There had been Silvan Elves living in Greenwood the Great since the days before the rising of the Sun and Moon. For much of their history, they dwelt in the south of the wood, close to their neighbours and kin who dwelt in the land that would become Lórien, across the Great River.
During the Second Age, Sindarin Elves out of Lindon came east and settled in the forest land, and the Silvan Elves took one of these, Oropher, as their King. Over time, the Sindar merged with the languages and customs of the Silvan Elves of the Forest. At the end of that Age, a mighty Last Alliance of Elves and Men was formed to do battle with Sauron. Oropher went to that battle, and was slain: he was succeeded by his son Thranduil.
After the War of the Last Alliance, Thranduil ruled the Woodland Realm in peace for many years, but eventually a dark power began to descend on their forest home, and the land beneath the trees started to become known as 'Mirkwood'. The Wood-elves retreated northwards away from the Shadow, but as it spread they found themselves forced farther and farther from their old homes in the south of the wood. By the end of the Third Age, the Woodland Realm lay at the northeastern limit of the Forest, close to the realms of Dale and Erebor. During the War of the Ring, there was a battle beneath the trees of northern Mirkwood, but Thranduil ultimately beat back Sauron's forces. Thranduil's son, too, had a part to play in the events of those times: he was Legolas, of the Company of the Ring.
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