The oldest and wisest people of Middle-earth, the Elves possess great nobility and power. They are the only people never to have willingly served the Shadow. Elves stand as tall as Men-—taller
than some, though they are of slighter build and greater grace. Their features are surpassing fair, evoking awe among the lesser peoples. Most have dark hair and eyes, though those of some houses have golden hair, and they are always beardless. Feeling no bite of cold, Elves wear light garb, often sewn with great skill. They revel in the wonders of nature, the beauty of songs and tales, the glimmer of the stars, and the voice of the waters. But in their hearts, they also possess great sadness, knowing that all things pass, and that they cannot preserve them. Elves do not age, not do they die, unless wounds, grief, or some artifice of the Enemy takes hold of them and ends their existence in Middle-earth. To other peoples they seem at once aged and ageless, possessing the lore and wisdom of experience together with the joyful nature of youth.
The Elves take great care to trace their lineages and differentiate themselves, one group from another, but for the most part they have three main divisions:
Also known as the High Elves, the Noldor were those Elves who went across the Sea. In time, at the urging of Féanor, they rebelled against the Valar, and Féanor led them back to Middle-earth. Powerful and learned, even compared to most Elves—they have great love of lore and the arts of making. The Elven smiths of the Noldor surpass all others, even the Dwarves, in their crafts. They count the Rings of Power among their works. By the end of the Third Age, most Noldor had returned to Valinor via the Grey Havens, leaving only a few in Wandering Companies in Eriador, or lords of Elven-kingdoms who yet preferred to remain in their lands.
Galadriel, Gildor, and Glorﬁndel are of the Noldor.
Known as the Grey Elves, these are the Elves who began the journey across the Sea but chose to remain in Beleriand and the west of Middle-earth. Although their love For the wide lands of Middle-earth is strong, since the end of the First Age they have slowly been departing for the Uttermost West. Once awakened in them, the Sea-longing does not die. Although considered less powerful and wise than the Noldor, the Sindar remain more numerous in the Third Age, and they are renowned for their gifts of music and song.
Legolas, Cirdan, Celeborn, and Thranduil are all Grey Elves. Elrond's Elven heritage comes partly from the Grey Elves.
THE SILVAN ELVES
Also known as Wood-elves and East-elves, these are the Elves who, like the Sindar, did not undertake the journey across the Sea, preferring to remain in Middle-earth. Unlike the Grey Elves, most ceased their journey before even crossing the Misty Mountains. (Some later pressed on as far as Lindon.) Accounted of less wisdom, learning, and majesty than either the Noldor or the Sindar, they outnumber their cousins. During the Third Age they live in realms, such as Lorien, ruled by Noldorin or Grey Elves. They tend to distrust strangers and outsiders, at least until they get to know them.
The history of the Elves begins in Valinor, where they dwelt in bliss among the Valar, beneath the light of the Two Trees. But Morgoth the Enemy slew the Trees and stole the Silmarils, great jewels forged by Feanor, which held the Trees' light within them. Feanor led the Noldor back to Middle-earth to hunt for his stolen works. For centuries, aided at times by the other Free Peoples, the Noldor warred on Morgoth to recover the Silmarils, but they never succeeded. Only at the very end of the First Age was Morgoth overthrown. Thereafter, the Valar allowed the Noldor to return to Valinor, and permitted other Elves to journey there for the first time. Many Elves chose to remain in Middle-earth, for a time at least, out of pride or for love of its lands. In the Second Age, Gil-galad, last High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth, ruled a great realm in Lindon, Cirdan maintained the Grey Havens, Elrond founded the refuge Imladris (Rivendell), and Galadriel and Celeborn assumed leadership over the Elves of Lorien. All were nearly destroyed in the War of. The Elves and Sauron (SA 1693-1700), but the Elves held fast, and finally won with the help of‘ the Men of Numenor. At the end of the Second Age, after Sauron brought about the destruction of Numenor, Gil-galad joined with Men to formthe Last Alliance, and he and Elendil gave their lives to defeat the Dark Lord. During the Third Age, though they still had stronghold such as Imladris, Lorien, and the Woodland Realm of Thranduil in Mirkwood, the Elves dwindled as Men became more powerful. May departed from the Grey Havens to the lands across the Sea. Most spent their days in idle, joyful wandering or other pursuits, or governed their seemingly timeless realms with a strong though easy hand, aiding the causes of the Wise as they deemed best. After the War of the Ring, when the true Dominion of Men begins, most of the remaining Elf-lords, including Elrond and Galadriel, depart as well.