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Minas Tirith Forums » History of Middle-earth » How old would Elves be in "human years" when they turn adults?
Author Topic: How old would Elves be in "human years" when they turn adults?
laurelindo
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I've heard that Elves become adults when they turn 50, but what exactly does that become in human years?
In the Blessed Realm one "Tree year" was something like 7 solar years, so does that mean an Elf has actually lived for 350 solar years when (s)he becomes an adult?

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Galin
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Hello! I think the numbers --50 but for some 100-- are meant to represent Sun Years.

However this is a complicated topic with various quotes to consider: for example (they' are the Númenóreans): 'Thus (as the Eldar) they grew at much the same rate as other Men, but when they had achieved 'full growth' then they aged, or 'wore out', very much more slowly.' Note 1, The Line of Elros, Unfinished Tales

Or a very late reference (author's notes to NKE or 'neter, kanat, enek'): Note 1: 'C.E. ? netthi. C.E. tth > Q., T. tt; S. þþ > þ. nette meant 'girl approaching the adult' (in her 'teens': the growth of Elvish children after birth was little if at all slower than that of the children of Men). The Common Eldarin stem (wen-ed) wendé 'maiden' applied to all stages up to the fully adult (until marriage).'

JRRT, from Vinyar Tengwar 47, texts generally dated 1967-70

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laurelindo
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Yeah, I just found out that one Tree Year is more or less equal to 10 human years - this truly makes human years seem extremely short.
Actually lots of things seem to be much longer in years for the Elves, and even 50 normal human years seems like an incredibly long time to be a child/youth.

[ 07-19-2011, 04:01 PM: Message edited by: laurelindo ]

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Galin
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Tolkien would even (later) consider that one Valian Year might equal 144 Sun Years, but the chronology of the Annals (Aman and Beleriand) as written in the early 1950s reflect the lesser amount (around 10-ish). But it must not be thought that actual time passed more slowly in Aman in any case (not that anyone does think this), even though growth and change were slower -- thus in a sense 'time' passed more slowly in Aman, if one considers time as the effects of time.


It seems in the later 1950s Tolkien imagined that (this is my interpretation based on the texts Aman, the Athrabeth, and Laws and Customs all published in Morgoth's Ring): in their beginning in Middle-earth, it took roughly 3000 years for an Elf Child to grow to be an Elf-man or Elf-woman, or around 21 yéni. A yén is an Elvish Long Year equal to 144 Sun Years, as noted in The Return of the King and as used by Galadriel. This slow rate appears to have also been the case in Aman (see Aman for the text I'm basing this on). And in this conception, the Valian Year equals the Elvish yén, incidentally.

However Laws and Customs states that it took 50, and for some 100 years, for Elves to attain the body in which they would afterwards endure. This is obviously significantly lesser than 3000! Yet in the Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth, Finrod seems to say he notices the change of Elvish bodies is swifter -- in Middle-earth -- than it was in the beginning (and one of the texts here had 'growth' instead of 'change').

So despite the major difference in years, I'm wondering if these three texts possibly represent the same concept -- they appear to be written at about the same time (late 1950s or early 1960s) in any case.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? At this point Tolkien might have also been thinking of a much greater amount of time between the awakening of the Elves and the return of the Noldor -- much greater than that imagined when one Valian Year was 'only' around 10-ish Sun Years -- which might help account for the drastic reduction in the Elvish maturity rate, allowing more years in which it could arguably occur in Arda Marred.


But that said, Tolkien appears to have dropped this idea in any case, as this...

quote:
(...) nette meant 'girl approaching the adult' (in her 'teens': the growth of Elvish children after birth was little if at all slower than that of the children of Men). The Common Eldarin stem (wen-ed) wendé 'maiden' applied to all stages up to the fully adult (until marriage).' JRRT
... is dated to 1967-70, written after all the three texts I just noted here.


I tend to doubt all these ideas were intended to be part of the same conception -- that is, even the 50 or 100 had itself internally (within the story) later reduced to Elves growing at about the same rate as Men -- of if so, had this not happened yet by the time Elfwine was being instructed? but I thought I would toss this (to my mind remote) possibility in, in any case.

[ 09-21-2011, 12:14 PM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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Roll of Honor pi
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[] [] []
Do you have a photographic memory?
[]

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Galin
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Not even close!

In fact I had not (well enough) remembered the relationship of the text Aman with the Athrabeth until it was pointed out to me again on the interweb (at another forum), nor that the first text had arguably, at least, hinted that 3000 years refers to a rate intended for the earliest Elves of Middle-earth.

Anyway, although the three texts appear to be generally related with respect to when Tolkien wrote them, I'm still not sure they represent the same idea with respect to Elven maturity rates. And I think (not sure) that a description in the Narn (which relates to the growth of Elven children) was written at about the same time too!

But I would need to refresh my memory about that []

[ 09-22-2011, 04:37 PM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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Michael Martinez
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Tolkien's early histories for the Elves would not have allowed for such long childhoods and adolescences as 3,000 years of the sun. The Elves would have been having babies at a much faster rate. It was only in their later history where they began stretching out the generations and having fewer children, at least as far as the Eldar were concerned. Elrond's marriage and children may have been exceptional in the number of years that transpired between marriage and first birth.

