January 30, 3019 – Isengard Sends Strong Force to Anduin

Greetings! Let’s have another quick check in with the Enemy, okay?

Since Moria, both Saruman in Isengard, as well as Sauron in Moria, have been receiving regular updates from their respective Orcs and messengers hovering along the Anduin and near Lórien.

On this day, Saruman received the news that the Hobbits were in Lórien (though I thought he already knew this). The important part is that he decided to act on his own, completely throwing off any pretense that he was working for or with Moria.

On the 18th, he had sent out Uglúk with a band of scouts, but now he ordered a strong force of Orcs to the Anduin to bring the Hobbits back to him alive.

Sauron, at least according to Tolkien, does not yet suspect Saruman’s betrayal (though he probably saw it coming, he didn’t know for certain just yet).

Camera: Argus C3 (1957)
Film: Tasma Mikrat 300 (x-1975); 6iso

January 26, 3019 – Grishnákh Crosses the Anduin

Welcome to January 26, 3019 of the Third Age. Another quick post about the Enemy is upon us.

In his notes, Tolkien picks up with the events of the 24th – Gollum’s capture by Uglúk.

While Uglúk came from Isengard in the west, Grishnákh came from Moria in the east. The latter crossed the Anduin at “the rapids” – I assume Sarn Gebir, and continued north, up the west bank.

Here, he met some of Uglúk’s messengers who told him about Gollum and the Fellowship (and maybe the Ring, though it’s not said).

He returns to Sarn Gebir, where he meets up with a Nazgúl and awaits further orders.

Sauron will not yet let the Nazgúl cross west of the Anduin, so Grishnákh probably crossed back over to the east side.

Camera: Minolta X-370
Film: Kodak Panatomic-X (x-06/1991); 16iso

January 25, 3019 – Killing the Balrog and the ‘Death’ of Gandalf

Welcome to January 25, 3019 of the Third Age. The Fellowship is still hanging out in Lórien, but we have some Gandalf business to take care of.

Killing the Balrog

“I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me…”

When Gandalf returns, he tells Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli very little about his battle with the Balrog. The “Tale of Years” tells us only: “He casts down the Balrog, and passes away. His body lies on the peak.”

In notes for the background concerning Gandalf’s battle, Tolkien wrote that “G casts down the Balrog, and falls into a long trance.”

Tolkien’s Doubts About Gandalf’s Death Return

If you’re wondering how Tolkien came to the idea that Gandalf had to return after battling the Balrog, So am I. For that matter, so was he.

In a letter written after publication (No. 156), Tolkien admitted that the whole dying and return was “a defect, and one that I did not work hard enough to mend.” He defended the decision to a point, explaining that the only “real cheating” was that “Gandalf really ‘died’, and was changed.”

Throughout the letter, he continually puts “death” in quotes. But he also does the same with “angel,” as he attempted to draw some sort of parallel between the Wizards and angels. But it’s easy to tell that Tolkien wasn’t very comfortable with this section.

In his notes written just prior to writing this, he jotted down the question: “How did he [Gandalf] escape? This might never be fully explained.”

Tolkien was big on not fully explaining his choices. That was usually fine, but perhaps not here. He was often okay with playing along inside his own story, guessing reasons for this, wondering about the history of that. But here, Gandalf’s death and return bothered him.

In the first draft of this chapter, Gimli asked Gandalf about the Balrog, and, as in the final draft, Gandalf replies: “Name him not!” But in this early version, that is all we get. The next chapter begins immediately after and Gandalf apparently was never going to tell them about the battle.

Sometime later, Tolkien decided to elaborate a bit. He did this, however, while writing the next chapter. There, Gandalf explains it while he is riding south from Fangorn with Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas.

The story is basically the same, though the words are different. However, it doesn’t appear that Gandalf died in this early draft. Tolkien noted (seemingly as part of the draft, but obviously notes):

“The Balrog was destroyed, and the tower crumbled and stones blocked the door of the secret way. Gandalf was left on the mountain-top. The eagle Gwaihir rescued him. He then went to Lothlórien. Galadriel arrayed him in white garments before he left. While Gandalf was on the mountain top he saw many things – a vision of Mordor, etc.”

In a subsequent draft (still not the final), Tolkien went into more detail about the fight on top of Zirakinbar.

“He tells that clutching at the Balrog’s heel ‘I set my teeth in it like a hunting hound, and tasted venom’…”

That is incredibly bad ass, and I can imagine no good reason to have removed that.

Gandalf is Dead

In the early drafts, it seems less clear that Gandalf died. Or ‘died’, as Tolkien would later record.

That said, Gandalf did die. In the final version, as we are reading it, as of the end of this day, Gandalf is dead. To get into the meaning of this, we’ll have to wait until he returns. Hopefully I’ll remember to delve into some of the earlier drafts of that, as it’s pretty fun.

When’s Next?

Good question. According to the Tale of Years as originally published, The Mirror of Galadriel and Gandalf’s return happen on February 14th. This has been changed in the 2005 editions to the 15th. It has to do with the Mirror of Galadriel incident happening the day before the Fellowship leaves Lórien on the 16th.

My issue is that it also forces Gandalf’s return to the 15th for no good reason. While the Mirror episode has to take place on the 15th, Gandalf’s return is fine for the 14th. And that’s when we shall return: February 14th.

Camera: Kodak Brownie, No. 2, Model D (1914)
Film: Svema Foto 65
Processed: Rodinal 1+25, 6.5mins

January 24, 3019 – Gollum is Captured by Orcs; Escapes

Welcome to January 24, 3019 of the Third Age. This will be a quick one.

