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A History of the Peoples of the Eldar
In what is known as "beginning time", all the world was made. All plants, animals, rocks, waters... and three of the later four main races of people. One of the races was those who would later be called the Elves, or in a couple of their tongues Eldar, or Eldalië. Unlike Men and Dwarves, however, all the race was not born into one place at the same time. There were, from the very start, two distinct subraces of this people, one group born within the protected borders of Aman, the other in the eastern forested regions of Ennor. At the very beginning, they were much alike; a simple people, hunters and gatherers and explorers, who lived equally as much by animal-like instinct and some social interactions as they did sentient intelligence and other social interactions. In Aman, these people were ever after called the Minnonar, the Firstborn. In Ennor it is unknown what such people were named as, if anything.
At the very beginning, both groups were given a common language, which was not apparently given all at once but rather learned word by word as the peoples wished to name things or express themselves. The language of the people of Aman and the people of Ennor quickly shifted apart however; still similar at the start but differentiating in several ways. In these borning languages, the two groups became known as the Quendi, of Aman, and the Cwendi, of Ennor. (These names are pronounced, respectively, "khen’ dee" and "kwen’ dee".)
In time, both the Quendi and the Cwendi separated into tribes, or clans, or communities. In Aman, for a while the people remained simpler in nature though gradually more and more civilized, for the most part content to be wandering hunters. However, at some point, which is undefined in date but became known as the shifting place from "Beginning Time" to the "Golden Age", a more refined culture began to grow up. Quickly it spread, until even the simplest-hearted of groups found themselves caught up in it. This was the time of the glory of Aman, of great cities and proud leaders and new creations, and eventually, toward the end, of unrest and of Fëanor and the Silmarils, when finally darkness touched Aman. During this period of time, three main groups came to be, distinguishable by customs, style of living, and eventually somewhat also in appearance - the Vanyar, the Noldor, and the Teleri.
The Vanyar, the "beautiful ones", kept the closest to the ancient culture. They still preferred living inland away from the sea, in smaller towns rather than within the walls of cities, and many of them also remained hunters and farmers, though the Vanyar also had a rich artistic heritage. They were known as the "beautiful ones" for the designing of their clothing, their painting and stories, and their songs. Eventually through generations, many of them became white-to-golden of hair, and they have the brightest colored eyes of all Eldarin sub-races, often green or blue or hazel, or even sometimes nearly gold.
The Noldor, the "wise ones", became so named for their fascination with learning. They were the ones to develop metal-smithing, rock-work and sculpting, and jewel-craft, and also the ones who created a written alphabet for the Quendi language, which by this point had become known as Quenya. They studied forms of basic science and the workings of the world, and also gathered all history that was known, and wrote all they discovered into books. Among Eldar, libraries were a Noldorin invention, although this writing and storing custom was eventually taken up by the other clans as well. The Noldor were the ones known for building great cities of strength and magnificence, and eventually they also became the proudest people... which became their downfall. After generations the Noldor became mostly dark-haired, and dark, brown, or grey of eye.
The Teleri, the "last ones", were perhaps so-called because they were the last group to give up their simpler ways of life, the last people to embrace change, and in some ways the least influential as well. Dwellers by the sea and upon the nearby island of Eressëa, they were shipbuilders and explorers, as well as fishermen and creators of hauntingly beautiful music. They did not prefer to become much involved with the growing politics and interactions of the Noldor, and stayed muchly a people apart but for trading. They were very trusting though, and this eventually, sadly, harmed them. The Teleri as a people had generally light-colored hair, silver or pale-blond, and eyes with shades of grey and blue. They were the lightest-built of all the Quendi peoples, delicate but strong, and beautiful in both form and nature.
The pride of the Noldor, near the end of the Golden Age, ended up causing harm to many, not least of all themselves. Affected by an insidious working of Morgoth and his servants, the Noldorin leader Fëanor and his people began to become restless with their life in Aman. At first it seemed harmless enough, a desire to travel eastward and explore new lands, and some of the Vanyar and Teleri joined in that interest. However, when Morgoth stole Fëanor’s Silmaril jewels, events exploded. In a flurry of what must have seemed horrific events for a race unused to death (except for occasionally by an accident) or especially killing of their own kind, first Fëanor and his sons and followers battled to regain the jewels from Morgoth’s hand, then when the Dark One and his minions fled back across the sea, the Fëanorians as they became known seemed to lose all sanity. In a furious vengeance to regain the stolen treasures, the Fëanorians stormed the Telerin harbor of Alqualondë, where ships had been prepared for an exploratory journey across the sea. They stole several of the ships for themselves and their belongings, killing the mostly unarmed (but for some work-knives, fishing spears, and various other objects raised in defense) and untrained Teleri people who protested in a bloodbath later infamously known as the Kin-slaying, and then burning all the other ships before setting sail into the East.
