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Much of this article relates to the final versions of Middle-earth's history, and as such may contain discrepancies with The Silmarillion. See LOTR:Canon for a discussion. This subject's portrayal in earlier or alternative versions is discussed in the Earlier versions of the legendarium section.

The Ñoldor (Quenya: "Deep Ones", meaning "those with knowledge"), singular Ňoldo, also known as the Deep-elves, were the second clan of those Elves who joined the Great March and came to the West.

According to legend, they was originally the Tatyar, meaning "Second Ones", begun by Tata, the second Elf to awake at Cuiviénen, his spouse Tatië, and their 54 companions — but the first Ñoldo to come to Valinor with Oromë was Finwë, who became their king and led most to the Undying Lands. However, fully half the Tatyar refused the call of the Valar, and thus became counted among the Avari. The Ñoldor who came to Aman spoke Quenya, or, more specifically, its Ñoldorin dialect.

They were also called Deep-elves, Sword-elves, Aulendur ("Servants of Aulë"[1]), Noldoli or Gnomes, Golodhrim in Sindarin, and Golug in the Black Speech. The singular form of Ñoldor is Ñoldo and the adjective Ñoldorin. They were the Second Clan of the Elves in both order and size, the other clans being the Vanyar and the Teleri. They typically had dark hair, except for those of Vanyarin blood, most prominently the golden haired members of the House of Finarfin.

The Ñoldor were considered the greatest of the Elves in lore and craft. Fëanor was the greatest of their artisans, and their second and briefest-reigning King. When Melkor killed Finwë and stole the Silmarils, Fëanor renamed Melkor Morgoth ("Black Enemy"), and persuaded the Ñoldor to pursue Melkor to Middle-earth and wage the War of the Jewels against him.


Years of the Trees

Finwë, first High King of the Ñoldor © Antti Autio, used with permission

In Valinor, the Ñoldorin Elves were first ruled by High King Finwë. They became friends and students of the Vala Aulë, due to their love of craft and the knowledge he imparted to them. They built the city of Tirion and dwelled there with the Vanyar until they departed. Then Finwë's wife Míriel gave birth to her only son, Fëanor, and was spent in mind and spirit. Miriel's spirit passed to the Halls of Mandos, depriving Finwë of joy in Valinor. But Fëanor proved to be a mighty Elf lord; subtle in speech, and the most skilled craftsmen of the Ñoldor. When he was come to his prime, Fëanor wrought the Silmarils, the great jewels that contained the light of the Two Trees. But he was prideful and arrogant, and did not take kindly to his father's second marriage to Indis of the Vanyar. From her Finwë fathered two more children who would found their own houses; Fingolfin and Finarfin. This was the first cause of disunion in the House of Finwë, as Fëanor had little love for his half-siblings.

When Melkor was released from captivity, he sought to exploit that disunion in a bid to gain the Silmarils and estrange the Ñoldor from the Valar. He spread lies amongst the Ñoldor, claiming that the Valar were keeping them in Aman so they would not be able to rule the lands of Middle-earth, and that Fingolfin and Fëanor were plotting against each other. When Fëanor drew sword against Fingolfin, the Valar intervened and banished Fëanor from Valmar and Tirion to the mountain fortress of Formenos. Embittered by his son's exile, Finwë went with him, leaving the rule of the Ñoldor to Fingolfin. The Ñoldor grew restless as they began to hunger for the unguarded lands of Middle-earth.[2]

Sundering of the Ñoldor

Once Melkor destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor and slew Finwë, he also stole the Silmarils and fled to Middle-earth. An enraged Fëanor then spoke before all of the Ñoldor and gave an impassioned speech. He urged them to leave the land of the Valar and take up kingdoms in Middle-earth, where they could rule as they wished. Many of the royal line, including Galadriel, wished indeed to see Middle-earth and rule their own fair kingdoms. Fëanor and his sons then swore a terrible Oath to reclaim the Silmarils, with the promise of retribution for any who should withhold them. The Ñoldorin Host gathered, though the greater part followed Fingolfin, trusting his wisdom over Fëanor's arrogance.[3]

