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Huinesoron 03-29-2019 04:41 AM

Oropher - brother of Celeborn?
Is it possible that Tolkien considered Oropher as a brother of Celeborn?

We know that Celeborn's history was a source of much internal debate for Tolkien: Christopher tells us this at length in Unfinished Tales. The most accepted version has Celeborn as a Doriathrin noble, and runs like this:


Originally Posted by Unfinished Tales
In Doriath [Galadriel] met Celeborn, grandson of Elmo the brother of Thingol... a shadowy figure about whom nothing is told save that he was the younger brother of Elw (Thingol) and Olw, and was "beloved of Elw with whom he remained." (Elmo's son was named Galadhon, and his sons were Celeborn and Galathil; Galathil was the father of Nimloth, who wedded Dior Thingol's Heir and was the mother of Elwing. By this genealogy Celeborn was a kinsman of Galadriel, the grand-daughter of Olw of Alqualond, but not so close as by that in which he became Olw's grandson.)

We are also told this concerning his name:


Originally Posted by Unfinished Tales
The name Celeborn when first devised was intended to mean "Silver Tree"; it was the name of the Tree of Tol Eressa (The Silmarillion p.59). Celeborn's close kin had "tree-names" (p.244): Galadhon his father, Galathil his brother, and Nimloth his niece, who bore the same name as the White Tree of Nmenor.

And later, we get this concerning Oropher:


Originally Posted by Unfinished Tales
In the Second Age their king, Oropher [the father of Thranduil, father of Legolas], had withdraw northward beyond the Gladden Fields. This he did to be free from the power and encroachments of the Dwarves of Moria, which had grown to be the greatest of the mansions of the Dwarves recorded in history; and also he resented the intrusions of Celeborn and Galadriel into Lrien. But as yet there was little to fear between the Greenwood and the Mountains and there was constant intercourse between his people and their kin across the river, until the War of the Last Alliance.


Oropher was of Sindarin origin, and no doubt Thranduil his son was following the example of King Thingol long before, in Doriath; though his halls were not to be compared with Menegroth. He had not the arts nor wealth nor the aid of the Dwarves; and compared with the Elves of Doriath his Silvan folk were rude and rustic. Oropher had come among them with only a handful of Sindar, and they were soon merged with the Silvan Elves, adopting their language and taking names of Silvan form and style. This they did deliberately; for they (and other similar adventurers forgotten in the legends or only briefly named) came from Doriath after its ruin and had no desire to leave Middle-earth, nor to be merged with the other Sindar of Beleriand, dominated by the Noldorin Exiles for whom the folk of Doriath had no great love. They wished indeed to become Silvan folk and to return, as they said, to the simple life natural to the Elves before the invitation of the Valar had disturbed it.

It so happens that 'Oropher' is also a tree name - it means 'tall beech'. A silver tree is usually a birch (bear in mind that at the time of Celeborn's birth, only Thingol and Melian in all Doriath had seen the actual Silver Tree), and birch and beech are the signature trees of Brethil and Neldoreth, in Doriath. It's also notable that Tolkien later changed the meaning of Celeborn's name to 'silver-tall', maintaining the link between the names. (Galathil, for the record, seems to mean 'shining tree', while Galadhon is simply 'of the trees'.)

So far, so coincidental, but Oropher has other potential ties to the family of Galadhon. His son Thranduil is noted as having fair hair, something we're told is rare among non-Vanyar - but both Thingol and Celeborn share it. Like Celeborn, Oropher winds up moving to a Silvan woodland and taking it over - and indeed, declares himself or is proclaimed a king.

Of course, so does Amdir of Lorien, but the differences are instructive here. Amdir takes to the Silvan way of living, high up in the trees - Oropher's approach is unknown, but his son built an underground city in the likeness of Menegroth. Amdir and Lorien seem to have gotten on well with the dwarves - Oropher's entire line hate them, which makes sense if you consider them as close kin to Thingol, who the dwarves betrayed and murdered. Even the Enchanted River, which acts a fair bit like the Girdle of Melian in keeping Men and evil creatures out from the west, seems to point to a connection to the ruling house of Doriath.

It's all circumstantial, I acknowledge that. But unfortunately the relevant primary material only appears in UT, rather than being fully dealt with in HoME, so it's hard to say how closely connected the various pieces are, or if there are any hints at a familiar connection.

The two biggest arguments against this theory that I can think of (other than the absence of direct evidence) are, firstly, that Oropher is specifically said to resent Celeborn's arrival (with Galadriel) into Lorien, which doesn't speak of a happy family. This would actually make sense if Celeborn was the elder brother - Oropher could have anticipated him attempting to lay claim to the entire woodland region, rather than just tiny Lorien.

