The Dangerous Traditions of Elves and Dwarves

When the Fellowship entered Lothlórien, Haldir insisted upon blindfolding Gimli as that was the law. Dwarves, apparently, could not see this place. In solidarity and to avoid even more drama, Aragorn insisted that every member of the Fellowship be blindfolded. But when they arrived at Ciren Amroth, a messenger came from Galadriel and told Haldir to remove the blindfolds, even from Gimli. This was the first step toward renewing the friendship between the Dwarves and the Elves of Lothlórien.

There’s potentially much to unpack here, and I’d like to take a look at Galadriel and Lothlórien’s history with the Dwarves to see just what happened to break down their relations.

Galadriel was born during the Years of the Trees, which predated the First Age. But prior to even that, the Dwarves of Middle-earth had established good relations with the Sindarin Elves. She grew up in Tirion, a city populated by Noldorian Elves in Valinor. Toward the end of the Years of Trees, she, along with many others, left Valinor for Middle-earth.

For years, the Dwarves and Elves around Doriath worked together, the Dwarves supplying them arms. In battle, the Dwarves sided with the Sindar and greatly helped in defeating the Orcs during the First Battle of Beleriand. Shortly after the battle, Galadriel arrived in Doriath and met Celeborn, but there’s also a fine chance that she first met Dwarves here as well.

When her brother, Finrod, built his kingdom, the Dwarves helped him greatly. All in all, the relations were friendly – that is until the Nauglamír. This was a necklace made by the Dwarves into which one of the Silmarils was set. Thingol wanted to keep it, but the Dwarves wanted it for payment. Since he wasn’t having any of that, Thingol bandished them from Doriath.

So, for nearly 500 years, Galadriel had the chance to live in a society where the Dwarves and Elves basically got along. The two peoples even fought side-by-side once again in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (Battle of Unnumbered Tears). Once the Thingol/Nauglamír conflict went down, which ended with the killing of Thingol, the leaving of Melian, and the destruction of Doriath, things continued to decline for a time.

Though relations between the Elves and Dwarf suffered a bit, things more or less got back to a new normal until the destruction of Beleriand by the Valor, bringing on the Second Age as well as reshaping the planet to the Middle-earth we all know and love.

During the Second Age, Galadriel and Celeborn moved around for a bit (like 1,400 years), but eventually settled in Lothlórien. Nearby was Kazad-dûm, the Mines of Moria, which had been inhabbited by Dwarves from early in the First Age. As of old, the relations between these Dwarves and some of the Elves on the western side of the Misty Mountains were pretty good. The mood between the Dwarves and the Elves of Lothlórien on the eastern side, however, wasn’t so nice. Even during the First Age, Orpher, Legolas’ grandfather, who ruled a realm near Lothlórien, got fed up with the Dwarves. When Galadriel came, he left for Greenwood/Mirkwood.

When Galadriel took Lothlórien as her own, the relations were already sour. Not much has really been said concerning the next 2,000 years (the first two millenia of the Third Age) concerning Moria and Lothlórien, though it seems like this law banning Dwarves had been in effect since at least the early part of the First Age.

Galadriel herself said when she met the Fellowship: “It is long indeed since we saw one of Durin’s folk in Caras Galadhon [Lothlórien proper]. But today we have broken our long law.” Just how long this law was in effect was hinted at by Haldir when he removed their blindfolds: “Look and be glad, for you are the first dwarf to behold the trees of the Naith of Lórien since Durin’s Day!”

So, not since Durin the Deathless in the First Age had any Dwarf entered Lothlórien. This means that when Galadriel arrived in Lothlórien, the law already stood, inherited from Lórien’s previous owner, though she didn’t seem to have any reason to alter it.

This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that relations weren’t there. It doesn’t mean that Galadriel didn’t go into the Mines of Moria. When she spoke to Gimli, she recalled the waters, springs and halls of Khazad-dûm, even giving them their proper Dwarfish names. Just how she knew this isn’t said, but it’s clear that some kind of communication between the Dwarves of Moria and Galadriel herself took place.

