Today is February 15, 3019 of the Third Age, the day when Sam and Frodo looked into Galadriel’s Mirror. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get on it.
Book Two, Chapter 7: The Mirror of Galadriel
“One evening Frodo and Sam were walking together in the cool twilight. Both of them felt restless again.”
The Curious Incident of the Mirror in the Night Time
After staying in Lothlórien for a few weeks, Sam and Frodo were walking at night, talking about Elves and how the Fellowship would soon have to leave and continue their quest. Frodo mentioned his desire to see Galadriel once more, and with that, she appeared. “She spoke no word, but beckoned to them.” They came to her and she led them to the Mirror, telling them, “I have brought you here so that you may look in it, if you will.”
She further explained to the awe-struck hobbits that she could command the Mirror to reveal many things. To some people, though she didn’t mention who, she could show what they wanted to see. The Mirror would also show things that people didn’t want to see, “and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold.”
So apparently, Galadriel had a Mirror that could show some people what they wanted to see, but it could also show (even those people?) things they didn’t want to see, and when it did, it was better for them. This makes some sense. It’s usually better to not have our opinions and feelings reinforced when we’re trying to learn new things. But she went on.
Though she claimed to be able to command the Mirror to reveal many things, she couldn’t or wouldn’t do that now for Sam and Frodo. Galadriel wanted the Mirror to freestyle it on the hobbits. Where before she said that she could command the Mirror, here she wanted them to “leave the Mirror free to work.” And when it did that, she could not tell ahead of time what they would see.
What the Hell, Girl?
Let’s stop here and ask a very important question – just what the hell was she doing? It seems like she could have tailored the Mirror to the hobbits, to the quest, gaining for them some help by guiding it to show them things they didn’t want to see. She made the claim that she could facilitate that. But instead of doing that – instead of being obviously helpful – it seems as if she just wanted to see what would happen if the hobbits took on the Mirror by themselves.
That’s fine enough, but then she explained what the Mirror could do: “it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell.” And now our question really becomes important – just what the hell was she doing? Even under her guidance, the Mirror would show past, present and future, but it was so muddled that most couldn’t tell which was which! And instead of guiding the hobbits, she wanted them to work it on their own.
How is this not endlessly reckless? How can even the wisest act upon this, knowing that what he perceives as the future, might not just be not the future, but might just as well be the past? How could the one who had gazed into the Mirror even begin to parse its depths? And most importantly, how could Galadriel think this was a good idea?
Sam was first up (after Frodo didn’t reply), and he wanted to see what was going on in the Shire. But what the Mirror showed Sam was a future where Frodo was stung by Shelob. This dissolved in Sam’s wish. The trees of the Shire were cut down, a new mill was erected, and Bagshot row was dug up.
Sam wanted to return home, but Galadriel reminded him that he couldn’t go back alone.
Galadriel then brought up a pretty good point. “You did not wish to go home without your master before you looked in the Mirror, and yet you knew that evil things might well be happening in the Shire.” And she again reminded him that her Mirror could show many things, including the future, so the things he saw might not have happened yet. What’s more, she told him that if he stayed true to the quest, the things he saw might be prevented, adding in the end, “The Mirror is dangerous as a guide of deeds.”
Yes! Yes it is! So what the hell was she doing? Sam sat down and was immediately in despair over having ever come on this journey. Soon, he resolved to continue it, in the hopes of making it back to the Shire someday.
Ultimately, it could be argued that while the Mirror gave him doubts and fears that he hadn’t had prior to looking into it, it also strengthened Sam’s resolve to stay with Frodo.
With Frodo, Galadriel played it cool. When he asked her if he should look, she even advised against it, saying that she wouldn’t “counsel you one way or the other.” What he would see, if he saw anything, “may be profitable, and yet it may not. Seeing is both good and perilous.”
