In 1967, Tolkien began writing a letter to his son, Michael, where he shared his perspectives on cultivating faith. Tolkien likened the character of faithfulness (‘loyalty’) to that of a full-grown tree — a living organism that must be tended to by its keepers (Letter 306).

While the reasons for this letter may be forever lost to time, the excerpt reveals a fundamental notion in Tolkien’s mind: The symbolism of great faithfulness with the thriving health of trees

There is no resemblance between the ‘mustard-seed’ and the full-grown tree. For those living in the days of its branching growth the Tree is the thing, for the history of a living thing is pan of its life, and the history of a divine thing is sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is vain to try and dig it up, for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers that it had now reside in the Tree.

Very good: but in husbandry the authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to such wisdom as they possess, prune it, remove cankers, rid it of parasites, and so forth. […] But they will certainly do harm, if they are obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first youth of the plant when it was (as they imagine) pretty and unafflicted by evils.

The other motive […] aggiornamento: bringing up to date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout history. 

Letter #306, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

In my previous article, we discussed clues from the trailer and images of Amazon’s The Rings of Power that directly led us to identifying Sauron’s haunting presence on Middle-earth. Here, I will discuss how The Rings of Power might be using trees to illustrate the shrinking faith of the Númenoreans (Men) and the Noldor (Elves).

We begin in the island nation of Númenor. The Númenoreans are Men descended from the line of Elros, brother of Elrond. The line of the Kings of Numenor going back to Lúthien, daughter of the Sindarin King Thingol and Melian the Maiar. Of Lúthien’s descendants, Tolkien writes that ‘her line shall never fail’ (A Knife in the Dark, The Fellowship of the Ring). 

In the King’s Court at Armenelos, Númenor’s capital, a white tree blooms: Nimloth the fair (Nimloth is Sindarin for ‘White Blossom’). Descended from a tree made in the likeness of Telperion for the Noldor of Tirion  (Galathilion, the’White Tree’ of Yavanna, The Silmarillion), Nimloth was gifted as a seedling by the Eldar of Tol Eressëa in Aman. Her white petals gleam with the setting Sun and her scent fills the air of King’s court. Nimloth is the symbol of friendship between Men and Elves. (Cite.) A sign of the Númenor’s faithfulness to Eru and her Elven heritage.

The Númenoreans retained the dedications and order, but altered the fourth day to Aldëa (Orgaladh) with reference to the White Tree only, of which Nimloth that grew in the King’s Court in Númenóreans [my emphasis] was believed to be a descendant.

Appendix D, The Lord of the Rings
Nimloth, the White Tree in the Courts of Armenelos

The significance of the blooming white tree is not lost to readers of Tolkien. Soon after arriving in Gondor, Aragorn discovers the sapling borne from the fruit of Nimloth. The discovery astonishes Aragorn, but Gandalf recalls the significance of the sapling:

Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that a fruit of Telperion of many names, Eldest of Trees. Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake.

The Steward and the King, The Return of the King

In Gandalf’s words, we see the link between preservation and renewal. The line of Telperion preserved from the days of the Two Trees, and the promise of renewal to its former glory. 

But, alas, our first sight of Nimloth in The Rings of Power is a solemn one. Unlike the  sapling of Gondor emerging from the snow, we instead witness the opposite, the beginning stages of a fully-grown white tree beginning to wither.

Nimloth is weeping.

Her blossoms scatter onto the royal courts as Queen Regent Míriel and her advisor Pharazôn pause to make note of the moment. Míriel’s face flushes with unmistakable desperation.

Nimloth, the White Tree in the Courts of Armenelos

Is this then the first of many signs and warnings of Númenor’s descent to her watery grave? As steward-keeper of Nimloth (Faith), is Míriel’s faith in Eru and Númenor’s alliance with the Elves starting to crumble?

From what we are seeing, Nimloth is shedding her crown; Númenor is dying.

