Last week, we took a long look at the Mirror of Galadriel, asking, more or less, just what the hell she was thinking? It’s a good question, really, and one that I’m sure will be answered by the time Sam and Frodo leave the hillside of Caras Galadhon. At the very latest it’ll be addressed before the Fellowship leaves Lothlórien, right?
Let’s find out. When we last left Frodo, he had just finished up with his Galadriel-planted vision, she telling him that Sauron, the Eye, “gropes ever to see me and my thought.” She then got incredibly theatrical: “She lifted up her white arms, and spread out her hands towards the East in a gesture of rejection and denial.”
The rays of the Evening Star (aka Eärendil, aka Venus) shown down up her like a giant spot light, glancing off the ring on her finger. It looked like the star itself “had come down to rest upon her hand.” And then Frodo understood. Galadriel knew that he understood from “divining his thought,” which is a clever way of saying that she once again read his mind.
“This is Nenya, the ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper.” Galadriel had one of the three remaining Elven-Rings. Gandalf had told Frodo about them just after Bilbo’s party, even learning the quaint little poem: “Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky.” Then, at the Council of Elrond, he learned about where and why they were made, though he was never told who had them – “it is not permitted to speak of it, and Elrond could not do so.”
Galadriel said that her Ring “cannot be hidden from the Ring-bearer, and one who has seen the Eye.” This maybe answers the question about why Galadriel showed Frodo the Eye. Except that since he was the Ring-bearer, he seemed to already qualify to see her Ring.
It also raises a broader question. If Frodo, being the Ring-bearer, was now supposed to see Galadriel’s Ring, why not the other two? While we as readers don’t learn the keepers of the other two Rings until Appendix B, at this point, both Elrond and Gandalf each held Elven-Rings. And yet, they never felt the need to tell Frodo about it. Galadriel certainly knew about the other two Rings, and she could have told Frodo about them, but didn’t. Maybe it wasn’t her place to do it, but then, maybe it wasn’t her place to do many of the things she did to Frodo and the Fellowship.
Exactly why the Ring-bearer had to know about Galadriel’s Ring was never mentioned. She uses it, however, to continue the story of her plight. Sauron was looking for the Three Rings, but hadn’t found them, though he suspected Galadriel had one of them.
She explained to Frodo what would happen if he failed in his quest. If the Ring was not destroyed, and was taken by Sauron, the Three Rings would then be known to him and the Elves would be “laid bare to the Enemy.”
But if the One Ring was destroyed, the Three Rings would be rendered powerless. And this was incredibly important to Galadriel specifically. While Gandalf’s Ring did almost nothing at all, and Elrond’s apparently kept Rivendell safe, Galadriel’s was incredibly powerful. She used it to keep Lothlórien in eternal springtime, a patch of Valinor in Middle-earth (though Orcs could tramp around it at all hours of the day).
If the One Ring was destroyed, the Elves “must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten.” And since many of the Elves had already headed into the West, she was once more thinking only of her isolated tribe. They would choose to remain and diminish, she thought, as they loved the land more than the Sea. They were Silvan Elves, and had never been to Valinor, so they really didn’t care one way or the other. Galadriel, however, was (in this telling) Noldorin and had been to the West, and desperately wanted to return.
But there was a problem, though we’re not exactly told what it is (or even if there was actually a problem). Frodo offered to give the One Ring to Galadriel because she was “fearless and fair.”
Though Frodo offered it to her because he honestly believed that “it is too great a matter for me,” Galadriel seemed to suspect there’s more to it. “Gently are you revenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting. You begin to see with a keen eye.” But Frodo wasn’t after revenge any more than he was seeing the situation with a keen eye.
Maybe Galadriel was projecting. She admitted that her “heart has greatly desired to ask what you offer.” It’s hard to place a tense on this, and though it’s obviously in the past, it’s not possible to say just how past tense this desire was.
“For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring come into my hands, and behold! it was brought within my grasp.” So this was something she had considered, planned and daydreamed about for “many long years” – which has got to be an incredible amount of time coming from an Elf who has already lived some 8,000 years. And actually, the One Ring was still within her grasp. She had figured out that even if Sauron was killed and the One Ring remained, she could still use its power.
Then things got dark and she switched from the past tense to the extreme present:
“And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightening! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!”
She wasn’t remembering how she used to feel about the One Ring, but was revealing how she felt at that very moment. Was she simply recalling that Frodo offered her the Ring? Or was she exclaiming: “You will give me the Ring freely!”? Her exclamations continued as she reveled in what was to come. Was this what she had always wanted – to rule and be loved no matter the pain caused to others? She seemed lost in these thoughts.
The light from her Ring shown only on her, placing her again in a spotlight. This light had come from Eärendil, which had shown upon her Ring just before and when she got all freaky, her Ring illuminated her. Was this some kind of protection? Did she drawn strength from it?
Frodo saw her as “beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful.” But then it passed, and she laughed.
‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.’
Next time, we’ll take a closer look at what this means (and, more importantly, what it doesn’t).
A Few Notes
- I take “divining his thought” pretty literally as divination. Otherwise, why would Tolkien use the word?
- Galadriel was all like, ‘yeah, this ring is Nenya business, Samwise!’
- When the Fellowship first arrived in Lothlórien, the Elves didn’t seem to know much about Sauron and his new rise to power. By the time of the Mirror incident, however, it seems like they had – “Yet they will cast all away rather than submit to Sauron: for they know him now.”
About the Photo
“In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night!” Okay – not exactly the easiest post to find a picture for. Sorry?
- Miles today: 10
- Miles thus far: 1004 (90 miles away from Lothlórien)
- 299 miles to the Falls of Rauros
- 769 miles to Mt. Doom
Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 18, 3019 TA. (map)