Galadriel Works her Whammy on the Fellowship

When the Fellowship entered Lothlórien, they were ushered into Celeborn and Galadriel’s chamber. While Celeborn spoke to them, Galadriel said nothing, “but looked long upon his [Frodo’s] face.” When all eight of them had been sat before the Lord and Lady, Celeborn questioned why there weren’t nine. He figured that maybe Elrond had changed his mind and the messengers never made it to Lothlórien. But Galadriel understood that Elrond had nothing to do with this.

‘Nay, there was no change of counsel,’ said the Lady Galadriel, … ‘Gandalf the Grey set out with the Company, but he did not pass the borders of this land. Now tell us where he is; for I much desired to speak with him again. But I cannot see him from afar, unless he comes within the fences of Lothlórien: a grey mist is about him, and the ways of his feet and of his mind are hidden from me.’

This was the first time we have any idea of Galadriel’s clairvoyance. Somehow she knew that Gandalf had set out with them. As soon as the Fellowship entered Lórien, she was probably aware that something was amiss or missing. It wasn’t until the Fellowship appeared before her that she could read their thoughts and tell that there wasn’t a change of counsel – Gandalf was simply not there. Currently, he was still battling the Balrog.

When she said that she could not see him from afar, exactly what she meant is a bit confusing and can be interpreted in one of two ways. It’s possible that she could usually see him from afar, but couldn’t now because of some external force (the grey mist), probably Sauron. This would go towards explaining how she knew he was originally with the Fellowship. Her sight could now only reach to the fences of Lothlórien.

However, it’s also possible that she meant that her sight only ever reached to those boundaries, and only when Gandalf didn’t show up within them, could she tell that he was missing. This would assume that she was expecting him, which is a pretty fair assumption. The grey mist, in this case, would then be everything outside of the fences of Lothlórien.

I guess It’s also possible that since Gandalf was in a battle with the Balrog under Moria, the inherent evil of the Balrog somehow cast a grey mist blocking her sight. But whatever it was, Galadriel couldn’t see Gandalf and was worried.

At this point, Galadriel stops speaking and Celeborn asks the Fellowship what happened to Gandalf and of their story so far. She speaks up only to chastise Celeborn for implying that “at the last Gandalf fell from wisdom into folly.” She also chastises him for being a dick to Gimli.

Galadriel knew about Frodo’s quest and that he was the Ring-bearer, and that in itself is a bit strange. It’s hard to believe that Elrond would send messengers to Lothlórien with the specifics. They would have news of a group of travels, yes, but not the specific quest. Somehow or another, Galadriel knew, though when she knew it was never said. It’s possible that she heard from Elrond’s messengers and deduced it, and it’s also likely that she read Frodo’s mind – she was looking at him intently when he entered.

But prior to the Fellowship’s arrival, they entered the ‘fences of Lothlórien’. Once inside, Galadriel could see each of them. By the time they got to Cerin Amroth, she had sent messengers telling Haldir to remove their blindfolds. “It seems that the Lady know who and what is each member of your company.” Haldir assumes it’s new messengers, but more than likely, it was Galadriel’s sight. That Haldir didn’t first assume that must mean that it’s not something she flaunted. Maybe she really never needed to use it, being all closed off from everything.

Here, Galadriel informs the Fellowship that she wouldn’t tell them what to do. Instead, she told them that she could see into the past, present and part of the future.

‘And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them in turn. None save Legolas and Aragorn could long endure her glance. Sam quickly blushed and hung his head.’

The gaze she held them in seems similar to how she looked upon Frodo when they first entered. When she was finally finished, they all “felt suddenly weary, as those who have been questioned long and deeply, though no words had been spoken openly.” This was clearly more intense than her prior interaction with Frodo.

Only after the Fellowship left her chamber did they swap notes on whatever the hell just happened to them. The most innocent and open spoke first. Pippin made fun of Sam for blushing, suggesting that he had a guilty conscious. But Sam was “in no mood for jest.”

‘If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn’t got nothing on, and I didn’t like it. She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance to flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with – with a bit of garden of my own.’

Sam was rattled. He didn’t appreciate Galadriel entering his mind, and thought it was an invasion. Merry concurred, and seemed too traumatized to speak of it. Curiously Pippin didn’t share anything with them, and since he poked fun at Sam, maybe he was only gently probed by Galadriel (or maybe Merry took the invasion for both of them).

Gimli also admitted that when Galadriel had entered his mind, also offering a choice, that she told him that nobody would even know if he left the Fellowship. This was either a blatant lie, or she was coyly offering to mind-wipe every other member of the party like she was some kind of Sindarin Man in Black.

At first, Boromir seemed to be giving her the benefit of the doubt. “Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read out thoughts for her own good purpose….” But that’s quickly tossed aside, when he fairly passively suggests that “she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give.”

Whether Galadriel had the power to actually give what she offered to the hobbits and Gimli is impossible to say. But Boromir seemed incredibly certain that she could not give him what he wanted. But would this exchange ultimately be healthy for the supposedly valiant Boromir?

During the Council of Elrond, Boromir suggested that they use the One Ring to battle Sauron. This was something that would flower later, but at this point it seems that there’s a touch of germination going on. He wouldn’t say what Galadriel had offered him, but whatever it was, he refused to listen because otherwise, he would be betraying his word (apparently to stay true to the Fellowship, though I don’t remember him swearing to anything specific).

Boromir was, like Merry, rattled, but asked Frodo what she had done to his [Frodo’s] mind. Frodo, however, was keeping that close to his breast. Boromir understood and told him: “I do not feel too sure of this Elvish Lady and her purposes.” Aragorn snapped at him: “Speak no evil of the Lady Galadriel!”

However, Boromir wasn’t speaking evil about Galadriel in any sense. Rumor of her had gotten to Gondor, and he was uneasy about Lothlórien in general prior to their arrival. All he was doing was expressing his understandable hesitation to trust a stranger who just probed the innards of his brain, lying to him while doing so.

Camera: Pentax K-1000 Film: Eastman Plus-X (x-2004)

Camera: Pentax K-1000
Film: Eastman Plus-X (x-2004)

A Few Notes

  • It can probably be assumed that Aragorn had been subjected to Galadriel’s gaze before – maybe when he was trying to court Arwen. I can’t imagine having such a grandmother-in-law. Damn.
  • Saying that the Fellowship was in and then left Galadriel’s chamber sounds all hot and saucy, but “chamber” is the word used by Tolkien, so…
  • Still wanna see some Elvish magic, Sam? (Yes, apparently he does…)
  • I’m obviously going to go into a lot of detail concerning the morality of Galadriel’s little gift. Give me time, we’ll get there.

About the Photo
The mind can be all tangled, just like the roots of a tree. Galadriel could actually enter these tangles and make some sense of them. But could she also do a bit of trimming? Maybe we’ll find out. This is the underside of the tree pictured here.

  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 934 (20 from Lothlórien)
  • 839 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Leaving Lothlórien, February 16, 3019 TA. (map)


How to Make Lembas, and Other Gifts Both Useful and Pointless

For those who follow the blog regularly, you’ll notice that this post seems to jump ahead in time. It was just the last post when we entered Lothlórien proper! Why are we leaving so soon? What about all the wonderful Galadriel stuff?! Good question, and all that will come. But first, to keep with the narrative, let’s look at how all of the Lothlorien happenings ended.

