208) Farewell to Lórien

Farewell to Lórien

I’ve recently noticed a pattern in the chapters of Fellowship of the Ring – or rather in the first two books of what Tolkien intended as a single work with six major divisions.  The chapters mostly come in sets of three.  One brings you to a place, apart from the openings to Book I and Book II where the viewpoint-character is already there.  In the second chapter, there will be a major plot development.  The third will take the viewpoint character onwards, mostly to somewhere less significant.

In Book One, this applies to chapters 1, 2 and 3.  Then 6, 7 and 8 for  Tom Bombadil. Finally 9 to 11 for Bree.

In Book Two, chapter 1 starts in Rivendell, chapter 2 has the vital Council of Elrond and chapter 3 takes you onwards.  Then chapters 4 to 6 take you into Moria, through Moria and then out into the Dimrill Dale just beyond Moria.  Chapter 6 also brings you to Lorien, with the vital Temptation of Galadriel in Chapter 7.  Chapter 8 takes you out again, with the significant matter of Galadriel’s gifts.

Looking beyond, chapters 9 and 10 take you to the island of Tol Brandir, with Frodo and Sam going their own way.  And then chapter 1 of Book Three reports the abduction of Merry and Pippin, the funeral of Boromir and the other three setting off to rescue Merry and Pippin.

Thereafter events get more complex.  Chapters 8, 9 and 10 of Book Three take you Isengard and takes Gandalf and Pippin beyond.  But chapter 10 has key events of breaking the power of Saruman and obtaining the Palantir.  And the others only depart Isengard in Chapter 2 of Book Five.  The last three chapters of Book Four take you to Cirith Ungol and key events, but ends with Sam and Frodo still there, left hanging till Book Six.

Now let’s focus on the departure from Lorien.  A choice must be made – but can be delayed for now:

“That night the Company was again summoned to the chamber of Celeborn, and there the Lord and Lady greeted them with fair words. At length Celeborn spoke of their departure.

“`Now is the time,’ he said, `when those who wish to continue the Quest must harden their hearts to leave this land. Those who no longer wish to go forward may remain here, for a while. But whether they stay or go, none can be sure of peace. For we are come now to the edge of doom. Here those who wish may await the oncoming of the hour till either the ways of the world lie open again. or we summon them to the last need of Lórien. Then they may return to their own lands, or else go to the long home of those that fall in battle.’

“There was a silence. `They all resolved to go forward,’ said Galadriel looking in their eyes.

“`As for me,’ said Boromir, `my way home lies onward and not back.’

“`That is true,’ said Celeborn, `but is all this Company going with you to Minas Tirith? ‘

“`We have not decided our course,’ said Aragorn. ‘Beyond Lothlórien I do not know what Gandalf intended to do. Indeed I do not think that even he had any clear purpose.’

“`Maybe not,’ said Celeborn, `yet when you leave this land, you can no longer forget the Great River. As some of you know well, it cannot be crossed by travellers with baggage between Lórien and Gondor, save by boat. And are not the bridges of Osgiliath broken down and all the landings held now by the Enemy?

“`On which side will you journey? The way to Minas Tirith lies upon this side, upon the west; but the straight road of the Quest lies east of the River, upon the darker shore. Which shore will you now take? ‘

“`If my advice is heeded, it will be the western shore, and the way to Minas Tirith,’ answered Boromir. `But I am not the leader of the Company.’ The others said nothing, and Aragorn looked doubtful and troubled.

“`I see that you do not yet know what to do,’ said Celeborn. `It is not my part to choose for you; but I will help you as I may. There are some among you who can handle boats: Legolas, whose folk know the swift Forest River; and Boromir of Gondor; and Aragorn the traveller.’

“`And one Hobbit! ‘ cried Merry. `Not all of us look on boats as wild horses. My people live by the banks of the Brandywine.’

“`That is well,’ said Celeborn. `Then I will furnish your Company with boats. They must be small and light, for if you go far by water, there are places where you will be forced to carry them. You will come to the rapids of Sarn Gebir, and maybe at last to the great falls of Rauros.”

It would in fact have been possible to go by boat beyond the Falls of Rauros, taking a portage way as they do at Sarn Gebir.  Aragorn explains this in the final chapter of Book Two.  But that would not have been the best route to Mount Doom.  It would have been a good route to the path Frodo and Sam eventually take, to Cirith Ungol.  But Aragorn and the others would certainly have been strongly against that place, which it seems the hobbits know nothing of.

