The first Elves dwelt for a long time under the stars – named the Quendi being the first to make speech.
Awakening of the Elves
The Elves were said to have awoken in the “making of the stars” and in the midmost of the World in Cuívienen. This is probably why we don’t hear much about elf-children.
They were said to have traditions concerning the “awakening” during the waking of their ‘first [hröar (bodies)] from the “flesh of Arda,” [when] the Quendi slept “in the womb of Arda.”’ (NoME, “Eldarin Traditions concerning the Awakening”)
However, the first Elves didn’t wake together. Three elf-men woke first, and in the earliest traditions, they were named Imin, Tata, and Enel – awaking in that order. There was not much time between each one. They saw the stars first, and were so enamored of their beauty and were eager to start forming words.
Thus, they were impatient so they woke up their spouses, becoming Imin and Iminyë, Tata and Tatië, and Enel and Enelyë, walking together leaving the green dell of their waking…
Imin claimed to have the right of first choice of companions, as he was the oldest. And thus he chose 12 companions.
Tata claimed the right to second choice – and chose 18 companions.
Finally, Enel claimed the right to third choice – and chose 24 companions.
And they continued the same cycle of choosing the companions, the elf-men waking and waking their spouses, mostly reckoning in twelves, with 144 their highest number.
As a result, the companions of Imin contained 14 – being the smallest company, while the companions of Tata contained 56 and the companions of Enel contained 74 total.
This was said to have occurred at 1000 VY, in the First Age.
Beginning of Elves
Oromë rode eastward and was amazed by the Quendi, naming them Eldar. The most ancient songs of the Elves started in Cuívienen, and echoed in the West and were mainly about a Dark Rider.
Thus, Melkor hated the riding of Oromë, and so he sent dark servants as riders so the Quendi would shun Oromë, one of the Valar. This was why many of the Quendi were filled with dread at the coming of Oromë.
However, Oromë stayed a while before riding back over the land and sea to Valinor bringing the tidings to Valmar, speaking of the shadows that troubled Cuīvienen.
Manwë sought the counsel of Ilúvatar in Taniquetil – and revealed it to the Valar:
“…we should take up again the mastery of Arda, at whatsoever cost, and deliver the Quendi from the shadow of Melkor.” (Silmarillion, “Of the Coming of the Elves”)
While Aulë was grieved foreboding the hurts of the world that must come from the strife, the Valar were made ready for this task, in order to “assault the fortresses of Melkor and make an end.”
Melkor had never forgotten this moment ever since, that the Elves were a main cause of his downfall.
After the Valar set a guard over Cuívienen, they had held a council. Thus the Quendi knew nothing of the siege of Utummo.
Some had said that the Quendi should be free to walk as they would in Middle-earth, while others feared for their dangers in the deceits of the starlit dusk.
However, they were enamored by the Elves, desiring their fellowship – and thus the Valar summoned the Quendi to Valinor.
Oromë was sent to them, choosing who should go to Valinor and decided ultimately on Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë. But the Elves refused to summon, preferring to remain in Middle-earth to the trees of Avari, the Unwilling.
March of the Quendi
This finding is also said to have occurred around 1090 VY – or 90 VYs after the awakening.
The Elves prepared a great march into the West, the March of the Quendi – which occurred in 1125 VY.
Fëanor and the Silmarils
Years later, the Three Kindreds of the Eldar were gathered in Valinor.
Fëanor, son of Finwë, was a craftsman who created the Silmarils. They could be seen as a machine – in a similar category of the One Ring.
They were the three jewels that were filled with light, made with a crystalline substance, silima.
After its creation, Melkor started to have a lust for them as the radiance caused a fire in his heart.
Meanwhile, Fëanor refused to give them up as the Valar asked as they knew that the Men and Elves were coming.
Fëanor believed Melkor’s lie that Valinor would be diminished and eventually partook in kinslaying.
Sun+Moon, hiding of Valinor
The Valar were grieved – and Fëanor chose to remain evil. The Valar resolved to illumine Middle-earth with light in order to hinder the deeds of Melkor.
Thus, the Sun and Moon were guided by Arien and Tilion, respectively.
The Sun was a sign of the awakening of Men and the Waning of the Elves, while the Moon cherishes their memory.
Ending of the First Age + Beginning of the Second Age
The First Age ended with the Great Battle, when the Host of Valinor broke Thangorodrim and overthrew Morgoth (LOTR, App B).
The Second Age involved the dark years for the Men of Middle-earth. Many of the Elves still remained – with most dwelling in Lindon west of the Ered Luin.
The Sindar passed Eastward, and some established realms in forests far away. They were mainly called Silvan Elves and were very unfriendly to the Dwarves.
Celeborn and Galadriel dwelt in Lindon for a time – along with Gil-galad, the High King of the Elves; and some of the Noldor.
The Noldor were not as unfriendly to the Dwarves as the Sindar.
While Elrond Halfelven chose to be immortal, his twin brother Elros (much like Arwen) chose the fate of a mortal man, thus starting the Line of Elros. They would live about 3-5x as long, on average, as Middle-earth men.
Sauron’s Invasion in the Second Age
Sauron began to stir again in Middle-earth in 500 SA. The Númenoreans grew, and he was afraid – so he had made Mordor into a stronghold, beginning the building of Barad-dûr 500 years later.
This would lead to his Invasion of Eregion.
In 1200 SA, Sauron wanted to seduce the Eldar, and was rejected by Gil-galad.
The Elven-smiths had reached the height of their skill in 1500 SA, and so they started forming the Three Rings of Power.
While Celebrimbor initially fell for it – he later noticed Sauron’s motives to get the Three Rings of Power held by the Elves. Eregion laid waste in 1697 SA, and Celebrimbor was slain by Sauron
However, two years after that, Sauron would overrun Eriador.
He would corrupt the Númenoreans after being taken as a prisoner to Númenor, as he seduced the King.
It wasn’t until 3441 of the Second Age, when Sauron was overthrown by Elendil and Gil-galad, and Isildur takes the One Ring. This also marked the ending of the Second Age and started the Third Age.
The Third Age
The Third Age marked the fading years of the Eldar. They didn’t attempt anything new – continuing to live in memory of the past as the Dwarves hid themselves guarding their hoards as Sauron slept and the One Ring was lost.
Isildur would plant a seedling of the White Tree in Minas Anor. However, he, and his three elder sons were soon slain in the Disaster of the Gladden Fields.
However, a thousand years later, the Istari, or Wizards, would come in the shape of Men in order to contest the power of Sauron. They had tried to resist him. Despite having many powers, “they were forbidden to match power with power, or to seek to dominate Elves or Men by force and fear” (LOTR, App. B).
Furthermore, the guardianship of the Three Rings were at the time known only to those who possessed them.
This led to the forming of the White Council in 2463 TA.
Not too long after, in 2480 TA, the Orcs started to make secret strongholds in the Misty Mountains, and Sauron brought them into Moria. The Orcs would later enter into the Shire, which Elrond’s sons fought with the Dunedain.
Celebrian’s journey to Lorien right before LOTR
And lastly about a few hundred years before the War of the Ring – Elrond’s wife, Celebrían was journeying to Lórien, and she was waylaid in the Redhorn Pass and was assaulted by the Orcs. She was rescued by Elladan and Elrohir, but had already suffered torment before they came to her rescue.
She was brought back to Rivendell and healed by Elrond – but she had lost all delight in Middle-earth and sailed west to Valinor.
All the Elves would eventually sail west – as they had a spiritual call from the Valar to do so since the beginning. This held true during the War of the Ring as well.