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  1. Berelach's Avatar
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    #1

    Aragon and Arwen question

    In LotR, RotK, Appendix A (v), on his deathbed Aragorn says to Arwen, "The uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens... or else to abide the Doom of Men." To which Arwen replies, "...that choice is long over."

    I've never understood why Aragorn doesn't already know that her choice is long over. It seems to me that he should know that well. Am I missing something?

  2. Eldorion's Avatar
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    #2
    Hard to say. Arwen tells Frodo (in front of Aragorn) that she will not depart overseas and that Frodo will go in her place (ROTK, VI 6). Granted, this is roughly 122 years before the final conversation in The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, but it's indicated to be a pretty final decision and it doesn't make sense for Aragorn to not know this. I've always thought that perhaps Aragorn was just trying (not very successfully) to make Arwen feel better at the end since she was very bitter about her first real taste of mortality.
    Last edited by Eldorion; 11/Jun/2016 at 08:26 PM.

  3. Túrin's Avatar
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    #3
    That was I've read this, I don't think that Aragorn was unaware of the implications of Arwen's choice long before, but I also don't think he's just trying to comfort Arwen with empty words, I think he really meant what he said, and that he thought it was possible (not necessarily probable, but possible). Let's think on this:

    We know that select mortals were allowed to go to the Undying Lands. So it is not unreasonable to at least consider Arwen going to to the Undying Lands. We also know that the Valar have done or permitted things that were supposed to be off-limits. They send Beren back to life, they sent Luthien back to life as a mortal (okay, they didn't do this directly, but they bent the rules and asked Eru for an exception). They spared Earendil's life (seriously, Mandos wanted to kill him, it's pretty clear in the Silmarillion, but even more direct in HoMe V: Lost Road and Other Writings). They reversed their decision regarding the exiled Noldor. They possibly interceded again for Tuor to get an exception from Eru.

    So, say Arwen could get to Tol Eressea. Once there, she could repent her choice beg for mercy, and for her choice to be reversed. The matter of the Half-elven would be neatly tied up for the Valar (since Arwen's children were with a mortal, they are thus mortal). At that point, the Valar could do one of a few things:

    1. Say "No, you can't change you choice" and kill her like Mandos wanted to kill Earendil.
    2. Say "No, you can't change you choice", and allow her to live out her days on Tol Eressea, as did Frodo and the others.
    3. Say "No, you can't change you choice" and ship her back to Middle-earth.
    4. Say "Sure thing" and allow her to be an Elf. The power to award the choice to those with heritage of both Elf and Man belong to Manwe, they didn't even have to go to Eru. So, it's reasonable to think that Manwe would be able to allow Arwen to recant and change her decision.

    So if Arwen goes try to go to the West, and succeeds, the worst that would happen is that she has to abide by the Doom of Men. Note that this would be the case if she stayed in Middle-earth. On the other hand, she might be allowed to change her Fate. This is like playing the lottery were you don't have to pay for a ticket.

    I don't think that Aragorn is forgetting the implications of Arwen's choice. I think he is simply pointing out that by trying, she might at best get an exception, and at worst retains the status quo.
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  4. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
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    #4
    To add to what Turin has stated, here are two instances in the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen where Aragorn is told of the doom Elrond and his children:

    But lo! Master Elrond, the years of your abiding run short at last, and the choice must soon be laid on your children, to part either with you or with Middle-earth.

    The realization of the impending doom of Elrond and his children occurs to Aragorn during his discussion with Elrond about his future love life. Aragorn then witnesses when Arwen makes her choice at Cerin Amroth.

    'But Aragorn answered: "Alas! I cannot foresee it, and how it may come to pass is hidden from me. Yet with your hope I will hope. And the Shadow I utterly reject. But neither, lady, is the Twilight for me; for I am mortal, and if you will cleave to me, Evenstar, then the Twilight you must also renounce."

    'And she stood then as still as a white tree, looking into the West, and at last she said: "I will cleave to you, Dúnadan, and turn from the Twilight. Yet there lies the land of my people and the long home of all my kin." She loved her father dearly.


