View Full Version : Elven armour

Intrepid Adventurer
11-06-2009, 22:28
Right now I'm trying to get an army together for War of the Ring. I'd very much like to play Elves in a manner true to the books, especially concerning the paint scheme. When I was deciding on what to take, something hit me: IIRC, in the Silmarillion the Elves are always described as wearing 'silver' armour.

The movies depict Elves in gold. Does anyone know where PJ based this on?

And is there anyone who knows whether Elves mass produced there armour, or all had custom made suits of armour, that were passed down by generations? As such, would it be true to the books to have all similar Elves as the movies do, or a more varied bunch?

I'm pretty steeped in LotR lore, but I couldn't find answers to these questions. Thanks in advance!

11-06-2009, 23:13
This is interesting. Had a quick look through some books I have. (weapons and warfare, bestiary, old merp books and so on). Though I admit I haven't started looking heavily through the proper books!

From the weapons and warfare book, which is a guide to the art direction of the movies, the Elves appear to mass produce with higher ranking Elves having the best gear. But the old merp books seem to suggest that things were a little more personal. One thing that seems interesting is that Elves wore less armour in the books unless they knew they were heading for serious conflict. Also Elves in the books are more hardy than those in the films. Better eyesight, balance, grace, resistance to heat and cold, immunity to most illnesses and superb regenerative ability from wounds (resulting in no scars) meant that the true age of an Elf could only be guessed by looking into their eyes. So maybe mass produced armour is less likely as Elves feel they don't need it?

Having said that, in the Silmarillion I seem to remember there being mention of armouries in Menegroth and Doriath. But again I seem to remember that a lot of the armour therein was produced for them by Dwarves from Nogrod and Belegost. Also Gondolin had armouries too in preparation. So maybe Ost-in -Edhil did too in the Second Age?

One thing for sure is that I don't remember armour production methods ('concerning the armour of the Eldar' lol) being mentioned outright but the idea of Noldorin Armies marching on and besieging Angband not having armour is silly and the logical step is mass production either by Elven or Dwarven smiths. Noldorin armies would certainly have the ability to produce armour but obtaining the resources to do so (via mining)is a different matter. Maybe there is variation within an army but the differences are subtle as the armour might be manufactured by groups of smiths for distinct familial or regional groups.

Feanor's boys certainly got involved in making stuff. :D But the only truly warlike Elves were those that left the undying lands in pursuit on Melkor. Would they have left with armour? They were the first to forge weapons which led to the kinslaying so logically any armour they would have in the first age would have to be made in middle earth.

Sindarin and Silvan armies wore less armour as they moved in and with nature. The Vanya would have stone cold awesome armour though:eek:. Probably made with the aid of Tulkas and Aule.

I will do a bit more mooching. Good question. :)

12-06-2009, 00:50
the 2nd age armour was silver and 3rd gold IIRC

12-06-2009, 03:16
If the Elves were using mithril, it would be shining silver; also, I seem to recall it was Scale Mail.

12-06-2009, 15:20
I imagine that Mithril would be far too rare to be used en masse, but I think, though I’m not sure why exactly, that they would use Mithril sometimes. I imagine that the very best armour would have some Mithril.

Personally, I’ve always thought of Elven armour armour as being very individual and I can’t imagine Elves doing a really great amount of truly mass mass production.

I’m confident that the Noldor had relatively little difficulty in obtaining the resources with which they made their armour. At least some Elves were clearly skilled miners, though their skill in his craft was doubtless surpassed by the Dwarves. It is said that Maeglin was a great miner, and he was taken prisoner by the servants of Morgoth when he was leading a mining expedition. However, I’d guess that mining, though, would be far less popular with non-Noldorin Elves, despite the fact that Maeglin is described as one of the greatest miners of the Elves and his father was one of the Teleri. I imagine that the Moriquendi would not have the desire to mine and also that their metalworking skills would be inferior to those of the Calaquendi and most particularly the Noldor and they’re described, I think, as being lightly armoured and relying far more on stealth and archery.

I don’t particularly like the all gold and all nearly identical armour of the films much, myself. I don't think it's made very clear how the armour look exactly, but I think there would be quite a lot of variety.

13-06-2009, 10:33
PJ said it was becuase gold was the elves "summer" on middle earth, silver was spring etc
the lotr movies were autumn (remember rivendell, the leaves all falling)
its in the commentarys.

