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Elvish habitats


Oct 18 2013, 11:50am

Post #1 of 14 (428 views)
Elvish habitats Can't Post

We know that Elves in Middle-earth live in a variety of habitats. Some in cities above ground, some in cities underground (Nargothrond) and others in trees.

Is there any indication how the elves of Doriath lived? Did they all live in Menegroth, or throughout the woods? If so, is there any indication that they lived up the trees, as the Elves in Lothlorien are said to do, and as some elves in Mirkwood are said to do?


Oct 18 2013, 2:37pm

Post #2 of 14 (282 views)
Doriath was a Sindarin kingdom [In reply to] Can't Post

I expect that the Elves of Doriath were a bit more settled than the Wood-elves of Mirkwood. There were probably more permanent settlements although treehouses might have still been common. I doubt that all of the Elves of Doriath would have moved into Menegroth--unless Thingol specifically ordered it. The entire nation was protected by the Girdle of Melian.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Oct 18 2013, 5:27pm

Post #3 of 14 (265 views)
a Hobbit Hole, an Elven...elevator? [In reply to] Can't Post

As the Elves of Doriath were almost entirely Sindar it is likely they lived in a cave system that had Menegroth as the center of civilization. As Elves enjoy themselves by walking in the woods and they do not sleep, there is no need to live in the trees themselves. There is a comparison made with the Green Elves, who moved from Doriath to the southern forests and how they didn't really mesh with the Sindar- and these Elves are relatives of the Lothlorien and Greenwood Elves, silvan Elves who are more in tune with the forest.

The story of Doriath emphasizes how Thingol employed the Dwarves to build Menegroth and supply the Sindar with weapons, so Meengroth was probably not a small city and more akin to a Dwarven city-complex like Moria.

As the Sindar are more majestic than the silvan Elves it is most likely they did not live in the trees; at least in Thranduil's case he has a throne room and palace underground while his people live in the trees. Yet Celeborn, an arguably more senior Sindarin Elf lives in the trees with his Noldor wife and silvan subjects.


Oct 20 2013, 8:18pm

Post #4 of 14 (217 views)
Cities or nothing [In reply to] Can't Post

That seems to be what Tolkien gives us about Elven habitats. Even in Valinor, they live in Tirion, Alqualonde, or somewhere on Taniquetil, address unknown--did the Vanyar have a city or scattered cottages or sleep on Manwe's lawn?

In Beleriand, there's a principal city/fortress for every realm, but nothing about how people lived outside it, if they did at all. Were Elves confined to city-states, or were these just the capital cities standing out among towns and villages? It's hard for me to picture what an Elven village would be like.

If Lorien Elves live in trees, either in Caras Galadhon or little outposts, and they're Silvan Elves, my guess is that Elves of Mirkwood and possibly Ossiriand do the same. Doriath? I'm guessing they do the same too.

Gildor and his people had their woodland abodes like the one in the Shire that they visited while running across Frodo. SInce many Elves were nomadic, is this a common thing, to have scattered, nature-friendly hostels with no roof but a nice ambiance? More questions than answers.

Tol Eressea

Oct 21 2013, 1:50pm

Post #5 of 14 (203 views)
The tree dwelling ways [In reply to] Can't Post

I've understood the wood-elves lived up in trees for security - surely a cottage is both more practical and more comfortable than a tree house (and you need some damn big trees to build a decent talan.) Often in Elven realms there were underground fortresses or stone castles to protect the people; Thranduil build an underground fortress for his wood-elven folk in the model of a Sindarin realm Doriath. Perhaps no such fortress was built in Lórien because it lacked suitable location for it.

With this logic the people of Doriath probably wouldn't need to live up in the trees, both because they had Menegroth, and because Doriath was guarded by the Girdle anyway. But perhaps the custom was still familiar to them. Thingol did build a tree-house to imprison Lúthien.

And yes, the great stories are centered around people of noble birth, and of political and/or military importance. That's why we only visit the political centers. But the majority of the population was made of common people, who farmed, herded and hunted, and they didn't all live in the capitals of their countries. Use Mirkwood as an analogue for Doriath. Thranduil and some of his folk live in the Halls, but Bilbo also stumbles on a village populated by commoners. This of course makes sense. As magical and mysterious the Elves are, they too need to cultivate their food and get their raw materials from somewhere. They can't run a functional society by sitting in treetops and pretty halls and singing about past heroes. Tongue

But every word you say today
Gets twisted 'round some other way
And they'll hurt you if they think you've lied


Oct 21 2013, 2:07pm

Post #6 of 14 (193 views)
You sound a bit like Galadriel, lol [In reply to] Can't Post

As magical and mysterious the Elves are, they too need to cultivate their food and get their raw materials from somewhere. They can't run a functional society by sitting in treetops and pretty halls and singing about past heroes. Tongue

With her remark to Frodo: "But do not think that only by singing amid the trees, nor even by the slender arrows of elven-bows, is this land of Lothlorien maintained and defended against its Enemy."