Celeborn said that he had “feared that under Caradhras a terror slept,” meaning that he thought that there might be a Balrog, etc., deep within the Mines of Moria. It seems strange, but it appears as if he knew nothing of the Dwarves’ experience with Durin’s Bane from 1,000 or so years before. It’s possible that Galadriel even entered Moria in search of it, since she could describe the insides of the mines.

Maybe it was her friendly experiences with Dwarves back when she first arrived in Doriath that warmed her heart to Gimli. Maybe it was just to calm the Elves’ fears of Dwarves. Just what broke them down in the first place seems to be a symptom of larger things happening around Galadriel that didn’t directly involve her. In Lothlórien, she became an isolationist, much like the Dwarves, and there was simply no need for communication. With this isolation, however, prejudices and fears grew which allowed the No Dwarves policy to stand until 3019 of the Third Age, when we find Gimli being the first Dwarf in as many as 3,000 years to be let into Lórien.

Camera: Argus C3 Film: Fuji ProPlus II (200)

Camera: Argus C3
Film: Fuji ProPlus II (200)

A Few Notes

  • For the most part, I’ve done my best to include things that are only in the Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion. There are probably a few random bits here and there that come from Unfinished Tales or one of the later drafts.
  • Also, I know that I really really glazed over a bunch of history. Be forgiving and not nearly as pedantic as you want to be. It’ll be okay.

About the Photo
I’ve just noticed that for the past two weeks, I’ve used nothing but black & white photos. Don’t let me do that. This one represents dumb traditions and prejudices that should have no place in a reasonable society (which both the Dwarves and Elves believed they had). It’s actually from Shoshone Ice Caves in Idaho.

  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 944 (30 from Lothlórien)
  • 829 miles to Mt. Doom

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


21 thoughts on “The Dangerous Traditions of Elves and Dwarves

    • I think they did, but that wasn’t on such a vast scale. It wouldn’t have effected Thranduil, for example. I’m still a bit fuzzy how it all went down, but down it went.

  1. I love that most of the conflict in Tolkien’s universe is created by a bunch of men fighting over jewelry. BTW, you’d be the one to ask. Is Thingol Thranruil’s father? I can’t remember.

    • Oh that’s definitely hilarious and pretty well always the case.

      Orofer was Thranduil’s father. But I get Thingol and Thranduil’s names mixed up all the time. All the time. It’s very possible I got them mixed up in the post.

      • You might have done =) but that’s ok. I can tell who you’re referring to.

        Your posts are always such a pleasure to read. When I start my LotR re-read/notation, I am so going to appropriate reference stuff from your posts. Thank you in advance!

        • Just quickly going through the post again, I don’t *think* I mixed them up this time. Actually, I usually name Thingol correctly, but often replace Thranduil’s name with “Thingol.” Ugh.

          Thanks! Appropriate away! I do! 🙂
          If you don’t have Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Guide to LotR, definitely pick it up.

          • Thanks for trotting out your Maia! All’s good now.

            Ok…then I’m missing something from this paragraph:
            “So, not since Durin the Deathless in the First Age had any Dwarf entered Lothlórien. This means that when Galadriel arrived in Lothlórien, the law already stood, inherited from Thranduil, though she didn’t seem to have any reason to alter it. “

            • Ah! Thranduil (Legolas’ father) ruled Lothlorien prior to Celeborn and Galadriel according to the Silmarillion history (I think… Might be UT). After C & G showed up, Thranduil moved most of his Elves to Greenwood /Mirkwood.

            • Eh, my UT says it was Amdir who ruled Lorien, the same Elf who marched to the Last Alliance with Oropher. After the war, Amroth his son succeeded him but also died. Then Celeborn and Galadriel took over and renamed Lorien to Lothlorien. Oropher and Thranduil ruled Greenwood and did not have Lothlorien in their care throughout this time.

              Are you thinking of a different source?

