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23 Foreyule
T.A. 3018: The Company of the Ring stays in Rivendell preparing for the journey ahead.
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Half-Elven Mortality
Based on Barrow-Downs Forum material compiled (and mostly written) by Legolas
Any errors of spelling or grammar have been corrected silently.


"I understand that Elrond and his brother Elros (Aragorn's ancestor) were half-Elven. After the War of Wrath, Elrond chose to be an Elf while Elros chose to be a man. How did he do that? How can a person relinquish his or her immortality? Is it when they marry a Man? Any input on this would be appreciated." (-LaurinaAinur)

"Since Arwen had a choice of whether or not to be immortal, would her children also get the same choice? Could some of Arwen and Aragorn's children be mortal, while others could be immortal?" (-Galadel Vinorel)

This 'choice' is the choice of the Half-elven. Arwen's father and uncle, Elrond and Elros, were the children of Elwing and Eärendil, who united the bloodlines of Túor/Idril and Beren/Lúthien. These two bloodlines are the only marraiges between an elf and a man. Because their ancestry was part elven and part man, a choice was appointed to Elrond and Elros by Eru.

One may then ask "Wasn't Lúthien Half-elven?" She was, but she was Half-elven (Thingol) and Half-Ainu (Melian). Both races are immortal, presenting no controversy. She wed Beren, a man, which means their son, Dior Eluchíl, was Half-elven. Being part mortal and part immortal, his fate isn't clearly presented to us; however, he is slain before the Half-elven choice is given, along with his two sons, Eluréd and Elurín. His daughter Elwing wed Eärendil (son of Túor and Idril, the other man-elf unification). These two were given the choice. Elwing chose to be counted among the elves. Eärendil did too, for her sake.

"The Half-elven, such as Elrond and Arwen, can choose to which kind and fate they shall belong: choose once and for all (Letter No. 154)."

"To him therefore was granted the same grace as to those of the High Elves that still lingered in Middle-earth: that when weary at last of the mortal lands they could take ship from the Grey Havens and pass into the Uttermost West; and this grace continued after the change of the world. But to the children of Elrond a choice was also appointed: to pass with him from the circles of the world; or if they remained, to become mortal and die in Middle-earth (Appendix A, Lord of the Rings)."

"Arwen was not an elf, but one of the half-elven who abandoned her elvish rights (Letter No. 345)."

"Why was that choice actually given to Elrond's children? For Elros chose to be a Man, and no choice was given to his children, so why to Elrond's? Ilúvatar and the Valar didn't care very much about the Men, it seems." (-Afrodal Fenyar)

"The view is that the Half-elven have a power of (irrevocable) choice, which may be delayed but not permanently, which kin's fate they will share. Elros chose to be a King and 'longaevus' but mortal, so all his descendants are mortal, and of a specially noble race, but with dwindling longevity: so Aragorn (who, however, has a greater life-span than his contemporaries, double, though not the original Númenórean treble, that of Men). Elrond chose to be among the Elves. His children - with a renewed Elvish strain, since their mother was Celebrían dtr. of Galadriel - have to make their choices (Letter No. 153)."

Arwen chose mortality and wed a mortal, thus their children would not have the choice. Elladan and Elrohir are in a different situation - if they chose to share elven fate and wed elven maidens, their children too would have the choice.

Afrodal's comment about Eru and the Valar not caring for men is misleading. The Valar did not have the power to give immortality, nor did they have the power to revoke it. That power is held only by Eru.

"Immortality and Mortality being the special gifts of God to the Eruhini (in whose conception and creation the Valar had no part at all) it must be assumed that no alteration of their fundamental kind could be effected by the Valar even in one case: the cases of Lúthien (and Túor) and the position of their descendants was a direct act of God. The entering into Men of the Elven-strain is indeed represented as part of a Divine Plan for the ennoblement of the Human Race, from the beginning destined to replace the Elves (Letter No. 153)."

Note that in the quote above, only two beings were given mortality/immortality, subsequently changing their 'fundamental kind.' Lúthien was allowed to become mortal and wed Beren because of her great deeds and Túor, a man, was granted immortality for service to Ulmo.

Primary sources:
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (153, 154, 345)
The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A
The Silmarillion (for the tales of Lúthien and Beren, Elwing and Eärendil, etc.)

Forum resources:
On Half-elven Mortality I
On Half-elven Mortality II
On Half-elven Mortality III
On Half-elven Mortality IV


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