A host of Elves in armour of the Elder Days?

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
In the last class there was a long discussion as to whether Elrond’s statement, “Had I a host of Elves in armour of the Elder Days, it would avail little”, was a reference to the Battle of the Last Alliance.

The question was, could that battle be what was referenced, as it was not in the Elder Days.,

This led me to wonder what a first-time reader had thought was meant by ‘The Elder Days’?

The first reference I remember is on Weathertop, when Strider is telling tales to the Hobbits. “He knew many histories and legends of long ago, of Elves and Men, and the good and evil deeds of the Elder Days.”

This is followed by Merry saying to Strider, “Tell us of Gil-galad”.

This would indicate that Merry probably sees no differentiation between tales of ‘The Elder Days’ and tales of Gil-galad. The first-time reader can also have no idea that tales of Gil-galad likely fall outside of ‘The Elder Days’.

The next reference to ‘The Elder Days’ that I recall is in Bilbo’s Earendil poem. “And over Middle-earth he passed and heard at last the weeping sore of women and of elven-maids in Elder Days, in years of yore.”

Here again, the first-time reader can only assume that ‘Elder Days’ just means ‘long ago’, rather than referring to a specific time period.

Then Elrond, twice, in the Council, refers to ‘The Elder Days’. “It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand.” Shortly thereafter, “But my memory reaches back even to the Elder Days.”

Neither of these really defines what ‘The Elder Days’ means. The first-time reader still assumes ‘long ago’.

So, I think, for the first-time reader, the objection, “but the Battle of the Last Alliance was not during the Elder Days”, just would not occur.

So, is ‘The Elder Days’ ever defined more precisely in TLOTR? Yes. At the start of Appendix B, “In the Fourth Age the earlier ages were often called the Elder Days; but that name was properly given only to the days before the casting out of Morgoth.”

However, to the first-time reader, (and, I suggest to the Hobbits being addressed), Elrond’s comment on a host of Elves in the armour of the Elder Days, would obviously suggest the Battle of the Last Alliance, and the question “but, but, but, that battle was not in the Elder Days!” just never would have occurred.

Would more frequent attention paid to the perspective of the first-time reader, have cut out a lengthy (and diversionary) segment of the class which was devoted to this question?

Any other references in TLOTR to ‘The Elder Days’ that readers can remember or find?
 

Beech27

Active Member
There are a few references to "Elder Days" before Weathertop:

This tale grew in the telling, until it became a history of the Great War of the Ring and included many glimpses of the yet more ancient history that preceded it. It was begun soon after The Hobbit was written and before its publication in 1937; but I did not go on with this sequel, for I wished first to complete and set in order the mythology and legends of the Elder Days, which had then been taking shape for some years.

The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten.

These three volumes were found to be a work of great skill and learning in which, between 1403 and 1418, he had used all the sources available to him in Rivendell, both living and written. But since they were little used by Frodo, being almost entirely concerned with the Elder Days, no more is said of them here.

It is said that Celeborn went to dwell there after the departure of Galadriel; but there is no record of the day when at last he sought the Grey Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth.

According to their own tales they were the original inhabitants and were the descendants of the first Men that ever wandered into the West of the middle-world. Few had survived the turmoils of the Elder Days; but when the Kings returned again over the Great Sea they had found the Bree-men still there, and they were still there now, when the memory of the old Kings had faded into the grass.
 

Longtimer

Member
Then Elrond, twice, in the Council, refers to ‘The Elder Days’. “It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand.” Shortly thereafter, “But my memory reaches back even to the Elder Days.”


A very careful reader should be able to discern from this that the Elder Days are the era of Beleriand, since clearly the time of the Last Alliance are not the Elder Days.
Also, you stop the second quote to soon. It goes on, "Earendil was my sire who was born in Gondolin before its fall... I have seen three ages in the West of the world" Again for a very careful reader this places the Elder Days at the time when Gondolin stood.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
There are a few references to "Elder Days" before Weathertop:

This tale grew in the telling, until it became a history of the Great War of the Ring and included many glimpses of the yet more ancient history that preceded it. It was begun soon after The Hobbit was written and before its publication in 1937; but I did not go on with this sequel, for I wished first to complete and set in order the mythology and legends of the Elder Days, which had then been taking shape for some years.

