The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Extant in III 2941 (and called 'old' at this date)
The literal meaning seems to be 'green son'1


About this entry:

  • Updated 27 April 2012
  • Updates planned: 1


Butler to King Thranduil

An old Wood-elf who served as butler2 in the Elvenking's halls in northeastern Mirkwood, where he served King Thranduil (and presumably also Thranduil's son Legolas). It was Galion's love of wine that gave Bilbo a chance to free Thorin and his companions when they were imprisoned in Thranduil's halls during the Quest of Erebor. On a night of feasting, the butler drank deeply with his friend the captain of the guards: so deeply that both fell asleep. With the aid of the captain's keys and his Magic Ring, Bilbo was able to rescue the Dwarves and organise a daring waterborne escape.



Tolkien does not explain the name Galion, but he does note (in comments reproduced in The History of the Hobbit) that it is 'not Sindarin (though perhaps 'Sindarized' in shape)'. This presumably means that Galion's original name - if it had a meaning at all - was derived from Silvan Elvish, adapted to the native speech of his master, the Sindarin Elvenking Thranduil. This makes speculation on the name's meaning extremely difficult, though certain elements are at least suggestive.

The -ion ending in Elvish names typically indicates a patronymic, so Galion's name seems to show that he was the son of an Elf with a name like 'Gal', or at least incorporating that element. Gal- in Elvish names usually means 'green', so the extended meaning of the name Galion is probably something like 'son of the green Elf'.

Gal- can also be read as 'light', so potentially Galion would be 'son of light', but given that his Forest home was known in Elvish as Eryn Galen ('Greenwood') the connection with 'green' seems more plausible.


Historically, the word 'butler' originally referred to a cup-bearer, or servant responsible for managing and serving wine (the word comes from Old French boteillier, literally 'bottler'). The fact that Galion was in charge of serving wine to the Elvenking implies that, at least to some extent, Tolkien had this older meaning of the word in mind when he described Galion as the king's butler.


About this entry:

  • Updated 27 April 2012
  • Updates planned: 1

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 2004, 2012. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

Website services kindly sponsored by Discus from Axiom Software Ltd.
A Discus profile report contains more than sixty pages of detailed and relevant information - explore our library of sample DISC reports.
The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry