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Two Trees of Valinor
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Two Trees of Valinor

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Creation
3 Appearance and Behavior
4 Destruction
5 Significance - Internal
6 Significance - External

Overview

The Two Trees of Valinor in the fictional universe of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth are Telperion and Laurelin, 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.

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Creation

The first souces of light for all of Arda were two enormous Lamps, one to the north and the other to the south. These were cast down and destroyed by Melkor. Afterwards, in Valinor, the Vala Yavanna sang into existence the Two Trees, silver Telperion and golden Laurelin. They grew in the presense of all of the Valar, watered by the tears of Nienna.

Appearance and Behavior

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

One "day" lasted twelve hours. Each Tree, in turn, would give off light for seven hours, so that at "dawn" and "dusk" gold and silver light would be given off together.

Destruction

Jealous Melkor enlisted the help of the giant spider-creature Ungoliant (a probable 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 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, Tilion (who was male) and Arien (who was female). This is why, in The Lord of the Rings, the Sun is usually referred to as "she" and the moon as "he".

Significance - Internal

When the Elves awoke in Middle-earth, their only source of light was the stars (which had been created for their benefit by Varda from the dews collected from the Two Trees). In order to convince them to come to Valinor, three Elven kings were brought there to see it for themselves. This experience had a profound impact and the changes in them were clear enough that they were able to convince their people to accept the summons. The desire for these people (who had until this point seen only starlight) to see the light of the Two Trees was a significant factor. Later, the psychological impact of their destruction proved devastating.

The White Trees of Gondor and Númenor were descendents of Telperion. The White Tree, prominently featured in Peter Jackson's movie, ultimately owes its significance to the Two Trees of Valinor.

Significance - External

Light as a concept is full of symbolism. For Tolkien, a Roman Catholic would certainly have been influeced by the significance of light in Christian symbolism. Trees were of special importance to Tolkien - in his short story "Tree and Leaf", in one sense an elaborate allegory explaing his own creative process, the protagonist, Niggle, spends his life painting a single Tree.