The Fellowship had spent nearly a month in Lórien, but now it was time to leave. Celeborn weirdly allowed any who wished to stay behind to do so. But there was a catch – they would be drafted into his army for the obviously-coming war. This is a strange notion, since there was no talk of war among the Elves when the Fellowship arrived. Over the month, things had changed and gotten far worse.

There was some question about which way to go. They knew that they’d have to go down the Anduin, but would it be down the east bank or the west bank? Boromir wanted to go to Minas Tireth, and Aragorn was pretty keen on that idea, too. Since it was on the east bank, they seemed to be leaning in that direction. But Frodo’s quest – the whole point of all of this – was to go to Mordor. And for that, they’d have to go on the west bank. There were no bridges or fords until they reached nearly to Minas Tireth.

Celeborn gave them boats, and thankfully the question of which bank to use could be put off for at least 400 miles (you know, so they thought).

The morning they were to leave was February 16th (they had arrived in Lórien on January 17th). They were given lembas, or waybread (not wheybread, mind you). This, according to Tolkien, served as a “device for making credible the long marches with little provision.” This just makes sense. With only a nibble of lembas, even a Dwarf could romp about all day long without the pangs of hunger. Later in the book, it will take on a bit more significance. “It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.”

Oh hell, so let’s just get into it. In an essay written between 1951 and 1959, Tolkien went on and on about lembas. Here are some choice cuts:

“This food the Eldar alone knew how to make. It was made for the comfort of those who had need to go upon a long journey in the wild, or of the hurt whose life was in peril. Only these were permitted to use it. The Eldar did not give it to Men, save only to a few whom they loved, if they were in great need.”

He also gave the history of lembas. The Elves first got it from the Valar during the Great Journey to Valinor. It was made from “a kind of corn which Yavanna brought forth in the fields of Aman, and some she sent to them by the hand of Oromë for their succour upon the long march.”

This was, as you can imagine, no ordinary corn. It had in it “the strong life of Aman, which it could impart to those who had the need and right to use the bread.” So it seems as if the bread was conditionally “magical.”

But this magical corn bread wasn’t exactly easy to grow, though it could be done on Middle-earth. And though it would grow in any season but winter, and didn’t need much sunlight, it couldn’t survive in the shadow of other plants, and it “would not endure winds that came out of the North while Morgoth dwelt there.”

“The Eldar grew it in guarded lands and sunlit glades; and they gathered its great golden ears, each one, by hand, and set no blade of metal to it.” The Elves would then weave the stalks into baskets. The straw made from it was impervious to worms, insects, rot and mold.

Just how to make lembas was a secret known only to elven-women. If mortals were given this bread too often, “they become weary of their mortality, desiring to abide among the Elves, and longing for the fields of Aman, to which they cannot come.”

So giving the Fellowship, especially a Dwarf, waybread was a pretty big deal. Each were also given cloaks, which had been woven by Galadriel and her maidens. This was the first time that the Elves of Lórien had ever given strangers such cloaks.

After a walk of ten miles, they came to their boats on the Anduin River. Sam was beside himself with delight when he discovered rope. “I came without any, and I’ve been worried ever since.” As it turned out, Sam missed a golden opportunity to learn how to make Elvish rope – if only he had spoken up about his love of rope before hand!

After a bit of paddling practice, Celeborn offered some advice (such as the heeding of old wives tales), and Galadriel Claus handed out some gifts.

Aragorn received a sheath for this sword and the Elftone of the House of Elendil! If you remember, Aragorn’s grandmother had predicted that he would wear a green stone – and now he had one!

Boromir got a belt because everyone was tired of seeing him show his arse. Merry and Pippin also got belts, though probably not for the same reasoning. Legolas got a bow, which was better than those nasty and stupid Mirkwood bows.

Sam got an ominous box with a silver “G” stamped on the lid. G was for Galadriel, but also Garden. It was soil from her orchard and would do nothing at all to help his journey, but everything once it was time again to rebuild.

Gimli wasn’t going to get anything at first, but asked for a single strand of Galadriel’s hair. He got three, and a kick ass prediction. She said that she no longer foretold the future, but that if they won then “your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion.”

Frodo’s gift will take up another post in and of itself. She took some water from her Mirror, caught the light from Eärendil’s star (Venus) within it, and put it in a bottle. “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out. Remember Galadriel and her Mirror!”

And then, after a song or two, the Fellowship was off! It was 400 or so miles to Minas Tireth, and certainly nothing would go wrong before that, right?

Quick note about stuff:
In this project, I try to cling to the narrative as much as possible. It was started as a year-long exercising program to elliptical the distance from Hobbiton to Mt. Doom. Due to an injury, I had to take a long pause and now the once-daily sessions have lessened to three days a week.

So then, for example, when I had gone 468 miles, I wrote about the Fellowship’s trod along the Bruinen, which happened (approximately) 468 miles into Frodo’s journey. Now, however, I’m 924 miles in – the mile marker (more or less) when Frodo and company left Lothlórien.

Camera: Arguc C3 Film: ORWO UN54

Camera: Arguc C3
Film: ORWO UN54

A Few Notes

  • The ‘Of Lembas’ essay appears in The Peoples of Middle-earth. Because of the broad dates (1951-59) given, it’s not possible to tell whether this was originally to be included in the Appendices or whether it was just some bit of extra writing.
  • Seriously, if you love rope (and I know you do), it’s a good policy to mention it as often as possible. You never know when someone might pipe up and say, “well hey, I’ve got some hithlain, let me show you how to make a pretty bitchin rope!”
  • That the name for the marshy lands south of the cataracts of Rauros was called “the Wetwang” is just ridiculous. Cut it out.
  • Galadriel’s gift to Sam is – by far – the most awesome gift ever. See? I don’t always hate on Galadriel! I think I’ll talk more about this sometime soonishly, maybe.
  • Ever notice that right before making a prediction, Galadriel says she doesn’t make predictions anymore? You can almost hear Boromir’s eyes rolling.
  • Next time, we’ll start digging around Lothlórien to see what we can find.

About the Photo
I don’t really have many photos of boat launches, but it’s what I wanted to use here. It should probably be all green and beautiful, but it’s gray, like the journey ahead. Dun dun duunnnnnnn…

  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 924 (10 from Lothlórien)
  • 849 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Leaving Lothlórien, February 16, 3019 TA. (map)

Looking Quickly at Galadriel, and Even Enduring Her Glance

The way this project is set up – that I’m writing as Frodo is traveling – a giant problem arises when the walking stops. But as I did with Rivendell and Moria, I’ll keep track of the Fellowship’s progress while covering the stuff I “missed.” In this case, it’s basically the entire Mirror of Galadriel chapter (and a bit of the next).

I thought about doing a basic overview of the chapter, but I’ve got a feeling that most readers are at least familiar with it. So instead, I decided to read it twice in full and take notes. Eight pages later, I discovered that I have a lot to talk about.

Though I’ll be covering everything I can about Galadriel and Lothlorien, I’d really like to focus on a few specific areas.

For one, I’d like to delve into the idea that Lothlorien is a facade. That’s not to say that it’s got some Twin Peaks ugliness just under the surface, but rather that it’s a fabricated reality. Maybe it’s more like the Truman Show with Galadriel as the producer and the rest of the Elves in varying degrees of Truman. Basically, there is no stain upon Lorien because that’s the way Galadriel intended it to be.

