Saturday, July 2, 2016

Why Elves Have Pointy Ears

As far as I know, Tolkien never specified what shape of ears Elves have.  It has commonly been accepted that Elves have pointed ears (though there is apparently no logical ground for this) and so at this point I'm not going to contest it, but for now I'm going to accept it.

This is a short story concerning why Elves have pointy ears I came up with based around the actual history of Middle-earth as told in The Silmarillion.

sea, dawn, sunset
"Ada, another story?"  Elladan asked as he crawled onto his father's lap.  

"It is late, my son.  The sun has gone to sleep as must you," Elrond said, brushing a lock of dark hair out of his young son's face.  Even as he tried to convince Elladan to go to sleep, the corners of his mouth turned up into a faint smile.  

"Please?"  A small voice squeaked, tugging on his robe.  He never could resist his small sons' wide eyes and sweet voices.

"Fine.  One more story," he said, settling back into his chair, "But look, your brother is half asleep already!  Elrohir, are you sure you do not want to go to sleep?"  Elrohir rubbed his eyes and sat at Elrond's feet.

"No, Ada--if Elladan can stay awake, so can I," Elrohir set his head against Elrond's knee and fought to keep his eyes open.

"Alright.  A short story," Elrond sighed, a smile creeping onto his face.  He looked up at his wife sitting across from him on a couch, their young daughter Arwen already asleep in her arms.  Celebrian was running a gentle hand through their daughter's dark hair and she chuckled as Elrond readied himself to tell another tale.

"Elladan, have you ever wondered why your ears are so sharp?"  Elrond said, gently caressing the young Elf's ear.

"I already know why, Ada!"  Elrond raised his eyebrow.  "It's because the strongest and bravest warriors have to have good hearing!  That's why my ears are pointier than Elrohir's."  Elladan looked smug as Elrohir glared.  "If strong and brave people have pointier ears than those who are not, then why do Men have such round ears?  Are they less brave and strong?"  Elrohir contested.

"There are many Men who are much stronger and braver than some Elves.  I'm afraid your theory is not quite correct, my Elladan.  Do you care to hear the real tale?" 

It was Elrohir's turn to smirk at Elladan who crossed his arms in defiance. 

"I suppose not then.  Let's got to bed--"  Elrond started.

"No!  Please tell me!"  Elladan caved, grasping Elrond's arm and trying to keep his father seated.

Elrond smiled.  "Alright then.  The real reason we Elves have pointy ears..."


"You remember, I'm sure, the tale of when some of the Elves of old went West to the Blessed Realm.  There was once an Elf of Finwe's host--a Noldorin Elf who was after called Aerandir --who fell in love with one of the ladies Elwe's hosts.

"Finwe and Elwe traveled very close together through the woods because they were friends, as I'm sure you know.  Aerandir would often leave his host to go walk with his love, whom he named Nenar, after his favorite star; for Nenar's eyes were clear and bright and stood out piercing and beautiful against her dark raiment.

"Nenar's father had little love for Aerandir; for he did not like his daughter spending time in the young Elf's company so often and he wanted to keep Nenar as a child for as long as he could.  Therefore, in order to prevent Nenar from growing and living apart from him, he forbade Aerandir from meeting with her for a year.

"Nenar wept when she heard her father's decree, and was not allowed to see Aerandir nor bid him farewell.  A messenger was sent to Aerandir and he could not understand how something so sorrowful should come to pass.  He obeyed the pronouncement, and stayed from Nenar for the year; though each night he would look up at his favorite star for which she had been named and thought of her eyes.

"When Elwe was lost in the wood, much of his host stayed behind searching for him.  Nenar's father forbade her from going on to the Western shore until they had found their king.  They stayed behind, tarrying in Doriath as they searched for Elwe.  

"The rest of the Telerin host moved on, journeying parallel to the Noldorin Elves towards the West.   Finally, a year expired and Aerandir went as soon as he could to the Telerin host, searching for Nenar.  With despair, he found that she was not there.  He learned of her brother that she had stayed back to search for Elwe.  Without letting Nenar's brother finish, Aerandir fled into the dark wood alone, thinking Nenar herself had made the decree of separation and, seeing her chance, had stayed behind in order to avoid him; and he collapsed in dark despair.

