Summary: Almost every piece of Tolkien canon information available about the twin sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir. This includes a detailed family tree.
Disclaimer: These characters and Middle-Earth are the copyright of the Tolkien estate and this nonfiction essay is not meant to infringe on that copyright in any way.
Thanks to a reader named Claris for pointing out a physical description that has been added to the second paragraph, and to another reader who suggested the percentage breakdown of the twins' heritage. And further thanks to the artist Collen Doran for providing the portraits.
Who Are Elladan and Elrohir?
They are the identical twin sons of Elrond the Half-elven and Celebrían, the daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn. This makes them roughly ¼ human, ¾ elvish. Arwen is their sister. They are peripheral characters in The Lord of the Rings.
There are three physical descriptions of them in Tolkien canon. The most detailed description is of them as: "...two tall men, neither young nor old. So much alike were they, the sons of Elrond, that few could tell them apart; dark-haired, grey-eyed, and their faces elven-fair, clad alike in bright mail beneath cloaks of silver-grey." (The Passing of the Grey Company, ROTK). The other two descriptions are provided in full in the Timeline.
Elladan and Elrohir, with permission from Colleen Doran, © 2006.
Are They Elves?
One of the subtler points of LOTR is that the sons of Elrond are given a liminal and exceptional racial identity as, literally, the children of Elrond. The children of Elrond have the following fate, linked to Elrond's; "So long as I abide here, she (Arwen) shall dwell with the youth of the Eldar, and when I depart, she will go with me, if she so chooses." ROTK Appendix A. If Arwen stays in Middle-Earth after Elrond goes, she chooses to become mortal and die. A later quote cited in the Timeline makes it clear that this also applies to Elladan and Elrohir, although it is implied that they may "delay their choice."
Tolkien also notes that Elrond had "mortal as well as Elvish ancestors on both sides; Tuor on their father's side, Beren on their mother's." Letters, #211. He seems to have gotten a bit tangled up between Elladan and Elrohir and Elrond here; the twins are about 1/4 human, since their mother, Celebrían, was the fully-elvish daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn.
An astute reader has pointed out that the heritage of Elladan and Elrohir is complicated by their ancestress Luthien, their great-great-grandmother. Luthien was 1/2 elf and 1/2 a divine spirit called a Maia in the Tolkien mythos. So, strictly speaking, Elladan and Elrohir are 73.5% elvish, 23.5% human, and 3% Maiar. Another astute reader has provided the family history breakdown that leads to this; click here to read it.
Tolkien is very careful throughout The Lord of the Rings to not refer to Elladan and Elrohir as Elves. In several places (noted in the Timeline) they are distinctly NOT grouped with Legolas when referring to elvish matters or skills. They feel the fear on the Paths of the Dead; they do not see a Nazgûl flying overhead when Legolas can. They are also not referred to as Men/humans.
What Do Their Names Mean?
Most fortuitously, Tolkien translated their names in one of his Letters, noted in the collection of his letters as Letter 211 to Rhona Beare. The translation was to answer Rhona's question "When does El- mean 'elf' and when 'star'?"
Elrohir = elf-knight, elf-rider. It is also possible to translate this as star-knight/star-rider, which is charming, but there is no evidence that Tolkien intended this translation.
Elladan = Elf-man. This seems boring until we analyse the etymological significance of the word "dan". Strictly speaking, it means "man." In usage, it means Númenorean, advanced man, wise man, as in Dúnedain. There is also overlap with the word "dan" meaning "wright or smith". (Círdan [singular name, ship-wright] Mírdain [plural name, jewel-smiths]). So the highest, most knowing sort of man is what is implied here - a man of lore and craft, significant ideas in the Tolkien universe.
The Twins' Timeline:
Herewith follows a list of every appearance or significant event related to Elladan and Elrohir, in chronological order.
Sometime in the Second Age: Elrond sees Celebrían for the first time and loves her. The Elves are in the midst of their war against Sauron; he does not say anything at the time.
Year 3441: The Battle of the Last Alliance seems to be the end of Sauron.
Year 100: In this time of peace, Elrond and Celebrían marry.
Year 139: Elladan and Elrohir are born. No mention is made of their birth order.
Year 241: Arwen is born. This makes Elladan and Elrohir fully adult elves when she is born. Elves come of age between 50 and 100, and they are 135 years old at this time.
2,268 years pass. Presumably Elladan and Elrohir learn elf-man arts of battle and lore and become mature, skilled warriors.
Year 2,509: The torment and capture of Celebrían. Journeying to Lorien, Celebrían is "waylaid in the Redhorn Pass, and receives a poisoned wound." She is taken and tortured in the dens of the orcs. Elladan and Elrohir rescue her.
Year 2,510: Elrond heals Celebrian but she, still "under a great cloud of fear," departs over Sea. Elladan and Elrohir start questing against orcs. Note that it is not mentioned that they swear any oaths about this - they just do it.