The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten.

These three volumes were found to be a work of great skill and learning in which, between 1403 and 1418, he had used all the sources available to him in Rivendell, both living and written. But since they were little used by Frodo, being almost entirely concerned with the Elder Days, no more is said of them here.

It is said that Celeborn went to dwell there after the departure of Galadriel; but there is no record of the day when at last he sought the Grey Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth.

According to their own tales they were the original inhabitants and were the descendants of the first Men that ever wandered into the West of the middle-world. Few had survived the turmoils of the Elder Days; but when the Kings returned again over the Great Sea they had found the Bree-men still there, and they were still there now, when the memory of the old Kings had faded into the grass.
Good job on finding more references, Beech27,

I think these quotes all tend to an interpretation of 'The Elder Days' as long long ago, but they do not really indicate a definitive time limit for 'The Elder Days' to the first-time reader.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
A very careful reader should be able to discern from this that the Elder Days are the era of Beleriand, since clearly the time of the Last Alliance are not the Elder Days.
Also, you stop the second quote to soon. It goes on, "Earendil was my sire who was born in Gondolin before its fall... I have seen three ages in the West of the world" Again for a very careful reader this places the Elder Days at the time when Gondolin stood.
I do not think it is so clear that the time of the Last Alliance is not 'The Elder Days', to the first-time reader. Elrond's comment does imply that the Elder Days include the time of Gondolin (though not clear that Gondolin is among Elrond's memories of the Eldar Days. He says that his sire was born in Gondolin before its fall. We don't know whether Elrond was born before or after (or how long after) the fall of Gondolin.) Elrond's comment, however does not indicate that the Battle of the Last Alliance was not during 'The Elder Days'. We don't know when 'The Elder Days' were thought to have ended.

Elrond says, "I have seen three ages in the West of the World." No indication to the first-time reader when any of those ages started or finished, and no indication as to how much of each of them should be considered when someone references 'The Elder Days'.

I don't think the first-time reader has any reason to think that the Battle of the Last Alliance could not be referred to as 'The Elder Days'?
 
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Longtimer

Member
Flammifer I disagree about “It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand.” Saying that something recalled another time is by extension sayin this is not that time. By analogy, which is admittedly always tricky, saying that a movie recalls the style of the Golden Age of movies implies that it was not made in the Golden Age. Is the foregoing dispositive, maybe not, but it feels fairly strong.

As to the Gondolin reference, it is less certain although it places the Elder Days at the time when Gondolin stood. You are right that it does not say that when Gondolin no longer stood it was no longer the Elder Days. I would say though that in context, there are three ages and I have seen all three and my father was born in Gondolin ere its fall seems like he is placing his memory in that age.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
For the first time reader, there is no chronology until you get to the appendices, and there is no reason to think anything that happened a couple of thousand years ago is not the elder days. Elrond mentions how the hosts setting off with the Last Alliance were not as impressive as those who set out years before in the War of Wrath (he doesn't use that name). But there is no reason to think elder days stops at any particular point in the distant past. Do we not call the study of ancient Greece or Rome ancient history, though it's nowhere near as ancient as the history of Assyria or ancient Egypt? Why would a first time reader think the history of Middle-earth is reckoned any differently?
 

Longtimer

Member
Rachel: In writing a history if it is said that something the Vikings did recalled the Roman era the reader would assume that the Vikings were not part of the Roman era, otherwise the event would be part of not a recollection of that era. Elrond says it recalled. That puts it in a different time frame.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Flammifer I disagree about “It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand.” Saying that something recalled another time is by extension sayin this is not that time. By analogy, which is admittedly always tricky, saying that a movie recalls the style of the Golden Age of movies implies that it was not made in the Golden Age. Is the foregoing dispositive, maybe not, but it feels fairly strong.

