In the Lord of the Rings narrative, we are not told much at all about the history of Galadriel and Celeborn – “He has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mountains, and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat.”
But in “The Tale of Years,” which appears as Appendix B in Lord of the Rings, we learn a bit more. But it’s not just that we learn more, but that some of it was contradictory to what Galadriel said previously.
Tolkien first wrote about Galadriel in 1941, and finished the final draft of the novel in 1948. About that time, he started work on the Appendices, finally finishing them in the early months of 1955. Through those drafts, he tried to fit her into something larger than simply the latter days of the Third Age as described in Lord of the Rings.
In Lindon south of the Lune dwelt for a time Celeborn, kinsman of Thingol; his wife was Galadriel, greatest of Elven women. She was the sister of Finrod Felagund, Friend-of-Men, once king of Nargothrond, who gave his life to save Beren son of Barahir.”
Though the 1950s readers had no idea what any of this meant, it actually changed both Celeborn and Galadriel’s origin stories. Celeborn might have lived in Lindon, but since he was related to Thingol, he was now Sindarin! And since Galadrield was Finrod’s sister, she was Noldoran.
In the Lothlórien chapters, we assume that Celeborn is Nandorin, and Galadriel is Sindarin. The difference is that before there was no indication that either had ever been to Valinor. Noldoran Elves, such as Finrod (and now Galadriel), had gone to Valinor and then returned to Middle-earth at the start of the First Age. This might seem a bit trifling, but really, all you have to know in the end is that this raised them in stature, making Celeborn one of the higher Middle-earth-bound Elves, and Galadriel one of the High Elves.
There’s, of course, quite a bit of history involved here as to how and why this all happened, but since it’s not really covered in Appendix B, I’ll save it. What can be said is that since she was associated with Finrod, we can assume that she came over with the second wave of Noldoran Elves. But that really isn’t mentioned, either. What we do know about the House of Finrod was that Gildor said that they were exiles, though even that isn’t really explained.
In a letter written in 1954, about the time Tolkien was finishing up the Appendices, he explained the High Elves and touched on the exiled bit:
“The High Elves met in this book are Exiles, returned back over Sea to Middle-earth, after events which are the main matter of the Silmarillion, part of one of the main kindreds of the Eldar: the Noldor (Masters of Lore). Or rather a last remnant of these. For the Silmarillion proper and the First Age ended with the destruction of the primeval Dark Power (of whom Sauron was a mere lieutenant), and the rehabilitation of the Exiles, who returned again over Sea. Those who lingered were those who were enamoured of Middle-earth and yet desired the unchanging beauty of the Land of the Valar.”
In Appendix B, we’re told that Gil-galad lived in Lindon north of the Lune, while Celeborn lived in Lindon south of the Lune. Lindon had been part of Beleriand, but when it was swallowed by the water at the end of the First Age, Lindon was pretty much all that was left. This was when the Grey Havens were established, and Lindon became beachfront property.
So far, Galadriel’s history, though changed, doesn’t really effect the Silmarillion stories. Whereas before she simply wasn’t included, she’s now more or less along for the ride. She still doesn’t do anything or make a name for herself prior to the Third Age.
Still, there are some things from Appendix B that should be mentioned, as Galadriel will later grow into these stories. For instance, in the year 1200 of the Second Age, “Sauron endeavours to seduce the Eldar”. Though Gil-galad isn’t buying his nice-guy act, Sauron manages to win over the Elvin-smiths of Eregion, including Celebrimbor. This is when and where the Rings of Power are made.
By 1590, the Rings are made, and a decade later, Sauron makes the One Ring. Celebrimbor then wises up and Sauron reveals himself. There’s war and in the end, Eregion is laid waste and Celebrimbor is killed, but Sauron is driven out. Galadriel is not mentioned at all. It’s Gil-galad who sees Sauron for what he really is, and Celebrimbor who doesn’t (until it’s too late). What does this have to do with Galadriel? [cue Pee-Wee Herman voice:] I DON’T KNOW!
Well, that is to say, nothing at all, just yet.
However, there’s a hint in Appendix B’s preface to The Third Age that Galadriel might be a bit more important. The Three Elvish Rings created by Celebrimbor in Eregeon had seemingly gone missing. In truth, “they had been held at first by the three greatest of the Eldar: Gil-galad [and then Elrond], Galadriel and Círdan.”
This in itself is telling. If Elrond only got a ring after Gil-galad was killed, this would place Galadriel in a higher place than Elrond (and obviously higher than her husband, Celeborn). And yet, she seems to take no part in anything. Gil-galad, Elrond and even Círdan do all sorts of stuff through the Second and Third Ages. But Galadriel does almost nothing until the end of the Third Age.
It would have been simple for Tolkien to have left things as they were. He had already written much of the Silmarillion material prior to this, and though he would go back and change a lot of stuff, at this point, he really didn’t need to change anything involving Galadriel as she played a very unnoticeable role. But he would. Though he didn’t change either her or Celeborn’s status as Noldoran Elves (probablyish), he made Galadriel into one of the three greatest Elves ever.
A Few Notes
- Next time, we’ll take a step forward and look at the whole Mirror of Galadriel thing. Just what the hell was she thinking?
- I was going to combine Galadriel’s history as given in Appendix B with that given in the Silmarillion, but after noticing that there are quite a few differences, I thought it would be best to separate them.
About the Photo
Since Galadriel and Celeborn are old and lived by the sea for a bit, I thought I’d post a photo of the ocean taken recently with a 100 year old camera using 50 year old film. The three birds, of course, represent Gil-galad, Galadriel and Círdan. The two tiny bird heads are Elrond and that other guy. Whatever.
- Miles today: 10
- Miles thus far: 974 (60 miles away from Lothlórien)
- 329 miles to the Falls of Rauros
- 799 miles to Mt. Doom
Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 17, 3019 TA. (map)