FoTR - The Mirror of Galadriel: Bk II, Chapter V11

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Iolanthe
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FoTR - The Mirror of Galadriel: Bk II, Chapter V11

Postby Iolanthe » Tue Mar 20, 2007 5:34 pm

The Mirror of Galadriel


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Galadriel

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In this chapter we reach the heart of Lothlorien and the Fellowship meet Galadriel, the Lady of the Golden Wood. In her protected and magical realm they find true rest and healing, and a chance to remember Gandalf and say farewell to him. But they are also challenged as Galadriel searches the hearts of each of the Fellowship in turn. Finally she leads Frodo and Sam to a hollow and invites them to look into a Mirror, warning them that it can show things unbidden from the past, present and future. But the two Hobbits aren’t the only ones to face a trial in the hollow, Frodo offers her the Ring and she must face her desire for it and what she might become if she wielded it, and then reject it.

Let’s discuss this magical chapter with its unearthly light and glimpses of darkness, and its mixture of comfort and discomfort. What effect does it have on the Fellowship as they prepare for the rest of their quest?
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Postby Merry » Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:54 am

What a terrific character we have in Galadriel! The criticism that LOTR has no good women characters is really baseless, isn't it? Here is a woman who wields power with the best of them and then renounces it. Her 'in place of the Dark Lord you will set up a queen' speech is awesome, as the kids say.
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Postby Iolanthe » Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:01 pm

Absolutely. I sometimes wonder whether the 'no good women' critics have actually read the book. Galadriel is an immensely powerful presence and you do have to wonder what kind of a dark Queen she would have made. She's awe inspring enough as it is!

I love the description of her (and Celeborn's) eyes: "keen as lances in the starlight, and yet profound, the wells of deep memory".

And it was her that summoned the White Council and her intent that Gandalf should lead it. She's one of the main 'movers and shakers' against the growing power of Sauron. Boromir thought that she was 'tempting him' when she probed his thoughts and gets a good rebuff from Aragorn about the only evil in Lothlorien being in the hearts of those that come there. But it's clear that she is testing the hearts of the Fellowship and that their sojourn there is more than just a rest.

Is Galadriel another character that only revealed herself slowly to Tolkien? I seem to remember that all the back story of her leaving Valinor with the exiles after the kin-slaying and crossing the ice to Middle-earth came after LOTR. That she became greater and more complex with rather a dark blot on her history that stopped her returning to Valinor. I must read Unfinished Tales again...
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Postby Merry » Sun Mar 25, 2007 3:58 am

I'm not certain of when all the versions were written, Iolanthe, but there are already hints of a darker past in LOTR--'I pass the test' and all that.
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Postby Lindariel » Sun Mar 25, 2007 9:31 pm

I find it particularly interesting that Galadriel declares "All shall love me and despair!" as part of her declaration of power, should she undertake to wield the Ring. Gandalf stated that his temptation to use the Ring was Pity and the desire to do good. It appears Galadriel's temptation is the desire to be worshiped and loved for her great beauty, strength, and wisdom.

I really wish Tolkien had given us an opportunity to see Elrond withstand the temptation of the Ring. Obviously he did, because he could easily have taken it from Frodo before healing his Morgul wound. I would like to know what Tolkien thought the Ring's temptation would have been for Elrond. I think it was a desire for greater knowledge.

I also wish that the Professor had put Aragorn to a similar test, especially when Faramir is given the chance to pass this test in Henneth Annun. I did like the scene that PJ added for Frodo and Aragorn on Amon Hen, even though it wasn't in the book, because it accomplishes exactly that.
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Postby Iolanthe » Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:43 am

I did too, Lindariel!

At least Galadriel knows what her weakness is, has long pondered it and faces it. And the glimpse of what she would have become is given to Frodo through the power of the Ring of Adamant, Nenya.

She also relinquishes the one chance to preserve Lothlorien forever as the two rings are dependent and Nenya's power dies with the One Ring. It must have been a very painful test, not only resisting what she could have been, but giving up what she has.

No wonder they stand a while in silence.
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Postby Philipa » Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:04 pm

On the thoughts of Galadriel, I also feel she carries a lot of self inflicted burden being one of those who fled Valinor with the Noldor (stupid Feanor :x ). I wonder too if she feels that Noldorian bad blood so to speak running through her veins. Just a thought.....
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Postby Merry » Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:08 pm

Yes. I think she had a long exile during which she thought things through and came to value some new vision of the world.

Interesting, Lindariel. I've been thinking of Elrond's interior life and what the Ring would tempt him with. It is interesting that Tolkien doesn't explore this. There's lots of evidence that he was still feeling his way around the story, even at Rivendell. Maybe this is more evidence. It's still a little murky with Galadriel, and crystal clear with Faramir.

People do talk about how terrible Aragorn would be with the Ring, but I don't think we ever see that he considers that himself, do we?

I read Galadriel's "All shall love me and despair" speech again last night. The language itself suggests that the temptation is to be a force of nature--"stronger than the foundations of the world", to be more powerful than an (already pretty powerful) elf queen. Since she had sort of defied the Valar during her rebellion, perhaps the temptation was to be a Vala. When she rejects the temptation, she shrinks, a simple elf maiden, "I diminish and remain myself." Tolkien believed in kinds, natures. To attempt to be other than what your nature makes you is a great sin. We see it over and over again in LOTR.
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Postby Lindariel » Tue Mar 27, 2007 3:35 pm

Merry, according to "Of the Flight of the Noldor" in The Silmarillion, these were Galadriel's reasons for departing Valinor with Feanor:

. . . but Galadriel, the only woman of the Noldor to stand that day tall and valiant among the contending princes, was eager to be gone. No oaths she swore, but the words of Feanor concerning Middle-earth had kindled in her heart, for she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.