    Tolkien has not characterized Aragorn as a forgetful person, so we can assume Aragorn remembers the time Arwen definitively chose to renounce elf immortality.

    Aragorn again refers to the decision both made in Cerith Amroth prior to "The uttermost choice is before you"

    "the hour is indeed hard, yet it was made even in that day when we met under the white birches in the garden of Elrond where none now walk. And on the hill of Cerin Amroth when we forsook both the Shadow and the Twilight this doom we accepted."

    Aragorn clearly remembers and states that Arwen made her choice regarding the Doom of Men long ago at Cerin Amroth.

    Finally, although Aragorn did try to speak words of comfort to his mother in his last meeting with Gilraen, Aragorn makes it very clear that he is not speaking empty words of comfort to Arwen ("I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world"), but rather the general argument that Turin stated. The key words here are "to repent". Repent is essentially asking for forgiveness, the forgiveness being the decision Arwen made long ago at Cerin Amroth to choose the Doom of Men.
    Last edited by Rivvy Elf; 12/Jun/2016 at 05:00 AM.
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  5. Eldorion's Avatar
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    #5
    Very interesting post, Túrin. I think your core point that Arwen had little to lose by asking for an exception is valid. I think that such a request would have to be made and "processed" before she departed Middle-earth, however. Bilbo and Frodo had clearly been granted permission in advance, and given the Round World cosmology, pulling an Eärendil and sailing to Aman uninvited and/or unwelcome was not necessarily possible anymore. I imagine that any Elves preparing to depart would, if contemplating bringing a mortal with them, seek the permission of the Valar (possibly via Ósanwe) rather than risk heading to sea and then being unable to find the Straight Road. Given Arwen's dismissal of Aragorn's suggestion I wonder if she was told (whether by her father or anyone else) that the decision was irreversible, but as you point out, the worst that could result from asking (especially if she asked before leaving Middle-earth) would be to be told no.

  6. Saranna's Avatar
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    #6
    'Repent' can also, in a more archaic meaning, allude to changing ones mind; 'I repent of that decision.' Aragorn is generously offering to forgo the joy of being with Arwen 'beyond the circles of the world,' if she now finds the consequences of her choice too hard to bear. How far we feel that she might actually accept this offer is a matter of personal choice by the reader. It seems possible that, at Cerin Amroth, though Aragorn 'came there never again as living man,' he might have been permitted to come there in spirit to sustain Arwen though the lonely years before she could join him. Since Arwen's pledge to become mortal was in fact made for Aragorn's sake, it seems not unreasonable that he has some right to offer to release her from it. (Darn, I'm sniffling again.)
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  7. Berelach's Avatar
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    #7
    Thank you all for the very thoughtful replies. You may very well be right in that Aragorn was offering Arwen a chance to rethink her decision and not cleave to him. But for my part, I'm still very unsatisfied with this. And I'm getting even more into an opinion here so feel free to tune out... but I don't believe Tolkien would ever have considered that Arwen might consider changing her mind. The gravity and finality of her decision is so very poignant. If she could simply change her mind and ask for her fate to be altered, the weight of her decision is much less moving. And with Death being such a (if not the) central theme to the story, I just can't believe that Tolkien would have had this idea in his mind. I also don't think Aragorn saying this would be consoling in any way to Arwen. If they both already knew that changing her fate was not possible, then it would be more like rubbing salt in the wound. But the fact remains that Tolkien wrote it and so he must have had some idea of what was in their minds.

    Hammond and Scull's LotR: A Reader's Companion pointed me to this quote from Mallorn 36 (Nov 1998) from Helen Armstrong's 'There Are Two People In This Marriage' (p8):

    "And Aragorn - at the last, he seems to believe that Arwen still has the ability to leave the mortal world and rejoin her own people, if she chooses to do so. But she says emphatically that it is too late. This has excited a great deal of comment over the years - which one of them is right? Yet the Tale emphasizes this fact no fewer than three times: looking forward, at their betrothal: "her choice was made, and her doom appointed"; at the time of Elrond's departure: "But Arwen became as a mortal woman ..." and, looking back, at his deathbed: "Nay, dear lord ... that choice is long over ..."

