Elves of Mirkwood
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During the First Age, the Valar summoned the first Elves to move with them to Valinor. There were three hosts that first set out to answer the call of the Valar. Of these, the largest host was that of the Teleri. They advanced very slowly, and would often lose sight of the other two, smaller hosts. There was a time, when they reached the river Anduin, one smaller leader of that host, Lenwë, wished to go no further, and he and his people began to live in the forests surrounding the Anduin Vale as the remaining Teleri continued their journey to Valinor. Their descendants were the Silvan elves of Lothlórien and Greenwood the Great.
During the Second Age, many Sindar travelled eastward from Lindon and eventually ended up in Greenwood the Great, where the Silvan Elves of Nandorin descent lived. Oropher, a Sinda, was taken by them as lord and founded the Woodland Realm with the capital at Amon Lanc.
With the return of Sauron around T.A. 1050 southern Greenwood became dangerous and was renamed Mirkwood. Creatures like great spiders came to dwell in Mirkwood and Thranduil's folk retreated to the northeastern corner of Mirkwood, where they fortified themselves near the Forest River.