14-06-2009, 21:28
I agree with Maximillian, Elven armour would probably be less uniform than in the movies. Thematically they may be similar, natural patterns and so on but mass production seems odd and strangely at odds with what elves are to Tolkien.

It is mass production industrialisation that evil brings that he was railing against in the books. For Elves to be part of that seems odd, even though small scale craftsmanship for esoteric/ survival reasons is acceptable, mass production for the 'joys' of war seems anachronistic to me.

For me, Elves would make their own armour using shared techniques and if I was to make an Elven army I would show this in my models. I have wanted for a long time to make a warband based on Beleg and Turin.

Oh, and Maedhros and his Marchwardens.

And Fingolfin and his bodyguard.

(Ad infinitum..... lol. :D)

15-06-2009, 00:12
In neither the Silmarillion nor LotR do you get the impression that the Noldor lack either arms or armament. The Wood Elves probably prefer light armour and simple weaponry.

15-06-2009, 21:19
In neither the Silmarillion nor LotR do you get the impression that the Noldor lack either arms or armament. The Wood Elves probably prefer light armour and simple weaponry.

So true. But where does it come from? I don't really imagine a working class Noldor knocking them out mass production style.

The old merp campaign book for Lorien includes some detail for the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil and talks of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain being a school and a guild forming 'a community of competition and cooperation'

It also points out that the Elves can smith for long periods of time due to their hardiness. So maybe the idea of mass production is irrelevant as they are immortal?

I'm not sure where this info comes from but the writing in these books fits in beautifully to Tolkiens work in my opinion. If only PJ had read them. As for Angus McBride's artwork.... I love it)

15-06-2009, 22:17
Once you customize the personal armour of each warrior and his side arm, you're usually left with only stuff that can get broken, used up or lost, like shields, spears, arrows and so on.

The Hoff
16-06-2009, 12:23
First off in both LOTR, Silmarillion and sundry short stories, Tolkien's descriptions of armour refer only to mail hauberks or scale armour as the primary components. Vembrances and greaves are also mentioned, however he make no reference to plate armour. This applies to all the peoples of Middle Earth (hence the full plate worn by the Gondor Men-at-arms in the film is blatantly wrong). As far as I know, he based his works on Nordic mythologies set in the dark ages, and I believe that this influences the way he imagines arms and armour for his writing.

Remember that Tolkien was horrified by the steady industrial creep he saw in rural England at the time he was writing, as well the nightmare battlefields of WW1 that the industrial age and mass production created, so advancements in arms and armour do not feature much in his works. The armour worn by the Elves during the second and third age would be much the same a that worn during the heroic wars of the first age. That is a shirt of mail, reaching to the knees, complemented by vembrances, greaves and for full battle perhaps a metal breastplate (again, another case where the films ignored Tolkien's description and went with their own ideas). Steel is the material used...no magical 'golden' Elven metal (except for rare use of Mithril), just plain old fashioned steel.

I think my point is, in answer to the original poster...PJ and his art department did not base their arms and armour on Tolkien's description at all, they ignored his vision in favour of their own. The Rohirrim as shown in the movies, are perhaps the closest thing to how the arms of the Elves (and Numenoreans) are actually described.

When it comes to Elves of the Third age, I would expect to see a great deal of individual variation in armour. Remember that an individual may acquire his panoply over a lifetime that last centuries (if not millenia), so I do not think it is unreasonable to think that many rank and file Elves have commissioned their own pieces from the smiths.

EDIT-Another thought just occurred- In almost every description of Elven full battle panoply that I can recall, with the exception of some of the defenders of Gondolin, a shield is included. From this, as well as references to phalanx deployments in the Silmarillion, I think it is fair to suggest that the preferred style of warfare for the High Elves in open battle makes use of dense and rigid formations in the Greek or Macedonian style, with shield and spear as the primary weapons. The sword would be drawn when the spear is shivered or lost. Even the great heroes would take their place in the line.
It is only when things go wrong (as they frequently did for the Nolder) that the phalanx breaks up, and individual combats would be seen. This is another aspect of the books that the film-makers saw fit to discard.

16-06-2009, 13:47
Aw, I'm sure that Tolkien would have described the Noldor battle line as bearing two handed swords and being endowed with ASF, if he had thought of it.

16-06-2009, 14:59
See in that case the look of Warhammer High Elves at least in armour style with Scalemail and light armour would be more true to Tolkien than the Jackson Movies Elves.

