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Athelas

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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
Athelas
Other namesKingsfoil, asëa aranion
LocationMiddle-earth

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

Contents

History

During the First Age athelas was perhaps growing in Beleriand. Huan had found athelas to heal Beren of his wonds[1]

Athelas also grew on the island of Númenór and was brought to Middle-earth by Númenóreans. 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, but by the end of the Third Age only the Rangers of the North retained the knowledge of its healing properties.

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 in several occasions: healing Frodo from the Morgul wound, tend the wounds of Frodo and Sam after the exit from Moria, and, 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.

Etymology

Athelas is a Sindarin word, consisting of athae + lass.[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.[4]

Athelas is also mentioned in the game Quest for Glory.

See also

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "III. The Lay of Leithian"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 49
  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
  4. "Athelas", dated 21 January 2001, at Forum.BarrowDowns.com (accessed 13 November 2011)