I’d also like to dig into the ever-changing histories of Galadriel and Celeborn. We are given a bit in the story, and a bit more in the Appendices, and that’s added upon by the Silmarillion (complete with contradictions and changes). Further, we learn and forget even more in the writings of Unfinished Tales. Tolkien wrote about Galadriel until the year of his death, working and reworking her past. Sometimes she was implicated in some horrible things, other times, she was fully innocent. We’ll consider it all.

Galadriel had the power to not only to see into peoples’ minds, but to place images and thoughts in their heads. She could accomplish this with or without her Mirror. She is the only ally in Middle-earth who does this so explicitly, though she’s definitely not the only one who could.

And what of the visions she shows to Frodo and Sam? Her reasoning could certainly be questioned, but also her right to do that is suspect. I really want to search this out. Just who did she think she was? The line between testing the Fellowship and tempting them is as thin as the edge of a knife – just what was she doing?

Before arriving at Lothlorien, Boromir had ideas about how to use the Ring, but once there, Galadriel tempted him with it. Was this actually temptation or did Boromir’s mind pervert her intention? And even if Galadriel’s intentions were good, does that excuse her from potentially tipping Boromir over the edge so that he could do what he did at Rauros? If she was to blame for this, is it possible that it was even for the better? Might it have ended even worse if she had not entered Boromir’s mind on the first night they met?

Her own temptation for the Ring is subtle, but it’s not just addressed at the Mirror. There are some good indications that Frodo was in danger the moment he came before Galadriel.

Part of her history involves her desire to rule over a land of her own – something she achieved by literally singing into existence Lothlorien (as it became after she arrived). In this, she was inspired by Melian, a Maia. But she was not a Maia, and was herself walking on that knife’s edge.

There was a reason Galadriel was exiled from Valinor – she had rebelled against the Valar and went to Middle-earth with her people, the Noldor. There was the kinslaying, and while Galadriel did not personally take part in it, she was there. Later, she even lied (through obvious omission) to Melian about it.

I’ll also be taking a look at things like Galadriel’s Ring, which only Frodo could see. Also, both of Galadriel’s songs will be dissected as they’re really telling (especially the first one). I’d like to compare and contrast Lorien and Rivendell, Galadriel and Elrond.

The Fellowship spent nearly a month in Lothlorien. Apart from a couple of days and a small montage, not much is said of their stay. Still, I’d like to think about what it was like, and why they only saw Galadriel and Celeborn at the very beginning and end.

It may seem like I’m trying to build some kind of court case against Galadriel. I’m really not. She’s a fascinating and complex character that Tolkien could never figure out. I have no aspirations that I somehow can. But that’s no reason not to try to sort out her motives and thoughts.

And also, I want to focus upon the good she had done – there’s quite a lot of it. She founded the White Council, afterall. That’s no small thing.

That Tolkien could never sort out Galadriel’s history or intent (while being mostly shackled to the story he laid down in Lord of the Rings) is incredibly fascinating. Why was it so important to him that she be validated and made pure.

Aragorn had said that there was no evil in Galadriel nor in Lothlorien, but that’s not quite true. At least, it’s not as simple as he’d like to believe. Galadriel certainly wasn’t evil, but she wasn’t just some stainless shining light of a character. She had a past, had a lust to rule, and used her ability to read and alter minds for no clear purpose.

I may not get to the bottom of Galadriel, but I will certainly swim in her mirror until the last drop is explored.

 Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914) Film: Kodak Verichrome Pan (expired 1959)

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914)
Film: Kodak Verichrome Pan (expired 1959)

A Few Notes

  • I guess I should establish what is and isn’t canon for these posts. Lord of the Rings is obviously canon, as is the Silmarillion. The later stories in Unfinished Tales will not be considered canonical, but will be considered – as will Tolkien’s letters.
  • Tolkien’s last thoughts about Galadriel are not the ones laid down in the Silmarillion. This brings into question just how it can be considered part of the canon while Unfinished Tales can’t be. Basically, I’ve got to draw a line somewhere, and this is where most people draw it.
  • I did go into a bit of this here, though not nearly enough – it was just skimming the surface. I’ll have thirty or so posts to dig deeper. I am ridiculously excited for this. Honestly, it’s one of the main reasons I started this project in the first place. I more than welcome your ideas and discussion. Let’s go!
  • Curiously enough, we’ll pick up next time with the Fellowship, who will be just leaving Lothlorien. I want to talk about their departure, the gifts, etc first. Let’s hear their impressions of Galadriel before going back to talk about their stay.

About the Photo
This is an accidental double exposure taking with a 100 year old camera using film that expired over 50 years ago. I think it’s a good representation of a quick look at Galadriel – there’s really no such thing.

  • Day 185
  • Miles today: 7
  • Miles thus far: 914 (462 from Rivendell)
  • 859 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 7, The Mirror of Galadriel. Entering Lothlorien. January 17, 3019 TA. (map)

When Arwen Renounced the Twilight and Aragorn Addressed the Oliphant in the Room

For Frodo, as we saw yesterday, Cerin Amroth, the hill just outside of Lothlorien proper, was an incredibly magical place. For everyone in the Fellowship, it seemed like a fine spot for a rest.

But Aragorn was different. When Frodo saw him, he was “standing still and silent as a tree; but in his hand was a small golden bloom of elanor, and a light was in his eyes. He was wrapped in some fair memory: and as Frodo looked at him he knew that he beheld things as they once had been in this same place.”

Arwen vanimelda, namárië! – Fair Arwen, farewell!

This hill, Cerin Amroth, was more than dear to Aragorn. Thirty-eight years prior, it was here that he vowed to marry Arwen Undómiel.

The Aragorn and Arwen story is told in the fifth part of Appendix A, and is surprisingly long and detailed. To break it down, here’s a quick time line (nothing tells the story of true love and sacrifice like a time line!):

241 (Third Age) – Arwen is born to Elrond and Celebrían in Rivendell. She is the youngest of three children. Most of her early life is unknown, but she went between Rivendell and Lothlorien regularly, staying with her maternal grandparents, Galadriel and Celeborn. This was a close family, and from Galadriel, Celebrían inherited the Elessar, the Elfstone, a beautiful green gem said to have the sun’s light within it. Celebrían later gave it to Arwen.

2929 – Aragorn’s parents, Arathorn and Gilraen, are wed. The marriage was opposed by Gilraen’s parents, because they thought that she was too young. Arathorn was 56, and Gilraen only 22. This April-September romance was lovely, but the big fear was that Arathorn would be made Chieftain of the Dúnedain before too long. This was a strange worry, since Arathorn’s father was 110 years old, and the Dúnedain often lived well past 150. But still…

2930 – Arathorn’s father is taken by hill-trolls and killed. This made Arathorn the Chieftain of the Dúnedain long before anyone (except Gilraen’s parents) suspected it would happen.

2931 – Aragorn is born! By birth, being in the line descending from Isildor, he would someday be head of the Dúnedain, like his father and grandfather, etc. Curiously, Aragorn’s grandmother predicted that Aragorn would someday wear a green stone upon his breast.

2933 – Aragorn’s father was fighting against Orcs with the sons of Elrond (Arwen’s twin brothers). He took an arrow in the eye and died, leaving the two year old Aragorn Chieftain of the Dúnedain. To Gilraen, a 26 year old widow and now single mother, this was too much. To protect her son, she took him to live in Rivendell and to be raised by Elrond, who changed Aragorn’s name to Estel, which meant “Hope”. His true identity was hidden from him.