The Ñoldor led by Fëanor marched north and demanded that the Falmari let them use their ships. When the Falmari refused, Fëanor and his host attacked the port of Alqualondë, which had been built by the Teleri, committing the first Kinslaying. Fëanor's host then took possession of the ships. Not long afterwards, the Ñoldor were confronted by Mandos, the Doomsman of the Valar. Mandos delivered the Prophecy of the North, pronouncing doom on the Ñoldor for the Kinslaying and warning that if they continued they would not recover the Silmarils and moreover that there would be great grief in the tragedy that would befall them. At this, some of the Ñoldor who had no hand in the Kinslaying, including Finarfin, returned to Valinor, and the Valar forgave them. Other Ñoldor led by Fingolfin, some of whom were blameless in the Kinslaying, remained determined to leave Valinor for Middle-earth. Prominent among these others was Finarfin's daughter, Galadriel.

Fëanor and his host crossed the sea to Middle-earth leaving those led by Fingolfin, his half-brother, behind. Upon his arrival in Middle-earth, Fëanor had the ships burned. When Fingolfin and his host discovered their betrayal, they went farther north and crossed the sea by means of the Helcaraxë. Many of them died while crossing the cruel hills of ice, including Turgon's wife Elenwë. The departure of the Ñoldor out of the Undying Lands marked the beginning of the First Age, and the years of the Sun. At last, the Host of Fingolfin arrived in Middle-earth, and their journey through the Helcaraxë was one of the greatest deeds of renown. Few deeds of the Ñoldor would ever surpass this, but the bitterness of the crossing had kindled fresh hatred for the House of Fëanor.[4]

Fëanor's company was soon attacked by Morgoth. When Fëanor rode too far from his retinue during the Dagor-nuin-Giliath (year 1 of the First Age) he was slain by Gothmog and the other Balrogs.

Because Fëanor had taken the ships and left the remaining Ñoldor in Aman, the royal houses of the Ñoldor were feuding. But Maedhros, eldest son of Fëanor, had been captured by Morgoth. Fingon, son of Fingolfin, who remembered great friendship between himself and Maedhros, rescued him from the slopes of Thangorodrim. For this deed the Ñoldor rejoiced and their feud was ended. By right Maedhros had succeeded Fëanor as King, but in gratitude he renounced the Kingship to his uncle Fingolfin, who became the third High King of the Ñoldor. His brothers did not agree to this, and began to refer to themselves as the Displaced, because the High Kingship had passed them by. Nevertheless, the princes of the Ñoldor established great realms in Beleriand, and to many it seemed the words of Fëanor were justified. Here the Ñoldor were mighty and lordly, rather than at the bottom of the hierarchy in Valinor. And for a while there was peace between the Houses of Fingolfin and Fëanor. But the Sons of Fëanor was still bound by their Oath, which in turn was tied to the Curse of Mandos.[5]

Efforts against Morgoth

Fingolfin reigned long in the land of Hithlum, and his younger son Turgon built the hidden kingdom of Gondolin. Fingolfin's reign was marked by warfare against Morgoth and in the year 60 of the First Age the Ñoldor started the Siege of Angband, the great fortress of Morgoth. But in the year FA 455 the siege was broken by Morgoth (in the Dagor Bragollach), and Fingolfin perceived that the war against Morgoth was utterly futile. In his fury, Fingolfin rode to Angband and challenged Morgoth to single combat. Reluctantly, Morgoth came forth to duel him. Fingolfin dealt Morgoth seven wounds from which he never healed, but at last Fingolfin was slain, hewing Morgoth's foot with his last blow. Thorondor, Lord of the Eagles, scratched Morgoth's face and took Fingolfin's body. His eldest son Fingon succeeded him as High King of the Ñoldor.

