The Elves were the fairest creatures in Arda, a far more beautiful race than Men, and generally tall (about six feet). Among them, those who had gone to Valinor were the fairest and had the greatest skill of body.
Elves had keener senses, sight and hearing than Men, were slender, graceful yet strong, but were resistant to extremes of nature, illness and disease. However many Noldor died at the crossings of Helcaraxe.
Practical considerations, including a number of occasions where Men were mistaken for Elves (most notably Túrin Turambar), suggest that the points of difference between Elves and Men, must have been subtle.
If Elvish ears were pointed is open for speculation, but it should be noted that there are no explicit references to pointed Elvish ears in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion.
It was stated in early linguistic writings that "the Quendian ears were more pointed and leaf-shaped than Human." Answering to a question on Hobbit ears, Tolkien wrote that these were "only slightly pointed and 'elvish'". Some fans take this to mean that Elvish ears were pointed, while others argue that it is an ambiguous statement.
Elven hair colour is quite varied and complex. In general, the Vanyar were golden-haired, and the other Elves (including Noldor, Sindar, and Avari) had dark (brown) or even black hair,[note 1] although some of the Teleri (including Celeborn) had silver hair. Lúthien Tinúviel and her remote descendant Arwen Undómiel, both described as the fairest of all Elves, were dark haired.
This is not the full picture, however: Finarfin, the youngest son of Finwë, and his descendants (such as Galadriel) had golden hair on account of Finwë's second wife, Indis of the Vanyar. Idril, the daughter of Turgon, had golden hair inherited from her mother, Elenwë of the Vanyar. Even the sons of Fëanor, the eldest Noldorin prince, were not all dark-haired: Maedhros and the twins Amrod and Amras had auburn hair, from their grandfather Mahtan. Fëanor's son Celegorm had blond hair, thus his epithet the Fair in contrast to his brother, Caranthir the Dark.
Additionally, a silver hair colour existed in the royal houses of the Sindar, with Thingol and Círdan both described as having silver hair. Galadriel displayed an extremely rare hair colour nowhere else observed: "silver-golden" hair, said to be dazzlingly beautiful ("blending the light of the Two Trees, Telperion and Laurelin"), which may have been a result of her unusual mixed Noldorin-Vanyarin-Telerin heritage (her mother was the niece of Thingol, and her father was a son of Finwë and Indis). Thranduil, father of Legolas and a Sindarin Elf, is described as having blond ("golden") hair in The Hobbit, but his son Legolas' own hair colour is not recorded.
When Tolkien describes Elven eyes, they tend to be grey. This is certainly true of Lúthien (and her descendants: Elrond, Arwen and her brothers, and Aragorn and the Dúnedain). Voronwë, who guided the man Tuor to Gondolin, also had grey eyes.
Though he was half-Noldorin, Maeglin is said to have dark eyes (possibly from his father Eöl, who was not of the Noldor), while Olwë (the brother of Lúthien's father Thingol, and a Telerin king) had blue eyes. The eye colour of most other Elves is not mentioned, and so would be difficult to generalize.
Elves were mostly beardless since they grew one only during their third cycle of life (Mahtan was an exception). Because of their (typical) beardlessness and beauty, the Elves are sometimes perceived as androgynous. However, they were probably not meant to be so; Legolas was:
"tall as a young tree, lithe, immensely strong, able swiftly to draw a great war-bow and shoot down a Nazgûl, endowed with the tremendous vitality of Elvish bodies, so hard and resistant to hurt that he went only in light shoes over rock or through snow, the most tireless of all the Fellowship." (The Book of Lost Tales Part Two)
The Elves were like Ainur in spirit; they loved all beauty of nature, especially water, the Sea and the stars, since they were the first things they saw; as a consequence Ulmo and Varda were the Ainur closer to them. They were marked for an insatiable curiosity and desire of learning and creating.
They detested all evil and usually were incorruptible, to it, unless evil tricked them with fair form, like Annatar. Conversely, their work harmed evil, like lembas and the Elven rope brought pain to Gollum's skin.
Elves apparently did not sleep but rested their minds with beautiful thoughts in reverie or looking at fair things.
Also, unlike Men, Elves were ambidextrous.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Conrad Dunkerson, "Do the Elves in Tolkien's stories have pointed ears?", The Tolkien Meta-FAQ (accessed 15 February 2012)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Michael Martinez, "Do Tolkien’s Elves Have Pointy Ears?" dated 21 September 2011, Middle.earth.Xenite.org (accessed 15 February 2012)
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Three: The Etymologies", p. 368 (roots LAS1 and LAS2)
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, "Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies — Part One" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 45, November 2003, p. 26
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 27, (dated March or April 1938)
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), pp. 118, 125
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
- ↑ Vinyar Tengwar, Number 41, July 2000
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, "Eldarin Hands, Fingers & Numerals and Related Writings — Part Three" (edited by Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 49, June 2007