For the next fifteen or so years, Aragorn hung out in Rivendell until he was old enough to accompany Elrond’s sons on adventures, when he leaves. It’s also during this time that Arwen was at Lothlorien. And keep in mind that in 2941 all the stuff in The Hobbit took place. It’s likely then, that Aragorn was in Rivendell when Bilbo and the Dwarves visited. He would have been ten years old.

2951 – The twenty year old Aragorn returns to Rivendell and Elrond tells him of his lineage. He gives him the ring of Barahir, which had been given to Barahir (Beren’s father) by Finrod in the First Age. It had somehow survived a trip to Numenor (even its downfall) and was passed down by Elendil and his heirs and through some twists and turns, it wound up in Rivendell sometime after 1979 of the Third Age. There it joined the shards of Narsil (Isildur’s broken sword), the star of Elendil, and the sceptre of Annuminas. Elrond also gave Aragorn the shards of Narsil, but wouldn’t give him the sceptre until he was king (as in the Return of the King).

But this year was also important for another reason. The day after receiving the Ring of Barahir, Aragorn met Arwen, whom nobody in Rivendell bothered to mention. She had returned from Lothlorien and Aragorn, being all poetic, thought her to be Lúthien Tinúviel, of Beren and Lúthien fame. He immediately fell in love, even though she was 2,690 years older.

When Elrond caught wind of this, he was not at all pleased – not only because of the normal father-daughter hang ups, but for two other reasons. First, she was halfelven, which meant that she could choose to be immortal and travel to the West, but if she married a mortal, she would become a mortal. Also, Elrond knew Aragorn’s true purpose, and a wife would only get in the way of that. I went into more detail about this here.

The very next day, Aragorn left Rivendell and wouldn’t return for nearly thirty years.

2980 – While returning to Rivendell, Aragorn made a stopover in Lothlorien. Galadriel gave him a fine set of silver and white clothes, a nice grey cloak and a gem to wear on his brow. It was in these new digs that Arwen saw him. She was smitten and spent months walking around Lothlorien together.

In the misleadingly-named Midsummer (which was actually the first day of Summer – Mid-year’s day), it was time for Aragorn to leave. They “went to the fair hill, Cerin Amroth, in the midst of the land, and they walked unshod on the undying grass with elanor and niphredil about their feet. And there upon that hill they looked east to the Shadow of and west to the Twilight, and they plighted their troth and were glad.”

While they were on the hill, Arwen (who still called him Estel – adorable) foresaw that he would “be among the great who would destroy” the Shadow. But Aragorn couldn’t see it. He, of course, said that he wasn’t with the Shadow, but he also really had to address the huge Oliphaunt in the room.

“I am mortal, and if you will cleave to me, Evenstar, then Twilight you must also renounce.”

By renouncing the Twilight, she made her decision to become mortal and to die like mortals die. On Cerin Amroth, she gave up unending life to be with Aragorn.

It’s no wonder, in the year 3019, when Aragorn returned to the hill again that he was “still and silent as a tree”, holding elanor and thinking of that Midsummer day. Over the 39 years since he had last been there, he had grown older – he was now 88 years old. But when Frodo saw him, “the grim years were removed from the face of Aragorn, and he seemed clothed in white, a young lord tall and fair; and he spoke words in the Elvish tongue to one whom Frodo could not see. Arwen vanimelda, namárië! he said, and then he drew a breath, and returning out of his thought he looked at Frodo and smiled.”

Camera: Pentax K-1000 Film: Eastman Plus-X (x-2004)

Camera: Pentax K-1000
Film: Eastman Plus-X (x-2004)

A Few Notes

  • Tolkien never figured out the history of the Elfstone, coming up with two ideas, which we’ll get into some other time.
  • If my grandmother could see the future, and all she predicted was that someday I’d wear a green stone, I’d be pretty pissed. Sure, it all worked out, but until it did, I’d seriously question her usefulness as a seer.
  • Carried off by hill-trolls!? Shot in the eye by an Orc arrow!? Tolkien, as we’ve seen, loved weird deaths. Me too.
  • Nobody – absolutely nobody – even mentioned to Aragorn that Elrond had a daughter? For all he knew, Elrond had two sons and that was it. Messed up? Sure is!

About the Photo
For Elves, the West – the Twilight – was across the Sea. And it was this that Arwen was renouncing. I took this at Ruby Beach, along the Washington coast a few weeks ago.

  • Day 184
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 907 (455 from Rivendell)
  • 7 miles to Lothlórien proper
  • 866 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien. Entering Lothlorien. January 17, 3019 TA. (map)

Behold! You Are Come to Cerin Amroth! (And Look! There’s Dol Guldur!)

Even before having his blindfold removed, Frodo was enamored by Lothlorien. But once he could see, so much of it came flooding over him. This was done by direct order from Galadriel herself. Even Gimli the Dwarf was to have his blindfold removed. She knew all about the Fellowship and knew its purpose.

Elves can often be dicks. We see example upon example of this. Even Haldir, when threatening to kill Gimli, was dickish (to say the least). But now all was different and Haldir even apologized to Gimli, who was the first to have his blindfold removed. Of course, that’s a bit diminished by Haldir basically saying “Check out the most awesome place in the world! You are so lucky to see it!” Lothlorien’s Elves were out of touch, especially with Dwarvendom.

When Frodo’s blindfold was removed, he looked around and likened it to “Springtime in the Elder Days.” Just what he knew about the Elder Days is pretty unclear. Bilbo, more than any Hobbit, would be the person to talk to about such thing, and it’s likely he related much of what he knew to Frodo.

Or maybe it was a feeling put well into words. It’s not really all that different from Sam’s rough (but brilliant) estimation: “I thought Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more Elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel as if I was inside a song, if you take my meaning.”

Frodo felt the same, like “he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world.” And in truth, he did. Haldir explained that Lothlorien, and specifically Cerin Amroth, where they stopped, “is the heart of the ancient realm as it was long ago.”

Haldir isn’t speaking metaphorically. He’s not saying that Lothlorien or Cerin Amroth is just like Doriath (which Galadriel certainly wanted). He’s talking history. Cerin Amroth literally mean’s Amroth’s Hill. Amroth was the one who chased after Nimrodel (I wrote about it here). Amroth was Sindarin, while Nimrodel was Sylvan. Because of his love for her, “he lived after the manner of the Silvan Elves and housed in the tall trees of a great green mound, ever after call Cerin Amroth.” That was the heart of Lothlorien in the Second Age.

At this point in his writing, Tolkien hadn’t worked out the exact details, and would later change them anyway.

For some reason we’re not told, Haldir wanted the Fellowship to rest here for a few hours so that they’d “come to the city of the Galadhrim at dusk.” There’s no real reason for him to do this. Maybe Galadriel had to tidy up the place before guests arrived and Haldir was just buying her some time. No idea, though maybe it was for show. As we’ll see later, coming into the city at dusk was quite a sight.

To Frodo’s eyes, everything seemed new and ancient all at once. This seemed to effect him more than any of the others, though Sam was definitely a close second. Even though the colors he saw were nothing new, it was as if he had never seen anything like them before. It seemed as if the world was being recreated just for his viewing. This was, as Haldir explained, “the power of the Lady of the Galadhrim.”

