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Discussing: How fast do elves heal?

How fast do elves heal?

I need some information on how quickly an elf would heal from injury. Mainly, a broken bone, but more generally would be useful as well.  

I don't remember Tolkien ever specifying how quickly an elf heals from injury, beyond saying in various ways that it's mighty quick. Of course, in fanon, this phenomenon varies greatly, and in one story an elf might get up from a stab wound and walk away (he might limp a little!) and in another, the healing (and need for treatment) is nearly on par with Men.

So, what's the canon evidence for how quickly they might heal, and what extent of treatment do they require?

(Don't worry, the pain and suffering in my current story is shared among all!)

all help greatly appreciated! thanks in advance! 

mon 

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

I don't recall that Tolkien ever said anything specific about healing time. 

He did say that they were generally immune from disease and hard to kill with poison, but clearly not totally immune, since Eol's poison killed Aredhel. They could also suffer from depression (Thingol, Luthien, Celebrian) and other kinds of mental dysfunction (Feanor, Eol).

He was also asked why no Eldar ever got killed by accident in the Blessed Realm before the destruction of the Trees, even though the Eldar lived active and adventurous lives sailing, mountain-climbing, mining, doing heavy-duty construction work on cities etc. He attributed this to their power to heal themselves, so presumably it would have extended to quite severe injuries.

Since they had healers,  they did on occasion need help regardless - one could imagine an injured elf being unconscious or very weak, and needing to be kept alive until he or she can take over the work of self-repair on their own.

They could also last a long time under severe conditions (the Helcaraxe, Angband), but could not regenerate severed limbs on their own (Maedhros), and prolonged torture could cause unhealable scarring and damage (Gwindor).

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Thanks! Given what information we have to go on, this will help.

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Hi mon,

One thing to keep in mind is that elves can walk on snow. Keep in mind that they're a) roughly the same height if not taller than men; b) muscular enough to pull a bow, fight with sword and spear, ride horses bare-back, etc.; and c) capable of digesting similar foods to those eaten by mortal (and so would probably have similar digestive organs for the most part).

I have always postulated that they have hollow bones. This isn't strictly canonical, but the lighter weight required to walk on top of snow has to come from somewhere. If this is the case, I *think* the bones would be quicker to break and quicker to heal than with men.

Just a thought - use it for what it's worth.

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

One could postulate bones made of stuff other than bone, that would be both lighter and tougher. Carbon fibre skeletons, anyone? The Noldor were on average seven feet tall.

On the other hand they were close enough to Men to produce viable hybrids, which would rather indicate that they weren't that different physically. Perhaps the Wood-Elves simply had really high-tech shoes (indistinguishable from magic).

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Anna
I have never read how tall the Noldor were to average it at seven feet. Is there a note or a comment somewhere in Tolkien's works or letters that comes to this conclusion?

Since men and elves could interbreed and their offspring of the pairing could have children, I doubt the two races were much different in physical characteristics other than height, eyes, voices and awareness of themselves and all around them, etc. I think the huge difference between them was the fëa of an Elf to that of a Man. The fëa heals the physical body.

Laurëfindo

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

I doubt the two races were much different in physical characteristics other than height, eyes, voices and awareness of themselves and all around them, etc.

I agree. I thinkI rememebr reading somewhere (and I tried to find it just now and couldn't, of course) that Legolas could walk on snow, not because he was 'lighter' but because elves have a weaker connection to the base matter of Arda.

I have to go back outside now and continue stripping the rotting wood off a deck, but I'll look more later and see if I can't track the quote down.

I had an idea for a 'wounded elf' story once, but couldn't figure out how to describe his weakness without 'fever', which presumably elves would not get. I'm looking forward to seeing how Anna handles this!  (edit - or docmon.. whoever started this thread.. arrgh, sorry.

Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Thanks for all your responses. It's giving me plenty to think about.

I have read the scenario of elves having hollow bones. I'm not sure I want to go that far, or even go into it that much. It is interesting, though, to think that their bones could both heal and break more easily.

But basically, it seems that we don't have a time frame to go on, right? What I would like (in a perfect world... ) is a credible time for a broken bone to heal, or more specifically, how soon an elf could walk (even limping) after an ankle has broken. But if we are not given anything definitive, what would people think are credible time frames: 3 days? a week? more? Yes, I'm asking for guesses! As far as I'm aware, for humans, a broken bone is supposed to take about 6 weeks to heal. So maybe half that time would be a good estimate? That seems like a lot though, which is why i guessed so low myself.

So let's throw out some numbers!

docmon

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Well, if I was writing a story of an Elf who had broken his ankle -- depending on the site of the fracture which could be a 6 week to 12 week healing process for humans -- I would use a time frame of 2 weeks at the longest and perhaps one week healing for most 'normal' fractures. The Elf would be hobbling around almost immediately on a crutch with a well-supported and braced ankle. I say this because my brother-in-law just broke his ankle and this is exactly what he did and he is human (I think!).

