So here’s a question. What happened to the elves that fought at Helm’s Deep?
Did they go home? Did they all die? Did they do a runner?
When I first saw this, I loved seeing the elves join the humans. It was something I wanted to see as a kid. More elves, more dwarves, fighting alongside the human race.
But here’s the thing. That was entirely against what Tolkien was writing. When I was older, I got that. Seeing the elves at Helm’s Deep cemented my understanding.
The simple truth is that Tolkien’s trilogy isn’t a simple tale of good versus evil. Not in the sense as we’ve come to understand it in fantasy literature. By the time I read the Lord of the Rings, I had read many stories of elves and they were entirely good guys. Same for dwarves and other creatures really. Fantasy stories were often clear in their make-up. Good was GOOD and evil was EVIL.
This isn’t Tolkien’s world. Here, it is made very clear that good is easily tempted, and so very corruptible. Most of the baddies in this world are actually from the ‘good’ races originally.
But then there are no ‘good’ races. Men, elves and dwarves are just like humans in real life. They can be afraid, greedy, ignorant and prejudiced. They are even more so in the time we are reading about. They were more noble in the past. Now old alliances have crumbled. This is not meant to be about races uniting to defeat a common enemy. They did that before. No, this is about the end of an era, whoever triumphs. It is about dwarves hiding in their underground kingdoms, elves sailing away into the west, and the human race divided into those resisting Sauron and those serving him. Even the Ents are unbothered by the world’s events until it effects them. The eagles have no interest too. There is no common good. Even the hobbits, our true heroes, do what they do for each other and for the Shire. They have no understanding of a world which they had never even seen until recently. This is not to diminish any status as heroes or good guys, just to explain that most are compelled from much more understandable and relatable drives.
So when you think about it, the elves showing up at Helm’s Deep is all cool and whatnot, but goes against everything Tolkien’s world is about. It makes no sense. Again, they don’t go with the Riders of Rohan to Minas Tirith, so whatever became of them, their assistance in the war is at an end. That would be like the USA helping Great Britain out in the Battle of Britain, then sodding off and never getting involved again. Fortunately, that was never the case.
Mind you, originally Arwen was going to be there too. I suspect that was the main reason the elves were brought back into it. But that subplot was discarded (rightly so I suspect) so we’re left with elves who show up, fight well, die well and then vanish. Kind of cool, but now I just feel bad for the dwarves. Bunch of no-shows.