Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


FOTR: Bk 2, Ch 7

The Mirror Of Galadriel
"'Do you advise me to look?' asked Frodo.
'No,' she said. 'I do not counsel you one way or the other. I am not a counsellor. You may learn something, and whether what you see be fair or evil, that may be profitable, and yet it may not. Seeing is both good and perilous.'"
As night falls, the Elves light the Mallorn trees with lamps that gleam with silver, green and gold. The Fellowship approaches the largest of the trees where Celeborn and Galadriel dwell. Haldir climbs up first, followed by Frodo and Legolas, to a large platform that supports a house the size of a large hall. Their hosts are waiting for them, seated in a chamber filled with soft light. They rise to greet them.
"Very tall they were, and the Lady no less tall than the Lord; and they were grave and beautiful. They were clad wholly in white; and the hair of the Lady was a deep gold, and the hair of Lord Celeborn was of silver long and bright; but no sign of age was upon them, unless it were in the depths of their eyes; for these were keen as lances in the starlight, and yet profound, the wells of deep memory."
They welcome each member of the company, including Gimli, in friendship. Galadriel notices that Gandalf is not with them nor can she perceive him from afar. Aragorn recounts their experience in Moria. Celeborn is at first resentful of the Dwarves because of the Balrog but Galadriel reproaches him, saying essentially that Gandalf knew the risks of the journey and that Gimli shouldn't be held responsible for the wizard's fate. She then speaks of the beauty of Khazad-Dum as it was in the Elder Days. Gimli, in turn, is struck by her beauty and by the love and understanding in the heart of someone who he would have once considered an enemy. To Galadriel he says, "Yet more fair is the living land of Lorien, and Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!" Celeborn asks Gimli's pardon for his harsh words.

Galadriel, considered the wisest of Elves in Middle-Earth, is intimately familiar with the history of the Ring for it is she who first summoned the White Council to discuss its possible whereabouts and what the implications would be should it be at last discovered. The last meeting of the Council took place at the time of the events of The Hobbit, when Gandalf went to pursue other business while Bilbo and the Dwarves entered Mirkwood. In fact if Galadriel had her way, Gandalf would have been chosen to lead the Council rather than Saruman who was the ranking wizard. She bids the members of the Fellowship to get some rest but not before using her powers to read each of their thoughts. Her gaze somewhat disturbs each of them, except for Aragorn and Legolas.

To gain a better understanding of Galadriel and the events that follow, it helps to know some of her backstory - most of which is included in both The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales (Keep in mind I am summarizing as briefly as possible). After the Elves were created by Eru Iluvatar before even the First Age of Middle-Earth, they were summoned by the Valar to cross the Sea and live with them in Valinor. Valinor was illuminated by the two trees, Telperion and Laurelin. Morgoth used an enormous spider called Ungoliant (Shelob's mamma) to poison and destroy the trees. He also stole the three Silmarils that Feanor had crafted, which contained the light of the trees. Feanor swore an oath that bound himself and all of his descendents to the recovery of the jewels through any means. Against the wishes of the Valar, Feanor rebelled and led a host of Noldor Elves back to Middle-Earth to pursue and make war on Morgoth.

After this disobedience, the Elves were barred from returning to the Undying Lands and were considered exiles. Galadriel joined this Exodus, though she had already desired to return to Middle-Earth for her love of it. At the end of the First Age, the Valar finally intervened on behalf of the Elves and Men in the War of Wrath against Morgoth. The Elves were then pardoned and allowed to return across the Sea if they so wished, but by a way that only special ships could journey, as Valinor had then been removed by Eru from the confines of the world. While many of the Elves stayed for some time, once Sauron was defeated at the end of the Second Age by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, they began to gradually take the journey back to Valinor. For they were growing weary of fighting "the long defeat" against the evil of the world.

Galadriel refused the pardon of the Valar, making it clear that she wished to remain. She used the power of the Elvish ring, Nenya, to create the paradise of Lothlorien. Because of her pride and hubris in acting "godlike" with the ring's power, she remained barred from Valinor by the Valar. Despite her best efforts, the power of her realm was no longer enough to keep out the evil of Mordor and it would only be a matter of time before his forces would overrun Lothlorien if the Ring was not destroyed.

Now back to the story. Sam describes the way he felt when Galadriel looked at him: "She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with - with a bit of garden of my own." It seemed that each of the Fellowship was offered a similar temptation to break the company if they so chose. In doing so, she was testing the loyalty and commitment of each of them. For she knows that the "Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all the Company is true."

As in Rivendell, time in Lothlorien was difficult to mark. They arrive on January 17 and several weeks pass - though to them it feels like less as if time somehow moved slower there than it did in the outside world. Essentially, it did through the power of Nenya.

One day as Sam and Frodo are out walking in Lorien, Galadriel appears and beckons them to follow her. She leads them into an enclosed garden. In the center stands a basin on a pedestal, into which she pours some water from a nearby stream. Explaining that this is the Mirror of Galadriel, she asks them to look into the reflection of the water. Frodo asks what she expects them to see and she tells him it will show him things that were, things that are and things that yet may be. But she also warns them that they can't be sure which.

