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Elena Kukanova - The Light of Valinor.jpg
"The Light of Valinor" by Elena Kukanova
Biographical Information
PronunciationS, [ˈmeljan]
Other namesMelyanna (PQ)
TitlesQueen of Doriath
AffiliationVána and Estë
Notable forGirdle of Melian
ChildrenLúthien; fostered Túrin
Physical Description
Hair colorDark[1]
GalleryImages of Melian

Melian the Maia was the wife of Elu Thingol, mother of Lúthien, and Queen of Doriath.


Melian served Vána and Estë. She was said to be akin to Yavanna the Valië. She is associated with songbirds, and it is said she taught nightingales how to sing and their music followed her paces. In Valinor, she dwelt in the gardens of Lórien tending its trees, and she was the most beautiful, wise and skilled in songs of enchantment of all the people of Irmo. However, she journeyed often to Middle-earth for she loved the deep shadows of trees and forests.[2][3]


In the dawn of Arda Melian dwelt in the gardens of Lórien, and taught the nightingales how to sing. When the lights of the Two Trees mingled, at noon, she sang in Lórien, and it is said that everything stopped, even the bells and fountains of Valmar, to enjoy her voice.[3]

Around the time of the Awakening of the Elves, her love for the trees brought her to Middle-earth, filling its silence with her and her birds' voices.[3] After Oromë found the Elves in Cuiviénen, the Valar planned to make War against Melkor and during their preparations, they sent Melian to Cuiviénen, and then a group of great Maiar to guard the Elves. Melian was their leader, the only female spirit among them.[4]

Nan Elmoth - Elwe and Melian by Elena Kukanova

When the Eldar marched into the West, in the woods of Nan Elmoth, Melian came upon Elwë Singollo of the people of the Teleri. Elwë was entranced and fell into a swoon at the sight of the Maia Melian, and the two of them stood hand in hand, unable to move or speak for years while the trees grew around them. As a result of his absence, a portion of his followers stayed behind to search for him, while the rest continued on to Valinor.[3]

Melian and Thingol recovered and gathered the Elves who stayed behind to look for Elwë, who were named Eglath. They founded the kingdom of Eglador and ruled as King and Queen of all the Elves in Beleriand. Melian was the only known Ainu who coupled with one of the Children of Ilúvatar, and she begot a child, Lúthien Tinúviel, who was the fairest of the Children to have ever lived. She married the Man Beren Erchamion, and as a result, Melian's Maian blood was passed on to both Elves and Men.

Forseeing that war was coming to Beleriand, Melian warned her husband Thingol. In turn, Thingol ordered the delving of a strong fortress in their kingdom. This was Menegroth, the Thousand Caves, and they were aided by the Dwarves. With the return of Morgoth and the flight of Ungoliant from his Balrogs, the dark spider tried to enter into Thingol's domain, but Melian alone repelled Ungoliant and drove her away.

When war with the Great Enemy, Morgoth, came to their land, she used her powers to guard and defend it with a protection called List Melian, or "the Girdle of Melian" and their kingdom was known as Doriath, the Land of the Fence. This prevented anyone less powerful than Melian from entering the kingdom. However, with the foresight of a Maia, she predicted that one day someone more powerful would be able to enter. When Beren arrived as foretold, she counseled King Thingol against sending Beren to search for a Silmaril, which would eventually lead to Doriath's ruin. This was one of many instances in which she proved, through her wisdom and powers of foresight, to be wiser than her husband, and an effective queen of her land. The great evil wolf Carcharoth also passed the Girdle, as fate and the power of the Silmaril let him.

In Doriath, she also became a friend and tutor of Galadriel to whom she taught great lore and wisdom concerning Middle-earth and also the art of lembas-baking which she knew from her mistress, Yavanna. She eventually questioned Galadriel on how and why the Noldor had returned, upon which Galadriel told her only some of the story. Therefore she was the first to glean the truth, perceiving more than Galadriel was willing to tell, and she warned Thingol against dealing with the sons of Fëanor. After the departure of Lúthien and Beren, she aided Túrin and his mother and sister. She provided Beleg with some way-bread, lembas, for him and the exiled Túrin, showing great favor because never before was lembas given to a Man and seldom was it again. But she also foresaw his doom in his quest for Túrin. When Húrin returned, she was the one to lift the spell of Morgoth from him.

Thingol's arrogance eventually resulted to his death in the Battle of the Thousand Caves. Melian then departed from the mortal lands[5], passing to Valinor, where she mourned the loss of her husband in the Halls of Mandos and her daughter to the unknown fate of the Gift of Men. In her absence, Doriath was opened to its enemies.


Melian is Sindarin for "Dear gift", from the ancient form Melyanna, being a combination of mell ("love") + ann ("gift").[6] She was also called Tóril meaning "Queen".


Elu Thingol
House of Bëor
Dior Eluchíl

Other versions of the legendarium

She appeared in The Book of Lost Tales as Tindriel or Wendelin (Qenya) and in a Gnomish dictionary as Gwendeling or Gwendhiling. In a crossed out note, she had with Tinwelint a son, Tinfang, and a daughter, Tinúviel.[7][8][9]

In the early legendarium Melian is defined as a fay, making her somewhat more sinister than in her later appearance. This version of her is presented in The Tale of Tinúviel, Tolkien's first story of Beren and Lúthien, which was written in archaic English and published in The Book of Lost Tales Part Two. In this work she appears in another later narrative, although her character is portrayed as being far weaker and more frail than Melian's final manifestation. She also appeared under several names, such as Gwenniel.

Vëannë and Ausir argued whether she should be called Wendelin or Gwendeling. In a slightly later version, the name Melian appeared. In one variant she was a daughter of Lórien. She was found by Tinwelint while listening to the song of nightingales and ran away with laughter when he tried to touch her hair. Then he fell into a deep slumber, and she kept watch over him while he slept. Later she became his wife and the queen of Artanor.[10]

Christopher Tolkien noticed that in this early version her protection was weaker and there was the possibility that enemies would follow the returning Beren and Tinúviel.[11]

External links


Valar Lords Manwë · Ulmo · Aulë · Oromë · Mandos · Irmo · Tulkas · Melkor
Valier Varda · Yavanna · Nienna · Estë · Vairë · Vána · Nessa
Maiar Arien · Blue Wizards · Eönwë · Gandalf · Ilmarë · Melian · Ossë · Radagast · Salmar · Saruman · Tilion · Uinen
Úmaiar Sauron · Balrogs (Gothmog · Durin's Bane) · Boldogs
Concepts and locations Almaren · Aratar (indicated in italics) · Creation of the Ainur · Fana · Máhanaxar · Ainulindalë · Order of Wizards (indicated in bold) · Second Music of the Ainur · Timeless Halls · Valarin · Valinor · Valimar