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Old 10-20-2007, 03:11 PM   #1
A Little Green
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On elf children

Now I have no idea whether this topic has been discussed before, nor do I know whether this is the right place for this.

Anyway, I came up with this question:

If elves indeed live eternally if not slain in battle, do their children grow as fast as human kids or slower or what?

It would sound silly to me that they would be adults in some twenty years and then live as adults for thousands of years... But also the thought of two hundred years old children sounds silly.

Has Tolkien written something on this topic in HoME or Letters (I have read neither) ?
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Old 10-20-2007, 03:32 PM   #2
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There's quite a bit about Elf Children in HoME X, Morgoth's Ring (well worth getting a copy if you want to know more about Elves!). In here it tells you that Elf children did grow more slowly than children of Men. In Middle-earth, Elves also bred more slowly, avoiding having children during times of trouble for example, so there was less likely to be a population explosion.

Though what the population situation was like in The Undying Lands I shudder to think - I have visions of Galadriel returning there to find it crammed with skyscrapers, the people forced to live in tiny Tokyo style flats and her moaning and saying "it all used to be trees and fields around here".

Maybe they had found a way of shrinking themselves to make more room? In which case I hope Frodo did not contract the Green Death.*



*this may be understood by Vonnegut fans...
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Old 10-21-2007, 02:48 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by A Little Green
It would sound silly to me that they would be adults in some twenty years and then live as adults for thousands of years... But also the thought of two hundred years old children sounds silly.
Indeed; it is somewhere in the middle:
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Originally Posted by Laws and customs of the Eldar, Aelfwine's Preamble, Later Quenta Silmarillion, HoME X
Not until the fiftieth year did the Eldar attain the stature and shape in which their lives would afterwards endure, and for some a hundred years would pass before they were full-grown.
They would wed in their fiftieth year and would generally have no more than four children; their time of generation was in their youth or early life, within a short space of years after they were married. I will look some more on other legends, such as the 144 First Elves or the march to Valinor, perhaps I can find something interesting about the rate of their population growth.
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:01 AM   #4
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[QUOTE=Lalwendë;534374]

Though what the population situation was like in The Undying Lands I shudder to think - I have visions of Galadriel returning there to find it crammed with skyscrapers, the people forced to live in tiny Tokyo style flats and her moaning and saying "it all used to be trees and fields around here".

Maybe they had found a way of shrinking themselves to make more room? In which case I hope Frodo did not contract the Green Death.*



Chuckle! The mind boggles... However, from what we see of the earlier Elves in the Silmarillion, overcrowding doesn't seem to be a problem, because they're pretty murderous and tend to get killed in battle, quite a lot. Even if they do go to the halls of Mandos, they'd probably wait a while to be recycled, by which time some more Elves would have been killed fighting each other... I would have thought, mind you, that a race that was all but immortal wouldn't have too many children in the first place, but that's not an issue either.
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:30 AM   #5
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However, from what we see of the earlier Elves in the Silmarillion, overcrowding doesn't seem to be a problem, because they're pretty murderous and tend to get killed in battle, quite a lot.
"Pretty murderous"? That's quite a stretch; when talking about the events of the First Age, at least, we must definitely take into account the oath of Feanor and the curse of Mandos, which severely skew the behavior of many (important) elves. Later on, when "the curse was put to rest" and the threat of Melkor disappeared, the Elven society was free to develop naturally.
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Old 12-01-2007, 08:46 AM   #6
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Please check out the thread I started awhile ago, named Elven Children. I refreshed it to active topics for you.
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Old 12-05-2007, 12:56 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Raynor View Post

They would wed in their fiftieth year and would generally have no more than four children; their time of generation was in their youth or early life, within a short space of years after they were married. I will look some more on other legends, such as the 144 First Elves or the march to Valinor, perhaps I can find something interesting about the rate of their population growth.
My goodness, this sounds like elves engaged in sexual intercourse solely for procreational purposes. Or do you suppose that their fertility was magically--opps, artistically--stimulated by the marriage vows and then ceased once the correct number of children were produced? Or perhaps elves through their great gifts of arts and crafts actually perfected natural forms of family planning? Could an elven woman control her ovulation through osanwe?

Or was Eru simply more restrained in what he allowed of elven population growth than what he allowed of the hobbits or of men in later ages?

