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In Lord of the Rings, three thousand years before the story, Elrond is seen fighting in the war against Sauron. But after three thousand years he is still seen young. So I am guessing that elves are immortal.

But in the battle of Helm's Deep many elves die fighting Saruman's army. So they can't be immortal.

So are they mortal or immortal? How can Elrond's not aging be explained?

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    They do not age but can be killed by physical damage. Same as vampires in other franchises. Or androids. – Gaius Dec 28 '18 at 12:17
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    Immortal does not mean "cannot be killed"....it's a general misconception. – Paulie_D Dec 28 '18 at 12:20
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    And Galadriel is even older by far than Elrond. – Kevin Milner Dec 28 '18 at 17:45
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    @Paulie_D: Right. Immortal and invulnerable are different things; you can be both, neither, or just one of the two. Elves are immortal (unaging), but not invulnerable (unkillable). – ShadowRanger Dec 28 '18 at 19:48
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    @Paulie_D - No, immortal means (literally) im- (not) mortal (subject to death). It's not a misconception that immortal means "cannot be killed," it's a common misconception that it doesn't. (A misconception seen in Highlander, for instance.) See here and here and here. – T.J. Crowder Dec 29 '18 at 11:03
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They can't die by age, but they can die by the sword or grief.

According to Tolkien, once an Elf becomes an adult, they stop getting older. They are also less vulnerable against physical damage, but they aren't immortal. The lives of Elves only endure as the world endures.

Elves could be slain or die of grief (their spirit leaves their body), but were not subject to age or disease. When an Elf dies, his spirit goes to Mandos for his judgement, and after a period of waiting could be reembodied.

According to Wikipedia

Elves are naturally immortal, and remain unwearied with age. In addition to their immortality, Elves can recover from wounds which would normally kill a mortal Man. However, Elves can be slain, or die of grief and weariness.

Spirits of dead Elves go to the Halls of Mandos in Valinor. After a certain period of time and rest that serves as "cleansing", their spirits are clothed in bodies identical to their old ones. However, they almost never go back to Middle-earth and remain in Valinor instead. An exception was Glorfindel in The Lord of the Rings; as shown in later books, Tolkien decided he was a "reborn" hero from The Silmarillion rather than an individual with the same name. A rare and more unusual example of an Elf coming back from the Halls of Mandos is found in the tale of Beren and Lúthien, as Lúthien was the other Elf to be sent back to Middle-earth – as a mortal, however. Tolkien's Elvish words for "spirit" and "body" were fëa (plural fëar) and hröa (plural hröar) respectively.

Interesting info from here

While the three cycles are not specifically defined, the first cycle is likely childhood and adolescence, which ended at the 100th year, the second is adulthood which could continue for Ages, and the third is for extremely old Elves; Elves did not physically age after they reached maturity, but they did age in a different sense than Men. They became ever more weary of the world and burdened by its sorrows. Elves are naturally immortal; like the Ainur, they are bound to Arda until its End. Elves are immune to all diseases, and they can recover from wounds which would normally kill a mortal Man.


The only "unkillable beings" in LOTR are the soldiers of The Army of the Dead. The Army of the Dead was cursed by Isildur with immortality in the form of an existence as undead skeletons after they abandoned their oath in the War of the Last Alliance. Their only chance of dying was to fulfill their oath.

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    I've read all of Tolkiens work and I never thought that elves are reborn. There are (in-world) legends about reborn heroes, but if they are true, they are very rare exceptions. Once dead, elves are dead. – Tom Dec 28 '18 at 15:26
  • @Tom - Elven life cycle – Filip Kočica Dec 28 '18 at 15:32
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    @Tom Glorfindel is very active in Middle-earth in the 3rd Age, after dying in Gondolin towards the end of the 1st Age. About Fëanor it is specifically stated that he won't be allowed to leave Mandos until the world ends, meaning that this was not generally true of other elves. – Galastel Dec 28 '18 at 16:36
  • @Tom: You must have skipped some - it's clear that most if not all Elves are to be re-embodied in Valinor, with only a few exceptions - Feanor, possibly Finwe (because he couldn't have two wives, and Miriel was reborn), and anyone who was really, really bad and stubborn. – Shamshiel Dec 29 '18 at 22:37
  • In Valinor, yes. I understood their souls got to Valinor after death, but they will not be re-embodied in Middle Earth. – Tom Dec 30 '18 at 7:04
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Yes they are immortal until killed:

As told in The History of Middle-earth and in Tolkien's Letters, Elves had a different life cycle from Men. Most of the following information strictly refers only to the Eldar, as found in his essay Laws and Customs among the Eldar, found in Morgoth's Ring.

Elves are born about one year from their conception. The day of their conception is celebrated, not the actual birthday itself. Their minds develop more quickly than their bodies; by their first year, they can speak, walk and even dance, and their quicker onset of mental maturity makes young Elves seem, to Men, older than they really are. Physical puberty comes in around their fiftieth to one hundredth year (by age fifty they reach their adult height), and by their first hundred years of life outside the womb all Elves are fully grown. Elven bodies eventually stop aging physically, while human bodies do not

Elves are naturally immortal, and remain unwearied with age. In addition to their immortality, Elves can recover from wounds which would normally kill a mortal Man. However, Elves can be slain, or die of grief and weariness. - wikipedia

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    "they are immortal until killed" So...not immortal. (From im- meaning "not" and mortal meaning "subject to death"). Just unaging and unaffected by disease. – T.J. Crowder Dec 29 '18 at 10:59
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    Occasionally called "immorbid". – hobbs Dec 30 '18 at 1:26
  • I think that elves can be regarded as biologically immortal: _ the rate of mortality from senescence is stable or decreasing, thus decoupling it from chronological age. Various unicellular and multicellular species, including some vertebrates, achieve this state either throughout their existence or after living long enough. A biologically immortal living being can still die from means other than senescence, such as through injury or disease._ – Alexei Dec 30 '18 at 7:03

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