Of course, this time frame is just my preference in my writing of the elven healing process. Others might think it's too fast or too slow. Without any information on this from Tolkien himself I believe there is a lot of room for your own opinion.

If your Elf needed to heal faster you could always have some kind of intervention by the Valar or a healer who could send a supplication to the Valar for faster healing. Although I believe this is a somewhat contrived way of 'fixing the problem' it has been used.

Laurëfindo

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Thank you, Laurëfindo, for your speedy response!

I think I like your timeframe; it seems to be reasonable to me. I understand it's your preference, and others may have other ideas - but that's just what I asked for - throw out those guesses and let's see what we come up with!

Of course one to two weeks, with said injured hobbling on a crutch within the day is flexible. But it would be rather nice (aka "convenient) to have the guy up and "hobbling" within the day, though needing more time to fully heal. This scenario is something I can work with.

True, there's always the option of a Prayer to the Valar (tm), which can be substituted with begging and pleading on occasion. But I'd like to avoid paying any royalties on this one.

thanks for your input!

docmon

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Laurefindo,

Sorry for the delay in replying. The reference to seven feet comes from the Note on Numenorean Linear Measures in "Unfinished Tales. It says there

"the Hobbits of the Shire were in height between three and four feet, never less and seldom more. They did not of course call themselves Halflings; this was the Numenorean name for them. It evidently referred to their height in comparison to Numenorean men, and was approximately accurate when given."

That gives Numenorean height before the Downfall (they became shorter in Middle-earth, both because of out-breeding and because of the loss of the particular blessing of the Valar that they had once enjoyed).

After this I am relying on memory, sorry, because I don't have HoME to hand. But I do recall that there were references to some of the Fathers of Men being indistinguishable from Elven Lords while they were young, and to the Amanyar being taller and stronger than the elves who remained in Middle-earth, except the Sindar of Doriath, under Melian's blessing and protection. (So considering who her ancestors were, Arwen was almost certainly taller than Aragorn.)

I think the huge difference between them was the fëa of an Elf to that of a Man. The fëa heals the physical body.

It was Tolkien's own view (in his Letters) that this was the case. He was acquainted with the basics of Mendelian inheritance and evolutionary speciation.

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

That is very helpful. I will dive into my books to catch these references. I write a lot of roleplay and it's always handy to have something like this to explain what I perceive as true to Tolkien.

Thanks Anna!

Laurëfindo

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Laurëfindo,

The statement that the Edain and the Eldar, especially the Noldor, were around seven feet tall is in the essay "Of Dwarves and Men" in HoME XII "Peoples of Middle-Earth".

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

The statement that the Edain and the Eldar, especially the Noldor, were around seven feet tall is in the essay "Of Dwarves and Men" in HoME XII "Peoples of Middle-Earth"

They were called 'halflings'; but this refers to the normal height of men of Numenorean descent and of the Eldar (especially those of Noldorin descent), which appears to have been about seven of our feet.(54)

 54. See the discussion of lineal measurements and their equation with our measures in the legend of The Disaster of the Gladden Fields. [This discussion (which, with the work itself, belongs to the very late period - 1968 or later)

And just why did Tolkien have this fascination with extreme tallness?   and equate it, in general, with at least the potential for best moral character? Frodo is such an exception to his general fondness for height.

Gwynnyd 

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Indeed. Maedhros the Tall I was willing to accept as a character feature, as it were, especially since all the Sons of Feanor were characterised in a similar way (Maglor - sings, Celegorm - hunts and usurps kingdoms, Curufin - makes things and plots, Caranthir - is bad-tempered, twins - are twins). But I did notice and wonder why he felt it necessary to state that Thingol was the tallest of all the Children of the One that there had ever been, and that Turgon was the second tallest, since they both had plenty of characterisation (by Silmarillion standards, anyway) already. Elendil was known as the Tall, too.

I suspect that the extraordinary height of these individuals, and the general height of the Elves was, I think, an aspect of their heroic character (in the Homeric sense). It is consequent upon the way that Middle-earth is a Romance world, not a Novel world. So exterior and interior reflect each other in ways that they don't in a novelistic universe. Morgoth and Sauron become hideous as a reflection of their evil, Sam rises to be Mayor of the Shire and Aragorn to be King as a reflection of their inner worth. Of course it is rather more subtle than the simple colour-coding that Diana Wynne Jones mentioned in "The Tough Guide to Fantasyland", otherwise we wouldn't have the possibility of "looks foul, feels fair" and vice versa.

A less obvious point where the importance of looks appears is in the description of the Swarthy Men in the Silmarillion - some of whom were faithful to the Eldar and some of whom went over to Morgoth. This ambivalence in their moral position is reflected in their description  - basically short, dark, hairy, but not entirely bad-looking. Southern Europeans, basically! Who have traditionally had an ambiguous relationship with the English!

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

They could also last a long time under severe conditions (the Helcaraxe, Angband), but could not regenerate severed limbs on their own (Maedhros), and prolonged torture could cause unhealable scarring and damage (Gwindor).