In the year 471, Maedhros organized an all-out attack on Morgoth and this led to the Nírnaeth Arnoediad. The battle was a great disaster for the Ñoldor, and Fingon was slain. He was succeeded by his brother Turgon, but Fingon's son Gil-galad escaped to the Havens of the Falas.

Turgon had withdrawn to Gondolin and tried to keep the kingdom hidden from Morgoth. The city was so hidden that even some Ñoldor were unaware of its location, and Turgon was High King in name alone.[6] In FA 510, Gondolin was betrayed by Maeglin and sacked. During the attack Turgon was killed; however many of his people escaped and found their way south. As Turgon had no sons, the Kingship passed back to Fingon's son Gil-galad, becoming the sixth and last High King of the Ñoldor.[7]

Finally, the Valar came down to Middle-earth and in the year 583 the War of Wrath was fought and Morgoth was cast into the Void. However, Beleriand sank into the sea, except for a part of Ossiriand which became Lindon, and a few isles. The defeat of Morgoth marked the beginning of the Second Age. The Ñoldor were once again summoned to Valinor and the Curse of Mandos was laid to rest. Some departed because they had grown weary of grief, but many refused to leave the lands they had laboured in for so long. Moreover others refused out of pride, unwilling to relinquish their high status in Middle-earth. The last of the great leaders was Galadriel, who stayed due to her pride, reasoning that her family had never done any wrong and that she was mightier in Middle-earth.[8]

In the Second Age

Galadriel, a notable Ñoldo

Gil-galad founded a new kingdom at Lindon, and ruled throughout the Second Age, longer than any of the High Kings except for Finwë. He was also accepted as High King by the Ñoldor of Eregion.

Despite their prosperity and power, the Ñoldor were not at peace. While they had refused Valinor in favour of retaining their lordship in the lands of Middle-earth, they still desired the bliss that Valinor promised. It was the doom of Elves that, though immortal, in the land of mortals they felt the weariness of time and change. This weariness only grew as the years went by. In Valinor the lands were hallowed and enchanted, allowing the Elves to live in eternal bliss, but in mortal lands there was no such power to sustain them.

It was at this time that Annatar, Lord of Gifts, came forth with the offer of the very bliss that the Elves desired. Gil-galad, Galadriel and Elrond distrusted this mysterious figure and shunned him. But in Eregion, Annatar's teachings were held in awe by the Ñoldor Elves and they received him gladly. Their leader was Celebrimbor, the grandson of Fëanor himself, and he had inherited much of his grandfather's skill. Such was Annatar's knowledge that he was believed to be an emissary of Aulë, as he first proclaimed. Annatar taught Celebrimbor the art of crafting Rings of Power. In secret Celebrimbor forged the three greatest rings; Narya, Nenya, and Vilya. These rings were imbued with a spiritual power that could protect and preserve all things unstained, warding off the effects of time. Thus the desire of the Elves was fulfilled in the making of these rings. The three were secretly distributed to some of the High Elf Lords. Galadriel received Nenya, Gil-galad received Vilya and Narya was given to Círdan. But they were deceived, for Annatar had crafted the rings for a different purpose; to bind all the bearers together as slaves. Annatar was actually Sauron in disguise, and he treacherously forged a ruling Ring to govern all the other rings and their respective bearers. However, when Sauron placed the One Ring on his finger, the Elves suddenly became aware of him due to the powerful connection between the rings. They heard Sauron speak the dreaded words of doom, and the Elves understood that he would be master of their own minds. The Elves narrowly avoided this trap and took off their rings.

Knowledge of the craft of the Rings was lost once Sauron declared war, destroyed Eregion, and slew Celebrimbor.