            • Oh! I also wanted to say that I really like what you’re doing with the Silmarillion. I’ve been meaning to reread it again, and your posts are a good substitute since I don’t have the time to fully reread it right now. I’m digging the commentary, thanks for doing it!

  2. Wasn’t there something said by Illuvatar already in the mythological beginning about “strife often to take place” between dwarves and elves ?
    But not so often, maybe, as in the Jackson movie “The Hobbit”. In the book, Thorin was never angry on Thranduil for the reason of not having rescued the dwarves, when Smaug first attacked them. Only for having taken them prison while they were on the way towards Erebor..

    • That’s in the Silmarillion, yes. Interestingly, Tolkien wrote the origin of the Dwarves story *after* writing Lord of the Rings. So the conflict that was narrated in LotR changed the Silmarillion. It’s pretty fun.

      Also of interest, I don’t think Yavanna’s response of creating the Ents came until even later. Christopher Tolkien did some fancy editing for that chapter in the Silmarillion to make everything work out as it did.

  3. Eh, my UT says it was Amdir who ruled Lorien, the same Elf who marched to the Last Alliance with Oropher. After the war, Amroth his son succeeded him but also died. Then Celeborn and Galadriel took over and renamed Lorien to Lothlorien. Oropher and Thranduil ruled Greenwood and did not have Lothlorien in their care throughout this time.

    Are you thinking of a different source?

    • Oh I could be. He changed this quite a bit. Pretty sure it was the UT though.

      And also, it’s a bit of misunderstanding on my part. In LotR, Legolas says: “It is long since any of my own folk journeyed hither back to the land whence we wandered in ages long ago.”

      In the UT on page 258, Appendix B of the History of Galadriel and Celeborn. It wasn’t Thranduil, but Oropher, his father – and also where my misunderstanding comes in…

      “The Elvish folk of this realm [Greenwood/Mirkwood] had migrated from the south, being the kin and neighbors of the Elves of Lorien; but they had dwelt in Greenwood the Great east of Anduin. In the Second Age their king, Oropher, had withdrawn northward beyond the Gladden Fields. Tis he did to be free from the power and encroachments of the Dwarves of Moria, which had grown to be the greatest of the mansion of the Dwarves recorded in history; and also he resented the intrusions of Celeborn and Galadriel into Lorien.”

      So you can see why I thought that Oropher/Thranduil was in Lorien. I somehow missed the word “neighbors.” Still, the point that I was trying to make was that Thranduil resented Galadriel and Celeborn. It didn’t make sense to me that if his original realm was across the Anduin from Lorien, why would he resent the encroachments of the Dwarves of Moria, who mostly kept to themselves? Especially with the buffer of Lorien and the River between?

      So yes, Amdir/Malgalad ruled Lorien at the same time as Oropher ruled his realm. I’ll go back and edit this soon enough. Thanks for the heads up.

      • I reckon the Dwarven encroachment bit has to do with the Old Forest Road, which apparently was called the Dwarf Road before it fell into disrepair. It did cut through Oropher’s realm, and must have been quite the Dwarf parade at its height of popularity. Oropher seemed to have been bothered enough by the perennial lines of Dwarves going back and forth through his lands to uproot. While the growing menace from Dol Guldur was reason enough, Thranduil did take the uprooting a step further and went even further north. Though with traffic still on-going in some trickles well into the Third Age, I do think he might have gone into partnership with the Beornings for a cut on the tolls, and kept the Elf-path open to non-natives to traverse Mirkwood, unsightly Dwarf parade or not. You know, just to balance the national accounts and add something to those royal coffers.

        Anyway, in demonstration of my appropriation prowess:

        • Yeah, that does make a bit more sense. And while I liked the simple idea of Oropher / Thranduil living in Lothlorien and then leaving once the Dwarves / Celeborn and Galadriel showed up, the other idea is pretty fun, too. They were just C&G’s neighbors and still couldn’t deal with them!

          The Dwarf Road! I plumb forgot about that. I really need to use a map when writing this stuff. I mean, more than I do. I trust my memory too much. And I have a bad memory.

          Thanks so much!

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