Names of Legolas
of the Fellowship
Names of Legolas
Oct. 30, 2004, additions Nov 23, 2004
The first mention of Legolas in the early manuscript
notes was as Galdor, messenger from Mirkwood. The Galdor name moved to
Cirdan's messenger, while the name of Legolas of Gondolin was
considered better for this character and "borrowed". The Silmarillion was not
expected to be published in any form at that time.
The first use of the name in Lord of the Rings is
"Legolas" as he is
pointed out to Frodo in Lord
of the Rings: Fellowship
of the Ring, Book 2 , "Council of Elrond". This also tells that
he is the son and messenger of Thranduil, King of the Elves of Northern
The reference continues to be "Legolas" until Two Towers, when he is
referred to twice as "Legolas Greenleaf". Once is in
Galadriel's letter warning him of his danger if he goes to the Sea, and
he believes her words to mean that he will die there, but he goes
anyway (Two Towers, "The White Rider"). The other time is when Gandalf
calls to stop him from going back to see the Ents near Helm's Deep,
using a long name much as a parent might do with a child, warning him
not to go back into the wood, "Now is not your time." (Two Towers, "The Road to
Isengard"). In the Return of
the King, once again he is only referred to as "Legolas".
Another version of this name is shown for Legolas of
Gondolin. When he moves to the Isle of Balar (Sil) or Tol Eressea (BoLT
2) taking service with Gil-galad, the people there call him Laiqalasse. Laiqa (green), lasse (leaf). Los and lass can also mean "leaf", although
we see los more as "flower". Los was once a name of Gondolin.
(BoLT 1 "Appendix": Tari-Laisi for laiqa,
Gar Lossion for lasse; BoLT 2
"The Fall of Gondolin". BoLT 2 "Appendix": Lothlim for Los)
Legolas can be a bringing together of Laigolas (green leaf) and Legolast (keen sight, piercing
look). Leg (keen, piercing). Last (look, glance).
In Tol Eressea, chances are good that when the
Gnomes (early name for Noldorin Elves) changed his name from Legolas,
they used both names as Laigolas Legolast, in the same manner as one
would say Turin Turambar, because they delighted to give two similar
sounding names of different meanings. (BoLT 1 "Appendix": Tari-Laisi)
In the Letters
of Tolkien, JRRT tells more about how he made the name Legolas,
but in one he says it means "green leaves", and in the later letter
In Letter #211 Oct 1958, this information is given:
means "green leaves", a woodland/Silvan name. It is a dialectical form
of the pure Sindarin laegolas.
means "green". The basis is lay,
as in laire "summer". In
Quenya, this would be laica;
in Sindarin, laeg (seldom
used, usually replaced by calen);
in Silvan, leg.
means "leaf". Quenya lasse;
Gwa-lasse/gwa-lassie "collection of leaves;
foliage". Quenya olassie;
Sindarin golas, -olas.
In Letter # 297 Aug 1967:
translated Greenleaf (II 106, 154) a suitable name for
a Woodland Elf, though
one of royal and originally Sindarin line. ‘Fiery Locks’ is entirely
inappropriate: he was not a balrog! I
think an investigator, not led astray by my supposed devotion to A-S
(Anglo-Saxon), might have perceived the relation of the element –las to lassi ‘leaves’, in Galadriel’s
lament, lasse-lanta ‘leaf’fall’ = autumn, III 386; and
Eryn Lasgalen III 375.
‘Technically’ Legolas is a compound (according to rules) of
Sindarin laeg ‘viridis’ fresh and green, and go-lass ‘collection of leaves, foliage’.
From these references, Legolas appears to refer to a
collection of fresh green leaves. Crossing this with the idea that
Aragorn's elvish name Estel
means hope, we can see the idea of a fresh start.
the Rings: FotR, TT, RotK
"Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath"
Lost Tales 1 "Appendix": Gar Lossion, Tari-Laisi
Lost Tales 2 "The Fall of Gondolin"; "Appendix": Lothlim
Letters of Tolkien # 211 to Rhona Beare in October 1958; # 297
to Mr. Rang in August 1967.