Er, sorry to come late to this.  Are we so certain that Maedhros would not have regenerated that hand if he had lived long enough?  Say, several thousand years following the amputation?  He survived the injury for only a relatively short time, in Elven terms.

The same might apply to Gwindor, who also did not long survive his imprisonment and torture by Morgoth.

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

I had an idea for a 'wounded elf' story once, but couldn't figure out how to describe his weakness without 'fever', which presumably elves would not get. I'm looking forward to seeing how Anna handles this!  (edit - or docmon.. whoever started this thread.. arrgh, sorry.

So did I, and I went ahead with the fever scenario, reasoning that a fever is the natural consequence of the body's immune system fighting off an infection.  Now, I know Elves do not fall prey to infectious diseases like the plague, or have such conditions as cancer or diabetes.  However, bacterial infection from a wound falls more under the purview of trauma, which we know Elves can die from.  The fact that they have healers and herblore indicates that they may have had to deal with infected wounds.

The same might be true of poison -- an Elf can survive a dose that would kill a Mortal, but some of them do die from it.

I'd hate to think that Elves are as invulnerable as Superman.  That certainly limits dramatic possibilities in a story.


 

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

So did I, and I went ahead with the fever scenario,

oh, nifty!  Where's the story? I'd love to read it.

Gwynnyd 

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

I am personally of the view that medical science in Aman would be perfectly capable of reaffixing a severed limb, or if necessary regrowing it.

In Middle-earth, I suspect that after long enough in Middle-earth, Maedhros would simply have 'faded" ie his fea would have consumed his hroa, and then physicality would have been a purely voluntary thing (in HoME X p 219 "for the body becomes at last, as it were, a mere memoryheld by the fea;....so that th eElves are indeed deathless and may not be destroyed or changed.") Quite how this would be affected by the absence of a hand I couldn't say, but possibly if he could remember himself with both hands, he could manifest himself physically that way too.

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Oh, I don't see why an elf couldn't get a fever. As someone said above, it's a side-effect of an immune system response, so assuming that at least part of the Elves' general robustness comes from immune systems made from titanium, they could certainly have them. They probably just wouldn't die of them as often as humans used to.

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

Are we so certain that Maedhros would not have regenerated that hand if he had lived long enough?  Say, several thousand years following the amputation? 

I think that would depend on what Tolkien might have called his "state of grace."  As a "fallen" Elf such as Feanor might not be rehoused until his fea had come to a state of amendment, the same might apply to lesser bodily injuries.  In a sense, Maedhros would have to "deserve" to have his hand again and--probably more critically--personally accept that he so deserved.  People who truly repent and do penance often have problems letting go of the guilt afterwards, and seeing themselves "whole" again.

No, I'm not Catholic.  But it makes for great psychological tension.

Cheers--

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

oh, nifty!  Where's the story? I'd love to read it.

Please forgive me if this link is not pretty.  It's my first time.  It's also my first written LOTR story, and let us say, I have matured as a LOTR writer since then.  It is a kind of 'Ransom of Redchief Meets Lord of the Rings.'

Keeping Hope Alive

The scenario involves an elf taking a minor wound from a poisoned arrow and first developing a fever as the poison depresses his immune system, and then becoming very ill indeed as the poison works further and shuts it down entirely.  One of the most alarming symptoms is the fact that his fever has disappeared.  The Healer then treats with a two-pronged approach of antidote and primitive antibiotic.

 I also make a few statements about elves feeling cold and needing rest once in a great while, so I tend to sigh when others insist they are some kind of Middle-earth Mr. Data -- impervious to anything.  That makes it incredibly difficult to create any kind of dramatic tension.

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

In Middle-earth, I suspect that after long enough in Middle-earth, Maedhros would simply have 'faded" ie his fea would have consumed his hroa, and then physicality would have been a purely voluntary thing (in HoME X p 219 "for the body becomes at last, as it were, a mere memoryheld by the fea;....so that th eElves are indeed deathless and may not be destroyed or changed.")

My point being that he had hardly the time for any of that, dying a few hundred years following the loss of his hand, as opposed to the six thousand years Galadriel spent in Middle-earth.  She seemed solid enough -- unless Tolkien knew something we didn't.

 Of course, 'fading' and then re-manifesting as the memory of the intact body would be an interesting way of doing it.  I once made a story suggestion that Maedhros might be able to 'touch' another elf with the ghostly manifestation of his missing hand.  Touching with the fea, if you will.

 As for the fevers and the immune system -- that was me.  Or if we're being strict about our English use, it was I. 

 

 

Re: How fast do elves heal?

I think that would depend on what Tolkien might have called his "state of grace."  As a "fallen" Elf such as Feanor might not be rehoused until his fea had come to a state of amendment, the same might apply to lesser bodily injuries.  In a sense, Maedhros would have to "deserve" to have his hand again and--probably more critically--personally accept that he so deserved. 

Quite true, and very interesting.  I once read that 'When Feanor is released from Mandos' was a Middle-earth euphemism for 'When hell freezes over.'

 However, I agree.  Grief or guilt might well affect an elf's ability to heal from any wound.

 

 

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