"When he was spent, Aerandir, seeing nothing left for him in Middle-earth, rejoined the Noldorin host silently.  He journeyed to the Western Shore without uttering a word to anyone, and all his joy was robbed from him.  Most bitter for him was the pain of looking up into the sky and seeing his favorite star.  

"When the time came, Aerandir boarded the ship which was destined to bring him far from Middle-earth's shores and far from Nenar.  And Manwe cast through the air a wind of great strength to blow the ship to the Blessed Realm. 

"Yet as Aerandir sailed far away, his head was ever turned Eastward, toward the land of his birth, of his youth, and where Nenar yet still lived.  For though in his mind Aerandir had convinced himself Nenar had tried to leave him, his heart told him differently.  Almost against his will, Aerandir still turned Eastward, hoping to see the mast of a late coming ship which may bear Nenar.

"And so, for the years of his journey West, Aerandir's faced into the wind of Manwe.  His face and his hair were blown back with the salty air of the wind unceasingly by the great wind of Manwe.  Unable to turn away, Aerandir paid the wind no heed.

"When he finally arrived in Valinor and the wind ceased, Aerandir's ears had been blown back for so long as he searched in the distance for some sign of his lover across the Sea, that they had formed a fine point at the tip.  He touched the tip of his ear, remembering Nenar's soft touch, and in his heart, he knew that he would never see her again.

"In Middle-earth, Nenar's father grew nervous that his year's term had ended.  Nenar begged him to bring her to the Western shore that she might sail and meet Aerandir across the sea, and unable to restrain her by strength, her father endeavored to restrain her will and said, 'If this Aerandir had truly loved you as you claim, would he not have remained here with you, or at the very least waited with the rest of the host?  Undoubtedly in your absence he has seen another lovely maiden who has caught his young eye.  He has forsaken you, as I always knew he would.  He does not love you, nor has he ever.  What you felt was but your youth and the glow of attention.  Stay here, as you should, with your family who will love you forever and will not leave you.'  

"For a time, Nenar resisted her father's words, feeling certain that he could not speak the truth.  But as time passed, her heart hardened, and she leaned more and more toward his crooked words.  Finally, she began to believe that what he said was true, and she cast Aerandir from her mind.

"Yet just because one is thought of poorly in mind does not mean that they can be taken easily out of a heart.  Though Nenar believed--or told herself she believed--that Aerandir had abandoned her, her heart yet yearned toward him.  Therefore, Nenar never wed and she cared for her father as he had asked.  

"But Nenar grew quiet, and reserved.  Her father sensed that her joy had waned, and seeing how he had caused her light to be dimmed, he despaired and died young for the reckoning of an Elf.  Nenar cared for him throughout his sickness, but when he had passed, she perceived that she was wholly alone, and was no longer willing to seek the ships.  Therefore, she laid herself down in the woods alone, and there she passed.

"It is told that, in his dying moments, as his despair and loneliness overwhelmed him, Aerandir asked Manwe one favor.  He asked that Manwe send a plea to Eru, imploring him to point the ears of each and every Elf who would follow to remind them of the pull of the heart and remind them to never give up on their love.  Manwe, moved by pity for Aerandir, granted him that favor.  Thus Aerandir passed away, tears of despair upon his cheeks, but a smile of hope lightly on his lips.


"And that, my little Elves, is why your ears are pointed.  It is not because of your strength in battle, or your bravery, as you thought, Elladan, but it is for love.  So remember, my little Elves, do not turn away when you feel love in your heart and understand it in your mind, even if a bitter wind might blow on you.  Elladan?  Elrohir?"  Elrond looked down.  

Elladan had wrapped his little arms around his father's neck and Elrohir had slid to the floor, his hands pressed against his cheek upon the bottom of Elrond's robe.  Both little Elves were sound asleep, snoring lightly.  

Elrond smiled lightly at Celebrian and took the two twins into his arms.  His wife nodded, smiling, and brought Arwen upstairs with Elrond and the twins for bed.

As Elrond looked down at his daughter's sweet head, he mumbled to himself.  "Do not turn away when you feel love in your heart and understand it it in your mind...even through a bitter wind..." 


Alrighty folks, thanks for reading!  You may notice a couple things I snuck into the story--the first of which is Aerandir's name, which means "sea-wanderer" because of his relationship with the sea, and the second of which is the foreshadowing of Arwen's relationship with Aragorn and the parallels between that story and how Elrond--similar to Nenal's father--deals with his daughter growing up. 

Have a great weekend, everyone!