Year 2,511: Elladan and Elrohir help the folk who will become the Men of Rohan in a battle against orcs. Note that Rohan does not exist yet; this kingdom is established soon after this battle. The full quote is as follows:
"But in the forefront of the charge they saw two great horsemen, clad in grey, unlike all the others, and the Orcs fled before them; but when the battle was won they could not be found, and none knew whence they came or whither they went. But in Rivendell it was recorded that these were the sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir." Peoples of Middle-Earth, The Making of Appendix A.
Note that they are described as "great" meaning imposing, tall, strong. Elrond himself is described in The Hobbit as "mighty among Elves and Men." It can be implied from this that the twins were more physically robust than most Elves.
Years 2,511 through 3,019: Elladan and Elrohir's questing years. It is implied that they become closer to the folk of the Dúnedain during this time.
Portrait of Elladan and Elrohir, with permission from Colleen Doran, © 2006.
Year 2,933: Aragorn's father, Arathorn, "went riding against Orcs with the Sons of Elrond, and he was slain by an orc-arrow that pierced his eye." Aragorn is two years old at the time. Appendix A of ROTK.
Years 2940 - 2951: The twins teach young Aragorn about hunting orcs and other wilderness skills. They do not mention their sister at all to Aragorn during this time, presumably under a ban from Elrond. As noted in Appendix A of ROTK, "It chanced that he (Aragorn) returned to Rivendell after great deeds in the company of the Sons of Elrond..."
Year 3018: The Lord of the Rings storyline begins. Elladan and Elrohir are 2,988 years of age.
October 24: "Many Meetings," FOTR. Aragorn does not come to the feast to celebrate Frodo's recovery because "Elladan and Elrohir have returned out of the Wild unlooked-for, and they had tidings I wished to hear at once."
October 25: "The Council of Elrond," FOTR. The Council of Elrond takes place. Note that it is NOT mentioned that Elladan or Elrohir are present, even though they are in Rivendell at the time. No mention is ever made of why Elladan and Elrohir do not join the Fellowship.
November-December: After the Council, Elladan and Elrohir ride to Lórien with tidings of the Ringbearer and his coming quest, and then return. This is a two-month round trip. "The sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir, were the last to return; they had made a great journey, passing down the Silverlode into a strange country, but of their errand they would not speak to any save Elrond." FOTR, "The Ring Goes South."
Year 3019: The Lord of the Rings storyline continues.
February-March: When the Dúnedain ride south to aid Aragorn, Elladan and Elrohir join them. They meet again in Rohan on March 6th. They meet up with Aragorn in the ROTK chapter "The Passing of the Grey Company," introduced by Halbarad: "The brethren Elladan and Elrohir have ridden with us, desiring to go to the war." We have the following descriptions of them: "...said Legolas, 'And have you marked the brethren Elladan and Elrohir? Less sombre is their gear than the others', and they are fair and gallant as Elvenlords; and that is not to be wondered at in the sons of Elrond of Rivendell.'"
March 8th: The twins join Aragorn for the duration of the War of the Ring. Elrohir says to Aragorn, "I bring word to you from my father: The days are short. If thou art in haste, remember the Paths of the Dead." They ride with Aragorn on the Paths of the Dead. On the Paths of the Dead, Elladan carries a torch and walks at the rear; he stands by Aragorn as he examines a corpse. Note that Elladan and Elrohir feel the fear of the Dead, while the fully-elven Legolas does not. "There was not a heart among them that did not quail, unless it were the heart of Legolas of the Elves, for whom the dead have no terror." Elladan has these gloomy lines: "Yes, the Dead ride behind. They have been summoned," and he replies to Gimli's query about where they are with, "We have descended from the uprising of the Morthrond, the long chill river that...washes the walls of Dol Amroth. You will not need to ask hereafter how it came by its name; Blackroot men call it." At the Stone of Erech, Elrohir gives Aragorn a silver horn, which Aragorn blows to summon the Dead.
March 15th: ROTK chapter "The Battle of the Pellenor Fields." In the Battle of the Pelennor at the gates of Minas Tirith, the twins are cited as present, "Elladan and Elrohir with stars on their brow," and, presumably, smiting away.( The grammar error of singular "brow" is in my copy of ROTK!)
March 16th: ROTK chapter "The Last Debate." Elladan and Elrohir attend a council of war leaders after the Battle of the Pelennor. Elrohir's second line! "From the North we came with this purpose, and from Elrond our father we bring this very counsel. We will not turn back."
March 18 - 25: ROTK chapter "The Black Gate Opens." They ride with Aragorn to the Morannon Gate of Mordor for their defiant challenge, riding with the Dúnedain. Note that Tolkien does not identify Elladan and Elrohir with Legolas again; Legolas can see the Nazgûl overhead, but they cannot. "They (the Nazgûl) still flew high and out of sight of all save Legolas..."
April 8th: ROTK chapter "The Field of Cormallen. "Frodo awakens after his ordeal and there are celebrations in his and Sam's honor at the Field of Cormallen. Elladan and Elrohir get a shout-out from the minstrel at the celebrations - yet again in a way that does not associate them with the fully-elven Legolas. "and Riders of Rohan, and ye Sons of Elrond, and Dúnedain of the North, and Elf and Dwarf…"
May 8th: "Eomer and Eowyn depart for Rohan with the sons of Elrond." Tale of Years, ROTK.
