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In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug there's a scene where Thranduil and Tauriel are talking. He comments that Legolas is very fond of her but he'd never permit them to be together. He infers that she is not good enough.

Thranduil: Legolas said you fought well today.

Thranduil: He's grown very fond of you.

Tauriel: I assure, my Lord, Legolas thinks of me as not more than a Captain of the Guard.

Thranduil: Perhaps he did once. Now I'm not so sure.

Tauriel: I do not think that you would allow your son to pledge himself to a lowly Silvan Elf.

Thranduil: No, you are right, l would not. Still, he cares about you. Do not give him hope where there is none.

Why is this? Is it because she's not "royalty"? Is she some kind of lesser elf? What's a Silvan Elf?

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3 Answers 3

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The movie strongly implies this is because of Tauriel's status as a Wood Elf, or a Silvan Elf. Just like Tauriel, however, this prejudice seems to be entirely an invention of the movies.

Some simplified background from the book-verse on the types of Elves (you can detailed info here) - one of the ways Elves categorize themselves is by -

  • the people that followed the Valar (Gods) to Aman (something of a Paradise Island) - Galadriel is one of these, and Elrond, born in ME, is honorary one of these (via paternal lineage and upbringing)
  • the people who agreed to follow the Gods but for various reasons didn't actually end up completing the journey - Thranduil, Legolas and Tauriel.
  • the people who they refused - nobody who appears in LotR or the Hobbit.

Now, among the second group of people, there was another split into 2. The first group gave up on the journey to Aman/Paradise when they came to the Misty Mountains. This is the group that later became known as Silvan Elves, ie. Tauriel

The second group got all the way to the coast, but then their leader / King got lost (long story) and they stayed behind looking for him. This was the group known as Sindarin Elves, ie Thranduil.

Sindarin Elves, having undertaken more of the 'Holy journey' and having strayed out of duty, were 'higher' elves than Silvan elves, and by the time of the Hobbit there were few of them left in ME and those few were usually rulers over the much larger native populations of Silvan elves.

The movies seem to have taken this fact, and extrapolated a class/racial prejudice by the 'higher' Sindar towards the 'lowly' Silvans, which is why Tauriel isn't good enough for Legolas.

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It's generally accepted that Thranduil does not believe her to be a suitable match because she was not born to royalty. However, it is also suggested that her own feelings of inadequacy also play on Thranduil's mind. If she were to believe herself a suitable match then Thranduil would have, in all likelihood, accepted her.

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Wiki says that,

Silvan Elves are described as being less wise than other Eldar, and some of them almost are indistinguishable from the Avari, those who never joined the Great Journey.

Since Tauriel is a Silvan Elv, Thranduil might be thinking that she's not a good fit for Legolas and obviously, she's not royal like Legolas. And also there were scenes that Tauriel is reluctant to be with Legolas, probably Tauriel also thinking the same as Thranduil that she's not royal like Legolas to be with him.

This might be the reasons why Thranduil inferred Tauriel is not good enough for Legolas.

Check this for more information on Silvan Elves.

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