The would-be explorers, a large group comprised of mostly Noldor and some Teleri, as well as a very few Vanyar, were now left without most of their belongings, and lost upon the shore. In fear of retaliation because of some possible connection between their desire to leave Aman and the Fëanorians’ brief war to do so, this vast host of people gathered all that they had left and turned their steps northward in self-exile, where after a long and dangerous journey across the Northern ice less than half of them would survive to reach Ennor.
Once in Ennor, however, the survivors quickly learned to thrive, learning new ways of life from the native Eldar whom, after hearing of the tale of these people being called to go West and refusing to leave their lands, the newcomers named the Avari, "unwilling ones". The Noldor retained their culture for a great part, building cities and recreating libraries and works of art, but also picked up the skills of weapon-making and the arts of battle. In later times the Noldor of Ennor would become known as the most powerful leaders and warriors of all the lands. The Teleri, as was their wont, moved southward and westward along the coast, forming towns and cities of fishing and shipbuilding. It is unknown how many of the already-few Vanyar survived; only two are later spoken of in history - Laurefindë and Erelindë of Gondolin, who were also Firstborn. As for the Fëanorians who had built fortresses into the mountains, their battle with Morgoth over the Silmarilli eventually came to the ruin of both the Dark One’s forces and the group of rebellious, Darkness-touched Eldar, although this end did not come without harm to nearly all the peoples of Beleriand in some way or another.
The Cwendi people, like the Quendi, had also eventually separated into clans or peoples, but the different groups were not so much separated by culture as by place. The Eldar of Ennor had explored and traveled much of the northern realms both east and west of the Hithaeglir ("Misty Mountains"), and had settled in a number of different regions. All the peoples remained somewhat similar to one another, however, and also quite a bit closer to their native instincts and nature than the peoples of Aman became. The life of the Cwendi was at first much like that of the early Quendi, but after a time became a much harder one. They were at one point called by the Valar to leave Ennor and travel to Aman for protection after Morgoth and darkness crept into their world, but the peoples born of Ennor refused to leave their home, and so when the darkness came they instead learned a different way of life. These people were not only hunters for food, but also hunters and fighters for survival against all manner of evil creatures, including orcs which had been made from their own kind. It is no wonder that they became so fierce, sharp of skill and mind, and honestly deadly.
This is not to say they did not have any culture, however. Many tribes did not much care for learning to write things down, although a few of the most western lands had a runic alphabet used for basic inscribing (still, few actual books or scrolls existed) which would later be adapted into the multi-cultural Angerthas. Instead, the Eldar of Ennor retained a rich word-of-mouth heritage of tales and song and skills, and enjoyed a number of the finer creature comforts of life, delighting in arts of cooking, beautiful weapons-crafting, and the making of clothing, bedding, and other things out of supple leather, softened wool, silk, and velvet. The pride of their families were their skilled warriors, and the joy of their people were the females and children of their race, well-honored and protected at any cost.
Sometimes the Cwendi peoples lived in more open areas, but generally all of the tribes preferred forest living. This gained them the name, later in time, of "Silvyn", wood-folk. Many of the groups of Cwendi that were, it is feared, are lost from knowledge forever, but some made their mark upon their world enough that the record-keeping of the Noldor retains their names. A few groups are known of distinctly. One is the Denwaith, whom the Noldor called the Nandor, who had their territory range among the rivers of southern and eastern Beleriand, on the edge of plains but still near forests and mountains for protection. The Iathrim perhaps were the group of Ennor natives most well-known in the First Age, the people of the powerful forest-and-cavern kingdom of Doriath, under Thingol and Melian, who made quite an impression on the Eldar from Aman in their intelligence and skill, their honor, and also their proud defiance; they perhaps were the most outwardly cultured of all the Cwendi. The Laegrim, Green-elves as they were later called, are barely heard of. They seem to have lived a close-to-original-nature lifestyle with simple ways but sharp intelligence and skill in the deep forests toward the south, a peace-loving people who were never great in number but nevertheless learned to be dangerous warriors against the evils that encroached upon their lands. The Taurwaith were the people who lived east of the Hithaeglir, in the area of what would become Greenwood and Lothlórien. They were not much known of by the Eldar who came from Aman until the Second Age, though Men and Dwarves of the First Age knew them well.