    So there is no contradiction in the text. Arwen
    gave up her immortality purely through her choice, but the change in her nature took place when Elrond left Middle-earth, not when Aragorn gave up his life. There was no more choice. And she knew this. But it seems that he didn't.

    I like that. It shows that she didn't nag."


    Perhaps Aragorn treated the fate of Elves (or maybe specifically the Halfelven) with such reverence and/or sensitivity that he never fully discussed it with Arwen and possibly didn't dwell on it either. I don't love that explanation, but to me if feels a little better than questioning the finality of Arwen's decision. I don't know... I'm still thinking about it
    Last edited by Berelach; 14/Jun/2016 at 05:46 AM.

  8. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
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    #8
    The issue with Armstrong's interpretation is that the text itself contradicts the argument. Aragorn already recieved an epiphany regarding the choices of Elrond's children:

    "But lo! Master Elrond, the years of your abiding run short at last, and the choice must soon be laid on your children, to part either with you or with Middle-earth."

    Aragorn says this during his conversation with Elrond after Elrond discovers Aragorn is in love with Arwen. Parting with "Middle-Earth" means adopting the doom of men rather than the fate of the elves (who even when dead must remain in Middle-Earth). He knew that the change in her nature would take place when Elrond left Middle-Earth. Tolkien has not shown a foregtfulness characteristic with Aragorn to prove that he forgot about this epiphany during his last conversation with Arwen. The text also points out that Aragorn died before he would become infirm and forgetful due to his old age.

    However, if one considers the history of Middle-Earth, Tolkien also has the powerful theme of overcoming fate and death itself with the examples of Beren and Luthien/Earendil the Mariner. That even fate itself can be altered through circumstance. Turin's post goes more into detail regarding past examples of fates being changed.

    It is more likely that Aragorn loved Arwen so much, that he was willing to part with her forever if she would be happier staying Middle-Earth rather than leaving it. Keep in mind that if Arwen did not choose the doom of men, there would be absolutely 0% chance they would ever meet again after Aragorn's death. Whereas there is at least a probability chance they could reunite if they both left Middle-Earth and chose the Doom of Men since we don't know where mortals go after leaving Middle-Earth forever.
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  9. Túrin's Avatar
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    #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Berelach View Post
    I don't believe Tolkien would ever have considered that Arwen might consider changing her mind.

    That's the beauty of my interpretation of this: You don't have to. I don't believe that Arwen considered that - in fact she flat out refused it. But we're not discussing what Tolkien thought or what Arwen might consider doing, the quote is about Aragorn's comments. So what is important is what Aragorn thought might be possible, or was thinking or offering. Tolkien makes a distinction between himself and his characters, so what Tolkien was thinking and what Aragorn was saying do not have to align.

    Quote Originally Posted by Berelach View Post
    I also don't think Aragorn saying this would be consoling in any way to Arwen.

    It wasn't supposed to be. As Rivvy Elf quoted before, Aragorn explicitly stated:
    "I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world." He was not trying to console Arwen with this. She had just said that she was not ready to die yet, I read his comment as Aragorn being matter-of-fact regarding her options. Not liking the Doom of Men? Then repent your choice, go into the West, and the Valar may take pity on you. Otherwise, get used to the idea of mortality.

    Also, I'd quibble a bit on Arwen's mortality being tied to Elrond's sailing. We know that the sons of Elrond were able to delay their choice and remain in Middle-earth for a while. As Armstrong's quotes suggest, the decision to be mortal was made long before, before even the War of the Ring.

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  10. Aranadhel's Avatar
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    #10
    IMHO she could have at least chilled out til the last Elves sailed. So she could write a farewell letter and have drawings of her children's faces sent to Elrond rather than fml and fled to die at Cerin Amroth.
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  11. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
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    #11
    The last of the elves did sail, at least according to Arwen.

    "that choice is long over. There is now no ship that would bear the hence, and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or I nill: the loss and the silence"

    The question is whether the word "would" also means "could" in this sense. However the words "must", "whether I will or I nill" puts a tone of finality to the argument. This leads me to believe that all of the elves that could sail to Valinor all left. Aragorn also does not further pursue the subject following Arwen's response. This also means that all of the elves in Legolas' Ithilien colony left.

    and she went out from the city of Minas Tirith and passed away to the land of Lórien, and dwelt there alone under the fading trees until winter came. Galadriel had passed away and Celeborn also was gone, and the land was silent.

