Tolkien’s Wizards Before Middle-earth

Greetings! I’d like to take a bit of time while Gandalf makes his way to Saruman at Isengard to talk a little about the history of the Istari, the Wizards of Middle-earth. I’ll take a look at Tolkien’s texts from both The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.

Some were written as he was fleshing out Lord of the Rings in 1948, while others were penned shortly before his death in 1972. It’s an interesting story, so let’s get to it!

Some Writing Background

The Silmarillion quickly touches upon the Istari and the build up to the War of the Ring. That passage was mostly written by Tolkien as part of the Council of Elrond when he was fleshing out certain bits of Lord of the Rings around 1948. In fact, Christopher Tolkien reckons that his father probably intended it to be used in full, but scaled it back for brevity’s sake.

A few years later, in 1954, Tolkien had another go at the history of the Istari. This can be found in Unfinished Tales. This was actually part of a larger work that Tolkien undertook – the building of an encyclopedic index for The Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers. This effort actually delayed the publishing of Return of the King but was itself never finished or published.

It was during this period that Tolkien jotted down random ideas as they came to him. This is likely where the origin story for the Istari came in.

The Wizards in Valinor

Basically it’s this – as Sauron was coming to power in Middle-earth, the Valar got together and formed a plan to ultimately check and defeat him. The wished to send three emissaries, but at first couldn’t figure out who should go.

They had to “be mighty, peers of Sauron, but must forgo might, and clothe themselves in flesh so as to treat on equality and win the trust of Elves and Men.”

Clothing a spiritual being (all of the Wizards were Maiar) in flesh “would imperil them, dimming their wisdom and knowledge, and confusing them with fears, cares, and wearinesses coming from the flesh.”

The first two to come forward were Curumo and Alatar. Curumo was Saruman and Alatar would turn out to be one of the mysterious Blue Wizards. Manwë, the head of the Valar, then asked Olórin “who was clad in grey” to be the third messenger.

Camera: Smena 8M
Film: Kodak Tri-X
Processed: Rodinal 1+50 9.5mins

This was Gandalf, of course, and he was selected specifically because he loved the Elves. In fact, he lived in Lórien in Valinor with the Elves and “walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them, and they did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts.” and But Gandalf confessed that he was too weak and feared Sauron. Manwë insisted, however, that it was those qualities that qualified him to make the journey.

But here a seed was planted. When Manwë suggested that Gandalf be the “third,” Varda, who was known by the Elves as Elbereth, “looked up and said: ‘Not as the third’. We next learn that Curumo, later known as Saruman the White, “remembered it.”

So even before they left Valinor, Saruman was jealous of Gandalf. Saruman volunteered to go to Middle-earth. He wasn’t selected, he wasn’t specifically asked for by Manwë, he certainly didn’t receive a de facto promotion by Varda.

Gandalf was honestly humble, and rather than disqualifying him from the journey, Manwë praised Gandalf for his weakened qualities.

Of course, this left Radagast and the other Blue Wizard. Radagast wasn’t exactly chosen, but Yavanna begged Saruman to take him as a favor to her. Saruman couldn’t refuse, but this might also explain why he had such a grudge against Radagast the Brown.

As for the other Blue Wizard, we learn that “Alatar took Pallando as a friend,” which is pretty heartwarming and sweet.

Much later in 1972, Tolkien wrote that the Istari “were free each to do what they could in this mission; that they were not commanded or supposed to act together as a small central body of power and wisdom; and that each had different powers and inclinations and were chosen by the Valar with this in mind.”

What’s Next?

On Monday, we’ll continue this story with the arrival of the Wizards in Middle-earth.

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The One Ring Amps Up Boromir’s Sass

As the Fellowship drifted farther south on the Anduin towards the rapids at Sarn Gebir, Boromir turned cranky. Maybe the sounds of the crashing water kept him up late the night before, or maybe it was something to do with the lust for the Ring. Whichever, he was not even a little amused when Aragorn suggested that they continue down the river, going over the rapids, all the way to Emyn Muil.

Boromir bitched and moaned about this. “If the Emyn Muil lie before us, then we can abandon these cockle-boats, and strike westward and southward, until we come to the Entwash and cross into my own land.”

First, I realize that “cockle-boats” is just another term for “small boats.” It’s a specific classification of water crafts. But really, isn’t this so much better if “cockle” reads more like some Third Age expletive? Yes. Yes it does.

And almost as important, you’ve no doubt noticed Boromir’s incredibly clever mention of just going to Minas Tirith because obviously that’s where they’re all going anyway, because why the hell wouldn’t you want to go to Minas Tirith, right?

Aragorn thought it was a fine idea to head that way, if Minas Tirith was their destination. Which it wasn’t. Besides, they couldn’t exactly get lost on the River. There was the question of the falls, though. And this is where Boromir laid thick the sass.

…what will you do then? Leap down the Falls and land in the marshes?”

Seriously, this guy is hilarious in Gondor. Leap down the Falls and land in the marshes! Get it? Because the marshes are squishy! Boromir’s rapier-wit was second to none.

But when it was clear that Frodo was going to follow Aragorn, Boromir relented, but not without more sass. They would need his strength, he told them, and “it is not the way of the Men of Minas Tirith to desert their friends at need.” He’d go to Amon Hen, the tall rock on the west bank of the falls, but no farther. “There I shall turn to my home, alone if my help has not earned the reward of any companionship.”

He was really becoming a wet blanket about all of this.

None of this seemed to phase Aragorn at all. He and Legolas left Boromir and Gimli with the hobbits on the River while they searched for a path along he western shore. Aragorn actually told them that if he didn’t return, they’d have to pick a new leader. Fortunately, both returned, and though it doesn’t say it, Boromir probably grumbled a little.

He certainly did when he was told that they’d have to portage. “That would not be easy, even if we were all Men.”

Tolkien devoted exactly one sentence to this most difficult task. Maybe it was his way of getting Boromir to shut his stupid face hole.

In Boromir’s defense, he was a pretty big help in carrying the boats, aided only by Aragorn. Together, they carried all three. His redemption was short-lived as he cracked wise at the expense of a sleeping Gimli.

Several of my previous posts support Boromir more than most readers think right. And that’s okay. In a lot of ways, I like this Boromir fellow. He really is an honorable and good man. Sure, he gets cranky, but who doesn’t? I’d be a complete mess in his shoes.