The last time we saw Gollum, he was spotted by the Elves of Lothlórien. They didn’t know what to make of him, so didn’t want to shoot at him. Making his escape, he plopped himself into the Silverlode and floated away.

In notes taken for the behind-the-scenes stuff, Tolkien had a bit of a timeline for Gollum. Most of it is pretty obvious, but this one isn’t.

“January 24: Gollum captured by Uglúk, and torment him for news, but escapes after revealing the Hobbits of Shire were with Gandalf, and enough is said to make Uglúk certain that Ring was with the company. Uglúk sends news to Isengard of Hobbits; but not of the Ring.”

Quite a bit is going on with the Enemy right now as the Fellowship rests in Lothlórien. By this point, they are right outside of Lórien, just waiting for the Fellowship to leave.

Camera: Exakta Verex VX (c1951)
Lens: A. Schacht Ulm Travegon 3.5/35mm
Film: AgfaChrome RS50Plus (x-01/1994); 25iso

January 23, 3019 – Lothlórien and the Battle of the Peak

Greetings, and welcome to January 23, 3019 of the Third Age. There’s not a whole lot going on today, at least on the surface.

Book Two, Chapter 7: The Mirror of Galadriel
“They remained some days in Lothlórien, so far as they could tell or remember.”

The Discomfort of Guests

In Lothlórien, the Fellowship minus Gandalf are basically just hanging out. Tolkien devoted a page and a half to the “some days in Lothlórien, so far as they could tell or remember,” among the Elves. At this point, they had been five days, and were just getting into the flow of things.

The sun was mostly shining, and it felt like early spring. Galadriel was busy doing Galadriel things and they hadn’t seen her since. Likely, she was trying to figure out if Gandalf was still alive (we’ll get to him in a minute).

They hadn’t even seen Haldir since their first night there. He went back to his day job watching the fences of the North.

Almost nobody spoke their language, and it doesn’t seem like anyone who did had anything much to say to them. Legolas checked out after the first night, preferring the company of Elves. Interestingly enough, he took Gimli with him much of the time. A real friendship seemed to be growing here.

There was a lot of down time, which meant a lot of mourning Gandalf. In the following days, this would become their main focus.

And Speaking of Gandalf…

It was on this day (his 9th with the Balrog) that the Fight on Zirakzigil/Silvertine/Celebdil took place. When we last left Gandalf and the Balrog, the former had the latter in retreat. But they had fallen so deep into the earth that Gandalf had to rely on the Balrog’s knowledge to lead him out. So while the Balrog was retreating, Gandalf had to keep up.

The Wizard followed the Balrog – “Ever up now we went, until we came to the Endless Stair.”

The Endless Stair was the stuff of legend. When Gandalf would later tell Gimli and Aragorn about it, Gimli had heard of it, but thought it no longer existed, if it was ever built at all.

But there it was, the Endless Stair.

‘From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak it climbed, ascending in unbroken spiral in many thousand steps, until it issued at last in Durin’s Tower carved in the living rock of Zirakzigil, the pinnacle of the Silvertine.’

There was a window at the top of the tower, and the Balrog squeezed through it to escape. Gandalf followed. Now outside, the Balrog’s fire was rekindled.

I’m honestly not sure why this was. Was the brisk, oxygen-deprived air somehow good for Balrog-fire? No idea.

Anyway, the peak was high above the clouds, and the world below was hidden from them. If anyone had been at the base of the mountain, all they would have seen was a storm above them – lightning, thunder, etc.

They would fight for three days on top of this peak.

Who Called It What?

In the description of the battle, delivered by Gandalf in Two Towers, he uses both “Zirakzigil,” “Silvertine,” and “Celebdil” when referring to the mountain. Did they all mean the same thing?

There were three peaks that stood over the mines of Moria. From north to south they were: Caradhras, Fanuidhol, and Celebdil (all in the Sindarin). In Westron (Common Speech) they were: Redhorn, Cloudyhead, and Silvertine. And in Khuzdul, they language used by Dwarfs, they were: Barazinbar, Bundushathûr, and Zirakzigil.

Gandalf didn’t exactly use them interchangeably. He referred to the mountain as “Zirakigil” immediately after explaining how Durin’s tower was carved. He then clarified by calling it “Silvertine,” in Westron, as he was also talking to Aragorn.

When he called it by the Sindarin name of Celebdil, he was referring to those below looking up. Those closest below (apart from the Orcs) were the Galadrim, the residents of Lórien.

These are wonderful little details employed by Tolkien (and Gandalf) showing incredible empathy for the cultures he was writing about (and speaking to/of).

When’s Next?

We’ll check back in on the 25th to see how the fight’s going.

Camera: Kodak Signet 40
Film: Fuji ProPlus II

I Wrote a LOT About Galadriel

When I started working on this blog four years ago, I wrote a great deal about Galadriel and her darkness. I grabbed some of the text to use in the recent posts, but the vast majority of it doesn’t quite fit in with the current project.

Still, I’d like to collect all of the posts into one, which is why I’ll do here.

The Annals of Galadriel – How Tolkien Created the Unfinished Queen
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. What follows is a timeline detailing Tolkien’s writing of Galadriel and the changes he made.

The First Glimpse of Lothlórien, Some History, and Some Doubts
I wanted to start by giving a bit of a history of the Silvan Elves beginning in the Second Age. How did Lothlórien come to be?

