Bloodlines and Lifestyles: 4. The Genealogy of Legolas

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4. The Genealogy of Legolas

This all happened before the Sun and Moon even existed. Some four thousand years later, the world is far different; Thingol's kingdom is destroyed, the Noldorin Elves have returned from Aman, Melkor has been thrown into the Valar's prison again, and much of Middle-Earth is now embroiled in an ongoing battle with Melkor's servant Sauron. It is at this time that Legolas' grandfather, Oropher, comes into the picture. Oropher is described as a Sindarin Elf. Yet, he is amongst a group of Sindarin Elves that believed the ways of Elves had become too complicated and vastly political; therefore, he traveled eastward, away from his people, to live with the Silvan Elves in Greenwood. He became a ruler over them, and his son, Thranduil, ruled after him (Unfinished Tales, History of Galadriel and Celeborn). "Under the leadership of these [the Silvan folk] became again ordered folk and increased in wisdom. [And] Thranduil, father of Legolas of the Nine Walkers was Sindarin" (Unfinished Tales, History of Galadriel and Celeborn).

Nothing is said of Oropher prior to his trip east over the Misty Mountains; we only know for certain that he is Sindarin, and that he departed East after the destruction of Thingol's realm. However, there may be a few clues about his origins to be found.

"Welcome son of Thranduil!" Celeborn hails Legolas upon the Fellowship's arrival in Lothlórien. "Too seldom do my kindred journey hither from the North." Note that Celeborn is actually the grandnephew of Elu Thingol, so he too is a Sindar; the broader interpretation accepts the idea that Celeborn is merely hailing an Elf of the same Sindarin clan. Yet, a narrower interpretation might be taken as well; perhaps Legolas is in some way related to Celeborn.

Like Celeborn, Oropher is a remnant from the time of King Thingol. Although it is not specifically stated that Oropher is a refugee of Thingol's kingdom, he is lumped in with the Elves that fled East from the sack of Doriath (Unfinished Tales, History of Galadriel and Celeborn). Because he is Sindarin it is highly likely that Oropher is one of the Elves of Doriath. Mayhap Oropher was a cousin of Celeborn, or otherwise related to him; indeed, Celeborn and Legolas' family share a love for middle-Earth and the same distaste for Dwarves. Legolas dislikes Gimli and blames the Dwarves for encroachments upon his father's land and the awakening of dark things in the deeps; Celeborn is the one who has forbidden Dwarves to enter Lothlorien and desires to take back his greeting to Gimli when he hears of the Balrog (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Mirror of Galadriel).

Dwarves have a bad history with Thingol, the leader of Doriath, as well; when they set a Silmaril (a magical jewel) in a piece of jewelry for Thingol, they were overcome with lust for the Silmaril and killed Thingol over it (The Silmarillion, The Sack of Doriath). It's likely, then, that the grudge against Dwarves in Legolas' and Celeborn's families goes quite deep, all the way back to this sordid history.

So why did Oropher desert the ways of the Sindarin Elves? He sought out Silvan ways after politics literally destroyed his likely home of Doriath; it was a war between Elves over the magical Silmarils that saw to the destruction of the once-mighty realm, not the enemy Melkor (Silmarillion, The Sack of Doriath). From this sort of violence, it is clear why an Elf might wish to completely lock himself away from political battle and choose a low-level, quieter group of Elves with which to make his home.

Therefore it is clear that paternally, Legolas is Sindarin, and quite possibly distantly related to Elu Thingol himself. However, Legolas counts himself among the Silvan Elves. As he says in The Fellowship of the Ring of a deserted region once populated by Elves, "The Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the Silvan folk." He also sings a song created by the Silvan Elves long ago, and Gimli, the Dwarf of the Fellowship calls Legolas a 'Wood Elf' (The Two Towers, The White Rider). How can this be?

The answer lies not in bloodlines, perhaps, but rather in lifestyle. Although the Sindarin and Silvan Elves were of one origin – the Telerin Elves – the Silvan folk were a much more rustic and simple people than the Sindarin. They took little to no part in the politics of the Elves; they had no leader nor nation until the remains of Thingol's people came out of the West to rule them. As was previously stated, Oropher was of a mind to join the Silvan Elves in this impolitic life; he even adopted their language, a dialect of Elvish not unlike his own Sindarin Elvish, and fighting style (Unfinished Tales, History of Galadriel and Celeborn).

Although it is not explicitly stated thusly, it is likely that Thranduil was of a like mind with his father. After all, he named his own son after the fashion of the Silvan Elves. The name 'Legolas' means 'Green-leaves'*, which is a rather distinctly Silvan, referring back to their woodland home. Yet, it is important to note that spelling is Silvan. The pure Sindarin form of 'Green-leaves' would be 'Laegolas', where the syllable 'laeg' means 'green'; in Silvan, 'leg' is the word for 'green'. Therefore, Legolas' name is Silvan in origin (Letters, 211).

Legolas is thus shown to be in the rather unique position of being Sindarin by bloodline but Silvan by nature. One could speculate that somehow Legolas does indeed have Silvan blood; nothing is said of his grandmother or mother, and so it is easy to assume his parentage could in fact be mixed. Yet, on the matter of Legolas' maternal bloodlines Tolkien is silent; one can only speculate and make vague conjectures. In the end it does not seem to matter much to Legolas, who is perfectly happy being exactly what he is: a Wood Elf who loves the water and the trees.


*According to Galadriel in The Two Towers, and according to Tolkien in Letters 297, 'Legolas' can be translated 'Greenleaf', but he is consistent in his claim that it is a compound word formed from 'laeg' ('leg') – 'green' – and 'go-lass' ('golas') – 'collection of leaves, foilage'.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Victoria

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Critical Essay

Rating: General

Last Updated: 07/14/03

Original Post: 01/13/03

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