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Old 03-29-2019, 04:41 AM   #1
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Leaf 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.

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