As Haldir led Frodo up the hill, the hobbit “felt that he was in a timeless land that did not fade or change or fall into forgetfulness.” Powerful stuff, to be sure, but an illusion. The hill upon which they stood was drastically changed from the previous age when Amroth built his house in the trees. His house was long gone, a flet (basically a platform) in its place.

It had changed even more a bit before then, when the Silvan Elves, led by Oropher, Thranduil’s father, abandoned the place for Greenwood the Great (Mirkwood) due to no longer wanting to deal with the Dwarves of Moria, and “the intrusions of Celeborn and Galadriel”.

As Frodo climbed up the ladder to the flet, his senses were keenly aware. He experienced this a bit when he was blindfolded, which could have been chalked up to having to rely more only upon his other senses. But now, even with sight, he was hyper-aware of everything – not just of the texture of the tree, but “of the life within it.”

“He felt a delight in wood and the touch of it, neither as forester nor as carpenter; it was the delight of the living tree itself.”

This is such a wonderful and important line, and reminds me of the Green Elves’ reaction to first seeing Men.

“Now the Green-elves of Ossiriand were troubled by the coming of Men, and when they heard that a lord of the Eldar from over the Sea was among them they sent messengers to Felagund. ‘Lord,’ they said, ‘if you have power over these newcomers, bid them return by the ways that they came, or else to go forward. For we desire no strangers in this land to break the peace in which we live. And these folks are hewers of trees and hunters of beasts; therefore we are their unfriends, and if they will not depart we shall afflict them in all ways that we can.'”
-Silmarillion, Chapter 17, Of the Coming of Men into the West.

I seem to remember printing a shirt about this….

The Green-elves (known as the Laiquendi in the Quendi tongue) were mostly an extinct clan of the Nandor, a race which also included the Silvan Elves. As part of the Teleri, they started out for the West, but didn’t make it all the way.

The Green-elves did not cross west of the Misty Mountains, but settled in the Vales of the Anduin – around the Gladden Fields. (Here’s a map!) They would later meld their number with other Elves, though mostly with the Silvan in Lothlorien. It’s wonderful to see the spirit of the Green-elves still alive and represented within Frodo.

When Frodo looked around from atop the tree, he first saw all of Lothlorien, including the Anduin. But when he looked beyond, it was as if he was no longer under the spell of Galadriel, “and he was back again in the world he knew.”

What he saw beyond the river was “flat and empty, formless and vague. “The sun that lay on Lothlorien had no power to enlighten the shadow of that distant height.” The “sun” in this case was actually Galadriel’s power, and the “distant height” was Dol Guldur in Southern Mirkwood, “where long the hidden enemy had his dwelling.”

Dol Guldur had once been a typical bald hill named Amon Lanc (meaning “Naked Hill”). It was Oropher’s city that he established after leaving Lothlorien. Oropher died at the end of the Second Age, and sometime after that, Sauron moved in, turning Greenwood into Mirkwood. Because of this, Thranduil moved his Elves to Northern Mirkwood.

“We fear that now it is inhabited again, and with power sevenfold. A black cloud lies often over it of late.”

As a testament to just how much Sauron had recently grown, the sevenfold power was actually Khamul, the second-most powerful Nazgul, who was now based out of the fortress. Sauron, obviously much more powerful than any Nazgul, was in Mordor, though it doesn’t seem as if Haldir knew even that much.

And so there you have it – a bit of a wander with Frodo up Cerin Amroth. What do you think?

 Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914) Film: Kodak Verichrome (expired in 1964)

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914)
Film: Kodak Verichrome (expired in 1964)

A Few Notes

  • Tolkien played with the history of all of this throughout his post-LotR writings. I tried my best to stay true to the Silmarillion, but in other places, I picked and chose stuff from Unfinished Tales.
  • Sam. Am I right? Sam!
  • The more I read about Haldir and the general misconceptions of the Elves of Lothlorien, the more I’m convinced that Galadriel was keeping so much from her people. Why?

About the Photo
“In the midst of a stony height stands Dol Guldur, where long the hidden Enemy had his dwelling.” Actually, this is “the Castle” at Capital Reef National Park. The photo was taking using a 100 year old camera and 50 year old film. Ha-cha!

  • Day 183
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 902 (450 from Rivendell)
  • 12 miles to Lothlórien proper
  • 871 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien. Entering Lothlorien. January 17, 3019 TA. (map)

The Stain Upon Lothlorien

Lothlorien, by all accounts, was a really swell place. We’re told that “On the land of Lorien there was no stain.” Of course, that was written from Frodo’s point of view just after his blindfold was removed, and indeed it seemed to be true.

But just before that, Haldir said quite a lot about Lorien’s recent changes. It might have been the heart of Elvendom and a ridiculously beautiful place, but all of that was in decline.

For instance, Haldir’s reasoning for the blindfolds was simply that Lorien couldn’t afford to trust anyone not from Lorien (and maybe Rivendell). They blamed it upon the power of the Dark Lord, and also upon the “lack of faith and trust in the world beyond Lothlorien,” but it’s not exactly like these Elves were making a huge effort to find friends outside of their realm.

Haldir’s people were feeling isolated and threatened. The rivers on two sides were no longer a practical defense, and Orcs were clearly moving into the Misty Mountains to the west. Rumor was also playing hell with them. They had heard that Rohan, to the southwest, was no longer friendly.

Even if they wanted to give up on Middle-earth, the mouth of the Anduin was also rumored to be watched, and the Grey Havens were little more than legend, though Haldir suspected that Galdriel and Celeborn knew where they were.

There was also a bit of a divide in Lorien. Some were optimistic, insisting that “the Shadow will draw back, and peace shall come again.” They apparently held that there would come another Elder Days sort of wonderfulness. But Haldir, a bit more realistic, didn’t buy it. Those days were over.

“For the Elves, I fear, it will prove at best a truce, in which they may pass to the Sea unhindered and leave the Middle-earth for ever.”

And by “truce,” Haldir undoubtedly meant the defeat of Sauron, since an actual truce was pretty well out of the question by this time.

All of this seemed pretty bleak. Elves had been diminishing in number since the Second Age, but it seemed like there was about to be a grand exodus sometime soon. Still through all of this, Frodo, even blindfolded, felt “That he had steeped over a bridge of time into a corner of the Elder Days, and was now walking in a world that was no more.”

He had a bit of this feeling in Rivendell. Elrond’s house was a great place to rest. It was a “cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.” But even as he tramped along unable to see, Frodo could tell that Lothlorien was something more.

Frodo saw Rivendell as having “a memory of ancient things.” It was like a really fine museum – complete with Second Age history and a broken sword. There was still planning and intrigue in Rivendell. Elrond was in command in a very realistic sort of way, sending scouts, devising strategy, and actively searching for a way to defeat Sauron.

Lothlorien was turning out to be something much different. It was out of time. The future didn’t seem to be an issue no matter how bleak the present appeared. Though Haldir wasn’t so optimistic, clearly many were, thinking all this Shadow stuff would just blow over – after all, hadn’t it before?

During the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age, the Elves of Lorien sent a column of troops into battle. But that was before Galadriel and Celeborn took over. Once they were in power, about 1,000 years before our story takes place, little was done by the denizens of Lothlorien when it came to helping others in Middle-earth against Sauron.