His undoing was his patriotism and lust for the Ring (which played upon that patriotism). The longer he was exposed to the Ring, the more he wanted it to aid in the defense of Gondor.

Tolkien couldn’t resist one last dig at Boromir before closing the chapter. As they were floating past the Argonath, he wrote that “even Boromir bowed his head.”

Camera: Argus C3 Film: Fuji Sensia II 200 (xpro)

Camera: Argus C3
Film: Fuji Sensia II 200 (xpro)

A Few Notes

  • Because I’m feeling a little “meh” on this post, I thought I’d give you a bit of behind-the-scenes info about what some other folks were doing at this time. Gollum, for one, was still making his way to Emyn Muil, avoiding the Orcs. And speaking of the Orcs, Grishnákh and Uglúk were in the western part of Emyn Muil searching for the Fellowship. Gandalf was on Gwaihir flying to Fangorn. And the First Battle of the Fords of Isen was underway. It’s there that Théoden’s son, Théodred was killed – so ordered by Saruman. This is detailed in Unfinished Tales‘ “The Battles of the Fords of Isen”.
  • For some reason, I’m really apprehensive about writing the last few posts for Fellowship. Mostly, I just want to rip into the Silmarillion, but even before I decided to do that, I just didn’t feel I had a very good grasp on “The Breaking of the Fellowship” chapter.

About the Photo
So why the desert pic? Well, when we were driving through Utah, I looked to my right and saw what I first thought were white statues. After driving past them, I turned around and made the stop. Somewhere during that, my mind convinced itself that they looked a bit like the Argonath. When I snapped more than a few photos of the, I was certain. Now looking at it, I can still sort of see it, but mostly, not. Another version is here. And here.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1264 (370 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 19 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 489 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 24-25, 3019 TA. (map)

Mind-Reading and Telepathy in Middle-earth – Comparing Galadriel to Melkor?

In the Lothlórien chapters, we’re told of Galadriel’s mental abilities of telepathy and mind-reading. Since these are “slippery slope” areas, potentially fraught with the dangers of over-reach and mal-intent, I thought I’d take a closer look at her actions and how it relates to the rest of Tolkien’s work. This is by no means an exhaustive treatise on telepathy in Tolkien’s writings – Tolkien himself did this in an essay entitled Ósanwe-kenta – but rather, a closer look at Galadriel.

We might start by taking a look at mind reading vs. telepathy, as it appears that Galadriel had the ability to do both. Mind reading, by definition, is invasive and could be done against the will of the person whose mind is being read. Telepathy, on the other hand, is simply mental communication between two willing minds.

Our first taste of this with Galadriel is when the Fellowship arrived in Lothlórien (as discussed here). She tried to reach Gandalf with her mind, but could not see him. This was an attempt at telepathy. But there’s also her interaction with Fellowship themselves, a sort of conversation where she offered each something they wanted. Sam described it as feeling “as if I hadn’t got nothing on.”

“She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with — with a bit of garden of my own.”

Boromir, especially, had a problem with this. “Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read our thoughts for her own good purpose; but almost I should have said that she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give.” He refused to listen and the communication was cut.

On the surface, this appears to be a good example of mind-reading, an attempt to read the Fellowship’s thoughts (I’m going to assume that Boromir was being polite when he called her own purpose “good”) against their will. But was it really?

A fine and clear example of telepathy immediately comes to mind – this, from the end of the book, after the One Ring is destroyed. We’re told that Celeborn, Galadriel, Gandalf and Elrond would sit under the stars and communicate with each other about the old days.

“If any wanderer had chanced to pass, little would he have seen or heard, and it would have seemed to him only that he saw grey figures, carved in stone, memorials of forgotten things now lost in unpeopled lands. For they did not move or speak with mouth, looking from mind to mind; and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts went to and fro.

This, of course, is fully consensual telepathy – just another form of communication. This was similar to when Gandalf had spoken to Frodo with his mind, telling him not to put on the Ring. It was also what Galadriel was trying to do when trying to reach Gandalf as the Fellowship first arrived. This all seems a bit innocent compared to what she attempted to do to the Fellowship themselves. Was she trying to break open their minds to see their caramel and nougatty centers? It wouldn’t be such a stretch to think so, but Tolkien, it seems, would disagree.

In his Ósanwe-kenta essay, he talks about the communication of thoughts, addressing both consensual telepathy and forceful mind-reading. Telepathy was the original form of communication between Illuvatar and all minds. All minds (sámar) “are equal in status, though they differ in capacity and strength.” By nature, one mind will perceive another mind, and be able to tell that it’s a mind. However, that mind cannot perceive more than that “except by the will of both parties.”

We’re told that it’s possible, if both are open, for one to speak to another just like in normal communication. This explains the silent conversation between Gandalf and the Elves from above, but it also seems to cover the worries expressed by Sam and Boromir. Still, it’s obvious they’re not the same.

The stories that were told in the Silmarillion seem to indicate that Melkor (Morgoth, Sauron’s master) penetrated the minds of the Valar and Elves, deceiving them while closing his own mind to them. This might be what it seems, but, as Tolkien explains in this same essay, they (and apparently we readers) were deceived.

He contends that forcing the barrier of the mind is únat (“a thing impossible to be or to be done”). On top of this natural law, there was also an axan (basically a commandment from Illuvatar) that “none shall directly by force or indirectly by fraud take from another what he has a right to hold and keep as his own.” This apparently included thoughts.

Melkor, however, didn’t exactly follow the rules. We’re told that he “repudiated all axani” and “would also abolish (for himself) all únati if he could.” So yes, while Melkor wished that there were no rules, and broke whatever rules he could, there were some that he simply couldn’t break. One of those rules was mind-reading.

He tried to break down this barrier by force of will and fear, but found that they didn’t work. Instead, “he would come by stealth to a mind open and unwary, hoping to learn some part of its thought before it closed, and still more to implant in it his own thought, to deceive it and win it to his friendship.” To do this, he would seem to become a benevolent giver of gifts, a friend with a special love for his target. He would instill this false trust and in that way be able to convince the mind to open to him.

