This article should be read along with The Healing Arts of Middle-earth by Tinw.
In this essay, we shall explore the Elven views on healing versus killing, and learn about Aragorn's magical wedding gift and namesake.
In fanfiction and Role Play alike, I see many Elven healer-warriors adventuring. They're all fashioned after Aragorn, Faramir, and Éowyn, who are human, not Eldarin. (Aragorn also had the Elessar, a magic green stone given to him by Galadriel as a wedding present.) This analogy seems to be built on an apparent lack of information. But, since Morgoth's Ring was published, we have known what the Eldarin views about making and ending life. It was described for us quite clearly in the Laws and Customs of the Eldar.
For instance, the arts of healing, and all that touches on care of the body, are among all the Eldar most practiced by the nissi; whereas it was the elven-men who bore arms at need. And the Eldar deemed that the dealing of death even when lawful or under necessity, diminished the power of healing, and that the virtue of the nissi in this matter was due rather to their abstaining from hunting or war than to any special power that went with their womanhood. Indeed in dire straits or desperate defense, the nissi fought valiantly, and there was less difference in strength and speed between elven-men and elven-women that had not borne child than is seen among mortals. On the other hand many elven-men were great healers and skilled in the lore of living bodies, though such men abstained from hunting, and went not to war until the last need. (MR 213-4)
Let's examine the relevant points of this section.
- Healers are most often female, but men can be healers too. Being a healer isn't connected to gender, but rather by the actions of the person.
- Dealing in death weakens the ability to be a healer. (or that is the superstition of the Eldar)
- Healers are the very last to go to war.
So, what does Elven healing entail? It's spoken of as a "power" as though there is some sort of magic behind it. There likely is, but not the "magical glow for a few seconds and you're good as new!" sort of magic as seen in Avatar: The Last Airbender or in Charmed or any number of fantasy series. It likely works through singing, and can only help the healing process, not magically reattach limbs or heal wounds with no scarring. An Elven healer at work is most likely singing while they stitch you up, and you'll be able to remove the stitches a few days earlier.
Elven healing also likely differs from our healing in that they don't have treatments for things caused by viruses or bacteria. If you don't get sick from them, then there's no need to treat them. So, Elven healers are more like surgeons: trained to set bones, remove slivers/arrows/pieces of daggers from the body, and stitch up wounds.
By the way, even warriors know at least a little first aid. Glorfindel and Aragorn (pre-Elessar) were able to help keep Frodo alive during the dangerous trek to Imladris. When throwing yourself in dangerous situations – it's best to know how to get yourself home alive.
Yes, Aragorn's Kingly name. Aragorn was named after the Elessar, which is a magic gem. It has an interesting history though. It is detailed in the Unfinished Tales, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn — The Elessar. I will give a basic overview for you here.
The Elessar was made by a jewel-smith named Enerdhil. He loved green, growing things, especially when looking through leaves at the sun. So, he made the Elessar, (called Edhelharn in Sindarin) which was the captured green light that he loved. This gem had incredible power.
The jewel was given to Idril, who kept it safe from the destruction of Gondolin. She gave it to Eärendil, who used it to help people in Sirion's Haven. The Elessar vanished from Middle-earth along with Eärendil.
Where then, does Aragorn's Elessar come from? No one knows. Some people in Middle-earth believe that Aragorn's wedding gift is actually the one that Enerdhil made, returned to Middle-earth by Gandalf. Others think that it is a new gem, made to mimic the original one by Celebrimbor for Galadriel. Either way, Galadriel had an Elessar and she gave it to Aragorn as a wedding present. Thus, the prophecy that Ioreth speaks of in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith came true: the hands of the King are the hands of a Healer.
Here's the section describing what the jewel is capable of:
For it is said that those who looked through this stone saw things that were withered or burned healed again or as they were in the grace of their youth, and that the hands of one who held it brought to all that they touched healing from hurt. (UF 249)
From this description, it's hard to tell if it works like rose-tinted (leaf-tinted?) glasses, and makes you view the world around you as more healthy than it is, if it actually heals what you look upon, or if it makes it within your power to heal what you look upon. Again, it doesn't seem to be a magical complete healing tool. Look on the way it works when Aragorn uses it. He still has to do actual medical work. The Elessar just seems to make sure that the methods that he uses are effective, not make injuries magically disappear in a moment.
If you write about Tolkien-Elves who are warriors and have magick glowing hands that magickly heal all they touch, I will track you down and beat you with my copy of Morgoth's Ring until you gain a magick revelation of your own.