When armies of Orcs and other various enemies were storming across Eriador, Gondor and Rohan, the Elves of Lothlorien did nothing. Distance could be an excuse for some of that, but it falls flat when the Orcs took over Moria, not twenty miles away from their borders. Even when the Dwarves were defeated, they did nothing, even though the Orcs were a common enemy. They strongly suspected that there was a Balrog in Moria and did absolutely nothing about it, not even bothering to post a “Beware of Balrog” sign at the gate.

This was because they didn’t have to do anything to ensure their survival. Galadriel had that covered in a very Girdle of Melian sort of way. And, as true isolationists, if they were safe, the rest of Middle-earth could crumble around them for all they cared.

So it’s easy to understand why some of the Elves of Lothlorien were optimistic. This could all blow over because that’s what stuff did. Galadriel, as we’ll see, knew it would not, and had known it would not since joining the White Council around 500 years prior. If she had tried to convince her people that things were bad, she failed miserably (though it really doesn’t seem like she tried).

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh on Galadriel. After all, she was the one who started the White Council and tried to get Gandalf to be its leader. She had done quite a bit of good. But she also allowed her people to become closed off xenophobes.

If there was a stain upon Lothlorien, that was it.

Camera: Pentax K-1000 Film: ORWO NP 55

Camera: Pentax K-1000
Film: ORWO NP 55

A Few Notes

  • I didn’t think I’d take on Galadriel so soon. I have some very big issues with her behavior in the coming chapter. Lots of readers love her – I’m not one of them.
  • But before we get to her, we still have a few miles to go. The blindfolds will soon be off and there’s some amazing writing that I want to delve into.
  • Also, Aragorn’s pittery pattery little heart.
  • Oh, and I’m going to be posting on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays to see how that works.

About the Photo
Lothlorien’s walls, though a bit more subtle, had the same effect. Nothing got in that Galadriel didn’t want to get in.

  • Day 182
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 897 (445 from Rivendell)
  • 17 miles to Lothlórien proper
  • 876 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien. Entering Lothlorien. January 17, 3019 TA. (map)

How Do We Go From Here? (Your Help Requested)

We’re just about to Lothlorien, and it’s really exciting. I’ve got a few posts to take care of before we actually arrive, but it’s soon, I promise!

However, due to the nature of the “five miles per day” rule, I’ve discovered a bit of a problem. Having done the math, the Fellowship travels about 390 miles from Lorien to Rauros, where Frodo and Sam take off. At five miles per post, 390 miles is 78 posts, which is about 26 weeks if I stick to my schedule of three posts per day.

So here is what I think I’m going to do. Once the Fellowship boards their boat, I’ll take it at ten miles per day. This will give me 36 or so posts (13 weeks), which is a much more manageable number.

Of course, I can’t write 36 posts about their boat trip, so, like I did with Rivendell and Moria, I’ll be mostly revisiting Lothlorien.

I figure that I’ll probably have to come up with around thirty Lothlorien posts (six or so of the 36 posts will be devoted to what is happening in the story – Gollum, the Argonath, etc).

 Camera: Argus C3 Film: Kodak Hawkeye Traffic Surveillance Film

Camera: Argus C3
Film: Kodak Hawkeye Traffic Surveillance Film

And here is where you can help.
What about Lothlorien and Galadriel would you like to see discussed? Is there anything specific you think I should focus upon, delve into, or explore? All suggestions are welcome and most are probably going to be needed.

Of course, I’ll be digging into the writing histories, and of Galadriel’s ever-changing past, but what else would you like to see?

Writing with Tolkien Through Moria (and a Nazi Firebombing)

The Fellowship is just now closing in on Lothlorien proper, and this is the last few miles that Tolkien breezes through with a walking montage. Let’s celebrate this (and our halfish way point) by taking a look back at the two early drafts of the Mines of Moria chapters.

I covered quite a bit of this in the Balrog post, but let’s take a look at some other things Tolkien first thought about after deciding to drag the Fellowship through the Mines.

In the published version, the Fellowship arrived at the westward gate late in the evening, and was able to enter Moria that night. However, in the original draft, they actually arrived too late in the evening and had to encamp near the gates, still not knowing the location. In fact, Gandalf didn’t begin his search for the gates until around 9am the next day. And so it was the sun, and not the moon, that “shone across the face of the wall.”

One of the larger differences was word “gates.” It definitely meant plural. As originally conceived, the westward side of Moria was serviced by two separate gates. Gandalf: “There were two secret gates on the westward side, though the chief entrance was on the East.” One door was a “Dwarven Door,” and the other was an “Elven Door”. This idea was changed while writing the second draft. The phrase “and the Dwarven-door further south” was struck out in the manuscript, though it seems like he went back and forth on this idea before finally settling upon one gate.

No matter which gate was which, from the original draft, Gandalf had trouble figuring out the password. It wasn’t Merry who was “on the right track,” as in the published version, but Gandalf, who alone figured it out in all of the drafts until the final.

(I explored the early drafts of the Watching in the Water here.)

The walking montage through Moria was much the same in the original – even the mileage is identical, though the times were off. This, of course, changed the hour of the day when the rock was dropped down the well (by Sam in the original drafts).

It’s a much shorter description, but more or less the same. Some small differences appear, such as mithril being called “ithil” and Azanulbizar being named “Uruktharbun,” though that was quickly changed.

There’s one glaring difference that I forgot to mention and didn’t even occur to me until the Fellowship neared Balin’s Tomb. Frodo really wanted to meet some Dwarves, especially Balin, whom he remembered from when he [Balin] visited Bilbo. This is because Gimli was not yet part of the story! He would only be penciled in at the end of the first draft: “Gimli cast his hood over his face.”

Without Gimli, this would change everything. Tolkien must have thought so too, because he abruptly ended the first draft just as soon as they reached Balin’s Tomb. Though there would be notes here and there, Tolkien wouldn’t return to this chapter for quite some time.

From Autumn of 1939 until August of 1940, Tolkien hardly even looked at Lord of the Rings. When he came back, he began by revising the entire story up to Rivendell, and then rewrote the Council of Elrond chapter several times.

Also during this period, Tolkien rewrote The Fall of Numenor, as well as some things that he thought would be included in either the Silmarillion, which he hoped to publish as a companion volume, or the Appendices. All the while, Germany was bombing England. At times, Tolkien could see a red glow on the horizon – the fire bombing of Coventry, forty miles away.

Probably around December of 1940, Tolkien finally picked up the story at Balin’s Tomb. Here, we learn the fate of Balin’s Folk through the book left behind in the Tomb. In this draft, Balin entered Moria twenty years before. For the published version, Tolkien rethought this, pushing it ten years earlier.

Some differences exist between the published and the original draft, but they’re mostly minor. As far as the battle and Balrog go, I’ve written about those here.

There was, however, a problem he was facing concerning goblins and Orcs (and “black Orcs” as they were called in the original draft). Tolkien wrote in the original: ‘There are goblins: very many of them,’ he [Gandalf] said. ‘Evil they look and large: black Orcs.’ In another version of this, Gandalf calls them “real Orcs.”

I’m sure I’ll go into the whole history of Orcs at some later stage, but at this point in his writing, Orcs were nothing new, having been invented in the very earliest of his writings. But goblins did not equal Orcs for Tolkien just yet. Orcs were more formidable, goblins were shorter and kind of goofy. In the published version, goblins became nondifferent Orcs, and real/black Orcs became Uruks of Moria.

