It would be a poor life in a land where no mallorn grew.
(Fellowship of the Ring, p. 457)
While there are still Elvish realms like spots of light in Middle-earth of the Third Age, none of them is so Elvish as Lothlórien is. Legolas refers to the Golden Wood as to «the fairest of all the dwellings of my people» (Fellowship of the Ring., p. 438), which captures Lórien’s aura perfectly.
The realm’s being especially fair and Elvish is no simple coincidence. Lórien stands out among other Elvish dwellings of the time as it captures a glimpse of the Elder Days, being the echo of the ancient times in the Third Age. It is made in the likeness of the Blessed Realm – both, in atmosphere and in appearance. While Rivendell, Mirkwood and the Grey Havens belong more to Middle-earth, Lothlórien is the resemblance of Valinor and its peace. Surrounded by tales, Lórien is the most Faërie-like place in Middle-earth.
This special air of Lórien is the merit of Galadriel who rules there together with her spouse Celeborn. Their realm is unsurpassably fair, but there is more beyond it than mere good taste and Elves’ natural love of beauty.
During Galadriel’s long abode in Middle-earth her longing for Valinor has been increasing year by year and is only made stronger by her receiving Nenya, the White Ring from Celebrimbor. The ring’s power helps make Lórien more beautiful than before, but also leads to Galadriel’s becoming less content in Middle-earth. Intensified by the Elvish desire to preserve things in the world and their reluctance to accept change, this longing underlies the realm’s beauty that blossoms out of nostalgia and melancholy.
Galadriel’s ever-growing yearning for Valinor is also reflected in how Lothlórien was named and renamed. In a note by Tolkien to History of Galadriel and Celeborn Professor explained that the place’s original name was Lindórinand – Vale of Land of the Singers. The name stemmed from the Elves of that land who were Teleri in origin and called themselves Lindar – the Singers. After mallorn-trees were planted there the place was renamed Lórinand – Valley of Gold. All further names were presumably due to Galadriel herself, but all of them contained elements in one way or another echoing the name of the Golden Tree Laurelin that had grown in Valinor.
Named Lórien by Galadriel, it is not an accidental copy of the name belonging to the realm of the Vala Irmo in the Undying Lands. His gardens are described as «the fairest of all places in the world» (Silmarillion, p.19) – the quiet corner where everyone can get refreshment, rest and where even the Valar often come to «find repose and easing of the burden of Arda» (ibid.). Lórien of Middle-earth has similar qualities as was Galadriel’s intention. It is a quiet, peaceful place where everyone – especially those coming with good hearts – can find bodily and spiritual rest, healing to weariness and easing of sorrows. Sam refers to staying in Lórien as to being inside a song, as well as at home and on holiday at the same time, which are all perfect descriptions of the fair place.
Another echo of Valinor in Lórien is mallorn. Lothlórien is the only place in Middle-earth where mallorn grows, and these beautiful trees add another stroke to how Elvish and Valinorian the realm is.
Originally mallorn-trees grew in Tol Eressëa and were given by the Elves to the Men of Númenor to grow on their island. Some of the nuts from those mallorn-trees were a gift from Númenor’s Sixth King Tar-Aldarion to Gil-galad, and the Elven King brought them to Middle-earth, later passing some to Galadriel. Under her power the trees grew to a great height in Lórien. Their leaves and flowers’ colour made the forest look golden:
Its bark was silver and smooth, and its boughs somewhat upset 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, glistening 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 malinorni was carpeted and roofed with gold, but its pillars were of grey silver.
(Unfinished Tales, pp. 216-217)
Galadriel’s power aside, Tolkien gives another reason for the place being exceptionally fair: «Lothórien is beautiful because there the trees were loved» (Letters, № 339). Alien to Middle-earth mallorn, which has come all the way from over the Sea, adds unearthly beauty to the lands on earth. Besides, mallorn-trees and the golden colour they give to Lórien are also a reminder of Laurelin – the Golden Tree of Valinor:
The other bore leaves of a young green like the new-opened beech; their edges were of glittering gold. Flowers swung upon her branches in clusters of yellow flame, formed each to a glowing horn that spilled a golden rain upon the ground; and from the blossom of that tree there came forth warmth and a great light.
(Silmarillion, p. 31)
With nostalgia, longing and melancholy behind its beauty and aura, Lothlórien is a piece of the Undying Lands in Middle-earth both in atmosphere and appearance. It is a perfect, unstained and unwithering – if only for a while – golden dream. Staying in Lórien means finding peace, courage and repose to go on with a hard road and also learning what it is like to step into the Blessed Realm.
- H. Carpenter – The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien; with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2012 (Kindle edition).
- J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2001.
- J. R. R. Tolkien – Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth (edited by Christopher Tolkien); HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 1998.
- J. R. R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion (edited by Christopher Tolkien); HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 1999.
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