The Stain Upon Lothlorien
I re-used some of this text recently, but you might enjoy the whole thing. We are told that “On the land of Lórien there was no stain.” However, I think I might have found one: xenophobia.

Galadriel Works her Whammy on the Fellowship
Let’s take a closer look at Galadriel’s ability to read peoples’ minds. Much of the last post was taken directly from this one. But here it is in full.

The Dangerous Traditions of Elves and Dwarves
An exploration into the relations between Elves and Dwarves, focusing mostly on Lórien.

Like a Lance in Starlight – The First Appearance of the Lady Galadriel
Here, we’ll take a look into how Tolkien created Galadriel, and when. She wasn’t from the old Silmarillian stores, but a new invention.

Since the Dawning of the Sun – Galadriel’s History in Lord of the Rings
A brief look into the writing history of Galadriel within the Lord of the Rings framework. We’ll also hint at changes to come.

With and Without Galadriel in the Super-Exciting Tale of Years!
Most readers don’t even bother with the Tale of Years. But we’ll take a deep dive to figure out even more about Galadriel.

Sam’s Vision in the Mirror – Just What the Hell was Galadriel Thinking? (Part 1)Frodo’s Vision in the Mirror – Just What the Hell was Galadriel Thinking? (Part 2)
Both of these posts take a close look at Galadriel’s power and motives when it came to her Mirror (which doesn’t happen until the day before they leave Lórien, February 15th). And seriously, what the hell was she thinking?

‘You Will Give Me the Ring Freely!’ – Galadriel Gets Freaky
Let’s find out exactly how Galadriel Feels about the One Ring.

Passing the Test and STILL No Valinor for Galadriel!
Does Galadriel even know if she can return to Valinor? I suspect not.

‘A Queen She Was’ – Of Galadriel and the Rings of Power, Etc… (Mostly Etc.)
A bit of Galadriel’s in-story history.

‘To Rule There A Realm of Her Own Will’ – Galadriel and Why She Came to Middle-earth
Maybe Galadriel is a little darker than we think.

‘But I See Evil There’ – Galadriel’s Omission and Wandering
More of Galadriel’s in-story history.

Galadriel: Globe-Trotter and Realm-Ruler – Beyond the Silmarillion
Let’s look at Galadriel in the later Silmarillion writings.

Celebrimbor Loves Galadriel – Jumping the Shark or Fine Idea for a Spin-off Series?
A review of more of Tolkien’s later thoughts on Galadriel.

‘A Ban Was Set Upon Her Return’ – Tolkien Reinterprets His Own Writing
Was Galadriel actually banned? Did Tolkien ever make up his mind?

Galadriel’s Tragic Pride and Darkness
Tolkien changes his mind in his very late writings.

Tolkien’s Final Words on Middle-earth – Galadriel Unstained
Just what it says – Tolkien’s last words (basically).

Camera: Argus C3
Film: Kodak Elite Chrome (xpro – expired 2003)

January 18, 3019 – The Enemy Calls Upon Uglúk and Grishnákh (and a Nazgúl)

Welcome to January 18, 3019 of the Third Age. While the Fellowship is getting comfy in Lothlórien, I thought I’d catch you up a bit with the Enemy.

Most of these details come from Tolkien’s notes (as given in Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Companion). It’s easy to pass over them, but I like these little details.

As we know, the Orcs pursued the Fellowship out of Moria. At the same time, they sent messengers to Saruman at Isengard. They mention what happened, as well as a run in with Gollum. They also sent birds to Sauron in Moria.

On this day, the messengers reached Isengard. They also apparently reach Moria (or Sauron somehow figures it out.

Saruman sends out Uglúk, the leader of the Uruk-hai scouts. Meanwhile, Sauron dispatches Grishnákh and the Orcs of Mordor. All seem to be on their way to the outskirts of Lórien. They can’t get it, but they sure can mill around outside all creepy-like.

Tolkien doesn’t explicitly say this in his notes, but it’s also pretty likely that at least one Nazgúl is en route.

Camera: Smena 8M
Film: Ilford HP5 (x-1/81); 100iso

January 17, 3019 – Meeting Galadriel and That Other Guy

Welcome to January 17, 3019 of the Third Age. Today the Fellowship enters Lothórien proper and gets to meet Galadriel and her husband. Let’s not dilly dally.

Book Two, Chapter 6: Lothlórien
“In the morning they went on again, walking without haste.”

A Break at Cerin Amroth

For the morning walk, the Fellowship were all still blindfolded. But around noon they stopped and were met by some Elves sent by Galadriel. They told them that they could remove the blindfolds – even Gimli, who was the first Dwarf to look upon Lórien since Durin’s Day.

Even before having his blindfold removed, Frodo was enamored by Lothlorien. But once he could see, so much of it came flooding over him. This was done by direct order from Galadriel herself. Even Gimli the Dwarf was to have his blindfold removed. She knew all about the Fellowship and knew its purpose.

Elves can often be dicks. We see example upon example of this. Even Haldir, when threatening to kill Gimli, was dickish (to say the least). But now all was different and Haldir even apologized to Gimli, who was the first to have his blindfold removed. Of course, that’s a bit diminished by Haldir basically saying “Check out the most awesome place in the world! You are so lucky to see it!” Lothlorien’s Elves were out of touch, especially with Dwarvendom.

When Frodo’s blindfold was removed, he looked around and likened it to “Springtime in the Elder Days.” Just what he knew about the Elder Days is pretty unclear. Bilbo, more than any Hobbit, would be the person to talk to about such thing, and it’s likely he related much of what he knew to Frodo.

