Our passage today takes us from the Fellowship’s resting spot in a dell a couple of miles outside Moria, nearly to their camp for the night much closer to Lothlorien (but not quite there). They had to continue to put some distance between themselves and the Orcs, Trolls and Balrog, and so continued walking after nightfall.
We start with Legolas and Aragorn fawning over Lothorien. Gimli expresses a doubt that any Elves still live there, and Legolas seems oddly unsure himself.
‘It is long since any of my own folk journeyed hither back to the land whence we wandered in ages long ago,’ said Legolas, ‘but we hear that Lorien is not yet deserted, for there is a secret power here that holds evil from the land.”
Since Tolkien was basically making this up as he went, he had no prior conception of the Mirkwood Elves originating in Lothorien. In the First Age, many of the Elves lived in Lindon, which was then along the Blue Mountains. This was east of Beleriand, where most of the Children of Hurin events took place. When the world was drastically changed at the end of the First Age, suddenly the Blue Mountains and Lindon became beach-front property.
At the beginning of the Second Age, those that didn’t say good-bye to Middle-earth and sail to the West started to move eastward. This is when Thranduil came to Greenwood/Mirkwood. Others went to various other places such as Rivendell and Hollin (yeah, I’m compacting stuff).
Just how the Elves came to Lothlorien is sort of hard to decipher, and we’ll delve more into that in a few weeks. Tolkien really didn’t address this in the Lord of the Rings. Long after publication, he would return to it to flesh it all out, changing some stuff as he went.
The Elves of Mirkwood, under Thranduil, were kin and neighbors of the Elves of Lorien. Sometime in the Second Age, Oropher, Thranduil’s father, had left Lothlorien and headed north for Greenwood the Great (later named Mirkwood when things went sour).
“This he did to be free from the power and encroachment of the Dwarves of Moria, which had grown to be the greatest of the mansions of the Dwarves recorded in history….”
Recall that when the Fellowship had left Moria, they used a road that had once been paved, but was now broken. It was paved towards Lothlorien. Apparently Oropher really wasn’t keen on this idea, but that’s not the only reason. He also “resented the intrusions of Celeborn and Galadriel into Lorien.”
According to this version of things, the Silvan/not-yet-Greenwood/Mirkwood Elves were led by Oropher into Lorien, but when the Dwarves became too busy and Galadriel became too Galadriel-esque, he had to split.
When Legolas said that it had been long since any of his people went to Lorien, he didn’t mean that they had no contact with the Elves of Lorien since leaving. There was the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age, and Oropher gathered an army together to fight alongside the Elves from Lorien, which was actually lesser in number than his own.
“The Silvan Elves were hardy and valiant, but ill-equipped with armour or weapons in comparison with the Eldar of the West; also they were independent, and not disposed to place themselves under the command of Gil-galad. Their losses were thus more grievous than they need have been, even in that terrible war.”
The plan was for all of the forces to attack Mordor at the same time, but Oropher, being independent, stepped off early and his men were slaughtered wholesale. Tolkien writes that the Elves from Lorien suffered 50% casualties, mostly from being cut off from their support. Oropher’s men, however, suffered more. He was killed in the charge, and the command dissolved to Thranduil, who survived. When they returned to Greenwood, they did so with only a third of the men they brought with them.
So we can see, that the Silvan Elves didn’t exactly endear themselves to any of the other Elves in Middle-earth. And while the Elves of Lothlorien kept to themselves, Thranduil’s people did the same. So much so, that it was only rumor that held either to still be alive. If you look at a map, Greenwood/Mirkwood and Lothlorien are not that far apart, separated only by the River Anduin and not too many miles. Even Dol Guldor wasn’t really between them. But as we know, Galadriel was aloof and Thranduil was cranky and bitter, so it’s hardly surprising.
Anyway, this is why Legolas didn’t know much about them. Aragorn, however, did, “and sighed as if some memory stirred in him.” Those who have read ahead know why that was.
And then there was Boromir. He had a pretty good point, actually. So far, they had taken some fairly unfamiliar and curious paths, and basically all of them ended badly. Why then would they take another? He had heard of this Lothlorien place, “and it is said that few come out who once go in; and of that few none have escaped unscathed.”
Aragorn got huffy and said that those who entered would not be “unchanged” rather than “unscathed,” though honestly, “unscathed” is probably the better term. Aragorn was biased and though Boromir was only working off of rumors, he was definitely on the right path about this being the wrong path (okay, this is sort of controversial, but we’ll get to that later, too).
But like it or not, Boromir had to face that going through Lorien was really the only way to go. Sure, they could have bypassed it, but Aragorn was known there, though he didn’t let that bit of information slip just yet.
In the end, Aragorn sort of prophesied that though it was “perilous,” it was “fair and perilous; but only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them.”
That’s all cute and poetic, but maybe he forgot about Frodo who was carrying a big ol’ chunk of Evil around his neck. It’ll take awhile, but we’ll see this have some strange ending before it’s all through.
A Few Notes
- Pretty much everything comes quoted about the history of the Greenwood Elves comes from Unfinished Tales. There’s definitely more to this story, especially concerning Galadriel, but we’ll get there when we get there.
- I swear, half this post is me telling you what I’ll write about later.
- According to the mileage that I’m using, the Fellowship meets the Elves from Lothorien at Mile 398. We stop this post at Mile 395.
- In the next post (Monday), we’ll talk about Nimrodel! I had no idea she was so awesome. And then, next week, we’ll delve into the history of the Balrogs! I’m so excited!
About the Photo
The Fellowship was walking along the Silverload, and I imagine it too look sort of like this, especially with the trees on their side of the river. This is actually the Green River in Utah. I think. It’s really hard to remember.
- Day 172
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 849 (395 from Rivendell)
- 42 miles to Lothlórien
- 930 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s place in the narrative begins with: When they had eaten… and ends with …Follow me! Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien. Along the Silverload, nearly to the woods of Lothlorien. January 15, 3019 TA. (map)