This seems eerily similar to how Galadriel was acting toward the Fellowship. She most definitely used stealth to speak to their open and unwary minds, and did learn things before it was closed. Of course, she didn’t implant her own thoughts or really deceive them to win their friendship, but that wasn’t her purpose. She wanted to learn more about them and was able to do so. It seems like only Boromir closed the connection.

Now, obviously Galadriel wasn’t evil, but, as we’ve seen through the past couple weeks worth of posts about her, she had a clouded side (at best). This was not a fully consensual, two-way conversation. She didn’t (and couldn’t) read their minds, but this Melkor-like trick worked well enough to suit her needs.

Galadriel seemed to be walking a very questionable line along the axan, the commandment from Illuvatar, that “none shall directly by force or indirectly by fraud take from another what he has a right to hold and keep as his own.” While Melkor happily crossed it and was angered that he could not do more, Galadriel seemed to do it without hesitation, but for what appeared to be a better end.

Camera: Argus C3 Film: Eastman 5222

Camera: Argus C3
Film: Eastman 5222

A Few Notes

  • The Ósanwe-kenta essay does not appear in the History of Middle-earth series. No idea why. You can read an annotated version of it here (it’s a PDF).
  • While poking around online to see different takes on mind-reading in Tolkien’s works, I came across way too many conversations about “real world” mind-reading vs. Tolkien’s mind-reading. They would compare the two and critique Tolkien on how he didn’t get it right. Seriously come on, people. Super seriously. Come on.

About the Photo
Starting automatically is right! Both Melkor and Galadriel automatically started compressing (oppressing?) the minds of their targets. Be super careful.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1134 (220 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 169 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 639 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 20, 3019 TA. (map)

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. 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.

1948Lord 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.

1958The 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.

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

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

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)

Tolkien’s Final Words on Middle-earth – Galadriel Unstained

In the last few weeks of his life, Tolkien had a visitor named Tony Giffard, the Earl of Halsbury. He and Lord Halsbury had been friends since the 1950s, when Tolkien had even given him a copy of the Silmarillion to read.

Being very familiar with the material, having read it for nearly twenty years, when Lord Halsbury would visit, he and Tolkien would discuss different aspects of the legendarium. On July 26, 1973, they discussed Galadriel. Though no record really exists of their talk, Tolkien quickly took to writing what they must have discussed.

First, he went back to the Annals of Aman, a sort of Tale of Years for the Silmarillion-era, which he started writing in the 1930s. In 1951, after writing Lord of the Rings, he returned to it, rewriting much of what came before.

Based on this meeting with Lord Halsbury, in the summer of 1973, he made a short margin note next to a section about the Kinslaying. Originally, Tolkien had the Second Column of the Noldor, assumedly with Galadriel, coming in on the side of Fëanor to kill the Teleri. The margin note, however tells a different story:

“Finrod and Galadriel (whose husband was of the Teleri) fought against Fëanor in defense of Alqualondë.”

Tolkien had batted around both the idea that Celeborn, Galadriel’s husband, was actually a Teleri, and that she fought against Fëanor. In a way, this was nothing new. But in another way, with this margin note, it seemed about to be made canon. The Annals of Aman, as opposed to the notes discussed in my previous post, was the backbone of the whole Silmarillion. If it happened in the Annals, it was about as canon as it could get.

On August 4th, about a week after Halsbury’s visit, Tolkien wrote to him. Looking on it now, it is a sad letter. In it, Tolkien made tentative plans to have Halsbury help him finally finish his life’s work. “When you retire,” he wrote, “I shall certainly beg your help. Without it, I begin to feel I shall never produce any part of The Silmarillion.”

Since the visit, Tolkien had become “vividly aware” of Halsbury’s effect on him, and needed that inspiration to continue. Since publishing Lord of the Rings, Tolkien had “lost confidence.” He wanted Halsbury to visit again soon so they could talk more about it.

Of Galadriel, he wrote:

“Galadriel was ‘unstained’: she had committed no evil deeds. She was an enemy of Fëanor. She did not reach Middle-earth with the other Noldor, but independently. Her reasons for desiring to go to Middle-earth were legitimate, and she would have been permitted to depart, but for the misfortune that before she set out the revolt of Fëanor broke out, and she became involved in the desperate measure of Manwe, and the ban on all emigration.”

This is quite a bit to take in. Those who have read the Silmarillion know (or “know”) that Galadriel was not unstained. She specifically went to Middle-earth to “rule there a realm of her own.” In a later writing, Tolkien took it even farther, indicating that she had desired since youth to rule over all of Middle-earth. She was prideful and cunning and got her own way. This new Galadriel was certainly someone different than all previous Galadriels.

Around the time he wrote the letter, Tolkien also wrote a brief and partially illegible outline. This outline built upon the margin note and the letter to Halsbury, and turned out to be the last thing Tolkien ever wrote about the legendarium.

This new Galadriel wished to return to Middle-earth because the Valar had taught her all they could. “Being brilliant in mind and swift in action she had early absorbed all of what she was capable of the teaching which the Valar thought fit to give the Eldar.” She felt “confined” in Valinor.

Manwë knew about her desire and didn’t forbid her to leave. But he hadn’t given her his blessing, either, so she held off on leaving. Instead, she went to her mother’s people, the Teleri in Alqualondë. She went there to see about a ship to take her to Middle-earth.

It was there she met Celeborn, who, in this version, seems less like a wet blanket. They built a ship together, and were about to ask Manwë for permission to leave Valinor when Melkor and Ungoliant destroyed the Light of the Trees.

This naturally put a kink in her plan, as did Fëanor’s revolt, which soon followed. Here, she played no role at all in the revolt. During the Kinslaying, when Fëanor attacked Alqulondë, Galadriel and Celeborn were living there and fought against him, even managing to save the ship that they had built.

After the attack, Galadriel left Valinor, even though Manwë did not, and likely would not, give his permission. She was horrified at Fëanor’s violence and despaired of Valinor. So then it was now more of a question of timing than intent that made her fall under the ban against the Noldor.

Somehow, they reached Middle-earth ahead of Fëanor and lived more or less as they had in previous versions – with Thingol, and then in various places around Beleriand. As before, they wanted to build up their power in the east, where they thought Morgoth would be reinforced. They moved there, and though there is no mention of Dwarves, they befriended the Dark Elves and Men, teaching them what they could. For some reason, this didn’t fly with the Elves of Beleriand.

