• Divisions of the Elves

    When reading The Simarillion, The Unfinished Tales of Nύmenor and Middle-earth and the Histories of Middle-earth there can be a lot of confusion when dealing with the different names and divisions given for the Elves. The above chart displays most of the ones that we deal with in the books referenced above and also allows us to gain some insight into the actions of some of the characters in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I will try and explain each division of the Elves so that they make sense and give a few named examples, when applicable, to better illustrate how they relate to the stories themselves.

    The Quendi

    The Quendi is the name that the Elves give themselves when they first awaken in Culviénen. It means those who speak with words, as they had met no other creatures that could sing or speak. This term coverall all Elves and is in their own language.

    The Eldar

    The Eldar is the name that Oromë gives the Elves after finding them wondering in the starlight of Culviénen. It means Children of the Stars. The term is first applied to all Elves, but later came to describe the Elves who undertook the Great Journey to Valinor.

    The Avari

    The Avari is the name given to the Elves who did not depart in the Great Journey and leave Middle-earth for Valinor. Avari means The Unwilling. Some of the Elves who did not leave were afraid of Oromë, having heard rumors of a Great Rider that captured or devoured Elves. Others simply did not wish to leave. After the Great Journey set out, some Avari wandered westwards and later mingled with the Nandor and Laiquendi. Ages later, when Men, the Edain, awoke, they first of Elves met the Avari who taught them music and language. It is also supposed that from the Avari who were captured by Melkor, the race of Orcs was made.

    The Vanyar

    The Vanyar were also called the Minyar, or First ones. Imin, the first Elf to awake in Culviénen was the the first Vanyar, though their leader was called Ingwë who became High King of the Elves and sat at the feet of Manwë. The Vanyar were said to be greatest of all the Elves with their skill of poetry. Vanyar were highest of the High Elves, though they were the least in number. Once they arrived, they never left Valinor.

    The Noldor

    The Noldor were also called the Tatyar, or The Second. Tata, the second Elf to awaken in Culviénen was the first Noldor, though their leader was called Finwë who became High King of the Noldor in Valinor. The Noldor were accounted the greatest peoples in Middle-earth for their skills in lore, warfare and crafts. In Valinor their skills grew even greater, as was their thirst for more knowledge. Finwë’s son Fëanor spoke out against the Valar when Melkor slayed his father and stole the Silmarils and persuaded the Noldor to forsake Valinor and travel into Middle Earth. The Noldor (Fëanor specifically) crafted the first weapon, killed the first Elf (Kinslaying) and caused the Noldor to be exiled from Valinor under the Doom of Mandos. Galadriel was one of the Noldor that left Valinor for Middle-earth.

    The Teleri (1)

    The Teleri (1) were also called the Nelyar, or Third. Enel, the third Elf to awaken in Culviénen was the first Teleri, though their leader was called Elwë (later Thingol) who became the first High King of the Teleri. The Teleri were the greatest in numbers and during the Great Journey to Valinor, many of them stayed in the areas of Middle-earth they had traveled through. The Teleri were the last of the three clans of Elves to enter Valinor. The Teleri divided at least two times during the Great Journey to Valinor.

    The Teleri (2)

    The Teleri (2) were the Teleri that eventually entered into Valinor and dwelt in the city of Alqualondë on the shores of Aman. Ossë helped them craft great ships that were pulled by swans and they loved the sea. When the Noldor left Valinor, they demanded the Teleri hand over their ships and many Teleri were slain in the Kinslayings when they refused. Though the Teleri later forgave the Noldor, they never forgot the Kinslaying.

    The Nandor

    The Nandor were Teleri that stayed in Beleriand during the Great Journey and never traveled into Valinor. Linwë led them South along the Great River as they loved water and green things, learning herb-lore and learning much about beasts and trees. Having spread throughout Beleriand, some became known as the Laegrim near Doriath, and later became known as the Laiquindi near the end of the First Age. Others hid themselves, becoming a scattered folk indistinguishable from the Avari, who would become the Silvan.

    The Laiquindi

    The Laiquindi were also known as the Green-elves. They were Nandor that, being led by Denethor, left their homes near the Misty Mountains, departed south to Ossiriand, though they had little peace as Morgoth’s Orcs brought war onto Middle-earth. The Laiquendi were ill equipped to handle warfare and suffered great losses, with Denethor himself slain in the First Battle of Beleriand. After the battle many of the Laiquendi departed Ossiriand to dwell near the Sindar of Thingol in Doriath, being known as the Guest Elves. They camouflaged themselves in green and thus became known as the Green-elves. They, played little part in the Noldor’s Battles of Beleriand, but did aide Beren and Dior in the battle against the dwarves who had killed Thingol. They later fell out of history, mingling with other elves in Eriador during the Second Age along the shores of Lake Nenuil.

    The Silvan

    The Silvan were also known as the Wood-elves and were Nandor that had stayed behind near the Misty Mountains during the Great Journey. After the War of Wrath Oropher of Doriath, father of Thranduil, father of Legolas, along with a few Sindar came into the forest realm east of the Misty Mountains and became King of the Silvan Elves and established the Woodland Realm of Greenwood the Great. The Sindar merged with the Silvan elves, adopting their language and lived a more rustic life than they had in Beleriand. Also Amdir, father of Amroth came into the land of Laurelindórean (Lórinand) and ruled over the Silvan elves there as their King. At this time, some of the Avari mingled with both Silvan elves as they were akin to the Nelyar.

    The Sindar

    The Sindar were also known as the Grey Elves. When, during the Great Journey the host reached Beleriand, the Teleri King Elwë wandered in the forest and was bespelled by the Maia Melian. Olwë and many of the Teleri chose to not wait for Elwë to be found and departed for Valinor. Those who stayed to search for Elwë called themselves the Eglath, or the Forsaken. When Elwë awoke from his trance with Melian as Thingol he created the kingdom of Eglador where he ruled with Melian in the city of Menegroth. Other Teleri stayed behind in Beleraind as well. They had fallen in love with the shores of Middle-earth through their friendship with the Maia Ossë. Through their leader Cirdan, they became known as the Falathrim, and though they were not of the realm of Eglador, they took Thingol as King. Other Teleri also settled in Nevrast and Hithlum, though they did not form realms of their own. Collectively the Elves of the Eglador, the Falas and the northlands were called Sindar. In the Second Age, some Sindar who had not departed Middle-earth came into the forest realm of the Misty Mountains and became the rulers of the Silvan Elves., establishing the Woodland Realms of Greenwood the Great and Lórinand.

    The Eglath

    The name that the Teleri who stayed behind to search for Elwë. After Elwë returned, the Eglath took the name Sindar and no longer refered to themselves as Eglath. Eglath means The Forsaken.

    The Falathrim

    The Falathrim were Teleri who, during the Great Journey decided to not depart Beleraind for Valinor because of the love they had for the shores of Middle-earth. As the Valar Ulmo conducted the Teleri into the West, the Maia Ossë convinced some to remain behind. They settled onto the western shores of Beleraind, constructing the Havens at Brithombar and Eglarest. Their leader was Cirdan the Shipwright, though they recognized Thingol as King of the Sindar. When the Noldor returned to Middle-earth, they befriended Finrod’s people, who helped them strengthen the Falas. They were also allied with the people of Nargothrond. They participated in the Battles of Beleriand, though through them they soon withnessed the destruction of all the Falas and most of its peoples. Cirdan escaped, with Gil-galad to the Isle of Balar for a time before departing for Lindon at the end of the First Age to build the Grey Havens.

    Classifications of the Elves

    Though, as we have seen there were many divisions of the Elves throughout the Ages, the Elves are also classified as being either Caliquendi or Moriquendi amongst themselves. These classifications have to do with Elves that had been to Valinor while the Two Trees were still ablaze with light, and those who had not.


    Calaquendi were elves that had been to Valinor and seen the Light of the Two Trees. They are also known as High Elves and Elves of the Light.
    Elves who are considered Caliquendi are the Vanyar, the Noldor and the Teleri (2). Also, because he was one of the ambassadors the Elves had sent to Valinor before starting out on the Great Journey, Elwë (Thingol) is considered to be Calaquendi even though he did not complete the Great Journey with the other Teleri (2). In the Third Age, at the time of the Lord of the Rings, Galadriel and Glorfindel* are the only two remaining Calaquendi in Middle-earth.


    Moriquendi are the Elves that have not been to Valinor and seen the Light of the Two Trees. They are also known as the Elves of Darkness or Dark Elves. In practice, it only applies to the Avari as the Sindar and Nandor take offence to the name, and instead are called Úmanyar.
    Elves who are considered Moriquendi are the Avari, Sindar and Nandor. In the Third Age, at the time of the Lord of the Rings, Elrond, Arwen, Legolas, Celeborn and Cirdan are all Moriquendi.


    The Úmanyar is the term that Elves refer to the classification of the Sindar and the Nandor as they find the term Moriquendi offensive or rude. The Sindar and Nandor did start out on the Great Journey with the host of the Elves of Middle-earth, save the Avari who refused. They were persuaded to stay in Middle-earth by the Maia Melain and Ossë .

    * Added Glorfindel as I had completely forgotten about him. If you remember in the Fellowship of the Rings, when Frodo sees Glorfindel at the crossing of the Brunin, he sees him as a white spirit, and this is because he is in fact Calaquendi. He was of Noldor and Vanyar blood and departed Valinor with the host of Noldor, though he did not participate in the Kinslayings or the burning of the ships.
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