Or maybe it was a feeling put well into words. It’s not really all that different from Sam’s rough (but brilliant) estimation: “I thought Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more Elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel as if I was inside a song, if you take my meaning.”

Frodo felt the same, like “he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world.” And in truth, he did. Haldir explained that Lothlorien, and specifically Cerin Amroth, where they stopped, “is the heart of the ancient realm as it was long ago.”

For some reason we’re not told, Haldir wanted the Fellowship to rest here for a few hours so that they’d “come to the city of the Galadhrim at dusk.” There’s no real reason for him to do this. Maybe Galadriel had to tidy up the place before guests arrived and Haldir was just buying her some time. No idea, though maybe it was for show. As we’ll see later, coming into the city at dusk was quite a sight.

To Frodo’s eyes, everything seemed new and ancient all at once. This seemed to effect him more than any of the others, though Sam was definitely a close second. Even though the colors he saw were nothing new, it was as if he had never seen anything like them before. It seemed as if the world was being recreated just for his viewing. This was, as Haldir explained, “the power of the Lady of the Galadhrim.”

As Haldir led Frodo up the hill, the hobbit “felt that he was in a timeless land that did not fade or change or fall into forgetfulness.” Powerful stuff, to be sure, but an illusion. The hill upon which they stood was drastically changed from the previous age when Amroth built his house in the trees. His house was long gone, a flet (basically a platform) in its place.

As Frodo climbed up the ladder to the flet, his senses were keenly aware. He experienced this a bit when he was blindfolded, which could have been chalked up to having to rely more only upon his other senses. But now, even with sight, he was hyper-aware of everything – not just of the texture of the tree, but “of the life within it.”

“He felt a delight in wood and the touch of it, neither as forester nor as carpenter; it was the delight of the living tree itself.”

When Frodo looked around from atop the tree, he first saw all of Lothlorien, including the Anduin. But when he looked beyond, it was as if he was no longer under the spell of Galadriel, “and he was back again in the world he knew.”

What he saw beyond the river was “flat and empty, formless and vague. “The sun that lay on Lothlorien had no power to enlighten the shadow of that distant height.” The “sun” in this case was actually Galadriel’s power, and the “distant height” was Dol Guldur in Southern Mirkwood, “where long the hidden enemy had his dwelling.”

For what Ciran Amroth meant to Aragorn, see this.

Here Dwell Celeborn and Galadriel

In the late afternoon, the Fellowship, let by Haldir, went on again. In a few miles, they came upon Caras Galadhon, the main city in Lórien. They were to meet with Celeborn and Galadriel.

After a quick exchange of niceties, they got down to business. While Celeborn spoke to them, Galadriel said nothing, “but looked long upon his [Frodo’s] face.” When all eight of them had been sat before the Lord and Lady, Celeborn questioned why there weren’t nine. He figured that maybe Elrond had changed his mind and the messengers never made it to Lothlórien. But Galadriel understood that Elrond had nothing to do with this.

‘Nay, there was no change of counsel,’ said the Lady Galadriel, … ‘Gandalf the Grey set out with the Company, but he did not pass the borders of this land. Now tell us where he is; for I much desired to speak with him again. But I cannot see him from afar, unless he comes within the fences of Lothlórien: a grey mist is about him, and the ways of his feet and of his mind are hidden from me.’

This was the first time we have any idea of Galadriel’s clairvoyance. Somehow she knew that Gandalf had set out with them. As soon as the Fellowship entered Lórien, she was probably aware that something was amiss or missing. It wasn’t until the Fellowship appeared before her that she could read their thoughts and tell that there wasn’t a change of counsel – Gandalf was simply not there. Currently, he was still battling the Balrog.

When she said that she could not see him from afar, exactly what she meant is a bit confusing and can be interpreted in one of two ways. It’s possible that she could usually see him from afar, but couldn’t now because of some external force (the grey mist), probably Sauron. This would go towards explaining how she knew he was originally with the Fellowship. Her sight could now only reach to the fences of Lothlórien.

However, it’s also possible that she meant that her sight only ever reached to those boundaries, and only when Gandalf didn’t show up within them, could she tell that he was missing. This would assume that she was expecting him, which is a pretty fair assumption. The grey mist, in this case, would then be everything outside of the fences of Lothlórien.

I guess It’s also possible that since Gandalf was in a battle with the Balrog under Moria, the inherent evil of the Balrog somehow cast a grey mist blocking her sight. But whatever it was, Galadriel couldn’t see Gandalf and was worried.

At this point, Galadriel stops speaking and Celeborn asks the Fellowship what happened to Gandalf and of their story so far. She speaks up only to chastise Celeborn for implying that “at the last Gandalf fell from wisdom into folly.” She also chastises him for being a dick to Gimli.

Galadriel knew about Frodo’s quest and that he was the Ring-bearer, and that in itself is a bit strange. It’s hard to believe that Elrond would send messengers to Lothlórien with the specifics. They would have news of a group of travelers, yes, but not the specific quest. Somehow or another, Galadriel knew, though when she knew it was never said. It’s possible that she heard from Elrond’s messengers and deduced it, and it’s also likely that she read Frodo’s mind – she was looking at him intently when he entered.

Here, Galadriel informs the Fellowship that she wouldn’t tell them what to do. Instead, she told them that she could see into the past, present and part of the future.

