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.
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)