At any rate, just where he wanted to Fellowship to go after leaving Moria was something that Tolkien didn’t really figure out until finishing the Moria chapters. As he so often did, he wrote an outline. This time, it included chapter breaks and went until the very end of the story, though it was rough and vague and was missing many things that were to come.

As for Lothlorien, the name itself didn’t appear until the second draft of “The Ring Goes South” chapter (written just before Tolkien picked up the Moria story). It’s unlikely that he had any idea what Lothlorien was at that point, other than it was in the woods. After finishing the Moria chapters, in his notes, he wrote that Lothlorien was populated by Elves.

It’s not until he actually wrote the Lothlorien chapters that he fully developed the place and the people, including Galadriel, who didn’t exist at all until she appeared before the Fellowship. But I’ll get to all of that later.

For now, just understand that as we go forward, we are unwrapping Middle-earth along with Tolkien, discovering new places and people in almost the precise order in which they were created by the author. He was, in a very real way, making it up as he went along. It’s a wonderful thing, and we’ll get to experience that along with him.

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914) Film: Shanghai GP3 100

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914)
Film: Shanghai GP3 100

A Few Notes

  • Frodo is (a bit more than) half way to Mordor! I mean, my math could be (and actually was) a bit off, but we’re half way there! Huzzah! Only 881 miles to go!
  • I’m not exactly sure when to tell the Orcs’ story. It’ll be done in a similar way to how I handled the Balrogs. They’re not nearly as interesting, but their evolution was much more drastic and controversial, I think.
  • Next time we meet, we’ll explore Cerin Amroth, where we’ll gasp and swoon over the truest of loves ever told or something!

About the Photo
I suppose this looks something like the Misty Mountains. Maybe it’s as the Fellowship neared them. Or maybe it’s as they’re walking away. In reality, it’s the Olympic Mountains on the Washington Peninsula captured with a 100 year old camera and crappy Chinese film. Yay!

  • Day 181
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 894 (440 from Rivendell)
  • 22 miles to Lothlórien proper
  • 881 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien. Entering Lothlorien. January 17, 3019 TA. (map)

More Than Meets The Eye – Frodo in the Battle of Khazad-dûm

The whole point of the Fellowship is to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mordor. Those who are not Frodo were sent along to protect him and the Ring at all costs. The battle in the Mines of Moria was easily the most dangerous event since they set out from Rivendell, some 400 or so miles before. I’d like to take a look at how Frodo behaved in the battle, as well as how those around him worked toward his protection.

After reading from the Book of Mazarbul in Balin’s Tomb, the “doom, doom” of the Orcs’ drums was heard. In the quick preparation for the battle, Frodo was basically forgotten. This is understandable since they were blocked – they would all die or live together.

Nothing was mentioned of Frodo until after the cave troll forced open the door to the chamber. It was cracked open just enough for an arm and a foot to jab through. Boromir advanced and tried to sever the arm, but he couldn’t cut it. Frodo was then seized by the mood of a warrior. He “felt a hot wrath blaze up in his heart.”

With the battlecry of “The Shire,” he stabbed the troll’s foot with Sting. Unlike Boromir’s weapon, the Elvish letter opener did some damage, drawing black blood and making the troll back away. This allowed Boromir to slam the door shut.

Nobody, not even Frodo, expected this bit of careless abandon, but clearly Frodo wasn’t just some little Hobbit who needed to be coddled. Aragorn told him that he “had a good blade.” Boromir’s was probably made by the finest black smiths in Gondor. It was heavy, double-bladed and broad. Frodo probably couldn’t have even lifted it. Yet against the stony scales of the cave troll, it was useless.

Frodo’s sting must have injured the troll so much that the Orcs needed to use a battering ram to open the door. But once they were inside, all, including Frodo and the hobbits were engaged.

Then something pretty important is described – an Orc chieftain (almost man-high) wielding a giant spear, jumped into the room. He deflected Boromir’s sword with his shield, throwing him (Boromir) backwards and to the ground. He ducks a swipe from Aragorn’s sword, “he charged into the Company and thrust with his spear straight at Frodo.”

When the Fellowship was at the westward gate of Moria, the Watcher in the Water specifically targeted Frodo (according to Gandalf’s private thoughts, anyway). And here again, the head Orc tried to kill Frodo. It seems incredibly unlikely that either knew that Frodo had the Ring, but somehow, the Ring called to both in an attempt to free itself from Frodo’s mission.

It was Sam who chopped the shaft of the spear, breaking it in the belief that Frodo would be saved. He slumped down by the wall, and Aragorn, thinking Frodo was dead, had to carry him.

Of course, Frodo wasn’t dead – Bilbo’s mithril coat had saved him, though nobody knew this yet. Able to run (not that he wasn’t seeing stars), Frodo and the rest, minus Gandalf, ran down the long flights of stairs. Stopping for a bit, Frodo leaned on Sam.

A little while later, they took another rest from their retreating. During the battle, Gandalf thought Frodo was dead when he saw that Aragorn had to carry him. Still, he played his roll, protecting the Ring, even if the Ring Bearer was dead. Alive and wanting nobody to suspect his mithril coat, Frodo made some excuse as to why he was alive.

‘You take after Bilbo,’ said Gandalf. ‘There is more about you than meets the eye, as I said of him long ago.’ Frodo wondered if the remark meant more than it said.

Of course it did. Gandalf most definitely knew about the mithril coat by this point, deducing it from the wounds that Frodo didn’t have.

Frodo wasn’t mentioned again until they arrive at the bridge and chasm. Tolkien decided to describe both from Frodo’s point of view, even though he wasn’t the first to see it. Suddenly Frodo saw before him a black chasm. There was no real reason to do this, and neither were described in any sort of way having to do with the Shire or hobbits. All of the Fellowship saw the chasm. That Frodo was central in all of this was a point that had to be made again and again. Perhaps it was at this point when Frodo felt a much deeper chasm.

After being hit by an arrow which bounced harmlessly off of him, the Balrog came. Frodo’s reaction to this was not written. Nothing was mentioned of Frodo during the entire Balrog vs. Gandalf bout. The next we hear of him is when he discovers himself weeping with Sam at his side, running away from the enemy.

Tolkien gave Frodo a center roll in the battle – he was the only one who injured the troll. Though the Fellowship had protected him, he would have been killed if it hadn’t been for Bilbo’s gift of the mithril coat.

And if Frodo had been killed, it makes you wonder who would have taken the Ring to Mordor. Sam would certainly have demanded it, but I wonder who would have followed. Gandalf probably would have allowed it, but since he was soon dead, I can’t imagine Aragorn or Boromir letting it happen. Maybe something would have been different in Lothlorien as well. Of course, Tolkien never had the notion to kill off Frodo, so this was never a problem.

 Camera: Bolsey Jubliee Film: ORWO UN54

Camera: Bolsey Jubliee
Film: ORWO UN54

A Few Notes

  • At the start of the battle, Tolkien wrote: “[Gandalf] sprang toward Boromir’s side and drew himself up to his full height. ‘Who comes hither to disturb the rest of Balin Lord of Moria?’ he cried in a loud voice.” I get the feeling “full height” didn’t just mean that Gandalf slouched a bit less. This was at least a glimpse of Gandalf the Grey’s full power.
  • Tolkien described Sam in battle: “A fire was smoldering in his brown eyes that would have made Ted Sandyman step backward, if he had seen it.” This is about as fierce as any hobbit could ever get, and it’s awesome.