Intrepid Adventurer
16-06-2009, 22:30
Thanks for all the replies, people.

The Hoff, you got me thinking. I agree with your points, but the phalanx remarks caught my interest. I've read the Silmarillion several times, but I don't seem to recall any phalanx formations mentioned. Dare I ask you quote some parts for me?

In the end it seems only the models for Wood Elves and Haldir's Elves to some degree (wearing mail and limited plate) fit the books as such. It still leaves me with a bleak prospect for modelling an fitting army for the game.

A possible option would be to start converting Rohirrim into Elves. The Hoff, you mentioned shields. What shape would they be? Did Tolkien mention that?

Edit: Ah, look what I found: http://www.lordotrings.com/books/armor.asp

The Hoff
16-06-2009, 23:53
Oh cool, that linky nicely supports some of my own theories.

For reference to phalanx, re-read the battle of the unnumbered-tears (chapter 20).

'Now the phalanx of the guard of the King broke through the ranks of the Orcs, and Turgon hewed his way to the side of his Brother' (pg 227 in my Edition).

For shields, I always pictured kite shaped designs, although I base this on the historical connections I am drawing, rather than any concrete mention in the text. I think the WHFantasy High Elves are actually pretty close to the mark in many ways.

At Condottiere, part of what I was saying agree with you, in that Tolkien didnt give much thought to arms and armour (outside of the named weapons). But, he was writing a myth based on the Nordic (and Viking) traditions, where the shield was central to the kit along with a straight sword, 9ft spear or an axe. What small mention he does make of weapons or panoply seems to support this theory.
The two handed curved 'glaives' we see in the movie, along with the other art direction for the Peter Jackson Eldar have obvious origins in Japanese weaponry of the late medieval period, which obviously goes against Tolkien's vision.

Still, if someone has the time maybe they could re-read the extended story of the fall of Gondolin...if I recall correctly, that contains the most extensive descriptions of Elven wargear to be found in any of his writings. Could add some new ideas to the discussion.

See in that case the look of Warhammer High Elves at least in armour style with Scalemail and light armour would be more true to Tolkien than the Jackson Movies Elves. Yes, I agree entirely.

17-06-2009, 00:10
For Tolkien's Noldor, I'm in agreement that they would be kite shaped, and while they should have heavy cavalry, frequent mention is made of horse archers. You get the impression the Elves prefer harassing the enemy until they can get him to the field of their choosing.

17-06-2009, 16:41
For a Tolkienesque Elven army, Galadhrim would be a good starting point, with their scale-mail. You could even paint the band-like armour leatherish. I might do that, actually.
If you're interested in some descriptions, here's a good link:

Intrepid Adventurer
17-06-2009, 20:48
For a Tolkienesque Elven army, Galadhrim would be a good starting point, with their scale-mail. You could even paint the band-like armour leatherish. I might do that, actually.
If you're interested in some descriptions, here's a good link:

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking too, right now. Besides, even the Galadhrim plastics are way better than the Last Alliance ones. I'm considering building a Third Age Lindon force, so I can have some artistic license as to their looks and paint scheme. Stuck on what heroes to use, though.

17-06-2009, 21:06
I've been thinking about some Grey Havens army a while back. Heroes would simply be Círdan and captains, which leaves many points for warriors.
For the paintsheme, I used silver armour, blue clothing, white cloak and black sash. The white and blue were there for sea colours, the black because of the sadness, with the Elves leaving middle-earth and all. However, I never got around doing more than one model for it.. :p

Intrepid Adventurer
18-06-2009, 10:53
That's exactly what I was thinking! Maybe we should start a paintlog together?

And we're getting technical here: but would such a list work, with so little heroes? And would you use High Elves or Galadhrim?

18-06-2009, 11:23
I'm kinda used to Elven armies with very few heroes. It usually isn't much of a problem, since Elves don't need heroes to get some high-fight models, neither do they need stand-fast. That's just in SBG tough.
Untill now, I've been busy playing with my Lothlórien army, which has just Haldir in 500 pts, and Celeborn and Galadriel added in 1000 pts. No further heroes, but maximised models. That's right, with maxed out bows. Opponents seem to fear it.. :angel:
I guess I'll restart my Grey Havens army this summer. That one test models was an old High Elf, the new army will contain the Galadhrim instead. There is more variety in the models, they are more akin to Tolkien's description and they've go better helmets. And are fully plastic. Gotta love that.