Sam looks, hoping to see a glimpse of home. At first he sees a strange vision:
"Frodo with a pale face lying fast asleep under a great dark cliff. Then he seemed to see himself going along a dim passage, and climbing an endless winding stair."
This would seem to be a premonition of going through Shelob's Lair and up the stairs of the tower of Cirith Ungol. Then the images shift to scenes of the Shire being razed: trees being felled, Bagshot Row all dug up and a tall red chimney belching black smoke. Sam immediately wishes to go back and stop all of this. But Galadriel warns him that the mirror is a dangerous guide because since it shows things that have not yet happened, it could lead them off the path that would prevent them from happening. In any event, there is little Sam could do if he went home. Only by completing the quest, could he hope to save the Shire.

Frodo now looks. He sees a twilit land and a long road.
"Far away a figure came slowly down the road, faint and small at first, but growing larger and clearer as it approached. Suddenly Frodo realized that it reminded him of Gandalf. He almost called aloud the wizard's name, and then he saw that the figure was clothed not in grey but in white, in a white that shone faintly in the dusk; and in his hand there was a white staff. The head was so bowed that he could see no face, and presently the figure turned aside round a bend in the road and went out of the Mirror's view. Doubt came into Frodo's mind: was this a vision of Gandalf on one of his many lonely journeys long ago, or was it Saruman?"
Tolkien already hints that we may see Gandalf again. Frodo sees parts of what would be the Battle of the Pelennor Fields at Minas Tirith. Then the Mirror goes dark. The Eye of Sauron, rimmed with fire, appears. The black slit of its pupil opened on a pit into nothingness. Galadriel says she also perceives the eye casting its gaze toward Lothlorien. This is a rare instance where Tolkien describes the Eye of Sauron. It was an image often over-looked before Peter Jackson's films. The director used it as the only representation of the Dark Lord other than his incarnation in the prologue of "The Fellowship of the Ring".

Frodo notices the Elven ring, Nenya, on Galadriel's finger. It is hidden from the sight of all, save other ringbearers. Frodo can see it, but Sam cannot. She explains that if his quest fails all will be laid waste by Sauron, but should he succeed then Nenya's power will diminish and Lothlorien will fade. Frodo offers to give the Ring to Galadriel, for she is "wise and fearless and fair." Now it is Galadriel's turn to be tempted. Frodo's possession of the Ring has increased his ability to sense the thoughts and desires of others so he is tuned in to Galadriel's repressed desire for the Ring. In Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring, this scene is portrayed much more dramatically but the words are almost identical.

She acknowledges that she has greatly desired it, but as she seems to become taller and more illuminated she warns Frodo:
"In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!"

But Galadriel resists the temptation, which is probably very difficult for her. For with the Ring she could maintain and even grow the magic and power of Lothlorien. "I pass the test", she says with the realization that she will once again be allowed to return to Valinor. "I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel." Whatever the fate of the Ring, she can now receive the pardon of the Valar and take the ship over the Sea, via the straight road, to the Undying Lands. Galadriel then announces that the time is drawing near for them to depart Lothlorien. They must leave the next morning.

Next: Farewell To Lorien

[Chronology: January 17th through February 14th 3019 T.A.]

(revised 9/5/06)


At 8:16 AM, Blogger Chris said...

The elves were confounded in their attempts to return to Valinor in some way. Their ships would be lost, as if their destination would move away from them. Numenor was placed within sight of Valinor, as a reward for the service the Houses of Men had rendered. Once the Valar had intervened against Morgoth, the hiding of Valinor had ceased.

I love how Tolkien continually weaves the theme of sacrifice into the narrative. Only by denying themselves and confronting their demons can the more powerful characters achieve their goals. Galadriel renounces her wordly ambitions and is granted absolution. Boromir, though he fails initially, also redeems himself. This theme is a strong reminder of Christ's sacrifice and His admonition to take up one's cross.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Chris said...

At least you've still got your hat, Admiral Benson. I love the effort you've put into this. I haven't read the books for a while now, being nearly due for the fifth reading. I find my memory being renewed by your beautiful descriptions and obvious love for the work. We are talking about perhaps the finest work of fiction ever written, after all. You talk and I listen.

At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I really enjoy your posts and hope you'll continue. This one was especially helpful in understanding where Galadriel was coming from.

At 4:58 AM, Blogger Dreamspinner said...

In my imagination's eye, Lothlorien is the most beautiful place in the books...Galadriel the most beautiful person.
If I could visit anyplace in the books, Lothlorien would be it.

At 5:00 AM, Blogger Dreamspinner said...

...and thank you for including illustrations! I still like pcitures with my reading. ;)

At 11:35 PM, Blogger Lord Floppington said...

Could/did Galadriel foresee Boromir's falling to the lust for the Ring? Did she suspect him? You would think she would take action if she did, but a lot of store seems to be placed in fate or doom or destiny, such as in the case of pity for Gollum leaving him alive to finish the Ring at the end. I guess I wonder if she knew or suspected, but as the wisest also knew that it would be better to let things play out.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tolkien never explicitly states the Galadriel "knows" whether or not Boromir will try and take the Ring. Although Peter Jackson certainly believed that to be that case. In the film, Galadriel says to Frodo "He will try to take the Ring. You know of whom I speak."

I think we can assume that because Galadriel is able to read the minds of the Fellowship, she certainly knows that the idea of taking the Ring has entered Boromir's mind. His mind is focused on it. But perhaps even Boromir does not yet suspect that he will go to such lengths. Boromir, I believe, is a good man at heart and rationalizes to himself that he can yet persuade Frodo to come with him to Gondor.


Post a Comment

<< Home