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There is something that is not made explicit in The Silmarillion, and I wondered if J. R. R. had ever discussed it in one his letters or other writings.

Did the Light of the Trees diminish after Fëanor made the three Silmarils?

I am not sure if the source of light of the Trees is just an infinite well sort of thing, so that Fëanor could have taken as much as he liked for his Silmarils without diminishing them, or if perhaps he did diminish the light in Valinor for it, and the Valar (for whatever reasons) just let him get away with it.

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  • I kinda glazed through that part of the Silmarillion so I don't know for sure, but probably not.
    – Firestryke
    Aug 10, 2021 at 20:28
  • Can you say why it might? Are you suggesting there's a total amount of light, and what is given to the silmarils must come from the trees? If so, why would it not also diminish the light of the sun? Aug 12, 2021 at 23:00
  • One may light a torch at a campfire, yet the campfire remains undiminished. Many torches may be thus kindled, making the world brighter thereby. Jun 15, 2023 at 13:39

2 Answers 2

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No

...Not until the Sun passes and the Moon falls, shall it be known of what substance they were made...And the inner fire of the Silmarils Fëanor made of the blended light of thr Trees of Valinor...

-The Silmarillion, "Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor"

That's all Tolkien says explicitly: The Light of the Trees went into the Silmarils.

But the Two Trees produced a lot of light. Recall that a single fruit of Laurelin became the Sun which outshone Eärendil's Silmaril after Varda placed it in the sky.

Not only that, the Trees were constantly dripping light, such that Varda (Elbereth) dug some pits to collect it, the Wells of Varda.

...but the light that was spilled from the trees endured long, ere it was taken up in the airs or sank down into the earth; and the dews of Telperion and the rain that fell from Laurelin Varda hoarded in great vats like shining lakes, that were to all the land of the Valar as wells of water and light.

-The Silmarillion, "Of the Beginning of Days"

Fëanor did not draw the light for the Silmarils by "tapping" the Trees. He got light that they had already emitted, probably from the Wells of Varda, but maybe also just by exposing the silima that he made them from to their light.

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No, the creation of the Silmarils would not have marred the Two Trees in this way. The light of the trees is not a limited resource, and pieces of the trees continued to radiate eternally even after they were separated from the trees themselves. From the dew that dripped from the white tree Telperion, Varda made the stars that gave Middle-Earth its first lasting light since the fall of the Lamps. Even after the Two Trees were killed by Morgoth and Ungoliant, a single flower from Telperion and a fruit from Laurelin were still eternally alight and could be set in the sky as the sun and the moon. However, these secondary lights, although never diminishing, were qualitatively inferior to the direct illumination of the Two Trees.

What was remarkable about the Silmarils was that they preserved the ever-glowing light of the Two Trees with all its original qualities undiluted. (How Fëanor managed to accomplish this, he refused to say.) In fact, rather than diminishing the original Two Trees, the Silmarils preserved their light so that the trees can eventually be recreated. The form of the trees could be recreated by Yavanna, as she made Galathilion, as a copy of Telperion, but the copy that cast no light; the light of the Two Trees could not be recreated, even from the moon and sun. However, after the Dagor Dagorath (the final "Battle of Battles" against Morgoth), when the three gems are recovered from the sky, sea, and earth, Fëanor will repent his crimes and, released from the Halls of Mandos, he will finally reveal how the Silmarils were made. With this knowledge, the gems may be broken open, to reveal the pure light of the Two Trees stored within, and with this light, the Two Trees may be recreated with all their original brilliance.

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  • See scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/32734/… concerning how much weight you should put on the Second Prophecy of Mandos as being "true". In the The Silmarillion, we are left only with Yavanna saying that she could use the Simarils to heal the trees before they died. There's no indication that she could recreate the Trees from scratch.
    – chepner
    Aug 11, 2021 at 16:19
  • What I don't get is how some punk elf figures out the trick to storing the Trees' light indefinitely and recoverably into a bunch of rocks, but none of the Valar who were directly collecting or otherwise in contact with that light could figure out any such backup plan.
    – hamstar
    Feb 13, 2023 at 3:15

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