    "the land was silent" means that every elf left Lorien. We do not hear mention of Elladan or Elrohir, which implies that the pair made their decision long ago and are no longer present when Aragorn dies.

    Turin- I got a thumbs up from Turin? *does the happy dance*

    and with the passing of Evenstar no more is said in this book of the days of old

    "the days of old" is alternative way of saying "Elder Days". Both phrases are associated with the days prior to the Age of Men, where elves were prominent. The death Arwen is used by the Gondorian historian to symbolize the end of the elves, or at least the elves that could sail to Valinor, in the continent.
    Last edited by Rivvy Elf; 15/Jun/2016 at 03:25 AM.
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  12. Túrin's Avatar
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    #12
    A thumbs-up for sure. You've made some good points in this thread. And that was good, picking up on how Armstrong's conclusion contradicted the quotes she provided.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rivvy Elf View Post
    We do not hear mention of Elladan or Elrohir, which implies that the pair made their decision long ago and are no longer present when Aragorn dies.
    Before Arwen dies, yes, though Tolkien makes a comment in Letter #153 that they delayed their choice. The following two threads discuss this and some related matters. In particular, halfir's post in the second is a concise summary of some of the discussion between he and others in the first.

    http://www.lotrplaza.com/archives/in...ive&TID=178579

    http://www.lotrplaza.com/archives/in...Age&TID=204043
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  13. Aranadhel's Avatar
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    #13
    Or she could take the last ship with Legs & Gimli.
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  14. Galin's Avatar
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    #14
    I'm not sure the letter (in which JRRT appears to say that the brothers delayed their choice after Elrond sailed) necessarily reveals Tolkien's final idea here.

    If my understanding of the chronology is correct, Tolkien was still working on the Appendices after this letter was written, and I think even JRRT himself would have to admit that he at least implied that remaining after Elrond sailed reveals a choice of mortality. Part of the letter (that the fate of Elrond's sons is not told) holds true in 1955 in any case, as (as far as I know), Tolkien did not publish any reference to Elladan and Elrohir remaining after their father sailed, nor if they sailed with him...

    ... in other words, even if Tolkien had decided that the choice must be made "soon" with Elrond's departure (and why not, the children of Elrond had already had many years to make their choices), and even if he intended to leave the idea suggested rather than stated outright, in 1955 he had not revealed the fates of Elrond's sons in any case.

    But then, for the revised edition, Tolkien adds two mentions of the brothers remaining after Elrond sails. For me (in my opinion), the author published accounts "now" suggest that Elrond's sons chose mortality. I don't know if Tolkien even remembered his earlier letter in the 1960s, or if it certainly "still" described the scenario as he wished it in any case...

    ... but here we might have a case of a letter not actually informing Middle-earth, but muddling it... that is, if indeed the arguable suggestion in the Appendices is the way Tolkien wanted his readership to approach this subject, then the letter -- something which Tolkien himself could not have guessed would become public (no internet in his day as well) -- could be influencing interpretations in a way JRRT did not desire nor foresee.

    Or not

    But it's something to consider maybe.

