1. Gwyenyn, Twins
The matter of the gwyenyn, twins, has not yet been addressed properly. The uniqueness of their existence is often overlooked by lesser scholars, especially since twin siblings were later seen among the Edain and so erroneously believed to be common in the designs of Iluvatar. Let us begin by establishing the sheer oddity of twins in specifically Eldarin families.
"The Eldar say that in the begetting, and still more in the bearing of children, greater share and strength of their being, in mind and in body, goes forth than in the making of mortal children. For these reasons it came to pass that the Eldar brought forth few children" (X. 212). The last in particular must be noted, that the Eldar brought forth relatively few children because of the strain to the parents, and in particular to the mother. For precisely the same reason, that is, the "share and strength" of the parents that is given to the newborn, "there was often a long interval between…child and child" (X. 212). The long interval provided both parents a chance to recover the strength put forth in bringing forth a new life. Thus, twin children among the Eldar are extremely rare, for even greater self and strength of mind and body would have to be put forth in order to nurture the conception, gestation, and birth of two lives being brought forth simultaneously into the world. The birth of twin children in the Eldar occur only infrequently, as infrequently as the joining of the Eldar and the Edain (three times), and only because of the great necessity of what would otherwise be one child being borne as two.
Some have theorized that the birth of twins is the splitting of a fea (spirit) that would otherwise be too strong to be housed in one hroa (body) alone. Kurufinwe Fayanaro1 (Feanor) is most often used as an example in these arguments. "For Feanor was made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind, in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and in subtlety alike, of all the Children of Iluvatar, and a bright flame was in him" (S. 112). Loremasters of this school of thought will argue that Feanor was, in fact, intended to be two Elves, not one, however, there is no evidence that supports this, and the fact that he had seven children does not point to a spirit intended for twin Elves, only at the might of his own spirit. Some will then claim that Feanor set such an example that Iluvatar chose to divide such strong spirits into two bodies, for "in the bearing of her son Miriel was consumed in spirit and body" (S. 67). This not only lacks evidence but is countered by the fact that twin infants would still require the same nourishment of spirit and body that would exhaust the mother.
Instead, the birth of twins is the result of two extremely divergent Fates for one Elf, and in order to fulfill both Fates originally intended for that single Elf, two are born in place of one. In order to prove this, the three sets of twins born unto the Eldalie will be examined: Pityafinwe Ambarussa and Telufinwe Ambarussa (XII. 352-353), Elerosse Elros and Elerondo Elrond (Letters 282, XII. 369-371), and Elladan Peredhel and Elrohir Peredhel (Letters 282).2
Amrod and Amras
Amrod and Amras were the first twins ever born unto any of the Eldar, and they were the sixth and seventh sons of Feanor. As stated before, the birthing of two children at the same time is difficult, especially for the mother, and before their birth, there had already been five children begotten unto Feanor and Nerdanel. "There were seldom more than four children in any house" (X. 210), and up to that point, even the largest families had only five children.3 Thus, Nerdanel's sixth pregnancy was a surprise to many, and the birth of twin sons made Feanor "renowned as the father of seven sons, and the histories record none that surpass him" (X. 210). If only one son had been born, then Amras would have followed his fate to die in the burning of the ships at Losgar without any issue. However, so great a divergence of this fate was written into the possibilities of the world that it gave rise to the birth of two children rather than one.
The fates of Amrod and Amras do not at first appear to be different: both were slain in the Third Kinslaying, the attack upon the Havens of Sirion (S. 305). However, examination of the webs historial (tapestries), woven fair and bright by Miriel Therinde or Firiel and telling of the tidings of the Noldor down the years from their beginning (X. 250), reveals that Amrod and Amras were, indeed, intended for vastly divergent fates, for one was to die in the burning of the swanships of the Teleri at Losgar and the other to live until his later death in the Third Kinslaying at the Mouths of Sirion (XII. 353-355).4 If there had only been one child born rather than a pair of twins, then without a doubt, Amrod would have died at Losgar. However, with the addition of Amras, there is sometime confusion as to which of the two was fated to die. In the original scheme of Firiel's tapestry, Ambarto is the sixth child (XII. 353), and so he is the one fated to die, as evidenced by the right-form of his mother-name, Umbarto "the Fated." However, in order for this fate to be avoided, a twin brother was born with Amrod, his younger brother Amras. Amras then takes on the fate intended for Amrod. Thus, it is "Ambarussa (6)" (XII. 354), the sixth son of Feanor, who asks of the whereabouts of his seventh brother, and the youngest of Feanor's children was the one who died.5 At that, the names then should have been changed, the older of the twins (Amrod) then being named Ambarussa and the younger of the twins (Amras) being named Ambarto/Umbarto.
