Emerald was the color Legolas first saw from the window. He was born on a hot summer’s day, when the forest of Mirkwood was ablaze with brown and green, and the pastels that the flowers merrily wore. Past the canopy of tree boughs and leaves the sky was a deep blue, with the Sun shining down upon the earth in all its golden glory. At times a few wispy white clouds floated lazily by in the breeze, all the more in contrast to the colors of the forest below. And from amongst all these vibrant colors, the emerald of the leaves was what Legolas’ eyes saw first.
“Do you like that, my son?” Thranduil whispered.
He was carrying his infant, now several weeks old, securely in his arms as he leisurely walked through the forest. Legolas’ mother was resting, having stayed awake the entire night before attending to the crying child who would not quiet despite her best efforts. The child was still unnamed, and though to his Silvan subjects it was not a concern, to Thranduil and his Sindarin nobles the length of time was becoming too much. Even so the King still did not know what to name his first born. So he carried him into the forest, seeking inspiration.
Thranduil reached up with one hand and took a birch leaf, careful not to crush it. There were still a few drops of morning dew, and the light refracted off it, encasing his son in a small rainbow. He gently patted the leaf dry against his tunic before holding the leaf again in front of his son. The tiny child’s eyes were squinted, yet he seemed to follow the leaf as his father waved it.
“This, my son, is the birch leaf, a beloved tree of our home and the emblem of our House. You are too young to know its distinctive shape, but in time you will.”
At that moment the infant stretched his arms, and dismissing it as a simple reflex, the father thought nothing of it, and continued with his stroll. Yet Legolas’ eyes remained fixed on the leaf.
A few more weeks passed when again Thranduil was walking through the forest with Legolas in his arms, this time joined by his wife. She was a few steps behind her husband, cooing softly at her son, whose face peeked out over his father’s shoulder. He had left a wet spot from where he had drooled, and his mother smiled softly. At least he was no longer crying; his soulful sobbing had subsided into hiccups as soon as the small party had entered the woods. The King did not notice, but his younger wife silently wondered if this was mere coincidence. She was grateful at the very least that her child’s crying had stopped. It was becoming more frequent.
Thranduil again picked a birch leaf from a bough above and held it before his son, before handing it to his wife. She twirled it slowly between her fingers. The child, whose vision was still underdeveloped, tried to follow the leaf’s path with his bright sapphire eyes. As before, his arms jerked upwards. Thranduil laughed.
“He did this before,” he said to his queen.
She nodded, but said nothing. An idea was developing in her mind; she needed to test it. Rising to her feet, she excused herself on the pretence of urgent business, and left her husband with her son. Holding out one corner of her skirt as she went, she began to pick leaves as she walked. Not just birch leaves, but oaks and maples as well. She chose only the deepest green, emerald almost. As she picked the leaves she sang softly to herself. She could not explain why she was doing this, but something inside her told her this was the correct choice. Once her skirt was full, she hurried back inside the palace, careful not to drop even a single leaf. It took her some time to reach her chambers, and immediately she called for her handmaidens to fetch a large basin and fill it with cool water. When the basin was half full she delicately emptied her skirts of its contents. This may be silly, but it was worth a try, she thought. Anything to keep her infant from crying, and to allow her own body to rest; she was starting to feel the wariness affecting her.
Half an hour later Thranduil entered with Legolas asleep in his arms, clutching a birch leaf in his tiny fists. The queen smiled gently, taking her infant from his father and laying him in his crib. It was a wooden crib; the vertical bars a deep brown. If her idea worked, it would be perfect. She had the twine ready for when her husband was asleep; she would work discreetly and silently. The proud parents watched their child stir in his slumber, still clutching the leaf, before they readied themselves for their own reveries. Thranduil slept facing the wall, his wife faced the crib. She waited until her husband’s breathing was very shallow before rising slowly from the bed. She crept into the bathing room and brought out the basin full of leaves, which were floating in cold water. Then, taking her twine, she set to work. First, she threaded a heavy Mithril needle and pushed it carefully through the first leaf’s stem, tied a few knots, then wound the string several times around the first crib’s bar before tying it off securely. After adjusting the leaf carefully, she examined her handiwork. Pleased with what she had done, she proceeded with the next leaf and the next after that, until the basin was left with nothing but cold water. Contented with her work, she gathered her supplies, cleaned up her mess and herself, then returned to bed. She now only had to wait, and in this manner she slipped into hesitant reverie.
