The Half-elven are the most interesting of all the people of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. That’s a pretty bold blanket statement, so hopefully this article will help to back it up. But the Half-elven are among the most fated people in Tolkien’s stories; it began with Beren and Lúthien, who we meet for the first time in Strider’s recitation of their biographical poem, The Lay Leithian. Destiny drove the legendary pair of them together, Beren son of Barahir and Lúthien Tinúviel. Their betrothal is an epic love story, and together they did what whole armies could not in stealing into the Enemy’s fortress and taking a jewel, a Silmaril, directly from his Iron Crown. The Half-elven are of this bloodline and they are among the wisest and mightiest in all the Ages of Sun and Stars: Elrond, wisest in lore through the ages; his brother Elros, first King of Númenor; his daughter, Arwen Undómiel , first queen of the reunited Kingdom of Arnor and Gondor, wife of King Elessar, the Elf-stone; his twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir, friends to the Dúnedain and among the very greatest warriors of the War of the Ring.
It’s the brothers that I want to focus on in this piece. And even though we like to focus on one card per entry in this blog, the Sons of Elrond are as inseparable in card-form as they are in the stories from which they came!
Click for high resolution versions of this entry’s featured cards.
EXPLORE THE LEGEND
In the beginning was Eru, the One, Ilúvatar. He made to dwell with Him heavenly creatures of immense power, though power of far less measure than Himself. They were the Ainur and greatest among them were the Valar. The Valar made a great music and in that music a vision was bestowed of an earth, beautiful and full, and the One made that vision real. In that vision was the knowledge of the coming of the Children of Ilúvatar and the Ainur who went into the world, called Arda, shaped it as they saw fit and prepare for the arrival of the Children.
After much turmoil, the Children awoke with the kindling of the stars. They were the Eldar, the Elves, the Firstborn, and their fate was bound to the fate of Middle-earth, indeed to the whole world. They were fair in appearance and did not age. They could not die, save by violence, and even then their spirits were bound to the wide world and went to a waiting place in the Halls of Mandos in Valinor far away. Being so bound to the earth, they felt things more closely than other people and would sometimes perish from great grief. They were strong and skilled craft and battle, though they did not revel in war. Summoned out of the East by the Valar they came. Some made the whole journey, the rest broke off into little kingdoms and various kindreds.
When the Noldor, greatest of these kindreds, returned to Middle-earth to make war upon the Morgoth, then came the Secondborn: Men (and Hobbits). They were of like stature to Elves but aged quickly and when they died they entered into an unknown fate, called the Gift of Men. They were more easily corrupted and were set upon by the Great Enemy immediately and fell into evil. However, some Men came West through evil and darkness, hearing of hope there….
‘A darkness lies behind us,’ Bëor said; ‘and we have turned our backs upon it, and we do not desire to return thither even in thought. Westwards our hearts have been turned, and we believe that there we shall find Light.’
These were to be the Edain, the Elf-friends, and from their chieftains came the Half-elves and the Númenoreans and from them the Dúnedain and the Gondorians. They quickly befriended the Elves and the Firstborn granted them land, taught them their language and crafts and lore. The Men aided them in their war against the Enemy, and so the Enemy hunted them. From these remarkable Houses came remarkable men, the first of whom is Beren One-hand. Beren wedded Lúthien the Fair, daughter of Thingol the Elf and Melian the Maia, and their son was Dior. Dior wedded Nimloth and their daughter was Elwing.
Tuor was a man with the blood of two the great Houses of Men in him: Bëor and Haleth. He was cousin to Túrin (from Children of Húrin). Tuor would wed Idril the Elf and this would be the second binding of Elf and Man. Their child was Eärendil, the Mariner, of whom many legends are spoken. Eärendil would marry Elwing and their sons were Elros and Elrond.
If all this genealogical whatsit hasn’t put you to sleep yet, then you surely recognized at least one of those two names. Elrond we all know, for he has been around for Ages and factors in to the stories we know and love; but his brother, Elros, was equally important and here we reach the most fascinating aspect of the Half-elven. The gods allowed the mingling of Elf and Man but, as I mentioned above, the fates of Elves and Men are very different. A person cannot be Half-elven when their time comes to leave Middle-earth, either by ship or death. So the gods give all the Half-elven a choice, to linger in Arda, the world, Middle-earth, until its end as the Elves do, or to receive the Gift of Men and be removed from the spheres of the earth when death comes a-knocking. Elros, brother of Elrond, chose the latter, but was given an expanded lifetime. Those of his people, the Númenoreans , all the way down to Aragorn, lived many times longer than lesser Men.
This choice is passed down to all the children of Elrond Half-elven as well, albeit delayed: Arwen, Elladan, and Elrohir have a decision to make, but not until Elrond leaves Middle-earth.
In the text, the twin sons of Elrond are actually described as “two tall men [lower case], neither young nor old”. They are not described specifically as Elves, in fact each of their names roughly translate as “Elf-man”, further enforcing their identity. They bear the qualities of both kindreds as long as their father remains in Middle-earth. Once his ring (Vilya) loses its power and he sails west for Valinor, then his kids must make their decision in earnest. There is much to be said on this subject, so for the sake of brevity I’m going to direct you to this excellent post over on Starry Mantle.
