Rings of Power: Why Does Celebrimbor Look Old When Elves Don't Age? Are Elves Really Immortal? (Part 5)
We explain everything you need to know about elven lives, immortality and ageing.
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Elves are generally considered magical beings in the fantasy world. On the planet Arda, where J.R.R. Tolkien's stories take place, the elves are the first ever humanoid creatures that could live in Middle-earth.
The elves moved there in the Tree Age as the first children of the god Eru Ilúvatar (Children of Eru Ilúvatar). Their awakening began the First Age of Middle-earth. They called themselves Quendi (those who talk) because they knew nothing and no one who talked like them.
If some names and terms (Valar, Eru, Valinor...) are unclear to you, you can find out all the answers in our previous articles:
Elves can die despite their 'immortality'
Elves are immortal in the sense that they never age or die of old age. Their aging stops when they reach their prime. Subsequently, they no longer change and look the same. Not even disease can kill them, but the tip of a blade can.
They can also die when they lose the will to live, which is what happened to Arwen after Aragorn died. When elves die, they are taken to the Halls of Mandos where they await judgment. They are either reincarnated after some time into the same bodies they lived in before and find themselves in Valinor, or they wait in the halls until the end of time if they have angered the Valar.
It's different with people. Those after death travel to another hall, where they are judged by the Valar named Mandos, who also judges the elves. However, people do not reincarnate back. Their souls travel to an unknown place. The fate of their souls is unknown, but the god Eru Ilúvatar had plans for their afterlife. Tolkien called it the Gift of Men, but we do not know the true essence of this story. All we know is that it was a gift to humans, who neither in life nor in death had the same advantages as elves.
Three cycles divide the life of elves
What happens to elves during their lifetime and how exactly do they age? We divide the life of elves into three basic cycles. The first is birth and growing up. They are born just like humans. Pregnancy lasts a whole year and conception takes place similarly to humans. Within the first year after birth, elves can already talk and walk.
In their 20s, they still look like children (at least in the human sense), but they are mature and sensible. They complete physical maturation and "puberty" around the age of 50. However, they do not become adults until they are 100 years old, when they begin the second stage of life.
They do not age physically after their 100th birthday, but this is not the rule. After this age, they begin to perceive the nature around them more and stress can affect them more, which can affect their appearance. The hardships of Middle Earth as such have a negative effect on their life energy.
Elves thus begin their immortal life after 100 years. Many devote themselves to craft work and improving their skills. Among the elves, we can find talented blacksmiths, musicians, sculptors and many other artists and craftsmen, not to mention their skills in combat.
Few elves live to see the third cycle of their lives. Either they die from various injuries or they get tired of life. Some died of grief or lost the will to advance, others went to Valinor. Across the movies and the Rings of Power series, we've only seen one such elf so far, and even then he didn't even speak. He was at the very end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King when Frodo, Gandalf and the elves were leaving for Valinor.
His name is Círdan. He left Middle-earth as one of the last elves in the Fourth Age and was the original holder of the Narya Ring of Power before giving it to Gandalf. Círdan built the ships in which the elves departed from Middle-earth to Valinor. In the third cycle of life, he grew a beard, but otherwise his appearance did not change.
Why does Celebrimbor look like an older elf in Rings of Power?
So why does Celebrimbor look significantly older than the other elves in the Rings of Power series? In our opinion, it is only a visual and rather unfortunate aid. The creators of the series are probably counting on the fact that the viewers have not read the books, or that they need a visual aid.
It's possible that they want to portray Celebrimbor as a noble-born and experienced elf from an important lineage, so they used the usual clichés in stories where such roles of wise and respected advisors are played by older actors and the characters are generally older. However, in our opinion, this would be a rather amateurish reason. Firstly, because of the very fact that it is a played-out cliché, and secondly, because elves don't age after all and they all look relatively young.
The creators thus had an ideal opportunity to bypass clichés exactly where it was extremely useful. Here's hoping that the show doesn't portray the younger-looking elves (Elrond, Galadriel) as being sensible and those who warn of danger, while the older ones (Celebrimbor, Gil-galad) are clichéd "seniors" who refuse to accept the possibility of danger. It also seems strange because Galadriel is actually older than Celebrimbor.
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