The queen was woken up by the softest cry of a child roused from a midnight dream. Though what evil things an infant dreams of no one knows. Thranduil was by the crib, and on his face was the most serene look. When his wife joined his side, he motioned for her to speak no word, instead pointing at their infant below. His sapphire eyes were locked intently on the leaves his mother had so devotedly wound around the bars of his crib. Even as they gazed upon him in wonder, he jerked again, but this time Thranduil knew it was with purpose—one minute fist clenched an emerald birch leaf tightly. His face was still wet with the tears he had shed, which his father brushed away very tenderly. The other hand was clenched around his mother’s index finger, and though he could not speak yet, she knew her child was thanking her for her efforts.
“I know what haunts him,” Thranduil told his wife when they returned to bed shortly afterwards. “I glimpsed into his emotions briefly. He fears the Darkness of this forest. He dreamt of fell creatures running amok amongst the trees, the leaves brown from no sunlight kissing them. He saw animals dead all over the forest floor. My son is deeply rooted in this forest already. Alas, if you were born before, and we met in Doriath, what a forest he would have been able to behold!”
His wife listened partially, her own thoughts running wild. Her son was perceptive from such an early age; she had felt that from the moment he had opened his eyes and saw her. She knew his sight was not wholly developed yet and his vision limited, but her son’s vision was steeped with emotional perception. She wondered then if all her talk when he was still in her womb of the sun filtering down through the forest leaves had somehow been instilled in him. He had been born a fortnight early, something which she now regarded with interest. During her pregnancy she had spoken and whispered to him not only of her love of Mirkwood, but of her own Golden Wood. She had lamented the darkening of her husband’s home; had her sadness passed to her son?
“Legolas,” she said suddenly, a warm smile upon her face. “His name will be Legolas.”
Thranduil looked at her.
“That name has been taken already,” he answered.
At this the child began to cry.
“You see, he understands. From the moment he was conceived all he has known is the forest and how beautiful it is. We have both instilled in him the love of trees. Can you not see how calm he is when he sees the leaves? I see no fitting name for him other than Green Leaf, so Legolas it is.”
The infant calmed, and Thranduil could not refute what he had seen even for himself.
“Very well, my little Legolas. Even though your home is a place of shadow, you embody the living elements of the forest: your golden hair is the warming Sun and your sapphire eyes the sky. I see how you shine in the presence of the forest. I will pray to the Valar that you will live to see it cleansed, and so long as you bear this love, it shall be so. Rest well, my precious Legolas.”
Many centuries passed since Legolas’ birth, and the Fourth Age arrived after the defeat of the Shadow. Mirkwood had suffered greatly though; in fighting off the attack of Dol Guldur’s accursed Black Army the great forest was burnt and badly ruined. Legolas, newly returned from the War, walked amidst his beloved home with a grieving heart. His infant dreams of darkness, death, and destruction had proven to be true. His father’s army had won, but at a great cost. The forest was dead, except for the area surrounding the cavern-palace of his father. Only there could he still see the emerald green of old, and his memories of his leaf-strewn crib returned anew. His beloved mother had understood him from the first moment he was born. He could not dwell here any longer without seeing his birch trees; and so taking up King Aragorn’s offer, he relocated with a portion of his people to Ithilien. There he revived the beauty of Doriath’s fabled forests, and his heart was at ease. There could be no life for him without the emerald of the trees.
Thranduil’s sorrow was great when at long last his son sailed West. It was a hot summer’s day, such as the one Legolas was born on. The trees were alive with their green raiment, the Sun shone brightly from its throne in the azure sky above. The wispiest clouds floated by lazily. Birds warbled sweetly from their perches. It had taken some time for the forest of Mirkwood to regain its former glory. Beside him, his new wife stood comfortingly at his side. The King lifted one hand to an overhanging bough, plucking an emerald birch leaf gingerly. There was no infant to dazzle this time. But he had the memories, and it was in memory of Legolas, ardent lover of the emerald-green leaf, that he had renamed his forest Eryn Lasgalen, the Wood of Greenleaves.