Legolas and Gimli developed a mutual respect and deep fondness for one another during The Lord of the Rings. Their relationship was especially meaningful in a story rife with great friendships because elves and dwarves so rarely made for loyal companions. But despite the two races’ history, The Rings of Power has already introduced another unexpected fellowship: Elrond and Durin IV. But their close relationship is not totally unexpected. It happened during the one time in Middle-earth’s history when elves and dwarves truly got along. However, whether that was good or not is another matter entirely.
Elrond and Durin’s Friendship on The Rings of Power
The Rings of Power‘s first two episodes didn’t reveal exactly when the show takes place during the Second Age. But we know Elrond and Durin IV—son of King Durin III of Khazad-dum—had not seen each other for 20 years. That’s not a big deal for an ageless elf like Elrond. But it is for “Durin’s Folk.” During that era dwarves of that line had a life expectancy of roughly 300 years.
While we don’t know when the two first met, either, we can make an informed estimation. Dwarves are considered ready for battle at 30. They’re not considered adults, though, until at least 65. And they reach “old age” at 240. King Durin, at minimum, looks close to old age, while his son does not.
Durin IV’s wife and kids also tells us something important. “ Dwarves seldom wedded before the age of ninety or more.” The means Durin IV is probably at least 100 years old. Combining everything we know about a dwarf’s lifecycle, it’s therefore reasonable to imagine him and Elrond became friends after Durin was old enough to fight. Or when Durin became an adult. So they must have known each other for 40 to 50 years, minimum. However, that number might easily exceed a century or more if Durin is older.
How and why did they become friends, though? Elrond’s travels almost certainly led him to Durin’s kingdom.
The Elf Realm of Eregion and the Dwarf Kingdom of Khazad-dum
Gil-galad, the High King of the Ñoldor, tasked Elrond with working with Celebrimbor. That master elf smith rules over Eregion, a realm of the Ñoldor Elrond already knows well. Galadriel, Elrond’s close friend, once ruled that land. And as a herald of Gil-Galad, Elrond would have visited Eregion often for centuries.
Eregion is also very close to Khazad-dum, where King Durin reigns in Moria. Eregion sits at Moria’s west gate. Whether on official business or for pleasure, Elrond likely visited Khazad-dum sometimes, where he’d be welcomed. Elrond had fought alongside dwarves during the War of Wrath that dominated the First Age.
The more time Elrond spent in and near Khazad-dum the more he would have encountered Durin IV. Whatever their interactions, it resulted in a rich friendship. It had to have been for Elrond to give Durin the seed of a Lindon elf tree and for Durin to treasure that gift like a third child.
Of course, proximity doesn’t entirely explain their friendship. The two had millennia of strained relations between their races to overcome.
Animosity Between Elves and Dwarves in The Lord of the Rings‘ World
Legolas and Gimli had to conquer mutual feelings of animosity dating back thousands and thousands of years between their races. And yet, there’s no real good reason for why that ill-will existed. Even the most infamous moment of conflict between elves and dwarves doesn’t explain their long-held dislike. Especially since they often worked together during the earliest days of Middle-earth.
The real tension is less about any specific incidents and more about the their respective status in the world.
Elves are the eldest “children” of Ilúvatar, the supreme being of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world. (Men were meant to be second.) But before elves even awoke in Middle-earth, Aulë, one of the Valar— powerful beings just below Ilúvatar—created elves deep in the mountains of Middle-earth. Ilúvatar had not permitted Aulë to generate life. But he took pity on dwarves and let them sleep until the birth of elves. Dwarves awoke a century after the elves.
Dwarves and elves are inherently different. The wise and beautiful elves are tall noble beings of grace and skill. They barely tread on land and do not age. They can live forever, as elves are the closest of Middle-earth’s race to the Valar, whom they were meant to live with in Valinor (where Galadriel refused to go.)
Meanwhile, dwarves are not graceful. Aulë had no idea what elves looked like and tried to guess at Ilúvatar’s design. They’re stout, strong, and sturdy with incredible endurance. Unlike elves, they can also grow beards, even most of their women, who male dwarves outnumber 2-1. They keep them long and bushy. Dwarves also excel as miners and smiths, crafting items even elves envy. For all those reasons and more, dwarves are notoriously stubborn, proud, and secretive. (They don’t even tell other races their real names.) They’re also intensely loyal to one another. But as rough around the edges as dwarves might be, they’ll still help a stranger in need.
So why the animosity if both races are inherently good? Because elves who stayed in Middle-earth believed themselves to be above all other races. That’s a big reason why they didn’t return to Valinor, where they’d always be below the Valar. Meanwhile, the proud dwarves had a chip on their shoulder dating back to their very creation as imitations of Ilúvatar’s favored children. It’s as though elves, akin to angels, and dwarves, like stone made flesh, were designed not to like one another. Shared animosity was part of their very natures.
We saw how Legolas and Gimli overcame that. But how did it happen thousands of years earlier with Elrond and Durin? Timing is everything.
The Friendship of Elves and Dwarves During Middle-Earth’s Second Age
The subtext of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work reveals why elves and dwarves didn’t like one another. But a letter the author wrote in 1951 to Milton Waldman explicitly states the one instance when the two races were real friends. And it’s during the exact time Elrond and Durin would have crossed paths. Here’s what Tolkien wrote:
“…at Eregion at the Western feet of the Misty Mountains, adjacent to the Mines of Moria, the major realm of the Dwarves in the Second Age. There arose a friendship between the usually hostile folk (of Elves and Dwarves) for the first and only time, and smithcraft reached its highest development.”
The Lord of the Rings showed us how a dwarf and elf became friends, but The Rings of Power already introduced a duo like that. What it has yet to reveal is how Elrond and Durin became friends and if their personal relationship led to unity between all dwarves and elves, even for a brief moment.
Of course, like all things in Middle-earth, there cannot be good without bad, even friendship. And we all know what the highest development of smithcraft in Middle-earth led to—the forging of the rings of power.