Here is an excerpt from Michael’s August 26th Suite101 article:
Nothing is more confusing than trying to figure out who is actually supposed to be in the various family trees, and what their relationships to the three Eldarin kings are. Most people have only read The Lord of the Rings, and that book provides us with so few clues about the Eldarin families that all the cousins, brothers, aunts, and uncles who are named in The Silmarillion arrive as quite a shock. Why weren’t these people mentioned in The Lord of the Rings?
Of course, their stories had come to an end thousands of years before Hobbits even arrived on the scene. So the princes of the Eldar were no longer of paramount historical importance. History in Middle-earth had shifted from being a primarily Eldarin course of events to a primarily Dunadan course of events, and even the Dunedain were in decline. Socially, the Eldar no longer mattered. So their great heroes, their ancient kings, all their noble families were forgotten by most of the peoples in Middle-earth. To hear the stories of ages lost in time’s remote antiquity from people who had been there would have been an extremely special experience for the Hobbits who visited Rivendell. Their people had no knowledge of such stories, and Bilbo had accomplished something unique by awakening the desire to learn more about Elvish histories in his young nieces and nephews.
Naturally, Bilbo would be most interested in the tales of the relatives of Elrond and Aragorn, his special friends. Conveniently, their Elven ancestors just happened to be part of the extended families of Finwe and Elwe, some of whose members ruled various kingdoms in Beleriand. It would all be quite romantic (in the heroic and adventurous sense). But it would also provide an insight into the character and motivations of both Elrond and Aragorn for Bilbo to understand who their families were. It would be that Elvish sense of obligation. Elrond couldn’t just leave Middle-earth until a resolution had been found for the problem of the Rings of Power. Aragorn, of course, had no opportunity to leave Middle-earth. But he had inherited the whole mess from his human ancestors.
The difficulty for us is that Tolkien never fully understood what he wanted to achieve with the Eldarin genealogies. Every now and then he would add a name to the lists and if he had time, perhaps years down the road, he would drop in some tantalizing comment that began the process of defining a new character. And in retrospect, he would delete names from the lists, too, if he felt the characters they referred to belonged in other tales, or didn’t fit in at all. Hence, Indis begins as the sister of Ingwe and ends up as his niece. And Ingwiel, Ingwe’s son, vanishes altogether. Such losses are regrettable, because they hint at untold stories which might be very interesting.
Ingwe, Finwe, and Elwe also present problems. Their histories as characters under Tolkien’s hand evolved both together and separately. There can be no doubt that at one time Ingwe was the eldest of the Elves, the first to awaken. Finwe, too, seems to have been a first generation Elf for a while, as Feanor was originally supposed to have been born during the Great Journey. And yet, these “facts” were discarded and the Elven families were pushed back. Tolkien constructed an elaborate social history for the Elves which explained their numerous divisions and apparently called for even more ancient Elves. Ingwe, Finwe, and Elwe subsequently become merely very ancient Elves, but not the most ancient of Elves.
Please click on the link below to read the entire article.