In the Second Age, the peoples of the Noldor, Iathrim, and Taurwaith visibly remained. Many of the other Silvan peoples, as well as the Teleri, seemingly had disappeared. The truth is, most of them had become part of a completely new group of Eldar, born of this new Age of Ennor - the Sindar.
The Sindar were called the "grey-elves" for a reason - theirs was a race and culture born of a complete mixing of the Calbin, as the Eldar from Aman had come to call themselves, "light-elves", and the native Silvyn/Avari of Ennor, whom the Calbin called Morbin, "dark-elves" (although the implied insult was not generally taken well). A number of the Noldor and Teleri had found interest in the ways of the Avari, and the Avari had taken interest in them. These people had begun to live together and to share with one another. It was not long at all before lone males or females from either side began to discover mates among the people of the other kind. This intermarrying quickly spread a rapidly-mixing culture across all Ennor west of the Hithaeglir, and it traveled like wildfire. A new language, Sindarin, born of a mixture of Quenya and various Silvan dialects, became the basic language of communication among the Eldarin race, and was even taken up as a high-tongue by Men that interacted with the Eldar. Quenya was quickly relegated to a language of ceremony, some poetry, and the more traditional of the Noldor. Silvan dialects were spoken only in the internal affairs of Doriath and by the Taurwaith, who by now were known of but who still held themselves rather apart. The Eldar of Ennor were becoming, despite some efforts to the contrary, one people.
For the most part, the only remaining true Noldor by the latter part of the Second Age, although some Sindar also dwelt among them, dwelled in the western kingdom of Lindon, under the High King Ereinion Gil-galad. The age of the great Noldorin fortress-cities and military-political power was gone. The only sign of the Teleri was in the seafaring culture of the Falathrim, much like their Teleri ancestors in their ways but noticeably now Sindar nevertheless. A good number of the Iathrim of Doriath who had survived the wars of the First Age were by this point moving eastward to join with their cousins in the land that would become Lothlórien under the leadership of Amroth, firstborn Sindar son of Celeborn of Doriath, an Avar, and Altáriel of the Noldor, who had chosen instead the name and life of Galadriel when she joined her husband’s people. The Taurwaith of Greenwood appeared the only people so far untouched by the ways of others - that is, only until Oropher of the Sindar won himself a place as their king. From then on, even this last stand of pure blood would be in some part mixed.
After the great battle of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men against the dark Lord Sauron, one of Morgoth’s chiefs, peace seemed to fall and reign for a time. Steadily, however, it was becoming more and more visible that the height of the culture and power of the Eldar was falling, and that a time when Men would rule was coming. The strength and range of the human race was already spreading to all corners of Ennor, Harad, and even the far East, and the fourth race, Hobbits, had now come to be firmly in Eriador as well. In response, many Eldar, Noldor and Sindar alike, began to travel to the harbors of the Falathrim for the purpose of sailing westward to Aman. There were those, however, who remained. A very few Noldor and some Sindar in what remained of Lindon, small groups of Sindar scattered across Ennor, the Sindarin/Silvan (with some Quenya language influence, however) mixed people of Lothlórien who now included the remnants of Doriath and who were ruled by Celeborn and Galadriel, and the still mostly Silvan people of Greenwood who were ruled by a Sinda king, now Thranduil Oropher’s son.
One remaining bastion of some of the more ancient Eldarin strength and culture remained in the hidden valley of Imladris, where Noldor and Sindar lived together and where Men and even occasional Dwarves were welcome. Imladris was perhaps the most unusual of all Eldarin realms of Ennor in this utter mixing of peoples and cultures, and even races. Its lord, Elrond the Peredhel, was himself of extremely mixed blood, having not only both Noldorin and Silvan heritage but also that of two separate lines of Men. Imladris was also where the last known remaining Vanya in Ennor dwelled, Laurefindë (now also known as Glorfindel) once of Gondolin.
By the end of the Third Age, the knowledge that it was the Eldar’s time to leave Ennor was strong and pained. Even from Lórien and Imladris people finally began to travel West. Many of the smaller Sindar communities were now completely gone, and in Lindon no full-blooded Noldor remained. During the War of the Ring Imladris and Lórien both became involved in a struggle that was nevertheless mostly one of Men and even Hobbits, and Greenwood, now called Mirkwood for the darkness that had crept around its borders, struggled mostly on its own against Sauron’s orc and spider hordes. After the War, the surviving Eldar began to move Westward as well, finally in the early Fourth Age leaving only the last remnants of Imladris and most of Greenwood in Ennor, along with a Silvan colony in Ithilien (part of the southern human kingdom of Gondor) which had been given to Legolas of Greenwood by Aragorn, king of Gondor, in token of their deep friendship. Some amount of Eldarin blood would be passed into the royal Gondorian bloodline by Aragorn, who had elven heritage, and his wife Arwen Peredhel, daughter of Elrond. However, for the most part the Eldar were gone from Ennor. Finally, after a few hundred years, even the stubborn Silvyn finally picked up and moved nearly en-masse to the West.
