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Old 11-10-2023, 08:13 AM   #21
Stormcrow
 
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Default Re: Tolkien magic and game applications

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
Elves are both ageless and deathless
Elves are not ageless. Their lifespans extend to the end of Arda, so they age very, very slowly, and they usually fade if they don't go to Valinor. Tolkien did a great deal of calculation of the aging rates of Elves, though I don't think he ever quite settled on exact figures. At one point he was thinking that Elves age the equivalent of one physical (Mannish body) year for every 144 years of the Sun. Sometimes he shortened Elvish childhood to be more like one physical year for every 12 years of the Sun, and then they moved into the 1:144 ratio. He spent a lot of his time trying to make sure that Maeglin could be born after Aredhel left Gondolin but be old enough to desire his cousin Idril when he was in Gondolin, and then applying the same aging rate to Arwen to make sure she was born at the right time but of a suitable age to marry Aragorn and have a child with him in the Fourth Age. (See The Nature of Middle-earth.)
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Old 11-10-2023, 08:22 AM   #22
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Elves are not ageless. Their lifespans extend to the end of Arda, so they age very, very slowly, and they usually fade if they don't go to Valinor. Tolkien did a great deal of calculation of the aging rates of Elves, though I don't think he ever quite settled on exact figures. At one point he was thinking that Elves age the equivalent of one physical (Mannish body) year for every 144 years of the Sun. Sometimes he shortened Elvish childhood to be more like one physical year for every 12 years of the Sun, and then they moved into the 1:144 ratio. He spent a lot of his time trying to make sure that Maeglin could be born after Aredhel left Gondolin but be old enough to desire his cousin Idril when he was in Gondolin, and then applying the same aging rate to Arwen to make sure she was born at the right time but of a suitable age to marry Aragorn and have a child with him in the Fourth Age. (See The Nature of Middle-earth.)
For that to work Tolkien must be assuming quite a short lifespan of Arda. The scriptural threescore and ten would set it at just over 10,000 years. The younger Darwin's The Next Million Years used that interval because it was a typical lifespan for a vertebrate species; none of Tolkien's elves would have lived that out.
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Old 11-10-2023, 09:17 AM   #23
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For that to work Tolkien must be assuming quite a short lifespan of Arda. The scriptural threescore and ten would set it at just over 10,000 years. The younger Darwin's The Next Million Years used that interval because it was a typical lifespan for a vertebrate species; none of Tolkien's elves would have lived that out.
At 1:144, an elf would age the equivalent of 69 years, 5 months, and 10 days in 10,000 years. Now, if the first, say, 20 years of their lives were in the 1:12 range - they take only 240 years to reach the equivalent of age 20, meaning the remaining 9,760 years, at 1:144, would age them the equivalent of 67 years, 9 months, and 10 days - putting them a season shy of 88 years old. And if elves are less inclined to age-based infirmities than Men are (that is, if they have the Longevity trait in GURPS terms), they could still be fairly healthy and active at that age (but will obviously be old). From what I can find with some quick looking online, the First Age lasted 4902 solar years, the Second Age lasted 3441 solar years, and the Third Age lasted 3021 solar years. That would mean, if any of the 144 original elves were still around when the Fourth Age started, they'd be the equivalent of either just shy of 79 or a season over 97, both of which should be achievable (particularly if they benefit from something like GURPS Longevity). Assuming we could think of the start of the Fourth Age as the "end of Arda" - it's certainly when elves ceased to be a major factor in Middle Earth, at least.
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Old 11-10-2023, 10:41 AM   #24
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, if any of the 144 original elves were still around when the Fourth Age started, t.
My quick google says at least Cirdan the Shipwright was of that vintage when he went West with Frodo, Galadriel and whoever else at the end of the Third Age.
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Old 11-10-2023, 10:50 AM   #25
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You can point out quibbles and problems all you like. Tolkien never settled on anything precisely because he could never quite get the math to work out. He wasn't imagining that Arda ended in the Fourth Age, but neither was he imagining that it was the scientifically plausible nine billion or so years (and "Arda" meant, in his later conceptions, the whole solar system, not just Earth).

