Elven History

Seeking knowledge in, of, and about Middle-earth.
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Beorhtnoth
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Elven History

Post by Beorhtnoth »

When Gandalf seeks knowledge of the One Ring, he journeys to Minas Tirith, the last refuge of Númenor and the repository for millennia of human history. I understand writing was an invention of the Elves, but I fell to wondering whether a written history is the preserve, or obsession, of Men, and that is a consequence of the gift of mortality. Whereas even the lifespan of a Númenórean at their height is measured in but hundreds of years, Elves are immortal. Elves have no requirement to preserve their past for posterity; they are posterity.

Is Elven history an oral tradition?

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Voronwë the Faithful
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Re: Elven History

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I would tentatively answer your question with a tepid "yes". I think your description of the written history as "the preserve, or obsession, of Men" is accurate. Note, for instance, Christopher's comment about the essay that he refers to as "Laws and Customs Among the Eldar":
It is not easy to say from what fictional perspective Laws and Customs among the Eldar was composed. There is a reference to the Elves who linger in Middle-earth 'in these after-days' (p. 223); on the other hand the writer speaks as if the customs of the Noldor were present and observable ('Among the Noldor it may be seen that the making of bread is done mostly by women', p. 214) - though this cannot be pressed. It is clear in any case that it is presented as the work, not of one of the Eldar, but of a Man: the observation about the variety of the names borne by the Eldar, 'which ... may to us seem bewildering' (p. 216; found in both texts, in different words) is decisive.
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
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Frelga
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Re: Elven History

Post by Frelga »

Elven history is probably not quite the oral tradition in the sense that mortals think of it. Where we passed tales of battles and heroes through a dozen generations, losing and adding information along the way, Elves could just go ask grandma.
There should be a word for the microscopic spark of hope that you dare not entertain in case the mere act of acknowledging it will cause it to vanish, like trying to look at a photon. You can only sidle up to it, looking past it, walking past it, waiting for it to get big enough to face the world.
- Terry Pratchett, Mort
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