‘A Queen She Was’ – Of Galadriel and the Rings of Power, Etc… (Mostly Etc.)

Before moving on to Galadriel’s place within the Silmarillion proper, I thought I’d take a look at her role in “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.” While is this the last chapter in the published Silmarillion, it really belongs more to Lord of the Rings-era than anywhere else.

Just when Tolkien began writing this chapter isn’t the easiest thing to figure out. Early threads of it were wound through the drafts of the “Shadow of the Past” and “Council of Elrond” chapters, which he started in 1940. The next year, while drafting the “Mirror of Galadriel” chapter, he necessarily returned to the Rings of Power. It was during this time that he finally worked out just how the Rings of Power related to Sauron and the One Ring.

Christopher Tolkien believes that much of the notes and scraps about the Rings of Power written through 1940-41 were intended for the “Council of Elrond,” but were ultimately cut for length. As these pieces fell out, they must have gathered, at least virtually, on Tolkien’s floor. After he was finished with the narrative itself, in 1948 he swept them up and folded them into “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”

How and why this wasn’t included as part of the Appendices, I’m not sure. Some of it was a bit redundant, especially with the “Tale of Years,” but few things in the “Tale of Years” weren’t. There are two clues in a 1948 letter (No. 115) that he wrote to someone wanting to read the Silmarillion.

“I am distressed (for myself) to be unable to find the ‘Rings of Power’,” he admitted. It’s clear by this point that it was more or less complete and now lost. Secondly, he continued, saying that it, along with the ‘Fall of Númenor’ was “the link between the Silmarillion and the Hobbit world. But its essentials are included in Ch. II of The Lord of the Rings.

It wasn’t included because it was either lost or Tolkien thought it already covered in the “Shadow of the Past” chapter. And so, when his son was editing the Silmarillion for publication, he tacked it on at the end creating that mentioned link.

That makes a lot of sense. Except there is no mention at all of Galadriel in the “Shadow of the Past.” So we can see that just as Tolkien went back into the Silmarillion stories to add Galadriel, he also went back into the Lord of the Rings stories to add her as well, he just didn’t include them in the book.

In the Lord of the Rings, it’s implied that Galadriel’s Ring of Power is what’s keeping Lothlórien in eternal springtime. Nothing at all is said of the other two Rings and their relation to their surroundings. But in “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” we learn that after the first defeat of Sauron at the Gladden Fields, the power of the Rings “was ever at work, and where they abode there mirth also dwelt and all things were unstained by the griefs of time.”

Of Galadriel, he wrote:

“A queen she was of the woodland Elves, the wife of Celeborn of Doriath, yet she herself was of the Noldor and remembered the Day before days in Valinor, and she was the mightiest and fairest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth.”

This doesn’t quite contradict what is said about Cirdan the Shipwright in Appendix B (“For Círdan saw further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth….”), but almost it does. We can dismiss both claims by simply allowing the fictional writers’ their respective hyperbolies.

It’s Círdan who first recognizes Gandalf as one of the Maiar, but that’s when he (Gandalf) first steps off the boat. Maybe Galadriel would have recognized him too. It’s also Círdan who tells Elrond and Galadriel that the Istari, the Wizards, came from Valinor.

Curiously, when the White Council was mentioned in “Rings of Power,” Galadriel is listed only as a member, not as a founder (or the founder, as she told the Fellowship). It’s said that Galadriel wanted Gandalf and not Saruman to be its head, and from that could certainly be implied that she was, at least, a founder.

When Galadriel was first conceived, Tolkien had her as only a member of the White Council. However, in a later draft (and probably not that much later), he placed her as the one who summoned the Council. It’s strange to see that he didn’t make this perfectly clear in “Rings of Power.” But then, this was completed years before Lord of the Rings was actually published. And as we’ll see (and have seen), her power only grew as time passed.

That’s the last that she’s mentioned in this short chapter, the last in the published Silmarillion. Since the Lord of the Rings, she had grown from a mysterious Elvish woman living in near isolation, who was not even mentioned at the Council of Elrond, to, as we see here, a queen, “the mightiest and fairest of all Elves that remained in Middle-earth.”

Next, we’ll see just how Tolkien folded her into the earlier Silmarillion stories.

 Camera: Kodak Pony Film: Weis Quality Color 200


Camera: Kodak Pony
Film: Weis Quality Color 200

A Few Notes

  • I wrote this post after writing two posts about Galadriel in the Silmarillion. I just thought that this one should come first, especially seeing as how it was completed even before Lord of the Rings was published.
  • Maybe I’m just nervous to dive into the nutty and ever-changing world of Unfinished Tales.

About the Photo
Gandalf arrived by boat. This is one of the ferries around the Seattle area. Probably not as nice as a ship sent from Valinor, but it gets the job done. Plus, you can take your car on it. Gandalf had to leave his ’78 Econoline back in the Undying Lands. What kind of cars do you think Saruman and Radagast have to leave behind?


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1024 (110 miles away from Lothlórien)
  • 279 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 749 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 19, 3019 TA. (map)

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12 thoughts on “‘A Queen She Was’ – Of Galadriel and the Rings of Power, Etc… (Mostly Etc.)

  1. Radagast totally had a 64 VW bus.
    Saruman had a 69′ Shelby- black.
    And yeah really the blue wizards can only be in a chevette. Theyre still sitting by the side of the Anduin waiting for someone to come by with an alternator today.

    • I’d totally agree with early Third Age Saruman having a 69 Shelby. As he got older, he moved from that to a BMW, then Mercedes, and then Audi.

      Poor Blue Wizards. Saruman keeps telling that he’s on his way to pick them up, but he never even leaves his house. What a jerk.

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