Elladan and Elrohir traveled far and wide hunting the agents of Sauron. They hated the orcs more than most for their mother, Celebrían daughter of Celeborn and Galadriel, was tortured and nearly killed by them. So they rode with the Rangers and fought with them during the War of the Ring. The twins were nigh inseparable and were identical and could not be told apart, save by those who knew them best. Their cards reflect this aspect of their characters very well and will be discussed more below.
SHOWCASE THE ARTWORK
What is there to be said that hasn’t been said about Magali Villeneuve? She’s a Tennessee football fan who enjoys the music of Chickenfoot. There, that hasn’t been said and probably isn’t true.
The French artist has done some of the best work of any of the artists in the LCG format, and she’s done work for just about all of those games. Her pieces carry an amount of accuracy and detail and realism that truly set her cards on another level. It’s a shame the format of the cards themselves doesn’t allow for the full piece to be seen. The interview she did with Cardboard of the Rings podcast revealed her approach to Arwen specifically, and her elves in general: she wants them to be beautiful but otherworldly. Her elf (and half-elf) males take on a particularly feminine quality. Tolkien always described his elves as especially fair and they were often depicted as being tall, slender, and very beautiful. Magali’s interpretation is not exceptional, save that her elves are perhaps a notch more feminine and clean in their appearance.
The rest of the family, Arwen and Elrond, bear a striking resemblance to the twins. I’d hoped that the Elrond’s wife, Celebrían, might make an appearance in the game, but since she left Middle-earth 500 years before the events of the War of the Ring, it’s doubtful that she will arrive. While we’ve seen characters who are deceased at the time of the books (Théodred, Éomund, Balin, etc.), the time span is too great for the mother of the twins to pop up.
The twins have also been depicted by sundry other artists. One I like in particular is posted above, a piece by DeviantArtist Olga Ulanova. The style depicted her is incredible, in that it contains elements of medieval European art, as well as art deco. We see Celebrian and her sons, Elladan and Elrohir, in a tableau with banners splayed about them. Olga is a storyboard artist with a tonne of great stuff at her personal blog.
DISCUSS THE CARDS
Elladan and Elrohir are counted among those few cards that are truly a thematic win. The Palantir, A Very Good Tale, Beorn (Hero), fall into this category of cards that really match the feeling of the text, whether it makes for a good card or not. Luckily, the brothers do make for a fine pair of cards. Elladan‘s text reads:
Noldor. Noble. Ranger.
While Elrohir is in play, Elladan gets +2[attack]
Response: After Elladan is declared as an attacker, pay 1 resource from his resource pool to ready him.
Elrohir, bearing practically identical stats, reads very similarly:
Noldor. Noble. Ranger.
While Elladan is in play, Elrohir gets +2[defense]
Response: After Elrohir is declared as a defender, pay 1 resource from his resource pool to ready him.
So, if you are playing a single deck, you immediately have the roles of attacker and defender filled with very capable heroes who, with a little resource acceleration and the addition Rivendell Blade for Elladan, can stand up with the strongest of them. Throw in a well rounded hero, or a strong quester, for your third and you have a complete set of heroes. The Ranger trait has recently been expanded recently, most notably with the card Ranger Bow, to give them yet another slight boost (though you’d likely not want to exhaust them for one ping of damage without a readying effect). Noldor — even if they technically aren’t quite pure-blooded Noldor — provides some interesting possibilities with attachments like Light of Valinor, the aforementioned Rivendell Blade, and other cards like Rivendell Bow. Noble has not been terribly utilized yet, but it does make them candidates for the new Palantir card. Truly being of both Men and Elves has its benefits!
Furthermore, the two do not need to be under the control of the same player for their abilities to kick in, so there is the possibility of including them on opposite sides of the “hammer and anvil” deck type. This is especially nice when, as I discussed in another article, you make Elrohir a Gondorian and put a Gondorian Shield on him, making him a super defender.
The thematic deckbuilding opportunities are broad as well, thanks to their racial mix. They could be included with Aragorn (their brother-in-law to be) or Beravor for a Northern Ranger deck. Throw in some traps and a Ranger Bow and mix well for instant fun! Include them with Glorfindel, another inhabitant of Rivendell, for a powerful and versatile Elf deck. Elrond, in my opinion, is a tough sell for two reasons: thematically, we very rarely see him leave Rivendell and, in game terms, a starting threat of 33 is very steep. The brothers are seen most prominently in the text riding the Grey Company, the Rangers of the North, but right now the only Rangers we have of that line are Aragorn and Beravor. Hopefully, with the next cycle, we will see more of the Rangers mentioned in the book like Halbarad. Another limitation to a strictly Northern Ranger/Grey Company deck is that the current Dúnedain Ranger allies are rather weak and specific. Not nearly enough to include in a singular thematic deck.
The twins first appeared in the Darrowdelf Cycle, just in time to help escort their sister over the Misty Mountains and back. I wonder if there was any discussion about potentially creating a Half-elven trait for Elrond and his family. Certainly some interesting things could have come from it, but since they are such a small group, and because that particular cycle was focused on the Dwarf trait, and because Noldor was already in place, it made sense for them to leave well-enough alone. But with the twins showing their great versatility, their sister being one of the best questing allies in the game, and the sheer power of their father, the Half-elven are well represented indeed.