‘And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them in turn. None save Legolas and Aragorn could long endure her glance. Sam quickly blushed and hung his head.’

The gaze she held them in seems similar to how she looked upon Frodo when they first entered. When she was finally finished, they all “felt suddenly weary, as those who have been questioned long and deeply, though no words had been spoken openly.” This was clearly more intense than her prior interaction with Frodo.

Galadriel Gets Creepy

Only after the Fellowship left her chamber did they swap notes on whatever the hell just happened to them. The most innocent and open spoke first. Pippin made fun of Sam for blushing, suggesting that he had a guilty conscious. But Sam was “in no mood for jest.”

‘If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn’t got nothing on, and I didn’t like it. She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance to flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with – with a bit of garden of my own.’

Sam was rattled. He didn’t appreciate Galadriel entering his mind, and thought it was an invasion. Merry concurred, and seemed too traumatized to speak of it. Curiously Pippin didn’t share anything with them, and since he poked fun at Sam, maybe he was only gently probed by Galadriel (or maybe Merry took the invasion for both of them).

Gimli also admitted that when Galadriel had entered his mind, also offering a choice, that she told him that nobody would even know if he left the Fellowship. This was either a blatant lie, or she was coyly offering to mind-wipe every other member of the party like she was some kind of Sindarin Man in Black.

At first, Boromir seemed to be giving her the benefit of the doubt. “Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read out thoughts for her own good purpose….” But that’s quickly tossed aside, when he fairly passively suggests that “she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give.”

Whether Galadriel had the power to actually give what she offered to the hobbits and Gimli is impossible to say. But Boromir seemed incredibly certain that she could not give him what he wanted. But would this exchange ultimately be healthy for the supposedly valiant Boromir?

During the Council of Elrond, Boromir suggested that they use the One Ring to battle Sauron. This was something that would flower later, but at this point it seems that there’s a touch of germination going on. He wouldn’t say what Galadriel had offered him, but whatever it was, he refused to listen because otherwise, he would be betraying his word (apparently to stay true to the Fellowship, though I don’t remember him swearing to anything specific).

Boromir was, like Merry, rattled, but asked Frodo what she had done to his [Frodo’s] mind. Frodo, however, was keeping that close to his breast. Boromir understood and told him: “I do not feel too sure of this Elvish Lady and her purposes.” Aragorn snapped at him: “Speak no evil of the Lady Galadriel!”

However, Boromir wasn’t speaking evil about Galadriel in any sense. Rumor of her had gotten to Gondor, and he was uneasy about Lothlórien in general prior to their arrival. All he was doing was expressing his understandable hesitation to trust a stranger who just probed the innards of his brain, lying to him while doing so.

They soon fell asleep, and would be in Lothlórien for an entire month

When’s Next?

We’ll take a few days off, but be back on the 23rd to catch up with Gandalf!

Camera: Ricoh KR-10 (1980)
Lens: Mamiya-Sekor 55mm; f/1.8; 80B filter
Film: Kono Rotwild 400 CN

January 16, 3018 – A Lovely Stroll Through Lothlórien

Hi! Welcome to Lórien! Today is January 16, 3019 of the Third Age – a walking day, but we can chat shit about a few things. The Fellowship (minus Gandalf, of course) met Haldir and friends the day before. He put them up (literally) for the night, and this morning they’re ready for more walking.

We’ll also have a quick check in on Gandalf, so stick around for that, okay?

Book Two, Chapter 6: Lothlórien
“Day came pale from the East.”

No Peeking

After a bit of a brisk morning walk, Haldir (with the help of a nameless Elf) fashioned a rope bridge so that they could cross the Silverlode. All made it across, though Sam had the most trouble. He took it in stride, mentioning his Uncle Andy (short for Andwise Roper of Tighfield) who had never done a trick like that.

Once across, Haldir broke the news to them that they’d have to meet Celeborn and Galadriel, rulers of Lórien. They had, he told them, “entered the Naith of Lorien, or the Gore, as you would say.” Both “naith” and “gore” mean a sort triangle of land between the Silverlode and the Anduin. This was the most secret land. “Few indeed are permitted even to set food here.”

This was where Gimli was blindfolded under so much protestation. In his defense, he said that “I am no more likely to betray you than Legolas….” This might not have been the best example of loyalty, but Haldir got what he was saying, though would not change his mind as this was the law.

“This,” I assume, is that dwarves must be blindfolded before being allowed into Lorien proper. Seems like an incredibly specific law. If it was actually the law, it must have been an old one. Dwarves, apart from Balin’s party, hadn’t lived in Moria in over 1,000 years (they escaped from it in 1981 of the Third Age).

The law, it seems, wasn’t that all strangers had to be blindfolded, as the others in the party – even Boromir – were fine with eyes wide open. This was specifically leveled against Gimli. It’s possible that though Balin didn’t have any contact with the Elves while he was in Moria (about 30 years before), the Elves knew they were there and enacted the law just in case. Though for woodland Elves who communicated by bird whistles, that seems weirdly legalistic.

Before things could get too heated (Haldir threatened to kill Gimli if he didn’t cooperate), Aragorn’s passive-aggressiveness saves the day: “It is hard upon the Dwarf to be thus singled out. We will all be blindfold, even Legolas. That will be best, though it will make the journey slow and dull.”

I realize that things were tense at this point, but everybody got really whiny and petty – and by “everybody,” I mean Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn, especially the latter two. In fact, the only ones who seem to conduct themselves with any sort of dignity were the Hobbits (Pippin was the best with the rope) and Boromir, who basically kept his mouth shut. The three eldest personalities were making it miserable for everyone.

