Names of Legolas

Elves   Legolas of the Fellowship

Names of Legolas

by Varda-(Valar)
Oct. 30, 2004, additions Nov 23, 2004

Legolas Greenleaf
Laigolas Legolast

    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 Mirkwood.

    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 "green leaf".

    In Letter #211 Oct 1958, this information is given:
    Legolas means "green leaves", a woodland/Silvan name. It is a dialectical form of the pure Sindarin laegolas.
    Laika 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.
    Lasse means "leaf". Quenya lasse; Sindarin las(s).
"collection of leaves; foliage". Quenya olassie; Sindarin golas, -olas.
    In Letter # 297 Aug 1967:

     Legolas is 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.

    Lord of the Rings: FotR, TT, RotK
    Silmarillion "Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath"
    Book of Lost Tales 1 "Appendix": Gar Lossion, Tari-Laisi
    Book of Lost Tales 2 "The Fall of Gondolin"; "Appendix": Lothlim
    The Letters of Tolkien # 211 to Rhona Beare in October 1958; # 297 to Mr. Rang in August 1967.