There is no other character in Tolkien’s legendarium who changed as often and as much as Galadriel, the Lady of Lothlórien. Unlike many of his Elves, she did not come from the older stories. There’s no mention of her in the Book of Lost Tales or in the poetic Lays. She doesn’t appear in the early Quenta Noldorinwa or the Annals of Beleriand.
Word of Galadriel’s existence isn’t even breathed at the Council of Elrond in Lord of the Rings. Tolkien did not actually come up with her until immediately before he arrived at the Lothlórien chapters. He would later change her greatly when reinserting her into those old Silmarillion stories, and would recreate her even up until the point of his death.
What follows is a timeline detailing Tolkien’s writing of Galadriel and the changes he made.
Late 1941 – January 1942 – The early drafts. [link]
By the end of 1939, Tolkien had been writing the Lord of the Rings for over a year, he reached the conclusion of the Moria chapters. There, he decided to take a long break and tackle revisions. When re returned to the work at hand, he had in his mind a vague idea of what was to come, including the woods of Lothlórien. Then, in late 1940, he returned to writing, where he finally came up with the Lord and Lady of the Galadrim, though he had no names for either. That was soon rectified, but not before their names had changed several times.
The drafts of the chapters then unfolded in the same basic way in which we’re familiar. Galadriel was one of the Noldar, and it seems that Celeborn was too, though neither were specified.
1948 – Lord of the Rings [link]
Though published in 1954-55, Tolkien had completed his nearly final drafts in 1948, cementing Galadriel as we know her in that story. Galadriel, we are told, came east after the fall of Nargothrond and Gondolin to Lothlórien, where she met and married Celeborn.
In this version, Celeborn was a Nandorin Elf – one who had started the journey west, but stopped before crossing the Misty Mountains, which is precisely where Galadriel found him. And since we are really given no history at all of Galadriel prior to the First Age, it’s entirely possible that she was one of the Sindarin Elves, who had crossed the Misty Mountains on the journey west, but never took ship to Valinor. We simply don’t know.
Of course, when the Lord of the Rings was written, almost nobody knew about any of these possible back stories, so really, it didn’t matter.
1948 to late-1950 – Appendix B [link]
The Appendices, along with the Prologue, were written after the final draft of Lord of the Rings was completed. Actually, much of Appendix A was edited down right before the publication of Return of the King. In Appendix B, we have the Tale of Years, a timeline of the Second and Third Ages of Middle-earth. We also get a bit more of Galadriel’s history, though it is slightly at odds with what appears in the story itself.
The Tale of Years tells us that Celeborn was from Lindon, not Lothlórien. This would make him Sindarin, not Nandorin. He married the “greatest of Elven women,” Galadriel, the sister of Finrod Felegund. This now made Galadriel one of the Noldor – Elves that had made the journey across the sea to Valinor. Of course, none of the readers then had any idea what this meant, but Tolkien knew what he was doing as he raised both Galadriel and Celeborn up in status.
While Tolkien had the outline for how the Rings of Power were made, Galadriel played no role in it. Thus far, her character was easy to deal with when it came to the history of Middle-earth. She need only be inserted here or there and that was it. She really didn’t change anything or do anything prior to the Third Age. His previous Silmarillion writings would hardly be effected.
Late 1951 – Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age [link]
It might seem strange that this piece – the last chapter of the published Silmarillion – was written before Lord of the Rings was even published. In fact, much of it was written for the Council of Elrond, but was cut for length. In the middle of 1948, just before finishing with the Lord of the Rings drafts, Tolkien began compiling this essay from writing dating back to 1940, but it wasn’t really finalized until 1951.
In it, Galadriel was elevated from the greatest of the Elvish women to “the mightiest and fairest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth.” This would place her in a more lofty position than Elrond and even Círdan.
1958 – The Silmarillion [link 1] [link 2]
Essentially, Tolkien had been working on the Silmarillion writings since 1914. There were countless revisions, changes, breaks and rewrites leading up to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. After published both, Tolkien returned to the older material, but found that everything had changed because of what he had published. Galadriel, along with many other characters and events, had to be accounted for.
With Galadriel, it wasn’t so difficult to simply slide her into the story. She took Fëanor’s side during the revolt as well as the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, but played not too huge of a role in either. He had settled, however, upon a reason for her coming to Middle-earth that was separate from Fëanor’s: “to rule there a realm of her own.”
We learn that she lived with Thingol and Melian in Doriath, where she met Celeborn. From Melian she learned how to rule a realm, but also lied to her by omission about the Kinslaying.
Also, we are told why she remained in Middle-earth after the rest of the Noldor returned to Valinor. Basically, she was unwilling “forsake the Hither Lands where they had long suffered and long dwelt.”
1958-59 – Notes and writings about Galadriel and The Elessar [link 1] [link 2]
Around the time when Tolkien returned to the Silmarillian stories, he also wrote some random bits and bobs. This was when Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn was penned. This was the only account of their antics from the Second Age. Tolkien wrote of Galadriel’s many, many travels before settling in Lothlörien, where she had already ruled once before. The Three Elvish Rings are dealt with in much greater detail. Though she’s given many more things to do, her status was not changed.