    Or not

  15. wiebkes's Avatar
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    #15
    For Aragorn assuming Arwen might still have had a choice - or possibly could still be immortal... there are two tiny things I am actually wondering about, which might make things clearer (or more confusing):
    1. Somehow everybody (Elrond included) assumes that by marrying Aragorn, Arawen chooses the fate of men instead of immortality. But where actually is that stated, that marriage to a mortal would include giving up immortality? Could it be that the choice is rather independent of marriage after all? That Arwen could still be immortal even after marrying Aragorn...but choose to give up immortality when she "transferred" it to Frodo?
    2. Everybody seems to assume that Arwen would rather have been immortal and gone to Valinor after Aragorn died. Yet from my memory, she asked Aragorn to stay alive a little longer so they could spend even more time together, yet he refused as he felt he was getting "too old and weary". So if we assume Arwen to still have the choice of immortality over mortality, could it be that she still would have chosen mortality as to not be without Aragorn for ever? Immortality to her would also include to miss Aragorn for the rest of eternity and to me it seems that even if she could have gone back to Lorien or Rivendell and found those places as they were while the elves still lived in Middle-earth, they would not have been the same to her as her joy and prospect of meeting and talking to the love of her life was gone.
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  16. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #16
    I don''t think she transferred her immortality to Frodo (I doubt that she could). What she seems to have given him is her place on the ship. He would still die eventually, after healing.
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  17. Puddleglum19's Avatar
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    #17
    Arwen's dilemma isn't so much a choice between "immortality" and "mortality" as between remaining with the world (where her mother, father and people are) *as long as it remains* (with uncertainty what happens when the life of Arda ends) and going "beyond the circles of the world" for eternity where Aragorn would be.

    The challenge is that Elrond (having already chosen) and Celebrian (being full Elda and having no choice) *WILL* remain within Ea, and Aragorn (being full Edain and having no choice) *WILL* depart from Ea. Arwen (being a half-Elven, as the Valar used the term) has a choice. Who will she spend the life of Arda with? Pick one - you can't have both.

    I don't think it was the act of Marrying Aragorn that made the choice per-se (though had she Chosen to remain with her people, I don't believe she would have then chosen to marry Aragorn). Rather she made the choice to remain with Aragorn, even as Elrond left - and that (free) choice invoked the change decreed by the Valar under to authorty granted by Eru and she became "mortal" - destined to depart forever from the circles of the world.

    Though, as Aragorn put it, physical death was not an end to life: beyond the circles of the world was "more than memory".

  18. Hanasian's Avatar
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    #18
    So in reading all this, could it be the point of decision for the children of Elrond was at the point Elrond himself leaves Middle Earth? If this is the case, then even though Arwen 'chose' to give up the choice before-hand and remain with and marry Aragorn, the decision didn't become solid until Elrond left. Since I believe Elrohir and Elladan remained in Moddle Earth as well, they had no further choice in their fate.

    Of course, maybe Aragorn, realizing he was aged and likely sensed that he was beginning to lose his mental abilities (forgetfulness as an early onset of Alzheimer's?), decided wanted to pass the Kingship to Eldarion and lay down his life before he got worse.
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    #19
    As far as I remember sons of Elrond, twins Elladan and Elrohir stayed in Middle-earth and delayed their choice, so they would still continue for a while but how long we don't know.

    "There, though Elrond had departed, his sons long remained, together with some of the High-elven folk. 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."
    ...
    "Elrond passes Over Sea. The end of his sons, Elladan and Elrohir, is not told: they delay their choice, and remain for a while."

    The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien Letter 153 to Peter Hastings (draft)

    We know also that Celeborn remained long ruling new realm of East Lorien (out of former southern Mirkwood) and later when he got tired of it, he removed to Rivendell to live with Elrond's sons and what remained of High Elves there. Aragorn in the story it seems really used the gift of ancient Numenoreans of laying down his life when feeling that time is right, if he would cling to it longer then the physical deterioration would follow as we're told was the fate of those of the race of Numenor. The fact that Legolas after death of Aragorn build his own ship does not necessarily mean that Cirdan Shipwright was no longer at the Havens, maybe it was personal decision of Legolas, (and it's interesting that he even knew how to build a ship being a Wood Elf and all, possibly he learned the craft in Mithlond? In one letter Tolkien says that elven 'westward' ships are "specially made and hallowed" for such a journey, this is interesting in itself, do we know more about that fact?). Cirdan was supposed to stay untill the last ship would go, Cirdan most likely still dwells in Grey Havens with what High elven folk remained there in Fourth Age.

    "At the Grey Havens dwelt Círdan the Shipwright, and some say he dwells there still, until the Last Ship sets sail into the West. In the days of the Kings most of the High Elves that still lingered in Middle-earth dwelt with Círdan or in the seaward lands of Lindon. If any now remain they are few." Appendix A, ROTK

    There is also curious thing in unpublished epilogue of Lotr:

    " “Don't write any more tonight. Talk to me Sam-dad!” said Elanor, and drew him to a seat by the fire.