As to the Gondolin reference, it is less certain although it places the Elder Days at the time when Gondolin stood. You are right that it does not say that when Gondolin no longer stood it was no longer the Elder Days. I would say though that in context, there are three ages and I have seen all three and my father was born in Gondolin ere its fall seems like he is placing his memory in that age.
Well yes, Elrond saying that he recalled 'the glory of the Elder Days' does imply that it was not very recent compared to now. It was long ago. But so was the Battle of the Last Alliance. They are both tales of the Elder Days, as far as the first-time reader and the Hobbits are aware.

Elrond says that he has seen three ages of the world. However, neither the first-time reader (nor the Hobbits) has any idea in which age the Fall of Gondolin was (though they probably can deduce the First). Nor do they have any idea in which age The Battle of the Last Alliance was. Or that it was in a different age from the fall of Gondolin. Nor that when someone says 'The Elder Days' they mean a specific Age, or collection of Ages. "In Elder Days, in years of yore", is what Bilbo says in his Earendil poem. Pretty much the equivalent of 'long long ago' (and perhaps 'far away').
 

Longtimer

Member
Flammifer we are parsing words but words are important. He says "It" referring to the Host. This means the host was not of the Elder Days but recalled the Elder Days. If the host were part of the Elder Days, he might say "It recalled to me the host of Beleriand" or "It recalled an earlier host" but that "It recalled the Elder Days" places it after the Elder Days have gone.
We probably will not agree but take a look at the meaning of recalled and synonyms for it.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Elder in relation to what? Looking at the hosts of the Last Alliance, Elrond is taken back to Elder Days from what is his present time. The hobbits, listening to the stories, look at all of it as elder days, and from where they are, it's true. If they capitalize it, it's because of the mythic nature of the stories, not necessarily as the name of a particular time. I had the experience about a year ago of hearing someone discussing "classic" literature (not in the Greco-Roman sense), except that they meant books I had read soon after they were first published. It was a little disorienting - anything published in my lifetime is modern to me. I still disagree with young people who call them classics. But time is a matter of perspective.

For the hobbits and perhaps others in the Council who are not elves, Elder Days encompasses anything mythic, and long enough ago to be forgotten by many.
 

Longtimer

Member
Rachel: This is getting complicated the initial issue seemed to be should the reader understand Elder Days as a distinct time period or simply a time long ago. This was also asked about the hobbits.
Based on what is said at the Council Elrond clearly is talking about a specific time period. Bilbo I am certain understands Elrond is referring to a specific time period. Frodo may understand it at the time and definitely understands it by the time he writes the book. The modern reader can with careful reading see that Elrond is referring to a specific time period not encompassed by the days of the Last Alliance. Would hobbits listening to Sam read the book pick-up on this maybe not. Would Sam listening at the Council understand probably not. Would Sam later understand it, definitely. Would the others at the Council Elves, Dwarves, Aragorn understand it, Yes. Would Boromir understand it, Probably.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Longtimer,

I think you are spot on in your analysis of who would understand it, and who would not.

My main focus, however, is not on who in the audience would understand it, but on what would the first-time reader understand.

The first-time reader, in my opinion, would not differentiate between The Battle of the Last Alliance, and The Elder Days. Both are just long long ago.

Therefore, if we took account of the perspective of the first-time reader (as we were instructed to do in the early days of this class) we would not need to go into length on the question of whether Elrond's comment referenced the Battle of the Last Alliance, or not.

From the first-tine reader's perspective, it obviously does.

So, once we determined that (which would not take long) we could move on, instead of spending half the class debating. OK, it might have been worth questioning what exactly Elrond meant, in light of what we know about the Elder Days as readers of the entire LOTR, but it still would not have caused such a diversion.

We seem to have lost the perspective of the first-time reader in the class. I think it is a shame.
 

Longtimer

Member
Flammifer: I started LotR for the first time in the Elder Days, defined as a time when was no published Silmarillion. I cannot remember what I thought the Elder Days meant. I know that most of what this class focuses on went way over my head as I focused on the story and ignored many of the parts I now love. To paraphrase I now ignore much that I once loved and love much that I once ignored.
With that as an intro, I believe that a first time reader closely following and analyzing the book as we are in this class should know from Elrond's statement that the Battle of the Last Alliance took place during a time period after the Elder Days would be a correct reading and knowing that adds a depth and grandeur to the story and the mythology.
 