Mortality is, of course, a theme central to Tolkien’s works. Endings are inscribed to the life and stories of every creature on Middle-earth. It is this ill-fate that Tolkien has termed “fading” that the immortal Elves seek to halt. As Tolkien writes of the Second Age in a letter to Milton Waldman: 

All through the twilight of the Second Age the Shadow is growing in the East of Middle-earth, spreading its sway more and more over Men — who multiply as the Elves begin to fade.

Letter #131, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Following the destruction of the Two Trees, their great Elf-king Finwë’s death at the hands of Morgoth, the theft of the Silmarils, and in defiance of Eru and the Valar, the arrival and lingering presence of the Noldor (tribe of Elves descended from Finwë) on Middle-earth resulted in their inevitable decline as a people. Yet, the hubris, ingenuity, and might of the Noldor also meant they were a great force to be reckoned with.

They are the chief artificers of devices (“rings”) that halt fading in the Second and Third Age.

In The Rings of Power, the fading of the Noldor is discreetly translated through the Tolkienian metaphor of suffering trees. Given their presence on Middle-earth is consequential to their continued defiance to the Valar, the Noldor’s faltering faith is represented in their inability to keep their beloved Mallorn trees (plural Mellyrn) from fading.

Farewell to Lorien by Ted Nasmith
Farewell to Lorien by Ted Nasmith.

We are quite familiar with the description of the Mallorn Tree from several Tolkien texts (Letter to Minchin (1956), The Fellowship of The Ring, Unfinished Tales). It is prominently described as having a single smooth bark (“pillar”) of grey silver whose leaves turn to pale gold in the autumn, which carpeted the forest floor through spring and summer.

Its bark was silver and smooth, and its boughs somewhat upswept after the manner of the beech; but it never grew save with a single trunk. Its leaves, like those of the beech but greater, were pale green above and beneath were silver, glistering in the sun; in the autumn they did not fall, but turned to pale gold.

In the spring it bore golden blossom in clusters like a cherry, which bloomed on during the summer; and as soon as the flowers opened the leaves fell, so that through spring and summer a grove of malinorni was carpeted and roofed with gold, but its pillars were of grey silver. Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale.

A Description of the Island of Númenor, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth

Unlike the description of the Mallorn  given by Tolkien, we instead witness a dark, crudely shaped, and twisted bark of a large, and what we presume is an ancient Mallorn Tree

From stills and footage, we can construct a working hypothesis that the Noldor are experimenting with planting a Mellyrn forest in Lindon. As Gil-galad and Elrond commune among the trees at night, our eyes are drawn to the sharp contrast of the younger Mellyrn (right) and the dark,  brooding, and ancient Mallorn (left). It appears that the ancient Mallorn is fading, albeit gradually. What may have begun as a silver pillar for a bark has gradually twisted unto itself; stopping the Mallorn from growing to its magnitudinous heights. Her golden leaves also appear to be much darker compared to the younger ones.

The Lindon Mallorn forest.

Further evidence for this hypothesis is the telltale presence of a Mallorn sapling in Khazad-dûm. While we cannot confirm why a sapling might be growing in the deep underground caverns of Moria, it is curious that the Elves as keepers of the Mallorn sought the Moria Dwarves as collaborators in testing the  possible thriving conditions for Mellyrn.

A simpler explanation might be that the Mallorn sapling was grown from a seed gifted to the Moria Dwarves in lieu of friendship. A possible callback to Galadriel gifting Samwise Gamgee a single Mallorn nut that was consequently planted in the Shire.

Even so, the fading of the Mallorn will be an ongoing leitmotif that will marshal the Noldor into seeking and creating the Rings of Power as a means to halt the Fading of the Elves and their realms.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerElrond (Robert Aramayo) is pensive during a visit to Khazad-dûm.


The Mallorn of Lothlórien. 

Source: The Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Cinema.

