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)

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6 thoughts on “Galadriel Works her Whammy on the Fellowship

  1. Another reading of Galadriel’s remarks about Gandalf is that he, being of a higher order, is normally veiled to her. She knows he was in the party not because she tele-saw him leave Imladris (though when she tele-views them she probably notices a patch of fog among them) but because he or Elrond tele-told her.

    Unlike Fletcher Pratt and Randall Garrett, Tolkien never tried to make magic fit a coherent theory; I imagine he’d be disgusted at the suggestion. Magic is meant to be mysterious and arbitrary!

    • I guess that’s possible – that Gandalf is normally veiled to her because he’s a Maia. I don’t think Tolkien ever really delved into this in his post-LotR writings to give us an idea where he was going with it. The idea that she sees a Gandalf-shaped patch of fog when she tele-viewed them coming from Rivendell is, I suppose, possible, but not even hinted. She doesn’t say “yeah, I saw you nine coming but lost you for a bit in Moria, and when you reappeared, there were only eight of you.”

      I think the simplest answer is one of the two given above, though since the mist seemed to me to be more personal, I’d have to say that she could normally see him, but couldn’t now. I guess. Hell, I don’t know.

      I’d venture that as Tolkien continued to drastically change her story and strength throughout his later writings (as in UT), his opinion of this (if he even had one) also changed. For example, one of the last things he wrote about her (if not the last) had her leaving Valinor because they had taught her all they could teach her.

      But I definitely agree that this “magic” is usually not defined and that’s the fun in it. I tend to come at Tolkien as a historical account. Meaning, that if it’s not in the text, it’s going to be super tough to sell me on it.

      What we’d have to see is what Tolkien’s intent was with this passage when he wrote it. That intent, I think, is mystery. The Fellowship entered into faerie and everything is all wonky. Really, the whole Galadriel appearance is almost completely unplanned and he was really winging it.

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