Around the time that Tolkien wrote the portions of Galadriel’s story which appear in the published Silmarillion, he had also written a few other things about her. We’ve already taken a look at one of those writings here, but there was another.
This one mainly concerned the Elessar, which I briefly mentioned here. The Elessar was the Elfstone, a beautiful green gem said to have the sun’s light within it.
Sometime in the late 1950s, Tolkien wrote an essay detailing two different stories of the Elessar’s origins. It’s not clear whether he himself couldn’t figure out which he liked best, or whether he was just attempting to add depth to the legends, but the two stories are incredibly different with some striking similarities.
We’re first told that the original Elessar, made by someone named Enerdhil, was worn by Eärendil when he left Middle-earth. But because there was also an Elessar later in the Third Age, was the cause for the two differing stories. Some said that the original had been returned to Middle-earth by the grace of the Valar, while others said it was a new Elessar cooked up by Celebrimbor, the Elf who forged the Rings of Power.
In the first telling, it’s Olórin who brought the original Elessar with him when he arrived from the West. Olórin was Gandalf’s name in Valinor. When Gandalf found Galadriel, she was living in Greenwood the Great. She confided in Gandalf that her time away from Valinor was beginning to wear on her. Though she wanted news of her family, she was still “unwilling to forsake Middle-earth.”
After Gandalf told her all he knew, said said: “I grieve in Middle-earth, for leaves fall and flowers fade; and my heart yearns, remembering trees and grass that do not die. I would have these in my home.”
Gandalf asked if she wanted the Elessar, but in reply, she said that it was gone, asking “And must Middle-earth then fade and perish for ever?” Her ire toward the Valar was again expressed: “For surely the Valar are now removed and Middle-earth is far from their thought, and all who cling to it are under a shadow.”
But Gandalf corrected her, explaining that they were still very much a part of things. As a token, he presented her with the Elessar, which he brought from Yavanna. “Use it as you may, and for a while you shall make the land of your dwelling the fairest place in Middle-earth.”
He warned her that it wasn’t actually hers, but that she had to hand it down to one who would come with the name Elessar.
This is the version the meshes best with Lord of the Rings. There, Galadriel gave the stone to her daughter Celebrien, who gave it to Arwen, Galadriel’s granddaughter, who gave it back to Galadriel, who gave it to Aragorn, whose name would later become Elessar. Just how Galadriel got this stone wasn’t mentioned in the narrative.
But there’s another story that was apparently told by the Elves that didn’t involve Gandalf at all. Those who told this version believed the Elessar of the Eldar Days and the Elessar of the Third Age to be two different stones.
The second one was created by Celebrimbor before the forging of the Rings of Power. Galadriel had come to Eregion, where she found Celebrimbor and confided in him, saying: “I am grieved in Middle-earth, for leaves fall and flowers fade that I have loved, so that the land of my dwelling is filled with regret that no Spring can redress.”
Celebrimbor asked her if she was going to go across the Sea. She said that though her kin had gone, she would remain. “But my heart is still proud. What wrong did the golden house of Finarfin do that I should ask the pardon of the Valar, or be content with an isle in the sea whose native land was Aman the Blessed? Here I am mightier.”
Here we see Galadriel growing a bit darker. The death and dying in Middle-earth bothered her, but she couldn’t swallow her pride and ask the Valar for forgiveness. This version almost hints at a ban against her specifically, since the ban against the Noldor had already been lifted by this point (which was how most of her family had returned to the West).
But of most importance is the reason she was staying: “Here I am mightier.”
And just what she would do in Middle-earth was explained: “I would have trees and grass about me that do not die – here in the land that is mine.” Galadriel, we have learned, came to Middle-earth to “rule there a realm of her own.” And she wanted that realm to be undying, just like Valinor. But not Valinor, because in Valinor, she could not rule. Galadriel was teetering mighty close to Sauron territory with this wanting to rule and be mighty business.
