From Tolkien Gateway
Ted Nasmith - Hundreds of Butterflies

Butterflies were insects with large wings, often colorful.


A legend says that all kinds of butterflies appeared in the Land of Willows.[1]

Butterflies are noted for their wings bearing colorful markings, and the "purple emperor" type loves the top of oak-woods. In Mirkwood however, Bilbo Baggins found hundreds of totally black butterflies, without any markings, at the treetops and he imagined them as 'black emperors'.[2][note 1]

Some of Gandalf's fireworks fluttered like butterflies.[3]

Wilwarin is also a name the Elves gave to a constellation of stars.[note 2]


In Quenya/Qenya, the word for "butterfly" is wilwarin (pl. wilwarindi). Cognates of the same meaning are Telerin vilverin, Noldorin gwilwileth, and Ilkorin gwilwering.[4] In earlier Gnomish (the precursor of Noldorin) "butterfly" is gwilbrin (or -vrin).[5]

The words wilwarindëa and wilwarindië (older Qenya form was wilwarindeën[6]) are the respective singular and plural forms meaning "like a wilwarin or butterfly".[7] In Qenya there is also the word wilwarindon ("like a butterfly").[8]

The words come from the same root (wil-, "fly, float in air") as Q. vilya/S. gwilith "air", and the name for the Ring of Air, Vilya.[4]


  1. Although not mentioned specifically, it is possible that these butterflies, like other creatures of Mirkwood, were infected by the Shadow of Dol Guldur to which they owed this color.
  2. Christopher Tolkien associates it with Cassiopeia