After the First Age, when the Noldor were pardoned by the Valar, Galadriel and Celeborn rejected the offer and remained in Middle-earth. No specific reason was given why they stayed.

One thing that is striking about the outline is that Galadriel and Celeborn are seen as more of a unit than ever before. Celeborn gets a nice promotion to Teleri, but he also does stuff! He builds a boat, fights against Fëanor and teaches the Dark Elves. Everything they do, they do together. Really, the only thing that indicates that she’s of a higher stature than Celeborn is that she’s a Noldo while he’s Telerin (hell, she’s half-Telerin).

This new Galadriel would have changed everything so much so that much of the Silmarillion would have had to be rewritten. Given the time, and maybe a few more visits from Lord Halsbury, something most definitely would have come from this.

By all indications, in early August of 1973, Tolkien was ready to begin another rewriting (or intense re-editing) of the Silmarillion material. In the last few weeks of his life, he was up and around, visiting a botanic Ggarden a couple of times and staying with friends in Bournemouth.

On the 31st of August, he was taken to a hospital for an acute bleeding gastric ulcer. His family was summoned, but the next day he developed a chest infection, and in the early morning of the next, he died.

Tolkien loved Galadriel, that’s perfectly clear. And it’s only fitting that she was the last of his characters to be with him before his death. It’s a tragedy that he was not able to continue this line of thought. Though it’s a bizarre departure from the more gray-area Galadriel that I enjoy, he obviously felt something reawaken in him because of Lord Halsbury and because of Galadriel (and, I suppose, Celeborn).

Camera: Kodak Signet Film: Eastman Plus-X (expired 2004)

Camera: Kodak Signet
Film: Eastman Plus-X (expired 2004)

A Few Notes

  • Halsbury liked the Silmarillion, and suggested in the late 50s that it might be published as a serial subscription. Tolkien thanked him for the idea, but figured that the success of Lord of the Rings would guarantee that the Silmarillion would soon be published. Of course, it wasn’t, but the friendship they struck lasted for two decades until Tolkien’s death.
  • In a letter sent by Halsbury, the Earl apparently said some flattering things about Tolkien. In reply, Tolkien wrote: “You pile Weathertop on Erebor, as Bilbo might have said, with your other generosities.” This is a phrase I encourage everyone to use. A lot.
  • The letter is No. 353. The margin note appears in Morgoth’s Ring. And the outline is paraphrased in Unfinished Tales.
  • And that about does it for the Galdriel History posts. Well, almost. Next, I’m going to do a timeline with changes and then we’ll check in on the Fellowship’s voyage down the Anduin.

About the Photo
Since Celeborn and Galadriel built a boat, I had to include a boat picture. Weirdly, since I’m almost totally surrounded by water, I don’t have many photos of boats. I do have this one, however. And so here it is.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1094 (180 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 209 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 679 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 20, 3019 TA. (map)

Galadriel’s Tragic Pride and Darkness

Toward the end of his life, Tolkien returned to the subject of Galadriel. As was discussed in the last post, the major change had been the ban against her by the Valar – a new idea that actually contradicted his previous writings.

Undeterred, in the late 1960s Tolkien continued his writing and alterations, greatly changing the Galadriel known in the Lord of the Rings. More than likely, this version was to replace the version already written about (and discussed), which would eventually appear in the published Silmarillion. In this new version of things, Galadriel’s stature and importance grew even more.

“Galadriel was the greatest of the Noldor, except Fëanor maybe, though she was wiser than he, and her wisdom increased with the long years.”

This was a pretty big alteration. In the previous writings about her (which are in the published Silmarillion), Galadriel was important enough, but was mentioned and inserted in the Valinor part of the Fëanor story as almost an afterthought. Now, she is found at the center of everything.

Whereas before we were told nothing of her youth, we’re now given a sort of glimpse. She was the tallest of the women of the Noldor, and was “a match for both the loremasters and the athletes of the Eldar in the days of their youth.”

But the best part of Galadriel was apparently her golden hair. “It was golden like the hair of her father and of her foremother Indis, but richer and more radiant, for its gold was touched by some memory of the starlike silver of her mother.”

Rumor around Valinor hard it that the light of the Two Trees was “snared in her tresses.” This, thought many, was the reason that Fëanor thought of capturing the actual light of the Two Trees in the Silmarils.

Fëanor gets a sort of creepy alteration at this point. While he’s still her uncle, he’s completely taken by Galadriel’s hair, which he beheld “with wonder and delight.” He asked her three times for a lock of her mystical follicles, but she wouldn’t even give him a strand.

Having been written decades after the Gimli/Galadriel hair scene in Lord of the Rings, it’s pretty clear where this was coming from. Galadriel’s opinion of Dwarves far outweighed her opinion of Fëanor.

Because of this bit of hair-related drama, we’re told that “they were unfriends forever.” Even this is a change from the Silmarillion. There, we’re told nothing of their relationship, but it seems more or less familial. She is inspired by Fëanor’s words to ditch Valinor for Middle-earth, but wasn’t so swayed by them as she actually followed him in swearing an oath.

But in this version, Fëanor’s words played almost no role. Of course, her desire to leave Valinor was still there, as was the desire for a realm of her own, but even those were different. “She was proud, strong, and selfwilled,” we’re told, but this was not a fault, but a trait. She was, wrote Tolkien, just like her father and her brother.

Even the wording is drastically changed. “To rule there a realm of her own will” now became dreams of “dominions that might be her own to order as she would without tutelage.” Tolkien even padded this dream, explaining what Galadriel’s order would be like.

She had, he said, a “noble and generous spirit” and “a reverence for the Valar that she could not forget.”

“From her earliest years she had a marvelous gift of insight into the minds of others, but judged them with mercy and understanding, and she withheld her goodwill from none save only Fëanor.”

But she was not without some fault – though it was hardly a fault of her own. Galadriel’s insight showed her that a darkness had fallen over Fëanor. She “hated and feared” this darkness, but was so narrow minded in her unfriendship with him that she couldn’t see that “the same evil had fallen upon the minds of all the Noldor, and upon her own.”

It was this evil that, of course, caused her to join with Fëanor and leave Valinor for Middle-earth. But even that is different in this version. While she joined the rebellion against the Valar, she was not at all with Fëanor.