Elves spririts (fëar) tended to, over time, consume their bodies (hröar), which is why the Elves have faded. They literally become invisible because the stuff of their bodies is replaced with the stuff of their spirits.' This fading is faster in Middle-earth than in Aman, as are all other things, so the Elves eventually leave Middle-earth to go to Aman, in part, to prevent themselves from fading, or at least postpone the fading.

He was never settled on exactly how long the original Elves lived. Sometimes he thought they were all Avari and faded. Sometimes there are dozens of generations between the original Elves and the three ambassadors that went to Aman. He wasn't quite sure exactly how many Elves awoke originally. He liked the idea of basing everything on twelves, but that meant he actually wrote up tables of calculations of generations of Elves and gestations and child-bearing ages and how big their populations would be after so many years. (He assumed that Elves had a specific part of their lives where they wanted to have children, and the rest of their lives they couldn't. He also usually assumed that Elves never had children during times of strife, though he made exceptions to this. Huge amounts of detail, but never just one answer.
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Old 11-10-2023, 11:31 AM   #26
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You can point out quibbles and problems all you like. .
If we're quibbling what are you doing? Asserting that 10,000 years isn't "really" ageless? In Gurp at least, if you had bought the 7 levels of Extended Lifepan needed to hit and Longevity to not be feeble by that time you'd have spent 1 cp more than Unaging cost. I don't know of any other roleplaying game that thinks it important to distinguish between 10,000 years and truly ageless.
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Old 11-10-2023, 11:49 AM   #27
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I don't know of any other roleplaying game that thinks it important to distinguish between 10,000 years and truly ageless.
There's also the point that in this context, "lifespans {that} extend to the end of Arda" is to say "to the end of the world", which means the same as the more modern phrasing "lifespans that extend to the end of the universe".

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." -- famous bard of the Noldor
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Old 11-10-2023, 12:00 PM   #28
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"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." -- famous bard of the Noldor
Yes. This seems to be Tolkien's analog of the old idea that elves/the fair folk are soulless. They can exist indefinitely within the created world; whether they age or not, their lives will not end. But when the created world ends, so do they. They differ from men, who have immortal souls that go somewhere else, no one knows where (only Luthien and Arwen found out, and at the price of being parted from elvenkind). This seems to give concrete form to Tolkien's remark in "On Fairy Stories" that where men tell stories of escape from death, elves tell of escape from deathlessness.

In a way they seem comparable to Neil Gaiman's Endless, as when Death says that at the end of time, she'll see everyone out, put the universe's chairs on its tables, and turn out the light—and presumably then her job will be done.
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Old 11-10-2023, 12:09 PM   #29
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Default Re: Tolkien magic and game applications

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
My quick google says at least Cirdan the Shipwright was of that vintage when he went West with Frodo, Galadriel and whoever else at the end of the Third Age.
It's never been clear, AFAIK, if he was one of the original elves, but nothing rules that out, and it's dramatically more satisfactory.
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Old 11-10-2023, 12:44 PM   #30
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If we're quibbling what are you doing?
I'm not saying you're quibbling; I'm saying quibbling won't matter, because Tolkien himself wasn't able to work it out. Go ahead and point out an inconsistency if you like. Tolkien would answer, sadly, "Yes, I know."

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Asserting that 10,000 years isn't "really" ageless?
Elves visibly age, and their ages can be told by their appearance, just as do Men. The difference is one of scale. One thing that Tolkien never said was that Elves reach adulthood and then look like that for the rest of time.

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But when the created world ends, so do they.
But they don't know that, and neither do we. In some of Tolkien's writings, the Elves don't end, but they transform into memories. In the conversation between Finrod and Andreth that Tolkien wrote, they seem to come to the conclusion that the job of Men is to take their experiences of the heaven of the Elves (Arda) and build the new Arda Remade (as opposed to a distinct conception, Arda Unmarred), which the Elves may be able to enter and serve as the link back to Arda Marred.

But again, Tolkien never absolutely settled on this.
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