The Two Trees of Valinor, also known as the Trees of the Valar or simply the Two Trees, were Laurelin (the Gold Tree) and Telperion (the Silver Tree), which brought light into the Land of the Valar in ancient times. They were destroyed by Melkor and the primal spider Ungoliant, but their last flower and fruit were made by the Valar into the Sun and the Moon.
Creation and destruction
The first sources of light for all of Arda were two enormous Lamps: Illuin, the silver one to the north, and Ormal, the golden one to the south. These were cast down and destroyed by Melkor. Afterward, the Valar went to Valinor and Yavanna sang into existence the Two Trees, silver Telperion and golden Laurelin. Telperion was considered male and Laurelin female. The Trees sat on the hill Ezellohar located outside Valimar. They grew in the presence of all of the Valar, watered by the tears of Nienna.
Each tree was a source of light: Telperion's silver and Laurelin's gold. Telperion had dark leaves (silver on one side) and his silvery dew was collected as a source of water and of light. Laurelin had gold-trimmed leaves and her dew was likewise collected by Varda. One "day" lasted twelve hours. Each Tree, in turn, would give off light for seven hours (waxing to full brightness and then slowly waning again), so that at one hour each of "dawn" and "dusk" soft gold and silver light would be given off together.
Jealous, Melkor enlisted the help of the giant spider-creature Ungoliant (the mother of Shelob) to destroy the Two Trees. Concealed in Unlight, Melkor struck each Tree and the insatiable Ungoliant devoured whatever life and light remained in them.
Again Yavanna sang and Nienna wept, but they succeeded only in reviving Telperion's last flower (to become the Moon) and Laurelin's last fruit (to become the Sun). These were assigned to lesser spirits, male Tilion and female Arien, after the 'genders' of the Trees themselves. This is why, in The Lord of the Rings, the Sun is usually referred to as "she" and the moon as "he".
However, the true light of the Trees, before their poisoning by Ungoliant, was said to afterwards reside only in the Silmarils.
Because the Elves that first came to Valinor especially loved Telperion, Yavanna made a second tree like it to stand in the city of Tirion where the Vanyar and Ñoldor dwelt together at first. This tree, named Galathilion, was identical to Telperion except that it gave no light of its own. It had many seedlings, one of which was planted in the isle of Tol Eressëa (named Celeborn).
In the Second Age, a seedling of Celeborn was brought as a gift to the Númenóreans - this was Nimloth, the White Tree of Númenor. It lasted through the majority of the realm's duration, but when Sauron took control of the island he commanded King Ar-Pharazôn to chop it down.
The Two Trees of Valinor existed at a time when the only other source of light was the stars (which had been created for the Elves' benefit by Varda from the dews collected from the Two Trees). When three Elven ambassadors were brought to see Valinor for themselves, in order that the Elves might be convinced to come to Valinor, it seems that the Two Trees affected them most significantly.
In particular Thingol is said to have been motivated in the Great Journey by his desire to see the Light of Valinor again (until he finds contentment in the light he sees in Melian's face). Also in later times, the Elves would be divided between the Calaquendi who had seen the light of the Trees, and the Moriquendi who had not; with the former group having found enlightenment and near rapture in the light they beheld.
The Silmarillion repeatedly states that those Elves who saw the Two Trees were mighty, with the light of Aman in their faces. As vassals of the Valar, the trees somehow bestowed otherworldy power and understanding on those exposed to them. Galadriel in particular had an affinity to Laurelin, as her hair was said to have captured the golden light of that tree. In turn this inspired Feanor to make the jewels that could hold that same light; the Silmarils.
The whole of the history of the First Age is strongly affected by the desire of many different characters to possess the Silmarils, which contain the only remaining unsullied light of the Trees. Yet upon his flight from Valinor after destroying the light of the Two Trees, Melkor stole the Silmarils and sparked the Oath of Fëanor (who renamed Melkor Morgoth) and after many years the Valar embarked on the War of Wrath, which ended the First Age.
In the Second and Third Ages, the White Trees of Númenor and of Gondor, whose likeness descends from that of Telperion, have a mostly symbolic significance. They stand both as symbols of the kingdoms in question, and also as reminders of the ancestral alliance between the Dúnedain and the Elves. Even in this late age the two trees are remembered by some. Gandalf obviously remembers them with reverence, as he speaks of them to Pippin.
Tolkien, as a Roman Catholic, would have been exposed to the significance of light in Catholic symbolism. Trees were of special importance to him - in his short story Leaf by Niggle, which in a sense was an elaborate allegory explaining his own creative process, the protagonist spends his life painting a single Tree.
The Two Trees represent the recurrent 'gold and silver' concept of the legendarium. They are created after the lamps Ormal and Illuin - and from the trees themselves, the Sun and Moon are later created.
Tolkien may have also gotten inspiration for the trees directly from the Sun, which rises in the day (as Laurelin, the golden tree), and the moon which rises in the night (Telperion, the silver tree).
