Let’s start with Tauriel, because The Hobbit and she’s awesome and has hair that makes me weep with jealousy. I’ve seen people poking fun at the healing scene where she starts glowing, because ~*cheesy romance lol*~
THE GLOWING HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH KILI’S FEELINGS ABOUT HER
Remember this from Fellowship of the Ring?
Frodo sees Arwen as glowing and in white, and he is very much not in love with her. You know why he sees that? Because he’s been stabbed by the Witch-King and has one foot in the grave already, and can therefore see her elf-soul-essence WHICH IS INCREDIBLY BRIGHT AND POWERFUL. This is 100% canon, straight-from-Tolkien. So when Kili sees Tauriel all white and shiny when she’s healing him, it’s not because of love, it’s because he’s SO CLOSE TO DYING HE CAN SEE HER ELF-SELFNESS.
Remember this scene from the movie?
(yes, I know it’s a bts gif. It still makes my point.)
We all got the point of this scene. Tauriel isn’t good enough for Thranduil, who is a bad classist snotty dad (and will probably wish Legolas had gone for Tauriel fifty years down the road). But what does it mean when Tauriel calls herself “Silvan?”
Way long ago, long long before The Hobbit or LOTR happened, before the race of Men even existed in Middle Earth, there were elves. Quite a lot of them. But the Valar (who are superpowerful angel-like spirits) decided that Middle Earth wasn’t the perfect place they’d hoped it would be, and invited the elves to come back and live with them all in Valinor (which is this totally awesome magical land).
Most of the elves thought that was a great idea. But there was a group that got to the Misty Mountains and said, “You realize that means we’d have to walk across all of Middle Earth and sail across an ocean, right? That’s too much effort and too dangerous. We’d rather just stay here.” And they became the Silvan elves, who never saw the light of Valinor and are thus less powerful, less wise, and less magical than any other group of elves and are therefore on the bottom of the elf totem pole. Most of the elves in Mirkwood are Silvan.
Thranduil (and Legolas), however, are not. They are Sindar. Sindar are elves who started making the journey to Valinor but got stuck about halfway through when their king fell in love with a Maiar (read: demigod) and disappeared for about four years. A lot of the elves got tired of waiting for him and continued, but some stayed behind for him or just made their own civilization, and thus became Sindar. Since they got closer to Valinor than Silvan elves, they rank higher than them.
SO THIS SCENE ISN’T JUST “LEGOLAS IS PRINCE AND YOU’RE A SIMPLE WARRIOR,” IT’S ALL ABOUT ELF HIERARCHY AND ELF RACISM AND BASICALLY WAY TO GO TAURIEL FOR MAKING IT UP TO THE RANKS ON SKILL ALONE.
Back to the types of elves, though. Most of them made it to Valinor, but later, when the whole debacle with the Silmarils happened, there were three main clans - the Vanyar, the Noldor, and the Teleri. The Vanyar and Teleri never left Valinor again, but most of the Noldor came back to Middle Earth to look for the Silmarils. You know who one of them was?
THAT’S RIGHT, GALADRIEL WAS BORN IN VALINOR AND IS AROUND 12,000 YEARS OLD.
She rebelled and left Valinor with her brothers to go reclaim the Silmarils - which was a horrible decision for pretty much everyone, as it led to a lot of war and death including the first case of elves killing elves ever - and she regretted it for the rest of her life. It didn’t help that she (along with all the other elves who rebelled) ended up being banished from Valinor. WHICH IS WHY in Fellowship of the Ring when she decides not to take the Ring from Frodo and says she will “diminish and go into the West” IT’S A REALLY BIG DEAL because it means she’s repented from her mistake and will no longer sacrifice personal integrity for power and can go back to Valinor!
Also Galadriel is canonically 6’ 4” and the most powerful elf in Middle Earth and if you don’t think that’s awesome then get off my blog.
THAT CONCLUDES THE ELF HISTORY LESSON FOR TODAY.