June 14th: The twins meet "the escort of Arwen", which includes Elrond, Galadriel, and Celeborn, and return to Gondor. On June 16th they stop at Edoras in Rohan.
1 Lithe (July): The riding comes to Gondor. Elladan and Elrohir are in the lead. "First rode Elladan and Elrohir with a banner of silver..." The next day, Mid-year's Day, Arwen marries Aragorn. The Steward and the King, ROTK.
July 19th: With the funeral escort of Theoden, and the company of Elrond, Gandalf, and the remains of the Fellowship, the twins leave Gondor.
September 22nd: The twins arrive back at Rivendell with the rest of the riding.
Year 3021: The sons of Elrond remain in Rivendell when Elrond goes over Sea. The Lord of the Rings storyline ends.
Year 5? Celeborn joins them in Rivendell. "But after the passing of Galadriel in a few years Celeborn grew weary of his realm and went to Imladris to dwell with the Sons of Elrond."
Year 17: Elladan and Elrohir visit the King Elessar and the Queen Arwen at Lake Evendim. Samwise's family also goes. (End of the Third Age, Tolkien's unpublished epilogues to ROTK.)
????? No mention is made of their final fate. At all. "The end of his sons, Elladan and Elrohir, is not told; they delay their choice, and remain for a while." Letters, #153. It is left for the reader to decide whether they went over Sea or became mortal and died in Middle-Earth.
Were They In The Fellowship Of The Ring Movie?
Ah, the great debate. In various discussions, movie fans have identified every dark-haired elf in the Council of Elrond scene as Elladan and/or Elrohir. Matters are confused by the fact that two dark-haired Elves sit on each side of Elrond in chairs of honour during the council, but two different-looking Elves come with Arwen to say farewell to the Fellowship. (National Geographic special, publicity shots). Some say that the elves sitting next to Aragorn are the twins.
It is probably safe to assume that two Elves in the Council scene are meant to be Elladan and Elrohir. Which ones they are, and whether they will appear in any later movies, remains to be determined. Late Note: Peter Jackson has specifically said that Elladan and Elrohir are "out hunting" at the time of the Council of Elrond and therefore not in this scene. If you review the Timeline here, in the book, they were in Rivendell during the time when the Council of Elrond took place, albeit for a very brief window.
Why Do Fans Care?
Fans have written far more about the Sons of Elrond than Tolkien himself ever did, and the result is many different interpretations of Elladan and Elrohir. They are romantic in the classic sense of the word; there is a feeling of high tragedy about them, they care deeply about their mother, sister, and friends, they are mysterious and physically attractive. Nothing suggests that they are particularly devoted to each other, except for the fact that they are never once, at any time, mentioned as being separated.
The Fellowship of the Ring (FOTR), J.R.R. Tolkien, Ballantine Books, 1954.
The End of the Third Age, Volume 14 of The History of Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien. Houghton Mifflin Co, 1997.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carter. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1995.
The Peoples of Middle-Earth, Volume 12 of The History of Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien. Houghton Mifflin Co, 1996.
The Return of the King (ROTK), J.R.R. Tolkien, Ballantine Books, 1955.
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ballantine Books, 1977.
The family history of Elladan and Elrohir, and their sister Arwen, is as follows. This has been provided by another astute reader, Vikki, who has our eternal gratitude. All of this data can be seen in family-tree format in The Silmarillion. The complicating parts of their heritage are recounted below.
Beren: 100% Mortal
Luthien: 50% Elf (Sindarin), 50% Maia
Their only son is Dior.
Dior: 50% Mortal, 25% Elf (Sindar), 25% Maia
Nimloth: 100% Elf (Sindar)
They have twin sons and a daughter; only the daughter, Elwing, survives the sack of Doriath.
In the meantime, over in Gondolin:
Tuor: 100% Mortal (son of Huor)
Marries the 100% Noldorin Idril (daughter of Turgon and Elenwë)
Their child is Earendil.
Elwing: 25% Mortal, 62.5% Elf (Sindar), 12.5% Maia
Eärendil: 50% Mortal, 50% Elf (Noldorin)
And their children are the twins Elrond and Elros. Presented with a choice by the Valar, Elros chooses to become mortal and starts the Line of Kings. Elrond chooses to become fully Elvish.
Galadriel: ¼ Vanyarin, ¼ Noldorin (father, Finarfin), and ½ Telerin (mother, Earwen of Alqualonde).
Celeborn: 100% Sindar and no doubt very proud of it. There is no information about his parents, though it is noted that he was kin to the Sindarin king Thingol.
Their child is Celebrían.
Father: Elrond, 37.5% Mortal, 31.25% Elf (Sindar), 25% Elf (Noldorin), and 6.25% Maia.
Mother: Celebrian, Entirely elvish, 1/8 Noldorin, 1/8 Vanyarin, and ¾ Sindarin/Telerin.
Which brings us to:
Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen. 3/16ths mortal, 25/32nds Elf, and 1/32 Maia.
Feedback or comments on this essay are welcome - email Tyellas here.
Thanks to Colleen Doran for permission to use her images of Elladan and Elrohir. Visit Colleen Doran's site here.