Both Telperion and Laurelin are said to have been given many names among which are the following: Laurelin was also given the names of Malinalda and Culúrien, while Telperion was also named Silpion and Ninquelótë. Telperion's name in Valarin, the language of the Valar, is said to have been Ibrîniðilpathânezel; Laurelin's name is recorded as Tulukhedelgorûs.
"Yet even as hope failed [...] Telperion bore at last upon a leafless bough one great flower of silver, and Laurelin a single fruit of gold." - The Silmarillion
"... and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Feanor at their work, while both the White Tree and Golden were in flower!" Gandalf to Pippin, The Two Towers
- Tolkien could have taken the creation of light mentioned in Genesis as inspiration for the two trees, as both brought light into Middle-earth and were turned into the moon and sun.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Afrikaans||Twee bome van Valinor|
|Albanian||Dy Pemë e Valinor|
|Amharic||ቫሊኖር ሁለት ዛፎች|
|Armenian||Երկու ծառեր Վալինոր|
|Azerbaijani||Valinor iki ağac|
|Basque||Valinorreko Bi Zuhaitzak|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Тўо Треес оф Валінор|
|Bosnian||Dva stabla od Valinora|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Двете дървета на Валинор|
|Catalan||Dos Arbres de Vàlinor|
|Cebuano||Duha ka Kahoy sa Valinor|
|Croatian||Dva drveta Valinora|
|Czech||Dva Valinorské stromy|
|Danish||To Træer af Valinor|
|Dutch||Twee Bomen van Valinor|
|Esperanto||Du Arboj de Valinor|
|Estonian||Kaks Puud Valinor|
|Filipino||Dalawang puno ng Valinor|
|Finnish||Kaksi Valinorin Puuta|
|French||Deux Arbres de Valinor|
|Frisian||Twa beammen fan Valinor|
|Galician||Dúas Árbores de Valinor|
|Georgian||ვალინორის ორი ხე|
|German||Zwei Bäume von Valinor|
|Greek||Δύο Δέντρα του Βάλινορ|
|Haitian Creole||De kalite pyebwa ki bay Valinor|
|Hausa||Biyu itatuwa na Valinor|
|Hebrew||שני עצי ואלינור|
|Hungarian||Valinor két fája|
|Icelandic||Tveir tré Valinor|
|Indonesian||Dua pohon Valinor|
|Italian||Alberi di Valinor|
|Irish Gaelic||Dhá crainn de Valinor|
|Kannada||ವಾಲಿನೊರ್ ಎರಡು ಮರಗಳು|
|Kazakh||Валинордың екі ағашы (Cyrillic) Valïnordıñ eki ağaşı (Latin)|
|Kurdish||Du Darên ji Valinor (Kurmanji Kurdish)|
|Latin||Duae Arbores Valinoris|
|Latvian||Divi koki Valinor|
|Lithuanian||Du Valinoro medžiai|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Две дрва на Валинор|
|Marathi||वलिनोर दोन झाडे|
|Malaysian||Dua Pokok Valinor|
|Maltese||Żewġ Siġar tal Valinor|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Валинорын хоёр мод|
|Norwegian||To Trær av Valinor|
|Pashto||د ویلینور دوه ونې|
|Persian||دو درخت از والینور|
|Polish||Dwa Drzewa Valinoru|
|Portuguese||Duas Árvores de Valinor|
|Punjabi||ਵਲਿਨੋਰ ਦੇ ਦੋ ਰੁੱਖ|
|Romanian||Doi Copaci din Valinor|
|Scottish Gaelic||Dà Craobhan de Valinor|
|Serbian||Два стабла Валинора (Cyrillic) Dva stabla Valinora (Latin)|
|Shona||Miti miviri yeValinor|
|Sindhi||والينور جا ٻه وڻ|
|Sinhalese||වැලිනෝර් ගස් දෙකක්|
|Slovak||Dva valinorské Stromy|
|Slovenian||Dve drevesi Valinorja|
|Somalian||Laba Dhirta Valinor|
|Spanish||Dos Árboles de Valinor|
|Swahili||Miti miwili ya Valinor|
|Swedish||Två Träd av Valinor|
|Tajik Cyrillic||Ду дарахти Валинор|
|Tamil||வலிநொர் இரண்டு மரங்கள்|
|Tatar||Валинорның ике агачы|
|Telugu||వాలినోర్ రెండు చెట్లు|
|Turkish||Valinor'un iki agacı|
|Turkmen||Valinoryň iki agajy|
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Два дерева Валінора|
|Urdu||والینور کے دو درخت|
|Uzbek||Валинор икки Дарахтлар (Cyrillic) Valinor ikki Daraxtlar (Latin)|
|Vietnamese||Hai cây của Valinor|
|Welsh||Dau Goed o Valinor|
|Yiddish||צוויי ביימער פון וואַלינאָר|
|Yoruba||Meji igi ti Valinor|
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter I: "Of the Beginning of Days"
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter VIII: "Of the Darkening of Valinor"
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XI: "Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor"
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. I: The Book of Lost Tales Part One, chapter III: "The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor"