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Dates
The second White Tree of Minas Tirith (originally Minas Anor) died in III 2872, and the Dead Tree was left in place until III 3019 (147 years)
Location
The courts of the Citadel of Minas Tirith
Origins
The remains of the second White Tree of Minas Tirith, which died at the same time as Steward Belecthor II
Descent
One of a line of White Trees descending from Galathilion, the Tree of Tirion
Settlements
Other names

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About this entry:

  • Updated 29 November 2021
  • Updates planned: 1

Dead Tree

The tree that stood in the courts of Minas Tirith

White Trees

On the topmost tier of the city of Minas Tirith, beneath its crowning White Tower, stood a courtyard paved with white stone. Within the courtyard was a green lawn, and within that was a pool with a fountain. At the end of the Third Age, a dead and withered tree stood here, with the water of the fountain spraying its branches and dripping back into the pool. At the time of the War of the Ring, the Dead Tree had stood in the High Court of Minas Tirith for one hundred and forty-seven years, the remnant of the last White Tree of Minas Tirith. It represented a last memory of a proud tradition that could be traced back through millennia to the Two Trees of Valinor.

The Line of the White Trees

The beginnings of this tradition dated to the Elder Days, when the Two Trees still shone in the West, and the Sun and Moon had yet to be created. One of these Trees, the White Tree Telperion, was especially beloved of the Eldar, and so the Vala Yavanna made them a living tree in its image. This White Tree was named Galathilion, and stood in the courts of the Elves' gleaming city of Tirion. Galathilion produced seedlings, and one of these was planted on the island of Tol Eressëa, a tree that was named Celeborn by the Elves.

After Númenor was established at the beginning of the Second Age, the Elves of Eressëa at first had friendly relations with the Númenóreans, who were the distant ancestors of the Men of Gondor. The Elves presented these early Dúnedain with many gifts, among them a seedling of their White Tree, which was planted in the King's Court in Armenelos. This White Tree, named Nimloth, survived through millennia, though in later years it was granted less reverence than formerly. This was due to the rise in power of the party of the King's Men, who turned away from the Elves and their gifts. Eventually Sauron persuaded King Ar-Pharazôn to destroy the White Tree of the Eldar.

Before the White Tree could be burned, Isildur secretly entered the courts and succeeded in stealing away one of its fruits. From that fruit, a new seedling was grown, and when Númenor fell, that seedling was carried by Isildur to Middle-earth. He planted the Tree in his own courts in the tower of Minas Ithil, but even there it was not safe. Sauron - now returned from Númenor to Mordor - launched an attack through Ephel Dúath and captured Minas Ithil, destroying the White Tree. Once again Isildur was able to save the line of the trees, carrying away another seedling as he fled from the capture his tower.

The White Tree of Minas Anor

Sauron's capture of Minas Ithil triggered the War of the Last Alliance, in which the combined armies of Elendil and Gil-galad marched against Mordor. After the seven-year Siege of Barad-dûr, Sauron was defeated, but not without great loss. Elendil and Gil-galad were both slain in the War, as was Isildur's brother Anárion. In memory of his brother, Isildur chose to plant the new seedling of the White Tree not in his own tower of Minas Ithil, but in Anárion's city beneath Mindolluin, Minas Anor.

The sapling was planted in the courts before the King's residence on the highest tier of Minas Anor, and it grew quickly to become a tall White Tree. Its leaves were long and narrow, dark above but shining silver beneath, and it produced clusters of white flowers. From those flowers would grow fruit, but the fruit of the tree would rarely ripen, though it could remain dormant for many years.

The Citadel of Gondor at the peak of Minas Anor had its own company of guards, and these guards took the White Tree as their emblem, following the arms of Elendil, and bore its image on their black surcoats. This livery was maintained over the long history of the tower, even to the end of the Third Age and beyond, a period of more than three thousand years.

This White Tree continued to grow and thrive in the High Court for many centuries. After Isildur, it lived through the reigns of no fewer than twenty-three Kings of Gondor, from Isildur's nephew Meneldil to Telemnar, the twenty-sixth King. The earlier Kings had ruled exclusively from Osgiliath, but from the time of Ostoher the seventh King, Minas Anor was used as a royal summer residence, and the tree truly stood in the King's court.

Though the tree had an extraordinarily long life, it was not immortal. After watching over the long history of Gondor through the first half of the Third Age, the tree eventually died. This was during the time of the Dark Plague, which devastated the southern lands of Middle-earth. In that plague, King Telemnar died, as did all of his heirs, and as Telemnar's line came to an end, so the White Tree also reached the end of its life. At the time of its death, the first White Tree of Minas Anor had grown in the heights of the City for 1,634 years.

This was not, however, the Dead Tree that stood in the courts of Minas Tirith at the end of the Third Age. Rather, a seedling of this tree existed, and it was planted to grow into a new White Tree. That White Tree would go on to live almost as long as its predecessor; it lived long enough, indeed, to see the capture of Minas Ithil and the subsequent renaming of Minas Anor to Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard.

The White Tree of Minas Tirith

The new White Tree lived through the last centuries of the line of Kings in Gondor, a period of a little over four hundred years after the death of Telemnar. When Minas Ithil was captured by the Nazgûl, the tower of Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith, and after this time the tree was known as the White Tree of Minas Tirith. After the last King, Eärnur, was lost, the Stewards took up the rule of Gondor, and the White Tree continued to flourish through many of their reigns, far into the later Third Age.

While the White Tree lived, it was famed far and wide (even the creature Gollum, who was born far from Gondor while the tree still grew in the heights of Minas Tirith, had heard of its splendour). So things remained until the time of Steward Belecthor II, the twenty-first Ruling Steward of Gondor. When Belecthor died in III 2852, the White Tree also died, after a lifetime of 1,232 years. The Gondorians could find no seedling to replace the Dead Tree, and so they chose to leave it standing in the High Court.

The Dead Tree

Belecthor II was succeeded as Steward by his son Thorondir, and from Thorondir's time to the end of the Third Age, the Dead Tree was left standing. It remained in its place of honour, showered by a fountain in the middle of its court, surrounded by a green lawn, but now all that remained of the White Tree of Minas Tirith was its withered husk.

The Dead Tree continued to stand in the High Court through Thorondir's rule as Steward, and through those of his four successors, down to the time of Denethor II. It was maintained beneath the White Tower for a total of one hundred and forty-seven years, and it was still to be found there when Gandalf and Pippin Took arrived to speak with Denethor during the War of the Ring.

Though the Tree had been dead for more than a century, the people of Gondor still preserved a desperate hope that one day a living White Tree might take its place.1 This must have seemed a faint hope indeed as the years passed, but after the War of the Ring, the Dead Tree was indeed replaced. The Wizard Gandalf led the new King Aragorn Elessar up into the snows of Mindolluin above Minas Tirith, and there they found a fresh seedling of the old White Tree growing untended on the mountainside. It was later said that the place were the Tree was found had been a long-forgotten hallow, and a seed had waited there for long years until it had sprung into growth just a few years before the War of the Ring.

The new seedling was carried back to the High Court of the City, and planted in place of the Dead Tree that had stood there for more than a century. So the return of the line of Kings to Gondor was marked by the return of a living White Tree of Minas Tirith. The Dead Tree was uprooted and carried to Rath Dínen, and given a place among the Tombs of the Kings, Ruling Stewards and heroes of Gondor's long history.


Notes

1

This belief that the White Tree would flower again is only touched on briefly, but Faramir speaks of a hope that the Tree will grow once again, and he was evidently not alone in this. After the Dark Tower was destroyed, the people of Minas Tirith sang joyfully of the White Tree being renewed, something that they apparently associated with the coming of a new King. Indeed, the formulation in their song is so specific ('And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed, / and he shall plant it in the high places...', The Return of the King VI 5, The Steward and the King) that it seems to represent a known tradition or prophecy. The symbolism here is hard to avoid: the decay of Dead Tree reflected the slow fall of the Rulers of the South-kingdom, and the return of the King brought a renewal embodied in the return of a living White Tree (indeed Aragorn's name Envinyatar, the 'Renewer', directly reflects this connection).

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About this entry:

  • Updated 29 November 2021
  • Updates planned: 1

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