The Tolkien Road

A podcast about Middle-earth and all things Tolkien.

0211 – The White Trees of Gondor

In the history of Númenor and its descendant culture Gondor, a lineage of iconic White Trees stands as the symbolic and spiritual center of Númenorean culture. How many of these Trees were there? Where did they come from? And what was their significance? Join us as we explore the history of the White Trees of Gondor!

EPISODE OUTLINE

On this episode, we’re going to do a deep dive on the history of the White Tree of Gondor, and the role it plays in the history of Númenor and descendants.

  • The White Tree is best known from Lord of the Rings, first, as the dead tree that Pippin sees in the Court of the Fountain of Minas Tirith just before his first meeting with Denethor.
  • Second, it is known for the sapling discovered on the slopes of Mindolluin by Gandalf and Aragorn.
  • But let’s start further back…
  • The genealogy of the White Tree goes all the way back to the Two Trees of Valinor…kind of.
  • As you probably recall, the Two Trees of Valinor were destroyed – murdered – by Melkor and Ungoliant, which is the major catastrophe that sets the events of The Silmarillion in motion. 
  • Those trees were Laurelin – the Golden Tree – and Telperion – the Silver Tree.
  • Telperion’s flower became the Moon.
  • Galathilion was a copy of Telperion made by Yavanna for the elves of Tirion. It looked exactly like Telperion, but it gave no light of its own.
  • Galathilion’s seedling was Celeborn, which flourished in Tol Eresseä.
  • Nimloth was a seedling of Celeborn, and was brought to Númenor by the Eldar of Tol Eresseä as a symbol of friendship between the two races. 
  • Nimloth grew in the King’s Court in Armenelos, the capital city of Númenor. 
  • AKL: “Nimloth it was named, and flowered in the evening, and the shadows of night it filled with its fragrance.”
  • Not clear when it came to Númenor, but it must have been early in its history.
  • INTERESTING: ***Nimloth was also the name of Dior’s wife (the son of Beren and Lúthien). She was the mother of Elwing, the wife of Eärendil, and thus the grandmother of both Elrond and Elros.
  • When Sauron is taken captive to Númenor (SA3262), he encouarges Ar-Pharazôn to destroy it and use it as kindling for the Temple to Melkor.
  • ISILDUR saves a fruit of Nimloth before it can be burned: AKALLABÊTH passage
  • GWT1: The seedling of Nimloth is brought to Middle-earth on Isildur’s ship, where he plants it in Minas Ithil. However, Sauron attacks Minas Ithil in SA3429, captures Minas Ithil, and burns the White Tree. SAURON HATES THE WHITE TREE! Yet Isildur again escapes with a seedling
  • GWT2: The seedling of GWT1 is planted in Minas Anor by Isildur in TA2, in memory of his brother Anarion. It lasts until TA1636, when the Great Plague hit Gondor. Does the White Tree die because of the plague or because of the death of the King? Telemnar means “silver flame”. Flame of life? The soul?
  • GWT3: Planted in Minas Tirith by King Tarondor in TA1640, lived until 2872, with the death of RS Belecthor II. Also not clear why it died.
  • GWT3 was left standing, and is the Dead Tree that Pippin sees before his audience with Denethor. It was finally taken down and laid to rest in the Tombs of the Kings in 3019, when…
  • GWT4 is planted and blossoms. LOTR 6-5
  • The White Tree of Gondor is a line of trees descended from Nimloth, the tree given to Númenor as a symbol of friendship.
  • As an image of the Telperion, the Silver Tree of Valinor, it is a symbol of the favor and kinship of the Elves, who loved Telperion dearly.
  • It is also a symbol of the Elvish friendship to the Dunedain, even a symbol of fraternity. And a symbol of the Blessed Realm.
  • I would even argue that it is a symbol of Lúthien the Fair. And perhaps this is why Sauron hates it with such a passion…not only is it a symbol of Valinorean hope, a symbol of friendship between Men and Elves (and a reminder of their kinship as Children of Ilúvatar), but it alludes to the first one who bested him, the light in the darkness.

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View a list of episodes concerning Lord of the Rings.

Also, don’t forget to check out our series on the Second Age!

“Blason Gondor” image by Kaiser 16: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blason_Gondor.svg

Image license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

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