But she was not done with the pitch. After playing coy and flippant, she slid toward encouragement: “Yet I think, Frodo, that you have courage and wisdom enough for the venture, or I would not have brought you here. Do as you will!” Under all the layers of nonchalance and indifference, she had brought them to the Mirror specifically so they could look in it. And while she certainly didn’t force either to look, she knew what to say to both in order to convince them to do what she wanted them to do.
Frodo agreed to look, and saw a series of things. First was a wizard in white which gave Frodo doubts – was it Gandalf or Saruman? He then saw Bilbo in his room in Rivendell. The table was littered with papers. The vision then turned to history (maybe the history which was written on those disordered papers), reminding him how he was involved in these great stories.
His vision changed again, now to the sea, in a scene that seems like it could be from Elendil’s escape from Númenor. Still in the past, he saw a city next to a wide river (Osgiliath and the River Anduin), and then a white fortress with seven towers (Minas Tirith).
The vision then turned to the future, though Frodo, of course, couldn’t tell one from the other. He saw Aragorn’s ships arriving at Minas Tirith before the Battle of the Pelannor Fields. He then saw the battle itself, with fire and smoke, which dissolved into a mist where he saw a small ship, “twinkling with lights” passing away – Frodo’s own ship sailing to the West.
And just as Frodo was ready to look away, the Mirror went dark and empty like an abyss. And in it “appeared a single Eye that slowly grew, until it filled nearly all the Mirror.” The eye then searched for something, and Frodo knew that it was looking for him (along with many other things). He also knew that the Eye could not see him unless he [Frodo] willed it. The Ring on a chain around his neck grew heavy and weighed him down toward the Mirror, as if it were pulling toward the Eye. The Mirror grew hot and steam came up from it as Frodo drew nearer to it. Galadriel reminded him not to touch the water. The spell was broken, and the vision disappeared.
While Galadriel didn’t address any of the first bits of Frodo’s vision, she had a bit to say about the Eye – “for that is also in my mind.” The Eye wasn’t actually in the Mirror. It wasn’t using the Mirror to look for Frodo. Rather, it was a vision of the Eye looking for Frodo. And since this vision was also in Galadriel’s mind, it’s a safe assumption that she put it there herself after saying she wouldn’t effect the Mirror one way or the other.
She then told Frodo not to be afraid. The Dark Lord, she said, was also looking for her and for Lothlórien, “and he gropes ever to see me and my thought. But still the door is closed!”
Following the visions, Galadriel showed Frodo her Ring, Nenya, explaining that the keepers of the Elven rings cannot be hidden from the Ring-bearer. If the One Ring was not destroyed, Sauron would know the location of the three Elven Rings, and that would be pretty bad.
On the other hand, if the One Ring was destroyed, the three Elven Rings would be powerless. Either way, the Elves were basically done with the whole Middle-earth thing.
Discouraged, Frodo offered the One Ring to Galadriel. That didn’t go over well, and she seemed to accuse him of tempting her.
“Gently are you revenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting. You begin to see with a keen eye.”
This says a whole hell of a lot more about Galadriel than it does Frodo. She did want the Ring, of course. But couldn’t take it. “For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring come into my hands, and behold! it was brought within my grasp.”
I went into much more detail about this here.
Moving on, she refused the Ring and “passed the test … I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.” I talked about what that means here.
The Coming Farewell
That night the company started Chapter 8: Farewell to Lórien. They didn’t have to go home, but they couldn’t stay there. The Fellowship met with Galadriel and the other guy, and discussed exactly how they were leaving (boats down the Anduin).
It was their last night in Lothlórien. The talked about what was to happen next. Boromir wanted to go home (though he wasn’t super whiny about it), but he also hinted that he wanted to use the Ring to save Minas Tirith. Frodo was a little freaked out by this.
It’s late now, so good-night! See you tomorrow!
Camera: Smena 8M
Film: GAF Super Hypan; 50iso (x-1970s)
Process: HC-110; 1+100; 60min