In no part is this more clearly stated than in the Kinslaying. The Silmarillion explains that Galadriel came into the battle on Fëanor’s side against the Teleri. The battle was already in progress, and she joined without really knowing the context.

But now, Galadriel “fought fiercely against Fëanor in defence of her mother’s kin.” Somehow or another, her second column arrived during the battle, sussed out the details and fought alongside the Teleri (or at least Galadriel did, nothing is really said of the other Noldor – or even of her father leading that column).

The story, now completely changed, changes even more. Gone are Fëanor’s burning of the ships and the abandonment of the second column. Now, Galadriel was super pissed and “burned with a desire to follow Fëanor with her anger to whatever lands he might come, and to thwart him in all ways that she could.”

This wasn’t a good righteous thing, per se, but at least she wasn’t implicated in the Kinslaying. She was certainly now acting out of vengeance more than justice, and that, we’re told, was because “pride still moved her.”

It was this pride that now caused her to refuse the pardon of the Valar after Morgoth was overthrown. This change is a bit more subtle, but definitely important. In the Silmarillion we’re told almost nothing about Galadriel’s reaction to the pardon, but that she was unwilling to “forsake the Hither Lands where they had long suffered and long dwelt.”

This almost noble cause later became an out and out ban by the Valar against her, to which she “replied proudly that she had no wish” to return. But in this version, we see that there’s once again no specific ban upon her, but that she refused the pardon out of pride.

It’s implied that she did so to rule a realm, but it’s even a bit darker here. We’re told that what she really desired from her youth was offered to her when Frodo wanted her to take the One Ring, which would give her “the dominion of Middle-earth of which she had dreamed.”

This sheds a whole new light (or darkness, I suppose) on the idea of “to rule there a realm of her own.” Now “there” isn’t just a small parcel of land, but all of Middle-earth. This puts Galadriel in some fairly questionable company – Morgoth, Sauron, and Saruman.

Since that’s a pretty dark way for Tolkien to have left Galadriel, fortunately (for her) he returned to this character once more before his death, giving both her and Celeborn a bit of a promotion.

Camera: Arguc C3 Film: ORWO UN54

Camera: Arguc C3
Film: ORWO UN54

A Few Notes

  • This essay was published in Unfinished Tales, but is actually part of a longer essay called “The Shibboleth of Fëanor: The case of the Quenya Change of þ to s,” written in 1968 or 1969ish. It was printed in The Peoples of Middle-Earth. This change of pronunciation from “þ” (a “th” sound) to “s”, we’re told, was instrumental in Fëanor’s break with the Noldor. It “came long before the birth of Galadriel.” She was so important that time itself was measured by her life. Oddly enough, Galadriel’s father, like his brother Fëanor, used “þ” instead of “s,” but in spite of Fëanor rather than because of him. Galadriel, in turn, used “s” because of her hatred for Fëanor and her youthful sass.
  • The whole point of the “Shibboleth” essay was, it seems, to explain why “s” was used in Galadriel’s Lament in Lord of the Rings instead of “þ” – it “harks back to the days of her youth in Valinor and to the darkness of the years of Exile while the Blessed Realm was closed to all the Noldor in Middle-earth.” It was not because she was still in protest against Fëanor, but because “s” had simply replaced “þ” a long time ago. This is actually more interesting than it sounds, and you should probably read the whole “Shibboleth” essay.
  • Interestingly (and this will pay off later), in the “Shibboleth” writing, the name “Galadriel” was “given to her by her lover, Teleporno of the Teleri, whom she wedded later in Beleriand.” So, somehow Celeborn became a Teleri with a very unfortunate name. Both translate to “wet blanket” (I mean “Silver Tree”).
  • Galadriel’s given name was Nerwen, meaning man-maiden, meaning girl who looks like a man. So … whatever, Tolkien.
  • It’s not said, but I wonder if Gimli going to the West was another dig at Fëanor.
  • Oh! And… I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a Tolkien podcast this spring. While I don’t have podcasting experience, I’ve listened to a bunch of podcasts over the years and am fairly savvy with audio things. My friend Ryan is interested in helping, but I’m also hoping for a third person who could help with things like ideas, research, etc and also being recorded. I have no idea if this will ever happen, but I’m curious if it’s something that could happen.

About the Photo
Though Galadriel was allowed to cross the Sea to the West, she put up huge monolithic rock islands of pride and darkness all around her so she couldn’t go back. Or something. I really don’t know. I just like the photo.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1084 (170 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 219 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 689 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 20, 3019 TA. (map)

‘A Ban Was Set Upon Her Return’ – Tolkien Reinterprets His Own Writing

“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.” – from The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle, published 1968.

We learn in the Silmarillion that the Noldor, including Galadriel, had been banned from returning to Valinor. After the First Age, however, this ban was lifted and nearly all of them returned. Galadriel, however, was unwilling to “forsake the Hither Lands where they had long suffered and long dwelt.”

These two statements are in full contradiction with each other. Was Galadriel unwilling to return to Valinor because she simply wished to live in Middle-earth, or was she specifically banned from re-entering Valinor, and boastful of the fact?

They are simply irreconcilable. So let’s take a look at each.

Writing through the 1940s and 50s in both the Lord of the Rings and what would later be published in the Silmarillion, Tolkien maintained that Galadriel and the rest of the Noldor had been allowed to return to Valinor. In the late 60s, however, he changed his mind.

But he couldn’t simply rewrite this portion of Lord of the Rings. And though he could have done so with his unpublished Silmarillion stories, he instead chose to explain that such a ban had always existed in an apparently unmentioned state.

In an August 1967 letter (No. 297), Tolkien explained the missing link between these two statements:

The Exiles were allowed to return—save for a few chief actors in the rebellion, of whom at the time of The Lord of the Rings only Galadriel remained. At the time of her Lament in Lórien she believed this to be perennial, as long as the Earth endured. Hence she concludes her lament with a wish or prayer that Frodo may as a special grace be granted a purgatorial (but not penal) sojourn in Eressëa, the solitary isle in sight of Aman, though for her the way is closed.

These mentions of the ban of Galadriel date from around 1967. This was the first he wrote about her in almost a decade, allowing her story to remain unchanged through those years. Yet for some reason or another, when he revisited her Lament for The Road Goes Ever On, he saw something new in what he wrote.