EDIT: Opps, just saw Valier's other thread. Still, I think this topic might lend itself to a slightly different perspective than that thread? Perhaps Estelyn can merge them if she thinks my post belongs on the other thread?
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Old 12-05-2007, 02:01 PM   #8
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If I can phrase this delicately, LACE makes it clear that while elves have sex soley within the context of marriage it was to them not merely a necessity to the production of children but a great pleasure.

Since consummation was integral to the validity of a marriage and there was usually a significant gap between the marriage and first childbirth and long spaces between children I think it is reasonable to assume that it was a recreational as well as procreational activity.

LACE also states that elves put more of their own strength into their children which is a reason for their having few children. Also that the elvish body was subject to the will which implies that elves could contol their fertility by mind over matter - lucky things! However it does seem that Elvish libido and fertility were things that, like vacuum packed food, had a potentially indefinite shelflife when unused didn't keep long once opened, not quite single use but only a few hundred years in a lifespan as long as Arda...
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Old 12-05-2007, 09:03 PM   #9
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LACE also states that elves put more of their own strength into their children which is a reason for their having few children. Also that the elvish body was subject to the will which implies that elves could contol their fertility by mind over matter - lucky things!
Well, this is a bit of a conundrum, isn't it? If elves can subject their body to their own will and therebye control their fertility, doesn't that mean they don't collaborate with Eru in the transmitting of life? So that Eru is not the supreme source of little elven people? (Does that mean that every little elven person is not sacred?) Not of course that Middle-earth has to follow Catholic doctrine, but it is an interesting difference from the doctrine of Tolkien's faith.

Which also raises another interesting point, although this possibly gets us beyond the specific topic of this thread. It appears that Tolkien created each race on Middle-earth with its own particular pattern of transmitting life. Hobbits apparently are (very) fecund, except of course those who don't marry. Dwarves are dwindling possibly because they lack an adequate number of dwarven uterii (uteruses?). We know what the problem is with ents. What is the birth rate of the race of men?

The Flame Imperishable seems to be dispersed unevenly amongst the various races of Middle-earth. Is this significant or is it just a random bit of musical variety? Why does the rhapsody of reproduction in Middle-earth differ among the races?
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Old 12-07-2007, 12:56 PM   #10
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Which also raises another interesting point, although this possibly gets us beyond the specific topic of this thread. It appears that Tolkien created each race on Middle-earth with its own particular pattern of transmitting life. Hobbits apparently are (very) fecund, except of course those who don't marry. Dwarves are dwindling possibly because they lack an adequate number of dwarven uterii (uteruses?). We know what the problem is with ents. What is the birth rate of the race of men?

The Flame Imperishable seems to be dispersed unevenly amongst the various races of Middle-earth. Is this significant or is it just a random bit of musical variety? Why does the rhapsody of reproduction in Middle-earth differ among the races?
Assume humans are the standard, as that's at least common knowledge. It's stated somewhere that the Númenóreans started out okay, but then began having less births and thinking more about their ancestors than their descendants. Was this due to population feedback - too many people triggers a mechanism that lowers birth rate? Or was it that, after attaining the basic necessities and comforts of life, the other pursuits of the Númenóreans left no time for children.

"Gotta go and sail around the world, honey."

Hobbits aren't as industrious or adventurous and seem to be still in the 'obtaining the comforts' stage. Not sure what their birthrate was, but after the scouring, it picked up again as the hobbits had to 'fill in the corners' regarding necessities after such a bad year. Was being in this growth stage due to the environment? The Númenóreans had everything and were becoming bored and stagnant. The Hobbits were renewed.

Elves? They're always dreaming of yesterday and children are the future. Plus, as Frodo notes, elves are apt to say both yea and nay, and so maybe every elf just spends years being confused. And didn't Thingol and Melian stare at each other for an eternity or two? If this is flirting/courting, one wonders how long everything else may take - or how long it takes to get to that part of the process that would produce children.

Peter Jackson has his orcs hatch from mud. Maybe elven children were delivered in the air via Eagles. And the number of Eagles was much less than the number of elven parents, and so there'd be some delay - or you got a bunch at once as the Eagles were delivering in your area that Age.

Gimli hints at the Dwarves. Being not original creations of Eru (you know what I mean), they are somewhat different. Hammering and smithying all the time leaves little time for children; these are an industrious folk. But, when Gimli comes into his own at the Glittering Caves of Aglarond, there's not much for his folk to do - maybe one chip of stone on a whole anxious day, and so maybe their population increased, as, well, there was little else to do.
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