Wait… What Do You Mean Glorfindel’s DEAD?!

Since we’re walking with and talking about Glorfindel this week, I thought it might be a good idea to touch upon his previous antics as written about in the Silmarillion. And for that, I turn to SJ from the Snobbery blog. She wrote an informative guide to the Silm (called Don’t Read the Silmarillion). But how I stumbled upon her was the Middle-earth is My BFF series. Anyway, let’s learn a bit about Glorfindel, won’t we?

As a nrrrd grrrl, I didn’t have the greatest social life growing up.  That was okay, though, cos I totally had book boyfriends…what, you guys did that too, right?  

Anyway, we meet Glorfindel for the first time in Fellowship of the Ring (which Eric has kindly been talking about for you all) and even though I’m not typically a fan of blonds, the description of him made me all squirmy (in a good, adolescent sort of way).

Glorfindel was tall and straight; his hair was of shining gold, his face fair and young and fearless and full of joy; his eyes were bright and keen, and his voice like music; on his brow sat wisdom, and in his hand was strength.

Um…yes.  I’d like some of that, please (and btw, I totally read that last bit as a euphemism).  Glorfindel was an incidental character to me the first five or six times I read Lord of the Rings, but for whatever reason (hormones), this description of him, paired with his daring rescue of Frodo and all that Ford of Bruinen ish made me all weak-kneed.  I was probably 14 or 15 at the time, and still hadn’t managed to make my way all the way through The Silmarillion, but I knew how to use an index, and frequently used the Silm as a sort of reference guide to Middle-earth.

I looked up Glorfindel, and luckily there were several mentions of his name.

Well, I mean, there was the entry explaining that his name meant “golden haired” but that was almost yawn-worthy (before I realized how rare golden hair actually was in Tolkien’s elves), cos it wasn’t what I was looking for, you know?  No, but I did find some interesting stuff.

The Glorfindel we read about in The Silmarillion was born in Valinor during the Years of the Poo Trees, and made his way to Middle-earth with the rest of the Noldor (but thank goodness, he didn’t take part in the Kinslaying; I don’t think I could have loved him if he had).  He became a captain of Turgon’s armies, and was well-placed as the head of the House of the Golden Flower in Gondolin (I don’t think Eric has talked about the hidden elf city yet, but I’m sure he’ll get there eventually).

Anyway, there were adventures of many sorts, all of the stuff I mostly just skimmed cos it was TOO DENSE AND NOT FUN when I was a kid.  I know, I sucked.  But I’ve made up for it since then, promise.

So, fun times in the hidden city, except when it’s being besieged by Morgoth’s minions and evacuation is necessary.

Being a generally standup sort of dude, Glorfindel stays to help the people attempting to escape, and is part of a group that is set upon by orcs…and a balrog.  A BALROG.

Which doesn’t have wings, damnit.

Many are the songs that have been sung of the duel of Glorfindel with the Balrog upon a pinnacle of rock in that high place [Cirith Thoronath]

Because he’s my boyfriend, so of course his battle has songs sung about it right?  But then I get to the SECOND HALF of the above sentence and see:

and both fell to ruin in the abyss.

Wait, what?

So I read it again.

…and then kept reading, thinking maybe it was all a bad joke of some kind.  You know, like when Fred Savage’s grandpa is reading to him in the movie version of Princess Bride and he’s all “she doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time”?  I wanted someone to be standing there that I could look up to who would be all “Glorfindel does not fall to his death at this time.”

But there wasn’t.

Because the next thing I read was that Thorondor (king of the great eagles, y’know) “bore his body up out of the abyss” and then buried him there on the side of the pass (and yellow flowers grew over his grave, which was totally appropriate given his house, BUT STILL).

Like, what?  This is all just too much for me to process.  Cos this is GLORFINDEL.  He’s IN Lord of the Rings.  HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Was Tolkien punking me?  What in Ilúvatar’s name is GOING ON?

Well, that involves Mandos and the Halls of Awaiting, and I will let Eric talk to you about that tomorrow.

A Few Notes – (By Eric)

  • Yes! Tomorrow we’ll start by looking at how Tolkien decided to (re)use Glorfindel when writing Lord of the Rings. Then the next two days will be devoted to the metaphysics and the great lengths of retconning that it took to make it so.
  • Maybe I’ll get around to that hidden Elf city. Never know. It doesn’t really come up much in LotR. But we’ll see. It’s pretty important.
  • In over a decade of blogging, this is the first time I’ve ever had a guest blogger. Weird. It’s pretty awesome. Thanks!

About the Photo
I thought I wrote something in this. But I guess not. Oh well. SJ picked the photo, ask her!


  • Day 85
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 421
  • 38 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,358 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Book I, Chapter 12. Quickly walking the East Road with Glorfindel. (map)

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18 thoughts on “Wait… What Do You Mean Glorfindel’s DEAD?!

  1. ALSO! I am hosting a group read/re-read of LotR this summer that’ll start on June 23, so if anyone wants to join then they can.

  2. The John Howe painting of the Balrog clambering around the side of the mountain while Glorfindel fights the good fight is one of my favourite images. Glorfindel = EPIC.
    When I read LOTR to my kiddoes (if they don’t just read it themselves), I think I’ll borrow that Princess Bride meme, as necessary. “Gandalf doesn’t remain lost in the chasm of Khazad-dûm at this time…”

  3. Oh, um…I would like to say that I’m totally honoured to have been your first ever guest blogger.

    …and that I hope you’ll manage to fit in some Gondolin talk sometime cos it’s important and awesome.

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