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Ted Nasmith - Hundreds of Butterflies

Butterflies were insects with large often colorful wings.


[edit] History

Although mentioned several times in the written records of Arda, they are only actually seen on one occasion: Bilbo Baggins finds them fluttering above the treetops of Mirkwood. Like other creatures that lived in that dark wood, its butterflies had turned completely black in colour, and so that variety is referred to as the 'black emperor'.[1]

[edit] Other versions of the legendarium

Where the River Narog flowed into Sirion, there was a lush valley filled with willow trees, a place understandably known as the Land of Willows. According to the legends of The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, this was the place where butterflies of all kinds came into the world, and they remained common there during the First Age.[2]

[edit] Etymology

In Quenya, the word for "butterfly" is wilwarin (pl. wilwarindi).[note 1] Cognates of the same meaning are Telerin vilverin, Noldorin gwilwileth, and Ilkorin gwilwering.[3]

In Gnomish, one of Tolkien's early conceptions of an Elven language, "butterfly" is gwilbrin (or -vrin).[4] Qenya has wilwarindon ("like a butterfly") and wilwarin ("butterfly").[5]


  1. Wilwarin was a name the Elves also gave to a constellation of stars. Cf. article Wilwarin.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "III. The Fall of Gondolin", p. 154
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", p. 398 (root WIL-)
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), p. 45
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Elvish Poetry and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets", in Parma Eldalamberon XVI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, Carl F. Hostetter and Bill Welden), p. 63