Secondly, it's mentioned in UT that Amdir of Lorien was at one point named Malgalad. This, too, is a possible tree name, and as 'Golden Tree' would make a perfect set with 'Silver Tree' Celeborn and 'Shining Tree' Galathil. Postulating four sons of Galadhon, who all ended up playing significant roles, and bringing basically every named Sinda after the First Age into Thingol's family tree, would be a bit much - though on the other hand, Tolkien did like to draw these kind of connections, and the fleeting name 'Malgalad' might have been him considering exactly that.


William Cloud Hicklin 03-29-2019 06:02 PM

Actually, silver hair runs in the house of Elwe/Olwe; Galadriel got that aspect of her hair from her mother Earwen of Alqualonde. Thranduil's golden hair is nowhere explained, except by observing that sports do occur (for example, the red hair of Mahtan, which he passed to his daughter and some of his grandsons).

Findegil 03-30-2019 12:56 AM

It would at least nicely explain why Celeborn adresses Legolas as 'one of his kin from the North' when they first Meer in Lrin.


William Cloud Hicklin 03-30-2019 04:47 PM

However, Tolkien frequently uses "kin" in the broader sense, "member of our people." Celeborn and Legolas were both Sindar, or at least Teleri.

Of course, at the time he wrote the chapter, he viewed all the Elves of Northern Mirkwood including their royal house as Nandor,* as also were Celeborn and the population of Lorien. The idea of an incoming Sindarin ruling caste came about much later.

*An upgrade from their probable status of Avari at the time The Hobbit was written

Huinesoron 04-01-2019 02:43 AM


Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin (Post 714320)
Actually, silver hair runs in the house of Elwe/Olwe; Galadriel got that aspect of her hair from her mother Earwen of Alqualonde. Thranduil's golden hair is nowhere explained, except by observing that sports do occur (for example, the red hair of Mahtan, which he passed to his daughter and some of his grandsons).

The fact that Galadriel managed to combine 'blonde' and 'silver' to make 'silver-gold' suggests that there's something super weird in Elvish hair genetics, but that's neither here nor there.

Do we actually know Thranduil had golden hair? The only source text I can find is this:


Originally Posted by The Hobbit: Flies and Spiders
The feast that they now saw was greater and more magnificent than before; and at the head of a long line of feasters sat a woodland king with a crown of leaves upon his golden hair, very much as Bombur had described the figure in his dream. The elvish folk were passing bowls from hand to hand and across the fires, and some were harping and many were singing. Their gleaming hair was twined with flowers; green and white gems glinted on their collars and their belts; and their faces and their songs were filled with mirth.

And yes, it says golden - but it's also very clear that he's lit by firelight, and that the elves' hair is reflecting the light ('gleaming'). Silver hair under firelight could easily come out gold.

(I know, it's a stretch. I was somewhat led astray by Movie Thranduil, whose hair is if anything paler than Galadriel's.)


Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin (Post 714343)
Of course, at the time he wrote the chapter, he viewed all the Elves of Northern Mirkwood including their royal house as Nandor,* as also were Celeborn and the population of Lorien. The idea of an incoming Sindarin ruling caste came about much later.

Not that much later - it's in Appendix B, and Lorien was written after Tolkien's stop in Moria. But yes, there's a few years between 'He has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted' and 'In Lindon south of the Lune dwelt for a time Celeborn, kinsman of Thingol'.

Which confirms what we kind of knew already: the Celeborn-Thingol family tree was cobbled together after the fact, based on existing texts, in order to make exactly the kind of connections I'm talking about between the Third Age and the Elder Days. That being the case, it's not wholly relevant that Thranduil's hair doesn't match Celeborn's and Thingol's - we've already established that they weren't created to be relatives. The question becomes whether Tolkien would have looked at them and thought 'hey, those two could be related'.

I think the key piece of evidence would be whether Oropher and Galathil were created at the same time. If they were, then the 'tree-names' would suggest a connection.

Unfortunately, Unfinished Tales doesn't pin many dates on things. Oropher comes entirely from 'The Sindarin Princes of the Silvan Elves', which is parts of two essays described as 'late philological writings'; Malgalad comes from the same source. Galathil... doesn't appear in any narrative source.

Elmo does, with the mention of 'Celeborn, grandson of Elmo the brother of Thingol', and no other grandchildren named. But there's no indication of whether Christopher's statement that 'Elmo's son was named Galadhon, and his sons were Celeborn and Galathil' is based on a text saying as much, or on a separate mention of Galathil as a son of Galadhon, without reference to his brother(s).

'Celeborn of Alqualonde' appears to post-date Oropher's appearance: CT mentions it as a 'very late and primarily philological essay', as opposed to simply 'late' for Oropher. But the chronology of the various philological and etymological essays mentioned in Unfinished Tales is tragically unclear, and (other than a mention of what has to be LaCE) I don't think any of them are in HoME.


