‘You Will Give Me the Ring Freely!’ – Galadriel Gets Freaky

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).

Camera: Holga 120N || Film: FujiChrome Provia 100

Camera: Holga 120N || Film: FujiChrome Provia 100

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)

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18 thoughts on “‘You Will Give Me the Ring Freely!’ – Galadriel Gets Freaky

  1. I love Galadriel’s speech here, it’s just perfect.
    The image of elves living in caves like common goblins makes me laugh and feel sad at the same time. Insular and bitchy as they may be, I like the elves a lot. Their culture and achievements fascinate me more than many real life civilizations!

    • I think this as a calm back to his original idea that the Elves of his stories later became the dumb little elves and fairies of more modern times. I love that idea, and I’m glad he never seemed to fully abandon it.

      I certainly like the Elves, but am pretty suspicious of their motives. And they can be such dicks sometimes!

      • Oh, I didn’t know that! That’s a great way of looking at them! I love how that ties Middle Earth squarely down into affecting us today, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact it’s set on our earth.

        Definitely suss and bitchy, but still very cool. Perhaps being alive for thousands of years does that to a person 😛 I think if I went to Middle Earth I’d want to be an elf.

        • If you like that, you’d love the Book of Lost Tales stories. Very much about the diminishing of the Elves (called Gnomes then). He also directly tied it to England.

          There are drawbacks to living basically forever. It’s cute when the Elves try to say that it sucks, though. You can really tell they don’t mean it.

          I think I’d opt to be a Hobbit, if I could. The vegan in me wants to want to be a Green Elf from before the coming of Men, but mostly I’d rather live in a hole in the ground.

          • I have that sitting in my Book Depository wishlist, waiting on the funding!

            Oh yeah, they’re full of it. Since everyone they care about lives forever too, the suckiness is definitely not as bad… but then their nasty great uncle Edgar who eats his earwax is still around too.

            Yeah, being a Hobbit wouldn’t be a bad second option, they know how to have a good time… and you’d save money on shoes! Though knowing my luck, I’d end up an Orc.

  2. ‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.’

    For all her mindfuckery (which I hadn’t really thought about until you started writing about it), this remains one of my favorite scenes in the books. And that line? Yeah, perfect.

  3. The important thing to remember is that the power of all Three Rings, while not as Galadriel’s appears in preserving Lothlorien, serves as a source of strength and vitality for all Elves on Middle Earth. It is repeated again and again that the Elves are in decline, and the only thing keeping even these small pockets of Elvish livelihood protected is the existence of the three rings. Gandalf, in his journeys, spreads the power of his Ring all about Middle Earth–I always imagine it as a sort of fertility, in which his Ring promotes the kind of freshness and life that Valinor in the early days perpetuated while it was still connected to Middle Earth. When Galadriel refuses the One Ring and thereby consents to aiding Frodo in its destruction, she is essentially agreeing to the complete fading of the Elves from Middle Earth–they would all vanish and give up their power, authority, and essentially their identities if they withdraw from Middle Earth (where she wields great power) and return to Valinor, where they will live in bliss but without the same kind of influence. The Elves, as much beloved as Valinor is, who have stayed on Middle Earth love it for its various reasons, but they are doomed on its terrain, as the time of Elves has long passed.

    • One of the wonderful things about Tolkien is that there are so many layers to it. I should have mentioned about the Rings preserving the Elves in M-e in this, but didn’t. Actually, it’s not really talked about much in LotR. In “Of the Rings of Power in the Third Age,” it’s plainly discussed. That was written in 1948ish, after he was mostly finished writing LotR. It represents the start of his later thoughts on the Rings of Power.

      That’s mostly why I didn’t include it, which is kind of a dumb reason. I do, however, have a post coming up about that essay on Wednesday (you know, probably). Though I’m betting that I still don’t go into it enough, as I mostly focus upon Galadriel.

      But like I said, there’s so many layers, and it’s sometimes hard to pick the right one to go off upon. But then, that’s why there’s comments sections. Thank you for that!

