Frodo’s Vision in the Mirror – Just What the Hell was Galadriel Thinking? (Part 2)

And then it was Frodo’s turn to look in Galadriel’s Mirror. He and Sam had been walking and were beckoned by Galadriel to come take a look in her Mirror (You should read all about that here, first). To get Sam to look, she dug into his mind (or eavesdropped) and learned that he wanted to see Elf-magic, and used that as incentive.

It also softened Frodo a bit. If Sam could do it, why couldn’t he? But with Frodo, Galadriel played it cool. When he asked her if he should look, she even advised against it, saying that she wouldn’t “counsel you one way or the other.” What he would see, if he saw anything, “may be profitable, and yet it may not. Seeing is both good and perilous.”

But she was not done with the pitch. After playing coy and flippant, she slid toward encouragement: “Yet I think, Frodo, that you have courage and wisdom enough for the venture, or I would not have brought you here. Do as you will!” Under all the layers of nonchalance and indifference, she had brought them to the Mirror specifically so they could look in it. And while she certainly didn’t force either to look, she knew what to say to both in order to convince them to do what she wanted them to do.

Frodo agreed to look, and saw a series of things. First was a wizard in white which gave Frodo doubts – was it Gandalf or Saruman? He then saw Bilbo in his room in Rivendell. The table was littered with papers. The vision then turned to history (maybe the history which was written on those disordered papers), reminding him how he was involved in these great stories.

His vision changed again, now to the sea, in a scene that seems like it could be from Elendil’s escape from Númenor. Still in the past, he saw a city next to a wide river (Osgiliath and the River Anduin), and then a white fortress with seven towers (Minas Tirith).

The vision then turned to the future, though Frodo, of course, couldn’t tell one from the other. He saw Aragorn’s ships arriving at Minas Tirith before the Battle of the Pelannor Fields. He then saw the battle itself, with fire and smoke, which dissolved into a mist where he saw a small ship, “twinkling with lights” passing away – Frodo’s own ship sailing to the West.

And just as Frodo was ready to look away, the Mirror went dark and empty like an abyss. And in it “appeared a single Eye that slowly grew, until it filled nearly all the Mirror.” The eye then searched for something, and Frodo knew that it was looking for him (along with many other things). He also knew that the Eye could not see him unless he [Frodo] willed it. The Ring on a chain around his neck grew heavy and weighed him down toward the Mirror, as if it were pulling toward the Eye. The Mirror grew hot and steam came up from it as Frodo drew nearer to it. Galadriel reminded him not to touch the water. The spell was broken, and the vision disappeared.

While Galadriel didn’t address any of the first bits of Frodo’s vision, she had a bit to say about the Eye – “for that is also in my mind.” The Eye wasn’t actually in the Mirror. It wasn’t using the Mirror to look for Frodo. Rather, it was a vision of the Eye looking for Frodo. And since this vision was also in Galadriel’s mind, it’s a safe assumption that she put it there herself after saying she wouldn’t effect the Mirror one way or the other.

She then told Frodo not to be afraid. The Dark Lord, she said, was also looking for her and for Lothlórien, “and he gropes ever to see me and my thought. But still the door is closed!”

This would hardly had stamped out Frodo’s fears, of course. And again, where was Galadriel going with this? For Frodo, the Mirror showed him a wizard, Bilbo, a bunch of Silmarillion stuff, and then a battle. That was everything the Mirror was going to do. Galadriel then commanded the Mirror to reveal her mind, in which was the Eye.

And so Galadriel smoothly got Sam and Frodo to look into the Mirror specifically so she could show Frodo the Eye. Sam was incidental and nearly a casualty. No good came from Sam looking in the Mirror. Even after Shelob, he understood what he saw to be true, but it didn’t help him in any way at all.

As for Frodo’s vision, it also seemed pointless, except maybe to remind him that he was part of a larger history – something that Sam later reminds him of anyway. The only thing that might have been of some purpose was the Eye, which Galadriel herself showed him.