And since I bring up that quote, what I'm never sure of is if she's making a small joke. It sounds like a joke to suggest: "Lorien's military defense is based on singing amid the trees." Oh, really?


Oct 22 2013, 12:11am

Post #7 of 14 (181 views)
You are probably right [In reply to] Can't Post

The Elves of Doriath were not Silven Elves and most likely lived on the ground, not in the trees. I'll go further and suggest that they probably favored permanent settlements over temporary ones; although, I still don't think that the majority of them lived in Thengel's Halls.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

Tol Eressea

Oct 22 2013, 7:32am

Post #8 of 14 (168 views)
I'm sure too they at best spend their holidays in Rohan! ;) // [In reply to] Can't Post


But every word you say today
Gets twisted 'round some other way
And they'll hurt you if they think you've lied


Oct 22 2013, 3:33pm

Post #9 of 14 (159 views)
Oops! Of course, I meant 'Thingol' [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sure too they at best spend their holidays in Rohan! ;)

Sorry, that should have read "Thingol's Halls" not "Thengel's". My mistake!

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Oct 22 2013, 3:45pm

Post #10 of 14 (161 views)
interesting question [In reply to] Can't Post

the elves of doriath were sindar. they did not travel to aman. they were of the folk that had originated on the mainland, and had stayed there. these were the people, and their descendants, who awoke in cuivienen and walked the forests as "rustics." did the rustics, left to their own devices, without any influence from the noldor (or melian), build cities? if so, on what would they have been patterned?

melian probably brought architectural notions to thingol and the sindar, from which menegroth arose. but did these architectural notions, these modes of living fully supplant the ways that existed before them?

re the lothlorien elves... perhaps this might have been an instance of the noldor rulers adopting the ways of their more rustic kin, and perhaps refining them.


aka. fili orc-enshield
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Oct 23 2013, 7:25pm

Post #11 of 14 (152 views)
Parma Eldalamberon [In reply to] Can't Post

In PE 17 [page 108] Tolkien notes that before the coming of the Exiles a large part of the Sindar lived in primitive conditions, 'mostly in groves or forest-land; permanent built dwellings were rare, especially those of smaller kind corresponding more or less to our 'a house'.

He then notes that the Eldar, after reaching Beleriand, long continued with a 'nomadic, mobile' life even after those among the Sindar who still desired to cross the Sea had abandoned hope. 'Thus the earliest essays of the Sindar in masonry were on the West coasts in the realm of Cirdan...'; including harbour-works quays and towers.

After the return of Morgoth their building remained undomestic, being mainly devoted to defenseive works. Their skill developed rapidly during their association with the Dwarves of the Ered Luin, and later still more enhanced by the great arts of the exiled Noldor. And...


'These latter had great effect in those regions where the Exiles and the Sindar were intermingled; but the Exile's arts and habits had little or no influence in Doriath, the realm of Thingol, owing to his hatred of the sons of Feanor. In Doriath the only great permanent dwelling was Menegroth, which had been constructed with the aid and advice of the Dwarves: excavated not 'built', and underground in the manner of the Dwarves: grim, strong, secret, though made beautiful within by the Valian arts of Melian. Outside the buildings of the period, the Siege of Angband, were mainly of defensive or warlike character: walls and battlements and forts. Even the great 'house' of Finrod, Minas Tirith...'

JRRT, Words, Phrases, and Passages, 1960 [I think] or around this year

And it goes on.

I wish this delved into a bit more about Doriath here.

Pun intended Smile


Oct 23 2013, 7:32pm

Post #12 of 14 (132 views)
Thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess that my first post was closer to the mark than I thought.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Oct 23 2013, 7:46pm

Post #13 of 14 (150 views)
I think Tolkien really hated to think about this stuff. [In reply to] Can't Post

None of that makes sense from the point of view of any known human culture, so we are left with the mysterious "Elvish ways" explanation of how they actually lived, ate, built, thought, etc. That would be OK, except of course it is necessary for us to identify with the Elves somewhat or we wouldn't want to read their legends. For Tolkien, the necessary connections are primarily emotional and mythical rather than practical or mundane; a passable to excellent set of heroic stories is the result. But those who then want to 'learn more' about the Elves are left quite high and dry.

I have always loved the BotR verdict on this question:
As with most mythical creatures who live in enchanted forests with no visible means of support, the elves ate rather frugally, and Frito was a little disappointed to find heaped on his plate a small mound of ground nuts, bark, and dirt.

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Oct 23 2013, 8:06pm

Post #14 of 14 (169 views)
I'd quite forgotten that! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the passage from BotR, I had to laugh out loud! Haven't read that in over 20 years - I'll have to dig up my copy.


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