At that moment, Aragorn is unsure what he should do next

“His own plan, while Gandalf remained with them, had been to go with Boromir, and with his sword help to deliver Gondor. For he believed that the message of the dreams was a summons, and that the hour had come at last when the heir of Elendil should come forth and strive with Sauron for the mastery. But in Moria the burden of Gandalf had been laid on him; and he knew that he could not now forsake the Ring, if Frodo refused in the end to go with Boromir. And yet what help could he or any of the Company give to Frodo, save to walk blindly with him into the darkness?

We also get the first signs of how Boromir will later fail:

“`I shall go to Minas Tirith, alone if need be, for it is my duty,’ said Boromir; and after that he was silent for a while, sitting with his eyes fixed on Frodo, as if he was trying to read the Halfling’s thoughts. At length he spoke again, softly, as if he was debating with himself. `If you wish only to destroy the Ring,’ he said, `then there is little use in war and weapons; and the Men of Minas Tirith cannot help. But if you wish to destroy the armed might of the Dark Lord, then it is folly to go without force into his domain; and folly to throw away.’ He paused suddenly, as if he had become aware that he was speaking his thoughts aloud. `It would be folly to throw lives away, I mean,’ he ended. `It is a choice between defending a strong place and walking openly into the arms of death. At least, that is how I see it.’

“Frodo caught something new and strange in Boromir’s glance, and he looked hard at him. Plainly Boromir’s thought was different from his final words. It would be folly to throw away: what? The Ring of Power? He had said something like this at the Council, but then he had accepted the correction of Elrond. Frodo looked at Aragorn, but he seemed deep in his own thought and made no sign that he had heeded Boromir’s words.”

Tolkien’s Aragorn is always much more fallible than Jackson makes him – an invincible super-hero who apparently only needs to believe in himself.

They also get special gifts.  Elven cloaks, which will help hide them.  Magic rope – this will help Frodo and Sam, and also untie itself when they might have needed to abandon it.  And will pain Gollum when they bind him with it.  And  food is not forgotten.  They get lembas, which Sam and Frodo will eventually depend on:

“`I thought it was only a kind of cram, such as the Dale-men make for journeys in the wild,’ said the Dwarf.

“`So it is,’ they answered. `But we call it lembas or waybread, and it is more strengthening than any food made by Men, and it is more pleasant than cram, by all accounts.’

“`Indeed it is,’ said Gimli. ‘Why it is better than the honey-cakes of the Beornings, and that is great praise, for the Beornings are the best bakers that I know of; but they are none too willing to deal out their cakes to travellers in these days. You are kindly hosts! ‘”

The suspicion between dwarves and Beornings is another sign of the mistrust that Sauron’s agents have created.  And does not seem to heal, in contrast with the heirs of Bard where Bard’s grandson and heir dies in battle along with Dain Ironfoot.

It also seems as if cloaks, rope and lembas are unique to Lorien, since Elrond did not provide them.  They also make better bows than Legolas’s woodland elves.

They depart, but not before learning that it would not have been any safer had they tried going back.  The elves report:

“The Dimrill Dale is full of vapour and clouds of smoke, and the mountains are troubled. There are noises in the deeps of the earth. If any of you had thought of returning northwards to your homes, you would not have been able to pass that way.”

That’s one of Tolkien’s messages – you don’t get safety by evading your duty.  Fatty Bolger back in Crickhollow will learn the same, and eventually emerge as a minor hero.

It is also here that we learn that Gimli and Legolas have become friends.  Details are not explained, but both are outsiders, much more than the men and hobbits, who are fairly similar.  Someone once noted how Boromir, Merry and Pippin team up to take one boat.  All are heirs, even though the Master of Buckland and the Thrain of the Tooks are small compared to the Steward of Gondor.  And all have sought adventure far from home.  But Merry and Pippin are never tempted by the ring – though they also have little contact with it.  I think the only time they see it is in the house of Tom Bombadil, with Tom perhaps suppressing its evil lure.  They are not present for the Council of Elrond.

Legolas is also an heir, but with an immortal father.  He in fact sails west with his father still ruling.

The departure from Lorien is beautiful but sad.  Not only is the quest dangerous, but even victory will do little to halt the decline of the High Elf world

“There long the golden leaves have grown upon the branching years,
“While here beyond the Sundering Seas now fall the Elven-tears.
“O Lórien! The Winter comes, the bare and leafless Day;
“The leaves are falling in the stream, the River flows away.
“O Lórien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore
“And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor.
“But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
“What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?”

This indicated that Galadriel is banned from Valinor for having left it against the will of the Valar, something expanded on later.  It will also mean her abandoning Celeborn, contradicting the earlier notion of the elves of Lorien all potentially seeking refuge across the see.

