Silvan Elves

Silvan Elves (wood elves) are an ethnic group of Elves in J. R. R. Tolkien‘s fictional universe of Middle-earth, mainly the Elves of Mirkwood and Lothlórien.

In the First Age the Elves of Ossiriand, or Laiquendi, were also referred to as wood-elves.

Silvan Elves are a multicultural society; mainly Nandorin descent but also mixed with Avari, Sindar and Noldor and governed by Sindarin rulers. Examples of these rulers are Thranduil king of northern Mirkwood, Amdír, and his son, Amroth, the last Sindarin prince of Lórien before the rule of Galadriel and Celeborn (of Noldorin/Telerin and Sindarin descent, respectively).

Silvan Elves are described as being less wise than other Eldar, and some of them almost are indistinguishable from the Avari, those who never joined the Great Journey.

The War of the Last Alliance

According to notes made by Tolkien after the publication of Lord of the Rings and found in Unfinished Tales, Oropher, the Sindarin king of the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood, or Greenwood the Great as it was then known, raised a large force as part of the Last Alliance to overthrow Sauron. During the first assault on Mordor, he disregarded Gil-galad‘s tactical plan and led a reckless charge in which he was slain along with two-thirds of his troops. Rule of the Silvan Elves and field command of their remaining strength passed to Oropher’s son Thranduil, the father of Legolas.


The Silvan Elves of Mirkwood are described as distrustful of Dwarves, but friendly to Men, with whom they trade. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins has to rescue the Dwarves of Thorin Oakenshield‘s company from these Elves. Later in the book they are one of the Five Armies in the Battle of Five Armies.

Legolas of the Fellowship of the Ring, although he lived among them and presented himself as one of the Silvan folk in The Lord of the Rings, was not one of them. As a son of the Elven-king Thranduil, who had originally come from Doriath, Legolas was actually a Sindarin Elf. This is complicated by the fact that a small minority of Sindarin Elves ruled the predominantly Silvan Woodland Realm of Northern Mirkwood, a minority to which Legolas belonged. The Sindarin minority in that realm, who should have been nobler and wiser than the Silvan Elves, can be seen as having „gone native” at the end of the First Age: after Morgoth was defeated and all of the grand Elf-kingdoms of Beleriand were destroyed, they can be seen as going back to „a simpler time” in their culture.

In the 1977 animated adaption of The Hobbit, The Wood Elves are depicted as having fair hair and pale lavender skin, with clothing predominantly brown and olive coloured garb.


The Silvan Elves of Lórien are also called the Galadhrim, literally „tree-folk”. After the departure of Amroth in T.A. 1981, they were ruled by Celeborn and Galadriel. At the time of the War of the Ring they spoke a divergent dialect of Sindarin which had changed so much that Frodo Baggins, who spoke some Sindarin, could not understand them. Additionally, few Elves of Lórien could speak Westron, so that Haldir, one of the few that could, had to accompany them on their way to Caras Galadhon. During the War of the Ring the Galadhrim were the strongest of all the elven kingdoms and aided in banishing Sauron the Necromancer from Dol Guldur.




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