About the author: DrNosy is a scientist (physical science), scholar, and Tolkien enthusiast. Her primary interests lie in review and analysis of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She is an active contributor and Reading Room Moderator on Discord where she also hosts live open-forum panel discussions on The Rings of Power, The Silmarillion,  and a variety of Tolkien-related topics. You can reach her on Twitter.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

‘But last night I told you of Sauron the Great, the Dark Lord. The rumours that you have heard are true: he has indeed arisen again and left his hold in Mirkwood and returned to his ancient fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor. That name even you hobbits have heard of, like a shadow on the borders of old stories. Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.’

Gandalf, The Fellowship of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Have you heard of Sauron
“Have you heard of Sauron?” SDCC Season 1 trailer.
Fear has struck the hearts of Men as Sauron begins to stir again.

It is the Second Age of Middle-earth. The tide turns and evil reveals itself as a figure lurking in the shadows. Sauron is here. Albeit, invisible. His presence hinted at in the form of a searing hallmark

Following the drop of the The Rings of Power trailer at the San Diego Comic-Con, Tolkien enthusiasts like myself have repeatedly pored over the SDCC trailer in search of elements from Tolkien’s lore buried within the scenes of the show. With the use of some deductive reasoning and observation, it is highly probable that we have uncovered a unique point in the lore, seemingly disguised as an icy mark

The icy mark, in question, appears in two instances within the trailer. In the first instance, we see the mark actively of three spikes forming over a hard and stony surface. In the second, it distinctly appears on what can only be described as a forging anvil. A common factor in both instances is how the mark incorporates actively freezing water to reveal its runic features. 

To fully understand how this icy rune may have formed, we must apply some deductive reasoning. Water is a substance that transforms into its crystalline state (ice) at freezing temperatures. The instant formation of ice often indicates temperatures much lower than freezing (sub-zero).

Looking at the scene from the trailer again, we see crystals of ice form rapidly upon the stony surface. If we take another step back, we can perhaps also draw another conclusion. This icy mark is not a mark made of rapidly freezing water, but rather by the lack of ice crystals in the space where the rune is inscribed. This indicates that the inscription or branding must have been made with a searingly hot implement such that ice has finely crystallized along its edges. It also appears the inscription continues to be indefatigably hot to boot.

The mark of Sauron appears as water freezes instantly around the searingly hot rune. Note the three spikes.

Weighing these factors together, we can revise a couple points:

  1. The runes are in a location where sub-zero temperatures result in near-instance formation of ice crystals. 
  2. The rune appears on an anvil — a tool used for forging weapons. Besides the trailer, we observe the same rune inscribed upon a broken sword held by Theo.
  3. If this rune is a maker’s mark of a master forger, what are the possible sources of the heated implement used to craft and forge weapons?

In Middle-earth, one location appears to be the optimal location for sub-zero temperature conditions. The Forodwaith is a frozen wasteland in the northern reaches of Middle-earth, which is also categorically home to Mount Gundabad (the northernmost tip of the Misty Mountains). While historically connected with the Dwarves, Gundabad is deeply contested by Orcs during the Second and Third Ages. While we have received no clarification from Amazon on the matter, the clues suggest Gundabad could be the place where these runes appear.

Given their active heat-emitting properties and its connection to the forging craft, we must now ask how such runes have come to exist in a place where there are no other obvious signs of active metallurgical hot working. 

What could possibly be as hot as an active volcano to have inscribed a searingly hot rune into stone and metal in the coldest part of Middle-earth? How is the area of this rune still hot even (presumably), long after the mark was embedded in the anvil and the anvil was last used to forge things?

Could it be that these searing, tripartite* marks were made at the hands of Sauron?

‘What evil it saith I do not know; but I trace here a copy of it, lest it fade beyond recall. The Ring misseth, maybe, the heat of Sauron’s hand, which was black and yet burned like fire, and so Gil-galad was destroyed; and maybe were the gold made hot again, the writing would be refreshed.’

Isildur describing the Ring. The Council of Elrond, The Lord of the Rings
This gif shows a ) the cursed, broken sword with Sauron’s mark; b) Theo holding up the broken sword; and c) the broken sword forming out of fire and smoke in a way that is reminiscent of the broken Morgul-knife that Aragorn pulls out of Frodo.

