Like a Lance in Starlight – The First Appearance of the Lady Galadriel

When Galadriel is introduced in Lord of the Rings, we immediately understand that she’s someone a bit more mysterious and powerful than most we’ve met so far. Her powers of telepathy and of nature are without rival in the Elvish kingdoms of Middle-earth. But who was she? Where did she come from? And why did she go literally unmentioned until the Fellowship stumble upon Lothlórien?

Most of us know that Tolkien invented Galadriel immediately before writing the chapter where she made her first appearance. She did not come from the old Book of Lost Tales ventures, or from some early Lay or Silmarillion writings. She was not in The Hobbit or even mentioned in the Council of Elrond.

And it was precisely because of these things that Tolkien returned to her story several times after completing the main narrative of Lord of the Rings. Each time he did, she drastically changed. Not only was her history in flux, but so was her status, motives, morals and even personality. Over the next week or so, I want to explore these changes, beginning first at the beginning of Galadriel.

In late 1939, Tolkien came to the end of the Mines of Moria chapter and rested, not picking up the story again until months later, revising what he had already written. Then, in 1941, while revising The Ring Goes South chapter, Gandalf replied to a question about where they would go next: “We must go down the Morthond into the woods of Lothlórien…” This was the first appearance of the word in the narrative. It meant “secret woods”. Still, there was no mention of Galadriel.

Tolkien took some quick notes concerning the Fellowship’s trek into Lothlórien, but at first neither Galadriel nor any specific Elf (named or unnamed) was mentioned. All through the first draft of the “Lothlórien” chapter, still nothing of Galadriel was mentioned. The Fellowship camped by the Nimrodel, Legolas sang of Linglorel and talked about the houses of the Galadrim. Three Elves (Hathaldir – proto-Haldir) greeted them, camped with them, walked them to the Gore of Lothlórien, even blindfolded them, and still nothing of Galadriel was mentioned by anyone.

During the walk from the river toward Ciren Amroth, Tolkien took a break to make some notes for what might happen next. It is here when she is first mentioned, though it’s apparently almost illegible: “[Lord?] of Galadrim [?and ?a] Lady and ….. [?went] to White Council.” Shortly following, he continued: “Lord and Lady clad in white, with white hair. Piercing eyes like a lance in starlight. Lord says he knows their quest but won’t speak of it.”

In continuing the narrative from Cerin Amroth, Haldir says that the messengers came from the Lord of the Galadrim (the yet-unnamed Celeborn), not the Lady (the yet-unnamed Galadriel). Still, the purport was the same – the Fellowship was to be unblindfolded.

Tolkien then stopped again before continuing onto the early “Mirror of Galadriel” draft. In a few notes, he seemed to demote the Lord of the Galadrim to almost nothing, even with a thought to cutting him entirely: “Lord? If Galadriel is alone and is wife of Elrond.”

Continuing the draft of the narrative, the Fellowship was about to meet the Lord and Lady, and it’s here they’re first mentioned by name: “Keleborn and Galadriel”. However, these names are written over “Tar and Finduilas” as well as “Aran and Rhien.” It seems like he stuck with the latter for a few paragraphs before finally deciding upon Keleborn and Galadriel.

From here on out, Galadriel’s role is more or less the same as it is in the final version, though she isn’t quite as insightful. For instance, she doesn’t mention being unable to see Gandalf due to a grey mist. It’s never mentioned at all. Still, she knew of Frodo’s quest. In this early version, she did not found the White Council, but was merely at it. In a second draft, this was changed to the version with which we’re familiar.

We’ll recall from the published version that Galadriel said several times that she would not give the Fellowship counsel. In this first draft, she instead spoke: “Now we will give you counsel.” The ridiculously fun part is that her reasons for both giving and not giving counsel are nearly identical: “For not in doing or contriving nor in choosing this course or that is my skill, but in knowledge of what was and is, and in part of what shall be.” Almost the same dialog, supposedly proving two opposite points. Amazing!

Since I’m going to be digging deep into Galadriel’s ever-shifting history, it would be a good idea to briefly mention Tolkien’s very first inception of it:

“The lord and lady of Lothlórien are accounted wise beyond the measure of the Elves of Middle-earth, and of all who have not passed beyond the Seas. For we have dwelt here since the Mountains were reared and the Sun was young.”

It’s pretty clear then that both Galadriel and Celeborn were Noldorin Elves – those who came to Middle-earth at the start of the First Age, when the Sun first came into being. This would change many times throughout Tolkien’s life. He would change it to the published version sometime during the drafting process. But even before the Lord of the Rings was published, it would change yet again.

Next time, we’ll talk about the changes.

Camera: Argus C3 Film: Kodak Elite Chrome (xpro - expired 2003)

Camera: Argus C3
Film: Kodak Elite Chrome (xpro – expired 2003)

A Few Notes

  • I don’t have a lot of extra stuff to say, but my God am I happy to be doing this blog. I’m learning so much.
  • I really meant to get into Galadriel’s history as it appears in the published Lord of the Rings in this post, and originally wasn’t even going to bother with the drafts, but here we are. Surprised?
  • This doesn’t take into account any of Galadriel and Celeborn’s history as given in Appendix B of Lord of the Rings. I’ll get into that very shortly, I swear!

About the Photo
If you’re going to build yourself a beautiful character such as Galadriel, you better make a stop at Beauty School! Don’t drop out! This was from Twin Falls, Idaho, the beauty school capital of the Potato State.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 954 (40 miles away from Lothlórien)
  • 349 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 819 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 17, 3019 TA. (map)

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