While their first bodies were being made from the `flesh of Arda’ the Quendi slept `in the womb of the Earth’, beneath the green sward, and awoke when they were full-grown. But the First Elves (also called the Unbegotten, or the Eru-begotten) did not all wake together. Eru had so ordained that each should lie beside his or her `destined spouse’. But three Elves awoke first of all, and they were elf-men, for elf-men are more strong in body and more eager and adventurous in strange places. These three Elf-fathers are named in the ancient tales Imin, Tata, and Enel. They awoke in that order, but with little time between each; and from them, say the Eldar, the words for one, two, and three were made: the oldest of all numerals.
Imin, Tata and Enel awoke before their spouses, and the first thing that they saw was the stars, for they woke in the early twilight before dawn. And the next thing they saw was their destined spouses lying asleep on the green sward beside them. Then they were so enamoured of their beauty that their desire for speech was immediately quickened and they began to `think of words’ to speak and sing in. And being impatient they could not wait but woke up their spouses. Thus, the Eldar say, the first thing that each elf-woman saw was her spouse, and her love for him was her first love; and her love and reverence for the wonders of Arda came later.
Now after a time, when they had dwelt together a little, and had devised many words, Imin and Iminyë, Tata and Tatië, Enel and Enelyë walked together, and left the green dell of their waking, and they came soon to another larger dell and found there six pairs of Quendi, and the stars were again shining in the morrow-dim and the elf-men were just waking.
Then Imin claimed to be the eldest and to have the right of first choice; and he said: `I choose these twelve to be my companions.’ And the elf-men dwelt together a little and had learned many words and devised more, they walked on together, and soon in another even deeper and wider hollow they found nine pairs of Quendi, and the elf-men had just waked in the starlight.
Then Tata claimed the right of second choice, and he said: `I choose these eighteen to be my companions.’ Then again the elf-men woke their spouses, and they dwelt and spoke together, and devised many new sounds and longer words; and then the thirty-six walked abroad together, until they came to a grove of birches by a stream, and there they found twelve pairs of Quendi, and the elf-men likewise were just standing up, and looking at the stars through the birch boughs.
Then Enel claimed the right of third choice, and he said: `I choose these twenty-four to be my companions.’ Again the elf-men woke their spouses; and for many days the sixty Elves dwelt by the stream, and soon they began to make verse and song to the music of the water.
At length they all set out together again. But Imin noticed that each time they had found more Quendi than before, and he thought to himself: `I have only twelve companions (although I am the eldest)); I will take a later choice.’ Soon they came to a sweet-smelling firwood on a hill-side, and there they found eighteen pairs of Quendi, and all were still sleeping. It was still night and clouds were in the sky. But before dawn a wind came, and roused the elf-men, and they woke and were amazed at the stars; for all the clouds were blown away and the stars were bright from east to west. And for a long time the eighteen new Quendi took no heed of the others, but looked at the lights of Menel. But when at last they turned their back to earth they beheld their spouses and woke them to look at the stars, crying to them elen, elen! And so the stars got their name.
Now Imin said: `I will not choose again yet’; and Tata, therefore, chose these thirty-six to be his companions; and they were tall and dark-haired and strong like fir-trees, and from them most of the Noldor later were sprung.
And the ninety-six Quendi now spoke together, and the newly-waked devised many new and beautiful words, and many cunning artifices of speech; and they laughed, and danced upon the hill-side, until at last they desired to find more companions. Then they all set out again together, until they came to a lake dark in the twilight; and there was a great cliff about it upon the east-side, and a waterfall came down from the height, and the stars glittered on the foam. But the elf-men were already bathing in the waterfall, and they had waked their spouses. There were twenty-four pairs; but as yet they had formed no speech, though they sang sweetly and their voices echoed in the stone, mingling with the rush of the falls.
But again Imin withheld his choice, thinking `next time it will be a great company’. Therefore Enel said: `I have the choice, and I choose these forty-eight to be my companions.’ And the hundred and forty-four Quendi dwelt long together by the lake, until they all became of one mind and speech, and were glad.
At length Imin said: `It is time now that we should go on and seek more companions.’ But most of the others were content. So Imin and Iminyë and their twelve companions set out, and they walked long by day and by twilight in the country about the lake, near which all the Quendi had awakened – for which reason it is called Cuiviénen. But they never found any more companions, for the tale of the First Elves was complete.
And so it was that the Quendi ever after reckoned in twelves, and that 144 was for long their highest number, so that in none of their later tongues was there any common name for a greater number. And so also it came about that the `Companions of Imin’ or the Eldest Company (of whom came the Vanyar) were nonetheless only fourteen in all; but the `Companions of Tata’ (of whom came the Noldor) were fifty-six in all; but the `Companions of Enel’ although the Youngest Company were the largest; from them came the Teleri (or Lindar), and they were in the beginning seventy-four in all.
Now the Quendi loved all of Arda that they had yet seen, and green things that grew and the sun of summer were their delight; but nonetheless they were moved most in heart by the Stars, and the hours of twilight in clear weather, at `morrow-dim’ and at `even-dim’, were the times of their greatest joy. For in those hours in the spring of the year they had first awakened to life in Arda. But the Lindar, above all the other Quendi, from their beginning were most in love with water, and sang before they could speak.
-Quendi and Eldar