Elves as Isolationists

As they walked, conversations bubbled, the most interesting being between Haldir and Merry. For instance, Haldir’s reasoning for the blindfolds was simply that Lorien couldn’t afford to trust anyone not from Lorien (and maybe Rivendell). They blamed it upon the power of the Dark Lord, and also upon the “lack of faith and trust in the world beyond Lothlorien,” but it’s not exactly like these Elves were making a huge effort to find friends outside of their realm.

Haldir’s people were feeling isolated and threatened. The rivers on two sides were no longer a practical defense, and Orcs were clearly moving into the Misty Mountains to the west. Rumor was also playing hell with them. They had heard that Rohan, to the southwest, was no longer friendly.

Even if they wanted to give up on Middle-earth, the mouth of the Anduin was also rumored to be watched, and the Grey Havens were little more than legend, though Haldir suspected that Galdriel and Celeborn knew where they were.

There was also a bit of a divide in Lorien. Some were optimistic, insisting that “the Shadow will draw back, and peace shall come again.” They apparently held that there would come another Elder Days sort of wonderfulness. But Haldir, a bit more realistic, didn’t buy it. Those days were over.

“For the Elves, I fear, it will prove at best a truce, in which they may pass to the Sea unhindered and leave the Middle-earth for ever.”

And by “truce,” Haldir undoubtedly meant the defeat of Sauron, since an actual truce was pretty well out of the question by this time.

All of this seemed pretty bleak. Elves had been diminishing in number since the Second Age, but it seemed like there was about to be a grand exodus sometime soon. Still through all of this, Frodo, even blindfolded, felt “That he had steeped over a bridge of time into a corner of the Elder Days, and was now walking in a world that was no more.”

He had a bit of this feeling in Rivendell. Elrond’s house was a great place to rest. It was a “cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.” But even as he tramped along unable to see, Frodo could tell that Lothlorien was something more.

Frodo saw Rivendell as having “a memory of ancient things.” It was like a really fine museum – complete with Second Age history and a broken sword. There was still planning and intrigue in Rivendell. Elrond was in command in a very realistic sort of way, sending scouts, devising strategy, and actively searching for a way to defeat Sauron.

Lothlorien was turning out to be something much different. It was out of time. The future didn’t seem to be an issue no matter how bleak the present appeared. Though Haldir wasn’t so optimistic, clearly many were, thinking all this Shadow stuff would just blow over – after all, hadn’t it before?

During the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age, the Elves of Lorien sent a column of troops into battle. But that was before Galadriel and Celeborn took over. Once they were in power, about 1,000 years before our story takes place, little was done by the denizens of Lothlorien when it came to helping others in Middle-earth against Sauron.

When armies of Orcs and other various enemies were storming across Eriador, Gondor and Rohan, the Elves of Lothlorien did nothing. Distance could be an excuse for some of that, but it falls flat when the Orcs took over Moria, not twenty miles away from their borders. Even when the Dwarves were defeated, they did nothing, even though the Orcs were a common enemy. They strongly suspected that there was a Balrog in Moria and did absolutely nothing about it, not even bothering to post a “Beware of Balrog” sign at the gate.

This was because they didn’t have to do anything to ensure their survival. Galadriel had that covered in a very Girdle of Melian sort of way. And, as true isolationists, if they were safe, the rest of Middle-earth could crumble around them for all they cared.

So it’s easy to understand why some of the Elves of Lothlorien were optimistic. This could all blow over because that’s what stuff did.

Good Night – Still No Peeking

They walked, blindfoled, the entire day. Even when they came to rest at night, they had to keep their blindfolds one. As they slept, things were taking place behind the scenes.

That night, the Elves attacked the Orcs, killing most of them. They also saw Gollum, but didn’t shoot at him since they had no idea what it was – good or bad. He had slipped by them, escaping south along (or in) the Silverlode.

A Quick Check-in on Gandalf

Tolkien gave us precious little when it comes to the Gandalf vs. Balrog fight, but whatever he gave, I’ll do my best to share.

For this date, he wrote in “Scheme” (a set of dates for LotR that is a bit more involved than ‘Tale of Years’):
‘Wrestles with the Balrog and pursues it through he deeps for many days.’

For readers familiar with other Balrog battles, that Gandalf was able to not only wrestle with the thing, but apparently send it into a retreat is pretty remarkable. Of course, we don’t get a feel for what “wrestling” here entails, but I assume it’s not all suplexes and figure-four leg locks.

In Two Towers, Chapter 5 Gandalf the White explains: “Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels.”

Whatever it powers Gandalf was using, either physical or mystical or both, he must have wounded or terrified the Balrog enough that it couldn’t even hold its ground – for days.

These dark tunnels, we learn, “were not made by Durin’s Folk,” but down that far ” the world is gnawed by nameless things.” Even Sauron doesn’t know what’s down there – “They are older than he.”

This, of course, brings up a whole slew of questions that have been mulled over since the 50s. I’ll not poke that bear.

While keeping the Balrog in retreat, Gandalf began to rely on it as he “only hope” of escaping the depths. “I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dûm: too well he knew them all.”

That last bit probably takes place in a few days, but you get the picture.

When’s Next?

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! We’ll enter downtown Lórien, and meet an Elf and her husband.

