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"Those Elves the Calaquendi call the Úmanyar, since they came never to the land of Aman and the Blessed Realm; but the Úmanyar and the Avari alike they call the Moriquendi, Elves of the Darkness, for they never beheld the Light that was before the Sun and Moon."
The Silmarillion[1]

The Moriquendi (singular Moriquende) were the Elves of Darkness, who did not behold the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor.

The term usually referred to the Avari, the Elves that did not join the Great Journey over the sea and remained in the East or passed the Blue Mountains and lingered on the shores of Middle-earth. However the term included also the Úmanyar ("Those not of Aman"), the Eldar who originally started on the journey but for some reason did not finish it. Those were typically Sindar and Nandor.

In the period of the Exile of the Noldor, "Dark Elves" referred to the Elves of Middle-earth other than the Noldor and the Sindar, thus being equivalent to the Avari.[2]

An exception to this categorization was King Thingol, who had been in Valinor as an ambassador of the Elves, and saw the Light. Though he did not complete the journey, and therefore considered one of the Úmanyar, he was not a Dark Elf.

Out of the 144 unbegotten Elves to awaken at Cuiviénen, 82 chose to remain and thus became the forefathers of the Moriquendi, outnumbering the population of the Amanyar.[3][note 1]

The term "Dark Elf" seems to hold an additional special (not explained) meaning, as it is given as a special title of Eöl of Nan Elmoth. It is also used as an insult by the Sons of Fëanor to King Thingol (which is incorrect, since Thingol alone of the Sindar was reckoned under the Calaquendi).


[edit] Other versions of the Legendarium

Tolkien said that in his earliest conception, the Dark Elves were "imagined as wandering about, and often ill-disposed towards the 'Light-Elves'". Later he considered an additional use of the term: "sometimes applied to Elves captured by Morgoth and enslaved and then released to do mischief among the Elves." He thought that this latter idea should be taken up for Eöl.[4]

[edit] Inspiration

In Norse mythology, there are the Light Elves (Ljósálfar) and the Dark Elves (Dökkálfar or Svartálfar), a tradition which was well known to J.R.R. Tolkien.[5]


  1. In other words, the Dark Elves consisted of the 57% of the Unbegotten Elven population in the beginning of days.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Three. The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings not forming part of the Quenta Silmarillion: III. Maeglin"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, "Appendix A: Origins of the Legend", p. 359
(Quendi · People of the Stars · Firstborn · Elder Kindred)
Three Kindreds:
(Eldar · Eldalië · Edhil)
 Vanyar (Fair-elves · Minyar) · Noldor (Deep-elves · Tatyar) · Teleri (Lindar · Nelyar)
(High-elves · Amanyar)
 Vanyar · Noldor · Falmari
Úmanyar:  Sindar (Grey-elves · Eglath) · Nandor (Green-elves · Silvan Elves)
 Moriquendi:  Úmanyar · Avari (Dark Elves · The Unwilling)
See Also:  Awakening of the Elves · Sundering of the Elves · Great Journey