do all elves have the power of seeing far, or just legolas?

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Elder of Imladris
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In the Return of the King, when the army is marching north toward the Black Gate for the final battle, the book describes the Nazgul flying far overhead, and watching the army as it moves, though out of sight "of all save Legolas". It struck me that two more elves, Elladan and Elrohir, were also in this army. Could they not see the nazgul? Did Legolas have special powers of being able to see very far that other elves did not possess, or was this just an oversight by Tolkien?

Loremaster of Imladris
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I think personally it was more of an oversight, simply because Legolas is more of a main character even if he is a supporting one inside the fellowship than the others. With Elladan and Elrohirs bloodline I don't see them having any lesser sight than Legolas.

Ent Ancient
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That seems like it might be an oversight... Unless maybe it's a matter of training / cultural group? I could certainly see the elves of Mirkwood placing a greater emphasis on woodcraft and tracking than the elves of Imladris, which might bleed over a little bit.
In the deeps of Time, amidst the Innumerable Stars

Elder of Imladris
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Also, it's an ability that is mentioned a lot throughout the trilogy as something Legolas can do, whether its seeing the Uruks or the Rohirrim on the plains of Rohan before Gimli or Aragorn, or seeing the orcs approaching Helms Deep before anyone else. But Tolkien doesn't mention any other elves ever doing this, in the Silmarillion for instance, or does he?

Istari Sage
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Elves definitely have keen eyes as a group, though I suppose it's possible Legolas was particularly gifted. For example:

"...even in the cool sunlight of mid-day few but elvish eyes would have marked them, until they were close at hand." --The Riders of Rohan, TTT

and later in the same chapter Aragorn remarks "Keen are the eyes of the Elves."

EDIT: Also, haha, I get it, "oversight"

Elder of Imladris
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lol, I didn't notice the wordplay myself

Councillor of Imladris
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Henry Gee has a chapter on this in his book, The Science of Middle-earth. Chapter 11, “The Eyes of Legolas Greenleaf”.

Henry introduces the discussion with the following passage:
When summarizing the superhuman capacities of the Elves, it would be tempting to say that Elves can see further than humans, but this would be inaccurate: Aragorn can see just as far as Legolas, but he cannot resolve the blur he sees into individual points. What is at issue, then, is not distance, but something called ‘acuity’ or ‘resolution’ — the ability to resolve objects as distinct, from a given distance.

Thinking about this further (and doing a few quick calculations) I realized how Tolkien's apparently throw-away remarks, made to illustrate the physical capabilities of the Elves, could have had a profound effect on the way Elves would have seen and reacted to the world.
One should not take Henry's claims and ideas more seriously than that, but it's a truly brilliant way to discuss science :smile:
“The love of Faery is the love of love” J.R.R. Tolkien

Ent Ancient
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@Troelsfo would you recommend the Science of Middle-earth as a worthwhile read, broadly? I'm always hesitant with books like that they don't necessarily seem to have a strong foundation in literary criticism / Tolkien studies but to approach from a different perspective.
In the deeps of Time, amidst the Innumerable Stars

Newborn of Imladris
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@Androthelm @Troelsfo Personally I would call it an enjoyable read, just as I would 'The science of Discworld' - they are fun, they make you think from a different perspective, and they are mostly harmless.
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Councillor of Imladris
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@Androthelm ... it depends, I think, on what you want with it.

You are right that it is not rooted in literary criticism. It is rooted, instead, in an admirable understanding of contemporary science (Mr Gee being an editor at Nature, this is, of course, not surprising :wink:). As @Saranna, I found it an enjoyable read, but I am, by education, a physicist, which may of course make a difference :grin:

I did a review of the book in 2012, which it may be my best option simply to share ...
https://www.parmakenta.com/2012/12/the- ... earth.html
“The love of Faery is the love of love” J.R.R. Tolkien

Ent Ancient
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That sounds like a fair shake @Troelsfo and @Saranna -- I'll check it out.

Frankly, I think my hesitation only comes from a bias of my own as a scholar of religion -- there's a lot of bogus pop-scholarship out there, a lot of which unintentionally pushes perspectives that the field has spent a long time getting done with. So I'm always on edge -- that being said, I'll give it a look.
In the deeps of Time, amidst the Innumerable Stars

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