Elven Sub-Groups

The Vanyar

The Vanyar had golden hair and fair skin, with eyes of clear blue or violet. They were the tallest and most beautiful of the Elves, beloved of the Valar. Ingwë was their king, and as such he was King of all the Elves. Their musical skills were unsurpassed, except perhaps by the Lindar (Teleri) who learned the art of song from the Maia Ossë. The Vanyar spoke pure Quenya, the original tongue of the Eldar, which was in fact the Elvish version of Valinorean, the mental language of the Valar.

The Noldor

In appearance the Noldor had hair of dark brown to raven-black, fair skin, and dark brown or grey eyes — with one exception: the children of Finwë, King of the Noldor, and Indis of the Vanyar. Their sons, Fingolfin and Finarfin, both had hair of gold like their mother, and the trait was passed to their offspring as well. This included, of course, Galadriel, the daughter of Finarfin.

The Noldor were a noble and courageous race, who behaved with dignity and heroism, even under their Doom. Most of these kindred were of substantial build. Some of the greatest warriors of the First Age were Noldor Lords, some of whom were able to hold their own in single combat with a Valaraukar (Balrog), a great demon of Morgoth. Fingolfin, son of Finwë and Indis, was accounted the greatest warrior in all of Endor, surpassing all the other Elves and Men.

Another one of the great Noldor warriors was Glorfindel, of the house of Finarfin, who lived in Elrond’s House in the Third Age. Below is an excerpt from LotR where Gandalf, in Rivendell, is explaining to Frodo what happened at the Ford when the Hobbit briefly put on the One Ring, and Glorfindel stood against the Riders:

…those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and Unseen they have great power.”

I thought that I saw a white figure that shone and did not grow dim like the others. Was that Glorfindel then?” 

Yes, you saw him for a moment as he is upon the other side: one of the mighty of the First-born. He is an Elf-lord of a house of princes.” (LotRI)

The Noldor spoke Quenya amongst themselves and with the Vanyar in Aman, but the vast majority in Middle-earth adopted Sindarin as their everyday tongue, preserving Quenya as much as possible as a ritual language for specific occasions. Most were also able to communicate in most of the western Silvan dialects.

The Teleri

The third group of the Calaquendi had sandy, blond or light brown hair and grey or hazel eyes. In general, they were more of a mix of types than the Noldor or Vanyar. They were also, of course, larger kindred, with greater opportunity for diversity. The true Calaquendi Teleri, who lived on Eressëa, tended to be taller and stronger, with the distinctive High-Elven bearing and aura.

The Sindar and Nandor

Less tall and lordly than the Eldarin kindred, these Elves were nevertheless more noble than the Avari. All tended to be slender, possessing a wiry strength and great agility. Physically they resembled the Teleri, being an offshoot of that group, though they lacked the aura of the Calaquendi, having not seen the Light of Aman. Most, because of their preference for spending extended periods of time outdoors, had darker, lightly tanned skin. Not surprisingly, this group spoke Sindarin almost exclusively.

The Avari Moriquendi

These were the Silvan Elves, most rustic of the Kindred, and most plentiful. They were similar in appearance to the Sindar groups, but slightly lesser in stature, with darker hair (generally chestnut to dark brown) and eyes. Spread throughout Middle-earth, they spoke their own tongues amongst themselves, but when living with the higher kindred invariably adopted Sindarin. The Silvan Elves were also known as the Wood-Elves, for they lived in the woods, forests, and mountains of Middle-earth.

The Classification of Elven Groups

The Classification of Elven Groups

There are two ways to classify the noble Quendi, for their history states that they were twice sundered. The first separation of their people produced the Eldar and Avari: the People of the Stars” who made the Great Journey toward the Light of Aman, and the Refusers” who remained in the East of Middle-earth. From the Avari, came the Silvan Elves of lore, who constitute most of Middle-earth’s Elven peoples. The Eldar produced the three great kindreds of the Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri, many of whom now reside in the Undy¬ing Lands.

It was the Eldar who produced the second sundering. Dividing before they left the shores of Middle-earth, the Teleri produced three sub-groups that never emigrated to Aman and never saw the enchanted light of the Valar’s Blessed Realm. They, like the Avari, are called Moriquendi, Dark Elves” Their brothers who went west into Aman are called the Calaquendi, or Light Elves”.

The Calaquendi includes the Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri of the Undying Lands — together with the Noldor who returned to Endor — while the Sindar and Avari of Middle-earth are counted as Moriquendi. Thus, as noted, there are two ways to classify the Quendi: (1) the Avari versus the Eldar; and (2) the Moriquendi versus the Calaquendi. The follow¬ing tree illustrates their relationship:


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