    “Tell me,” she said, as they sat close together with the soft golden light on their faces, “tell me about Lórien. Does my flower grow there still, Sam-dad?”

    “Well dear, Celeborn still lives there among his trees and his Elves, and there I don't doubt your flower grows still. Though now I have got you to look at, I don't hanker after it so much.”

    “But I don't want to look at myself, Sam-dad. I want to look at other things. I want to see the hill of Amroth where the King met Arwen, and the silver trees, and the little white niphredil, and the golden Elanor in the grass that is always green. And I want to hear Elves singing.”

    “Then, maybe, you will one day, Elanor I said the same when I was your age and long after it, and there didn't seem to be no hope. And yet I saw them, and I heard them.”

    “I was afraid they were all sailing away, Sam-dad. Then soon there would be none here; and then everywhere would be just places and…”

    “And what, Elanor?”

    “And the light would have faded.”

    “I know,” said Sam. “The light is fading, Elanor. But it won't go out yet. It won't ever go quite out, I think now, since I have had you to talk to. For it seems to me now that people can remember it who have never seen it. And yet,” he sighed, “even that is not the same as really seeing it, like I did.”

    “Like really being in a story?” said Elanor. “A story is quite different, even when it is about what happened. I wish I could go back to old days!”

    “Folk of our sort often wish that,” said Sam. “You came at the end of a great age, Elanor; but though it's over, as we say, things don't really end sharp like that. It's more like a winter sunset. The High Elves have nearly all gone now with Elrond. But not quite all; and those that didn't go will wait now for a while. And the others, the ones that belong here, will last even longer. There are still things for you to see, and maybe you'll see them sooner than you hope.”

    Elanor was silent for some time before she spoke again. “I did not understand at first what Celeborn meant when he said goodbye to the King,” she said. “But I think I do now. He knew that Lady Arwen would stay, but that Galadriel would leave him. I think it was very sad for him. And for you dear Sam-dad.” Her hand felt for his, and his brown hand clasped her slender fingers. “For your treasure went too. I am glad Frodo of the Ring saw me, but I wish I could remember seeing him.”

    “It was sad, Elanor,” said Sam, kissing her hair. “It was, but it isn't now. For why? Well, for one thing, Mr. Frodo has gone where the elven light isn't fading; and he deserved his reward. But I have had mine too. I have had lots of treasures. I am a very rich hobbit. And there is one other reason, which I shall whisper to you, a secret I have never told before to no one, nor put in the Book yet. Before he went Mr. Frodo said that my time maybe would come. I can wait. I think maybe we haven't said farewell for good. But I can wait. I have learned that much from the Elves at any rate. They are not so troubled about time. And so I think Celeborn is still happy among his trees, in an Elvish way. His time hasn't come, and he isn't tired of his land yet. When he is tired he can go.”

    “And when you're tired, you will go Sam-dad. You will go to the Havens with the Elves. Then I shall go with you. I shall not part with you, like Arwen did with Elrond.”

    “Maybe, maybe,” said Sam kissing her gently. “And maybe not. The choice of Luthien and Arwen comes to many Elanor, or something like it; and it isn't wise to choose before the time.”

    Even though the epilogue is very early (sixteenth birthday of Elanor) and it was not published ultimately (there were also various drafts of it), but I think it shows that Tolkien envisioned that some Elves at least of Noldor remained for quite some time and since Elves reckon time in long periods, it's likely that at the year of Aragorn's death which would be year 120 of Fourth Age there were still some who did not sail and there would always be Elves who simply never intended to go "those that belong here" meaning more of the folk of the Wood.

    The ending of tale of Arwen and Aragorn does not imply that former elven dwellings of Lothlorien and Imladris are completely empty (after all someone had to bury Arwen in the end, Galadhrim certainly continued to live in Middle-earth and even expanded to new territory). Maybe theoretically she could have took a ship, but probably she felt that she already made choice irrevocable, Aragorn may have believed that if she wished she could change her mind.
    Last edited by fantasywind; 15/Jan/2017 at 11:41 AM.

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