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The name Athelas refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Athelas (disambiguation).
John Howe - Athelas.jpg
Other namesKingsfoil, asëa aranion
GalleryImages of Athelas

Athelas, also known as Kingsfoil or asëa aranion ("Leaf of Kings"), was a plant with healing powers.



Athelas was first brought to Middle-earth by Númenóreans, but by the end of the Third Age the knowledge of its healing properties was lost among all but the Rangers of the North. It was a sweet-smelling herb which grew sparsely in the North and only in places where the Men of Westernesse had camped or lived.

In Gondor (where the name “kingsfoil” was used) its healing virtues were unknown and its leaves were esteemed only for their refreshing scent but it was especially powerful in the hands of the king, perhaps because of the Elvish heritage of the royal house.

It was used by Aragorn, secretly entering Minas Tirith upon his return to Gondor to heal those touched by the Black Breath, an act that enhanced his reputation and strengthed his claim to the crown.


The etymology of the Sindarin word athelas is obscure, and apparently there exists an unpublished text by Tolkien providing such an etymology. It has been suggested that the second element likely is las "leaf".[1] The first element could be related to Quenya asea but its independent Sindarin form is unknown.[1][2]

Kingsfoil has the Old French element foil, "leaf" as seen in cinquefoil.[3]

Other versions of the legendarium

Athelas was also used by Huan and Lúthien to heal wounded Beren in the early Lay of Leithian. It contradicts the information from The Lord of the Rings of it being brought to Middle-earth by Númenóreans, so it was either changed by Tolkien in later versions of his legendarium, or athelas grew in Beleriand before it was destroyed, and then brought back to Middle-earth by Númenóreans in the Second Age.

Appearances outside the legendarium

Kingsfoil is also mentioned in Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, as one of the herbs in the witch of Gont's hut.

Athelas is also mentioned in the game Quest for Glory.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 183
  2. Athelas (message from William Cloud Hicklin, dated 26 October 1998) at Rec.arts.books.tolkien (accessed 13 May 2011)
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 781