Another foreshadowing – Celeborn warns against the home of the Ents:

“’Boromir, and any that go with him seeking Minas Tirith, will do well to leave the Great River above Rauros and cross the Entwash before it finds the marshes. Yet they should not go too far up that stream, nor risk becoming entangled in the Forest of Fangorn. That is a strange land, and is now little known. But Boromir and Aragorn doubtless do not need this warning.’

“’Indeed we have heard of Fangorn in Minas Tirith,’ said Boromir. `But what I have heard seems to me for the most part old wives’ tales…

“[Celeborn answers] ‘But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.’”

Much later, an old woman’s memory in Gondor will save Faramir and confirm Aragorn’s right to rule.

As I said earlier, Celeborn might be wrong about the best route after Rauros.  And we once again see Boromir at fault, discounting what he has not seen.

Once freed from the orcs, Merry and Pippin will remember the warning.  But they have little choice but to enter, with a fierce battle between orcs and men to escape from.  And in contrast to the Old Forrest, they manage to overcome the long-running antagonism between trees and those who would exploit them.  Everyone except the elves seems to be guilty, with even the hobbits taking fresh land for themselves.

Before departing, they get gifts.  Boromir’s seems to me the least useful: a belt of gold.  Merry and Pippin get the belts with clasps, which Pippin will later use to leave a sign for Aragorn to follow.  Legolas gets a superior bow, one he will be using in the next chapter.  Sam gets soil from her garden, which will be of vast use to him in the end.  Also the seed of a mallorn tree, which is not mentioned here.

For Gimli, she asks him to choose – with her mind-reading she may know he wants a strand of her hair, and she gives three.  Another sign that elves and dwarves need not be foes.

As I said in comments in The Mirror of Galadriel, she was added back into the First Age, having not been imagined before then.  This includes a suggestion her hair held the light of the Two Trees.  And that Fëanor asked for some, three times, and she refused to give him even one hair.[i]

The important gifts are for Aragorn and Frodo, who are first and last respectively in the gift-giving.  First for Aragorn; a sheath for his re-forged sword and a gift left for him by Arwen:

“`Here is the gift of Celeborn and Galadriel to the leader of your Company,’ she said to Aragorn, and she gave him a sheath that had been made to fit his sword. It was overlaid with a tracery of flowers and leaves wrought of silver and gold, and on it were set in elven runes formed of many gems the name Andúril and the lineage of the sword.

“`The blade that is drawn from this sheath shall not be stained or broken even in defeat,’ she said. `But is there aught else that you desire of me at our parting? For darkness will flow between us, and it may be that we shall not meet again, unless it be far hence upon a road that has no returning.’

“And Aragorn answered: ‘Lady, you know all my desire, and long held in keeping the only treasure that I seek. Yet it is not yours to give me, even if you would; and only through darkness shall I come to it.’

“`Yet maybe this will lighten your heart,’ said Galadriel; `for it was left in my care to be given to you, should you pass through this land.’ Then she lifted from her lap a great stone of a clear green, set in a silver brooch that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outspread wings; and as she held it up the gem flashed like the sun shining through the leaves of spring. `This stone I gave to Celebrían my daughter, and she to hers; and now it comes to you as a token of hope. In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the house of Elendil! ‘

“Then Aragorn took the stone and pinned the brooch upon his breast, and those who saw him wondered; for they had not marked before how tall and kingly he stood, and it seemed to them that many years of toil had fallen from his shoulders. `For the gifts that you have given me I thank you,’ he said, ‘O Lady of Lórien of whom were sprung Celebrían and Arwen Evenstar. What praise could I say more? ‘”

This echoes the emerald that Earendil had carried, and which Aragorn had asked to be included in Bilbo’s poem back in Rivendell.  All this is handled very differently in the film, where Arwen is much more active.

Finally for Frodo:

“`And you, Ring-bearer,’ she said, turning to Frodo. `I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.’ She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. ‘In this phial,’ she said, `is caught the light of Eärendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out. Remember Galadriel and her Mirror! ‘

“Frodo took the phial, and for a moment as it shone between them, he saw her again standing like a queen, great and beautiful, but no longer terrible.”

It will actually be Sam who uses the phial to defeat Shelob.  And at the heart of Sauron’s power, inside Mount Doom, he will try to use it again.  And will find that its light has been suppressed: the fading power of the elves is not enough to defeat Sauron.

It is also notable that Galadriel is ‘no longer terrible’, as she briefly was when considering taking and using the One Ring.

Copyright © Gwydion M. Williams.

[i] http://www.thetolkienforum.com/index.php?threads/the-significance-of-galadriels-gift-to-gimli.16561/