Like Gandalf in the previous version, Celebrimbor asked her about the Elessar, and as before, Galadriel admitted that it was gone. She asked, “But must Middle-earth fade and perish for ever?”
But unlike Gandalf, Celebrimbor wasn’t carrying a spare Elfstone in his coin purse. He was, however, a legendary craftsman.
“But you know that I love you (though you turned to Celeborn of the Trees), and for that love I will do what I can, if haply by my art your grief can be lessened.”
This is just sad. Celebrimbor was in love with Galadriel, who was already married to Celeborn, a lower Sindarin Elf. It must have completely befuddled and deflated poor Celebrimbor, who, like Galadriel, was one of the Noldar.
But it was because of this unreturned love that “he made the greatest of his works (save the Three Rings only).” This Elessar was of a more subtle and clear green color, but had less power than the original. The reason for this is fascinating. The original was lit by the Sun when it was just formed. It was stronger then. But now, even though Morgoth had been cast out, “his far shadow lay upon it.”
For a time, it was the Elessar that made Galadriel’s realm undying, “until the coming of the shadow to the forest.” So, when Sauron entered Dol Guldor around the year 1050 of the Third Age, the power of the Elessar was eclipsed by his, and the forest withered and became Mirkwood.
Once the Three Elvish Rings were forged by Celebrimbor (in the year 1500ish of the Second Age), he sent the ring Nenya, “the chief of the three,” to Galadriel. This contradicts Lord of the Rings, which states that Elrond’s Ring was the “mightiest.” It seems as if Galadriel had the Elessar for a few hundred years before receiving her Ring of Power. But remember, Galadriel couldn’t use her Ring until the start of the Third Age, when the One Ring was lost to Sauron.
From the start of the Third Age, until about 1050ish, when Sauron took over much of Greenwood/Mirkwood, she apparently used both the Ring of Power and the Elessar to keep her realm all flowery.
But anyway, now that she had the Elvish Ring and could no longer hold Mirkwood, she no longer needed the Elessar, and gave it to Celebrían, her daughter, who gave it to Arwen, who eventually gave it to Aragorn. Somehow or another, the prophecy of the Return of the King grew out of this.
A quick note about the whole Galadriel in Greenwood/Mirkwood thing…
For anyone who follows Tolkien’s timeline, this must really not set well. For Sauron in Dol Guldur to have any effect on the Elessar, Galadriel had to have been living in Greenwood/Mirkwood around 1000 of the Third Age. By all accounts, she had nothing to do with Greenwood/Mirkwood ever.
But it really does make sense. In the first edition of Lord of the Rings, Appendix B tells us that Thranduil lived in the north of Greenwood, while Celeborn ruled in the southern part of the forest. This was later changed so that Thranduil ruled all of Greenwood, and Celeborn had Lothlórien.
When Sauron took over Dol Guldur, all of the forest, both north and south, died. When this was written, Tolkien was still going off of the history from the first edition, where Thranduil was in the north and Galadriel was in the south. Once the Second Edition was published, in 1965, this was changed to how it is now.
A Few Notes
- Tolkien later went back and changed the idea of Galadriel being “unwilling to forsake Middle-earth” to her not yet being permitted to forsake Middle-earth. Though oddly worded, this is probably a reference to the ban put upon her by the Valar, which I’ll talk about next.
- This is the only place where Tolkien ever mentioned Celebrimbor’s love for Galadriel. Poor Celebrimbor! What did Celeborn have that he didn’t?
- In a side note, Tolkien toyed with the idea of Celebrimbor making both the first and the second Elessars. Sorry, Emeryville, whomever you were.
About the Photo
The incredibly sad Celebrimbor bunny hops off in sobs and whimpers. Poor guy.
- Miles today: 10
- Miles thus far: 1064 (150 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
- 239 miles to the Falls of Rauros
- 709 miles to Mt. Doom
Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 19, 3019 TA. (map)