No longer did Galadriel simply wish to remain in Middle-earth despite being pardoned by the Valar. She was now ruled by them to be unfit to return. He thought not only of her Lament, but of what he had written in the Silmarillion writings of the 1950s.

He stated in the above letter that Galadriel had been one of the “chief actors in the rebellion”. This is hinted at in the published Silmarillion, but is fairly downplayed. She swore no oath as Fëanor had, and she didn’t really seem to be all that influential in convincing other Noldor to leave. We’re told that she wanted to see the world and “rule there a realm of her own.”

While this, in Tolkien’s world, is not a good quality, it certainly didn’t seem like she was one of the “chief actors in the rebellion” – a classification that would befit only Fëanor and his sons. And while they had all died prior to Valar’s forgiveness of the Exiles, it seems pretty clear that, in the earlier writings, Galadriel had been forgiven but chose to remain despite that forgiveness. Now we are told that not only was she unforgiven, but also specifically banned.

So what gives? Why did Tolkien make this change? Honestly, I think it just makes more sense.

If Galadriel had been allowed to return and brushed it aside with a “thanks, but no thanks,” it seems almost pointless. However, if, as Tolkien reiterated in a 1971 letter (No. 320): “Galadriel was a penitent: in her youth a leader in the rebellion against the Valar (the angelic guardians). At the end of the First Age she proudly refused forgiveness or permission to return. She was pardoned because of her resistance to the final and overwhelming temptation to take the Ring for herself.”

The redemption of Galadriel is a much more compelling story than the wishy-washy Lord of the Rings/Silmarillion version. What’s best is that this new detail – the ban – can easily be applied to both with only a little stretch.

Furthermore, in the late 1960s, it was only the Lord of the Rings that was published. The Silmarillion would not ever be finished and would be compiled without his help after his death. The story of the Ban of Galadriel easily fits into the framework of everything we know about her from Lord of the Rings.

It’s a much more tenuous fit, however, in the published Silmarillion, which is why Christopher Tolkien left it out when compiling it. But his father actually built upon it, changing much of what he had already written about Galadriel in the Silmarillion stories, written in the late 1950s.

The publication of The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle in 1968 made the Ban of Galadriel part of the canon. It was the only thing about the ban that he published in his lifetime. It was also the first time the ban was mentioned. And according to his son, it was the first time he thought of it.

In Unfinished Tales Christopher Tolkien wrote: “This statement [of the ban], very positive in itself, does not however demonstrate that the conception of a ban on Galadriel’s return into the West was present when the chapter ‘Farewell to Lórien’ was composed, many years before; and I am inclined to think that it was not.”

So this begs the question: is the Ban of Galadriel canon? Does something Tolkien wrote in a note in a strange little out of print book about his songs dictate what should be accepted as a fact? Oddly enough, I think the answer is yes. But I think it needs to be stressed that context is key. The reader should remember that it was not Tolkien’s thinking when he wrote and published Lord of the Rings. Neither was it his thinking when he wrote the Galadriel bits of the published Silmarillion. But since this statement in The Road Goes Ever On was written by him and published within his lifetime, I don’t see a choice but to accept it – the Valar definitely had a ban against Galadriel’s return.

When it was published in the late 60s, it was most certainly a new thought, but this new thought caused him to return again to Galadriel not long after. He would take her rebellion and subsequent ban a step farther when he sat down once more to write about her life. We’ll get to that in our next post.

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: Kodak Portra 160NC (expired 04/2003)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: Kodak Portra 160NC (expired 04/2003)

A Few Notes

  • The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle is now out of print. The used copies are usually saltier than I wish, but it’s something that I really wish I had.
  • Though he would run with the ban for a few years, Tolkien would rethink it once again in the weeks before his death causing us to question again whether it would have remained canon if he had lived another year or so.

About the Photo
If only I had a photo of a gate barring access to the beach! This will have to do, though. It was taken at Dry Falls in central Washington.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1074 (160 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 229 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 699 miles to Mt. Doom

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

Celebrimbor Loves Galadriel – Jumping the Shark or Fine Idea for a Spin-off Series?

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.

Camera: Argus C3 Film: Kodak Hawkeye Traffic Surveillance Film

Camera: Argus C3
Film: Kodak Hawkeye Traffic Surveillance Film

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)

Galadriel: Globe-Trotter and Realm-Ruler – Beyond the Silmarillion

So far, we’ve taken a look at a few different versions of Galadriel. First, we saw how Tolkien originally came up with her, then how she was in the Lord of the Rings. We poked around at her history as given in the narrative, as well as in Appendix B, and worked our way through the Silmarillion, including “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”

For most readers, this would be the conclusion. But for Tolkien, he was not yet finished with Galadriel. The latest writings we studied were from the Silmarillion, which was written and (more or less) completed(ish) in 1958.

Around the same time, Tolkien wrote a few other things about her, including a rough outline he called “Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn.” It is important to note two things. First, the Galadriel he wrote about at this time was the very same Galadriel from the published Silmarillion, though there are some differences here and there in the periphery. These writings were made around the same time he added her to the old stories. Second, due to that, it’s essential that we keep in mind her entire reason for leaving Valinor for Middle-earth: she “yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.” Tolkien would fulfill both of these desires in this writing.

Let’s take a look at it. The story picks up Galadriel’s life after being in Middle-earth for a millium or so.

Around the year 700 of the Second Age, it was Galadriel who noticed that the evil things happening in Middle-earth all came from the same source (Sauron, as it happened). She could tell that it came from the East, and so she and Celeborn, along with their children, went towards the danger, stopping in Eregion.

Tolkien supposes that it was possibly because she knew the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm that she selected a place so close to the Misty Mountains. Celeborn didn’t like the Dwarves at all, but Tolkien explained that “Galadriel was more far-sighted in this than Celeborn.” She realized that Middle-earth could not be saved from Melkor’s lingering evil (meaning Sauron) unless it came through “a union of all the peoples who were in their way and in their measure opposed to him.”

She saw the Dwarves of Moria as her own army, and she as their commander. This goes a long way toward allowing us to understand her seemingly out-of-nowhere relationship with Moria as hinted upon in Lord of the Rings. Her fondness for them was because the Dwarves were the children of Aulë, and Galadriel had been a pupil of Yavanna in Valinor, Aulë’s consort (basically).

