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Things of Middle-earth

mallorn

Type: Plants

Other Names:
Sindarin: mallorn (singular), mellyrn (plural)
Quenya: malinornë (singular), malinorni (plural)

Description:

A large deciduous tree with golden leaves. Most closely associated with Lothlórien, the trees also grew on Tol Eressëa, on Númenor, and perhaps also in Gondolin.

Table of Contents:
Habit
Distribution
History
Uses
Etymology
Notes

Habit
The Forest of Lothlorien in Spring.
The Forest of Lothlorien in Spring, by JRR Tolkien.
Not far from the falls of Nimrodel they found a cluster of trees, some of which overhung the stream. Their great grey trunks were of mighty girth, but their height could not be guessed.

'I will climb up,' said Legolas... '[These] trees are of a kind strange to me, save as a name in song. Mellyrn they are called, and are those that bear the yellow blossom....'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 6, Lothlórien

Its bark was silver and smooth, and its boughs somewhat upswept after the manner of the beech; but it never grew save with a single trunk. Its leaves, like those of the beech but greater, were pale green above and beneath were silver glistering in the sun; in the autumn they did not fall, but turned to pale gold. In the spring it bore golden blossom in clusters like a cherry, which bloomed on during the summer; and as soon as the flowers opened the leaves fell, so that through spring and summer a grove of malinornë was carpeted and roofed with gold, but its pillars were of grey silver. Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale....

Unfinished Tales, Part 2, Ch 1, A Description of the Island of Númenor

[? Rising] ground inside the circle was [?? thick with] mallorn-trees, the tallest they had yet seen in that land. The highest must have been nearly 200 feet high, 1 and of great girth. They had no branches lower than 3 fathoms 2 above their roots.

The Treason of Isengard, HoME Vol 7, Ch 13, Galadriel


Distribution
In addition to direct or indirect mentions of mallorn trees growing on Tol Eressëa, Eldalondë on Númenor, Lothlórien, and one in the Shire, Tolkien seems to have at one time posited that they grew in Gondolin. We do not know whether he changed his mind, or simply forgot the reference in later writings:

A description of Gondolin was to follow, of the stairs up to its high platform, and its great gate; of the mounds (this word is uncertain) of mallorns, birches, and evergreen trees....

It may be noted that later mentions of mallorns in Númenor, Lindon, and Lothlórien do not suggest, though they do not deny, that those trees flourished in Gondolin in the Elder Days....

Unfinished Tales, Part 1, Ch 1, Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin: Notes, Note 31


History
At the centre of the Bay of Eldanna was the most beautiful of all the havens of Númenor, Eldalondë the Green; and hither in the earlier days the swift white ships of the Eldar of Eressëa came most often.

All about that place, up the seaward slopes and far into the land, grew the evergreen and fragrant trees that they brought out of the West....

Many of them were planted and grew, though far less abundantly, in other regions of Númenor; but... only here grew the mighty golden tree malinornë reaching after five centuries a height scarce less than it achieved in Eressëa itself....

Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale; and some were given as gift by Tar-Aldarion, the sixth King of Númenor, to King Gil-galad of Lindon. They did not take root in that land; but Gil-galad gave some to his kinswoman Galadriel, and under her power they grew and flourished in the guarded land of Lothlórien beside the River Anduin, until the High Elves at last left Middle-earth; but they did not reach the height or girth of the great groves of Númenor.

Unfinished Tales, Part 2, Ch 1, A Description of the Island of Númenor

The trees... had been cut down recklessly far and wide over the Shire; and Sam grieved over this....

Then suddenly one day,... he remembered the gift of Galadriel. He brought the box out....

Inside it was filled with a grey dust, soft and fine, in the middle of which was a seed, like a small nut with a silver shale....

The little silver nut he planted in the Party Field...; and he wondered what would come of it....

Spring surpassed his wildest hopes.... In the Party Field a beautiful young sapling leaped up: it had silver bark and long leaves and burst into golden flowers in April. It was indeed a mallorn, and it was the wonder of the neighbourhood. In after years, as it grew in grace and beauty, it was known far and wide and people would come long journeys to see it: the only mallorn west of the Mountains and east of the Sea, and one of the finest in the world.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 9, The Grey Havens


Uses
The branches of the mallorn-tree grew out nearly straight from the trunk, and then swept upward; but near the top the main stem divided into a crown of many boughs, and among these they found that there had been built a wooden platform, or flet as such things were called in those days: the Elves called it a talan. It was reached by a round hole in the centre through which the ladder passed.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 6, Lothlórien

[The talan was] made of grey close-grained wood — the wood of the mallorn.

The Treason of Isengard, HoME Vol 7, Ch 12, Lothlórien

'[We] call it lembas or waybread, and it is more strengthening than any food made by Men....'....

'The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings....'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 8, Farewell to Lórien



Aragorn... lifted up a broken leaf for them to see, a large pale leaf of golden hue, now fading and turning brown. 'Here is a mallorn-leaf of Lórien, and there are small crumbs on it, and a few more crumbs in the grass....'....

'Being pleased with his skill, [the prisoner]... sat down and quietly ate some waybread! That at least is enough to show that he was a hobbit, without the mallorn-leaf.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 5, The White Rider


Etymology
mal-  'gold' in Malduin, Malinalda; also in mallorn, and in the Field of Cormallen, which means 'golden circle' and was named from the culumalda trees that grew there....

orn  'tree' in Celeborn, Hírilorn; cf. Fangorn 'Treebeard' and mallorn, plural mellyrn, the trees of Lothlórien.

The Silmarillion, Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names


Notes
1In contrast, the tallest known tree in the world as of 2006, a coast redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirons), is nearly twice as high: 379 feet.

"Calif. redwood may be world's tallest live thing." Msnbc.com News Services.
7 Sep. 2006. Accessed 6 Oct. 2011.
<msnbc.com >www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14722354/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/calif-redwood-may-be-worlds-tallest-live-thing/>.

"Redwood confirmed as world's tallest tree." Msnbc.com News Services.
1 Oct. 2006. Accessed 6 Oct. 2011.
<msnbc.com www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15066332/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/redwood-confirmed-worlds-tallest-tree/>.

2fathom  a unit of length equal to six feet (1.829 metres), used to measure depths of water.

"fathom." Collins English Dictionary — Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 6 Oct. 2011.
<Dictionary.com dictionary.reference.com/browse/fathom>.

Contributors:
Moriel 1Jul03
Lyllyn 6Jul03
~Nessime 9Apr04
Elena Tiriel 9Sep04, 1Oct11

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