At length they [Legolas, Gimli, Merry, and Pippin] cam to the Prince Imrahil, and Legolas looked at him and bowed low; for he saw that here indeed was one who had elven-blood in his veins. ‘Hail, lord!’ he said. ‘It is long since the people of Nimrodel left the woodlands of Lórien, and yet still one may see that not all sailed from Amroth’s haven west over water.’
‘So it is said in the lore of my land,’ said the prince; ‘yet never has one of the fair fold been seen there for years beyond count'” (RotK, 854).
This passage introduces the forgotten Half-Elven: the princes of Dol Amroth of Gondor. Tolkien himself seems to have forgotten them, since the only other reference he makes to them is in a note he wrote toward the end of his life, which Christopher Tolkien published in Unfinished Tales.
According to [tradition], Galador was the son of Imrazôr the Númenórean, who dwelt in Belfalas, and the Elven-lady Mithrellas. She was one of the companions of Nimrodel, among many Elves that fled to the coast about the year 1980 of the Third Age, when evil arose in Moria; and Nimrodel and her maidens stayed in the wooded hills, and were lost. But in this tale it is said that Imrazôr harboured Mithrellas, and took her to wife. But when she had borne him a son, Galador, and a daughter, Gilmith, she slipped away by night and he saw her no more. But though Mithrellas was of the lesser Silvan race (and not of the High Elves or the Grey) it was ever held that the house and kin of the Lords of Dol Amroth was noble by blood as they were fair of face and mind (Unfinished Tales, 260).
It’s interesting that one of the Elves would marry a Númenórean. According to another tradition (Unfinished Tales, 330), Imrazôr was one of the Faithful Númenóreans. While the phrase “took her to wife” could certainly imply an unwillingness on her part, it seems unlikely that one of the Faithful would do so. Indeed, it appeared that the Faithful held the Elves almost in fear and wouldn’t dare to do such a thing. If Mithrellas did indeed consent to marry Imrazôr, then why did she run away?
As a Silvan Elf, it’s possible that Mithrellas would never have known about Beren and Lúthien (although this is rather unlikely, since she did live among Sindarin who presumably would have kept that story alive), much less Tuor and Idril. For all Mithrellas knew, she was the only Elf to have married a mortal. While it seems unlikely that she would have consented to marry him without thinking it through, it is possible that she didn’t realize what she had signed up for. Indeed, it is not unlikely that she was totally unfamiliar with men and their mortality.
While there is no basis for this in the text whatsoever, one wonders if perhaps she had an encounter with mortality that made her realize her fate. Perhaps someone close to Mithrellas and Imrazôr passed away from old age. We know from The Silmarillion that Elves had a hard time understanding mortality and how swiftly the years pass for Men (Silmarillion, 149). If Mithrellas had never experienced this before, it surely would have come to her as a shock. She may have realized all at once that she would have to watch not only her husband but also her children and grandchildren grow old around her and die. That would be a hard fate for any wife and mother to endure. While the choice may seem selfish, it’s difficult to blame Mithrellas for running away from such a fate. Surely she would prefer to hold the memory of her family in youth rather than watch them quickly (in her mind) decay. Keep in mind that memory is a different experience for Elves. “Indeed I have heard that for them [Elves] memory is more like to the waking world than to a dream” (FotR, 369).
The Lack of Choice
What, then, of her children? Why were they given no choice? Did the Valar simply not care about them? Possibly, but it seems unlikely. The more likely scenario is that either the Valar were unaware of the situation (they aren’t omniscient, although they’re close) or that they simply had no way to communicate their will. According to “The Tale of Years,” Nimrodel was lost in the year 1981 of the Third Age (RotK, 1061). This was nearly a thousand years after the Istari first appeared in Middle-earth. The Valar had no more messengers to send and no way to communicate with the inhabitants of Middle-earth.
It seems likely that Imrazôr would have been resigned to his children sharing his fate. Although he likely would have been at least somewhat familiar with the story of Beren and Lúthien, he probably believed that the Valar no longer cared for the Númenóreans because their king broke the Ban. While he obviously communicated to his descendants that his wife was an Elf, he didn’t seem to push the matter. The princes of Dol Amroth accepted that they may have Elvish blood in their veins but (at least in the latter years of the Third Age), they certainly didn’t let it get to their heads.
Whatever happened to Mithrellas? More than likely, she sailed away to the West, which was her original intention. It’s sad to think, but perhaps in Tol Eressëa she learned that her children may have had a choice in their fate and the chance to share her immortality. Instead, Mithrellas tasted the bitterness of loving mortals.
Photo Credit: Angelina Odemchuk