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Friday, April 8, 2011

Elvish Marriage Customs (Reading Material)

from Tolkien's Laws and Customs Among the Eldar, published in History of Middle Earth, volume 10, Morgoth's Ring

“The Eldar wedded only once in life, and for love or at the least by free will upon either part. Even when in after days ... many of the Eldar of Middle-Earth became corrupted, and their hearts darkened by the shadow that lies upon Arda, seldom is any tale told of deeds of lust among them.”

“Marriage, save for rare ill chance or strange fates, was the natural course of life for all the Eldar. “
{two paragraphs later:} “Nonetheless among the Eldar, even in Aman, the desire for marriage was not always fulfilled. Love was not always returned; and more than one might desire one other for spouse. Concerning this, the only cause by which sorrow entered the bliss of Aman, the Valar were in doubt.” {One theory was that was a “grief and disorder” resulting from the Marring of Arda. Another was that this was a necessary result of free will.}

“Those who would afterwards become wedded might choose one another in youth, even as children (and indeed this happened often in days of peace); but unless they desired soon to be married and were of fitting age, the betrothal awaited the judgement of the parents of either party.

In due time the betrothal was announced at a meeting of the two houses concerned, and the betrothed gave silver rings one to another. According to the laws of the Eldar this betrothal was bound then to stand for one year at least, and it often stood for longer. During this time it could be revoked by a public return of the rings .. but the right of revoking was seldom used, for the Eldar do not err lightly in such choice.
After the betrothal it was the part of the betrothed to appoint the time of their wedding, when at least one year had passed. Then at a feast, again, shared by the two houses, the marriage was celebrated. At the end of the feast the betrothed stood forth, and the mother of the bride and the father of the bridegroom joined the hands of the pair and blessed them. For this blessing there was a solemn form, but not mortal has heard it; though the Eldar say that Varda was named in witness by the mother and Manwë by the father; and moreover that the name of Eru was spoken (as was seldom done at any other time). The betrothed then received back one from the other their silver rings (and treasured them); but they gave in exchange slender rings of gold, which were worn on the index of the right hand.

Among the Noldor was it also a custom that the bride's mother should give to the bridegroom a jewel upon a chian or collar; and the bridegroom's father should give a like gift to the bride. These gifts were sometimes given before the feast. (Thus the gift of Galadriel to Aragorn, since she was in place of Arwen's mother, was in part a bridal gift and earnest of the wedding that was later accomplished.)

But these ceremonies were not rites necessary to marriage....It was the act of bodily union that achieved marriage, and after which the indissoluble bond was complete. In happy days and times of peace it was held ungracious and contemptuous of kin to forgo the ceremonies, but it was at all times lawful for any of the Eldar, both being unwed, to marry thus of free consent one to another without ceremony or witness (save blessings exchanged and the naming of the Name); and the union so joined was alike indissoluble. In days of old, in times of trouble, in flight and exile and wandering, such marriages were often made.”

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