It’s here assumed that Galadriel was the ruler of Eregion. This is at odds with the Appendix B, which holds that Celebrimbor was Lord of Eregion. The Silmarillion also supports this. In this telling, Celebrimbor wasn’t the ruler, but simply “a Noldorin craftsman”.

In the Silmarillion, we learn that Sauron came to Eregion in 1200 of the Second Age “wearing the fairest form that he could contrive”. He went to Eregion and fooled the Elves into believing that he was a pretty swell guy. He convinced Celebrimbor to to make the Rings of Power.

During all of this, Galadriel was commuting between Eregion and Moria. Through the Dwarves, she came “into contact with the Nandorin realm of Lórinand on the other side of the Misty Mountains.” This was, of course, Lothlórien.

Here, we learn a bit more about the early Elves of Lórinand prior to Galadriel’s involvement. In the first draft of this essay, Tolkien had the Elves ruled by “native princes.” However, on a revision, he made them largely anarchistic: “These Elves had no princes or rulers, and led their lives free of care while all Morgoth’s power was concentrated in the North-west of Middle-earth.”

It’s possible that well before Galadriel moved to Lórinand/Lothlórien, she began to shuffle her followers through Moria and into this new realm.

Meanwhile in Eregion, though Sauron had convinced the Elves he was a friend, he knew that Galadriel would be his “chief adversary and obstacle.” Believing that she didn’t know who he was, he tried to butter her up. This did not work and Galadriel could see through him. However, she didn’t kick him out. No explanation is given as to why.

The simplest reasoning would be that if she had kicked him out, the Rings of Power and the One Ring would never have been made and Tolkien sort of needed those things to happen (since, by the time he wrote this, they already had). However, on the other end, if she had been taken in by Sauron, and fooled like the other Elves (except a few like Gil-galad and Elrond), her powers couldn’t have been all that great. So Tolkien chose the unexplained middle ground. It’s mysterious and really makes no sense. But then, this was only an outline.

Tolkien had Sauron working in secret with Celebrimbor, and even Galadriel did not know this. Sauron convinced pretty well all of the Elves to revolt against Galadriel and Celeborn. There was a coup and Galadriel fled with her two children, Amroth and Celebrían. Celeborn, due to his dislike of the Dwarves, refused to enter Moria and stayed behind as a sort of outcast. When she arrived in Lórinand, she took over as ruler.

The years went by and Sauron oversaw the making of the Rings of Power and made the One Ring in Mordor. When Celebrimbor discovered the One Ring, he finally (finally) saw Sauron for what he was. He went to Lórinand to talk to Galadriel to see what could be done. Here Tolkien writes: “They should have destroyed all the Rings of Power at this time, ‘but they failed to find the strength’.”

Instead, she insisted that the Three Elvish Rings should be hidden. She would take one, and this had a profound effect on both Lórinand and Galadriel herself. Lórinand basically became the Lothlórien we all know and love in its eternal Springtime. On Galadriel, the Ring “increased her latent desire for the Sea and for return into the West, so that her joy in Middle-earth was diminished.”

In a note, Christopher Tolkien points out that Galadriel couldn’t have actually used her Ring until the One Ring was lost to Sauron (after the Battle of the Gladden Fields, about 1,500 years after she arrived in Lothórien). This doesn’t make any sense, really, and is probably an oversight by Tolkien (which might be corrected by the Elessar, as I’ll look into in the next post).

In this outline, Tolkien then narrates the so called ‘War of the Elves and Sauron’ that Sauron brought against Celebrimbor. Everybody, including the Dwarves of Moria, fought against Sauron. It only ended when the Númenóreans came as reinforcements. It’s worth the read, even though Galadriel plays no part in it (her son, Amroth, however, leads the warriors of Lothlórien into battle). This whole thing is finished by 1700 of the Second Age.

Here's a very crappy depiction of Galadriel's 2nd and 3rd Age wanderings.

Here’s a very crappy depiction of Galadriel’s 2nd and 3rd Age wanderings.

After this war, the sea-longing grew unbearable for Galadriel. It was because of this that she left Lothlórien to Amroth, and took her daughter, Celebrían, through Moria. She was looking for Celeborn, her husband (remember him?), and she found him in Imladris/Rivendell.

This was when and how Elrond met Celebrían, whom he would later marry. For some reason, Elrond fell in love with her, but never said anything about it. During this time, a proto-White Council was held (‘proto’ because the Ishtari/Wizards had not yet arrived). Sometime after that, the family moved to Belfalas/Dol Amroth, far to the south. Many of Galadriel’s followers from Lothlórien came to live with them.

After Amroth’s death, Galadriel and Celeborn returned to Lothlórien, but that was much later (in 1981 of the Third Age).

And so, we can see that though Tolkien didn’t actually alter anything we already knew about Galadriel, he added a ridiculous amount of detail to her life. While doing so, he elevated her in stature – she could see through Sauron’s disguise, she wasn’t prejudiced against the Dwarves, etc.

But the other changes, especially those in Eregion, were so huge that they would drastically alter his plans for the Silmarillion stories. Since this was “only” an outline, when editing and compiling the published Silmarillion, Christopher Tolkien had to use the more finished drafts in which Galadriel still remained behind the scenes.

Though these changes were important, Tolkien would go on in later years to alter, change and rewrite much of what we know about Galadriel. Stay tuned!

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

A Few Notes

  • I don’t mean to imply that the Silmarillion was completed in 1958ish. It was, in fact, never fully completed. However, the Galadriel bits were as finished as they were going to be (save for the notes and tidbits in Unfinished Tales) by the end of the 50s.
  • Tolkien toyed on and off with the idea of Amroth being Galadriel’s son. In the Lord of the Rings he was not, but in this outline he was.
  • At the end of this outline, time in Middle-earth got incredibly fuzzy for Tolkien. It’s unknown just how long Galadriel stayed in Imladris or Dol Amroth.
  • This outline is available in Unfinished Tales as “Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn” in the “History of Galadriel and Celeborn” chapter.
  • It’s not really clear (and maybe not knowable) whether Tolkien wrote this before, during, or after he wrote the bits that were later published in the Silmarillion. Whichever, it was definitely within the same time frame.