However, neither fates came to pass and so the names of the fated did not change, and both Amrod and Amras survived until the Third Kinslaying, but the intention was for one to die at Losgar and one to die at the Mouths of Sirion. The great division of the potential fates of Ambarto/Amrod led to the birth of the first set of twins of the Eldalie.6
Elros and Elrond
The fate of the second pair of twins, Elros and Elrond, prove to just as divergent as that of Amrod and Amras. Originally, there was only one child born to Earendil and Elwing, Elrond (IV. 43, 84-85; V. 25).7 As with his parents, Elrond Half-elven was given the irrevocable choice to be accounted among either the kindred of Elves or of Men. "Bound by his mortal half he elects to stay on earth" (IV. 43). However, the choice is a hard one, not just for Elrond but for the fate appointed to him, and so strong is the pull to be accounted among both kindreds that the appearance of a twin brother again arises. "Elrond Half-elven…chose, as was granted to him, to be numbered among the Eldar; but Elros his brother chose to abide with Men" (S. 315). Elrond, who was to be the first King of Numenor, passes his fate as Man and King to Elros and instead becomes accounted among the Elves, and the divergence of fate—indeed, the avoidance of an intended fate in favor of another fate that is just as strong—again occurs successfully with the introduction of a twin brother.
There is sometimes confusion as to which of the twin brothers is older, Elros or Elrond. This is no surprise in light of the dilemma of the fate of Amrod and Amras and the confusion of their identity. It should be noted that loremasters will always state children in order of birth. This is true for the sons of Feanor, whose birth orders are known; that is, Maedros is always cited before Maglor when they are mentioned in the same breath, and rarely will a text state "Maglor and Maedhros" unless the two are divided by some action or speech. In almost all cases, Elros is named before Elrond (S. 305, 322),8 thus one can assume that Elros is the older of the two twins. Like Amrod and Amras, when their fates were exchanged, their names also exchanged. At first, the sons of Earendil and Elwing are listed as "the twin brethren Elrond and Elros" (V. 167). Of course, Elrond, the older twin, was to choose the Fate of Men. However, with the introduction of Elros, "the order was then inverted to 'Elros and Elrond'" (V. 167), rendering Elros the older of the two and the one to be accounted among the kindred of Men.
Unlike Amrod and Amras, whose divergent fates were averted because of extraordinary circumstances outside of themselves, Elros and Elrond do, indeed, follow the divergent paths appointed to them as twins.
Elladan and Elrohir
Unfortunately, little can be said about the fates of Elladan and Elrohir, the twin sons of Elrond. It can be inferred by the order in which they are regularly referred that Elladan is the older and Elrohir the younger. "The end of his sons, Elladan and Elrohir, is not told: they delay their choice, and remain for a while [in Middle-earth]" (Letters 193). Like Elros and Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir are Half-elven and are also given the choice of sharing either the fate of Elves or of Men. The divergent path, then, is undoubtedly the same as that of Elros and Elrond, that one may choose to share in the mortality of Man and the other to share in the immortality of Elves. Thus, it is very likely that, in the end, one of the twin sons of Elrond will choose to be a Man while the other choose to be an Elf. Again, a rare twin brother is brought forth into the world so that two fates can be followed rather than one.
Both sons of Elrond are often seen riding with the Dunedain, the Rangers of the North, but live in Imladris and so their time is spent divided among both Men and Elves. At the passing of the Grey Company through the Paths of the Dead, "Elladan with another [torch] went at the rear" (RotK 70). After the Dead are summoned to the Stone of Erech by Aragorn Elessar, "behind them rode Elladan, last of the Company" (RotK 72). Elladan's position is repeatedly noted as being at the end of the company, last of the living travelers and first of the dead, and this might be taken to suggest that, in the end, the older of the pair of twins will choose to die, just as Elros did. The position of Elrohir during the journey across the Paths of the Dead is not stated. At the arrival of the Elves to Minas Tirith on the Eve of Midsummer, when Elrond was to surrender the sceptre of Annuminas to Aragorn, the normal order of Elrohir and Elladan is reversed. "First rode Elrohir and Elladan with a banner of silver" (RotK 309). Elrohir is seen riding at the front of a company of Elves, whereas Elladan was before seen riding at the front of a company of the Dead. This hints at Elrohir later choosing to be accounted among the immortal Elves and Elladan choosing to be of the kindred of Mortal Men. Whether or not Elladan was born as twin brother to Elrohir in order to choose the fate of Man and thus permit Elrohir to choose the fate of Elves or vice versa is unknown.
In either case, it is also possible for the sons of Elrond to overcome their appointed Doom, just as Amrod and Amras did, and both can choose to follow the same path, of either immortality or mortality, rather than follow the divergent fates intended for them. But, again, the final fate (or fates) of Elladan and Elrohir is not known.