In Aman, the peoples of Aman, who had not changed that much since the beginning of the First Age, and the newcomers from Ennor were most likely expected to learn to integrate into one people. They did not, really, however no true animosity was shown either. Any Darkness that had been in the First Age did not appear to exist any longer. Still, many of the cities and communities of the Vanyar and Noldor and Teleri of Aman remained as such, and many of the people of Ennor formed their own settlements, with both sides keeping their own separately-grown cultures but learning to interact with one another.
The only unrest seemed to be in the Silvan peoples. Over time this did not much ease, as the Silvyn were natives to Ennor, unsuited to a calm and unchallenging life. Eventually, Thranduil chose to lead his people back to Ennor despite that it was nearly forbidden to do so, and spoke up to call any others who wished to return to go with them. Some few others did, mostly those of Silvan descent, and finally one last immigration of elven ships across the sea was made, eastward once more. Shortly thereafter, Aman was "removed from the circle of the earth", seemingly into a separate dimension or other plane. The Eldar there would continue their life as they always had. The Eldar who had returned to Ennor would never be able to go back.
Details on what happened afterward are scanty at best, but for histories of the race of Men alone. Humans did indeed come to dominate the world, Hobbit blood mixing with their own until the Hobbits as a race seemingly disappeared, although remnants of their culture remains even now in parts of far-western Europe, especially in England. Dwarves seemed to disappear, though whether they died out, remain hidden still today, or mixed with Men as did the Hobbits remains unknown. For a time the Silvan Eldar remained living in the area that was becoming eastern Europe, and were mainly unknown and kept separate although their territory was becoming increasingly encroached upon. Finally they decided to move, to travel westward to see if they could find some place less crowded.
That choice became their greatest mistake. Humanity, who had been through the Dark Ages and back, who had lost nearly all their ancient heritage and had lived unknowing of the existence of any other race for centuries, saw the Eldar as strange and probably cursed creatures. The Ruinyn were born, a group of Men known as the Hunters, and many of the Eldarin people were slaughtered before those that remained managed to escape to the temporary safety of the British Isles, and eventually Ireland, which they called Aivrien, where for the most part they were allowed to live in hiding and quickly became a part of Irish mythology as the Sidhe, a name borrowed from the Sindarin word sîdh (though in Gaelic it is pronounced differently). (Another, less-told but more serious name for these people is the Tuatha de Danánn.) They recovered in time from the harm done their people and multiplied, quicker than might be expected because some human blood was now becoming mixed with their own. A second group finally split off from the Sidhe, traveling to North America in search of more space, fewer humans, and more freedom of movement.
The Fifth Age brought the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution brought change - machines, more trade, more travel, and weapons of war. Guns in the hands of the descendants of the Ruinyn, who now could easily travel to places such as the Isles, became the end of a number more of the Eldar before several of the northern Irish clans rose up and destroyed those Ruinyn, sending a message that seems to remain today - the Sidhe, few as they are and mostly seen as myth as they are, are a part of Ireland, and protected. In North America, the Eldar had settled in the mountains and forests of the West and Northwest long before American settlers arrived. When finally interaction came again between humans and Eldar, trouble brewed once more, and the Darthor, the Remaining as they had come to call themselves, were forced to travel constantly to remain away from humankind, to remain safe. However, over time a number of little groups broke off and apparently intermarried with humans, forming a rapidly-growing peredhil race who remain hidden in some cases apart from, and in some cases where enough human blood is involved that the people appear outwardly human, among communities in some of the more rural areas of the Western United States and Canada. It appears that there are also a number of people who have been raised in such a fully-human culture that they themselves are unaware of another heritage but for occasional oddities about themselves. The main group of the Darthor in North America, although even there full-blooded heritage is no longer in the majority, appears to have settled somewhere in the wilds of Canada, and to have begun to fight back at the remnants of the Ruinyn that still roam and hunt their people.
Hopefully someday they will no longer need to hide. Most likely they will still hide. But still, the Eldar, remembered or not, have left their mark on the history of the world, and for some of us that mark is a little closer to home than that.