Camera: Mamiya RB67 (1974)
Lens: Mamiya-Sekor C 3.8/90mm
Film: Kodak Portra 160

January 15, 3019 – The Loss of Gandalf (and Quite a Bit More)

Welcome to January 15, 3019 of the Third Age. This is a pretty huge day, historically. And it’s a pretty busy one. Let’s go!

Book Two, Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark
“He woke and found that the others were speaking softly near him, and that a dim light was falling on his face.”

The Balrog and the Loss of Gandalf

Frodo woke after pretty much everybody was up. His sleep wasn’t great, as he kept having “dreams” about whispers and “two pale lights,” which we can pretty well assume were Gollum. After breakfast, they followed Gandalf’s lead and came upon a wide corridor, and before long, Balin’s Tomb.

This gave Gandalf a good idea where they were, and also showed him the way they had to go to get out. And then there were drums.

‘Trapped!’ cried Gandalf. ‘Why did I delay? Here we are, caught, just as they were before.’

Gimli had been mesmerized by the last entry in the Book of Mazarbul “We cannot get out.” He was repeating it, and it seems as if Gandalf might have been taken under its “spell” for a second. Then he says, “But I was not here then. We will see what – ”

With that, Gandalf took charge, correcting the plans of both Aragorn and Boromir, hunks to the end. It was soon discovered that there were Orcs, Uruks and even a cave-troll. During the ensuing melee, Gandalf isn’t mentioned at all, until the end when he calls for a timely retreat. Through it, he acts as a rear guard, though Aragorn protested. ‘Do as I say!’ said Gandalf fiercely. ‘Swords are no more use here. Go!’

Through his powers, Gandalf held back the enemy for as long as he could, admitting that he was “rather shaken.” After walking for an hour without the sounds of pursuit (mostly going down stairs), Gandalf admitted that he had been “suddenly faced by something that I have not met before.”

Gandalf had heard the Orcs talking of fire, and then he felt through the door that something else had entered the chamber. “The orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent.” Gandalf could tell that the thing had “perceived” him and his spell cast upon the door.

This was the Balrog, and here we learn a bit about it (before actually knowing it’s a Balrog). Gandalf did not have any idea what it was, “but I have never felt such a challenge.” It wasn’t necessarily stronger than him, but it cast a counter-spell, which nearly broke Gandalf. He doesn’t just say that it nearly broke his own spell, but that it nearly broke him. Of course, Gandalf’s spell was fully broken by the Balrog’s counter, and he had to cast another, which ultimately broke the door.

With the door gone, Gandalf should have been able to get a look at the thing before him. But the only glimpse afforded to him before it threw the wizard down the stairs showed him that “something dark as a cloud was blocking out all the light inside.”

It can’t be stressed enough that Gandalf didn’t know that it was a Balrog. This says quite a bit about the War of Wrath that closed out the First Age. So thorough was the destruction of Morgoth that everything related to him was wiped out, including Balrogs – or so it was thought.

Gandalf knew that there were many evil things in Middle-earth that had no connection to either Morgoth or Sauron. They were evil for evil’s sake and maybe even too numerous to count. So it’s not really surprising that he didn’t know specifically what it was.

During a brief respite, Gandalf said to Frodo that he took after Bilbo. “There is more about you than meets the eye, as I said of him long ago.” Gandalf said that a couple of times to Bilbo – or something similar. “There is always more about you than anyone expects!”

As they continued, led by Gandalf, they saw the light of fire set by the Orcs. It seems to have been set before they confronted them in Balin’s Tomb, as Gandalf led them through another passageway instead of the main corridor. It placed the fire between the Fellowship and the Orcs. All that separated our heroes from escape was the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm.

The bridge was narrow and dangerous, and spanned a dark and seemingly bottomless chasm. Gimli now took the lead while Gandalf and Legolas took the rear guard position.

After giving the description of the Balrog (“a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it.”) it’s Legolas who knows what it is.

Since he was born after the War of Wrath, Legolas had definitely never seen a Balrog before. But he was probably raised with the legends enough to know exactly what one looked like. That probably seems a bit of a stretch. Why have Legolas know what it is at all? Why not Gandalf?

‘A Balrog,’ muttered Gandalf. ‘Now I understand.’ He faltered and leaned heavily on his staff. ‘What an evil fortune! And I am already weary.’

Now Gandalf understood what he saw at the door in the brief second before he was thrown down the stairs. Like Legolas (apparently), he knew the history of the Balrogs, their powers, and that they could kill all of them before breakfast.

‘Fly! This is a foe beyond any of you. I must hold the narrow way. Fly!’

The battle between Gandalf and the Balrog is really fascinating. Though Gandalf had Glamdring in his right hand, this wasn’t really a battle of physical strength. The Balrog could see what Gandalf was – an Ishtar, a wizard. Or at the very least, he could see that Gandalf was no ordinary Man or even some lofty necromancer. Just to drive that point home, Gandalf called:

“I am the servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Arnor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.”

Here, Gandalf was telling the Balrog that he was one of the Ainur – that he was a Maiar. The flame of Arnor is the same Flame Imperishable that Illuvatar gave to the Ainur in the Ainulindale of the Silmarillion. And while Gandalf had within him the Flame Imperishable, the Balrog was merely the “flame of Udun,” a flame from beneath Thangorodrim, where Morgoth used to live. Unlike Gandalf, the Balrog served a dead master.

The fight then turned more physical, though both were obviously augmented by their powers. But that didn’t last long. With his staff, Gandalf purposely broke the bridge which the Balrog had now stepped upon. The demon fell, but caught Gandalf with his whip. “He staggered and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss.”

