Tolkien Gateway

Butterflies

Ted Nasmith - Hundreds of Butterflies

Butterflies were insects with large wings, often colorful.

Contents

History

A legend says that all kinds of butterflies appeared in the Land of Willows.[1]

Butterflies are noted for their wings bearing colorful markings, and the "purple emperor" type loves the top of oak-woods. In Mirkwood however, Bilbo Baggins found hundreds of totally black butterflies, without any markings, at the treetops and he imagined them as 'black emperors'.[2][note 1]

Some of Gandalf's fireworks fluttered like butterflies.[3]

Wilwarin is also a name the Elves gave to a constellation of stars.[note 2]

Etymology

In Quenya, the word for "butterfly" is wilwarin (pl. wilwarindi). Cognates of the same meaning are Telerin vilverin, Noldorin gwilwileth, and Ilkorin gwilwering.[4]

Wilwarin also appears in earlier Qenya, and also the word wilwarindon ("like a butterfly").[5] In Gnomish, "butterfly" is gwilbrin (or -vrin).[6]

Notes

  1. Although not mentioned specifically, it is possible that these butterflies, like other creatures of Mirkwood, were infected by the Shadow of Dol Guldur to which they owed this color.
  2. Christopher Tolkien associates it with Cassiopeia

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "III. The Fall of Gondolin", p. 154
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (50th Anniv. Ed.), The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Long-expected Party", p. 27
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", p. 398 (root WIL-)
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Elvish Poetry and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets", in Parma Eldalamberon XVI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, Carl F. Hostetter and Bill Welden), p. 63
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), p. 45