Next time, we’ll take a closer look at the Eye and how it effected Galadriel’s next big revelation to Frodo. Also, we’ll get an even scarier look into Galadriel’s nature. Stay tuned!

Camera: Imperial Debonair Film: Konica Pro 160 (expired)

Camera: Imperial Debonair
Film: Konica Pro 160 (expired)

A Few Notes

  • In Tolkien’s early notes about what Frodo would see in the Mirror, he entertained the idea of having him see Gollum, but made no mention of him seeing Sauron/the Eye. Even in the first draft, Frodo had no vision of the Dark Lord at all. And yet, Galadriel still brought him up seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Companion was pretty helpful, especially with the Silmarillion portions of Frodo’s vision. Thanks!
  • And what would happen if they had touched the water? Sure, it would taint it, but couldn’t she just get more? – it only came from her fountain, which was right over there.

About the Photo
There will be no swimming in the Mirror of Galadriel, please. There’s sure as hell no lifeguard on duty.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 994 (80 miles away from Lothlórien)
  • 309 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 779 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 18, 3019 TA. (map)

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7 thoughts on “Frodo’s Vision in the Mirror – Just What the Hell was Galadriel Thinking? (Part 2)

  1. I have to say that we look at Galadriel and this event very differently.

    I have to first say that I don’t see it as a safe assumption that Galadriel showed Frodo the eye. It has always seemed logical to me that they would both see it since it is THE big thing on both their minds.

    I think part of this (for me) has to do with the fact that it’s a mirror. It’s not a window or crystal ball or Palantir. Inherent in this is the notion that what is shown in it is somehow dependent on who or what is looking at it. Old simple Sam sees visions of his home, which is where his heart and mind are. Even on the quest, in every danger, part of him is in the Shire. So, naturally, that’s what he’d see. Frodo is in deeper stuff and so the mirror goes there.

    This gets to a bigger issue for me of the role and nature of magic in Tolkien. What I have always liked about Tolkien is that magic isn’t straightforward and predictable. It isn’t like D&D where wizards start throwing fireballs and turning people into things. In Tolkien I see magic as very much akin to the natural world (which was sacrosanct to him). We work to understand and control the natural world, but even those who know it best really don’t have perfect control over it. And so when magic is used it often has unforseen consequences. It’s why Gandalf sometimes seems bumbling, even as powerful as he is. The magical world is just too mysterious to control.

    And Galadriel is constrained by this as well. This is why her power over the mirror seems so capricious and weird and why, to you, she seems so nefarious. I think you ascribe to her more control over these powers than she has, and so her motives look far darker than they might be.

    • Brad! I’m so glad you chimed in on this!

      It’s definitely logical that they both would see the Eye, but if anything good at all came from the Mirror incident, it was this. The Eye wasn’t really on Frodo’s mind, prior to this. I don’t think he had seen it. And while it could be that the Mirror simply showed it to him, Tolkien mentioned that Galadriel had a will over the Mirror when she wanted to (for certain people anyway). Why mention it if the only two examples of Mirror-lookers we see were effected by it?

      I fully agree with you about the Mirror vs. Sam vs. Frodo up until the Eye part. Frodo’s vision in the Mirror seemed to have stop completely. And then the Eye popped up. There’s a definite break there, and I can’t help but think it was for a reason. Frodo needed to see the Eye, and Galadriel had already seen it, so it makes sense that she would show it to him via the Mirror.

      I also love Tolkien’s use of magic and what you say about it. I think that’s why the Mirror scene works so well. She can will it to show people the things she wants them to see, but it’s also got a (not exactly) will of its own. It’s naturally unpredictable.

      To me, Galadriel isn’t nefarious. She’s not evil or anything close to it. She’s had a sordid past (Silmarillion) and even within the last chapter, her motives seem questionable. She seems to be overstepping her boundaries. She goes farther than Elrond or even Gandalf, and doubt is placed in our minds by Boromir (and not exactly quelled by Aragorn’s true-believer talk). It’s not just the mirror.

      And actually, if I’m right about her showing Frodo the Eye, I see that as a good thing. He needed to see it and she made it happen.

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