Elured and Elurin
Elured and Elurin are sometimes mistaken for twin brothers because two of the three pairs of twins in the history of the Noldor have arisen in the family of the Peredhil, especially since the choice of the Peredhil can potentially result in such divergent fates. They were, perhaps, slated to be born as twin sons of Dior (XI. 257). However, their fates do not diverge; "the cruel servants of Celegorm seized [Dior's] young sons and left them to starve in the forest" (S. 292), and it can be presumed that both died or both were succored by birds.9 In either case, the two sons of Dior seem to have shared in each other's fate and thus there is no reason for them to be born simultaneously. In addition, Elured and Elurin were born before Earendil sailed to the Blessed Realms and begged for the "mercy upon Men and Elves and succour in their need" (S. 308), after which was given "to Earendil and to Elwing, and to their sons…leave each to choose freely to which kindred their fates shall be joined, and under which kindred they shall be judged" (S. 308). Perhaps if Elured and Elurin had been given such a hard decision, they would indeed have been twins out of necessity, for their paths may well have been unable to be handled by one Elf alone; however, that choice was not offered to them. Thus, without the strong divergence of one Elf's fate resulting in the birth of twin Elves for the division of fates, Elured and Elurin were not born as twin brothers (XI. 231, 300).
After examining the strongly divergent fates of the pairs of twins born to the Eldalie, it seems reasonable to conclude that the birth of twins, a rare and unusual situation, is the result of the need to fulfill two divergent fates originally intended for one single Elf.
Letters=The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Roman numeral=History of Middle Earth volume (I-IX paperback, X-XII hardback)
RotK=Return of the King (paperback)
1 Kurufinwe Fayanaro (XII. 343) is a more ancient form of Curufinwe Feanaro and here used by the author as a more scholarly and formal way of citing Feanor.
2 Feanor's being formal again. He uses father-name and mother-name or father-name and after-name. In this case, he uses Ambarussa as the mother-names for both Amrod and Amras to stress their similarity, a major point in his essay. He cites Elros ("elf-spray") and Elrond ("elf-cave") according to the father-name given to them by Maedhros and Maglor after they were found, "Elrond within the cave, and Elros dabbling in the water" (Letters 282). The names would, of course, be properly in Quenya, thus Elerosse and Elerondo. By coincidence (or perhaps Fate), their given mother-names were similar in word-form, Elros being "star-foam" with ros, a root word of the Beorian tongue that foreshadowed his later choice to be accounted among the kin of Men, and Elrond being "star-dome" (XII. 349, 369-371). In the case of Elladan and Elrohir, Feanor uses their after-name Peredhel because he does not know their mother-name but refuses to admit to any lack of knowledge and insists on the parallel word-forms of the listed names of the three pairs of twins.
3 Well, the normal maximum number of children is four, but we do have several examples of five children. Finwe had five children: Feanor, Findis, Fingolfin, Irime, and Finarfin. I've purposefully left out Faniel in that count because she is not mentioned in The Shibboleth of Feanor, but even if she was included, Finwe would have six children to his credit, not seven. Finarfin also has five children if one includes Orodreth: Finrod, Orodreth, Angrod, Aegnor, and Galadriel. So I assume that, although there are seldom more than four children in a household, five would not be considered unusual.
4 Miriel is later said to have returned to life and become the chief handmaid of Vaire, and she wove the "webs historial," the tapestry that records the history of the Noldor. This is, of course, nothing more than Tolkien's writings in various forms, and in this particular case, it is Tolkien's The Shibboleth of Feanor, which tells the tale of Amrod and Amras. And since Feanor is the author of this essay, of course he uses Therinde instead of Serinde. To prevent transcription errors, "th" was used instead of the Greek letter thorn (Þ), but in all it's correctness, Feanor's essay should say (if there is no transcription error) "Míriel Þerindë."
5 "It was then, no doubt, that my father changed the name Ambarto to Umbarto in the list and reversed the names of the twin brothers…so that Ambarussa becomes the elder of the two and Ambarto/Umbarto the youngest of Feanor's children, as he is in the legend told here" (XII. 355).
6 The story follows the published Silmarillion in that neither Amrod nor Amras died. In this particular story reality, Amras was saved by Feanor from the burning ship. Fate has its checks and balances though, and for saving the life of his youngest son, Feanor hastens his own demise and is thus slain by Gothmog in the Second Battle of Beleriand, Dagor-nuin-Giliath, as per the Silmarillion (S. 125).
7 There are lots of references to Elrond being an only child at first, mostly in HoME IV, V, and XI. I'm not going to cite each time it's mentioned. Suffice to say that, in earlier drafts of Tolkien's writings, there was only Elrond.
8 Of course there are other references to Elros and Elrond in the Histories of Middle-earth and in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the ordering of their names remains "Elros and Elrond" in most all cases.
9 I can't seem to find the reference to their potential succor by birds right now.
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