Huinesoron 04-02-2019 02:15 AM

Advancing the theory: in conclusion, cousins.
It may actually make more sense to imagine Oropher as a cousin of Celeborn - or more precisely, Oropher and Amdir Malgalad as first cousins of Celeborn and Galathil, sons of an unrecorded sibling of Galadhon. Let's lay out the evidence:

1. Amdir Malgalad was blond

The biggest pointer at this is that second name, 'golden tree'. Amdir came to Lorien before mellryn grew there, so he can't be named after them; he's a Sinda, so he can't be named after Laurelin, and a Doriathrin Sinda, so Glingal of Gondolin is out too.

So why 'golden tree'? Well, Celeborn was originally intended to mean 'silver tree', and he's got silver hair. The same logic can be applied to Malgalad; the 'tree' part can be explained by Tolkien's description of Legolas as 'tall as a young tree' (and the fact that Thingol was the tallest of all elves is relevant here).

A second line of evidence comes through one of Amdir's people: Haldir, the marchwarden of Lorien. Like Thranduil, he is confirmed as having golden hair, but look at his name: it has that same -dir ending. Tolkien translated an earlier use of the name as 'Hidden Hero', but it makes equal sense as a tribute to the late king: 'Amdir of the Shadows'. The most logical reason to name your child in honour of the king would be if he looks like him - say, if he had that same golden hair...

2. Since blond hair is rare among the Sindar, we can assume its bearers are related.

Tolkien went to great lengths to ensure that all silver hair descended from Thingol's family. He went to the same lengths to tie red hair solely to Mahtan's line. And every instance of gold hair in the House of Finwe has a Vanyarian origin. So why would things be any different when it came to the Sindar? If Amdir (see above) and Oropher (see Thranduil) are both blond, then it seems likely they were siblings.

(What does this say about Haldir, then? Um... pass. :D)

3. Amdir and Oropher were royalty before they were kings.

I mentioned this already, but didn't realise the significance. Unfinished Tales: The History of Galadriel and Celeborn: Appendix B is entitled 'The Sindarin Princes of the Silvan Elves'. But... Thranduil is the Elvenking. Amdir and Amroth are kings of Lorien. Assuming that 'princes' goes back to Tolkien rather than being a Christopher turn of phrase (he uses it twice), it seems clear that Amdir and Oropher were of royal blood - which means they were tied in some way to the House of Thingol.

(Incidentally, it seems likely that Oropher was the elder of the two: it was he, and not Amdir, who let the Silvan host at Dagorlad.)

4. Their names tie them to Galadhon's line.

This is the original theory again: Oropher and Malgalad share 'tree-names' with Celeborn, Galathil, Nimloth, and Galadhon. All the evidence from the original post - Thranduil's halls, the Enchanted River - still applies here.

5. Cousins makes sense of the power dynamics.

It is pretty clear that Oropher didn't stand in a position of authority over Celeborn: if he did, he wouldn't have moved his entire kingdom north to get away from him. But equally, Celeborn doesn't have clear authority over Amdir: he entered Lorien as a guest, rather than accumulating power even by accident. So none of them fall easily into the 'elder brother' position. Equally, Oropher and Amdir can't be brothers of Galadhon - they would have almost parental authority over Celeborn, which they clearly don't.

But Elmo's grandchildren down a different line? A brother or sister of Galadhon who married a golden-haired elf? That makes sense. It also avoids going against the non-narrative implication that Celeborn and Galathil are Galadhon's only children - there doesn't seem to be a similar implied claim that Elmo only had one son.


Ivriniel 05-02-2019 12:52 AM

Kin from the North, makes sense, as posted upstream. I suppose it's possible. Perhaps cousins, or distant cousins. We don't know how small the Cuivinen population was, and if it grew before the Migrations.

Add to that, Celeborn remained behind, while Galadriel went home to Valinor. Celeborn seems to have had a heart's call to settle or rule Mirkwood's south, I seem to recall.

I've always had a headache when tracing Celeborn's birth and lineage. It got very weird in some of UT's notes, with inbreeding implied by the 'Valinor birth' version of Celeborn's heritage.

William Cloud Hicklin 05-03-2019 11:36 AM

Whatever T had in mind when he wrote the Lorien chapter, around the time of Pearl Harbor, and whatever he might have speculated in very late scribblings, if we need a 'canonical' answer then I think we are forced to accept Appendix B, which was published and therefore carries the authorial stamp of 'finality': Celeborn was a kinsman of Thingol, who did not live in Lorien in the Second Age, and thus was of Doriathrin origin. And this itself counts as "late", since it was added to the Second Edition in 1965; the First Ed read "...many of the Sindar passed eastward and established realms in the forests far away. The chief of these were Thranduil in the north of Greenwood the Great, and Celeborn in the south of the forest. But the wife of Celeborn was Noldorin: Galadriel sister of Felagund of the House of Finrod."

So both ca 1955, and formally ratified a decade later, Celeborn was a Sinda. (Note that as of the First Edition, Oropher didn't yet exist)

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