps' provides but part of the answer, as I wrote. As ages passed the Eldar were less few, generally speaking, and possibly (or arguably) thus less eager to increase their kind. Nothing more than that really; and which is a notably general point in any event, I think, considering wars in Middle-earth for example, and that circumstances in Aman versus Middle-earth were different as well.

 

The characterization of 'Eldar' aside for the moment, for example we know that after the Last Alliance Thranduil led back home barely a third of the army that had gone to war, and (Unfinished Tales) : 'A long peace followed in which the numbers of the Silvan Elves grew again; but they were unquiet and anxious, feeling the change of the World that the Third Age would bring. Men were also increasing in numbers and power.'

I interpret this (which I realize might be interpreted differently) to mean that a number of young Tawarwaith were born at this time (not including any 'Tauriel' incidentally). These are Silvan Elves of course, and even if my opinion is correct we don't know how many were born to given families at this time, but I'm just acknowledging the general nature of my point.

Yes Galin as usual with Tolkien, it's usually up to a readers interpretation, which is why he is so wonderful to read. All I know is there are no mistakes in nature, and if the Eldar or I should say all Elves had a similar fertility cycle as humans do, there certaintly would have been many more of them over the Ages.

Brego wrote: All I know is there are no mistakes in nature, and if the Eldar or I should say all Elves had a similar fertility cycle as humans do, there certaintly would have been many more of them over the Ages. 

 

Well not necessarily, for instance there could be other reasons... like the several reasons Tolkien actually describes in Laws And Customs Among The Eldar, Morgoth's Ring.

The text actually states: 'For these reasons it came to pass that the Eldar brought forth few children...'

 And for myself, I don't need it any more directly explained than that.

But, in the end, Illuvatar knew all things and that this or that would occur, it was all in the equation and ultimately if it were not his will, that would not have been allowed. So i go back to thinking it was merely his will.

Maybe they just don't like breeding. Ah, who am I kidding, maybe they just don't want kids. But I still can't imagine Elrond kissing on his wife, or reading stories to his kids.............

Technically Elrond was Half-elven but anyway why can't you imagine him reading stories to little Elrohir, Arwen, and Elladan?

I'll bet Elrond had a wonderful library too Smile Smilie

Well, i mean....he just is so stern. hmmmm, history of the Rings, he might read- maybe?

Well, in any case Tolkien's Elrond was...

'He was as noble and fair as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.'

JRRT, The Hobbit

Elrond possibly read The Awakening of the Quendi to his children, which [Tolkien explains] was actually written in style and simple notions to be a surviving Elvish 'fairytale' or child's tale mingled with counting lore.