In The Elessar, another writing dating from this period, Tolkien gave two differing histories of where the green Elfstone came from. Galadriel’s role in both was, of course, central, with Gandalf playing her opposite in one, and Celebrimbor in the other. It’s in the second that we discover Celebrimbor’s unrequited love for Galadriel.
1965 – Revisions on Lord of the Rings
Tolkien did not return to Galadriel specifically during this time, but had himself a bit of real life controversy instead. The US copyrights on his books had never been secured, and at that time it was feared that some other publisher might print them as they were more or less in the public domain. To counter this, Tolkien’s publisher wanted him to revise the book, add some extra material, and include an index.
Before Tolkien could do this, Ace Books did just what was feared. Tolkien worked on the new material through the summer, and it appeared in print in October. Though Ace and Tolkien settled, the new version was the preferred one and Ace never reprinted their editions.
The only change that Tolkien made in this revision that effected the Galadriel story concerned Greenwood/Mirkwood. As originally published, in Appendix B, we learned that Thranduil lived in the northern part of Greenwood, while Celeborn ruled the southern part. The revised edition gave the whole thing to Thranduil.
1967-68 – Road Goes Ever On [link]
In the mid 60s, a musician named Donald Swann wrote music to a few of Tolkien’s songs from Lord of the Rings. By 1966, with Tolkien’s blessing, he was performing them. When it came time to publish them in a book, along with the music, Tolkien wrote a few brief notes about Elvish languages, as well as a bit about Galadriel that changed everything: “After the overthrow of Morgoth at the end of the First Age a ban was set upon her return, and she had replied proudly that she had no wish to do so.”
While this didn’t necessarily conflict with the Lord of the Rings, it was in no way related to the stories written for the Silmarillion in the 50s. However, since it seemed more and more like that would never be published, it really didn’t matter.
1968-69 – The Shibboleth of Fëanor [link]
This odd little essay detailed the linguistic shift from the “þ” sound to “s” in the Noldoran tongue. When it came to Galadriel, Tolkien went off on a bit of a tangent, which contradicted what he wrote in the Silmarillion stories.
This time, Galadriel wasn’t just the greatest Elf in Third Age Middle-earth, but perhaps the greatest Elf who had lever lived, as powerful as Fëanor, and wiser. We learn that since her youth, she had wanted to rule all of Middle-earth and hated Fëanor, who made some advances toward her (and was possibly inspired by her hair to make the Silmarils).
Rather than being swayed by Fëanor’s words about a revolt, she thought that he was evil, but was also blinded to the same evil inside of herself. When it came to the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, rather than fighting alongside Fëanor, she saw what was going down and fought along side the Teleri, against Fëanor. After the battle, out of revenge, she followed Fëanor to Middle-earth. Fëanor’s fate seemed to be the same as it was written in the Silmarillion.
Gone is the ban of the Valar against Galadriel, who once again simply declined the offer, though we’re specifically told that it was out of pride. This version of Galadriel was simultaneously lighter and darker.
July and August, 1973 – The last writings [link]
After receiving a bit of inspiration from a friend, Tolkien decided to return to the Silmarillion, and especially Galadriel. Though he took some notes, he was never able to flesh it out prior to this death.
This version of Galadriel was wildly different than the others. In this, she was “unstained” and there was nothing dark or evil about her. This is the version Aragorn would have loved.
She played no role at all in anything to do with Fëanor’s revolt, and only wanted to leave Valinor because the Valar had taught her everything they could. She would have been allowed to leave if Fëanor wouldn’t have revolted,. causing the Valar to a ban put on emigration. Instead, she went to Alqualondë to live with her mother, and it’s there (not Middle-earth) where she met and married Celeborn, who was now one of the Teleri.
As before, she fought against Fëanor in defense of the Teleri at Alqualondë before leaving for Middle-earth. Fëanor’s violence had been too much for her, and she could no longer stay. When the Noldor were pardoned, Galadriel and Celeborn declined, though no reason was given.
If Tolkien had lived longer, to enact these changes, he would have had to rewrite much of the Silmarillion. From what it seems, he would have been completely fine with that.
A Few Notes
- And that’s the last post in the History of Galadriel series. This has been absolutely fun, and if you enjoyed them half as much as I have, I’ve enjoyed them twice as much as you. So there.
- If you haven’t noticed, there are links to each of the posts – all eleven of them.
- Next, we’ll finally check back in with the Fellowship. It’s been weeks.
- We are still kicking around the idea of a Tolkien podcast. More on this soon, but I definitely want this to happen.
About the Photo
In the first post about the history of Galadriel, I used a shot of this beauty school in Idaho Falls. It’s only fitting (or whatever) to use another version of the same shot. Not as nice, really, but not bad.
- Miles today: 10
- Miles thus far: 1104 (190 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
- 199 miles to the Falls of Rauros
- 669 miles to Mt. Doom
Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 20, 3019 TA. (map)