While it is ambiguous how Sauron brands any object with his mark, the heat of Sauron’s hand seems to be an obvious ultimate source of hot working temperatures for forging with various metals. Moreover, it is clear the signature on the anvil and the sword suggests the same Maker. That is, Sauron is involved in the creation of these objects. 

But what is the purpose of the Mark? What is the purpose of a broken sword found at the bottom of a barn in the Southlands? Is it evidence of Sauron’s attempts to create an object that ensnares the will of another? The first of its kind. A Morgul-knife that shares characteristics similar to the Rings of Power?

If that were the case, Theo surely faces a dark future as the series unfolds episode by episode.

‘They tried to pierce your heart with a Morgul-knife which remains in the wound. If they had succeeded, you would have become like they are, only weaker and under their command. You would have became a wraith under the dominion of the Dark Lord; and he would have tormented you for trying to keep his Ring, if any greater torment were possible than being robbed of it and seeing it on his hand.’

Gandalf to Frodo. Many Meetings, The Lord of the Rings

Finally, if we presume this tripartite mark to be the definitive mark of Sauron’s invisible yet haunting presence on Middle-earth, I say that anything that touches it will turn to ash.

A single mallorn leaf falls through the caverns of Moria and burns to ash upon contact with yet another invisible yet searing mark of Sauron.

Bootnote: The design of the tripartite mark reveals some similarities to the Helm of Sauron in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Per WETA’s design, Sauron’s helm has six distinct points — three tall points spaced along the points of a triangle; then three shorter points towards the front. We see the tripartite mark on the anvil and on the blade Theo holds bears a resemblance to the configuration of the three points towards the front of Sauron’s helm.

Helm of Sauron. Note the three smaller spikes at the front with the largest spike in the center. Source: The Weta Museum.

Second bootnote!

It’s also worth drawing attention to a mark we can see on the left breast of Finrod’s body in the SDCC trailer. This mark appears to be an inverted form of Sauron’s mark, with the prongs pointing downward. The left and right prongs are distinct, while the elongated center one is more indistinct. It appears to have been burnt into the corpse, possibly posthumously.

The mark is also present on the left breast of Finrod in this scene from the SDCC trailer.

A posthumously applied mark would preserve the Silmarillion canon of Finrod’s death in the dungeons of Sauron at the hands of a great werewolf (note the claw marks on the left bicep and forearm).

The question that continues to puzzle is how the body comes into the possession of Galadriel.

However, Beren and Luthien liberate many elven thralls from the dungeons of Sauron. The showrunners might be taking a tack where they return the body to Nargothrond (The Silmarillion states that Galadriel spent time there). Alternately, it may be that the scene occurs on Tol-in-Gaurhoth itself. The latter would preserve the integrity of Finrod’s burial, but at the risk of intruding Galadriel into the Beren and Luthien story. Of course, if the scene occurs in flashback, we may never even (or require) get the full context — if it doesn’t serve the story, it can be left to the imagination of watchers to fill in the blanks however they want.

* Editor’s note: we’re calling it a tripartite mark because of those three spikes. Also, just as we were about to go to “print” with this piece, Stephen Colbert showed this clip as part of an interview with Morfydd Clark on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Looks like we were on the money.

About the author: DrNosy is a scientist (physical science), scholar, and Tolkien enthusiast. Her primary interests lie in review and analysis of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She is an active contributor and Reading Room Moderator on Discord where she also hosts live open-forum panel discussions on The Rings of Power, The Silmarillion,  and a variety of Tolkien-related topics. You can reach her on Twitter.

Acknowledgements: All these GIFs and the Colbert clip are thanks to the hard work of our fab Discord member, WheatBix.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Welcome to The Great Hall of Poets, our regular monthly feature showcasing the talent of Middle-earth fans. Each month we will feature a small selection of the poems submitted, but we hope you will read all of the poems that we have received here in our Great Hall of Poets.

So come and join us by the hearth and enjoy!

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to  One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Continue reading “The Great Hall of Poets”

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.