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Discussing: Question About Avari Elves - Physical Appearance

Question About Avari Elves - Physical Appearance

I have some questions about the Avari, the Elves who refused the Great Journey and stayed at Lake Cuivienen. There is a lot written on the Eldar and the Sindar, but I can't find much on the Avari. What I would like are some references from HoME and/or Unfinished Tales which might shed light on the hair color and eye color of the Avari. I have never researched elves before, so I don't know which works are considered canon for standard First Age through Fourth Age fiction (by "standard" I mean stories which accept The Silmarillion, parts of Unfinished Tales, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as part of their own canon).

What hair colors and eye colors might these Avari Elves have? I have searched around Tolkien forums, and find that the majority of people think they should have brown to black hair. Some people also think that, since these elves are the descendants of the first elves, they might also have blonde, red and silver hair as well, although this would not be as common as brown and black hair.

I haven't found anything about eye color on any of my searches. However, Meaglin was described in the Silmarillion as having "dark" eyes, and he was half Noldor and half Teleri. Unfortunately, it does not seem that Tolkien ever specified which shade his eyes were, only that they were "dark." (Maybe he meant black or dark brown?) I also read on a Tolkien wikipedia that Olwe had blue eyes, and he, too, was Teleri. I don't know if the blue eyes part is true or not, since the site didn't quote their sources. Would it be safe to assume that Avari could have grey, blue, and "dark" eyes? What about other shades, such as brown, green and hazel?

If Tolkien never expressly said what the Avari looked like, then I guess it is up to the writer's imagination. However, I don't want to break any major canon rules (ie, if Tolkien specifically said that only certain groups of elves have certain physical traits, I don't want to write an Avari elf as having those traits).

Any help is appreciated.




Re: Question About Avari Elves - Physical Appearance

While Tolkien has never (as far as I know) described the physical appearance of the Avari, there are hints that may help in deducing just that.

It is generally believed that there were three kindreds of Elves present in Cuivienén: The later Vanyar, Noldor and Teleri, with Ingwe, Finwe and Elwe and Olwe who led them on the Great Journey to Valinor. However, it seems that loyalties were a little more complicated prior to that journey, HoMe X, Morgoth's Ring, mentions that

    [...]  the
    kindred of  Ingwe, and  the most  part of  the kindreds  of Finwe
    and  Olwe
,  were swayed  by the  words of  their lords,  and were
    willing  to  depart  and  follow  Orome.  And  these  were  known
    ever after as the Eldar, by the name that Orome  gave to  them in
    their  own  tongue. (Emphasis mine.)

So, apparently some of the Noldor and Teleri remained (according to the essay "Quendi and Eldar" in HoMe XI, War of the Jewels, half of the Noldorin population chose to remain behind, with an equal number of Teleri also staying, though their host was greater and so suffered less loss), and would consequently also share in the physical appearances of their kindreds, that is dark hair (black or brown) and grey or blue eyes for the Noldor (Finwe was said to have had blue eyes in the Statute of Finwe and Míriel, we know of Feanor that his eyes were grey), or more rarely, silver hair (Míriel, also stated in the Statute) or copper/red hair (Mahtan, Maedhros, Amrod and Amras). Red hair at least seems to have been comparably rare as it is usually mentioned explicitly, and the four elves we know of having that coloring all had a special epesse to go with it: Rusco (fox), Russandol (redhead), and Ambarussa (top-russet). 

For the Teleri/Sindar we get much fair and silver hair, however there is a notion in that this was restrained to the kin of Elwe: Elwe himself had silvery-grey hair and his 'eyes were like stars' (HoMe X). Celeborn and Eärwen were silver-haired, Olwe and Círdan had white hair, Olwe had blue eyes according to HoMe X, and Círdan's eyes in RotK are also described as 'keen as stars'. Lúthien, while she Melian's dark hair, had grey eyes. Thranduil, probably a distant relative, had golden hair. However, all this was comparatively rare: 

    Elwe himself had indeed long and beautiful hair of silver hue,  but this
    does not seem to have been a  common  feature of the Sindar,
    though  it  was found  among them  occasionally, especially  in the
    nearer  or remoter  kin of  Elwe (as  in the  case of Círdan). In
    general  the  Sindar  appear  to  have  very closely  resembled the
    Exiles, being dark-haired, strong and tall, but lithe.  Indeed they
    could hardly be told apart except by  their eyes;  for the  eyes of
    all  the  Elves  that  had  dwelt  in   Aman  impressed   those  of
    Middle-earth  by their  piercing brightness.  For which  reason the
    Sindar often called them Lachend, pl. Lechind 'flame-eyed'.

Judging from the above quotes, I think, it is pretty likely that the Avari remaining at Cuivienén were rather uniformly and predominantly dark-haired with either grey or blue eyes, and perhaps the odd fair-haired or red-headed elf thrown in every now and then, and in light of this (and the fact that none of the Vanyar remained behind) it does not really matter that the text quoted from  HoMe X above goes on to mention they mysterious Morwe and Nurwe, the leaders of the Avari proper, as they must have descended the Noldorin and/or Telerin tribes before they split.

 As for green, brown, or hazel eyes, I cannot recall any mention of this in any part of the legendarium where Elves are concerned. As for Maeglin's eyes, their darkness may refer to the fact that he was, although born to a Noldorin Exile, was in fact a Moriquende who had never seen the light of the Trees, and his eyes may have been dark grey or blue. 

 I hope this proves helpful in some way. 




Re: Question About Avari Elves - Physical Appearance

Thank you, Elleth, for responding to my questions. I knew they would be difficult ones, and guessed that all suppositions about the Avari would have to come through a roundabout way by studying Tolkien's other Elves.

So the person on the other forum who theorized that the Avari would be predominantly brunettes, with a minority having silver, white, red or golden hair, seems to have been correct. I thought that theory seemed plausible, but I just didn't have any quotes to back it up, and didn't know where to start looking. You did a very good job of researching and summarizing that research.

I found your comment about Maeglin's eye color fascinating. I was wondering if perhaps Tolkien meant dark brown when he wrote "dark," but dark blue or gray might fit better with the Professor's apparent preference for blue eyed and gray eyed Elves. I know a few people who have blue eyes that are so dark they appear to range from indigo to navy. Still, though, if one were to assume that Maeglin's dark eyes were brown and that other Elves also had brown eyes, unions between brown and blue eyed elves would open up a wide range of shades. Theoretically it would be possible for many hazel and green eyed Avari to be born over the years. However, it could be argued that giving Elves the same range of eye colors that humans have stretches the canon.

Thank you for your help in answering my questions!




Re: Question About Avari Elves - Physical Appearance

This is a ridiculously late, after-the-fact reply, but it should be pointed out that Maeglin was by no means one of the Avari.  His father, Eöl, was kin to Thingol and thus one of the Sindar.  Eöl was "The Dark Elf" because he was a bad guy, dark in the sense of being 'evil' (a characteristic Maeglin certainly shared), not because he was one of the Avari, who were "dark" in the sense of being 'primitive'.  Now it is true than Eol was also a 'dark elf' in the sense of being Moriquendi (as were all of the Sindar except Thingol and perhaps his descendants), but the Avari were a subset of the Moriquendi.



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