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Elves established themselves in Beleriand at the end of the Great Journey, and remained there until its destruction at the end of the First Age1
The domains of the Elves, especially those in Beleriand and its bordering lands
The name referred to lands occupied by the Sindar, and later also by the Noldor
Probably 'E'lveness'2 (the word derives from 'elven', so all the vowel sounds should be individually pronounced)
Probably 'lands of the Elves'3
Other names


About this entry:

  • Updated 10 April 2023
  • This entry is complete


The lands of the Elves

A word used to collectively describe the lands of the Elves, and in particular those lands and peoples of Beleriand that opposed Morgoth during the First Age. The word is commonplace in Tolkien's early lays (where it generally appears in its older form Elfinesse),5 though only a single case survives into the canonical texts.

This single later use is in the Silmarillion, in a fragment of the Lay of Leithian describing the contest of songs of power between Finrod and Sauron.6 In this particular case, Elvenesse relates to Finrod's own kingdom of Nargothrond, but we have numerous other uses in older works that describe other parts of Beleriand, describing realms ruled by Sindar and Noldor alike.

While there are copious references in Tolkien's early works to Elvenesse (or earlier Elfinesse) relating to the lands of the Elves in Beleriand, it is rather less clear whether the term also extended to the Elves beyond the Sea. Their homeland in Aman was known by the somewhat similar names of Eldamar or Elvenhome, and indeed we have an example in The Lord of the Rings of Elvenhome being used in an equivalent way to Elvenesse. At least in the earlier texts, however, we have references to Elvenesse being under starlight, and also subject to an ancient curse, conditions that would only apply to Middle-earth and not to Aman (the curse here being a reference to the Doom of Mandos).

Because these terms belong to earlier phases of Tolkien's work, we cannot be sure how he would have intended them to apply to lands of the Elves in later Ages. It may be that Elvenesse would also have included, for example, the lands of Lindon or Lórien, far eastward of the Blue Mountains. Whether or not this was the case, Elvenesse would certainly have come to an end at the close of the Third Age, with the departure of most of the Elves and the dawn of the Dominion of Men.



Arguably Elvenesse in its broadest sense could be said to have survived the end of the First Age. The land of Lindon continued to be ruled by the Elves, and other realms of Elves also existed elsewhere in Middle-earth. In this broader sense, then, 'Elvenesse' persisted at least to the end of the Third Age and the beginning of the Dominion of Men. Our only records of the term, however, are specifically related to the lands of the Elves in Beleriand during the First Age.


That is, the final e sound would not be pronounced. The form of this word is Middle English (though no such word actually existed) and in that language -nesse would, during its early period, have been pronounced as 'nesseh', with a distinct final vowel sound. Over time, this final e was lost, so later Middle English speakers would have used 'ness' rather than 'nesseh'. We can be sure that this later version was preferred by Tolkien from rhymes used in his poetry.


The '-nesse' ending comes ultimately from Old English naess, a word that usually means a promontory or headland, though it has a broader secondary meaning of 'ground, land'. That secondary meaning seems to be the one intended here (as it is, for example, in 'Westernesse', 'western lands'). In full, then, 'Elvenesse' probably means simply 'lands of the Elves'.


'Elvenhome' almost always refers to Eldamar, the lands of the Elves in the West, and in that sense it is distinct from Elvenesse. When Aragorn recounts the story of Lúthien for the Hobbits on the road to Rivendell, however, he uses the word 'Elvenhome' as a reference to Beleriand, or at least to Doriath. In that specific sense, the use of the name is comparable to Elvenesse.


The forms Elfinesse and Elvenesse are effectively different spellings of the same name. Elfinesse is the older form, but Tolkien came to prefer the spelling Elvenesse in later works.


In the original text of the Lay of Leithian, this fragment used the older form Elfinesse. Because it was clear from later works that Tolkien came to prefer Elvenesse to the earlier form, the name in the Silmarillion is adjusted to the later spelling.

See also...

Elfinesse, Ever-eve, Faerie


About this entry:

  • Updated 10 April 2023
  • This entry is complete

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