Several very important points emerge here:

(1) Galadriel did not swear any oaths. Wise woman!

(2) She "yearned to see the wide unguarded lands" . . . something in Galadriel was chafing against being "protected" by the Valar. She did not want to be sheltered anymore. This is supported by text in "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn" in Unfinished Tales: " . . . 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, and she felt confined in the tutelage of Aman."

(3) She wished to rule a realm at her own will. This is perhaps her most dangerous desire, because it invites the possibility of exerting her will over others.

Merry, I think you probably hit the nail on the head in terms of defining Galadriel's greatest temptation to use the Ring -- the desire to be "a force of Nature," i.e., to be one of the Valar herself, to have such consumate power and to be adored and worshiped for it. Fortunately, by the time Frodo crossed her path with the Ring in his possession, Galadriel's long years of exile in Middle-earth and two Ages of experiencing the heavy burden of trying to order a realm to her own will and fighting "the long defeat" against Sauron had tempered both her will and her wisdom. Thus, she was able to pass the test.
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Postby Merry » Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:28 pm

Great story, isn't it? :D

I think Tolkien must have pondered often the ways in which God does and doesn't work in the world. As a WWI vet who saw most of his friends die, he had to wonder why a loving God didn't just step in and fix things. As a Catholic, his answer had to be St. Augustine's: that would annihilate human beings as free agents. It's a difficult trade-off, isn't it?

As I recall it (and please correct me if I'm wrong), the Valar advised against leaving, but they did not command it. So Galadriel's leaving was not exactly disobedience, but it was not exactly obedience either. This is pretty subtle for an author who is rumored to be so black and white on morality! So Galadriel is left to figure out, during her long self-imposed exile, what it was that she did and how she could make it better. I can imagine her pondering the nature of power for centuries, remembering the story of Feanor and his creepy sons and the ruin that all wrought on Middle-earth. So what a momentous event, when Frodo offers her the Ring: time to act on what she had learned.
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Postby Iolanthe » Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:42 pm

This is why I love Tolkien, if you dig deeper you are always rewarded! Everything you've said about Galadriel is fascinating. It sould be easy to read this chapter and take Galadriel rejecting the Ring at it's face value, but there is just so much more when you start to look below the surface. I don't think I really appreciated before how much of a test this really was for her, and I think the statement in the Sil shows exactly where her temptation lay.
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Postby Merry » Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:58 pm

Yes, indeed. It's also what I value so much about belonging to a Tolkien community such as this: other people's thoughts propel the discussion forward and deeper. Thanks, everyone!
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Postby Lindariel » Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:37 pm

Merry, you are correct that the Valar (in particular Manwe) only counseled against the Noldor leaving Valinor after the theft of the Silmarils and the murder of Finwe. It was not a command. But the Doom of Mandos fell on them after the First Kinslaying, when the Teleri mariners were murdered for their ships. The Doom of Mandos applied without reprieve to Feanor and his sons for their dreadful oath and for inciting the Kinslaying. But it also applied to those who continued on to Middle-earth, whether with Feanor and his sons in the stolen ships, or on foot over the Grinding Ice. Finarfin and some of his people turned back at that point; he never wanted to go to begin with, but was persuaded by his sons who were great friends of the sons of Fingolfin (Fingon and Turgon).

Because Galadriel continued on to Middle-earth, suffering the horrors of the Grinding Ice, the Doom of Mandos fell upon her, but not without the possibility of reprieve, as she took no part in the Oath of Feanor or the Kinslaying. Apparently, after the War of Wrath in which Morgoth was defeated by the Valar and thrust into the Timeless Void, Galadriel had the opportunity to return to Valinor, but decided to stay in Middle-earth with her husband Celeborn. Cirdan the Shipwright also decided to stay, as did Gil-Galad, now the High King of the Noldor, and Elrond. In some of Tolkien's writings, he indicates that these personages decided to stay out of a sense of obligation to protect Middle-earth from Sauron, who had escaped the sack of Angband. In other accounts, it is simply that they were unwilling to leave Middle-earth just yet.

Galadriel's encounter with Frodo ends with her statement, "I pass the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel." This seems to indicate some knowledge on her part that her ability to resist the temptation of the Ring grants her a reprieve from the Doom of Mandos, making it possible for her to return to Valinor. But there are indications in Galadriel's lament Namarie -- which we will get to in the next chapter -- that she fears she will never again see Valinor, that the Doom of Mandos is still in effect and the way is shut against her: "All paths are drowned deep in shadow; and out of a grey country darkness lies on the foaming waves between us, and mist covers the jewels of Calacirya for ever. Now lost, lost to those from the East is Valimar!"

The exact nature of Galadriel's exile from Valinor and the terms under which she was allowed to return after the War of the Ring are left rather vague. A ripe topic for discussion, and one we will probably never completely resolve.
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Postby Merry » Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:20 pm

I hadn't caught that before, Lindariel: the ambiguity of Galadriel's expression of what her fate might be. Good catch! That's the ambiguity of what happens when the gods aren't clear, I guess: it allows for people to plot their own course better, but what will the results be?

So will the Valar allow her back in? I say yes! I think, or rather hope, that anyone involved in the vanquishing of Sauron on the destruction of the Ring gets a 'get out of jail free' card!
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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Postby hope » Thu Mar 29, 2007 9:03 pm

Wow what an interesting discussion :D I am currently listening with great pleasure to The Sil (yet again... never too many times) in the car as I drive about at work... so reading the above points and thoughts has added to my understanding and gave more food for thought!

Thanks and great discussion, keep it going please :)
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