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Post by aBeardedWoman on Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:44 pm

Q: What Was the Cause of Strife Between Elves and Dwarves?

ANSWER: Many strongly-worded opinions have been written about the apparent enmity between Elves and Dwarves in The Lord of the Rings, although there is hardly any reference to such enmity in the story. Legolas and Gimli get off to a poor start but eventually become such close friends that it is considered remarkable. The debates begin with a rather brief passage found in “The Council of Elrond” in The Fellowship of the Ring, where Legolas tells how Gollum was taken from the Elves of Mirkwood:
‘…But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure,
and we had not the heart to keep him ever in dungeons under the earth, where he would fall back into his old black thoughts.’
‘You were less tender to me,’ said Glóin with a flash of his eyes as old memories were stirred of his imprisonment in the deep places of the Elven-king’s halls.

‘Now come!’ said Gandalf. `Pray do not interrupt, my good Glóin. That was a regrettable misunderstanding, long set right. If all the grievances that stand between Elves and Dwarves are to be brought up here, we may as well abandon this Council.’

For some reason people “interpret” this passage to mean there are special grievances (past wars and disputes) between Elves and Dwarves unlike those differences between Elves and Men or between Dwarves and Men. Elves, Dwarves, and Men all played roles in complex relationships in Tolkien’s stories. One of those stories is related in The Hobbit, where the narrator interrupts the tale to explain why the Wood-elves are so unkind to Thorin Oakenshield:
It was also the dungeon of his prisoners. So to the cave they dragged Thorin-not too gently, for they did not love dwarves, and thought he was an enemy. In ancient days they [MY NOTE: "they" = "the Elves"] had had wars with some of the dwarves, whom they accused of stealing their treasure. It is only fair to say that the dwarves gave a different account, and said that they only took what was their due, for the elf-king [MY NOTE: Thingol Greycloak of Beleriand] had bargained with them to shape his raw gold and silver, and had afterwards refused to give them their pay. If the elf-king had a weakness it was for treasure, especially for silver and white gems; and though his hoard was rich, he was ever eager for more, since he had not yet as great a treasure as other elf-lords of old. His people neither mined nor worked metals or jewels, nor did they bother much with trade or with tilling the earth. All this was well known to every dwarf, though Thorin’s family had had nothing to do with the old quarrel I have spoken of. Consequently Thorin was angry at their treatment of him, when they took their spell off him and he came to his senses; and also he was determined that no word of gold or jewels should be dragged out of him.

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