However, as Tolkien was never really consistent in these matters, he would have had to put something "into print" for it become fixed in his point of view, as Christopher points out. He only felt bound to retain what had appeared in print, although he made a few revisions of those "established facts" as well through the various editions.

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Galin
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By the way, in contrast to something I already posted, Wikipedia currently states...

quote:
(...) Some commenters [1] suggest that these new figures would be too long if applied directly to the existing dates and therefore the new definition is a wholly different measure than the one used in the timeline and cannot be applied directly. In contrast, Tolkien described time as having flowed more slowly in Aman, such that a Valian year there would 'feel' like the passage of a single solar year in Middle-earth despite being much longer.
I cannot agree -- the text entitled Aman relates:

quote:
'Time in Aman was actual time, not merely a mode of perception. As, say, 100 years went by in Middle-earth as part of Arda, so 100 years passed in Aman, which was also a part of Arda. It was, however, the fact that the Elvish speed of 'growth' accorded with the unit of Valian time that made it possible for the Valar to bring the Eldar to dwell in Aman.'

JRRT, Aman

It is speed of growth, not actual time -- and the reference to Middle-earth is not about 'feel' but the amount of relative growth within a 'year' (considering 144 here).

The overall message with respect to Men in Aman might be said to be (in part) about feel, in the sense that Men would feel brief by comparison to the world around them -- because in Aman they would age and die at the same rate as they would in Middle-earth, and thus would die in less than a 'year' in Aman...

... but again that's a relative comparison: for a Man living to 80 or 85 years in Middle-earth would live the same amount of actual time in Aman in any case -- but for example, if a Man, when but a child, planted a tree in Aman, the Man would live out his whole life before this tree would change by even one year of relative growth (for its kind) in Middle-earth.

[ 10-27-2011, 05:53 PM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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Michael Martinez
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The Wikipedia articles are an incredibly poor source of information on Tolkien's world. A couple of people who had an agenda got into those articles a few years ago and screwed them up royally, and then argued with anyone who tried to fix them, leading less-informed Wikipedia community members to decide not to support the corrections for lack of "consensus".

Avoid Wikipedia when it comes to anything to do with Middle-earth. The Tolkien biographical article is passable.

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Hamfast Gamgee
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I must say that I find it difficult to imagine one valar year been 144 middle-earth years. For a start at this time they were on the same physical plane so how could just travelling from one continient to another cause such a dramatic time-shift? Also that means that the entire events of the 1st age of the sun lasted around 4 valar years. There does seem quite a lot of dramatic material for that to be the case.
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Roll of Honor Athene
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*chuckle* I don't think this is a time shift thing, it's just that a year is defined as a different length of time by the Valar and by the denizens of M-e.

On real planets and moons, the year is defined by the length of time taken for a satellite to completely orbit its parent. Example; the Moon's year (and its day) is 28 Earth days long. Uranus' year is 84 times longer than ours. There is no actual time-shift occurring, it's just that the planets are different distances away from the Sun and so take longer to go round.

I suppose in Arda, where the length of a year is arbitrary as it doesn't orbit anything, then a year can be as long as you want it to be. []

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Galin
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Yes that was my point above, that actual time is not different.

According to the text Aman, the Valian Unit or 'year' was: '... related to that process which may be called the 'Ageing of Arda' to put it briefly, and was said to be assigned by the Valar.

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Hamfast Gamgee
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Ah, ok, thanks that explains it! I wonder why I thought otherwise? Oh well, I really should read Home a bit more. Did the Valarian years cease at the ages of the sun? Or would one imagine that they still counted them in Valinor in that manner. 144 is one gross as well, isn't it?
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Galin
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Well, as I say, relative growth being slower is like time being slower, in a sense, so maybe that explains the confusion.

Again, we should keep in mind that when Tolkien wrote these Annals the figure he had in mind was 1 Valian Year = 9.582 Sun Years, not 144. External considerations can confuse things here, as the text Aman is later and deals with a different number, for example.

[ 11-05-2011, 01:58 AM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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Numenorean Sword Trainer
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quote:
I suppose in Arda, where the length of a year is arbitrary as it doesn't orbit anything, then a year can be as long as you want it to be.
Then how would time be measured, or should we really just relax? []
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Michael Martinez
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Readers have struggled with Tolkien's measurements of time in part because they have leaped to some unsupportable conclusions.

For example, in THE LORD OF THE RINGS we are told about the 144-sun-year-long "year of the Eldar". People have tried to equate that with Tolkien's other references to 144-year cycles, but the evidence indicates that he was constantly shifting around, revising old manuscripts with notes, writing new essays to explore ideas (often abandoning them in the middle), and never really sticking to any particular set of "facts".

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A new Middle-earth archive...
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Galin
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quote:
Readers have struggled with Tolkien's measurements of time in part because they have leaped to some unsupportable conclusions.

For example, in THE LORD OF THE RINGS we are told about the 144-sun-year-long "year of the Eldar". People have tried to equate that with Tolkien's other references to 144-year cycles,...

You mean, equating it with the Valian Year measurement from Morgoth's Ring? and if so, equating it in what sense? as, very generally speaking, both are reckonings of the same amount of actual time -- that is, both the Valian Year and the Elvish Long Year (or yén) = 144 Solar Years...

... beyond that, what have been the conclusions? again if I'm even close to guessing at what you mean here.

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