About the Photo
The astute readers might notice that I’ve used this photo before. But this is a much better use of it. This is Pennsylvania’s Madonna of the Trail – one of a series of monuments appearing along the National Road from Maryland to California. But doesn’t it make a perfect Galadriel, Celebrían, and Amroth?


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1054 (140 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 249 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 719 miles to Mt. Doom

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

‘But I See Evil There’ – Galadriel’s Omission and Wandering

When last we left our telling of Galadriel in the First Age, she had just moved to Doriath with Thingol and Melian. There, she met Celeborn and buckled down to attain her next goal “to rule there a realm at her own will.”

This is pretty important (though, not the Celeborn stuff). Melian completely outclassed Thingol – she was one of the Maiar, above all the Elves (Gandalf and Saruman were also Maiar). It was she who ruled and protected Doriath, and it was from her whom Galadriel learned the ins and outs of realm ruling.

But being under Melian’s tutelage didn’t mean that Galadriel was going to lay all her cards on the table. While the two of them would chat about “Valinor and the bliss of old,” Galadriel would never talk about anything after the death of the Two Trees. Finally, Melian had to ask: “There is some woe that lies upon you and your kin. That I can see in you, but all else is hidden from me; for by no vision or thought can I perceive anything that passed or passes in the West: a shadow lies over all the land of Aman, and reaches far out over the sea. Why will you not tell me more?”

This echoes Galadriel’s questioning of the Fellowship about Gandalf. She even said that there was a grey mist (a shadow) over him. She had tried to read the Fellowship’s minds to discover Gandalf’s whereabouts, but couldn’t, just as Melian had apparently tried and likewise failed.

Galadriel gave a wishy washy answer, saying that the “woe” was in the past and she’d rather focus upon the now, “untroubled by memory.”

Melian, however, wasn’t buying it. When Galadriel and the Noldor first arrived, they claimed to be messengers of the Valar. But Melian noticed that they never spoke about the Valar and didn’t really seem to have any messages from them, which made them kind of crap messengers (and horrible liars).

‘For what cause, Galadriel, were the high people of the Noldor driven forth as exiles from Aman? Or what evil lies on the sons of Fëanor that they are so haughty and so fell? Do I not strike near the truth?’

‘Near,’ said Galadriel; ‘save that we were not driven forth, but came of our own will, and against that of the Valar. And through great peril and in despite of the Valar for this purpose we came: to take vengeance upon Morgoth, and regain what he stole.’

Galadriel continued, telling Melian about the Silmarils and a bunch of other stuff, “but still she said no word of the Oath, nor of the Kinslaying, nor of the burning of the ships at Losgar.”

Melian could tell that there were still some pretty important parts that Galadriel purposely left out, and accused her of casting a “darkness” over their past, “but I see evil there, which Thingol should learn for his guidance.”

Galadriel sort of agreed that Thingol should probably know about it, but held that he wouldn’t learn it from her. This was just plain mean. Or dumb. Here, she could have told all she knew and given Thingol the truth. And because of her silence, the “truth” came to the people of Doriath in the shape of rumors poisoned further by Morgoth, who soon took advantage of the naive Elves (the Sindar). And to Thingol, the truth came from Angrod, Galadriel’s brother, who decided to spill the proverbial beans. Thingol was furious and expelled him, though he allowed Galadriel to stay (whatever). Nevertheless, she moved to Nargothrond for a bit until the heat died down.

It seems like Galadriel had a habit of moving on when things got a bit awkward. First was from Valinor, and now from Doriath. This will definitely become a trend.

The next we hear anything about Galadriel directly is at the end of the Quenta-Silmarillion, the end of the First Age, when the Noldar (and other lines) were again admitted into Valinor with a pardon. She, among others, was unwilling to “forsake the Hither Lands where they had long suffered and long dwelt.” Galadriel was the only Noldo who had been with Fëanor’s group who chose to remain in Middle-earth.

There’s a whole slew of things that happened in between Galadriel moving to Nargothrond and the end of the First Age. For the next four hundred years, cities like Gondolin and Nargothrond were built, the Children of Húrin stuff happened, wars and battles such as the Dagor Bragollach and the Nirnaeth Arnoediad were fought, Doriath was sacked by Dwarves, Nargathrong was destroyed by a dragon, Beren and Lúthien did their thing, there was another Kinslaying, Gondolin fell, and still another Kinslaying, Beleriand fell to Morgoth, and then finally the entire world (which was flat, by the way) was made round and Beleriand wad destroyed, leaving the map of Middle-earth as we know it.

According to the Silmarillion, Galadriel apparently did nothing through all of this. She, of course, survived somehow, but just how is never mentioned. All that’s said is that when she was allowed back into Valinor, she decided to stay in Middle-earth, presumably for the same reason she left Valinor in the first place: “to rule there a realm at her own will.”

Still, we now know quite a bit more about Galadriel’s history than is said in Lord of the Rings: “He [Celeborn] has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him for years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mountains, and together through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat.”

It’s fascinating that now, looking at what she said to the Fellowship, we can better place when she moved. Nargothrond fell in 495 of the First Age (Gondolin fell in 510). So sometime, perhaps during the Children of Húrin stuff, she packed up Celeborn and headed eastbound from Nargothrond.

In Appendix B, we’re told that Galadriel and Celeborn lived in Lindon south of the Lune (Harlindon on the map) at the start of the Second Age. Later, they moved to Eregion (Hollin – on the west side of the Misty Mountains), where the Rings of Power were made.

Camera: Arguc C3 Film: ORWO UN54

Camera: Arguc C3
Film: ORWO UN54

A Few Notes

  • I really thought that I could do all of the Silmarillian‘s Galadriel stuff in one post. Nope!
  • Next we’ll take a look at an outline of Galadriel’s life that Tolkien wrote around the same time as he delved back into the Silmarillion writings. I have two posts scheduled for this, but I’m betting it’ll take three. Is that okay? Too much Galadriel?
  • Also, because of Thanksgiving, I’m taking a little break. The next post will show up on Monday morning. Enjoy the break!

About the Photo
Galadriel and Celeborn seem to move around a lot. They must have been driving one of these the whole time. It’s really the only thing that can explain it.


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 1044 (130 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 259 miles to the Falls of Rauros
  • 729 miles to Mt. Doom

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