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Two Trees of Valinor

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Two Trees of Valinor
Roger Garland - Two Trees of Valinor.jpg
Other namesGold and Silver trees; i Aldu
AppearanceTwo tall trees, one of gold, the other of silver

The Two Trees of Valinor are Telperion and Laurelin (i Aldu[source?]), the Silver Tree and the Gold that brought light to the Land of the Valar in ancient times. They were destroyed by Melkor and Ungoliant, but their last flower and fruit were made by the Valar into the Moon and the Sun.


Creation and destruction

The first sources of light for all of Arda were two enormous Lamps, Illuin, the silver one to the north and Ormal, the golden one to the south. These were cast down and destroyed by Melkor. Afterward, the Valar went to Valinor and Yavanna sang into existence the Two Trees, silver Telperion and golden Laurelin. Telperion was considered male and Laurelin female. The Trees sat on the hill Ezellohar located outside Valimar. They grew in the presence of all of the Valar, watered by the tears of Nienna.

Each tree was a source of light: Telperion's silver and Laurelin's gold. Telperion had dark leaves (silver on one side) and his silvery dew was collected as a source of water and of light. Laurelin had gold-trimmed leaves and her dew was likewise collected by Varda.

One "day" lasted twelve hours. Each Tree, in turn, would give off light for seven hours (waxing to full brightness and then slowly waning again), so that at one hour each of "dawn" and "dusk" soft gold and silver light would be given off together.

Jealous Melkor enlisted the help of the giant spider-creature Ungoliant (an ancestress of Shelob) to destroy the Two Trees. Concealed in a cloud of darkness, Melkor struck each Tree and the insatiable Ungoliant devoured whatever life and light remained in them.

Again Yavanna sang and Nienna wept, but they succeeded only in reviving Telperion's last flower (to become the Moon) and Laurelin's last fruit (to become the Sun). These were assigned to lesser spirits, male Tilion and female Arien, after the 'genders' of the Trees themselves.

However, the true light of the Trees, before their poisoning by Ungoliant, was said to now reside only in the Silmarils.

Telperion's descendants

Because the Elves that first came to Valinor especially loved Telperion, Yavanna made a second tree like it to stand in the city of Tirion where the Vanyar and Noldor dwelt together at first. This tree, named Galathilion, was identical to Telperion except that it gave no light of its own. It had many seedlings, one of which was planted in the isle of Tol Eressëa (named Celeborn).

In the Second Age, a seedling of Celeborn was brought as a gift to the Númenoreans -- that was Nimloth, the White Tree of Númenor. It lasted through the vast majority of the realm's duration, but when Sauron took control of the island he had king Ar-Pharazôn chop it down.

Fortunately Isildur managed to save a single fruit of that tree. Of this fruit later came the White Tree of Gondor.

In lore

The Two Trees of Valinor existed at a time when the only other source of light were the stars (which had been created for the Elves' benefit by Varda from the dews collected from the Two Trees). When three Elven ambassadors were brought to see Valinor for themselves, in order that the Elves might be convinced to come to Valinor, it seems that the Two Trees affected them most significantly.

In particular Thingol is said to have been motivated in the Great Journey by his desire to see the Light of Valinor again (until he finds contentment in the light he sees in Melian's face). Also in later times, the Elves would be divided between the Calaquendi who had seen the light of the Trees, and the Moriquendi who had not, with the former group explicitly superior in many ways.

The whole of the history of the First Age is strongly affected by the desire of many different characters to possess the Silmarils, which contain the only remaining unsullied light of the Trees.

In the Second and Third Ages, the White Trees of Númenor and of Gondor, whose likeness descends from that of Telperion, have a mostly symbolic significance. They stand both as symbols of the kingdoms in question, and also as reminders of the ancestral alliance between the Dúnedain and the Elves.

Names and Etymology



Clyde S. Kilby has suggested that the concept of the Two Trees shows an influence from the Biblical description of the creation of the world ("Let there be Light!"):

"The Two Trees in The Silmarillion are at first the source of light. After the desctruction of the Two Trees there is a long period of twilight in Middle-earth and it is during this time that first Elves and then Dwarves awaken. It is only long afterwords, with the rising of sun and moon, that Men awaken."[1]

Michael Martinez, on the other hand, has noted a similarity to Persian myth or folklore, where:

"there is a legend of two cypress trees, the Trees of the Sun and Moon, that are said to have been planted by Zoroaster himself. Alexander the Great, hearing of these trees, visited them when he conquered Persia. He asked the oracle of the trees what his future would be. The oracle told him that he would go on to conquer India but that he would then die soon afterward. In some versions of the legend the trees themselves speak to Alexander. According to Marco Polo, the Khalif Motawakkil had one of the trees cut down in the 9th Century CE (when the tree was said to be 1450 years old) and sent to Baghdad. The Khalif was subsequently murdered by his own guards (Cf. The Book of Ser by Marco Polo, the Venetian)."

While Martinez acknowledges that there is no "direct connection between J.R.R. Tolkien and Marco Polo", he speculates that Tolkien possibly was familiar with the writings of Marco Polo. Tolkien himself visited Venice many times, which he identified with Gondor - were supposedly the Tale of Two Trees was preserved).[2]

See Also


  1. Clyde S. Kilby, Tolkien & The Silmarillion, "Tolkien as Christian Writer", pp. 59-60
  2. Michael Martinez, "Is There a Source for the Tale of the Two Trees?" dated 29 November 2011, (accessed 31 December 2011)
Middle-earth Cosmology
 Constellations  Anarríma · Durin's Crown · Menelmacar · Remmirath · Soronúmë · Telumendil · Valacirca · Wilwarin
Stars  Alcarinquë · Borgil · Carnil · Elemmírë · Helluin · Luinil · Lumbar · Morwinyon · Nénar · Star of Eärendil · Til 
The Airs  Aiwenórë · Fanyamar · Ilmen · Menel · Vaiya · Veil of Arda · Vista
Narsilion  Arien · Moon (Isil, Ithil, Rána) · Sun (Anar, Anor, Vása) · Tilion
See Also  Abyss · Arda · Circles of the World · · Timeless Halls · Two Lamps · Two Trees · Void