By this time Sauron had deceived the Númenóreans and managed to return from Númenor to his refuge in Mordor. But in his absence he had overlooked the growing power of Gil-galad. In the meantime The Faithful Númenóreans, fleeing the destruction of their island, established the Realms in Exile, ruled by Gil-galad's friend Elendil. Sauron hated both the Númenóreans and the Ñoldor, and tried to destroy Gondor before it could take root, but was unable to take its capital, Osgiliath. Then Elendil and Gil-galad took counsel and formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, a mighty host of Ñoldor and Númenóreans

Elrond, Gil-galad, and their army of Ñoldorin Elves

This host set out for Mordor and defeated Sauron's forces in the Battle of Dagorlad and finally in the Siege of Barad-dûr. There Gil-galad proved mighty enough to duel with Sauron himself, and with Elendil's help they inflicted enough wounds on Sauron that the Dark Lord's mortal form was destroyed. But Gil-galad was burned to death by the heat of Sauron's hand, and so ended the High Kingship of the Ñoldor. No new High King was chosen, as Gil-galad left no heir and no one else had a strong enough claim. For this reason, the High Kingship of the Ñoldor was said to have passed overseas, to the Ñoldor of Valinor, ruled by Finarfin, the third son of Finwë who had never left. Afterwards Elrond, descended from Turgon through his daughter Idril, was reckoned as a leader of the Ñoldor, but remained only the Lord of Rivendell.[9][10] Many Ñoldor died in the War of the Last Alliance, with most of the remainder sailing over the sea.

After the Second Age

With Sauron defeated and the One Ring lost, the Elves were free to use the three rings to create their enchanted kingdoms. However, when the Istari arrived in Middle-earth at Mithlond, Círdan gave Narya to Gandalf to aid him in his labours, perceiving him to be the purest of heart. In at least two realms, Rivendell and Lothlórien, the bliss of the Eldar was preserved. Those Elves who dwelt within these regions again tasted the bliss of Valinor and did not feel the weight of time. Through the Third Age, the Ñoldor dwindled, and by the end of the Age the only Ñoldor remaining in Middle-earth were in Rivendell, Galadriel in Lothlórien and bands that lingered in the Grey Havens.[10] The Three rings were free from any evil, having been made without Sauron ever seeing them. But since they were still made by the same art as the other rings, the Three were still bound to the One Ring. With the One Ring's destruction and Sauron's permanent defeat, the power of the three rings faded and the last of the Ñoldor Elves began to grow weary again. Eventually, Galadriel and Elrond took the ship for Valinor and departed Middle-earth and Lothlórien was abandoned. From the Fourth Age and beyond Rivendell was the only remaining Ñoldorin settlement left in Middle Earth, ruled by Elladan and Elrohir who remained behind when Elrond left.[11]

High Kings

  1. Finwë, first High King
  2. Fëanor, first son of Finwë
  3. Fingolfin, second son of Finwë. Though some supported Maedhros, the eldest son of Fëanor, Maedhros himself laid aside his claim and supported Fingolfin instead.
  4. Fingon, first son of Fingolfin.
  5. Turgon, second son of Fingolfin.
  6. Ereinion Gil-galad, son of Fingon according to The Silmarillion.

Gil-galad in the War of the Last Alliance, as portrayed in film

After Gil-galad's death, the High Kingship in Middle-earth under the Ñoldor came to an end. Of the descendants of Finwë, the descendants of Elros (the Kings of Arnor) did claim the title High King but there is no indication that this referred anything other than a High Kingship over the Dúnedain. It is unclear whether Elros and his brother Elrond were considered eligible at all, but Elrond never claimed Kingship, implying that they were not. However, at this point, the number of Ñoldor remaining in Middle-earth was few, and Elrond might have simply deemed the question moot.

