Did All Elves Leave Middle Earth

The Elves felt compelled to leave Middle-earth because the Valar (deities of Tolkien’s world) were spiritually summoning them to their ultimate destinies. The Valar saw the Elves as a race above the others, and thought that they would fare better if they lived in the Blessed Realm (also known as Aman) with the Valar.

Many ages later, after the Valar defeated Melkor in a second great war to free Middle-earth from his tyranny, the Valar sent their emissaries throughout Middle-earth to summon the Elves to Valinor again. This time the invitation seems to have been compulsory to the extent that all Elves were bestowed with a deeply buried desire to seek out the Blessed Realm should the desire awaken within them. That desire might awaken for any number of reasons. The most important reason appears to be the doom of fading.

When Sauron arose and declared himself in the year 2951 an exodus of Elves from Middle-earth soon followed. In “The Shadow of the Past”, the second chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, the narrative mentions that many Elves pass through the Shire on their way to the havens, never to return to Middle-earth again. Only a small number of Eldar and a larger number of Silvan Elves remained in Middle-earth by the time the War of the Ring began.

Death was thus very much a part of the destiny of the Elves who remained in Middle-earth. It was a true physical death of the body but not a death by withering or aging such as mortal Men and Dwarves experienced. Whereas Men’s spirits were said to leave the world completely and “seek elsewhere”, Elves’ spirits would remain in the world until the end of Time, after which they had no knowledge of what would happen to them.

The Valar knew there would be strife between the Elder Children (the Elves) and the Younger Children (Men) and Adopted Children (Dwarves) of Iluvatar. But they also feared that the Elves would be preyed upon by Melkor and his servants. When the Valar learned that the Elves had awakened in the far eastern reaches of Middle-earth they launched a war against Melkor and took him prisoner.

The Noldor of Eregion believed they could delay that inevitable choice for all Elves if they could find a way to preserve Middle-earth, to delay the effects of Time. When Sauron learned of this desire he taught the Gwaith-i-Mirdain, the Jewel-smiths of Eregion, how to create the Rings of Power. The Rings were constructed to hold back the force of Time, thus preserving Middle-earth and the Eldar (according to one note, Tolkien estimated the Elves felt the effects of Time in Middle-earth at a rate of 1% while the Rings functioned). This act was a second rebellion for the Noldor because it controverted the natural laws set down by Iluvatar. And by doing so the Noldor unwittingly exposed themselves to Sauron such that he was able to forge the One Ring to enslave them.

3 Answers 3 Sorted by:

Tolkien is quite clear on a number of occasions that the last of the Eldar (i.e the Elves of the West who undertook the Great Journey) left Middle-earth in the years following the defeat of Sauron, but sometimes this may have been many years after, and hes not always clear in exactly how long.

For example, in the prologue to the Lord of the Rings we read the following:

And in Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age (published in the Silmarillion) we read:

There was however another group of Elves known as the Avari, who refused the Great Journey, and many of the Mirkwood and Lórien Elves are members of this group. Its not told whether or not these went West or remained in Middle-earth following Saurons defeat, but one would expect that they would have little motivation for going West since they refused the summons of the Valar in the first place.

The primarily linguistic essay Quendi and Eldar, published in History of Middle-earth 11, sheds some additional light on relationships between the Eldar and the Avari, noting in particular of the Tatyarin Avari (i.e those from the second clan, from which also came the Noldor) that:

But also:

So in the end the matter of whether these Elves stayed or left is left open.

To add to this discussion, I do believe Thranduil, Celeborn and Círdan all eventually left together. In addition to what has been posted here, Tolkien also writes of “The Last Ship” that sailed West in a collection of 16 poems published in 1962, which he attributes to being part of The Red Book of Westmarch. The poem speaks of a ship seen by one of Sam’s relatives sailing West with 3 elven Kings wearing crowns in the 4th age. Since we do know that Thranduil, Celeborn and Círdan all remained in Middle-earth into the 4th age, it is reasonable to conclude that this is a glimpse of their final departure. Both Thranduil and Celeborn had ruled kingdoms and Círdan had previously told Gandalf that he would remain until the final ship sailed.

There is a footnote in RotK in which Arwen ruled with Aragorn, “in glory and bliss, Queen of Elves and Men.” This suggests that there were some Eldar remaining, who were subjects of Gondor and/or Arnor.

These probably left with the passing of Arwen.

Thanks for contributing an answer to Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange!

  • Please be sure to answer the question. Provide details and share your research!
  • Asking for help, clarification, or responding to other answers.
  • Making statements based on opinion; back them up with references or personal experience.
  • To learn more, see our tips on writing great answers. Draft saved Draft discarded

    Revolt of the Ñoldor

    When the tragic death of his father became known, the wrath of Fëanor could no longer be contained. He gathered all the Ñoldor in Tirion and beneath the Mindon Eldaliéva he urged the Ñoldor to return to Middle-earth in pursuit of Melkor and the Silmarils swearing an oath to war with Melkor, now known as Morgoth. After being banned by the Valar for the rebellion and the violent deeds of the House of Fëanor, the Ñoldor returned to Middle-earth as exiles to battle Morgoth, and to establish and rule realms of their own.[5]


    Did every Elf leave Middle-earth?

    Only the realms of Lindon, Lothlórien, and Rivendell survived as havens of Elven bliss. High Elves continued to live in Lindon but most sailed into the West after their king’s death along with many Sindar. The last of the High Elves left Middle-earth after the final defeat of Sauron in the War of the Ring.

    Do all the Elves leave at the end of LOTR?

    But whether they’ve been to Valinor before or not, all elves go there when they die, and all elves can leave Valinor and sail to the rest of Middle-earth if they want — though that hasn’t happened particularly often in Tolkien’s work, and when it has it’s usually a big deal.

    How many Elves are left in Middle-earth?

    Let’s say “most”, with a remnant population of 10,000 staying behind. So, 40,000 elves leave the building after the destruction of the Ring. It’s implied that most leave through the Grey Havens, though it’s quite clear that at least one (Legolas) took a different route, building a ship in Ithilien in F.A. 120.

    Related Posts