With the way out before them, and the bridge gone, the Fellowship, now minus one Grey wizard, made their escape.

On the Road to Lórien

The first thing the Fellowship did was mourn. Aragorn started it off with a bit of “I told you so” (too soon, hunk). ‘Farewell, Gandalf!’ he cried. ‘Did I not say to you: if you pass the doors of Moria, beware? Alas I spoke true! What hope have we without you?’ This sounds very similar to the Dwarves’ lamentations in The Hobbit after Gandalf left them.

Following a short pep talk, Aragorn became their leader, pointing out Dimrill Stair – a series of small waterfalls, and pointing out that they should have come that way, as if he were some Monday morning quarterback. Of note is the mountain Caradhras, which had provided the snowstorm that kept them from using the Redhorn Pass and Dimrill Stair. Now it was sunny and would have been relatively easy to cross.

This must have been very hard on Gimli. He had always wanted to see Moria and the Mirrormere, which they came upon next. He recalled Gandalf telling him “May you have joy of the sight!,” but now all seemed lost. “Now long shall I journey ere I have joy again.”

The path they traveled was once a great paved Dwarvish road. Now it was old and cracked and resembled stairs more than a highway. Along the path, there were ruins, and then a single broken column. This was Durin’s Stone.

This was not Durin’s grave, but a monument to mark where Durin the Deathless looked down into the Mirrormere and saw a crown upon his head. Actually, it was the reflection of the mountains, but Dwarves apparently dug symbolism as much as Mithril. They saw seven “stars,” which Durin had seen as well. This probably went on to represent the seven Durins that they believed would come. It was also where Balin was killed, though I’ll get to that at a later date (promise).

The Fellowship then followed the Silverload toward Lothlorien, their next destination.

Shortly after seeing the forest quite a ways before them, Frodo and Sam began to lag behind, as they had been wounded in the fighting. Aragorn, I’m noticing, can get a bit passive-aggressive. When he saw how far behind Frodo and Sam had fallen, he apologized – sort of. “You should have spoken. We have done nothing to ease you, as we ought, though all the orcs of Moria were after us.” That’s sort of dickish, no? Clearly, he was spending too much time around Elves.

Soon enough, they found a dell and took a bit of rest. They were only a few miles from Moria at this point, so resting wasn’t exactly something they wanted to do. It was around 3pm and the sun was soon going to set. If they didn’t want a repeat of the events following the Dwarves’ adventures after leaving the Misty Mountains, they better make it short.

They started a fire and Aragorn tended to Sam and Frodo’s wounds, using the same athelas leaves that he had gathered at Weathertop. Though Sam was willing to be tended, Frodo wasn’t. This is where they found that Bilbo’s Mithril armor has saved Frodo’s life.

Nobody but Frodo and Bilbo knew he had it, though Gandalf might have been suspicious back in the guard room in Moria: “Bilbo had a corslet of mithril-rings that Thorin gave him. I wonder what has become of it? Gathering dust still in Michel Delving Mathom-house, I suppose.”

Gandalf suggested that its worth was greater than the whole Shire put together, but once Gimli got a look at it, he noted that the wizard undervalued it. And that it saved the life of the Ringbearer several times during the fight, its value was truly immeasurable.

Welcome to Lórien

After a quick meal, they were on the road again. The dusk was turning to dark, and shortly after the stars appeared, Frodo again “heard something, or thought he had.” And again, it was Gollum, who had slipped out of Moria with the Fellowship.

Gollum’s flapping was soon overtaken by the wind rustling the leaves of the Golden Wood – Lothlórien! Legolas and Aragorn were jazzed, while Gimli figured that the Elves had long since abandoned it. Boromir, having heard the legends of what was basically known as Faerie in Gondor, wanted almost nothing to do with it. Aragorn, again, got all passive aggressive, and Boromir rolled his hunky eyes and they went on.

A mile or so later, they came upon Nimrodel, a legendary stream in the Elf-world. Even Legolas knew songs about it. After they crossed, he sang one about Amroth and Nimrodel. Nobody asked him to. He just did it. I talked at length about it here.

After a quick chat about history, they went deeper into the woods. Losing their way, Legolas scampered up a tree. While up there, he argued dickishly with the Hobbits.

Soon the Fellowship was discovered by three Elves of Lórien – Haldir, Rúmil and Orophin. After a speedy introduction, Haldir insisted they sleep in the trees, since there were squads of Orcs looking for them.

While falling asleep, some Orcs came near, but missed them as they moved deeper into Lórien (where Haldir explained they would all be slaughtered – damn, Elf!). Haldir also saw Gollum, but didn’t want to shoot him because he wasn’t sure what it was (and also didn’t want Gollom’s cries to bring the Orcs back).

A Quick Check-in with Gandalf

By this point, if you’re still reading at all, you might be wondering about the old Gandalf fellow. How is his day going?

Though the rest of the Fellowship don’t know this, his day sort of went from bad to worse. After falling off the bridge, he just kept falling.

We learn in Two Towers, Chapter 5, that Gandalf fell for a “long time.” While falling, the Balrog’s fire burned Gandalf before they both plunged into cold water.

The water extinguished’s the Balrog’s fire and he became “a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake.”

They’d continue their battle, with the Balrog clutching Gandalf and Gandalf hewing the Balrog.

When’s Next?

Tomorrow! It’s just more walking, but we’ll be here.

Camera: Bolsey Jubilee
Film: Polypan F 50