During the Great March of the Eldar, when the elves traveled from their birthplace of Cuiviénen to Valinor, some of the Teleri – the elves in the host of Olwë and his brother Elwë – began to stray behind. Among these elves was Lenwë. When the Teleri came upon the Misty Mountains, Lenwë refused to cross them and continue westward towards Valinor. He gathered his own host of elves, all of whom were reluctant to continue, and led them southwards along the River Anduin. These elves that followed Lenwë became known as the Nandor (“Those who turn back”). They were counted among the Moriquendi and the Ûmanyar.

The Nandor did not remain a united people, as they scattered, wandering freely. Some of the Nandor settled in the woods that bordered the River Anduin, and some others journeyed to the mouth of the Great River and dwelt by the sea. Still others travelled north again and settled in the region of Eriador. However, all of the Nandor loved the water, for they felt closest to the Vala Ulmo, Lord of Waters. They dwelt most often in peaceful areas by streams and waterfalls. Throughout the years, the Nandor gathered to themselves a greater knowledge of all living things than the rest of the elves.

As the power of Morgoth grew and his evil creatures began to spread out across Middle Earth, the Nandor grew worried. They had no great weapons and had never used steel. Denethor, the son of Lenwë, knew that his kin could never fend off an orc attack, and as he had heard of the might of Thingol and Melian of Doriath, he wished the Nandor to become part of their realm of Doriath. He gathered a host of his scattered kin and led them north over the Misty Mountains and into Beleriand where they were welcomed by Thingol and were allowed to stay in Beleriand. Thingol granted Ossiriand, Land of the Seven Rivers, to Denethor as a place for his kin to dwell.

Those Nandor who did not travel north with Denethor became known as the Silvan Elves, and founded new woodland realms, Lórien and Mirkwood, in the south.

When Denethor and many of his kin were killed by Orcs in the first of the Battles of Beleriand, most of the remaining Nandorin elves returned to Ossiriand, never coming forth again in battle or taking a king. These elves were then known as the Laiquendi, the Green-Elves, for their garments were always the color of leaves and served as camouflage. They loved the green wood, and green lands with fair waters*. The House of Denethor loved green above all colours, and the beech above all other trees*. The Laiquendi were counted as some of the greatest singers to inhabit Middle Earth.

The Laiquendi had little part in history after the Battles of Beleriand, as they remained secretive and kept to themselves. However they lent their aid to Beren and Dior, who dwelt on Tol Galen in the far south of their land. After the loss of their ancient ally Thingol at the hands of the Dwarves, they went with Beren to avenge him. Much later, after the deaths of Beren and Lúthien, one of their lords took up the Silmaril that Lúthien had borne, and brought it to Dior in Menegroth.

After the Ruin of Beleriand during the First Age, the Laiquendi again were scattered. Some remained in Ossiriand (then known as Lindon), while others journeyed south, either to Eriador or back south of the Misty Mountains. A note in the Unfinished Tales mentions Green-Elves living on the shores of Lake Nenuial during the Second Age.

Source material:

The Silmarillion (J.R.R. Tolkien).
The Unfinished Tales (J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien).
The Lost Road and other Writings (J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien). Sentences based on work in The Lost Road are marked with a *

Contributed by: Ringhilwen