According to The Silmarillion, Finarfin took the kingship of those Ñoldor who remained in Aman during the Exile, though whether he was considered a "High King" or not (either at the time of the Exile and after the War of Wrath) is unclear. Another possibility is that in Aman there was no High King other than Ingwë. Although Míriel had renounced her right to re-embody (as per the rules of the Statute of Finwë and Míriel), there is no reason that Finwë might not have done so (and, in fact, the text of The Silmarillion implies that eventually he did). Similarly, as lineal heir to Turgon, Eärendil the Mariner might have made a claim.

Much of this speculation stems from attempts to divine the rules of inheritance and succession for the Ñoldor. Among humans, the "divine right" implied by Tolkien follows the rules of primogeniture. On the other hand, Elves are immortal, and can reincarnate even if they are physically killed. Iron-clad rules for succession may simply not exist. Supporting this viewpoint is the controversy between Fingolfin and Maedhros. It can be read that Maedhros had, but gave up, the "right" to High Kingship; on the other hand, these might have simply been the two strongest contenders for the position. Asserting but giving up a right would automatically forestall claims from his younger brothers, and provide legitimacy to Fingolfin that Elves of every party would recognize.


Ñoldor is a Quenya word meaning 'those with knowledge'. Lachend was one Sindarin name that other Elves gave them, which translates as 'flame-eyed'. [12]

Other versions of the legendarium

In the early versions of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth mythology (see The History of Middle-earth), the Ñoldor were most often called Noldoli (not Ñoldoli) or "Gnomes". They were still called Gnomes in early editions of The Hobbit. They were also the ones who spoke the language that later became Sindarin (then called Gnomish). Beren and Lúthien (2017) reintroduces the use of Gnomes and Noldoli in the complete tale.

The spelling Ñoldor rather than Noldor is used in later writings, but even in earlier versions the name Ñoldo came from a Primitive Quendian stem *NGolodō, which led to NGoldo (Ñoldo) in Quenya and Golodh in Sindarin. However, by the Third Age, Quenya as it was spoken in Middle-earth had voiced the "ng" phoneme as a regular "n", making the effective pronunciation during the Age as Noldor.

The family tree given above is correct in the placement of Orodreth and Gil-galad: Orodreth was Angrod's son, and Gil-galad was Orodreth's son, thus the grandson of Angrod and great-grandson of Finarfin, and brother to Finduilas. These are wrongly placed in the published Silmarillion. (See Orodreth and Gil-galad articles for details). Argon, the third son of Fingolfin, does not appear in the published Silmarillion at all.

House of Finwë

The Heraldic Device of the House of Finwë.


(*Father of Celebrimbor)
(**Father of Orodreth)


Foreign Language Translated name
Amharic ኞልዶር
Arabic نولدور
Armenian Նոլդոր
Belarusian Cyrillic Нолдор
Bengali ণল্দর
Bosnian Noldori
Bulgarian Cyrillic Нолдори
Catalan Nóldor
Chinese (Hong Kong) 諾多
Georgian ნოლდორები
Greek Νόλντορ
Gujarati ણોલ્દોર
Hebrew נולדור
Hindi णोल्दोर
Japanese ノルドール
Kannada ಣೊಲ್ದೊರ
Kazakh Cyrillic Нолдор
Korean 놀도르
Kyrgyz Cyrillic Нолдор
Macedonian Cyrillic Нолдор
Marathi णोल्दोर
Mongolian Cyrillic Нолдор
Nepalese णोल्दोर
Norwegian Noldoene
Persian نولدور
Polish Noldorowie
Punjabi ਣੋਲ੍ਦੋਰ
Russian Нолдор
Sanskrit णोल्दोर्
Serbian Нолдори (Cyrillic) Noldori (Latin)
Sinhalese ණොල්දොර්
Tajik Cyrillic Нолдор
Tamil ணொல்தொர்
Telugu ణొల్దొర
Thai โนลดอร์
Ukrainian Cyrillic Нолдор
Urdu نولڈاور
Uzbek Нолдор (Cyrillic) Noldori (Latin)
Yiddish נאָלדאָר