About the Photo
If I knew that I was going to spend so much time in Moria, I would have taken more cave photos! Instead, here’s a narrow bridge across a chasm!

  • Day 180
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 889 (435 from Rivendell)
  • 27 miles to Lothlórien proper
  • 886 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien. Entering Lothlorien. January 17, 3019 TA. (map)

Balrogs a Thousand (Or Maybe Just Three) – Tolkien’s Later Writings on the Big Bads

If we wanted to know how Tolkien’s thoughts about the Balrogs changed after writing Lord of the Rings, some might say “just look at the published Silmarillion.” And while ultimately that is (sort of) true, it doesn’t really tell us much about how he arrived at what has become their position in the canon.

From the start, Tolkien had wished to publish the Silmarillion along side Lord of the Rings as a companion volume. In preparation, he rewrote the Ainulindale before finishing Return of the King. After the final revisions of Lord of the Rings were finished, Tolkien returned to revising the Lay of Leithian as well as the Quenta Silmarillion. This would take much of 1950-1, and he worked steadily, hoping that it would soon be published.

When Tolkien turned once more to the Silmarillian (in 1950-1), he went back to the Annals of Valinor, which he was now calling the Annals of Aman. This was a chronology of the Quenta, reading similarly to the Timeline in the Appendecies of Lord of the Rings, though much more fleshed out. It’s given in “sections” and eventually loses the chronology in favor of a narrative very similar to that of the published Silmarillion.

Overall, much was understandably changed. As far as Balrogs were concerned, the changes were there, though more subtle. Here it’s explained that Melkor lived in Utumno, and while most of his minions had been “perverted” from being created by Illuvatar, Balrogs were an exception: “And in Utumno he wrought the race of demons whom the Elves after named the Balrogs.”

Previously, Tolkien was less clear about this, stating once that Melkor “devised” both the Balrogs and Orcs, and in other places that “they originated (if Balrogs were not already in existence) in the ancient darkness after the overthrow of the lamps….” But now, we know when and where (and that) Melkor made the Balrogs.

Shortly after, Tolkien changed his mind completely. He even changed the names of the Balrogs: “And in Utumno he multiplied the race of the evil spirits that following him, the Umair, of whom the chief were those demons whom the Elves afterwards named the Balrogath.”

During these years, Tolkien wrote out the Quenta Silmarillion twice. In the second version, he drastically changed the origin of the Balrogs. There were ‘evil spirits’ that followed Melkor, and he multiplied them, “and became most like him in his corruption: their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness, and terror went before them; they had whips of flame. Balrogs they were named by the Noldor in later days.” Soon, he gave both Balrogs and Orcs the power to reproduce themselves.

This is pretty much as far as he got before the Lord of the Rings was fully published. And so we can see that even before the book hit the store, Tolkien had drastically changed his thoughts about the Balrogs.

During this time, a copy editor wrote him a few questions. In reply, he went on for pages about various subjects, including the Balrog. Explaining that the Balrog was a “survivor from the Silmarillion and the legends of the First Age,” Tolkien then said this:

“The Balrog, of whom the whips were the chief weapons, were primeval spirits of destroying fire, chief servants of the primeval Dark Power of the First Age. They were supposed to have all been destroyed in the overthrow of Thangorodrim, his fortress in the North. But it is here found (there is usually a hang-over especially of evil from one age to another) that one had escaped and taken refuge under the mountains of Hithaegir (the Misty Mountains). It is observable that only the Elf knows what the thing is – and doubtless Gandalf.”

It’s interesting to note that in Tolkien’s 1954 mind, Gandalf obviously knew it was a Balrog, even though in the actual published text of Lord of the Rings it seems not to be so, at least at first.

By this time, Tolkien had learned that his Silmarillion would not be published alongside the Lord of the Rings, and perhaps not ever – and it pretty well broke his heart. In fact, he did not return to writing about the Silmarillion subjects until the late 50s – after about seven years of nothing.

Well, almost nothing. He, of course, took notes, including a mini-essay about the Orcs. In this, he firmly stated that “Orcs are beasts and Balrogs corrupted Maiar.” Melkor, now for certain, could not create anything – he could only corrupt. He also took the time to return to what he was now calling a sort of Orc/Balrog hybrid called Boldog, though he pretty well went no where with that (possibly because Boldog is an embarrassingly horrible word).

Around 1958, Tolkien set to work again on the Silmarillion material, sticking closely to the aforementioned changes. There was, however, still another change to be made.

In this draft, he wrote: “There came wolves, and wolfriders, and there came Balrogs a thousand….” At some point, he decided to drastically change the number of Balrogs. In previous drafts dating from the early 1920s up until this very draft from 1958ish, Tolkien always had Melkor unleashing a “host of Balrogs.” Often, the number of Balrogs was given as several hundred to even 1,000. Now however, he wrote a note explaining: “There should not be supposed more than say 3 or at most 7 evere existed.”

On the surface, this really doesn’t seem to matter. Did a host of Balrogs drive off Ungoliante? Or was it seven? How can it possibly matter?

I suppose in one way that it could matter is that the strength of a single Balrog was now much greater. Instead of taking hundreds of Balrogs to accomplish a certain evil task, it now took only a handful.

This was the final change that Tolkien made to the Balrogs. Though curiously, in his very last writings from the late 1972 or early 1973 – the year of his death – Tolkien purposely dropped the use of the word Balrog. This happened in only one writing, but it was an important one. He wrote about Glorfindel at the Council of Elrond, “who in the pass of Cristorn (‘Eagle-cleft’) fought with a Balrog, whom he slew at the cost of his own life.”

He quickly went back, crossed out the word “Balrog” and replaced it with “Demon,” giving no explanation. Not much can really be made of this, and why he consciously decided to change it is lost to history, if it was ever known at all (even by Tolkien). Still, this was the last he ever wrote about the Balrogs. And so that’s where we’ll call this an end.

Camera: Bolsey Jubliee Film: ORWO UN54

Camera: Bolsey Jubliee
Film: ORWO UN54

A Few Notes

  • In 1958, around the time when he began to write about the Silmarillion matrial once more (after a break of seven or so years), he wrote a letter about a filmmaker who was attempting to bring Lord of the Rings to life as a cartoon. Concerning Balrogs, he wrote: “The Balrog never speaks or makes any vocal sound at all. Above all he does not laugh or sneer.”

    In the published version of The Bridge of Khazad-dum chapter, Tolkien clearly has the Balrog fall forward “with a terrible cry.” So already, the Balrog is changing so much so that he took issue with someone portraying the Balrog as being able to vocalize. And though he had abandoned the idea of Balrogs laughing, in the early drafts of the Silmarillion material, Balrogs did indeed laugh.

  • When Tolkien changed the origin of the Balrogs, he also made it so that the Orcs were perversions of the Elves. He later changed this. Someday, I’ll do the same for Orcs as I did for the Balrogs. You know, probably.
  • I know that I chucked a lot of names and titles at you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

About the Photo
This is the fourth photo I took of Mount St. Helens in the fog. They all look pretty evil, but this is the least so. It’s why I saved it for last. The film used is actually motion picture film. I’m pretty well in love with it.

  • Day 179
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 884 (430 from Rivendell)
  • 8 miles to Lothlórien
  • 895 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien. Entering Lothlorien. January 16, 3019 TA. (map)