Odola

Active Member
Flammifer: I started LotR for the first time in the Elder Days, defined as a time when was no published Silmarillion. I cannot remember what I thought the Elder Days meant. I know that most of what this class focuses on went way over my head as I focused on the story and ignored many of the parts I now love. To paraphrase I now ignore much that I once loved and love much that I once ignored.
With that as an intro, I believe that a first time reader closely following and analyzing the book as we are in this class should know from Elrond's statement that the Battle of the Last Alliance took place during a time period after the Elder Days would be a correct reading and knowing that adds a depth and grandeur to the story and the mythology.
Exactly what I thought. Would we really have taken the "first-time's rader approach", the course would have endend several years ago, as a 1st time reader misses ca. 2/3 of what we have talked about.
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Flammifer: I started LotR for the first time in the Elder Days, defined as a time when was no published Silmarillion. I cannot remember what I thought the Elder Days meant. I know that most of what this class focuses on went way over my head as I focused on the story and ignored many of the parts I now love. To paraphrase I now ignore much that I once loved and love much that I once ignored.
With that as an intro, I believe that a first time reader closely following and analyzing the book as we are in this class should know from Elrond's statement that the Battle of the Last Alliance took place during a time period after the Elder Days would be a correct reading and knowing that adds a depth and grandeur to the story and the mythology.
Hi Longtimer,

I agree with you, that when Elrond says, "I remember well the splendour of their banners. (the banners of the host of the Last Alliance) It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand." He is using 'The Elder Days' to refer to a time before the Battle of the Last Alliance. But, I am not sure that the first time reader would associate that with a specific period. He is basically saying, 'It recalled to me the glory of long ago'.

At the time which Elrond was speaking of when he did his recollection (the time of the muster of the Last Alliance) the 'hosts of Beleriand' were indeed long ago. However, when Elrond is saying, "Had I a host of Elves in armour of the Elder Days, it would avail little," in 'The Ring goes South', the Battle of the Last Alliance is also long ago.

If the first-time reader is reading 'The Elder Days' as 'Long Ago', (as prompted by "In Elder Days, in years of yore") then the first-time reader would not be confused enough to ask the question, 'why is Elrond talking about armour of the Elder Days, when making reference to The Battle of the Last Alliance?'

There has been nothing in TLOTR so far to indicate that 'The Elder Days' refers to a specific time period, rather than just meaning 'Long Ago'. (Or perhaps, 'very long ago'; Or possibly 'long ago, back in legendary and mythic times')
 

Longtimer

Member
I agree with you, that when Elrond says, "I remember well the splendour of their banners. (the banners of the host of the Last Alliance) It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand." He is using 'The Elder Days' to refer to a time before the Battle of the Last Alliance. But, I am not sure that the first time reader would associate that with a specific period. He is basically saying, 'It recalled to me the glory of long ago'.
You and I will probably not agree on this. While the reader may not get this they should. Grammatically and/or as used in historical writing "It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days" should be read as referring to a specific era which the thing be referred to is not a part of.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
I also first read LOTR in Elder Days. I couldn't have done this kind of reading then - I was too impatient to find out what was going to happen next. On this question, though, I'm still with Flammifer.

There is one point in Elrond's statement that you are not seeing - the tense of the word "recalled." It recalled the Elder Days to him at the time of the Last Alliance. That is no proof that at the time of the Council he would not consider the Elder Days to include the Last Alliance. That is true only if you take the capitalization to name something specific; reading about the Council, I don't think an ordinary first-time reader would take that for granted.
 

Longtimer

Member
Rachel I am happy that there are Eldars among us.

As a careful or scholarly first time reader I would read it as present time period "I remember well the splendour of their banners" and present "it recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days." Thus he is remembering the Last Alliance which recalled the Elder Days. Clearly the Last Alliance then is not in the Elder Days or it would not be recalling the Elder Days. Also, as a scholarly first time reader Elder Days is the proper name for a time period not simply long ago.
 
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