  4. Galadriel, ahh yes powerful and mysterious as always :). I very much like her lesser known feat of ‘magic’ from Unfinished Tales, when she sent glowing mist against glooms of Dol Guldur covering passage of Eorl the Young for the Battle at the Field of Celebrant, and so subtly and in secret aiding Gondor. Damn I’ll now again wonder about the elven ‘magic’ what they are fully capable of :)? Tolkien leaves much of it as mystery, certainly he envisioned that their magic is simply inherent power, Ainur were divine, god-like beings simply because they in their nature as mighty spirits possessed such power given to them by their Maker. I always try to understand the magic capabilities of elves. In one letter Tolkien wrote: “their (elves) magic is Art delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence). And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation.” I wonder what power would have an ‘ordinary’ elf, well after all Galadriel is enhanced by her ring, Luthien was very special and practically half-divine so her wondrous abilities would hardly be typical for elves, Glorfindel according to some texts was also enhanced, spiritually grown by his self sacrifice and this power made him ”nearly equal” to a Maia (but then again we don’t know what exactly he could do, there is more examples of Gandalf’s magic 🙂 like explosive flashes that could tear up solid stone, producing light, fire, manipulating water together with Elrond who could command water of his valley but he again had the Ring. The only other examples of elven magic come from Wood Elves in The Hobbit :).

    As for elves knowledge of the arising of Sauron in general sense hehe, I think that they do know the basics. After all much time passed since Sauron declared himself openly in Mordor it’s not like it’s a secret that Dark Lord is around again and residing in Mordor (well for a time it WAS a secret until year 2951 or three years later when Mount Doom burst in flame and last folk fled from Ithilien).

    Already years before Frodo’s journey there were news coming, of wars in the east and south, dwarves from four eastern houses were coming as refugees to the west as far as Eriador (so Frodo had contact with them), great exodus of elves begun well knowing the danger many felt they need to go now before it might be too late in face of uncertain outcome (also knowing that power and numbers of elves were not as it used to be during the War of the Last Alliance), we know that Sauron as always begun to officially build his ever growing empire just like in Second Age after forging the One. For most of the Third Age he remained in shadows because it was his new approach, cleverer tactic. From shadow he plotted, manipulated, divided and weakened his enemies orchestrated all major events: wars of Gondor with Wainriders and other peoples (it was said that they were stirred by emissaries of Sauron), Great Plague and opening of Mordor for his servants, wars with Angmar and fall of the North-kingdom of Arnor, and when Mordor was reclaimed by Nazgul he managed it from afar so orchestrated breeding of Uruks, their invasion on Ithilien undermining leadership of Gondor by struggles with Minas Morgul (Ruling Steward Boromir I received enchanted morgul wound that crippled him and schrunken with pain, and shortened his life, ending of the royal line of the south by luring Earnur into a trap) as well as all the movements and organizing of dark creatures, like smarter and more dangerous Trolls (in fact whole new kind of Olog-hai appeared too).

    The Rings of Power and all lore concerning them is kept secret, or rather I should say is known only to certain groups, not whole populations (and here I like that Tolkien made his elves diverse and not some homogenous group like in many other works of fiction), but the Wise had enough of this knowledge (and the Wise are not only the Keepers of the Three but also other unnamed elf-lords, members of the White Council which often took notice of many events but all too often as Gandalf said, watched and waited), Cirdan also knew well about the Rings since he kept one too, also the Narya, ring of fire it appears to have affected the feeling of people, it could ignite courage, hope and spiritual support, or as was termed ‘kindle hearts in world that grows colder’ and support Gandalf in his weariness. It seems that normally the Three Rings can be somehow concealed, Samwise saw it only as a ‘star’ shining through her fingers, maybe Frodo didn’t see the Elrond’s or Gandalf’s ring earlier because he wasn’t yet as ‘enhanced’ by the One, Frodo notices that after his wound by morgul-knife and by his possession of the Ring, his perception grows better over time, also the closer to Mordor the Ring gets it’s influence and power also grows.

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